Sunday, March 29, 2015

Goodbye, Winter (finally)

I was so glad to say goodbye to winter this year. It seemed like it would never end... We never have more than one or two "weather" days where we have to close school. This year we had seven.

Our job in the Office of Communications is to make sure the information gets out to all faculty, staff and students  in a timely manner (really early in the morning!) and folks don't get out in the weather if they don't have to. I am the social media and news media back up. I was very fortunate that my two co-workers (the ones I am the back up for) were both always available.

When you have to make a decision to close a school, you really come under fire from some people. There are always those people who want to criticize the folks who make that decision, whether they think you did it too early, or too late or... whatever they can think of to criticize you for.  No matter how careful you are in your wording of the information, somebody always misunderstands. 

My VP and our Police Chief are the folks who lead the charge in that decision-making process, along with our president. These two men take their jobs seriously. They ride the roads to see if they are passable. They worry endlessly about the safety of their employees and their students. They make the best decisions they can.

We made it through that awful stretch and onto our Spring Break. For me it was a great time. I went to Birmingham to take care of my Rosie. She and I had a wonderful week together, playing and laughing. That bonding time was so precious to me. She lifts my spirits like no one else can! 

After a few days, we left on a trip to California for our niece's wedding. We had a great time seeing family and friends and reconnecting with folks we had not seen in a while. My husband and his brother Jim had been in a band when I first met them about 40 years ago. One of the guys who was in their band back then came out and the son of another came and the four of them played a few songs at the reception. It was magical. 

The wedding was a very special time for our family. My niece and nephew were supposed to be married last October and the wedding had to be postponed, as my new nephew got very sick. We were so thankful as a family, that the kids were able to make it through a tough time and are now on their honeymoon. 

We are very blessed as a family. To see my niece in her wedding dress so happy was such a blessing to me. 

Now the weather is getting warmer, and the trees and shrubs are blooming. So, goodbye winter. We know it's hard for you to go, but we will not miss you any more. 

Our newlyweds

Our son came to the wedding with us. 

Our house just a month ago
A little bit of springtime in my life. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Our Lawrence

This past Thursday, my sister-in-law called to tell me that a sweet wonderful man from my home county had died. His name was Lawrence Price, and he was a part of our extended family. His daughter Angie married my nephew Keith probably around 1979. I got to know Lawrence and his wife Shirley and their two young sons when my nephew started dating Angie.

From the first day I met him, I loved him. You couldn't help but love him. He accepted my family as a part of his family straight off the bat.

Lawrence was one of those guys who, as Southerners like to say, "Never met a stranger." He always had a smile on his face and a story to tell.  As years went by, I realized that the light that shone from Lawrence was the light of Christ.

When Lauren was a baby, probably about a year old, she was what my husband liked to call, "mommified." She clung to me and really didn't want anybody to hold her except me, most of the time. Around that time, we took a family vacation to visit my family in South Carolina. During that visit, Lawrence and family came to a family dinner and a miracle happened! My shy baby girl, who would never go to a stranger let Lawrence not only hold her, he carried her around all over my nephew's yard, talking gently to her and making her giggle. She loved him for the rest of her life.

Over the years, she would go straight to him and give him a big hug. He was devastated when she died. The other night, I thought how sweet it must have been when she saw him again.

Lawrence stood strong as a rock through the deaths of my nephew and many other family members. He coached at least 3 generations of Dixie Youth baseball in my home county. He worked as a prison guard for many years, and was even loved by the inmates he served there, primarily because he treated them with respect. He loved the Carolina Gamecocks, so much so, that you rarely ever saw him without a USC hat or shirt on. He served his church faithfully, and loved his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren fiercely.

Saturday morning, I listened to a streaming broadcast of my hometown radio station. They were playing a tribute to Lawrence. I learned a lot about a man I had known for years. I learned that practically everybody in my home county knew him and loved him. I found out that he was a regular on the station's SportsTalk show, and that he had never coached a championship team, but he had coached an All-Star team and that he was in the Dixie Youth (I think) Hall of Fame.
When they signed off, they played the Gamecock Fight song. Perfect.

