Thursday, January 23, 2014

All About Jill

Today is a special day for me, but it isn't my "special day."  It was the end of a long journey in one way and the beginning of a grand adventure in another.  It was a day that I remember a great deal of because I was awake for the better part of it, and a day with a wonderful order to it...1-23.


But that day 24 years ago was anything but full of order.  It was actually full of nursing students who were on hand to witness a "high-risk delivery."  At least that's what they told me.  I'm sure that there weren't but about (no more than) eight people in the room, but it may as well have been eighty.  It was crowded, the epidural was wearing off, and I was tired.  I'd been in the hospital for four days waiting for this moment and it was almost at hand.  Or would be as soon as someone located the doctor.

Yes.  A room full of people and no doctor in sight.  Did I mention that the epidural had worn off?

There is something about losing all sense of modesty because you honestly no longer care and watching the clock because you want to have a clue how long you've been in this particular predicament.  Of understanding why some people swear it off after one child and that peculiar mixture of fear, anticipation, pain and joy that culminates into a crescendo when a screaming reddish blond haired little girl arrived at 9:19 a.m. and was laid on my chest after seventeen hours and seventeen minutes of labor (not that I was counting or anything.  Okay, FINE, I was.)  Three weeks early.  All 6 lbs 10 1/2 ounces of her.  That meant I only had about 88 pregnancy pounds left to lose.  (I'm really not kidding...but ended up losing 70 of it before I went back to work.  Preeclampsia was not my friend and I learned that one of my superpowers is the ability to retain water.)

But there she was...a little bundle of absolutely perfect.  The most beautiful blue eyes...which we finally got to actually see when she eventually woke up three weeks later.  (Along with colic.  For a month.)

At least she was a good sleeper.  (From three months on.)

I have had the most amazing journey being Jill's mother...watching her grow up from a strong willed infant into a cute toddler.  Getting the reports at daycare that she had munched down on one of her classmates without being provoked for reasons known only to her...and she wasn't getting into the "why" of it at that point in time.  She has never been a particularly wordy child...other than when she was wound up watching "Barney" or trying to convince me to buy something for her at Walmart.

One of my favorite memories of her at this time is asking her to repeatedly "read" "The Foot Book" by Dr. Seuss with her cute "g" instead of "f" sound so that she pronounced it "The Goot Book."  (My favorite part then...and will always be "fuzzy furry feet" which became "guzzy gurry geet.") Unfortunately for her, I also asked her to tell me her address (564 Deerfield Drive) to equal hilarity.

Trying to get her dressed was always interesting...especially when she wanted to wear pink and red together...every day.  Or something else equally heinous.  I honestly think that this was the reason for her discontent on the famous "Picture Day."

Don't even get me started on "Picture Day" when she was two.  I should have known when she told me "I not have my pitch-her made today." that it was not going to end well.  Well, decide for yourself.
(THIS is what happened after they tried taking photos of every child there and couldn't get her to smile.  They finally just took this one at the end.  Why yes, we DID purchase every copy, and the 5 x 7 stayed in her Daddy's office for years.)  She has since pointed out to me that it was cruel and unusual punishment for me to put unmatching bows in her hair and to dress her in a shirt with the word "FRUIT" on it.  I suppose in retrospect, it wasn't such a great clothing choice.  I think she has forgiven me though.

She grew older and started school, and we found that "channeling her leadership potential" as the Lower School Principal so kindly suggested (repeatedly in our thirty minute meeting) after she decided to double back to the library in 1st grade because she wasn't finished with a project she was working on was going to be a little more challenging than we had hoped.  But on the bright side...finishing things...just like her Mom.  That's my girl.

The years flew by and we went through projects, Brownies, a few years of dancing lessons before she announced her retirement, braces and glasses, and a couple of unfortunate hair years and ended up in junior high with a girl who was blossoming into a beautiful young woman.  To say that it caught us by surprise was an understatement.  We always thought that she was cute...and she was a precious little girl...we certainly didn't expect beautiful.

But beautiful she is.

We survived high school, the dreaded cheerleading tryouts, a bad chorale teacher, mean girls and even worse adults, and all of those years when you aren't sure that you are doing anything right.  You are just praying that you are making the right decisions and striking the right balance between caring enough to make a difference and leaving enough space for independence.  And then one day...

Grown.  Almost anyway.

We watched her walk across the stage to accept her diploma at Frazer United Methodist Church...the same place where we stood while I was pregnant with her in 1989 to join the church, where she was christened, where she was confirmed, and now...a high school graduate.  Where I really want her to get married someday but she has told me that she wants an outdoor wedding (I think to stress me out about the weather, just because.)

