Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Study

I can tell it's summer. Can you? Everything is slowing down... fewer emails, fewer posts on Facebook, fewer hits on my blog. I like summer and the slowing down of the machine it brings. Gives me the feeling that what few words I decide to share here matter more.

I am beginning a new online study over on Melissa Taylor's blog. As I've shared before, I found Melissa through the Proverbs 31 devotions in my inbox when I was drawn to one in particular she wrote entitled Stained and Ruined. When I read the short devotional describing how she was sexually abused by a neighbor as an innocent child, I was amazed that I felt incredibly similar feelings about my acquaintance rape at the age of nineteen. Shame. Guilt. The sense that I was damaged and unworthy. Reading her devotion that day opened a door for me to examine my beliefs about myself and how they differed form God's opinion of me, and I have been on that journey now for almost two years, trying to let go of some of those unfounded feelings I've been carrying around in my soul for so long now.

So, that's what the new study is all about. In this online community that Melissa Taylor has orchestrated, we will read through Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner by Wendy Blight. Just this morning, I read through the first chapter which describes her attack and the emotions surrounding it in the days that followed. The courage she has shown in telling her story is amazing, and perhaps that is the whole point of her book. We don't like to talk about the darkness... no one really does. We always answer "fine" when asked how we're doing or feeling. We smile and laugh at jokes when inside we're so weary inside we feel like we could sleep for days. We shy away from the conversations that will expose our weaknesses and flaws. We like the light, but it tends to be of the fluorescent nature ~ bright, man-made, and perfectly positioned to reveal only what we want to show and not that dark corner of our mind where Satan hides and whispers his little lies to our hearts.

I've been guilty of this myself. There are people all around me that have no idea what I went through at the age of nineteen. It's not something I like to discuss for so many reasons. I don't ever want to be labeled a victim of any kind, and the circumstances around my experience are embarrassing. No one wants to open them self up for embarrassment on purpose, do they? Of course not. So, for years, I allowed the fear of embarrassment, of persecution and judgement of others to back my soul into hiding in that dark corner, afraid of what people would think or say about me, the decisions I made on that night so very long ago, the decisions I made in the days, weeks and months afterward.

As I mature, I realize that God has an amazing plan for me, and that in time it will all be revealed. I just have to be patient, seek God, let Him work on my heart, and allow it all to unfold. I know that there is a community of women who live with the same covered up story as mine in their hearts, and that it effects them deeper than they care to admit. Maybe that's the meaning to my story... maybe one day, I can write about the night that changed my life forever openly, share the whole story, and perhaps help someone suffering silently in guilt as I did for so many years. Only God knows how this story ends.

I look forward to seeing what God has in store for me during this study, to experiencing freedom in a way I've never known and turning on the light in that dark corner of my soul. What about you? Do you have a dark corner? I think we all have a dark corner of our own. Join me in the study... it's never too late!

Friday, May 27, 2011

My day at the spa was amazing. As a matter of fact, it would have been perfectly fine with me to have stayed there. I have never in my life been pampered the way I was in that 24 hour period, and quite possibly may never be again! I was greeted with a gift bag at the spa, complete with Vera Bradley cosmetic bag and three travel sized True Blue Spa lotions. When we checked into our room, we were given a beach bag with a few goodies inside. I enjoyed two spa treatments, a massage and a facial, both free, gratuity already paid. We had a lovely buffet dinner out on the patio with an open bar. It was as though someone had opened up the gates of the land of free...

But one thing ran through my mind all day ~ my mother. She called her doctor that morning to talk about the increasing shortness of breath, and he scheduled the drainage to be done the following morning. Truth is it doesn't matter where I am or what I am doing or how many free spa treatments are being thrown my way, I always go back to the thought of my mom. While at Ross Bridge, I kept thinking, "I wish my mom could be here... I wish she could do this or that..." I don't know if this feeling is normal for a child of a parent dealing with a chronic illness, but it's my reality. Everything I experience I find myself wanting to share with her. Wanting her to be there.

The doctor drained a liter of fluid from the pleural lining of her right lung, the opposite side from last time. I don't think any one of us realized that it was building up on the other side now, and I was completely shocked to hear it. I mean, technically, I guess it's not bad news, but it was surprising.

I really wish they could insert a drain that would drain all her body of the cancer. Wouldn't that be nice? And then we could celebrate with a day at the spa at Ross Bridge. And we'd all live happily ever after...

I think that's the toughest part of life right now. Being fully aware that there simply isn't a happily ever after here on earth. If there's ever been a time I've been made fully aware, it's been recently.

Continued prayers for my mom are appreciated. She will return to the doctor on Thursday to follow up on the drainage procedure. I have no idea if her oncologist would choose to see her on that day or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. Just continue your prayers... thanks in advance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jealous much????

My husband texted me last Friday while I was frantically preparing to make a trip out of town to a baseball tourney that we really couldn't afford to take. It's difficult to pack and purchase food and drinks for a tourney when you know you need to be placing that money in different hands. Much more stressful than the ordinary preparations. Anywho...

