Posted in faith, grace, life

The Sin of Worrying

Late August I went to the doctor because I have been aching all over and wanted to find out why. I mentioned that I had a sore spot in my groin on the left side and my doctor determined one of my lymph nodes was enlarged. So she sent me for an ultrasound and referred me to a surgeon because she expected a biopsy of some sort would be needed.

After some tests, the surgeon was concerned because the ultrasound showed a lymph node of 5 cm. Normal is between 1 and 1.5 cm. He sent me for a CT scan, but the soonest it could be done was a week later (which was last Friday). I really struggled with fear, because I lost my mom to cancer last year and I kept thinking about all the artificial sweetener I’d consumed in 44 oz Sonic and Bucees diet sodas over the years. (Probably a tanker full, at least.)

This morning I began a Bible study that my daughter has been encouraging me to do. In the course of reading the lesson, I flipped open my Bible to a scripture, but along the way (and only one page over) I saw a sidebar with a topical commentary on “worry” and I read it, because I have been worrying greatly over all this.

Worry is paralyzed faith. Worry is telling God he can’t handle things, that I have to take care of them. Worry is a sin.

Needless to say, I felt conviction immediately. I asked the Lord to forgive me for worrying, because no matter what happened — I belong to him and I trust him with my life, however much of it may remain.

Five minutes later the surgeon’s office called to say the results were in and could I be there at 2:45 pm to discuss them?

For a split second I felt that fear, that worry try to creep back up, but I resisted, reminding myself of what I’d read and how God has me in the palm of his hand. I told them I’d be there, and then I called my guy and asked him to meet me there after his workout.

And here’s the good news: the lymph node has shrunk. It has gone from 5 cm down to 2 cm! Almost normal. My surgeon believes it was responding to a small spot I had on my calf (that was removed by the dermatologist and came back non-cancerous from pathology) that had become inflamed, and most likely infected.

I am so grateful to the Lord for such good news. In addition, the CT scan revealed that all other organs (liver, pancreas, all that good stuff) is fine — no weird things to be concerned about. Praise the Lord!  

Posted in duty, life

Duty

Tomorrow I have to head over to the county courthouse because, for the second time in my life, I’ve been called for jury duty. The first time I was called was in 1999, right after we moved to Brazoria County from Walker County. The call was for Walker, so obviously I got out of that one, since I didn’t live there any longer.

I actually postponed this one because it was originally scheduled for the time that we had an out-of-state trip planned. You get one freebie, where you can ask to reschedule your duty. I used mine. I’m praying that I don’t get picked, that they will decide I am too white, too educated, too conservative to serve on a jury. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s pretty much a given that those are not desirable qualities in a jury member.

The fact is, I’ve not been feeling too perky for several months now and I’m in the middle of doctors’ appointments trying to figure out why I feel the way I do, if there’s another reason aside from needing to (a) exercise and (b) lose weight. I have two appointments this week that I will have to cancel/reschedule if I get picked. So I’m hoping at least this time I’ll get passed over for my civic duty.

Posted in business, grace, life

Grace

I’ve been in business for almost seventeen years. In that time, I’ve put thousands of window blinds, shades, and shutters in the windows of homes throughout Brazoria County. I’ve only partly joked that each project is almost like a pregnancy: I never feel completely at ease until each “baby” is delivered safely and satisfactorily into its new home. It’s always been very important to me to provide quality products, excellent customer service, and the promise that if my clients ever have a need, all they have to do is call me.

Every so often, though, there’s a hiccup. A speed bump, a hitch. This particular hiccup occurred because we’ve gone through a rough patch as a family, with illness hampering already stressful, but normal transitions. Without the illness, without the stressful transitions, I would have been on top of my game a bit better and the ordering, delivery, and installation of a single blind would not have been delayed.

Let me preface by saying this: we provided the entire house of blinds, but the opening where this single blind will reside had not yet been completed when I took the original set of measurements. It was unknown when the window sill would be installed, and it was unknown if tile would wrap inside the opening — requiring cut outs on each side for a truly custom fit. So the client paid for all the blinds and I made it clear that I would not be able to order the single blind until the window was finished.

At one point I called to find out if the opening was finished and was told, “yes.” I took time out of my day to drive over to get the measurements to discover that the window was NOT finished. (The house was still in the last stages of construction and when I arrived the door was open and no one was to be found.)

So I had to go back a second time to get the measurements, when the window was finally finished. I was a little disappointed to see that they had, in fact, put tile around the inside of the opening, requiring the cut outs, the wholesale cost of which is more than a standard blind. Cost that I had not included in my sales price, since I never charge clients for something “just in case” — and I don’t go back and increase prices after the fact, after the quote is delivered.

