Category Archives for Family

On being attacked by a dog

WARNING: this story is about a dog attacking me and my dog. While we are both fine, the story could be triggering to victims of violence. Please read with caution.

February 14, 2020

The Details

Spectrum was due by 4 (Wi-Fi woes) so when I got home around 3:35, I hurried to get my beagle, Isabella, out for a potty break before they arrived. We walked maybe 3 minutes before she was done with her business and we turned back for home. Just before I stepped into my yard, I saw Dobby, the neighbor’s dog, cutting across my front yard from my back yard. It was about 3:40 pm at that point.

“Oh, Hi Dobby,” I said, “What are you doing . . .” That’s the last thing I remember before he rushed towards me and Isabella.

Dobby, a rescue dog who belongs to our next-door neighbors, is noisy, but skittish. He barks a lot, but our dog does too. In fact, Isabella and Dobby have had an ongoing conversation for several years. One would hear the other and respond enthusiastically. So, when I saw Dobby, I wasn’t even a little nervous.

And that’s the first lesson I’ve learned from the whole thing. See, I’ve known my whole life that dogs of any breed can snap and lose their ever-loving minds. When I was in first grade, a preschooler in our community was mauled by a police dog. I have vivid memories of her struggles and the subsequent comments my dad made about dogs: “Under the right circumstances, any dog will bite, maybe even attack.”

I knew this, but I now realize that I didn’t really believe it. I’m a dog lover. I’ve never been bitten by anyone else’s dog, and any bite I’ve gotten from my own animals was under adverse conditions that made a bite the only effective means of communication. So, when Isabella and I would be out walking and fenced-in dogs would bark at us, I didn’t jump or run or react. I might remark, “Well, hello there Noisy! Aren’t you unwelcoming today!” And Isabella and I would continue our walk. Lesson number one (a four-plus decades one that has lain in wait): Dogs will bite. And also, it hurts when they do.

Anyway, Dobby’s presence in my yard that day didn’t give me immediate cause for concern. I greeted him. He barked at Isabella. She barked back.

And then in a flash he was on her and I was trying to get between them, but Dobby was stronger and faster and Isabella is a beagle princess, not a fighter, so she was trying to get away and I was screaming and screaming and screaming for help, and no one was coming, and I thought he was going to kill her especially when he went for her throat because he got her by the jugular and started to pull back and shake her. I got her away from him. (Isabella has rope burns from the leash which was looped under her tummy.) Losing his hold on her neck, he went for her leg, then he dove for her underbelly; at one point I thought, maybe he’ll pull her leg off and will be distracted by that and we can get away. I kept screaming for help, trying to find more volume from deep in my core and failing, fearing my voice would give out before help came. Eventually, I just curled down over Isabella, with my head and face covered and tried to keep hers covered as well.

A humor break: Isabella is a submissive dog; always has been. Still, she wanted to protect me somehow, so from under my left arm she barked intermittently at Dobby. I am not fluent in beagle, but I think she said something like, “Please don’t do that!” or “That’s not nice!” or “Please stop!” Valiant effort but, bless her heart, not effective in the least.

Not able to gain purchase on his target, Dobby went after me, grabbing my right arm. Just as he did, I saw the blood dripping from around his teeth and gums. I knew Isabella had been bitten badly.

And that’s when Mike, a neighbor from the next street over, came running down through the woods. The structure of our neighborhood is like an amphitheater with our house at the base and Mike’s at the rim. The acoustics are such that I can hear him talk on his phone when he is outside . . . and I have significant hearing loss! So, my screams carried up to his ears and he came running, as did Darlene, a woman who lives near him.

Later, I asked Mike and Darlene what they witnessed.

Mike said, “Dobby had a firm hold on your right arm growling and tugging. [I was yelling but] he never let go until I was only three feet from you and then Dobby turned, showed his teeth, and started growling at me.”

Darlene said, “The dog had hold of something and and was shaking it, but I couldn’t tell from where I was if it was your arm or your dog.”

Mike picked up a limb to threaten Dobby which got the dog to respond. Then, Mike chased Dobby back to his driveway and returned to check on me. Before he got to me, Dobby was back, headed for me and Isabella, still huddled on the ground. This time, Mike chased Dobby all the way back to his home where the teenaged son met him at the door and took possession of his dog.

