Monday, May 30, 2011

My Guy

The past few weeks Noah has seemed to grow overnight, every night!  He's a big 6th grader now, proudly passing 5th with straight A's.  His looks are changing, as he's cut his hair for a cooler summer style and easily looking at me eye to eye.  And he's maturing, seeming ever more helpful and responsible, sometimes well beyond his years.

He's recently picked up several yards to mow in our neighborhood.  It'll keep him busy and give him some spending cash; however, he wisely opened a savings account last week.  I let him take the lead from start to finish, including calling ahead to find out what he needed and taking the reigns at the bank.  He socked away the majority of his income and calculated ahead to see what he could potentially have saved by summer's end.  Word got to me (small town, local bank) that the man who helped him set it up commented later that Noah was "one of the smartest 12 year olds he'd ever met."  And of course that made this momma smile!

Summer hasn't even officially begun and already he seems to have a more active social life than his parents.  This weekend he went on a group date, spent a huge chunk of time (and all his "spending cash") at the Strawberry Festival, and enjoyed time with his cousins at a cookout and swimming.  At times, I felt like we had to make an appointment to see him!  Offering a night at the Drive-In and making hot potato salad for dinner another sure didn't hurt in getting him to come home.

His group date Saturday included his fairly recent girlfriend.  They've been "exclusive" for a few weeks and it has been cute watching the romance bloom.  He has her picture set to show when she calls and has her saved as "My Girl" which led me to express a big Awwwww the first time I saw it.  Of course, he gave me the really Mom? look and rolls his eyes at any expression, question, or giggle concerning his love life.

As much as seeing him grow and realizing how I'm having to share him more and more the older he gets tugs a bit at my heart, he brings me more joy each day than I could ever imagine.  I feel continually blessed for every moment I spend with him and for the laughter and smiles he brings to our lives.  No matter how big he gets, or who (or what) I have to share him with, he will always be "My Guy"!
Noah and Suzie

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shining Down

Yesterday was our second annual fundraiser for Austin's Legacy, the scholarship fund we started in Austin's memory.  The cornhole tournament we hold Memorial Day weekend, during the Beaver Dam Strawberry Festival, is our primary fundraising event.

This past week has been chaotic and a bit stressful, trying to get all the details ironed out, ensuring all the inkind donations were in, as well as a lot of manual labor in hauling the many boards and supplies we use for the event.  I've also kept a cautious eye on the weather, saying little prayers, that we would again be blessed with sunshine, even though the initial forecasts called for a chance of rain.

I took a vacation day on Friday to ensure everything was ready to go, as we'd already have an early morning Saturday - the day of the event.  While family and friends help out in small ways, through lending their cornhole sets or securing door prizes, the bulk of the work lands on Tim and me.  And even though it's a lot to do and I often wonder if it'll all get done, I'm ok with the load.  Every task, every trip, each thing that we do is a way for us to honor Austin.  His spirit and memory keeps us going all the way through the event.

I will say though that my mom was a huge support this year, as she took on the bulk of securing our inkind donations to be used for our 1st and 2nd place prize baskets.  Because of her work, we collected more than $300 in certificates and prizes from area businesses.  Noah was also a big help and I know that Austin would have been so proud to see him working so hard.  From set up, to helping staff a booth, to running a billion errands for us, he was right there, even wrapping his arms around me for the photos we took during our opening presentations.

Though I was physically exhausted by the end of the day, my muscles sore from hauling and lifting boards, my skin flushed from the heat and the burn I managed to get even with sunscreen, every ache was a gift to Austin.  Emotionally, I was just as spent, with a mixture of memories of him, feeling expressions of love from family and friends throughout the event, and knowing how touched Austin would be with this outpouring of support.  As tiring as this event is, it is worth it because we do it for him.  And there were a few extra special highlights during the day that just emphasized to me the need for us to continue.  Through them all, I could feel Austin shining down on us and the event.

The first was our second presentation of the scholarship to Kami.  Her family and friends came out (some even played in the tournament) and it was evident the love they had for her, how proud they were, and how honored the family was to accept this gift.  From her asking if she could hug me during the presentation, to the sincere appreciation of her parents, to the many flashes of the camera as we presented the giant check, it was a wonderful moment.   

