Through the Eyes of Love

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Mom is turning 85 in a couple weeks. My siblings and I, our spouses and assorted offspring are using the occasion to gather from three cities in two countries for a mini-reunion. It’ll be the first time we’ve gotten together that doesn’t involve a funeral in many years. So, long overdue, and likely to be a lot more fun.

Mom isn’t too Internet-savvy so I feel pretty sure I won’t blow a surprise by telling here about the birthday box. A couple months ago, I wrote and emailed a bunch of far-flung family members and friends, inviting them to send a card, letter, photo or email to celebrate her birthday. I’m putting these in a large decorative box I got at the Dollar Store (hey, it’s really pretty — don’t judge) that we’ll present to her during the trip.

I haven’t opened the sealed envelopes, but the notes that came through email I kind of had to read so I could print them out nicely. Which gets me, finally, to why I’m talking about this.

I’ve learned things I never knew about my mother. One of them is how many people think she’s a ton of fun and admire her brave spirit and sense of adventure. Well, OK, it’s her 85th birthday and nobody is going to send the written equivalent of a bouquet of dead roses, but still.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of things I appreciate about Mom. I bake great cookies because of her, and nobody outdoes me with curling ribbon and a pair of scissors. Weekly trips to the library as a child instilled my love of reading, which I think has everything to do with my love of writing. Classical music and Broadway show tunes are — thanks to her — part of my repertoire, too.

But reading about her solo trip halfway across the country to meet the family of her brand-new groom who had just shipped out to Guam, or the stories she made up with my cousin Rob about the unidentified couple in a mysterious family photo, helped me see a new side of her.

I guess this must be a little how parents of a wild child feel when they hear the teacher or his best friend’s parents rave about how well-behaved, polite and helpful he is. Huh? Are you sure we’re talking about the same person? I mean, this woman can drive me nuts, rendering me speechless with some of things she says, her alternate-universe “memories” and her rapid changes of plans.

Mom will probably still drive me batty sometimes (and no doubt I’ll return the favor). But this experience has encouraged me to look at her a little differently. Maybe I could try taking off the daughter glasses now and then, and seeing Mom through clearer eyes — eyes of love.

Happy birthday, Mom!

The Joy of Pets

By: Stacy Thompson

I’ve been a rescue mom for many years now, and I have brought into my family too many dogs, cats, hermit crabs, fish, gerbils, etc to count. Anyone who has ever had a pet may have multiple reasons for sharing their space with something other than a plant or a human, but know that there are many more reasons to get a pet, beyond the obvious:

  • Pre-wash—No need to rinse a plate when a slobbering tongue can take care of it!
  • Electric blanket—Mounds of fur much warmer and cuddlier than anything requiring a plug!
  • An ear…but no mouth—Pour your heart out with no judgment and no talking back!
  • Alarm clock — Best way to wake up in the morning!
  • Alarm system — To secure the perimeter and warn of impending doom (real or imagined!)
  • Foul weather warning—Retreat to the walk-in closet when the clouds appear!
  • A reminder to take naps—We all should take naps, multiple naps…
  • Validation that sometimes just walking back into a room is an event—Even if you just left two minutes ago.
  • Knowledge that there is pure joy in simply running around a yard…not to reach a destination, but because it’s there.
  • Reminder that even though that squirrel may never be caught, it can still be chased— or, although some goals may never be realized, they can still be chased.
  • Unconditional love

To Move or Not to Move

By: Azure Stilwell

The last few weeks I have been struggling with my depression. I am still doing the ECT treatments but my energy level has been zapped. Since my oldest left for college I have felt lost here in Columbia. I feel like I want to move back to Augusta. When I lived in Augusta before, I had a great psychologist. My parents also live there so I had family support that I don’t have here in Columbia. The problem is, my husband hasn’t gotten any good job leads and we cannot move without a job in place.

