Category Archives: Memories

Paying Tribute to Our Veterans

Yesterday, my husband and I took our kids to a Memorial Day service at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, Texas (near Fort Hood). There wasn’t enough seating so many of us had to stand. When the National Anthem began to play, these veterans in front of me snapped to attention.

5 vet

Lieutenant General Mark A. Milley gave a moving speech to honor those who served. Many veterans from our nation’s wars (all the way back to World War II) attended and received recognition.

After the speech, I saw this disabled veteran proudly walking around with his adorable little granddaughter (or great-granddaughter) and he allowed me to take a picture of them.

DAV

The ceremony concluded with the dedication of the 2013 memorial slate which listed the names of those Texans who died last year,  followed by a 21-gun salute and Taps. I spent some time among the mourners, reading the plaques of the memorial. I snapped a few more pictures, then turned to see my son with a solemn face and eyes reddened by the effort of fighting back tears as he watched those in attendance mourn the loss of a loved one.

2013 SlateThe plaque reads:

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” ~ Arthur Ashe

 

AbeI hope you took a moment during the Memorial Day weekend to pay tribute to those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

In honor of my late grandfather, Joseph Lutz, who served in WWII and my children’s “adoptive” grandfather (Veteran’s Day: A Tribute to Peepaw) Donald Morrison who also served in WWII.

 

 

From the Archives – Writers: What Was Your First Story?

 

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog (March 13th), I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around. Next up…

 

Once upon a time

The first story I remember creating came after my first nightmare, or rather, the first nightmare I remember. I’m not even sure how old I was, maybe 4 or 5? I must’ve fallen asleep while one of my parents read Goldilocks and the Three Bears to me because my nightmare was a twisted version of that fairytale.

Illustration by David Merrell
Illustration by David Merrell

Mama Bear and Papa Bear had captured my parents. They were restrained outside the bears’ home with thorn bushes. I looked on from a secret hiding place in the woods as they lit a fire underneath a giant black cauldron. Flames licked at the sides and steam rose from the center of the cauldron as my parents struggled to break free. That is where my nightmare ended.

I woke up in a panic. To a young child their parent is everything and both of mine were about to be boiled like lobsters. I calmed down once I realized I’d been dreaming but something tugged at me. I suppose this was the moment my internal storyteller was born.

What offense had my parents committed to deserve such treatment? Had Mama Bear and Papa Bear suspected my parents of eating the porridge, breaking the furniture, and destroying the neatly made beds? Or worse, was it something I had done? Where was Baby Bear? Had I done something to upset him? Were my parents paying the price for failing to discipline a naughty child? How could I save them?

I couldn’t recall the events in my dream that led to my parents being selected as dinner. All I knew was that my parents were in danger. I had to rescue them. I had to finish the story and it had to be brief; after all, my parents were about to become the main course for two ravenous bears.

Somehow I knew Baby Bear was the key. I searched and found him wandering in the woods alone. He was lost and scared. I gave him a cherished toy for comfort. It was a little crocheted doll that my grandmother had made for me. He seemed to understand the value it held and hugged me. We arrived at his home just as my parents were being lowered toward the boiling water.

Mama Bear and Papa Bear were overjoyed to see Baby Bear. After learning I had rescued him they decided I wasn’t a naughty child after all and released my parents. Porridge was warmed over the fire instead of my parents and we all sat down for a scrumptious meal. Mama Bear and Papa Bear swapped stories with my parents and after a while Baby Bear rubbed his eyes and yawned. Seeing that he was tired, I walked him upstairs and tucked him in bed. He fell asleep with my cherished doll held tightly to his chest. I was the heroine of the story and everyone lived happily ever after.

I have created hundreds of stories in my mind over the years. I don’t know why this one has stayed with me while others have faded. Maybe it’s because it was my first story. Maybe the simplicity of it makes it easy to remember. Maybe it was the thought of losing my parents. Who knows? I’ve discarded so many stories over the years because they were “too this” or “too that.” Maybe it’s because this one, at the time, felt…just right.

Do you remember your first story? I’d love to hear it.

