Friday, December 07, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012


Alas, I have the privilege of staring out my window at the familiar sights from the comfort of our own home!  The warm days make it hard to believe it’s the Christmas season and time to wrap up our year in a letter!
Okay, so this time last year,  life was in a topsy turvy royal mess. But, here we are...surrounded by color (white is just not me~white walls, white fixtures, white appliances, white counters, white sinks...!) and all that is us!

This year is all about CHANGE...and faster than I can blink my eyes! I know change is ever present, but there’s always some sort of  foundational stability that anchors us. The four winds, however, seem to be blowing all that away!

Let’s start with Bert and Jessica, who faced major changes this year when Bert lost his job due to the continuing economic downturn. So, in addition to teaching part-time at the local college,  he spends his time as Mr. Mom while diligently searching for a new job! They are still able to participate in their favorite past-time~UTK/Troy weekends. Even the girls cheer  them on!

Jessica keeps us up-to-date with her blog, and we love hearing about their daily lives and seeing photos and videos as Elizabeth and Caroline change on what seems like a daily basis!

Elizabeth is trying out her ballet wings, and the videos are soo adorable! Caroline has had  her share of being sick this year; despite it all, she continues to be the most content and happy child ever! Both girls are growing so quickly!

Ditto for Alexis, Aleaha, Alivia and Alaina!  Alexis is almost as tall as I am, and Alaina is  even with Alivia! Though Melanie attends college and works, with two kids at home during the day, they still go camping whenever they can!

Alexis sings in the school chorus and is throwing in her soccer shoes for softball cleats in the Spring. Aleaha, on the other hand, continues  to play soccer; and I understand she is a most avid reader!  All four girls love the outdoors and riding 4-wheelers!  I love the pictures Melanie texts to me that crack me up so much!
Hannah...she indeed graduated in May, completing the IB Programme, and then took off to London and France for two weeks–a dream she’s been saving for since 9th grade! After return-ing home, she worked all summer, then packed her life up in two suitcases and traveled half way around the world to New Zealand/Fiji for six months with YWAM. She is absolutely in her element leading worship, writing songs, minister-ing to so many through love, prayer and sharing    the gospel. Her life is full and God is doing some amazing work in and through her!

Rebeka, on the other hand, is already experiencing senioritis.  Despite that, she keeps persevering. Accepted to both her college choices, she has chosen to attend Lee~~BUT...not before attending YWAM!!  She just made the deci-sion to defer, taking a gap year to travel to the New Zealand Outdoor Pursuits YWAM! Lee University will defer all scholarships, etc., and she will also earn credit for the trip! In the mean time, 4 AP and  1 Honors class keep her on her toes!

She still has a passion for her violin, and when all the youth group crowd into our small parlor every sunday, she pulls it out to accompany whoever is playing the piano!  She’s been playing Christmas songs, and there’s nothing like a sweet violin to usher in the Christmas feeling!

Keith just keeps on doing what he does best...being the most awesome husband, father, pappa, friend and employee he could possibly be. He’s looking forward to the time when we can travel to be with family and friends.

Another big change for our family was losing of our 16-year-old family dog, Dakota. I  didn’t think I could grieve for a dog the way that I grieve his absence from our lives.  He is sorely missed.

We also lost a very dear man who was like a second father to me, Paul Parham. It’ still hard to be-lieve he is gone. Everytime I make peanut butter cookies, I am reminded of him and miss him deeply.

We rescued a  kitty back in the summer and  named her Ginny...found out six months later, Ginny is a boy. We had him neutered and all his shots up to date only for him to disappear two weeks later.

So, for the first time in 16 years, we have no animals.  To top all that off, this time next year, we will be empty nesters...after how many years of raising  kids, it is going to be terribly quiet around here!

There is already a lot missing this year: the morning turmoil of two girls sharing one bathroom; the discussions over who is wearing what and where is what article of clothing that was borrowed and not returned; the priority-setting for who gets the vehicle for what activity and who will drive; Hannah’s incessant chattering and singing and strange vocal experiments that have to be video’d (for what reason, I still don’t know!); the 4 or 5 piano practices a day; the tattletelling; the daily gang-up-on-mom rituals; the midnight-i-feel-like-talking conversations; the 15-minute-interval reminders to finish homework; the what-if conversations; the lived-in look of Hannah’s room (which Rebeka does spend a fair amount of time trying to rectify!); and of course, the multi-hormonal week of insanity! Spoiler Warning: Next year, this whole page will be filled with a whole new list of what will be missing!