I wonder if my reasons for wanting to move back to Augusta are right for my family. We have a good life here but it just feels incomplete. I am very family oriented and not having anyone here is hard on me. It was easier when my oldest was in high school because we wouldn’t move him away from his friends, but now that he’s gone Columbia feels so lonely. My youngest is still in elementary school so we don’t have the same reasons holding us here that we did with my oldest. I feel like it would be good for all of us to get a new start but I don’t know if that’s selfish thinking. We have a lovely home, my son is in a good school system, and we all have friends here that we would miss. Is it fair to ask them to give these things up so I can be near my parents?

I am not in a good place right now so maybe a move would help me find myself again. Wouldn’t it be better to move and be me again than to stay and be a shell of a person? The struggle is real and I pray every night that God will give us the answer but so far that has not opened a job in Augusta. I just don’t know why I feel so strongly that we are meant to move if we really aren’t? I’m so desperate to feel whole again I would do just about anything at this point if I thought it would help.

On Being a Caregiver

By: Chaunte McClure

At some point in life I realized that one day I will have to care for my mom, but I honestly never considered the day I’d care for one of her siblings. That’s been my reality for the past 11 months. About a week after I turned 40, my 50-something-year-old aunt suffered a stroke while visiting my sister.

caregiver

I was sitting nervously, waiting to give a presentation in my African American Church class. Then my phone vibrated and I saw my sister’s name displaying. I knew she was aware that I had class, so I thought she must really need me. The conversation went something like this when I stepped out of the classroom to answer:

“We’ve called the paramedics for Aunt Jane,” she said.

Doing my best not to panic, I calmly asked, “What happened?”

After she explained my aunt’s symptoms, I told her to keep me posted and I’d head to the hospital after my presentation. That wasn’t soon enough. It’s not easy to keep track of time during emergency situations, but what seemed like about 20 minutes later, my phone vibrated again. This time I heard a very concerned voice almost begging me to get to the hospital. My aunt had coded.

My classmates were taking too long to present. I finally interrupted and explained that I had a family emergency. My professor excused me and began to pray before I could even exit the classroom.

Thankfully, the hospital was only about two miles from my location. I hurried in to comfort her daughter who rode in the ambulance with her mom, my aunt.

After asking more questions when I arrived, finally, the staff rolled my aunt’s weak body back into the emergency room.

She was admitted into the hospital and stayed there just a few days before going to a rehabilitation services provider for a few weeks. Still needing additional therapy, because she lost mobility on her right side, we found an inpatient rehabilitation facility with 24-hour skilled nursing care. After about three months there, her care became our full responsibility.

While I was trying to be fabulous at 40, I was also 40 and worn out at times. We’ve been a caregiver team, but the responsibility is still challenging. From organizing meds, to coordinating medical appointments, to understanding insurance, to running errands and doing chores – it can all become taxing, especially when we each have our own personal responsibilities.

If you ever become a caregiver, here are few tips to help keep you from getting overwhelmed:

  • Make sure each caregiver is carrying his or her load. That takes the burden off one person. You can’t do it all by yourself.
  • Take time for yourself. While caring for others is important, self-care is equally important.
  • Organize your responsibilities. Choose what tasks or chores will be done on specific days and by whom.
  • Seek outside resources. Consider hiring someone to do what you can’t or ask responsible family members and friends.

To protect her privacy, my aunt is referred to as Jane in this story.

Finding Quiet Moments

By: Ashley Whisonant 

As I have written before, being a grown up is tough. I don’t care if you are a mom, dad, single, married, or none of the above! Worrying about bills, work, social life, family, and balancing it all… I have tried hard to find quiet moments to center myself and remember the important things in life.

christmasMaking time to take care for myself has now become more of a priority. I make sure to work out at least three times a week in the morning while my family sleeps. Thankfully, my neighbor convinced me to try an all-female work out group, FiA. We meet in the mornings, varying between 5:00 and 5:15, to work out and get better together. Those moments pushing myself and enjoying fellowship with other ladies has made me a better wife, mother, and employee at work.

