My little guy…

I have the most amazing human in my life. God created him just for me. He turns twenty-two today. His whole life has been a blessing for me. If you don’t know my Kyler, you don’t know what you are missing.

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Kyler was born during a trying time in my life. His dad and I were separated. I had three other children and I was going to college full-time. God sent me this angel for so many reasons. He pulled our family back together. He changed my faith in God. Kyler was a gift.

When he was born, Kyler had serious medical issues. Frankly, there were times when I thought we wouldn’t have him very long. For the first time, I reached out to God in a different way. My desperation was so enormous. My prayer warrior at that time was my Aunt Lyla. She called me every day at the hospital and prayed with me. I would be so down. My hormones were crazy, my husband and I were separated and my baby wasn’t going to live. I had my mind made up. I just knew he was going to be taken from me. Aunt Lyla wasn’t having any of that. She talked me through it all and prayed for all of us. Kyler’s issues stopped as suddenly as they had begun. He began to get better and thrive and in no time, we were going home. I learned the power of prayer during that time. I learned that prayer warriors are essential and I learned that forgiveness crucial.

After we brought Kyler home, we spoiled him rotten. We were all afraid he would get sick again and we treated him like he was the most fragile of souls. He didn’t make a sound before three other children and I were on top of him seeing what this sweet baby needed. Kendall was the most enamoured of him. He loved Kyler from the moment he laid eyes on him. He would sit and hold Kyler and watch every blip on the monitor that Kyler wore. He played with him and fed him and was selfish with his time with him. I often had to tell Kendall that I was his MOM and I would be just fine handling him alone. Unfortunately, all this attention went straight to Kyler’s head. He was spoiled rotten in no time.

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As the kids got older, Kyler became the boss. We didn’t like it. We tried to dissuade it. However, none of us could stand to see him cry. Well, none of us except Kade. Although Kade was the older brother, Kyler bossed him around incessantly. Our children always slept with us. We had a king size bed and we just all piled in. There were many times that Kyler would throw a fit because Kade and Kennedy would be in bed with us. He wanted to be top dog. This did not include sharing me, my bed, the television. He would announce that it was time for the kids to go to bed, point his finger in the direction of their rooms and tell them to ‘git’. Then he would prop himself up on our big pillows, tell me to put Spongebob on and demand a bowl of Lays potato chips. Oh my, he was awful. And we all let him! We totally created this monster.

 

The three middle kids were my ‘stair-step kids’. Kendall and Belle are my bookends. Kendall was much older, Belle was much younger. The three in the middle were born in four years. There is exactly eighteen months and one day between Kyler and Kennedy. The three in the middle have always been a trio of chaos. They fought the most, loved the most, got in trouble the most. Kennedy was the innocent bystander that got lead into precarious situations out of her control. She trusted her brothers and was guileless in her participation in most of the calamities that befell her. They would cook something up and persuade her to join in. A lot of times, they tried to blame her for things she didn’t even really know were happening. Luckily, I was an ornery kid too, so I knew she was just being dragged into the predicaments they created. More often than not, she just stood there wide-eyed until the storm had passed. It’s funny to hear her talk about it now. She will tell how Kyler would dare her to say a curse word, he would keep after her until she would finally relent, then he would come and tell on her. The two of them kept Kade busy too. They would do anything to irritate Kade. Kade has always been particular about his belongings. He did not want them in his room. Not only would they sneak in there, they would get on his top bunk and get in his stuff and drive him crazy.

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Kyler was also stubborn. He hated clothes. He was always in his underwear. People would actually come over when he was dressed and feign surprise at the fact that he even had clothing. He had a temper. He would get mad at Kade for something and would vow his revenge. He actually peed on one of Kade’s game systems one time because of some slight he perceived as war-like. Bill had the painting company and his crew came to the house every morning to start the work day. The boys did terrible things to these poor men. When it was hot, the guys would turn the hose on and get a cool drink while they were cleaning tools. These awful boys peed in the hose. They shot windows out of the truck on one employee. BB guns were not allowed after that. Kyler would go to work with Bill and when they stopped to pick up one of the employees, Kyler would tell them they had to sit in the back seat. He has always been the boss.

When all of the other kids started school, it was just Kyler and me. The kids went to a private school so we took them every morning. After we dropped them off, Kyler and I had breakfast. He always wanted Hardees or Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel has always been our spot. He wanted no guests to eat with us. This was our time. I miss that most of all I think.

For six years, Kyler was the baby. Several years, it was just the two of us. We spent all of our time together. He didn’t want to stay all night with Nana or friends. He just wanted to be at home with momma. Then the unthinkable happened. I got pregnant. We were going to have a new baby. Oh my goodness. The hysterics. When we told him we were having a new baby, without missing a beat and with a seriousness that was terrifying, he stated “I’m going to kill it.” Good grief. Fortunately, he got over all of that when he saw her, and when I assured him that he would always be the baby, even though he wasn’t the littlest any more. I put him in charge of diaper patrol and bottle gathering. He was full of pride at his resourcefulness and he loved her like she was his toy. He still does.

 

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Kendall and Kyler were always close, but because of the closeness in age and the ability to get under each other’s skin, Kade and Kyler took a little longer to become good friends. When they did, they got into more orneriness!! They were fearless and their goal in life was to live up to the Soden name. Their grandfather and dad had left a legacy of being the ‘tough guys’ and they weren’t going to let that stop with them. As I look back now, I don’t know how any of us made it. On the plus side, I got to know a lot of nice policemen. Luckily, they grew out of all of that and they are good boys. They are also best friends. Their loyalty to each other and the other kids is so amazing to me. I don’t have a really close relationship to my brothers (I’m working on that). These kids love each other. They care about what is going on in each others lives. They love spending time together. The best times are Sundays when everyone comes. Every one of us cherish that.

Kyler picked out his girl early in life. He was fifteen, I think, when Kennedy told me that Kyler had a girlfriend. I met her and fell in love with her. I can remember thinking I hoped he kept her, but at their age, that probably wouldn’t last. It did. He’s never had another. There have been other girls when they have broken up. They lasted all of about ten minutes. None of them were Kate. I am forever thankful that this is who he chose for us. And in our family, you chose for us. We spend too much time together to choose someone who can’t adapt to our brand of crazy. She did. They have been together through everything. They have grown up together. They are a family now. They gave me my most precious gift, Karter. He is so loved. He’s the only grandbaby for us and the only nephew. We all dote on him. He has brought a ray of sunshine to all of us. I am grateful beyond measure that Kyler chose Kate and blessed me with Karter. They are a wonderful little family. I am so proud of my sweet son. And Kate? She is kind and loving and the best mommy. She is also such a hard worker. Her whole life revolves around making a home for her family. She started nursing school this week. I have no doubt she will be an incredible nurse.  My boys are so lucky. She is an angel.

Today is my baby boy’s birthday. It makes me so sad. Birthdays do that to me now. Just a few minutes ago he was sitting in my bed with me watching Spongebob and having me scratch his back. He has the biggest blue eyes and they hold the key to my heart. Kyler is my sweet son, he is also my friend. I am so lucky. If you see him today, wish him well. His new turn around the sun starts today. This last year has been extraordinary, I cannot wait to see what he accomplishes next. Happy Birthday Kyler. You’ll always be my little guy. Momma loves you.

My friend, Sam

19396984_10214052718058673_6761842725271749094_nI have an old coonhound named Sam. We aren’t really sure how old Sam is, he was someone else’s throwaway who landed at our door. Kennedy was on the front porch one evening and Sam just sort of ambled up onto the porch and took over our hearts. Kennedy came and got Ken and I out of bed so we could see what was outside. She excitedly led the way and what we found was one of the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen.

