Mama Instincts At Work

Tonight this Mama is thankful to be home.

With some answers.

Our day started out with our Princess coughing.  She can go from sniffles in the morning to full-blown asthma by nightfall, bless her.  She’s been doing a lot better with these times occurring less and less often.

But today the sound of her coughing was the first thing I heard this morning.  I checked her temperature around 10:30 and again at noon.  Both times it was doing what I expected.  Low grade and slowly rising.  When I checked it again mid-afternoon though, I felt like I’d won “Worst Mama of the Year” award.  It was high.  Higher than I ever remember it being.

And that was not okay.

I took her robe off of her in hopes of cooling her down some, and I called the number I’m supposed to call to get permission to take her to the doctor.  Imagine my surprise when the trained professional on the other end told me to wait it out.  She gave suggestions for home care, but bottom line was, “If it gets worse, call us back.”

This did not set well with me.  I once had a pediatrician tell me to trust my “Mama instincts.”  I really appreciated that, the fact that he valued my perceptions and concerns as an integral part of his taking care of my children.  So today, when I called thinking someTHING needed to be done to help my sick baby, and I was told to “wait it out,”  Mama’s instincts flew out the window and Anxiety Girl showed up.  She has quite the imagination, that one.  And she’s really good at making me panic.

I held it together though.  With the help of those who love us listening and reaffirming my concerns, I kicked Anxiety Girl to the curb, and me and my instincts made the decision to take our Princess in to be seen by a doctor. (Especially when the fever hadn’t broken four hours after taking medicine.) I made a call to the Med Stop to confirm they were still open. When talking with the nurse there, I explained what had been going on.  “Oh yes,” she said.  “Y’all need to come on now.”

They arm "banded" my sweet girl and sent us back very quickly tonight.  She was so worn out, she curled up on the table and went to sleep.  Bless her.

They arm “banded” my sweet girl and sent us back very quickly tonight. She was so worn out, she curled up on the table and went to sleep. Bless her.

And I’m glad we did.  I have a sick Princess, who did need medicine prescribed to get better.

I was worried and wanted her to get the help she needed to feel better so we went "as you are"--pajamas and all.

I was worried and wanted her to get the help she needed to feel better in a hurry so we went “as you are”–pajamas and all.

Poor girl.  I hurried her out the door so quickly, she grabbed my shoes to wear to the Med Stop.

Poor girl. I hurried her out the door so quickly, she grabbed my shoes to wear to the Med Stop.  Today was one of those “do what you gotta do” days.  (No, seriously, you should see all the dishes in my sink.  Ah well, they won’t grow legs and leave before the morning.  Unfortunately…..)


Tonight I’m thankful for folks who empower me and my “Mama instincts.”  I give thanks for a good doctor and kind staff who made my girl feel special, even when they had to do what she feared most–stick that swab down her throat.  I am thankful that I went with what I thought instead of waiting for a person to give me permission to be concerned.  And I’m grateful that what my baby has found the most comfort in today has been cuddling with me.  Even though she’s almost 10 and nearly as tall as I am, she still wants her Mama when she doesn’t feel good.  Tonight as we curl up on the couch, where apparently we’re sleeping tonight at her request, and watch late night programming on a channel where the shows are Mama-approved, I will smell her hair and kiss her forehead, and be grateful that we are here together.  And we are okay.  Or will be as soon as the medicine kicks in.

It’s time for this tired Mama to call it a night.  There is little that makes one feel as vulnerable as seeing his or her baby sick and miserable.  But first I want to make sure all you folks loving on your children hear this:  trust yourselves.  Ask questions.  You know your littles and big ones better than anyone.  Trust that.

Love to all.


reflection of the good

For you, baby girl, not quite what you asked for, but this has been on my heart for a while.  Thankful for the gift you are.  Always. 



