Friday, April 20, 2012

Keep on the Sunny Side

In the past ten years, I've lost a number of people to cancer or have had friends lose family to cancer. I've had friends diagnosed with and beat cancer. I have friends who are still struggling from the effects that cancer has wrought. Shoot, I found out just this last week that a friend is undergoing chemo. Everyone and their mother knows that cancer sucks. It takes away dreams. It takes away family. It does nothing by weave a path of destruction. However, anytime I hear someone talking about cancer I always think about my Uncle Richard.

Richard is Daddy's youngest brother. He was still in elementary school when his dad (my granddaddy) died from cancer (he was 45, if you're wondering). When I was born, Richard was probably about fifteen or sixteen. I remember we all even called him Baby Richard. He was the baby after all. And he was awfully spoiled. Everyone in the family pretty much took care of him. I also remember when Richard got married my mother sat all the nieces and nephews down and told us that we had to stop calling him Baby Richard because he was a grown-up now.

But being a grown-up hit him like a ton of bricks. First, he was shot. Through the head. Accidentally. Amazingly, the bullet went right through his mouth and just took out some teeth. No real damage, you know, other than having to have some false teeth put in and having some wounds that had to heal. He dodged that bullet, so to speak, but the next one that came for him, well, he wasn't so lucky. In his late twenties, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I think it goes without saying, that we all know what kind of surgery is done for testicular cancer. A couple of years later, he was once again diagnosed with cancer. But this time it was lung cancer. He went through the chemo. All of his hair fell out. He lost lots of weight. My 6 foot 5 inch, almost 300 lb. uncle became my skinny uncle. The man who could still pick me up and hold me upside down by my feet when I was in high school, became weak and frail. It wasn't pretty. He came through the chemo pretty well, and was pronounced in remission. And then a couple of years later, he was once again diagnosed with testicular cancer. Another surgery later...and we thought he was finally in the clear.

But then, more bad news. About five or six years ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. About two years into the treatments, he lost his job because he had pretty much maxed out his health benefits and was costing his employer more money than he was making them. He is in remission now, thanks to taking chemo orally pretty much every day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Family Matters

Every once in a while, you meet a person who you just make you think, "wow, I wish she were my sister or he were my brother." I had that happen with a couple that attends my church. Brent and Kathy popped into my life probably about three years's hard to say now as the years seem to all be running together. We met at church group pool party. Two of their three children were there with them. I guess you can say I was friends with their 4 year old son, MC, first. He took to me right away, kissing me firmly on the lips upon my saying hello to him. MM was probably a couple of months old, chilling out in her carrier, not paying me a bit of attention. This would change as she got older... she's definitely my buddy now.

But what makes this family so special to me? Well, when I met them, I was pretty much in the depths of despair over my marriage. I knew it wasn't going to work and I was in that stuck point between wanting to get out and not knowing how I could. Plus, at this point, my self-esteem had eroded to the point that I just didn't think anyone could love me. Brent and Kathy just seemed to have it all together. They were, and still are, very loving towards each other without being icky. They are like a comedy duo, always cracking me up. Of course, they aren't perfect, no one is, but watching them helped me to see what a marriage should look like. They both give to one another and work together and make compromises and just love each other. Oh, and they are the most incredible parents I've ever met in my life.

You see, MC, is blind. He has been blind since he was born. Hopefully some day there will be some sort of medical discovery and he'll be able to see again. But until then...blind. And if Brent and Kathy are the siblings of my heart, MC is the child of my heart. I haven't had a child of my own yet, but I already know that you just don't know what love is until you've been loved by a child. And goodness has MC loved me. Pretty much every since I met the family, I have sat with them in church so that MC could snuggle with me. He just plops down in my lap and hugs on me until it's time to go to Children's Church. Most Sundays, I would go to lunch after church with them so that MC could spend even more time with me. If there were a couple of Sundays that we didn't get to see each other, we would meet for dinner during the week so that MC could have some "Miss Amy Time". For the first couple of years until my immune system built up, anytime MC was sick, I was too. Mainly because when he talked to me, he would put his face right against mine. And secondly, because I'm a frail flower who gets sick very easily. Despite the runny noses, what MC did most for me was patch up my broken heart. Because you know what will heal a hurting heart more than anything? Being loved by someone who doesn't expect anything from you. And being loved by someone who loves you completely unconditionally.

As an aside, I do love their daughters just as much. Their oldest daughter C, just started college, and she is one of the most delightful teenagers I've ever been around. And of course MM, she's almost three now. She is my funny girl, always running out of the nursery so she can come see me. She even looks like me. Brent and Kathy tease that she's really my child. We both have similar facial expressions and we can both roll our tongues, unlike the rest of the family. They are all three great kids and I'm blessed to know them.

