Oh, Well

I’m not precisely certain when Popaw began using the phrase, ”Oh, well” but it was definitely within the last few years of his life. Fortunately, Popaw retained his mental faculties, with the exception of being able to recall what he had eaten. When asked he would often respond, ”I can’t recall but I know it was good because I cleaned my plate.”

But this phrase, ”Oh, well” had multiple meanings for him. He used it when he couldn’t conjure up a response. He often used it when he would hear something he didn’t necessarily like hearing. But most often used to mean, ” It’s okay. I am satisfied.” In other words, Popaw simply took the cards he was dealt and played them out. He knew where he was going and was content until the end.

Of all the times I heard him use the phrase, these two times will stand out above the rest.

That was a hard day for me and my Mom. The call came around 9:30 am and by the time I got to The Bridge, they had him sitting in his lift chair. At first game, he looked calm. He recognized me but his speech was muffled and difficult to understand. After a few short minutes, he began fidgeting in the chair and aggressively attempting to get up. But there was a problem, he couldn’t walk. The stroke had affected his ability to walk and he couldn’t comprehend.

It took hours of sitting by his chair with my arm held up to gently nudge him back down. Over and over again, Mom and I would tell him, ”You’ve had a stroke. You can’t get up. Your legs don’t work anymore.”

Finally, the meds arrived, and once they got into his system, he was able to calm down. Once calm, his speech was clearing and his mind was less foggy. His irrational behavior had subsided. Although there were times he would want to get up and go to the bathroom. Again I would firmly explain that he had a stroke and couldn’t walk. Finally, we reached a conjuncture with him and he understood precisely what I was saying. He looked at me with a smile so soft and tender, I could’ve cried, and said, ”Oh, well.”

The following morning I stopped in briefly to check on him. Mom had gone home after a night of restless sleeping there with him. A sitter was with him until 2:00. As soon as I walked in the door, a smile spread across his face from ear to ear and he lit up at the sight of me. He beamed. ”Hey Sweetheart, it’s so good to see you.”

I leaned over, kissed him on the cheek and said, ” It’s so good to lay eyes on you this morning.”

We chatted for a few minutes then I kissed him goodbye, assuring him I would see him later in the day. Little did I know that would be our final conversation.

The sitter, as I was leaving, said, ”You must be someone really special because I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes light up the way his just did for you.”

”Not really, I’m just his granddaughter. He’s that way with all of his family. ”

Upon my return, things had gotten progressively worse and they were having to medicate him more often. I knew deep in my heart where things were heading.

The next morning there was a horrible rain and wind storm. Terry and I had to wait until 11:00 am before we could leave for Hendersonville. Popaw wasn’t any better and I knew something had to be done. (It’s a story for another time)

Finally, by 5:15, I received a call from Hospice informing me they would be coming to pick Popaw up by 6:00 and transport him to the Elizabeth House. I was alone with him when the news came to me and he was restless.

I put my hand over his heart and said, ”Popaw, the ambulance is coming to get you soon and they will be taking you to the Elizabeth House. We are taking you there so you can be made comfortable.”

He turned his eyes toward mine and said, ”Oh, well.”

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once. I knew what that ”Oh, well” meant. It is well with my soul.

”Popaw, I love you.”

”I love you back.”

Those would be the last words he would say to me!

Popaw, thank you for teaching me that life isn’t about the things, it’s about being content in all circumstances knowing that God is in complete control.

When I Prayed for Patience God Gave Me Alex

I distinctly remember one of Mom’s friends who always said, ”Be careful what you pray for because God will answer. I prayed for patience and God gave me twins.”

Since I’ve already established the fact that I am one of those, it should come as no surprise that in my mid-twenties I began praying for patience. It truly was the one thing I felt I got the short end of the stick on. So, I began praying for patience a few months before Terry and I got married.

When we had been married about six months, Terry looked at me and said, ”Let me tell you something, if you and I are going to have kids together we need to do it soon. I am not going to be a sixty-year-old man raising a teenager.”

So, that settled that and within a few months, I was pregnant.

Overall, the pregnancy was easy. We had a slight hiccup when I was around thirty weeks and they discovered I had placenta previa. It’s actually how we found out that Alex was a boy because they had to do several ultrasounds to make sure the placenta moved up; otherwise, a c-section would be needed. Fortunately, it moved and Alex came the natural way.

