Sunday, August 31, 2008

What a difference a year makes.

A year ago today, my sister and I woke up on an ICU waiting room floor.

You may know the rules of ICU: a 10 minute visit every two hours.
Since I lived 30 miles from the hospital, it was easier to set up camp there.
My husband had his right leg and hip amputated due to complications of cancer and infection. We'd fought the good fight for six years, but knew the surgery was imminent that fall. We had hoped to delay it until after our daughter was married on November 3. And until after we had seen Barry Manilow in concert. (That fact always embarrasses our adult children.)

Last Labor Day weekend was to be the time that my daughter's finance was coming in to be fitted for his tux, and then would fill a UHaul with her furniture to drive back to their future home in Missouri. They would also buy his ring. And attend to oh-so-many wedding details, because the special date was two months away.

Life comes at you fast sometimes, doesn't it?

I had taught my first grade class only three days. Circumstances forced the date of the surgery to be immediately. Not later. And we found ourselves living in the waiting room. Planning a wedding. And trying to grasp this new wrinkle in life.

But now we are a year down the road. And God has been faithful in more ways than we could ever express.

My husband went back to work part time this week: Wednesdays/Thursdays from 9-2. His wonderful boss kept his job for him, so he is back to architectural design work on his computer.

My daughter has been happily married for 10 months in Missouri. (Which is much too far from here!)

I have a new batch of first graders. The rhythm of life continues.

Here's to a year of progress. With grateful hearts.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

100 Miles

When my husband had to have a brain tumor removed in April, my son Chris searched for a way to encourage him. He told Dave when this surgery was over, he was going to train and ride in the "Hotter Than Hell 100" race in Wichita Falls in Dave's honor. Dave used to bike and had competed in this particular race years ago. The race got its name from the temperature in Texas during this time of year. Racers have literally died from the heat. While I was excited about Chris' goal, the reality of the race left me a little leary.
Chris had decided that he would do the 50 mile version of the race, and headed for Wichita Falls this weekend.
The first call came at 8:05 a.m. "Mom, I'm already at the 20 mile marker and I feel great! I may do the entire 100 miles."
9:48 a.m. "Mom, I'm definitely doing the 100 mile race now. There's free barbeque at the end. I feel good."
11:36 a.m. "60 miles! Can you believe it? It's not so bad. I'm drafting behind some other riders."
2:15 p.m. "85 miles! I am definitely going to do this again."
3:15 p.m. "100 miles! I feel like I could ride another 100 or 50 miles! I'm going to go take a shower and I'll call again later."
A 100 mile ride. By any standard, that is an amazing distance. For someone who has never competed in a ride before (and only trained with two or three long distance rides) this is the stuff that gold medals are going for in Beijing right now.
I drove him and his bike back to San Marcos today. He had to be at work at 1:00 p.m. (Wouldn't you be ready to work a full shift after a 100 mile bike ride?) I asked him what did he think of while he was riding. "Well, when it got rough, I thought of Dave and what he went through. And I kept riding." And riding. And riding.
Wednesday Chris begins his senior year in college. With his determination and work ethic, I think it will be an easy ride.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Let the celebration begin!

Happy 1st birthday, M!
How could a year have passed so quickly?
Now you are walking and running and babbling beautiful noises that will soon become words.
You have been the best of all gifts for your family.
And I'm sure they cannot imagine what they did without you!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

And a friend's a friend forever...

Among some of my most precious possessions are friends I made in high school. Some 30 odd years later, we still get together as often as we can. Email and IMing have made contact easier, as three of us still live in central Texas. Two have moved too far north to Oklahoma.

We've all either been, or presently are, teachers. Some of us have even taught together at the same school. A few have recently started new careers as home stagers and realtors.

Between us, we have 17 children: 13 girls and 4 boys. All of them have gone to college except the 2 still in high school. (And they are headed that way.) 6 have already graduated from college and 4 did graduate school, too. We have great kids and are rightfully very proud of them. Empty nesting has gotten easier as our children have begun to find their own places in the world.

The picture above? A's son married my daughter last fall. The first wedding among our quintet. (M said that she'd like to get in on some of this co-mother-in-lawing among friends. Now, my son DID kiss one of her daughters when the were in kindergarten together. But that was 16 years ago and apparently the spark did not light up. Yet.)

We were told that if you want to look younger in pictures, you should (A) have the picture taken from above or (B) lift your chin up. We chose the latter in the above shot from the wedding reception of K and J.

My daughter K said it makes us look like Bobbleheads. Drat.

So, here's the more "natural version" of my beautiful friends. And here's to 30 more years of trips, laughter, memories and good neck shots.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Family Dog

Jenny was a "rescue dog" that my son's best friend, J, got from the pound. J had seen Jenny's picture online and knew that she was His Dog. He went to get her and the powers that be at the pound said that she longer there. J determinedly continued to search for Jenny. He found her, adopted her and got out of Dodge quickly before there was another pound error.

Well, J's life got a little more complicated and he asked my son, C, to take Jenny. I met Jenny the night that J was helping C move into his first college apartment. As they excitedly told me Jenny's story, she looked at me the entire time. Smiling like she understood every word. She had my heart.

Jenny entered a new life that we like to call her Animal House stage. She was surrounded by no shortage of students who would walk her, feed her anything they were eating and throw sticks and balls without end. The only problem in this existence had to do with that pesky word "student". The humans in her life had to go to class. Often. And she found an untold number of creative things to do when left to herself in the apartment. One entertaining trick was to make large piles of objects she was not supposed to touch. Once when I was at C's apartment I saw Jenny hiding behind a couch. Experienced mother that I am, I observed, "I think she has done something she was not supposed to do." Nah, said C. Until he went into his bedroom and saw the piles of forbidden items deposited neatly on the middle of his bed. Hmmmmm. Maybe there is a reason she lurks behind the couch, C noted. Forgiven, she trotted out and presented her backside to be scratched. I'm a soft touch.

