When I was first told about the painting workshop, I really debated whether I wanted to go or not. I have no natural drawing ability and I had never been to any of those “paint and wine” things that are offered about town. This one intrigued me though because it was going to be painting flowers on barnwood. I love barnwood! I signed up for the workshop, knowing that I would know two women there (I can get social anxiety in new situations so this was tremendously helpful in going out of my comfort zone).
When I pulled up to the studio, I was mesmerized by its exterior. It was an old cabin with a rocking chair front porch and a cozy porch swing. There was a fire bowl surrounded by chairs in the front yard; the smoke of a freshly lit fire wafting up to the sky. When I met the instructor, Tonya, she said that the cabin was 120 years old!
The main entrance area was set up with a table that had seating for eight. The room beside had seating for three, and the kitchen sat between 4 and 6 (next time I’ll pay closer attention). The decorations about the place were amazing and most, if not all, were for sale. There were wooden bowls and vases, some of which were beautifully inlaid with turquoise. There were antique and estate sale items. The friend who had told me about the workshop makes jewelry and it was on display (I was kicking myself for not bringing a checkbook or more money, but I had no clue about what to expect).
After we got settled into seats, we picked which of the two floral scenes that we wanted to create. I chose the dandelions. The other was pretty, but looked much harder. Plus, I love that dandelions represent wishes and dreams. I’ve seen numerous representations of them being blown away and turning into birds. I love this concept. It especially reminds me of my children. We pour all these hopes and wishes into them, blowing gently as we help shape who they’ll become. Slowly, they drift toward more independence until they are set free like a bird in flight.
Tonya instructs us on how to dry brush our background. We used a chip brush dipped lightly in paint and wipe the excess off on a paper towel so that just a light amount is going on the board. I was very nervous because I tend to have a heavy hand when writing. I don’t know if this a lefty thing or an Amy thing. I am pleased with how it turned out. The wood definitely soaks in the paint, so I would be a little more nervous about my ability to replicate this on a canvas.
This class was at noon, so there is brunch and mimosas. The evening classes have dinner, wine, and dessert. We are served a french toast bake, sausage balls, and an egg casserole. Shhh…. I ate wheat after not having it for four months. I’m not so hardcore that I ask how food is cooked in a restaurant, so I’m pretty sure that I’m not fully gluten free anyways. Plus, it was tasty!
Off of the kitchen was a greenhouse. It was so warm and inviting. It looked like the perfect place to haul out a chair when the snow is two feet on the ground. The project for the following workshop was a terrarium so various items were being housed in here. After lunch, the paint was dry enough to move forward.
Next, it is time for the flowers. We had a sample piece of barnwood for practicing a flower. First, we drew the stem in chalk. For the dandelion, you would angle out from the top of the stem to where the center of your dandelion would be located and place a chalk mark there. The thought being that the center is more compact. My practice puffball looked horrid and made me really concerned for the end result.
I painted my stems on the board. They came out a little thicker than I originally wanted, but the grooves in the wood have a mind of their own. You can see the chalk lines here and my chalk mark for the center of the puffball. Tonya said that after they are dry you can go back with a little paintbrush and the chalk just brushes away. I made an attempt at my puffballs and decided that I could not create a round shape working from the inside and moving outward. I can’t cut a straight line either (lefty problem?? Amy problem??) but that’s for another day. I decided to loosely create the exterior of the puffball and work my way inward.
Part of the issue was also that being too close skewed the overall look. In the end, when I stepped back, I was happy with the overall painting. It’s kind of like life. When we’re going through something we might just think it’s an ugly mess. When we get through, sometimes we are able to step back and think, “that wasn’t so bad”.
I moved outside of my comfort zone and was rewarded with an enjoyable experience. I won the door prize (and I never win Anything!) for a free class. I’m looking forward to going back and trying something new.
It seems so hard to believe. I just can’t fathom how the time passed. One day I was calling into the hospital at 6:00 in the morning to see if I was going to be induced and the next I’m sitting here processing the fact that I have a sixteen year old. I can still remember that day vividly. There wasn’t an open bed. I called back at 8:00 and was told to come down. My favorite song at the time was “Amazing Love” by the Newsboys. As we pulled into the hospital, it came on the radio. I sat there until it was finished and thought about how much love I had for this child that I hadn’t yet gazed upon. Then we went inside to start the induction. Some hours later, I would meet my 9 lb 11 oz little boy.
