Thursday, September 5, 2013

My grandmother

My grandmother did not star in any movies. She never ran for public office, and she didn't invent a medicine or cure any diseases. Some people would say this means she didn't change the world while she was here. I would say there's more than one way to change the world.

Jean Golden raised four children-with varying degrees of success. She raised me, and had a hand in raising all of her grandchildren. She experienced so many joys, and her share of heartbreaks, and a world that was changing so fast it could make you dizzy. Through it all, her missions in life were clear: love and serve. Have a good attitude. Never act ugly.

I learned so much from my grandmother. She showed me how to be a good and true friend, and her friendships were treasures she valued dearly. She ingrained in me not just the importance of family, but the absolute necessity of it. I was well into adulthood before I realized that not everyone hung out with their great aunts and uncles and third cousins twice removed like I did. From her, I learned that we should serve others in whatever capacity we are able. She volunteered at blood drives, worked election polls, and made a point to visit elderly acquaintances. She went door to door in our neighborhood collecting donations for cystic fibrosis research. Hospitality was her gift, and the best way to ruin her day was to not let her take care of you. Nothing delighted her more than a knock at the door from someone who wanted to sit in one of her bar stools and visit. Most importantly, she taught me to love Christ, and that living for Him is the only true way to have joy and peace in this life.

 Another of my grandmother's greatest gifts was her wit, and her ability to laugh at herself. She simply was not capable of driving through Memphis without getting lost, and built extra time into her trips to account for the accidental detours. She had a fair amount of self control, but that went out the window the moment she stepped into a dollar store, or saw anything for purchase with a magnolia on it. Expiration dates on milk were only suggestions to her. She never-- ever once in her life--threw away one of those twist ties that held a bread bag closed. Her answer to everyone's needs was a banana pudding, and most of the time it was the right answer.

My respect for my grandmother grows all the time. Now as a wife and mother, I'm honestly astonished that she baked cakes and mowed the yard, sewed her own clothes and hung up the Christmas lights. She handled everything life required of her with enormous grace. Amazingly, even Alzheimer's disease wasn't able to steal her spirit. Until the very end, my grandmother was kind and joyful at all times.

We can't all change the world. But every time we speak, every time we act, we change the lives of the people around us. My grandmother has challenged me to be a more patient, thoughtful, selfless person. She loved us all so much, and we are all forever changed for the better because of her.  And in small ways, every single day, she showed everyone around her what God's love looks like when it takes on the form of a woman and goes walking around on earth.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


I wanted a dog. I was 22 years old and had never had one. I’d never really had a proper pet at all, unless you count the brief tenure of a cranky cockatiel when I was a pre-teen or Crawford, the bizarre and spunky Wal Mart goldfish I bought on a whim in college who lived with me for three years in various dorm rooms.
Anyway, no dogs. Matt and I had just gotten married and I made it the first order of business after getting home from our honeymoon to head to the animal shelter. I walked up and down the aisles until I found a smallish black dog that acted like she’d been waiting all day for me. I asked to play with her. The volunteer from the shelter retrieved her but explained to me that since the dog knew her and I was a stranger, it would likely not come near me and that I shouldn’t push. We sat down on the floor, she let go of the dog, and it made a beeline for me. Well, that was that. Matt came to meet her and thought she was perfect. We took her home a couple of days later and named her Annie.

Annie was like our first child right away. By this, I do not mean we were those people who take their dog to work every day or buy little doggie clothes. The only time Annie ever wore clothes were the 45 unfortunate seconds on Halloween 2001 when we tried to dress her in a little sombrero and poncho. It didn’t end well for anyone involved.  

So we didn’t indulge her terribly or treat her like a human, but we had so much fun with her. She loved to run at top speed in large circles through the house and wrestle with Matt’s hand. She was also content to keep a lap warm for hours. She took to sleeping at the foot of our bed right away, and she somehow slowly altered that arrangement so that she was sleeping at the foot of the bed INSIDE the covers. I thought it was weird and slightly annoying, because when she would decide to get up she moved every inch of covers to do it. Matt loved it, though—she was like his own personal foot warmer.  

