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Happy Birthday Baker!

Back then, Pikachu and Charizard were still on the drawing board; “Wifi” and “Google” were nonsense words; and Netflix was about to start a mail order movie rental business, competing with the industry giant, Blockbuster Video. Households might have had one desktop computer for use by the entire family, and long distance rates varied based on the time of day. Also in 1996, mobile phones were roughly the size of today’s mobile tiny houses. Give or take an antennae or two.

But the most memorable thing about 1996, at least to the Lawrimore family, was the birth of Baker Powell Lawrimore. How that cuddly little noise maker is now a grown man, I’ll never be able to explain.

Here on the blog, you’ll find lots of posts about Baker, my absolute favorite son. (I’ve linked a few below.) And he actually has a few guest posts himself. (You can find these by using the search tool on the blog, keyword, “Baker.”)

So in honor of his birthday, you are invited to read a little bit about my son. He’s kind of a nice fella, if I do say so myself.

  1. The one when I tell about my postpartum elation. Gratitude Week 4: My Boy
  2. The one about Baker and homework. Parenting: High Maintenance, High Praise
  3. The one where Baker is suddenly taller than his mother. Baker and Bone Mass
  4. The one in which Baker becomes a theologian. Light in the Darkness: Baker’s Firefly
  5. The one that tells about Baker not getting shot. And Justice for All
  6. The one that lists a few things Baker has said over the years that illustrate just how fabulous he is. My Fabulous Baker Boy

 

lizzy mccall margaret

Being loved.

 Published originally in March 2013 when Margaret was in the 9th grade and I was teaching at a local community college.

I'd just finished teaching last night when my youngest child arrived. We had an errand to run so her brother dropped her off at the college to save us time. I introduced Margaret to one of my students who was still hanging around in the hall.

"Margaret, this is Zach*, a student in my class."

Margaret responded as she always does to new people: blushing, she gave a quick nonsmile as she began her escape.

"Hi Margaret, I'm Zach." The student spoke to her back. We were already walking away when the student added, "You have an amazing mom!"

"Thank you!" I responded to Zach, then linked my arm with Margaret's and joked, "Don't you wish you had a nickel for every time you've heard that!"

"I'd have a nickel," she said (smarty pants), "No wait, I'd have a bunch more than that. My grade** loves you. Even Ethan likes you. I don't know why he likes you."

(Evidently getting Ethan's approval is an accomplishment.)

So yesterday, as I lay down at the end of my day having forgotten to blog, I felt grateful to be loved. It is so very nice to be loved.

*Students name and identifying details have been changed.
**"Grade" refers to the 15 or so students in her grade at church, not the 400 or so in her grade at school (something to work towards I suppose).
dementia

My Mother and Hers: Caregiving and Dementia

 

My grandmother was born January 24, 1905; it's hard to say when the dementia began, but by the mid 80's it was full blown. I always said that as the dementia advanced Grandmama got sweeter and sweeter to the point that she was just pure sugar by the time she passed away in 1994. For the last five years of her life, Grandmama lived with her youngest daughter, my mother. In this post from 2009, I recall some snippets from those last few years.

“I know someone who will take care of me,” my grandmother told us from the shelter of my mother’s arms. We’d been picking on her—trying to awaken the feisty grandmama we used to have before dementia kidnapped her. She had had about enough of our shenanigans when my mother walked through the room. Grandmama pushed herself up from her chair, walked straight to Mother, tucked her head into Mother’s shoulder, and looked back at us, triumphant.

She was right. My mother, her daughter, took care of her, loving her through the fog of memory loss. Mother loved Grandmama enough to keep her busy, despite the obvious limitations. She kept a jar of coins handy and would pour it out on the kitchen table for Grandmama. “Could you count these for me, Mother,” my mother would say to hers, “It would sure be a big help to me.” And Grandmama would set about sorting and stacking, making sure her towers of coinage were just so. Mother had Grandmama count those coins, water plants, or fold clothes because everyone needs to feel needed. Everyone needs something to do.

