Monday, February 28, 2011

Day Twenty-Two: Needs Improvement

When I was in elementary school, teachers graded us not only on math, spelling, science, but also on behavior, participation, and other required skills.  Our report cards would consist of numerical or alphabetical grades as well as a ranking of "S", "N" or "U."   For those of you unfamiliar with this system (though I'm sure you can figure it out), "S" stands for "Satisfactory," the desired letter students wanted to take home for their parents to display on the fridge.  Now that I think about it, why on Earth would the highest mark be satisfactory?  Way to set the bar low.  "N" stands for "Needs Improvement," which didn't mark the end of the world since it was still better than the dreaded "U."  If you haven't caught on yet--perhaps it's been a long day--"U" stands for "Unsatisfactory."  And while "unsatisfactory" doesn't sound like the absolute worst assessment a child could receive of his or her skills, a "U" translated to GROUNDED at my house. 
Needless to say, I rarely received a "U" on my report cards.  If I remember correctly, the rare times I did receive the evil vowel, it was in the "talking without permission" department.  Big surprise there, huh?  I did receive my fair share of "N's" however, mostly in behavior.  Sometimes, though, I would earn an "N" in another area, perhaps a skill I was expected to master.  When I received an "N" in these areas, it would motivate me to work harder and bring it up to an "S."  I've never been one to stress about being the best, but I've always made it a point to be better.  This is an attribute that I have carried into my adult life as well. 

I say all of that to introduce today's challenge:  something at which I wish I were better (actually that's not even CLOSE to the phrasing on the challenge page, but I refuse to end a sentence in a preposition and I'm anal about subjunctive mood).   This blog could seriously stretch on for daaaaaaaays.  For the sake of time--both mine and yours, kind reader--I'm going to limit myself to one thing.  Okay, two.  And a half.  No, no, one

Before I started this challenge, I decided I'd like to be a better writer.  I know I'm not the absolute worst writer in the world or no one would take the few minutes out of their day to even read my little blog.  I could be so much better, though, if I would take the time to not only write more but to also read more.  I felt kind of selfish in choosing writing, however, since it would only benefit me--unless, that is, someone paid me gobs of money to write. 

So I decided to choose something else in which I could improve.  What about being a mother?  No sane person wants to do things that's going to screw their kid up; in fact, most of us want to nurture our children in a way that encourages them to be bright, well-rounded people some day.  Even those women who are shoo-ins for "Mom of the Decade" don't get it right all the time, so there's always room to improve and be a better parent.  But being a better mother is something that I constantly try to achieve anyway, so I have to believe that I am already improving in this area of my life. 

As I spun around in my office chair, trying to decide on the area of my life that (A) needs improvement, (B) would benefit someone else and (C) I'm not currently trying to improve, I couldn't help but notice the dirty dishes beside the sink, the garbage overflowing from the can, the thin layer of dog hair on the floor and the pile of laundry I've neglected for days weeks.  My house is not in danger of being condemned and a hazmat suit isn't required to use my bathroom, but I could definitely do a better job keeping things clean and tidy.

Now this is an area in which I've received frequent advice since I've become a stay-at-home mom.  Anytime I make a remark in the real world or in Facebook-land about dirty laundry or unswept floors, I get bombarded with comments about how I need to ignore the housework and spend time with my daughter because she'll practically be starting college next week.  And while I know they mean well and actually do agree with them to a point, I can't just spend every waking minute holding and playing with my daughter. 


Don't get me wrong.  I have never (and will never) set my child in her Pack-N-Play while I cleaned all day.  She is the biggest part of my every waking minute.  I would much rather sit in the floor and play with her or read her a book than fold towels or scrub the toilets.  When she's awake, I spend a good 95% of my time with her.  It's when she's asleep or those times when she's totally absorbed in one of her little toys that I don't make the best use of my time.  Sometimes I just need to totally veg--like when she's been super fussy or when she woke me up four times the night before.  But sometimes I waste time that I could be working around the house.  I play on Facebook (shocker!) or watch TV or read a magazine.  I really feel like I should spend that time more wisely and clean.  Though being a mom is so much more than a job, I feel like this is my job since I don't work outside of the home anymore.  Instead of preparing lessons, teaching class and grading papers, I now raise my child and make my house a home.  This is something I've never been able to do in the past since I stayed so busy with my teaching responsibilities.  Perhaps that's why I've found it difficult to consistently fulfill my new responsibilities. 

I'm sure some of you SAH moms would totally like to choke me right now.  You're hoping that your spouse never stumbles across my blog.  What kind of person wants to clean more?  Please understand, I don't want to clean.  That's the problem. I want to want to clean.  Fortunately, the less I do, the worse I feel.  I feel like a total slacker sometimes, telling myself, "Your family deserves a clean home."   And if there's one thing that motivates me, it's guilt. 

A couple of months ago, Esquire ran an interview with George and Barbara Bush in which Mrs. Bush said,

I think you ought to treat your spouse like you treat your friends. You clean your house for your friends, you make sure they're taken care of, and a spouse comes second. I think you oughtta treat him like a friend.
I literally had to set the magazine down and chew on that quote for a few minutes.  How many times have I spent hours and hours scrubbing the house in preparation for a party or get-together?  How often do I do the "cleaning tornado" around my kitchen and living room when a friend texts to say she's dropping by.  Why will I break my back for everyone but my husband?  Though I say he's my best friend, in many ways I don't treat him with the same respect I do other people.  Go ahead, accuse me of setting back the feminist movement a few hundred years, but I dare you to argue with Mrs. Bush's logic.  She's not implying that we should be in servitude to our husbands or anything of the sort.  But why should I be so concerned about cleaning my home for someone who will be there for a few hours yet neglect my responsibilities when it comes to the person who lives there each day?  (NOTE:  For you working moms, this isn't directed so much toward you.  You all deserve a maid.) 

I wish I were better at keeping house.  I want having a clean, orderly home to be important enough that I log off of Facebook and turn off the television.  I want to give both my husband and my daughter a home that they can be proud of, a place of rest.   The wonderful thing is that this is something I can do.   It's not just wishful thinking or something over which I have no control.  I have the ability to be a great mother and keep my house clean.  I only have to use my time wisely and stay motivated.  Though my friends are so very important to me, my sweet little family deserves to come first. 

Let the hate mail begin...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Pictures of Peanut

We had Amelia's six-month photo shoot today with Elizabeth Wiggs.  If you live anywhere remotely near Memphis, I suggest that you check her out.  Not only does she take the most beautiful pictures, she made the entire experience so enjoyable for us and our little Peanut.  We received our preview tonight and cannot wait  to see our full portfolio.  Thank you, Elizabeth for a WONDERFUL afternoon and for making our beautiful baby girl look even more beautiful!  Click on the link below for a better view of the pictures and for more information about this talented lady: 







Day Twenty-One: Elective Amnesia

29.5 hours.  That's how long this particular blog has been in progress.  I've said before that there wasn't really anything challenging about the "30-Day Challenge" but perhaps I was wrong.  I honestly don't know if I will finish this blog--at least not if I actually write about the topic.  I've stopped and started so many times that I'm fairly certain I've rendered the entire thing incoherent.  Read on if you'd like, but as usual, you're free to employ the little red "X" of death if so inclined. 