Second was the fact that we had a youth play in the tournament this year.  He was eleven but eagerly signed up and stood out there among the men ready to play.  His mom had sent me a message earlier in the week, asking if we had an age limit.  I told her that we never set limits on Austin - he did things well before his time, accomplished much that even adults couldn't do, and we were always proud when he did so.  In fact, that spirit is what led us to choose the scripture that is on his memorial stone. 
1 Timothy 4:12 "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."  It was a pleasure to award Dylan Alsman as the youngest player and it felt so much like "an Austin Moment."

Our final goose bump moments came from the first place winners of the tournament.  By this point, the majority of the teams had left, and all that remained were the winners and a few supporters.  Before taking pictures and passing out awards, we asked the players for any input or suggestions for the coming years.  In the midst of our conversation one of the guys shared a story about his son.  He lost his 17 year old son ten years ago from a car accident.  Pulling out his cell phone and showing a photo, we paused and shared a memory.  There's an unspoken bond between parents of child loss.  I felt blessed to award them as the first place team and could feel Austin's love and presence during those moments.

Though I left the event in tears and went home to continue to cry for several minutes, it was a joyous event.  There can be sadness in happy moments, there can be tears in joy.  My emotions were just the closing credits from the day.  Is this what I would have chosen for my life?  No.  I wish Austin were still here, I wish I could still see his smiling face, here his big laughter fill the room, and watch him grow into the wonderful young man I knew he would become.  But I can't turn back time and I can't call the future.  So, I make the most of the moments I'm given and I work to fulfill the purpose of why I am here and he is not.

Forming this scholarship in his memory may have not been in my plans but it is something I'm honored to do.  Knowing that the work we're doing in his memory is changing the futures of other youth (for the better) helps me get through the difficult times that come.  Austin's Legacy is just that - it is a reminder of the sweet soul that touched this earth but for a brief 14 years and it is a continued hope and inspiration in making this world a better place in Austin's memory.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shelter from the Storm

While I'm not one to normally stress a great deal about storms, Wednesday seemed to be a different story.  I'm always concerned about the safety of my family and like a mother hen I tend to gather and protect, but normally, once I know I've done all I can do, I give it to God.  With the excessive news coverage and intense warnings for what seemed like impending tornadoes and significant damage though, I was more than on edge throughout the day.

Typically we ride the storms out in our home, and while it may not be the safest, you just feel at ease in your own house.  For this particular day's storm event however, I decided to seek shelter at my cousin's house which has a basement.  I'm sure she didn't plan on having a sleepover at her house when she left Wednesday morning but that's what happened. 

Feeling guilty for dumping half my house into her basement (for just one night), I brought loads of snacks and what I'd planned for us to have for dinner.  I figured she certainly wouldn't be prepared to feed a crowd.  We brought bbq pork, she made tacos, and it was a mini buffet by the time we laid out the spread. 

By dinner time, we had a house full and then some, blending four to five families for a total of a dozen or so hungry and nervous people.  Aside from our own families, we had her brother, his wife, their grown sonb and his family (including itty bitty cutie - Harmony) and Jen's mom, my Aunt Faye.  Why, it was a regular family reunion!

Although the air was filled with apprehension, I think everyone still managed to have a good time and enjoy each other's company.  The kids certainly knew no difference and were running up and down the stairs playing, while half of the adults hovered around the tv to watch the weather.  Even when we decided to seek shelter in the basement later that evening, to the kids it was like a giant slumber party.  Two rooms were transformed with sleeping bags, pillows, snacks, and arms and legs everywhere.  But, we were safe and we rode out the storm together.

Thankfully our area was spared from the massive damage that so many others have faced the past few weeks.  As I drove home to get a few hours sleep in my own bed, it wasn't until after I bowed my head in gratitude.  I felt blessed to have a home to come back to and to be surrounded by family who were all unharmed.  But I know there are thousands of others surrounded by chaos and heartache right now. 