Sam is a blue-tick coon hound. He has big chocolate ears, a sad brown face and his body is a map of liver spots and ticking. His ticking is creamy white with blue/black tick marks. When he found us, he probably weighed less than fifty pounds. His coat was dull and coarse and he had more ticks on him than I ever thought could get on a dog. Ken and I sat down with Kennedy and Sam just walked up and rested his head on my knees and sighed really big. It was like he was saying, “I’m so tired.” Belle soon joined us and for the next few days we spent any free time picking ticks off of Sam. Kennedy would rather cut her fingers off than touch bugs, and yet she loving pulled hundreds of nasty bugs from Sam. There were hundreds around his eyes and so many in and around his ears. That was the worst of it. They were so tiny and it felt like we would never get them all. We also started feeding this skinny hound. You could run your fingers down his sides and count every rib. His shoulder blades stuck out like sails on a ship. He was just all angles. Except for his big, loppy ears. Sam has great ears. Anyway, we fed him dozens of scrambled eggs and hot dogs and anything else we thought would put weight on him. Ken got up one morning and made biscuits and gravy, after all, gravy makes you fat! We groomed and nurtured and fattened and loved this sweet dog back into doggy shape.

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It wasn’t long and Sam made it into the house and was taking regular naps in the sun beams crossing the end of the sofa. He moves with the slowness and ease of an old timer. He saunters around the house, stopping to chuff things out, sizing things up and making sure things are at the right. He is an affectionate scoundrel. He loves hugs. He doesn’t seem to realize his size, which is now closer to eighty pounds than the scrawny fifty he was when he landed here. When I sit in my chair, he comes over and puts his front paws up on the foot stool and slowly starts maneuvering his way into my lap. Usually I am trying, unsuccessfully, to explain to him that he is too big to be in my lap. It would surprise you how small he can make himself when he is determined. He lowers his head and pushes up against your chest with his forehead and just stands there. It’s like he’s saying he is so thankful. Or he’s telling you he will keep your secrets. You can trust a dog with anything. They listen and love and in the end, you both feel good. You can’t say no to Sam. It would break his heart…and mine.

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I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a coonhound, but they don’t bark, they bawl. Sammy has the most mournful bay. It seems to start around his tail, by the time it gets to his throat, his head is thrown back and a deep siren of a call comes out of him. I can’t get enough of it. Even after this many years. Other’s aren’t quite as passionate. Belle has a friend who fishes with his grandfather on our lake, she has had more than one phone call telling her to shut her dumb dog up, he’s scaring the fish away. His cry does echo all across this lake. Wherever you are on the lake, you can hear Sammy. He also loves to swim. If he gets out, oh my gosh. First, you can forget catching him. Stubborn. He doesn’t hurt anything, but he loves to ‘tree’ cats. He stands at the bottom of the tree and with every breath announces to the world that what he was trailing has been caught. When he gets bored, or hot, he heads for the water. Not just in and out. He gets in, leisurely gliding in until his feet no longer touch, then he just swims. Back and forth. It stresses me to no end in the summer months. I am afraid someone is going to come in to our little cove and run right over him without ever knowing he was there. When he’s had his fill. he climbs out, shakes off and has a nap in the sun under the huge oak tree in the front yard. People in the neighborhood always stop to say hi to him. He has a big, easy grin and he loves a bit of a scratch behind those big ears.

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He has become the favorite of everyone in the family, but his heart is really Kennedy’s. She isn’t home much, she’s out adulting. He waits. He knows her car. Just as soon as he hears her, he starts in. Sound the hounds. Out the doggy door, to the fence, in the doggy door to the front door and back. This is a constant loop until she comes in. Then he hugs her. He stands up, wraps his front paws around her neck, puts his forehead against hers and just stands there. He is so happy she is here. For the next three or four hours, no other animal will be able to get anywhere near her. She is his. He chuffs and gruffs and lays across her. It’s obvious to me. She found him and saved him. He came to her. She said it best, “God sure gave us a special gift when he had Sam show up.”. That’s the way we all feel.

I became a true coonhound mom the night Sam was out and I thought he was hurt. It was the first night he had gotten out and stayed out all night. I could hear him baying over and over and I was convinced he was stuck somewhere. It was freezing rain outside, I was home alone and I couldn’t stand it, I had to go and see what was wrong. I put my robe on over my pajamas, my muck boots on, snagged Ken’s big ol spot light from the kitchen and went out front and jumped on the mule. The window was iced over, the wind was blowing and I was trying to hold the spotlight and drive. The week earlier, we had lost a tree in the weather and I was convinced he was caught in that tree somewhere looking like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining. Mind you, this is about three o’clock in the morning. So I am yelling and yelling for him and suddenly he jumps out in front of me. I swear he was smiling. He was wagging his whole body. He was having fun. I was so mad. I whipped that mule around and headed straight back to the house. Damn dog.

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Sam is terrified of storms. I know some dogs are nervous during bad weather. We have two others that don’t do very well during storms. Sam is not even on their scale. He can sense it coming. So on many occasions. he has alerted me to the fact that bad weather was on it’s way. Once the thunder starts, Sam is a full time job. I was the first one who got to see this. I kept telling the family how awful it was, but like most things, everyone poo-poo’s mom. One by one, they have each had their turn. It truly is pitiful. In March, I had just gotten out of the hospital and Sam had gotten out. He was amorously chasing another throw-away pet in our neighborhood who happened to be in heat. He was not coming home. We had been out in the truck, on the mule, on the four-wheeler. We had walked and yelled and bribed. When you got feet from him, he bolted. He was BUSY. Kade and Ken had been trying to get him in, we knew bad weather was coming. They both had to go to work and I was going to be home alone. I was nearly hysterical. Everyone left and I sat and waited, Periodically, I would go out on the front porch and yell for him. He didn’t normally come to the guys, but would usually always come to one of us girls. I yelled til I was horse. I wasn’t supposed to be driving anything but it just kept getting uglier and uglier out. I called Ken and Kade in a panic and they both told me to calm down, Sam was a dog, he would be ok. Well that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard.  I took this opportunity to use my furious-ness as the catalyst to stupidity. I got on the four-wheeler, which I never drive. It has power steering and goes two hundred miles an hour and I hate it. It just feels unsafe to me. Especially in the rain, with my eyes, legs and that peripheral vision thing…Off I went. I just kept screaming for Sam. I went up and down all of the dirt roads and all around the neighborhood. I went where he usually went if he managed to escape. Nothing. No sign of Sam. I was freezing. I was shaking so hard, I kept pulling on the handlebars and jerking myself to one side or the other. I kept slipping off the seat because everything was slick from the rain. My hair was in my eyes, the wind was blowing so hard. I decided I’d just better go back home. I got into the house, went straight to the basement and got out of my wet clothes. I grabbed Ken’s robe, it was hanging in the laundry room. I came upstairs, sat down on the couch and just boo-hooed. About that time, Sam walked in the back door. He was soaked to the bone and as cold as I was. I laughed and swatted his butt and then hugged his neck. After drying him off and making him a warm bed on the couch along side the one I made for myself, we cuddled. I cannot tell you the relief I felt.

Our dogs are our family. We have voices for all of them, so we carry out complete conversations we perceive they are having. They all have personalities and quirks that we cater to. We know who is scared of what and who is certainly going to get into trouble if left unattended. They get gifts at Christmas and they have special back to school treats. Although they aren’t going to school. they will be so sad Belle is. They hate it when that big yellow box takes her away for the day. Sam and Tag will stand guard waiting for her to come back home. I don’t know why God chose us for Sam to come to. I know that he has been a comfort to me on so many occasions. I love that big ol coonhound. He will look at you with those big brown, sad eyes and it just makes me smile. I don’t know who decided to throw him away, but I am thankful every day that they did.