I have been blessed that my life has been more good than bad, more happy than sad (it seems I've also been blessed with the ability to inadvertently make rhymes).  My life isn't always easy, but I really can't complain, especially since so many of the difficult times were pretty much self inflicted.  I've always been of the opinion that everything I do and especially those things done to me has made me who I am. Change one thing or forget one lesson learned, and my entire life could be drastically different.  So when I read the challenge for Day 21, I honestly drew a blank. 
What is the one thing you wish you could forget? 
The more I thought about it, the more I realize how blessed I have been.  I know people who have been through hell and back, who have suffered, who have witnessed or been subjected to unspeakable, unforgivable acts.  I can't even start to comprehend how they pick up the pieces of their broken hearts and broken lives and go on living in a world who just can't relate to them anymore on so many levels.  When I think back, there just isn't anything in my life that has affected me so profoundly that I would pray for it to be wiped from my memory.  Yes, there has been pain, but I know that I grew from that pain, I learned from that pain.  It made me stronger and wiser and it helped me become the woman I am now.  I'm not saying that I'm someone to be held in great esteem, but anyone who's known me over the years has to admit that I've grown. 

So I'm left with a sea of white to fill with a memory that doesn't really exist.  There was one instance that crossed my mind, something that I do not dwell on but that creeps up on me at my most insecure times.  I pondered that memory for awhile and came to the conclusion that even it does not qualify for total erasure (and to be perfectly honest, it is a part of my life that I will never discuss in this blog). 

I tried to think of a different approach to this blog, perhaps something witty or funny.  But instead I keep finding myself leaning back in my chair, closing my eyes, and silently thanking God that He kept his hand on me all these years.  From a small, helpless child to a rebellious, lost young adult and everything in between and since, I have been blessed with protection.   So I am stepping back from the keyboard and accepting that this time I cannot meet the challenge.  Normally that would bother me, but this time I'm perfectly okay with it. 

Saying a prayer for the desperate hearts tonight.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day Twenty: Where in the World?

I fully intended to have this up before day's end, but it didn't happen.  Better some time than no time, right?  Day 20 of the "30-Day Photo Challenge" asks me to post a picture of somewhere I'd love to travel.  I tried to narrow it down to one place, but I just can't.   With so many places throughout the world that I'd like to see in person, it's impossible to choose just one.  I've narrowed it down to four specific places and one "anywhere that looks like this" place.  These are in no particular order since I want to visit each location for different reasons, and there's no way to rank which would be my favorite without going there first.  I won't list everything I'd like to see in each place since that could take hours.  Just want to share the main reason(s) and a couple of pictures. 

So away we go.  Well, not really.  More like "away I dream."

Greece
 
I have always been fascinated with Greek history, art, architecture, mythology and literature. There is also something almost spiritual to me to stand in a place where so many have stood before me. Just Google the word "Greece" and click on images. Scroll down and drool at all the blue. It's breathtaking.












China

As interesting as I'm sure I would find Chinese culture, I really wish to go there for one reason: I want to hug a baby panda.  I know that may seem silly, but I am totally nuts about pandas.  Several years ago, I came home to a surprise my husband had recorded on the DVR:  a special about the "panda nursery" at the Wolong Reserve in the Sichuan province.  The documentary was all about the panda breeding program at the reserve and how successful it has been in birthing baby pandas.  It just turned my panda obsession up about 300%.  I Googled the reserve for more information and discovered that visitors could pay to be a "panda keeper" for the day, including a visit to the baby pandas.  I made John promise that someday he would take me to China so that I could hug a baby panda.  Unfortunately, the Wolong Reserve was devastated in the 2008 earthquake that struck China.  The pandas were moved to another location and to my knowledge aren't currently open to the public.   However, there is a panda research center in Chengdu that for $145 dollars gives visitors five minutes with a baby panda to cuddle and take pictures.  I know some people want to see the Eiffel Tower; I just want to hug a panda. 

Africa

There are so many places in Africa I'd love to visit, but between the wars, violent crimes, health risks, and everything else going on, it just seems like such a risk.  Everything I read about locations that are safer mentions a bordering country where there is constant violence.  I've always wanted to take a trip to Africa with a humanitarian group, but now that I'm a  mom, I just feel like I need to be more cautious so that I can be around to watch her grow up.  I would still like to go to Madagascar, though.  From what I've read

Baby indri

 it's relatively safe (as long as you don't bother the stray dogs).  I'm fascinated by all the animals and plants that are indigenous only to Madagascar, especially since some of them are rather bizarre.  I have a feeling that the time will come when so many of them will cease to exist except maybe in zoos since we humans have a knack for destroying all things natural.

Italy

Vatican City at Night

The Coliseum
If I were ranking these, Italy would probably be at the top of my list as far as general places I'd like to visit.  If they had pandas, I might just move there.  And while I'd like to tour all of Italy, eating and drinking as many calories as possible, I'd especially like to visit Rome.  As with Greece, I'm fascinated by the history, literature, art, architecture, and so on, possibly because there are so many similarities.   There is a reason so many movies and television shows are set during ancient Roman times (and I watch them ALL).  I've spent quite a bit of time researching a a possible trip to Rome and I can't imagine being a "whirlwind" tour that only gave me a few hours or even couple of days there.  I want to see the Roman ruins,visit Bioparco (I'm a serious "zoobie"), visit Vatican City (and as many other churches outside the walls as I can squeeze in since I love church architecture), tour as many museums as possible, and about a million other things. 
Basilica di San Clemente

Another place in Italy that I recently decided I'd like to visit is the ruins at Pompeii.  Discovery recently aired a documentary about the last day in Pompeii and all of the discoveries made there by archaeologists.  So much of the town was almost perfectly preserved (including the bodies of  some of the victims which is totally freaky).  So much has been learned about the culture and art of the time through discoveries at Pompeii.  I would  love to see it all for myself.  









Anywhere that has water like this

I honestly don't care where I go to find this water.  Just once, I want to swim in clear, cool, beautiful ocean water like this.  Just looking at it makes me feel more tranquil and refreshed. 





All of this traveling in my mind has made me tired, so I'm off to visit one of my favorite places in the world--my bed. 