Veteran’s Day: A Tribute to Peepaw

CJ and Peepaw 2006
CJ and Peepaw

According to the National World War II Museum website, there are about one million WWII veterans still alive today. That number is decreasing at a rate of over 600 veterans per day. My children have the honor of calling one of those veterans Peepaw Don.

Although he is not their grandfather by blood, it makes no difference to them or Peepaw. He is their grandfather and they adore him. He is eighty-seven years old, has undergone heart surgery and has a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat, but he somehow manages to make it to their sporting events, recitals, school functions, and birthday celebrations. He loves my children as if they were his own grandchildren. It brightens my day to see his face light up when he sees them.

He had been with my mother-in-law for several years before I heard his war story. Here is an excerpt from the Purple Heart Austin War Stories website:

morrisonD
Donald C. Morrison

Donald Morrison was a Light Machine Gunner in Company K and he remained with them until after the war in Europe was over. He was wounded in Germany on March 23, 1945. Company K was in the attack west of Koblenz, moving through the hills parallel to the Rhine River when they came under fire from a German 88mm gun.

A shell detonated close by and Donald was hit. He fell unconscious, bleeding from a wound to the face and it appeared that he had also been hit in the chest. Believing him dead, the remaining men in his gun team picked up the machine gun and continued forward with the company as it advanced.

Later, as he slowly regained consciousness, Donald first found himself all alone, and then he quickly found the strength to hurry after his comrades. Upon catching up to them, some of the men in his squad “looked like they were seeing a ghost.” A company medic treated his head wound and then examined him, searching for the wound under the large hole torn through the pocket of his jacket. But, there was no wound.

Peepaw Don's Pocket Bible
Peepaw Don’s Pocket Bible

Instead, the medic retrieved from his pocket the New Testament that Donald had carried into combat. An 88mm shell fragment had penetrated half-way through and was embedded in the little pocket Bible. The sharp-edged, inch-long piece of steel had been stopped directly over the first book of Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 10, which reads, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.

Donald says, “No question I would have been dead if I had not carried my Bible. I was not a particularly religious man at the time, but after that, I knew there had to be a God. I was just very thankful for another chance.

It is not something that he openly talks about, but I’m honored that he shared the story with me and allowed me to hold the pocket bible that saved his life.

You can click on this link to read the full account of his service in World War II. Thank you for your service Peepaw Don. We love you.

Conversations with My Kids: Get Down on Your Knees

For this post of Conversations with My Kids I’m reminded of how impressionable our children are. This is a conversation between my sweet mother-in-law (MIL) and my daughter in December 2009. She was four years old at the time. Here is how the conversation went:

CJ: Merry Christmas, Meemaw.

MIL: Merry Christmas to you [CJ].

CJ: That’s not good enough.

I was halfway listening to this conversation, but this really got my attention. I turn to watch my daughter.

MIL: Well, Merry, Merry Christmas, [CJ].

CJ: You’ve got to do better than that.

What did she just say? Surely I must have misunderstood her.

MIL: Well, what do you want me to do?

CJ: Get down on your knees and tell me you love me.

At this point, I’m slightly horrified. Who is this little diva who is demanding genuflection as if she were a queen? I’m also fighting the urge to laugh.

MIL: [laughing] If I get down on my knees, I might not be able to get back up. (But Meemaw is a good sport, and gets down on her knees). I love you, [CJ]!

CJ: [smiles] That’s good, Meemaw.

It was only later that I learned where she heard this. Check out the following clip of Home Alone2 at about 1:07.

A Short Tour of My Hometown

As many of you know, Belinda over at Busy Mind Thinking is ill. Since she can’t travel, she has asked in the post Project – Travel that her blogger friends take her on a virtual vacation by posting pictures of their hometown. I am more than happy to take her on a tour of Austin, Texas. Ready, Belinda?

austin capitol

Texas State Capitol

The capitol building in Austin is taller than the nation’s capitol. Didn’t you know? Everything is bigger in Texas 🙂

townlake

Downtown Austin and a view of Town Lake, also known as Lake Austin, and recently renamed Lady Bird Lake in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. It’s not a natural lake, but a reservoir formed when a dam was constructed on a portion of the Colorado River. I worked in the white stone building topped with a black pyramid (background, right), for 10 years.

townlake-hike and bike

Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail

This trail consists of a 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake. I’ve probably run hundreds of miles here over the years.