The text read basically the following: What do you think about a free night at Ross Bridge, free round of golf for me, and a free spa treatment for you? I literally burst into tears, as embarrassing as it is to admit it. Sounded too good to be true, but it was for real. Scott plays golf at 11:00 in the morning, I am receiving a facial at 2:00 in the afternoon, the rest of our time can be spent relaxing by the pool, and we will enjoy a lovely dinner that evening. For free.
One of the finance companies has organized the event as a thank you to some special managers. Usually these type of things involve golf or nice dinners, but they have never in my experience in the business involved the wives. I thought it was an extra special touch, and the timing couldn't be more timely. We are both stressed to say the least, and we haven't enjoyed a dinner together alone in months. We seldom have the opportunity or the extra funds to do so, and I am so excited to have some breathing time together.

I honestly felt like it was sent from God Himself. I have been a little too fretful lately, I'm ashamed to admit. It's easy when things are tight to forget that I am still blessed beyond measure. Even easier to forget that my Heavenly Father longs to take care of me. The thought is humbling and joyful that he'd want anything to do with this messed up girl. But it's so much more than that... He truly wants me to rest in His hand, and I need it now more than ever. And so does my hard working husband. Seems like we keep on saying, "At some point, things will get better... they have to get better..." We juggle and shift and scrimp and grind our teeth, and it's nice to know that tomorrow we can put it all on the back burner and let someone else pick up the check. Literally. And for things we wouldn't ordinarily get to do.

I've only had one facial in my life, and I remember how relaxing it was. Jealous much? Don't be... I still have to come home afterward...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tired

What do you get when you cross a Crazy Mama with three days at the ball park in 90 degree heat? Fatigue.

I'm pooped.

We traveled to Opelika, Alabama to play in a big tournament this weekend. We started Friday evening with an 8:15 game which actually began sometime right after 9 pm. Yes... 9 in the evening. As in when my kids are normally in the bed. But the boys did fabulously and pulled through a merciless 20-something to nothing score. Saturday, we all had lunch together as a team and made our way to the ball park for two afternoon games. The word for Saturday was HOT. Temperatures were soaring, the sun was high, and the Bandits' bats were on fire. The boys were hitting so well, and their defense was amazing. When I lay my little head on the pillow Saturday evening, I really thought we were on our way to winning a huge tourney.

Not so much.

The fire went cold sometime between 9:00 on Saturday evening and 9:00 am on Sunday morning. When the boys arrived to play game four of the tournament, they had completely wiped their brains clean of all previous baseball training. They weren't sure what to do with the bats; they could certainly swing them but didn't have the whole make contact with the ball part. Most were having trouble keeping a good hold on the baseball, which left me wanting to run out there with a little bottle of Elmer's. It was a tough loss.

I don't mind losing as much when I feel that the team that takes the victory is better. But this one wasn't, and all the adults walked away from the field scratching their heads and thinking, "What just happened?" Thing about kid sports is that you learn that your expectations may be consistently met but will never always be met. Just don't happen. Then you'll have that rare occasion in which none of your expectations will be met (as in the total nightmare that was yesterday's game).

It's tough as an adult knowing cognitively what a group of nine year old boys are capable of and then not seeing it play out. When I break it down internally, it's all about expectations. This season, the stakes are even higher. We feel it when we walk in the park... you can hear them whispering, "That's that team that won the World Series twice." You can see it the looks on their face as they stand back at a distance and watch you lose. That's tougher to swallow than the loss itself. Because that's what hurts the most ~ knowing what's come to be expected of our Bandits, and seeing them fall short. And in front of lots of people.

But I guess that's part of life, too. It's not all championship games, trophies, and fantastic double plays. It's slipping down in the dewy grass of the infield and missing that ground ball. It's getting too far off the bag and getting picked off. It's swinging at the curve ball, watching the one right down the pipe, or popping out to left field. It's not all perfect. Lots of mistakes. Lots of accidents. Lots of bad choices. And just like in life when sometimes we seem to be overwhelmed at one time with a ton of the repercussions of our poor choices or bad circumstances, our field was full of mishaps yesterday.

But what I know about our little team is this: they will be back at it tomorrow. They will lift their chins up, dust off their cleats, and get back to work on their skills. And they will pull it back together. I have no doubt in them.

What I do doubt is getting my normal energy level back by the end of this week...

Friday, May 20, 2011

The fight continues...

Late yesterday afternoon, I got the call. Every time the phone rings on appointment days, my heart stops a little. I want to hear my dad's voice, I want to know the results, but there's this tiny part in me that longs to climb out of my body and avoid it all. I am learning more and more about my propensity to avoid. I can't say where it started, but it's there.

The appointment went better than any of us had thought. I think my mom, dad, and I had all noticed that the shortness of breath was much worse, and therefore expected that things must not be working. Her scan did show an increase in the fluid around her left lung, but the doctor doesn't feel it medically necessary to drain it off at this point. Instead, he wants to leave that up to my mother; when she feels it's time to drain, he will schedule it to be done. The doctor also added an additional drug to her treatment, one that she had in conjunction with her chemo years ago, in hopes that it will be an effective partner in starving the cancer.

That's a question that many have asked. They don't understand how you can have cancer and not be on chemo. I'll admit, I felt the same way at first, and kept questioning my dad about it. But when you are dealing with a chronic form of cancer that is slow growing, I believe the approach is more of withholding what feeds it instead of attacking it. Perhaps this is the most challenging part of the treatment plan... the wait and see what works, the be patient part, the seemingly non-confrontational approach to the cancer cells.

