That One Day When I Worshiped My Brother

There was nothing I wouldn’t do for my brother. I was the pesky little sister who would do anything, absolutely anything to please this boy. He was the big brother who would come home from Kindergarten and teach me whatever he had learned that day. Reading, writing, anything, and I was the faithful student/sister/servant who would willingly comply. “Not like THAT, Erica, like THIS”, he would complain, correcting the ‘E’ that I would write. My ‘E’ had six arms instead of three.
He was in town recently, and we were hanging out, laughing, reminiscing about some of the things he would ask me to do.
Mike was a little league baseball pitcher and I was the team bat girl. In my willingness to do whatever I could to ensure his pitching perfection, I offered myself as a living sacrifice. Seriously, he took me to the backyard and said “Stand right here.” He placed me against the back of our brick house and I, having all the trust in the world, said, “O.K.”
“WHOOSH! CLACK! WHOOSH! CLACK!” The tennis ball he threw with lightning speed and the precision of the greatest pitcher in MLB, whizzed past my face onto the brick façade. I didn’t move. Not even a twitch. For some reason, I knew he wouldn’t hit me. Over and over he practiced, using me as his target, and never once did he come close to hitting me.
We fought like crazy as kids. I even told him that I hated him. I didn’t hate him. Ever. I loved him with everything in me. Today, we have a cool relationship. We don’t see each other nearly enough, but I still love him. I still trust him with my life. Maybe next time he’s in town, I’ll wait for him in the backyard with a tennis ball and the wide-eyed trust of the little girl who worshiped her brother.

That One Day When I Didn’t Let MS Win

There it is. My feet greet me every morning with burning, icy, prickly heated numbness. Just a friendly reminder that Multiple Sclerosis is alive and well and ready to wreak havoc on my day. It is the nature of this disease. The wreaking of the havoc. It is different every day, but ironically, the same.
I ease myself from my bed to find out if the only trip I will be taking today is the one to the bathroom. There are days when MS gives me a break. The numbness is there, but it allows me to move about the house and sometimes even drive to the store! Today is one of those days. Thank you, Ezzie! Esmeralda is what I named my MS. On good days, I refer to her as Ezzie.
Ezzie allows me to walk to the kitchen without my cane. I happily make the coffee (tra la la!), and cut a slice of delicious Turtle cake. I have Turtle cake for breakfast because I can. Yummy chocolate, caramelly caramel, walnuts, more chocolate and Ezzie is kept at bay. We will be friends today.
I usually drink black coffee, but this morning, I add Crème Brulee creamer. Oh yum! I go back to my room and contemplate my English assignment, but decide to watch Hulu. And blog.
I keep a wooden kebob skewer next to my bed to occasionally check my numbness level. I think my body has gotten used to being numb. I thought that I would feel every poke, but, as I stab myself (gently) in random areas, there is no feeling. I can tell I am being touched, but there is no pain sensation. MS is so weird and just when you think you’ve figured it out, it throws a curve ball.
It is Multiple Sclerosis awareness month, but I am aware of it every day. When March ends, MS will still be my reality. I am truly becoming aware, though, of the blessing of having this thing. Life takes on new meaning when you receive a diagnosis that you cannot control. I am learning that Esmeralda can decide how I function, but not IF I do. This day, MS does not win.

That One Day When I Met My Reflection: A Little Note About Kathie Jo

You know that feeling you get when you meet someone and know that you will be best friends forever? Not just friends, but BEST friends.
When I met Kathie Jo Lawrence (Towe at that time), I knew. The first thing I noticed was how beautiful her hair was…it was this gorgeous red color that glowed like the fireball that I found her to be. She was everything I knew I could be, but kept hidden: Fiery, funny, bold, sweet with these piercing blue eyes and wild humor. She was not like anyone I had ever met.
We worked at a child care center together in Indianapolis. I had 2 children at the time. She was still single, no dependents and her interaction with the kids was, well, full of love, but definitely not motherly. Oh, my gosh! I am laughing to tears as I write this! Some of the things she said to those 3-year-olds were unbelievable and yet, so loving. (Kathie, do you remember?!)
When I found out I was pregnant with my third child I was traumatized. Kathie was there. Laughing as only a true best friend will do. I did not want a third child, yet, because my 2nd child was only 4 months old at that time! We took our lunch break and she drove me to the drugstore to buy a pregnancy test. I bought 4. They were all positive. I was in such denial. Kathie came to my classroom and laughed as she rubbed my back telling me it would be ok. “I guess you gonna have another baby, girl”. God I love her.
So many memories are running through my brain right now. The house on St. Peter with the little Children of the Corn neighbors, Kathie’s nephews (and the dance…POOF!) Doris in the infant room. One of baby Erin’s birthday parties. Kathie bringing my daughter to my classroom with a jaw full of peas (she had eaten the spaghetti around the peas Kathie had hidden in it), and last, but not least, Michael Jackson playing at naptime in her classroom.
We lost about 10 years of contact due to extenuating circumstances (remember when you thought he had buried me under the house?). Time marched on, but our friendship never died. We literally picked up where we left off, but she had added a husband and baby girl to our crew. Not long after my diagnosis, she showed up at my door with her husband and daughter and solidified what I always knew. Not often, if ever, do you meet someone who is your true reflection. We have been best friends for over 20 years and I know the best years are yet to come!

