Monday, January 25, 2010

When I was growing up my grandfather had a blue bumper sticker on the back of his car... it said: "I live in America's Greatest Little City: LaGrange, Georgia!" I did not share the same sentiment as that sticker and there were many years after I was old enough to move away from LaGrange that I vowed to never make my home there again. Small... too far from a big city... few choices in shopping, eating & entertainment... people always knowing your business; as a young adult I much preferred the excitement, variety & anonymity that a big town provided. After I had a family of my own we found ourselves transferred far away. Being a parent can make you appreciate things you once took for granted. Simplicity... semi-isolation from the big city & its influences... everybody knowing your business. As I became a 30-something mother-of-many-small-children, LaGrange began to appeal to me in ways it never had before and years later we made the choice to make our home here again. We could've moved back to Atlanta... to crowded surburbia where we could just be faces in a crowd with hundreds of options for dinner... but LaGrange ironically had more to offer. Approaching 40 I would proudly but a copy of my grandfather's bumper sticker on the back of my car... no longer a restless teenager eager to spread her wings for something more exciting, but an adult and mother who recognizes the beauty of small-town life. But it is not my motherhood that truly opened my eyes to the preciousness of LaGrange... it is being a daughter.

This past weekend I watched as one of my best friends from high school lost his mother to cancer. At her funeral when I took my seat in the balcony of the packed church I fell in love again with LaGrange and realized that I as much as I love "living" here... I want to die here. My friend's mother walked in the same shoes my own mother had worn a year ago. Both young and active, they tragically learned one doesn't have to be old to get sick and die. And though my mother and my friend's mother shared the same suffering and death, many things about their lives were very different. They ran in different circles and participated in different activities. They had different friends and lived in different neighborhoods across town. Their childrens' friendships made the other's name familiar with the other, but they were not "friends." With all that was different about the lives these women led on a day-to-day basis, because they shared the same community their dying was greatly the same. The same small town who met every need my family had a year ago, met hers this past month. The same community that prayed for and cried with and showed up to care for my mother and her family, surrounded my friend's family as well. The people who made things happen with one phone call... no matter the hour on the clock were the same. The friends may have been different but the values were the same. The churches were different but the love and service towards the hurting was the same. The women were different but the compassion they received was the same. I took coolers of drinks to my friend's childhood home last Wednesday night. The driveway was crowded with the cars of those who came to be with his family and his mother. I remembered. I remembered the love and attention and security. I remembered the amazing gratitude I felt toward the people who dropped everything to surround us with comfort and meet our every need. They were at his house now. Their names were different, but their hearts were the same. These are the people who make up the City of LaGrange. They are what make it "America's Greatest Little City." A city where I want my children to grow-up and myself to grow old. And no matter how "old" I am when the Lord chooses to call me home, I know that the same small-town that helped my Mother and Mrs. Claire die with dignity, in peace and comfort and surrounded by an outpouring of love will do the same for me.

post signature

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Christmas 2009 Recap
Christmas was bad from the beginning. I wasn't into it this year and I'm not sure why... I am thinking the stress of finishing up the school semester maybe... or general laziness. Nevertheless, the Saturday after Thanksgiving passed by without the traditional purchasing and trimming of the Christmas Tree so we started "The Season" on the wrong foot. A week later Big Daddy T brought a tree home but then it stood naked in the corner before we decorated it. Sad. My Christmas cards sat in a bag for weeks collecting dust before I got the pictures copied, envelopes stuffed and addressed them. There was no trip to see Santa at the mall... no Fantasy in Lights... no traditional Christmas outfits bought. Even that darned Elf on the Shelf couldn't get his act together... he took several nights off... cozy and warm atop of the fridge or china cabinet and unwilling to brave the North Pole's freezing temps just to tell Santa about some sassy kids in Georgia. Those same kids were plagued by sickness during December... regualr flu and the stomach flu mostly. I nearly washed the skin slap off my hands in an attempt to avoid the dreaded illnesses but alas, my efforts were in vain. Christmas Eve morning I got up feeling fine. I went to the grocery store... cooked... cleaned and then decided to take a short nap before that evening's festivities. I awoke a different person. I knew immediately something was wrong. I was in trouble. Oh no! And to make a long story short I spent the rest of the night like this:

