Saturday, November 23, 2013


In 2010, I started taking cues from my friend Gina and posting a daily "Top 5" of things I enjoyed about my day on Facebook.  This was after that random tumor surgery, and while I sat on the couch feeling sorry for myself all day, I needed some mental redirection.  Like most things, after a while I stopped.  It wasn't that I was less mindful of my Top 5, it was that I began to feel I was bogging down my News Feed.  After Daddy died last year, Dan pointed out that he thought it was time again to start focusing on my Top 5... there was so much sadness, I needed to remind myself of the good in my little corner of the world.

When I brought back the Top 5, I got several private messages about how others "needed" to see them... that they encouraged their children/spouses/friends to do the same... and how a mental redirection was just what they needed, too.

This week, I had the pleasure of hearing a friend speak at my church about the same idea- choosing gratitude.  My friend, Peggy, shared her story of a bike accident in which she was hit by a motorist and left in a wheelchair for months- during which time her mother and several friends died.  Like my own story, grief upon grief can wear a person down.  But Peggy chose gratitude- she said from the first moments in the ER, she began focusing on what was good in her life and even in her unfortunate situation.  (She also noted later, btw, that she does a "Top 5" of her own in her journal each morning.)

Peggy's talk stirred up my own desire to re-visit my daily Top 5.  My last couple of months have been wrecked with grief, disappointment, frustration, and exhaustion.  But they also have been blessed with homecomings, laughter, shared meals, warm hugs, and joy.  I have shared snipits of these moments on Facebook, but more importantly I have gathered my gratitude in my heart.

One would think that with the "November 30 Days of Thankfulness" trend on the interwebs, that I'd be all over that.  I actually have never done it- not because I'm one of the people who is opposed to it (although the people who are the complainers 335 other days of the year who lead with "I'm thankful for the happiness I've found in Jesus" do crack me up), but because I kinda feel like I overwhelm my News Feed with it the rest of the year (see above.)  But given Peggy's gentle prompting this week- I feel compelled to share some of the great things in this brutiful life of mine with my dear Reader Friends.

Gratitude: November 2013 Edition (not in order of importance, lest any of you get offended easily)
1. Half Price bottles of wine a dear friends with which to share them.
2. Papas and Beer
3. Whimsical Women
4. A super fun Barenaked Ladies concert
5. Finally meeting the Barenaked Ladies at that super fun concert
6. My Book Club
7. Someone else offering to "throw me a party" for the first time in years
8. Upcoming weddings
9. Upcoming vacations
10. Reconnecting with old friends
11. Pumpkin Beer, Jaime style
12. Blogger dates
13. Working out- the biggest surprise of what I'm grateful for, because I've never EVER had that on a list
14. Watching E get so excited about babysitters
15. Date nights
16. Scandal
17. Buffalo wings
18. Upcoming holidays
19. Finding Daddy's coffee mug at Mom's house
20. My new planner
21. That Bunko got reborn
22. Movie dates
23. Planning showers to love on friends
24. Knowing that I have a Laurie Date on my calendar
25. Good books
26. New makeup
27. Good pens- including my new Dry Erase markers
28. Coffee
29. Our bus stop. Most of the time.
30. Short hair.

I've had 30(+) things this month (and last) that bring me joy... that make me pause in gratitude... and that take my mind off of the hurt.  And, as Peggy pointed out, there are still days with lots of moments of me wanting to scream out "God- I WANT MY OLD LIFE BACK!"... but in the moments in which I am thankful, I can enjoy this brutiful space where I am.

I am blessed.

