Sunday, December 30, 2012

Being a Duck

Grandmother and Granddaddy Duck
I am a Duck.  I come from a long line of Ducks- my Grandmother was a Duck (her maiden name).  I have heard all of the good Duck jokes, and even told many of them myself.  We all collected Duck treasures.  And we all spent time learning what it meant to be a Duck.  I spent many Sundays at the homes of other Duck relatives growing up... there were lots of Duck cousins, although not many my age.  Apparently, this wasn't just a tradition for my generation.  My Mom spent every Sunday going to her grandparents house for a meal.  Everyone's presence was "expected".  How I love that tradition now... but at the time I remember wishing I had more kids to play with.

Mostly, I remember being at the home of my Uncle Otis and Aunt Betty.  They hosted family reunions and many big luncheons at their home on Duck Drive.  I remember playing with their Corgi, Ichabod, and laughing with Uncle Otis as he smothered me with kisses.  Aunt Thelma pinched our cheeks in the stereotypical way.  Uncle Bobby and Uncle Bud made me giggle at their silly jokes.  I remember playing with their pool table... I loved it all.  I loved being part of a "bigger" family.  I loved being a Duck. 
Aunt Betty and Uncle Otis

As we grew up, those "bigger" family events dwindled.  Part of it was the nature of life- the cousins had babies and families of their own... and each individual Duck child hosted their own immediate families for holidays.  I saw the (great)aunts and(great) uncles as I was able to... and of course saw them all again at my Grandparent's funerals. 

Sadly, I missed Uncle Otis's funeral.  I remember Mom calling me to let me know he'd died- I was a freshman at UNC.  It was right as exams were starting- Mom told me to stay there and take my exams.  She insisted that Uncle Otis would want me to do well on my exams rather than drive home.  So I stayed... and I went to Linda's on Franklin Street to toast Uncle Otis with some friends (on my way to the library, I'm sure.)

When Dan and I moved to Winston in 2002, we knew 4 people.  Our friend Chris Lieu who was here in Med School, a friend-of-a-friend Joy (who became my contact to the world here!), Aunt Betty and her daughter Roz.  I vaguely knew Roz, but I was looking forward to reconnecting with Aunt Betty while being here... and knew I would like Roz, too.

Keith finally talks to me now.
Our first Thanksgiving, Dan was on-call at the hospital and we couldn't go home.  Roz insisted we join her family at her home for Thanksgiving Dinner as Dan was able to sneak away for a meal.  Roz had 2 teenage children- Keith, a high school freshman who had no time for his "old lady" cousin; and Courtney, a college freshman.  I tried to charm Keith into being my friend, but it took about 3 years until he actually would say more than "hey" to me.  That Thanksgiving meal was the beginning of a beautiful tradition.  Our families have spent many Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters, and beyond together since 2002.  I so envied people with "big" families growing up... and loved that Match Day gave us a bigger one here in Winston.

Aunt Betty showered both Dan and me with her love.  She was our "grandmother" here in town... and both of us were thankful to have her as we both had lost our own grandmothers.  We picked her up for meals, errands, appointments... or sometimes we'd join her at Brookridge for a meal and get to meet all of her friends.  We loved that she "showed us off"... and she did proudly... until the birth of Elizabeth Jane when we became known only as "Elizabeth Jane's parents."  Her son told me the other night "You know Mom adored you, right?  But not nearly as much as she adored your daughter."

As I said my goodbyes to Aunt Betty last week in ICU after a horrible, freak hospital stay that turned fatal-- I told her thank you for making my family bigger, and for adoring my daughter so.  I drove back home from the hospital on Christmas and allowed myself to think back on our ten years here... more sure than ever that Match Day brought us here for more than just residency.

Elizabeth with Courtney
The day after Aunt Betty died, we began rallying to celebrate.  We were not only celebrating her life, but we were celebrating the life and love of her Granddaughter, Courtney.  Courtney had the most lovely wedding yesterday.  It was perfect.  Just perfect.  Probably due to the fact that, as a friend so sweetly put it, the wedding had a "heavenly coordinator."  The rain held off, there were no glitches, and I've never seen a more smiley bride.  The only thing missing, obviously, was Aunt Betty who had wanted so desperately to be there.  At dinner, our table drank a toast to Aunt Betty and my Daddy.  I feel certain they were toasting us, too.

Ten years ago, I had cousins and aunts I knew only in the "formal" sense.  But yesterday at the wedding... and tomorrow at the funeral... they are so much more than that.  They are ones with whom I share inside jokes... they are ones with whom the "I love you"s mean so much more.  We are Ducks.  And I am so thankful for being one.