While I don't pretend to understand to know the why to the pain we feel in this life, I do know it's only temporary.  Whatever you're facing, you can and will get through it.  To quote one of my newly favorite songs, "The pain reminds us that this is not our HOME."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Comfort & Joy

I'm not sure I was prepared for the flood of emotions that swept over me today when entering the high school.  It still isn't easy being there, as my memories are of Austin and the few short but sweet months spent with him there as a freshman.  As I arrived, students were switching classes so I was swarmed with dozens of teenagers, all reminding me of Austin.

Today was "Awards Day" at the high school where seniors were recognized with scholarships from area organizations and businesses.  As this was our first year to award someone through Austin's Legacy, I was there to make the presentation.  Although my family was shortly behind me, I arrived first and made the walk alone into the gym.  I used the time to review the speech I'd prepared and look over the paperwork for the hundredth time. 

I began to say a prayer to myself, alone on the bleachers, asking for peace and strength to get through this so that we could honor Austin and not let my emotions get in the way.  Soon, Tim was by my side and instantly began to put me at ease.  Shortly after one of my former teachers arrived with a warm smile and encouraging hug.  Then, I was added with the reassurance from my mom and sister Raven's arrival.  Right before the program began, Mrs. Bevil, who has been so supportive both as a mentor for Austin and to us since his passing, came up to greet and thank us for being there.  I can't help but feel that they were all sent just at the right moment to prepare me for the presentation.

Once they called us to the podium, the rest is a bit of a blur but I think I managed to get out most of what I wanted to say.  I was able to share a bit of who Austin was with the crowd, why we formed this scholarship and how impressed we were with the recipient.  To see Kami smiling on the floor beside me and feeling her gratitude was all I needed to know this was meant to be.  I truly don't think we could've selected a more deserving student and I wish her the best for a bright and successful future.  I know that she appreciates this gift and will represent Austin's Legacy well.

Miss Kami Compton, 2011 Austin's Legacy Scholarship Recipient
Once home and having the opportunity to reflect back on the day's events, I was reminded of the scripture, "I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow." -Jeremiah 31:13. 

While we will forever miss Austin, and there will always be a sadness in that loss; it is so comforting to know he will be remembered and honored through this scholarship. It was a JOY to reward another deserving youth, who is actively making a difference in this world.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cast Credits

One of my favorite parts of community theatre is the wonderful group of people involved.  I've had the pleasure of working with an amazing cast on the production of "Alibis" and I'm going to miss them greatly.  The people in this cast have certainly been one of the highlights of being in this play.

Today is bittersweet, as it will be our final performance.  While I'll enthusiastically enjoy having some of my "free time" back, and my backside will benefit greatly from the decrease in fast food, it will be somewhat sad not seeing this group several times a week.

In this cast I've had a chance to reconnect with old friends and former cast mates as well as meet several new ones.  Debbie (aka Hope Leslie Trite) and I shared the role of "Truvy" a few years ago in "Steel Magnolias" so it has been great fun actually being on the stage with her at the same time.  Doug (Detective Solvedd) and Neil (Sir Tanley A Fraud) were both involved behind the scenes on "Steel" but it has also been a joy and honor to share the stage with them.

The remainder of the cast were all strangers to me prior to the play and I feel blessed to know each of them now and call them friends.  Joe (the Butler) and I haven't spent much time together, as he dies early in the first act, but it has been fun doing the "potty dance" with him.  Alex (the Stranger) and I also don't share any lines or really many scenes together but it's been great getting to know her.  Keyona (Dr Hyde) and I have a love/hate relationship on the stage but she's a sweetheart backstage and in "real life".  Norman (Mr. Sandy Links) cracks me up both on and off the stage and it's been a joy working with him as well.  And who can forget Fara (ze French maid, Monique)...she's been a ton of laughs from the dressing room to under the bright lights.  In fact, it's been a difficult task to keep a straight face with her and the antics we share on stage.

It's also been great getting to know our production crew - from Stacey (sounds/lights), Eddie (set construction), Daniel (stage manager), Jordan (Asst Director) and Melanie (Director).  All have shown true professionalism and have each been wonderful to work with.  I'm really going to miss all of them but am so glad I had the chance to know and work with everyone involved.

