An Unwelcome Visitor and the Havoc He Has Wreaked

We’ve had an unwelcome visitor to our home this week.  Unwelcome and unannounced.

He came in and started annoying each one of us in turn.  First Cooter on Monday.  And by Tuesday night, he was on my nerves.  That was when the Fella told me he’d had a bout with this rude guest on Monday as well.  This interloper and I really went round and round last night.  I told him I wasn’t having any of his uppitiness, and he insisted I sit down and pay him some attention and not get anything else done at all.

By this morning, it was Aub who came in complaining about him.  She was absolutely miserable because of the busybody.

Only our Princess has been immune to his forward and intrusive ways.

He doesn’t even say “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” when we sneeze, which seems to me to be extremely rude, especially considering it’s his fault we are sneezing.

Yes.  A Cold has come calling and will not take his leave.

During my bout with him I have learned a few things.

*I do not like colds.

*My children do not like them either.

*The way I can tell my son is on the mend is that he starts feeling up to aggravating his sisters.

*I run fevers so rarely that when I see the numbers go up, I’m in shock for a minute, and then I immediately look around for a grownup who loves me to come put their hand on my forehead just to make sure the thermometer is correct.

*My dog has a penchant for used tissues.  Disgusting but true.  But only the used ones.  I left a whole box of clean ones on the couch today and she never so much as looked at it.  Totally unrelated *ahem* I need a big wooden trash can with a heavy lid on it.

*Handwashing is underrated.  Or maybe overrated.  We’re all washing hands and doing the do, and it still has gotten a hold of four out of the five of us.

*My nose hurts.  I don’t care how soft a tissue is advertised to be, there’s just no help for the noses when it comes to a cold.

*Toilet paper can substitute for tissues in a pinch.  Or when you run out.  I mean seriously, four people with colds versus three boxes of tissues.   You can do the math.

*Apparently I am the only one who can fill the water filter pitcher.  This was true until I had a meltdown over it being empty, and then our Princess decided she could figure it out.  I’m sorry for the fit, not sorry for the results.

*My Cousin is witty and funny.  She’s even funnier when I’m sick.  And she knows just the right number of “poor baby’s” to offer.

*Cabbage can be a comfort food.  The person offering it an even bigger comfort.

*The same person whom I cut up an apple or fixed a meal for the day before will stare blankly at me when I ask for a glass of water from my spot on the couch where the Cold has pinned me down and won’t let me get up.

*Mamas cannot be sick.  It’s against the law or something.

*I’m sorry I didn’t pay closer attention to my own Mama when she wasn’t feeling well.

Tonight I am thankful for the numbers on the thermometer being on the downward trend.  I am thankful for my family despite what I might have said in my *ahem* fever-induced delirium.  I am glad that a Cold is all that has slipped in on us this week, as we have things to do and people to see and joys to celebrate.  We need some good health up in here.

Most of all, I am thankful for those who listened to me whine and didn’t knock that pity pot right out from under me.  To have friends and family who love me in sickness and in health–that’s a huge gift I do not take lightly.

Wishing you all good health and no unannounced visitors.  Y’all stay well.

Love to all.

In the Midst of the Sorrow

This morning I awoke to an email with some very sad news.  Leroy and Mess Cat’s sweet kitty Precious had five kittens yesterday afternoon.  They all died during the night.  The story we prepared for the children is that they were born too early and just didn’t make it.  The truth is that nature can be cruel and deadly when marking out its territory.  Tomcats are a menace.  And that’s just too much for them to grasp right now.

As I was brushing my teeth, I missed my Mama so much.  Her gentle ways with the children would have been welcome as we told them what happened.  Her loving touch and saddened voice would have acknowledged the pain but reminded us that this is what can happen sometimes.  There’s just no help for it.

I craved my Mama’s spirit.  I miss her.  It was then that I figured out what I’d like to invent.

A camera that takes pictures and captures the scent of the moment as well.  For me smell is such a trigger for memories, and I just know I would feel like Mama was closer if I could smell her or home or the scent of sunshine in the freshly washed sheets.