The sweetest bite. E's first birthday.

**for a link to Aunt Betty's obituary, click here.**

Monday, December 17, 2012


I live life out loud.  I share my story- the good and the bad- with the world.  I tend to be an "open book."

And all of those things make my mother cringe.

My mother, for those of you who don't know her, is a very private person.  She keeps details of her life to herself- always has.  She would cringe- often publicly- when my Dad or I would say things that she wasn't comfortable hearing publicly.  I think we were put in her life to push her buttons... and she was put in our lives to give us filters.

Which is why these last few years I've lived in a tenuous spot.

My mother has been diagnosed with dementia.  And she is horrified of people knowing.  And I am weary from living with it a "secret".

Everyone who has been around my Mom knows.  It is past the point of hiding.  Without sharing cringe-worthy stories, I'll just share that the diagnosis is official and non-arguable.  It has been painful, hurtful, heartbreaking, and has left us completely worn-down.  We ache for her loss, and we ache for ourselves.

I have tip-toed on Facebook and my blog for months upon months to make sure that I don't "over share."  The last thing I want to do is embarrass my Mom.  In light of recent events, it's hit me more than ever that we should not steer clear from talking about mental health issues.  At the same time, mental health or physical health... my Mom would not want her private life to be posted anywhere.

So therein lies the struggle.  Mom- totally private.  Me- public, and aching from living in this world of uncharted emotions and experiences.  My days are long... and often rather empty... as I sort through not having my Grown Ups to turn to anymore.  My birthday came and went with no parent to call to celebrate that date.  Traditions and expectations on holidays are all a moot point this year.  My guard goes up with each phone call regarding our "new" situation... and my shoulders stay tense.

And this is why I finally decided to post about it.  With the exception of a few friends who are also on this path, it can by a very lonely place trying to navigate this season of life alone.  Kelly Corrigan talks about this "season" in her book The Middle Place... and when I read the book years ago, I had no idea how quickly I would get to this space.  When I read it, Mary and Daddy were both living and Mom wasn't quite as sick.  I wasn't yet adding words to my responsibility list like "executor" or "power of attorney".  I liked that space much better.  But we can't go back... which is why I tread lightly to share with you some of the details of my story... not just my Mom's.

I ask for your prayers for the days ahead in our journey... and I ask that those of you who have "been there" not bombard me with information, but offer your guidance in a way that would have been helpful to you.  I also ask that you help me in keeping my Mom's desire for a private-lived life just that... while dementia is nothing to be ashamed of, it's hard to not be where you thought you'd be.  And it's hard to have a daughter who tells the world your information without your blessing.  I feel sure Elizabeth (and karma) will repay this gesture in the days to come.

Friday, December 14, 2012

it's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday...

This morning, I was on the folding-end of a laundry blessing.

My heart-sister, Laurie, called early on and said she needed help at the laundromat.  She was getting the last of her laundry done before leaving town.  Her day was scheduled to the minute, and she needed someone to take over so she could get back on task.  As soon as E's bus left, I headed over to feed quarters and match socks.  Mind you, she's not "leaving town" like, I dunno, going on vacation.  She's "leaving town", like, moving to Arizona.  To plant a church.  Which is awesome... and yet still, my heart hurts.

While I was folding the cutest little Lego underwear, my heart jumped when I realized that I was, indeed, on the giving end of this blessing...

And just a few short weeks ago, I was on the receiving end... our friends had before rushed to our door to take away our dirty laundry and returned it clean and folded.  Blessings.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  Acts 2:42-47

This is just how my 10-year friendship with Laurie and her family has been.  We have given- and received- together when there was a need.  We have seen signs and wonders.  We have broken bread and prayed.  And we have had everything in common... sometimes, a wee bit too much.  (There aren't many people who would loan you ALL of their clothes when your luggage gets lost in Rwanda... just sayin'.)

Which is part of what makes this transition so hard.  Never have I felt so instantly connected to a friend in both life and Spirit.  Never have I had someone who would drop everything to run to Wal-mart at a moment's notice.  Never have I been rebuked in love and encouraged in truth and ridiculed by the same person.  We have woven together a tapestry of pain and suffering... joy and celebration.  We have witnessed the birth, rebirth, and homecoming of our children together... we have taken pregnancy tests and watched fertility ultrasounds together... we have watched great men be inaugurated and sung on the stage with other men at that same moment in time.  We have walked together in search of a nude beach... we have wept openly about our pasts... we have bought each other Starbucks when the other one of us just couldn't afford it.  We have lived through parents with cancer and dementia... we have sung RENT! at the top of our lungs (even when we have the words wrong.)  We have walked on dark streets in a foreign land against our better judgement... and been blown away at God's individual love over a gallon of wine.  We have been sure our husbands have lost their minds and needed us to tell them... and praised those same men at their amazing growth and Godly decisions.  We have watched college students grow... and watched our hearts grow to love students more every day.  We have run together at Rope Drop and run together at the Y in the dark.  We have eaten at Long John Silvers and Boca de Bobbidi Boo.  And never have I been more grateful for every step of the journey.

