P.J.’s Journey: The Next Chapter

“You’re such a positive person,” they say. “You’re always smiling,” they say. “You’re an inspiration,” they say. Today is one of those days that I don’t feel very positive. I am not smiling and I certainly do not feel like an inspiration to anyone. I am a grieving mother and the feelings associated with this new title are so much harder than I ever imagined they could be. I thought I was prepared for this. After all, P.J. had so many close calls. Over the last few years, we saw him going downhill rapidly and we were helpless to change his course. We prepared for the worst… or so we thought. Nothing… absolutely nothing… could have prepared us for this horrible loss. On September 19, 2018, while A.J. was in the hospital fighting a battle of his own following surgery for kidney cancer, we received the call that P.J. was gone. We were devastated at first and then relieved that his struggle (and our constant worry) was over. Relief was followed by guilt and guilt was followed by deep sadness… and all these feelings were experienced within the first 24 hours. The cycle has repeated itself regularly over the past 4-1/2 months.

P.J. was such a mess his last few years on earth, that it was a constant source of heartache for us — a type of dread that consumed us. When something was wrong, he called A.J., and those calls came so often I began cringing at my husband’s ringtone. I would hold my breath until I knew it either wasn’t P.J. or if it was, he wasn’t calling because of some new crisis. A.J. tried to shield me by not telling me the bad things, but I could sense when things were not good. I cried whenever I saw P.J. because he was so thin and so beaten down by the world and everything he’d experienced. When I looked at his scars, I imagined that they cut all the way into his soul and all I could do was weep for him. But he didn’t even want to discuss the possibility of getting help. He was more afraid to fix things than he was to face death.

Before P.J. died, I knew people (some very close to me) who had lost children. I tried to understand what they must be feeling, but couldn’t even begin to imagine it. I can now say without a doubt that until you experience it yourself, you will never understand this type of grief. I would assume, too, that it is different for every grieving parent, depending upon the circumstances surrounding their loss. I don’t let my grief paralyze me… I can’t. Life, after all, goes on. I continue to forge ahead and I don’t dwell in the sadness, but it seems like it’s always there… right below the surface. Sometimes I am able to push it way down inside and can do some pretty daunting things… like speak at P.J.’s memorial service without showing my vulnerability (click here to watch the video). Other times, I will dissolve into tears because of something completely unrelated… something as insignificant as a paper cut or an encounter with a rude cashier.

In the first few weeks following that devastating call, I searched desperately for answers to my grief. I read countless articles and blogs hoping to find someone who had experienced the same types of feelings I was having in the same way I was having them. I needed to know I wasn’t abnormal and that I wasn’t losing my mind. I wanted an explanation of what was happening and I wanted to know how long I could expect it to continue. At one point, I came across an article that talked about how grief comes in different forms and that often times, we grieve the intangible losses as much as we grieve the loss of our loved one. I grieve the loss of the P.J. I knew 14 years before his death… before his struggle with addiction… before the fire… but most of all, I grieve the loss of hope that someday he would find his joy again and we would find our boy again. I grieve never being able to see him hold his own baby the way he held his niece for the first time and lovingly smiled down at her. I grieve never being able to see him rough house with his own children the way he did with his nephews when he visited them in Austin. I grieve that I will never be able to hold him tight in a hug while secretly praying for him… well, not so secretly, really… he was on to me with that but let me do it anyway sometimes. The loss of hope for the future is a devastating one. I grieve that loss deeply and sometimes it feels as if I will never recover from it. But I know there is hope in the Lord.  Romans 5:2-5 reads “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Yes! The book of Romans has always been my favorite and a great place to seek comfort on a day such as today!)

P.J.’s journey has taken him to a place where there is no suffering and there is no shame.  My hope of someday seeing him whole again is not gone… it has been realized.  We can’t hope for what we already know exists!  My hope of someday seeing him with his own children has been replaced with the realization that he is now loving on the children from our family who went before him and were waiting at the pearly gates to meet him.  P.J.’s journey has taken us to a place where we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and his journey will continue as we share his story with others who can benefit from our experience.  The journey is not over… it’s simply the next chapter.