Obviously, there has been a lot of living in between the moment when I first became a mother to the beautiful boy who had made his way into the bright light of the outside world and to today where he stands at 6’5″, towering over me.
Everybody tells you that it all passes quickly. You believe them, but think that you’ll be able to savor it all. That time will pass more slowly for you. But it doesn’t. You go about your life enjoying, lamenting, smiling, crying, and trying to bask in the gloriousness of it all. And then you arrive at a destination that you knew was coming and you wonder how in the world you have gotten there.
Sixteen feels like such a right of passage in my mind. At that age, I got my driver’s license and was finally allowed to date. His passing into sixteen does not have that same attachment. Virginia licensing is at 16 and 3 months and so he won’t be driving on dates until after that. I still think it’s a pivotal time. They are making so many more decisions for themselves. You are guiding them, but at this point they are much more self accountable for their decisions. I miss the days that have passed, but I am excited to see what his future holds. I wonder about what twists and turns he will take to find his brand of happiness. And I am overjoyed in the fact that I will be there to see it unfold.
I’ve had a hard time deciding on a throwback topic. I have lots of things that I want to tell about. My dilemma has been that I am a visual learner and have visual preference for telling my stories. I haven’t found all my childhood pictures and need some others from my parents. It has been a chaotic couple of weeks. Snow always seems to do that.
With the snow days and being trapped, I had to spend some time in prayer to keep my wits about me. And even then, it doesn’t always work. It reminded me of my first earnest prayer.
I was five or six years old. I had been attending a local church since I was about 3 1/2, so I was well versed in who God was to me. My first prayer was a selfish prayer, but one that has stayed with me for my entire life because it was answered.
My dad worked from home so he was the one to watch me and my brother while my mom was away at work. I don’t know whether it was his stern voice or his confidence in the way he spoke, but when my dad said something, you listened. My mom always says that he “got his bluff in early”, meaning that we had a healthy fear of him and yet could count on our fingers the actual amount of times that we were actually disciplined by him. Maybe I was just a well behaved child….
We lived in a trailer by this time. There was a long hallway from the back bedroom of the trailer that ran all the way through the open living, dining, and kitchen combo. It was perfect straightaway to put on some roller skates and fly from one end to the other at a glorious speed. The only problem was that I had been told not to roller skate in the house. I don’t know if I had ever done it before or what conversation had transpired for me to know this, but these were the facts.
But the straightaway was just too perfect. And so I put on the standard 1980’s white skates, laced them up, and was on my way. I was speeding along at full force when my brother’s bottle appeared before me. It was glass. I was going too fast. There would be no way to stop. And so over it I went. POP!! The bottle exploded, milk and all.
I was scared that I would be in trouble (as I move along in my blogging, you’ll learn that I’m a people pleaser and a perfectionist – these tendencies tend to overplay the ramifications of a given situation). I knew that I had not followed the rules and look what happened. I was sure that my dad would be mad. And so I said a prayer. I prayed to God that I wouldn’t get in trouble, that it was an accident and I didn’t mean to break the bottle and I shouldn’t have been skating (maybe this is why I am a rule follower, to a degree that, sometimes, even annoys me).
I’m not sure if my dad heard the noise. He was outside. I suspect it probably made a loud bang. I just know that there was little time that passed between when I broke the bottle, my prayer, and my dad walking inside. He opened the door and asked what happened. Through my sobs I told him that I had been skating in the house and had run over the bottle. He asked me if I was hurt and said next time to be more careful.
Next time? Be more careful? Nothing about how I was doing something I shouldn’t. I was in shock. And in that moment, I knew, without a doubt, that God had answered my prayer. It would be the foundation that I would need to keep my faith in the the future when life would be begin to, and still does, throw me curve balls. It would keep me strong in the belief that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Maybe I should have been in trouble for not obeying the said expectations, but the greater good occurred in that moment of compassion and leniency. Experiences can shape who we become and we have a choice to grow or shrink from them. Kindness trumps most other responses. Show some kindness to somebody today.
Children have an amazing imagination. When I think back on the amazing adventures my children created with their minds when they were younger, I am in awe. It makes me reminisce on some of the amazing adventures that my mind created.