That One Day When I Realized It Was There The Whole Time

Sometimes we have an image of how things should be. Often, that image is not the reality. One example of that for me is my relationship with my mother. We’ve had our ups and downs as all mothers and daughters do, but the dynamic of our relationship has always been hard for me to understand. There always seemed to be a slight disconnect between us, and it has been my mission to try and figure it out.
Growing up, I was an independent child, shy and extremely quiet. Those who know me now probably cannot imagine that I was ever quiet, or shy for that matter!
When I was a little girl, I remember that I liked being alone and playing by myself. There is a picture of me, probably no more than 2 years old, sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by a tiny tea set. I look so content. As I got a little older, my playtime became pretending to be a mommy—stuffed animals and baby dolls were my ‘children’. I cuddled and loved on them, nursed them on my 4-year-old flat chest, and they even got in trouble at pretend church for talking during the sermon.
What precious images we create at a young age of what a mommy should be.
I loved my mommy and would always pray for her to be happy. To love me the way I thought she should love me.
What I discovered as an adult, and when I actually became a mommy, is that we are human. We are women who have a past, and not always a pretty one. We are women who are sometimes thrown into a leading role with neither an understudy nor a dress rehearsal before opening night. We are women who may be unhappy with the choices we’ve made in life and forget that we have little eyes watching us.
I learned that mommies can’t always express the deep love we feel for our children. That love is so deep, there are no words to capture it. I learned that while being human, we sometimes forget to be Mommy. We forget that our babies are unaware that we are mortal. They do not realize that we play several roles at once and will not do everything right.
My most recent realization is that my mother loves me and always has. I’ve spent so much time expecting that love to meet my ideal. I’ve spent so much time judging her for not fulfilling the image that I had formed and for that, I am sorry. Her love may not be what I had imagined, but it is love. It is HER love. And it is enough.

That One Day When I Asked For His Burden

Hi, my name is Erica and I am a Daddy’s Girl. There, I said it. When my Daddy is around, I am a carefree little girl again. Every time.  When I was little and I would hear him say “I’m goin’ for a ride”, I would grab my shoes and meet him at the door. With that disarming grin, he would say, “Come on, Evvy, let’s go.” Evvy is what he calls me because when my brother was younger (we’re 13 months apart) he couldn’t say Erica. It came out (I’ve been told) as “Evv…i…ca” and so to my daddy I became Evvy.
So, off we’d go on the trip around the block, where we would always stop at the gas station and I would always get a bag of Munchos potato chips and a Fresca. During these tiny excursions, my daddy would fill me with information about my past. How he grew up in a small town, memories of his mom and dad, friends, and other family, and then segue into life right then and in the future. “Don’t ever do anything you will regret, Evvy. Finish school, go to college, never have any regrets.”
I carried those words with me as I grew up. I (mostly) did my best in school, went to college (although I didn’t finish back then) and married quite young. Looking back on how I have lived my life, sure, there are things I would have done differently, but I truly have no regrets.
My world was rocked when in the early 1980s my very strong 6’4’’ Daddy was diagnosed with a life altering autoimmune disease. Back then, it was unheard of, so for months we were in limbo wondering if he was going to die. With myriad prayers and capable doctors, he survived and is still my very strong Daddy at nearly 68 years old!
When I was about 12 or 13, I saw my Daddy struggling with the limitations of this cruel disease. I watched him try so hard to keep it together and wished I could do something to help. I went into my room and in tears I talked to the only Man I found to be bigger than my Daddy. “Lord, I love my Daddy and I want him to be ok. I’m young and strong and I want to help him. Will you give me a portion of his illness so he won’t hurt anymore? I promise I can handle it. Thank You. I love You. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
I wondered for years if my prayer had been heard. I found that He was preparing me all these years and, at the same time, he was preparing my Daddy. I watched my Daddy grow closer to Christ, and surrender what he thought his life should be, accepting what was. I saw him soften and be molded in to what he was called to be.
My prayer was answered in the form of a different autoimmune disease, Multiple Sclerosis. I am still learning to deal with this disease, but this morning, when I slowly urged myself out of bed, trying to ignore the pain and stiffness, I remembered when I would watch my Daddy do the same thing in the mornings, and I was transported to the day when I asked for his burden. No regrets.