My mindset is on “lasts.” My life has been centered on being a mom, and this is the last year to be in that season. I am quite aware of all the lasts and cherishing each one as they come to a close. I think I will grieve the end of this time for a bit. I’ve spent more than 25 years raising kids and being a part of their lives. It will take me awhile to recreate a new life taking just Keith and me into consideration. The song by Alabama, “Changes” comes to mind...!

Though so much has changed, there are some things that will never change, and that is the depth of the relationships we share. As Hannah and Rebeka join Jessica and Melanie in creating their own lives, our joy is being able to share in those lives.

This Christmas season may you join us in focusing on God’s unchanging perfect love come down to earth so that we may have life everlasting!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Just Another Day In Paradise

So.  About every month the Theatre 4 kids hold Open Mic. 

Intermingled with some crazy skits surrounding a specific theme, many talented kids get to showcase their passions.  The whole time Hannah was in school, I don't think i videoed even one of her performances...

so this year, i tried using my phone to capture Rebeka's nuttiness...

video
video
video

I love that kid!  Her craziness makes my cup overflow overflow overflow!!!

P.S.  She is the one in the tan grass skirt!


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Dakota Douglass~~November 3, 1996 - September 29, 2012

I ventured out to the backyard swing today for the first time in a week and a half.  That's where I normally do my morning devotional. 

This usually takes over an hour because Dakota, our 16-year-old keeshond, has always insisted on being out there with me.  He loves the outdoors but his hearing over the past year diminished greatly, so I end up spending more time making sure of his whereabouts and reigning him back into sight.

Today's breeze made it the perfect Fall day.  On days like this, the wind would blow across Dakota's fur and he would look majestic, black/gray fur sweeping in the wind, his head held high and tail tightly curled wagging against the breeze.

That vision hit me hard and the tears began to flow.  Today marks ten days since we were faced with the most difficult decision regarding this beloved family member

Six month ago, Dakota had what we thought was a stroke...we let him outside before bed, and when he headed up the backdoor stairs, he couldn't make it.  He just fell over.  We brought him into the house and he weaved around the room with no bladder control whatsoever.  With peepee lines encircling all over the living room floor, Rebeka quickly picked him up and took him back outside until his bladder was emptied.  Carrying him back inside, we noticed his ears were limp and his head cocked downward to the right.  We didn't know what to do, so Rebeka made a bed by the couch and slept next to him. The next morning, his ears were still limp but he seemed much better, and within 48 hours he was back to normal.  Three months later, the same scenario happened, this time without loss of bladder control.

Three Monday's ago, it happened again when we let him outside first thing that morning.  Like before, we waited to see if he would improve.  By Thursday, he had not.  Late for school that morning, we carried him to the car, and he went to school with us (which was customary when I worked at school).  When Keith came to school to pick me and the dog up, there were blood stains in several spots on the truck.  When we arrived home, we checked him to see where they were coming from. 

Around his bootie, the hair had fallen out and about an inch and a half diameter spot was "leaking" blood.  We knew then we needed to take him to the vet, and I felt in my heart that this was it.  The whole week he kept going in the same circle...

with the exception of when we let him outside.  After a few minutes, his lungs would fill with the fresh air and before we knew it, his head perked, his tail curled and he almost pranced as we smelled eveything in sight.  So we still had hope that he would recover.  It was night time that was the worst though.  For over a week, he would circle around as if he were afraid to settle down.  When he finally settled, he would wake up after a couple of hours, yelping in "terror."  It would send me flying out of the bed and holding him telling him it was okay.  Thursday and Friday, I finally put him in bed with me so that when he woke up and screamed, I would be right there.

With all of our chaotic schedules, it has been difficult for all of us to get together for any length of time, and so we rearranged all we could in order to take him to the vet on Saturday. 

Saturday morning came. 

Feeling as if the day was moving in such slow motion, I began dressing.

Keith came home from work, and changed clothes.  I fixed him some breakfast.

Rebeka, finished with track, changed her clothes, sat on the floor and just cuddled with Dakota, telling him what she and Hannah loved most about him, and how much they loved him.