Goodnight all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day Nineteen: An Open Letter

Since I was too busy playing meteorologist yesterday, I didn't get a chance to write this blog.  Even with the extra time, however, I'm still having trouble choosing a subject for my letter.  The challege is to post a picture and a letter.  I debated just posting the following:

Dear Tornadoes,

You suck.  Go to hell. 

Love,

Amber


Since I'm not one for taking the easy way out, though, that was simply out of the question.  When I went to bed last night, I thought about this challenge and kept coming back to the same person.  I decided I'm just not ready to write that letter yet.  I'm still in the tiniest bit of denial and to be honest, I don't feel like ripping my own heart out of my chest.  The one other person I considered (and boy would it be a great blog) would hate me forever and it would cause all sorts of problems in the family, so that one's out, too. 

So now I have Day 20 breathing down my neck and a squirmy baby in my lap, and I STILL don't really know to whom I'm writing this letter for Day 19.  Therefore, I'm going to write "Dear" in the space below and stare at it until I think of somebody.

Dear...

(approximately 20 minutes and one diaper change later)

Wait a dang minute!  I don't have to write a letter.  It can be a letter that already exists!  I can scan it in and post it and kill the proverbial two birds with one stone!  But which letter?  One someone has written to me?  One I've written to John (since he's such a sweetheart and keeps them all)?  Then I remembered the notebook I kept in the months leading up to our wedding.  I started it when I was living at my parents for the summer and he was living at his mom's over an hour away (and working in a DIFFERENT town an hour from both of us).  After spending so much time together when we were at the university, it was hard to be apart.  I got a little notebook and started writing him.  Even after we both moved to Memphis, I continued writing to him.  Ten days after we married, our country was attacked.  I wrote page after page those next few days as I watched so many people grieving and thought about my own new marriage and how much it meant to me.  Though I'd thought I would give him the notebook on our first anniversary, my last entry was September 13th.  I remember thinking, "He should have this now in case I don't get another chance."  I know it's morbid, but if you're old enough to truly remember and understand that awful day, you will understand my mindset.

I went to the box where John keeps my letters, cards and other mementos from our relationship (including the notes from the art papers I helped him write when we were dating!), and I found the notebook.  As I read through the letters, I began to wonder if my idea was such a good one.  Everything was either way too personal or just plain silly (and also loooong since--as you've learned--I am long-winded in so many ways).  I had just finished reading the one I wrote the night before our wedding and laughing at how giddy I was when I turned to page to a very short letter.  Though our wedding day had been one of the busiest days of my life, at some point I had stopped and written in the notebook.  I can't remember exactly the moment, but I have a sneaking suspicion it was while I was peeing. 

I read through the little note and my eyes got a little damp when I realized I still feel the same way. 

This September we will celebrate our 10th anniversary.  This is a bit premature, but in honor of that day, I want to share what was on my heart the day I gave it away.  Yes, it's mushy and part of me hesitates to share it with the whole wide world, but why shouldn't people know how much I love my husband?


So there is my letter and my picture, all wrapped up in one.  I guess I did cut a few corners, but it's time to feed the Peanut, so the timing couldn't be better. 

Now on to Day 20.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day Eighteen: Painful Pettiness

Before the "30-Day Challenge," I considered writing about today's topic--insecurity.  I decided against it, however, since I try to avoid using my blog as a pity party.  My challenge today is to post a picture of my biggest insecurity; the true challenge will be to write without coming across as whiny or pathetic. I'm afraid this is going to be the most predictable, clich├ęd piece of twaddle I've ever produced. So if this blog becomes too annoying, feel free to click that little red "X" in the top right-hand corner and come back to visit tomorrow.  I will totally understand. 

(deep breath)

I have always been insecure about the way I look. 

(exhale)

I know this has been done to death and I honestly wish I had something better to write about, but I'm a fairly confident person in all other aspects of my life.  It's just this.  one.  thing.

Looking back, I realize now that my insecurities as a child and even a teenager were completely ridiculous.  In fact, the things I should have been more insecure about (my clothes, my teeth, my gait), I ignored and instead focused on being too tall, which I interpreted as "too big."  I look back at pictures of myself as a high school senior and remember thinking I was a blob.  In actuality, I was 5'10" and 128 pounds with size C boobs.  

I was basically her size with larger chesticles:

Unlike Miss Swift, though, my weight was distributed a bit differently.  I had a bit more of an hourglass shape--a shape I keep hearing is a good thing.  I couldn't see it, though. The weight I did carry was in my hips and butt, so those were the only parts of my body I focused on.  I was so self-conscious that my parents never had to worry about me dressing slutty.  In an attempt to hide my body, I wore the Western (teenage) equivalent of a burka; my mumu was a closet full of blue jeans and baggy t-shirts or sweatshirts. 

When I went to college, I initially gained the "freshman fifteen" (minus five) but eventually lost it with the help the Spinikers and Barleys diet.  Turns out dancing until 2 AM with your buddies three or four nights a week is great exercise.  It was the one time in my life I felt more confident about my body.  I still thought I was too large, but I got enough compliments about my big boobs and long legs that I felt a little better about myself and would even venture out in the occasional halter top or belly shirt.   (Note:  Seeing that admission in writing makes me feel like a total loser.)

After college I got married, and like so many new brides, I began gaining weight.  Since then I've been up and down the scale.  Two years ago, I went to a weight loss clinic and got a prescription for phentermine.  Over a three-month period, I lost around 19 pounds.  I felt better than I'd felt in a long time, both physically and mentally.  Though I still wasn't at my "ideal" weight (does that really exist?), I dropped two sizes and people noticed.  It felt good.

Then we decided to have a baby. 

Four months after we started trying, I was pregnant.  For the first six or seven months, I maintained a healthy weight.  I was so proud of myself.  When people would tell me, "Eat whatever you want!  You're pregnant," I would smile and mentally pat myself on the back for using self-control.  Then I hit 34 weeks and everything changed.  I was hungry all the time and food tasted so good.  I found myself eating more and more.  The last four weeks of my pregnancy, I ate more food than I've ever eaten in my life.  I couldn't stop.   I honestly don't know how much I weighed because I eventually stopped looking at the scales at the doctor's office. 

I didn't realize how big I'd become in other places besides my belly until I got home from the hospital after the birth.  One of the first things I did was take a real shower since the shower at the hospital was a glorified water hose.  After my shower, I got out and stood in front of the mirror to evaluate the damage.  From the front and side, I was pleasantly surprised.  I was blessed with good genes in the elasticity department, so I don't have any stretch marks.  My stomach still stuck out a little, but it was actually flatter than it had been at my largest pre-pregnancy weight.  I was feeling pretty good until I turned around and OH MY LORD WHAT IS THAT THING!?!?!?  I was convinced there was another baby in my ass and possibly one in each thigh.  That was the only explanation.  How had I gained so much weight in my rear end and hips without knowing it?  Having a uterus full of baby tends to dwarf your other body parts.  When I had looked in the mirror during my pregnancy, all I saw was belly. 

