Monday, October 17, 2011

Unconditional Love

I wrote the following about three years ago. This slice of life nugget won my husband and I dinner for two at a French restaurant in Dallas. Our daughter, Tresa Lynn, is now 20. She has Down Syndrome. She has given all of us incredible joy over the years, and continues to be an inspiration to us and many others.

I couldn’t believe I was finally bringing her home. This beautiful baby girl was finally in my arms and away from all the nurses, doctors, and more importantly, all the tubes she had lived with for her first two weeks. After four boys, I finally had my girl.
                Her large round blue eyes looked at me quizzically from out of the heavy yellow blanket I had wrapped her in while we waited for the bus to take us home. She was going to meet her brothers for the first time. With her little face and pixie nose she didn’t look like she had Down Syndrome, the tests said that. I flashed back to the day I found out I was pregnant for the sixth time in eight years and the prayer that I said. “Lord, please give me a girl who will be a little girl forever.” They say you get what you pray for, little did I know then what that meant for our lives.
                Grief is the first step in the process of having a special needs child. Grief for the loss of the child you thought you would have because that child doesn’t exist. But grief turned inward can become self-pity, and that does no one else any good. The immediate concern was getting home with this precious gift and let God work.
                The temperature was in the 40’s in that little German town, as we waited for the bus. It was May 1, the second biggest holiday in that culture, so the bus schedule was different. It was an hour of waiting to board the bus. No one knew we were coming, they thought it would be only me.
                As I walked up the two flights of stairs to the army-approved apartment we lived in, my baby girl slept. She did that a lot because she had a hole in her heart. She was tiny, weighing less than 7 pounds. Compared to her brothers when they were born, she was a china doll. For what I knew at that time, she was as breakable as one.  I opened the door and walked into a room of boys-my husband and my sons were sitting in front of the television watching an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  My husband tall and blond, with a baby face that never showed age, set his guitar down against the couch when he saw me walk in, surprised. As I sat the baby carrier down in the middle of the livingroom floor, four faces looked up at me and then down at the new addition to our family. The oldest, age 7, had been so anxious to see his sister and was the first one beside her. He gently unwrapped the blanket from around her face, the other boys joining him. Our youngest boy, only 18 months old, seemed bewildered by this new little person.
                All four boys gathered around the little miracle and touching her face, her little hands, taking off the booties and checking out her toes. They touched her face, speaking in their young voices about how beautiful she was, how little she was, telling her how much they loved her, as if they knew this one would need them her whole life. Through it all my little angel slept peacefully, the poking and prodding and loving voices not disturbing the peace and joy she carried on her face.
                That was eighteen years ago, and the love, peace and joy that radiated from her face that day has not changed. The love that of her brothers  is still as deep as it was that first day home. Because of her, many people have learned what unconditional love is. She is a miracle, a gift from God. While there have been hard times and fearful times, there has always been joy. God answered a simple prayer, and brought joy into the world.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Waves of Life

In life, ebb and flow is the one constant we can count on. One day you are on the mountain, the next at the bottom of the hill. These cliche's describe just what life has been like in the last several days.

We never know when the "things of life" will pile up on us. It just happens. Before we know it, we are snowed under with issues and problems.

This last week it has been issues with people who do not like what we represent, two deaths, a friend dealing with the possible end of his son's marriage (totally unexpected and unwanted), Chris' back went out just bending over and picking up something (and this is in the parking lot as we are walking into our niece's baby shower), then this morning finding our cat sleeping eternally in the back yard. That was the one that caused me to snap.

It is normal to lose a pet, but Rowdy wasn't that old. He was 7 and so full of personality. He loved to roam the neighborhood (even though he didn't have anything left to prove-we took care of that). He also refused to drink water out of the bowl, choosing the faucet instead. And that had to be turned on a certain way, or he wouldn't drink from there either!

One of Rowdy's favorite things was to walk over to the dog's bowl after the dog was put into his bed for the night and eat a piece or two, the whole time watching the dog as he ate. Mocha would just watch him, you could almost see him saying, "Just wait until I get out of here" while Rowdy seemed to smile and saunter away with the regalness so well known to cats.

