Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mom

Grief is a funny thing. 

It arrives and departs on it's own timetable 
never bothering to follow the laws of reason or civility.  

A cherished friend recently told me that
it takes seven celebrations for the sting to diminish. 

Seven birthdays.

Seven Christmases. 

Seven adoption anniversaries. 

I do not know if I believe it.
Because grief does not play fair. 

While it seems as fresh as a few moments ago 
that I held her hand while she took that last breath

It seems forever and a day
since I last saw her face. 

Forever and a year since my ears 
heard her voice say my name. 

I miss her as much as I did the moment she left 
and more than ever before. 

Happy birthday, Mom. 

I still miss you every day.

I still miss your voice.

I still miss your face.

I still miss your presence.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Today was my eighth day back at work and
the end of my first full week. 

I am tired. 

I am tired but I got up every morning. 
I showed up. I taught. I assessed. I kept up
in line. We got where we needed to be mostly
when we needed to be there and nobody got lost.

This is a wonderful and terrible time of 
year for teachers. 

The good thing is that it is Christmas time

The bad thing is that it is Christmas time.

I still say it is the best job ever.

But I am saying it from underneath the 
electric blanket on my bed.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Just Another Thanksgiving Post

I would say that my doctor, his sweet wife and I have known each
other half of our lives but that might prompt some of you 
to try to figure out how old we are. 

And we aren't. 

Old that is.

And that's just unnecessary.
And probably rude.
Just sayin'..................

I first met the doc and his wife at church.

Her father was the pastor at that time and her mother was a teacher. I fell in love with her parents. 

Her father reminded me of mine and listening to Preacher was like going home. He is a hugger and has a smile that is impossible to resist. Turning him down was impossible so suffice it to say that I did time in Mission Friends and Children's Sunday School. When he asked I just automatically nodded. 

Her mother...well she was a saint. Beloved by her students and able to make this girl feel like she mattered. Even more more impressive was her ability to say the thing you needed to hear the most. She caught sight of me one Wednesday evening and called me over to her table. Starting with, "I've been meaning to tell you..." and ending with, "I wanted you to know I noticed." she gave me the gift of encouragement at a time when I felt all alone in a struggle.  

Kathy and her sister were kind enough to invite me to the kinds of things young Southern Baptist women did back then. I was shy and awkward and I didn't make it easy but they made me feel like I belonged. Those two girls made me laugh harder than I had ever laughed before. 

Although we hadn't seen each other in far too long, she cooked for my kids while I was off on my coma vacation. They are still talking about that meal! I think they might be willing to ship me off to Emory again for another one of Mrs. Kathy's hams. 

Knowing that she fed my kids for me made me feel loved. 

Thanks, Kathy. You are your mama's girl and that is high praise. 

For a long time the doc was just Kathy's husband. 
Sorry Gerald.
He was busy getting finishing his residency and frankly I couldn't remember which sister he was married to.
Sorry again.

After a few years we wound up in the same Sunday School class. He eventually taught the class and I was finally able to keep who he was and which sister he belonged to straight in my head. 
Again with the sorry.

I sat on the front row with some of my people.
We were collectively referred to as,

Yes, with all caps. 
Because we always studied our lesson
and were ready to contribute valuable,
on topic, mostly appropriate comments.

Or maybe because that is where you make the trouble makers sit.
Just sayin'.........

Quite possibly, it was as a front row girl that I noticed his tendency to roll his eyes at me occasionally. 

He doesn't know this but my recent illness isn't 
the first time he has saved my life. 

He saved it for the first time many years ago
by listening to what was unsaid,
by reading between the lines.  

Believe when I tell you what a difficult 
task that is because I walk in the door with
lots to say. I like to arrive at each appointment
with a diagnosis and a treatment in mind. 

In fact, I like to refer to our meetings as consultations.
He once began an office visit by asking which one of
us was getting paid for the visit. 
Insert eye roll. 

He probably should have warned the neurologists at Emory.
The word sassy may have been used in reference to my attitude.

Anyway, thanks Doc. 
Thanks for taking care of me and my baby these last few months. 
You saved her life too. 

I know that's your job but

The prayers that I heard the two of you prayed for me and mine weren't your job though and that makes them all the more precious. 

Again. Thanks.

Just sayin'................

