Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Linda's Big Debut

Here it is!! I am so excited about it! Seeing it on television certainly made today a little easier to handle. It took my mind off the fact that today is one month without my mom, at least for a few minutes. I still am sad, but also feel giddy about this. Funny how everything comes back to her. Everything. She was so proud of me for getting to do this and was certain that I was destined to be the new HEB spokesperson. I seriously doubt that, but it was a very fun one-of-a-kind experience. I wish she could see it, but am happy to share it with you.

PS. I know that I owe you a conclusion to the whole shooting the commercial story. I had decided that I would probably never finish it since now I live in the "After Mom Died" part of my life and I had started writing it in the "Before" section.

But now, for some reason, I think that I can finish it. I hope that it won't be a let down with all this hype about it.

Yesterday, I was indignantly questioning God's timing.
Today, I thank Him for it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Movies and Meatloaf Sandwiches

After the boys completed their to do lists yesterday, we went to see the new Night at the Museum movie. As promised, I let the boys get a treat at the movie. I am a pushover so they got to spend $5 instead of the $3 they earned. I told them that they got a bonus for having such good attitudes. Quick thinking, don't you agree?

As I was purchasing the snacks for the kids, I turned around to catch a glimpse of Jeremy. He was wandering around the atrium looking at the movie posters and eating a piece of cheese. Yes, I said CHEESE. He had brought his own snack to the movies and had the audacity to open up the plastic wrapper and eat it right there in broad daylight in front of God and everyone.

I shook my head at him and motioned for him to put it away. I could not believe him. My reaction to this harmless piece of cheese was certainly was a little exaggerated, even for me. Then it all came back to me as I started having flashbacks from my childhood.

Picture if you will the early 80's. A savvy mother prepares to take her tall daughter and red headed young son to the movies. She is on a budget so she plans ahead and packs a snack in her purse for the children who are bound to get hungry while there. At the movies, the group finds seat and the lights dim.

Sure enough, hunger strikes. The mother whips out her prepared snack for the kids: warm meatloaf sandwiches. Unaware of the contents (or maybe, um... I mean,
they did know the contents), they take her offerings and open up the ziploc baggies that she hands them. As soon as the baggies open, the tall daughter realizes that the unmistakable smell of the meatloaf is wafting its way throughout the theater. She feels her face redden and turns to her mother in shock and horror making a face that says clearly, "How could you do this to me?"

The other patrons smell it too and begin to turn around to find the source of the smell. The daughter quickly shoves the sandwich into her lap and pretends to look for the source as well. She is sorely embarrassed but still hungry. She quickly devours the odoriferous, yet comfortingly savory, sandwich while no one is looking and hopes that the smell of meatloaf will dissipate quickly.

Aaah, memories of childhood and the smell of meatloaf sandwiches, there's nothing like it!

There you go!

Monday, May 25, 2009

A spoonful of sugar!

What a great day we have had today! I planned ahead and made "I Love You, Mom To Do Lists" for all the members of our family and left them for the boys. I awoke to the glorious sound of my children scampering through the house whispering about how they were going to wipe the bathroom countertops and make their beds just like the list said. Really, how much better can it get than that?

I am reading a book called Sanity in the Summertime by Linda Dillow and Claudia Arp. I adapted the I Love you mom list from this. In the book they recognize that often moms set up many different types of chore charts that are motivational for a short time, but then the charts fall by the wayside. I do the same thing, and usually end up feeling like a failure for not keeping up with it. The authors had the same tendencies, but they realized that it was normal and just kept making efforts with various chore charts. The I Love You, Mom Chart is just a one time checklist of things to do before going on a fun excursion.

I think that my boys liked doing this because there was the hope of the payoff at the end, and also because they had a finite list of things to do. Usually, they are willing to do chores and help out, but become frustrated when I continue to come up with things that need to be done. This way, they knew that they were done when all the spaces were checked. The list that I used today looked like this for each boy:

Note the fun things included in the list just to keep them going!

We are going to see Night at the Museum at 1:45. We will need to leave for the movies about 45 minutes before it starts to make sure we get there in time to get tickets.

Read the entire list before doing it. You may do the things in any order.