In fact, it's time I head out for our final performance.  I'm going to soak up every wonderful moment today, from my final walk into the dressing room to put on my costume (which I WON'T miss!), to every funny scene, to our reception that follows the show.  I know it will be full of laughter, great friends and talented performances.  And as sad as I'll be to take that final bow, I'm so happy for the opportunity and the memories made with this cast!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Love Language

I've written posts before regarding, "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman.  I'll say again, if you've never read it - you're missing out.  (And really, Mr. Chapman should start giving me a referral % of his sales!)  Anyway, my love language, without a doubt, is Quality Time.  Second on my list, is Acts of Service.  Basically, if you are doing something with me or for me, I feel cared about and loved.

Being active again in community theatre has certainly helped in "filling" my love tank the past week.  With the exception of opening night (which I always request friends/family avoid), I've had loving fans in the audience for every performance.  There's just something about knowing that someone took time out of their busy life to come and see you that speaks to the heart.  The theatre could be crowded to capacity but what means the most are the seats filled with those I hold dear.

Peeking out from a crack in the door of my opening entrance, I scan the crowd each night to see who has made it.  Sometimes I know in advance who is coming but still like to know the general area they are sitting in.  Sometimes, I am surprised.  I tend to favor the surprises as they just give me an added boost of confidence and joy before entering the stage.

Last weekend, my favorite littlest niece attended, who is only three; but she sat through the entire play like a seasoned adult.  Hearing her giggle and catching glimpses of her smiling on the front row just enhanced my performance.  There's nothing better than spending time with those you love, or better yet, knowing someone is spending time on YOU! 

Among my best moments have been the extra time spent with Noah through doing this play.  Both in helping me learn my lines at home and being my lil stage hand at the show, I've thoroughly enjoyed every second spent with him.  I think he's caught the drama bug and I couldn't be happier!

In a few hours, I'll be heading to make-up for my final evening performance of "Alibis" (sniff, sniff).  While I'm certain tonight's crowd will be among the largest we've had, my eyes will only be scanning for those I know and love.  Hearing their laughter and applause will mean the most, all the way through my final show on Sunday.  I'll take away many memories from this play but through the years the ones which will remain are the snapshots in my mind of my "biggest fans" who came out to support me.

The cast of "Alibis" performed by CHP
Me as...."Sister Bella Donna" - the silent nun

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Austin's Legacy

Last April, we officially formed the Austin's Legacy Scholarship Fund, in memory of our son.  In a year's time, we have launched the scholarship, fully funded it for three years through fundraisers, and selected our first recipient.  Looking back, it still doesn't seem real. 

It was as if this Scholarship Fund was just meant to be - or had an extra dose of love and help from above, because everything involving this project has always fallen right into place.  Both Tim and I were thinking and planning the same things, even before we talked to each other about it.  Being married as long as we have, we often know each other's thoughts but this just seemed impossible how closely our plans matched.

The name, "Austin's Legacy" came to us shortly after losing him.  It seemed to encompass everything he was in just two words. 

This design came to me soon after and became the logo for his memorial scholarship fund.  From the bigger-than-life heart, to the helping hands, to the scripture that so perfectly describes our special boy, "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for other believers in your speech, behavior, love, faithfulness, and purity."  This logo shows everything Austin stood for and the mission of his scholarship fund.

I remember signing papers last April for the scholarship program and how uncertain a time it was for us.  Both of our mothers were ill and at the time we didn't have answers as to what was wrong with either of them.  Thankfully, Mom's was nothing serious.  Sadly, we would lose June just months later to an aggressive lung cancer, but not before she got to see the results from our first fundraiser.  Even from her hospital bed, she was offering help, advice and money to support it. 

Now, to see us full circle at the end of the year, having selected the recipient for our first scholarship, I know that both she and Austin would be beyond proud.  The student we selected was an easy choice, based on several points in her application, essay and letters of recommendation.  Many things in her application stood out but perhaps the most was that she's logged over 1,000 volunteer hours the past few years. It seems very fitting that for those hours she'll be awarded $1000 for her education!

Kami Compton is a senior at Ohio County High School and has been approved for enrollment at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.  As one of the first in her family to seek a higher education, she shared in her essay a passion for making a better life for herself.  Though volunteering for several agencies, the group she donated the largest portion of her time has been to Dismas Charities.  To quote her, "These women encourage me every day...they've shown me it's not where I have been in my life but where I'm going."  Through their inspiration she has dreams of becoming a parole officer and making positive changes in this world.