Lake Travis

Lake Travis

Another reservoir formed from the Colorado River. Most of my summer days were spent here as a youth.

UT Tower

The UT Tower

The University of Texas is located in Austin. The UT Tower is illuminated in orange and white to mark academic achievements, sports victories, and other events. The picture above marks a National Championship. From the corner, it is said to resemble an owl. UT legend indicates that it was designed by an architect from a rival school, Rice University.

FrostBank_000

The Frost Bank Tower

This is my son’s favorite building (he wants to be an architect). It is also rumored to be designed by a Rice graduate, but neither story about the UT Tower or The Frost Bank building is true. Do you see the owl?

frostowl

Corner view of Frost Bank Building. Do you see the owl now?

austinbats

Mexican Free-tailed Bat Colony

Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America (about 1.5 million bats). Watching them emerge at dusk is quite a sight. They nest under the Congress Avenue bridge and an overpass on I-35 during the summer months and then migrate to Mexico in the winter. Don’t stand underneath the bridge to watch unless you want to leave smelling like bat guano.

hamilton pool -907

Hamilton Pool

A natural pool formed by the collapse of the roof of an underground river. I came here often as a teen. You may have seen it in the movie The Tree of Life (if you hadn’t fallen asleep yet).

 oasisaustin

The Oasis on Lake Travis

I worked here as a teen. This was my first place of employment (that two-week stint at Taco Bell doesn’t count). I got quite a workout running up and down the multiple levels and countless decks as a  hostess. The views are spectacular, especially at sunset.

 Zilker Tree

The Zilker Tree

The Zilker Tree is lit each December. It stands 155 feet tall and holds over 3,000 lights. I remember standing underneath this tree as a child and twirling around in awe.

pennybacker

The Pennybacker Bridge

This bridge was completed when I was a teen. When I saw the large steel structure in the distance for the first time, it didn’t seem real. It’s also known as the 360 bridge because it connects the northern and southern sections of Loop 360, also known as the Capital of Texas Highway (It seems Austinites have several names for just about everything). I crossed this bridge on my way to and from work (my last place of employment). It’s a good thing I had that beautiful sunrise to help me face the day.

longhorns

Texas Longhorns

This tour wouldn’t be complete without a picture of a Texas Longhorn. My sister raises them, and I snapped this photo from her back yard. I apologize for the poor photo quality. It was taken from an iphone that was later drenched in water, causing the photo to fade.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop there. I hope you enjoyed the tour, Belinda and thanks for the break from editing 🙂

Why don’t you join in with a tour of your hometown? I know Belinda would love to see it.

A Blue-Eyed Boy

My post on the Community Story Board.

The Community Storyboard

This was written in response to the Day 13 prompt, “I thought I saw you then.” I have not written poetry since high school so it is likely to be just as undeveloped today as it was then. But when I saw this prompt I was immediately reminded of a time, not long ago, when I saw a boy and in my mind was visited by an old high school friend.

For Ben.

I thought I saw you then.

I did a double-take.

Oh how long has it been

Since I was at your wake?

On a late summer night,

Down a dark winding road,

A ray of blinding light,

Took a life not yet owed.

Heeding no warning sign,

No time to say goodbye,

He crossed over the line,

I often wonder why.

The mere passage of time

Would’ve brought a few grays,

A wrinkle, maybe two

From very youthful days.

A blue-eyed boy vision

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Will You Please Go Get My Teeth Out of the Dashboard?

No, this is not a lesson on grammatical errors. No misplaced modifiers or dangling participles here. If only those were the most difficult lessons I had to learn. If only.

I have actually uttered those words. Yes, in a sentence, in that order during the early morning hours of Father’s Day on June 19, 1988.

I was certain my teeth had been knocked out, could easily be retrieved from the car, temporarily placed in a glass of milk, and then put back in my head. “Easy peasy, lemon squeezy,” as my daughter would say. But as I spoke those words I came to realize that was not the case.