Ohhh... it was awful. I am convinced God sends me these experiences to teach me to show more compassion for my children. All 4 had the stomach bug and my common responses were causual "just go lay downs"... or "please don't throw up on the carpet".... or "honey, I can't give you any medicine you just gotta give it time." I had forgotten how horrible they felt. It had been almost 9 years since I experienced such misery... since morning sickness with My Baby Boy attacked and crippled me. But the stomach bug came back Christmas Eve with a vengence. I limped along for an hour or so but by 8:00 p.m. I was a goner. Poor Santa! Mrs. Claus would be no help this Christmas Eve and if not for a trusty elf, his flight may have been destined for cancellation! But Santa never fails and the kiddos woke up unaware of the night's challenges.

The tree was surrounded by the things they had asked for. I managed to drag myself out of bed and plop on the couch. No Christmas morning casserole... no hot, spiced, delicious wassail... no pictures of kids peeking out of the door waiting for the o.k. to see what Santa brought. It took me so long to get vertical and situated they were cranky and on the verge of a coup before we said "come out!" I had been sidelined before the annual "just one present (which is ALWAYS matching Christmas pajamas) on Christmas Eve" opening and Big Daddy just put them to bed best he could. Here's My Firstborn with some of her loot. She doesn't look so sad that her mother is in agony does she? Of course not... who cares about mom puking her guts out when you got cozy Ugg boots and a new laptop!

Poor Dreamgirl. She woke up acting as bad as I felt. She is NOT a morning person and at only 2... with all her needs and most of her wishes met on a daily basis... Christmas morning didn't have anything totally unusual to hop out of bed for. After some minor fits I finally put her with a cup of warm milk on my bed and turned on her shows and she re-emerged later to open her gifts at her convenience. Any other Christmas I may have cared... not 2009... whatever!

And after a long hour on the couch I headed to spend Christmas day alone in the bed like this:

post signature

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11, 2009 was a Sunday. We were running late for church as usual. Driving down the street towards our church I noticed people on the sidewalk out front. I looked at the car's clock... maybe we weren't as late as I thought... people were still talking outside. No... it was 10:38... we were late... weird. As we drove closer I noticed my Dad among the crowd... and then the crowd began to resemble more of a huddle than a loose gathering of church members... and then I saw my Mother at the center of the huddle... she was hunched over. I ordered Big Daddy T to drive practically up onto the curb and I flew out of the minivan in a wild panic. I first thought she was throwing up and as I burst into the middle of the huddle I realized my Mother was bleeding from her head. I was quickly informed of what had transpired as someone ran out of the church saying "the ambulance is on the way."

By this time last year doctors had exhausted all possible treatments for my mother's cancer. She was dying. Not in the "we're all dying" sense but really dying... her 58 year old body was being eaten alive by a ruthless killer. Her body was in constant pain. We maintained a meticulous 24/7 cycle of pain and anti-nausea medications to keep her comfortable. She was yellow. She was less than 90 pounds. She slept more than she stayed awake... no longer leaving the house except for the doctor and going to church. Going to church was her favorite activity. And though she would doze on and off... or leave early... or visit the bathroom numerous time... she would muster all her strength to be able to attend Sunday worship. And on this particular Sunday... there just was not much strength left. Even though the church graciously made an impromptu parking space sign out of a dry-erase board that shouted "RESERVED" in the parking space closest to the door... her frail thin legs could not manage the step up off the sidewalk and back she fell.

Not wanting to wait for an ambulance we quickly wisked my Mom into the front seat of my warm minivan that was still parked on the curb of the sidewalk. I hopped in the back and we rushed towards the ER as my Dad and sister followed in a car behind us. As I wheeled my Mom into the Emergency Room the admissions secretary allowed us straight back. My mom no longer looked like an average patient. The bleeding goose egg on the back of her head paled in comparison to the appearance of this frail, sick woman... no one needed to ask... they understood she needed and deserved extra T.L.C.

