Whom Do I Get That From?

One of my favorite conversations I ever had with my Granny was the one where I would ask her who looked like whom in our family.

We had it several times over the years.

I would ask her about each one of my siblings–my one sister looked like my Papa’s family, the other sister like Granny’s family, my brother looked a lot like my Mama’s family with a little of Daddy’s mixed in.  I would always save myself for last.  I loved her words that never changed and savored them, loving the way they fell on my ears.  And my heart.

“You?  You’re a perfect mix of your Mama and your Daddy.  I can see both of them very clearly in you.”

Yes ma’am.  I’ll take it.

I was laughing today thinking about what this conversation would be like today.  It’s been at least eighteen years since we last talked about whom I took after.

“Granny, where do I get these age spots from?” (her and Daddy, bless ’em)

“Granny, what about this proclivity to getting mouth sores right before a cold?” (my Mama)

“Granny, what about this absent-mindedness and brain fog that’s starting to set in lately?” (she’d likely plead the fifth on that one)

and so on…..

I was laughing over what I’d ask her about now, when the thought came to my mind of another trait that I’ve only garnered in the past few years.

And I pondered on whom I got that from.

It turns out, interestingly enough, this one turned the family tree upside down.

This trait did come to me from my one of those who came before me.  It turns the family tree upside down.

I did not get this trait from one of those who came before me. It turns the family tree upside down.

I’ve become stronger.

Wait.  For that -er to work I would have had to be strong to begin with.

There’s no comparison.

I’ve become STRONG.

Like I’ve never been before.

It didn’t take my Granny sitting in her recliner across from me in the new house in town to tell me where I got that from.

My daughter.  My Aub.

I get my strength from the one who first made me Mama.  The one who is now in that fascinating land somewhere between childhood and adulthood, where Disney movies and J-Lo movies (oh me) intertwine.  The Jonas Brothers and Ed Sheeran.  Comfy sweats and jerseys with leggings and boots.  Makeup and ponytails.  Fine dining and Nu-Way.

A wonderful place to be, and I look at her and I’m amazed.  I’m sorry, I’m pretty sure it was just last month that she was sitting on the bed trying to hold her head up at just six weeks–poor little pointy headed baby.

It’s rounded out now.  And so has her world.  She started off strong.  Knowing her own mind.  From the get go we knew she didn’t like turtlenecks but she loved butter.  She didn’t like to sleep, but she loved to sweep.  She loved pigs and she was not keen on sour candy.

She grew up speaking her mind (no, Granny, I got no idea where that came from *sigh*), and I kept telling myself, “One day this will pay off. One day I’ll be glad she’s so strong-spirited and speaks her mind and stands up for who and what she believes in.”

It became my mantra.  One day…..

And I was right.

I became strong because of her.  Because she has been strong through so much hurt and disappointment and loss, I look at her, and I know, I can be too.  Some might say I had to become strong for her, because of her, and that might have been the start, but really, now, it’s like she’s showing me how to be strong.  How to stand up and speak my mind.  How to tell the world, this is not okay.

Because she’s doing all of these things already.

I’m very proud of her.  And a little in awe of her too.

And lest you all think I’m under the impression that she’s perfect, have no fear.  I know she’s not.  And just to prove it, here is a shot of her bedroom.  At Home.  Where she does not “live” 80% of the time.  (I have no idea what her dorm room looks like–there’s some things you just have to let go and are better off not knowing.)

 

My girl's bedroom--proving she is far from perfect.  Hey.....wait, what?

My girl’s bedroom–proving she is far from perfect. Hey…..wait, what?

 

 

Hey.  What happened there?  It seems the Force is really strong with this one.

Just kidding.  I wouldn’t do that to her. (And no, we’re not discussing where she gets that *ahem* “lack of organization” from.)

