Monday, December 24, 2012

Empty Arms

My arms were empty tonight.  As they have been for several years now.

We went to Candlelight service at our church tonight and I was surrounded by new moms, all with their arms full.  Full with babies.  Some were cradled, some on hips, some making eyes at those lucky enough to be behind them.  Full arms.  One of my favorite seasons of being a mom.  

I'm out of that season now.  I know people told me to enjoy it, and I did. But I don't truly remember the last full-arm-moment.  I wish I had remembered to treasure that moment.  To remember the why, the smell, the feel, and the moment.  Those moments lasted for a long time.  But it went fast.  

I stood there tonight surrounded by my "babies."  And empty arms.  I miss my full arms but as I looked at the little young men and women around me, I am enjoying my empty arms.  I still glance a little long at the women around me with full arms, but I know that if I focus on times past, I will miss the moments of now.  So I welcome my empty arms.  Proverbs 31:25 "....and she smiles at the future."

As we sang those old hymns, so rich in picture of that night so long ago, I couldn't help but think of Mary.  That night, her arms full, full of joy. She not only cradled her baby, but she cradled God Himself, the sweet Savior.  I know she treasured those moments, "But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart." Matthew 2:19     I imagine her savoring his smell, his sweet face, his sounds. Unlike so many countless mothers, Mary wasn't told to enjoy it.  It goes fast.  No.  She was told He would be the Son of the Most High, the Son of God.  Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her own soul.  He was to be the Salvation for all people.  Mary had reason to be fearful of the future.  But I don't imagine her to be that way.  I believe she smiled at the future.  Standing on the promises of God.  In that season, in that moment, she had full arms.  She treasured those moments when He was cradled, safe in her arms.

She was purposeful in her teaching and as her arms became empty, she watched the young Man she helped to teach and train.  I am sure as she watched His life unfold, she missed her full arms but she saw the purpose of her empty ones.  He was put here for a purpose, for all people....for her.  I can't imagine her season of empty arms.  I can't even fathom the heartache she faced.  But I do know how thankful she was for empty arms. His empty arms.  Stretched out for her.  For me.  

Tonight, my house is quiet.  I am thankful for empty arms.  Mine, because I am in a season of mothering that is so wonderfullly fulfilling.  I am watching personalities grow and purposes more clear.  I am thankful for Mary's empty arms. She cradled and held and loved, full arms, until it was time to let Him go.  I am thankful beyond words for my Lord's empty arms, stretched out on a cross to be my substitute.  He had nothing from this world to give.  His arms empty. But wholly mine.  

I pray for empty arms this year.  Arms with nothing of this world to give, only myself.  Arms willing to take whatever the Lord has purposed for me.  Arms raised in total surrender to His Will for me.  I smile at the future.  And at empty arms.      

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Last First Date Part 4

Neon Moon


We never "officially" made it official, but it was.  We were a couple.  Everyone knew it by then.  We were kind of the last to know, the last to realize how "unofficially" we had become "official."  The transition to him being a friend, to him being my "official," was sort of strange.  The same guy I had been hanging out with for so long, laughing, joking, was now the guy I got nervous 10 minutes before he was suppose to pick me up.  The guy I got excited to see walking through the Quad toward me. The guy I thought about a whole lot more than I ever had.  It was as if my feelings changed overnight. 


I still remember the moment that change was glaringly obvious.  We had gone to Houston to go ice skating.  I had never been and he was going up there to sign papers for his Marine Corps commitment.  At the time it was just a convenient excuse for us to make the quick trip to Houston to go on a very cool date.  Looking back now, that signature would change the entire "look" of my future. 

Looking back now, that signature was my everything in a sense.  