I talked to Angie the other night after I heard the news. I said to her that there was no telling how many people's lives her dad had touched. I saw a quote from Jack Kerouac that reminds me of Lawrence: "Be in love with your life. Every minute of it." He did, and all who knew him are better because of it.

Lawrence Price

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A picture is really worth a lot

The other night I found a picture of me as a baby. I am about 9 months old, sitting in a high chair in our kitchen. I have a somewhat perplexed look on my face, as babies often do. What caught my attention is the stove and something on the wall behind me. Memories of my mother cooking at that stove came flooding back as I looked at the photo.

I suddenly remembered the little wooden hanging shaped like a teapot that hung on the wall. It's funny what you forget when you leave home like I did at 17. All the little knick knacks that were in your parents' house don't seem that important until you see one of them and it triggers your memory. My brother gave me a picture that was in my parents' bedroom a while back, and it hangs in my laundry room now.

It makes me a little bit sad, because the house we grew up in left our family after our father passed away (it's a long story that I won't go into) and now it's been torn down.

I sent the photo to my son and daughter-in-law. They both loved seeing it, and my daughter-in-law even saw a little bit of our Rosie in that photo.

I wish I could take my Rosie to see where her Mimi grew up, but that house is gone now. They tore down my elementary school years ago, and even my high school was closed and the students sent to the county high school. Thankfully, my high school's buildings are being used by my hometown for other purposes.

I have decided to take the enormous project of cataloging our photos on again. I'm doing it for Rosie, her mom and dad and for her future siblings, if God blesses us in that way.

(I hope this time is not as tough as the last. I have finally gotten to the point where I can see pictures of Lauren without totally falling apart.)

So, when you look at photos of yourself when you were a kid, notice the other things around you in the room. Sometimes, it's good to remember.

Baby LaJuan

Saturday, January 10, 2015

My sister, my friend

This month of January reminds me of my sisters-in-law. Three of the five were born this month. I grew up with three brothers, and married into a family just like mine: three boys and one girl (who was the baby, like me). I always wanted a sister of my own, and God has blessed me with five!

Let me tell you a bit about my "sisters."

Elizabeth: I met my husband when his sister Liz was 8 years old, and we got married when she was 16.  She has been my little sister longer than she hasn't been my little sister. She was my maid of honor and I was her matron of honor.  Our daughter's middle name was Elizabeth, for our Lizzy. She is my son's godmother, and I am her son's godmother.

If I had to describe Lizzy in one word, I would probably want to use the word "strong," even though that is only one aspect of her personality.  She has been the rock of our family for many years. She took care of her parents until they died, and did so willingly. I know that her brothers are grateful to her for that, even though they might not say it. I know I was grateful, even though it had to be hard for her, given that she had her own family to take care of. Liz is funny (she has that quirky Italian/ Tallo sense of humor), loving and intelligent. She takes care of business when business needs to be taken care of. Writing this post, I can hear her vivacious laughter that makes everybody laugh when they hear it.

Deborah: Of all of my "sisters" I have known Debbie the longest. I met her when we were both young teens. Her family and our family were friends long ago in Calif.  I was happy when she married my brother and we became sisters. Debbie and I have always loved each other, and always been able to share with each other.  We can always make each other laugh. Deb and I laugh at the same things. We love nothing better than hanging out at the beach or the mall or just going out to eat so that we can have a visit and talk. She took care of my brother when he was sick, through the horrors of Alzheimer's, until he passed away. She loves my family and has always been there for us.

Susan: Susan and I are the same age, so we have a lot in common. She came into our family a little over 10 years ago when she married my brother. She and I hit it off and have become really good friends over the years.  We have spent a lot of time together over these years during our visits back home and taking trips to the beach together. She and I have fun when we are together. Susan is a very sweet woman. She can seem shy when you first meet her, but when she opens up to you, you discover a wonderful person. I am so happy to have her in my life. I always look forward to when we get to spend time together as sisters.