He was an easy baby. He wasn’t fussy. Slept through the night before he was two months old. He was quite the rambunctious toddler and required a lot of adult supervision because he was like a little Houdini, and could wrangle his way out of any contraption including his ultra-expensive car seat.

But then, after Amy was born, he turned into a ball of fury. At times, he was uncontrollable and unmanageable and the problem was you never knew when he would fit into these fits of rage. We tried the normal punishment like timeouts and spanking. They were not useful or productive. Most of the time, it only made him angrier. In fact, there were times, I literally had to sit down on the floor and hold his hands and feet until he calmed down.

This was not easy for any of us and especially not me. I was also going through a terribly rough time because my endometriosis had kicked into high gear. Physically and emotionally I was spent.

I had a friend who encouraged me to get on Zoloft. I did heed her advice and that helped me. It didn’t help my child.

Finally, I convinced Terry and the Pediatrician that he needed to be assessed. I had been reading about bipolar and was certain that was our culprit. Through the same friend who suggested Zoloft for me, she also gave me a recommendation for a renowned child psychologist at Duke.

We got our appointment set. Beforehand, they asked me to write everything I could recall about the four years of his life including my pregnancy and his birth. By the time I was finished, it wrote like a novel. (Maybe I should have kept a copy)

Prior to seeing the doctor, I had picked up a book called Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD, and Jim Fay. Terry and I had already started implementing some of their ideas and they were working. It also was helping with the other three children as well.

After our four hours long appointment, the doctor concluded that Alex had high- level anxiety and slight ADD, which he said required no medication. He told us that consistent discipline would achieve the best results for him. (He had literally observed us with Alex for two hours before coming in to meet with us) I told him about the book. He said it was one that was on his recommendation list.

He surmised that the anxiety was an onset of my almost tragic birth of Amy because that’s when the noticeable change happened. Due to the fact, I almost lost my life, when Terry brought him to see me I was lying in a bed with a very swollen face from all of the fluids. Then when Amy and I came home, I couldn’t pick him up for three weeks. People were in and out helping me but the most I could do for him was allow him to crawl into my lap. He was only sixteen months old and could not verbalize so it came out as anger.

Once we began fully implementing the idea found in the book, our lives changed substantially. I learned patience in a way I never thought I would and there was a complete sense of freedom in teaching my children to make choices. The main premise of the book is to teach children in order for them to become independent. That is the ultimate goal.

Now, I wish I could tell you that I am always patient but that is not the case. I still ride that struggle bus. What I can tell you is that when I prayed for patience and God gave me Alex one of my life’s most precious gifts.

In Spite of Who I Am…..He Loves Me

Now that you’re aware of my rebellious nature. I want to share a little story with you. One I don’t think I’ve ever shared.

One day in the early part of my high school years, I came home one afternoon from school. Completely drained and out of focus to complete any homework assignment, I sat down on my piano bench and started to play.

The piano was my therapy.

I’m not sure why but no one was home this particular day. As I began to play and unwind, I noticed behind my book was a white sheet of paper with words written on it in Ned’s horrific handwriting. Curious, I began to read.

As I read tears welled up in my eyes, as the words spilled off the page and into my heart I began thinking, ”Wow! God loves me in spite of who I am or what I’ve done.” I would love to tell you that revelation changed my behavior, at that point in time, it didn’t. That would come years later. You see, I had a lot of head knowledge about God but I had built up far too many walls to allow him to penetrate my heart. It would take years to breakthrough.

However, as time marched on and my heart became more pliable and moldable and I let go of the things that were holding me in captivity, I’ve always remembered the words of this song and I remember that day so vividly. And you know what, He has never let go of my hand. Many times, I’ve let go of His but His love for me knows no bounds and I am so thankful.

Listen here I’ll never let go of your hand

Best $5.00 I’ve Spent

Two weeks ago was the Tryon Youth Theater’s, running of Matilda. A few weeks prior to the event I asked Terry if he would go with me. He first wanted to know if the place had air conditioning and then agreed to go. The only stipulation was, ”I’m not spending a perfectly good date night to go.” Leaving me with only Sunday matinee as an option.