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Blessed are the Moms…

Everyone has those moments in life when they question the value they bring to the world in general and especially their families who love them.  If you’re a mom, you’ve almost certainly had that experience.  I know I have on more than one occasion.  My most recent such moment was last Sunday.  Everything was fine until I had a disagreement with our youngest son.  He’s almost seventeen, so you’d think that’d be a regular occurrence in our home, but that’s not so with Josh.  He is a different type of child, worldly in so many ways and sheltered in so many others, but very logic-driven and confident… such a contrast to our oldest son, P.J., who has lived the last ten years of his twenty-three so far dealing with one internal struggle after another and fighting many physical battles as a result (click to read more about P.J.’s Journey).

Author Howard W. Hunter once wrote:  “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.”  But what if we screw it up?   Surely all mothers feel this way at one time or another.  I think about some of my closest friends and our conversations about this very thing… we’ve all had so many worries and concerns.  I think of how blessed their children are to have them, and I suddenly realize, I don’t know a single mom who has not struggled in some way.

  • Blessed are the moms who work fulltime and still manage to attend every baseball and soccer game in which their kids play.
  • Blessed are the moms who labor over dance costumes and make cupcakes for the 4th grade bake sale.
  • Blessed are the moms who sit at the kitchen table for three hours every night helping with homework.
  • Blessed are the moms who agonize over bullying, teasing, and self-esteem issues their children are facing.
  • Blessed are the moms who give their children the freedom to make mistakes so they will learn the truth.
  • Blessed are the moms who play dad as well, filling in the gaps left by an absentee father.
  • Blessed are the moms who feed their children through tubes and sleep in chairs in the PICU.
  • Blessed are the moms who look at the child who has just declared himself an atheist and simply say “Well God still believes in you, and so do I.”
  • Blessed are the moms who never give up… who continue to care, pray for, and love the children who have detached themselves in some way.
  • Blessed are the moms who cry at the drop of a pin because they’re so exhausted and overwhelmed with life.
  • Blessed are the moms who have to revive their own child or call 9-1-1 after a drug overdose.
  • Blessed are the moms who place flowers on the graves of their children and never stop grieving.
  • Blessed are the moms who do their best and give it their all.
  • Blessed are the moms who struggle.

There I was last Sunday, following the disagreement with Josh, and wondering if perhaps I should have accepted my infertility as a cross to bear.  (That’s what one Pastor told me I should do when I asked him what the church believed about fertility treatments… that and the cost involved with the in vitro fertilization process is what convinced us to seek adoption as an alternative.)  In retrospect, I wondered if by adopting I had meddled with God’s plan… Clearly anyone would have made a better mother to these boys than I, right?

The next night after things settled down, we sat and talked with Josh and it was all good.  I was thankful I had allowed time for prayer between the disagreement and the resolution… a smart move on my part.   A sense of peace came over me.  I suddenly realized these things… the disagreement, the follow-up, the adoption of both our sons, were all part of God’s plan… not a diversion from it.  No matter what happens with their respective futures, God has given me an opportunity to make a mark on our sons’ lives one way or another.  The difficulties we’ve encountered, all of us moms, do not define the value we have added to our children.  God has entrusted us with these precious souls and all He’s asked is that we do our best.  Blessed are the moms who struggle.

All things new…

Katrina Volunteers

This has been a week of remembrance.  For most, those memories are of Hurricane Katrina.  For others, those memories are of Hurricane Isaac.  For some, those memories are of both life-changing storms.  Some suffered great physical and emotional loss during both events.  For my family, Katrina’s effects were minimal, at least in the physical sense.  There was no damage to our home.  We lost a refrigerator and its contents and were displaced for roughly three weeks.  I lost my job with a consulting firm, but received three months of my salary as “bench” pay while I sat simply waiting for a callback.  Those three months had no sooner ended and I was blessed to receive another job offer, but that unexpected “paid vacation” allowed me to help my parents and brothers and other family members and friends who had lost everything and were living in trailers while they were in the process of rebuilding.  I was able to start a website, KatrinaWishList.com, where we told the stories of the victims (vetted for legitimacy) and posted links to their wish lists with Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.  This gave donors an opportunity to directly help families who were affected by the storm without any concern that a portion of their donations would be eaten up in organization fees.