A couple of years ago, one of Rowdy's late night trysts almost got him killed. He managed to make it home and literally slept on the end of our bed for two days. We thought he was gone several times, but he lived to prowl another day, only losing an eye to whatever it was that happened.

Rowdy, you will be missed. Your 5 am yowl to be let out when we did manage to keep you home, your scratching on the window when you decided to come home at 6 am. Heaven must have a place for special kitties and puppies who give such joy. We will truly miss you!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bumps in the Road

Life in our house right now can be seen in two ways. Getting through the day or working toward a goal. Right now they are one and the same.
The goal: Get my husband through his associates degree while maintaining the standard of a high profile gospel singing ministry.
Getting through the day: keeping the house neat, helping him with philosophy, trigonometry, history, or biology; keeping my daughter's cold from going into upper respiratory infection, and finding time for me and writing and the website I have been contracted to create and maintain by the deadline.
All these things need to be handled every day. Just maintaining in a day is enough to wear you out, but then there are the bumps in the daily road that set you off schedule.
Yesterday was one of those days.
Practice was already scheduled for 5 pm. Not really a good time to have a houseful of company if you want to eat dinner before 8. But that was when everyone was available.
The first bump in the road was a dear friend who called soon after I woke up. Major crisis in her life that needed to be vented and talked through. Three hours later, no resolution to the problem, but she at least knows someone is there to listen.
Second bump in the road: my desk. It was a disaster area. Stacks of books and papers that made it impossible to work or stay on track. Solution: get a rolling file cart and organize and eliminate the clutter. Done. Still have to file the papers I put into the "to be filed" file, but at least I can work on my desk and they have a central location.
Third bump in the road: meltdown of another friend during and after practice. Had to be talked out and worked through, but it will get better. The hardest part of some situations in life is the fact that there is not a quick resolution or answer. In this one, it may take several months to get the answers, and then they may never come. In the other situation, the answers are there, feelings are hurt, truth is not important to some involved and it will result in something good going away because humans are by their very nature selfish and egotistical.
Isn't that the way we always see things? The other people are the selfish ones, it can never be us. But there are times that that is true. And sadly, in this case, the good intentions and protections of a friend in their love for the others are being twisted to look like she is the bad guy, all because they can't face the truth about themselves. A truth that has been pointed out to them previously, not accepted then either. A truth that many around them have seen and therefore moved away from them. The status symbols have become more important to them than what they know about people they have known many years. In other words, they have become lovers of self, not others.
The saying that "a leopard never changes its spots" is true in many cases. Probably most. It doesn't have so much to do with actions or behaviors as it does attitude. What that person thinks of themselves or others. Those things are formed early in life and most will carry that around for their life. They approach others with those attitudes, and they approach their image of themselves with it.
Fact is, people are selfish. It is a choice to put others above themselves. Our society no longer says "You are responsible for your own actions." Now it is "It isn't your fault." My childhood and teenage years had their share of angst that was outside the "Father Knows Best" norm, but that doesn't mean it is a good excuse for me to choose to project that onto others. I still know what is right and what is wrong and I still have to choose to embrace the decisions I make.
It is time for people to stop using the excuses man is giving them, and to start making themselves responsible for the choices in their lives.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I am deathly afraid of tornadoes. Don't ask me why, especially since I am not sure I would know one even if it were coming right at me. But as long as I can remember I have had an obsession about them.
When I was about 6, living in Monticello, Iowa, there was a night when we had three, one right after another. My sister and I had these cute little kids rocking chairs that we could sit in and watch t.v with our parents. Made us feel so special.
This particular night, though, the station kept getting interrupted with tornado information. So when they said there was a warning for our town, my parents got up and looked out the front window. Now before you say, how foolish, remember that parents don't always do the right thing 100% of the time. I was hysterical with fear. "Mommy, if there are tornadoes, we need to hide. Hurry, let's go to the basement." I said while tugging her away from the window. Kids, no matter what, don't interrupt your parents tornado watching. I kept screaming, and was showing obvious signs of being hysterical, so my mom slapped me in an effort to calm me down. Shocked me to silence is what it did.
My sister, age 3 1/2, was quietly and furiously rocking her little chair. "I'm not scared, Mommy. See!" and stood up. Her knees buckled from the fear she was trying to hold in. At about the same time, the town's tornado sirens went off, so the four of us trudged downstairs to the basement. We sat there for what seemed like a long time, listening to the muffled sirens, hearing the wind blow. While the basement was concrete (nothing like the root cellars some people had) it wasn't a very inviting place, especially when the lights went out. Suddenly the sirens stopped, the lights came back on, and the signal for the all clear was sounded (they had that in those days, too). We hadn't gotten halfway up the stairs, when the tornado warning siren went off again. Back down we go into the dark abyss, listening and waiting like before. All clear sounded again. So we trudged back up those wooden stairs. Then it happened again, before we could reach the door, the tornado siren blew one more time. The wind was harder this time, and we could hear the rain, tree branches, and maybe even debris from someone's house pelting ours. This time I wanted Mom to get my bird. "No can do." was her shaky reply. So we sat there, quite a bit longer this time, hearing the siren in the distance.
Suddenly, there was a loud crack. Instinctually we all looked up, expecting the house to lift off the foundations and to be sucked into the vortex that was obviously above our heads. Nothing. A few short minutes later, the all clear sounded again and we made it up the stairs this time.
Nothing was moved, nothing was changed. Paul and Mom went to investigate the outside of the house and try to figure out what the loud crack was. Debris lay all over the street and yard from tree limbs, but it wasn't bad.
The loud crack? The tornado had split a tree in our backyard, ten feet from the house into two pieces. That was the only damage for us that night. Through the grapevine we heard that some of our friends homes and farms on the other side of town had sustained damage and some streets were impassable, but our close call was just that. Close.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Iowa memories