I'd like to attack it. Let's go in there commando style with oozies and heavy artillery and blast each and every cancer cell inside her body! Let's do it up right and rid her of all of it! But that is nearly impossible... even in real life war situations, we deal with innocent casualties of war. But the last thing you want to do is kill more good than bad. We wouldn't sacrifice 500 innocent people to kill one bad guy, so why would we do the same to our body?

So that's where we are. Withholding as much of the hormone that feeds my mother's cancer as possible. By withholding the food, we hope the cancer starves to death. And when I stop and think about it in more depth, the slightly passive-aggressive side of me kind of enjoys this process a little. I like the thought of the evil cancer inside her calling out for food, for water, for anything, and being denied. Maybe that sounds a little twisted to some, but it's easier for me to think about it in those terms.

I've been a little down lately. Not depressed, not losing faith, just weary at heart. So I have started praying the same verses every day to my Lord, calling out to Him, trying to rest inside His hand. I will share it with you all in hopes that it will lift you up in some small way...

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24

Lead me, Lord. Read every word on my heart. Pour over my thoughts as only You can. Lead me. Though I am barely able to walk right now, I am trying so desperately to follow...

And thank you all, my precious friends, for your prayers. Please continue lifting my sweet Mama's name up to her Creator...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tests...

Last Friday, I opened Madalyn's Bee Book (fancy name for a handy little metal ring binder that houses all our vital info for school) to find a reading assessment. The names of the children in the class were greyed out, but Madalyn's scores were highlighted for me so I could compare hers to the others in the class and the averages. Comparisons can sometimes be informative but most often end in unsettling emotions.

The first test {ahem... excuse me, I should say assessment} was titled LETTER NAMING FLUENCY and described as an assessment that checks to see how automatic a student is with letter naming. Now I knew for a fact that Madalyn can recognize and name all her letters as we just sat down and did that last week. Her teacher had jotted me a little note saying that Madalyn was still confusing a few letters (F, Q, and K, I think). We sat down with a puzzle which matches letters with words, and I had her name the letter on each one. She did them all, though I admit she had to stop and think about the trouble letters her teacher had written me about, and I certainly did not time her. But she knew them all the same. In the first assessment, the benchmark is to name 40 letters within a minute. Madalyn was able to name 25, well below the class average of 46.8 and the listed benchmark. I was disturbed, so I looked forward to the next test.

The second assessment, titled PHONEME SEGMENTATION FLUENCY, measures a student's ability to segment each individual sound in words. The benchmark for each student is to correctly segment 35 sounds in one minute. Madalyn scored a 62, well above the benchmark, and slightly higher than the class average of 55.8. At this point, I felt a little better.

The final assessment was titled NONSENSE WORD FLUENCY, and this explanation followed: This is a true assessment that measures a student's understanding of the alphabetic principle. Okay. I wasn't aware that there even was such a thing as an alphabetic principle, but apparently I've been missing out all this time. This particular test presents nonsense words (or words that really aren't words at all) to see if the student can sound them out appropriately. Benchmark is 25, class average was 30.7, and my daughter scored 28.

When I absorbed all the test scores, I thought, "She's behind... she's not measuring up... but she reads the little books and sounds out the little words... we're failing somehow..." But the more I processed and examined the different tests and what they really meant, I felt better. The second test told me the most important thing I needed to know ~ that she is able to sound out real words on her own fluently. Then I started looking at the other students... some of the kids who named more letters in the first test didn't do well at all on the phonics. Some didn't do well on any of them. Some are obviously very intelligent and excelled on all three.

Bottom line is this: I have to take each assessment on it's own value, and the value of each one will be different in every circumstance.

Why do they put these kids through these assessments? Well, to measure them against what has been deemed normal or average. To see who is ahead and who is lagging behind. To find out what works and what does not. We face these tests throughout our life, but at some point, we have to make the decision to stand in our own results, accept both the areas where we excel and ones in which we need improvement.

Tomorrow, my mother faces new tests. Blood will be drawn, and comparisons will be made against the norm. Scans will be ordered, films made, and eyes will pour over them measuring the fluid collecting outside her left lung. Conclusions will be drawn based on measurements and tests, comparisons of what goes on inside my mother's body as it compares to normal healthy one. Granted, she won't meet the benchmark of normal. She has cancer. Nothing average about that.

Here's what I pray about those tests... that the doctors have all the wisdom and understanding in their minds and hearts to determine the best possible way to continue her treatment. That My Lord literally hovers around them, permeates their brain as they make their conclusions. That we all ~ my mother, father, brothers and their families ~ have the ability to take in the results for what they are in the moment, knowing that they won't be perfect, average, or right on the benchmark. Truth is, there's no benchmark with cancer. There's no ideal. There's no perfect unless it's simply disappeared, miraculously gone. And I would graciously take that option if presented to me...

No matter what the results say tomorrow, the fact of the matter remains that my life has been so blessed by her being in it. She has made me who I am (the good parts, anyway) and just watching her live makes me want to be a better person. She's been my strength and supporter and advisor and friend. When I look at her, I don't see the cancer. I see strength, resilience, grace, and dignity. I would take my mom with cancer over any of the mothers out there with no illness at all. That's just how magnificent she is.