I don't know that we could have selected a better choice for our first award!  There isn't a doubt in my mind that God's hand has been on this project from the very beginning.  Or, that Austin hasn't been involved somehow every step of the way.  In fact, we will present the check to Kami on Monday, during the school's Awards Assembly.  Can you guess what date it will be?  ...May 23rd.  Yet another sign from Austin that he is and will be there with us as we make a difference in another youth's life.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Lil Stage Shadow

As excited as I was to jump into another play, there was also a bit of bittersweet hesitation.  Whenever something is strongly connected to memories of Austin, it sometimes makes it difficult to do again.  The last play I was in was in 2008, just months before losing Austin.  He was such a big help during that period - from helping me learn my lines, to being at every single performance, and everything in between. 
I didn't know if I could be back on stage again without being overcome with the floodgates of memories that would come flowing in.  It was mostly this concern that kept from even auditioning until this year.  When I entered the theatre, many feelings came over me, but there was a positivity and warmth connected to them.  The memories weren't painful but rather sweet and lovely. 

As I took home my script that first night, I remembered how excited Austin was for me and how much he enjoyed running lines.  In fact, we spent many hours during our vacation that year - along the drive to Florida - doing just that.  I remembered how he gave me feedback on my performances, how he was there for every one, smiling proudly from the crowd, and how helpful and willing he was to support our entire cast.  While I was saddened at the knowledge he wouldn't be there with me throughout this play, I could feel his loving presence pushing me forward and encouraging me along the way.

What I didn't expect was for Noah to fill those shoes.  I don't know that he remembers how active Austin was with my last play.  After all, it has been three years and Noah was only eight years old at that time.  However, he's jumped right in and helped out just like his big brother would've.  From the first night, he's helped me read lines, enthusiastic and excited to turn the next page. 

In some ways I've actually had to put brakes on how helpful he could be though.  This play, a murder mystery, has a secret ending and aside from taking an oath of silence with the director, I didn't want to spoil the ending for him.  I haven't allowed him to read the last act with me or attend any practices to keep the surprise.  He's been a little disappointed, wanting to be fully involved in every aspect.

Finally, after his first viewing of the play last Saturday, he now has full access!  It tickled me to see his enthusiasm return, so eager to attend every performance that remained.  Sunday I gave him a backstage tour, which he loved, and he pitched in to help in any area he saw that needed it.  I actually had to call him off stage after the play because he wanted to stay and help until the very end.  And he can't wait for next weekend to do it all again.

It warms my heart to have been blessed with two amazing sons, both of which have always fully supported me in anything I do.  Walking onto the stage this weekend, I knew that they were both there - Austin, watching over me and encouraging me from above, and Noah, my new little shadow, proudly applauding from the audience and helping behind the scenes.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Break a Leg!

Mom might say my love for theatre began very early, from the amount of drama I could bring into any given situation.  I'd say my passion for theatre came in high school, under the direction of Mrs. Ranney and Mrs. Elmore, our Drama Club leaders.  Either way, I've long had a love and appreciation for the performing arts.

Back in March, I auditioned for an upcoming play, "Alibis" at our local community theatre.  It's a whodunnit mystery with a comedic twist and although I'd never read the or heard of it prior, I tried out for the role of the nun.  Performing in the role of a nun sounded like fun on it's own, maybe because I've always enjoyed "Sister Act" movies, who knows.  When I learned this particular nun had taken a vow of silence though, it sparked my interest even more.  Happily, I was given the part!

The past several weeks have been a bit crazy, juggling work and the regular busy season that spring tends to be, along with opening a photography business with my cousin.  Tossing in several play practices a week certainly hasn't been easy, or the best timing, but it has been loads of fun.  I adore this character and still laugh at every line in the play. 

I've had a blast being back on the stage again.  I'm not just comfortable on a stage, I feel whole when I'm there.  While some may be surprised that the sometimes-quiet-and-reserved-Heather could enjoy being on stage in front of a crowd, it's who I am and what I love to do.  From memorizing the the mess-ups during practice that lead to the nervous excitement of opening the first glow of the spotlight...all the way to that final bow, I joyfully soak up every moment. 