In the moment,however, I was going ice skating with a guy I really liked. Arriving in Houston, we both smelled a smell.  Not being hard-of-smelling, I kept mentioning how bad it smelled.  By the time we reached the city limits, his car was a peace pipe.  We barely pulled into a Pizza Hut and stopped the car.  Deciding it just needed to cool off, we stayed, ordered dinner, and enjoyed our conversation.  It was obvious trying to leave, the car was not going with us.  And thus began our adventure that night in Houston.  So many things happened that night and yet I don't remember much of the details.  I do remember was now very dark and we were very stranded in a very bad area of Houston (pre-cell phones), the car was completely dead and yet, Patrick was completely calm,  and the very sweet Hispanic family, who barely spoke English, staying with us in the parking lot of the Pizza Hut the entire time.  At some point, I remember Patrick saying he was going to get help.  I remember him being gone for a long time and I remember the family staying with me being very worried.  I remember crying and the elderly Mom sitting there hugging me.  I remember feeling completely scared and completely worried about Patrick.  Then the cop car showed up.  Patrick's smiling face in the backseat.  I don't remember the details of that night so much but I do remember how I felt seeing his face.  I still get teared up even as I type remembering that moment.  He climbed out and scooped me into big hug.  He kept telling me over and over through my tears, "I told you I would take care of you. You have to believe me from now on."  He has never gone back on that promise.


So my days at A&M quickly became so very sweet.  He was a perfect fit for me in every way. 




In everyway but one.  He still couldn't dance.  He tried.  He knew how much I loved it and he tried.  We went almost every weekend.  We spent so many nights in the neon lights.  I loved him.  I loved being with him.  But I didn't love dancing with him.  I would have to learn to love to hunt, or fish, or watch the Cowboys.  I guess. 


"Let's take Aggie Wranglers," were the second sweetest words he has ever said to me.  "Really?"  I couldn't believe he was agreeing.  I had asked many times before, but taking lessons was not his thing.  But he agreed.  We stood in line, signed up, and were on our way to making this a win-win.  I knew how much he would learn; I just didn't realize how much I would.  


We took our first set of lessons with great friends, Erica and Brian, the summer we all stayed at A&M for summer school.  It was so much fun and I was beyond tickled at how quickly he picked it up.  The first night, they split us up into groups of guys and girls to give us the "low down" on two-stepping.  Of course I had taken the class twice already, so I was thinking I had nothing to learn.  It's funny what you learn most when you are the least teachable.


She began.  And I listened.  Two stepping is like a language she was telling us.  It is spoken by the dancers in subtle ways and you must learn to "listen" to your partner.  You must learn to anticipate what he will "say."  She continued on about how the longer you dance with someone the more subtle the language will be until it will almost be a seamless dance of subtle motions known only to the two of you.  She was telling us how we had to be willing to let the guys mess up or otherwise, they really wouldn't be leading and we would be the ones making all of the moves.  She explained how it made for an awkward dance and it would never "feel" quite right.  She was also demonstrating how we had to be strong in our motions but not so strong that we stopped him from leading but not so weak that we wouldn't follow.  And so on.


When we finally got back as couples, it was awkward.  The steps were awkward.  We were stepping on toes.  Our knees were hitting.  Everything in me wanted to take over.  I had done this before.  I had to fight my reaction when his "subtle" movements to lead were forced and unnatural.  He was learning, but I was learning too.  Even though this was not technically my first class, this was in the sense that I wanted to make this work.  I wanted to see him succeed.  Our first complete night of Wranglers was good for both of us.  So much to learn but going in the right direction.  


Our nights at the Hall under those neon lights, soon became dreamy.  He was a terrific dancer, and by God's Grace, I had learned to follow.  She had been right; I could anticipate his movement before he would lead.  We took two more classes after that, and each time I learned that for the dance to be better, I had to learn his ways.  I had to anticipate his movements and I had to constantly have my focus on him.  As the years passed, dancing with him came so natural, so second nature.  We could jump in at any song and move around the dance floor under those neon lights like we had been dancing forever.  Just like our friendship had been and our relationship had become, it was easy.  It was fun. 


Now looking back almost 18 years later, I realized how much the dance is so much like our life.  Like those lessons so long ago, I finally learned to let him lead.  I learned, albeit the hard way, to follow.   I have learned to be strong enough to follow his lead but not so strong that I am the one leading.  I have learned to anticipate his movements. Just like that dance, with time, the movements have become seamless between the two of us, movements only the two of us know.  At first in our early marriage, it was awkward and never quite "felt" right, I stepped all over his toes and he messed up at times, but after many of God's lessons, our life is sweet.  After those dance lessons, I fell in love under that neon moon ...and still so thankful for the Dance.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Last First Date Part 3

My Green Eyes

And so it went....