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Missing: One Heart and So Thankful

All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a mom.

There are no words big enough, strong enough or fancy enough to express the depth of my love for the ones who made that dream come true.

I lost my heart with the birth of my first child and haven't seen it since.

She held it firmly in her tiny fist only letting go of it to share it with her brother and sister.

The three of them have had complete possession of each heartbeat.
The three of them have been the reason for each breath.

It is frightening to lose one's heart so completely.
So irrevocably. 

I used to believe that life would be a little less frightening when they got a little bit older. 

I used to believe that when they reached that first birthday I would be able to sleep without first watching for the rise and fall of their breath. 
I used to believe that when they learned to talk and could tell me what was wrong or where it hurt I would be able to relax and assume all was well. 
I used to believe that when they were old enough to take care of themselves I would be able to stop worrying about them. 

I have found that motherhood doesn't work that way. 
Once those tiny hands close around your heart you are theirs forever. 
You belong to them in a way that you belong to no other. 

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Just sayin'............

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thank you Mrs. Butler

My First Grade teacher was named Mrs. Butler.

I loved her very much
and when asked to name
my favorite teacher or 
the one who has had the 
most impact on my life,
I always, 
with no hesitation
speak her name.

You see, Mrs. Butler taught me to read.
She introduced me to the power of words.

I distinctly remember two things about First Grade...
how kind my teacher was to me on the day I was stung by a bee
and the moment I read my first words.

Both of these memories have colored the tone of my
classroom and while I have too often failed miserably in 
the kindness department I still continue to strive to be the same
soft shoulder for my students that Mrs. Butler was for me. 

And just as she must have,
I live for those days when the 
eyes of a five year old meet mine 
as they gasp a little
and grin a lot because 
"Oh snap! 
I just read that all by myself!

Mrs. Butler opened a magic door for me and sent
me through it to worlds that began with
Sally, Dick, Jane, Spot and Puff then continued on
with Meg and Charles Wallace and on and on.
(100 bonus points to those who know Meg and Charles Wallace)

I was never far from a book and was frequently instructed
to get my nose out of said book because I chose to read over
almost any other activity. 

I read then (and still do) as if my mind was as hungry for words
as a stray dog is for food and it makes sense that
my word hunger would evolve into the need to create
my own stories.

My own words have never flowed as freely as I imagine
they do for other people who feel compelled to tell their
stories. I search hard for that perfect combination of words
that will recreate a moment. It has never come easy for me. 

I write. 
And re-write.
And re-write again.

My life is different now. I am still re-learning to walk up and down
stairs. My balance is iffy and my gait feels awkward. My hands
are weak and don't want to function some days. 

I now find myself searching harder for those just right words.
They have become elusive and as hard to hold on to as the 
mist that rises from the lake behind my house on these cold

This post alone has taken days and days and days to write. 
I have no idea how many hours I have spent typing and 
re-typing these words. Each time I return to these words 
I find and correct errors and complete unfinished sentences.

As I slowly emerged from my coma I do not recall being frightened.
Not until I was aware enough to realize that my
words were hiding from me and that the 
words of others had to swim sluggishly upstream
through a brain that just did not translate as it once did.

Just today, I could not recall the words
'birthday card'. 

It is frustrating and scary. 

There are good days and bad days.

Sometimes I have to wipe tears away 
in order to see the keyboard but I am determined to use
that stubborn, hard headed attitude my husband loves
so much to find and keep my words.

I have more to say now than ever before.

Just sayin'..........................

PS. Mrs. Butler-

I wish I could find you and thank you in person. 
I still love you. 

Ann Marie

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Woke Up This Morning...Thankful

I love the Facebook trend of thankfulness
in which many participate during the month of November. 

It blesses me to see into the hearts of both friends and
acquaintances as they share the things for which they
are thankful. 

Giving thanks is a habit I acquired
many, many years ago
during a particularly 
dark and stressful season of life. 
It was a time filled with self-doubt
and negativity.

God showed me then
that a grateful attitude is an effective defense
against anxiety and the process of searching
for new things to thank Him for every day takes
your mind to places of peace.

I began by keeping a journal. Each night I wrote
three positive statements about myself and three
new things for which I was thankful. 

Over time, I developed a habit of praying myself to sleep
each night by thanking the One who provided
every blessing that graced my life. 