Mother loved Grandmama enough to bless her with beauty. On the screened-in porch where Grandmama loved to sit in her rocking chair, Mother kept flowering plants in Grandmama’s favorite colors. “Look Grandmama! Isn’t that beautiful?” we’d say, pointing to a plant she had already seen a dozen times. She would turn to look, her eyes brightening at the sight that was brand new to her. “Ewwweee! What a pretty flower! Look at those purple blooms. You know, I’ve always loved purple.” We knew.

Mother loved Grandmama enough to keep telling her story to her. “Mother, how many children did you and Daddy have?” Mother would prompt her. “Well, now, let me see. . .” Grandmama would begin, searching the faces in her memory. She loved thinking about her children, even though she didn’t really recognize their adult versions any more.

Watching Mother care for Grandmama back then, I wanted to put into words somehow my appreciation for the sacrifices she was making. (Grandmama and Granddaddy had moved in with my parents shortly before my Granddaddy died in 1989.) I wrote this poem in the early 90’s in honor of Mother, in memory of Grandmama.

TO MY GRANDMOTHER’S KEEPER

In the darkness of her mind,
children blend with siblings;
reality slips into the forgotten past.
Words,
Having
wandered
aimlessly
from
brain
to mouth, tumble out in jumbled speech.

Alone, but not,
She searches her audience
for a sign
of understanding.

Longing,
her foggy eyes
find your focus;
her life-worn frame
folds into your
familiar embrace;
the gray cloud of her mind releases showers of tears.

With firm assurance
you
call her in
from her private storm.

Knowing it is her greatest fear, you tell her,
(again):“You will never be alone. Never.”

And fleeting comfort shelters her.
And that is all you need.

Happy Birthday Grandmama!

new years resolutions

5 types of resolutions for a Happy New Year

When my kids were younger, around the first of each January we'd sit at our kitchen table together and make our New Year's Resolutions. We've gotten out of the habit, but what we did back then was shoot for five resolutions, one in each of five categories.

  1. Spiritual. This goal that has to do with spiritual formation. Maybe "Join a Bible study," "Read through the Bible," "Start a prayer journal." Make your goal reasonable but challenging. Consider enlisting a friend to join in this resolution. Having a partner makes goals so much more attainable.
  2. Social. Set a goal that has to do with relationships. "Call my grandparents weekly," or "Set a weekly date night with my spouse/significant other." Maybe "Join a group where I can meet peers (mommy & me, book club, senior center, whatever)." You'll want to schedule this one, put it on your calendar. Things on my calendar tend to get a higher priority. True for you?
  3. Intellectual. Do something for your brain this year. Have you read War & Peace? This is your year. Or you could take a class. There are classes at community colleges, universities, even at your local craft or home repair store. Too daunting? Then learn a new kind of puzzle or game. Sudoku, acrostics, crossword puzzles: all of these boost brain power. Make your goal specific, though. "Finish War & Peace by April 15," or "Work five crossword puzzles a week." If your goal isn't specific, you'll have a hard time knowing when you've achieved it.
  4. Physical. What can you do for your health this year? Resolve to "Join a fitness club," "Start a walking club," or "Try one new healthful food each week." Remember though, sometimes we fall short of our goals. If this happens, cut your self some slack. No one's perfect. Just pick yourself up again and get back on track.
  5. Financial. Set a goal that has to do with your finances. "Start a Christmas Club savings account" or "Meet with a financial advisor." Even better, link your financial goal to your spiritual goal and resolve to "Increase charitable giving."

After making these initial five resolutions, break each one down into little goals, small steps, that will help you achieve your resolutions. For example, if the physical goal is to run a marathon, then running shoes might be in order. (Or in my case, a lobotomy.) These short term goals help measure success and help us stay motivated to keep our resolutions. Try to come up with at least three mini-goals for each resolution. Maybe you can break it down even smaller--setting micro-mini goals for each mini-goal. Each time you achieve any of these goals, make sure to reward yourself with at least a pat on the back and maybe even a latte.