I think it is ironic

that of all the people

who miss him

and all he was,

it is I who gets to see

his smile

anytime I want–

well nearly anyway

there are times the frown

he perfected shows too

mostly when I frustrate her

or tease her unmercifully

just as my Daddy did me

When she smiles

it is with the smile of the one

who first laid eyes on her as she was being born

when she laughs

it is an echo of his delight

and when she cannot believe what she is hearing

she shares his surprise at such audacity

Of all who loved and miss him

I’m the one who sees him

most every day

Her face is a reflection of

all that was good in his life–

his joys, hopes, and dreams

She is beautiful

and she is mine

the gift he gave me

that I give thanks for always

even when the frown is showing

for she makes me who I am

by letting me love her

and share her dreams

and she makes my heart glad



February 10–Frozen in Time

I write tonight so tomorrow can be all about him.  All about what happened seven years ago.  Instead of the same night one year ago.

I write tonight because it was a Sunday, a beautiful Sunday in February that my Mama went on up to The House.  To see her dear grandmother whom she never stopped missing.  Her Aunts and others she loved.  And my Daddy, whom she had spent the previous fifteen months trying to learn to breathe without.  And she did it with love and faith and a grace that was second to none.  She was amazing.

She wants tomorrow to be all about him.  I know that.  She loved my babies, and all of her grands, more than anything in this world.   That Sunday, one year ago, when I was going leave the hospital to meet my birthday boy and the family at the park for a half hour, leaving her and Mess Cat so I could wish him a happy birthday, I went over to her bed and said quietly, “Mama, the littles and Aub are coming up here.”  She immediately looked upset and shook her head no.  “No, Mama, we’re going to go to the park for a little while.  It will be fine.  They’re not coming to the room.  I’ll tell him you said Happy Birthday, okay?”  She nodded and tried to smile.  Okay.  Okay.

I left and when I came back, I knew things weren’t right.  I could tell she wasn’t doing well, and she was no longer alert.  In just that short of a time.  The tear in my heart began breaking even more.  Noooo.  It was too soon.  And yet her body had held off as long as it could. Twenty-five days in the hospital.  Twenty-four of them in the ICU.  Less than a week’s worth of being alert and awake during that time.  Twenty-four days in the same hospital where her grandson, my baby boy Cooter, was born six years before.

Six years apart.  Same building.  So much alike.

Both February 10 mornings I was awakened very early.  In 2007, I’d wakened to the contractions and the knowledge that a baby was coming soon.

In 2013, I gave up trying to sleep after a night of dozing in and out, getting up to stand by her bed and stare at the numbers on the machine, willing her blood pressure to come back up on its own following her third emergency surgery, performed just a few hours before.  I just knew if I stood vigil, it would help.  It would make her better.

One day I had my Fella by my side, grinning and excited about what was to come.

Another he asked to go see Mama while I sat in the car with the crew in the parking garage.  I don’t know if he knew he was going in to say goodbye.  I am so glad he asked, and he got to see her one more time.

Both days were filled with numbers and nurses, blood pressure checks and beeps–oh those infernal beeps that I can still hear in my sleep.  Both days we were blessed by people who were caring and attentive and concerned about the patient.  In one room, “It’s a boy!” was called out excitedly.  In another, “It’s time,” was whispered with resignation and sadness.  Both days found me greeting people who gathered in the room.  It was only in the expressions that the difference could be seen–those coming to welcome a new life, those coming to say goodbye and let go of one they so loved.

Both days I had to sign my name.

Oh dear God.  I had to sign my name.

The weight of signing one’s name to make a new life official and legal can feel momentous and very important. But the signing of one’s name to let your Mama go.  To say it’s time.  To give permission to give her peace and rest.  My hands shook, and I had to focus through the tears.  I never wanted to do that again.

Both days there were prayers said and voices raised in sharing stories and remembering.  Both days I held the hand of the one I loved.  One who would call me Mama, and the One whom I called Mama.  Both days I tried to freeze the moment, to remember what those hands looked like.  Both days I didn’t see how I could love the one I held more than I did in that moment.

Six years apart.  The joy and the sadness.  The laughter and the tears.

