Thursday, August 20, 2015

Is There Ever Enough Time?

Schools started this week in many parts of the country, but not here in Virginia. We still have a few weeks of summer to enjoy since our schools don't resume until the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Looking through the news-feed on facebook it seems that every other state but ours is back in the classroom. There are so many emotions connected to a new school year. A heavy heart and a few tears was the order of the morning for the mom who has a kindergartner for the first time. Or maybe not, maybe she's doing the happy dance! Maybe she sent that little boy or girl to school with a prayer. Not for the child, but for the teacher who will have that strong willed personality to try and tame. But even so, that little one will be missed and that mom will be waiting to hear all about their first day. A new season of life has begun.

 Was there enough time?  Enough time of morning snuggles without the rush of all the things that come with school. Every day. Monday through Friday. Enough time of play-dates, visiting the zoo, meeting friends at the park, having a picnic lunch on a blanket spread on the grass in the backyard and all the other things that make up a day in the life of a mom with pre-schoolers. But that mom with the heavy heart who feels she is sending her baby out into a very scary world also has high hopes and a little thread of excitement as she anticipates all the things her child will learn in the coming months.

Then there's the mom who's been encouraging her young one starting middle school that it will be fun, not scary at all, as she thinks that this child is simply too young to be thrown into the same school as kids who are already teenagers. This mom knows the change from elementary school to middle school or junior high will hold many challenges, which include, but not limited to, peer pressure, bullies, mean girls and a curriculum with many different teachers and more responsibility. This mom knows that in the next year her child will probably begin puberty, with hormones raging. Girls who cry at the slightest thing, while her daddy is completely confused about what he said that caused this shrieking coming from his little girl who just yesterday went fishing with him.  Boys who now need deodorant, and more showers. More than every couple of days they ask? And suddenly these cherished children are embarrassed to be seen with you.  You are hurt and want your baby back.

Was there enough time? Time to be together and do all the things that kids do. Fishing with Dad, cooking with Mom. Time for instruction about growing up. Time to sit together for dinner, at least a couple of nights a week. Did you listen when they wanted to talk and ask questions, or were you too busy? As you sit in your car and watch your child walk into that middle school you suddenly want to cry out, come back, lets do this over! But you will adjust and so will they. They will blossom and you will be proud and your relationship will change.  Another season of life has begun.

Then, suddenly High School! How in the world did this happen? One day at a time, Momma! All those moments add up to days and years and you suddenly begin to hear about drivers ed. and driving permits and you think to yourself,  he can't see over the steering wheel.  But, yes he can. How can a fifteen year old be six feet tall you wonder. But he is. During those four years of high school they become mobile, licensed drivers. All those fears from the early years seem so innocent and yes, easy. What were you thinking back then, you ask. You remember hearing that the older they get the harder it becomes, but you thought that can't be true. Can it? Now you begin to experience the independence phase, pushed into high gear, as those babies are growing into young adults...not yet, but that's where they are heading.

Was there enough time? Time to teach, or maybe preach, while you had them in the car with you and they had no where to escape.Time to talk about college, what they wanted to do in life, who they wanted to be and the important stuff. Family...the ones who would always be there for them, even though they think right now it's their friends. Did you remind them over and over to be sure and pray and seek God in every decision they make, who they are with and where they are going? The things that you suddenly have so little control over.

The news feed on facebook also blew up with photos of college kids. Parents loading up their son or daughter,with new bedding, new laptop, new clothes and everything they think they will need in the dorm room.  For some parents it's new territory, their oldest, leaving home.  For other parents it's the second or third time, but still difficult. For the younger siblings left at home alone, they too can be sad, or maybe not. Maybe they're like the young mom with the strong willed child gone to kindergarten,doing the happy dance.Some were going away, a long way, some only a couple of hours and some like my granddaughter, a few miles away, but still gone. I have two grandchildren already graduated from college, two still going, and now, another first year freshman and the first to live in the dorm.