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My Sister Friend, Ellen Pearl

I have often written about the women in my life. God has blessed me with some of the strongest women he made. I have an arsenal of female perspective and a gaggle of iron shouldered geese to lean on when my road gets bumpy. This particular story is about Pearl, otherwise known as Ellen Voyles, my sister in law. I don’t usually call her that. We are sister-friends. She is so much more than a sister in law.

I always wanted a sister. I had brothers.  I had two step sisters once. Picture Anastasia and Drizella. I was so excited when I found out I was going to have not one, but two sisters!! I made a spot for them in my closet for when they came to stay. I had a trundle bed at the time, I pulled the trundle out and left it set up so they would feel like they had a ‘spot’. The older sister was a senior in high school and didn’t come very many weekends. The younger one was a year younger than me and came to visit a lot. She and I made friends quickly. Well, I did. You know me, I was full of big plans, I had visions of us becoming inseparable. We would do everything together, go shopping and do make-overs on each other and we would be there for each other when children were born and when family died and we would make super cool nicknames for each other. Maybe we would even have our own secrete language like twins sometimes did! Gasp! Slumber parties with all of our friends, mom making a batch of cherry chip cupcakes! We would, of course, share favorites in every thing!  I took the fantasy of having a sister and ran as fast as I could with it. I always do this. I’m forever excited and enthusiastic. Even now, at the age of fifty, my balloon doesn’t land. I’m the ant moving that damn rubber tree plant. Unfortunately, in this situation, I was flying a kite made of fantasy and destruction. I was ten miles down the road with my kite before I realized that the kite string had been cut, the kite was on fire and it was headed for the side of  a barn.

What I found out rather quickly was, she was a brat. Unfortunately, I was a brat too, and this was a one-brat-household. My dreams of my being the Marcia Brady to her Jan skid down the hot slide of life.

So there went my dreams of a sister. I eventually got married and was blessed with two sisters-in-law. I have loved these girls for thirty-three years. However, we have always lived so far away from each other. We’ve always been friends, we keep in touch even now. With busy lifestyles and long distance, it has been hard for us to have a close knit relationship. I always thought, ‘One day’. We think that about a lot of things, don’t we? One day we won’t be as busy. then we will……

So then a bunch of other crap happened that you don’t want to hear about right now and I met my second husband. In comes Pearl, Stage Left.

I came up to the lake house for the first time one afternoon in early summer. It was HOT! I had my hair cut in a cute little pixie and I had been tanning a little bit so my legs didn’t look like a can of busted biscuits. I wore a knee length skirt and my good luck t-shirt and my old keds tennis shoes. Pretty cute sea going fare. We skipped down to the boat, Yes, I said skipped, anyway…We skipped down to  the boat and hopped in and Ken took off like his pants were on fire. We hurled around the lake five or six times going about two hundred miles and hour and I couldn’t see a damn thing because my skirt had blown up over my head and I was too afraid to let go of whatever I was hanging on to. When he finally did slow down, it was with a jerk and I fell forward and smacked my forehead on the windshield in front of me. While I was trying to rearrange my clothes and smooth down my hair, he stuck his hand out and said “Wanna go meet my brother?” Grinning, I said “Sure!” Inside I was thinking “Holy crap they are going to think I’m Guy Fieri” because there was no way my hair was going to do anything at this point but stand on it’s ends and I wasn’t completely sure if I hadn’t peed myself. Hustling me up the hill to their house, we stepped up onto the porch and rang the bell.

Ken ushered me in, I sat on the loveseat with him and was immediately warned not to pet the dog who was cheerfully wagging his tail at me. “He’s a fraud and he bites.” I nervously laughed. Then Jim started. I didn’t know he had started then, I do now. “So, Tracey, you have how many children?” Without missing a beat, “I have five children. All under the age of seven.” Everything just sort of stopped. I laughed and said I was just kidding. He looked at Ken and said “Brother, I was going to ask you what the hell were you getting into?!” This was the beginning of a fantastic friendship for me. Jim and Ellen have become my family.

More importantly, Ellen Pearl has become my sister. Pearl is long and lean. She looks as if she swam her whole life. You can see her standing on her toes on the cliffs of the Norfork Lake, ready to push off. She has this marvelous head of steel and pearl hair. It’s the hair everyone wants. It’s natural curl is perfect and her only styling tool is a bobby pin. She isn’t a chirpy morning person. You have to quietly let her adjust to the day with her coffee. She is always calm. I have never seen her flustered, I think that is one of the things that draws me to her. That and her eyes. She has the warmest eyes. She is unwavering in her attention when it is placed on you. She isn’t fussy in her clothing. She always looks smart and neat. Last summer I got so tickled with her, She and I were texting and she said, “I got a floral blouse.” I commented something non-committal, Ellen doesn’t wear floral blouses. In fact, I think I might have said as much. She said something about it being time for an old woman floral blouse. A few weeks later we went for lunch. After we got out of the car and exchanged hugs, she said “Look! My floral blouse!” It was beautiful. She was beautiful.

Ellen is gifted in many areas, painting is one talent that I am struck by. Her paintings speak to you. That sounds so cliche. It’s not deep enough. Trying to mark this with words makes it too small. There were several paintings in the house when I moved in. My  favorites changed with my mood and temperament. Now my favorite painting is the one we received as a wedding gift. I had mentioned periodically that this certain painting was my favorite of hers. When it came time for our wedding, she told me to pick out my favorite painting. I told her I loved them all so much, for her to just surprise me. I knew which one I loved, but I knew it was dear to her too. I would never have asked for it. On our wedding day, with no fanfare and all the love in the world, she gave it to me. It’s a soft painting. All whites and blues. There is a figure and he is reaching towards Heaven and releasing a bird. It’s not a dove. Not to me. It is the most peaceful work of art I have ever seen. I have it hung on the wall at the end of my bed. It’s what I see when I wake up and when I fall to sleep. It represents friendship, love, marriage, beginnings, family.

Pearl is also hysterical. She doesn’t even mean to be. She said she thought she might be going crazy because she was making sounds. Sounds? Sounds. She said her Godson asked her why she kept making that sound then she sort of made a ‘puh’ sound with pursed lips. I tried to imitate it, failed. She did it again. I tried again, sort of got it. If something is dumb now, we just make that sound. Our own secret language!!

When we first met, she kept calling me Sheila. She said I didn’t look like a Tracey, I looked like a Sheila. So I became Sheila. Belle introduced her to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back and they became Becky. Pearl, aka Becky, decided that Kennedy needed a name also and after long consideration, Kennedy became Maggie. Maggie Mae from Rod Stewart fame. Pearl said when she heard that song she could just see it was Kennedy Rod was talking about. So here we are, from left to right, Sheila, Becky, Becky and Maggie. Please to meet you.

Ellen Pearl Becky makes excellent strawberry cake and slaw. She introduced me to Japanese dumplings and how to make them. She has taught me how to pick colors for cabinets, tame a Voyles man and how to smile when you don’t want to smile.