After I told Cooter and our Princess this morning, there were tears.  And questions. And they immediately asked about their cousin, Shaker.  How was he?  Was he sad?  We talked about how he must be feeling, and they both set to thinking about what they could do to lift his spirits.

Because they know grief, and they know people have been kind to them in their grief.

Our Princess quietly slipped away to get dressed for the day.  Cooter had seen her first, and he came into the room where I was, shaking his head.

“What?”

“You’ll see.  She takes the deaths of kittens very seriously.”

“Oh.  Well, don’t you?”

“I’m sad, yes, but well–you’ll see.”

And I did.  Our Princess was wearing a black dress.  She looked at me with a question in her eyes.  I nodded and so did she.  I get it.  Later in the day, she said, “All life matters.”

Yes, baby girl, yes it does.

This afternoon she suggested we fix a meal for Mess Cat and her family.  “Because you know Mama, I’ve heard that when a family is grieving, sometimes they don’t feel like cooking.”

Bless her.

It brought back memories of all the kind folks who prepared food for us–after Daddy and after Mama left this world.  So kind.  And appreciated.  Yes, my children know about death and grief and how our people do.

Bless all their hearts.

Tomorrow we plan on seeing Precious and her people and giving them all a big hug.  And maybe we’ll do what Shaker did with Precious today–sit quietly with them in the hopes of sharing the sorrow and making it even just a tiny bit palatable.

Tonight I’m thankful for sweet, tender hearts who know that all life matters and understand the pain of grief enough to be compassionate.  I’m not thankful for the reason, but I am thankful they seem to get it.

Love to all.

Dancing With Myself

Cooter recently got a new CD.  He is convinced that listening to it helps him get his Math done quicker and easier.  Me, not so much, but at least he doesn’t WHINE while he’s doing his math, so hey, I’m all for it.  Studying to music is a technique his oldest sister uses, and it seems to work well for her, so I’m waiting to see how it goes.

This morning he started playing it while I was in the kitchen.  Some of the new stuff has such a great beat, you know?  So there I was, cutting up an apple and moving around the kitchen, minding my own business, when suddenly I was all “My hands are in the air like I just do not care”*–I was dancing.

Now I’m no professional and I’m not sure how much moving I would be doing outside of my own home, but y’all, the beat was good and I was in my own home.  So I put that knife down and I danced.

Our Princess still wrapped up in her favorite golden blanket, off to practice the piano, looked over at me as she passed. That look and then, “Thank goodness none of my friends can see you, or I’d be VERY embarrassed.”

Y’all.  She’s TEN.

I’m not sure, but isn’t that a little early to start this kind of attitude?

I looked at her, and then decided to forgive ignore her.  My feet had a mind of their own.

I remember my Mama dancing around her kitchen.  She loved to dance.  She could do the Twist like nobody’s business.  Seriously impressive.  I don’t remember being embarrassed, but I could be wrong.  I probably didn’t dance with her, which I regret, but I didn’t shudder at the thought.  Seeing her dance was actually a glimpse into who she was, other than Mama.  It was intriguing, like seeing her Prom picture with someone who wasn’t my Daddy.  Mama was a real life person before she became my Mama.  And even harder to process, WHILE she was my Mama.

I still have a hard time wrapping my brain around that.

But here’s the deal, my precious young’uns, I didn’t check my “Tara” card at the door of the hospital when I first became Mama.  I can be me and still be your Mama.  I can dance and still wipe your nose.  I can sing at the top of my lungs riding down the road and still get the spaghetti stain out of your clothes.  I can laugh so hard while telling a story until you can’t understand a word I’m saying and still help you with your Math.  I can cry over a movie and still cook your supper.

Just like my Mama did.

Tonight I’m thankful for the joy that music stirs up inside me and for the ability to move my feet [somewhat] in rhythm.  I love that I can still surprise my children, just as Mama did us.  She was always our rock and yet she could still surprise us in wonderful ways. I give thanks for moments with my children like we had this morning.  The one where I glimpse myself through their eyes, and it makes me giggle.  I even give thanks for the almost eye roll I got from our Princess.  I’ve been on this teenage roller coaster already, so I know to buckle up good, because for the second time, I’m in for a bumpy ride.  The reason I’m giving thanks is I know how it turns out–eventually they come around and become really awesome people.