THIS is the body of Christ.  This is the fellowship of believers.  This is the good life. This is the real life- folding laundry and all.  And this is truth... friends really are friends forever.  God speed, my Kindred Spirit.  I can't wait to see where He leads us next.

 (she is a Brickhouse, you know...)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

my kitchen is clean.

My kitchen is clean.

It looks beautiful.

The countertops are free of sippy cups and plastic plates. 

I didn't get out of bed until 7:30 this morning. I woke up at 6, but I laid in bed- cuddled next to my sick child who had invited herself in sometime during the night- and read until 7:30.

No one has cried this morning.

No one has yelled.

No one has been put in Time Out.

There is coffee that's been brewed and Dan is making us waffles as I type these words.

There is nothing on my agenda today except to decorate for Christmas and have lunch and ashopping date with a friend.

Holy crap, y'all... this feels GOOD.

Yesterday, it didn't feel so good.  Yesterday, I had two little boys in my living room watching PBS Kids and waiting for the Social Worker to arrive to take them to their next home.  Two little boys who had pushed every button I had by sunrise.  Two boys who had wrecked my "normal" during the last 6 and a half weeks.  Two boys who made me angry... made me yell... showed me sides of my own heart that were nasty.  Two boys who wanted nothing more than to be loved and be shown that we would be the same today that we were yesterday.  Two boys who exasperated my daughter and my dogs.  Two boys who made me weep when I heard one say "I love Dan soooo much.  I just love him so, so much."  Two little boys who I had grown to love.

This foster care business?  It ain't for the faint at heart.

And that's just what I am- faint at heart.  Our six and a half weeks with the boys showed me humanity in a way I've never seen.  It humbled me when I saw what a "bad" person I am at my core.  It showed me how prideful and selfish and weak I am.  And, not to sound uber-holy, but it showed me that I CANNOT DO THIS without total dependence on God.

While the timing could not have been worse, it also could not have been better.  We began their stay here with E's birthday- and while the spotlight was taken off of her, it also was rightfully given to her as all the little people in our home got showered with gifts.  During their stay, I was also occupied with my responsibilities as a daughter- taking care of things for my Daddy's estate as well as finding a new role in loving my Mom.  My to-do list has never, never been as full as it has been in the last 6 weeks.  This year alone has been taxing in brand new ways... and these last 6 weeks just fit under the banner of "2012 Crazy".  I even had to upgrade to a larger day-planner to keep all of our appointments and responsibilities straight.  Yet having the boys to distract me from life as I now know it, and having life to balance out the boys?  Perfect timing.

Here is the kicker, though, of our quick stint in Foster Care... it's not about us.  Yes, my family changed.  Yes, my responsibilities changed.  Yes, we had to adapt.  Yes, we sacrificed.  Yes, we grieved.  But ultimately- and I'm not looking to be a martyr- it's about the kids.  Those two little boys who got in our van on a Tuesday night- shaking and sobbing.  Those little boys who were forced to learn to trust us... and who just wanted to go home. 

I posted yesterday on Facebook that I was thankful for our role in Foster Care... and I am.  I got slammed with people saying encouraging things like "we're so proud of you" and "you made a difference"... thank you.  While my post was not intended to seek encouragement- we appreciate it.  But when it boils down to it- and, again, I'm not trying to go uber-holy- it wasn't us who made the difference.  We are tired, sinful, weary, hurting people... we just provided a safe place for those boys to feel God's love.  There were days we couldn't do it, so we allowed others of you to love on them for us.  The love those boys received from our friends, their daycare/preschool, our church, our families... oh ya'll... they got loved.

And we will do it again.  Not because we "want" to, but because we know we are supposed to.

But it won't be right now.  We're going to take a little time to rest.  And heal.  And go see The Mouse.  And love each other big and un-interrupted.  And rest.  (Did I say that already?)  And breathe.

So for now, I'll look at my clean kitchen and enjoy it... because I know sometime soon the sippy cups will be back.  And I'll hug E extra tightly... because I know sometime soon my lap will have another little one in it.  And I'll not feel guilty about enjoying this moment... because I know it's a gift from the Lord.