With nothing else to detain us, we carried him out to the car and headed to the vet.

When we checked in and they asked for a description, they wrote down, "possible euthenasia."  The words stung. Though the waiting room was full, they called Dakota's name within 5 minutes.  Keith and Rebeka had taken him back outside to what might be his last time to bask in the beautiful fall day.

After checking him and watching him, the doctor said he had a tumor in his bottom, and by the looks of Dakota's behavior, he was pretty certain there was one in his brain.  What we thought was him crying out in pain during the night, the doctor said was not from pain but from waking up disoriented not knowing where he was~~i can't tell you what that did to my soul...

The tears were already welling up in all our eyes with the confirmation that he was in pain and that he would not get any better but only worse.  We watched him as he paced the same circular pattern around the room, panting with head cocked down to the right, tail hanging.

Dakota didn't like going to the vet.  We so wanted to be able to take him back out to the 96 acres, let him romp one more time before the inevitable.  But the doctor has to carry out these things...in the room. 

The doctor left while we tried to communicate our thoughts, unsuccessfully.  We all knew what had to be done, but we couldn't bear the thought of it.  We all sat in the floor cuddling him, talking with him...that made him sooo happy.  His face said it all..."I love you guys so much!"  That just made us cry even harder.  The doctor came in, and he knew what our decision was and, without a word, left again for the meds. 

When he returned, he explained that he would give Dakota a sedative to relax him first.  After it had taken full effect, he would then euthenize him.

It didn't take long for the sedative to take effect.  It is the most relaxed Dakota had been in days.  He seemed so content just to be in Rebeka's lap with Keith and I cuddling with him.  By this time, we were all so broken, and we didn't even try to hold back what was going on in our hearts.  Dakota slipped into a peaceful slumber just from the sedative.  I'm sure he was gone before the second injection.  Before the second injection, the doctor had us lift him onto the weight table, and he raised it up to our height.  Ten seconds later, the doctor confirmed the inevitable.  We just kept stroking his fur and talking to him. 

The staff put him in a box coffin for us and drew a heart to indicate where his head laid, and they loaded it in the back of the van for us.  We called our dear friends, Dale and Cindy, whose parents had been so kind to rent us our first home in middle Tennessee for the first 3 years:  96 acres of field, woods, creeks and hay.  That's where Dakota was happiest.  That's where he spent the best years of his life.  That's where we decided he would be happiest being buried. 

That's where we took him.  Dale and another long-time friend, helped us decide where to bury him, and 45 minutes later, the job was done.  Before heading to Charlotte, we stopped by the house for shovels and his belongings.  Somewhere in that time, we built a cross and routed his name and dates on it.




Today my devotional only took me 20 minutes. Just like so many of the daily activities I have done for the past 16 years, they have been changed by his absence.  These are the things in which I am confident will cause me to grieve for him for a long time to come.

Hannah's biggest concern was that she would not be here when he died...these were the words she posted for the world to see:

Dear Dakota,
I'm gonna miss you so much. I can't imagine going back home to life without you - what am I gonna do without my best snuggle buddy? I'm so sad that I didn't get to say bye to you! I know at times, I would laugh at you because you acted so much like a person, but I refuse to believe you were just any old dog. No normal dog could eat my entire chocolate birthday cake or a tub of rat poison and live. No dog could look at you at make you feel like he understood exactly what you were going through. No dog could act like he was a puppy for almost 18 years. I didn't know I could love an animal so much, and I really hope that all dogs do go to heaven, because I can't imagine it without you! I love you buddy!


Rebeka, the one who made sure Hannah knew and the one who just waited on the phone to skype her to share this time with her, wrote:
 
My dear buddy boy,
I believe today has been one of the hardest days to go through. I am gonna miss burying my face in your fur when I cry or just wanna feel loved, and knowing that you would always be there for me to comfort me. I don't remember life without you and it is going to be so weird to not have you
around. I love you so much, you were and always will be the best dog ever. I love you!
 
The stories are endless.  We called him the dumb dog because he defied so much: he defied gravity, he defied all the odds, he defied all abilities, and on several occasions he defied death itself.
 
He was strong and fast.  He was loyal and protective. He was funny and soft and cuddly.   He embodied everything a family dog is supposed to be...and he was ours heart and soul.
 
They say a dog and his owner tend to look alike and take on similar personalities.  If that is the case, we are one lucky family. 
 