We had too much fun with one another not to hang out and it always seemed we had schedules perfectly timed to fit in a lunch at the MSC or do laundry at the Jot 59 or Wild and Wooly Wednesdays at Double Dave's Pizza.  I still thought of him as a friend and I so enjoyed hanging out with him.  He was funny, interesting, and it never felt awkward to be with him.  We liked so many of the same things and we had become such good friends. 

Throughout those first weeks, I was really digging into student life at Texas A&M and had no trouble being by myself now.  Now it was a choice to go and do rather than being by myself because I had no choice.  I had groups of friends from Fish Camp and groups of friends from my sorority and groups of friends from my dorm.  It was how I always pictured college life.  I was not interested in dating although a guy had caught my eye from my Fish Camp.  His name was Grey.  He would stop by my dorm window to chat if it was open or would walk me to class a few times.  It always seemed strange, forced, and the conversation was hard.  I always was relieved when Patrick came around or asked me to games.  Our friendship was so very easy.  I liked being with him and it felt right. 

I remember Patrick's very first compliment to me.  Our conversations were usually not too serious and we always joked with one another.  I would learn very quickly that Patrick didn't give out compliments just to give them out. He did not try to flatter with his words and he means what he says. He is not a man of a huge amount of words but you know exactly how he feels.  He has a hard time hiding what his face reveals.  We were deep in conversation when out of the blue, he stopped and said, "I love your beautiful blue eyes."  Nothing romantic, just stating a fact.  In our not-giving-an-inch usual way, I stated a fact back, "They're green."  Without missing a beat, without an apology, without him being embarassed he replies in the same tone, "I love your beautiful green eyes."  His smile says it all; he's funny.  Still is. 

It wasn't until I realized others thought he was funny, did it start to change  how I felt about my "friend."  I was never truly a jealous person.  I never really cared about anyone in a way that I would be jealous.  I have green eyes, but I'm not a green person.  Wasn't a green person.

I knew Patrick's schedule on certain days because we were always meeting to eat lunch, study, or head off campus.  One day, close to where I knew his next class was, I decided to cut him off and say hello.  I still rememer it was in G. Rollie White Stadium, second floor, top of the side stairs. I was a little early, knew he wouldn't be surprised although he wouldn't be expecting me, climbed the stairs and waited outside his classroom for a quick hello.  It didn't take long until students began coming up the stairwell and filing into the classroom.  Student after student but no Patrick.  Thinking maybe he was not going to class for some reason, I began to gather my backpack and things from the floor and I heard voices.  I continued to gather my stuff and listened as the voices got closer.  Then there was giggling.  Talking, but lots of giggling.  The voices were muted through the stairwell, but there was no mistaking the voice.  Patrick was coming up those stairs.  But so was the girl attached to the giggling voice.  Whatever he had said, she thought it to be the funniest thing ever.  They topped the stairs and he immediately caught my eye.  Not a second glance back, he smiled and headed my way.  The girl, obviously disappointed, said something about seeing him in class....with a quick nonchalant wave, his eyes were on mine.  And that smile, I had grown to love. 

I'm not really sure what happened that day.  But it changed.  I knew he was funny.  I realized now, others knew he was funny too.  I didn't like her knowing he was funny.  I didn't like him being funny with her now that I think about it.  This was my bud, my friend, my hang out guy.... My green eyes were suddenly greener than they had been.      

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Last First Date Part 2

Not one dance


I'm not quite sure how our "second date" actually came about.  I don't remember the first week of school and I don't remember how we made plans to meet up as a group and go boot scootin', but I DO remember how excited I was.  Two steppin' was my most favorite thing to do in college and I hadn't done much of it at all in the first year at Texas A&M.  In fact, I hadn't done much of anything my first year at A&M.


I started my college career with too many ties back home.  The people I knew were 6 hours away.  Far enough to have a hard time getting home especially without a car.   My roommate was an upper classman and never "home."  I spent most of my first year in my dorm room, by myself.  The girls in my hall had all pledged sororities, most were upperclassmen, and all had lives.  They were busy.  I wasn't.  I went to class, the cafeteria, study groups.  That was it.  It was a very challenging year for me.  I was coming off of a busy high school exsistence.  Lots of clubs.  Lots of activities.  Lots of friends.  I was miserable in college.  I was deparately lonely.  I think, looking back on that one year, especially the first semester, it was possibly the loneliest I had ever been.  I spent weekends in my room and weeknights in the library.  I had even applied to LSU for the spring semester, was accepted, and had a dorm assignment.  I wanted my home.  I wanted my life back.  I wanted to be busy again.  