Now I'm six months out and struggling to get the weight off.  I have never been so unhappy with myself physically.  I've had so many people tell me, "It's worth it because you got your baby."  I get what they're saying, but having a child should not be an excuse for being overweight and miserable.  I've always envied thin women, but when I see women who have three kids and size two pants, it makes me want to become a hermit.  And it never fails that on days I take the extra time to dress nice (in what few clothes I have that fit me) and feel better about myself, someone takes my picture and I'm reminded of how much bigger I am.  I look back at pictures from ten years ago and wonder, "Why on earth did I not like my body?"  Current me would like to travel back in time and give old me a good shaking (then I'd visit last year's me and duct tape my mouth closed).

I said earlier that I avoided this topic in the past because I didn't want to have a pity party.  I don't write this in an attempt to have someone tell me, "You look fine."  I don't want or need that kind of encouragement.  I don't want to feel better about how I look right now because I'm not at a healthy weight.  Not only is this having an effect on me emotionally, it's also affecting the way I feel physically on a day to day basis.  I struggle with completing tasks that weren't a problem for me previously.  I need to lose the rest of my baby weight plus what I've gained since then (which in my defense isn't totally my fault but that's a different story).   So instead of misguided encouragement, I beg you to hold me accountable.  Don't try to console me with obligatory compliments; pester the crap out of me about what I'm eating (or not eating) and how much exercise I'm getting.  Hell, feel free to call me "dumpybutt" or "Princess Pudgles"" if you're so inclined.  It's time to get ruthless, folks.  I know I'm not ever going to look like I did at 18.  I may not even look like I did at 28!  But I need to be healthy, for me and for my family.  I want to set a good example for my daughter.  And I want to stop showering in the dark.

I'm supposed to post a picture, but I'll be damned if I'm going to attach a picture of myself right now.  Instead, I'm going to post a picture that represents how I feel right now and hope that it gives you a little better insight into my feelings of insecurity.  I also hope it makes you snort laugh.






Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day Seventeen: Deep Impact

I'm hoping to get this posted by 10 PM tonight, but as upset as my little one has been tonight, she could wake up at any moment.  Between teething and her pulverized pinky toes, she was pretty miserable tonight.  I finally got her to sleep, but she only took three ounces of formula, so I know she'll be hungry before long. 

Today's challenge is to post a picture of something that has made a huge impact in my life recently.  I've been doing my best to have a variety of topics despite the fact that I could answer each day's challenge with two or three people.  But when I think about things that have impacted my life in the past year or so, there is nothing that even comes close to the day I gave birth to my daughter.  So I've decided to recycle my blog from August 20th of last year.  Since many of you hadn't joined BWC back then, it will be a new blog for you.  For those of you who've already read it, I apologize for recycling.  I'll have something new and shiny for you tomorrow.


"A Baby Story" (from August 20, 2010)

I've had so many people as me about my labor and delivery that I feel I can tell the story in my sleep. I never realized when I declared my desire to have a natural birth that so many people would take an interest in whether or not my birth plan became a reality. To be honest, there's parts of the day that are a bit fuzzy, but here's what I remember, starting on Monday, August 2nd. It's going to be long because I'm doing this for myself, too, as a way to document Amelia's arrival for myself. Some of this may also be a little more information than some of you want to read, so be warned.


I had been sick most of the weekend with some sort of bug that turned my stomach into a nuclear reactor. About 4:30 that morning, I got up and soaked in the tub. Once I got out, I threw up (again) and then crawled into the recliner to eat some crackers and watch CNN. Around 5:30 or so, I heard John in the bathroom throwing up. Just great, I thought. Now we're both sick. I went to tend to him and we both eventually crawled back into bed.

Around 6:30, I felt this weird sensation. It only happened once and was like electricity running in a line down my belly. Then I had a contraction. I got up and went to the bathroom where I noticed my pants were a little wet. Dang, I thought. Must have wet my pants. (This, by the way, is not entirely uncommon during pregnancy). When I stood up to go to the closet and get another pair of pajamas, I suddenly found my feet getting an impromptu baptism. Let me pause here to tell you something: I've always been told that when your water breaks, it's not like in the movies. Well, folks, mine was. And it didn't stop after the initial "gush"... but more on that in a moment. I stood there for a minute registering what was happening. I had made the decision during my pregnancy that when my labor started, I'd labor at home until either my contractions got close enough to warrant going to the hospital or until my water broke. I never imagined my water would break FIRST, forcing me to head to Labor and Delivery before my contractions even started. So there I stood in a puddle, mentally modifying my birth plan.

I calmly walked to the bedroom (leaving a "trail" all the way) and woke up John.

"Honey, I think my water broke."

"Wha?"

"I think my water broke."

At this point, he said something that I wish to God I could remember. I was in too much shock at the time to register exactly what it was, but I know it was COMPLETELY unrelated to what I was telling him and at the time I thought, I'll laugh about this later.

"John, listen to me, my water broke. I think I'm going into labor."

His eyes opened wider as he took in what I was saying.

"Are you sure?"

"Well, either my water broke or I've lost all control of my urinary system and need to go to the hospital anyway."

He got out of bed and we both headed to the bathroom to get ready and pack. We were surprisingly both very calm and relaxed. I knew I wouldn't be taking a real shower for a few days, so I climbed in to get clean and wash my hair. When I got out, I discovered a new problem. My water didn't "break and stop." Nope, it continued. This presented a problem: any clothes I put on would get soaked but I couldn't very well walk around nude and "christen" the bathroom floor. John suggested a towel. So for the next 45 minutes or so, I got ready with a navy terry cloth tail following me everywhere.

We loaded up the car and headed to the hospital (with me sitting on a garbage bag). I told John to take me to McDonalds so that I could get a biscuit. I was starving from being sick over the weekend and knew that once I got to the hospital, I wouldn't get to eat. (I wish now I'd ordered three sausage biscuits because that little biscuit didn't get me far over the next 24 hours).

Once we arrived at the hospital around 7:45, I text my nurse midwife to let her know we'd arrived. We headed to the check in desk. Luckily, I'd been "storked" several weeks earlier, so they had all of my information. They asked me have a seat for a minute while they got my file and printed my bracelet. Before I could even get fully seated, though, I felt everything get warm. John looked down as water seeped through my Adidas pants. Up until that moment, I'm not sure he entirely believed my water had broken. You know how those science people like their proof-- ha ha. His whole demeanor changed, though. We told the lady at the counter that I needed a towel because my water was breaking (again? Isn't it broke by now?). This prompted her to find me a NEW chair... a WHEELchair. Within 3 or 4 minutes, I was being wheeled into L & D.