Recent discussions on a facebook group, revived memories of a special time in my life. My earliest memory is of the JFK assassination. Not the act specifically, I was too young for that, but the impact on my mother. I will blog about this in the future, because today the memories of three years spent in northeast Iowa are foremost in my mind.
The thing about these particular memories is that what I experienced then has an impact on my life now. Then-exposure to the country music industry, now-heavily involved in gospel music industry locally. The exposure to the work-a-day life of a local musician then seems to make it possible for me to understand the work side of our weekend warrior status.
My memories are so much more than this, though. My parents divorced when I was five. My mom remarried soon after and with her new husband we moved to Iowa. Our first house was in Cedar Rapids. I have vague memories of the highway running in front of the house, several houses in a row. I don't remember a yard per se, but I do remember my school was across the street. Then one night, my parents packed up, and we moved to a cute little house in Monticello. It was early winter.
I loved kindergarten in Montecello. One morning I woke up to a ton of snow. Since I walked to school, and Mom didn't listen to the radio in the mornings, I bopped on out the door, ready for a great day of school. Halfway there, a neighbor called to me. "Where you going?" she asked. "To school" was my reply. "I'm sorry sweetie, there is not school today. Too much snow." I ran home crying, I wanted to go to school! My mom made it up to me by letting me do the dishes for her that day! It didn't take long for me to figure out that it wasn't a privilege!
That same year I got my first real pet, a parakeet named Lady. Since my step father was a bass player in a local country band, my younger sister and I had a babysitter every Friday and Saturday night. One Saturday we got into trouble for miscreant behavior the night before. Since the babysitter had promised not to tell our mom, it was a shock that Mom knew what we did. When I asked her how she knew, she said "A little birdie told me." Mom says that she caught me giving Lady an earful later that day. I took her literally. I just knew the bird had a big mouth!
Monticello was such a small town then, you could go just about anywhere by walking. One day, Mom chewed us out again for something we did when the sitter was there. So I decided we were going to run away. So Donna and I piled our favorite baby dolls and their clothes into our doll carriages. Right on top we each put a change of underwear and went on our way. The most important things in life. We went to the babysitter's house, but she wasn't there. She was at the swimming pool. So off we went.
Apparently our mom didn't believe us at first when we stated our intentions. A couple of hours later she realized we meant business and headed out looking for us. As we were crossing an alley headed to the pool, she pulled up in the car and caught us. Needless to say, we didn't sit really well for several days, and didn't see much of the out of doors either.
Monticello was where I got my first bike. Monticello was where we lived when three tornadoes came through town. Monticello is where we lived when there was a total eclipse. And Monticello was where we lived when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
I don't know what things are like there now, over forty years later. But it was a great place to be a kid.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New House, Old House