After Cooter was born, the nurse stopped my bed by a button on the wall, and I pressed a button.  Lovely music played all over the hospital.  The same sound I pointed out to Mama during her HospitalStay even when she wasn’t conscious.  “Mama, a new baby!  How sweet.”  After Mama passed over, there was no sound.  Nothing to mark the moment but a nod from the doctor’s assistant whom we had known most of our lives.  That nod and the tears that flowed without halting.

After Cooter was born, the nurses cleaned him and handed him over to me and the Fella.  My heart swelled with tenderness for this new little boy, my only baby boy, and I knew my life would never be the same.  After Mama passed, my heart was breaking into a million little pieces, but it still swelled with love for her.  This beautiful woman who gave me life.   And love.  So much love.  I took a washrag and wet it, and one last time, I washed her face.  Just as I had so many times during her HospitalStay, to comfort, to bring down her fever, to say “I love you.”  One last time.  And I knew my Life.  Would Never. Be.  The Same.

Tomorrow, Mama, tomorrow I will make it about celebrating this baby boy who has brought you and Daddy and all of us so much joy.  I give thanks for his life and am happy to be his Mama.  This one who loved to listen to you read but would hop up sometimes to finish playing with the cars on the floor next to you.  This one who loved your snacks and ice cream sandwiches.  This baby boy who decided very early he wanted to go with you and Daddy and his big sister, our Princess, on those Mondays after Stevi B’s lunches.  He didn’t want to miss a moment of the fun with y’all.  Tomorrow I will celebrate and take him on an adventure and fix him what he asks for to eat, and I will bake a cake or brownies or whatever he chooses to mark the occasion.  Just like you did for us.  I will cry as I remember the little baby he was and dream of the young man he will become.  I will hang on tight as I let him go.

But tonight, tonight is for you and me.  Tonight is about the tears and the heartache and the remembering a life well lived, a race well run, and a love that is stronger than death.  I know you are still with me.  I can feel your presence, and I know your love gives me strength to breathe and go on another day.  I know because I could not do this on my own.  I never could.

Not too long after Mama passed, I heard a song that I had heard many times, but it really hit me hard for the first time last year–“Over You” written by Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, and sung by Miranda Lambert. They wrote it in memory of Blake’s brother who died when he was young.  The beginning lyrics:

Weatherman said it’s gonna snow
By now I should be used to the cold
Mid-February shouldn’t be so scary
It was only December
I still remember the presents, the tree, you and me

But you went away
How dare you?
I miss you
They say I’ll be OK
But I’m not going to ever get over you

Two days.  Six years apart.  Both so very precious and dear to me.  Both days about the sacred and holy and thin moments of our lives.  Both shaping who I am in this very moment.  Both days tugging on my heart with their whispered stories and memories and all who shared each journey with me.  With us.

Mama, I love you and I miss you, and I’m not ever going to get over you.

But yes ma’am, tomorrow will be about him.  And I’ll remind him how loved he is.  Just as you have all these years for us.  Thank you for that.  The love.

Always, T. Annie aka Sugar Tag

the gift of cuddles

This post is brought to you by my sick children.

Whatever respiratory thing that has gotten hold of so many of our family and friends is putting a working on us.  Two down.  Three holding their own.  So far.

So tonight will be short and sweet.  (You’re welcome, Bubba.)

Mostly because our Princess asked me to cuddle with her.




This nine-year old has grown up so much in the past year–she’s become so much more independent.  She has friends who knock on our door, wanting to play, and she heads out with them for hours some days.  Yesterday she and her friends and brother had a great time, in intervals shortened by a Mama worried about them getting too cold, playing with the sled and throwing snowballs and sliding down an ice-covered slide.  (I shiver just thinking about it, but Cooter says it was the BEST SLIDE EVER.)

And yet today, when she started feeling poorly, all she wanted was to cuddle with her Mama.  Done.  I’m in.