I got undressed, put on the super-stylish hospital gown, and settled in to wait on Holly, the nurse midwife (who is also an absolute ROCK STAR and MIRACLE WORKER--more on that later). She came in and checked me to verify my water had indeed broken and to check my progress. I was 80% effaced and NO centimeters dilated. We discussed the plan for the day. Since I wanted to do it natural if possible, Holly told me she'd let me chill and come back to check my progress at lunch.

So I chilled for the next four hours or so with the monitors on my belly. Every once in awhile, I'd have a very minor contraction but nothing else. Mainly I just complained (constantly) about being hungry.

Around lunch time, Holly returned. I was now 90% effaced but still not dilated. I asked if we could wait it out a little while longer. Holly was all for it but told me that since my water had broken so early, I would need to start antibiotics when she returned after she got off work. I told her how hungry I was and she left for a minute and returned with banana popsicles. They might as well have been a steak dinner at that point.

Holly left to return to the clinic and I chilled some more, having a random contraction here and there. Around 5:00 or so she returned to check me again. I had actually dilated to 1 centimeter which, yes, was slight progress, but not anything close to being enough. In addition to the antibiotics, we decided it was time to start me on Pitocin. Though I'd wanted to avoid it, everything was just moving way too slowly and at this point it had been 10+ hours since my water had broken. Holly had a dinner to attend, so she told the nurses to start the Pit around 7:00.

The nurses started the antibiotics and fluids and I spent some time up walking around and visiting with family over the next hour or so. Around 7:00, the nurse came to start the Pitocin. It didn't take too terribly long for it to kick in and pretty soon my contractions were coming more regularly and with more intensity. Unfortunately, most of them were in my back. Women had told me about back labor when I was pregnant, but it is so much more painful than I anticipated. I won't lie--it was bad, bad pain. The abdominal pain was no worse than cramps I'd had during my period, but the back pain was pretty hellacious. I handled it pretty well, though, with the help of John and my mom. I spent the next few hours using my breathing exercises and alternating positions. I found the rocking chair to be good for handling pain, as well as leaning over the bed (which was raised up above my waist) and having John and mom rub my lower back.

After about four hours or so on the Pit, I told John I wouldn't be opposed to some Stadol. I was managing the pain but it was wearing me out. What I didn't realize, however, was that once they gave me the Stadol, I wouldn't be allowed out of bed. And that was NOT a good thing. Though the Stadol took the edge off a little bit, I couldn't handle the pain so well while lying on my back. Fortunately, Holly came in to check me again. After all the contractions, I was just SURE that she'd tell me I'd dilated to 8 or 9. No such luck. Though I was completely effaced, I had dilated from 1 cm. to a WHOPPING 2.5 cm.

I knew at that moment what was coming next, but I didn't want to accept it. My water had broken over 12 hours earlier and the four hours on Pitocin had been exhausting after all day in the hospital. There was no way I would be able to continue at the rate I was going without risking Amelia's safety (and the necessity of a c-section). It was time for an epidural to help me relax and to help the labor progress. I had been against an epidural since day one, not only because I wanted to experience labor but also because the thought of an epidural terrified me--not so much the needle going in my back (though I do HATE needles), but being basically paralyzed from the waist down. I started crying. Holly, John and momma tried to keep me calm and keep me rational. They all told me this was what had to be done and that I shouldn't feel like I'd failed in any way. I finally agreed to the epidural and signed the paper.

This is the ugly part that I'm not so proud of. For about the next half hour or so (I hope to God for the sake of my family and everyone in the L & D wing it wasn't any more than that), I gave up on my breathing exercises and trying to deal with the pain. To be honest, I think I just totally gave up in general. I was exhausted and angry and depressed and scared to death. And my anxiety was amped up even more because I knew that John and mom would have to leave the room during my epidural. So instead of "hoo-hoo-heeing" through the contractions, I... well, I screamed. I screamed as loudly as I possibly could. I screamed so loud that I literally couldn't feel the pain at times. For those of you who know me, it's no secret that I'm a fairly loud person anyway, so you can imagine how loud I got. No one could console me. And while I'm not sure I could have controlled it, I wish I had. I think I may have traumatized my mom. She told me later how hard it was to see and hear me in that much pain and misery. It wasn't my finest moment, but there's not much I can do now but try to laugh about it.

The anesthesiologist arrived. The first (rather curt) words out of his mouth were "What's with all this screaming?" He told me he wouldn't do my epidural if I was going to scream. It kind of pissed me off at first. I mean, I'm in pain. Would it kill him to be a little kinder? I realize now, though, he didn't have time to be warm and fuzzy and indulgent. He was needed all over the hospital and he didn't have time to wait for me to get my wits about me. And he wasn't about to risk my well-being and his career on a screaming crazy woman. And in the end, I'd rather get my epidural from someone who is serious about his job than someone who wants me to feel all warm and fuzzy.

While the anesthesiologist got everything prepared, I proved that I could be quiet and still during my contractions. I didn't do it on my own, though. Holly was there with me the whole time, keeping me focused and calm. It was soon time for the procedure. I sat on the edge of the bed, holding Holly's hands. She pointed to her forehead and said, "Put your forehead to mine." And eye to eye with Holly, I breathed my way through three contractions without moving (or screaming). The anesthesiologist started talking to me and even complimented me on my breathing. He told me I was surprising happy when I wasn't screaming. ha ha

I'm not going to lie: though the epidural didn't really hurt that much, the sensation I felt was worse in my opinion. I absolutely hated the feeling when the numbing agent was injected. I could feel my body going numb, slowly becoming paralyzed. It was just like in my nightmares.

They finished my epidural, got me into bed and put in a catheter. At this point, things get a little blurry because a lot of stuff started happening. Plus, I was an emotional wreck and had basically started shutting down. I can remember telling mom several times, "I'm trapped." I don't remember the order in which everything happened, but basically the baby's heart rate started dropping after every contraction and my blood pressure started dropping pretty drastically (around 90/40). I remember people looking kind of alarmed but I was too out of it to ask many questions. The result of all this was me being hooked up to a lot of tubes and monitors and stuff. They took me off of the regular monitors and inserted a fetal monitor that attached to the baby's scalp and an internal contraction monitor. In addition to the four or five bags of fluids I got over the course of my labor, they also pumped fluids into me to "bathe" Amelia since my water had broken so early in the day. I remember looking at one of the nurses and saying, "Are y'all going to stick a cord up in there and charge your cell phones, too?" I also got epinephrine twice for my blood pressure and they put me on oxygen, too. All this in addition to the blood pressure cup squeezing the crap out of me every ten minutes (in case I haven't mentioned it before, I HATE getting my blood pressure taken).

I'm not sure exactly how touch and go it was to be honest, but John told me the next day that he was really afraid they were about to wheel me back to the OR for a c-section. The good news is that I didn't have to have a c-section. The bad news is that I still had 8 more hours to go!

