Neil and I had some rough spots over the years. What marriage doesn’t? We tend to suppress those memories or gloss over them in time with a more favorable lens. Recently, I went to a concert that forced me to confront one of those memories.
Twenty some years ago, Neil and I planned to attend a concert at that particular lovely outdoor venue called Lime Kiln Theater. It’s made up of several different stages hewn out of ancient quarry rocks and man-made refreshment stands where you can buy beer or a glass of wine. The gates open early so people can bring picnics and relax under the stars before the show. I didn’t get off work that evening until 8 pm, so Neil suggested I meet him there. He got there at least an hour before me and started “relaxing.” He was very drunk by the time I arrived.
He slept in his seat through the whole first half of the concert. He snored forcefully once or twice, but a quick jab with my elbow took care of that. In the middle of the second set, he woke up and loudly announced that it was time to go. Embarrassed, I quietly shuffled along behind him, hunched over so I didn’t obstruct anyone’s view of the show. We left the audience area and had slowly climbed about half way up the path that leads to the parking lot, when Neil decided to take a nap. Yes, right there in the middle of the pine straw path, he laid down on his side, curled into a little ball with his face on a rock and told me, “Night night.”
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A baby is finally born after two days of labor as four grandparents anxiously await its arrival.
A bridal shower is celebrated with friends and family in joyful attendance, all the while knowing that in less than a month that bride will move to the other side of the country.
A student graduates from college and says goodbye to closest friends, ready to embrace the real world.
A marriage dissolves as the real world proves too difficult an obstacle.
A young driver totals a car while all involved tremble with gratitude at their safety.
All this in the span of a few days! And a mother prays, because she knows that’s all she can do. She puts all these people and situations in God’s hands.
This is life. Pain and joy happen in rapid succession, sometimes even together in the same situation. Continue reading →
It’s hard for a perfectionist to live with ‘good enough’ but it’s even harder for most people to live with a perfectionist. Neil and I had different ways of doing things. I always folded towels into trifolds; Neil folded them however they fit in the drawer. I washed the dishes right after dinner; Neil washed them before bed, or even worse, before breakfast. I can’t even count how many arguments we had about whether the toilet paper should unroll from the top or the bottom. It was hard for me to relinquish control of the household when I went to work, just as I am sure it was hard for Neil to always be under my watchful eye.
One night I came home after a long shift in the ER and crept upstairs to kiss the girls tonight. I saw a strange chunk of hair on the steps, but didn’t pay much attention to it. I set it on the handrail to throw away on my way back down. My two youngest daughters shared a bedroom back then, and both were sleeping soundly as I tiptoed in and blessed their foreheads. I checked my oldest and blessed her, too. All was peaceful and quiet as I went in to the bathroom, until I noticed what I thought was a mouse behind the standing towel rack. It turned out to be another chunk of hair. I didn’t scream loud enough to wake the girls but I did get Neil’s attention downstairs. Continue reading →
Neil loved water: oceans, lakes, pools, showers, hot tubs, steam rooms, he loved it all. And he enjoyed being in it in it, whether to swim, kayak, sail, float or simply sit in the sand feeling the tide wash over his toes. I enjoy looking at water, but I don’t need to touch it. I’m perfectly content to watch a waterfall from the path or feel the rhythm of the ocean from the shore. How you feel about water depends on your perspective.
My water hesitance is based on several things. First of all, water is often cold. I hate cold. Second, water is often deep. I can’t swim. Neil coached me for a while, but I couldn’t master it. I could probably float well enough to save myself or one of the kids in an emergency, but to swim for fun is beyond me. That brings me to the third reason I don’t go in water very often.
I was taking swimming lessons at our local park in the summer after third grade. I did fine until the day it was time to jump from the diving board. Continue reading →
When I went to bed on December 27, 1996, with Neil reading quietly in bed beside me, I had no idea that Jordan would be born the next day, or how much drama would be involved in her arrival. After struggling with preterm labor for two months, dealing with medicines, bedrest, and frequent doctor visits, I should have known things wouldn’t suddenly become easy.
Neil and I woke up leisurely to weather that promised to be unseasonable warm, and then sipped coffee in the living room, admiring our enormous Christmas tree. As I got up to refill our mugs, my water broke, and after the initial shock, it was a relief to know the time had really come to go to the hospital.