And I take my daughter, phoneme segmentation fluent but lacking in timed letter recognition, over a child who can quickly tell you all the letters, big and small, but can't read a complete sentence. But that's just me. I am working on working with what I've got, appreciating the reality, not the longing for more.

As usual, prayers are coveted.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Old Metal Bowl

Every summer, we shelled peas. My grandmother got out this ginormous bowl, not real deep but broad across. It was metal, covered in white enamel or paint, probably highly leaded. We'd pull the peas still encased in their protective green shell out of a basket on the concrete porch and split each one open with our thumbnail. I'd run my nail along the length of the shell, separating and pulling the two hemispheres apart. Pretty little peas inside, purple hulls.

We'd shell out on the back porch, Mama and Grandmother talking, breeze blowing gently on the wind chimes creating unique harmonies in the thick summer air, until our thumbs were both green and sore.

Grandmother carefully washed the peas running her fingers through the contents of the metal bowl, pulling the bad ones out. I can smell them now as I type the words ~ the raw purple hull peas. I can smell them; I see her standing at the stove, blanching, cooling, packaging, and putting away for the future. That was the way she did things. How I wish I could go if but for one day and watch it all again.

I found that old metal bowl Saturday and brought it home. There was so much more I wanted to bring home with me. If I could, I'd pick the whole stinking house up and put it in my backyard. In all my 34 years, it's the only thing that has been the same since I was born. We moved a lot, my dad's parents moved a few times, my parents have moved since I moved north. So much change, and yet that house was my constant. Every Christmas Eve I was in that house. I can't recall a single year that I wasn't. Must have been a few when we lived in other states, but the majority were spent there.

No matter what, I knew I could go there and things would be the way they should be. There'd be ice cream and waffles in the kitchen freezer, chocolate syrup in the cabinet, the Braves or Alabama football (depending on the season) on the TV, and my grandmother in her chair. There were pins every where. My grandmother was a seamstress, and various people were in constant motion in and out of her front door needing their skirts and pants hemmed or dresses taken up or let out a little, so pins were common. And thread. Little strands of color all over the sofa and chairs.

Grandaddy piddled a lot outside, and when he stilled his tall frame for longer than ten minutes, you'd catch him napping. He had this pillow thing on the floor in the back den, which was really the master bedroom of the tiny house they called home. He'd lay down on his side in front of the TV in the den, one of those big wooden encased old sets, and prop his head on that pillow and be out in no time. His long legs nearly stretched from one side of the tiny room to the other.

All the life has left the house now. The areas in the back yard that once grew tomatoes and muscadine vines are nothing but grass. There's no TV. Grandma and Grandaddy aren't there anymore. Their hearts are still beating, lungs taking in air, but they are long gone. The people they once were have left, and their minds are back in places like 1952 living in homes that have since been condemned and playing out memories in their head.

Funny... I find myself doing the same thing. Playing out the memories in my head. Standing on that wooden bench for Grandmother to pin a hem in my hand made Easter dress. Watching my Grandaddy slice a watermelon on the back porch or crank the ice cream maker. Smelling those raw purple hulls. Wanting to go back, to take it in one last time, to appreciate it more, to tell them in their sound mind, "Thank you... thanks for all these beautiful memories."

Instead, I'll hang on to that old metal bowl. I don't think I'll ever part with it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Scripture Memory Challenge Verse 10

This morning, after sleeping in, I flipped open my laptop to take a little look at Blogger. I was shocked to discover that today's date is the 15th, and it was time to pick another verse. I am a little shameful about not truly memorizing the verses at this point, but the Lord keeps telling me to continue the focus. I may not can recite them all verbatim, but I have a little spiral full of verses that mean so much to me right now. The other day, I sat down and read them all and spent some time in prayer about some things on my heart. Amazing how time like that eases your mind about things.

Seems lately, there's a lot of easing necessary. The world is tough right now. So much tragedy around me, literally. So much loss and damage and heart break. And then there's days like yesterday that totally drain the energy from my body. Going into that home that has been so full of life as long as I can remember and seeing everything strewn about and not hearing my grandparents' voices or the Braves game on the TV... well, it's just weird. And then working side by side with my mom, listening to her labored breathing, and knowing what's behind it... well, it wears me out emotionally.

To be honest, I feel weary right now. A little beyond tired and on into weary. I'd like to check out for a day or two, lie on the beach in pretty perfect beams of sunshine, with no one in sight. Doesn't that sound lovely? It also sounds impossible. So, instead, I perused the other Siesta's verses for the next two weeks. Funny how the very first one was the perfect verse for me right now.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. James 1:2-3

Hmmmm. Testing of faith. Wonder if that's applicable to my life right now???? Ya think????

I think any time you have an issue in your life that is utterly beyond your control, it calls your faith into question. Mine has certainly been tested over the last year and a half. The test continues every day. But one thing I have decided in my heart is that whatever is going on in this crazy mixed up world, I will not allow it to pull me away from God. In fact, I want it to do right the opposite... I want it to draw me nearer to Him, to His love, to His Word. So, here I am, in the midst of a memory challenge, not exactly memorizing, but drawing nearer to His Word all the same.