Once they got the baby and me stable, Holly left to get some sleep. John and mom stayed with me for awhile. My body was completely dead from the waist down and I had to depend on them and the nurses to move me. Periodically, I'd ask them to squeeze my feet, hoping I'd feel something. I was totally miserable. Plus, the hunger I'd had earlier in the day was replaced by an agonizing thirst that no amount of ice chips could satisfy. I started craving orange Gatorade for some reason.

As we marched on toward morning (and the 24-hour mark), the nurses came in periodically to check my progress. By around 6:30, I was fully dilated but they wanted to let me "slide" for a little while and let the baby move farther down into the birth canal. I was honestly too tired to be excited at this point.

About an hour later, Holly came in and told me it was time. I felt a rush of adrenaline as they sat me up and and repositioned the bed. Soon my legs were in these big furry stirrups, with John on one side and momma on the other. Holly told me I was going to grab my legs and push hard like I would if I were trying to poop and that I would keep pushing for ten seconds. At 7:50, I started pushing with my contraction. Well, I tried to push. Being completely numb makes it difficult to know if you're even pushing at all. It took me awhile to figure out exactly how to push, but once I did things went very quickly. It was actually really exciting. Holly was cheering me on the whole time. John was grinning from ear to ear and the look on his face was making me more and more excited. My mom, bless her, kept pushing with me. We laughed and told her not to pass out (or poop! ha ha) Soon they told me the baby's head was starting to crown and asked if I wanted a mirror. I said no because I was already having trouble staying focused on even counting (they actually had to count out loud for me!) I kept pushing like crazy and at 8:12 AM on August 3rd, Amelia made her exit from me and her entrance into the world!

The first moment we met face to face
When she came out, she was the most beautiful shade of lavender. In fact, my first words were, "She's so purple!" They put her on my chest and I was absolutely in love at first sight.

So as far as my birth plan goes, I didn't get to labor at home like I wanted, I had to have pitocin and an epidural, and I delivered her on lying on my back. At first I was really disappointed, but the more I've thought about it, the more "okay" with it I've become. I'm thankful that I didn't have to have a c-section. And (okay this may be a total overshare) I'm thankful that my vajayjay came out relatively unscathed (THANK YOU, HOLLY, FOR SAVING MY SPECIAL PLACES!!!!!). But mostly, I'm thankful for my beautiful baby girl who has filled a hole in my life I didn't even know I had. I could look at it as things "not going my way," but wasn't my ultimate goal to have a healthy baby? There are a million things that can happen during labor or delivery and those things didn't happen. Amelia and I are happy and healthy and that's all that matters.


So here's what I have to say to any of you ladies who are putting together your birth plan: there's nothing wrong with doing it as long as you understand that it's a plan. "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" as do the best laid plans of expectant mothers. Have your plan but know that at any moment it may change and you just have to roll with it. Don't be stubborn and put yourself or your baby in danger. Luckily, I wasn't stubborn enough to refuse to do what was best, but I feel I was a little too set in what I wanted so that when it did change, I didn't deal with it as well as I could have (hence the screaming).

So that's my baby story, but it's only the beginning. Every day I'm writing a new chapter. I love being a mommy and I'm so thankful that I've been blessed with this gorgeous little girl.



Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”  --Elizabeth Stone



Day Sixteen: Inspiration

I'm now over the half-way hump.  Part of me kind of regrets committing myself to this, but at least I'm writing every day.  I'm ready to get this done and start focusing on more serious writing.  It is nice to reflect on my life, though, and to take the time to tell some special folks how much they mean to me.

Today's assignment is to post a picture of someone who inspires me.  My mom immediately pops in my head, but since this is a blog I invite people to read and not my personal diary, I probably don't need to do another post about her so soon (plus, I'm feeling kind of emotional and will totally bawl my eyes out tonight if I write anything too personal).  So I love you, Momer, and YOU know you inspire me :)

The person I've chosen is from my past.  She passed away several years ago, and I still grieve over the fact that I didn't have the opportunity to come and pay my respects.  Her name was Mrs. Gay Robertson, and she was my teacher in 4th and 5th grade.  She taught me my multiplication tables, states and capitals, and life lessons that I carry to this day.

Following integration, Mrs. Robertson was one of the first African-American students at the high school in my hometown.  She used to talk about that experience and how difficult it was for her.  Before I go further, however, I need to back up and provide a little background.

I grew up in a small Southern town. I had a very loving, supportive family, but let's just say that diversity most definitely wasn't a priority.  I hate to talk about my family for fear that people will get the wrong idea.  Let me say that they weren't hate-filled or malicious people, but they were very "Old South" in many ways.  I grew up hearing my share of racist jokes, comments and slurs, especially from the older members of the family.  I wasn't encouraged to hate anyone, but I was definitely taught that there were distinct differences and necessary divisions between "us" and "them."  I'm not trying to make excuses (even though it's tempting since they are my loved ones), but this was just "normal" for my family.  My grandparents came from a totally different time and there was no use in arguing.  As for my parents, it was part of their background and I don't guess they'd ever questioned it.  Again, I want to stress they aren't bad people, just products of the Southern "heritage" that is so prevalent in this area of the country.  They had black friends or acquaintances, but their relationships with them were just different from their relationships with other whites. 

At the school I attended from kindergarten through fifth grade, I had exactly ONE student in my class who wasn't white.  My few black friends (or friends of any color) were on my summer league softball team.  I was allowed to be their friend at the field, but it pretty much stopped there.  The only people I was allowed to bring home for playdates or slumber parties were white, and I was not allowed to go to my black friends' houses.  When I was younger, I just accepted this as the way it was, especially since so many of my friends had the same rules enforced in their own homes. 

Even then, though, I had already begun to question these ideas and attitudes.  I was confused by the duplicity I witnessed all around me.  We were instructed that there were certain words we were never to use in the presence of a black person (I specifically remember an incident with my toddler brother pointed at another child and called him a "Nutter"--the word he thought he heard adults say).  We were taught the "difference" between "regular" black people and those that were referred to by the word I still cannot bring myself to even write.  There was a great deal of mistrust bred into us.   Sometimes I learned lessons the hard way, as I did when I was punished by my grandmother one day while we watched Young and the Restless  and I made a comment about Shemar Moore being "cute."  And though I didn't buy into these "lessons," I didn't openly challenge them yet.  Since 99% of the people around me on a regular basis were white, there weren't really any chances for conflict.  I didn't have many opportunities to put these ideas into practice, so to speak. 

Everything changed in 1988.  I began 4th grade with my two best friends and a teacher named Mrs. Robertson.  She was a robust woman who was the perfect mixture of no nonsense and compassionate.  However, I remember going home the first week and telling my mother I could not understand Mrs. Robertson.  Please understand, it wasn't because she spoke improperly or wrong in any way; her huge voice and quick cadence were just alien to my little white ears.  It took about two weeks get with the flow of things, but when I did, it began the best two years of my education. 