Ken and I hadn’t been married very long when we have our first grown up fight. I was mad and had my feelings hurt. I shoved my feet down in his boots, there was three feet of snow on the ground, and went stomping over to Ellen’s house. I knocked on the back door, she took one look at me and  pointed the way upstairs leaving Jim bewildered in the basement. I laid my case out and cried and bawled and she quietly set a box of tissues in front of me and started talking. She became my lifeline in this part of the world. I hadn’t had that since I left Indiana. I’ve made a lot of friends, but not like this. She’s my sister-friend. We have gone through alot together in five short years. She has been my calm in the calamity more than once. When it came time for Ken and I to get married, we started discussing who we would have perform the vows. Immediately I asked if we could ask Ellen. I called her and asked her if she would care to be ordained and to marry us. She happily excepted. She wrote our vows, I still have the little black folio with her handwritten vows in it. No words were ever so full of love. They were written for us and to us. She has such a deep connection with Ken and it showed in the words she chose to use. We are connected now, Ellen and I. Not by our circumstances, but by the bond of sisterhood. I cherish her friendship. God always gives you what you need at the time you need it. Thank God for Pearl.

 

 

You Never Forget How Someone Makes You Feel

I got to see me brother a couple of weeks ago. He lives in South Carolina and I live in Arkansas and we aren’t that close so we don’t talk that much. He made a comment while I was there, it wasn’t about us, but it felt like he was talking right to me and it hit me right between the eyes. He said “You never forget how someone makes you feel.” Isn’t that the truth?

My mother was a hair dresser when I was young, she had a client who was a meany. When I think of her now, that’s how I think of her, that ol’ meany. When I was a teenager, she was always asking me what size jeans I wore then telling me that when she was a teenager she wore just a size under that. She would ask me my bra size and tell me that she couldn’t imagine having breasts that large at my age. My pants were too tight, my t-shirts were too tight, that color didn’t look good on me. Every time she was in the shop, these are the things she said to me. To this day I have a bad feeling when I think of her. It’s just been recently that Mother was telling the story about this particular woman stopping by the house once in a while so Mother could ‘freshen her up’ (wanting a free comb-out). She has stopped by for this particular reason and she picked up my brother, who was around three at the time. Now let me tell you, Jeffrey Haines was a gorgeous baby. I’m sure she wanted to pick him up and love all over him. She was trying to get some sugar from him and she said “What would you say if I just kissed you?” My brother deadpanned “God D@#%$t.” Mother said she was mortified! I was in Heaven! Then I suddenly thought, all those years that horrible woman was mean to me! This was why! (Picture a dramatic slump at this moment)

We also have people that make us feel like we have been wrapped in a blanket just taken from the dryer. My person like that is Beth Jones. Beth was a Kindergarten teacher at the Christian School my kids went to. I knew her long before then, however. She had cute sons that I went to church camp with. I have loved Beth Jones since the day I met her. She has this breathtaking smile that lights up a room and then she starts talking. She starts telling you how much she loves you and how beautiful you are and then come the hugs, oh the hugs. That’s the blanket thing I was talking about. When my children were young and I was having problems in my marriage, I would walk in to the class to drop one of the kids off and all she had to do was look at me and she would know. She would squeeze my arm and look me in the eye and tell me she loved me and I would start to cry. She would have her classroom aid take care of the class and step outside with me. She would say a quick prayer with me and tell me to come back on her lunch hour or on her break or after school and she would talk to me. She gave me guidance and encouraged my faith and my walk with Jesus and she told me I was worth more. She was the first person to ever tell me that I was worth something. It makes my soul cry writing this. There are not enough words to tell you how blessed I was to have God drop Beth Jones into my life. I survived a lot of years because of her.

You also have the people you meet on just a day to day basis. I go and get my watermelons from my cleaning girl’s daddy. She is a doll and he raised five amazing daughters, so I go out of the way to buy from his stand. Likewise, there is a fireworks stand in my hometown that I wouldn’t buy one of those little starters from. Two or three gals in that family ‘bought from my ex husband’s stand’, you might say, so I choose not to show my patronage to them on our Nation’s Birthday.

What will stick to your soul is the people you love. I was mean to my little brother. I was so jealous of him. He is an admitted Momma’s boy. They showed a lot of affection. I wasn’t built that way. I didn’t know what was wrong for years and years. I just thought she preferred him. So I was mean to him. As adults, we have had little to no relationship. I have a close, loving relationship with his wife, his two daughters and his two granddaughters. They are so dear to my heart. And suddenly, in the last five years or so, I want to be close to him. We have both been wary. It’s taken a long time. This visit, we seem to have turned a corner. I have felt like I have wanted this and he has not. I have felt all these years as if I didn’t deserve to have a relationship with him. I felt I let him down in so many ways. Then one day it occurred to me, I was a kid, doing stupid shit, acting out because of the circus we were in. I was a KID. So I forgave myself and decided that if God wanted this to happen, it would. In this new day, wounds are healing, hearts are softening and we seem to be moving toward each other for the first time. That makes me so happy. I want to be someone who makes him feel good, not bad.

The sad part of this story is I am fifty. This story started when I was about sixteen. What a waste of time. Miscommunication. Jealously. Anger. Resentment.        Why?

There is nothing so big that you should go to bed tonight knowing someone is feeling bad because of you. Fix it. Own it. Eat it. Anything else you do with it is just a sinful waste of time. And not only are you hurting them, you’re hurting you. Don’t let your time slip by. Reclaim your peace. Reclaim your love. Be a joyous human. Life is only as good as we make it.

 

Crockpot Prayers vs Microwave Prayers

Inkwell Swimmer

I pray. A lot. I pray for my children and my Mother. I pray for my almost children. I pray for strength. Sometimes I’m praying for the strength not to lose it and poke someone with a fork. Mostly I pray for guidance and wisdom.

My favorite spot to pray is on my front porch. It’s quiet and still on my porch. I have a comfortable chair and our front yard is beautiful. We have this beautiful old tree that I love. It’s so tall, I can hardly see the top of it. It’s strong. Even though it’s been damaged by a magnificent storm, it continues to thrive. When the wind is up, it’s almost as if that sweet old tree is talking to me. The rustling of the leaves comfort me. Bird families and squirrel families make their home among its branches. The singing and chattering of its guests…

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The Queen of May

406769_10203138472329351_795666238_nWhen I was a little girl, I loved going to my Aunt Vickie’s. Her home and business were in the same building. My Uncle Gene always had a car lot and a garage but my Aunt had different businesses at different times. As a child, there was no place any more fun than their house.

The house itself was always a fascination to me. It was so different from our own. She had red velvet curtains and black leather furniture. She had big metal bulls with gold rings in their noses and matadors that were four feet tall with sweeping red capes that seemed to truly taunt the imitation bull. She had hanging bird cages with considerable winged imitation birds that I was sure was looking at me no matter where I was in the room. There was a large stereo with more velvet that lined the doors. There was always twangy country music coming from it.

Vickie was just as colorful as her home. She always had her hair piled high. She always wore a hair piece that was curled into sausage like ringlets. Wisps of hair curled and set just so around her face. She always wore false eye lashes, her eye make up matching every outfit. Her clothing was always so bright and colorful and I can remember her kicking her shoes off and dancing around the room to some old song that came on the radio. She wore rings on every finger and lusty over-sized earrings. She would get so tickled. She always seemed so uninhibited to me. She seemed so fearless.

I remember her having a restaurant, I was really little then. I don’t remember much about it other than the wonderful smells of home cooking. However, she then had a beauty shop. Mother was also a beautician and I went to work with her a lot. Here, though, I could really play. It was in the 1970’s and wigs were all the rage. There were a row of chairs that pumped up much higher than I was really allowed to pump them. There was a long mirror behind the chairs with an eclectic group of ephemera. Advertisements for hair products, Final Net, Toni Perms, Dipity Doo. Pictures of up-dos and beehives and of course, the famous Farrah hair. On a shelf above the mirror, I guess it may have more of a ledge, there were little white Styrofoam heads lined up. Some had little wiglets, some had hair pieces to make the tallest hives. Little brown or grey heads of hair, rolled up in pink and blue rollers, netted in little green hair nets, just waiting on their owners to come in so Aunt Vickie could fashion their hair in the latest trend.

