Saturday, May 28, 2011

May 28

Thirteen years ago on this date, a young woman named Elizabeth passed away at the age of twenty.

The summer of 1998 was a tumultuous one for me.  I had just graduated high school & was preparing to leave for Harding University in Searcy, AR in the fall & for many reasons, I just didn't want to go.  Elizabeth's death was the first truly sad thing I'd experienced.  We buried her on Monday, June 1st.  As things drew to a close at the graveside & people were about to turn & shuffle back to their cars, Elizabeth's sister, Nicole, requested that those gathered sing Jimmy Davis's You Are My Sunshine because their mother had sung it to Elizabeth when she was young.  A kind Tommy Inman, who led singing for the service, began to sing . . .

You are my sunshine 
My only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are gray
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away 

I don't think I sang; I can't remember.  Standing in the hot Louisiana sun as a crowd softly sang Elizabeth her last lullaby remains the saddest moment of my life.  It would have been sad had she been a stranger to me.  It was a bit surreal, like a scene from a novel, but Hemingway himself couldn't have penned a more gripping scenario.  

Later that week, my family & I, joined by our friends the Zeiglers, left for vacation in Destin, FL.  The night we arrived, I couldn't sleep.  I stayed up all night & talked to Trey & it became apparent that I needed to talk.  It was the first time Trey & I had a conversation that extended beyond card playing, movie watching, or mutual irritation with our siblings' softball tournaments (there were a lot of softball tournaments in those days).  At some point, we moved outside to the condo's balcony & we talked there until the sun began to rise & the air grew sticky.  About six am, I left Trey watching Imus in the Morning and attempted to get a little sleep.

That summer, the movie The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey, was released.

I saw it for the first time in Destin (& we visited nearby Seaside, FL where it was filmed) & returned to see it two or three more times over the summer.  I still love the movie, but I think it appealed to me then because it is about discovering your own reality, the truth of the circumstances in which you've lived your entire life.  Truman of course discovers his perceived reality is an elaborate lie constructed by a man named Christof who has broadcast Truman's life from the time of his birth without Truman's knowledge or consent, all from inside a large dome in which the outermost edges mimic the horizon.

I have lived a sheltered life and in many ways still do; I am aware of this & I honestly welcome it.  I always resented the few occasions when I was told my life was sheltered; well, I guess it is more accurate to say I resented the people making such comments.  What is a shelter, after all, but a place to go when storms rage.  My parents still hold my hand in many respects, and I am not letting go if they're not.  What are parents for, if not to create a dome, a safe haven, in which their children can thrive until they are ready to stick that first toe into the cold water of the outside world.  The goal is not to hold children captive, as Truman was.  The goal is to provide them a safe place to grow & give them what they need to survive outside the dome when the time comes, reassuring them the door to the dome, their shelter, will always be open.

Elizabeth never had a dome or a steady hand to hold.  Her death awakened me not only to the realities of her few years, but to the stark contrast between her life, short as it was, & my own.  It was sobering, to say the least.  It was quite an internal struggle, as much as a seventeen year old can have an internal struggle, to appreciate & give thanks for your many blessings when you only fully become cognizant of them because you learn someone you loved & lost never experienced what you've been blessed with in spades.  It was an awakening of sorts for me, or, as my eleventh grade English teacher Mrs. Graham would say, I had had an epiphany.

Life continued to move.  I went to Harding that August, making trips home as often as I could.  In a twist E.A. Poe would have appreciated, every time I drove to & from Searcy, I passed the graveyard where we'd stood in June.  A few times I stopped, but usually I just turned my head in that direction, half expecting to see a group of sweaty people softly singing and dabbing their eyes.

In January of 1999, Trey & I started dating "officially" & I woke up in my dorm room one morning that spring & decided that my freshman year at Harding would be my only year at Harding.  As usual, I worked out all the details in my favor & transferred to Louisiana College in the fall of 1999, losing not one of the thirty-two hours I'd earned at Harding.