Five years later, life was fresh and new again for most.  All of our friends and family members had started over and were thriving.  After helping my parents rebuild, we had purchased a gutted home in Braithwaite, Louisiana and were excited at the sweat equity we’d earned.  The likelihood of the area ever flooding again seemed minimal.  Then came the “Great Wall.”  With the 26-foot high Caernarvon Floodwall to the north and the 17-foot high federal levee to the south, Braithwaite became the bull’s eye for any strong storm surge.  Our home owner’s and flood insurance immediately shot up from a combined total of roughly $3,500 per year to a whopping $10-12,000 per year depending upon our deductible and our coverage.  We elected to remove our contents coverage and drastically raise our deductible to get our costs down to a barely affordable amount.  What could we do?  We had a mortgage and had to carry insurance, but we could barely afford to live.

Two years after that, on August 29, 2012, the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Isaac brought a beating to our small community and pushed fourteen feet of water into our beautiful home.  We will never underestimate the devastation and level of suffering those in our neighborhood and other affected areas endured.  Lives were lost, lives were saved, and lives were dramatically changed.  It was Katrina all over again for some.  For our family, what we salvaged from both floors of our home fit into the bed of one pick-up truck.  What we lost was stuff.  That’s it, just stuff.   We had learned a valuable lesson in January of the same year, when our son was burned over the majority of his body in a tragic accident and nearly died.  But at the time of Hurricane Isaac, he was still recuperating safely in the burn unit at a Baton Rouge hospital, and my husband and youngest son and I were safely waiting out the storm at my mother’s home.  We had been through so much during the previous eight months of P.J.’s recovery (read more under P.J.’s Journey), that this seemed like small potatoes (at least after the initial shock wore off).  Some felt it would be the nail in the coffin for us, but we took it for what it was… another new beginning.

IMG_0548We were incredibly blessed that those who had “been there, done that” with Katrina were quick to offer advice on everything from how to argue your claim with the insurance companies to where to go to get family photos restored.  They were filled with empathy and caring.  As random people handed us household items, gift cards, and checks, some of them reminded us that we had been there for them following Katrina.  People from all over the country offered their support.  We couldn’t have had more or wanted less.  I likened our rental property to Joseph’s coat of many colors.  It was filled with mismatched furniture from multiple sources, but it was the nicest, most comfortable furniture you could imagine because it was donated with love.  The opportunity to finance another house at a low interest rate through the Small Business Association was a huge blessing, and by May 2013 we were the proud owners of another beautiful home, different from our Braithwaite home, but with it’s own certain benefits.

I will always pray for our friends who have been through Katrina, Isaac and other similar events.  My heart goes out to each and every one of you.  We each have a story of our own.  But while there are glimpses of sadness, there is hope for the future.  Katrina and Isaac may have taken our memorabilia, but we still have our memories. While our spirits were wounded, we are one in the spirit of the Lord and NOTHING can separate us from His love!  Revelation 21:5 reads, “Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”  All things are new.  God is true.  God is faithful.

The Season of Seasons and Senses

Black and orange, ghosts and goblins, and brightly lit jack-o-lanterns… Candy corn, candied apples, candy, candy, and more candy everywhere you look.

Not only is it the season that wreaks havoc on our diets, Halloween is the start of the season of seasons! It is like the first chapter in a book of seasons that takes us from October to April (or from witches on brooms to little yellow, melt-in-your-mouth, marshmallow chickens).

I get so excited about Halloween… not because of anything it represents, but more so because of what it introduces. It introduces us to the seasons of senses… Beginning with Halloween, our senses are almost on overload with everything we see, smell, hear, touch, and (my personal favorite) taste!

Each season touches each of the senses in a different way. For Halloween we see black cats, yellow moons, and orange jack-o-lanterns, and we see beautiful costumes on adorable children.  We smell pumpkin spice and we hear the laughter of the young and tiny voices yelling “Trick or treat! Smell my feet!”  We touch the guts of a pumpkin and sticky little hands that have been tasting chewy, chocolate chunks.