The truth is, he’s not truly fond of musicals. He will grin and bear it but it’s not really his thing.

I hemmed and hawed and put off purchasing tickets until about a week before the show. By the time I got around to purchasing the tickets most of the Sunday was sold out and there were no two seats together.

Considering he really didn’t want to go anyway, I told him I would just go on Friday night by myself. I’m pretty sure he did a happy dance in his mind.

So, I bought myself a $5.00 ticket and took myself to see the show.

As I walked to the entrance of the Tryon Fine Arts Center, memories began flooding my mind. As I walked past the stairwell, pictured below, I remembered how often during rehearsals some of the cast would venture out to talk and hang out when we weren’t working our scenes. Sometimes idle chatter and other times trying to mend a broken heart.

As I neared the front of the building a wave of excitement rushed over me as I was back on familiar ground. I remembered that same feeling of sheer exuberance before the start of each night. I could hardly wait.

Also, I discovered I had a few friends with children who were participating in the show and was eager to see them. Not to mention, my favorite piano teacher was leading and directing the music.

I sat down, looked over the program reminiscing about days gone by. Remembering how much fun it was to be part of the summer plays. Not only did it give me something to occupy my time with, it also kept me from having to go on vacation with my parents and younger siblings. I would stay with my grandparents in Brevard and drive back and forth for play practice. It afforded me time with friends and also to make new friends. Truly a remarkable experience to be play a part.

Now, back to the show….

From start to finish the show was magical. The cast was so well picked, each actor fit their part perfectly. The energy and sense of togetherness were clearly on display from beginning to end. It was truly a delightful experience.

As the curtain drew on the final scene, a tear fell from my eye. I wasn’t sad it was over, I was happy I decided to go.

The Most Horrible News Ever….but Not Really

I sat in utter disbelief. I couldn’t believe my ears. ”We’ve decided that you, Kristi and David will no longer be attending school in Polk County. Beginning in the fall, you will be going to Tryon. We just feel like this is the right move for your education.”

As the words tumbled from their mouths, anger boiled inside. How could they do this to me?

I’m not sure when they made the decision but they decided to wait until we were on vacation to inform us. Talk about a vacation spoiler. Good thing they waited until near the week’s end to spill the beans. I knew better than to argue because their minds were clearly made up.

I fumed.

Finally, I got up and walked out. I walked toward the beach. Tears burned my face. I muttered every curse word in the book and then some. ”Didn’t they realize I already had my Freshman year of high school mapped out? I didn’t need or want a change.”

I found a payphone and called one of my friends. She, too, was unhappy about the decision my parents had made. I’m pretty sure during the course of my conversation with her I called my parents every horrible name my angry brain could muster. Talking to her did calm me down.

Now, here I sit thirty-six years later and I realize that my parents knew what they were doing. It was not a decision they made lightly but it was the best decision for us.

Winston Churchill says, ”There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction.”

Change is hard. It often causes fear and anxiety because of the unknowns. It also pushes us out of our comfort zones into the world of the unfamiliar. It causes the direction to change

What I’ve learned over the years through this experience is that sometimes the direction of our lives must change because in order for us to learn and grow.

Importance of Regular Screenings: The Colonoscopy

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t go see the doctor any more than is absolutely necessary. Monday, July 8 was necessary. When you turn 50 you’re encouraged to have a colonoscopy and I turned 50 last December.

The good news is you can now order Cologuard, an easy at-home test. However, if you have a family history of colon polyps or cancer, it’s not recommended. In my case, there is a history of polyps and my gynecologist referred and recommended I have my first colonoscopy at 38. Good thing because I had ten polyps, none of which were cancerous, but my gastroenterologist said, ”Its highly likely if you had waited another year, your news would be different,”. My next colonoscopy revealed two more polyps. Again, non-cancerous.

I went into last Monday’s procedure fully anticipating the discovery of more polyps considering it had been nine years had passed between the second and third.

To be honest, three days prior, I had worked myself up so much over it, I almost canceled. I had to keep reminding myself it was for my benefit as well as my family’s.

It’s true the prep is the worst part. In a sense, I dreaded that as much as the procedure itself. However, I learned from the first one what to do and what not to do.