One of the nice things about being married to Trey is that we've no need for conversations about our respective pasts because our past is a shared past.  I never had to tell him about my cousin dying when I was seventeen, & he never had to begin a conversation with "Let me tell you about the time I stole a porta-john . . . "

Trey & I, circa 1999:

Below, Jordan Huffstutter, Deni, Lance, Jessica, & I burying Trey in the sand in Destin (it's the best place for him on the beach - he burns):

A month or so ago I was in Target & saw this on the shelf:

I immediately picked it up for Reagan, took a few steps, & turned around to get another for Miss Marykate.

Below, Marykate Elizabeth & my Reagan Elizabeth:

And, my sunshine:


Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I frequently check The Drudge Report, a useful habit I picked up years ago from my sweet husband.  This week two articles caught my attention.  Yesterday Drudge linked to this article detailing the results of a recent Gallup poll on abortion.  According to the article, 61% of those polled feel all or most abortions should be illegal.  Included in this 61% were American adults who consider themselves to be "pro-choice."  In my opinion, some label themselves "pro-choice" because it is politically correct in certain circles to do so and/or because they have never taken the time to consider what is truly at stake.  "Choice" sounds good; we all want choices.  That the term "pro-choice" is commonly used to refer to people who believe abortion should remain legal is a semantic victory won by the media.  It insinuates that there is a choice to be made when a woman discovers that she is pregnant.  The "choice" is between giving the baby life, or playing God & ending the baby's life; unless a woman miscarries, those are the only 2 possible outcomes of a pregnancy.  That we linguistically equate pregnancy with other situations in which we're presented with "choices," such as a varied menu at Wendy's or numerous movie options at the local theater, is sickening.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A James by Any Other Name

Jessica came home for Mother's Day & stayed for a week.  Woo-hoo!

Some highlights from last week . . .

Monday night we went to Squire Creek to eat 2 for 1 burgers at the grill.  Reagan was patient while we ate, happy to be out & about in her new yellow bow.

After dinner, we took Reagan outside & let her stretch her legs on the lawn.

Below: some pictures of Reagan in front of the fountain where Trey & I got married.  One day, I'll show her these pictures & tell her this & she will roll her pretty blue eyes.  She has a close relative who is notorious for rolling her eyes.

Wednesday, Reagan had to get her next round of shots.  The wait time provided a nice opportunity to take some pictures (Wednesday was green bow day!):

Early Thursday morning, Trey left on a trip that included Shreveport, Dallas, & New Orleans.  I will spare you more details of his travels & move on to the interesting part: Reagan, Sophie, & I stayed at my parents' house Thursday, Friday, & Saturday nights.  

On Thursday afternoon, my parents' Tahoe brigade arrived to load what we needed for the 3 day stay.  I won't list everything, but the packing included a baby swing.  Oh for the days of 'packing light.'  

My parents' dog, Ethan, had minor surgery Thursday morning (minor surgery every other week is pretty much Ethan's norm these days).  I believe he had a mole or some sort of growth near his eye removed, but whatever the case, he spent Thursday evening groggy & irritated that his house was full of people (including a small baby who received more attention than him) & to top it all off, Sophie, my maltipoo who loves to taunt Ethan despite him having about 15 pounds on her.


Ethan (complete with cone to prevent his incessant neurotic scratching!):

Reagan was as perplexed as the pups about the tumult of the house Thursday evening:

Jessica tried to calm her:

After unloading both Tahoes & corralling the dogs, the 5 of us sat down to eat dinner.  The food was delicious & we enjoyed ourselves while the dogs circled the table in hopes of crumbs.

The first order of business Friday was to go see my Papaw.  Thrilled to officially be 5 months old & sporting a pink bow, Reagan gave me some sweet faces:

Sporting her new sunglasses, courtesy of her 
Grandmama & Granddaddy Zeigler:

I am trying to teach her that in addition to shielding her eyes from the sun, 
they're great for keeping hair out of your face:

Below, Papaw showing off his coffee mug.  It's insulated, he explained.  He has another that Thomas, his late brother, used when they drank coffee together.  The mugs have identically dark stains that make them appear to be full of coffee even when empty.  My coffee love is no accident.