For Thanksgiving we see a cornucopia of color in oranges, browns, and greens. We smell the traditional turkey baking.  We hear the laughter of our families enjoying the Macy’s parade and bowl games on TV.  We touch the warm bread fresh from the oven, and we taste it all.  We taste the turkey, we taste the bread, and we taste the sweet potatoes.  We taste the cookies, we taste the fudge, and we taste the pumpkin pie.  (I told you “taste” was my favorite sense!)

I must admit, Christmas is my favorite time of year. It’s appropriate for me that it falls almost in the middle of this season of seasons and senses.  It’s like the mountain peak of holidays!  As Christmas approaches we see lights, tinsel, beautiful ornaments on the tree.  We smell evergreen and spruce, holly berries, and cinnamon.  We hear church bells, jingle bells and beautiful holiday carols.  We feel the softness of winter gloves and the crispness of stiff foil wrapping paper, and we taste… oh, we taste so many wonderful things that it’s hard for one to imagine.  There’s a reason that Weight Watchers offers free enrollment on January 2nd.

Right on the heels of Christmas, only a week behind, is New Year ’s Day. Upon the arrival of the new year we see the ball drop in Time Square, we smell freshly popped firecrackers, and we hear voices asking “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?”  We touch our lips to the lips of others at stroke of midnight, and we eat black-eyed peas and cabbage to bring good fortune in the days ahead.

At Valentines we see hearts and cupids, we smell red roses, and we hear lots of love songs on the radio. We touch fuzzy stuffed animals, elegant jewelry, and other gifts from our loved ones, and we taste Russell Stover’s and Whitman’s chocolates.

At Mardi Gras we see purple, green and gold decorations and people masquerading in costumes of all types. We smell the beer on tap and the diesel fuel from truck floats.  We hear crowds of people roaring almost in unison “Throw me something mister!” We touch beads and trinkets and toys tossed from the floats, and we taste Randazzo’s king cakes with cream cheese filling.

At Easter we see bonnets and dresses in beautiful pastel colors. We smell lilies lining the altar at church.  We hear the sounds of children yelling “I’ve got one” as they pick up and touch construction-paper eggs that have been hidden in the gardens.  We taste solid chocolate rabbits and jelly beans of all flavors.

October to April… Halloween to Easter… It’s the season of seasons and senses. Throughout the season of seasons, we see striking smiles, we smell fragrant flowers and food, we hear lots of laughter filled with love, we touch hands and hearts, and we taste delicious dishes and decadent desserts.

Friends, this is only the beginning. Welcome to the season of seasons and senses!

With sincerest gratitude…

Our dear family members and friends (new and old), what a year this has been for the Guillot family!  As I was recovering from my October 2011 ankle surgery in early January, I remember saying to my physical therapist, “I can’t wait for life to get back to normal!”  I quickly learned that those days of swelling and pain were minor inconveniences compared to what was in store for us.  If you are reading this, I am sure you are aware of the circumstances that followed…  The fire that almost took P.J.’s life in January and the flooding of our family home by Hurricane Isaac in August.  Although we all often wish that we could turn back time and change the outcome of both those events, we can’t help but be thankful to God for His glory that has shone through in both tragedies. 

This letter is to thank you all for the love and support that you have shown us already and continue to pour on us each day.  During the first few weeks after P.J.’s accident, we were told to be prepared for the worst.  Your prayers and ours were heard and God woke him from his sleep and brought him back to us.  His days continue to include pain and suffering that most of us could never comprehend, but he is alive and fighting the battle courageously.  We thank you all for the prayers, calls, emails, Facebook posts, contributions to P.J.’s video, “Get Well” cards, and the hundreds of cards, letters, and gifts he received on his 20th birthday.  Your thoughtfulness has truly made a difference in our child’s life. 

After Isaac destroyed our home, we were reminded once again of the great support network that we have in all of you.  I do believe we have more clothes, sheets, and towels than we had before the storm!  Our rental home is filled with furniture and household items and appliances from countless sources.  I tell everyone that it has the value of Joseph’s coat of many colors.  As my mother always says, “We couldn’t have more or want less.” 

