More Stories For My Mom

When we kids started writing down stories for our mom, I asked if every memory we wrote had to be happy. She told me they didn’t, because not every moment of life is happy. In the stories I tell and post, there will be bad memories mixed in, because those are the ones that are significant and my responses to these events are part of what has shaped me into the woman I am today. Please note, though, that I did have a wonderful childhood, full of love and quality time and more toys than any child should have.

When I was younger, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays. There were a few years that I can remember it being at our house, and those were my favorites. I only remember bits and pieces, like our neighbors (The Wallace’s) from across the street coming over. Mrs. Wallace made a dirt cake, an inexplicably fascinating combination of oreo cookies, cool whip and gummy worms served in a flower pot.

I think I remember watching the parade once or twice, but it wasn’t that interesting to me. I’ve never understood what’s so fascinating about watching a parade on TV. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in several of them or because I got spoiled by seeing so many at Disney throughout the years. Regardless, seeing the Santa float at the end of the parade didn’t signify anything huge, like the beginning of food-time or an annual football game. I think we mostly just ran around like crazy people, trying to get Brett and Beth Wallace to play with us instead of on our Game Boys.

When it came time to eat, I remember more about how the table looked before we ate than any of the meals. There was a mountain of rolls, as my family has always been part of the pro-carb lifestyle, and mashed potatoes. We had turkey, and maybe ham, and more desserts than we needed. My mom made pecan pies and my grandma made her famous monkey bread.

We made monkey bread with Grandma a few times after Thanksgivings stopped being at our house and started being at her’s. It was one of the quintessential things I can remember doing with my grandma and one of my favorite memories of her. Whenever we prepared it, she would stress the importance of using Texas-style biscuits, not flaky layers. Now that I’m an adult and have had the chance to experiment, I have no idea why she decided Texas-style was the ultimate biscuit selection for one of our favorite holiday desserts. We’d each have a job to do, whether it was to use the kitchen scissors to split the biscuits into quarters or shake the pieces in the cinnamon-sugar combination and lay them in the bundt pan. Then she’d pour the sugary melted butter over the whole thing, bake it for 30 minutes and spend the rest of the afternoon picking at it, trying not to be caught. Even after we found out she had diabetes she still made the monkey bread, always trying to sneak pieces whenever Dad or Grandpa weren’t looking.

Then there was the Thanksgiving when we were a little bit older when my parents fought. What needs to be understood is that my parents never fought in front of us kids, not even after they divorced. They’ve always held the extraordinary ability to remain civil, even when it’s clear they don’t agree with each other. I don’t remember why they fought that day, just that they did. I guess I watched them begin their argument in the living room of my grandparent’s house and I retreated to the study to get away from it. The study by the front door was my grandpa’s favorite room (at least, I think it was). It had a couch, a TV and a touch lamp on the desk. This touch lamp served to entertain all four of us kids for longer than it probably should’ve, but none of our lamps had three settings that you could activate with your pinkie. Regardless of why they fought, they did. These fights happened maybe one or two more times at Thanksgiving but they were enough to make my mom stop coming to Thanksgiving dinner. I think Thanksgiving was the first holiday we had to spend with one parent versus the other. It always mattered more to Dad than to Mom so we went with him and I hated it. There’s a very real possibility that this is the exact reason why I currently hate Thanksgiving, but that’s a different thought process for a different day.

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You Who Weep Now Will Laugh Again

There are moments that happen every so often where I have the urge to drop everything I’m doing and hug my nephews. I want to hold them close enough to count each freckle, feel their perpetually sticky fingers and smell their hair. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to be able to do just that, squeezing them tightly until they wriggle away and resume whatever activity they were doing when I interrupted them. And there are moments when I want for someone to do that to me, holding me close enough to count my freckles, giving me physical assurance that I am loved.

One of those moments happened today. A little girl who had been in my class got very sick yesterday. When my brother-in-law told me briefly what happened, all I could think of was how I’d met the girl a few months ago and how I’d held her the last few times we were on the playground, stroking her hair and telling her how much God loved her. That’s a fairly common thing to find me doing any day I’m with my Sunday School kids, but something that I feel is of the utmost importance; we all need to know how much God loves us. This girl was tiny and quiet but when she smiled, it lit up the room. A few weeks ago, she proudly showed off her outfit to me, excited that at 3 and a half, she was allowed to put her clothing options together herself. And yesterday, the God who loves her so much took her to be with Him.