Mike’s a big guy—well over six feet tall—with a big voice. “That dog was not afraid of me at all,” Mike told me. “Not at all.”

Darlene had arrived by this time.

Isabella will be in the cone for another 10 days. Zingo is keeping her company.

“I knew from the blood either you or your dog was badly hurt,” she told me. “When I arrived, I saw it was your arm and just made sure you kept pressure on it to slow the bleeding. Then I called 911.” (She made the call at 3:54 pm, meaning the whole thing lasted between 10-14 minutes.)

The EMTs arrived in minutes, examined my arm, said I should probably see a doctor, and offered to drive me to the hospital. I declined, more anxious to get Isabella to the vet, but Jay (who had arrived about the same time as the EMTs) assured them that I would be going to see a doctor shortly. Animal control had arrived too; they made a report, and impounded Dobby.

The end result is that I’m fine and Isabella will be. My arm is very sore and bruised, but not broken. There are a few puncture wounds and the outline of a dog mouth imprinted in my skin, but the bone was not compromised, so healing should be quick and lasting. Isabella’s injuries were worse than mine. She had wounds at her throat, groin, and eye along with miscellaneous scratch and bite marks. However, she had quick surgery thanks to the good people at Cedar Ridge Animal Hospital, and will be just fine.

Some reflections

This is a complex situation that involves lots of humans. I’m an animal lover. And Dobby is a family pet. His family loves him. They are good people who take care of their pets. This incident is evidence of a fencing problem, not a character flaw. I am not a perfect pet mom and have made my share of mistakes. I at least understand containment problems with dogs—I have had beagles for heaven’s sake. So let’s all try to remember the Golden Rule here and treat them (in the comments) as we would want to be treated. They are suffering too. I cannot imagine how upsetting this has been for them.

Isabella and her favorite human a day or so after the attack.

Dobby is a rescue. His current family did not train him to attack. Perhaps that was a part of his former life; it is for so many dogs. (And by the way, let’s make that stop.) I’m very sad for Dobby. I know he just snapped due to something in his past that came slamming into the present. At some point, he was a puppy who was mistreated and neglected. Ultimately, those who use animals for harm are the ones who create this kind of perfect storm in the first place.

Still, I have been changed by this attack. It was terrifying. I thought it would never end. I thought I’d have to call our kids and tell them Isabella was gone. As a result of the attack, I will always be more cautious around animals. I’ll start carrying something to defend myself and my dog when we go for walks.

One thing keeps looping through my brain through all of this: what if Isabella were my human daughter (don’t tell her, but she’s 100% canine), and Dobby were her boyfriend? It happens all around us you know. A little boy is abused, neglected, used for the wrong reasons. His past slams into his present and prevents him from having healthy relationships. He grows up and meets a girl who realizes the danger too late. You know the stories . . . they are legion.

I don’t know the answer to these problems, but I do know all of us are both broken and beautiful, and that God loves us beyond and through all of our imperfections. I know all children should be treasured, loved with an everlasting love. I don’t know what will happen with Dobby, but I know I will continue to try to love the people in my life deeply and fully as Christ loves me. My daily, fervent prayer is that the love I share will, by the power of the Holy Spirt, seep into cracks of pain and regret and will bring hope that empowers and transforms. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

All about Margaret

Want to get to know my 22 year old? Just tap here and you'll find lots of stories about the youngest of my three kiddos. My favorites? Let's see . . .

I think this one is funny. It's the one about the ice trays.

This one is just so sweet. It's the one when she's playing with Baker. But it also shows her preschool sassiness.

Oh and this one is precious. It's about when there was a tornado warning at her school one time.

Margaret holding her heart--the baby Isabella.
Margaret and Isabella Christmas 2019
Margaret's fridge pics
grandparents

Dementia Humor: Grand Breakthrough

Grandmama and Granddaddy Martin

My grandparents with their beloved poodle Mimi.

(My grandmother would have been 115 today, January 24, 2020, if she had not passed away a month before my first child was born in 1994. I love to imagine her laughing in heaven--at her jokes and everyone else's!)

