There are two things which are eternal: Love and the Soul.
If the things we do in this temporal world do not nurture that which is eternal, then we are doing all people a terrible injustice.
There are two things which are eternal: Love and the Soul.
If the things we do in this temporal world do not nurture that which is eternal, then we are doing all people a terrible injustice.
My latest project is recipe scrapbooks into which I am compiling recipes, photos and stories. As I scrolled through my vault of writings in search of holiday themed essays, I came across this one from 2010. I think it was written as a way for me to reconcile my Catholicism with my love for Christmas decorations. My kids, now on the brink of full-blown adulthood, are not as likely anymore to gather around the Advent wreath with me for prayers, or collect stars from the Advent calendar as we count down the days to Christmas Eve. But this narrative reminds me of all the joy that is still present in the season, even as my family scatters like dandelion seeds to fulfill the duties of our days. Happy Advent, everyone.
While the city is alive with Christmas decorations and as families are planning their gifts and activities and preparing their homes, we Catholics are reminded throughout the Advent season that it is not, in fact, Christmas just yet. Sometimes, I attend Mass only to leave feeling guilty for having already put up my Christmas tree. Obviously, I need to work through these feelings.
I love the Christmas season, whether it is celebrated liturgically or secularly. I love it for the lights and decorations, for the magic and mystery. I love the planning and preparing – both in my home and in my heart. I am generally cheery and positive, but let’s face it – I am waaaaay more joyous during December. I find that I smile more, I giggle more, and I am more generous with both my time and my treasure.
Every time I look at my office doorway and see the red stocking peeking in, I am reminded of the season’s magic. I love the signs of the season, and I want to display them as early as possible because I love the feeling that I have during the holidays.
I know the season is not all about presents, shopping and Santa. I know it is about celebrating the birth of Christ. I love the liturgical significance of Advent in that it tells us to “prepare.” I want my children to feel the Christmas spirit all year long, because the reason for Christmas is with us all year long. I also want them to understand the liturgical significance, so we have an Advent calendar and an Advent wreath. We say daily prayers during Advent, and we do our best to prepare room in our hearts and home for the Christ Child. Advent is a time to recollect and ready ourselves for Christ. I always thought that meant I had to chill on Christmas until December 24 and allow Advent in as a time to rest and wait. But that’s virtually impossible for me to do. I want Christmas, like all. the. time.
To me personally, Advent is about anticipation, not delaying. Preparing, not waiting. We should be busy now – preparation is not a passive thing. May each Advent – whether busy or restful – lead our hearts to the perfect Christmas.
We all grieve. We grieve things, circumstances, pets, people. It’s a process. It’s long and it’s messy. I hate messy.
Sometimes during the process I realize all over again the finality of the situation. The bus just pulled away from the station without me. The person I love is on the bus. Gone. Just like that. Can’t call him. Can’t go visit. No more last minute Hey-would-you-mind or How’s-your-day-been. The imaginary line just buzzes, or worse, I get that upward ringing tri-tone and the voice that annoys me even though it’s pleasant. “We’re sorry. The person you are trying to reach…”
I know, I know. He’s gone. I get it.
For the last two nights I’ve dreamed about Pop. They’re perfectly normal days and circumstances in the dreams, except that I’m aware Pop is supposed to be dead. I’m glad he’s not, but I’m confused. He awakes from his chair, round faced and wide-eyed. “Hey!” he says as he gets up and walks outside. The family follows. He chats ‘em up. I hear him laughing. That laugh.
I’m staring dumbfounded after him. I turn to my sister-in-law. “They embalmed him,” I say. “How is he walking and talking?” She shrugs. And then she smiles.
“Where are the groceries?” Pop asks as he throws his arms around a grandson. Groceries are dinner. Pop’s ready to eat. What in the world is that doing in my dream? I don’t know, but there it is. I hear him laugh again.