And I guess I'll just keep on moving forward. I know He knows how weary I am at times. I know He knows all the reasons why. I know He looks at me and knows the outcome of any situation that weighs on my heart. I'd like to imagine Him looking down at me and whispering, "Just trust me... just know that I am here, where I've always been and will continue to be. Lean on me. I can handle the load." I can hear it, but boy is it hard to follow through on sometimes.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Welcome back. Blogger!

I wasn't able to log into Blogger for the better part of two days. On top of that, my Gmail was acting up, so I wasn't even able to email someone and tell them how badly I was missing blogging. This little space of the world I claimed four years ago has become a little haven of mine, and perhaps I don't realize it until for some reason outside my control I can't get in it.

I enjoy writing here, but I also enjoy connecting. I love reading what other people are thinking, doing, and feeling. I love getting feedback and hearing that I've made someone else think about something differently. I love to get my wheels spinning in a different direction because of what someone else has said. I just absolutely adore this whole blogosphere. I am totally addicted.

Here's a promise ~ I'll be writing an incredibly emotional piece on Monday, no doubt. I am about to head down tho my grandparents' home this morning to help my mom do some cleaning out. Since both of them are in the nursing home now, they are getting ready for a yard sale and subsequent sign in the front yard. There are over forty years worth of life to clean out. I am excited to go there and see what is stored away, but it will be the first time I have been inside the home since they were both put in the nursing home a few months ago. It will be an emotional day.

On the other hand, I get to spend a day with my mom working side-by-side with no children around. So that's a definite plus.

Good Saturday to all!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Friends...

Get your tissues ready...

We met in the 2nd grade. We both had brown hair, corresponding eyes, and similar brains. We learned quickly, completed our work with vigor, and formed a friendship in the classroom when we were done with our math worksheets.

I moved away in the summer between 3rd and 4th grade. I don't remember keeping in touch very much, but back then, all we had was long distance phone calls, loose leaf paper, and envelopes with 20 cent stamps. I never forgot my friend back home in Montgomery, Alabama, but I carried on with life as usual, forging friendships along the way.

My family returned home shortly before school began my ninth grade year. During one of my first weeks back in town, I went to a youth group function at church, and was delighted to see my best friend from grade school. And that was that. We were instantly friends again, no questions asked, as though I had never left at all.

We've been through a lot together over the years. I have fond memories of us at fifteen pining for our first kiss. We believed we were the only fifteen year old girls on the face of the planet minus hairy warts on our face that had never been kissed by a boy. I doubt we were, but it most certainly felt that way. There were yucky boyfriends, the ones that treated us ugly, the ones that didn't like us back, the ones one we thought were keeping us apart from one another. There was high school graduation, college classes, meetings in the cafeteria at AUM, and many laughs shared in the coffee shop at the mall. There were bridesmaids dresses, engagement rings, unwrapping toasters and dishes and towels, and growing up along the way. There were tears. A lot on my part. And she had the best ears ever. She cried along with me, too.

Then there were babies. Laughs, concerns, struggles, impatience, tears along with all that, too. There were losses. There were all the moments that neither of us knew what to say. There were prayers. There's been cancer scares and the real deal. There's been two marriages full of disagreements to mull over and figure out. There's always been the end-all solution to all of life's problems: Let's just run away together and eat for the rest of our lives. We say it all the time knowing full well either of us would ever do it, but it sure does sound fun. And we have always laughed at the thought.

She's my best friend. Sure, I have my husband who is my best friend. And I have my mom that's more dear to me than I could ever put in to words. But nothing beats your best girl friend. She's been there through so much, she's heard my unedited thoughts, she knows what I am thinking before I put it into words. I just don't know how I would have made it through so much of what I've been through without my bestest buddy.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up. E
cclesi
astes 4:9-10

I am so thankful to have had someone to pick me up. And listen. And laugh with me. Or at me. Or make me laugh when I needed it most.

I love you, Erika! {Oh, and obviously, there's one more thing coming in that package that will be in the mail soon... I promise.}

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Laundry and hormones...

It's summer. Well, not quite the real summer yet, but summer enough in Alabama. As in walk out the door and immediately the sweat beads up on your forehead kind of heat. So I go ahead and title it summer.

Sunday evening, I woke up three or four times drenched in sweat. Not really all over but mainly on my legs, especially in that crease behind my knees. Does anyone else do this? I hope not, because it's disgusting. I'm not quite sure what to attribute it to; the high sodium food I had which included Conecuh sausage on the grill followed with baked potato and ribeye steak, or my increasingly heightened hormone production in the past week?

Why are some months worse that others? I could feel it in my blood last week as it started that low boil, bubbling right under the surface. That feeling that I would enjoy causing physical harm to someone, anyone who crossed my path sideways. Why do I feel like that some months but not others? Good thing it's not this awful every month. Maybe it has something to do with the heat. Maybe not. Maybe the heat plus the hormones makes a lethal combination inducing the sweating of the legs. I don't know...

The thing about summer and night sweats is that they increase my laundry. The kids swam this weekend, and for some reason, they think each time they come in the house they have to put a fresh set of clothes on. We go through this every stinking year... just because you wore it for two hours doesn't make it fit for the basket. Problem is they don't even make it to the basket; they litter the floor of their bedroom. Which makes me ill. Which heightens said hormonal imbalance.