Caleb's I Love you Mom List:

_____ Clean up around desk... beneath, beside, on top etc.

_____ Clean up clothes and other stuff that has fallen off onto the closet floor. Hang up clothes if needed.

______ Give mom a kiss.

______ Bless the Family by doing a job that needs to be done, but is not on this list. YOUR chance to HONOR!!

_______ Pick up all your stuff of of your room floor. Tidy up!

_____ Make sure Libby is out of her kennel.

______ Pet Libby and tell her how much you love her.

______Wipe down bathroom countertops with a clorox wipe.

______ Swiffer the hardwood floors.

_______ Give Dad a hug.

______ Dust living room.

_______ Put away clothes from your tub.

_______ Bring completed list to mom for a chance to spend $3.00 to spend at the movies.

Jonathan's I Love you Mom List

______ Clean off desk top. Make it look nice and neat.

______ Give Dad a Kiss.

______ Bless the Family by doing a job that needs to be done, but is not on this list. YOUR chance to HONOR!!

_______ Pick up all your other stuff off of the floor of your room and tidy it up.

______ Put away the pile that is on the dining room chair.. even if it is Caleb's stuff. Most is yours anyway, I think.

_______ Feed Tom

________ Push the I feel good button for Tom.

________ Wipe off your bathroom toilet with clorox wipes... get the pee off the bottom of the toilet too, please. Throw wipes away and don't wipe the pee anywhere else.

______ Tidy up the sports equipment, helmets, bats, ball and stuff in the garage.

_______ Give Mom a hug.

_______ Use the glass cleaner to clean the back door glass and the kitchen table.

________ Put away clothes from your tub.

________ Give this completed list to mom for a chance to spend $3.00 at the movies!!

The list only took me about 10 minutes to create. It was motivational for the boys and was a great for preventing complaining and bad attitude: Both boys were done with their lists by 9:00 am. I need to remember to put more on them in the future!!

On another note, I am just keeping it real by leaving in all the chores for Jonathan including the pee wiping! If you know me, you know that pee on the toilet is an ongoing problem in our family. I tell him that when he is a grown up and has a house of his own, I am going to come and tee-tee all over his guest room bathroom just like he does to mine. We have worked and worked on that one with those boys. I am out of ideas so now I just have them clean it. I usually go behind them and clean too, but it is the principle, you know!

Have a great Memorial Day!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Now for the rest of the story and a little extra.

How did I fracture my humerus? I was deep in the Toro Negro rainforest in Puerto Rico on an "adventure" involving some hiking, climbing and zip-lining. Well, I think that there was zip-lining, but I don't personally know since I slipped and fell off the waterfall that I was climbing before I could get there.

Yep, I worked hard for 12 weeks anticipating zipping through the rainforest conquering fears and breaking down barriers. Before my mom passed away, I had thought that doing this adventure would signal some sort of "new me." I really had high expectations of this event. Instead, I broke my shoulder before I could get there. I had worried that I would be afraid and chicken out, but I did not worry about injuring myself. I had told mom about the trip and our adventure plans. Always a protector, she didn't totally approve of it, worrying that it might be too dangerous. Just goes to show that I might should have listened to my mother just one last time. I guess I'll never learn.

And yes, we went on our trip even though I had buried my beloved mother the week before. I figured that the Lord knew when Mom was going to die and He knew when we were going to Puerto Rico and perhaps, his plan was for me to have some time away to grieve and not have to take care of anyone else. We knew the trip would be a different one from the one we had planned, but we tried to make the most of the days that we were given.

Back to the jungle. I guess that I should have realized that I might be in over my head when our tour guides stopped at the US Coast Guard to pick up three guys who were going on the tour with us. Maybe, just maybe, I should have clued in when we had to sign our lives away on the liability forms. However, the most telling sign of all was when I overheard a young lady ask her Coast Guard hubby, "What year were you born, honey?" I nearly fainted when he responded, "1988."

1988 !?!!!?!

Seriously, I was a sophomore in high school in 1988 and had probably not even heard of Puerto Rico by then. And you are telling me that this guy who was born in 1988 is an adult, married and in the Coast Guard? Jeremy's 38 and my 37 years made us look like the grandpa and grandma in the group.

How did that happen?
We were just on our honeymoon...uh....oh... 14 years ago.

Oh well. "Hand me my teeth and Centrum Silver, Jeremy. We're going on an Adventure with a capital A!"