I think of cooking, and suddenly remember that my food-prep knives are dull. Really dull. Pop always sharpened them for me. I’d send them next door and he would bring them back, five deadly weapons wrapped neatly in newspaper. “Wash those before you use them,” he would advise. Hey, maybe Pop can sharpen my knives while he’s here. I’ll ask him after dinner.
Pop moves to stand beside me and I examine his profile. His hair is not the white I expected. It’s black, peppered with a little grey, I notice. He’s younger than when I last saw him. How is that possible? I reach to touch him and he moves away. If he’s aware of my confusion, he doesn’t let on. I let it go. Food. Pop was hungry. I need to get food made. I turn toward a kitchen I do not recognize and wonder why my legs are bound. I can’t move as freely as I should. I look down into nothing.
My eyes open and I’m staring at my bedroom ceiling. My legs are bound by the sheets, comforter, and a Siberian Retriever. Move over, Max. I gotta go help fix dinner.
Except that I don’t. There’s no dinner to fix. No Pop to eat it. The realization brings back the heaviness. Ding, dinng, dinnng… “The person you are trying to reach…”
2017 started off pretty smoothly with no notable bumps or bruises. Remember New Year’s Eve when I almost cried into my keyboard over how grateful I was to have everyone safe and sound? That feeling got to hang around through the Spring time change. We got the wind knocked out of us again in April when Pop was diagnosed with lung and esophageal cancers. Mark my words: if I ever get my superhero powers activated, I’m kicking that disease’s stubborn ass.
Only a few of the photos below recount the truly memorable moments of 2017 which include not only Pop’s condition, but also saying goodbye to Lady-Bird, my career change, Victoria playing soccer for the first (real) time, becoming a three-car family because the kids are driving, becoming a two-car family again because I had a collision, and literally everything about Aaron’s senior year – right up to getting his college acceptance email. (So much for the frameable letter for my archives.) If I were to post only photos of the moments which years from now I will most likely recall from 2017, I would appear both incredibly proud and undeniably whiny. But as I have stated before – repeatedly, I think, because it’s not easily pounded through my own thick skull – this post is not where I recall the in-your-face moments of the year. Rather, it is where I acknowledge the sacredness of the ordinary minutes of our lives. The minutes that peer out through the emotional cobwebs to say, “Hey, remember how good this moment was? Be grateful.”
With gratitude in mind, and in accord with my end-of-year holiday custom, here is our pictorial year in review.
One thing I can’t get enough of: sunsets. Here’s a cold January day closing its eyes over our back yard. Not sure why I’m so attracted to bare trees backlit by the glow of the sun, but really…who can resist those colors?
As a family, I think we all realize how very fortunate we are, despite the trials of the past two years. On February 4th Bob and Charolette celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. That evening was the calm between the storms, and it was nothing short of blessed.
Okay, spoiled though he is, Max was unable to escape the inevitable neutering on his first birthday. As a retaliation technique, he spent the next four months eating items of great import to me and Dom. Here are destroyed DVDs of LOTR and (gasp!) The Ten Commandments. Hey, Max, can you wrap your head around “Thou Shalt Not…?”
I tried not to put anything sad in this year’s post, but some moments demand to be acknowledged. More paw prints forever on our hearts.
Apparently I married a funny, funny man.
Homecoming 2017. The kiddos were gracious enough to let me snap close to 200 pics of them before the dance. Here they are showing me their “Freeze with your hands up” pose. So if the cops pull them over, my daughter will be the one vogue-ing.
Christmas decorating our front yard at dusk by the light of the rising Super Moon. One of the last truly peaceful moments of 2017.
Well, there it is – 2017 in all its not-so-radiant glory. There are blessings in these ordinary days. I pray I remember that when I later reflect on this roller-coaster year. Just out of curiosity…is it permissible to pre-order an easier 2018? Perhaps I should just hold on to gratitude and hope for the best.
May each of you have a wonderful, prosperous new year, and may you be blessed beyond measure.
There’s something special about Yellow Labradors. Obviously, I would think this. I am intentionally and understandably biased. I’ve known only two such creatures up-close and personal, but that’s enough to solidify the belief.