Between the time I got the measurements and ordered the blind, my daughter became very ill with pneumonia the week she was supposed to move to the University of Houston. Obviously, I was a little distracted, being worried about her illness in general, and how it would affect her first days at the university. Everything is okay now, but the last eleven days have been rough, what with worrying about her and trying to get things back on track in general.

Thus my reason for thinking about “grace.” This afternoon my client called to ask about the blind and in a conversation that started out pleasantly enough, I was told that if the blind wasn’t installed by Tuesday, the order would be cancelled. The order that clearly states “no cancellations” right above the place where the client signs to initiate the order. I explained that I was not at home, but working on another project and that I would check to see if the blind had arrived as soon as I got home. I explained that I was pretty sure the blind should be arriving any day, and that we’d had these health issues in the midst of trying to move our daughter to Houston.

I was reminded of “how many referrals” had been sent my way through this client, and then I was told that my daughter had been off at college for two weeks. I can only guess this was an assumption based on when other college kids left for school. However, I’m the one (along with her dad) who took her furniture to Houston while she rested here at home. I’m the one that fought with the apartment complex when we discovered the apartment had not been made ready, and stank like a litter box because of cat urine soaked carpet. I’m the one who lovingly bullied my exhausted daughter into moving to the apartment four days later than her roommates, and starting class the third day of the semester so she would have a little more time to recover. Basically, I was shamed for being human, having illness in my family, and not keeping it all together for a single blind.

Today. Today I was in serious need of a little grace.

Posted in adventure, family, life, love

THE Apartment

With a bit of a delay, thanks to an unexpected battle with pneumonia and some additional drama, the College Girl (formerly known as the Teen Girl) is finally settled into THE apartment at the University of Houston.

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Talking to The Tall One and Supervising the Parental Minions from the comfort of her bed.

In the days leading up to August 19th (also known as Move-In Day), we started making lists of things needed to set up housekeeping away from home. Since the College Girl is living in a college apartment, rather than a dorm, she needed furniture. After seeing the one bedroom “model” apartment, it was clear that we would have to be mindful of furniture size because she is sharing a bedroom with another college girl. We had an extra twin bed to send with her, but she needed a desk, so we went to the place where all in need of cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture go: IKEA.

Thanks to their website, we’d already done some reconnaissance and knew which desk would allow for the most storage and the smallest footprint at a reasonable price. She tried out some chairs and selected a desk chair conducive to sitting “criss-cross applesauce” that was on sale, hallelujah! We also picked up bedding (high thread count, but on sale FTW!), a table top ironing board, canisters for coffee beans, and a few other things.

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It was so hard to keep her from picking up a French press, knowing her aunt had gotten her a very nice one as a going to college gift!

When we got to the checkout, we were all chattering until the cashier mumbled the total. I swiped my debit card and then glanced at the total again:

$1,600.00

WHAT? I was pretty sure that we had NOT purchased enough cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture to achieve that lofty total. The young man started going through the list and discovered the plain jane, wire paper towel holder my husband had dropped in the cart — the paper towel holder with a $1.99 tag — had scanned for over $1,000. Corrections were made, I scanned my card again, and we were on our way.

The week before Move-In Day, the College Girl had one of her dearest friends fly down from upstate New York for a visit. We had a wonderful time (I love this girl and want her to move to Texas — Powerpoint promotions are being designed to convince her husband that Texas is their destiny)! The visit ended much too soon, and the College Girl and I took my new daughter to the airport to fly home.

A few miles from the airport, my girl became increasingly quiet and by the time we reached Pearland, she was feeling very poorly.

I felt her forehead and she was burning up. Because I’ve always let fevers do their thing (kill the bad guys) unless they get too high, I didn’t give her any Tylenol or Advil. By the time we got home, she was running between 101 and 102 temp. It was shocking because she had been blowing and going with her friend for five days without any sign of impending illness. When her temp went up to 102.3, I gave her some Tylenol to control it through the night, and we headed to the Altus Emergency Center the next morning since it was Sunday. They checked for flu and strep which were negative, said it was viral and to use Tylenol and Advil to control the fever and make her comfortable. So we did.

For two days we followed their advice, but every time the medicine wore off her temperature would go back up. On Tuesday night it went up to 104.3, scaring us pretty badly. The Tall One advised a cool bath in addition to the Tylenol/Advil regimen, and so after conferring with my sister, The Nurse, who agreed, we convinced the College Girl to put on her swimsuit and take a “swim” in the tub. She hated us for making her get in that cool water because it was so uncomfortable, but it brought her temperature down until we could see the real doctor the next morning.