Tonight I’m thankful for family members who look like one or the other and for those who don’t.  Those who are born to be one of us and those who are chosen.  Each one is beautiful, and each one my heart grows a little because of knowing.  Finally, I give thanks for a daughter who is growing up to be someone I admire and respect, and I don’t take that lightly.  I only know a drop in the bucket of what she has to deal with, and how often she has to regroup and stand strong in her beliefs.  And for me, that’d be enough to have me toppling over, falling to my knees, crying “Uncle”–really hoping one of mine would show up to straighten the situation out.

But not my girl.  She takes care of business.  She’s brave and strong, and even though she’s not always happy about it (I can be a slow learner at times), she is teaching me to be those things too.  She empowers me and challenges me to be my best self.  For her, for her siblings, and for this world.

Strong?

Yeah, well, I get that from my daughter.

Love to all.

 

Speak Up!

It was early evening when she came down the stairs and told us she was going to church the next morning.  She needed to go, and so she was going. And anyone else who wanted to was welcome, more than welcome–she’d love the company–to go with her.

To say I was taken aback would be an understatement.  I was speechless for a moment or two.

Not because I thought she was wrong for saying it, but because I was a little shocked–and envious.

Here was a young woman, my sister, younger than I, speaking her mind.  Saying what she needed.

I want to do THAT.

The thing is, no one thought she was wrong or inappropriate for speaking up.  Quite the opposite.  We all worked it out so it could happen.

And so it did.  And it was a good thing.

Well then.

Over the weekend I heard two people sharing stories about a mutual friend.  It seems that he is a particular eater.  Not picky.  But intentional.  I get it.  So he went to a gathering at one of the friends’ house and under one arm he carried a blender.  In his hand he held a bag of things to blend.

For his healthy smoothie.

He was there for the fellowship, and knowing that he probably wouldn’t be able to eat what was there, he carried his own vittles.

Okay then.

And no one thought unkindly of him.  Hearing the story I was again envious that this man was able to take care of himself, in the least obtrusive way possible.  He did what he needed to do for him, which made him able to be a better friend to all at the party–because he wasn’t stressed over the menu and what he could or could not eat.

My sister was a better parent, I’d daresay, after she was able to go and feed her soul as she had expressed she needed to do.

Good for them.

Sometimes I have a need, and yet I’m hesitant to express it.  Out of guilt?  Feeling selfish?  Not having enough time?  Perhaps it’s being raised in the south where you often hear, “Bless her heart, she was such a good person–never took a minute for herself, always doing for others. Such a gracious lady.”

Yes.  That.

I don’t mean to say that we need to become self-centered and egocentric, but I don’t think, as evidenced by the church visit and the blender, that folks will gasp in horror, clutch their pearls, and kick me out of polite society if I say, “Hey, you know what I need to happen right about now?”

But that’s what I fear, I think.

Offending.

Seeming selfish.

Bad parent.  Spouse.  Friend.  Family.

“Did you hear her just say what she needed?  I swanee, she’s got some nerve!”

The truth is that I think those who love me will likely shrug and say, “Huh, never knew that, okay.”  And the ones who don’t may very well tsk tsk and shake their heads and maybe even wag their tongues–but I can’t let that keep me from speaking up.  Besides, my needs are not really all that interesting fodder for gossip anyway.

Last fall I really wanted a fire pit.  I hinted around and no one was biting.  (Well, who can blame them–I was being really subtle so as to be more grace-filled…..*sigh*)  Finally I resorted to “sending pins” on Pinterest and YouTube how-to videos to the Fella and my oldest.

And you know what?

I got that fire pit!  On my birthday.

And the adventures we’ve had since we got it?

Priceless.  

It was hard for me to speak up.  (Well, I came close, right?  With the videos and pins?)  But I think my people were a little relieved that they didn’t have to guess or try to hack into my Amazon account to see what I might want.

A fire pit?

Sure thing.

Took me nearly twelve years of marriage to figure that one out, but now that I have, I’ve figured out it’s actually pretty nice.

And if it can’t be done or made or given, well that’s okay too.  That’s part of this speaking your needs thing.  At least someone has thought about it and tried.

What’s on your heart? What matters to you?  What would mean the world to you if someone would just…..?