It was the summer of 2005 and Pop was ready for a new puppy. We learned of free ones by way of my mom who worked for a local animal hospital. I don’t recall the reason this litter was free, but they were, and that was enough to make us load up the kids on a hot June day and drive miles out into the country to pick out a puppy for Papa. My kids were 3 and 4; my nephew, Lucas, was 2½. And, as they say in poker, these kids were “all in.”
Victoria had the privilege of choosing the pup, which she did with wholehearted enthusiasm. She picked out a fluffy, short-legged, ivory female and we all passed the pup around to inspect her cuddle-worthiness. Lucas got the honor of naming her, a task he performed with equal dedication. Victoria recalls vividly that without hesitation Lucas declared the pup’s name would be “Lady,” in honor of his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine train, a purple locomotive that Lucas “carried with him everywhere,” according to Vic.
This next picture makes me wonder if Lady, on that first day at her new home, was looking at Pop’s feet and knowing she would follow them all the days of her life. For all the love and attention she got from the members of our family, she was – first and foremost – Papa’s girl, and she knew it! When we built our home next door to Mom and Pop in 2012 we were already accustomed to Lady following him wherever he went. They seemed to be joined together, so loyal was Lady to Pop. Any time I saw Lady wandering the property without Pop in view, I would ask her, “Where’s Papa? Take me to Papa.” And she would.
Over the years Lady earned more than a few nicknames. “Lady Bird” was the most common in the early days, though that sometimes just got shortened to “Bird,” and then “Bird Dog” was the next natural progression. But our favorite nickname of all was the one she earned while our home was being built. Lady and Pop would walk next door to see the progress each day, and Lady was comfortable enough with the various people on the property that she allowed herself some exploration time while Pop visited with our builder. One morning on her daily building inspection, she wandered out to a pickup truck whose door had been left open. She jumped inside and stole the breakfast burrito of one of the gentlemen who was working on our house. That move earned her the name “Burrito,” and ensured that all workers on our property kept their car doors closed.
Lady loved trailing Pop on new adventures, and she left her sweet little mark wherever she went, even in the cement of the pad of my front steps.
I used to love looking out of my kitchen window to see Pop watering his plants in his front yard, with Lady wagging her tail faithfully beside him. If Pop drove away, Lady waited patiently at the driveway, eyeing every car that drove down the street to be sure she didn’t miss the very moment Pop would arrive home. I remember the day I drove Pop’s truck somewhere, and Lady ran at the truck with unbridled joy when I returned with it and pulled into the drive. She was noticeably disappointed to see me emerge from the vehicle rather than Pop. I tried not to take it personally; I knew who her favorite person was.
Sometimes when I would pull my own vehicle into my driveway at the end of the day, Lady would come to greet me. There was more than one occasion on which I opened my door without knowing she was there, only to have her lunge in at me in a tail-wagging welcome. It was our custom to greet her and love on her for a few minutes before saying, “OK, Lady, go home.” She would wag her tail some more and then head back toward her own house, stopping several times to look over her shoulder at us, as if providing the opportunity for us to change our minds.
Lady loved being a part of any adventure, so when Pop chose to be indoors she would often come check out the activity at our house. One day she decided to help Dom with the yard work and climbed up on the riding mower with him.
Lady loved to be close, and if we offered to pet her while visiting with each other in the yard she would lean into our legs, rest her head in our lap and raise one paw up to place on our knee. Mom was forever telling her to put her paw down. For the promise of more ear scratches, Lady always obeyed.
Dom and Victoria were Lady’s beauticians. They would pull up a lawn chair and brush her whenever she started looking too scruffy, which – considering that she was an outdoor dog – was pretty often. One day last summer we commented that it was time for another brushing because the fur on her haunches was collecting like cobwebs. Three days later, we noted that Lady was looking finely coiffed and I complimented Dom on the brushing he had obviously given her.
“I didn’t brush her,” he replied. “I guess Vic did.”
So we complimented Vic on the job well done, and she replied in a similar fashion. Wasn’t her. Must have been Papa.