Thank goodness we went — after blood work and chest x-rays, we learned she had pneumonia in half her right lung. The doctor prescribed TWO antibiotics, and within twenty-four hours she was running a normal temperature again without any Tylenol or Advil. She was exhausted, though, and not in any shape to take care of last-minute shopping or move to THE Apartment.

What in the world did we do before smartphones? While she rested at home, I ran errands to find the last few things she needed. I probably took at least a dozen or more photos of things, sending them to her in text messages: “Do you want the purple or the blue toothbrush holder?” “Is this shower curtain okay?” “Do you need a butter dish?” Thankfully I managed to get everything she needed before my phone battery died!

Because she was still feeling pretty rough on Move-In Day (August 19th), College Dad, the Tall One, and I took her furniture up to THE Apartment. I am SO GLAD she was not with us, because I would hate for what we found to be her first impression of her first apartment. We walked into THE Apartment and almost gagged. The previous resident had apparently had cats… and based on the smell, no litter box. It was just terrible. Considering the residents of this two bedroom apartment are paying a combined total of almost $2,000 monthly, there was no way we were going to allow our daughter (or these other young women) live in that filth. After filling out the condition sheet with “filthy,” “filthy,” “filthy,” “broken,” “broken,” “filthy” — I marched down to the laundry building to turn the sheet in and get the College Girl’s gate key. But I did not just hand the sheet in and take the key. When I walked up to the table and the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed student helping out asked if she could assist me, I said “Yes. You can send someone to THE Apartment to see the cesspool you expect these young women to live in.” She looked a little startled and then directed me to the woman sitting next to her, who apparently had some authority.

The condensed story is: by the next morning THE Apartment had a fresh coat of paint and they were in the process of installing new carpet. Before they put the carpet padding down, I sprayed the concrete slab with an enzyme to break down the cat pee that had soaked through the old padding. And throughout the day we stayed on their case about other things that needed to be addressed. I still have a couple of things I’m nagging them about (like the non-GFI rated outlet under the kitchen sink next to the pipe that was leaking before the College Dad fixed it with some tools he brought). But for the most part, THE Apartment is livable and the College Girl and her roommates have settled in and seem pretty happy.

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She makes this cheap, DIY, flat-boxed furniture look GOOD.

So why do I call it THE Apartment, rather than “her” apartment? Because as exciting as this adventure is, as anxious and excited as she has been to move on to this new part of life, every time she refers to THE Apartment at the University of Houston, she refuses to call it “home” or even “my apartment.” I told her it was okay to call it “home,” but she disagreed. And I have to say that meant a lot to this College Mommy’s heart — it’s good to know that she is enjoying her weekdays at the university, but she looks forward to coming home on the weekends. We’ll still have Sunday lunches with the Tall One and the Texan Who Claims to be from Oklahoma, we’ll still have Brew-n-Bake coffee dates, and when time and studies permit, we’ll marathon our favorite shows like Alias, Doctor WhoFriends, and Warehouse 13 while we do cross stitch and embroidery.

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The Tall One, the College Girl, and the Texan/Oklahoman

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My College Girl

No matter how  many things in life change, she’ll always be our girl.❤

Posted in family

Wordless

An odd title for a scribbler’s blog post, I suppose. As I sat down to compose this post, I discovered a scarcity of words that surprised even me. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am rarely, if ever, at a loss for words. Fortunately I rediscovered my words, so here we go:

I’m full of emotions right now. Emotions threaten to knock me off my feet the same way a wave knocks you on your backside when you venture too far off shore when the Gulf is choppy chocolate soup. The emotions vying for my attention spring from what seems a multitude of sources: preparing my childhood home for sale, readying my daughter to move into her first apartment away from home, and observing the first anniversary of my mama’s passing.

The house is coming together finally. Now that it’s been almost completely emptied of all the things that made it “home,” I don’t get quite as sad when I walk through the front door. I still have vivid memories though, and I remember lying on the green 70s’ carpet in my bedroom — a first grader trying to stay out-of-the-way while my parents moved all our worldly possessions into our brand-new house. Lying on my stomach, I read fairy tale after fairy tale from the hardcover copy of The Grimm Brothers Fairy Tales my mother had given me. It was protected by a glassine dust jacket that still allowed the colorful illustration centered on the front of the navy cloth binding to show through. A companion volume of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, bound in burgundy cloth, completed the set. For some reason, I always preferred the Grimm Brothers. They were a little darker, a little more melancholy.

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Mine are similar to these, but I didn’t have a slipcase. I’d take a photo of mine, but the college girl is sleeping and I don’t want to wake her up.

