Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The "Song" of the Church

I have been doing some freelance writing lately for a blog called Catholic365.com. This is my fourth published article and it is original to that blog. I have updated things I wrote here before for my previous articles. 

There are some wonderful articles on this blog. We are fortunate to have some great writers out there contributing to a really fabulous blog. 

Here is my latest: 

Friday, July 24, 2015

The emotional roller coaster of life...

This summer has been an emotional roller coaster for me. Since school let out, we have lost two young people in the same way I lost my Lauren.

First it was a beautiful little girl named Katie and then a handsome young man named Dustin. I didn't know either of these young people personally, but I know their parents' grief. My heart breaks when I see that news come across  Facebook.

I always write to the parents. I have to. People who had experienced our loss reached out to us. I think it is only right that I do the same.

On the other side of the coin, we had a wonderful family visit in Las Vegas two weeks ago. It was our granddaughter Rosemary's first plane flight, and her first time to meet her Grandpa's big Italian family. She met her Great Great Aunt Mary, who is one of the oldest in our family. Since her great grandparents are gone, it was good that Aunt Mary was able to see her.  She was a real trouper and did a wonderful job for only being 10 months old. She made her Mimi very proud and happy.

My husband was with all three of his siblings for the first time since their father's death. Their spouses and children were also with us. Our cousins from Calif. came to meet Rosie and spend time with us. We ate a lot of good food and had a lot of laughs and there were lots of family stories repeated and shared. One of the best things for me was attending mass at the Cathedral with my little family and our cousins, Jodie and Frances.

We went to a very special wedding last weekend, and will be going to another tomorrow.  The one last weekend was one of Lauren's first little friends, Jessica. She and Jessica went to the same after school day care. Jessica is always so happy to see us when we run across her anywhere. She is such a sweet girl, and made a spectacularly beautiful bride.

Tomorrow we will go to Ashley's wedding. Her family and our family have been friends since we came to Mississippi. We tailgate with her parents every fall. Ashley is such a wonderful girl, with a very loving heart. We are so excited to be a part of these young people's happy days.

As we approach fall, there are elections coming up here in Mississippi and football season is around the corner. For now we will enjoy the dog days of summer, grilling on our patio, and spending time with friends. We look forward to celebrating our Rosie's first birthday in September.

Family Photo in Vegas! Almost everybody was there! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Baptized with vinegar

This article was originally published at Catholic365.com
A while back I heard Mark Hart, the Bible Geek on the radio and one of the things he said made me laugh, but it stuck with me. He was talking about Christian joy (or the lack thereof) and he said, “Some people look like they were baptized with vinegar.”
At first, I thought that was hysterically funny, but after I thought about it, I realized he was right. I play piano and organ at Mass every Sunday, and from my vantage point, I can see the whole congregation. It’s amazing how many people, even the priest sometimes, really have a sour look on their faces from time to time. It made me wonder a couple of things - Why is that the case? And, do I look that way to others?
Why would we look sour at Mass, of all places, when we are about to embark on the most remarkable journey mankind has ever known? Maybe because we are human, and we can’t fathom the depth of what is about to happen? Do we take it for granted? St. John Vianney explained that even the priest may not be able to appreciate his own part in this miracle: "O, how great is the priest! ... If he realized what he is, he would die," St. John Vianney said.
Now, I understand that everybody has a bad day now and then. I have heard all the arguments about how “Mass is boring” from adults and kids alike. I always want to remind them that Mass is not supposed to be entertainment. It is what we are called to do by the Lord Himself. I think He told us to do it in His memory until He comes back and we don’t have to any more. Where is our joy then?
Hart’s comment certainly gave me pause to examine myself. We have only one Sunday Mass at our little parish and it is at 8 a.m. It is a sacrifice sometimes to get up on Sunday, like a regular workday in order to be there in time to play at Mass. But I have tried to give that to Jesus. Being joyful that time of morning is another thing. I pray I can learn to be more joyful, and that the light of Christ can shine through me.
I figure if I can be joyful at that 8 a.m. Mass every Sunday, it will spill over into my everyday life. "Christian joy is a gift of God flowing from a good conscience,” St. Philip Neri said. I think we all need to embrace that. No more vinegar!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Please don't stop the pain

The other day during one of our three commencement exercises at the college where I work, I found myself overwhelmed by a memory of Lauren that cut me to the bone. As the communications staff, we are required to sit on the coliseum floor near the stage in order to be able to photograph students receiving their diplomas and coming off the stage. We do it every year, but this year was particularly hard for me.

It reminded me of the night, nine days after Lauren's death, that my husband, son and I sat in the same place during Lauren's graduation ceremony. A bouquet of flowers sat in her chair.

Lately, I have been thinking about how memories of Lauren are everywhere around me. I even said to someone that there was no escaping it.  It was bothering me quite a bit at first, but then I realized something: I want those memories- no matter how painful some of them can be. I don't want those painful memories to stop any more that I would want to lose the good ones.

So I will cherish the memories- good ones and painful ones, if it means she will always stay near to me.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The good parts of May

It's May again, and we've made it past another Mother's Day and another anniversary of Lauren's passing. My husband and I were very busy last weekend, when all of that was happening, and I think that was probably a good thing for both of us.

My son was not able to bring his family home, but he called me on that day, just to check on me. He's really every mother's dream: he's a wonderful son to me, a great husband to my daughter-in-law and a caring and loving father to our little granddaughter.  He never forgets to check on me during this difficult time of year, and for that I am really grateful. 

On Friday, we were able to meet the wonderful young woman who received this year's Rotary scholarship named in Lauren's memory. Lauren received that same scholarship that year.

In January, I got asked to participate on the Main Street board, and one of our biggest events of the year is our Five Star City Fest. My husband and I both volunteered for the two-day event. I worked on the Promotions committee and he served as the emcee for the Friday night concert. I took photos for both days, and by the time it was over,  we were both worn out. Our dear friend Fr. David came on Friday night, to enjoy the evening with us and we ended the weekend with a wonderful Mother's Day mass and a FaceTime with our granddaughter later on Sunday evening.

Enjoying the Five Star City Fest with our friend David

The kids in our parish brought us flowers for Mother's Day.

I wonder sometimes what Lauren would think about how our lives have evolved since she passed away. Would she be happy? What would she be doing in her own life at almost 30 years old? The Five Star City Fest used to be known as Mayfair when it was a Saturday arts and crafts fair. That is the last thing Lauren and I did together, on the day before Mother's Day 11 years ago. It took me a few years to be able to go back, and now, walking through that park again, meeting and greeting friends serves to remind me of the good times I had when Lauren and I walked through that park that day. The pain is still there, but I'm able to focus on the good parts of that experience.

Time moves on and for my husband, son and me, every milestone and holiday is bittersweet, but we persevere through the grace of God, and the loving support of family and friends.

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.