In my opinion, goal setting is always good. Even if we fall short of our own expectations, I suspect we accomplish more than if we didn't aim for anything at all. So gather up your kids, family, or friends and plan now for a successful year.

Do you have tips for making resolutions? Share in the comment section. Already made yours? Tell us about them!

Giggles lost, Hope found.

Published originally on March 15, 2009

Margaret, our animal whisperer (the one of our three who knows the daily schedule of Animal Planet™ far too well), has loved animals since she began identifying them in her picture books. So, considering her gift for persuasion, along with her blond curls and blue eyes, it’s to our credit that Jay and I held out until her 11th birthday to get her a pet of her own.

Giggles the guinea pig joined our family five weeks ago. And five weeks ago, our Margaret fell in love.

She cooed to Giggles snuggling under her chin, “You are just the cutest; yes you are.” Giggles talked back in guinea pigese, proving she had been aptly named. Margaret giggled back. “I love you, Giggles!”

Yesterday morning, Margaret mentioned to me that Giggles was acting unusual. But it was Jay who became concerned around 3:00 when he found her unwilling to eat and lethargic. We realized that her cage was spotless—meaning that she had not pottied in 24 hours (not a good thing for a rodent who usually potties every 15 minutes or so. . .). She was making a bizarre squeaking sound, didn’t want to be held, and was struggling to breathe.

Margaret and I rushed her to the vet, Margaret—holding the box that held her beloved and covering her ears so she wouldn’t hear the sound that told us something was terribly wrong. At the office, the pet nurse tried to get her temperature but needed some help so she stepped out of the room to call for help. While we were alone in the room, Giggles revived a bit and Margaret took her. “That’s my girl, you’re going to be okay, aren’t you?”

At that moment, Giggles fell over limp. I took Giggles immediately and dashed to call in the vet. Margaret ran out of the room. The vet—an amazing woman—began working to save our little guinea. After about 15 mins of trying, the doc told me she was gone. Then, it was my job to tell Margaret.

Margaret was looking at books right outside the office (it’s located in PetSmart™). I touched her shoulder. She turned to look at me. Walking away from me as fast as she could, she said, “No, no, no, no, no. . .” I caught her. She crumpled in my arms. “No, no, no, no.”

On the way home, she was inconsolable, “I’ll never get another guinea pig. I don’t want anything that’s going to die.” She wept, nearly hyperventilating from sobbing. “I should have known, Mommy, I should have known.”

“You can’t know everything, baby.”

Tears still streamed down her cheeks as she hiccupped out her words. “But she was my daughter. I should have known.”

“It surely feels that way, doesn’t it?" I longed to help her feel better but knew I couldn't. I said, instead, what she already knew, "Nothing in the world hurts as bad as losing someone you love. Nothing.”

“I’m never getting another guinea pig.”

“You don’t have to decide that now.”

“Can we read when we get home?” (Margaret and I still read together like we did when she was a preschooler. It’s an indulgence we both enjoy.)

“We can do whatever you want.”

“Then can we read on your bed?”

“You bet.”

We came home, cuddled up with her lovies and our book. Margaret’s sobbed on. “Just read, Mommy, I need to get my mind off it.” I read.

Meanwhile, Jay had been out running errands—he left to go when we left for the vet. I had called him to tell him the sad news, but he had not gotten back by the time we arrived. About a chapter into our book, Jay came home.

“Hey Noodle-bug,” he said softly, using our pet name for her.

She turned her sad, weepy face to him. He held his cupped hands out to her. Instantly she scrambled up from the bed, brightening back into our Margaret. From the palms of her Daddy’s hands popped a furry little face. She reached for her new guinea, smiling, cuddling it to her. “Her name is Lemon Square,” she told us, shrugging the tears from her cheeks, “And I’m going to take such good care of her.”

A little girl, transformed from heartbroken to hope-filled, because a Daddy who loved her more than she can understand gave her the gift of new life: That’s grace. That’s love. That’s Good News.

Holy Ground Sans Sis

Holy Ground, sans Sis.