I fell absolutely in love with Mrs. Robertson, soaking up everything she taught us, both from the book and from her life's experiences.  If every classroom today had a Mrs. Roberson, our education system would be vastly different.  I had been under the instruction of some wonderful teachers up to that point, but I had never felt more challenged or encouraged or loved than I did with Mrs. Robertson.  I adored her, even when she had to discipline me.

Which brings me back to the earlier part of my story.  Mrs. Robertson sometimes talked about her experiences in school following integration.  It was the first time I'd ever heard about segregation or integration from someone who was on the "other side."   I was too young to understand the significance then, but I now marvel at how there wasn't the first trace of bitterness when she talked to us.  She didn't badmouth anyone or try to gain sympathy.  She was just very matter of fact.  I remember being horrified that anyone could ever mistreat Mrs. Robertson in any way.  Couldn't they tell how special she was?  It was then as a nine year old that I began thinking about everything I'd been told.  I remember feeling embarrassed and guilty.  It was then that I decided that I would be different; I would not share the beliefs of those around me.  People were people, regardless of their skin color.  Some people were good and some were bad, but there was no way to tell which was which just by looking at them.  At that point, I decided I would never use the words I had heard.  I would not laugh at the jokes.  I would not believe anything until I had my chance to form my own opinion.  A big decision for such a young girl, but my heart was so full that I was determined to follow through. 

I finished up the 4th grade and was excited when I found our Mrs. Robertson would be teaching 5th grade the following year.  For two years, I thrived under her instruction and her guidance.  She had such a heart for kids, a trait which was only made better by her ability to look at us and know when we were lying, when we were hurting, or when we just needed a hug.  She changed my life forever by not only altering the way I viewed the world around me but also by inspiring me to become a teacher.  Though I resisted for years, deep down in my heart I always knew it was my calling.  I had seen the lives she'd impacted, and it left a definite impression on me. 

My little town provided a bubble in which many of us could live a fairly sheltered life.  In many ways, were still living in a different era in our town, the reflection in our schools where the students would often naturally segregate themselves.  As the years passed, though, I continued to adjust my views of the world and to see people through different eyes.  I even began to openly challenge many of the adults in my life.  This initially caused quite a few conflicts since my passion could sometimes verge on being disrespectful of my elders.  I do think it made a difference, though.  Eventually, the adults realized this wasn't some "phase" and that I wasn't trying to be rude or insolent.  Most of them began to respect my feelings and refrained from saying things that would upset me.  I like to think that they don't just do this to placate me but that they possibly have reevaluated their own beliefs. 

There have been many times over the years that I've thought back to Mrs. Robertson and recognized the impact she had on my life.  I hate to say but there have been situations in which it would have been easy to throw my hands up and say, "Maybe all those people were right."  However, each time I would picture Mrs. Robertson and remind myself that there are bad people of every color.  I can only form an opinion on a person by person basis.  For example, when my roommate didn't return to college one semester, I was assigned to a new room where I was the only person of my color.  People thought I was crazy, but I was actually excited about the experience.  On move in day, I unpacked all of my belongings and set up my bedroom. Not one of my new roommates greeted me or spoke to me unless I addressed them directly.  That night, they blared music outside my door all night, laughing and talking about me loud enough that I could hear them.  The following day, accepting I was not wanted, I requested to be moved to a new room.  As I moved out, none of them spoke a word to me.   I remember that dark, cynical part of my brain saying, "You should have listened all those years."  But I chided myself and focused on moving to my new room.  I was hurt and a little angry, but once it was said and done, I accepted it and moved on.  I honestly don't think the way they acted had anything to do with color; they were three friends and did not want another roommate.  They just went about telling me in a really hurtful way.  I told myself that Mrs. Robertson would be proud that I took the high road and didn't resort to turning it into a racial issue. 

When I moved to Memphis in 2001 and began teaching at a predominantly African-American high school, I often thought of Mrs. Robertson and wondered how different the beginning of my teaching career would have been had I never met her.  I struggled at first with students who made assumptions about me based on my own color and my accent.  But I hung in and did my best to convince them that I didn't care if we were different colors.  I was going to teach and treat them equally and I cared about them all.  I don't think I would have survived the first semester if I had come in carrying those old notions I'd heard so often as a child.  How can you teach someone you see as beneath you?  How can you teach someone you fear?  How can you teach someone you dislike before they ever even speak?  I loved those students just as Mrs. Robertson had loved us.  She didn't see our color, only our need to be taught and to be loved. 

I hope Mrs. Robertson realized that she prepared me for my future in so many ways.  Not only did she educate me in my school subjects, but she also inspired me to be a better person and to open my heart and mind to everyone, not just those who looked like me.  Because of that, she has continued to be an inspiration throughout my life and has made me a better teacher, woman and human being.  I wish I had the chance as an adult to tell her how much she means to me even now.  I just have to believe that she knows. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day Fifteen: Bucket List

What do I want to do before I die? 

Hug a panda


Something.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.


See her become a woman with a fulfilling life (and maybe have me some grandkids if she wants)


Celebrate this day over and over and over again






Day Fourteen: My Girls

The problem with this "30-Day Photo Challenge" that I borrowed from Facebook is that there is so much overlap in the topics.  So often my first instinct is to write about my husband or daughter.  And while I don't mind writing about them at all, I'm pretty sure my precious few readers would get bored after awhile.  When I read today's challenge--to post a picture of the person you can't imagine your life without--obviously my little family popped into my head.  Since I've already written about them lately, though, I decided to choose a friend instead.  But which friend?  I have so many precious people in my life with whom I've laughed and celebrated, cried and mourned.  Since I can't list them all here, I'm just going to choose a few of my nearest and dearest (in no particular order).  Some I've known for years and some not so long, but I am thankful for each beautiful lady below. 

Note:  I am not using names since this is a public blog and I want to do what I can to protect my peeps from any crazies.  Okay, maybe that's extreme, but I'm still only going to refer to them with initials or nicknames. :)

My Two Oldest Friends:  "A" (aka Garth) and "P"

July 2010 - My baby shower

I have seriously known these girls since we were in diapers in the church nursery almost 32 years ago!  We were born within a six-month period and have been lifelong friends.  Over the years, we have made so many memories and had so much fun together. There have been times we've gone long periods of time without seeing each other, but we always remain close.  I treasure them both so much and wish we had more time together.  have no doubt that--Lord willing--we will still be friends in another 32 years.  We'll still be laughing and making memories as long as we're able.



