Is it Really Only Day 2?

Is it really only Day 2 of this madness?  Was it really only 2 days ago my company sent me home to telework?  Seems like a lifetime…..

Home with 2 teenage grandchildren thrilled to be set free from school.

Food I thought would last over a week is gone – gone on Day 1.

On Day 1, I hopped out bed super, super early to get my day started.  Before jumping on my computer for work, I made ham & grilled cheese sandwiches for all.  Of course, by the time the teenagers woke it was brunch, and the sandwiches were hard and cold.  Didn’t faze them a bit.  Not long after, their dad made them lunch and they wolfed that down.

I was so in tune with my work, I did not cock my head ever so slightly to the right to notice the pile of dishes growing in the kitchen.  By the time I turned off my computer and glanced around, I almost fell out of my chair.

I started cleaning and making a simple supper of salad & blackened chicken.  I did not finish until 7:30 p.m.  What da heck?  I am usually finished much quicker than this, even working outside of the home.

I vow the next day I will be better.

Close to 8 p.m., the son and grandkids go for a drive to get out of the house.  I happily lock myself in my room to watch This is Us.  I’m all comfy about ½ hour in when I am suddenly plunged into darkness.  We lost power caused by a wreck down the street.  So much for that.

Almost two hours later while we were still without power, the son and the kids entertain themselves by holding up the flashlight and making shadow figures with their hands.  I am not amused.  My grandson said this is what the future looks like.  So I do something most unbecoming of a grandmother.  I walk up to the flashlight and project half of a peace symbol onto the ceiling.  That’s what I think about that kind of future!

Day 2 – up super early again, and start with a simple bowl of yogurt, fruit and granola.  By 8:30, the dog finally wakes up.  He is not a morning person – at all.  Much later, the grands wake up and rummage through the kitchen like raccoons in a trash can.  By late lunch, my son is making chili cheese fries.  He thinks he is frying too many potatoes.  Ha!  The son did not eat any because he had to head to work.  I ate a small plate.  Not a potato was left 10 minutes later.

The afternoon scourging continued.

When at work, I park farthest away from my building to get extra steps.  I walk on my 10 minute breaks.  I walk to the farthest bathroom.  I walk to the farthest water fountain.  I walk at lunch.  I sometimes leave work with 8,000 steps.

My co-worker and I vowed to take our 10 minute breaks and walk in the fresh air of our yards.  Didn’t happen – at least not for me.  At 3:30 I look at my FitBit – 975 steps.

I vow the next day I will do better.

I did not……

Fast forward to day – well, I don’t even know what day it is of this social distancing.  Time is inconsequential right now.  We are adjusting to our new normal in our household.  I am getting a little better at my steps.  I love jumping out of bed and being ‘at work’ in one minute.  The commute is great!  Some lazy days, I work in my PJs – and make sure to put a piece of paper over my laptop camera for live meetings.

The son and I realized we were caught in this ‘stay at home’ mode so unprepared.  Years ago, here at Spooky Hollow Southern MS, we always said we were semi-prepared for an apocalypse.  Semi-prepared meaning we were only prolonging our misery and death.  We had chickens.  We had a big vegetable garden.  All of us are “marksmen” and ready to hunt.  Over time, we got rid of the chickens, and have not gardened in a few years.

With me moving back home last year, my son and I intended to revive the garden on a smaller scale.  We debated chickens, but decided against them.  We intended to slowly revamp the garden during the winter if it was mild.  The winter was mild alright, but wet.  There was no tilling rows until the soil dried.  Also, my son was in a deep depression.  There was no tilling him until the depression dried out.

The weather warmed, the soil was drying and COVID-19 made a vicious appearance.  Our lives were rocked.  We never expected to see a time where there was a food/toilet paper shortage.  Watching the gluttony on TV propelled my son out of his depression and into movement.  Having teenagers, I believe he panicked for a moment worrying about feeding them for the long term.

We shifted into high gear and did about a month’s worth of outside work in one weekend.  I decided to get a few baby chicks.  I said we were getting six chicks and that was it.  So I now have 8 chicks and 5 ducks……

None of this will help out in this current crisis, but we will be a little better prepared for the next…if there is a next….I hope there isn’t a next……

Titus 2:12

Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…

My grandson said he wants to return to pre-Coronavirus days.