It's a vicious cycle.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Weekend to remember...

As I mentioned in my last post, my mother came up to my little town on Friday, and we were able to hang out without any kids for a few hours. I love my kids; don't get me wrong. It's just that when they are around, they tend to monopolize the conversation. When it's just me and mom, we can talk about whatever we want to talk about, not poots and cell phones and pink shoes (odd combination of topics, I know, but you get my point).

Friday we talked about flowers, the future, things pressing on my mind over pizza at Olive Garden and that amazing salad. We shopped for a belt for my grandfather. We looked at paper together and talked over new ideas for jewelry. We just hung out. Just me and her.

Saturday, I went down to Montgomery with the kids to do three things: birthday party for a nephew and to visit both grandmothers (which happens to include one grandfather as well). I watched a four year face light up when he saw his cousins (mostly because of David, but he loves them both!) show up, a little late because of an unexpected Saturday morning practice, but there just in the nick of time. I watched my children walk right in to the nursing home completely at ease and without fear, and it meant the world to me. I don't want them to be afraid and have weird memories of when they used to have to visit their grandparents in the old folks home. And I saw my other grandmother smile when I gave her a custom necklace just for her. Both of them have one now, and to see them delight in something I have made for them makes my heart smile.

Sunday morning, I got a card from my precious little ones. Madalyn had proudly written her name as neatly as her little fingers know how along with a caption, "I loves you mom." David signed his in cursive, and it's the prettiest I've ever seen him write. I know without having even been in the room that he had to stick his tongue out the whole time it took to write it. David brought even more joy into my day by cutting the back yard, proving that he is able to lift and dump the clippings bag. The lines were even acceptable to this neurotic mama, and he has no idea that he'll begin earning his keep this summer.

I planted flowers just like I planned. Me and Scott laid on the lounge chairs and talked while the kids played and swam with friends. And I just can't imagine a weekend more perfect than that. I think it's one I will remember for a long time. For a long, long while.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roses...

Some of my earliest memories of my mother involve her working in the yard. Cutting the grass. Trimming the prickly ivy bushes in front of our home in the Dalraida neighborhood of Montgomery, Alabama. I remember daffodils in the front beds and in the backyard underneath the tall pines every Spring. And roses. She had rose bushes on the side of the simple brick home on either side of the air conditioner unit.

She spent a lot of time with those bushes. Pruning. Fertilizing. Ridding them of pests that threatened their beauty. She'd cut a bloom or two for me to carry to my teacher, carefully wrapping the stems in a wet paper towel and then over that with aluminum foil. The outside felt cold against my skinny fingers as I held them on the ride to school smelling the sweet fragrance from the blooms.

Everywhere we moved, she had a rose bush of some sort. Some years, my brothers would come home for Mother's Day and bring her a new one, some different color she had mentioned she wanted. I would watch as she planted it, hands digging down into the soil, the dirt covering her fingers and trapped beneath her nails. I didn't understand the notion of planting flowers, of tending to them, of having dirt on your hands.

On Friday, my mom came up to visit for the day and to go to Madalyn's little music thing at school. It wasn't a program, per say, but rather a chance to come to the music room and see what they've been working on all year. Before attending that, we rode to Lowe's to look at flowers. She wanted, of all things, a rose bush, but not just any old rose would do. She was in search of a climbing rose. She was so delighted to find it, and we browsed along looking at all the other blooms and grasses and the like. We found the clearance rack full of little plants that had somehow been neglected and were now available for drastically reduced prices. Of course, my mom wanted to buy me something. She always does. That's just the kind of mom she is. So I picked a couple of things from the clearance selections and some other bright, feathery looking things I knew Madalyn would like.

I haven't planted any flowers in almost three years. When money gets tight, those are the things that go first. No flowers, no fancy make-up or lotions, no new clothes unless they're necessary. But as I walked the rows of colors, I found myself missing the soil. Missing that same disgusting dirt that I used to turn my nose up at in my youth. Wanting to dig my hands into the soil and make the perfect pocket for a little plant for me to tend and fertilize and watch grow. I guess it's just in me, you know.

No rose bushes for me yet. I have one of those no-maintenance knock out varieties that my mother (of course) bought for me for Mother's Day three years ago. That was the last thing I planted. Today, I am off to buy some soil for my pots, and I have been busy refurbishing and making fresh again a couple of resin pots I've had for years. I'll have my hands in the soil today planting my little clearance rack finds, and my mind will be back in time watching Mama tend to the roses.

I love you, Mom.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What being a mom means to me...

Wow... almost ten years of playing the role of mom. Sounds hard to believe. I decided this morning it would be neat to think about what being a mom means to me, how it's changed me.

For starters, being a mom has cleaned up my mouth. I hate to admit that when I met my husband, he commented that I had a foul mouth. If a used 20-something car salesman is telling you that you have a foul mouth, you may a problem. But something happens when you bring a tiny little soul into your home. Suddenly, the words that flowed forth from your mouth with no hesitation sound appalling. I found myself, even when David was an infant and was far from uttering his first word, using other words. When David finally did begin speaking, and he used the word freakin' quite frequently, I decided to alter the euphemisms as well. Call it growing up if you want to, but I found it was this immense responsibility to teach my children through what I do. I can't ask a two-year-old David not to use the word freakin' when it comes out of my mouth every fifteen seconds.