The friends and volunteers (from four different organizations so far) who have come to help with the emptying, cleaning, and gutting of our home, have shown us what selfless giving is all about.  We are inspired by their sacrifices and hope to “pay it forward” someday. 

Many of you have shared our story with your friends who have shared it with their friends and so on… (just like the hair commercial)!  We need your help now in sharing our thanks with these individuals, who in some cases remain anonymous to us.  We apologize that we were not able to send individual thank you cards to each one of you, but we ask your help in passing this message along to everyone.  Please feel free to email it, share it on Facebook, or photocopy and distribute it.  There is no way to adequately portray what we feel.

This is just a small attempt to let everyone know the enormous depth of our gratitude.  We are humbled, overwhelmed, and forever thankful for the generous gifts of all kinds that have been provided.  May God bless each of you twenty fold.  We love you.  We truly do.

Tina Guillot
(On behalf of A.J., Tina, P.J., Joshua, and Molly the Schnauzer)

Chucky’s Legacy

Chucky Thurman was our young neighbor from across the street and one of the first people we met when we moved into our home in Braithwaite in 2007.  He had a friendly face with an extraordinarily bright and somewhat mischievous smile that often greeted us when we happened to cross paths.

Our son, P.J., had become instant friends with Chucky.  Although they didn’t spend a lot of time together at first, it seemed like whenever P.J. was bored, he could always count on Chucky to hang out for a spell and lift his spirits.  It wasn’t until several months ago that they became truly close friends.  In fact, P.J. had begun referring to Chucky as his “best” friend.  They hung out on our front porch, rode Chucky’s four-wheeler, watched movies together, and just enjoyed each other’s company while “chillin’.”  My last interaction with Chucky was when he and P.J. were trying to convince Josh, our eleven year old, that he should let P.J. take him for a ride on the four-wheeler.  I argued that there was no way I would allow it unless Josh had a helmet on.  Chucky promptly ran across the street and returned, producing a helmet.  We shared some laughs as we sat on the porch together and watched P.J. ride up and down showing Josh how “slow” he was going to go.  He and I both knew that as soon as Josh got on that contraption, P.J. was going to ride like the wind.  I was thankful when Josh finally thwarted the plan and ran inside, and I was so appreciative that Chucky graciously laughed and wasn’t upset at all that he’d wasted his time retrieving the helmet.  It was just a short segment in the life of Chucky Thurman, but I was thankful to be a part of it because it gave me a glimpse of who he truly was.

Early on the morning of June 4, 2011, a tragic accident brought an end to Chucky’s life.  P.J. was in the car with him at the time of the accident and was somehow spared, but his life will never be the same.  In fact, many, many lives changed that day.  Chucky’s parents, Chuck and Sandy, are now bearing the greatest cross ever bestowed on a parent – the loss of a child.  His sister, Destiny, is much too young to be dealing with the death of a sibling.  Many others, young and old, will ponder the question of “why” for years to come.  I have always believed that when any person (young or old) dies, it is because at the moment they are faced with a life and death situation, God believes that they are ready to come to Him.  Whether that is scripturally or theologically correct, I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I feel in my heart that God welcomed Chucky with open arms on the morning of June 4th.   God knew he was ready.

While our grief doesn’t begin to compare with that of the Thurman family, this has been a very difficult time for us as we’ve tried to help P.J. get through each day.  In spite of that, however, I will forever be thankful for the friendship that he and Chucky shared and the impact that Chucky made on P.J.’s life.  I was absolutely amazed at how many young people showed up for all of the services held.  It proved to me that what I had seen in Chucky, a goodness that was deep within him, was real.  His time on earth was a short span of seventeen years, but a measure of time has no bearing on the impact one life can have on another.  Chucky Thurman leaves behind a great legacy… one of compassion and camaraderie… one of friendship and fellowship… one of laughter and love.  He will be overwhelmingly missed.

