October 30, 2015 § Leave a comment
I am so honored to have this article posted this morning on incourage.me. Though I knew the publishing date weeks ago, it still snuck up on me today and feels like such a gift as we are remembering this time last year. Well now the tears are coming just typing this intro as I am missing this woman. Our mom and our friend and our phone call on the hard days and on the good. Here is a little snippet, then please click on the link to continue reading….
It’s been one year since that beautiful October morning. My house looked like the aftermath of a wild tailgate party. There was an enormous RV in my driveway with the awning drawn out, tables and chairs and empty cups scattered around. A barbeque pit stood in my front yard while my porch held coolers and a huge white banner.
It was my 38th birthday, but more notably than that, it was the first morning I had woken up after losing my mom. This hadn’t been a party. This had been hospice care.
The hospital cot in my bedroom that held all 90 pounds of my sweet, fragile mother and was now empty. The cancer had been too aggressive, her body too tired, too weak to sustain more treatments, and she was sent home to be surrounded by family.
We were there beside her as she had taken her last breath. In tears, I fumbled around determined to quickly unhook her from the tubes administering medicines to keep her comfortable. After all, she wasn’t in pain anymore………..
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February 11, 2015 § 5 Comments
I sat on the floor of the shower holding a bottle of white, liquid soap. My head was tilted up as streams of warm water rained down my face washing away fresh tears. The cries were fewer and farther between, but they still came at times. Grief would come in waves they told me, and it has.
Three months earlier, we had lost our mom to cancer and, that day, I was headed back to her house to face the cabinets, drawers, and closets, not just of her things, but of her memory and of my memories with her. I didn’t want to go but, more truthfully than that, I didn’t want her to be gone anymore. I looked down at the nearly empty bottle of soap in my hand. It had been part of a present from our mom to my sister, Amy, and I. A simple, soap and lotion, gift set in the midst of the complicated twists and turns of cancer life. A little gift labeled and branded Pure Grace.
I remember standing there the day she gave it to us hugging in my kitchen, the three of us arms intertwined, heads touching, staring at our shoes…huddling over that simple gift of soap, lotion, and grace. Unspoken words rumbled through our minds as we asked someone to take a picture, not because this was the first time we had ever huddled that way, but because current circumstances and possibilities gnawed within us. We wanted to capture how we loved each other.
Not long after that day, we were back in my home again. This time a hospital bed was set up in my bedroom for our mom, and my house had become a revolving door of nurses and friends and family from all over stopping by each day to bring food, or flowers, or letters, or candles, or paper goods, or drinks, or to pick up laundry, or kids, or just to stay and visit….or to say goodbye. This was hospice care. This was the unwanted end we had been fighting against, however, a beautiful, loving end if there had to be one.
Amy and I spent most the time on either side of our mom, our arms sometimes intertwined, our heads sometimes touching hers, huddling over the gift of grace in our mother and clinging to the gift of grace in our God. The grace that gave us the courage to whisper in her ear, “It’s ok to go home.”
And so I sat on the floor of the shower gripping that bottle of white liquid soap, that now nearly empty bottle of Pure Grace, and it registered, gratefully, that true grace is never empty.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
And here I was sad, and weak, and in need of much grace…but not the kind that comes in a bottle because, at the end of the day, we all know that’s just soap. But true grace. The kind that helps you face loss with hope, the kind that helps you choose forgiveness, thankfulness, and joy. The kind of grace that gets you up off the floor of the shower and is never almost empty because it never runs out.
His grace, thankfully, never runs out and with such grace, an end is transformed to a beginning.
May 16, 2013 § 16 Comments
We’ve been given the gift of a mother who, quietly and by example, has taught us to face challenges with hope, courage, and joy. Joy isn’t necessarily happiness, though often the two go hand in hand. Its more of an inner strength, perspective, and trust. Its a condition of the heart that is quick to be thankful and quick to forgive. Not to say that you do not have tears, or suffering, or anger, or overwhelming thoughts of hopelessness, but, rather, to say that you do not stay there. As our family faces this most current struggle with our mom’s cancer, we have once again been reminded that there is a crossroad and a choice.
In my journey to understand my own pains, I’ve come to understand joy more and more….so I wrote a little thing. It applies to any struggle in life.
Joy is the good you choose to see…when the bad is most evident.
Its choosing to be thankful…when the wrongs are ever present.
Its knowing something can be gained…from a difficult circumstance.