Mom, Reagan, & Papaw:

We left Papaw's & went to the mall for a pretzel & some coffee at Auntie Anne's.  I don't think I've ever had a bad cup of coffee there, especially when shared with my mom & sister.  

On our way back to the car, we spotted a dress in Dillards that has a lot of potential as a bridesmaids dress for myself & Carson Huffstutter (Jessica & Heath are marrying on New Year's Eve!).  All in all, a successful mall venture.

We did a quick sweep through TJMaxx after leaving the mall.  We left with Reagan's first Polo dress (it's yellow, & yes, you will see it here first).  If you were paying attention, you know that Reagan already has a yellow bow to coordinate.

Friday ended with dinner at Genusa's with Reagan's 4 grandparents, 2 aunts, our friend Jim DeMoss, Reagan, & myself.  I have no pictures from Friday's dinner because Reagan was so over the busy day & protesting. 

Saturday, the plan was to take Reagan to her Grandmama & Grandaddy Zeigler's & meet my aunt Donna for lunch & a movie.  The first part of the plan, the drop-off, went smoothly.  Around 1:30 that afternoon as Jessica, mom, Donna, & I were chatting & eating our lunch, I checked the movie time again on my phone . . . to discover that the movie I thought started at 1:55 started at 12:55.  I almost started crying.  Prior to Saturday I'd seen 1 movie since Reagan was born (& it wasn't very good - can't even remember the name of it).  I was excited about seeing Water for Elephants; I like both Reese Witherspoon and Edwar Robert Pattinson, & I was also eager to sit peacefully & stuff my face with popcorn & chocolate (together, they're unbeatable).  My attempt to read the book before seeing the movie failed (I still intend to finish it!).  I read the first 5 chapters aloud to Reagan, but she thought I was talking to her & she would start chatting up a storm.  So, it remains on my reading list . . . 

My mom, perhaps sensing my despair, called to explain my mental lapse to the grandparents & asked if they minded keeping Reagan longer so we could go to the 4 o'clock show.  They were, of course, happy to oblige.  Faced with a few hours to kill before our show, we piddled around town a bit & I quite enjoyed myself.  The piddling included 2 of my favorite things: a cup of coffee from The Corner Coffeehouse (their Southern Pecan is fantastic!) & a trip to show Donna a few houses I have my eye on ;)

The movie was good, but I know the book will be better.  It's impressive that Reese Witherspoon can believably pull off a romance with someone 10 years her junior (who is known primarily for his portrayal of a 17 year old vampire).  

MEANWHILE . . . thanks to her grandparents I have some pics of Reagan's Saturday.  Her activities remain pretty standard whether at home or guest starring at her grandparents:



Growing sleepy:


Early Sunday morning, we said goodbye to Jessica & headed to church.  
Many, many compliments on Reagan's outfit were directed my way:

It was a good week.  Jessica, my parents, & I haven't all slept at my parents' house since the night before I got married.  Soon, Jessica will change her name too (which will be an alliterative shame).  Change is inevitable, but it's nice to have a few moments now & then when time idles & you catch a glimpse of yesterday.  


Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13

Reagan is 5 months old today so I wanted to say a few things before heading to bed.

Last year on May 13 I saw (& heard!) her for the first time:

(May 13, 2010)

Lloyd & Ann

As advertised, the great grandparents continued  . . .

Trey's maternal grandparents are a fantastic pair.  Trey is their 1st grandchild & Reagan is their 3rd great granddaughter (Reagan is eagerly anticipating meeting her 3rd cousins Joy & Natalie this summer!).  Over the past 10 years or so I've spent as much time with the Rays as I have my own grandparents for birthdays, holidays, & of course, softball games.