Pop claimed it wasn’t he who brushed her, and the mystery remained for the rest of the week. On Saturday we were tinkering in Pop’s garage when we noticed Lady was not in her usual spot at Pop’s heels. After searching the property and coming up empty, Pop got on the four-wheeler and Dom and I got in the truck to go looking for her. We turned separate ways at the end of the street. We searched for about twenty minutes before Pop called us. Lady was home again. He had found her walking toward home, away from a large pond about a quarter mile away. She was soaking wet and happy as she could be. We determined that she must have taken up bathing at the edge of the pond where the water rushes down a bed of rocks, fueled by what I think is some sort of fountain system for the subdivision that edges it. The speed of the water must have provided her a good brushing, not to mention some relief from the summer heat.
When Pop got sick this past Spring we started noticing Lady really showing her age. Right after Pop’s third chemo treatment a couple of weeks ago, Lady had taken to laying around in the garage and not doing much socializing. I sat down next to her and loved on her a bit, thinking that she was sad because she hadn’t seen Pop in several days. He just hadn’t felt like coming outside. As I rubbed her ears, I thought of the 80’s movie E.T. and the potted geranium that wilted as E.T.’s heartlight began to fade. “Are you and Papa connected that much?” I asked her. I heard Mom over my shoulder say, “I think they are.”
Lady tried to bounce back a little for a couple of days once Pop was feeling better, but her appetite waned. Then yesterday, she wouldn’t get up at all. In what seemed like a matter of mere days, her eyes aged and grew tired; her body withered. We made an appointment with our veterinarian today, and even though I hoped for good news and a treatment plan, my heart knew the truth my mouth could not speak. It was time to let Lady go.
At Mom’s request Lady is buried in our backyard next to Mason. Together they are the two most generous, most loving big yella dogs this earth will ever know, and I am honored to have had them in my life. I thumbed through a list of quotes today that I selected when Mason died, but as I remember how little our kids were on the day we got Lady and how she has been a part of every day since, I think Luke Bryan’s 2015 song says it best:
And I thought we would be together
Go on and on just like that, forever
But I was young back then, I guess I just didn’t know
Little boys grow up and dogs get old.
Rest in peace, sweet Lady Bird. And please give Mason our love.
I’m not very good at waiting. An incredibly patient person I am not. My mom frequently reminds me that “Good things come to those who wait,” but the reminder doesn’t make me any more patient. I like quick. I like easy. I like convenient and tidy. I appreciate suspense, but not too much of it. Let’s learn the lesson and move on quickly, please. Let’s see how everything works out. Um, now.
Some things in life force us to wait: Decisions involving more than ourselves. Circumstances beyond our control. Meetings. Questions. Answers. Appointments. Tests. Diagnoses. Treatments.
I sat waiting in a too familiar doctor’s office, this time to stand beside my father-in-law who must now follow the path my mother-in-law took over the last two years. The news is only a month old in our midst. The hashtag is right, folks. Cancer sucks.
Dare we ask for another miracle? Dare we pray for this cup to pass us by? I dared. I did more than dare – I all out begged. Again.
The answers don’t come swiftly and I am reminded of the torturous months before Charolette’s uplifting news that no cancer was detected after treatments and surgery. We had sunk so low, and then we soared. Can we hope to soar again for Pop? Sometimes hope is all we have.
I bemoaned the situation Pop faces as we waited for the days to pass so we could talk to the doctor again. “I hate waiting,” I said out loud to no one. And then a verse lodged in my brain and wouldn’t come loose. “Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.” How does the whole verse go? Something about wings of eagles and running and not getting tired? I mulled it over for a few days. It seemed that every time my mind started to rest it latched onto Pop. Wait upon the Lord, I’d hear in my head. Your strength will renew.