My college girl is scheduled to move into her apartment two weeks from Friday. Two weeks. How did the time fly so quickly??? Yesterday we went to IKEA, where we bought a small desk, swivel chair, bedding, and a few other small things. After grabbing a late lunch at Buff Burger, we stopped at Homegoods and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Truthfully, I think she has just about everything she needs for now. We have the luxury of only being an hour down the road, so if she forgets something or gets in a bind, it won’t be too difficult to help out if she wants our help. The challenge will be leaving her alone to figure things out herself. It’s part of the process, and so I’m going to sit on my hands, hide my keys from myself, and resist the temptation to call three times a day to see how things are going. Isn’t this what we’ve been preparing her (and ourselves) for the last 20 years?

I’m dreading tomorrow. Actually, today because it’s after midnight. So it’s August 3.

A year ago today, mid-morning, I got a phone call from my sister. She thought our mama had a stroke. Because our mama didn’t like the hospital in Clear Lake and any EMS that served her area would take her there, we drove her to the hospital in Pearland, at her request. The initial symptoms that we thought were symptoms of stroke must have been related to the cancer that had metastasized to her brain several months before, because after a little time passed, the symptoms were gone. Sitting in the triage area at Pearland, we made little jokes and she requested that they allow her to keep her underwear when they helped her into a hospital gown. As doctors and nurses came and went, she asked when she could go home, and they explained that they needed to send her to a hospital with a neurologist consult. So they made arrangements to transfer her to Memorial Hermann. I wish I’d known that would be the last time I saw her awake and cognizant of her surroundings. I wish I’d made sure to hug her before they took her in the ambulance to Memorial Hermann. Little did my sister or I know that around 4:25 am the morning of August 4, we would say our final goodbyes to our mama.

Truly, our mama had very definite ideas about the way things should be done, and as I’ve spent the last year going through things from the house — reading letters, mementos and the like — I’ve come to the conclusion that some of the high standards she set for us were rooted in her own heart-felt desire to be better than she believed herself to be. Growing up in a small east Texas town, her family lived on land leased out around the South Liberty oil fields. Her parents were good, hardworking folk who loved and did well for their kids, especially considering neither of them went past grade school. We knew our mama was sharp and talented because of the things we witnessed her do for us throughout our childhoods — she was very active in our classrooms when we were small and she eventually worked hard to establish a library (properly organized by the Dewey Decimal System, no less) at the private school my sister attended.

Surprising things we’ve learned this year or so:

  • Our mama was a member of the homecoming court when she was a freshman in high school.
  • Our mama was president of the library club at Liberty High School, and she served as regional president when she attended the state convention of high school library clubs.
  • Our mama wore ladies’ dress gloves (we found white and black gloves, elbow and wrist length), beautiful heels with thin spike heels, and she had a black cashmere coat with a detachable mink collar that makes me think of Audrey Hepburn.
  • We found a snapshot of our teenage mama standing in front of the Christmas tree at our grandparents’  home — Mama wore a Norwegian style sweater with black pants. In my entire life, I never saw my mama wear pants.
  • Mama worked at the Liberty County courthouse after she graduated high school, but before she got married, and her supervisor liked her to fill out the marriage licenses because she had such beautiful handwriting.

Mama was a stickler for honesty — she disliked untruthfulness with a passion, so we were a little amused to discover our mama had sticky fingers, at least as a teenager, when it came to hotel souvenirs. The Library Club attended a couple of conventions and we found a shoe box with odds and ends from a hotel in San Antonio, the name of which escapes my memory. The mother lode was a cache of goodies from the Shamrock Hilton in Houston, Texas. We are now the proud “owners” of an ashtray, a seafood fork, a teaspoon, and a room key with brass Shamrock Hilton key chain attached.

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Photo found on Google — our key chain has the key still attached.

There was something entertaining, reassuring, and comforting in realizing our mama had been a silly teenager, just like us. I can almost imagine my mama, who I always thought of as very prim and proper, getting excited over Elvis’ latest song.

Today, when I’m tempted to be sad, I’m going to focus on that teenage girl growing up in Liberty, Texas — getting dressed up, with hat and gloves to shop at Foley’s Downtown and eat apple pie with rum sauce at the Azalea Terrace upstairs.

I miss you, Mama. Thank you for everything, including the stories and the seafood fork. I love you.

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Mama in high school. I think she told me she was 16 in this portrait, so it would have been 1959.
Posted in anger, family, life, love

A Special Kind of Jerk

Be prepared.

If it were in my power, heads would roll.

If I could unleash my inner “mama  bear,” I would let loose with a fresh hell like no one has ever seen.