Twenty Wishes: Wish #7

My 7th wish is to take a ballroom dancing class with my husband!  On the very first night we met, I danced with my honey.   I’m sure the only reason he agreed to dance with me was because I was dateless that night (and most others, come to think of it) and I was also the sister of one of his best friends, so he took pity on me.  It was painful for him, I’m sure, as he was (and still is) a much better dancer than I could ever hope to be.  Nevertheless, we took to the floor and started… jumping.  We were on board the Riverboat President in New Orleans and the band, Ivy, was playing “Freak Out,” the Chic song… and I do believe my dancing was super freaky.  It was 1981 and punk rock and disco had pretty much opened the door for any form of movement being considered dancing.  Jumping while on the dance floor was actually very popular, and the thing I liked best about it was that it didn’t require much talent.  That, I could handle.  I could actually do a decent job of jumping.   As coins started to fall from the pockets of the other… jumpers… I hit the floor!  I think I collected over $10.00 in change that night , and A.J. often teases me and says he fell in love that night, watching me crawl around the dirty floor picking up money people were dropping.  Yeah right!

There are so many wonderful things about couples dancing, like getting cozy with the one you love or moving together as one (unless you’re like me and you’re just dragged along in confusion).  This is why I want to learn how to dance well!  And I want to learn a variety of dances like the Salsa, the Waltz, the Rumba, the Cha Cha, and the Tango!  Yeah, baby!  I want to learn them all… the fun ones, the romantic ones, the fast ones, the slow ones.

Dancing is beneficial in other ways, too.  It gives you face time with and attention from your partner you might not otherwise get.  It also is great if you have big hips but a small waist, because you can look amazing in those swirly skirts that are tight at the waist but full and swooshy.  And dancing is great exercise!  Consider the cases of Marie Osmond and Kirstie Alley who actually lost weight due to their work on “Dancing with the Stars!”  It would be great… if we lost weight from dancing, we might actually be able to eventually fit our arms around one another!

I’ll keep you updated on this wish, dahlins!  In the meantime, if you missed any of the previous Twenty Wishes entries, just select “20 Wishes” from the Categories list on the right side of the screen to see them all — posts are ordered most recent to oldest.  Happy reading!

Twenty Wishes: Wish #4

My 4th wish is to be on the stage again!  For years, my husband and I and other members the family participated in a number of plays and musicals at our old church.  Our kids even got involved on a couple of occasions.  We were all members of a group called the “POP-Corn Players.”  (POP was short for Prince of Peace, as in Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.)  It was truly great fun and between us we played quite a score of characters!  My husband, A.J., was a grandpa in several of the plays.  In more than one he was married to my mom; in another he was trying to marry my sister but married me by mistake (much to his chagrin).  He also played a country singer (ex-husband to my character who was also a country singer), King Pharoah to my brother’s Joseph (in a tribute to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber), and he was even Joliet “Jake” Blues to my brother’s Elwood once or twice!  Meanwhile, I portrayed everything from a cafe hostess to a city clicker to a swine and a singing bird named “Kookie” (the pet of a mad musician).  Most of the plays were written and directed by my mother.  She is so talented and we were thankful that her nepotism always ensured we’d get a good role.  (Just kidding… NOT!)  Doing those plays together was such great fun.  I look forward to it again, someday soon, I hope, before we’re all too old to climb the steps to the stage.   Start writing, Mom, and find us a venue!  It’s showtime!

Watch for more news on this wish, dahlins!  I’ll let you know where to buy your tickets.  Meanwhile, if you missed any of the previous Twenty Wishes entries, just select “20 Wishes” from the Categories list on the right side of the screen to see them all — posts are ordered most recent to oldest.  Happy reading!

Twenty Wishes: Wish #3

My third wish is to start a band!  I know it sounds crazy, but music has always been one of my passions.  When I was growing up, my dad played lead guitar in a country and western band.  He mostly played in bars, so I didn’t get to go to his “gigs” often, but we occasionally were able to tag along with him to practice.  I always enjoyed that and longed for the day when I’d be old enough to sing with his band.  As I got older, the more interested I became in boys, the less interested I was in singing.  I had a short-lived experience playing keyboard and singing with a garage band my senior year in high school.  We weren’t very good and so we never had any gigs.  We just practiced… a lot.

I’m not sure what genre of music I would like my band to play.  Maybe it will be a Christian band, maybe not.  Maybe we’ll play oldies, maybe not.  But I do know that my band will be fun and will be made up of people I love -my husband, my brothers, my sister and brother in-law, my niece… we could be like the Partridge Family of the 21st Century!  LOL!