Below, some of my favorites from our wedding:

( I hope when my grandkids get married I look this good!):

Long before it was the norm to have a monstrous television in your living room, they had one in theirs, presumably in order to see the 'L' the 'S' & the 'U' in as many pixels as possible.  Years ago, when Trey & I were quite adept at finding excuses to see one another, I remember going down to their house to watch A Few Good Men on their big screen TV.  By years ago, I mean we popped the VHS tape into the VCR (later, when Reagan is reading this, she will pause to wonder what 'VHS' & 'VCR' mean).

This past November, Mrs. Ray, my parents, Trey's parents, Trey, me, & Reagan (who, by November, was really beginning to fight me for space) sat at their house on a Friday night waiting for Mr. Ray to come home from the West Monroe playoff game so we could sing him Happy Birthday & eat cake & ice cream.  I hope when I am his age, I am out on Friday night while my children & grandchildren sit home waiting on me, & I hope that Reagan is blessed with the ardor with which both Mr. & Mrs. Ray live their lives.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Weekend

My first Mother's Day was lovely.  I begin with Saturday's events, which commenced with a trip to the aptly named Spoiled Rotten to buy Reagan some more bows.  I have discovered that many men have an aversion to bows, so each time Trey or my dad or some other man offers his unsolicited opinion on Reagan's headpieces, I resolve to buy a new one.  When she wakes at 2 in the morning, I get up & feed her & get her back to sleep so the right to dress her & select her accessories is mine.  Below, one of Saturday's purchases:

After bow shopping, my mom & I loaded Reagan back in the car & headed to my aunt Donna's so Reagan could spend some time with her cousin Marykate.  If you're wondering, no, neither mine nor Trey's siblings has had a child you don't know about; Marykate's mom Jennifer is my 1st cousin, making Reagan & Marykate 3rd cousins.  Marykate will be 2 in August & she was eager to help Reagan in any way she could.  First, she loaned Reagan her bouncy seat, complete with a full circle of gadgets that captivated Reagan:

As Jennifer entertained the two girls, Marykate made sure Reagan's pacifier was functioning properly:

And did a bow check for good measure, 
since clearly Marykate knows her bows:

Then they settled in for more of Jennifer's singing:

Marykate did get upset when her mama decided to spend some one on one time with Reagan:

Tired from the excitement of new bows & the trip to her aunt Donna's, Reagan headed home to await the arrival of aunt Jessica & decide which bow she would wear to church Sunday morning.  Reagan napped during the service Sunday morning to gear up for the plethora of relatives who greeted her for lunch:

Her grandmothers extraordinaire:

Her great grandmother James:

Her great grandparents the Rays:

Her aunts Deni & Jessica:

And her constant companions, her good looking parents:

(Her grandfathers were there too, but we'll take pictures of them on Father's Day, maybe)

When I gave my mom her present, I remarked that I was sorry I didn't have a card.  I used to love standing around in the card aisle reading all the cards before deciding which one I wanted, but you give up things like that when you become a mom.  You give up a lot, admittedly, when you become a mom.  Perhaps that's why we take & surround ourselves with pictures of our children.  

I may not be able to loaf around Wal-Mart reading cards, 
but I have this bundle that says more than any card could:

I don't have a new house (yet), but my heart has a new home:

I gained 20 pounds that are sticking around, 
but I also gained these 7 pounds:

I don't remember the last full night of sleep I had, 
but I wake up to this every morning:

Or as my parents might say, 
here are our bass boat & summer home on the beach:

C.S. Lewis once said that "The homemaker has the ultimate career.  All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career."  

Below are some of the homemakers I love & admire - 
mothers whose hard work continues to pay dividends in my life:

(To my aunt Kathy: I love you & now realize I have no photos of you.)

And of course, my mom, 
to whom I am only beginning to truly realize I owe everything: 

"I regard no man as poor who has a godly mother." 
-Abraham Lincoln 

My life is the harvest of the hard work of many godly women.  I am reaping what they've sown, & I have sense enough to enjoy it because my own mother was persistent with me and, as her reward, I will now announce that she was right.  

I look forward to such an announcement from Reagan in about 30 years.