As I read the many thankful status updates
today it occurred to me that there is power
in the act of sharing gratefulness with others.

So I sat down a few moments ago
and placed my fingers on the keys
just as I was taught so many a few years ago
in typing class at Baldwin High School. 

Still peeking at the keys,
just as I did then, 
I began to make my first
giving of thanks Facebook status posting. 

I quickly realized that a status post
is just too... 
for me
in this season of my life. 

Hence, the blog post. Just sayin'....

On this first day of the traditional
season of giving thanks
I am thankful for 
the gift of life. 

I am thankful that mine was 
given back to me. 

It isn't the same life I had
before. It is a life with new

But each morning is another chance
to get it right.

Each day is an opportunity to
extend Grace to another
just as Grace has been extended
to me. 

I am thankful for each day 
that I wake up for each day 
is a gift, people.

Just sayin'............................



Monday, October 28, 2013

Comments From a Coma - Alternatively titled - I Heard What You Said About Me

Just so you know...

Comas are strange places to live.

Life there is a bizarre and distorted existence.

I am sure that I will never completely process
my time spent there and it is a place I hope never 
to revisit.

I do know this one thing however.

I heard what you said about me. Your words penetrated the
confusion and were a comfort and lifeline.

I heard you say that you loved me.
I heard you tell me to come back.
I heard your conversation with each other.
And I heard your sweet laughter. 

Just in case you ever need to know...
They can hear you.
They NEED to here you.

But watch what you say because...

I heard what you said about me and it will be used against you. 

(Insert evil grin here because Coma-0 Sense of Humor-1)

Just sayin'........................

P.S. A more serious post will be forthcoming. It is difficult to see the keyboard through teary eyes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

As I drove to Grady Hospital in Atlanta a few months ago my mind operated on two different planes. Weaving in and out of traffic I kept up a constant conversation with God and with the voices in my head. I alternated between prayers for my brother and questions that I knew were unanswerable. 

I seem to be able to find a place of calm when in the midst of crisis.
I am like my mother in that way. 

Interspersed among the prayer and supplication and the worrying about my brother's condition was a running theme of whys and what the hecks.

Why is this happening again? How much more can he take? How much more can we take? What are the odds?

You can re-read the entries about Marlin's SECOND house fire, his injuries and his long recovery.

We all found out that we could indeed 'take it'.

Still, those questions remain lurking below the surface of my inner conversations.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Three Years

Three years ago today,
my mother died.

Died is such a grim, harsh word.
People wince when I use it.

I find euphemisms for death 
to be far too mild for the pain 
felt when a piece of your heart
is torn away.

There are still some days when I find 
myself, phone in hand, thumb searching
for her name as I settle in for the drive home.
And other days when I pick up my phone intending to
tell her just one quick thing. 

That only happens some days.
Every day though...every single day
I think of her.

My mother was a good listener.

When I was in college I frequently called her to talk about assignments, professors, roommates and boys.

As a new mother I called about feedings, spit up, sleep schedules and feeling overwhelmed. I spoke of falling in love with each new precious gift from God and how blessed it felt to be their mother.

As a mother of one, two and then three, I called about naps, sibling rivalry, dance, karate and gymnastics. She listened to me worry about one or another or all three. 

As a mother of pre-teens and teenagers I called for reassurance that they would like me again one day and that somewhere deep down they still loved me. She mostly listened but sometimes laughed when I swore that we never acted so rotten in our day.

As a teacher, I called for advice, encouragement and sympathy up until the very week before the surgery that revealed the horrible reason for her failing health.

And always. Always.
I called to hear her say, "Hello, my precious angel." 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who Needs Valentine's Day?

His love is a platinum thread running in and out the fabric of my days. 
Hidden within the folds of my crazy, busy days, that thread shimmers with reminders of what love really is. 

It is strong enough to weather unexpected yanks of grief and the relentless pull and stretch that is required to heal from great loss. 

It is loose enough to allow me the freedom to be the authentic me. I don't have to pretend to be anything or any way other than who God made me to be. The freedom to be the person you really are at your core is a precious gift. 

He takes delight in the smallest accomplishment of my day. 
Accustomed to encouraging others all day, 
it is especially edifying to be the recipient of cheers and smiles 
for even the smallest of things. 