I can no longer stomach any form of Gatorade. I thought I would puke my guts out if I ever have to drink another one. Crystal Light was much easier to stomach the second time but I decided to try a new method and it worked much better. (Maybe reading the entirety of the pamphlet helped too.)

I purchased some Sparkling Ice. No sugar, just carbonated water and full of flavor. Had Ginger Ale (Schweppes because it’s the best IMHO) and vegetable broth on hand. Of course, my friend, water infused with lemon, remained a.faithful.companion throughout the grueling process.

The best description I can give you of the CoLyte solution is strong saltwater. Four liters of it needs to be consumed prior to the procedure. Three liters within four hours and the other liter three hours prior to the procedure.

I found that by not mixing it with Crystal Light, I had a much easier tolerance for it. I would take big gulps, chase it with the lemon-infused water and then throw a piece of peppermint (Brach’s ) in my mouth. It worked.

When Dr. Rohl came by prior to the procedure, he asked if I had been having any issues. I assured him there were none and I said, ”I’m certain you will find hemorrhoids and polyps.” He agreed it was possible because of past history.

After a quick twenty minutes, they woke me up. Dr. Rohll came in with the results. ”Well, you were right. We did find hemorrhoids. However, you had no polyps. It was the cleanest colon I’ve seen all day!” 😂

Listen, I will be the first to admit I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m sick. I put off things sometimes, like physicals and bloodwork. (I am going in a few weeks) I don’t put off seeing my dermatologist on a regular basis, every six months to be exact, because of malignant melanoma on my back about 15 years ago. I don’t put off having regular mammograms. And I won’t put off having my next colonoscopy due again in five years.

My prep facilitator told me of a 62-year-old man who had not had a colonoscopy until the week previous to mine. He was eaten up with cancer and could have possibly been prevented if he’d been going for regular screenings.

So my advice to you is if you are having any sort of bowel issues as I did in my thirties. Do something about it now. If you’re fifty, start regular screenings. It just may save your life.

All Roads Lead Somewhere

About once a week, sometimes more, Mamaw and Popaw would make treks from Brevard, NC, to Columbus, NC. They couldn’t help themselves. They had to come and visit. Honestly, it was more Mamaws begging and pleading that brought them there.

Quite often, if we weren’t traipsing through the woods with Popaw or doing something outdoors with him. He would get tired of the women’s conversation and would ask me, ”Honey, do you want to go for a ride?”

I think he often sensed my longing to get out of the house as well.

I gladly jumped in the car with him and off we’d go. Popaw loved back roads and if you’ve never been to the Columbus/ Tryon area, they are plentiful.

Our adventures took us all over Polk County. Each time we ventured out on a different road. One time our adventure took us to Fox Mountain Road. A road very unfamiliar to me and of course to Popaw as well. We drove and drove, took twists and turns. I finally said to him, ”Popaw, do you know where you’re going?”

He said, ”No, but I know which way North is and I’ll get us back home. One thing you have to remember is that all roads lead somewhere. If you know which direction is North, you can find your way back.”

Popaw grew up hunting. He always had a keen sense of direction and his Dad would often ask him to guide them out of the woods when they were coon hunting.

You know, Popaw made a good point when he said that all roads lead somewhere. It’s true, they do.

It makes me think of this poem by Robert Frost

Popaw always took the roads less traveled but he always knew which direction he wanted and needed to go and it made all the difference in his life.

What a legacy he left behind for us to follow!

Always On Time and Always at the Right Time

Again, I find myself amazed that God poured out these words four years ago. Interestingly, He knew in July of 2015, what we would learn in March 2016, Ned would be diagnosed with Atypical Stage 4 Lung cancer.

You know what? God came to us during that storm. He quieted our souls and we trusted in Him. He continues to pour out his goodness on Mom as well as the rest of our family.

Has it been easy or welcomed? Absolutely not. Would we have chosen things differently? Absolutely yes! But God, in His Sovereignty knew what was best and stood beside us the whole way.

So many people I know have been going through some very significant storms in their lives. For some it’s financial, others relational, illness, others loss of loved ones, and others emotional.

