We recently threw a rather elaborate birthday party for our youngest in the Enchanted Play Yard. I was inspired, since “everyone is mad here” to plan an Alice in Wonderland event to honor our little eight year old. Believe it or not, we don’t do many big parties, with a family as large as ours there would be one every week in the spring.
For inspiration I went to Pinterest. If you haven’t discovered this wonderful place, you are missing out on the most creative, idea-filled “imagazine” imaginable. It’s like having the creative minds of thousands of people open for public view, just type in a topic and be amazed.
After making a list of fun items I would need for the party, I headed downtown to my favorite little whatnot store, “Gatherings.”
My friends Judy Robinson and Paula Roberts have a collectors paradise down on the corner of Railroad Avenue. They are tucked away at the end of the street that now houses some of the best restaurants in a hundred mile radius. If the smell of all that delicious food doesn’t draw you to Railroad these days you haven’t been riding with your windows down.
“Gatherings” is like falling through the Rabbit’s Hole itself. The girls have done a beautiful job displaying anything you might want to uniquely decorate your home. I was looking for teapots on my birthday party search and they certainly didn’t disappoint. I always have to walk through the store several times to feel like I’ve seen everything. I found exactly what I wanted at prices too good to pass up. I had my little birthday girl with me, she immediately found a tiny teapot she wanted. After Paula wrapped all the treasures and I paid her, we headed for the car. It was then I spied the perfect little teapot cake topper in the window — I had to have it too! It became the centerpiece for the whole party.
That evening I shared on Facebook about the cute little shop at the end of Railroad and was shocked at the responses I got from people who didn’t know anything about this jewel in our town.
“Gatherings” is pretty much what the name suggests. Judy and Paula are gatherers, I suppose they are like “Pickers” Frank and Mike, if you are familiar with that show on the History Channel. They find unique items along the way and sell them in their store. This is not a junk shop or a thrift store, it is more a boutique at bargain prices, and I do mean bargain. I have seen the same items in other specialty shops at twice the ticket price, sometimes more.
“Gatherings” is a labor of love for two hometown girls who just want to share their excitement for finding fun and interesting items. I never go in and come out empty handed. My home has countless “Gatherings” touches all over. If I ever need inspiration I know where to go. Pinterest may be a great starting point but Paula and Judy are far more entertaining and they give encouragement and hugs.
Go visit, tell them Angie sent you.
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. I second that. I have the honor of attending the 2013 World Orphan Summit in Nashville this week. In order to do this I have enlisted the help of five child care providers.
I suppose this could be viewed as a bit of overkill considering I am only leaving three children for three days, but my girls are very busy and can be a handful for any one person so I figured having back ups would be a good idea.
I am blessed to have people who genuinely care about my children and the important work of orphan care in our country.
I really don’t have any preconceived notions about the conference. My daughter and her husband attended last year and came home insisting we go this year. I know this meeting of like minded folks has made a huge difference in the lives of many orphaned children in the world. I know there are dozens of organizations that pour their hearts into making the Summit happen. But, beyond that, I really don’t know what to expect.
I have always had a heart for homeless children. As a young child I felt compelled to cut a picture of a little Asian girl out of a magazine and put it on my bulletin board. I had a sense that God was telling me something about that face peering out from under a straw hat.
I sensed even as a 10 or 11-year-old that I would mother a child like that. My husband and I applied to adopt from China in 1998, but were turned down because at that time the Chinese government would not place children in families with more than three children. We had four.
Although we were disappointed, we knew there was another plan in the making. A little over 10 years later, we became foster parents in Lee County and ended up adopting our three youngest daughters. We have provided homes for these, but there are so many more.
The recent screening of the film “Stuck” has touched a nerve among the families in our area whose hearts are drawn to the plight of the orphan. There are thousands of children in orphanages and foster homes all over the world that are stuck in the systems of governments that won’t allow them to be moved to permanent placements. Somehow, they are just not at the top of governments’ lists of priorities. With all the politics, war, oil, economics and battling about who should and who should not have guns in the news, children who are institutionalized and abandoned perhaps don’t draw the audience that pays the bills.
I wonder what would happen if suddenly all the attention (and money) that has gone to the trials of Jodi Arias and Casey Anthony was focused on children who are in need of a family. The media has the power, if only.
We have to wake up and realize that we can make a difference. The task is daunting but it must not be ignored. There are thousands of families who are ready to take these children. If you are not one of them at least seek ways to help.
Be the village.
It is my understanding that Governor Bentley signed a piece of legislation into law this week that will help children in foster care. The “Best Interest of the Child Bill” was presented as a result of children in Alabama lingering too long in foster care.