Six years ago today we moved into our current house. We closed the loan on the fifth anniversary of 9-11, but our eyes were looking forward not backward. To say that it was our dream home at that point would be a lie, but the stars in our eyes told us it could be.
Excellent location, good price for the times, it was something to build on. Some would say we were moving from the projects, although we didn't think so. No one would have guessed, however, that we moved to the PROJECT!
You would think that a house with all that this one has to offer would be an owner's dream. NOT! The large livingroom got smaller really fast once we realized we had to work around the fireplace that sticks out into the livingroom. It is a beautiful setting for it, rock wall behind it with little shelf ledges, big black fireplace that looks like an old time stove. Sliding glass door AND large picture window. Off of that is a diningroom with built in bookshelves and wainscotting. From both the diningroom and the entryway you can enter the kitchen. Small with little cabinet or counter space, it isn't bad for a family that is supposed to be diminishing in size as children move out. (BTW parents, this does not happen). Three small bedrooms, a hallway, one and a half baths. Can get to the half bath through the master bedroom or through the laundry area off the kitchen. Huge recreation room off the kitchen. Used to be the outdoor covered patio 'til someone got the idea to enclose it. Detached garage, storage building big enough for an office. Oh, yeah, and ceramic tile floor in all areas except where carpeted. Sounds like a dream? Only if you didn't look deep, and we didn't.
First thing we found out after moving in-no central air. So go grab a bunch of window units from what is left in mid-September and hope for the best. Then we found out the wiring wasn't great. 1960's house is 1960's wiring. (As I write, hubby is changing a breaker). Then we found out there were major gas line leaks and it wasn't up to code. So no hot water. $1000 to fix. Took a month to get that fixed, so baths only with water heated on the stove.
Then we found out the garage door on the detached garage was wired on the same breaker as the entire kitchen in the house. You want the garage door shut? Don't be cooking or running the dishwasher. Then the garbage truck hit the fence, down it came.
One day we got the brilliant idea to take down the bar that took up a bunch of space in the back room. Like I said, it was put up around the covered patio that had been there. Wellll, when we moved the bar (using all four boys to lift the thing as it was literally constructed of heavy tile) we found the acorns and leaves from fall days gone by underneath. But at least the bar was gone. Then the heavy rains came.
Rain in Texas in the fall can range anywhere from a trickle to a monsoon. That year, it was a monsoon. And we found the leaks in the back room. That led to the discovery that instead of siding the previous owners used stucco for the walls. In other words, concrete. They didn't support the weight of the walls to the roof, so now we are dealing with a room that is falling away from the house.
So many other things, the wiring to the dryer was really a household extension cord buried under ground (barely), both toilets leaked, and the crash of 2008 caused the company with the foundation warranty to go out of business.
But we soldier on. We have painted our daughters room, made it more a girl's room, fixing the closet to fit her. Too bad we can't sound proof it from her "practicing". I painted the room that is off the dining room, the one that was going to be my office, but is now my grown son's room. And our latest project-the livingroom, kitchen, hallway, entryway and dining room. Once those are painted, we will stop for awhile. At least until we can get the rest of the back room cleared out and get it torn down. Then I will have my outdoor patio, at the expense of my office and sewing room. But one day...we will start on that new project of building that room again, just doing it right this time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Making Old Things New

Painting. I hate it. I used to love picking colors and making the house look new again. Not anymore. It is PAINFUL. But I am getting older, and not in great shape. But when I look at the almost complete hallway (only the trim is left) and the livingroom that has new to us furniture, new paint on the walls and see how well it is shaping up, I like that. So it is worth every ache and pain that is coming our way. Dining room and kitchen are still on the agenda and I can't wait to get those done as well. Because then, something old will be new again.
We, too, can make ourselves new again. Each day is a beginning. We all have many beginnings in our lives. When we are born, it is the beginning of life. When we go to school for the first time, it is the beginning of independence, when we become Christians, we are new all over again.
There are also the beginnings that come from major unexpected changes. Chris was laid off from his job, but instead of it being an end, a same old thing, it became a new beginning. Starting school and creating a goal to complete an education that will serve as a new beginning again.
This will be a tough few months for him, there is no doubt. But then that first step, probably the biggest one will be complete. Then another beginning, and another ending that is really a beginning. Many things in life end, that is true, but those same things are beginnings if we choose to make them such.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What are Saturdays For?