That One Day When The Fearless Leader Was Born

We always knew Jacob would be great. He was the one who saved his allowance, loaning his brother and sister money when they would run out. We could see him starting a business, donning jeans with a tweed sport coat with the elbow patches.
The night I went into labor with him was memorable because we didn’t have anyone to keep our two older children, so I drove myself. My contractions were about 5 minutes apart (inconsistently) and not awful, but still pretty painful. After putting my babies to bed and assuring them that I would bring back their new baby brother, I started my journey.
It was probably a 20-minute drive to the hospital and, thankfully, it was 11pm on Thanksgiving in 1996, so traffic was light. I remember pulling over every 5 minutes or so to breathe through a contraction. I got to where I could anticipate the gradual tightening and twisting and would pull over before it completely overtook my body. My 20-minute drive took about 45 minutes (with the pulling over and whatnot) and when I finally got to the emergency room, Goliath and the Philistines had made a comeback after a 3-year hiatus. I’m not sure why they gave me a break with my second one, but they were back and ready to party.  The nurses were frantically looking for the person who drove me and I whispered, (again, because of the Philistines) “I did.”
They rushed me to a room, but it was several hours before I would give birth. I called the husband and let him know that I had made it. Once the babies awakened, my family joined me at the hospital and on November 29, 1996, Jacob David blazed his way into the world. I say blazed because he is my fireball and to this day, fears nothing.
He watched his brother and sister run up and down the hallway one day. He was 9 months old, wearing his favorite outfit (a diaper and high top tennis shoes), holding onto the arm of a chair just watching. Intently. The next thing I knew, he took off running after them! Running!  No slow, toddling steps, no fear, just running.
When he was older, we were at a friend’s house and all the kids were in the playroom that was in a small building, separate from the house. They all came hurriedly into the house frantically looking for Jacob. I only panic because the fear that usually keeps children from going too far, or doing something extra crazy was missing from my child. I look out the window and see him…perched on the roof of the playhouse, arms behind his head, legs outstretched and crossed at the ankle, a good 25 feet in the air, smiling and unafraid.
Jacob is, without a doubt, an amazing young man, with a determination that will take him anywhere he wants to go. He enlisted in the Army National Guard right before his high school graduation and has a way with people that is like watching a potter with clay. My fearless leader. He makes me proud.

That One Day When The Boy With The Heart of Gold Was Born

There was nothing spectacular about October 12, 1995, except it was 10 days before my son was due and he chose that wonderful day to make his appearance! It was also the only time Christopher Jr. did anything early! I did the same thing with him that I did when I was pregnant with my daughter. I walked, ate spicy food (a la Taco Bell), and drank castor oil by the tablespoon until my insides were slippery! I tell you, when you are 9 months pregnant, you are willing to try anything!
When C.J. was born, he was taken to NICU because there were some minor complications with his birth. (I may have had too much castor oil, because he was out of there in a flash!) The nurses had given him a bottle, so trying to nurse him after that was a joke. Looking back, I am so glad it worked out that way, because he had the suction power of a Kirby vacuum cleaner!
When it came time to wean him, he refused to give up his bottle. The day I took it from him, he had no choice in the matter. He was 11 months old, sitting in his car seat, on a trip, probably to the grocery store, when I heard this loud ‘POP’ followed by a weird suction sound. I turned around to see him looking dismayed, face contorted so that I could no longer see his eyeballs. “Give me that bottle, boy”, I say as I grab it from his fat little fingers. The nipple was inverted and sitting at the bottom of the bottle! I threw the bottle out of the moving car, and from that day forward, he used a sippy cup.
He took his time with everything, and was a child of few words. When his sippy cup was empty, he would shake it until someone noticed. It was futile to try and get him to walk early (his sister walked at 10 months). He took his first steps after his first birthday. I had given up trying, and when I wasn’t looking, he stood from his spot on the floor and started walking. As he grew older, he played sports. A natural athlete. His athletic ability was off the charts—until the awful day he was diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease.
When he ran the football he literally floated above the turf. It was beautiful to watch. The basketball world would have had another Steph Curry on its hands had he not been stopped short. Having to give up sports broke his heart, but made room for the gold that sometimes gets him into trouble. Not the bad kind of trouble, but the “I love strays” kind. He loves unconditionally. He gives until he is empty and then gives more. He brought home a young lady once who had a drug addiction and I knew I had to draw the line. “No, Baby, she cannot stay with me. She has to go to a shelter.” He thinks he can love all the bad stuff away. I love that about him. My boy with the heart of gold.