“Where're we going?” Grandmama, buckled in tight, sat in the passenger’s seat of her ancient sedan.

"We're going to Loris, to the Doctor’s office.” (Mother took Grandmama everywhere: to the doctor’s, to the hairdresser’s, to Sunday school.)

“How long’s it going to take us?” Grandmama stared out her window; her bright eyes seeming to take in the scenery. Mother knew better. Dementia clouded all of Grandmama’s experiences these days.

“Well, it’s about 15 miles,” she told her mother, “ It'll take us about 20 minutes.”

“Oh.” Grandmama nodded and slipped back into the mystery of her musings.

It was hard for Mother. Time was when she and her mother could talk without pause about anything. Once a vibrant, feisty, confident woman, Grandmama had been slowly slipping away for years. This meek soul who now inhabited her body often seemed like a stranger to her beloved daughter, my mother.

In a moment, though, Grandmama perked up again.

“Where’re we going?” she asked, looking over at the one person she always remembered.

“We’re going to Loris, Mother, to the Doctor’s office.”

“Hmm. How long you think it’s going to take us?” Grandmama asked, clueless.

“Well,” Mother said, “It’s about 15 miles. It should take us about 20 minutes.”

“Oh.” Grandmama nodded and turned back towards the passenger window.

The silence didn’t last long.

“Where’re we going?” Grandmama, smiling innocently, looked at Mother, waiting for her to answer.

Mother took a deep breath. “Actually,” she said, “We’re, uh, going to the Doctor’s office. It’s in, ya know, Loris.”

Grandmama nodded, but wanted to know more. “So, how long’s it going to take us to get there?”

Mother unfazed replied again, “It should take us about 20 minutes. It’s about 15 miles.”

“Oh,” Grandmama said. “Well. I guess I ought to know by now. I've asked you three times.”

Remembering Aunt Edith

Aunt Edith. 1932-2019

Edith Grace Mitchell Storey, (87) passed away October 23, 2019, 36 years to the day after her mother left this world for the next one. Earlier this month, Edith mentioned in conversation with her brother Joe that she would be seeing her mama really soon. Though she had not yet had the stroke that took her to heaven’s gate, she had seen a glimpse of the near future and faced it with hope.

Born in 1932 when women wore their hair in Hollywood waves and men slicked theirs back with Brylcreem, Edith was the fourth child and the third (and last) daughter born to Naomi Carter and James Powell Mitchell. Within the next 15 years, the Mitchell family added four more boys, bringing the total to seven children, following the tragic loss of their oldest daughter in the mid 1930’s.

Even in her youth, Edith entertained family and friends by playing the piano. Throughout her life, she played for church and for loved ones. Memories of singing around the piano as Edith played span decades and generations; oh “the joy we shared as we tarried there …!”

After graduating from Brinson High School, Brinson, GA, in 1948, Edith went to work as a telephone operator before marrying in 1951. Soon after, she graduated from beauty college and eventually had her own hair salon in her home. Nieces and nephews, children and grandchildren, made magical memories in that garage-made-parlor full of beauty. Plastic curlers became finger puppets, perm rods took rubber-band wars up to a whole new level, and few could resist climbing into her chair for a dizzying spin.

Edith cut and styled from bouffant to mullet, from pompadour to buzzcut, and from Greg Brady tight perm to Farrah Faucette feathered bangs. But in her beauty shop, Edith did much more than hair; Edith made magic. Clients and friends might arrive burdened, but they left hopeful. They might come beat down, but they left built up. They might enter feeling unworthy, but they left feeling loved.

Aunt Edith's dryer chair from her beauty shop, in its new life as a chair in her kitchen.

As an adult, Edith developed her artistic skills through painting. Seeing the beauty in the world was an innate gift of Edith’s, so it only made sense that she would excel at translating natural wonders into artistic masterpieces. Her painting was not just a leisurely hobby. She took her craft seriously and worked with a variety of media—acrylics, oil, watercolor—and surfaces—fabric, wood, metal—to create lasting representations of the world around her. She realized the value of her work, so while she gifted plenty of her works of art, she sold a good many too. Edith and beauty: they worked well together.