Tell them.  Speak up.  It doesn’t matter what it is, if it comes from deep down within you, this need, then it’s okay.  Just tell someone you love and trust.  Tell someone what you need.

I’ll be you’ll be surprised.

Tonight I’m thankful for those who listen to me and who encourage me and give me permission to want and hope and need.  And speak up.  Most of all I’m thankful for my fire pit, which is fun in itself, but also warms my toes–and my heart, as I remember that I was heard when I spoke my heart…..and it was okay.

Love to all.

 

My fire pit being built, because I asked.

My fire pit being built, because I spoke up.

A Thank You to Our Nurses With Love

pic of nurses' weekThis is Nurses’ Week.  It is my pleasure to send out a big hug and many thanks and a virtual cup of coffee with a fresh Krispy Kreme to each and every nurse who has touched our lives.  We have been blessed by your kindness, your skills, and your dedication to what you do.  Thank you.

My first eye-opening experience with those of this profession was when I started work with our local Hospice in the Fall of 2000.  For over two years, I worked as a team with these beautiful people who made the journey from this life to the next one a lot more peaceful and a little less frightening.  When Mama and Daddy made the decision to call Hospice for Daddy in September of 2011, I was so hoping for just the right person to come in.  And she did.  A sweet spirit, calming and loving.  She was just the perfect person for Mama and Daddy.  And when Daddy was gone, she still cared for Mama.  Because of her, Mama found a whole community of people who loved and supported her through the next fifteen months.  And when Mama left this earth–our wonderful nurse was there, loving us and Mama, and holding Mama’s hand.  Just as she did a week later when our cousin Miss Betty took her last breath.  I know that calling her an “angel on earth” seems rather trite and cliche’, but I don’t know how else to decribe her.  Without being intrusive she became a part of our family.  To this day.  I love her with all my heart because of what she did, but even more because of who she is.  It takes someone special to be a nurse.

When Mama went for the second HospitalStay in January, we felt like we were old hands at this in some respects.  This was, however, my first experience with ICU nurses.  PHENOMENAL.  These men and women do so many tasks that are delegated to others on other floors.  I’ve watched them do things that I won’t describe here, but let me tell you–hearts of gold, stomachs of steel.  Enough said.

I won’t be able to mention each one, but most of them were pretty doggone great.  The joke amongst the family became that I got into in-depth conversations with the people who took care of Mama, while my baby sister felt like she was interrogating them by comparison.  (She would say, “Tara asks, ‘So where did you go to school?  Oh that’s great,’ while I say (in clipped sharp tones) ‘So.  Where did YOU go to SCHOOL?!  OH, that is just great.” )  I just shrugged at her version of it, and said, “I’m looking for my new BFF for-evuh!  I’m convinced I’m going to find her during the HospitalStay.”   And I tried.  We met some interesting people.

Tony who-smelled-good was our first nurse that night when Mama was moved unexpectedly to the ICU.  He was on again when she was rushed to surgery the next night.  He cared for her after the surgery.  He is precious to me because he is one of the few who remembered her awake and alert, how she smiled and made conversation through the pain.  He comforted her in her anxiety as she headed down to surgery.  He was the one to whom she bragged about her soon-to-be-born grandson.  He smiled and listened.  Listening.  That is huge.

Andrea was another beautiful soul from the beginning of our stay.  She had Mama several times before we were moved to the STICU.  She and Miss Betty, the patient care tech, made a great team–comforting us in our concerns, answering our questions, and oh, the healing laughter.  They laughed and filled that room with joy.  They told Mama, who was still sedated, funny stories and made up nicknames for each one of them.  Andrea left us a note on the obituary on-line.  That connection.  Thank you.  She let us know Mama was more than just another patient.  She was also one who let us stay even though visiting hours were over.  She knew the situation and decided accordingly.  That was such a gift.  We didn’t really know it at the time.  I will always remember this beautiful woman who was a surprise to her own Mama–she was a twin born to a woman expecting only one.  What a precious surprise she was.