We were preparing to load her up for the University of Alabama to roll with the Tide and pursue a business degree.  Oh, and pledge Phi Mu...which was honestly her own doing...but I couldn't have been prouder.  (Which made her my daughter...AND my sister.)

A few minutes (okay, FINE, four years) later...just as we asked her to do...she graduated again.

ROLL TIDE, baby girl.  You did it in four years.  And had a job before you graduated.

Anyway, she is now employed, a homeowner, mother of two cats (both rescues) and a beautiful woman making a life for herself.  She has good friends.  She has opinions.  She'll surprise you with her wisdom.  We are genuinely and totally proud of this girl.

She still has the most beautiful blue eyes and a smile that will melt you (her Daddy is her favorite victim, but he doesn't seem to mind.)  She has the ability to weather a lot of storms because she knows that eventually what goes around comes around.  Fortunately, she found a port in the storm...a team of "other mothers" who love her, build her up and pray for her to this day.  She is not a drama queen and doesn't have a whole lot of patience for wistfully looking back.  She is a curious mixture of caring and accepting...but not suffering fools.  Of loving her family well while not being terribly patient with people making obviously bad choices.  She loves animals, her Daddy, country music, and Mexican food.  She dislikes onions, fake people, things that are illogical, being low in her checking account and math.

Not necessarily in that order.

She is every wonderful thing that a mother wants her daughter to be while not sacrificing who she is and was born to be for a second.  She tries to please and will go the extra mile to help someone out.  If she can't please you, she'll accept it and move on.  She's real and expects you to be.   She knows her own mind and will give you a piece of it if you push her past her limits.  She requires sleep and food when she needs it or you'll suffer the consequences.  She laughs a lot, will watch horror movies and not have it affect her, goes through periods of reading everything she can get her hands on and likes to work out.  She is the person who will tell you the truth when others won't, will stand with you when you need it, and will try to make you happy if she can.

She has made me very happy for the past 24 years.  Okay, a little crazy too...but on the whole...HAPPY.

She was and is my "most beautiful baby girl."  The little person who took all of the air out of the room when she was a little thing because she knew how much I loved her then and just where my limits were.  Who painted her toenails (and the tan carpet) when I left her unattended for two minutes while I tended to her brother...and she proudly came over to where I was and showed me her handiwork. Fast forward to the young woman who tried to make me proud and really just wanted nothing more than some really good friends as she navigated those years that every "girl Mom" truly hates.

She grew into a young woman who spent her 21st birthday weekend at the beach with her mother, grandmother and two of her "other mothers"  instead of at a bar (not saying she'll never enter one...but she knows her limits.)  Who listens to wise counsel, loves the Lord, and tries to make good decisions, but who doesn't beat herself up when she falls short.  Who sees the world the way that it is, but who always tries to make it better...brighter...more colorful.  Who judges people by their heart, character, and how they treat her and not their possessions or anything that they can do for her.

In short, she's pretty doggone amazing.  She didn't worry about convention when I was turning 50...she and two of the "other mothers" threw me a party at my house.  There was no arguing about it.  She also had her Daddy out there with a "honey-do" list that was downright impressive...and a lot of it got done.

But today, as we celebrate her...I see my Jill as the little girl she was and now the beautiful and precious woman that she is.  The girl who loves her family...and will make an effort to stay in touch.  The girl who is organized and creative and can hunt down a bargain like a bloodhound.  The friend who will have your back but expects you to answer her calls...or she's out of there until you will.  The person who is confidently looking to a future that she expects to be wonderful.  I have no doubt that she'll find it.

Happy Birthday sweet Jill.  Here's wishing you many, many more.  I love you more than I can ever tell you in words...but in case you ever wonder...just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have changed my life in the best possible way...and I'm grateful for it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Sometimes I find myself absolutely surprised at what goes on in my life.  Granted, I am supposed to be considered an "active participant" in said life but I am amazed at least once a day at how God jumps out there and surprises me with something.  Often it is very positive, and I get to walk through the day with a smile on my face - feeling all special like I used to in first grade when it was my day to hand out paper towels or made the only 100 on the spelling test.  That joy that just bubbles up from the deep recesses of the heart and frees one from worry and stress and drama.