Yolanda: Yoli and I are also the same age.  She is absolutely one of the sweetest people I have ever known. Her heart is so big, and she will help anyone who needs her. Yoli is the wife and mother I wanted to be. She is an excellent cook and knows how to do all the cool things with her kids I never found the time to do. Yoli's house is always immaculate, and she always seems to have everything together.

Yoli and I have a bond that I have with none of the others, thankfully. Both she and I have lost children. Yoli's first son Jason died when she was a young mother, long before she married into our family. She was able to comfort me when I lost Lauren. Now Yoli has lost two of her three grandchildren. My heart was broken last year when her grandson Ivan passed away after a long illness, and recently she lost her granddaughter Alexa. Her cause of death is not known. My heart is broken for her again, and I wish I could be there to comfort her.

Margaret: Margaret married my second brother before I was born. (My two older brothers were 23 and 21 when I came along.) My mother was not in good health when I was growing up, and Margaret was like a second mother to me. She did those things for my youngest brother and me that Mama couldn't do: She made Christmas and Easter special every year, and I grew up playing with my nephew Keith at her house, going to the river with her every summer and swimming, cooking out and fishing. She taught me how to grow a garden, and provided many fresh vegetables for our family through the years.  Margaret and I also share something: she lost her only son (my nephew Keith) in an accident. Margaret passed away before  Lauren died, and I am thankful that she did not have to suffer through my loss with me. I just wish I could have comforted her more, but I did know understand her journey then. She was more than a "sister" to me. I loved her with all my heart, and I miss her still. She loved to laugh and loved her family more than anything else.

I am so thankful for the women God put in my life through my family. I could write a book about them. I haven't even gotten to my nieces yet!

With my sister-in-law, Yoli.

RT and I with Liz and her husband Robert in Las Vegas

With Susan and Deborah

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A perfect gift

Another football season has come and gone, we've gone through Advent and now Christmas and a New Year is upon us again. We are back at work and starting a new semester.  

A lot has happened since I last posted about the birth of our first grandchild, Rosemary. I had the opportunity to keep her for three days in November, and to spend a lot of time with her over the holidays. Christmas was so much fun! Her parents gave us a handmade gift of her footprint. It was the best gift we got! 

The joy she brings to us is indescribable. 

It is so interesting to me to see my child with his child. I have always known that Aaron was good with kids. He's always been like the Pied Piper when it comes to little kids. They love him, naturally. You can see how much Rosie loves him, even at her tender age of four months. She lights up with Daddy, and he can make her giggle. 

She looks up at her mom and dad with such wonder. My husband remarked that Rosie looks up at her mother the way her Daddy used to look up at me. I was really surprised that he said that. I think we take things like that for granted and don't really appreciate them until they are gone. Today, we are so fortunate to have digital cameras and camera phones that can record much more than in the days when I was a young mother.  

My son and his wife are learning and growing with their daughter every day. They have both "stepped up to the plate" and take really good care of her. We are so thankful that they are such good parents to our granddaughter. 

I saw a little poem that I think sums up my feelings for Rosemary: 

"A gift you are from heaven above, a perfect example of God's precious love."

(Thinking back, it sums up how I felt about my own children, too. I hope I appreciated it then, as much as I do now.) 

My favorite (so far) picture of Rosie and me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A perfect rose in our family garden

She made her appearance at 10 minutes past midnight on Labor Day.
Our first grandchild, Rosemary Lauren was born that night, weighing in at 8 lbs., 7 oz. and 21 inches long. She has a head full of hair.

She actually came nine days early. Her grandpa and I had driven through Birmingham the Saturday before on the way back home. We had a nice visit with our son and daughter-in-law, and made our way back to Mississippi that day. Directly after mass, I received a call from my son, saying that they had been to the hospital but had been sent home. We went to lunch with some friends, and then to the grocery store. We came home and went to the track for a walk. We were on the last leg when our son called back! They were at the hospital! We rushed home and hit the road to Birmingham. We got there at around 9:30, and were able to be there for our Rosie to make her appearance. After she had been with her mom and dad for a couple of hours, we were able to see her for the first time.