The words didn’t come out as I had intended, in fact, they were barely intelligible to me. My mouth and chin moved unnaturally and felt as if they were going to slide off my skull. Why couldn’t I speak properly? My hand flew to my mouth, probing, trying to understand. My teeth were certainly missing and as I explored the area I realized the bones of my upper jaw had been fractured. I felt the bones move and rub against each other. It sounded like the rough edges of a broken piece of china as you tried to piece it back together, only it was going to take a lot more than glue to fix. Instant, white-hot, intense pain racked my entire body. My hand was quickly pulled away by the young man, probably a college student, I had spoken to.

“Don’t do that!”

He winced and looked away. He placed a cloth over my face, only leaving my eyes exposed. Why did he do that? Did I look that grotesque? Apparently, I did.

I knew I’d been in a car accident. I remembered that I was asleep when it happened. I’d been dreaming. It had been a nice dream and as is typical of most dreams I moved from scene to scene as if magically teleported. I don’t remember exactly what I was doing in my dream the moment before I was catapulted into a roller coaster, but it was something relaxing like walking on the beach. The roller coaster seemed to pick up speed instantly. I was tossed from side to side and wondered what kind of wild ride I had the misfortune to land in. I struggled to hang on. Had it come off the tracks? Then…black.

When I opened my eyes, I was hanging upside down, my seatbelt keeping me restrained. To my horror, I realized it had not been a dream. My right arm was unnaturally twisted within the seatbelt strap and trapped behind my head. I looked to my left and saw my boyfriend’s body hanging lifelessly from his seat belt. Oh my God! Is he dead? Am I dead? I’m dead! I’m dead! I heard voices, urgent voices. Could the car blow up? What? Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God! Who was that screaming? Was it me? My heart was racing. I’d never felt it beat so fast. Oh my God, it was going to break out of my chest!  Calm down! Calm down! Calm down! You’re alive. Calm down…just calm down or you’ll go into shock. You don’t want to go into shock do you? Remember what you learned about shock in school? You’re alive now just… calm…down. That’s it. Breathe. Stay alive.

I saw legs moving outside my door.  The car began to rock and then flipped over. The sudden movement caused shooting pain in my shoulder. I didn’t know it at the time but my right collar-bone had just snapped. I winced in pain and the gesture caused severe pain in my mouth. I probed the area with my tongue and the pain grew more intense. I glanced down at the rest of my body. My legs were resting upon the dashboard but I could move them. They didn’t appear broken. Everything hurt, hurt beyond belief. It was the most unbearable pain I had ever felt. Please just let me pass out, please, I begged. No! What if you don’t wake up? I fought to suppress the extreme need to close my eyes and just let go. Stay awake. Stay alive.

Do I dare look to my left toward the driver’s seat? I braced myself for what my eyes might see.

The driver’s seat had been fully reclined when they turned the car upright. My boyfriend was sprawled out on the seat, still strapped into his seatbelt, with his eyes closed. There were no visible marks on his body. He looked asleep, possibly even dead. I spoke his name. It sounded garbled. Had something happened to my hearing? He didn’t respond so I spoke louder and still louder. Nothing.  Did I detect a slight movement? Someone opened the door and pulled me out. I screamed in pain. I yelled his name again but they pulled me away and set me on the shoulder of the highway. Then I heard his voice and knew that he was alive. Thank God. He was angry and confused, disoriented, but okay. He wanted to go home. He kept saying he just wanted to go home.

I had a vague recollection of my face colliding with something. Yes, my face must have hit the dashboard. The dashboard! My teeth must be in the dashboard.

“Will you please go get my teeth out of the dashboard?”

Then came the warning, the wince, and the cloth over my face; leaving only my eyes exposed.

My teeth weren’t in the dashboard. I was told later that two had been completely pulverized and another two had been lodged somewhere in the mess of fractured bone that was my maxilla. My chin had almost been sliced clear off. It seems I had blocked out the initial impact. It took several years before I was able to glimpse a sliver of it and allow the gravity of the situation to register in my brain.