Another thing about students is they like to travel during their breaks. On forms of transportation that don't allow the Jennys of the world to participate. C left Jenny with his aunt, R, during his Kerouac-ian train trip to Chicago. Where Jenny spent most of the Christmas break pilling decorations in the path of the front door. Never messing anything up. Just showing who was boss. And presenting her backside to be scratched whenever anyone came to call.

Well, this spring, C relunctantly asked his sister K and her new husband to take Jenny. C was moving and looking into a semester abroad. The only problem: K's new home in Missouri is a ways up the road from Texas. Ever the laid back dog, Jenny fit right into the newlywed's home. She has a large yard, dogs in houses on two sides and has play dates with a puppy down the street.

I wondered when I visited last month if Jenny would remember me in a different state. She ran right to me and presented her backside to be scratched. Yep: recognized. I brought Jenny a long pink stuffed dog like the one on the PetSmart commercial. When K's husband tried to play catch with Jenny's new toy, Jenny politely went and hid it in one of her famous piles and brought him a ball that she deemed playworthy for him. Jenny clearly has her boundaries.

So, here's to Jenny. She is truly a family dog. And I'm waiting for my turn.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Slipping through my fingers...

My oldest daughter was married on November 3, and I'm amazed to realize that 9 months have already passed in newlyweded bliss. (They are several states away in Missouri. We've already gotten together about 5 times. That helps. Some.)
K married one of my best friends from high school's son, J. That made this entire thing much easier than I ever thought it could be. During the time they were dating, and then talking marriage, my friend and I would not even discuss them. We wanted it to be their decision alone. When the engagement ring was on K's finger, the first thing I did was call my friend and scream. Loudly. She probably would have heard me without the phone. Even in Oklahoma.
One of the things I admire the most about K and J is their decision to get out of debt in preparation for their future. They both brought student loans into the marriage, and are determined to get them paid off as soon as possible. They purchased a nice older home, but are postponing the remodeling and redecorating until the student loans are gone. K was an interior design major who has a very artistic flair for fixing things up. But not the house...yet.
I look at the Pottery Barn and Crate&Barrel catalogs that are made to lure newlyweds into believing that they must decorate every square foot of a new home. NOW. I'm sure there are many young couples who fall deeply into debt because they buy the dream that they must have it all . NOW. And are probably still paying for the debt long after some of the furniture is gone.
I admire their discipline and dedication. They've found a simpler life that doesn't involve "stuff". They've found they have extra time on weekends because they don't have to maintain that "stuff".
And I don't think they know it yet, but they've discovered one of the most important secrets in life: The things that make us the happiest are not "things" at all.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Can you stand any more great news?

Well, today Santa (in the disguise of Wayne from the Medical Supply Store) delivered D's new sporty scooter to our home. A bright fire engine red, it would have glowed nicely under the lights of a Christmas tree. But we'll take it in August!

You may remember that D got the adaptations to his van last week so that he can drive with hand controls. He can drive. And now he can scoot. Does life get any better than this?

It's been a long year since D's surgery. During that time, wonderful members of our church showed up one Saturday morning and called out, "Good Morning, O'Brien family!" And Extreme Floor Makeover was underway. In one day they leveled the floor of our 70s sunken family room so that Dave and his walker could have a level path. Now Dave and his scooter have a level path.

Wayne showed us the finer points of D's new "Go-Go" scooter. It has a basket, a fast and slow speed (shown by a rabbit and a turtle icon) and a place for attachments. (Details to follow.) But wait: there's more. The "Go-Go" comes with additional replacement parts so that D can "Pimp His Ride": the red bumpers and side panels can be changed to blue or (wait for it:) silver, if the mood hits.

Dave scooted around the house. It is a tight ride with a 34 inch turning radius. It breaks into 4 pieces that can easily be put in his van. It boggles the mind to imagine the field trips we can now embark upon.

Dave has been online to check out the options available for his model. There are cupholders (he said he may get two: one for him and one for me when he takes me for a walk), walker and crutch holders, saddlebags and a trunklike basket for the back. (There are also warnings: Do not drink while driving the scooter. Do not walk your dog with a leash while scooting. Please let me know if he asks to borrow your dog.)

So, in two weeks I head back to school and Dave heads back to an active life. Toward the plans that He still has for us. To give us a future and a hope. And we are so very grateful.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The vision is yet for the appointed time...

My little sister, R, has always had a passion for all things cowboy. We were born and raised in Texas and this seemed like a natural progression. It began as a little hobby that has turned into a desire to have a business selling vintage cowboy merchandise.
But, along the way, R has been busy for the past 7 years helping take care of family members: our grandmother, uncle, my husband and my aunt. This summer, things began settling down a little in the natural and stirring up in the spiritual. R decided to step out and begin her business in a local antique mall.
Today her husband, M, took a day off to build the booth she designed. My husband, D, brought a congratulatory plant and moral support. And I helped R set up the store within a store.
Don't you love it when you've anticipated something for years and you get to see it come about (quickly!) with your own eyes? So, here's to R: Congratulations and may God shower favor on your dreams.
If you're in Georgetown, Texas stop by Collector's Mart. It will be easy to find her area: it's the part where the heavens are opened above and shining on vintage cowboy dreams. Because God's in the business of giving us the desires of our heart.