As we drove the hour to the medical center in Roanoke, the contractions started coming hard and strong. I distracted myself by singing along with the radio. When Celine Dion’s powerful voice noted, “It’s all coming back to me now,” I belted the words loudly right along with her, thinking it was ironic that I had forgotten until then how painful labor really was. Continue reading →
The smaller of my two cats is Kitty Girl. She appeared on our fenced-in patio shortly after sunrise one hot summer morning. I was awake early that day, sipping coffee at the picnic table, and saw a flash of black and white inside the flower box. At first I panicked, thinking it was a skunk. I studied it for a minute, and deciding it was too small to cause much damage, went over to investigate. Peering into the box, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing. It was a tiny blob of coarse dirty fur, and when I reached out to poke it I heard an almost imperceptible meow. Within a few seconds, the ugliest kitten I’d ever seen unrolled itself and looked at me with a combination of curiosity and desperation. Fleas hopped all over her, and yellow green drainage from her swollen eyes matted her face. I brought her inside, cleaned her up, treated her eyes, and fell in love with the perky, petite cat I call Kitty Girl.
Fast forward 13 years. Kitty Girl is no longer an ugly duckling. She is a dainty, lively, sweet cat who loves adventure and has used up at least six of her nine lives with exploits.
Once she wandered about a quarter mile away and climbed a tree. She was stuck there for three days and we were resigned to the idea that she died. Unwilling to accept that, Jackie and a search party of eight-year-old friends set out to find her. Continue reading →
My last post was about answered prayer. But what about the times when God doesn’t answer my prayers? There are lots of those, and I’m often jealous when I hear other’s miracle stories. “The cancer just disappeared!” or “I am so blessed; God gave me just what I hoped for!”
The Gospels often mention God’s desire to answer our prayers. Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). In Matthew 7:7, he says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and the door will be opened to you.” In Luke, we read about the widow who nagged the judge so much he finally found in her favor so she would leave him alone. Jesus tells us God will not be slow to answer those who cry out to him.
So what am I missing here? Why are some people miraculously cured and others not? Is it because they are somehow more worthy or because God loves them more than others? Did I not pray hard enough for Neil to be cured? Was I not persistent in my prayer? Those questions lead me to feel guilty, believing that if I said one more prayer or did one more good deed Neil would have survived. Continue reading →
Shots fired. That was the message on my cell phone at 3:30 in the morning from the instant alert program at my daughter’s college. As I forced my eyes to focus on the little screen, the next message came: three people injured; police on scene. It gave the address of the incident, too, and it was the corner by my daughter’s apartment building. Now I was wide awake. I read the update again, and quickly called my daughter. She didn’t answer, which wasn’t unusual, so I sent a text. I waited a few minutes, and still got no answer. I said a fervent prayer for her safety, and then a miracle happened: I went back to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning there was a message from my daughter reporting she was fine and that she hadn’t even seen my text until she woke up to go to the bathroom. She hadn’t heard any police sirens or shots during the night and her roommates were also home safe. I couldn’t decide whether to be proud of myself for going back to sleep or ashamed.
Then the negative self-talk started. What kind a person goes back to sleep after a message like that? Who doesn’t get up and pace the floor worried sick about their child? Continue reading →
After several weeks of enjoyable but hectic travel, I looked forward to a relaxing weekend at home. There was nothing I absolutely had to do except go to church. Oh, and maybe get some groceries, since the cupboards contained only some nuts and a few boxes of Fiber One. Come to think of it, I hadn’t done any laundry in a while either…
Before long, the blank page of my weekend was completely covered by my to-do list. Then a friend called and we talked about going to the movies. I was torn. I wanted to see her but I really needed to clean those toilets. Another friend texted to remind me about the exercise class I promised to attend. Sure, exercise was important, but my kitchen was messy enough I feared cockroaches might move in. And the litter box – don’t even think about skipping that! – I reprimanded myself. Continue reading →
The box was heavy and I dragged it awkwardly as my mother offered to help. Determined and stubborn I answered, “No, I can do it all by myself!”
Do you think this childish scene happened when I was a whiney 5 year-old? Or maybe when I was a petulant teenager? No, this incident happened just two weeks ago! A grown woman with an immature need to be independent and self-reliant, this is not a new story for me.
For example, a year or two before Neil died we had an argument and refused to speak to each other for several days. During that time I bought a new treadmill, and after the three delivery men plopped the monstrous box in the middle of the living room, I set out to unpack it and put it together. Continue reading →