Monday, March 26, 2007

After All, Trailers, Trucks, Horses and the Whole Crazy Thing (Part 2)

It has become sad but clear to me that I am simply not going to get around to writing Part 2 of Jeremiah's birthday weekend. Every time I think about blogging, I shirk the thought because there is just TOO much to tell for me to enjoy the telling of it. So, I will sum it up for you in a few dreadfully inadequate sentences: Dr. Maddox, Ashley, and I got lost at sundown (and well beyond) in the Oak Mountain Wilderness on Saturday night. Dr. Maddox began constantly reminding us that there WERE overnight trails, and it looked like we may be on one of them. "Stay Right!" he kept calling to Ashley, who was at the lead. I will say that there was one point that I became truly fearful, and that was when we decided to leave the trail and "GO RIGHT"--attempting to cross the mountain peak in the darkness, without a trail, on horses that weren't very well trained and were becoming more fearful by the minute. When we realized that our efforts were futile, we tried to go back to the trail, but finding a scantily marked, unfamiliar trail, in darkness is not easy. Dreadfully long story cut short, we did manage to emerge from the wilderness with only a few scratches, and ran into Tommy and Jeremiah who were riding up and down the roads (on bikes) calling for us. You must know that in my terror, I had consoled myself by thinking of Jeremiah, sick with worry for his dear, pregnant wife being swallowed up by the darkness. I had imagined a desperate reunion with tearful embraces. What I got was, "Glad ya'll are OK, it's getting pretty dark out here...Dinner's ready!" Maybe that's why romantics are called hopeless :)

We had the best BBQ that has ever been "smoked up" that night. Brett, who has become a master of the grill since he received an "Egg" for his birthday, made ribs that were so tender that the bones literally slid out of them. Those ribs accompanied by baked beans made with tangy sausage, sweet corn on the cob, potatoe casserole oozing with melted cheddar and bacon crumbles, and coleslaw made with mandarin oranges and pineapple tidbits (vinaigrette-base instead of mayo of course--because I despise mayo) rounded out a finger-licking good meal. We stuffed ourselves beyond recognition by adding to this feast a sand-tart crusted parfait with whipping cream an index finger thick adorning the top, and an Olexa's chocolate layered cake topped with a chocolate ganache. Don't you wish you'd been there??? Ashley does not play around when she is planning a birthday meal :)

Sunday was the end of our magical weekend, and we spent it on a glorious morning ride--moving at a brisk pace by ponds, budding dogwoods, and across mountain peaks. When we got back, Pace loved on our horses..."Kiss!" she cried as she nuzzled Pistasalie's nose. Jeremiah rode around with her, and got up to a pretty fast trot. She cried when we took her down, assuming she had had enough. It looks like Pace may be beginning a long love of, "Horsies! Horsies! NEIGH!"

Well, what I intended to be only a couple of sentences turned into a mini-blog after all. I am so thankful for a family who is willing to make the effort of loading, transporting, boarding, and making a 3 1/2 hour trip just to provide a fun outing and spend time with us! I am also thankful for a mother-in-law who is willing to spend her birthday weekend sleeping in a horse trailer and taking care of our baby because that was what it took to make the weekend run smoothly! What a blessing that weekend was.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saturday Morning

I want to finish writing about last weekend, but right now I want to tell you about our morning. The alarm went off at 5:15, and Jeremiah and I rolled out of bed to start the day. Pace's room is right off of ours and this has grown into something of a problem. It is hard to walk through a 1 1/2 year old's room (with old, creaky wooden floors) turn off the alarm system, open, and finally re-close the door without waking her up. Each morning, I perform this ritual with bated breath while Jeremiah tromps through with his loud shoes, opens the door to the kitchen (instead of the one to the guest room that is much more quiet), leaves doors open and flips on lights so that it floods into Pace's room and right into her sleeping face. THEN, even if she has somehow managed to sleep through this parade, Jeremiah has inevitably left his keys, or his phone, or his... in our room and implores me to sneak back through for him. This is our ritual, and it is about to push me over the edge. You see, I hold out this glimmer of hope each morning that TODAY will be the day that we make it through without waking her. TODAY will be the day that I can climb back into bed after Jeremiah leaves for work, pull the covers back up to my chin, and sleep the morning away in peace. But, every morning she wakes up (usually it's Jeremiah's fault :)), and I find myself biting my lip in utter disappointment.