Another of my earlier posts from back in 2008, written about my trip to the Holy Land.

I've said over and over today: Ooooh! I wish my sister could see this. Or, "I wish my sister were here to translate that." You see, my sister Dawn is a Latin teacher extraordinaire and there are few things she likes better than Roman ruins and a good line of Latin text. So when I was standing in the hippodrome in Caesaerea where chariot races entertained 11,000 onlookers, I couldn't help but think about how much my sister would love to see it all. This hippodrome (which bordered the Mediterranean Sea--so blue today that you wouldn't believe me if I could describe it) is only one of the well preserved ruins of this Roman town mentioned in the book of Acts. In Acts, Peter goes there on account of the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 10). But more importantly, Paul is there, defending himself and his faith. (You'll find this story in Acts 25:23-26:32.) Today, we stood in the theater where Paul probably pleaded his case. We saw the box seat (there is only one in this theater) where his accusers set. We listened as our professor spoke from the theater floor, his voice carried up to us on the winds of the Mediterranean. And I thought, I wish my sister could be here to see this.

We drove just down the rode to a Roman aqueduct. Now if you've not heard of such a thing, open another window and do a quick wikipedia search. Basically, Romans created a massive plumbing system that would enable them to build cities in little remote places like, I dunno, Israel. The aqueduct that we saw stretched more than seven miles. I climbed atop it and walked in the trough where the water would have flowed. I sat under the arches and smiled pretty for a picture. I walked in the Mediterranean and looked back at it thinking, my goodness, I surely wish my sister could see this.

After that, we went to a chapel near a shepherd's field--a field like the one where shepherd's would have been abiding their flocks by night. . .The chapel is tiny, and is domed. The dome creates beautiful acoustics. One of our group, Dr. Cal Robertson who was one of my profs last semester, is a gifted and talented tenor. While we were in the chapel, he sang O Holy Night. Around the dome of the chapel were the words from Luke 2:14--in Latin. This would have been a great day to share with my sister.

disney world

Thank You #16: My Favorite Mother-in-Law

I started dating my husband in 1985 when I was just 19 years old. I met my future mother-in-law that same year. Her son and I have been married nearly three decades and on April 11, 2016 she celebrated her 80th birthday, a birthday doctors never dreamed she would see. Since the 1960's, she has fought a muscle disease that has transitioned through a number of diagnoses: dermatomyositis, polymyositis, and now muscular dystrophy. Whatever the doctors say, we say she's a miracle. Today's thank you note is to my one and only mother-in-law, Joyce Lawrimore.

A Most Excellent Mother-In-Law
(loosely based on Proverbs 31)

An excellent mother-in-law who can find?
She is far more precious than a screened in porch on a warm summer day.

The heart of her daughter-in-law trusts her, confides in her, and heeds her wisdom.
She supports her daughter-in-law’s vocation, and avocation.
She believes in her daughter-in-law, encourages her, and inspires her.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She does not take sides in conflict, but offers support to those whom she loves.
She knows how to apologize. She does not interfere.
(A rare and valuable example she is among mothers-in-law.)

She suffers medical maladies, but does not complain.
She has searched for a cure, found new treatments, and defied the odds.
She is persistent. She is strong. She is resilient.
Her family takes great pride in her.

Her potato salad is the best in the South.
No other mayo but Duke’s is allowed in her cupboard.
Her pecans are roasted to perfection.
Her fresh tomatoes are served free from their peeling.

She adores her grandchildren, but is not biased.
Her grandchildren are the most beautiful, talented, and wonderful children ever born.
She speaks the truth.

She rises while it is yet night, but refrains from judging her late-to-rise daughter-in-law.
She laughs easily, and sees the humor in painted squirrels running through the park.
Toys sing and dance in her living room.

Her faith sustains her; she is a devoted disciple of Christ Jesus.
She studies Holy Scripture.
She prays without ceasing.
She recognizes God’s voice.
She is obedient.

At God’s direction, she donates her electric organ or takes her family to Disney World.
She opens her hand to the poor; and reaches out her hands to the needy.