So be watching for news on this wish, dahlins!  If you missed any of the previous Twenty Wishes entries, just select “20 Wishes” from the Categories list on the right side of the screen to see them all — posts are ordered most recent to oldest.  Happy reading!

Twenty Wishes: Wish #2

My second wish is to go on a romantic getaway with my honey!  I realize, of course, that this may not happen for many more years, but I can still look forward to fulfilling this wish one day.   My husband and I were married in 1983 and took our last trip alone together in 1992, just before the birth of our oldest son.  No alone time in almost 19 years!  That’s like… well… it’s just plain insane, don’t you think?!?!?!  It’s not that we haven’t had the time or the money, we have just never wanted to burden anyone with caring for our boys or upset the boys’ routine by making them sleep in beds that aren’t their own, etc.  Okay, so if you’re thinking “Why can’t the almost 19 year old care for the 11 year old?” let me remind you that I have two boys!  I value my home and my possessions and I value my children’s lives, so I wouldn’t want to risk them burning the house down or killing each other while we were gone.  Plus, I’d just worry the whole time and that wouldn’t make it very fun for anyone.  So I expect that this wish will take some time before it is granted, but I am totally okay with that.

Now, just in case you’re wondering where I’d like to go, I’m thinking somewhere in the New England states.  Ever since I watched the movie “Baby Boom” and saw the winding road that Diane Keaton drove down to get to the home she’d bought (by telephone) in Vermont, I’ve wanted to go somewhere in the fall when the leaves are changing.  In fact, I used to look at the wallpaper that came with Windows XP (the autumn one) and wish I could be in that picture, lying on the ground, soaking up all the beauty.  Absolutely gorgeous, dahlins!  I know of no other way to describe it.  If you drive down St. Bernard Highway, somewhere between Violet and Chalmette, there’s a stretch of road with trees on either side that are always full of leaves during the spring and summer.  Unfortunately, the leaves don’t really turn colors in this area of the country, and even if they did, the traffic is so heavy that if I tried lying on the ground and soaking up the beauty, I’d probably be road kill in a matter of seconds.  So one day, we’re going to get a room at a quaint little B&B, pack several bottles of wine, our Geritol, Denture Cream, and Depends Undergarments, and head for Vermont (possibly the Three Mountain Inn in Jamaica).  Hope to see you there!

To view all of the Twenty Wishes entries, just select “20 Wishes” from the Categories list on the right side of the screen to see them all — posts are ordered most recent to oldest.  Happy reading!

Pseudo Parent Syndrome

I have a confession to make.  I am extremely sensitive about my parenting skills.  I attribute this to the fact that I tried for so many years to get pregnant that I promised myself and God that if He would just give me a baby, I’d be the best darned parent in the Crescent City.  My little plan would have been a cinch to carry out if I had adopted a goldfish, but God wanted to test my abilities and blessed me with not one, but two, real live human beings; and if that wasn’t challenging enough, He gave me BOYS!  “Boys?”  I wondered, “What’s up with that, God?”  I was certain I had specified girls in my request.  The only thing I could figure was the database must have been malfunctioning on the day I sent my prayers up.

Back then, I believed myself to be an authority on childrearing.  After all, I’d watched “Leave it to Beaver,” “My Three Sons,” “The Brady Bunch,” and all those other shows with perfectly functional families and I always knew the solution to every problem faced on every episode.  I was an expert!

So here I am, 18 years after the birth of our oldest son, wondering whatever possessed me to think that parenting would be so easy.  I realize now that I was suffering from Pseudo Parent Syndrome (PPS).  PPS is a condition that afflicts people of all ages, races, and sexes, and oddly enough occurs primarily in folks who have never raised children and have no educational background in childrearing, yet its effects cause these individuals to believe themselves to be authorities on everything there is to know about the subject matter.

Many, many people in the United States suffer from PPS.  You know them.  They are the ones who provide you with cold, hard stares in the grocery line while your 2-year old throws a tantrum over a pack of M&Ms.  They are the ones who shake their heads disapprovingly when you let your 5-year old have soda at a restaurant.  They are the ones who are ready to call 9-1-1 or the local Family Services Agency when you spank your child in public.   And they are the ones who act like it’s easy to dissuade a 14-year old from having sex or doing drugs – after all, it’s as easy as “just saying ‘no.’”

