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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Night Streets, Crow's Feet & B-Words, OH MY!!

The first step in dealing with a problem is admitting you have one, right?
I thought my 46th birthday was the demarcation of middle age; King said I crossed over in 2005. I cloaked myself in denial. Until now.
Time to admit: I am middle-aged.
Given recent complaints (From Party, Scholar, Flower Child and King) about my night driving, I bravely gave full disclosure to our optician. Actually, the doctor was the brave one, since I went ballistic during last year’s eye exam when he mentioned the B-word. (Apologetically claiming it was "a legal thing to inform me of options, he'd make a little note in my file".) That B-word haunted me a full year, at least when driving at night or trying to name a face from 20 feet away.
Last week, I picked up a lovely pair of Cole Haan frames. Having worn reading glasses since high school - this shouldn’t be a blog-worthy event. However!
They call them Progressive lenses. As a marketing person, I like this re-branding of mature people’s eyewear. It makes the journey easier to stomach. (Progressive, as in gradual - not a political view)
I called my 89-year old Grandma. After we discussed the S.C. GOP primary and other world events, I told her about my progressive lenses. She scoffed: “They’re the same BI-FOCALS I wear and YOU know it!”
Thanks, Ma-maw. I love the way you’ve taught me to face my fears. Yes m‘am, I understand: we come from a long line of independent, pioneering, high-spirited women. Yes, I am a little vain. I will grow old gracefully – with eye creams, hair colorings, and my new progressive lenses.
So here I am – older and wiser. The best part?
I can SEE! Dark, shiny-rainy and even foggy roads! The words on signage are crisp and clear – at night! I can see skin and eye lash quality of people I interact with each day. I can see King’s individual greys on his fine head of hair.
It’s a mixed blessing, as I’ve also seen the eye cream isn’t working quite as well as I’d thought … progressives reveal signs of my over-developed character. (A well-lived life will do that to a gal, no?)
I spoke to a friend (since high school). Ironically, she picked up her progressives the very same day that I did! We agreed: it’s a trade-off, but worth the benefits. At least the world doesn’t see the actual Coke-bottle-like squares etched in the lenses to announce to the world we’re, um, our eyes are… growing up.
We decided it’s preferable to be older and wiser – we deserve to see our best. How else will we monitor the eye cream? We’re ready to take on our new hi-def world.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012: Another Year Forward

Daily, I enter our lobby and salute company archives: Margaret Mitchell’s typewriter; Lewis Grizzard’s portrait (southern comic/newsman). Then I report to an advertising post. Maybe I’ll get to write more someday. Now, I pay bills; blog a bit.
Happy 2012!
I don’t do resolutions; however, Preacher Child (first-born) and Preacher’s Wife, (new daughter-in-law) host an intriguing gathering today.
Flower Child calls it the burning-lies-you-believe party. How it works: Record a lie on paper. Ex: God is mean; only has rules. Next: Burn lie; move on.
Resolve to believe truth; it will set you free: you don't have the power to change, but God wants good things for you and He can change you. (I copied this from Preacher Child’s Facebook page today – good kid.)
I’ve pondered lies-I-believe and decided: how do I sort out lies? If I (currently) believe it - it’s true, right? Time to drudge the past.
10 ‘Lies’ I Once Believed:
1. I’ll have lots of money when I grow up, just like my parents did.
2. I’ll always be in good physical shape.
3. I will find the perfect man.
4. I control whom my children play/hang out/text with, talk to, date/love/marry...
5. By age 40, I’ll be old and wise.
6. I won’t worry about the kids once they’re 18 years old.
7. My parents will always be there.
8. I should tell everyone like it is.
9. I can talk my way into/out of anything.
10. Tomorrow, next week/month/year I will (fill in the bank).
Things I know to be true - thanks to the “Village” for helping over the years...
1.     I was 6 - my uncle & mom laughed how they thought their parents were rich when they were kids. I noted that conversation, yet believed we had what we needed so my parents were rich. Now that I pay for college, mortgage, insurance, taxes... I understand the concept of budget. (Thanks, Dave Ramsey!)
2.     How often did older, rounder women claim to my young, size 2 self? “I was tiny, just like you!” I’d smile, yet vow silently: I’ll die if my Scarlett waist exceeds 18”. Thanks, Mimi! She settled it years ago: “Honey, you can have a body or a face, but you can’t have both when you’re old.” I like food; I choose face.
3.    Thank you, my Jewish Mom, who revealed Mr./Mrs. Right doesn’t exist. “We all have baggage. YOU have baggage, Bubala. Ask yourself: Can you work with the baggage?”
4.    Speaking of Mr. Right-for-me... he says: “Control is an illusion.” Amen, King, amen.
5.    Sheesh - the older I get, the less I know. Mensa friend mused: The wise seek wisdom; the fool has found it. Thanks, Miss Winda!!
6.    In 1988, the Lamaze teacher said: it’s not one day of labor & delivery we should worry about, it’s the next 25 years. I say 87. They marry, have kids, it’s more family & households to worry about, I mean love.
7.     Nov, 2000: Kids were with Buzz; I almost flew to Miami to hang out with a friend, who wisely reminded: Be with your parents, enjoy them yourself – they won’t always be there. It was the last Thanksgiving dinner mom cooked.
8.     In youth, my motto was say it loud; say it clear. #1 Sis-in-law, big sis I always needed instructed: Everybody doesn’t need to know everything.
     Susan! I couldn’t grow up without you.
9.    Talking. I do it less now. A manager debriefed after a sales call: “Girl! Hand the guy an order and SHUT YO’ MOUTH”. He and his wife are best friends to this day. Gracias, Glenn! (Now, stop playing and go sell your cigars!)
10.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow!! You’re only a day away. Grandma shared:  tomorrow never comes. It took decades to understand the concept.
A favorite reminder from Tim Paskert, former colleague; now friend who creates faith-based movies & books. No more wishing my life away. He teaches: It’s about now. Every day is another step forward.
Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Caregiver's Choice