I’ll be honest, I could certainly use some renewed strength these days. I decided to look up the verse so that at least when it rolled through my head, it could roll correctly. It’s Isaiah 40:31: “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up as on wings of eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” I must have heard that verse a hundred times growing up, but I never really thought about it. I pretty much assumed waiting was like serving, as a waiter or waitress would do. Bringing things to God, things he wants. But what does he want, and what do we bring to him? He wants us. He wants our problems and our worries and our concerns. He wants to share our joys and our successes. He wants our love and our offerings of self. When we wait on him we bring those things to him, we give them in service to him. That makes him happy. And he tips big.
But waiting on the Lord also means just that. Waiting. Pausing. We come to understand that our timeline and his are not in sync. And so, more often than not, we have to wait. A day to God might last months or even years to us. God doesn’t talk to us about tomorrow, not in the literal or figurative sense. He sometimes talks about “soon,” though, if you are a parent you know that “soon” is sometimes the most realistic answer you can give. And it does not always satisfy your children, primarily because you don’t quantify “soon.” No, God talks to us about today, because He does not want us to be consumed with future events. He wants us present in the Now. He only gives us one day at a time, and that’s all we should concern ourselves with. He wants us to wait on him. Literally. Like, pull up a bench, sit down and chill for a while. Wait upon the Lord. In his time he will answer us. In the meantime he will give us what we need. He will renew our strength so that we can wait a little longer. He will fortify us for the race so that running from one meeting to the next, from one appointment to the next, from one treatment to the next, will not tire us out. It will not zap us of our will to keep running. We will run and not grow weary. We will walk and not be faint.
In mentally hashing this out and learning to wait, I have found peace. I still catch myself worrying, but for shorter bouts of time. Now, when I become aware of the subconscious upset, I still my mind and focus on waiting. My breath slows and my jaw relaxes. I hear the words of Isaiah as if they are whispered on a wind. “Wait upon the Lord.” And instantly I know that I can wait. I can be still and know that He is God. He’s got this.
On this night, on this night, on this Holy Thursday night…
Yeah, I just hijacked TSO’s Christmas Canon and turned it toward Holy Week. You’re going to be humming that for the rest of the night. You’re welcome.
I played around on YouTube during lunch today. I was actually looking for an old gospel song that I remembered from the 80’s because, well, frankly I was in a really low spot today about a family member’s health. I needed to deal with it emotionally, but first I needed to cry. And pray. And so I hit up YouTube and found the song. That led me to other sadder songs and the next thing I knew I was bouncing through a playlist of tear-jerkers, blowing my nose into my napkin and ignoring the leftover chicken on the plate in front of me. YouTube is kind enough to offer a list of videos similar to whatever it is you’re presently watching, and so you can ride a spiral of despair right into a box of Kleenex if you are so inclined.
It just so happens, I was inclined.
The list of suggested videos finally took an upswing, and the last one I watched was one of the best I’ve ever seen, not for any super videography or anything, but for the message.
It is at this point that, if I were telling this story to my parents, my dad would interrupt to ask if this is going to be a long story. Yes. Yes, it is. (Do I really know any other kind?)
The video was of an interview with actor Jim Caviezel, who, as you may know, portrayed Jesus in The Passion of The Christ. I love that movie, but I can only watch it if I’m in the right frame of mind, such as I try to be in the days leading up to Easter. It’s perfect for tonight. Anyhoo, in the interview Jim talks about his spiritual commitment to the movie and the physical trials of portraying Jesus in his final days. It is a moving talk. But he takes it farther than just his role in the film. He takes it to our role as Christians. He is frank, forthright and challenging. I loved every word.
In the end of the video, Jim talks about a project he’s involved with – a full cast audio production of the New King James Version of The Bible.
Let me just say that I am an audiobook freak already, but I am an all-out sucker for full cast productions. I fall head over heels for narrators who can distinguish different voices for each character (like the incomparable Jim Dale), but I am swept away in full cast audiobooks. I hopped over to Audible.com and looked up the Word of Promise Bible. 90 hours of audio, over 600 actors and actresses, and a boatload of omigosh WOW! I bought it right then and there. To tell you what kind of talent is involved in this production:
Jim Caviezel reads the part of Jesus.