Many of these children spend three or more years waiting for the opportunity to be adopted by families who already love them and want to be their permanent placements. I am relieved to see this important piece of legislation become law. But, I still have some questions.
As many of you know we adopted three children out of foster care in 2009. Did you know that our children were in foster care four years before they were allowed to become adopted? We got them after they had been in foster care about a year. We fostered them for three more years waiting for the courts to terminate parental rights (TPR). We were fortunate to have the children in our home for most of their lives prior to the adoption. Let me say that I am not intentionally being insensitive to the feelings of birth parents. But, please know that every opportunity was given in hopes they would get their children back. When lack of interest on their part became quite clear, we plowed forward through the tough, sometimes gut wrenching process of TPR and adoption. I remember yelling on the phone when yet another appeal was filed on behalf of the birth parents, “When do these kids get a break?!!!”
May I remind you that it is almost never the behavior of the child that lands them in foster care. This is a grown up problem, a self problem, a drug problem, a “got to have a man in my life” problem. So often mothers put the safety of their children in the back seat and let some low life drive them into a ditch.
There are as many excuses as there are people. But for every one of those excuses there is a child who desperately wants to belong somewhere.
So, with this new law ... Will the appeals process be shortened? Whenever a parent’s rights are terminated they are given the opportunity to appeal, several times, without putting forth any evidence of change on their part and without expense.
Last time I heard there were three possibilities for appeal. This adds months if not years to the time a child spends in foster care. If a birth parent has not made any effort to change the situation that landed their child in the system, why do they get an appeal?
I could not find any information on how this new law would handle the appeals process. I do not mean to sound negative, I am truly glad that Alabama is stepping up and doing something to move us from 23rd in the country in foster care/adoption statistics.
Will the best interest of the child really be moving them into forever homes quickly so that attachments can be formed and they have a chance at a stable life with a bright future? The first few years are crucial. Let the families who are willing to adopt and nurture these kids into adulthood have their chance.
That is the best anyone could do for a child.
Friend and pastor, Rick Hagans stepped up to the microphone at the memorial service and cleared his throat. “We are here to celebrate the life and home going of an unusual man.”
Sherman Hamblen, originally from Texas passed away last week after years of suffering. Most did not know he was sick because he never let on to “us common folk.” He was a mystery, an oddity maybe, but definitely one of a kind.
I met Sherman in the nineties when I had his two daughters in kids’ choir. Getting little girls ready for school or church is a feat for most moms, Sherman handled this like a champ. Most of the time his two daughters (and baby son) were early to services and choir practices . As daddies go, I would say he was one of the best, and his children back me up on that.
Sherman was a Bible scholar. He always had questions to spring on other preachers and loved a good Old Testament discussion. It was shared at the memorial that for a long period of time he worked and lived with the men at His Place, trading his teaching skills and compassionate heart for room and board.
I knew all this about Sherman going in to the memorial. What shocked me was finding that he was a highly decorated soldier. He had served in Vietnam and was primarily credited for saving his platoon in 1970.
There was a letter from the US Army describing the events of that day. Sherman was wounded twice while rescuing his brothers in battle. He received two Purple Hearts and the Silver Star for his heroism. Sherman never mentioned this to any of us.
As men lined up to speak a few words to honor Sherman’s life it began to sink in. We had all been in the presence of greatness when he was around. Although he may not have looked or acted like a hero, he was indeed.
I have heard so many people say that war destroys people. I cannot imagine the trauma nor do I want to. It’s hard to read about the things that our young boys had to endure in Vietnam. Sherman was not destroyed. He latched on to the one thing that prevents destruction, his God. It was his faith that got him through hard spots; his Jesus calmed the fears. It wasn’t that Sherman didn’t want to talk about the good he had done, he was just too busy talking about how good God is.
The last few years of Sherman’s life were painful, but he never complained. He adored his children and grandchildren. He spent 10 months in the VA hospital. Many who visited him to comfort and console ended up being comforted and consoled themselves. He never lost his passion for scripture and telling the “good news.” He even asked one of the pastors who would participate in his memorial to present the Gospel message at the event. Even in death Sherman was a selfless hero.
It was an honor to have known him.
I read a blog the other day about the doldrums. I felt a bit like the writer knew me personally. She touched on all the insecurities in my life as if they were her own. We all have them, so I suppose I could just be a bit closer to normal than I originally thought.
I have seven kids, four I got the old fashioned way and three we added by adoption. The two oldest are grown (thank God!) the next two think they are, but we have bills that come in the mail every month that prove them otherwise. In my world, you are not an adult until you pay for your own cell phone and insurance. The last three are going to kill me.