Edith’s first marriage gave her two children, four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and 5 great-great grandchildren. As matriarch of her family, Edith saw to it that her beloveds knew Jesus Christ. Each night up until very recently, the family—all who were close enough to make it—circled around Edith for family devotions and prayer time. If Edith said she would pray with you, she meant it--she and her whole family would.

Uncle George and me with Aunt Edith looking on in the background. Circa 1990

Edith’s second marriage to George Storey (1987-his death in 1998) brought her four step-children and 11 step-grandchildren. It also brought her the love of her life. Shortly after they were married, she remarked, “We love taking care of each other so much that we bump into each other in the kitchen trying to get the other one coffee!” Following George’s passing, her grief was surpassed only by her gratitude for the gift of this late-in-life love.

Once during a difficult time in her life, Edith remarked about her circumstances, “You know, this is not what I had planned for my life, but just look at the blessings around me!” She gestured around her one room apartment, “When I set my easel right there, the light is just perfect for painting! And look at the yard. It has plenty of room for my little dog to run around and play. And when I pull this curtain, I have two rooms, not one.” Because she saw the beauty, everyone else could see it too. “Pray for what you want,” she told us. “Then trust God to give you what you need.”

Condolences for the family may be left in the online guestbook at www.watsonhunt.com. Watson-Hunt Funeral Home has been entrusted with the arrangements.

A beagle and her Zingo

My dog Isabella has a toy that she absolutely adores. We call it Zingo (official name: Wacky Zingoz™) and if you know the popular Webkinz™ toys from the early 00’s, you may remember it. It’s essentially a triangle with a face and arms and legs. In its original form, Zingo has a voice; when you press its center, it says one of its phrases in a high pitch voice. (Note: Rare is the voice box that is a match for Isabella’s adoration; she loves the sound right out of most of her toys before they can get on my nerves, thanks be to God!)

Isabella absolutely loves Zingo. When she was a puppy, we had to make sure we had one with us on trips or she would be so agitated we could do nothing with her. The problem? You can’t get Wacky Zingoz™ in stores any more. The only place you can find them is on eBay or some other such used-goods site. So, occasionally I go online to search out Zingos. I’ll buy one or two whenever I can find them so I have extras–just in case.

Of course, Isabella knows none of this. Isabella just knows
that Zingo makes her feel better. She doesn’t know that if she lost the one she
has now, I would just give her the one that I have as a backup. Isabella thinks
Zingo makes her life whole. The truth is, I am the one who provides her with
Zingo.

Anyway, I’ve used this example in sermons because Isabella’s love for Zingo makes a great illustration. You know: the power is not in the toy, but in the toy provider. In the story, Zingo plays the idol that distracts humanity—played by Isabella. And yeah, I play the loving provider who indulges beloveds. Not a bad gig if you can get it, amirite?

Recently, I used this story as my children’s message and
took a couple of Zingos as props: Well-loved (aka smelly and gross) Zingo from
Isabella’s toy basket and Brand-new Zingo that stays hidden in my closet. To
protect the congregation, I slipped Well-loved Zingo into a plastic baggy so that
it could keep its aroma to itself. When I got home, Isabella spied her Zingo in
plastic and couldn’t wait for me to get it out. She took matters in her own
paws and I videoed the exchange.

Isabella frees Zingo

3 reasons not to call acquaintances "Sugarpie-Honeybunch"

Featured photo:
My parents &
8 of their 9 grandkids,
Summer 2019

If it happens in other parts of the country, I’m not aware of it. It might. As far as I know, it’s just a Southern thing.

But every time it happens, I wonder if this will be the time he just loses it.

“What are you having to day, Sweetheart,” she says to my octogenarian father, resting her hand on his back as she fills his upturned coffee cup.

He shifts in his seat, his jaw set. She can’t tell she’s annoyed him; but we can. He places his order and hands the menu to her.

grandmother and grandfather
Daddy dining out with his Sweetheart on board the Majesty of the Seas in May 2019

“I’ll get that right out for you Sugah,” she says, as she turns to go.

Daddy cannot stand it. He shakes his head, and mutters just loud enough for us to hear, “I’ve got one sweetheart. And it’s not her.”