Remembering the important part of the holiday season isn’t always easy. I get no less than fifty emails a day about a Christmas special or discount on something. Is that really what it is about this month? To refocus myself, my husband and I decided to make a commitment to going to church every Sunday. We are working hard to teach our boys of thinking of others this season. We found a quiet night after cleaning up from dinner last night. While listening to Christmas music, we wrapped presents as family. Did it take longer with a five and two year old? You betcha. Was it worth the extra time? Without a doubt, yes.

Work hard to find quiet moments this holiday season. In what ways do you find these special, quiet moments?

A Much Needed Special Day

By: Ashley Whisonant

Gray

Shortly after we became pregnant with my youngest, Gray, my husband and I decided we would complete our family with two. For whatever reason, I never imagined myself with more than two or even a little girl. Even looking at a family picture now, I feel we are complete.

I frequently find myself feeling guilty for my second born. With my oldest, Weston, we were mentality present for all his firsts. He had our full attention, all of the time. I remember the excitement of watching him roll over and crawl. The moments of him running to meet me at the door when I pulled in the driveway from work. He was our whole world.

Gray

Gray will never know the feeling of being the only one. He adores his older brother and thinks he hung the moon. I remind myself to take mental pictures of Gray’s firsts- crawling, walking, waving. I work hard to not let life get in the way and give him the same experience as his brother, but it is different.

I needed to do something special for my second. While Weston was camping with my husband, I planned a special day for just Gray and myself. One of his favorite places is the beach. He could run up and down, racing towards the waves for hours. I was determined to have a special weekend with him. 

Gray

When he got up, we painted and shared a breakfast laughing together. Our drive down to Sullivan’s Island was not filled with screen time, but real conversations with my two year old. He pointed out all the things he saw, colors he liked, and we sang Disney songs. We arrived to an almost empty beach-in July! It was as though someone knew how much we needed the time together. I truly lived in the moment with my second born. The laughing, playing, running, and swimming was just what we both needed.

After our day together I realized he is not missing out. My guilt is internal, not with him. He feels my love and knows how much I care about him. I need to let go of my guilt and enjoy the moments with him.

Monte & Misha

By: Shannon Boatwright

Ah the love of pups. The things we do for the animals we love. It’s an interesting, exhausting, yet beautiful thing. They can make for such an enormous undertaking of responsibility, yet they can bring such joy. Those odd, hairy, stinky animals that pee, poop, poot, slobber, barf, bark and cost lots of money….yet, so many of us adore these creatures and can’t live without them. 😉

Countess Misha & Count Monte

Countess Misha & Count Monte

Our precious Monte, a cocker spaniel like no other, an incredibly special dog that seems to sense when his loved ones are down, stressed and/or need love, a dog with qualities that I’ve never seen in any other dog…is such a unique little beast. He’s named for the Count of Monte Cristo. Which means naturally, he needed a Countess. 😉

New Pals

New Pals

We promised the kids we’d get Monte a friend. The kids were worried about him being home alone, and we agreed, though the thought of taking on another animal was daunting. A dreaded event on many levels, to be honest. But, I didn’t want to be a parent that makes empty promises, so I knew it had to happen and if it was going to happen, it had to be over the summer, because there’s no way this teacher could survive getting and training a new pet during the school year.

So it happened, the hubby and I were running errands in Harbison and we decided to stop by Pawmetto Lifeline and check out their pups and program. You know, just “check it out.”

The 1st time we met our lil Misha

The 1st time we met our lil Misha

Did we adopt a puppy that day? Of course. Yea, go ahead, insert the chuckle. We took the tour and saw this one puppy in the window. The darlin’ little thing was sound asleep and wouldn’t wake up for nothin’. I felt compelled… I needed to see this particular puppy’s eyes. So we had to get someone to come let us actually meet that ‘puppy in the window.’