Strength and dignity are her clothing. (But multiple blankets keep her warm.)
She laughs at the time to come when she will run up heavenly stairs and feast on divine delights.

Her children and her grandchildren rise up and call her blessed;
her daughter-in-law also, praising God for the blessing of a godly mother-in-law.

“Many Mothers-in-Law have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a Mother-in-Law who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Happy Birthday Joyce! I love you and am so grateful for you!

 

23 Things About Me

Musings on Me: 23 Truths about Me

Rev Aileen LawrimoreWhen trying to decide what to post today, I went through my files looking for things I’d written previously, but had not yet posted on my blog. I found several lists of “things about me,” likely a response to some Facebook challenge in the early days of social media when I actually accepted such challenges. Anyway, I sifted through the different lists and compiled a new one. Here are 23 things about me. Do we have anything in common?

  1. As a child, I read all the books in my library on Abraham Lincoln and on Harriet Tubman and many other biographies. Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, George Washington Carver . . .
  2. Alex Haley’s Roots was a key experience of my childhood.
  3. I have a friend from Denmark. We’ve been friends for almost four decades.
  4. My Danish friend is from Greenland; I visited her there for a month in 1982.
  5. I do not know how to knit or crochet.
  6. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was the sign language interpreter at First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. Our service was televised; I appeared in an inset frame in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  7. I don’t remember much of the sign language I used to know.
  8. I get mad at Siri when she doesn’t understand my Southern accent. She’s a complete ignoramus with absolutely no Southern charm, bless her heart.
  9. My favorite color has been purple since the late 70’s. Before that, it was yellow.
  10. I loved getting up in the middle of the night to feed my babies.
  11. The worst pain I’ve ever felt was not childbirth. It was a corneal ulcer. Think open wound in your eye. Yep. That hurt.
  12. In my first job back in 1982, I worked in a seafood kitchen. One thing I had to do was to prep the food to be cooked. That included, among other things, washing the oysters. Eww.
  13. I once worked for a perfect boss and had a perfect assistant at the same time. I was not working at a seafood restaurant at the time.
  14. I’ve never said, “Gosh, I wish I hadn’t exercised today.
  15. I’ve never thought, “Having that second serving? Sure glad I did that!”
  16. On Lincoln’s birthday nearly every year (February 12), I read the Gettysburg Address and it always brings tears to my eyes. (So does the “I Have a Dream” speech).
  17. I do not play the lottery and I do not like Las Vegas.
  18. When talking about my sister, I usually call her, “My sister,” whether the person knows her by name or not. My sister does the same thing when talking about me.
  19. I have always loved church. As a child, I loved two-week long Vacation Bible School and week-long revivals. When my dad preached at revivals or officiated at weddings, I always wanted to go with him.
  20. I follow rules. I put my shopping cart back. I don’t walk until the red hand is gone and the little man appears. I go in the in the entrance and out the exit. That’s the rule. So that’s what I do.
  21. On Christmas mornings when I was young, I was always most excited to see which book I would get and would spend the entire afternoon reading it.
  22. I once catalogued the children’s books and encyclopedias in our home using some form of the Dewey Decimal system—the library catalog system that was in use at the time (circa 1972, when I was 7 years old).
  23. I can’t remember ever being bored. Seriously. I can’t. (There’s always one more book to read.)

So. Do we have anything in common? Comment below to let me know.

2016 Presidential Election

Good over Petty: A Choice I'm Making

2016 Presidential ElectionI’ve gotten inordinately distracted by this year’s presidential campaign. I’ve always been interested in politics, so it’s not surprising that I’m following the election news. But this year, there’s not as much campaign news as there is petty filth and drivel. The offensive nature of the 2016 US election is very literally making me sick.

I messaged my sister to commiserate. Here’s a snippit of that conversation (condensed for the purpose of this post).

ME: I'm so upset about this dadgum election. I think way too much about it.

MY SISTER: Take a break. I had to.