And my big girl, whose fun times with friends in the snow at Wesleyan Tuesday night (they got a lot more snow than we did) and again yesterday brought me great joy, called and wanted to come home.  If only for tonight.  She doesn’t feel good, and she too wants her Mama.  Or her bed.  But I’m going with Mama.  It’s my prerogative.  (And I am hoping that their playing in the snow and being sick is only a coincidence.  *sigh*)

I’m not happy my babies are sick.  But I am thankful that my babies, no matter their ages, still want their Mama.  And so tonight I sign off to go love on them and cuddle, and I wish each one of you the gift of someone to comfort you and the precious gift of being wanted and needed.

Love to all.


a safe place for her to land

The goal of raising children is what?

To help them grow and leave and go out on their own, right?

The downside of that is, if you do your job right,


My oldest had to say goodbye to both of my parents, two of the people she loved most in this world, way too soon in the past two years.  She aged and matured in the midst of that pain.  Then she went to college three months ago, and I saw the first shoots of her independent self bursting through. I realized I was catching a glimpse of whom she’s becoming, whom she’s going to be “when she grows up.”

This week she has had to, once again, say goodbye to someone she cared about. Way too soon.  I didn’t see her until after it was all over.  I talked to her regularly, but I wasn’t there to hold her hand, to give her a hug, to decide what she could hear or be exposed to.  I wasn’t there to protect her when the unkind things were said or when the really hard things happened.  All I could do was offer to be where she needed me to be when she needed me and wait and listen.  Letting her do this all by her big girl self, as she used to call it, was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

All I could do was sit back and watch her spread her wings…..

and be a safe place for her to land. 

She’s in the midst of learning what it means to be grownup.

And finding out it’s more than using curse words at will.  Or picking out your own clothes.

It’s learning to sit back and hold your tongue, even when the other person is being unkind or foolish.  It’s learning when to speak and when not to.

Being grownup means doing something even if you don’t want to, because it is, as Baddest Mother Ever says, “the next right thing.”   It glitters like fun but hurts like heartbreak, and when it’s all said and done, most of us who are grownups are left looking around wishing the real grownup would appear, because this is so much harder than we ever thought it would be.

When I was younger, so much younger, I thought being grownup meant watching whatever you wanted on TV as late as you wanted, eating whatever you liked, chewing a pack of gum a day, talking on the phone whenever you wanted to, driving without limits, being with friends and coming in and not having to get up and do chores the next morning.  I think when none of this actually came to fruition I was a bit shocked.  Yeah, all that glitter and fun and the like–it’s not real.

Real grownups cry.  They laugh at the faces babies make and the things their children say way harder than they ever did at any joke.  They have relationships that matter and they work to keep them.  They work hard before they ever get to play.  Sometimes they go days without “playing.”  Or weeks.  Or longer.  They say I’m sorry and don’t have to be right all of the time.  Real grownups rarely get to sit at Starbucks for hours sipping lattes and reading the latest People magazine.  They say thank you and mean it and then try to pay it forward.  They bring joy to others, and as my Mama would tell us, they act like they are somebody.

As I watch this one, whom I swanee was in diapers and onesies just last week, grow and make mature choices, I sometimes have to bite my tongue.  And sit on my hands.  I want to help, but this week has shown me that my little bird is sitting at the edge of the nest.  And ready or not, this girl is learning to fly and doing a pretty good job of it.

And while I realize that people like my parents and so many others have played a huge part in who she is, I also think about the things I’ve tried to teach her, and I give thanks.  Sometimes it seems like she really was listening.  And then I remember the little girl who was headstrong and adorable, just like her precious niece is now, who would curl up next to me on Friday nights and listen to the jazz music on public radio as we lay there in the dark,  and I curse a little myself.

Time.  And the job I did.

Sometimes I wish she would need me a little longer.

Then I smile.  She will need me.  Little birds have to take a rest and return to the nest every now and then. And those are the moments I will treasure the most.  The ones where we talk and I hear all about her adventures in the big blue sky out there.

A page has turned.  She is growing up on me.

the ones that make it hard to say goodbye

When a soul leaves this world so do his stories.  Those little tidbits of fact and fiction that were a part of the journey on the paths of his life, a part of who he was, unique only to him.  Gone.