And I am full of thanks.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bradshaw Lane

I've been a little MIA on the interwebs lately.  It seems that the stress of selling Mom's house has caught up with my body and I'm still fighting a week long cold.  As I shared some of my last few weeks with someone today, it's no wonder that I'm sick... my body just couldn't keep going at the pace I was pushing it.  So I'm going to allow myself to slowly process where we've been and where we're going.  For now, I'll share with you the note I left the owners of Mom's new place.  Warning: it's lengthy...  And a bit sappy.
Congratulations on your new house!  I hope that it quickly becomes your home and that you fall in love with 11 Bradshaw Lane like we did.  Not to force my story upon you, but I thought I would tell you a bit about it’s history...

My parents bought the house from Walt and Becky McCullough in the early 70’s.  I’m not sure if Walt and Becky were the original owners.  One of their 3 children, Natalie, was my Sunday School teacher when I was in Middle School and shared with me which of her siblings had what bedroom.

My brother, Chris, was a toddler when they moved from Woodfin and I was brought home from the hospital to my bedroom (the one beside the master) in December of 1975.  I never had another home growing up- nor did I ever switch bedrooms.  I left Candler for college in 1994, and only came home a few summers after that.  Around 2000, Mom turned my room into a den.  (My brother’s room- the one beside the hall bathroom- stayed a bedroom during our tenure here.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.)

My Daddy was responsible for the fabulous backyard at your new home.  He landscaped the steps- I often played wedding there and dreamed of my own backyard wedding.  I ended up not getting married there, but as you watch the light come in through the trees in the mornings, you’ll see why I was enraptured by the beauty of the woods.  He put in a hammock- complete with a spotlight which would be blinding to unsuspecting teenagers, and which only was turned on if a “warning” needed to be shared.  The swings he built were my respite- and I still would swing on them even through high school.  The Pièce de résistance in the yard, though, is the treehouse.  My Daddy and Papaw built that around 1980.  I helped by bringing them glass after glass of grape Kool-aid.  My brother and I played in it, my Daddy escaped to it, and it became a sought out location for (only the bravest of friends) summertime sleepovers- complete with spiders.

The house itself is full of great rooms and wonderful memories.  The room beside my brother’s was our Playroom that became a Computer Room that became a sort of Guest Room later in life.  My Mom worked in I.T., so were were one of the first families to have a PC at home.  My brother’s friends monopolized that during their visits.  I spent hours developing my skills on King’s Quest and Frogger, then later began using the computer to type letters to my pen pal in Wisconsin and as I toyed with my growing love affair of writing.

Mom and Daddy’s room housed a king sized bed which all 4 of us would pile on during special Saturday mornings.  Daddy would bring our portable black and white TV from the kitchen, put it on their dresser, adjust the antenna, and we’d watch Bugs Bunny while snuggled beneath their green blankets.  It was under those same blankets- and any others we could get our hands on- where Mom and I burrowed deep during the Blizzard of 93.  Our house was without power for days and got ridiculously cold.  (And boring.)  Ultimately, we were taken by sled (with the help of neighbors) to a nearby house on Monte Vista with a generator so that I could have a breathing treatment... and the best dinner of Shake and Bake chicken that I’ve ever eaten.  Nearly a week of canned peaches and Ritz crackers will make Shake and Bake taste like a 5-star meal.

The bathroom in the Master was Daddy’s- his smell of cologne, hair spray, and (gasp!) cigarettes is one that will bring tears to my eyes when I catch it now at certain bars.  (For the record, he started smoking outside in about 1983 when my pulmonary specialist “suggested” that maybe smoking around his highly asthmatic daughter wasn’t the best idea.)  When he moved out in 1989, Mom took over the bathroom and the scent changed to one of Ultima II makeup, Windsong powder, and Vaseline lotion.  

Mom had the bathrooms redone shortly after Daddy left.  Those bizarre low and quiet toilets were all the rage in 1990.  My friends loved coming in the bathroom and just flushing to watch it work.  My brother and I shared the hall bathroom at that point- I had the drawers on the right, his were on the left.  Our bathroom began to smell of curling irons and crimpers, Rave hairspray, LA Looks gel, and whatever girlie perfume was popular in that moment.  Chris left for college in 1991, so his scent never had a chance to permeate that room like all of the ones I enlisted to make my high school years perfect.