Last night was our first show and, for opening night, it went very well.  Waiting backstage for my first cue, I took a deep breath and tried to hide the big smile I felt inside.  Because, after all, once I entered through the front door on stage I was no longer Heather, but instead, "Sister Bella Donna" - the silent nun!  However hidden Heather was though, she sure did have a ball...and can't wait to do it all again tonight!

(If you'd like to come see this play and amazing cast....join us, there's still time! 
 The show will start tonight, Saturday May 14, at 7:30 and continue tomorrow, Sunday May 15, at 2:30.  Next weekend will be our last showing Fri & Sat, 7:30 - Sun 22nd at 2:30.  All shows are in the top floor of the Courthouse in Hartford in the Courthouse Players Theatre.  Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 children.  Hope to see you there!!)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Remembering Austin

One of the worries of a parent who has lost a child, is that they will be forgotten.  That over time, people will just not remember your child anymore.  As a parent, you want so much to hold onto their memory, to keep their spirit alive by sharing with the world who they were (and maybe even who you knew they could have been).

With each new generation that comes after their passing, you feel pain in knowing that they'll never get know the person your child was.  And it's an added hurt in the people you meet after their death that didn't know them and will now never get to.  You lose a lot of conversations and memories in those first weeks and months anyway, just because most people are afraid that if they mention your child you will cry.  I find that's even the case today.  True, tears may fall - and still do nearly three years later - but they aren't always through sadness.

It will always be hard.  There will always be an emptiness, lingering pain, and a sense of sadness because you can't lose a child and NOT feel those things.  However, every memory shared about them fills you with a bit of hope, especially when those memories are from others.  When someone takes the time to mention him, remember a moment they had with Austin, or even comment on that they miss him, it shows us he was loved and is not forgotten.

This past week the Facebook group I created in his memory, shortly after his death, was at risk of being lost.  Because it was nearly three years old, it wasn't in the new format Facebook was merging to.  While the group would be archived, we would lose the 1200+ members and many of the posts they'd made about him through the years.  This didn't seem possible.  Whatever it took, I could not let this happen!

In reading their FAQ page, I learned that new activity to a group could lead them to offering an invite to "upgrade the group" to their new format.  This set me on a mission.  Messaging all the members, I encouraged them to revisit the site and post a memory of Austin, hoping it would be enough to save it.  Within minutes, it seemed, posts began to pour in supporting Austin and spreading love.  The next morning that special offer arrived and I quickly accepted the upgrade.  His memorial group was renewed!

Most touching though were the comments that people left.  So many from unexpected sources, each warming my soul.  Even strangers who didn't know Austin, but because of the stories I've shared and the legacy he left behind, they felt like they knew him and wanted to share the impact his life made on theirs.  I can never express what that means as a mother.  I knew how special Austin wonderful and helpful and loving.  He was my world!  To hear others express the same though is just incredible. 

Every comment has been like a hug for my heart.  I look forward to reading them each day and am excited to see new posts.  It's like receiving a card in the mail, each one a sweet surprise.  They've certainly brought me unexpected and uplifting JOY this week. 

I'm so proud to be Austin's Mom...honored to share his story....dedicated to continue his legacy!

Pensacola Vacation - July 2008

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Memories

Mother's Day isn't a holiday I look forward to.  It's a day charged with emotions and memories, knowing that the reason I became a mother isn't with me anymore.  My first Mother's Day as a mom started because of Austin.  From the moment I learned I was pregnant, I was forever connected to this life.  Now that he is gone, this holiday will forever have a void. 

I will always start and end this day in tears, remembering the precious years I had with him, longing to see and hold him again, and wishing for just one more day with my sweet boy.  There will always be a visible hole in my heart on this day, even though I struggle to keep a smile on my face for my other.  It's a constant tug of war.  I love both of my sons equally, you just feel torn when one is no longer with you.  It's a struggle between honoring the son I had and treasuring the one I still have.