One of my earlier memories was born out of a conversation with Dad’s sister. A little background is in order because she will come up numerous times as I recall my youth. My dad has a sister that is five days older than me. I am supposed to be two weeks older than her, but I preferred the warmth of my mother’s belly and she ended up needing to come a little early. This will only play out in scenarios where my oldest child=leadership (ok, youthful bossiness) is exerted as we get older. To add to our background, we are both named after my grandmother and she is named after her father, which created the rhyming named terrors known as Amy Sue and Jami Sue (p.s.- I love my grandma, but I rarely tell my middle name because my name is short enough that when roll was called in school, my entire name was called. I understand people go by double names in the south, but not where I am from. It is only used when your mother is looking for you and there’s a good chance you are in trouble).
Ok….so back to the story. Jami had this tendency to tell tall tales when we were little. I usually never bought into them. One time though, when we were six, she told me that she and the neighbor boy had a secret club. She said that they could turn into animals and they would be having a meeting on Saturday morning. One was going to be a giraffe and the other an elephant (I’m pretty sure about the elephant, definite that one was going to be a giraffe); she told me this so that if I could make it, I would know it was them when I got there. I was wondering how as different animals we would understand each other, but she assured me that we could. I would have to concentrate really hard, but if I believed enough then it would work. I knew that she was lying….. but what if….
What if she was telling the truth? We lived about a 45 minute drive from her house in town. How could I get to this early morning meeting? Was it possible that I could turn into an animal? What should I be? I got up early Saturday morning, went out to the living room, turned to the cartoons on our little, 12 volt operated, black and white TV (yes, in 1983 or 84) with three channels (if you haven’t read this post about my childhood, you should).
I decided that the animal that I would be was a black panther. To be clear, I was 6, I know that Florida panthers aren’t black. Also, I thought the animals that I had heard that sound like a woman screaming in the night were panthers, this is apparently a bobcat. I did, however, grow up somewhat near to the Florida Panther Refuge (although that wasn’t established until 1989, 9 years after we moved to the wild land. The Florida Panther is considered one of the most endangered mammals in the U.S.
But I digress. Let me crawl out of my rabbit hole and get back to the story. I decided on a panther because I thought it would be as fast as the wind and black because I would need to blend in to the dark morning. I needed to get all the way to town, have this meeting, and return before my parents awoke and saw that I wasn’t there watching Saturday morning cartoons. I approached the TV, turned it down a little, closed my eyes and said “I want to turn into a black panther”. I said this a few times, and nothing… maybe I needed to believe more….. I felt the belief all the way down into the core of my being….I could imagine how free it would be to be running through the oaks, the pines, the cypress, the melaleuca, giving way to coconut palms and manicured grasses, all the way into town, feeling the cool morning air rushing past my shiny fur as I raced faster than man. I imagined how surprised Jami would be that I had made it, how she would think that I picked such a beautiful animal, hoping that she would know by my eyes that it was me and not be scared….over and over I said it in my mind…and still nothing. I was disappointed that it couldn’t be true. I had wanted it to be true with my entire being. I sat back, turned up the TV, crawled onto the couch and watched some cartoons.
Just a note: this did not ruin my belief or my imagination- it has stayed very active for a very long time.
Have you ever had a day that changes the entire trajectory of your life? A day that when you look back on it, if your life was a movie you can distinctly see the foreshadowing moments. I have known this day was coming. I have written this story 100 times in my head. It’s a day that I wish had never happened, but also a day that I never want to forget.
It was 2013. It was a Saturday. And to talk about February 9th, I always remember the foreshadowing on the night of February 8th. Some of my oldest son’s friends had changed out their regular skateboard decks and added penny board wheels. The boys were all 12 and 13 year olds and had decided this made the board go faster. My son had changed his out and wanted me to come step on it. As soon as my feet were on the board, it flew out from under me. I landed on my elbow, sure that it must be broken (it was not). I am not a skateboarder, so this may have happened with any board. I just share it because looking back it seems so obvious as to what would follow.