So, today Jeremiah and I are sitting at the breakfast table (Pace didn't REALLY wake up until I had to walk back through to look for Jeremiah's keys), and I tell him that the monotony is getting to me. It's not the long hours or the nights on call as much anymore, it's just the sheer fact that there are so few days when he's truly off. Weekends fade into the week. Saturday is no longer for sleeping in and having fun; it's just another day of the week. Even on days when he doesn't technically have to work, he still has to get up early to go see his patients, and thus the Pace cycle never ends.

This morning, I decided, would be different. I was going to feel Saturday if it killed me. So, I put a sweat-suit over Pace's pajamas and threw a jacket on with mine. I called Krispy Kreme to find out where they were, and Pace and I went out for Saturday morning doughnuts. As our car pulled up in front of that big glass window, I began to search frantically for the "Hot Now" sign. There it was, glowing in its ruby red glory, waiting for us to come inside and take in the sweet smell of freshly baked and glazed doughnuts. Pace had caught onto my excitement (possibly because the whole drive over I kept grinning at her in the back seat and saying, "Doughnuts! UMMM they're going to be SO good.") and could hardly wait for me to get her out of her carseat.

We walked in to find a big black woman (BBW) taking orders behind the counter. I hope this doesn't sound horribly prejudiced, but I love to see a BBW serving breakfast. There is something about the way they look, that tells me not only do they know how to make a good doughnut, but so did their Mama, and their Grandmama. Something about their knowing smile says, "Don't worry baby, I didn't scrimp on butter, or sugar, or cream, or anything else yore mama says is bad for you." With a BBW behind the counter, I knew my breakfast was going to be top notch. When this sweet lady started loving on Pace, the deal was sealed! So, I ordered half a dozen--4 glazed and 2 chocolate covered--and Pace and I headed straight for the little table in the corner, by the window, so that those "Hot Now" doughnuts wouldn't lose any more of their warmth than absolutely necessary.

I sat Pace in my lap and she looked curiously at me, not knowing what all this excitement could possibly be about. What were we about to eat, that brought us out of the house, in our pajamas no less, first thing in the morning. It didn't take her long to figure it out. As I pinched off that first warm, sugar-coated bite and placed it in her mouth, a blank stare came over her face. I was disappointed, "Is it possible that MY child could not like doughnuts???" But then, slowly, a little smile began to edge up the corners of her mouth, and with all teeth showing she declared, "Dodo," and lunged her hand towards the box. We ate, and we ate, and we quenched our thirst with rich whole milk. We are ladies, and I am not going to tell you how many of those "Dodos" we ate, but we made our fair mark upon Krispy Kreme this morning. As we drove home, Pace chanted, "Dodo, Gall Gone!" from the back seat, as I smiled happily and FELT Saturday morning.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Trailers, Trucks, Horses and the Whole Crazy Thing (Part 1)

I have learned that the number of days that I blog during any given week is directly proportional to the number of days that Jeremiah is on call. He was not on call AT ALL last week, and therefore, I never managed to find the time to sit down and write. Even though he is still working on those days that he isn't on call, it always seems like there is so much more that I need to be doing so I can have it done before he gets home. I have a much more laid back, "take some time to do what I want to do" attitude on days when I know he isn't coming home. Anyway, enough excuses.

We had an INCREDIBLE time this past weekend. It was Jeremiah's and Mrs. Maddox's birthday, and Dr. and Mrs. Maddox, Tommy, Alex, and seven horses came up to Birmingham for a visit. I have learned to not get my heart set on any kind of agenda when there are Maddox family festivities at hand. Just as soon as you think you have a definite plan, a wheel is going to fall off somewhere that will alter the state of everything you had in mind. When you cook, you prepare for the 5-thousand (because it's very possible they might all show up), but be willing to to have lots of left-overs (because NOBODY may show up at all). There will undoubtedly be WAY more "planned" for the day than could ever be accomplished, but you get to what you can and you know that you will always be running late to the next event. However chaotic this may sound (and let me tell you it was very hard on my type-A personality at first), we always have a great time. Maybe it's because, on the whole, everybody keeps a positive attitude. Maybe it's because we all enjoy each other's company enough that it doesn't really matter what we are actually doing. Or maybe I am just learning that chaos can be fun, but no matter what the source, this weekend was awesome.