Another preteen in the house?

Yeah, been there, done that.  Bring it.

In the meantime, I’m gonna keep on dancing.

Life’s too short not to.

Love to all.

I kept hearing this song in my head while I was writing tonight.  You’re welcome.

 

*Yes, this is a line from the movie “Home.”  It was really, really good by the way.  I highly recommend it.  Lines from it are already becoming standard around here.  Like this one.  Now y’all go dance.  

 

 

The Next Couple of Days

And so it’s time for the pages on the calendar that carry me away to a paradoxical place for a couple of days.

The days that are so full of emotion and good and hard things that it’s difficult to reconcile them all together in my one heart and mind.

February 10, 2007  My baby, my third and last baby–first son, was born.

February 9, 2013 I took my oldest, Aub, to my alma mater for Scholarship Day.  The beginning of her college life.

February 9, 2013 My Mama’s 24th day in the hospital and the date of her third emergency surgery.

February 10, 2013 I celebrated my baby boy’s 6th birthday with him for about thirty minutes.  The rest of the day I was at the hospital.  That night I signed the papers to let my Mama go.  And sometime after 10:30 p.m. she left this earth and headed on up to the House.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The precious church and cemetery out at Little Union.

The paradox of welcoming (my baby) and letting go (my first born).

The paradox of life (my baby boy) and of death (my sweet Mama).

Yeah, it’s a lot to take in.

On the day that my baby boy came into this world, as they wheeled the two of us to our own room they stopped my bed.  There was a button on the wall that the nurse asked me to push.  When I did, a beautiful little tune played all over the hospital.  I remember hearing that same tune many times while staying with Mama at that very same hospital.  Though she wasn’t conscious, I still smiled and told her, “Mama, a new baby!”  I know she was smiling in her heart too.  Babies and little ones were her very favorite people in the world.

There was no button on the wall to press when Mama took her last breath.  Only more papers to sign.  And tears to shed.

On the same day six years apart, these hands of mine stroked the face of one so loved–first my little guy and then my Mama.  One hello, one goodbye.

I wondered if the Universe had a lesson for me when my Daddy’s battle with his Giant ended the day after our Princess’ seventh birthday in 2011.  To go from joy to sorrow so quickly as we remember and celebrate and honor is hard–but it’s something we do.   Every year.

And then this–to lose and gain all on the same day, years apart.

Oh, my heart.

And though it seems paradoxical and hard, it is actually also very beautiful in its brokenness.  This is my fragile time of year.  I am beginning to give myself grace and not set any expectations on what I should do or feel or think.  I just do.  Am.  Be.  And really, these days of love and loss and laughter and tears are the epitome of what Life is–joy and sorrow, life and death, tears and laughter.  And hugs.  Hugs of joy and hugs of sympathy.

And oh my, all of the stories.

As the ones who loved Mama so very much gathered around her bed that night, stories were shared.  Laughter was heard, and tears were shed. But most of all, the love in the room was palpable–so much so that if there had been an instrument to measure it, I am certain it would have set off all kinds of alarms.  Nurses would have come running, and oh, what they would have seen!  Love like that, the reflection of the love Mama gave to each one of us, doesn’t come along very often.

Earlier today I read this, part of today’s sermon given by Hugh Hollowell at Love Wins:

“It isn’t the man’s actions or even his faith that bring him healing – it is the actions and faith of the man’s friends. We don’t even know if the man has any faith of his own. We don’t know if the guy is even conscious. Was he a good man? A bad man? We don’t know. All we know is he has friends with faith, and that that is enough. And it is there that I find hope in the story.” – From today’s sermon on Mark 2

This story and Hugh’s thoughts have stayed with me today.  There have been times on this journey of letting my parents go that the ONLY thing that has kept me going, the ONLY healing thing in my life, has been the faith of my family and my friends.  They have carried me and given me hope, and for that I offer my gratitude.  My faith has waxed and waned over the past few years, even more so in the past two.  That my babies have lost the people who loved them so much–that breaks my heart.  Each time I think on it.  That there is a gravestone in the cemetery with my child’s birthday on it–there are days I just.  can’t.  even.