I hear you child.

I want to return to days of common sense.  If you cannot bring your family to church for fear of spreading the virus, why bring the entire gang to Wal Mart?

I want to return to days of morals where morons don’t lick the ice cream in the freezer section of the grocery store, put it back, while filming this and posting to social media.  What’s worse is when idiots think this is funny, so said idiot imitates said moron, performing said ice cream licking……

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We started a Spooky Hollow Southern MS YouTube channel.  We will be documenting our progress.  For those that know us, you know you will witness major goofiness.  My aim isn’t so much to educate, but to make you think and do your own research.  We are former city dwellers, with limited knowledge of creating a victory garden and a faux farm.  We do not have specialized equipment. We use what is on our property, or purchase what we need economically.  We have many goofy moments, trials and tribulations.  I will be documenting these moments to share with you – mainly so that you can learn from our mistakes.  If you need really professional advice, you best go elsewhere. But if you want to learn about starting country life, with lots of laughs, you are in the right place.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2OtTvE0oL2k5__0fsINOsA

You can also check us out on FB:

https://www.facebook.com/RuralMississippi

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(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights {temporarily suspended due to COVID-19} – sometimes over 20 people are fed – on a youth minister’s salary!  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

www.YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Another note:  Avon has daily essentials, such as toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, liquid soap, bug guard and sun screen.  We even have Chi Hair Dye.  You do not need to leave your house.  All items will be delivered directly to your door.

Too bad Avon does not sell toilet paper…….

Clutter Can be a Beautiful Thing

CLUTTER!  This time of year, parents start thinning out children’s toys to make way for an influx of Christmas presents.  People start looking forward to a new year, and vow to be more organized.  Markets are gearing up for promoting books and items to help you organize.  In other words, buy more clutter to help corral your clutter.  The irony!

I have been back home for 6 months, and have spent way too many weekends battling clutter – purging, donating, throwing away and burning.  I should be out with family and friends, starting to actually live my new life.  But no.  I only have two days out of the week to do this, so I grab every chance I get.  I even joined a site where I get daily messages for one year to re-train my brain how to deal with every type of clutter, whether physical or emotional.  Funny thing is, I rarely open the messages and this is now cluttering my inbox.  More irony!

Just about every weekend has been dedicated to simplifying my life by having less possessions.  I cannot believe how much clutter has been stuffed into this tiny house.  It’s insane.  First world problems.  Clutter is controlling my life.  I made a vow that once this massive project is finished, I will think twice before buying any item and bringing into my home.

This weekend, I parted with some of my husband’s kitchen items I knew I would never use.  That hurt.  I felt so guilty.  I was so sad going through his clutter, and this made me cry.  Did he even think of the mess he was leaving me in when he took his own life?  I guess not.  I am sure clutter was not the last thing on his mind.

I want to get rid of as much clutter as I can so that my children are not faced with clearing out my clutter when I join their father in heaven.

I had to take a break to regroup.  Of course, a break meant perusing FB.  Mental clutter.  A memory popped up from 5 years ago.  It was a picture of two of my oldest grands decorating our Christmas tree.  I remember my granddaughter was quite peeved we bought a tree off of a lot and didn’t cut a scrub pine out of the woods.  I looked at my dining room table and it was covered with clutter.  Groan!  That table clutter was the bane of existence for me and my husband.  We lack storage in this small house, so things ended up on top of our table (including a dirt bike my husband was working on for our grandson – but that is a story for another day).

We had a lot of good memories around that table – family gatherings – crawfish boils.  But when I moved back home 6 months ago, all I saw was clutter.  The table was really too big for our house to begin with.  And I just couldn’t see gatherings happening there anymore.  My mom was gone, my husband was gone, my stepdad is getting too old to head up this way.  No, it hurt too much to keep the table.  I gave it to one of my best friend’s.  Her family hosts other families after church, and I knew she would create great memories like we did.  This did my heart good.

But back to that picture.  I looked closely at the clutter.  My grandkids were wearing their Santa hats.  Ornaments were all over the table.  The plastic bin holding Christmas decoration clutter was sitting on a chair.  I saw my grandkids school pictures.  We had a clutter of egg cartons donated to us for our 60 laying hens.  There was a garden watering can, probably to fill the tree base.  That was my favorite little can to water my herb garden.