Jon Voight reads Abraham.
Richard Dreyfuss is Moses.
Gary Sinise is David.
Lou Diamond Phillips is Mark.
And the list goes on. Marisa Tomei, Stacy Keach, Louis Gossett Jr., Jason Alexander, Michael York, John Schneider, Luke Perry. The audio is amazing. I spent time with it this evening while I pulled weeds from the flower bed. I might actually get through the whole Bible now.
(Side note to Jessica, my audiobook muse: After you left my office this morning I went back to The Bone Season, but now it’s been sidelined again. I know you understand. 😊)
As I bring this post to a close, I’m pretty sure I hear Dom watching The Ten Commandments in the living room. Looks like we each have our Lenten/Easter movies.
If you are inclined to watch Jim Caviezel’s interview, I think you’ll find it 40 minutes well spent. I for one am grateful for fellow Christians who remind me who I’m meant to be, and that because of that empty tomb, no tomb is an end.
So, yeah, I’m going to post this without a million necessary edits. It’s 11:47 p.m. as I start writing this on December 31, 2016. Thirteen more minutes and the new year rings in for the Central Time Zone, as the television keeps promising. We got home from a New Year’s party 30 minutes ago – a party where there was not nearly as much food as last year’s party, so the two tiny glasses of wine I had have kind of zonked me. (Translation: If you have a few leading lines into this post, and have to click to read more but find that there is no more to read…that means that I’ve woken up on January 1st and realized that I drunk-blogged and promptly deleted it to prevent further embarrassment. Ahem.Note that I am not too zonked to delete comma splices, thankyouverymuch.) Max and Mabel have been outside once since we arrived home, and they are now in separate rooms – Mabel stayed with us in the living room, and Max abandoned us for the bedroom. As in, “Forget you, idiots. Do you even KNOW what time it is?!!” His tall ears sort of fall flat to the sides when he’s tired, so he gave us that cute little flop-eared look and then turned and gave us the tail as he sauntered to the bedroom. We usually are in bed before 9 pm, so the fact that it is nearly midnight has pushed the boundaries of acceptable in our household.
If I think too long on what it means to be entering 2017 with all of our children and parents alive and well, I will start to bawl and it will get really ugly really fast, so I will just wish each of you reading this a very happy, safe and wonderful 2017. Happy New Year!!!!
Looking back on the year that will close its eyes in a few days, I am pleased to say it was eventful and uneventful in all the good ways a year should be. Charolette had a successful surgery in March and even though we have held our breath and kept our eyes peeled for any change, the cancer remains absent from her after a year of treatment. Victoria started high school, Aaron started driving, and they each grew at least five inches. We bought Aaron’s senior ring in November, after which I hid in the bathroom and cried like a baby. What is it about that boy growing up that turns me into such a puddle?
Mid-year, a new heartbeat entered our home in the form of a husky/lab mix, and Mabel was so insulted she almost renounced us all. Max has gone from being the “narcoleptic puppy” (as the vet called him) to being the in-your-face-all-the-time puppy. He talks. Like, a lot. (My mom told us Huskies are like that. Can’t say we weren’t warned.) And he uses his front paws for everything from holding down his own tail to slapping us in the face if breakfast is late. (Jerk.) With his heavy-eyeliner Alice Cooper look, his my-way-or-the-highway attitude and his fuhget-about-it expressions we decided he must be a member of the mob. Two seconds after that announcement, he grabbed his tail in his teeth and nearly fell on his head trying to tug it away from his body. We decided then that he could still be a wiseguy, but he’d have to be Luca Brasi.