I haven’t been able to understand any of it. How a God so big could take something so small. How a family could even begin to cope with the loss of someone who means so much. How in a matter of hours a child could go from fine to sick to gone. None of it makes sense. None of it ever really will.

The moments when I hold my nephews in my arms or cling tightly to the people who hold me are the moments when I realize how truly precious life is. These are the moments when I’m the most thankful for what I have and who I am, regardless of where I live, how much money I have or what my job is. These moments are the ones that further solidify the importance of love.

Housekeeping

I’ve decided to keep a second blog, for any of you interested. It’ll house all the letters I’ve always wanted to write but have never sent and is (aptly) found at lettersiwishiwrote.wordpress.com. I’ll still be writing on here too (as often as I do now, at least) but it made sense in my head to separate the two. Plus, it won’t be linked to my twitter account, so you’d have to actively subscribe to it, should you want to read it.

Count It All Joy

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life at whatever moment that I forget where I’ve been. I forget about the times when things seemed hopeless and it was hard to breathe. I forget about when my home wasn’t safe, either because of a verbally-abusive roommate or because strange men tried to pry my window open while I slept. And what’s bigger, I forget that no matter how hard it was to struggle through whatever circumstance I was in, I did it anyway. I persevered, though clearly not on my own. I’ve attempted to give up more times than I can count and without the people I have around me and the knowledge that God has me in His hand, I’dve failed long ago.

This past month has been rough. I’ve gone from exuberant to devastated and experienced almost every emotion in between. I’ve been sick and I’m worn out from all of the changes that are going on in my life. I’m missing both the stability that I love and the adventure that I crave. And while this may be a part of life, it’s hard to deal with because it isn’t who I am.

After weeks of moving, the stomach flu, vacation and jury duty, I went to work last Tuesday to find out that my boss had made a decision. She’s had a lot on her plate for what seems like forever and she’s growing weary. Not only does she own our office, but she has a daycare across town, is a public school teacher and a wife and mother. At this point, her family needs her and something’s got to go. I found out last Tuesday that effective July 15th, my job will no longer exist.

I can’t fault my boss for the decision she’s made; I’d drop everything for family. And she’s trying to figure out ways to get me from unemployment to paying bills, but there are no guarantees. Mary told me the other day that she was proud of how calm I was being and, for short spurts of time, I am calm. I ignore the fact that I just bought a house that has a mortgage that needs to be paid. I ignore the fact that even when I don’t like my job, doing it gives me some sense of purpose. And I ignore the fact that July 15th is only two weeks away. Most of the time, though, I’m a wreck. I haven’t slept longer than 90 minutes at a time the past few nights, waking up with my heart pounding after some terrible dream of a tall man in a dark suit and sunglasses kicking me out of my house. I cried at my desk twice Thursday morning before noon (though I’m almost positive that’s from the lack of decent, restful sleep) and every time I think about how I’m going to pay my electric bill next month, I feel a chill dart down my spine, my head begins to race and my ears get fuzzy.

For a few weeks now, I’ve been smacked in the face with “count it all joy” moments. These moments challenge me and push me to make one of two impossible decisions: either whine and give in or smile and suck it up. I’d like to say that I make the right decision every time, but I’d be lying. It’s hard enough to accept these realities as truth and its illogical to celebrate them. Yet, that’s exactly what I have to do. I’m supposed to be thankful when I’m challenged because passing these tests shows dedication, perseverance and, most importantly, faith. There are a few things I want to be known as and “faithful” ranks quite highly.

These next few weeks promise to be just as complicated, heartbreaking and frustrating as the past few. My current job will end, I’ll be faced with a difficult situation on future employment and my house will continue to rebel. I know that going in. Whatever happens, my goal remains the same: to be someone who clings to hope and faith, fully aware that it’s not just a way to survive, but the way to flourish.