I literally came within an inch of losing my life, less than an inch, millimeters probably. That is the distance between the scar along the lower edge of my chin and most likely…decapitation. The force it took to pulverize two teeth, shove the other two into my maxilla and fracture it so horribly it took hours for a surgeon to repair leads me to this one conclusion. Some would say I’m lucky to be alive. Some would say it’s a miracle, some have.

A week later the insurance agent said, “We aren’t contesting this claim. You’ll be paid the full benefits of the policy. I’ve seen the pictures. It’s a miracle you survived.”

From what I was told, my boyfriend’s small car flipped front-end over back-end multiple times, covering a space longer than a football field. That is what happens when you lose control of a car that is traveling at a speed of over eighty-five miles per hour. I imagine it looked like a stunt from a movie scene gone terribly wrong. The area along the side of the interstate where the car crashed was uncommonly flat and bare, unlike any other stretch of land in close proximity; no gas stations, no side roads, no buildings, no overpasses, and no culverts. I think we took out a couple of road signs but there was only a simple barb-wired fence and grassland beyond. If the wreck had started seconds earlier or later we would have met with the concrete pillars of an overpass and certain death.  When I travel that length of the interstate today the fact that it is dotted with buildings and other stationary structures does not escape me. It was like the perfect storm of time and space, or rather the eye of the perfect storm – that calm place surrounded by chaos – where a miracle happened.

I’d been taking a philosophy course the summer of the accident and had a conversation with my professor a week after it occurred. The most recent class discussion had focused, ironically, on the meaning of life. After hearing of my near death experience he wanted to know what insight I had to share. No doubt he was expecting some profound wisdom to spring forth from my lips but my response probably left him disappointed. I was barely over the initial shock of the experience. I wasn’t yet able to process it, let alone express it in words. I think I said something about having a renewed reverence for life but the words fell flat to me. They were nowhere close to capturing what I felt.  I’m still not sure I can ever do it justice. How do you describe the feeling of getting a second chance to live? I really don’t know if there are words for it. I will give it a try at some point, but not today.

Today, I want to wish my father a Happy Father’s Day. Yes, I know the official day has passed and initially I’d wanted to post this on Sunday but for obvious reasons this day seemed appropriate. Somewhere around 2:30 in the morning on this day twenty-five years ago, my parents got the call that all parents dread. They were told to get to the hospital as quickly as they could.

My father immediately blamed himself. He later told me that every time he’d allowed himself to drink “one beer too many” while relaxing at home some sort of accident had befallen one of his five children. Up until that point they had been relatively minor accidents but he stopped drinking altogether after mine.

Now, just so you don’t get the wrong impression, my father would never be considered an alcoholic. He was a social drinker, who occasionally had a beer or two while watching his favorite sports on TV at home. Pretty tame stuff. I attribute this guilt to his religious upbringing where alcohol was deemed to be evil and drinking it was akin to cavorting with the devil. He would later describe the hour and half drive to the hospital as one of the longest in his life. During that drive, he repeatedly pleaded with God to make a deal. I will never drink another beer if you will spare my daughter. I will never drink another beer if you will spare my daughter.

holidaywinecellar.com
holidaywinecellar.com

Immediately following my release from the hospital the beer was removed from the refrigerator. My Dad was no longer enjoying his favorite beer while watching sports. It had been replaced with the non-alcoholic beer, O’Doul’s. Now, when I visit my parents, open the fridge, and see the O’douls on the shelf, I smile. It’s been twenty-five years and he’s still keeping his promise.

That is devotion. That is a father’s love. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you too.

The Type of Father My Children Have

talkingaboutmenshealth.com
talkingaboutmenshealth.com

I’ve heard it said that the greatest compliment you can pay someone is to trust them with your heart. I suppose that is true because the things that matter most reside there.

“Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

That trust level goes so much deeper when you have children. They occupy such a big piece of your heart that, at times, it seems as if it is so full it will burst. So when and if you choose a partner in life, choose wisely. There are many types of fathers (and mothers) in this world. Unfortunately, there are:

  • those who never wanted to be fathers so they shirked the responsibility,
  • those who are present financially but absent emotionally,
  • those who never spend time with their child,
  • those who are abusive physically or mentally or both,
  • those who are self-absorbed and put their wants first, and
  • those who believe the job ends when their child reaches adulthood.