An opportunity for hope…when hope is given a chance.
As the flames of pain surround you…there’s a cleansing taking place.
A fire refining the soul…revealing an amazing grace.
Its not what you had planned. You plead it to go away.
“This is not my story. Not my story.” Over and over you say.
Blame and anger beg to take root, but a greater gift awaits
For the one who stands with courage…looking for His face.
Its a search for the road less traveled. A search to listen and to find
God agreeing and gently saying, “No. This is not your story. Its mine.”
When I try to make sense of the heartaches in life, I just can’t. A life lost too soon, cancer, disease, betrayal, infertility, poverty, abandonment, disaster, abuse….All of these and more squeeze questions from our inner most soul. The how’s and the why’s consume our minds, but what about the could’s and the will’s?
Could this be a trial we are facing that will form us into someone we would not have been otherwise? Will we let it break us to a point where we are stripped of a pride that hinders us from trusting in a bigger story? Will we fight the change or will we allow ourselves to be molded and formed, for the better, by the hands of life? Could the fires we survive, the fires meant to destroy us, actually be the exact picture of redemption someone else later looks to for encouragement in their own, similar battle?
With pain, comes choice. Let it embitter you or let it embetter you.
[embetter (verb) to make better]
Grieve your loss. Yes.
Then, search wholeheartedly for your gain.
Here’s to a “beauty from ashes” story. No matter what you are facing. Its there somewhere waiting to be found.
A forever reminder of the truth that while we may not get to choose the things that happen to us in life, we do get to choose how we will respond to them. A tribute, stenciled in her handwriting, to the person who continues to choose joy….our mom.
We would love to hear from you….what are you choosing?
December 3, 2012 § 2 Comments
“I could never love anyone more than I love my sisters”. Name that movie. (okay, its a book too) Little Women. Amy and I watched it years ago and have been quoting it to each other ever since. How deep is a sister’s love? Deep enough to drive cross country with multiple young children. Yes. Twice. Did I say twice? Oh yeah, I did. Well, maybe I drove there for Amy and maybe I drove there for the most delectable pecan pie I’ve ever had….and I am not a pecan pie person. I am apple pie all the way…..but we’ll get to that later.
She lived in a postcard town in North Carolina. So cute. An old, classic Victorian, yellow house, with an American flag on the wrap around front porch, is where they called home. The street was lined with such houses, all different colors, all old, with lush landscaping.
If you walked out the front door and turned right you’d run in to horse stables down the road, surrounded by colossal pine trees and picturesque riding trails. Just being there, you wanted to own a pair of riding boots. On the other hand, if you turned left, you’d run in to a downtown main street straight out of a small town movie set. Train tracks, with a tiny train station, an ice cream parlor, a yoga studio, a movie theatre, a library, a park and dozens of charming shops and restaurants. Gorgeous, vintage red brick…everywhere. There is a particularly preferred store called The Mockingbird and a particularly appetizing restaurant called Chef Warren’s. Warren happened to also be Amy’s neighbor. He and his wife raised chickens and an organic garden whose crops he featured on their menu at times. Fresh food, french pressed coffee, and hands down the finest pecan pie. Ever. But, again, we’ll get to that later.
My last trip to the Carolina’s, we took our trusty black Suburban. This car has been with us since we became a two child family and carried us everywhere tried and true. “Old faithful”.
We rolled up to the sweet yellow house in Southern Pines, unloaded and fell fast asleep. Old Faithful had done it again. Road trip success. Check.
The next morning, we awoke to towering pines and a quaint town. We started up “Old Faithful” only to hear a dreadful screeching noise coming from under the hood. Whaaaattt??? “It’s probably just a fan belt,” I thought to myself. “Yeah, definitely a fan belt.”
I drove my screaming car to the parking lot of the cute repair shop, also on Main Street. I waited for their inspection of the fan belt. Time passes and Mr. Car Guy looks at me, looks at my car, squints his eyes, and proceeds to ask me ,”Do you happen to be in the market for a new car?” I nearly choke and sputter back to him, “What are you trying to say?”
“Well, it seems you need a new a engine?” he says.
“Old faithful!!” I think to myself. “Why have you forsaken me?”
I breathe deep, wish my husband was standing here handling this situation, wish it was just a fan belt, and then consider this one of those character refining moments as I reflect on the circumstance.
Hmmmmm. New engines, those can’t be cheap. I mean that’s the main part of a car, right? And my husband is in Austin. I’m not going to buy a car here without my him. “Well, I guess we got to get it working.”