It's Saturday, and it has taken me most of the day to get my back to quit hurting so much. Back pain is one of those things you live with as you grow old. Mine comes from sitting in an office chair for more hours than I should. I do it because it is my space. Frequently invaded, but still mine.

This week we got Chris signed up for school, job hunted, spent time together, and fretted some. Guess we are going to do that, considering all that is going on, but still hopeful. Trying to figure out exactly how we will get through this. We are blessed to have people who want to help, and we know we will have to let some things go to get through, but they are just things.

I have been trying for awhile to find the right plot for a mystery I want to write. A couple of my short stories have some very interesting characters in them and they keep coming to my mind. I want to create a story around familiar aspects of my favorite getaway place, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, but also incorporate memories of places from my growing up as well in Missouri. So little by little things come to me to put into this. Yesterday, the mystery plot came to me. Now I have to try to focus much harder on it. Hopefully as I get further into it the killer will be revealed. For that matter, I am not even sure who will be murdered yet. But they will let me know just as they have in the past. I can't wait to see what happens.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Very Productive Day

Yesterday, I cocooned in my office and bedroom for the WHOLE day. I spent it writing, sleeping, reading, etc. Today I got out of bed (earlier than I planned) and sped through the whole day. Paid bills, got Chris started on his resume and unemployment application, groceries, and even helped a friend out (actually they helped me) with some work. We also got to spend time with our friend, Joe, getting a haircut and a taco together.
Joe is one of those special people who have a heart for others. He sings with us in Ransomed, and nurtures us, as well as lifts us up. Like everyone, he has his quirks and certain things he is adamant about, but his heart is a heart of gold. And he is fiercely loyal. A friend, a brother and a man with a heart of gold.
No matter what is going on in our lives, there is always someone with a ray of sunshine for us.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A New Beginning

Life has a way of knocking you around a bit, doesn't it? That is what it has done in this house for sure. I was laid off in March 2010. Job hunting for a year and a half isn't much fun. Sadly, too many people are experiencing this same situation. Then on Thursday, my husband came home. SURPRISE! He got laid off. We have been married almost 26 years, and this is only the second time he has been without work in all that time.

Let me tell you about Chris. Physically he is a gorgeous man. Six foot one inch tall, under 200 pounds, slight middle age spread that only I know is there. Blond hair that lays perfect, one green eye, one brown eye. Built to perfection for me. Friends from high school still recognize him, he looks so young. Inside he is even more special. He is an awesome father, soon to be grandfather, and great husband. I didn't say perfect only because no one is, but most of the time he is. He is quiet and thoughtful, dry sense of humor, and the kindest man I have ever known. Quick learner, too. So it is even more hurtful that life throws these things at us.

We have raised our five kids (four boys and a girl) and our niece. Our oldest son is actually mine from a previous relationship, so in 26 years, Chris has been father to more than his own kids. He has worked hard, in the army, then on to many dead end jobs to pay the bills and put food on the table. The way society is structured today, it would have been easier to take the money from the government than work those jobs.

Talented, yes, very much so. Chris is the leader of a southern gospel trio, but he isn't a dictator (unlike his brother who thought he was the boss). He has a four octave range, plays guitar, works up the arrangements, and mediates when necessary. And there is so much more.

My point is that it seems that our life is proving that sometimes nice guys do finish last. Except...they don't. As hard as it is, we need to look to this as a new opportunity. A new beginning. We can sit around and moan and decry our circumstances and the situation, or we can move forward in a way that is good and exciting.

The challenge isn't in replacing a job, the challenge is in looking up, being positive and keeping our hope alive. Starting today, I am up for the challenge.