I was not a Believer in college but looking back, God's Hand was all over my path, even then.  I see that now. And I am thankful.  It would be a long time before I would come to know Him, but He loved me and He knew I would be sitting here.   


Somehow, before I left for Christmas break, I met a friend.  She was the one God used to keep me put.  She was the one who picked me up out of my pit and walked beside me the rest of my freshman year.  She introduced me to new people, taught me to sew, brought me to her house and cooked me meals and more importantly, introduced me to boot scootin'.  She signed me up for Aggie Wranglers, found me a dance partner, and drove me to lessons.  I fell in love.  It was the most fun you could have in College Station, and the best part, her friendship was enough to convince me to giveTexas A&M another shot.  By the end of my second semester, I had been chosen as a Fish Camp Counselor, had a new group of friends, and I met Patrick Fitzgerald.  


Going dancing on a Friday night with a big group of friends was exactly what I had in mind for an end to a great first week of my sophomore year of school.  Going in a group assured me plenty of friends to two step with, girls to hang out with, and no one to assume we were on a "date."  I felt like a bird let out of my cage my sophomore year of school.  I knew so many more people, I was in a new dorm, I had pledged a sorority, and my ties back home were not my focus.  


Patrick was in the group of friends, a mixture of new sorority sisters and some Corps boys.  Everyone had on their Rocky Mountains and Justin ropers, but my favorite, the guys in their cowboy hats.  Waiting in line to get in, I found myself next to Patrick.  He and I were joking around together and laughing.  We were talking about the first week and all that had gone on since we last talked.  It was still easy.  I liked talking to him, but there was still no draw to him for anything other than a friend.  In fact, I recognized another guy friend up in line that night.  I excused myself from our group and went up in line to chat with him.  I hadn't seen him since the previous semester. We had taken Aggie Wranglers together, gone on a few dates, enjoyed Sunday afternoons at Research Park with his dog, Image.  I distinctly remember Patrick's statement when I finally returned to our group, "You can go on ahead up there with him if you want to."  I was so taken off guard at the slightest hint of seriousness in his tone.  Once I caught his eye, however, his joking smile was there and we laughed, but I never forgot the way his statement sounded.  Whatever I thought I heard, I remember thinking that I was not in this to find a boyfriend and hoping I was wrong about his tone.  (We still laugh at this memory and he admits, he already like me at this point but would never have given me the satisfaction of letting it show.) We talked all the way in, talked as we settled in on two stools off to the side, and talked for the rest of the night.  Good songs would come and go and he never asked me to dance.  I so badly wanted to two step....but he never asked.  We laughed and joked and talked some more, but he never once asked me to dance.  


I danced a couple of times that night with some friends that were there and some from our group, but for the most part, I sat and talked and wondered why he didn't want to dance.  I wanted to talk, but I wanted to dance more.   The couples dancing went around and around, passing the very spot that I sat, almost as if taunting me.  I remember Garth Brooks, I Got Friends in Low Places, came on.  Ugh.  I wanted to dance.  As we talked, in the background I could hear the soft shuffling of boots on the dusty dance floor.  I remember feeling frustrated that night.  Not so much with the time I spent with him, but with the songs that came and went.  I felt awkward leaving him there each time I went to dance.  He explained that he couldn't two step well and I'm sure we joked about it.  I know I was bummed. 


Our night ended without one dance together.  I knew so much more about him, still thought he was a neat guy, and he was, looked fantastic in a cowboy hat and Wranglers,  but not one dance.  We parted ways  in the parking lot and I climbed into my girlfriend's car and we drove back to campus.  I thought about my night the whole way.  I knew that we would be friends, but that would probably be the last time we would go "dancing" together.  In my opinion, at that moment, life was too short not to dance.         

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Last First Date

My last first date was 21 years ago to the day...and almost to the time as I sit here and type. 