On the counters, combs, brushes, clippies, bobby pins, things to tease hair, things to smooth hair, things to section and wave hair. The glass jar of blue liquid that cleaned the combs. The toaster oven thing that dried the hair brushes after they had been washed. The stacks and stacks of towels. A job I have loathed my whole life, folding all of those miniature towels. I would give anything to fold those towels today.

Oh! The magazines! Gossip magazines! Donny and Marie Osmond, Sonny and Cher, Starsky and Hutch, Shawn Cassidy, David Bowie. The actual TV Guide! Better Homes and Garden’s magazines filled with jello salad recipes. Cosmopolitan, which I was in no way allowed to read.

It was so much fun. Playing Beauty Shop. Answering the phone and making pretend appointments, working our customers appointments in the way we had heard the grown ups do.We would wash each other’s hair in the shampoo bowls, roll up strands of hair, using six clippies on each roller because we could never get the rollers to stay in place. We sat on the booster seats at the dryers, reading the magazines, having pretend conversations about all the drama we could think up. We played grown up. We played  Mom and Aunt Vickie.

There was a little store between the house and the businesses. It was where you paid for your gas or bought a snack or pop for the road. There was an adding machine, a cash register, phone, a bell that rang for someone to come to the register. There was a cabinet full of glass shelves that held truck-stop fare. Rolaids, tooth brushes, hair nets, pantyhose, candy, gum, matches, nail files, rain bonnets, chapstick, pens and pencils, little spiral tablets and assorted cigarettes. We would play store, taking turns being the cashier. We ate all the candy and gum we wanted and made terrible messes, Aunt Vickie didn’t care. She just wanted us to have fun.

When we got a little older, she had a camper set up at a camp site each summer. We would go and have cookouts and swim. We played games and rode bikes. We ran around in bare feet and swimsuits, begging money for the concession stand. We always had fireworks and flashlights. There was always tons of food and cans of Faygo. We piled into a small bed, dirty feet and wet heads, laughed until the wee hours of the mourning, then got up with the sun. She made sure we had everything we wanted. She ran around attending to all of us, kids and adults, making sure every need was met.

Eventually she put a pool in at her house and they built a pond. She was always all about having fun. Having the whole family over. Having all the kids over, their friends, the more the merrier. She would run around and yell at Uncle Gene to hurry up and get something done and laugh at everything.

I have talked a lot about the strength of the women in our family. She was no different. She lost her only son and then raised her grandson. She held everyone together as best she could for so many years. We would get together for a holiday and something horrible would be going on and she would sit at the table, playing rook and laughing until tears ran down her face at something one of us was telling her. She was a rock.

I had my first child when I was nineteen. She was there. She was always there. The only one she missed was my last one. Belle came to quickly for anyone to be there.

When Kennedy was born, she was almost seven weeks early. I was in the hospital in Anderson and they were taking us to Indianapolis because of their neonatal unit. Mother, Grandma and Aunt Vickie came. I was in labor for five days. They never left me. The first few days, the doctor’s were trying to stop my labor. They had so much medicine coursing through my veins, they also kept me fairly high on a new pain medication that had just come out. Nubane. Good gravy. I’ve never been happier in my life. I had a constant grin on my face. That stuff was awesome. It also made me HOT!! It was February. In Indiana. It was probably two degrees outside. I was lying in my hospital bed, in my gown, no covers. I had the air conditioning on in the room and a fan the size of an airplane rotor at the end of my bed. Still, I was hot. My family of women sat in a row on the couch in the room, in their winter coats, covered up with blankets, and never left me. They kept me entertained the whole time. Vickie had become a nurse by this time. I was freaked out a bit, to say the least. Happy…but freaked none the less. Every time they wanted to do something to me, I’d look at her and raise my eyebrows. This was secret code for, ‘What the heck does that mean??’. Eventually, thing started to decline and they decided to go ahead and let me have Kennedy. They were going to put an interior heart monitor on her head and they explained that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate it without an epidural. I was scared to death. I asked if my Aunt could stay. I sat up on the edge of the bed and leaned over the bedside table. Aunt Vicki was on one side of me, shivering, and the anesthesiologist on the other. He explained step by step each part of the procedure as he did it and Vickie would dumb it down for me. Tana used to call this ‘Tana’s terms’. My Aunt would start explaining something medical and Tana would say “Tana’s terms please”. She got me through it and she had everyone in the room laughing. Because that’s what we do. We get through it and we do it with humor and tears.

My Aunt Vickie died yesterday. I can hardly stand it. She has always been my go to person when I needed something medical explained. She has always been my second opinion. She is where we have Thanksgiving and Easter. She is truthful to the point of hurt sometimes. She was part of a group of women who raised me to be who I am today. She also raised tw o young women who I love so dearly,

Vickie Ebbert Christie was ornery, witty, tenacious, unshakable, unwavering, veracious and my favorite Aunt. I will miss everything about her. She is in Heaven today, most likely dancing with my Uncle Gene and she is so happy to see Shad. She never stopped missing him, I don’t think it ever even lessened. She is with them now. She is with my Grandparents. My Grandma and Grandpa were so glad to see her, I have no doubt. And I’ll bet you a dollar, she went and found Elvis as soon as she said hello to the family. If you knew her, you were so lucky. If you didn’t, I hope you got a little taste of her here. She was a bright light that never dimmed. Rest in peace, Aunt Vickie. I love you.

Pantsuit Nation is saving my life

I will be fifty years old in January and I no longer have a uterus. I wake up every morning feeling ill. It’s as if I am pregnant again. I have to slowly acclimate to the reality I now live in. One of fear and astonishment.

I live in rural Arkansas. My kids and I are with Hillary. Not a lot of people around here are. Let me rephrase that, it’s us and like six other people.

I have used this blog for a way to purge my soul. I haven’t posted in it in a while. Life, Multiple Sclerosis, the insanity of this election, it’s been hard to be motivated. This monstrosity has motivated me.

I have two daughters, two daughters in law and countless young women in my life. I have tried to be a good example and a strong advocate for them. I am a talker. I want to talk with them about everything. I feel as if they need the guidance of someone who cares deeply about everything in their lives. I don’t know how to talk to them about this. How do you explain that someone who is so disrespectful to women is our President? There is no way to make sense of that. How do I talk to my sister-in-law and niece who are from India. Because their skin is brown, so many people tell them to go back where they belong, call them terrorist. They live in New Jersey!! If this is happening there, what do you think is happening in Arkansas. What do I say to my sister-in-law and my two nieces and my great-nieces who are Mexican? They are scared to death. They are here legally but that makes no matter. Idiots scream about building a wall to keep them out and sending them home. They live on Hilton Head Island. I have mixed race cousins and friends of all races. What in the hell do I tell them??

As a white women with a white husband and white children, I don’t want any of them to think that I don’t empathize. I cannot say I know how they feel, I never will. However, I am afraid for them. I am afraid for me.

This election has validated everything wrong in this United States. It told the ass hats in Northeast Arkansas, along with everyplace else in America, that is okay to spout racial slurs at anyone who isn’t white. It has spoken loudly that men may treat their women with disrespect, that is okay to grab what they want and take what they want. How do I tell my daughters that it’s all going to be okay?