OK, enough with the intro. In our customary DomAndLori fashion, I now present the 2016 pictorial year in review:
One of my favorite Christmas icons is the Old World Santa. From the bygone days of her ceramic painting business, Charolette’s garage had a plethora of fired but unpainted Santas, and I set my sights on collecting and painting them in the late ‘90s. Then I took a sixteen year break from all relaxing hobbies before finally returning to this pastime last year. My favorite is the jovial Mardi Gras Santa who gets to hang out on the shelf until Lent. As I packed up the decorations after Christmas, I felt compelled to line the finished ones up for a picture. I just realized they are posed so that it looks like one Santa’s hat is picking another one’s nose. I think it’s safe to say I will never be hired as a photographer. There are twelve more unpainted Santas waiting patiently in the room upstairs. This is one of very few photos taken in January, so it kicks off the show:
On my way to work one morning, I sat at a stoplight and pondered the bleakness of me and everything around me. Admittedly I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself. We’d had a rough couple of weeks and Charolette was back in the hospital on the day before her birthday. My spirit felt drained and I really just wanted to pull into a parking lot and cry. I stared at this tree for what seemed like an eternity, comparing myself to its barren branches, pitying our shared emptiness. Out of the corner of my eye the light turned green, but my attention stayed on the tree because it was at that moment I recognized the sun sparkling behind the branches. I made the turn and pulled over for a photo. I spent the next week writing about the feelings I had that morning and how the realization that the sun was shining through such a cold and prickly image reminded me that there is always hope. I wrote it all out, read it and re-read it, then re-read it again before gagging on the Pollyanna sentiment of woe-turned-to-hope and silver-linings and promptly deleted the spewed words. I sort of wish I had kept it because even though it was corny and ridiculously hopeful in the face of all hopelessness, well…that’s me. The words are gone, but I remember with absolute clarity the empty feeling suddenly replaced with swelling comfort, and the tears that stung my cheeks on that February morning as I conceded that there are a million things in this world that I will never understand. And that’s okay, ‘cause look…sunshine!
As the days began to warm up we found reasons to be outside. Here are the kiddos on the four-wheelers, roughly ten minutes before Victoria accidentally plowed into the back of Aaron’s vehicle, sending his four-wheeler into a ditch where it overturned. It’s a slow-motion, heart-stopping story that aged me about five years in two minutes, but all ended well with Aaron dusty and shaken but otherwise unharmed. I notice they haven’t ridden much since then, however.
Aaron and I spent the better part of one morning coming up with rap names for Victoria, much to her chagrin. “Tupac Sha-Vic” and “Snoop Vickie G” had us rolling. I continued the hazing well into the school day. Hey – what are moms for?
For the second time, a yellow-tailed furball padded his way into our hearts. At first, I thought he was a replica of Mason’s spirit because he was so sweet and snuggly, but that turned out to be a case of intestinal worms. Once cured, his independent and demanding personality emerged. Er-ma-ger, he was so stinkin’ cuuuute!
Of course, he grew…
And grew. (Although, he still hasn’t grown into those satellite dish ears.)
Just when I wonder if I will ever do anything right in this life, my children redeem me. Aaron announced that he wanted to join me in donating at our church’s blood drive. Watching him give blood for the first time I was the proudest mama on the planet, and I told him so on the way home. “There are a lot of things that define ‘adults,’” I said, “but giving part of yourself to save someone else, in my opinion, that’s what makes you a man.”
How could we possibly have a 2016 post without Eddie?! It’s not every day (thankfully!) that a pig wanders onto our property and mates with our electrical box. The sight, the videos we took and the twenty minutes I spent doubled over in my driveway howling at the absurdity of it all will never be forgotten. Eddie (short for Edison…get it?) made numerous trips to our yard over the next several days before the Sheriff’s office determined where Eddie lived and returned him to his home two streets behind us. Eddie’s owners must have fixed whatever passage he was using to escape, because we haven’t seen him since mid-September. I thought I smelled him the other day, but no. It’s just as well…every time Eddie visited, Pop started talking about bacon.
As we entered the month that kicks off the snowball of holiday celebrations of which I am SO fond, my body orchestrated its own small-scale revolution. I had just completed my Master’s degree, Charolette was holding her own, and my body said, “Ok, school is over and things have settled down for the moment. You need to rest.”
“Sure, I’ll take it easy now,” I promised with my fingers crossed behind my back.