Some days, it is as simple as having the K-cup hit the trash can instead of catapulting itself in such a manner that it sprays coffee gradeaux all over the wall in plain sight of a coworker.  Because, quite frankly, I find that making a mess when I toss anything anywhere is the default mode.  Or I see a rainbow as I'm feeling low and tired of the rain and I look up...and there it is.  The light that I just know I'm about to run or have to slam on brakes to avoid a camera ticket miraculously stays green as I approach it, or there's a parking place in front of Costco instead of the back forty where I'll forget where I left the car and wander aimlessly all over the parking lot.

It can be anything from a friendly hello from an old friend I haven't seen in years to a young person who takes the time to just chat with me because they are enjoying the conversation as much as I am.  It may be a text message that invites me to lunch or from one of my kids that just reminds me that I am loved by the children I treasure.

Just surprises.  Little gifts that I open all of the time without really thinking about it and often take for granted.

The reverse, however, I tend to never miss.  Which is sad but true.

The forgetting my bath water and emptying the hot water tank so I take a bath that is borderline arctic. The newly painted mailbox that is a fresh target for the flocks of birds that fly overhead nearly constantly.  The friend who won't answer the phone or return my calls because she failed to turn the volume up on her phone after church on Sunday when all I need to do is relay some information, get a response and move on.  Being seated at a table at a restaurant where I have choose between breathing and possibly being wedged in because I've already waited forty minutes for a table and shouldn't be this big by gosh, I'm not moving. (Possibly ever.)

Yeah, those things.  We all have them.  They are like tiny gremlins in our lives whose number one concern is stealing our joy.  And they are really, really good at it.  Primarily because we allow it.

I've sat beside cars where someone is just beating on the steering wheel because they missed a red light.  Where someone in the grocery store was using a sharp tone to speak to a child who had probably just approached DefCom 5 on the last nerve.  When the item you are looking for at the right price that you've been watching to go on sale is there in every size except yours.  When "breaking news" messes up the movie you've been watching and it is news that you couldn't care less about in the first place.

It is difficult when you are in "those moments" to just let go of the emotion.  But failing to do so makes you look a bit idiotic or unkind or impatient.  Not that you'll care at that point in time...not even a little bit.

I read recently from a book by Andy Andrews...and I believe it to be true that all of us are either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis or headed for a crisis because such is the nature of life.  So, try to use those little cosmic surprises and random acts of kindness as your focus instead of what is going wrong.  Focus on what you can eat instead of what you can't.  Pay attention to who loves you in your life instead of who has wronged you.  Determine to make your corner of the world a little bit better instead of expecting to be a recipient all of the time.  There is a lot of joy in being the one who spreads it...possibly even more so than for those on the other end.

In the heat of the moment...that's hard to do.  Almost impossible sometimes.

Just focus on what is lovely, praiseworthy, kind, loving, fun, amazing, unique, special, thoughtful, and yes...surprising.  May as well set your focus there...because it is more challenging to do this than to start listing what all goes wrong in any given day.  But focusing on what goes wrong makes everyone around you start to notice it too.  And then they don't like that feeling but they carry it into their interactions.  Eventually, if it happens often, they'll begin to associate that bad feeling with being around you.  And the unpleasantness that started out as one thing that didn't go your way turns into a whole lifetime of negativity that causes ripples beyond what you intended...and takes people out of your circles because they associate the negativity and sob stories of life with you.

Do the more difficult thing...focus on what is going right.

That's hard to do when you have a loss, bad news or a very difficult mountain to climb.  But along the way, there are reminders that God is there trying to catch your attention and your heart.  Just try to find those and keep walking.  Or crawling.  Or waiting.  You'll be fine.  You are exactly where God wants you or know that He is trying to get you back to where you need to be.

I don't know about you, but I love being around happy people.  People who are just happy to be here living life.  Who find the humor in the negative and who smile through the pain because nothing can touch the core of who they really are.  Those people inspire me to get out of my cave of bad thoughts and expectations and just enjoy the sunlight that they bring.  These people cause ripples of joy that go far beyond what they intended as well.

Thank goodness.

So, today, as you face whatever is before you, just try to remember to look for the little surprises and to try to keep it as positive as you can.  Yes, there is a time to mourn and a time to be frustrated as you are standing in the pouring down rain with a flat tire.  But just know that everything you do and everyone you come into contact with has some purpose...or you wouldn't be here drawing breath.  Try to make sure that while you are, you are trying to change the world by being a pleasant surprise to someone else out there.  They don't even have to appreciate it.  God wastes nothing.

Wishing you a delightful day full of pleasant surprises and unspeakable joy.