Parents who are forced to deal with these well meaning people who suffer from PPS should take heart in knowing that at least 50% of these folks will someday have children of their own and will be instantly cured of this dreaded affliction.  Just like me, they will see a young mother struggling with her 2-year old in the grocery line, and instead of thinking “Why doesn’t she control that brat?” they will say a silent prayer that God will give this woman strength and peace, and bless this energetic little child.  Just like me, they will empathize with the parent of the 14-year old boy who is facing issues with sex and drugs and they will offer prayers and simple advice (but only when it is solicited) on what agencies provide the most helpful information on these types of struggles.  And just like me, they’ll thank God that they didn’t elect to write a book about childrearing without first having experienced it.  Live and learn – that is the best piece of advice my parents shared.

Molly and Me

For 47 years of my life, and the first 24-1/2 years of my marriage, I was virtually pet free (unless you count the occasional goldfish or hermit crab).  I was sure God had never intended me or anyone like me to take care of pets.  The only emotion I recall ever having when being around animals was fear!  But then came Molly.

Molly is the daughter of Isabel, dog-child of my cousin, Liz.  We often joke that Liz is responsible for 40% of our family being with us.  She introduced us to the birthmother of Joshua, our youngest son, and then later, gifted Josh with Molly, an adorable Miniature Schnauzer, that has changed our family dynamic in more ways than one.

I allowed Molly to come live with us only because we thought she might be the perfect medicine to build Joshua’s self-confidence and help him mature, but I laid down the law.  Being the neat freak that I am, I remember telling my husband and the boys “The dog stays OUTSIDE!  My house is clean and I want it to stay that way!”  But the first time I looked into those dark eyes of hers, I knew we couldn’t make her sleep outside.  She was just too darned adorable, and Josh was already in love with her.  We all were.  And things were even better when I suddenly realized what this really meant — I was no longer the only female in the house.  I was no longer outnumbered 3 to 1.  Now Molly and I could fight the testosterone battle together!

Two years have passed since that day and Molly has become a regular member of the family.  I can honestly say she is better behaved than my kids (of course she is, she’s a girl) and easier to take care of, too.  Of course I still get harassed by P.J., our oldest, about how we wouldn’t let him have a dog when he was little (I’ll never finish paying for that, I’m afraid), and how we do more for Josh than we did for him, but all I can do is plan to gift him someday (after he has a place of his own) with a dog of his own.  I can only hope that his pet is as much of a companion to him as Molly has become to Josh.  They make such a great team!

Sunday Sunday

Today is Sunday.  For years, Sunday has been my favorite day of the week.  When I was a little girl, Sunday was the one day of the week we ate fast food!  I looked forward to my Burger King french fries so much that sometimes it was difficult to pay attention in Sunday School.  Sad, right?  Although food was a great source of enjoyment to me at the age of 10, and still is today at the age of… (well, you can read the other pages of my blog and do the math), those french fries were not my only pleasure on Sunday.

When I was real small, my mom’s side of the family always gathered at my grandmother’s house on Sunday afternoon.  I loved seeing and playing with my cousins.  We had enough in common that our time together was usually lots of fun.

The other highlight of my day was always church.  I loved church.  I loved listening to the choir, I loved singing along on the hymns, and I loved the feeling that I had when I walked out of the doors of Mt. Calvary Lutheran every Sunday.   I was spiritually restored and didn’t even understand that at the time.

Today, Sunday is still one of my favorite days of the week.  Some of the joy has spilled over onto Saturday (an additional favorite) now that we worship a day earlier than we used to, but on Sunday, I get to see my family.  Every week, we gather at my mom’s and go out to lunch together.  It’s wonderful to see my Mom and my brothers and my sister and her family.  Sometimes my nephew joins us with his family and we have a houseful of children and fun.

I hope that as time passes our Sunday traditions never change.  I look forward to spending special time with the Lord and time with my family every weekend for many years to come.