The next morning I laughed about it with some friends at my daughter’s soccer game. We talked about how my husband’s dad was doing (his leukemia had turned to lymphoma, hospice had been set up, and my husband had just recently returned from being with him in Virginia). My daughter and I were heading to Naples immediately after the game. It was about a three hour drive from where we lived in Stuart, Florida. We got over there and visited all my family. At about 3:00, my husband called to tell me that our oldest son had fallen off of his skateboard, while riding on our road, and hit the back of his head. I could hear my son in the background, a little distraught, but that was not abnormal for him at this age. I felt a little nervous, but knew my husband would make the right decisions. He called me a few hours later to tell me that our son had started throwing up and he thought that was a sign of a concussion so he was taking him to our local emergency room. Later, when I called to see what had happened, he told me that they had done a CT scan and that there was blood on his brain.
I was racking my mind with what that meant in relation to a concussion. What did that mean? Why was my husband so calm? Later, he would call me back and tell me that they had decided to MedFlight our son to the trauma hospital in West Palm Beach. This was about a 45 min drive away from Stuart. They thought the helicopter would be faster (with the amount of time that they waited for the helicopter to show up, that’s highly doubtful). It was pushing 9:00. Do I come tonight even though I’m exhausted? Do I get up and head over early in the morning? I didn’t know what to do. My husband was so calm that I still wasn’t sure what was going on. I got my son on the phone and asked if he wanted me to come. He said yes, so I packed up our stuff and jumped in my car and my mom jumped in hers to head over and watch my other two kids.
We flew down back roads across the state. We picked a way that would avoid cities and stoplights. Ten minutes into the ride, I called my husband to tell him that I was on the way. He told me that his father had lost his battle with cancer. He had gotten the phone call while sitting in the emergency room waiting to hear what the results of our son’s CT were. And suddenly I understood his calmness this entire time. He was in shock. I was in shock. This was a surreal experience, this flying through the outskirts of towns across the state of Florida late at night.
I needed gas. Parts of West Palm can be sketchy. I don’t know where those parts are. The hospital is located in an area where it closes all the gates surrounding except the one into the ER. We come to a gas station on the outskirts of town. I put my daughter in my mom’s car, give her the keys to my house, and then I fill up my tank and head to the hospital. I walk inside and check-in. The pediatric ER is closed, so my son is in the regular ER. I’m let inside and there is a police officer who asks me who I’m looking for. I don’t know if this is normal that he is there, but he walks me to the room. My son is there, looking like his normal self. They tell me that he has an epidural hematoma and a skull fracture. The neurosurgeon has seen his CT and will talk to us at some point, but he is in surgery.
My son tells me that when he was wheeled in that he saw a man with his head split open and a glazed look on his face. He repeats the way the man’s eyes looked during the time we are waiting there. I know that he is disturbed, and I am sad that he had to see such a thing. I don’t know if it’s the guy in space next to us. There are police in there taking pictures of the man’s shoes, asking where his clothes are (I think they need pictures of those too) There has been some type of bar fight. Maybe this is why the policeman was sitting at the front desk. This person will need the neurosurgeon. My son tells me about the parts of the helicopter ride that he was awake during. The landing pad at our local hospital is on the water. The men in the helicopter would give him a thumbs up to be sure he was fine. The helicopter was fast.
Sometime after midnight we are taken to the Pediatric ICU. They don’t think we’ll need the services, but want the nurse ratio that is on ICU. Only one person can stay. That’s all there is room for anyway. My husband leaves, and I try to get our son settled. He is groaning, he is tired, but his head hurts so bad that he cannot sleep. This goes on for a while. My body is completely worn out, finally running out of the adrenaline that it has been functioning on. He falls asleep and I do so intermittently. At 3:00 in the morning, the neurosurgeon comes in. He is a tall, broad man with big hands. Hands that have been saving somebody’s life while I have laid in this room with my son. He tells me that I may have looked up an epidural hematoma and saw the actress that recently died from one (he is talking about Natasha Richardson), my heart lurches into my throat and I feel ill, but he tells me this fracture is on the occipital bone which is on the back of his skull, not the temporal bone above the ear that an epidural hematoma is usually associated with; the blood clot has not grown and he will not require surgery.
My husband and I rotated stays at home with our other kids and stays at the hospital with our son. I was traveling the 45 minute drive down to West Palm on I-95 when the song “I will praise you in this storm” by Casting Crowns comes on and I raise my hand, singing loudly with tears streaming down my face. I am in a storm, but I am also so thankful that my son is alive. One of the doctors tells him that he is far ahead of other kids that he sees there because he has family with him. I think this is so sad that some children, most much sicker, are on the ICU with nobody there. I can’t stand to have him there alone. He will end up getting more CT’s and a very long, very thorough MRI. I don’t think he realizes how serious it could have been until one of the doctor’s tells him that with an epidural hematoma most people seem fine and then go into a coma that they never awaken from. I know this is true. I have read about it. They call it the “talk and die syndrome”. I am thankful that this is not our outcome.