He is appreciative of every little thing I do. 
Every little thing.

He knows what I look like when a headache is stalking me and actually notices when I look that way. 
He pays attention.

He never, ever fails to offer caffeinated beverages, 
ice packs and compassion even though those migraine monsters 
attack for days at a time. 

I have never once caught him rolling his eyes 
or heard so much as a hint of irritation in his voice
when he comes home to find me in bed 
with an ice pack covering my eyes. 

His smile is famous and his boisterous love of life is endearing. 
It seems as if he knows everyone in the neighborhood and we can't go anywhere without seeing someone he knows. 

He makes me laugh every single day and 
I still look forward to hearing him walk through the door after work. 

He makes my tea when the pitcher is empty, 
hangs my clothes up fresh from the dryer, 
buys me Diet Dr. Pepper and 
knows that I cannot look him 
in the eyes when I am angry with him.

He works like a dog and plays like a kid. 
He has made me a happier, more relaxed person. 
The grand babies are going to love hanging out with him.

He loves our children.
All five of them plus the one God gave us when our oldest married him.
He takes pride in the character and achievements of all of our kids 
and sees the good inside each one. 

He is calm and patient with screaming grand babies 
and teenage girls. 

He is good to my extended family and doesn't think they are as weird as I do.
Just kidding about the weird.

But then again, he doesn't think I am as weird as they do. 
Not kidding about the weird.

He tells me that all families have crazy times, crazy relatives and crazy habits. But he admits that I win the contest for the craziest redneck relative. 

He lets me blame him for pretty much anything from acts of nature to unpleasant dog odors just because he lets me blame him.

He lets me sleep on his shoulder for the two or three minutes it takes 
until I need my space or
I need to straighten the sheets 
or rearrange pillows or
I need to breath my own air.  

Everyone knows that he is a sucker for 
little ones, 
and his family.

I tell him that he is kind hearted 
and sweet and he tells me not to tell anyone.

He knows my secrets and has remained.  
At times amused and probably disturbed 
by the inner workings of a mind like mine 
he has remained.

Surely often befuddled by my...
lets just call them moods. 
No, let's call them justified moods. 
Whatever we call them...
he has remained.

He is compassionate, gentle and forgiving. 

He has loved me through the moodiness, anger and devastation of grief. 

He was already there when I turned to run to him blinded by my tears and deafened by my sadness.

He was already there because he was paying attention.

He is my best friend, an answer to my prayers and I 
thank God for him every single day.

Who needs Valentines Day when you are loved like this everyday

Just sayin'.......

Monday, February 4, 2013

To Be Enough

There are days when I cannot wait for them to leave the classroom!

Days filled with whining, arguing and picking at each other like tiny piranhas.

Days when the neediness so normal for their young age multiplied by twenty overwhelms my store of patience.

Any parent knows the feeling. It is the same feeling that comes right before the bedtime that is too long getting here.

And then, there are days when I cannot bear to watch them leave.
Days when one of them takes the broken pieces of my heart out the door with them. 

There are nights when a sweet little face is all I see as I putter around in my safe, snug and cozy little home by the lake. Nights when my thoughts are never far from a little one whose story wrecked my soul.

There are days when the limitations of the job I love fill in the broken places of my heart with frustration and helpless anger.

Those are the days when even the most gentle of Kindergarten teachers has hatred in her heart for those who would victimize a baby.

Those are the days when I pray the hardest to make a difference,

to be a light,

to be a safe place to fall

and to be strong enough and gentle enough and smart enough

to pick up the pieces of a heart smaller and much more tender than 

my own and glue those pieces back together. 

To be enough.

Those day are the hardest of them all.

Just sayin'.............

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Yes, it has been a long time.

The trouble with blogs is that sometimes people read them.

And sometimes the stories I need to write are not mine alone.

When that happens, I have to leave my words unwritten. 

For me, writing is a compulsion. I must confess that inside the secret world of my thoughts I am always writing.  

Always searching for that perfect word, that one phrase that feels as good as sliding between fresh new sheets.

So much has happened that begs for words and I am ever aware of the stress relief denied by my decision to leave them unwritten. 

At any rate, I am back. 

Maybe, to write some of those unwritten words. 
For they belong to me also.