September 1, 1991 I was having a make-up first date with a guy I had been talking to over the summer and who I had known the spring semester of my freshman year.  I say "make-up" date because I was trying to make up to him for the fact that I had canceled on him the night before.  It had been bid day, August 31, 1991, and I had just pledged Tri Delta. My new "sisters" wanted to go out to celebrate.  It sounds bad, I know, but this was not a guy I thought I would be interested in beyond a friend to hang out with, so I didn't think it would be too bad to cancel and reschedule for a lunch the next day.  Beside, in my mind, a "lunch" was more for a friendship anyway, so it would work out great.

He picked me up from my dorm room and we drove in his white Escort to Rita's, a TexMex restaurant in College Station.  I still remember that I wore a white short set and he had on a pair of shorts and a polo.  I remember his car was hot, his air conditioning was broken and in the middle of the TX summer, it's kind of a big deal.  I kidded him that I might not hang out with him again, because I didn't like to sweat on dates.  He laughed and joked that he wasn't going to hang out with me again anyway so we were good.  We laughed.  It was just easy.  His radio was broken too so he had the Steve Miller band playing in his cassette...over and over and over.  I told him he was lucky I liked Steve Miller; he said I was lucky he liked me.  We laughed again. 

We talked from when he picked me up until he dropped me off.  It was not strange, I was not nervous, and there were no awkward pauses in our conversation.  He was a guy I already knew.  We had spoken all summer, shared information about our families, how we grew up, things we liked.  I already knew so much about him.  We talked as if we had been friends forever.  He was cute, but I seriously just liked him.  He was funny, interesting, and had a great quirk about him.  We joked with one another, laughed at the same things, and never once gave the other an inch.  It was fun.

When he took me back to my room, my new sisters were outside, so he and I parted ways without really any plans to see one another again, at least officially.  Walking away, my sisters asked who that was and commented on how cute he was.  I kind of shrugged, laughed it off, and told them he was just a friend, good guy, but just a friend. 

What I should have said was, "Oh, him?  He was my last first date."   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Numbered Days

"Oh.  Your days are numbered.  And it's all down hill from here."

A response to the question of "How old will you be on your birthday?"

Tomorrow, if the Lord is willing, I will turn 40 years old.  I was born on August 15, 1972.  Yes, I will say it again, 1972.  I will be 40.  Yes, I will tell you; I will be 40.

I will not be celebrating the 20th anniversary of my 20th birthday.  I will not tell you I am 39-ish.  I do not believe that 30 is the new 40.  40 is 40 is 40. 

Wow.  Sounds chipper right? 

To me it does.  I am looking forward to being 40.  I told my children this morning at breakfast, "I get to be 40."  And I mean it.  I am truly thankful for seeing 40 tomorrow. 

This has not always been my dream.  To be 40.  Of course I grew up hearing older women around me and their advice, "Don't ever ask a woman how old she is," "I am 40-ish,"  "You're only as young as you feel,"  and my personal favorite, "Amy, just don't ever get old."  Hmmm.  That's a hard one to stop.

You see, a couple of years ago, a great friend of mine died from a long battle with breast cancer.  She was my age with two small boys and a great husband.  Her death taught me one thing.  Growing old was never meant to be a bad thing.  Because the alternative, dying young, is not the better option.  I think of her so often, mostly because her picture is in my medicine cabinet.  We were both 29 in that picture with small boys, me with two and her with one, and a seemingly lifetime ahead of us.  We talked often about meeting up with our boys at Texas A&M to watch them in the Corps of Cadets.  We talked about their futures, who they would marry, and hopefully, one day be living close to one another.  We thought so much about our futures and the futures of our children.  Never once did we ever talk about, "What if we don't live that long."  Never crossed our minds.  It wasn't until my last phone call with her before her death that it really hit home.  She was dying.  She was not going to make it to the end of the year much less to the March Ins at Texas A&M.  She wouldn't see baseball games, progress reports, graduations, weddings.  She was going to miss out on the everyday stuff too, homework, parent teacher conferences, laundry, dinners, packing lunches. When I stand in crazy long lines at Walmart or while cleaning bathrooms or ironing...I think to myself...."She would love to be doing this."  And she would've. That phone conversation caused me to hang up and instantly see life from a new perspective.