In the South, whether you are checking out at a grocery store, signing in at your doctor’s office, or ordering your breakfast, you are likely to become, “Sweetie,” “Honey,” “Sugarpie,” or any of a gazillion other faux endearments.

There are several ways this is offensive. For one thing, using such familiar terms is just inappropriate. These pet names are meant for . . . well . . . pets, loved ones. Not strangers. Maybe at one time it was fine to greet a person you’d never met as you would a six-week old cocker spaniel. It isn’t now. A simple “Sir” or “Madam” will work; or skip the address all together and just make eye contact. That should do the trick.

Secondly, its sexist. Would it be okay for a waiter to put his hand on a woman’s back and call her “Hot Lips?” Of course not. I mean, yeah; they got away with it on MASH. But that show was set in the 50’s, so I think we can safely say that behavior is, at least, outdated. Using intimate greetings for strangers is just not okay these days—if it ever was.

Third, I think it is ageist. My parents are young 83 and 81 who neither look nor act like octogenarians. It’s patronizing and disrespectful for mere acquaintances to address them as they would children. My father pastored churches for 40 years before retiring to start a business that he and my mother ran for almost 20 years. He has his doctorate, for goodness sake! And my mother is a mentor to more young women than I can count and has good friends the age of her children who hang out with her because she’s great company. My parents text with their nine grandchildren regularly, go to soccer games and band concerts, and in May 2019 they went with my husband and me on a cruise to Cuba.

But you know what? Their vitality should not even play into this discussion. Older adults should be addressed with deference and respect regardless of their physical or cognitive condition.

Pause.

I know there are those who would say, “I don’t just speak that way to senior adults. I use endearments with everyone!” Okay. In that case, it’s not ageist. It’s just sexist and offensive.

Others are thinking, “But that’s just the way I am! Why are people so sensitive?” Okay, you can be whichever way you choose and that’s fine.  

All I’m saying is that there are reasons why people may not want you to call them “Sugarpie-honeybunch.” Why not just call them by their names instead?

7 of my Favorite Teachers

(As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.)


I've recalled for you here seven of my favorite teachers, in chronological order. (Caveat: I can't pick a favorite from Gardner-Webb Divinity School. For one thing, I still have my Doctorate of Ministry left to do and I ain't crazy. But, I couldn't pick anyway. I love you all!)

1. Ms. Brown, 5th grade. In the 70's, as in every decade, North Carolina tried some stupid stuff in education. In my 3rd and 4th grade years, I was in open classrooms. I don't remember why that was a thing, nor do I really care. I just remember it was loud, distracting, and overwhelming (for me, anyway). In the 5th grade, I got to be in one classroom for the whole day with this one marvelous teacher who loved students and teaching. On what must have been the first day of class, she announced to her class full of mostly white kids, that her name was Mrs. Brown and if we forgot we could just remember that "Mrs. Brown is Brown." Brilliant! She got racism right on out of the way and beat a bunch of 10 year olds to the punchline. She was fabulous.

2. Ms. Highsmith, 6th grade. She's the teacher who said of me, to the class and on my report card, "Aileen has real heart. She sees students in need and cares for them." I didn't know I did that, or at least I thought everyone else did too. She pointed out a giftedness in me that I'd not realized myself. That's a good teacher right there.

3. Ms. Lewis, 7th grade. I was seriously bullied in 7th and 8th grade, but in Ms. Lewis' class, I forgot all about that. Language Arts! Books, language, words. I loved it, loved it, loved it. Plus, she was funny. (I realize now what an amazing gift of comedic timing she must have had for seventh graders to find her humorous!)

4. Ms. Delaney, 9th grade (I think). Mary Delaney, did not play when it came to English grammar. I've always loved grammar, and so I appreciated her zeal. She was also quite quirky, a fact that made her even more loveable. My best friend and I were so crazy about her, that at the end of the year, we took her to our favorite lunch place, our treat. (We had open lunch back then and could leave campus for that blessed hour.) It's to Ms. Delaney's infinite credit that she accepted our invitation, and went out to eat with those two geeky white kids.