But there are those who love me who can.  And who have.  And that’s how I’ve kept going.

Tonight I’m thankful for all of it.  Every single “feel” I had then.  And every single one I’m having now.  I’m just as comfortable with the weeping as I am with the laughter. And I think that’s okay.  I miss my Mama and my Daddy every single day.  I look around me at those who know the story and still listen as I tell it over and over as many times, in as many different ways, as I need to–and I am thankful beyond measure.

And so tonight I’ve told it one more time.  One more way.  The story of saying hello and saying goodbye and the years between them that were way too few.  And I thank you for reading and hearing it.  Tonight I had to write this, because I need to let it all out–the wracking sobs and the heartache.  Because on Tuesday, I will make it all about my baby boy. Who isn’t so much of a baby anymore.

Because I know if I don’t, I will be disappointing my Mama.  My Mama, who never would have chosen to leave when she did, and who adored that little guy like he was the best thing since sliced bread.  Or chocolate milk.  She loved all of her grandchildren that way, and I’ve felt her pushing me the past few days to go on and get this out.  So that we can party on Tuesday–and all the rest of the month.  Because that’s how she celebrated the day that those she loved came into the world–long and hard.  When she loved, she loved fiercely and with a love that was (and still is) unsurpassed.

Tonight I leave you with a song that my sisterfriend shared with me about a month ago.  This song is my heart right now.  I hope that Mama, Daddy, and all the others who have gone before us are dancing in the sky…..

that brings me comfort and makes me smile.

Because my Mama sure did love to dance.

Love to all.

 

I Wanna Come Back As…..

Growing up I remember Mama being in the middle of her day to dailies, blowing upwards to move the hair out of her eyes, sighing, and saying, “When I come back, I’m coming back as a show horse.  This work horse deal is for the birds.”

Oh Mama.  You’re so funny.

I thought she was.  And yet, now I get it.  Bless her, she worked hard on loving us and proving that she did with good food, a clean house, clean clothes that fit, and all the hugs we could handle.  We never lacked for anything we needed.

Walking Miss Sophie

Walking Miss Sophie

Yesterday morning as I took Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional, I was wishing she would hurry along and let the spirit “move” her.  Of course all she could think about was sniffing every square inch of grass and sidewalk and keeping tabs on the bricklayers as they worked across the street.  All I could think about was how cold I was.

My hands were frozen.  My toes were like ice.  I could no longer feel my nose.  And I looked down at my little ball of fluff and wondered, How are you not freezing?

I mean, I know she’s covered with a nice winter coat, but those paws–really?  How was she NOT in a hurry to get her business done and let’s go settle by the fire?

And I thought about how amazing a dog’s paws are.

Tough enough to withstand walking on all kinds of surfaces–hard, rough, soft, rocky, slippery–and in all kinds of temperatures–hot, cold, and everything in between.  She wasn’t crying or whining about the temperature or conditions.

And that’s when I decided–

I wanna come back as a dog’s paw.

All this winter, my feet have been frozen.  It’s almost more than I can bear–cold feet.  And it goes all the way up and chills me to the bone all over.  When Miss Sophie decides to lay on my frozen toes, I stop and give thanks, I’m so happy.

So yes, coming back as a dog’s paw might help with the whole being cold problem, but it’s more than that.

A dog’s paw is resilient.  And keeps on moving–even in the worst of conditions.

It holds up no matter the heat or the cold.  And it’s flexible.  Have you ever pushed on your puppy’s paw?  Amazing.

Because I know in this life, things are never predictable.  Our lives can go from hot to cold in a heartbeat, and THEY DO.  Tough times ARE going to happen.  Being flexible is the key to survival in a lot of my days.

