That One Day When the Cats were Talking

There are a couple of cats that hang out in the neighborhood. They roam the street aimlessly throughout the day, randomly choosing which yard they will occupy at any given moment. One is an orange tabby, the other a gray stripey sort. I’m not a big fan of kitty cats, so I usually pay them no mind. They keep mice away, so I let them wander. Sometimes Orange Tabby is on the roof across the street. Other times, he is under my daughter’s car whenever it is there. Gray Stripey Sort is usually absent. Maybe he is a night wanderer.
So, I was leaving for work this morning, and when I opened my garage, I heard men talking. It was dark out still, so I didn’t even try to make out any faces. “I don’t know, the roads are probably too wet”, I heard one voice say. “umhmm (and some unintelligible words in a deep voice)”, he answered.
I get into my car and back carefully out of my driveway because my daughter’s car is on one side and the garbage can on the other. I swear I’m not crazy. Really, I’m not, but when I got onto the street I looked out my side window. I looked out my rear window.
There are no men. Anywhere. I see two cats walking down the street. Tails swinging happily in the air.


That One Day When…Love

Love is a funny thing. It’s confusing and hateful, exhilarating and silent. I have found that it can be experienced for the first time on many occasions. I used to say that I thought I was in love, but now I know that I really did love before. When I married the first time at 20 years old, I loved him. We built a life, we raised children and from the outside, it looked perfect. There was much heartache, but, there was love.
When I tried my hand at marriage the second (and last) time, it was a different love. It was deeper than the first time. I felt like I had found the person with whom I would share the rest of my life. There was more heartache, but, there was love. After the failure of my second marriage, I stopped believing in love. Love didn’t love me, therefore, it ceased to exist.
When I met my guy, I had healed and was happy in my singlehood and ready to take on the world and all it had to offer. In the nearly 18 months since the beginning of our relationship, I have found that maybe I do believe in love. I do not call it love, though. I am afraid to call it love, because love does not love me. I have feelings for this man that transcend words. I feel safe, cared for and content. Beyond anything I have ever felt before. We don’t say “I love you”, but the sentiment is there and felt very deeply. It is felt anytime we share space. It is felt in our conversation. It is felt in the look he gives me that takes my breath away.
We have an unconventional relationship that works for us. We do not live together, but spend every weekend (that is not devoted to our children) together. We talk on the phone every day and stay in contact through text or funny instant messages. The days that we spend apart make for an amazing time when we are together, even if we do nothing but veg out in front of the television. We have the best of both worlds. No, I do not call it love, because love does not love me, but I do whisper it in my heart. It is silent, but exhilarating.

That One Day When I Noticed the Rip in My Children: The Aftermath of Divorce

When I chose to divorce their dad 9 years ago, I had no idea the impact it would have on my children—even into their adulthood. Watching them struggle to grasp what a relationship is supposed to be is the hardest part. I left their dad at a crucial time in their lives. After 16 years of marriage, he was so intent on hating me and hurting me, it made the ripping apart that much harder on them. I see them battle within themselves because they are all such loving people and always want to love others into their own ‘okayness’. To let the masses know that they are worthy of love, even at the expense of the losing themselves, but searching for that same love in return.
I admire that about my children, the exuberant love they have for others. I only wish they would love themselves with the same passion. I wish they would believe that they, themselves are also worthy. I look back and wonder what I could have done differently. I constantly hugged and loved on them, told them they were amazing and could be anything they wanted to be. My precious daughter feels like they were all placed on this Earth to love people who feel unloved. I want them to know they are loved. Loved beyond measure. That I still believe they can be whatever they want to be. That I am their biggest supporter and cheerleader. That though their paths may not look like others’, they are not failures.
I want them to see the strength that resides in each of them and to draw on that strength.
How parents interact after the separation determines the children’s success in dealing with their new lives. I chose to remarry a few years later, and unfortunately, it also ended in divorce. We have a little boy together and because we remained friends, he has not suffered nearly as much as my older children. We have chosen to co-parent based on the love we have for him, and not the failure of our marriage. I know he struggles, but because our focus is on him, it has made the transition much better and maybe the rip that much smaller.

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.

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