But the biggest memory was my husband’s flannel jacket thrown over a chair.  He wore his flannel jackets until they were in threads and embarrassing.  However, we couldn’t throw any away until we found one to replace it.  That ratty jacket was always thrown over a dining room chair, the back of a recliner or on the bed.  As he got older and was on blood thinners, he wore this jacket year ‘round because he was always cold.  Seeing this flannel jacket tugged at my heart.

This time, clutter was a beautiful thing.

A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.  Ecclesiastes 3:6.

See – even the Bible is telling me to cast a way my clutter.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 Avon tip of the blog:  Of course, Avon IS NOT CLUTTER.  You purchase a product and use it up!  Have you tried Avon’s eye make-up remover (product #579-359)?  Avon True Color Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover Lotion works quickly and easily to gently remove all traces of eye makeup. Plus, it conditions and moisturizes your lashes and the fragile skin around your eyes.

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

The First Thanksgiving

For this first Thanksgiving without my husband, I didn’t want to do a traditional meal on the actual day.  We agreed to do an informal dinner the weekend before.

Did I think this would lessen the blow of having our first holiday meal without him?  Yes.  Was I wrong in this assumption?  Yes.

This morning, as I was preparing the dishes I was assigned to bring, I opened my oven and noticed this inside was a mess.  We have a propane oven and realized I don’t know how to clean the inside.  I never had to do that before.  My husband handled everything concerning the house, meaning from repairs all the way to cooking.

Sometimes when a wife loses a husband, she is lost because she never handled anything financial in the marriage.  I always knew I wouldn’t have trouble in this manner.  Once my husband became disabled, we managed on one income.  What I didn’t expect was being so lost about how to do just about everything else.

So I looked at the dirty oven, and started to cry.  I continued crying while preparing my dishes.

I knew our daughter was sad, too, because she posted she was dreading this and also posted our last family photo from last Thanksgiving.

I studied that picture and realized how awful I looked.  For months I had been dealing with a husband with rapidly declining mental health.  I let myself go terribly.  I looked like I woke up, rolled out of bed, threw on just any old junk and headed to dinner.  My gosh, I am the Avon Lady, how could I walk outside my house looking like this?

I went through that day sitting on pins and needles, not knowing what would happen, how he would act and who would he offend.  I was constantly in the middle.  “Gretchen, do you know what Bubba is doing?”  “Mom, dad is…..”  “G-Maw, Paw Paw is…..”  Everyone thought I could intervene and change the direction of his behavior.

I was worn.

Have you ever heard the song Worn by Tenth Avenue North?  If not, go listen to it.  That song was my life.

Remembering that final Thanksgiving helped me shift my perspective.  I was going to be sad missing my normal husband, but I was going to enjoy this day being free from mentally impaired husband.  I was going to put that bad Thanksgiving memory behind me and focus on all the good ones instead (there were many).

I put on make-up, fixed my hair, dressed nice, googled how to clean my oven and headed off to my daughter’s house for a wonderful day of making new memories.

 

(Just a note:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and SILs personal ministry of ministering to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Recently, they had 24 people at one meal.  That is quite a lot on a youth minister’s salary.  But God always provides.  I like to give them help when I can.  Please check out my Avon website.  We are not your grandmother’s Avon anymore.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.  YourAvon.com/ghegwood)

I Regret, Re-Visited

I have already expressed regrets from our married life.  I have a deeper regret from your last few hours here on earth.  I have to unburdened my soul, confess and get this off of my chest.

This regret carries my deepest shame.

You left a note.  I will never read your last thoughts.  Your last days were filled with such venom. I don’t want to hear your poison snaking around in my head until I take my last breath.  Our daughter talked me into letting our son-in-law keep the note, so that if you left a kind word for anyone, he can pass that on.  I don’t even want to know if you left a kind word for me.  Actions speak louder than words and your actions were deplorable.

I do not regret not reading your note.

I sat in the waiting room while you lay in a sterile hospital room dying.  I imagine you were surrounded by machines, nurses and doctors – strangers.  I would not go in the room to see you.