Mrs. Hayes (left) and her daughter Carol

5. Ms. Hayes (RIP 2019), 10th grade. Ms. Hayes, sock footed, would not have been five feet tall. But at school, in her 3-4 inch heels, she was a giant. She taught history, but mainly she taught joy. I can still bring her laugh to mind, see her vibrant smile. She was an absolute delight. As a 15 feet year old dealing with all kinds of self-esteem issues, I found her energy exhilarating. Because of her, school wasn't so bad.

6. Dr. Walter Barge, undergrad. Around 1984, Campbell University hired a new dean of the college of arts and sciences, Dr. Walter Barge. Dr. Barge was one of those deans who loved teaching so much that he straddled the administrator/faculty divide and did both. I had him for my senior seminar. He said of my writing, "You have a gift. Develop it." (Then he proceeded to mark up my papers so thoroughly that it was hard to see any evidence of said giftedness.) He was a man of integrity and honor. God rest his soul.

Product Details

Dr. Kremm's book is available on Amazon.

7. Dr. Diane Neal Kremm, grad school, round one. Dr. Kremm was flat out crazy about Southern history. When she taught, history rushed forward into the present, alive and relevant. I sat in her class enthralled, amazed, and inspired. It was invigorating. In her office, she had a portrait of John Brown. What's not to love?

Oh wait! There's one more. And she's my favorite teacher of all time. I was her first student, and she was my first teacher. She taught me to read in her makeshift classroom in the upstairs hallway. She stood at her blackboard easel wielding pastel colored chalk; I sat in a little red chair and propped an oversized book on my knees for a desk. So, yeah: my sister will always be my favorite teacher of all time. (She started her official career as an educator in 1985 and is teaching still.)

So thanks Dawn, for teaching me to read and, ya know, everything. And thanks to all educators who tirelessly bless the children of this world day after day. You absolutely--no question--make a difference.

kindergarten class

Kindergarten Teaching: Heart Enough to Share

July 28, 2019

As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.

Written June 2003 in honor of Mrs. Lois Jones' retirement from kindergarten teaching.

My youngest daughter on Kindergarten Celebration Day in 2004

My youngest daughter on Kindergarten Celebration Day in 2004

In the spring of 1999 my husband and I had a five-year old, a three-year old, and a one year old.  After reviewing every possible option from Home School to Charter School and beyond, we chose Oakley Elementary School for our children. In just a few months, our oldest was going to Kindergarten. Now, I'm quite certain it would have been easier to peel away my skin and send it off with a backpack than to do what I had to do. I had so many questions, so many concerns. I read everything I could find on preparing a child for Kindergarten. But in the end, having chased every possible thought around my brain and back again, I decided to give up, and give in. “Lord,” I prayed. “I have done the best I can to find some peace in this thing and I'm just not finding it. So you just fix it. Find the teacher for my child. I give up.”

“Dear Parent: Your child will be in Mrs. Jones class. School starts Tuesday, August 10, 1999. . .” The letter came after I'd prayed for weeks for the perfect teacher for my child. Now I know my prayers were answered in Lois Jones.

Two years later, I walked my son, Baker, to her classroom and just last fall, my youngest daughter, Margaret, was assigned to Mrs. Jones class.

Margaret & Mrs. Jones on Margaret's last day at Oakley Elementary

Margaret & Mrs. Jones on Margaret's last day at Oakley Elementary

She has given my three children a wonderful beginning to their education. I am infinitely grateful for that. But, in truth, that’s not what I appreciate the most about Mrs. Lois Jones. What I want to thank her for today, is not for what she did for my children academically, but for what she did for their hearts.

See, I left my Heart with her. And she gave her heart back to them. She has taught them, sure. But she has loved them. And know this: Mrs. Jones does not play favorites. She loves them ALL! I've witnessed her teaching for the past five years. She’s been here influencing children for much longer than that. And each one of my children, and every other child she has taught, has a little bit of Lois Jones' heart tucked inside their own.

preemie

My favorite July 4th story: Meredith (oh what) Grace

One of my favorite posts about one of my favorite people.
In celebration of my 50th birthday 7-22-15, I attempted to write 50 thank you notes. I didn't come close to 50, but I did write some. Like this one.