Happy

Happy

And, yes, that l’il German Shepherd mixed breed dog looked into our eyes and grabbed ahold of our hearts. After a little playdate in one of the Pawmetto Lifeline meet and greet rooms, we were done for.

When you attempt a Selfie with a wild pup!

When you attempt a Selfie with a wild pup!

(I must interject here that the people who work at Pawmetto Lifeline are exceptional. They truly have a passion and love for animals and it shows. We were very impressed with how thorough they are and how well they take care of the animals. Truly impressive program they have there.)

The interesting thing about our experience is that we were specifically looking for a special friend for our Monte and come to find out, the Pawmetto folks were specifically looking for a family who had an older pet, because when this baby girl was rescued on the side of the road, it wasn’t until she was with a foster family’s older pet that she felt safe, came alive and began to thrive. And most ironically, our l’il pup was featured on the news that very morning. They thought for sure we’d seen her on TV and come to adopt her. Yet we hadn’t seen a thing, not even the features of her on Facebook. We simply stopped by chance and were led to this pup! And I’d like to think for a reason. It was fate.

Misha Puppy Love

Misha Puppy Love

Then came the challenge of naming this little girl. The Hubby and I knew we had to have a cool and special name for this incredible pet. A name that could somehow match Monte’s unique name. We could tell this puppy had a spark in her eyes, something really special about her, and spunky for sure. After going through a slew of ideas, my man suggests “Misha”… it hit me… brilliant, that’s it! One of my favorite dancers EVER is Mikhail Baryshnikov. My college dorm room door was covered in pictures of him. His nickname is Misha. He used to have a perfume of the same name that will always be one of my favorites. That was it. It was decided. Our precious rescue would be named Misha…Countess Misha. A beautiful Countess for our Count.

A precious pup present...

A precious pup present…

When I was a little girl, my first puppy ever, was given to me with a bow around her neck on Christmas morning. It was a kid’s dream come true. I’ll never forget it. So it gave me great joy to be able to present my own children with our new pup (that they just knew we’d never get!) in a wrapped box with a bow around her neck. Of course they were overjoyed, shocked and thrilled that we’d followed through with our promise and had finally gotten Monte a friend. (Maybe even as much as I was!) Fortunately, they fell in love with Misha instantly. We all did. And although Monte’s world has been completely rocked, I see the joy in his precious cocker spaniel eyes when he plays with her. She’s a wild, mischievous rascal! Let’s just say, her true colors have certainly come out now that she’s in a comfortable, loving home! We’re just praying that her smart German Shepherd genes shine and she’ll train easily. One forgets how hard it is to have a puppy in their home until they’re in the midst of it!

My sweet little girls

My sweet little girls

One more special addition to my story here before I close…

We knew our Miss Misha was special and certainly a force…I seem to have a knack for choosing pets with lots of personality! But one day, my son and I were sitting on the floor playing with our crazy l’il countess and my husband, says, “Look! A heart!” Sure enough, on her little belly, a perfectly shaped heart. How in the world we’d not noticed it before, I don’t know, because she loves to lay at my side and have me rub her belly. But, it was a most lovely discovery! It’s quite brilliant actually – this puppy, our little Countess, has a heart on her tummy!

Misha's Heart! Do you see it?

Misha’s Heart! Do you see it?

Meant to be indeed. She is in a home full of love and happiness, she has a best friend now, a Count to be clear 😉 and though she is a handful (what Countess isn’t?!) we adore her and she is a fabulous addition to our family. A huge shout out and enormous Thank You to Pawmetto Lifeline. They really do fabulous things there. I am proud to be a supporter of them and so thankful that we found our Countess Misha in their care.

Here’s to Monte and Misha, may they have a long life together, full of joy and fabulous fun in a loving, happy home, surrounded by those that absolutely adore them.