I do not regret not going into the room to see you.

The doctor entered the waiting room, telling me you were not long for this earth, did I want to tell you goodbye.  Absolutely NOT!  I was so angry at you for what you did.  I didn’t want to see you in that state and I didn’t want to give you the comfort of having a loved one by your side.  At that moment, I hated you.

I do not regret sitting with you while you took your last breath.  I was most upset to not have been given the option of holding your hand while you died a peaceful death.

Family was far away in another state, so I was your only family member there – your wife of almost 37 years, who should have been by your side.  Had our children been close by, wanting to go in to see you, I would have conceded.  But hell would freeze over before I was by your side watching you take your last breath.  My co-worker asked if I at least wanted our preacher in there with you.  Absolutely NOT!  You chose a vicious end to your life, you were leaving this world alone.

I do regret not letting the preacher be with you as you were leaving this earth.

Five months of reflection, I realize I should have let the preacher be by your side.  That is my deepest, most shameful regret and I want to hide my face for the ugliness I displayed in your last moments.  I am sorry.  I apologize to our children and to your siblings for letting you die alone.  I was your partner in life, and no matter what, should have sent you off with some dignity.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  I was scorned and I was furious.  I did not let God’s light penetrate those last awful hours.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Thank God for Renewed Mercies!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentation 3:22-23

I was in a bit of a snit last night and having a pity party.  I felt I was back to square one in my grief process.  What a setback I was having, and I was feeling lonely.

Yesterday, our granddaughter turned 5.  She is the life of the party, like her grandfather was.  Little Miss Sassy is so full of happiness, love and personality.  I couldn’t help but think what her Paw Paw was missing, by his own hand He would have made a huge deal out of her newly pierced ears.  And I could picture him, and our baby, sitting on his lap as she told the story of how she scored two goals in her soccer game.  Our Little Miss Sassy would have had his undivided attention.  This man was born to be a Paw Paw.

Yesterday was also our son’s birthday.  I had the bright idea to cook a supper for my son and bake a cake.  The kitchen was my husband’s area of expertise.  I am a burning, over-cooking, setting the food on fire hot mess of a momma.  I was my usual disaster self.  I really, really need to stay away from the kitchen.

I was so unnerved by these thoughts I pretended he was in the passenger seat of our vehicle on the drive home and I cursed him out royally.  I vented lots of frustration.  I calmed down enough to listen to the radio, only to have Brooks & Dunn’s Neon Moon shatter the thin glass my mind was walking on.  I fell hopelessly into a state of loneliness and depression.

I went to sleep with a heavy heart and had sad, sad dreams.

BUT THEN, I opened my eyes to a new morning.  Instead of lamenting my sorrows, I lamented on Lamentation 3:22-23.  God brings me new mercies every morning.  I was calm.  I decided to take a walk outside on my property.  Bin, the dog, trailed along, and Katuree the Krazy Cat insisted I carry her.  My husband’s presence is everywhere outside.  That was his domain.  He has four neat stacks of future projects waiting to be done at Spooky Hollow Southern MS, our faux homestead.  Faux, in meaning that if the apocalypse came, we would be the first to die.

He has a stack of boards that can be used for various projects, a stack of tin to re-do our tool shed, covered by a stack of thick wooden fence posts.  He has a stack of fencing and metal fencing posts.  And, finally, he has a stack of various sizes of miscellaneous brick, stone slabs and little boulders.  I didn’t look at this stack with sadness.  Because of my new mercies for today, I looked at this stack with a hope of some great projects.  How will the projects get done?  I do not know.  I have not a crafty bone in my accountant body.

But that thought is for another day – another day that has renewed mercies.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)

I walked back into the house, made my son a cup of bitter coffee, and conjured up plans to salvage the pork loin, and to once again try to bake that cake.

As for me, I am not eating anything I cook.  I have plans with some high school friends to meet at a café for a late lunch.

Thank you God for renewed mercies every morning!

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Avon Broke the Great Gretchen Depression

I won’t lie to you – I have had a rough 2.5 years.  I have spiraled into a pit I thought I would never get out of.  Yes, times could have been worse, and I am grateful it wasn’t.  Terms like, ‘it could be worse’, in my opinion, cause a deeper spin into depression.  When people would tell me, “It could be worse”, well that made me feel worse.  Should I be in this deep of a depression because ‘it could have been worse’?  That would spiral me even further into depression.  But I would paste on a smile and present a semi-false persona to the world.