Mr. Car Guy states, “Oh wait , ma’am , we can’t fix it here. You have to be able to drop the engine. We can’t drop the engine.”
Long story short. (or short story long) We end up towing “Old Faithful” a couple towns over where we buy a used engine. Just as I suspected, not cheap. Our stay with with Amy (or Bebe, as my kids call her) goes from one week to three weeks as we wait for the engine overhaul. We make crepes every other day and eat Warren’s amazing pecan pie.
Towards the end of our stay, Amy and her husband leave town for a wedding. That same evening a huge storm rolls in to Southern Pines. Lightning, thunder, wind…the whole deal. The baby starts throwing up at midnight. Nice. I am thinking he is having a terrible reaction to some bites he got on his face earlier in the day. I have no car. I am in a strange town. My sister is gone. My husband is gone. These are good times.(insert sarcasm)
I speak to one of our best friends back home who’s a family doctor. After several questions, his diagnosis is that it is just a stomach bug unrelated to the bites. Whew. I’m relieved. Kind of. In the meantime, there is still throw up. Oooohhhh how I love throw up. Wait, no I don’t. But, still, here I am covered in it. Its a sad mess really. Midol take me away.
Then, in the middle of giving the little guy a late night bath, the power goes out. …The power to a hundred year old house….. A house that belongs to my sister…..A sister that is not there.
I am solo and am sure a breaker tripped. It’s pitch black and my mind (not my body) wanders to the breaker box. The breaker box that is under the house….In the basement. The basement you enter through a secret door that lifts up out of the floor. Repeat, out of the floor. The secret door that my sister will not even go down by herself. Being that the house is in North Carolina and one hundred plus years old, it potentially was some sort of hidden room that was part of the underground railroad. But that’s just my wild imagination. Who knows?
I am NOT going down there at two in the morning in the middle of a thunderstorm. No way. I’d rather sleep with the power off. Which I do.
Fast forward. Baby ceases to puke. The sun comes up. Power lights up. Sister comes home. Husband shows up. (love him) Car is fixed. (love it) Everything is back as it should be.
“Old Faithful” is on the road again. When it’s all said and done, I am thinking two things. “I am not doing this trip again for a looonnnng time.” (sorry sister) and “Thank goodness I got some of Chef Warren’s pecan pie.”
And yes, I will share his recipe. He does so on his website and we made it this past Thanksgiving. Then we devoured it and thought happy thoughts.
This is their most requested recipe.
Yields two 9″ pies. Any extra filling can be refrigerated for up to one month.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees
4 ounces unsalted butter
8 ounces unbleached flour
2 pounds light brown sugar
4 cups of Karo syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of salt
3 cups of pecan pieces
1 cup of pecan halves
2 pie shells – par baked at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
Cream together the flour and the butter. Add the light brown sugar and then beat in eggs, two at a time. Add Karo syrup, vanilla, and salt. Mix in one and a half cups of pecan pieces per pie. Fill the shell and then top it off with half a cup of pecan halves. Place in the oven on a cookie sheet at 275 for approximately 2 hours or until set. He recommends letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator and serving it the next day. The pie freezes and defrosts well, so you can save the for those special occasions.
There you go. Chef Warren’s Pecan Pie. Make it for Christmas. He does not give a pie crust recipe, but may I highly suggest a homemade crust. It really does make all the difference and can be made ahead of time as well. The one I use is from Ina Garten….use it for pies and quiche…AMAZING. Here’s the link to PERFECT PIE CRUST.
Thank goodness Amy has moved back to Texas and thank goodness Chef Warren shared his recipe for pecan pie.
“Old Faithful” running strong.
November 19, 2012 § 5 Comments
When Amy and I were younger we weren’t allowed to have candy on any day other than Saturday. Saturdays became known, appropriately and affectionately, as “candy day”. We’d wake up, eat breakfast (maybe), and then head straight for the lower cabinet in the kitchen which housed the sacred wooden salad bowl filled with the forbidden foods. As we lifted the bowl with both hands, we’d journey ceremoniously to the living room where we would plop down on the carpet and indulge ourselves through episodes of Smurfs, Saved by the Bell, and Alvin and the Chipmunks.
On a different note, “Candy”, itself, could have been Amy’s name. For some reason beyond me, our dad was lobbying for the name back when Amy was born. “Amy” won out and it’s a good thing if you ask my, oh so humble, opinion.