Was there enough time? No, there is never enough time and we all know that.  We always want to snuggle that newborn one more time, tuck that toddler in with stories and kisses one more time, and have another long conversation with that teenager who recently had his or her heart broken. But, we can make the most of the time we are given. So, if you are reading this and you have a newborn, hold that baby a little tighter tonight. If you have a toddler who is like a yo-yo and won't stay in bed, spend another fifteen minutes reading a book and getting hugs and kisses. And when that teenager asks a question you'd rather not answer, just remember if you won't talk to them they will find someone who will.

To my granddaughter, Bailey Owens and her best friend, Hannah Poe, your dorm room is adorable and so are both of you. Enjoy college, remember who you are and where you came from and that God has a calling on your lives.  Be sure to check in with Him daily and be sure you are on course. And to two more sweet college girls, Erin Page and Katie Henkel, I hope that the coming days and weeks in your new adventure will be everything you've dreamed it would be.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sweet Summertime

     Long days, going barefoot, pool parties,
 beach time, grilling, blooming flowers, watermelon, flip-flop days, screened porches, sweet tea, twilight, lightnin' bugs (fireflies if you aren't from the South), porch swings, front porches, family, vacation, sleeping late, ceiling fans, shorts and t-shirts, lightning flashing in the thunderheads on a hot summer's night and just mowed grass.  Oh wait, 4th of July, parades, flags flying, fireworks, corn hole, picnics, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, strawberry pie... these are a few of my favorite things. Can you guess that summer is my favorite time of year?
     It's sad, I know, that in the fall I count the days until the winter solstice arrives because I know the days will grow longer, not much, but one minute each day doesn't go unnoticed. And then, I don't know why, I'm always surprised to realize that even though the days are longer the cold and snow are making an appearance on all the weather forecasts and just the mere mention of that in Virginia causes schools to close and grown-ups to suddenly be afraid to drive.  So I begin to long for the first day of Spring.  When I read what others are posting on Facebook about how they love and adore fall and the beautiful colors of the leaves, all I can think is yes, but they are dying, the leaves are dying, the trees will soon be barren. Those beautiful colors are deceptive, fleeting and leading each one of you autumn lovers right into cold weather, snow, short days and cabin fever. Really, is that what you want? Okay, right about now my grandsons, Todd and Trey and their dad, Buddy along with my friend, Tina, are all saying yes, that's what we want, because they all love snow. So okay, you cold weather friends go ahead. But not me, give me the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas and I'm good.
    Last Saturday, June 21st at 12:38 p.m. the first day of summer began, but it was also the longest day of 2015 with a total of fourteen hours and fifty-four minutes of daylight. I don't like that! Not even a little bit. How can we already be going downhill?  I won't look at the clock to see the loss as I did back in December to see the gain.  But it will come within a few short weeks. It will sneak upon on us like a thief in the night, taking the long, hot summer days away from us a few minutes at a time.  But today I've only lost maybe a minute or two of daylight since Saturday so I've enjoyed this summer day.
     I started with coffee on my screened porch,
washed and dried a couple of loads of beach towels from the pool party that we had yesterday, spent time with three of my grandsons that are visiting with us for three weeks, had a lazy lunch and went for a swim in the pool until four of my grandsons took it over for a game of pool basketball.  I also watered my flowers since the high today is supposed to be 99. But one of my favorite things I did today was to start decorating for the 4th of July.  It is my second favorite holiday. My love of this country, the good ole USA is third only to my love for God and for my family.
     I'm proud to tell my age. I was born in 1948 in the post WWII era when patriotism was celebrated and America  was proud to have liberated many people
 from the horrendous atrocities perpetrated by Hitler and his Nazis. My daddy served in WWII in the Philippine Islands.I grew up in a home where the people who lived there appreciated their freedoms.
 It was a different time.Was it a perfect world?
 Of course not.
     I grew up in small town America in the state of Arkansas. I don't think there was anyone in our town that was wealthy, at least not the way we measure wealth today. Everyone worked.  Maybe day labor on one of the many farms in the surrounding area, or teaching school or working in one of the cafes in town. But we worked to feed our families and we loved our country. Many homes displayed photos of their loved one who had served in the war effort. It was talked about and those who had served were proud of their service. My love of country started in my home, was taught in my school and celebrated with festivals from time to time. So, I've loved my country's birthday for many, many years and I am happy that it happens in my favorite season...Sweet Summertime.  So go find a flag, hang it proudly, heck, hang several, be proud to be an American in the land of the free and the home of the brave!  Happy 4th Y'all!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Missing Amy