That One Day When I Gave Birth To A Moonbeam

October 29, 1993 started off like any other day in the life of a 9-month pregnant woman whose baby was 2 days overdue. Wake up early, walk circles in the backyard, hoping gravity will do its job and release the ball of preciousness trying to make permanent residence in my womb.
My husband at that time was working in Indianapolis, and for 3 straight Fridays, thinking I was in labor, he would rush home (100 miles away in southern Indiana) to find his wife in the throes of Braxton Hicks contractions. The ones that are ‘fake’ and only prepare you for the ‘real’ ones. Ironically, when I was actually in labor a week later, I was completely oblivious. Maybe it was because I was doing my favorite thing: shopping at Value City Department Store. I miss that place. But I digress.
Who knew that all it would take to start the process was to do what would later become my precious daughter’s favorite thing? Anyway, we were shopping in the shoe department and I felt a very painful cramp that made me stop in my tracks. No, cramp is not the word to describe what felt like two giant hands reaching into my being and twisting my uterus with the strength of Goliath, causing me to take a break in breathing and immediately halting any movement and brain activity. My eyes expanded outside the orbit of my sockets. It felt like forever, but only lasted 5 seconds, so in my delusional state, I continued shopping.
Five minutes later, Goliath was back. “Um…Chris? I need to sit down.” I’m laughing as I write this, because I still did not realize that I was in labor. I thought my body was still ‘preparing’ me for the real pain of labor. Starving, and maybe in a bit of denial, we decided to leave the store and head home, stopping by my favorite seafood-like restaurant, Captain D’s.
I ate like a ravished beast and upon arriving at home, I took a Tylenol for the annoying pain in my lower back. A few hours later, I sat straight up with a gasp when I found that Goliath had brought the rest of the Philistines to play. I got up from bed, checked my hospital bag and started pacing the floor, calling on David and his sling to rescue me from this agony. Not because it was in the middle of the night, but because the pain that the Philistines were inflicting upon me had stolen my voice, I whispered to my husband “We’ve got to go!”
My baby girl showed her gorgeous face at 1:55 pm on October 30, 1993. All 6 lbs 1.5 oz, barely over 17 inches of her. Funny, she is still a night owl who usually doesn’t awaken until 1:55 pm when she doesn’t have to work. She looked like a porcelain doll, but let the world know that she was a force to be reckoned with. That gorgeous baby girl has become a gorgeous young woman who, while tasting life, has experienced her share of darkness. She has recently been given the nickname Moonbeam by her best friend Rayelyn, but in her journey through this life, she has always been my moonbeam. Just like the beams from the moon light the Earth’s darkness in the most beautiful ways, Aeryn impacts the world with her special Light from above.

That One Day When Our Free Wills Converged and I Realized What I Believe

You know how you’re just going about, minding your own business, and out of nowhere, you enter the Twilight Zone? That moment when you feel like you’ve been here before? It is the strangest, coolest feeling that some people call Déjà vu. What’s super cool is when you know what’s going to happen next!
So, in today’s Philosophy discussion, we are talking about predetermination and free will. This has always been fascinating to me, mainly because there is not just one answer. It can be an endless discussion. What blows my mind is when we talk about free will and the Déjà vu experience, is everyone involved in your Déjà vu having one of their own?
Think about it. For us all to meet in one random place, it took an infinite number of free will choices from each person to be in that place where you experience a Déjà vu! The next time I experience one, I am going to ask someone there if they are having one too!
One of the students in the discussion does not believe in the concept of predetermination. I commented that it’s like having a plan for your life. At some point, we make a life plan and truly believe it will end up just the way we planned it. Then, reality takes over, things go awry and that solid plan is no longer what we created because, not only is our free will in play, but, also, the free will of others.
It would take an omnipresent, omniscient Being to keep things moving in the flawless dance that is life. This is why I believe in God. I cannot claim to understand everything about Him, or to answer the tough questions, but when I look at my beautiful children, when I am walking on the sandy beaches of Florida at sunset, or, watching the snowflakes fall in winter (I refuse to believe that an accidental explosion could make each snowflake unique), and those undeniable, inexplicable Déjà vu experiences, I cannot deny the existence of this awe-inspiring Being.

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