How do I embrace any of this pathomania? How do I lead? I have fervently prayed about how to lead and teach all of my girlies. The answer has been simple. Talk. Help. Wear the safety-pin. Keep up with the things that our Government will spend it’s time doing for the next four years. Educate yourself. Consider running for office. Find a way to make a difference, everywhere you go and with anyone you see.

I also think that it is important to remember that not all Republicans feel a warm fuzzy for Donald Trump. I will tell my girls to not be mean. Trump supporters can be mean. They can be rude and hateful. I want them to know that they can disagree and stand their ground without being ugly. When confronted with bigotry or misogyny, stand firm. Use mace if you have to, but don’t sink to their level. Calling someone a ‘dumb f***ing redneck a**hole, whose sister is his mother’ isn’t appropriate. That makes you just as ignorant as they are. You can’t preach equality and standing together if you seek to annihilate people we have to share the world with.

I want to touch on one more thing. Being a Christian. I am a God-fearing woman. I was raised in the church and I have a love of the gospel. I am also a liberal. Those two things can actually go hand in hand. I am so sick of the idea that if you are a liberal, you are a Satanist. I know that there are Satanist out there, I respect your right to practice your religion as you wish. Just as I have the right as a Christian to be liberal in my beliefs and practices.

This has to start with you. Yes you. Only you can turn the tide of hatred in this country. Only you can make someone feel welcome and secure in your presence. Only you can make sure every one you come into contact with knows you are a safe place to fall. Only you can step in and stand firm when you see people being mistreated. We have to make our voices heard. Right now, we can’t hear anything over the clamour of last Tuesday’s debacle. Be louder. We have to be so loud that the love drowns out the hate.

Peace and love to you all. Find a friend and make a plan how you are going to wade through this sludge together. Looks for ways to overcome the obstacles that will most likely surface. Talk about what is going on. Purge yourself. It helps to release the demons. Hold your head high. Young people are looking to you. Act accordingly. Start a movement. Start a blog. Start talking. Turn the tide.

Don’t be an asshat

I’m beginning to think I’m odd. Oh, hell! Yes, I know I’m odd. Stop rolling your eyes at me. What I mean is I guess is, I’m unique. There you go again, rolling your eyes. What if your face sticks like that?

I can be cranky. I feel like crap. A lot. I can be short with my children and husband. Like maybe if I’m reading something or looking at Pinterest. Maybe I just found the perfect door wreath for Christmas and it’s listed on etsy for $612. I need to really look at that crap because there is a possibility I am going to run right out to the store and buy all the crap and make myself one, saving $3.16. This is highly unlikely, as I am the biggest procrastinater in the world, but it could happen. The point is, if they are trying to tell me  a trip to the ED is required, I wouldn’t be as crabby if they would wait until I was done writing my supply list down for that stupid wreath.

Other than those minor issues, I’m usually patient. I am also empathetic. That’s what this little soliloquy is about, really. Being empathetic. Sometimes I think that finding an empathetic person is sort of like finding a unicorn. Well, I am that person. Unless my hair is a mess, you should probably take a picture of me the next time you see me. There aren’t many of us out there.

  • : the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings

That is the Merriam-Webster’s definition of empathy. Mine is, treat someone how you would want to be treated.

I have tried, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to hammer this into my children’s heads. Kids are mean. They can be total asshats. Doesn’t matter. You treat someone the way you want to be treated. Now, I’m not talking about bullying. That’s a whole different story. I’m just talking about the normal high-school, hormone driven drama that we all experienced on a day-to-day basis. Be nice. As Tim McGraw says, “Always be humble and kind.”

You expect the sort of selfish, rude, asshatty behavior from kids. We don’t like it. We wish it would go away. Some days, it’s all I can do not to pick Belle up by her cheer skirt and fling her about the room. Hey! That’s what teenagers do. I’ve done this four other times! I get it. What I don’t expect is, that adults act the same way. Women are the worst. I didn’t realize this growing up. My Mother didn’t gossip. She still doesn’t. In fact, I have had someone share pretty juicy pieces of gossip with me over the years and asked my Mother in hushed tones if she thought things were true. More often that not, she already knew. And let me clarify here, gossiping, spreading gossip, being malicious and stirring shit are not the same as asking your Mom. Just sayin. My Mother believed that if you were trusted with a secret, you kept it. She also believed that you treated people with care. Even the ones who didn’t deserve it.

I got my feelings hurt today. I don’t think it was something that was done on purpose. That isn’t even figured into the equation. I don’t understand why people don’t stop and think. I have taken this to an almost pathological level. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. When plans are made, I make sure everyone is okay with the arrangements. Several times. I’ve had that special cookout on two days because it wasn’t going to work for someone. I go overboard making sure everyone feels included. I treat my almost children with the same regard as my children. I think that’s the way things should be done. Never, ever, would I exclude someone. Not on purpose, on accident, oversight, stupidity, whatever. What I am trying to say is, I purposefully, with great care, tend to the feelings of my loved ones and friends.  I don’t want anyone to feel less-than. I don’t want anyone to think they aren’t wanted. In a very purpose-driven way, I try to make everyone feel special. (Yes, I do have those people who I want to throw up on, but swallow that right back down) Why aren’t we all like that? Or at least partially like that, I’m kind of crazy about it. It is something that hits home for me in a very personal way, so naturally I try hard not to upset an apple cart that could have easily stayed on all wheels. However, with some people, it’s as if they have never even heard of the concept of thinking of other’s feelings.

I don’t think there is an answer for this. You either get it or you don’t. My Mother taught me the lesson of empathy. I didn’t learn it early. I’ve told you what a meany I was. I did learn it when I had children and dealt with apathy instead of empathy on such a staggering level. I thought it would get better. It doesn’t. I hear you saying ‘Let it roll off of your back!”, and I try. Sometimes, though, it makes me want to weep.

If you are someone who doesn’t have empathy, and if you have never considered it before, let me assure you, you don’t, try it. Before you do things, think! How is this going to affect others? How will this affect my co-worker, my friend, my spouse, my parent. Now don’t shake your head at me. You also have to have some common sense about things. And frankly, if you are confused at this point, you don’t have that either. Just quit reading and go back to Facebook and watch the video about Ellen showing Michelle Obama how to be normal. For the rest of you, the ones that aren’t cross eyed at all the big feelings right now, give it a try. Not hurting someone’s feelings by considering them as important as your own is very empowering. It’s nice to feel nice.

What I am saying is, I’m that freaking unicorn!! How often do you see a UNICORN?? I don’t have the horn, but I do have a lot of glitter. Primarily left over from all of those vile Pinterest projects. Come closer and I will sprinkle you with a little….Unless you don’t want me to. I would never want to hurt your feelings….

 

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There’s always a holiday to celebrate

Holidays make me a little crazy. Ok, a lot crazy. I am thrilled when I can start planning the decorating and the food and the movies and the pictures!! It doesn’t matter what holiday. We even celebrate Groundhog Day and Flag Day. Oh my goodness! The new days they have! Ice Cream Cone Day! Hitchcock’s Birthday! Donut Day! We don’t miss one if I can help it…..and remember it.

I not only love holidays, I love decorating for them. I want to enjoy the decorations as long as I can. So Halloween begins in September (if I can wait), Christmas starts the day after the Halloween decor comes down. Thanksgiving? Of course. But the Pilgrims stand by the Christmas tree.