I suppose I am writing about this today, because January 11th sticks out in my mind as when we really began to give my mother round-the-clock care. Over the next 6 weeks our participation in her daily routine would increase until we said goodbye. Even though it may seem sad... those were the most precious 6 weeks of my entire life. I wanted nothing else than to be by her side. Honestly, I came to resent my poor children many times during those weeks because for the first time I didn't want to take care of them. I didn't want to do homework, or drive carpool, or say prayers... I wanted to park myself in my parent's house and give Mother my full attention. And we were surrounded by so much love. Precious, dear friends met all our needs. They visited and laughed and helped. My sister came from Florida and my brother from Indy. We were together more than we had been in close to 20 years. My mom got more mail than a rock star. We'd save the mail and when my Daddy would come in he'd sit close to her couch and read them to her. Most she heard... but some she couldn't stay awake for him to finish. And so it went. Some of those days were really good, some days not so much. But I'd take any of them back. Even the worst day... because she was there. I would sit on the end of her couch and put her feet in my lap and we'd talk. I heard her voice. I held her hands. If she dozed off I would watch her breathe. I studied her face. I wondered what it would be like when her body was no longer lying there but in the ground. I would always kneal beside her on the couch when I said good-bye before going home for the night. I could rest my head on her chest and she could rub my hair. Many times as I drove away those last 6 weeks I wondered if I would get a call in the night. I never did. Those winter morning dawned and God allowed me another day with her until it was so bad we prayed for the end to be merciful and come quickly.

This January 11th my Mother is healed. This day she not only made it into church but is sitting at the very feet of Jesus Himself. She is rejoicing... as am I that my sweet Mother is alive and well.
post signature

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dreamgirl Growing Up
I have had requests for new, updated pictures of Dreamgirl who turned 2 during my blogging hiatus. If I told you all the things I think about her I would sound like the most conceited, bragging, obnoxious mother on the face of the earth... she continues to keep me mesmerized everyday. She has plenty of days of "terrible twoness" that make me want to scream, but mostly I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world because she belongs to me.

post signature

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Time is running out!
The day that I have been dreaming about since mid-August is now coming too quickly. My final exam for my Women's History class is Tuesday night and my Ed. Tech. class closes the same day. Here is all I have to squeeze in:

1. Be a parent to 4 children who are not going away for the next 60 hours.

2. Finish a 367 page book on the Black Freedom Movement. I am on page 129.

3. Write an analysis on the book on the Black Freedom Movement. Just a little 'ol 3-pager... no biggie!

4. Finish the final copy of my term paper... a book review essay.

5. Study for my final exam. 7 weeks of material for an all-writing test. No multiple choice or fill in the blank.

6. Help host a baby shower for a good friend.

7. Attend a Christmas brunch for which I am responsible for bringing my mother's famous Wassail.

8. Create an Excel document with 5 new emerging instructional technologies. Who cares???

I am going to have to come to grips with the reality that sleep is not going to be an option until Tuesday night. I mean if medical residents can pull 60-hour shifts so can I... right? I also have to decide whether to continuously pop Adderall to stay awake and focus or Xanax to calm my nerves. That may be the biggest job of all!!!

post signature

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This is what happens...

  1. You let your messy daughter wear your favorite black tank
  2. In addition to not cleaning her room, your messy daughter does not feed her guinea pig regularly
  3. You allow the laundry pile in aforementioned daughter's room to grow so large it encroaches upon guinea pig's caged home
  4. The guinea pig, due to insufficient amounts of alfalfa hay, celery and guinea pig kibble dines upon your favorite black tank

I only have myself to blame.

post signature

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm not sure how I forgot to mention that during my semi-grad school hiatus, my mom-mobile died. Yep, after 165,000ish miles and 3 transmissions she was finally laid to rest.... there were just too many other automotive complications to justify purchasing transmission #4. I was newly pregnant with My Baby Boy and sick as a dog when we got the old girl... I remember hoping I wouldn't throw up in my first brand new car ever! She paid me back for all the rotten sippie cups, missed car washes, marker drawings, trash pile-ups, baby puke, dirty cletes and closets worth of abandoned clothes I let ruin her interior by dying on me on the way to class on a rural Georgia highway. So, I am currently in the market for a new vehicular unit. I don't really want another minivan, but with a brood of 4 who are often accompanied by other friends, I really need the space. I sure would rather have a Surburban or something "cool." Minivans are practical... not cool. But then again I'm not that cool. I would more appropriately describe myself as tired... or grumpy... or busy.

post signature