He is finally able to eat real food and leave the bedside to travel to the bathroom. The combination of the two makes him sick. When the neurosurgeon (a different one than our first) hears that, he says that he must stay another day. They tell us that they are going to move him to the main floor. He is looking forward to that because he can finally take a shower and brush his teeth. The next day, there is a lady coming around offering pillowcases to the children on the pediatric floor. It is the 12th, almost Valentine’s Day, he picks one and puts it on his pillow even though we are waiting to be discharged. In our world of social media, I suppose people would have lots of pictures, but it never occurred to me until this moment to take a picture. I was too engrossed in living moment to moment and remembering to breathe.
My husband has to leave on the 13th for his father’s funeral. Obviously, we will not be going with him. On the evening of February 15th, my son starts have some vision problems. He can’t describe them exactly, but says it’s similar to seeing through a fish eye lens. The distortion is making him feel very nauseous. I call the trauma center from the number on his discharge papers. They tell me since the fracture is in the area of vision center, I should take him for another CT just to be safe. They tell me to just go to the local hospital since it’s evening time. My husband is still in Virginia, so I load up my 8, 10, and 12 year old and head to the ER.
We walk in and the girl at the check-in desk asks him why he’s back. It never occurred to me that they might remember him. I was not here for the original part of this hospital visit. The woman who takes our insurance information tells me that they were just talking about him at the morning meeting, wondering what happened, not knowing because of HIPAA. This also had never occurred to me. She calls the woman over who had checked them in the day of his accident. She begins to cry. And in that moment, I realize how serious it had been. This woman did not know if my son had died. By the time I had seen him many hours later, he seemed to be his normal self. She is beside herself with tears of joy that my son is alive. We wait an interminably long time in the back after our test, entertaining ourselves by cracking jokes and going into the hall and dancing and making monkey noises. They come in and tell us that nothing has changed on the CT and that it is post concussion syndrome. As we leave, the lady asks if she can give my son a hug, crying again, and even though I am exhausted because it is late, I am happy that we are there. That she has peace over this heaviness she carried for a child that she did not know.
He would spend the next two weeks at home. And then I would take him to school half days, rotating which classes each day. I did not let him spend lunch there because he was not supposed to be around a lot of noise to let his brain rest. I did not let him participate in PE the rest of the school year. The neurosurgeon had warned me that any brain injury within three months of the last is considered a “rebound injury” and the effects would be worse. I also didn’t allow him on anything with wheels until the “all clear” CT three months later. That was a long time for him, and he joyously awoke that morning and rode everything with wheels before school. To say I was a nervous wreck was an understatement. Leading up to this time, we had reassessed things, spent time in prayer and had various signs that pointed we should move closer to my mother-in-law after my father-in-law’s passing. A job opportunity had opened up and my husband had already moved by the time the day of “wheels” occurred.
This is my son’s YouTube video about that day. It’s also featured at Getusedtoit.com a collaboration between Triple8Nyc and Mike Vallely about helmet usage.
His recollection differs somewhat in minor places from mine. As it should. We were two different people living out the experience in different ways. He was a 12 year old boy who had just suffered a traumatic brain injury and I, the mother trying to process it all.
Today, I am grateful for all three of my children and I remember my father-in-law. My in-laws were high school sweethearts, traveling the world for 20 years with the Navy, and finally settling down in a small town in Virginia to become teachers. He always called her “doll” and she called him “love”. I remember the last time I would spend with him in the summer before he passed away. We were sitting beside the pool. He told me that he was ready to go, but was trying to make it past my mother-in-law. He did not want her to be alone. And as much as my tears welled up as he said this to me, I couldn’t help but be in awe of a love so deep. As one of my favorite poems says, “do not go gently into that good night” and he didn’t, he “raged against the dying of the light”
That day changed the trajectory of our lives and is how I now find myself in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. In a few weeks, I will celebrate my son’s sixteenth birthday, I will celebrate the man that he is becoming, and I will rejoice that we made it through the storm.