Of course, I’m not one to talk about names. Our fourth little bundle of joy goes by the name “South”. After three days of deliberation and no official name, the panicked birth certificate lady busted into our hospital room needing it. We were getting ready to leave so I guess we did need to make it official. After hitting a little opposition to the potential name, we had decided to wait a couple of days to be sure. Then, my husband said it. His name would be “Christopher South.” (“Christopher” is Amy and I’s mom’s maiden name and “South” is short for South Fork, a quiet mountain town in Colorado that is our heart and soul)
He would go by his middle name. (Christopher was too normal.) It made perfect sense to us and now it was in writing.
An odd sort of confirmation had come our way the day before the papers were signed.
I was nursing our new little guy in the corner room of the maternity wing. Random sports clips were playing on television and I was partly paying attention, partly wondering when my next pain meds were coming, and partly thinking to myself, “Can we call this baby South?” That’s when it happened…..
South Africa had recently won a big soccer game. As I glanced toward the screen, BOOM…up popped a Rastafarian soccer fan being interviewed, He was an older gentleman, in dreads, and an enormous, multicolored hat with five letters disproportionately large across the top of it. SOUTH. Not South Africa. Just simply “South”.
Was that a sign??? If I followed some sort of Rasta spiritual movement, I might think so….But I don’t.
But truthfully, I mean, who would name their baby “South”?
Uh….well….this girl. However, that is exactly the type of questions we got from people close to us after we announced his name. (which is tough for someone with people pleasing tendencies….hello….me)
Actually, it was more like this…
Them: “Well, I’m not calling him South.”
Me: “Okay, well that’s what he goes by.” Smile. Nod. Heart race. Question myself. Doubt myself. Doubt my husband. Google “how to change your baby’s legal name.”
I began referring to little South, not by name, but rather in more generic terms calling him simply “the baby”. At times, I would try calling him different names to see how it felt and became borderline obsessive compulsive over the issue. Combine this with crazy hormones, chapped nipples, (yeah I said nipples) sporadic milk let down, and extreme lack of sleep, and there is an issue. And the issue was full-fledged…Baby. Namer’s. Remorse. Public places with my newborn in tow became a dreaded experience. It was sooo not normal. I would be able to feel the tiny baby lovers approaching me, almost like a sixth sense. My blood pressure would rise as inevitably they would ask, “How old is he?” and then, “What’s his name?”
Ugh. What is wrong with me?
Over dinner one evening, with some long-time girlfriends, I was sharing my dilemma. They listened, encouraged, and then one of them so wisely stated, “I mean, come on , it’s not like you named your baby ‘Hamburger’.” Relieved, we all smiled, shrugged in agreement, I felt better, then we ordered margaritas. But here’s the deal. What if I did name him “Hamburger”? Celebrities name their children after food all the time, and there is probably a good story behind it. People should respect that.
(Okay, “Hamburger” is a little extreme, but I won’t judge.)
In fact, I know a sweet little boy named Chili.(Yes I said Chili)…And there is a Cedar, a Ridge, and a Canyon… A Denver, a Dallas, a Houston, and a Hondo (small south Texas town). I’ve met a North, an Easton, and a West. So why not South?
I’ve since grown a little of the proverbial alligator skin and am working towards giving up on people pleasing as it’s an impossible line of work. I now own South’s name. I love hearing my kids and family call him “Southie” (his nickname) and can’t imagine him being anything else.
I sometimes wonder if Amy would have been named “Candy”, would her life be any different???
My thought is…..no.
I’ve come to believe and stand by this mantra: “It’s not the name that makes the person but, rather, the person that makes the name.”
Can I get an amen???
November 15, 2012 § 117 Comments
Warning. I will mention periods in this post. Yes, the girl kind. So if you’re a guy (ahem, my husband) and you’re reading this…….girls get periods. We talk about them sometimes. Makes the world go round.
Day 1: Tears.
Monday morning I woke up bright and chipper for work at 3:45am. BAM! My monthly friend decided to show up. I was kind of shocked because I hadn’t been acting completely wonkers in the days leading up. Normally, I’m a wreck and it’s super evident that my period is coming. Well, there she was!!! Then, it hit me…… “Dang, I’m not pregnant.” I guess I haven’t really been on my raw-organic-vegan-gluten-free diet that prepares my body for conception or seen my husband lately, so I wasn’t too surprised. Even so, the disappointment was starting to set in.