Thrilled to share! I’ve won a flip video camera!
I was recently contacted by www.seniorhomes.com
In honor of November’s National Family Caregiver Month, they’re recognizing caregivers by sharing stories, available online to read, share, and vote on.
Link: http://www.seniorhomes.com/p/family-caregiver-stories-anna-brown/     

My Story
I expected to be a caregiver. Though it was 40 years sooner than “planned”; longevity runs in our family’s women.  My grandmother looks toward her 90th birthday; lives alone in Nowhere, S.C. Great-grandmother lived ‘caregiver-free’ until age 97! Mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 57.

Dad deserves credit – the hospice staff was astounded he took care of mom 10 years. I lived 3 hours away, and was busy with full time jobs, marrying King & his kids, raising our 4 kids. I visited every few weeks.
The most memorable trip was when dad took off for his 50th class reunion. I was glad to help because dad insisted upon staying home and this rare trip was much-needed. I missed Preacher Child’s senior prom; however, Mimi and sister in-law stood in, reported, took beautiful pictures. (Mimi wanted to spank one of those girls for her slinky red dress!)

Mom’s diagnosis was brain cancer; doctors claimed “good treatment” (chemo/surgery/radiation) left memory loss, a form of dementia. I implemented training as a preschool teacher to take care of mom - who resembled 4-year-olds I’d taught or raised at home.

Questions – she asked constant, repetitive questions, years after “good treatment”. I reminded myself: she took care of me. It’s payback for childhood questions she patiently answered – poor lady couldn’t take a bath or enjoy a moment of peace without me plopping down to chat.

I prayed – Heavenly Father, grant grace to take care of this precious woman. Oh Lord, I miss my mother. Sweet Jesus, how on the planet does dad do this every day?

We left sticky notes for her. She wrote notes on a pad. She forgot to read her notes. When she read, she argued. We'd plead: it was her writing for peats’ sake; the words were true. Dad pondered: why the part of her brain controlling stubbornness wasn’t removed, along with the memory and tumor.

Our best strategy was laughter, or we’d lose our collective sanity. I begged dad to try Zoloft; wouldn’t hear of it. He’d laugh; relay stories about mom: “Can’t make this stuff up; hell - some days I think she’s right and I’m losing it.”

That weekend with mom was memorable. Between mantras for long suffering, (and calls to the local florist, begging a same-day corsage for Preacher Child’s prom date) I cooked her favorite meals, planted spring flowers, watched hummingbirds, enjoyed taking care of her so dad could enjoy a well-deserved break.

Oh! And there was breakfast. I sat her down with fruit and a crossword puzzle (believe it or not, she could work them even after “good treatment”. I asked if scrambled eggs would be acceptable. (After a lifetime of being glad someone else cooked so she could simply eat - post brain cancer, mom became quite opinionated about things.)

She confirmed eggs were fine and asked my name. “It’s Anna, mom. Anna.” (Prayed under my breath; returned to kitchen.)  I checked again - she asked, “Did you meet that girl, Anna? She’s a real keeper”.

“Sure, mom – I’m Anna”; left to fix her plate.

I set down breakfast and she began eating, raving it was delish. She asked my name – AGAIN.  “It’s Anna, mom. Anna”. Her response: “Oh goody, now we have 2 Annas.”

I wonder why this tickles me. After thinking about it 6 years – maybe I’m glad to know she chose me as her daughter, again and again, and again… I know I’d choose her.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

September 29th – still a special day, birthday of someone missing at Preacher Child’s wedding…

Throughout my life – if Sweet Home Alabama or Spirit in the Sky played on the radio, if a family member struggled with cancer or passed away …
Mom instructed: Don’t resuscitate, don’t hook me to a machine or feed me with a tube. Let me go. Bury me in the cheapest pine box you can find - wear a red dress to my funeral.