Amy Elizabeth Kelley

The last time I blogged was January 5, 2015. Three months have passed, along with many, many changes. We are no longer living with our daughter and her family. My husband, my mother-in-law and I had been in Colorado Springs since the end of September, 2014.  Our daughter, Amy, who was diagnosed in December, 2010 with a brain tumor, succumbed to that horrible disease on February 4, 2015. After surgery to remove the original tumor, and receiving radiation and chemo, she enjoyed a little more than two years with no signs of cancer. But, the unthinkable occurred in April, 2014 when another tumor was discovered, too deep and too large to be removed. She didn't give up. She fought and she fought hard. She was brave and courageous and never stopped believing that God might choose to heal her. And He did, just not here. Now with Him, she is whole again and we rejoice in that. But, the light of her sweet spirit has been taken from our family and we grieve her absence.
When we arrived on that September day she was resting on the couch, her walker close by.  When she saw us, she cried.  A few days later she could only walk with assistance, and for long distances she needed a wheelchair.  She needed help.  Her children needed help and her husband needed help.
Our nest has been empty for many years and my mother-in-law's nest has been empty even longer.  Moving into a home with four boys was new territory for all three of us. Not to mention learning to live with a total of nine people in the home. But we dove in and after a few weeks a routine began to emerge. We wanted to provide her husband relief from household and kid duty so he could focus on his job, and when he was home, have the luxury of time to spend with Amy.
Days began early and ended late.  We scheduled trips into Colorado Springs (we were in Black Forest) for appointments for radiation and chemo, and scattered in between were doctor appointments.  Someone always had to be with Amy and someone always had to be home when the bus arrived in the afternoon. Laundry was done almost daily, boys can cause lots of that. Eva, my mother-in-law, became the queen of laundry, my husband became the professor of homework and I became the (smile) scullery maid.
We became immersed in their lives.  And by doing that we left our own lives behind.  Locking the doors to our home, and loading our van with everything we thought we would need, we drove across country, not knowing what was ahead or how long we would be gone.
It was such a drastic change for all of us. We didn't know the rhythm of their home, or the words to their love language or the cadence of the life they were living, so we struggled to find our place without disturbing theirs. I tried to cook in their kitchen, but didn't have a favorite pan or skillet, didn't know which knife was the sharpest or where the measuring cups were and I felt like I was a little girl again in the kitchen for the first time. I know there were many things we didn't do wrong, but just not right for them.
I wanted to be home, but I wanted to be there. Amy was becoming sicker and sicker and more and more dependent on everyone. The stress level increased as we tried to be gracious to each other and accept the different ways each of us chose to do things. Sometimes at night I crashed as soon as my head hit the pillow and other nights I had insomnia and stared at the ceiling and prayed.  With God's grace and strength and the prayers of all our family and friends, here in Virginia, in Arkansas, in North Carolina and in Colorado and honestly many other places across the country, we held together. Then on February 21, 2015 we arrived at our home here in Virginia.  I didn't have the feeling of euphoria that I thought I would. It felt good, but different, almost foreign.  I was lost.  In Colorado I had had such a strict daily schedule and the days had been so full there that now I found I didn't know what I was supposed to do when I got up each morning.
Like a lot of tragedies, and yes our daughter's death at the age of 39 was a tragedy, it felt surreal. Though we believe she is with her Heavenly Father and whole and healthy now, her family misses her.  Her husband has been left alone to raise three little boys. They love their mom and they need their mom, so knowing that makes it so difficult to see the reason why.
But I know this: Isaiah 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways." This is the Lord's declaration. "For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher that your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Her dad and I have good days and bad days. Some days it seems that it was all a bad dream, but I know it's not and this side of Heaven we will never hear her sweet soft voice, or hear her humor or feel her hugs or receive her perfect gifts that she was known for. It is a void in our big, big family and we know that the next reunion with everyone will be difficult. We are thankful for the opportunity we were given to care for her in her last days, as painful as they were.
But, I am finding me again.  I know what to do when I get up each morning and my home is beginning to feel right again. I know, though, that the me I am finding has changed. I came home a different person.  Each time we say goodbye to someone we love here on earth we have another reason to look forward to our own eternal home. I hope and pray that if you are reading this post, you know where your eternal home is and that you have put your trust in Jesus. That would be Amy's hope for you as well.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Band of Four Brothers

Psalm 133:1  How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.