Craigmont Crew:  "S" and "E"
My 29th Birthday
I was so fortunate that my first (well, technically second) teaching assignment was at Craigmont High School.  I had the honor of not only working with but become lifelong friends with some wonderful people, including the two ladies to the right.  They are two of the smartest, funniest, most wonderful women I know.  My "Aunt-tea S." (left) was like a second mother to me while I was in Memphis and was such a comfort to me during those first (stressful) years of my teaching career. "E." is one of my absolute favorite people in the world.  She has the most wicked sense of humor and is the definition of loyal friend.  And I swear I feel smarter just being in her presence.  Love these two.  Wish I could see them more. 

Stolen Friend - "M"

These are the "before" pics 
 "M" was actually John's friend his first year in pharmacy school.  They sat beside each other in class and he harassed her (as he's prone to doing).  He thought we might hit it off and introduced us one night at a gathering.  I stole her (ha ha)   "M" and I ended up blowing off the party, going shopping for discount prom dresses at the Mall of Memphis, and possibly swapping stories that were a bit personal for only knowing each other a few hours.  Ten years later, we are still great friends.  Since we no longer live in the same town and are both mothers now, it's harder for us to visit.  But when we get together, watch out!   Tybee Island has never been the same after our last adventure (there are pictures to prove it but they won't be posted here).  Michelle is an amazing mother and the sweetest friend.  I hope the future allows us more adventures--hopefully ones that don't end with us recovering for three days again.  ;)




Liberty Ladies are "Lush-us"

Teachers make the best friends and I have the honor of calling quite a few my amigas.  In the last 3 years, I've grown close to a fantastically unique group of ladies, all the dear nieces of one "Aunt Ollie."  As I was going through my photos, I realized I don't have pictures with all these gals.  I guess it's because when we get together, we're too busy being loud and crazy to stop and take pictures.  This group includes two "S" ladies:  one who I totally forget could technically be my mom because she's so stinking cool and another whom I've known for years and years but didn't get close to until fate brought her two doors down.  I also found a "K" (who is loud and opinionated just like me, which I love) and "P" (my mother hen who inspires me to burst out in song and dance wherever I am).  There's a "V" who was my saving grace during my "year in hell" with 200 freshmen and no planning period.  And who can forget "T," my next door neighbor who I've shared a million laughs with between classes.  You gals rock my crazy, dysfunctional world.  Our next mission to is take more pictures!

Sister Wives
Last but definitely not least, is my "sister-wife" of whom I do have a picture.  Over the past few years, we've practically become family (she actually introduces me as her sister-wife which may freak people out now that everyone is familiar with that term).  Now that I'm not at school, we don't get to see each other nearly enough, but when we do, it's always a hoot.  I'm crazy about her family, and my little girl is crazy about her (especially certain parts of her that she likes to nap on top of).  We don't always agree on everything, but we have each other's backs. 


Fast Friends - "Y"

One of about 200 pictures we took before she
moved


 "Y" and I met in April 2007 and were inseparable. Six months later, she moved 900 miles away. It was so hard because I had grown close to her and her family. We've only seen each other twice since then; however, we've managed to remain friends across the distance through the wonders of modern technology. I hate that we both have kids now and that we can't raise them as friends. I know we'd have so much fun being mommies together. I'm thankful that she has a happy life, though, even if it's not here in Tennessee. She's such a sweetheart and deserves every blessing she receives. I miss her all the time and can't wait until we get to see each other again. I mean, just look at this pictures. We can't help but have fun.







My Encourager - "R"
R and me (and baby A)
When my "Brother V' told me he had a new girlfriend and it was serious, I figured it would be the end of us hanging out.  Most women don't like their guys to have single friends who are of the female persuasion.  When I met her, however, we were pretty much best friends in 10 minutes.  Instead of losing a friend, I gained a gorgeous lifelong sister.  I had the honor of being in V and R's wedding, and we've only grown closer over the past 10+ years.  To make it even better, their beautiful daughter is my sweet Panda-girl whom I love so much. I have many friends who offer encouragement, but "R" is my cheerleader.  She has been there for me through some of the darkest days of my life and I'm not sure I would have made it through those times as well as I did if I hadn't had her constant encouragement and prayers.  She is also the friend I call my "marriage protector."  When I've needed to confide in someone, I've always been able to go to "R" because my marriage is important to her.  I know she will never tear my husband down and she isn't afraid to tell me the part I play in a problem.  Her wisdom has been such a Godsend.  "R" is so real and so sincere, and my life is better because she's in it. 

The Younger Sister I Never Had - "T"

The ONE picture
"T" and I recently realized that pretty much ZERO pictures exist of the two of us. It's not that we don't see each other or spend time together.  We used to be together every day and still see each other at least a couple of times a week.  There are lots of pictures of me with her kids and her with my kid, but there is only ONE picture of the two of us (two pictures if you count one of me with her and her husband at their wedding).  You can't judge a friendship by pictures, though, because what we lack in photographic evidence, we make up for with sisterhood.  "T" and I may have different parents, but I truly consider her my sister in my heart.  My sisters are so much older so I never grew up with them, and I always wanted a sister close to my age.  When I was 28, I kind of got one.  "T" is lucky enough to have two real sisters and I hope they know how lucky they are.  As busy as her life is with work and family, I know I can call or text her anytime of day and she'll be there for me.  I know we will be friends for the rest of our lives.  I love her so much, as well as her precious family.  She has also allowed me the honorary title of "aunt" to her sweet children.  "T" is beautiful inside and out.  And maybe someday we will actually get to be related.  My little girl sure is sweet on her baby boy ;) 

The Partner in Crime and So Much More - "J"

I could devote a hundred bogs to all the stories I have with this pretty lady and there are so many pictures I have a hard time choosing just one.  We weren't instant best friends; in fact, we weren't initially fans of each other at all.  But once we gave it a chance, it wasn't any time before we were leaving butt prints everywhere (probably not what you think) and pooping together (pretty much what you think).  We spent four years teaching together in Memphis where we created some of my most cherished memories.  We have laughed together, cried together, stressed together and fought together (and against each other, but only a couple of times).  The first year we were apart after becoming friends, we were ten hours apart and it was miserable.  Only five separate us now, but it's still too much.  There are so many important events in each other's lives that we have to miss, but we both know that it's not cliche to say we're always there in spirit.  W have to depend a lot on our phones now, but truth be known, we could probably communicate telepathically if we tried hard enough.  She is the only friend I have whose name is often preceded with the pronoun "my."  I know it sounds cheesy, but if you've ever been around us, you totally get it.  I am fiercely protective of her, as she is of me.  I love "my J," eater of cheese dip and hider of plastic babies.  I am so thankful that she found her other half and that I could be a part of the wonderful day when they joined their lives together forever.  I'm also thankful that she has her sweet little boy now to make her little family complete.  All I've ever wanted is for her to be completely content and happy with her life because she's brought so much joy to mine.  I love you, J-Dub.  Wanna go to the mall?