As we made our hour long journey to the rain forest in our maroon 15 passenger van, I joked with all the young whippersnappers that it felt like we were on some reality television show. I could just see it, "Eleven contestants from all over the US, brought together by their desire for adventure.... now facing the peril of the jungle " Cue intro music. The others all laughed in agreement as I said, "I just hope we don't get stranded out there and have to decide which of us we have to eat in order to survive. I have never been fond of cannibalism."

Below: That's me , Jokey McJokester getting ready to go! Note all the young 'uns with me.
I don't look that out of place, do I?
Don't answer that.

After snacking on some fresh yummy bananas, they gave us our helmets and harnesses. We set off on the slippery path to the rainforest.

The water was cold and refreshing as we waded about waist deep through the rocky path. All of our fellow contestants, ... er, I mean, adventurers, were very helpful to one another by lending a steady arm or a word of encouragement as we trekked along.

And, I was doing great. My mantra was "It does not have to be pretty. It just has to get done." Honestly, it wasn't pretty at all as I already had huge scrapes on my legs and bumps and bruises everywhere before slipping into the tide pool at the bottom of the waterfall.

But, I was getting it done and that was all that mattered.

I was doing great...until I wasn't.

When I fell, we were climbing beside a smallish waterfall, about 8 feet high. The waterfall is usually more of a trickle, but because of all the rain (in the rain forest), it had worked up to a pretty good flow. I sure wish we had a picture of the waterfall, but my mind was not on photography at that moment.

I was having trouble getting my big feet in the small crevices. I was scared. It took me a few minutes to build up the courage to hoist myself up. When I did, my bottom foot slipped. I held on tightly with my right arm, spun around into the rock face with my shoulder. Then, the waterfall whooshed over me and plunged me down in to the pool at the bottom.

Falling was not that bad. In fact, once I felt the cold water rush over me, I remember thinking, "If that was the worst thing that could happen, then I am ready to tackle the climb again. Let me at it." However, I had an immediate change of heart as the sharp pain shot through my arm when I tried to raise it to get out of the water. I could not lift it at all. Frantically, I tried lifting it with my other arm, but I could not hold it up. It just fell back to my side and hung there throbbing with pain. I waited nervously for the others to finish this part of the trail and kept my arm under the cold water to help minimize the pain.

Finally, Jeremy and the tour guide decided that my adventure had come to an end. We took the "emergency exit" hike out of the jungle to wait for everyone else to climb the BIG waterfall. (They used a rope and harness on that one, by the way.) Once I found out about the emergency exit path, it sort of ticked me off that there was an "easy" way out of the trail the whole time. BUT, I guess that I should be glad for that trail or else I might have a new address. Something like 3 Waterfall Way.

As we maneuvered our way back out through the rocks and water, I began to realize how badly my arm hurt. Focusing on the guide's feet as he led me to the meeting point, I crawled, staggered, ran and did whatever it took to get myself there. I remember panting, "I'm going to throw up." Jeremy thought that I had just run out of energy, but the reality was that my arm hurt so badly that my stomach begged to be be emptied, IMMEDIATELY! At one point, I pleaded with the guide to just leave me there and come back to get me later. He just kept pushing forward. In retrospect, it was a good idea to keep me going, but I was really disgusted with him at the time.

Poor Jeremy chose to cut his adventure short and stay with his injured wife. I felt so badly for him. (and still do.) He says that he is not upset about it, but it sure is a bummer that he had to miss it because of me.

We waited at the top of the next big waterfall for everyone to climb up. He took a few shots of the scenery but did not feel like he should take any of me. Good call, dude. (This is not the big waterfall, either. It is a flat area near where we were sitting.)

Y'all, I was so brave. I was embarrassed and ashamed and really hurting. I was disappointed and disgusted. I wanted to cry and cry and cry. It was just a little too much to handle at the time. BUT, I used my one arm to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get through it. I even managed to make a little joke through it all:

After waiting about an hour for everyone to make it up the big waterfall, Jeremy and I rejoined the group and headed back down the trails to the van for lunch. As we hiked, I held my poor shoulder and pretended to plead with the others as we made our way to van, "Please, please vote me off the island! I just want to go home."

I might not be interviewing for any Survivor seasons in the near future, or ever, for that matter, but I am a survivor in ways that no reality show or rainforest adventure can ever show.