About two or three months before Daddy died, I took this laptop over to Blackberry Flats and sat in the recliner at the foot of his hospital bed in the living room.  He was gazing out the window as he usually did.  I told him I’d brought the computer to record his stories.  (I type faster than I can write.)  He knew such great stories about our great-grandparents and other kin from generations a ways back.  He had done tedious research and traveled to cemeteries all around and put together these great stories.  He had also taken some of the stories Granddaddy Cleveland told and made them his own.  Daddy was a storyteller.  I aimed to get those down for my children and future grands and so on.

But I had waited too late.  Either the stories were fading or his will to tell them, I wasn’t sure which it was, but he shook his head ever so slightly and turned back to the window.  And my heart broke.  All those stories, gone with him when he left us and went on up to the House.

Today more stories left this world with a soft breath and a gentle yet painful letting go.  Stories that were tangled up with mine for a time.  Some that were known only between us, now those stories are mine alone.  When Daddy left and then Mama, some of the stories got fuzzy and I no longer had someone to ask, Do you remember…..What was his name…..When did we go…..How old was I when…..Did Granddaddy really say a mule fell down a hole in the middle of downtown?  All those questions that can never be answered again.  Lost.

And today more of those stories.  Gone.  Like the rice, and pizza with sardines and coke and Star Trek, a dog that understood and answered questions and was missed when she was gone, the cat that acted like a dog, the little dog that ate the little boy’s hot dog, the little girl with the maybe not so imaginary friends, the first pink in four generations, the boat adventures, the airplane, whoa man, the little boy who burped the first time I met him and said, “It was just a ‘ittle one Daddy,” the phone call that came about a heartbreaking loss–even though our stories were no longer as intertwined, the fascination with the Frugal Gourmet, the love of the Allman Brothers,  the smell of peaches in the air.  And so many more.

I wonder where all of these stories go.  In the movie Epic, the character voiced by Steven Tyler (I know, right?), Nim Galuu, is a glowworm.  He is in charge of something like the hall of the Book of Life.  All of life is recorded on these scrolls–past, present, and future.  Wonder what it would be like if those scrolls really did exist?  I could ride down in the little car (with Steven, ahem, I mean Nim) to the lower levels of this amazing library and re-read the stories of old and remember what Daddy said happened to Grandma Jane or what exactly was so amusing about the story about the mule that Granddaddy told.  I could relive the spelling bee in the sixth grade where my cousin was also competing and I am pretty sure he won.  I could re-read the conversation between me and Daddy about the one thing that has been on my mind that I think he told me. I could go to the old book sale with my Aunt again for the first time ever.  So many stories I would sit and rediscover.  As for the ones from the future, I don’t think so–they would either spoil the fun or keep me from getting out of the bed some mornings.  No, it’s the ones from the past I want to remember and revisit.

Well maybe not all of them, not the hard ones.  It’s best to let those go and not dwell on them overmuchly.  And there were hard ones, many of them, in the ones that left us today.  And I’m okay with those being let go.

It’s like my oldest said today.


“In the end, you only remember the good stuff–which makes it so much harder.” 

The song she mentioned is “The Scientist” performed by Coldplay and written by Guy Rupert Berryman, Jonathan Mark Buckland,  William Champion, and Christopher Anthony John Martin.  Today was my first time hearing this song, and I’m not sure which part of the song spoke to her, but these words stuck with me today:


Tonight I give thanks that the happy memories float up from the dust of long ago just when they are needed the most.  There is healing grace in that.  Redemption.  And I am even more thankful that in the midst of those intertwined stories written on the pages of the Book of Life, though there are many hard and broken and sad, there are also many happy and funny and joy-filled ones to come home to.  The ones that make it hard to say goodbye.  That’s what I’m the most grateful for.  And that will do for a Wednesday like no other.

Hearing Mama’s Voice

A few days ago, our Princess came in from playing with her first love, Sugar Ray.  He is the kitten we took in when he was three weeks old.  Something had hurt him badly, but with bottle feedings and good medicine, a great doctor and lots of TLC, he grew to be the massive lovable guy he is now at almost eighteen months.