A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if your rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?~~Marley And Me
 
That is why my cup runs over tonight...



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Bitter with the Sweet

I do believe the most bittersweet moment for a momma is releasing her children: the pride that comes with knowing that if you did your job right, they are equipped and prepared to live a life abundant on their own vs. the the emotion of the inexplicable bond of having carried that child inside of you with the utmost care for 9 months and having spent the next 18 years of your married life kid-focused, all of a sudden to find that your job is done and even though you did it right and they are ready to fly, there's a thread of that apron string knotted securely to your heart.

But when that time comes, you realize you can't go where they are going...you've guided their steps to help them walk the path that God desires for them, guarding against what we want, and resting in the knowledge that it's not our path...Such a bittersweet moment! 

One of my mentors, Jean Stockdale, used to say at some point during the semester of Moms, "Our goal is to work ourselves out of our job."

It is at some point of this goal-reviewing during said bittersweet moment that panic hits.  There is that instant realization that during his/her entire 18-year-span, we didn't keep up with that list of Things To Do To Prepare Child To Fly Nest!!!  And we begin racing back through our mental tapes, and jumping over to that list, mentally checking off items...all the while doubting that this mental list is even complete in all areas!! 

This is reminiscent to walking into the classroom to find out today is the day you will be teste on all you've been studying during the year. 

yeah.  that's the feeling.

So.  even in this bittersweet moment, my cup overflows not only with the joy of seeing this child blossom into her own, but also with the sadness of days gone by that I can, with all confidence, say that I cherished every one!


Saturday, September 08, 2012

Left Behind

Hannah has been gone for a little over a week now.  If you ask Rebeka, she can count it in nanoseconds...her world has been rocked by Hannah's departure, and she doesn't quite know how to recover from it.

Though their high school career has led them in different directions, joining different circles and pursuing different activities, that didn't weaken the bond they have shared since Rebeka's birth when Hannah was but 13 months old.  During all these years, the last time they experienced separation was when Hannah started Kindergarten...

It's not that Rebeka doesn't have her own life to keep her busy...she does.  It's not that she is having to give up anything~~in fact, she has the bathroom, the truck, and her clothes all to herself.

It's just...well, it's just not the same...this is her sister, her best friend, her confidant, her ally.  And six months is a long time ~ her entire senior year!

So, how do we help?...there's a lot of chocolate flowing through her veins!

Even in these times of change, my cup continues to overflow knowing God is in control!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Time and Other Misconceptions

Well, the parties are still in full swing (my home still has tell tale signs of ours), but prom dresses are put away, classes done, tests completed, books turned in, announcements sent out, robes hanging up, stoles and cords distributed, dress and shoes ready, family members rolling in, and packing for France started...that can mean only one thing~Hannah GRADUATES TOMORROW!!!! I can hardly believe it!!!

That was my facebook post on May 25...

Three months later, all the party goers have embarked on their future journeys, whether it be college, work, or in my Hannah's case, a "gap year."

Since graduation and a ten-day stint in Europe, Hannah's summer has been spent working, fundraising and seeing as many people as she possibly fit into a 24-hour day. It seemed like it would last longer; but August 28 chased after us with a vengence, jumping on us before we were quite ready. 

It was on that day that Hannah packed up her life in two small suitcases (no easy chore by any stretch of the imagination) and boarded a plane to Matamata, New Zealand, slowed only by layovers in Los Angeles, California, and Brisbane, Australia. 
 
 
It is there that she will live for the next three months as a student for YWAM (Youth With a Mission) before embarking on an outreach somewhere in the Pacific during the next three months.
 
I passed by the piano this morning and it stopped me in my tracks. My mind had just processed the equation Hannah gone to New Zealand = silent piano...for 6 months. That's when the floodgates of thought opened up...

When she returns to us in February, she will be a new creature to us.  Yes, time will indeed change her, and we will be faced with a young lady who, though she has been an "adult" for more than a year now, will have grown physically, spiritually, mentally and academically without our daily presence.
 
When she returns, she'll have a better understanding of the events that sabatoged her senior year and the lessons to be learned from it.  She'll have more of an idea of God's next steps for her regarding college and her long-term future goals. 
 
Until then, she is on an exciting adventure, with nothing to hold her back, to go and to be all that she is meant to become...and I long to hear all that God reveals to and teaches her. I long to hear her thoughts and ideas. 
 