Hide the can openers, because I definitely want to open up a can of whoop-ass on a college professor who does not deserve his title or position.


That night in early April was particularly bad — my daughter’s dog, Evelyn threw up three times in the early hours, and then again as my girl started to put her in the car to take her to the vet. She’d lost a tremendous amount of weight for a dog her size in only a month, and she struggled to keep the boiled egg or diced chicken down that we cooked for her. The once spunky pup had no energy and spent the majority of her days lying quietly on the floor or the couch. She’d had X-rays that indicated an enlarged heart, and some suspicious masses that could be cancerous. There were additional tests that could be run, but no guarantee, and in the meantime she was suffering.

My girl had to make the very difficult decision to have her sweet Evelyn put to sleep that afternoon. With the vet’s counsel, it was agreed this was the best course of action, to save her any additional suffering. In the middle of the heartbreaking decision, Jami sent her professor an email explaining that her dog was very ill and she was having to have her put to sleep. She asked if she could reschedule the exam she was supposed to take later in the day.

The professor responded with a  very curt “You can take it at 5:30 this evening or get a zero. Sorry.”

There are those who might say, “It’s just a dog. It’s not worth flunking a test or damaging your grade point average.” Whatever. Jami saw her puppy being born into this world, and eight years later, she stood by the examination table holding her precious pup as she slipped away, tears streaming down her face. She told me that she had thought about it and taking the test or skipping the test wouldn’t matter — she would not do well either way.

At her request, I left her there to grieve her loss.

Some time has passed and we are doing better, but even now we will get a little weepy when we think of that crazy sweet girl we love so much.


I guess you can imagine how angry it made both of us when we discovered the “professor” read my daughter’s email aloud to his class this semester as an example of how “there is no excuse that will persuade me to let you take a makeup exam.”

He did not read her name, but a friend in the class recognized the email as hers.

If I could have his job, I would. I want to write a letter to the administration, but my girl said that if anyone writes a letter, it needs to be her. I asked her if I could blog about it, and she gave me permission.

So here I am, Mama Bear, venting my fury on the interwebs. He exploited my daughter’s grief to make himself look tough and powerful. It’s a special kind of jerk that can take joy in someone else’s pain. I’m not going to call him out by name, but his last name starts with an “S.” I think it may stand for “Sorry Excuse for a Human.”😡

Posted in faith, family, life, love

Happy Birthday, Mama.

Today is my mama’s 73rd birthday. Last year, when we were in the middle of battling her cancer, we tried to celebrate her 72nd birthday with a family dinner. The details are a little vague because we were so overwhelmed by what we were dealing with. We asked her how she’d like to spend her day and she tried to muster up a little enthusiasm, but it required so much energy — energy she didn’t have.

I remember we got sliced brisket, fried okra, coleslaw, and the trimmings from a local barbecue place that we’d frequented for years. My sister and my girl both made desserts. I can’t remember what my sister made, but my girl made an “Orange Slice Cake” that Mama had asked for.

We really hoped Mama would be able to enjoy the day, but I think her illness had progressed much further than any of us realized at the time. She was tired and the radiation treatments she received in May had fried her tastebuds. It didn’t help that the barbecue place we’d always enjoyed seemed to be slipping, with the brisket being half fat — and I’m not exaggerating. It was terrible. If we hadn’t been so worn out from everything else, one of us would have taken that styrofoam box of fat back and demanded a refund. The cake my girl made was delicious, but it was a very rich and heavy cake — more suited to a wintertime dinner than a summertime birthday party.

After the so-so birthday dinner and cake, my sister started feeling poorly and within about thirty minutes, she was shaking with chills and fever. Her symptoms were so frightening I, along with her kiddos, took her to the urgent care center while my guy and girl stayed with Mama. I can’t remember what the final diagnosis was, but meds were prescribed and she began to feel better. By the time we got back to our mama’s house, it was late and time for everyone to call it a night. I remember being sad that it was more than likely our mama’s last birthday with us.

Today, on the anniversary of that day, I’m sad. I miss my mama and I miss the sound of her voice (my sister and I chuckled about that earlier – that we missed her voice, except for when she was nagging us about something she thought we needed to do or not do). I have her voice on a recording from my voicemail and every so often I will listen to her say, “I was just calling to see what you’re up to. I love you.”

Like I said, I’m sad. But I’m also happy, too. Because today is my mama’s first birthday in heaven with the Lord. And she is with her mama and daddy, whom she has missed since they passed away in the mid 1980s’. I like to think they are enjoying a family dinner with the best food (it is heaven, after all) and lots of good conversation and love.

Happy birthday, Mama. I expect being healthy and surrounded by love is the best birthday gift of all. I love you.