Another activity I gave up was throwing things. Pre-children, when I got angry, I never hesitated to throw something across the room. I remember back in my teens getting frustrated over bangs that wouldn't fix just so, and throwing my brush as far as it would go. It was an instant release, an explosion of anger. Of course, it never solved any real problem, but it felt good. Boy have I mastered the deep breath technique. There are many times when I feel that same fire of anger building up in my chest, but I can't say that I've thrown something in front of my kids more than once or twice (hey... didn't claim to be perfect, just better). The last thing I wanted was to get a note home from pre-school telling me that my daughter threw her paint brush across the room. Sad thing is that even though I have tried to calm my inner anger, it's apparently hereditary... Madalyn has on more than one occasion locked herself in her room and thrown all kinds of things around in anger. Something tells me she'll throw a brush or two in her life, but hopefully not over the bangs not being high enough.

I think, in general, as a mom, I love more deeply. Not just my kids, but I love my husband more as I see him loving them. I love my parents more as I realize what they did for me along the way. I love God more as I realize that He loves my kids even more perfectly than I could ever dream of loving them. And I feel God's love for me more as I understand what it's like to fully love without condition. My kids could spit in my face, and though it would devastate me, my love wouldn't diminish one bit. Because I look at them, I see their talents and flaws, I see the goodness and happiness in their little souls, and the love for them just grows and grows everyday.

I feel incredibly blessed to be a mom.

My carpets have spots all over them. I can't ever find a pen when I need one. There's toothpaste dried up in the sink. My shoes are all over the house because my daughter never puts them up after she wears them. I buy my makeup at Walmart because one of the kids always needs a new pair of shoes or a bigger size in clothes. I am frazzled. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you, Lord, for the changes You've brought about in me because of both the blessings You have loaned me...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sometimes your children render you SPEECHLESS...

Madalyn is fascinated with carrying a stuffed animal to school. I remember David being the same way when he was in kindergarten. I didn't understand it then, still don't. I guess there are children in the class that carry loveys to school with them for various reasons, but I don't feel it appropriate to carry such items to real school.

This morning, Madalyn came to me with a little beanie baby sized Dalmatian begging me to allow her to carry it. Her platform of argument is always the same: I will try not to get in trouble with it, I promise. Real convincing.

The following conversation is real, I promise. I will try to be as discreet as possible about a certain word she used {in complete innocence, of course} in case there are any virgin ears {or should I say eyes?} reading this post.

"But I wanna take P*@#% to school..."
"Excuse me, what's the dog's name?"
"P*@#%."
"Oh." Long pause, not knowing quite how to approach the the area without tainting her vocabulary. "And where did you hear that name?"
"I don't know."
"Well, did you hear it somewhere, or did you just make it up?"
"Oh, I made it up..."
"Well, I can't say that I like that name very much. What about Spotty? See all the black spots all over him?"
"SPOTTY! Yes, I love that!"
"Then Spotty it is!"

There are several words in the English language that I literally NEVER say, and Madalyn's choice of name for her wee Dalmatian happens to be one. I was so taken aback by hearing it come out of her precious little mouth. I panicked at the thought that she had heard such a word being used in conversation somewhere, but I also realized that this child makes up names for all her stuffed animals, and they tend to be a little crazy at times. I didn't want to call attention to the fact that it was a vulgar word because I felt certain that one of two things would happen: she'd immediately feel the compulsion to use it several times a day, or she'd be embarrassed that she had said an ugly word even though she had no idea it was naughty.

Oh, dear me. The fun is only just beginning.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lurch

Hearing that Osama Bin Laden was found in Pakistan got my mind stirred about something in my past...

How about a humorous post today?

After my divorce in 1998, I moved back home with my parents and took my old job at the coffee shop in the mall. It was as though the marriage and painful divorce had never happened... except I had a full kitchen's worth of stuff packed in boxes and stored in my parents' little storage room, and a date that wouldn't mean anything to me in years to come engraved on the same darn cake slicer my parents had used the day they got married. If anyone reading knows how to un-engrave something, please let me know.

At the coffee shop, we had a host of regulars, some of which worked in different stores in the mall. For the most part the regulars were friendly and chatty, and over time through small talk, you became almost like friends. I knew what most of them were there for when I saw them walking in, whether it be something to drink right then or beans to carry home and grind. We had this one regular that we nicknamed Lurch, as in the really odd butler from the Adams Family from way back in the day. He was tall, and he would simply walk up to the counter and say, "Hot tea." No please, no thank you, no words at all (or smile, either) other than hot tea. He wasn't really rude, but I wouldn't exactly call him friendly either.

After a couple of months of the daily routine, my manager advised me that Lurch (man, I wish I could remember his real name) had a crush on me. I was floored that anyone could speak so very little to someone and harbor any positive feelings towards them. It wasn't like elementary school days when you could tell who liked you by who pulled your pigtails. In this case, I guess the less he talked to me the more feelings he had. Who knew? I immediately laughed it off. I found out that he was from Pakistan, which didn't mean all that much back then during pre-9/11 days. I understood that we didn't share the same views on God, and that Lurch would most certainly consider me an infidel if he looked at my life without his hot tea glasses on... I was divorced, visited bars regularly, drank alcohol, and generally spoke my mind. Not exactly what a good Muslim would want in a wife.