What now??? I know!!! I’ll just dress cute and comfy for work and my day will be better.
Well, my friends, sometimes what looks cute in your head will be the weirdest outfit your co-workers have ever seen. Bobby: “Hey, you headed out to the frontier later?” Lunchbox: “Where did you get that ugly sweater? You look like Harry from ‘Dumb & Dumber’ Bwaahahahaha!!”
Long story short………. I have to leave the room to go cry. Yes, real tears. Because of a sweater. I go into Alayna’s studio and she asks what is wrong. Me: “The guys are making fun of my sweater.” The second those words left my mouth, I knew that was cleeeeaarly my period talking…not the “real” me. Hormones have a mind of their own. As I head back to the studio, I tell myself to “pull it together and stop acting crazy.” My pep talk didn’t do much…… I finished the show as a super unpleasant version of myself. I was a straight mess. Oh, and working in radio is really awesome because days like that are on podcast. Forever. Sweet.
Day 2: Midol.
There wasn’t enough Midol to get me through Tuesday, but I survived. By the way, if you’re a woman and you don’t use Midol….You.Are.Missing.Out. Midol makes everything better. I take it even if it’s not my time of the month. When feeling especially tired…….pop some Midol with a Mountain Dew and you’ll be golden. I don’t “officially” condone this concoction, as I know it’s not healthy and I’m the queen of health. Side note: If you haven’t checked out our chocolate cake blog post……you should do that next. Can you say HEALTHY??!!! Mmmm… I need some of that cake right now.
Anyway, our good friends had a baby on Monday, so on Tuesday afternoon my brother-in-law texts me about going to the hospital that night. While holding my friend’s baby, I realize how tiny and precious he is. I want a tiny baby. Should I make a break for it??? No. Don’t be stupid……. I’m not going to really take my friend’s baby. Thought about it though. Sorry. If these said friends happen to read this blog….. you can trust me around your kids. Promise.
As we leave the baby ward of the hospital………. I noticed all of the babies born that day. Geez. And this was just at one hospital. I tried not to get all Debbie Downer on myself, but I couldn’t help but wonder, “Seriously. Why can’t I just have a stupid baby?” Quick. Pop a Midol. Good night.
Day 3: Clomid.
Well, what do you know??? I got a call from a friend saying: “WE’RE HAVING A BABY!!!! And we weren’t even planning it!!!!!” Yay. Losers. Just kidding. They aren’t losers. I’m happy for them… duh! They weren’t even trying!!! That’s.Just.Great.News. I know you can’t tell by reading this, but deep down I truly am excited for them. For real.
I call my sister to vent. We both are crying and she decides to ask me about Clomid. Oh, Clomid?? You mean that bottle of pills I’ve had for….ev….er, but can’t bring myself to take??? While on the phone, I go grab the bottle and realize that I’m supposed to start Clomid on day 3 of my cycle. Ummmm… It’s day 3!!! Perfect. My sister: “Whoa. This is totally meant to be.” Me: “Okay, lets not get a head of ourselves…..this stuff might not work.”
I have reservations about Clomid because I just think that if I was meant to have a child in my belly….. it would happen on its own. I mean, Snooki has a baby……. surely my time will come, right? Clomid has me scared of conceiving multiples…not sure I could handle twins or triplets. Annnnnnnd then there’s all THESE side effects to deal with:
Hot Flashes – Bloating & Abdominal Discomfort – Weight Gain – Mood Swings
Nausea & Dizziness – Headaches – Abnormal Bleeding – Blurred Vision
Sounds awesome, right? I also have weird thoughts that in 20 years we may find out that babies born on Clomid are aliens. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night.
At times, I think that we aren’t ever going to have biological children. It’s just not something the Lord has in store for us. Adoption, however, is something He’s been very clear about and….. lucky for us….. that’s a great way to have children!!! Perfect. We feel called to adopt no matter what. Adoption is actually another blog post in itself. Ugh. Adoption. I get why they make the process difficult, but WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT? I have to check my fruit often when dealing with adoption: love.joy.peace.patience.kindness.goodness.gentleness.faithfulness.self-control. Repeat. Feel better.
To my future children by way of another mama…. we look forward to loving you. Caring for you. Holding you.
To my possible future children by way of Clomid that I JUST started taking… No, baby, of course mama doesn’t think you’re an alien.
To others going through anything similar to us right now… you are not alone.
Love and peace child,
November 13, 2012 § 2 Comments