It started with a wheel falling off. The cavalry was supposed to roll into Oak Mountain on Friday night, but due to many extraneous circumstances, they called to say they wouldn't be leaving until the next morning. Tommy, however, did make the trek and Jeremiah, me, Brett, Ashley, Tommy, and Pace had a low-key dinner of Upside-down pizza, corn, salad, and cookies at our house (with plenty of left-overs), followed by a really terrible Oscar-winning movie.

The next morning, the poor cavalry rolled out of bed in Dothan at 4am so they could have a full day with us despite their late departure. I had a type-A standoff with myself about where and how Pace was going to take her 11 o'clock nap, but I finally appeased myself by putting her down a little early and waking her up a little early. Then the girls (Mrs. Maddox, Ashley, Alex, Pace, and me) went for a ladies luncheon, a perusal of the shops in Homewood, and finally a birthday present surprise for Mrs. Maddox at SAKS. We wanted to buy her some perfume, but we wanted her to help us pick it out. A scent, you know, is such a personal thing that you hate to push your ideas on someone else.

By this time, we are approaching 3 o'clock and decide it is time to check in with the boys. They were just finishing up a LONG horseback ride, so we (all of us except Ashley the work-horse who went to gather all of our pre-prepared cook-out items) went to meet them at Oak Mountain. There is something so inviting about the site of a camping trailer, with its canvas awning rolled out in greeting, with hay bails snuggled in a semi-circle for conversation, and with a grill billowing with smoke for an evening feast. As we pulled up, Pace began a chant of "Horsey, horsey, horsey..." followed by an occasional "Neigh!" that lasted the rest of the weekend. She was so excited to be outside, the center of attention, and around horses, that I hardly saw her the rest of the weekend.

Tommy, Alex, and I decided to take the young guys (the less experienced horses) on a mini-adventure. It is so frustrating and sweet at the same time to watch a young horse, anxious to please her rider, but terrified to cross a mud puddle or a log. I was on my favorite horse, little Hope, and she was the most experienced of the three. Unfortunately she is not a born leader. We needed Hope demonstrate to Windows and Curly (the other two horses) the ease of these seemingly scary tasks, but she kept looking over her shoulder, questioning why nobody else was willing to move forward. We were also anxious to pick up our pace and see the horses do a bit of galloping. Again, Hope was looked to as our leader, but she truly loves to enjoy the scenery. "Why would I want to go fast, and miss out on all these pretty trees?" she seemed to ask me. So, our ride was not grandiose, but it was fun. It felt marvelous just to be out in the beautiful Spring weather. It was gratifying to know we were helping the young guys become more experienced carriers, and it was hilarious to see how much trouble we went through to get from A to B.

There's a lot more to tell, but it looks like this, like many of my weekend stories is going to have to be a two-parter.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Anticipating Spring

Since I have been a stay at home mom, I have had more time to notice things like the seasons. When I was working I, A) Normally left home before daybreak for my hour-long drive to Wilsonville B) Worked in a cubicle in an office building with no windows and C) Was able to see the weather on my drive home, but I was usually so pre-occupied with 280 afternoon traffic that I didn't notice. So, now that I have a little girl who lives to be in the fresh air, I find myself the happy recipient of everyday weather. With each new season, I have found something to delight in. This "in-between winter and spring" season I thought would surely be different. What is there to delight in about this gray, sluggish time of year? Usually I wish this time away, anxious to feel sunlight's warmth on my skin and to see buds timidly opening their blooms (even 280 traffic can't keep a person from noticing those first majestic days when spring arrives).

Here we are, in season limbo, and I am loving it! I can almost feel the anticipation of the trees. They look dead and dormant, but the energy within is contagious....They're getting ready for their biggest production of the year, and the only hints they are giving are their velvet covered buds. Then there are the plants, that grow from bulbs, that show their glory at this time of year. I have already bragged on the daffodils, but I saw some very sweet Lilly of the Valley, with their graceful white bonnets, bowing humbly to the ground. If I were a gardener, I am sure I could name several more of the showy flowers, but I am not a gardener, so here my ability is limited. Finally, there is the spontaneity of the weather itself. One day, Pace and I are bundled up in sweaters and stockings (Pace in the stockings, not me. I know some of you are worried I've morphed into Little House on the Prairie), the next I am stripping her clothes off so that she can play in the sun and the mud. One evening we huddle together in front of the fire and the next we leave the door open so the breezes can blow through. The change itself is invigorating.