Yes, I know depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance.  I had a close relationship with my medical team and we have tried all sorts of medicine, but the depression continued.  You see, my depression was being caused by outside factors that affected me, and they went something like this (and in this order):

  1.  Certain family members acting out and misbehaving, wreaking havoc in my life.
  2. Losing my dream job at Stennis due to a contract change.  Fortunately, I was quickly hired by some awesome people, who I forever hold in my heart, but the travel time and pay could not sustain my household.  I got a call from the new contractor at Stennis, was re-hired, but it just wasn’t the same.  I was so thrilled to be back at Stennis, which is the most awesome place to work, but I still was depressed.
  3. I lost my beloved Frank the Faux Pug.  I had him 16 years, and I was his person.  His love was unconditional.
  4. The grief above all else, I lost my mother – the most stable, most remarkable person in my life, my biggest supporter.

In July 2017, I went to my first Avon RepFest.  I had been an Independent Avon Rep for four years, but never did partake in this oh so awesome festivity.  I had been working at growing my team, and my rewards paid off.  Avon nested 40 representatives to my team!  I titled upward, which means my team commission would be higher.  I was overjoyed and ready to work my business.  Between my first generation and second generation, G’Money Avon Team was 100 people strong.  I came home from RepFest pumped and ready to grow, grow, grow.  But I returned home to the same conditions from before my trip, and the depression set in again.

In September 2017, I received a call from a fabulous company in Memphis.  I had interviewed with them when I was losing my job at Stennis the previous year, but to no avail.  My daughter and her family were living up that way.  I had given all my time to helping my son raise my two oldest grands, I figured I could be near my daughter and get to help her with my baby grands.  I did not get any offers in 2017, but God knew I had to be near my Mom when we lost her.  Fast forward a year and I received an offer I could not refuse.  I would have to leave my beloved Spooky Hollow of Southern MS, but something had to give.

During this time of move prep, Hubby had an accident, totaled his truck and broke his neck.  This certainly put things in perspective for him while reflecting on the fact he could have lost his life.

I pack up my bags and head six hours north, by myself, to settle in.  Hubby had to stay home due to medical conditions and the fact I would be living with my daughter’s family.  There really was no more room at the inn, but they lovingly made room for me.  The depression was trying to lift.  I love my new job and I love my co-workers.  Could this finally be a replacement for the job I loved so much at Stennis?  Why yes, yes it could be.  During the three months I temporarily lived with my daughter, I had so much fun with my two baby grands, and another was on the way!  Those babies really got to know me, and this was an answered prayer.

On December 1, I think I was in a meeting, or working on a project with my boss.  When I return to my desk, I have many texts, phone calls and messages from Son and Hubby.  I thought what now.  I figured they were being Drama Queens over something.  This turned out to be a true emergency.  My husband had a stroke and was in the hospital.

Despite the car wreck and stroke, Hubby is functioning better than the doctors thought he would.  Life goes on.  There was still that nagging depression in my head.  I was homesick.  I missed my three acres of fun at Spooky Hollow Southern MS.  Several years back, the Family Unit (which consisted of me, Hubby, Son and two grands) was in transition.  We just moved back from Gulfport, and undecided where to live.  Son had a friend selling a place.  We drove out to look at it.  I said no way in heck was I moving there.  God has a sense of humor.  A month later, my husband lost his job and that spooky looking place was the only place I could afford for all of us on my salary.  I could have crawled in a hole and died.  My grandkids were depending on me, and this was all I had to offer.  For me, that turned out to be the biggest blessing.  Those on my FB page know all the antics we experienced.  We had so much fun on this piece of property, raising the grands.  I had such high hopes of turning this into a productive, and income earning, homestead.  That never happened.  By moving, I was finally giving up on that dream, and that hurt – hurt to the core.