Her death touched me deeply.  Her death got me thinking.  It changed me.  Because of her, I am more purposeful in my daily life. 

As I see it, if the Lord allows me to wake up tomorrow, I can live for the day and plan He has for me in each moment, or I can wish life away.  I can wish for simplier days or days of the future.  But if that is my focus, what will I miss in the moment.  How do I know what my tomorrow holds?  If I did, would it change my today?  I think that is the gift she gave me in her early departure from this life. 

Lord, make me to know my end
And what is the extent of my days
Let me know how transient I am 
Psalm 39:4     

You see, if I live each day thinking, Oh, if I were just back in college....oh, if my kiddos were a older....oh, I can't wait for school to start....I miss moments God doesn't want me to miss.  What will I miss that my kids will remember?

God knows my number of days.  He knew each of them long before there was one of them. 

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me
When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139:16

I believe with all of my heart my sweet friend had a perfect grasp of numbering her days.  She was given the opportunity to know the best guess of that number by her doctor.  She didn't want to know.  She wanted to live each day in the moment not looking forward to a day man was giving her.  She told me in that conversation that life had not stopped, boys still had to get to games, school was still going on, bellies had to be fed.  She did what she could, but said she did it savoring the "doing."  Living the thankfulness of the moment. 

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit."  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Insead, you ought to say, If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." 
James 4:13-15

She believed in God's goodness in allowing her to keep her days numbered.  To know that she would only be here for such a short time. 

The same needs to be true for me.  God doesn't want me living in the past or living with my eyes longing in the wrong way for the future.  My desire is to be in the here and now.  Enjoying the time I am given.  Savoring the moments.  Being thankful for my day and being thankful in my day. 

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to you a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

So tomorrow I turn 40. If the Lord allows.  Today I am thankful for 39. I am going to be thankful in my day.  Thankful for my sweet children.  Thankful that I found my one...and married him.  My desire is for each day I am given, that I realize how transient I am.  That I take each moment as a gift.  That I am thankful for each day given.  That I run my race well.  That I make this life here count.  That I remember to number my days.       

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Built Bayou

Driving into Baton Rouge, I heard from the backseat,

Mommy, how do you know where you are going?

I know because I spent the first 18 years of my life "going" in Baton Rouge, the Bayou state of Louisiana.  Most people are surprised to know I am truly a Cajun and not a Texan.  I attended Texas A&M and married an East Texas boy and my only "flaw" in his eyes is the fact of my "home of record." So I let him claim me as a Texan.  But, Louisiana it is and it is a rare trip that I am able to make the 13 hour drive to visit.  I took advantage of a school in Alabama that Patrick had to attend last week and somehow used my charm to convince him to forgo the 45 minute flight to drive 7 hours halfway with us and free me up to only have 6 hours on my own. Made more sense the night I presented my idea then it does now typing.

Driving into Louisiana, I was so glad to be there.  The Bayou state.  Cajun food.   Zydeco music.  There was so much I wanted to do in such a short time.  I had a plan, an agenda.  There were restaurants I wanted to go to, a school store I had to stop by, and family I so needed to see. 

The O'Neal Lane exit took forever, but I made it and as I pulled off the interstate, it all came back.  I had driven down this road, upteen times and although it looked so different each visit, it was the same.  I rode past the intersection my sister and I got into a wreck in on a Friday afternoon, she in her Pantherette uniform and me in my cheerleading one.  I remember being put on a stretcher and riding the 2 minutes to the hospital.  I drove past the Burger King, now a Backyard Burger, that was my job for a year in high school.  I got sick on the Whopper line because of my disdain for mayo and was quickly promoted to cashier.  Seems throw up is an immediate qualification for order taking.  Turning into the neighborhood, I could picture the miles I rode on my rainbow bicycle up to the Cracker Barrel, now a SuperCuts, to play Pacman with my best friend, Angel.  I turned on to Bonham and honked and waved at Angel's Dad walking up the driveway to get his mail like he's done since I moved in at the age of 6.