When the kids were young, this excited them. They couldn’t wait! Then we hit those stupid pre-teen days. “Moooommmmmm! Are you really going to put the Christmas lights up now? All the kids on the bus laugh!”. Did this deter my excitement? Nope. Our job as parents is to embarrass our children as much as possible. So the lights go up.

I’ve had a bad summer. I’ve had a hospital stay and I can’t go outside. I haven’t been out in our boat since Memorial Day (which we totally celebrated with every flag-like thing I could find). I am used to Ken hopping up at two o’clock in the afternoon and saying “Let’s go get in the boat”. We have always been on the water at least three times a week. Not once since Memorial Day. Too damn hot. I also can’t sit on my porch. Front or back. I can’t stroll down to the boat ramp and dip my toes in. No flopping off of the dock onto my raft and floating with Belle. No laying on the hammock for hours and reading. I have actually threatened to bring the hammock inside. It would fit nicely in the dining room. Or maybe in the living room in front of the glass doors. I could turn on the fan and play cricket sounds on my iPhone.

Instead, I have blogged and played cards with Belle. I have listened to audio books. I hang out with Ken when he is home and I look forward to Sundays when all the kids come up. Oh, and of course Karter. He has gotten me through this summer. He is the most fun ever.

It’s been storming here for three days. I know the farmers hate it. I know that women hate it, it ruins their hair. Guys hate it because you can’t catch fish or mow anything. Ken loves to burn things, you can’t do that in the rain either. I don’t mean he is a pyromaniac or anything, but he loves to dispose of crap with a gas can and a match. I wouldn’t tell just anyone this, only you, my faithful readers, but I LOVE IT!! Haha!! It’s cool and the house is dark. It smells good. And it has put me in the mood to decorate for Fall.

Actually, the Yankee Candle Company started it with the new fall candle line at the Cracker Barrel. I bought one. It’s been hell on wheels holding off after that. Then Bath and Body put their new fall line out. We shouldn’t even go there. Going through all the new scents, I was a little crazed. My hair stood up all over and I began to form a hump on my back. Children ran to their Mother’s, people tried to shield the elderly. The cashiers trembled. I could hear the collective sigh of relief when I finally drug my tail out of the store.

So here we are. Rainy weather. Fall candles. That new pumpkin hand soap at the kitchen sink. It’s all over but the applause folks. The Fall decorating has begun. When Belle gets home from school she will be mortified. She will beg me to take the pumpkin wreath off of the front door and the leaf swag off of the mailbox. She will pick up my ‘Happy Fall Y’all’ chalk board sign and scream that it ISN’T FALL!! I will giggle and hand her the cookies I’m baking for her for her first day of high school. That will soften the blow somewhat, but when I put The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on when we cuddle up on the couch tonight, she will be all good.

The bottom line here is, I am happy. I can’t help it if the rest of you think it’s too early to put the life-size Michael Myers Kade made for me last year out on the porch. Or hang the six-foot ghosts from the huge tree in my front yard. Or rearrange my living room around all the ghosts and goblins. I am happy. This all means I am going to be set free from the confines of my home. Not that I don’t love my home, I do. But I want to be outside. I want to walk down to the lake, even when it is cold. I want to watch the herons and wait on the pelicans that come in the fall. I want to get tired  from doing work in my yard and come in and have a pot of pumpkin flavored coffee and watch Halloween. I want to watch the scary movies and all the Halloween cartoons and be tickled that my house looks so cool. Oh, and of course, costume planning. So what if I do it in the middle of August. What’s it really gonna matter in a hundred years.

I hope one day, my children will decorate for every holiday with their families. Way too early.  I hope they embarrass their children by putting up the Valentine decorations as soon as they take the New Year tree down. As they have gotten older, they have begun to appreciate this about me. They still laugh about my crazy decorating habits. However,  when I call and tell Kendall I hung the Autumn wreath he sent me a few years ago and that I watched Silver Bullet today, he will come home from his trip to the US Open and start taking his Halloween decorations out of his garage. I’ll get a picture of the first thing he puts up and he will most likely watch Donald’s Scary Tales.

Then I went blind

I was prowling around Wal-Mart one day in March of 2014. I was by myself and really wasn’t after anything important, I was just sort of filling up some time while Belle was at cheer. Suddenly I had this incredibly sharp pain in my right temple. I actually saw stars. It was quick, though and there was no real lingering pain. I came home after I picked Belle up and told Ken what had happened. I had been having a few vaso-spasms in my brian, they were painless and usually made me dizzy. This did neither. I made light of it and neither of us gave it much more thought. I woke up the next morning and noticed I had a vision problem. It wasn’t that things were blurry, rather I had sort of a vertical line across my vision. They next day it was worse. I told Ken that I thought this was odd and I called my family doctor and we went in that day.

Dr. Green’s initial reaction was that I most likely had a detached retina. He made an appointment with an optomistrist in town. At this appointment, he basically just looked in my eye. He did a visual acuities test and reported that he could see something but that I needed to be seen by an opthamologist. Dr. Green made that appointment for the next day.

I went and saw Dr. Nix the next day. He is the cutest thing! He ran several tests and gave me some eye drops and scheduled an appointment for the next day so he could do some more extensive testing. He did another visual test that day and that was the first thing he did at my second appointment. At the second appointment, I was completely blind in my right eye. That was the first time that Multiple Sclerosis was mentioned.

An MRI was ordered and an appointment was made with a neurologist. Now I should explain here that I was completely freaked out. To start with, I was blind in one eye. Add to that, I had to have an MRI done and then, of course, I was facing the possibility of being diagnosed with a debilitating disease. I had the MRI done the next day and the appointment with the neurologist later in the week. I would also like to point out that I thought I would have an MRI and the doctor would look at the test and say ‘Yes, you have MS’ or ‘NO, you don’t have MS’. No one tells you that this is going to take a YEAR to diagnose.

When the results came back from the MRI, I was diagnosed with Sudden Onset Optic Neuritis. I had an extensive history and physical done that day and then I was sent home. We would ‘wait and see’. Really?? So I went home to a freaked out family, freaked out myself and we waited.

The stress from all of this caused me to have a lot of coronary artery spasms (CAS). I ended up in the hospital and when I saw my family doctor and we talked about what all was going on, he ordered a lumbar puncture. This scared the crap out of me. Of course I turned into Dr. Google. Sometimes the internet is a bad place to roam around. The day arrived to have this done and I was a basket case! It wasn’t even that bad. The worst part of it was how HOT and shaky I got. Have you ever had a part of your body go so asleep that it tingled madly and you couldn’t move that part of your body? That’s what happened to me during this procedure. My lips and arms and hands were tingling so much that I couldn’t move my lips or my hands. Of course I came a bit unglued, and it made me cry. I don’t ever complain. I try to be as good a patient as I can be. The nurse in there with me noticed I was crying and came around to my face and asked me if everything was ok. I told him what was going on and he said that sometimes happens. He got me cold wash cloths and placed them on my neck and gave me one for each hand. My hands were in this claw-like state, so he just laid them across the back of my hands. Now that I knew this was a normal reaction and I wasn’t going to be paralyzed (yes, I often go off the deep end), I calmed right down. The tingling lasted until he removed the catheter and it quit almost instantly.

I waited three weeks on the results. They came back negative. They look for oligoclonal bands in the CFS to indicate inflammation related proteins. There were no bands present. This however does not definitavly rule out MS. There is no Multiple Sclerosis test. They basically rule out everything else that could be wrong based on test results. They take all of your symptoms and test results and put together a puzzle. If all the puzzle pieces fit together a certain way, you get an MS diagnosis. What I didn’t know then was that you will not have those bands present if you are not in a relapse at the time of the lumbar puncture. Based on these findings, we started testing for EVERYTHING else. I gave 14 viles of blood and they got busy. Slowly as the results came in, everything came back negative. So I waited.