Play music, serve good food, have a party ‘cause I’ll be with Jesus.
I imagined wearing that red dress as an old lady myself. Longevity runs deep. Great-grandma lived to 103; Grandma’s pushing 90 and runs circles around us with her new knee – stubborn as ever and game for adventure.

But there I was in church – dressed in red; barely in my 40’s.
Mom was my best friend. We spoke on the phone most every day, even before cell phones. I learned to make gravy over the phone, received parenting advice – heard what was up in Alabama with the birds, flowers, weather, cats, her 5th graders, ladies in her Sunday School class, what dad made for dinner…. I miss those calls.

She was tiny: 4’ 11”and feisty, even throughout the last few days of her life this side of heaven -  battling brain cancer for 10 years.
3 days after surgery: I received a phone call from mom, thrilling! I‘d expected our calling days to be done.

She was incensed: “Did you know I had brain surgery? Does your father know about this?  Who’s this O’Malley character?” 
“He’s the neurosurgeon, Mama – he pretty much saved your life.”

 Mom was not impressed: “Well he’s a BRICK.” 
I reminded her how miraculous she was - working crossword puzzles in the hospital, reading books, scheduled to go home soon, exceeding expectations. She rebuked: “I’m NOT miraculous, people are PRAYING for me!”

(Note: She later changed her mind about the surgeon, named him “The Sainted Dr. O’Malley”.)
A couple of weeks later, at home on Christmas Day – during one of her last lucid moments before I ‘became the parent’...

Mom issued her best advice: “I’ve had a great life. I’m so proud of my children and wonderful grandchildren. I’m not angry with God - or questioning why this happened to me.  But Honey! Stop worrying about fat grams, drink more red wine and enjoy your life. “
Happy Birthday, Mom. We toast you today.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Goes Around, Comes Around

I am destined to Blog-a-rama rut until I recount the story I just can’t get past …
There was doubt as to whether Buzz’s toddler is his biological child. Dominant physical features caused even my recluse father to ask if little tyke was “Spawn of Putin”, (young mother is beautiful; Russian).
Post wedding, I’m certain the child is Buzz’s very own.

Let's go back to Buzz’s first born… Preacher Child.
8 weeks old; Baptism Sunday. I should have known in the nursery; taken him home after the 21-wipe diaper that ruined an appliqu├ęd heirloom. I changed him into blue corduroy. (If only Mommy had a back-up outfit!) He screamed the entire way down the aisle; took a breath; threw up on me; screamed through the first half of the ceremony; fell asleep in my arms.

8 years old; Sunday lunch. Preacher Child announced: “I love God and Jesus is in my heart, but I HATE CHURCH!”
Fast forward thru 15 years of tears at teacher conferences, teen rebellion, brushes with law, trials by college and spiritual awakening to his wedding weekend …

The church was busy with rehearsal activity, difficult to hear on account of Buzz’s baby yelling, running around like it was a McDonald’s Playground.
Noisy chaos! I almost blew a gasket, along with the parents-of-the-bride.

I tried to reason with Buzz: “Please, it’s distracting. The kids can’t hear directions”.  (Confession: I hissed, quietly.)
Wedding day, mother-of-the-bride pulled me aside: ”My husband (trained medical professional) has decided: if baby disrupts the ceremony, he’ll  escort baby out of the church.”
Snap! We’re going to get along just fine.

“That was my final thought before falling asleep last night. I (trained pre-school professional) will help with this first act of family unity!” We shared a hug and laugh.
The acoustic group sang and a blended family procession began… my friends swear I looked happy and serene. They are good friends. I tried to enjoy the moment, prayed baby would be quiet for an hour.

God had it covered – if you’ve ever doubted His existence, please read on.
Buzz Trio walked along the front row. Baby let out a heart-stopping scream; Buzz exited. That was the first tear shed on Preacher’s wedding day. Despite his oblivious ways, Buzz deserved to see our son get married.

However! Baby’s exit made for stress-free, glorious ceremony. Our first act of family unity wouldn’t be public-baby-removal, but post-wedding pictures, shared Thanksgivings, birthdays, housewarmings, and our first grandchild in 10 years…
Preacher Couple was so happy. The message inspired a wonderful word picture of acorns to oaks. They planted and watered a small tree together! The pastor was Australian. Forget I’m the mother - it was storybook/film-worthy.
Preacher’s bride repeated vows, tears streamed down her face – Preacher smiled, lovingly brushed them off with both hands. It was the most authentic, pure wedding ceremony kiss I’ve ever witnessed - as if they invented the tradition.