When it was time to bring Abby home from the hospital, we were a little worried. We’d read and heard so much about dogs being unhappy about or aggressive towards tiny new family members. We shouldn’t have fretted. Annie sniffed her a few times and moved on. In fact, she endured all three of our children with grace, especially considering the torture regularly inflicted on her that children refer to as “playing with the dog.”

Now let me be clear:  Annie was not a perfect dog. She barked every time someone came to our door. Every. Time. She barked when a car drove too slowly by our house, or someone walked past our house. Or if it sounded like any of those things might be happening. Or if something like that wasn’t happening, but she was remembering a time when it had. She greeted new people by jumping on them with joy, and more than a few guests walked away with scratches from her over-happy paws. She chewed. Oh, did she chew. Over the years, Matt and I replaced 17 sets of wooden blinds because she chewed them up when she couldn’t see out a window. She got up on our dining room table when we weren’t looking. She had a knack for waiting until I had fully settled on the couch for the evening, blanket perfectly draped and pillows fluffed, before whining to go out. When I’d call her to come back in, she would hide until I gave up and closed the door, then she’d come running. She went ballistic any time Matt stood in a chair to change a light bulb or used a fly swatter. She ruined a lot of carpet.

But in all her years, Annie never bit anybody. She never ran away, and she never got sick. She greeted us with the same enthusiasm if we had been gone to work all day or if we’d gone to the mailbox. She didn’t hold a grudge if we were cranky or let her water bowl get empty. Juggling three kids and work and life meant that we sometime didn’t give her the attention she deserved, but she loved us every minute anyway.

Last Thursday night, Matt and I noticed that Annie wasn’t acting like herself. Matt took her to the vet Friday afternoon. He examined Annie and told Matt that she had advanced lymphoma and that it had spread to most of her organs already. Mercifully she was likely not in any pain yet, but our timing was lucky—he said that she probably had around a week left before her condition became extremely painful and would take her life shortly after. He recommended that we put her down by the following Monday to avoid having her suffer.

We were devastated. We knew that she was 14 years old and that’s a long run for a dog like her, and we definitely didn’t want to watch her hurt. But it seemed unthinkable to move forward without Annie. We told the kids, which was at the same time incredibly painful and beautiful, to see them choose to put aside their sadness to be resolute in wanting what was best for her. I’m pretty sure Annie thought aliens had taken over our bodies for the weekend, because we spent it spoiling her—she was carried around everywhere and given a good portion of whatever we ate. (The acquisition and consumption of “people food” was a lifelong source of joy for Annie).
On Monday morning, Matt and I held Annie and told her we loved her while she left the world. I feel sure that for all the sorrow I have left to experience in this life, only a few moments will match that heartache. I don’t know how long it will be before I can think about her leaving us and not cry, but it’s sure not going to be any time soon. If her purpose on this earth was to be in our family and love us well, then she exceeded all expectations. I can only hope that she knew how much she was loved back.



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Someone in my house got a box of chocolates from a boy, and it wasn't me.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day. When you're married with kids, this means a very different thing than when you're dating. For me and Matt, it means watching a movie together after the kids go to bed while eating Rick's cupcakes. It also means school parties and Angry Birds valentines and drawing hearts on lunch napkins.

Until this year.

This year, we had a new experience that caught us thoroughly by surprise and gave us a glimpse of what the next 10 years hold in store for us.

Abby, Ethan and Matt have had sinus infections, so everyone was home from school and work. I was running some errands mid-afternoon when Matt sent me the following text:

Your daughter just got hand-delivered valentine candy from a boy.

And it begins.

Now, let me give you a little background. The boy is Sam, who has known Abby since they were 10 months old in day care together. Sam and Abby have always gone to school together and have always been devoted to each other. When they were in pre-school Sam was her "boyfriend". In Kindergarten, they confessed to kissing in PE, and we were quite relieved to find out it was on the cheek. Later that year, Sam proposed. They've worked out how many kids they want (4) and what they'll be named. As they've gotten older, they've cooled it with the relationship talk--at least in front of other people. They remain great friends and make a beeline for each other any time they're in the same room.