I am a failure as a parent because my second grader doesn’t get adequate minutes of reading every night. She is a champ with money and telling time but since I cannot physically sit down with her for an hour or so each night she has fallen behind in reading. I am a writer! I love to read! My second grader would rather bathe the cat or count toothpicks than sit down and read. She has been taught that speed is the important thing (not by me) and she reads like we are late for a fire, just one long unending chain of words that gets the job done and whew! It’s over! This has sent us all into the dumps.
The other day I walked around my house wearing one shoe ... I’m not even sure why or how long I did this. I was trying to get ready to go to my paying job and got distracted. The next thing I knew I was looking at one sock and one shoe and one naked foot.
I think the sheer gravity of a large family is wearing me down. I have so many things to think about. I wonder if my middle schooler is being made fun of due to her quirky taste in clothes, her unwashed hair or anything else that might be bully bait. She just doesn’t seem to “get it.” I’m not sure that many sixth graders “get” much of what’s floating around out there but I especially worry about her, that’s my job. I worry that my fourth grader has issues she’s not telling me about. She is very sensitive and sometimes those dark eyes hide things. I worry that my husband doesn’t have clean socks and I seem to keep losing towels and silverware (and lists and mail and notes to myself).
I just blame the doldrums. Nothing is unusually wrong, but then, nothing is great either. I know I am not a total failure but the word insufficient keeps popping up in my head.. I have wonderful support from church and friends but they can’t back me up when I know I’m falling short. All the “atta girls” in the world can’t make up for a second grade reading disaster.
I know the answer lies in counting my blessings (which are many) and getting life in balance. Maybe I’ll start with a little second grade reading.
There is nothing quite like the first signs of spring to make you feel happy and alive. Poets have written it’s praises, we have festivals and celebrations in its honor, even nature can’t hold back its excitement.
I am listening to some very busy birds chatting it up from my front porch. I would love to know what they are talking about; it certainly sounds cheerful. Even my cat and dog are playing together as if they get along all the time.
Funny how here in the South we never know just when to expect spring’s arrival. Some days in the winter we see glimpses into summer, we don’t usually get snow until late winter, sometimes just before the calendar declares its end. Our weather is never so harsh that we have to wear heavy jackets continuously. I remember February afternoons when short sleeves were comfortable. Yet, we look to spring with the same enthusiasm as those who have chosen (or are less fortunate) to live in colder climates.
I think there is something for everybody when spring time rolls around. At the circus, we have been doing some much needed yard work, and in the evenings building tiny fires in our chiminea. I have begun to smell grills around the neighborhood and have noticed runners and walkers taking advantage of the good moving weather.
I remember as a child, my grandmother sitting on her porch in the sun any time the weather permitted. I believe this was one of the reasons she lived 90 years. She would watch everything that went on over on Vernon Avenue. She seemed to enjoy the kids romping through her yard and always had stories about her youth for those of us who would be still and listen. Spring was her favorite time of year; in fact, she liked to remind us that her birthday was the first day of spring and for that she claimed playful responsibility for it’s existence.
We live in a beautiful community. We are blessed with places to get out and enjoy nature; we can all benefit from fresh air and sunshine (filtered of course by sunscreen). Before we know it the heat drives us into air conditioning.
This year I will think before I complain. I will even try my best not to fuss about pollen. Maybe spring will stick around a while.
I hear there is a festival this weekend in the “Monkey Park” celebrating the arrival of spring. It’s called “Garden in the Park.” I always enjoy seeing what my friends have been putting together for this event. It’s not your average arts and crafts festival.
If you are looking for a way to serve your neighbors, “My Jerusalem” is going on Saturday as well; this is an awesome opportunity to get out and help those in our community who are truly in need of a hand. Register at Greater Peace Church, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. You can find out more at: theway2serve.org
No matter what you are doing this weekend, enjoy the warm weather and beauty all around us. Sit on the porch like my grandmama or get out and help someone else. Spring is here. Let’s celebrate!
I have thoroughly enjoyed the Bible mini-series these past few weeks. If you are not aware of the Sunday evening History Channel phenomenon, you must not have TV, or get out much. It is the heart work of Roma Downey (Touched By an Angel) and her husband, Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor and Celebrity Apprentice).
Although I have not seen every episode, I have been impressed by the ones I have. The cast of characters are believable and completely satisfy my imagination. And, although they have to move rather quickly and leave out quite a lot, the major Old Testament stories are presented with care and reasonable accuracy.