My body apparently doesn’t like me lying to placate it, because lightning struck somewhere nearby, polar ice caps instantly disintegrated and Gotham City went dark. So, by “rest” what my body really meant was, “go to the ER and get admitted to the hospital for four days.” I complained that really, it didn’t need to be so pushy. But those who know me best gave each other sideways looks that said, “Uhh, yeah, it did.” And that was that.
Hospitals suck, but my family makes it as fun as possible. My Dad would determine my pain level and then draw it in on the nurse’s board each day. Three days and several rounds of pain meds later, I was apparently doing much better.
October ranks two photos, mostly because I feel cheated by the month in which I had planned to party-hardy-marty. At the end of the month while Dom and I were flying to DC to attend a conference, our babies (ahem!) were getting ready for Homecoming. We hated to miss it, but our moms made sure we had plenty of pics. I do believe this is my favorite.
Here are all the Louisiana Mainieros in a family pic after Thanksgiving lunch. Who could ask for a better day? And why am I the only one who brings wine to photo ops?
You know this one had to end on a Max note. Here he is on Christmas morning, having just opened his presents. He was fascinated with the unwrapping of everything, but more fascinated with this super-cool chew toy!
Of course, Mabel appreciates her gifts, too. Can’t leave out our sweet girl, so December also gets two photos…
So long, Sixteen. It’s been lovely having you here. May 2017 follow your lead. (Well, except for the hospitals…)
“The problem with adulthood,” I began my conversation with Victoria, “is that by the time you realize what you want to do, what you are good at, it’s often too late to go back for a do-over. Take this quantitative management class I’m in right now. I love it. It’s just straightforward mathematical statistics for the purpose of solving business problems, and it energizes me. I really like this stuff.” (Eye roll from the daughter.)
“I knew this, of course, back when I was in college, but I didn’t pursue the field. I met with one tiny obstacle and – meh – I moved on to an easier path. I was young and dumb and though I don’t have many regrets about my past – other than superficially wishing I could go back in time and give the young Lori a few Gibbs’ head-slaps – I regret not pushing through for the degree I wanted and a career that might have provided more material resources. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do now and I don’t believe material resources would serve me any better than the spiritual resources I have access to, but I often find myself wondering what it would be like if I had been ‘adult-enough’ to insist on more effort from myself at a younger age.
“And so that is what kicks me in the head as an adult – knowing that we cannot change the past, we can only direct the future. We can change what we do today for the benefit of tomorrow, and no more. But when you’re over the proverbial hill, and you see it all this clearly, and you know – absolutely know in your heart – that you could have done better, or more, or whatever with your energy and resources…all you really can do is let your children know the pitfalls. You want to make sure that your kids understand what mistakes not to make, what obstacles to push through.
“And that brings me to the fallacy of youth, in that when I was young and dumb – as so you shall be, too – I was not interested in older people’s advice of the pitfalls. I had my whole life ahead of me, and that’s all that I saw. My future was a blank page, and I was selecting the pen with which to write it. Don’t dare tell me what pen I should use; that’s my decision! And so, when we are young we make the easy choices, the fun choices, the choices that bring us pleasure, even if it is fleeting. It’s only when we are older that we think, what if??? What if I had chased that dream? What if I had studied harder? What if I had actually attended that Business Law class instead of deciding that Dominic might be hanging out in the student center and surely I HAD to be there too? But Business Law, while a really interesting class, at the time paled in comparison to the interest I held for my social life and your father’s whereabouts. (Cue head-slap). Surely I could have pursued your father after my work was done??? But, as I said, I can’t change the past. Our choices, our actions, make us who we are and I do love this life. What I can do now is hand you the information and hope that you choose to make good decisions. That’s the goal of every parent…to make sure our kids don’t have any regrets.”
Victoria seems to consider this for a moment, then says, “I watched this movie last night where this guy walked outside and got struck by lightning. For no reason at all! He just walked out, got struck by lightning, and died right there on the spot.”
Nobody listens to me.