Hey, did I learn something about myself without doing the zip-line? Who would have thought??

There you go!

PS...After lunch, I stayed in the van while the others did the zip line in the pouring rain. Jeremy said that it was really exciting, but hard to enjoy since the rain pelted him in the face as he zipped along. I am glad that he had some adventure of his own, though!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Look what I did on my vacation...

Fractured humerus. Not Humorous!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Surprises behind every door

Ok. I am sad. You know I am.

However, my boys are full of life and are a balm to an aching heart without even trying.

I totally had to laugh out loud when I found this while looking for a loaf of bread in the freezer:

It seems that our youngest scientist wanted to see how the balloon would pop if he froze it first. I often find strange things that Jonathan is freezing for his experiments. They say that "Necessity is the mother of invention", but I never knew that "Freezers are the mother of experiments" until I became a mom.

I guess he comes by it honestly, because I used to do experiments as well. My fixation was not the freezer, though. I used to light toothpicks on fire in the kitchen sink while my mom was mowing the yard. They turn a bright orange color as they shrivel to black charred pieces. I totally remember the smell , too. Once, I graduated to lighting up paper towels, but they caught on fire QUICK and scared me to death so I went back to toothpicks.

Man, I was living on the edge back then, let me tell you. Did you notice that at least I had enough sense to light the toothpicks near a readily available water supply?

Now there's something that you did not know about me! (And if you like me at all, you will NOT share this with my kids. I will just move the experiments in the freezer to get to the bread, thank you very much.)

There you go.

PS. Do you think that my mom knew about my secret obsession with fiery toothpicks? I wonder sometimes.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Daughter's Tribute

This week did not turn out like I had planned. I planned to shop for my trip to Puerto Rico, work on the backdrop for Jonathan's 1st grade program, take the kids to swim team, get my hair highlighted, watch my eating very closely and train hard.

Instead, I buried my mom. Here's what I said for her eulogy...

What can I say about Mama? Some of you may not have known our mother the way that we did so I want to honor her and celebrate her life by giving you a better glimpse of who she really was.

Most who met Mama would say that she was always kind to them. She was quick with a smile and had a great sense of humor even though she tended to be very private and did not share herself with everyone. She respected others and did not feel the need to force her opinions on them. She often worried that people thought that she was stand-offish, but in fact, that was her way of respecting them and their rights to make their own choices. This quality made her a great listener, and others often came to her for her advice which she would give only when asked.

There was not much that Mama was not willing to try. She would rise to most any challenge. She was so intelligent and was always learning, just because she could. While she was enrolled at TSTC as a 55 year old, she looked forward to the mental challenges that the course work gave her. The students around her would look to her for assistance and she would take the time to help them if she could. Justin told me that thought of that time at TSTC as one of the best periods of her life.

Mama had relentless perseverance and an ability to forge ahead regardless of what life dealt her. No matter how hard I try, I can never do justice to what she overcame in her lifetime. She faced many hardships in her life with a dogged determination and with a sort of submission and acceptance that I did not always understand. The latest obstacle was the lung cancer that she had been dealing with over the last 2 years. When she was first diagnosed, she had a calmness and a peace about her. She told me once that if this was what the Lord had for her then she knew that it was His plan and she would accept it. I hope that one day, Justin and I will have the outstanding faith that it took her to say that and mean it like she did. When the cancer returned in this past month, she told me “No matter what happens, it is all going to be ok.” And she really meant it then too. Those wise words comfort my brother and me as we miss her so much right now.

Mama was consistent and dependable and had an outstanding work ethic. She often said, “A job worth doing is worth doing well.” She took pride in doing her best at every task no matter how big or how small.

Mama was generous. She had a tender heart toward others. She would give something to someone even when she might have to go without because of the gift she was giving. She made sure that her family was taken care of even if it meant she had to sacrifice something important to her. Recently, I asked her if she had enough money, wondering if she needed to borrow any from us to meet her needs. She quickly asked me, “Why, do you need to borrow some?” Her generous nature almost broke my heart that day. Sweet, thoughtful mama.
Mama had a humble, servant heart. She was the kind of person that would think about other people before herself. She never liked asking for help, but she was always ready to lend a helping hand to others and would do everything in her power to help. Many of you here today have been served by her at one of the stores in Riesel. You were probably greeted with her sweet smile and a cheerful hello. She served her children well also. Justin and I have fond memories of her making our morning coffee for us. When we were growing up, we loved to listen to the sound of her working in the kitchen in the morning. We would hear her whistling under her breath and we we knew that all was right in the world.