This year had an added loss, as it was Tim's first Mother's Day without his mom.  I don't know what that loss is like but my heart aches for Tim, as both his parents are gone from this Earth.  This day was also filled with memories of my mother-in-law, June.  I think back to our last Mother's Day with her, an emotional one in that we were in the midst of her illness at that time. 

We didn't have an actual diagnosis of cancer at that time but you could feel the collective pause as we each held our breath.  Last Mother's Day wasn't like other's past, in that we couldn't share a meal with her because she was so sick.  It was just a simple day spent by her side, talking, laughing, sharing and watching tv with her.  Sadly, we lost June just over a month later.

Knowing all this, I didn't expect Tim to do anything for me this year.  I just felt it was unsaid.  Since losing Austin, we don't make much of the day because it's just hard to do so.  This year, I worried about Tim and didn't want to emphasize or draw any more attention to the loss he might feel.  However, my husband never ceases to amaze me and did things throughout the weekend to make me feel special.  And that is just one of the MANY reasons I love him so!

There were many treasured moments and memories this weekend...from having breakfast with my guys, to driving down country roads with my little man at the wheel, and then again sitting behind him as he took me on a 4-wheeler ride, Mom handing me a bouquet of flowers from her garden and adding to it the wild roses picked by Tim and Noah, and an impromptu dinner on the deck with Mom and the family.  The smiles and sense of togetherness as we gathered around the patio table...sharing some yummy food fresh from the grill...yard games and giggling babies dancing in the yard.

One very special moment came unexpectedly from my little sister.  She had won a gift at a church function for being the youngest mother.  It happened to be a solar butterfly, and knowing how special butterflies are to me, she opted to give it to us for Austin's graveside.  It was so touching that, number one, she thought of me on this day, and two, somehow Austin made his presence known that day (as he always does) through a butterfly.

But among all these heartfelt memories, maybe the best was standing under the stars hugging Noah.  His loving smile looking down on me just lifted my spirits, warmed my soul, and hugged my heart.  We spent the last few moments of the night snuggled on the couch together.  He didn't want to go to bed, soaking up every last minute with his Mom.  His sincere reaction made me feel like a Queen.  It was the perfect ending to the day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cinco De Grandma

Today may be known all over the world as "Cinco De Mayo" but I know and love it because it's my Grandma Coons' birthday.  Although I had to call and schedule a date with her, I surprised her with a lunch out to celebrate. 

At 82, Grandma is still active as ever.  She stays so busy volunteering at her church and taking care of her family, it's often difficult to catch her at home.  We often joke with each other about who stays busier and that we need assistants just to pencil time together.  Knowing this, I opted to call her the day before and actually set an appointment to take her to lunch!

She was pleasantly surprised and more than willing to go; however, she did have other plans to work around that day.  And just like my Grandma, nothing involved celebrating her day.  Truly selfless, she would be spending the morning volunteering at the clothing closet.  I made arrangements to pick her up at the church and the date was set.

When I arrived she was elbow deep into helping and serving, ignoring the other ladies who told her she could leave.  Stubbornly independent, she set to finishing her tasks, determined to stay as long as needed.  Once I got her corralled, her friends sang her "Happy Birthday" out the door, with an arm full of presents and sweets.

Though she wouldn't pick a restaurant, I knew that Cracker Barrel was among her favorite choices.  I had to chuckle as we walked inside, with Grandma breezing past the rocking chairs almost faster than I could keep up.  Although her vision has suffered from previous strokes, once she's on course she doesn't slow down.  In fact, she sped out of the restaurant so quickly while I was checking out, I worried she might fall and hurt herself. 

This worry was valid, as she shared with me at lunch that she'd fallen the day before.  And, true to Grandma's nature, she crawled to a pole alone, pulled herself up, and carried on with her day, not even stopping to get checked by a doctor.  This drive and determination are two of the many reasons I love and admire her so.  She's never had an easy life, even had more than her share of life's tragedies, but has always remained strong, physically and spiritually.  Throughout the years, I've never seen her doubt God, never witnessed her faith waver, or her praise for Him ever cease.  

I'm blessed to have her as role model, grateful to know the love of such a special woman, honored to call her Grandma.  Happy Birthday, Grandma....I love you!
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