Most of all, I long to hear her voice and see her beautiful face via skype! What a wonderful invention this technology is!
 
In the meantime, I will be faced with the reality of her absence every time i pass by her clean room, face her empty chair at the dinner table...and walk by the silent piano.
 
As I reflect on the past years of infancy, toddlerhood, elementary and middle school, through these last years of high school, my cup runneth over with joy of having been privileged to watch her grow and blossom!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

As Time Goes By

Here it is half way through 2012, and i've written not one word...not one.

In a nutshell, we moved back in our home after an unorthodox chain of events.  Hannah and Rebeka took two different spring break trips, decked themselves out for prom, and spent most of May testing.

Hannah has finished her high school career and graduated in the I.B. Programme spending the week before and the week afterward party hopping; then she hopped on a plane for a 9-day excursion to Europe.  Rebeka is officially now a senior and is about to return with her friend Mandy from a week in Hilton Head with Bert, Jessica, Elizabeth and Caroline.

Me?  I've jumped from one activity into the next and have just recovered from all the hoopla and returned to unpacking boxes and the merge/purge process.

My mind is racing with all the throughts i want to capture about the past six months and I can't seem to organize a single thought...

This is my feeble attempt to begin the daunting task of backtracking my thoughts and writing them down...so i've promised myself to schedule some time everyday to try to do that...tomorrow i'll backtrack to Christmas....i so want to do more than just record the events of my family but to give life and meaning behind those events...so here goes nothing as i try to capture the millions of ways my cup runneth over....!

Monday, April 30, 2012

I have many things to say

i have many thoughts to share...

first, i am listening to music...dating back to 1974...To The Morning by Dan Fogelberg.  He is probably one of my all time favorite musicians--John Denver is up there somewhere as well.

my daughter, Jessica, just gave birth to my 6th granddaughter! I wish i were able to see my daughters and granddaughters more often than i do...

i used to be so great about writing letters up until the past few years...I wish I could pinpoint why and get back into that habit.

i've gained 20 pounds since last thanksgiving...my body is NOT God's dwelling place right now.

i miss going clothes shopping.

i need friends. and a life.

my dog is 15 years old.

Anne Of Green Gables is probably my all time fav movie.

Is there anything in my mind that i yearn for so much it aches?  I can remember being young and that feeling of longing overshadowing every thought.

i can't wait to get back in shape. i'm challenging myself, and hopefully that will push me farther than i think i can go. because i have terrible willpower, and i need to learn discipline.  i want to start accomplishing my goals. i want to follow through with the things i say i will do. i want to be disciplined and responsible...and accomplished.

Sometimes i think it'd be nice to have some money to spend on myself...after spending it on others.

i want to fit into my church--wherever it may be--i need to. i need relationships with other people, focused on God, and keeping me accountable for things, not platonic fortitudes and fascades...

i love writing. but nothing i ever start finds a finish.

the moon is absolutely captivating. every night its glow beckons me from the sky and i can't help but be captivated--my breath taken away by its beauty eclipsed by dancing stars.

i am blessed to know how it feels to be in love.

i can't function without music.

i want to get back to that place of intimacy with God where i was so close that i could feel his breath on my life...i can't stand this complacency...

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

In The Meantime

I just pulled up my blog...it said it has been 5 months since my last entry....wow!  With all the events that have taken place, I thought it had been more than a year!...in the meantime, the time keeps ticking away!

Maybe one of these days, I might be able to weave a story retelling August to December...in the meantime, i'll work just to keep things together today!

Even now, with 2012 scattered all around before me, I can't seem to wrap up 2011...In the meantime, those days that have passed continue to grow more dim!

In all the discombobulation of the past five months, I have discovered that my need to draw nearer to my First Love is stronger than my need to make sense of August through December...in the meantime, I continue to waste those moments to do exactly that!

So much stuff and so little time...so much learned and so much to change.

I have declarations to make.

I have actions to take.

I have chaos to tame.

I have life to claim.

...in the meantime, everyone will have to be patient as the process of evaluating, sorting, tossing, keeping, changing, organizing, preparing, and doing begins!

2012, you came at a perfect time!  Welcome!  It's blank canvas and pages ready to be painted and written gives me reason for my cup to overflow!