Janel, and I may not be spelling her name right, took the time to teach us how to take care of Mama.  Mama ran fever a lot, and for several reasons, they couldn’t give her medication to bring it down.  Janel was the one who said “Let’s mini-skirt her and wipe her down.”  She would tuck the gown up a bit, and then she used a wet washcloth and wiped Mama’s arms, face, hands, and legs.  She asked if we’d like to do that.  Thank you, Janel.  Because of her, I wasn’t afraid to move around the wires and cables and touch Mama, love on her.  Though Janel was only with us one day, we started asking other nurses if we could do that, and by the time Mama was moved to the STICU we just started asking for washcloths and telling them what we were doing. Janel believed in the family being a part of care.  She even said, “If she were my Mama, I’d be crawling in the bed with her.”  She got it, and for that I give thanks.

There were so many other great nurses and patient care techs who touched our lives with love and a tender touch.  I am thankful for each and every one, even the ones who kept “ma’am”ing me.  (Boy was that hard to hear!)  I would have taken any of them as my new BFF for-evuh.  Loved.  Them.

When our cousin Miss Betty was admitted into the hospital in Warner Robins two weeks after Mama, our family decided it was best if Miss Betty didn’t know about Mama being in the hospital.  She would not have understood.  Mama was her guardian, and it only would have frightened her.  We hoped it would not be necessary.  And it wasn’t.  Just not in the way we anticipated.

So each time we spoke with a new nurse at the hospital there, we explained two things–that Mama was in the hospital so we couldn’t be there as much as we would like, and that Miss Betty wasn’t to know about Mama.  The team of nurses on the ICU and step-down unit were so incredible during this really hard time.  They became Miss Betty’s new BFF’s.  It was precious the night that I was visiting with her, and the night nurse Miss Cece came on, walked by and waved.  Miss Betty waved back, and said, “That’s my friend.”  I never worried once about Miss Betty’s care.  To this day I give thanks for that great group of nurses.   From the first day with Amber who took Miss Betty and my sister under her wing, to our last night with Mary, who was there to mother me as much as to care for Miss Betty, we were blessed with caring, compassionate people–among them Willa, Brett, Brandi, Cece, Mary, and so many others.  If we saw one in the hall, even when she wasn’t Miss Betty’s nurse that day, each one would ask how things were going.  They remembered and cared.  One I owe a great deal of sanity to is Aimee.  On the way to see Mama during one of the very strict visiting times at the hospital in Macon, I had hoped to have time to swing by the hospital in town to see Miss Betty first.  The skies looked ominous, traffic was awful near the Base, and I knew that if I did drive to Miss Betty’s hospital, I would probably only have 1/2 hour out of the two hours allotted to visit Mama by the time I could get there.  With no other options, I called and asked for Miss Betty’s nurse.  Aimee.  I told her my situation and asked that if I got there a few minutes after visiting time was over, could I please still see Miss Betty before I needed to head home?

This sweet and compassionate woman gave me the gift of grace.  “You go see your Mama.  Take your time, drive safely, and when you get here, no matter when, you can come on back.”  I cried right then and there.  Later that evening when I finally arrived to see Miss Betty, Aimee was there, ready to change shifts.  She stayed to ask how things were going in Macon with Mama.  She listened and she laughed with me and let me just be.  What a gift of love.  Tonight I am particularly thankful to Aimee for my being able to have that visit with peace in my heart, as it was only three days later that I had to tell Mama goodbye.

Dear nurses, you have a thankless job.  I know.  I saw and heard things during our HospitalStay that broke my heart for you.  But please hear me say this, I owe you all a debt I can never repay.  You took the time to make sure my Mama and Miss Betty were safe and comfortable and had the greatest of care, just as you do for each one of your patients.  And you took the time to talk to us, to answer our questions, to listen to our stories, and to just let us be.  You are loved and treasured.  Thank you all, those whom I have met and those whom I have not.  Please don’t ever doubt that what you are doing is making a difference.   You are healers of body and spirit.  With your gentle hands and your full hearts.  Thank you.

pic of heart with bandaid