Of course, where you have millions of eyes fixed on Sunday nights, you are going to have controversy. I had to turn a news program off and avoid Facebook when the media and others started blowing up over who Satan looked like. I personally don’t think the producers were in on this, but people have to make something out of nothing. I like to make something out of the awesome job they have done with the overall project.
I have been moved to tears at several points, cheered for David when he conked that big mouth giant in the head with a rock, squealed like a kid over the “Ninja Angels” and had my heart broken when Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector to be his disciple. I also got choked up when the adulteress woman was called out and Jesus picked up a stone and offered it to anyone sinless. Of course, they all walked away and Jesus knelt down, kissed the woman’s forehead and told her to “go and sin no more.” Ah, my hero!
I have to say, I sort of dread this week’s episode. It is hard to comprehend. I get squeamish and indignant at the same time when the mock trial and crucifixion are portrayed. I have an incredibly hard time as a mother watching the interaction between Jesus and Mary. I want to scream, I nearly bit my hand off during the “Passion of the Christ” movie. Although as a Christian I know it was all part of the plan, it hurts to know it really happened. God gave his son for people who denied and hated him. I couldn’t give my son for anyone.
I hope they do a good job with the resurrection. I always look forward to that. I am especially appreciative that Jesus appeared to a woman first after he rose from the dead. It could have been anyone, but the fact that he wanted to comfort the grieving Mary Magdalene just makes me feel validated all the more.
Watching the miniseries has made me do some additional reading, which is surely what the producers had in mind. During this Holy Week I have been inspired to read the words Jesus spoke. My Bible still has them in red letters. They are beautiful and convicting, proving once again that the movie may be great, but the book is always better.
I have some peculiar friends.
I was talking to a group of them the other night and the topic of irrational fears came up. One of my friends has a fear of buttons. I did a little research and discovered this is not so unusual. It has a name, Koumponophobia, the fear of buttons. I can’t imagine life without buttons! It would be almost like life without thumbs. Although I’m fairly certain I swallowed a button as a child and had someone turn me upside down and beat it out of me, I love buttons.
Another friend has a fear of standing water. Not large amounts like on a road or under a bridge but water in a dishpan or bathtub. Her logic is water is fluid and should be moving. Showers are good, bathtubs with water, not so much.
I know other people with irrational fears that are more common and understandable. I know grown men who squeal like little girls at the sight of spiders, even the harmless kind and I’ll admit I scream at the sight of any snake regardless of it’s stripes, but buttons? Really? What can a button do to you?
I remember when I was very young my cousins decapitated a doll. I was not only horrified at the very act but it scared me to near death. I think the doll was the hard plastic kind but it seems it had some kind of odd stuffing that just terrified me. I don’t think I have brought that fear into adulthood but then again, we take pretty good care of the dolls in this house.
I was also afraid of lizards but having little boys pretty much got me out of that. Once you’ve fished one or two out of the washing machine it’s over, besides, have you ever really looked into the face of a cameleon? They look like they are smiling and heck, who can resist that little gecko on the insurance commercials? One of my older children professed a fear of large hair. We thought that was pretty funny. I have come to realize there is also a fear of beards, its called pogonophobia.
I decided to look up irrational fears online. I was surprised at the extensive list of fears and phobias. Some are understandable and some are downright unbelievable. Here are a few that made me laugh out loud. Please forgive me if you suffer from any of these.
Metrophobia is the fear of poetry. Siderophobia is the fear of stars. Odontophobia is the fear of teeth and novercaphobia is the fear of one’s mother-in-law. Rhytiphobia is the fear of getting wrinkles and pantophobia is the fear of EVERYTHING!
After reading all these my friends don’t seem so peculiar after all. Just keep the buttons covered, the water moving and don’t put me in any rooms with headless dolls.
Realization might come the day your dog needs help to get into the car, or when he can’t get up the stairs or slips in the kitchen. You might realize it when your former retrieving fool sadly watches his ball sail to the far end of the field and lies down instead of chasing it. Canine arthritis can sneak up on you, but when it arrives, it can greatly impact your dog’s life if left untreated.
Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD), is a painful, progressively destructive and debilitating disorder. Initially, damage to the joint cartilage reduces its ability to cushion and causes the death of cartilage-producing cells. This starts a cycle of continuing damage, impairment and increasing pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. is affected, and arthritis is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. It typically happens due to abnormal stress on the joints, physical abnormalities, injuries, age-related wear on the joints, developmental disorders or congenital problems such as hip or elbow dysplasia.
The sooner you realize something is wrong with your furry friend, the sooner you’ll be able to develop a plan to keep him pain free, so recognize the warning signs of DJD. These include favoring a limb; difficulty sitting or standing; sleeping more; stiffness or soreness; hesitancy to run, jump or climb stairs; difficulty getting onto furniture or into the car; weight gain; decreased activity or interest in play; attitude or behavior changes or overall being less alert.