Matt and I have decided that Abby and Sam's, er, relationship is fine by us. Sam is a nice boy who is kind and generous with our daughter. Sam's parents, Heather and Richard, have become friends and seem to like Abby as well. (Heather knows I'm blogging about this) Plus, we figure as long as Sam, who is for the most part a known quantity, is around, this will keep other unknown (and possibly unfit) quantities at bay. (This is how you talk about your children when you're married to an engineer).

So if anyone's going to be bringing my daughter a present on Valentine's Day, I want it to be Sam. Still, as I watched Abby dance around the house all evening with her box of chocolates and then spend half an hour on a heart-shaped thank you note that HAS to be mailed, not hand delivered, because that's the proper way to send a thank you note according to Abby, I got a little panicked. I am not ready to watch boys woo my daughter. I'm not ready to watch her enjoy being wooed. But it's coming--in fact, it's apparently already here. A nine year old boy knocked on our door, and when it was answered by Abby's father he didn't run away. He stayed to see my daughter and give her a Valentine's Day present. Then he ran away. (Hey, he's 9. I'm sure he was equal parts proud and horrified about what he was doing).

Hey Heather, next time tell Sam that if he really wants to get in good he should bring chocolate for Abby's mom too...

Friday, January 6, 2012

10 Cotton Bowl Observations

Completely random, and in no order whatsoever:

1. Jarius Wright kept pointing to a tattoo on his bicep. At first I just thought he wanted to show off his guns. Still no idea what the tattoo said, but I really hope it's "Mom".

2. I love Jake Bequette.

3. Some words should be banned in football announcer's booths. My first choice is "momentum." At the very least, they should use it correctly. Momentum is something that builds, and thus cannot change hands every 30 seconds like those schmucks kept insisting it was.

4. I love Tyler Wilson. Did you see him talking to the KState quarterback after the game? I could squeeze his cheeks. What a great guy and player.

5. When football players on the sidelines wear their helmets propped on top of their heads, they look like total goofballs.

6. I love love LOVE Bobby Petrino. He is, in equal parts, endearing and terrifying. He gave a small smile during the post-game interview and I think it's the most positive emotion I have ever seen him express. He's like a grumpy, highly intelligent, slightly scary but still lovable teddy bear. Who seriously knows how to coach football.

7. Speaking of goofballs, can the NCAA make a rule that players cannot have hair sticking out of the back of their helmets? I know they think they look cool. They are so, so wrong.

8. Ethan called KState "the bad guys" whenever he came in the room to ask what was going on. I like it.

9. Man those guys looked zonked walking off the field after the game. I can't even imagine how tired and sore they are.

10. We should be #3.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The blog fights back

I think I have a lazy blog. I took that long, ah, hiatus, and as soon as I came back it started acting up. It's probably trying to get me to go away so it can relax a little longer.

I've been having this thing for years, and for that entire time I've had this nice little sidebar that had pictures of my family, a little About Me paragraph, and links to the blog archives. Suddenly all that has disappeared. Well, it hasn't actually disappeared--it just moved to the verrrrry bottom of the page, as though the most recent blog entry felt crowded and gave the sidebar an angry shove downwards. This very problem has its own link in the "Help" section--however, it doesn't offer any solution. It would seem that the link should instead be listed in the "Problems people have that we acknowledge but make no attempt to fix" section.

Hopefully my computer-genius husband will be able to fix it this weekend, but until then I guess it's stuck like this.

Side note: 50 years ago, people always said they wanted their kids to marry doctors or lawyers because it would be so handy to have one of those in the family. I'm here to tell you that while doctors and lawyers are great, the 21st century is all about having a computer genius in the family. He's saved my hide about a thousand times, and that of most of our friends and family too. That, and his willingness to clean the bathrooms, are just a couple of the million reasons I'm hanging on to him.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Back by popular(ish) demand

As you no doubt noticed if you're one of the many* people who read my blog regularly, I've taken a little hiatus the last few months.

(A side note: don't you love the word hiatus? It's one of those words that lets what you're doing sound way better than what it really is. I wasn't being lazy, I was taking a hiatus. It's like when professors and preachers take "sabbatical".)