And speaking of those teen years, the downstairs den was the ideal location not only for sleepovers, but for tucking away with boyfriends in hopes not to be seen from upstairs.  There was only one spot where we could hide completely, so that was the spot we best not be in as Mom walked by on her security patrols upstairs.  I spent hours down there watching Monty Python with friends, watching my first presidential debates, and sitting by the fireplace on snow days.  Not to mention the time out on the patio porch swing- the exact location of silly homemade videos with best friends or stolen kisses with boys I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Our living room and dining room were revered in our family to be “special” rooms just for company.  We spent time in there on holidays or whenever we had visitors.  Our Christmas tree went front and center in the living room’s window and I spent tons of time mesmerized by it’s lights and by the train that encircled it’s base.  As we got older, we were “allowed” more time in those rooms and I enjoyed feeling so grown up as I would sit and read in the living room.  The one exception made when I was younger was that I was allowed in to practice piano.  Which I still wish I had listened to my mother and not stopped taking lessons.  

The woods surrounding the house lend themselves to unlimited exploration and enjoyment all throughout my childhood.  In the spring, little red berries and purple violets appeared to take over and bring life back from a dark winter.  Chris and I picked flowers, played spy, and developed our own Terabithia within the walls of the limbs.  We ran through the field behind the house and played in the creek- furthering my love of nature and developing my “non-wussy-girl” status among the neighborhood boys.  We explored and played together in the spring, summer, and fall and sledded together through the winter.

And speaking of winter- one quick suggestion: My Daddy planted bamboo as a privacy barrier between our house and the one next door.  On snowy days, the bamboo will bow down under the weight of snow and ice.  It’s beyond a pain to lift each stalk and pull your car out, but without that, the bamboo will break.  I’d suggest cutting it back before it turns so cold you have to deal with that inconvenience.  

I hate that because of the later stages of my Mom’s illness and her departure from the house that the “grounds” weren’t presented to you in their best state.  While the house is wonderful, the yard and woods will cause you to fall in love with your home.  I hope that as the Easter Bush blooms this spring and you are able to entertain on the deck, you’ll see glimpses of all of the egg hunts and cookouts and parties and memories as they float around you.

And my room.  While now the closet space leaves a lot to be desired, back in the day there was nothing I didn’t like about my room.  I apologize if the door isn’t in the best shape- it was slammed many times in teenage angst.  It was covered in bumper stickers (Ollie North for President!) and posters (Michael Jackson and Michael J. Fox to name a few.)  It was my respite from parents who didn’t understand me, from parents who separated, from a brother who annoyed his little sister, and an escape to spend hours on the phone with friends.  It was where I sat and journaled and read.  Where I laid in bed sick.  Where I grew up.  And before all that it was where I would climb up on my green toybox and look out the window waiting for Daddy to come home for lunch- a midweek treat.  I’d open the window all summer long (you’ll note that air conditioning only arrived a few years ago) and smell the scent of the woods and hear the call of the birds each day.  I’d nearly burn down the house there as I played with matches in second grade- and then proceed to lie about it to my Mom while she could see the paper smoldering in the trash can.  It’s the same room where I first began reading the Bible and started to figure out for myself what I believed.  And, ultimately, it was the same room where I sat at the desk and typed my Daddy’s obituary last year.  That room holds my memories, my tears, and part of my heart.

I hope that you will love this house nearly half as much as we do.  If you look at it from the driveway, it almost appears to smile.  My mother continues to ask about her home (as she constantly wants to return there and doesn’t understand that her Assisted Living transition is permanent.)  We always tell her that we’re sure that things are “fine” in Candler and that her house is okay without her there.  It’s my hope that as we continue to tell her that when she asks that her house would be more than just “fine”.  My hope for you is that her house... your house... will be quite wonderful.