If ever a doubt – this moment assured: The pair is meant to be. (Many tears; sadly, a couple quiet nose blows – it was that sweet.)
Yes, there is a God, a very good God.

And! There’s more! God heard our prayers. He had a plan for this wedding, peace for the congregation so we could bear witness to (and hear!)  this sacred event.
Although I couldn’t see it, I heard of it later from my father, favorite cousin (best storyteller on the planet), and confirmed with several friends with a view. Remember Buzz’s departure? Here’s what caused the speedy exit:

Baby screamed; yanked lollipop from his mouth; lobbed it; struck his mother head-on. Poor little tyke, just like his half brother – yes half brother, I’m sure of it… 22 years prior; now preparing to tie the knot, spewed vomit on mom and Buzz. They left to clean up (I hear Buzz witnessed vows from back row).
Yep – projectile vomit, aversion to “big church” at an early age, running around wildly – I bet the family farm it’s Buzz’s baby.

Lord, help Buzz and the Russian for the next 20 years.




Friday, September 2, 2011

Motherhood in Pictures: Hold them tight; Teach them to Fly

“You like me, you really like me!”
(Sally Fields, 1985)

This Oscar flashback is brought to you by … King and my 72-year-old dad - whom ask daily when I’m going to write again.

The August hiatus was self-imposed: personal survival and the sake of getting things done.
In a nutshell:

-       Preacher Child’s wedding/rehearsal

-     Constant management of The Great Blended Family Sandbox. (You have NO idea)

-       Launched Flower Child - moved into co-ed (help!) dorm; suffered through (all-girl) Rush. She handled better than mom.

-      2011 business trips #2 and #3 fell in August! (I typically travel once a year)

-       Caught a cold on the first trip.

-       Got food poisoning on the next trip.

-       Adapted to corporate America's micromanagement tool-of-the day.

-       Settled Scholar Child & Preacher Child in their schools.

-       Kept King from divorcing me so we can enjoy our Empty Nest.

I suffer from the opposite of Writer’s Block – TOO much to share. So full of rich material; I simply don’t know where to begin.

I’m retaining an attorney to determine what I can get away with - she recommends “Wordless”.

The beginning with my babies

Flower Child happy at college


Changed his diapers, tied his shoes, pinned his boutineer on wedding day



Gained a daughter! Presenting: Preacher's Wife

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Preparing for College & Other Hazards of Motherhood

Was it multiple, tearful calls to Housing Authority? Threats to organize weekend shuttles to Athens from Georgia’s real party school in Valdosta, securing a repeat honor as 2012 Princeton Review’s #1 Party School in America?
Not proud of the Helicopter Mom flash, but I know when to be fiery.

No one said it was easy. I’m just glad they’re in a real dorm - smack in the middle of campus where freshmen belong.

Time for dorm shopping!

Shopping with Preacher & Party Child?
Piece of cake; they didn’t go.

We (King & myself) went to Target & Ikea, bought stuff; stored; unloaded into dorm rooms.

Color scheme of their comforters?
Party Child: “That’s STUPID! Who cares?”
Preacher Child: “Bah! Towels match the blanket and the rug!”

(Note: Preacher still uses them and has theories about spirituality & personal organization. Yes, Virginia: Time wins!)

College shopping with Flower Child?
Not so much. It was a time warp back to…

  • 6th grade and outgrowing Limited Too/Justice. (Thank you, God, for Rue 21 & Papaya)
  • Jeans shopping after Limited Too era. (King took her shopping; I love him forever.)
  • Bra shopping (Painful at any age, no?)
  • Intermediate Bathing suit shopping: Find 1-piece for church/drama camp; fabric & style appealing to a 13-yr old, pain!
  • Advanced Bathing suit shopping: Your baby fills that bikini better than you’ve dreamed of in years. Revelation: She’s blooming and you’re wiser, yet fading a bit on the outside. PAIN!
  • 8th grade dance semi-formal dress shopping.
Excluding Prom 2010 - we had a great run: Age 15 to a few hours ago.

Preacher Child gets married soon; met us at the mall for a tux fitting.
They argued in early years. He & Flower Child are best of friends now.
I warned, via text: baby sis - in a mood.

I cornered him at Old Navy, discreetly asked: “Seriously, is it her, or me?”

This seems innocent enough. However, I'm learning otherwise.
Women over the age of 40 shouldn't ask such questions, ever.
Ages 13-39? Blame perfectly, socially acceptable PMS.
After 40?
It’s “The Change”, regardless of which organs are still in your body.

I need hope. Is there another universal cause of behavior after “The Change”?

Are we finally wise and happy all the time, as God intended? Anyone?

I consulted Preacher: "Seriously, is it HER or me?"
“Oh, Mom, it’s probably a little of both.”
Ugh – I asked for that.