My whole world changed when I held that sweet baby in my arms for the first time. To see my son hold his own child filled my heart with joy.  I can only imagine what Lauren would think. I know she would really be in love with this little bundle. She is looking down on us, I know.

We have enjoyed two wonderful visits with Rosie and her parents. I am bursting with pride at the great job they are doing with her.  They have settled in to being parents and I am so happy that they are having this special time to bond with her.  We are looking forward to our next visit over my fall break. With the holidays coming we will be able to spend more time getting to know our precious granddaughter.

We love the name that they picked out and were so honored that they would name her after Lauren. It was such a thoughtful and wonderful thing for them to do.

I have a devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux. She was a Carmelite nun who died at age 24 of tuberculosis.  Due to her wonderful writings, she was named a Doctor of the Church.  Therese was known as "The Little Flower." One of the prayers associated with her is a request for her to send a rose from heaven. It goes something like this:

St. Therese, the Little Flower
please pick me a rose from the heavenly garden
and send it to me with a message of love.

And God grant me the favor I thee implore
and tell Him I will love him 
each day, more and more. 

I think St. Therese sent us the sweetest rose in her garden. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Anticipation and sadness...

This past three weeks of summer have basically been horrible.  First, we lost Ellen, the mother of Dawn, one of my best friends. She had been very sick and in the end was in hospice care at home. My poor friend and her brother and other family put their lives on hold, but were blessed to be there when she passed away.

We went to her visitation on a Sunday, but on the Thursday evening before, my other best friend Michelle's  21-year-old son Christian and two his friends were hit by a drunk driver traveling on the wrong side of the interstate. The driver and the passenger (Christian) both suffered broken bones, but praise God they are on the mend. After some complications, he has recovered enough to eat solid foods again. Both he and one of the other girls, Maria, who was in the back seat, are members of our parish. The young lady in the back seat has been in an induced coma in ICU, and was finally moved to a step down.

Three days ago, my sweet friend Janet lost her mother. Her mom had broken her hip, but was doing better. She died peacefully in her apartment. Tonight, a week after Dawn's mom's visitation, we went back for Janet's mom.

Last week, one of my former students, a young man of 25, passed away. TJ was the kind of kid that lit up the room when he came through the door. He was like my Lauren in that respect. TJ loved journalism- like me, he had "newsprint" in his blood. He had worked for his father's cousin at his newspaper, and loved every minute of it. TJ served as the editor of our college newspaper, and the job he did was spectacular. Like me, he had faced the death of a loved one. His older sister Jessica, who was the same age as Lauren, died in a car accident right when TJ was finishing high school. TJ never got over her loss. He and I talked a lot about it, but I knew it tortured him.

He had a rough go of it, and I won't go into details, but he did come and see me about a month ago. We had a wonderful visit and he seemed very positive again. He asked me for a recommendation for a job he was seeking, and I was happy to help him.  We parted after a long talk and I never saw him again after that. When I learned of his death, I was heartbroken. For him, for his parents, for his little sister Chloe, and for myself. I have lost someone I truly loved, once again. I spent an hour with his parents and sister, the other day. We talked about TJ, and his mother told me that he loved me too. It gave me peace of mind, but my heart is still broken for these people who have lost two children they loved. I understand their pain, but could not imagine having to go through losing another child. I pray for them and ask God to comfort them and bring them peace.

The one bright spot in this summer is that we are weeks away from the birth of our granddaughter. We have learned since I wrote before that her name will be Rosemary Lauren. She will be called Rosie. I cannot wait to hold her in my arms. I know she will be precious, as all children are, and I will be proud to be her Mimi.

As I contemplate sweet Rosie, I miss my Lauren really badly. I know she would be so happy over this baby who bears her name. I believe in my heart, that Lauren knows all about her and loves her already.

Dear Lord, we ask you for a safe delivery for Rosemary, and for her parents. I pray for Dawn and Janet, and TJ's family in their grief. I pray for Michelle, as she faces this long journey of Christian's recovery and for Christian as he embarks on that journey back to health. I pray for Maria, for her healing and for her return to her family, and most especially to her young daughter. 
Lord, hear our prayers. Amen.