I woke up one morning and got into the shower. As I was washing my left side, I noticed that I was numb. In fact, I was numb from my armpit to my feet. I was numb from my belly button to my spine on the left side. I called my doctor and he did an x-ray. He determined that I just had severe muscle spasms and they were pressing on my nerves and making me numb. That’s what it had to be. I didn’t have MS, remember? I got muscle relaxers and was sent home.

My heath slowly declined until I was hardly getting out of bed. I started having this new issue. My eyes ‘clicked’. At that time, it was the only was I could describe it. I told Ken and my doctor  and I got an eye roll. This was in October. It steadily got worse, I kept complaining that something was wrong. No one heard me. That’s not fair, I think they heard me, they just didn’t have the answers. In March, I started having artery spasms again and ended up in a cluster. I told one of the doctors I saw about my ‘clicking’. I had a neuro consult and she requested an MRI. The news wasn’t good. I had at least six new lesions. Another lumbar puncture was ordered. It came back positive. I had MS.

I knew I had this disease way before anyone else did. I knew there was something terribly wrong with my body. It added up to me long before I got the diagnosis. Still, hearing the doctor say “You have multiple sclerosis” was devastating. Mother and Belle were with me at the doctor’s office when he delivered the news. In my head I knew it, so I could handle it. Sometimes I am so silly. It made me cry. I think I scared my poor Belle. I cried, she cried.

We began discussing treatments and we decided to go with Copaxone. An injection three times a week. My neurologist wrote several drug options up on a little dry erase board, quickly hit the high notes for each drug and based on minimal side effects and three injections at home instead of five injections or going to an infusion center, I chose the Copaxone. As I sit here a year later, worsening all the time, I look back and think “Wasn’t this an odd way to decided what medicine would be best for me?” How in the hell would I know that this is one of the weakest MS medicines there are? How would I know that I should have been through a myriad of testing to set a base line to follow to see how quickly I am declining? How was I to know that I needed physical therapy and I needed to stay out of the heat completely? We discussed none of this.

I had been on the Copaxone for about two months when I began to stumble and fall. I made a trip to Indiana to see Mother and Kendall and fell my first night there. When I came home, I went and saw my neurologist and I told him my concerns about falling and stumbling. He shrugged his shoulders, never looked up from his little computer and said “You have MS.”. End of conversation. Ok…..

The next week I left with Mother and Belle to go to Hilton Head to see my brother. I laid on the beach for ten days. I swam in the ocean, went shopping, ate good food, visited with my family. I had a wonderful time. I felt cleansed by the strong ocean waves and the hot sand. I got a short haircut, an excellent tan and came home feeling refreshed and renewed. Two days after I got home, I couldn’t move my legs at all.

Ken, Belle and I went to the grocery store. They were walking behind me and Belle noticed my legs buckling. She asked what was wrong and I told her I thought I was just tired. We got home and when I stepped out of the truck, I fell to the ground. I got back up by myself and got into the house. Ken told me to sit on the couch and just rest a minute. I sat there about five minutes and I had to pee. I got up to go to the bathroom and I couldn’t stand. I lost the use of my legs in about a twenty-minute time span.

I was admitted to the hospital and put on high dose steroids. I went in on a Friday and on Sunday, Ken came into work and he asked me if I had seen a neurologist yet and I told him no, so far I had only seen the hospitalist. Ken started throwing a fit and before the evening was over, Dr Long came into see me. But…Only to show a stack of papers to me he had in his hand explaining that he had eight new consults in the hospital and he didn’t have time to see me. Holy crap. Ken was livid. He started a ball rolling that eventually went to the Hospital Administrator. After Dr Long figured out that I was Ken’s wife, he apologized to Ken. He said if he would have known I was Ken’s wife, he would have seen me and not reacted that way. Ken told him no patient should be treated like that. I am now in the process of finding a new neurologist.

After spending a week in the hospital, I had to go to rehab. That was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve even done. I had been gone to South Carolina for ten days, home two days, in the hospital for eight days and now they were talking about rehab for three weeks. I threw a big ol’ fit. I missed my kids, I missed my dogs, I missed my house. I didn’t want to do that!! Everyone tiptoed around me like I was a petulant child not getting her way and bombarded me into going.

I went in an ambulance and Ken followed. As soon as I was settled in my room,.he left to take things home and bring other things back. When he left, one of the therapists came in and told me that I had to take a shower. I told her I had just taken one at the hospital. No matter, I had to take one now. In front of her. I had to get myself undressed, bathe, dry off and get dressed again in front of her. I was furious. I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. I suddenly knew what it felt like to no longer be in control at all. After that ordeal was complete, I got my schedule for the next day. Finally everyone was gone and I just laid there and prayed. I prayed simply to get better so I could go home.

At about four o’clock the next morning, I was abruptly awakened when three aids came bustling into the room, flipping the light on and snatching the curtain back on my roommates side of the room. Did I forget to tell you I had a roommate? I did. I was in the bed by the door, I had a curtain all the way around my bed and a cunning little television on an arm that I could position any way I liked it. I was in a little tent. That’s all there was too it. It was HOT!!! And now the entire room smelled horrible!! The lady next to me was sick and she had diarrhea. I was HOT and sick at my stomach from the smell and still horrified that I had to bathe in front of someone and I wanted my DOGS! I sent Ken a text. I told him to come and get me RIGHT NOW!! I WAS NOT DOING THIS!!! Then I texted Kennedy, then Kade. Someone needed to come and get me. This wasn’t a prison, or Russia. I didn’t have to stay here!!

Needless to say, everyone came. I didn’t get to leave. They very reasonably reasoned with me. The doctor reasoned with me. Everyone Poo Poo’d me until I was so damn mad I just sat there and steamed.

The best thing I ever did was stay. The doctor there was wonderful. He did all of the baseline tests to see where I was. I found out I have a left side deficit. My left foot drops (why I stumbled) and I found out that the left side of my tongue doesn’t work properly. I have muscle weakness there so I don’t swallow well. I learned how to compensate for both of those things. I learned that my pupils don’t respond correctly. They don’t dilate as they should. I am supposed to be in lightened areas as much as I can to force them to dilate somewhat. I learned that the heat will do so much harm. Those ten days on the beach? They weren’t soothing me, they were cooking me. Heat is the enemy. I am not even to keep the house too warm or to wrap up in a blanket and get my body too hot. I have a frog tog to help with that and I used a cool cloth a lot. I prayed for God to heal me so I could go home. Nope. I got to stay and I learned more than I had about my body in the entire previous year. Oh, and the sweetest little nurse found a fan for me. Than improved my attitude greatly.

I did it again, though. I over did it and over heated this Memorial Day and ended up back in the hospital. I have new lesions. I have formed several new lesions since I have been on the Copaxone so it isn’t working. It is a very low strength medicine and I need something stronger.  My MS seems to be more aggressive than I thought. I have an appointment on August 24th with an MS specialist in Little Rock. I found an MS clinic in the Boston area that I am planning on going to. They have the most up to date information and treatment in the US. I have filed for disability.I now have optic neuritis in both eyes and my vision is very poor. When I am approved for disability, I plan on going to Boston. It will be an expensive trip.

Until then, I go out on the lake when it is cool. I love on my dogs. I enjoy my children and grandchildren. I am trying not to be discouraged. That seems to be really hard for me. I am thankful every day for my family and friends. I am also mad every day because I feel like crap. I am working on it. Thank God for his grace.