As I have been praying for these dear ones, God continues to remind me that He is with us in our storm. We may not see him but He is there and He will come to our rescue but only when the time is right and always just at the right time.

This picture keeps coming to mind for several reasons. Let me share the story behind it.

Mount Arbel is the place where Jesus retreated to go pray, while he sent his disciples on ahead of him, on the Sea of Galilee, to Bethsaida. While the disciples were on the sea, a squall or significant storm came. They were terrified. Jesus watched from the mountain top. He knew they were in the storm. He knew they were afraid. He knew they needed Him but He also knew they needed to go through the storm. (Mark 6:45-52)

Rick Warren says, “He’s letting you go through this storm for the same reasons he sent the disciples into the storm — to say, ‘I’m all you need. I can handle anything. I will come to you in the ninth hour. And I’ll come walking on the very thing that scares you the most. I’m not asking you to come to me. I’m going to come to you. You need to stop being afraid, and you need to totally trust me in faith.”

Look at this picture of Amy taken from Mount Arbel. The most fascinating fact about this is that from Mount Arbel you can see the entire Sea of Galilee. Just a great reminder that Jesus sees the whole picture. He sees all that life is throwing at us and He will come to us in our storm. We must believe in Him.

His Love is as Vast as the Ocean

This was written four years ago. It still holds so much truth I just decided to blog it. Now, my boys are both on dry land for a while and I am able to communicate with them.

Last week as I sat looking at the vastness of the ocean, I was reminded of several things. One, the endless love God has for me. Two, the limitless love I have for my children. Three, two of my boys are somewhere out there under the sea. I may not have knowledge of where they are, but God most certainly does.

Just like I cannot measure or even understand how much God really loves me. My children have no clue how much I adore and love them. No matter where they go or what they do, those lives are a part of me. In the same way, we are a part of God. We are His unique and wonderful creation.

We are never so far away that His love cannot reach us, even in our deepest darkest moments. He is there. He knows exactly where we are and precisely what we are doing, every moment of every day. Knowing this is sometimes my greatest solace when praying for Gods complete protection for all of my children, but especially for the two, I cannot communicate with on a regular basis.

Heed the Warning

True story. It’s a rare occurrence for me to be behind the wheel of a moving vehicle if Terry’s in the same vehicle. He hates my driving. He says I hit every pothole on the road. He’s probably right because my avoidance seems to be a direct hit.

Anyway, in the fall of 2006, Terry had neck surgery. After his few day stints in the hospital, they allowed him to come; but not before he signed documents stating that he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks.

One thing to note about Terry is once he gets something on his mind he’s very persistent until it’s complete. That’s how he rolls.

The neck surgery required that I drive him around for at least nine weeks. Pure torture for us both. Rest assured.

Every day he would remark about my impeccable skill to hit every pothole in the road. After about a week, he got tired of riding in my van. He decided it was time to look past the era of vans and find something else. So, he asked me to drive him to Asheville. Apparently, he had been looking around and found this used car place.

He wants to test drive a VW Passat (4 doors) and a Volvo wagon. Keep in mind. I’m the one driving. He’s not. We finish the test drive and the next thing I know we are sitting with the salesman, and Terry is making a deal. He’s trading my van in for not one but two cars. (Side note: None of our kids were licensed drivers at the time).

We drive the Volvo home and leave the VW.

The kids all wondered how we were all going to fit in one car. I wondered the same. Terry didn’t seem concerned. He said the boys can ride in the back because it had one of those fold up seats.

I called Ned that evening and asked if he would go back to Asheville with us the next day and drive the other car back home. He agreed.

We picked him up and the look on his face said it all. If you know Ned, you understand exactly what I mean. This is the look!

Surprisingly he didn’t utter a word. I think he knew Terry was on drugs and not thinking clearly. Keep in mind, he did sign a document stating he would not make any major decisions for at least two weeks after surgery.

For the next few weeks, it was like a zoo. I used one car for transporting kids and another for transporting Terry. After about two months of chaos with cars, Terry came to his senses. He traded both cars in on a new Nissan Pathfinder with the 3rd-row seating.

The moral to this story: Heed the warnings after major surgery and whatever you do, don’t make major decisions for at least two weeks. Your brain is in a fog and you can’t process clearly.