ME: It makes me so mad. My stomach is upset; I feel like I’m about to cry over it all the time. It is just so upsetting! The fact that the people of this nation are drawn to the theatrics and that other candidates are picking up such tacky behavior . . . I can't stand it.

MY SISTER: Aileen. You know that you have to stop.

ME: How do you get away from it though? It’s on the news, on Twitter, everywhere.

MY SISTER: It wraps you up in pain and renders you impotent.

ME: Precisely.

MY SISTER: You can't be involved in politics the way you want to if you are in this much pain. Do some sort of news blackout.  Not a long time. A day? Could you do that?

ME: Yes probably. I have to do something to get it out of my head. This is seriously sickening.

MY SISTER: You are no good in this state.

ME: But I’d rather do something to improve the national mood. To make this better.

MY SISTER: YOU do help. All the time. Don't lose yourself in it. You really, really can help. The WORLD.

my sister my championMy sister, my champion.

Her words got me thinking. See, I was going to post about my frustrations and concerns regarding the negativity swirling around the country. But as we were chatting, I realized that everything I have to say on this has already been said, reworded, and said again. People who will listen, have. Those who won’t, aren’t going to change their thoughts because of my opinion. So what to do?

I heard a quote on NPR’s Politics Podcast this week that seems appropriate here:

Never wrestle with a hog because you’ll both get dirty and the hog will like it.

So I’m staying out of this nasty mess. And instead of adding to a fight that is already spewing filth on anyone who gets near it, I’m going to keep trying to put some good into the world.

What about you? What good thing will you add to your world this week?

“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior:
Ask yourself what you want people to do for you;
then grab the initiative and do it for them!”
Luke 6:31 The Message

Thanks Sister-in-Law! And Happy 50th!

In a continued celebration of my 50th birthday, 7-22-2015, I'm writing 50 thank you notes in 50 weeks. Here's number 11, to my sister-in-law, Kim.

Thank You Sister In Law
The Mitchell Family 2012
(Kim, 2nd from Left)

Dear Kim,

It’s your 50th birthday: a perfect time for me to tell you just how much I appreciate you and the qualities you bring to our family.

You were the last in-law to join us, setting our count to eight once and for all. (Well, eight plus eight now, but still . .  . .) You’ve been a Mitchell for over two decades, or forever; I’m not sure. It seems like our family has always included you.

Kim, I love how you love us. It’s clear to everyone: your devotion to your family-in-laws has nothing to do with marital obligation. You love each of us with visceral faithfulness. You are all-in, 100%, wholly committed to our clan and we all know it. Thank you Kim, for loving us in that full-throttle Kim way. I so appreciate that about you.

Your gifts, so different than mine, amaze and humble me. Your no nonsense efficiency with the details of life is such a blessing to our whole family. Thank you for prioritizing life’s particulars; by the time I realize the minutiae exists, you’ve already resolved it. Thank you.

Kim, I've never doubted that you loved my parents as your very own. Your love for them is clear with every interaction you have with them. I mean it when I say I NEVER worry about them. I don't because I know you are right down the street, a phone call and a 30 second drive away. So many times over the past several years, this reality has proved, if not life-saving, then at least anxiety relieving.  But in the last 12 months, having you so close to our parents has kept me from lying awake at night, consumed with worry. I remember the first time I spoke with you after we learned the extent of Mother’s surgical needs. Your response, honest and immediate: “I wish I could do it for her.” And I knew you did. That’s how much you love her. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

Of course, living a two-minute walk from our parents means that you get an influx of company at least twice a year. Anyone else might be at the very least annoyed when we descend on your hospitality and invade your space. But if having an extra 8-10 people at your house is an imposition, I’ve never known it. And the thing is, it’s not just that I feel welcome; it’s more than that. It’s like you have been waiting for us and are delighted we’ve arrived. “Would you like a beverage?” you say as you hand me an ice-cold Diet Dew. Thank you Kim, for always wanting us around.

Thank you for your passion for family, your zest for life, and your steadfast loyalty to those you love. I am so grateful for you, and so thankful to God for the gift of you. I love you Kim and wish you the happiest of birthdays.