Brothers in harmony.  Is that an impossible concept?  We are currently living in a house with four brothers.  Three of them share a bedroom connected to our bedroom via a bathroom. Their ages are six, eight and eleven. Sharing a bathroom with three boys, who can't seem to aim straight, caused me to gross out a few times, until I remembered to always check the toilet seat! When our toothpaste tube looked like we had run over it with the car several times, we made sure they had their own, and I hid ours high up on a shelf. We had to have a serious talk when our dental floss went missing and I found it in the toys, being used like string. And then there was the time the six year old told me he had a nose bleed.  Of course, when I saw the bloody rolled up tissue sticking out of his nostril and dried blood on both hands, I could indeed see he had a bloody nose.  I went into the bathroom where he'd been trying to stop the bleeding and it looked as though he'd just slain a small animal.  How he managed to have blood splatters on the mirror, I have yet to figure out.
But this is not about harmony between these three boys and their Nana, it's about harmony among the three of them. We've been here in their home almost four months, and even though they are my grandsons, they've always lived in Colorado and we've lived in Virginia.  So our visits with them have always been brief.  But their mother's illness and her inability to care for them on a day to day basis is the reason we are here. Over the last few months I've gotten to know them intimately. Their personalities have emerged and they've surprised me on many occasions.
 Do they argue?  Do they fight?  Do they hit?  Do they call each other names? Are they boys?????
Of course, they do all these things.  But they also love.  They love each other immensely. They wouldn't admit that, but it's true.  I've witnessed it.
The first time I saw that brotherly love was in the middle of the night when they woke me up because the youngest was in the bathroom, crying from the pain of a toothache. The two oldest were trying to console him with a wet washcloth because he'd cried so hard he was about to throw up. I took over and told them to go back to bed.  I gave him pain medicine and stayed with him until he went back to sleep.  But his brothers kept asking if he was okay. They might want to kill him during the day, but when he needed help in the middle of the night, they were by his side.
The two youngest recently had the flu.  They were quarantined in the downstairs (basement) rooms to prevent the spread of the virus. They fought very little those five days, as if they knew that each other was all they had. But when the fevers subsided, so did the harmony.
When one of them gets in trouble, sometimes one of the others will either defend or try to take some of the blame. They will knock each other around, but they don't want anyone else to.
Since we have been their primary caregivers and our bedroom is adjoining theirs, I have been awakened at night on several occasions.  The toothache incident was the first and happened two nights in a row.  A trip to the dentist solved that problem.  The youngest was the first to wake up in the middle of the night with a fever.  After three nights of getting up, he was finally better, but his brother became sick.  A few days after the flu episode, the eight year old woke me up crying with leg cramps.  The last time was a couple of nights ago when the youngest woke me up because his brother was in the bathroom with a nose bleed.  When I came back to my bed, after calming them down and back to sleep, I couldn't sleep.  Lying in bed with insomnia, I began to think about all the times these little boys had needed help during the night.  Not once did they come in our room and wake up their Papaw. They first tried to remedy the situation together, and when that didn't work, they came for Nana. 
God made little boys to know that Moms and Nanas are nurturers, soft and with quiet words of reassurance that all will be better.  They can be hellions during the day, but turn into needy little boys in the dark of night when something hurts.
These three boys have an older brother who is eighteen and in college.  They adore him, and he loves them and is very possessive and protective toward them. He completes this band of brothers. They are all extremely smart and very good students. I don't know what the future holds for each of them, but I know who holds their futures, and I have to trust that all will be well. They are yours Heavenly Father, keep them close.