I really didn't mean for it to happen, but the longer the time stretched since my last post, the harder it got to figure out how to jump back in. Family pictures? Witty commentary? Apologetic excuses? It was easier to just post some one-liners and iPhone photos to Facebook and move on with my day. As time went on, I received multiple** messages from readers asking me when I planned to return. I decided to make a clean break with 2011 and start fresh in 2012.

I've been compiling a list of post ideas. Now it's just a matter of having the discipline to sit down at the computer and write the posts, which really means having the discipline to use Aaron's nap time to blog instead of passively surf the Internet, catch up on DVR'd episodes of Anderson Cooper's new talk show, or dig through the pantry to see if somehow, somewhere we still have some Snickers fun-size bars left over from Halloween. We don't. I know this. WHY do I still look?

I will not promise that I'll post every day, because there are days when I don't have time to do much of anything except act as chauffeur and laundry lady. But I'll do my very best to appear at least a couple of times a week. If you're reading this, thanks for not giving up on me. I won't let you down!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

On Being A Girl Who Loves Football

Something big is happening this weekend!

What? Our wedding anniversary is this weekend? Oh, yes, that too. But I'm talking about something that is on waaay more people's calendars. It's Razorback football time!

I love football. And I don't just mean going to football games, and I don't just mean Razorback football, though I do love those things. A LOT. But I actually love the sport of football. I find it fascinating and entertaining. Yes, I'm a girl. No, I'm not a tomboy. I don't like racecars or power tools or other traditionally "boy" stuff (though for a brief period in college I was a pretty enthusiastic pro wrestling fan--but that's another story for another time). I just really enjoy football. I know I'm not the only girl around who feels this way--many of my girlfriends like it, and a few even love it like me.

The girls I know who care nothing about football think I'm weird, I know. They can't imagine why I'd be interested in what, on the surface, looks like a bunch of giants smashing into each other. There are plenty of reasons for my devotion, though!

1. It's all about strategy and logic. Whoever came up with the stereotype that people playing and coaching football are dumb clearly never took a look at the rules. The game is intricate, and playing it well requires intelligent planning and creative problem solving. Watching great coaches orchestrate brilliant plays is pure joy for my brain.

2. There's some serious talent out there. I've seen athletes throw and kick with strength and accuracy I can't fathom even after seeing it. I've seen guys run, I swear, without their feet touching the ground. I've seen players have two or three opponents dragging them to the ground from the back and they still manage to move forward, and I've seen them do somersaults in midair to avoid a fallen player and land on their feet to keep running. Football players have strength, of course, but watching their balance, grace, speed and skill in action is a fascinating study in physical superiority.

3. I like being a part of the cool crowd. Well, you know. If you live in Northwest Arkansas, you are surrounded by Razorback frenzy. I love being excited about something that unites me with my alma mater and my community. In a larger sense, I can go anywhere in the country and meet a complete stranger, and if they like football we have an instant connection and conversation fodder for as long as we need it. Unless they are an LSU fan; then I will have to walk away immediately and go wash my hands.

4. It can be so very, very satisfying. I don't care how un-football, how girly, how dainty you are, EVERYONE has a moment now and then when they want to throw something through a wall. That thirst for aggression is beautifully quenched when, say, a receiver catches a pass and is immediately and cleanly slammed to the ground by a defender he never saw coming. I'm sure anyone who doesn't like football and just read that last sentence is rolling their eyes and mottering something about Neanderthals and violence. Whatever. They just haven't seen a really good tackle.

5. It's exciting! I think everyone needs to have some hobby in their lives that they enjoy so much they have to cheer about it. It feels GOOD to hold your breath in anticipation of a pass landing in the right hands, to high five random people around you, to yell a cheer so loud you go a little hoarse. I mean, scrapbooking's great and all, but when is the last time it earned anyone a high five?

When I was in high school, my best friend (who will remain nameless because she might kill me otherwise) was quoted in our yearbook as saying that football was her favorite sport because of the tight uniform pants. She made a good point, but that doesn't really factor in for me these days. I love football for the game that it is and the experience of watching it. I am so ready for kickoff. Go Hogs!!!