Technically, in the biological and legal sense, she's no relation. Meredith, daughter of my dear friend Debbie, was born July 4, 1995 at 25.5 weeks; her identical twin fell victim to twin to twin transfusion. Meredith lives 1000 miles away, but for nearly 15 years, our families celebrated Thanksgiving together. I'm so very grateful to have this grown-up miracle in my life.

My beloved Meredith,

Who could have ever guessed that a baby who weighed less than two pounds could make such a big impression on my life? You slipped into this world three months before you were due, right by yourself (your identical twin went straight to heaven, bypassing Earth altogether). Immediately, though, you found yourself surrounded by love—family, friends, medical staff—and found within your tiny little self, the spirit of a champion. I am so very thankful for you, sweet girl, and I thought it was time I tried to tell you how grateful I am for the gift of YOU.

Thank you baby Meredith, for surviving your shaky beginning.  Somewhere in your amazing self, you found the will to thrive. So, after four months in NICU and I-can’t-even-remember-how-many days on the ventilator, you went home. It was only a few weeks later that I got to hold you for the first time. Thank you, tiny one, for smiling at me so readily. I can still recall the feeling I had, holding all five pounds of you (a pound for each month of your life), looking into your beautiful brown eyes. You made me feel like I was the only person in the world. Thank you.

Thank you little girl Meredith, for always being delighted to see me. (You’ve always been so easily delighted.) Thanks for crawling up in my lap, for letting me read to you, for playing games and watching movies with me, for letting me push you on the swings. And as hard as leaving always was, thanks for always holding on so tightly to me, asking me not to leave, begging us to stay longer next time. Oh how I loved every precious moment of those fleeting days.

Thank you middle school Meredith, for being so unexpectedly full of spunk. I know it wasn’t easy. I’m so grateful for the grit in your makeup that kept you moving forward. Middle school is just the worst, isn’t it? I’m so grateful that you survived those difficult times. Thanks for liking me when it was hard even to like yourself. It felt so undeserved and it felt like treasure. It still does.

Thanks high school Meredith, for sticking with it. It is just so very hard . . . being. Especially in high school. But you connected and found friends I’m certain you’ll have for life. Thanks for not giving up on my Meredith during high school. I’m eternally, endlessly grateful.

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to have you in my life, but I’m even more grateful that you let me be a part of yours. Thanks for emailing, Facebooking, texting, and SnapChatting with me. Thanks for loving me from far away and for still wanting me to be with you. I’m so very grateful.

You will have nieces and nephews of your own before you can truly know how gratified my heart is that you are a part of my life. So thank you dear girl. Thank you for being Meredith.

I loved you before you were born.

Aileen

Margaret at 20 almost 21

My Daughter the Joy Bringer


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls;on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46

And now she is 21. A good time to rerun this piece about our Joy Bringer. 

Margaret, my youngest child (born earlier this week), turned 18 today (2/13/16) In honor of her birthday, I thought I’d share 18 reasons why we Lawrimores call her our Joy Bringer.