My house.  16431 Bonham Ave.  My box of memories.  Oh, it looks so different now, but it's the same in so many ways.  It felt so good to be home.  This home is the start of good memories for me.  I started in a school I loved and my Mom was not in nursing school anymore trying to take care of two little girls on her own.  She was so excited to be in this new house, this same house I had pulled into the driveway with my children. She married my stepdad in this house and she was happy. We were happy.  She came to my school events.  For open house that year, I proudly showed her around my new classroom.  I had my own room in that house.  I got to pick the color on the wall and put as many stuffed animals on my bed as it could hold.  I can still remember the smell of baby powder when she would come to kiss me in every night.  Pulling up it felt good to be home. To not be the "Momma," but Amy, the 8 year old that zipped up my friend Angie into a beanbag and then got her hair stuck in the zipper.  The 6 year old that showed up to 1st grade with Miss Buford wearing green pants that Amy LeFeaux has never let me forget.  The 7 year old having sleepovers with Angel.  Playing Marco Polo in the backyard pool at night in the summer.  Learning to ride a bike and getting that purple banana seat rainbow bike for my birthday.  Listening to Michael Jackson's Beat It in my new Boom Box for my 11th birthday.  Crying long into the night when I didn't make Varsity Cheerleading my Sophomore year.  Studying for Mr. Moore's Biology class in my bedroom with Kirk Cameron on the walls.  Talking on the phone to too many people.  Dressing for dance recitals.  My Mom braiding my hair for Friday night football games.  All memories that built me.   

My visits now include trips to see my grandmothers.  Granny, my maternal grandmother who lives in a home, doesn't always remember me, and it makes me so sad.  She did remember our inside "God made ghetti too?!" story and it made her laugh.  And made me smile.  Then sad.  It's sad to know she is not there, not how I truly remember her.  She was good to me.  Always took me shopping for my birthday.  Played doctor office and grocery store with us during the summer days we stayed with her while Mom worked.  She could cook Creole like no one else and keep a house better than Merry Maids could ever dream.  As I fed her lunch, I teared up.  Full circle.  She once fed me and now, I am feeding her.  Part of who I am though is because of her.  We stopped by her house too.  I got to see my Pops.  The house was the same and I kept showing my children things from my childhood.  The stool  by the door I sat in and watched her cook.  The radio that looks like an old fashioned phone I played with.  The room I slept in when I spent the night.  The big backyard we would run through the hose in the summer.  The chalkboard I would leave messages on for them.  All memories.  Good ones.  Memories that built me.  Their Mom.  But once a little girl.

We visited my Grams.  My stepdad's mom.  The most welcoming and accepting woman I have ever known.  She looked the same to me, slower, but the same.  She became my Grams when my Mom remarried.  I remember asking her what I should call her.  I'm your Grams now.  So Grams it was and she never skipped a beat.  I was hers.  I was her granddaughter.  I spent many summer days with her too.  I swam in her pool.  She introduced me to The Sound of Music and To Sir With Love.  She would watch them as many times as we wanted.  She is the first one who cooked my famous Pizza Burgers.  They were famous long before I started handing out the recipe.  She was the most patient woman I had ever known and she loved her family.  With seven children to her name, her stories were legendary and her laugh, contagious.  I love my Grams.  She built a part of me.  A part of who I am.

Family came to visit.  My Aunt Kathy was there.  I knew she would be.  She will always be such a huge part of who I am.  I have so many wonderful memories of her.  She always seemed to be there when things were not good, smiling and ready to hug.  She took my Mom, Kelly, and I in for a short time after moving to Baton Rouge and it seems in my young memories, the beginning of good.  I remember things from New Orleans, but most are not things I wish I could remember.  But that time moving in with Aunt Kathy seems to be like a bookend to those.  I remember playing cards with her.  She taught me how to play Skip Bo.  Told me stories about kids going to "Night School."  Made me Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.  Watched Andy Griffith with me.  Played the piano for me.  And loved me.  I had my first day of school walking a block from her house to Wedgewood.  She was waiting for me when I walked home.  I did homework at her table.  As I grew, she has always had a hug.  A sweet word.  She always made me feel she was proud of me.  She's a part of me.  She built a part of me. 