Things were just humorous until he started buying me gifts. He found me sitting alone in the food court one day sometime around Christmas ingesting a 99 cent soft taco from Taco Bell and drinking a real Dr. Pepper, and he simply plopped a wrapped box on the table. "For you," he said, and I watched him walk away. I waited until I was in the safety of my little coffee shop to open it. A bottle of perfume. I didn't know what to do, and my manager advised me to keep it. Why not? A free bottle of perfume, and it's not like he ever spoke more than four syllables at a time to me, so I found it hard to believe that Lurch had any expectations.

On Valentine's Day, just a couple months after the food court drop-off, I walked up to open the store that Sunday morning to find a beautiful bouquet of red roses. I was dating someone at the time, a young man who actually spoke real words and strung them together in sentences, and we had met for breakfast at the IHOP that morning before I headed to work, so I was surprised to find the flowers waiting for me there. When I saw the signature on the card, I just knew I couldn't keep them. I had the girl working with me that day march them down to him, and I scribbled on the card that I could not accept them. He sent them back with her asking me to please keep them, and I sent them back again. By this point, it was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He had tried to call me a couple of times on the phone, but he was no better conversationalist on the phone than he was in person. Maybe the difference in native tongues, maybe just a challenge in his personality. I didn't know, and I didn't care. I wanted no part in Lurch, and I was tired of playing nice. He needn't take my kindness behind the counter as I passed him his hot tea as my dying affecting for him. In America, it's called customer service.

The last gift I received from Lurch was shortly after I married Scott. Our little coffee shop closed, but apparently my manager kept in touch with a lot of the people from the mall. She showed up one day at my new place of employment bearing perfume and that ginormous make-up kit Estee Lauder offers around Christmas time. I stood on the sidewalk of the downtown street not knowing what to say. She told me she'd take care of it and explain to him that I had gotten married, and surely he could respect that.

I thought about Lurch today. I wonder if he found happiness with an American woman, or if he returned home. I wonder if he found someone else to shower with gifts but not speak to. I wonder if he ever learned the art of conversation or developed a taste for coffee instead of tea. I guess I will never know.

One night, a couple of years after Scott and I were married, we saw Lurch at, of all places, a bar. He stared at me with his lurchy eyes. He didn't speak (no surprise there). I didn't speak to him either, nor did I crack a smile in his general direction. Scott assured me he wouldn't let me out of his sight that night. And that, my friends, is the rest of the story...

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm late...

My husband would say that I am always running late. I think my son spoke more accurately the other day when he said, "Mama... you aren't really late all that much... you are usually right on time."

That's me. Right on time. Not a second to spare. Not early; not late. As of late, I feel a day late and a dollar (or several hundred dollars) short. I am tired. I am rushing here and there, piddling with this an that, balancing one thing on top of the other, and falling incredibly short. I mop the floors only for Madalyn to drop a plate of syrup covered pancakes leaving behind a sticky mess. I cut the grass only to find in two days time it already needs cutting again. I don't think I am the only woman or person in the world feeling this right now. It's the plight of most every 30-something.

I'm two days late in picking a verse for the Memory Challenge, that in all honesty, for me, has turned more into a focus challenge. Even though I can't claim to have memorized them all just perfect, and I certainly won't be making the conference in which you are required to recite a set number of your verses, at the very least, I am focusing on certain scriptures over a set amount of time. The focus on the Word has been helpful in all areas of my life.

Just now, I sat down in my favorite chair to pick out a verse feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and saddened. The events in the southeast over the last week have been difficult to absorb. The discovery last night that Osama Bin Laden is no more is nothing more bittersweet to me. And the continuing battle with this economy forges on in our household. I am emotionally worn out. So I opened my Bible up to a spot that I had tucked an envelope with a note to myself scribbled across the front and read what was highlighted on that page.

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you." Isaiah 35:3-4

I've blogged about this passage before. I love the phrase divine retribution. I can't tell you the Hebrew or Greek words that have been translated to our English language, nor can I tell you what they meant in the ancient tongue. I can only say what it means to me and how the words speak to my heart as I read them this morning. God fights for me and you and those to come. He fights with the evil forces of this world with swords that can't be broken or overcome. He fights with grace and love and forgiveness. His ultimate tool of retribution is Jesus. The victory has already been won. We just have to play out this battle on earth.

It's hard. It's increasingly difficult not to be overwhelmed by so many things here on earth. There are some days that I don't think I can be hopeful in this world anymore. My spirit grows weary. But, to me, I find a certain amount of comfort in simply knowing that God sees. He sees how so many in my state are suffering right now. He sees it, and though He doesn't choose to sweep down and wipe it all away, He knows that His love is in enough hearts to carry out the work for Him. He is certain of it, and He enables things to take place that otherwise wouldn't be possible. And I am trying to remind myself of this... that He sees all things, knows all things, and facilitates divine retribution for the evil that occurs on His people.

And so, I try to move on and do my part in my little corner of the world knowing that one day the exhausting battle of living in the world without allowing the world to consume me will be done.