No one loves you like your mama does and, our Mama, was certainly no exception. She and Daddy had difficulty beginning their family with the tragedy of miscarriages and even losing baby John in infancy. But she always told Daddy that it was her dream to be a mother. And in my opinion, she was the best one around.

Mama and Daddy adopted me in 1971 when I was 12 days old. She did such a great job of loving me well. I never questioned her love for me. When I was growing up, strangers might say, “Your daughter looks just like you.” Mama would just answer proudly, “Thank you” without missing a beat or feeling like she needed to explain our lack of biological connection. What a gift that was to me.

I still remember when I was 7 and Justin was born. It was another great day in Mama's life: She had another child to love and she truly did love him with all her heart. After he was born, she could not fathom leaving him to go back to work so she embarked upon a home day care business to allow her to spend more time with him and watch him grow. She adapted well to having a son: Justin remembers her throwing the football and baseball with him in the front yard when he was playing little league. At one time, she could throw a fairly decent spiral “for a girl”. He also has memories of her helping him memorize his football plays in high school. She was always so proud to support him in his sports and rarely missed a game or a track meet.

Justin and I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that we were loved by her. We were loved sacrificially. Mama gave up so much of herself to make sure that we were taken care of. Her devotion to her children was truly extraordinary. We absolutely, unequivocally came first. She put our needs ahead of her own.

Mama was always on our side. We knew that she was in our corner no matter what. Having her on our side strengthened us as we ventured into our adult lives. Often, I would call her up and tell her how the world was being “mean” to me and she was always a great listener and would drop whatever she was doing and take the time to talk to me. She could make it all better for me as if I were a child and she was kissing my boo boo. I always felt better after sharing my heart with her.

You knew when you had done something that made Mama happy or proud. She had a certain look on her face that was so telling of how she felt on the inside. Her eyes would light up and she would give a great big smile. Justin and I both loved being able to bring that out in her.

This past weekend, I had such a wonderful time with Mama. I took her to her radiation appointment and then she announced that she wanted to treat me to lunch at Luby's, our favorite from my childhood days. We ate and got caught up on each other's lives. We shopped a little, too. No trip to Waco is complete without a trip to Wal-Mart, you know. Then, we went home and watched videos of Jonathan and Caleb, her grandsons, and just had a fun time being together. Neither one of us knew that it would be the last time that we spent together. We both made plans for the next time that we would see one another. I am so thankful for that weekend and the precious time that we had.

Justin also had a sweet time with mom on Sunday after I left. They went out to the farm, looked at the cows, and enjoyed spending time together admiring the farm and the pretty day. As Justin checked on her before she went to bed that night, she told him, “Don't worry about me. I'll be ok.” This is his last memory of her, as herself. She was always a mama, always protecting and thinking of her children.

My very last memory of her, as herself, is also bittersweet. We had a little good-bye ritual dating back to when I went away to college. Whenever I would leave after a visit and head out to wherever my life was taking me, Mama would always walk me outside and give me a hug before I left. As I was driving away, I would always look over my shoulder and give her one last wave. This past weekend was no different. I looked over my shoulder and waved. Mama waved back and I was on my way full of her love. I will cherish this memory forever and ever.

I would like to share this scripture from 1 Corinthians 13 with you about the kind of love that Mama showed us.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Mama had this kind of love.

And then it goes on to say...

For now we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now, we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror. Then, we shall see face to face. Now, I know in part. Then, I shall know fully even as I am fully known.

Mama lived these characteristics of love for us on a daily basis in her life. Not perfectly, because no one can can as perfection has not come yet, but she did live them here on earth. While we are grieving, we are comforted that now her perfection has come and she sees the Lord not as a poor reflection in the mirror, but face to face. She is fully known and made whole and complete in the Lord's love.

And these three remain. Faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

She would always say that Home is where Mama is... meaning that she felt at home when she was with her Mama no matter where she was physically. Well, now Justin and I can truly say that, too. Home is where Mama is and I look forward to the day when we are reunited in heaven.