Then there is the type of father that my children have:

  • the one who talked about his children long before they were born,
  • the one who prayed for them during many years of unsuccessful infertility treatments,
  • the one who read and sang to them while they were still in the womb,
  • the one who fought back tears as he held them for the first time,
  • the one who stayed up late to rock them and sing to them when they were infants,
  • the one who patiently put their socks on for the fifteenth time because, “they’re just not right, Daddy”
  • the one who read books to them until they fell asleep (he was usually the first to go),
  • the one who checked and double checked the room for monsters,
  • the one who played endless games of Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, and Go Fish when his favorite team was playing on TV,
  • the one who sat through hours of dance recitals to watch his daughter dance for two minutes and then gave her roses afterward,
  • the one who trimmed his daughter’s bangs because they were too long (that task was stripped from him immediately afterwards),
  • the one who drags them out of bed in the morning with a tickle and a hug,
  • the one who occasionally goes in late to work because he wants to take them to school,
  • the one who attends all of their sporting events and cheers so loud I banish him to the outfield,
  • the one who takes his daughter to the annual daddy/daughter dance and makes her feel like the most important little girl in the world,
  • the one who taught them how to swing a bat, catch a ball, throw a pass and shoot a basket,
  • the one who takes the time to appreciate the beauty of a sunset with them,
  • the one who spends hours putting toys together on Christmas Eve, cursing late into the night and early the next morning, determined that it be functional by the time they awake,
  • the one who coaches their teams and participates in fundraisers,
  • the one who taught them how to ride a bike and tie their shoes,
  • the one who reminds them to say the blessing before a meal (even in a restaurant),
  • the one who religiously saves for their college tuition,
  • the one who is sometimes hard on them because he wants them to do their best,
  • the one who insists on them saying “sir” and “ma’am,”
  • the one who teaches them to be a good person by example,
  • the one who loves them beyond measure,
  • the one who would give his life for them.

That is the man I married. I hope all the fathers had a wonderful Father’s Day.

A Longing Fulfilled Is the Tree of Life

PraiseGod-300x225I read a poem titled Dreaming by Barbara Crowe on a blog I discovered today. I had to share because it reminded me of the hope my husband and I felt as we were planning our little family. We would talk late into the night about the children we would have someday. What would we name them? What would they look like? What traits would they have? It was our favorite topic of conversation.

We were so full of hope only to be continually let down. After a year of trying on our own we sought help. We went through dozens of unsuccessful fertility treatments and were finally left with the diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.” There was no medical reason we could not have children. We were heartbroken.

There were so many people in this world that didn’t want to be parents and yet had no difficulty conceiving. There were also many who didn’t deserve to be parents, neglecting, abusing, or even worse, killing the sweet little life that was entrusted to them. We wanted children. We would be loving parents. We would never harm them. We would give them a wonderful life. Why couldn’t God see that?

Despondent, we gave up and resigned ourselves to a life without children. Six months later I became pregnant without the assistance of fertility medicine. We had a little boy and I will never forget the moment they placed him on my chest. His lips were so red they appeared to be stained with lipstick. A milky white substance covered his body and his dark hair was matted against his head. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

“If only I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this frame.”

He was a fairy tale come true. He was, and still is, my perfect little boy.

The words written on a card from a friend summed up my feelings perfectly. I believe it’s a Japanese proverb and the words have stayed with me since:

“Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but a longing fulfilled is the tree of life.”

A year later, we wanted to give him a sibling but suffered the same agonizing process as we had before. Years of fertility treatments with no results. Presented with the option of more aggressive treatments, we opted instead to be thankful for the blessing of the one child we had. Nine months later my daughter was born.

She wasn’t the little “Snow White” I expected. She was a bluish-grey and my heart hammered in my chest as I said, “Something’s wrong with her!”

I held my breath and prayed for her life as they whisked her to a table and cleared her lungs. When she was able to breathe on her own I finally exhaled.