  1. Her preschool teachers called her Giggle Box and rightly so: Margaret’s laugh is contagious and irresistible. Still.
  2. She laughs at the comics. Who does that? I only know one other person who laughs so readily at the funny papers: my grandfather’s Joy Bringer (I call her Mother). And when Margaret laughs, so do we.
  3. Margaret thinks Horton Hears the Who, Tangled, and most any Pixar flick is hilariously delightful. I used the present tense on purpose here. The most recent animated flick she’s seen is still in theaters.
  4. She laughs at things no one else even notices. Just seeing a tractor trailer sans trailer makes her smile. But you know how that same kind of tractor will sometimes pull an identical tractor (facing the opposite way) behind it? The sight of that devolves Margaret into uncontrollable giggles that don’t end until the duo is long gone. It’s hysterical.
  5. Margaret’s imagination knows no bounds. When she was about six, she came strutting through the kitchen, hand on hip, looking around as if she’d lost something. “Mommy, have you seen a little mouse run through here?” (I assured her I had not.) Apparently this invisible mouse had escaped her imaginary classroom and was facing serious consequences.
  6. Further evidence of her imagination? The fact that throughout her elementary school years, Margaret’s stuffed animals had full and meaningful lives. She’d come home from school and go straight back to her room to find out about the day’s activities, then report their shenanigans to me. Oh the stories she told . . . .
  7. She loves real animals too. From 2-year-old Margaret pointing out “soft woowee wambs” to high school senior Margaret drawing our attention to animal rights causes, her love of all God’s creatures is a joy.
  8. And I mean ALL God’s creatures. When she was younger, no one would kill a bug in her presence for fear of retribution (see #11 below). Just recently, I found her standing at an open door saying, “Go ahead little stink bug! You have to go outside!”
  9. Giving Margaret a gift is enormously self-rewarding. Whether it’s a pair of fancy new stilettos or a handmade trinket, when you give a gift to Margaret, you are repaid with a picture of absolute joy. Seriously. People give her things just to see the expression on her face.
  10. Margaret is protective of her loved ones. When she was three, there were some girls picking on her older sister. Having had enough, she pranced over, blankie draped across her shoulders, reared back and kicked the offender saying, “Don’t mess with my sissie!” Her siblings were mortified at this blatantly disobedient behavior, but Margaret was unfazed. She flounced away with a sneaky smile creeping over her face and a self-satisfied twinkle in her eye.
  11. No question about it: Margaret has a temper. This quality has certainly not been all joy over the years, but there have been times . . . . like when preschooler Margaret, having lost a board game, would throw the thing up in the air, raining cards and tokens down on the entire family. It was annoying, sure; but watching that 3ft tall fireball careening down the hallway, pink blankie flying behind her, yellow curls bouncing . . . well it was totally worth it. We’ve not stopped laughing at that sight yet.
  12. Margaret is happy for her friends when they succeed, even if she fails. Take for example every single all-county band audition prior to this year. She would try out, and not make it. Year after year after year. When she didn’t make it, she’d be painfully disappointed. Soon enough though, I learned to do what was counter-intuitive: I ask her if any of her friends had made it. She would perk up and say, “Yes! So-and-So got first chair! Isn’t that awesome?” Yep. That’s totally awesome.
  13. She is blindly persistent. Me, when I fail, I generally take that as evidence I was never meant to do it in the first place. Not Margaret. She keeps trying out, auditioning, applying, interviewing. Seeing Margaret pick herself up and try again and again gives me a deep, soul-filling joy.
  14. Her hair. That child’s hair brings joy to pure strangers: “Your hair! It’s so . . . it’s just . . . Wow.” With that hair she won the genetic lottery. It’s golden ringlets of delight.
  15. Margaret is a great friend. Even though she is as introverted as she could be and still live among humans, she has made true and lasting friends whom she treasures. Listening to her with her friends is one of the great joys of my life.
  16. She’s strong willed. Like her temper, this is not always a delight. But it can be a beautiful thing. Like when she stands up for friends or refuses to abide injustice. Margaret with a cause is a joy to behold.
  17. She loves deeply; when she was younger, she illustrated that in unique but precious ways. Back in those days, my husband would be gone at least one weekend a month for guard duty. She hated it and decided that since Daddy never left without giving her a hug, she would just refuse to hug him; that way he couldn’t leave. When her older brother went to Kindergarten (in an effort to help her work through her own feelings), I asked Margaret what she thought someone should do if their older sibling was going to school the next year. She just shook her head and said sadly, “They should go in their room and cry and cry and cry.” A year or so later when her sister was hospitalized, Margaret slept with a picture of her night after night. She loves like she laughs, completely and without reserve.
    daughter

    Margaret at 18 months.

  18. Margaret Aileen Lawrimore is a mama’s girl. Strangers and friends alike said this derisively when she was a baby. (Not me. I rather preferred it.) But it has brought me unspeakable joy that even now—at the height of adolescence—Margaret seems to like me. I’m amazed when any high school kid likes to spend time with me. When that child is my own? I can barely fathom the gift of it.

We named our third child Margaret because, though she was beloved, she was not exactly planned. “Margaret” means “pearl.” Some of her earliest conversations included, “My name is Mawgwet, cuz I a tweasure of gwaaaaate pwice!” She is indeed. She is our Joy Bringer.

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