If your dog seems to have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, take him to your veterinarian for an evaluation. Your vet will give him a physical exam and possibly do some x-rays. Don’t assume that because your dog is a puppy he can’t be impacted by DJD. Even if he doesn’t have arthritis, similar conditions could be affecting him. My rescued lab Molly was diagnosed with hip and elbow dysplasia at just 4 months of age.
If your dog is diagnosed with DJD, you and your vet need to work together to develop an effective treatment plan. Often, you’ll need to incorporate several different treatment tactics.
Diet and exercise are critical elements in helping your arthritic dog. Dogs suffering from DJD should be kept on the trim side. A few extra pounds can greatly increase the stress on your dog’s joints and make him much less comfortable. Daily exercise in the form of walking or, if possible, swimming, helps your dog maintain muscle mass and flexibility, and can help keep your dog at the proper weight. You can also allow your dog to perform his favorite activities, but monitor how much he’s doing. My sweet Gemma loved to retrieve until her last days, despite the arthritis in her back. We allowed her short daily sessions of chasing her bumper or ball, but we didn’t throw it far and stopped after two or three tosses.
Gentle massage or manipulation of sore joints and their surrounding muscles can make your dog more comfortable and flexible. Ask your vet or canine massage therapist to show you what to do. While there is no clinical evidence to prove it will help, anecdotal reports say acupuncture may be beneficial.
Take steps to make life easier for your dog. If you have uncarpeted floors, put down area rugs to give your dog a stable walking surface. Build or buy ramps to help your dog up staircases, onto furniture and into the car, and provide loving physical assistance when needed. Make sure there are plenty of dog beds around as well, so your pal always has a soft place to sleep.
Consider using over-the-counter supplements. Pills or foods containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, green-lipped mussel powder and MSM have all been shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs. Be aware that they can take weeks to months to work however, and sometimes they don’t work at all.
Your vet may prescribe medication for your dog, such as NSAIDs or Corticosteroids, that can be used alone or in conjunction with supplements. Talk with your vet to be sure you understand the side effects that may occur from drug usage, and make a knowledgeable decision for your dog. Surgery may also be indicated for some conditions
With your help, your dog can live happily and comfortably after a DJD diagnosis. He’s counting on you to take care of him, so don’t let him down.
I was sitting across the table from a delightful, fresh faced, twenty-something in an upbeat local restaurant the other day. I had invited her to lunch to pick her brain. Ages have passed since I was in her shoes, I wanted a view into her world. For a moment, I felt like I was talking to a much younger version of myself. The honest, comfortable conversation with my friend spurred me to write this, to both of us.
Some of what I’ve learned so far.
Enjoy where you are. You are young once. You aren’t suppose to know everything and you haven’t had time to conquer the world. That can come later, or you may choose not to worry with it. Still, just be 25 or 30, ask pertinent questions and don’t worry about looking dumb.
Don’t listen to negative people. No matter what you are doing, there will always be someone who wants to cut you down to size. You have to live your convictions, let God be your judge.
Be yourself. I have such a hard time with people who feel they have to look a certain way, dress a certain way and do certain things to “fit in.” This is even rampant in churches. Why do we all have to have a particular style? Fads are ridiculous. I see this all the time from young mothers who want their child to wear something exactly like some other mother’s kid.
I have only recently started letting my youngest sort her own socks. If she wants to wear a blue one and a green one, so be it. They are her feet and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter to me one bit if they match. I have even almost given into her taste in clothing. She wears some pretty crazy stuff, but she is an individual and as long as she is clean, warm and covered I try to let it go. It’s a pity I had to live this long to come to this conclusion. Still, there are kids who are getting ulcers due to their mothers stressing over their clothes! I had to learn it’s more important to instill a sense of self in my child than make sure she has the cookie cutter bow and a trendy haircut.
Talk it out. It is vital to seek friendships with other women. I would not have made it all these years without my sister/friends. It is so refreshing and life giving to laugh with another woman about the realities of day to day. There are things we can get off our chests that our husbands don’t need to hear. I heard once a good rule of thumb is to make sure you have one girlfriend who is 10-15 years older and one 10-15 years younger with whom you can share the monumental and the mundane. I have been blessed with several of these.
Remember that “this too shall pass.” When all our lives are wrapped up in laundry, cooking, cleaning and forever driving people here and there, it’s easy to feel like things will never change. It is only when you pack up a kid for college or to start a new adventure that you realize those years went by so fast.