The extended family in the waiting room was anxious to hear the gender of the baby, but my husband just shook his head and brought my son in the room instead. He was four and a half years old at the time. We had talked about giving him a baby brother or sister since he was old enough to understand the words. It hit me then, that he’d waited most of his life for this moment. He had spent the last nine months watching my belly grow with amazement, talking to it, singing to it, and rubbing it affectionately. He had wanted a baby brother…until just two weeks before. He changed his mind. He wanted a baby sister instead.

He stood next to her bed and my husband said, “Meet your baby sister.” He looked up at my husband and grinned. Then he hesitantly put his hand toward her to touch her. In that instant she reached up and grabbed his little finger. Newborn babies aren’t supposed to be able to do that are they? It was a sign that this moment was extraordinary. My son caught his breath, turned to look at me and said, “Oh Mama, I love our little baby so much!”

I was overwhelmed with emotion, as I am now, retelling this story. I was a witness as my son experienced love at first sight and I said, “I know exactly how you feel, Buddy.”

Both times my husband and I tried to take matters into our own hands, to control the creation of life, only to be thwarted again and again and again. It turns out that some things cannot be planned or rushed. They happen in their own time and only with hindsight will you understand why. It took over three years of trying for both of my children to be born and it turns out that God needed all that time just to make them. They are that special. They love to hear that, by the way 🙂

Pets Have a Way of Wiggling Into Your Heart

Today marks the 9th anniversary of the death of our beloved Scout.me and scout

I remember the day my husband brought him home. I awoke to the jingling of a bell. My husband stood at my bedside with a grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. He slapped his thigh and said, “C’mon boy.”

That was the moment Scout walked, or rather lumbered, into my life. His massive paws were too big for his body and made him a little clumsy. The moment that adorable brindle boxer puppy with floppy ears and big brown eyes looked up into my eyes I was smitten.

“Happy birthday Baby,” my husband said.

“Oh my God! He’s adorable! What should we call him?”

“I’ve always liked the name Scout.”

scoutScout eventually grew into those monstrous paws and tipped the scales at eighty-five pounds of solid muscle. With his bulk and brindle markings he was sometimes mistaken for a pit bull and people would shrink back in fear. I have to admit there were times when I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sight of him too. He had this annoying habit of pawing at my bedside in the middle of the night. Still groggy from sleep I’d open my eyes to see “The Batman” silhouetted against the nightlight.

After recovering from a mini heart attack, I’d realize it was just my big goofy dog asking to go outside to do his business.

He certainly could seem menacing from afar but one look into those big brown eyes and there was no mistaking the sweet soul inside.  When asked if he’d attack we’d just laugh and say, “Oh yeah, he’s a ferocious guard dog alright.  If anything, he’ll just lick you to death!”

Scout was unaware of his mammoth size. He thought he was a lap dog. He often crawled in my lap, or at least tried to, especially when I was getting ready for work in the morning. Putting on makeup with a beast of a dog trying to cuddle with you and lick your face was quite a challenge.

I’ll never forget Scout’s first experience with the lake. My husband tried to coax Scout to get in the water with him but he just looked on from the shore, too scared to venture in. Scout paced back and forth as my husband waded deeper into the water. Scout couldn’t be persuaded to get in the water so my husband went under to see what he would do. Scout immediately jumped in, dismissing his fears, and swam to “save” his buddy.

One afternoon my husband was sitting next to Scout, repeatedly blowing in his face. Each time Scout glared at my husband as if to warn him to stop. But my husband loves to pick so he kept at it. Scout finally had enough. The next time he turned to my husband he opened his mouth and placed his massive jaws over my husband’s face. Of course he didn’t bite down but he was sending a very clear message. “Look buddy, I’ve had enough. I love you so there’s no way I would ever hurt you, but don’t tempt me.”

If you believe a dog doesn’t have personality, well then you’ve never loved one. Scout was the manifestation of Scooby Doo, just as goofy and lovable. It was as if he jumped out of the TV screen and wiggled his way into our hearts. In fact, he turned in circles until he found just the right spot, as all dogs do, and nestled there forever.