When she came in the back door, she was crying.  What on earth?  She came straight to me, wrapped her arms around me and sobbed, “I miss Maemae.”

Oh no.

This has happened a handful of times since February, and when it does, it is hard.  Our Princess is usually so full of joy and light.  This makes the tears especially painful to see.

I just held on to her and rubbed her back and told her that Maemae loves her and is still with us.  I don’t know what else to do.  I told her it’s okay to cry and that she can still talk to Maemae.  I am trying so hard to let her know it is okay to grieve–in whatever way she needs to.

I asked her what brought it on.

“I was just talking to Sugar and telling him how much I love him and how much he has helped me when I was sad.  And then I started thinking about Maemae.  I miss her so much.”  The tears began falling again.

Today I sent her to pick up her room.  She is a love and very creative.  She’s our resident animal caretaker of cats and puppies and even some frogs and skinks outside.  She got my ability to read anywhere, anytime and shut out all other distractions.  But she also inherited my lack of being able to focus and organize and keep things in place.  So we have to work a little harder at it. She came out of her room a little while later crying.  I figured she was upset about having to clean or that her brother had done something to frustrate her.  But no.

“Mama, I miss Maemae so much. So so much.”

There must be something in the air, because several of us have had a harder week than usual this week.  I don’t know.  Again, I just held her and gave her permission to cry.  It’s all I can think of.  And usually as she quiets down, I find something to make her laugh.  I so need to hear her laugh.

I don’t know how to heal her little heart.  I don’t know how to make her okay because this is NOT okay.  We lost Mama way too soon, and we didn’t get to have conversations that we had scripted in our heads would happen when she came out of sedation or when the vent was removed.  Never happened.  We never even got to celebrate her birthday because of littles being sick on the day, and she went into the hospital two days later.  It’s hard and it hurts and this is one more thing I cannot fix.  I can only hold her as she cries and dry her tears that are falling onto my shoulder, all the while wondering why I have yet to feel my own.

But this is what I do know.

Mama is with us.  Always.

It is a very thin veil that separates us.

Life and death.

She is still with us.

A new book by one of our favorites, Mo Willems.

A new book by one of our favorites, Mo Willems.

Today the littles and I found a copy of an Elephant and Piggie book at a clearance price at the getting place.  We were so excited.  We LOVE Elephant and Piggie.  The cashier asked us who the book was for, and I replied with indignation, “It’s for ME!”  The cashier laughed, and I did too, mostly because he thought I was kidding.

On the way to the car, Princess asked if she could read it.  “Sure,” I said, “but will you please read it aloud?”

She began the sweet short story, as I focused on getting out of the parking lot and into the steady flow of traffic.  I missed a critical plot point, so have no fear.  I won’t blow the story for you, no spoilers here, so you can get your own copy and read it.  But what I can tell you is that I heard my Mama’s voice.  Princess has been listening to her Maemae read books to her since she was eight months old, when we moved back from Japan, and she met her grandmother for the first time in person.  She has been mesmerized ever since.  I think her favorite one to hear was “Little Red Cowboy Hat.” (Another great book, by the way.) Mama had a way of animating with voices that was second to NO ONE.  I can still hear her hippo chewing gum from “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?”  It was awesome.

The newest character to join Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems.

The newest character to join Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems.

And today, my sweet one used a voice to introduce this character and it blew me away.  It was the very voice I am sure Mama would have used.  It was big and booming and downright fabulous to tell you the truth.  It caught my attention as I merged into traffic.  I asked her to tell me the story again.  It was amazing how much she reminded me of Mama.

So tonight as she was crying, I told her that.  That she has a part of Mama, one of the most special parts, deep inside of her.  And that when she read that story today it came out and made us all smile and remember.  And that is about the best thing we can do when we love someone and miss them.  Carry them with us and celebrate their lives in how we live and what we do.  And continue to share the love they gave us with other folks.  That right there.  Isn’t that just what life should be all about anyway?