To be able to hold up under pressure, no matter the circumstances, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

Yes, please.  THAT.

Tonight I’m thankful for my ball of fluffy love.  She’s quirky just like the rest of us, and I love her.  I’m thankful for walks and that we have a safe place to do that.  I do not take that lightly.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the memory of Mama and her laughter that has echoed in my heart and head today.

(I know this was a far-fetched train of thought, but I’ve been thinking a lot about being resilient and strong, especially when life throws you curveballs like rain and cold and really hard things.  Also, cold feet.  And puppy paws are really quite amazing.) 

Love to all.

middle of January

and before you know it,

it’s the middle of January

and you’ve only just put away the Christmas

and so your heart would already be a little heavy–

touching her things and giving thanks

that she shared them with you

and all the memories attached

with each little Santa or nativity

or snowflake

 

and you remember those words of blessing said

as her precious hands tucked them in their boxes,

words from your own mouth–

May the next time we open this box

our spirits and our health all be good

 

but it wasn’t to be

and the middle of January comes

 

bringing more memories

 

her smile over the simple cards you made

or the little trinket nothings you crocheted for her

that she always kept

over the many years of childhood

 

her joy and happiness over the lemon cake recipe

you found and made that had no cholesterol,

she tried to take good care of her health

 

and all the laughter once you grew up

over sharing mushrooms

 

she spent years making her birthday about everyone else

finding joy in the little things

making each person who wished her well

feel one of a kind special,

no matter how elaborate a gift they offered

whether a pencil drawing

or a new robe

(there was that one year)

each time she exclaimed

it was the best ever

and the joy in her eyes was genuine and true

 

her birthday

a day to remember and cry a little

for crying in the middle of January

is okay

more folks than a few usually do

 

as the calendar page turns

and I see her name with the cake and candle there,

drawn just as she always did on her own calendars,

my tears will blend in with those for whom

this month is just hard in general

 

I know how they feel

the joy that was just so full and glowing

full of light

and precious

has been put away

and is gone

 

Only Christmas will come around again

soon enough

but I won’t see her eyes twinkle or

hear her tell me how I am loved

or how beautiful she thinks I am

until I too leave this world

 

and so the tears and memories fall

as I blow out the candle

and remember

 

three little letters

three little letters

when put in a particular order

add so much and enhance every word they join

just as we hope to do with those who gather near

beauti-ful

joy-ful

delight-ful

plenti-ful

it is wonder-ful

what those three letters can do

but if they are moved just so,

organized into alphabetical order,

they become something that

takes away

that hurts

that separates

and causes pain and loss–

loss of the sunshine of spirit

loss of the smiles and the singing

that once filled the air

and leaves only quiet and the sound

of a thermometer beeping

at regular intervals,

and red cheeks and peaked eyes,

and the worry and

glass after glass of liquids

and emptied tissue boxes

it is aw-ful

 

IMG_6349

 

Our Princess was diagnosed with the flu last night after a long, exhausting day of not feeling good at all.  The last straw was the high fever.  I don’t ever want to see numbers that high on a thermometer again.  What has struck me the most over the last two days has been how lackluster our days have been.  No one changed the Advent Calendar for 18 or 19.  No one has sought after our elf, Christopher Pop-in-Kins.  No one has eagerly rushed to see what the kindness elves offered as a suggestion for the day.  

You don’t miss the sun until it goes behind a cloud…..I have always teased saying she is our sunshine–only with her, we have to wear shades.  Turns out it can be quite gray and gloomy when our sunshine is under the weather.  

As she felt well enough to argue a little with her brother today, I am hopeful that tomorrow will find her with a little bounce in her step…..or a step alone would do.  It’s hard when your children are sick.  

Thankful tonight for catching it quick and for the improvements we’ve seen today.  I give thanks for helpful healing suggestions and offers of sustenance dropped off at the mailbox.  I am thankful for the moments of calm I have felt in the midst of the worry and stress of a baby with health issues.  That’s how I know my Mama is sticking close.  

Love to all.