Oh, and what I was saying about their being the best parents ever...despite the fact that they have a child who needs them more than the other two, they have somehow been able to structure their life so that their two sighted children aren't slighted. They have to spend lots of time with MC, either going to a center for visually impaired people every week, or taking special swimming lessons, or helping him do things that their other children can do on their own like navigate around their home. However, they have somehow been able to structure their lives so that their daughters get an equal amount of time with them. I don't think either of their girls will ever wind up in therapy saying that their parents loved their brother more than them. I've watched them for three years now, and honestly I don't know how they do it. Jeremy has been around them too and even he is astounded at how they manage their family. I just hope some day, when I become a parent, that I will be half as good a parent as Brent and Kathy are.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peaceful, Easy Feeling

Peaceful, easy feeling...yeah, that's not something that can frequently be used to describe my state of being. I'm kind of always ramped up, wringing my hands, worrying. Jeremy is wont to admonish me that I worry too much. My worrying nature comes partly from genetics, as I come from a long line of worriers, and partly from the fact that I'm the firstborn, the high achiever, the one who has to be in control. Being in control is good and all, but there sure is a lot of pressure to keep all the balls in the air at one time.

On top of worrying about anything and everything, I also probably put too much pressure on myself to take on projects and to do things. If you don't count the Peachtree In-Training (it's a 10K training program), I have the next five weekends booked. If you do count the training, I have the next twelve weekends booked. On top of all the stuff I'm doing outside my home (board meetings, volunteering, family,church, etc), I also have my chickens (that I still love) and I've gotten almost everything together to get my garden going. I have peppers and tomatoes in seedling cups in the house. But I only just started them last weekend, so I'm overly anxious that I've started too late and they aren't going to grow and I basically stand over the seedling cups every day just willing them to sprout. Jeremy's cousin was nice enough to give me some seedlings that have already sprouted, so I have a backup plan. Last night, I told Jeremy that we needed to bring them in the house because it was supposed to get down in the 30s overnight. He brought them in and asked if I'd been watering them. I hadn't been watering them...and one of those balls I was juggling dropped. Days earlier, another one of the balls dropped when I came home to be told that I'd forgotten to water the chickens and they'd gone a day without water and therefore didn't lay any eggs.

Last night as I was trying to go to sleep, I was just too anxious to sleep. I tossed and turned a little bit, and finally I said to Jeremy, "I'm not happy with myself. I'm failing at everything. I'm not taking care of things". He told me that I was in fact doing a great job and that I wasn't failing. I laid there a little longer, and I don't know if he prayed for me or if he was just sending me some good vibes, but I did start feeling a little better. A little more peaceful. Which was really kind of awesome. And made me feel a lot more thankful than I had being. I was thankful that I had someone that I could be honest with about my feelings and that I could lean on for support. And I was thankful that he was so willing to give me a good word. He could have scolded me for trying to do too much or for failing to do what I was supposed to be doing. But he didn't, he just encouraged me. And then I had a peaceful, easy feeling, at least long enough to fall asleep.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Superstition in the South

I have lived firmly ensconced in the Bible Belt my entire life. I grew up in Alabama and now live in Georgia. There are churches on pretty much every street corner down here. And we're not picky at all. We have Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, LDS, the list goes on and on. But after this past weekend's trip to Savannah, GA, I got to thinking, "if we're so darn religious in the South, why are we also so very superstitious?"

The whole thought process began when my friend M and I were heading back to the hotel after a night of people watching and she said "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" when the clock struck 12. As an aside, this is a British superstition that is supposed to bring you good luck for the month as long as it's the first thing you say on the first day of the month. M and I really got to talking about the roles of superstition in our Southern culture the next day when we took a tour of Downtown Savannah and the tour guide pointed out some of the superstitions of the folks there. For instance, a good number of the houses have a Mahi fish downspout. I was only kind of listening to the reasoning, but it has something to do with keeping out bad spirits.

It seems like most of the superstitions I have ever heard of, have been passed down by women. My mother is one of the most churched people I know. She's been in church every Sunday morning and night and Wednesday night for her entire life. But she is also one of the more superstitious people I know as well. My grandmother was the same way, and I guess she rubbed off on my mom.

Here are examples of some of the ones I notice the most:

  •  - If a cat crosses the street in front of my mom, she makes seven "x's" on her windshield. 
  •  - She does not wash clothes on the first day of the year. And since I've moved out of the house, she  calls me every year to remind me to not wash clothes. Apparently, if you wash clothes on the first day of the year, you will wash the clothes of a loved one who has died before the year is over.
  •  - She must eat black-eyed peas, collard greens, and ham on the first day of the year. This is pretty much considered a Southern tradition at this point, but let's be honest, this is straight up superstition. 
  •  - She will not sweep or vacuum under anyone's feet. So, if she's sweeping, she'll make you get up as opposed to making you raise your feet so she can sweep under you. I'm pretty sure this one is because if someone sweeps under your feet, they are sweeping away your chance at true love.

As much as I try to not succumb to superstition, I most certainly do not wash clothes on the first day of the year. And I do eat black-eyed peas, collards, and ham on January 1. But, my question to myself is always "why, if you trust in a sovereign God, do you let these rituals influence you so much?" It doesn't make sense does it? How is it that I trust so much in these superstitious acts to keep someone from dying or to bring me money in the new year? 

So what about you? Have you ever had this struggle? Are there any rituals that your family does that you can't make yourself not do despite the fact that you know they are unnecessary?

Mahi fish downspout