My best friend Angel came to visit.  I have told my children "Miss Angel" stories for years and she is legendary to them.  Lillie whispered when she walked in, "Is that the Miss Angel?  The one who rode backwards on your rainbow bike?"  That's the one.  She was the first friend I had in Baton Rouge.  I was coming off some really sad times in my 6 year old memory and she was a perfect fit.  Looking back God knew.  He knew I would need her then and how I would need her now.  I have the greatest memories with her.  I spent the night with her probably as much as I slept in my own house.  I often wonder if her Mom ever got tired of my body in her house.  It was one of the only families I remember that was in tact growing up and I loved being over there.  We loved baby dolls and Barbies.  We asked for the same things for Christmas.  We roller skated, rode bikes, and swam.  She knew every secret and she kept them.  I learned manners from her, how to make a bed, how to say yes ma'am, and shake out clothes putting them from the washer to the dryer.  I knew we would be friends forever.  We had a small season we lost the closeness and it was a time when I struggled with loyalty.  I hate this memory because it was completely my fault, but we reconnected before we both had our children.  I was able to tell her how sorry I was and how much I regretted losing our time together.  She forgave me.  She was one of the first people to show me true grace and forgiveness.  I think I love her for that more than anything else.  I use this memory to teach my children loyalty, what it means to be a friend, and what true forgiveness looks like.  Angel is a part of me.  She built a part of who I am. 

My time in Baton Rouge was precious.  I spent time with my family.  I got to talk with my Mom.  I forget until I am there how much a part of me the Bayou state is and the people who walked with me through my time there.  My memories from my childhood are definitely not all sweet.  We walked through some hard times.  But that house, that street were the start of good ones.  As the memories flooded in during my trip, I couldn't help but wonder, what decisions, what choices, if made differently would have changed my path?  And I am thankful for each and every one. Hard or not.    This place built part of who I am, part of who I will always be.  But I am here, back in Beaufort, SC with my Marine and four precious children because of the path that started back there.  God was using people and the place to build me to be exactly who I needed to be at each point in my life to get me here.  So I look back.  I have no regrets.  I am stronger for each memory and thankful that each day was ordained for me by the very One Who created me.  I can look at each person along my way and say, I was built by you for God's plan for me.  Built Bayou.  I like it.               

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fun Squeezer

I am not against having fun, truly I'm not.  I like to have fun as much as the rest of you.  I like organized fun.  Predictable fun.  Black and white fun.  Fun that is planned.  Fun that is logical. 

Not my man.  I married the fun squeezer.  He is fun even when there is not fun to be had.  He'll find it.  Because of my man, we are the family leaving Disney with four Mickey Mouse balloons, ice creams in the shape of ears, and pictures framed from Space Mountain.  We are the family leaving a ball game with cotton candy, ginormus number One foam fingers,  and faces painted.  He is the Dad with pockets-full of change for arcade games at the pizza place.  He is the Dad chasing down ice cream trucks.  He is the Dad running through sprinklers.  He is the Dad hiding behind doors to scare little girls.  He is the Dad wrestling with boys way after bedtime. Yes, we are that family.  I call him the Foam Finger Dad.  He has his foam finger in his back pocket and truly you never know when he'll pull it out.  When there is an ounce of fun to be had, he will squeeze out the very last drop of that ounce.  His fun is often times not logical, but it's fun.  His fun is definitely not predictable, but it's fun.  His fun is never organized, but it's fun.  His fun is fun driven.  It's not planned and often it's hard to do, but once it's's fun.  He's in the moment.  He is making memories.  He's wanting us to have fun.

He's made life fun.  For all of us.  He makes me smile when I am not the least bit excited.  He gets me on roller coasters I would never ride without him.  He makes me jump off of cliffs into bodies of water.  He makes me dive under waves that are way too big to be in.  He makes me get dirty when I just got clean.  He makes me a more daring Mom.  And when he's gone.  He's missed.  There is a noticable hole when he leaves.  In all of our years of separation, he has always left his foam finger at home for me to find.  He's made me a foam finger Mom in his absence because his fun squeezing is so missed and contagious.  He has made me a better Mom.  He has made me step out of my box. 

He's a great Dad.  He's all there when he's here.  And when he's not, he leaves us a part of him.  To enjoy life.  To squeeze the fun.  He's made me a closet fun squeezer.  He's unforgettable.  And I love him and the Dad he is. 

Happy Father's Day P.