So, I challenge you to pick your least favorite time of year (this was mine) and look for the beauty in it. God left no season without her own special charms!

All the ground was covered with grass of wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rose bushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees. There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at teach other at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselves. There were neither leaves nor roses on them now and Mary did not know whether they were dead or alive, but their thin gray or brown branches and sprays looked like a sort of hazy mantle spreading over everything,...

It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious....

"How still it is!" she whispered. "How still!"... "Will there be roses?" she whispered. "Can you tell? I thought perhaps they were all dead. "

"Eh! No! Not them--not all of 'em!" he answered. "Look here!"
He stepped over to the nearest tree--and old, old one with gray lichen all over its bark, but upholding a curtain of tangled sprays and branches. He took a thick knife out of his pocket and opened one of its blades.

"There's lots 'o dead wood as ought to be cut out," he said. "An' there's a lot 'o old wood, but it made some new last year. This here's a new bit," and he touched a shoot which looked brownish green instead of hard, dry gray.

Mary touched it herself in an eager, reverent way.

"That one?" she said. "Is that one quite alive--quite?"

Dickon curved his wide smiling mouth.

"It's as wick as you or me," he said; and Mary remembered that Martha had told her that "wick" meant "alive" or "lively."

The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett

Friday, March 2, 2007

Must He Keep Teaching Me the Same Lesson?

I woke up this morning, and it was business as usual. I made Jeremiah's breakfast, he left, and I sat down at our breakfast table to do my devotion. Pace was in her highchair beside me, eating a piece of cinnamon toast, and I found my eyes wandering out the window. There, a gigantic tree stands in a neighbors yard, its trunk and branches laden with deep green ivy. The sky radiated a bright blue, with lazy brush strokes of white, and the sun crept up the base of the tree, casting a golden glow through the branches and ivy. Such a beautiful morning, and standing in such stark contrast to the devastation of yesterday. What happened? How can we comprehend a God who demonstrates His mighty power through deadly winds, pelting rain, and frightful lightning one day but then demonstrates his serene beauty the very next morning. The answer is that we can't comprehend Him.

I tore my eyes away from that glowing tree out my window and prayed that God would give me wisdom about the deaths of those eight children in Enterprise yesterday. I wanted a word on why there are mothers still lying awake in bed this morning, praying that they could transport themselves back to yesterday morning, praying they had clung to their children and never allowed them to leave for school. Praying that they could wipe the image of their child being crushed to death by a brick wall, as they huddled in fear of a storm that would answer to His slightest whisper. Why?

I read today's lesson in Streams in the Dessert. It was a great lesson on giving the Lord your first moments of the day, but still He gave me no wisdom about yesterday. Then, I read my chapter in 1 Corinthians. It was Paul's famous lesson on running our Christian race, with the same sort of discipline and devotion as an athlete training for the Olympics. Thanks God, that's a nice reminder, but I am asking for wisdom. Don't you always promise to provide wisdom if we ask for it? I was about to start doing the pray, open to a random passage and read technique, when Pace got fussy enough that she could no longer be ignored. It was time for her bottle, "Milk, milk!" she cried.

So, I scooped her up, slightly frustrated, and went back to our bedroom for our little prayer ritual. As I climbed back into bed with her and handed her her bottle, I knew the Lord had been waiting for me there. We need to talk, he was whispering. I have different ways to speak, besides my written word, remember. As I went through my normal prayers, I started praying for the families of those children in Enterprise. I let myself realize that they were more than just a number, 8 children killed. Those 8 children have names, families, and lives that they left behind. Then, God finally gave me the wisdom I had been seeking all morning. Instead of a new revelation, it was an old truth. The same old truth He has been teaching me through all this mess with Mom. The truth of His Sovereignty. Yes, He is in control. Yes, He did allow that storm to take the lives of eight children, but He still hurts with those families just like He hurts with ours. He still doesn't owe us an explanation but requires us to have faith in His ultimate goodness. Maybe there will be a spiritual awakening in Enterprise because of these deaths, and countless numbers will come to know Him through their questioning. Maybe, only one person, affected by losing their friend, will come to know Jesus. We can speculate, but all we really know is that His greater good and purpose will be served through this tragedy. In the meantime, all we can do is keep going to Him for the answers and rest in His sovereignty.