My son talked about moving up by me, starting a new life.  While that wouldn’t be ideal with all of us living under one roof again, I was thrilled at the thought of being near my two oldest grands once more.  I rented a house in a great school district, and figured we would be cramped for a bit until my son got on is feet.  Two events occurred that sent me spiraling downward again.  My son decided to stay south, and there was a possibility my daughter and family were going to be moving back home.  While happy for everyone to be getting on with their lives, I felt my world was really tumbling downward.  I drove home for an all too short Christmas Holiday visit.  This was the worst Christmas of my life, my first Christmas without my Momma.  The two oldest grands were with their Mom, so it was just me, Hubby and Son.  I left early Christmas morning to drive back north, alone.  I cried the whole way home.  I stopped crying long enough to buy boiled peanuts from a street vendor.  That was my Christmas meal – peanuts and Pepsi.  I was utterly miserable and depressed.

Time goes on.  My daughter gives birth to the most spectacular baby.  I was so glad to be living near them this time.  The other two births consisted of a mad dash for me and Hubby headed north.  But shortly after, daughter and family move back south, taking my three baby grands with them.  Hubby had to head back down for an extended stay for doctor visits.  I was truly alone.  I have been surrounded by people for many years, and now I was utterly alone.  I had not seen my sister or stepdad face to face in quite some time either.

If it weren’t for four things in my life, I would have gone totally mad.  I have my faith.  I have my family.  I have my job.  And I have the greatest Avon upline (the person that recruited me) that ever existed.  Karen stuck with me through this depression like she was blood family.  I would have given up on me long ago had I been her.  Karen’s mission in life is to empower women.  She is achieving that goal and living the life!  I kept looking at her and thinking I want to be like her.  I was letting my team down.  It had dwindled from 100 to 60 reps.  If I didn’t snap out of this, I was going to lose everything I worked so hard for.  The wheels were greased and starting to turn in my head.  I am in the process of reconnecting with my team, and growing my numbers.  Karen is with me every step of this way, encouraging me and having faith in me.

I was given an opportunity to return home, but I chose to pass that up for now.  God put me here for a reason, and I need to sit still (something I am not good at) and listen to what He is whispering in my ear.  I have a most wonderful job and co-workers.  After losing my beloved job at Stennis, I know how important it is to the psyche to work somewhere you love.  I know I can coast into retirement with this company.

And after retirement from Corporate America waits my Avon business and team.  I am building my business to be my retirement.  Avon isn’t work.  Avon is fun!  During the height of my depression, between August 2017 and May 2018, I almost quit Avon.  I disconnected myself from my team and my Avon sisters.  That was the worst thing to do.  This group is so much fun and focused.  I love these ladies and they love me.  I reconnected in June 2018 with our group and was uplifted and excited, waiting for the next RepFest.

In July 2018, I went to Columbus, OH for my second Avon RepFest and brought Hubby along.  He caught the Avon bug.  Hubby wants to do everything he can to help me grow.  He saw how much money I was leaving on the table by not excelling at what is readily handed to me, if we work for it.  I was able to walk across the RepFest stage with 200 other reps who had titled up to Bronze Leader since the last RepFest.  This was the most awesome feeling in the world.  I had tears in my eyes crossing that stage, especially thinking about what I almost gave up.  I was able to participate in a milestone breakfast, along with two members of my team.  We have all been with Avon for five years now.

As the history books say, WWII broke the back of the Great Depression.  Well Avon broke the back of the Great Gretchen Depression.

I had to give up my dream of living on a productive homestead, due to health issues and just simply getting older, and the family not putting its all into it.  I never have to give up this dream of Avon being my retirement.  I can work this business when I get home from my day job.  I can work this business when I am traveling with my day job.  I can even work this business from a hospital bed if that ever happens (oh Lord, please don’t let that happen).

Avon is a sisterhood (and brotherhood as the male presence grows in the representative ranks).  I am encouraged, and I plan on encouraging others.  Think you cannot make a living with Avon?  Think again.  Our top representative is a man.  This man had $117,000 in sales in 2017.  Come on ladies!  We need to step up our game.  We had a husband and wife team recognized for team sales of $13,000,000 in 2017.  Yes, that is thirteen million.  Can you imagine what their team commissions were?  My little team of 60 people has sold $110,000 year to date.  That was with me spiraling out of control and being a rotten leader.  Can you imagine what can happen when I pour my heart and soul into this?  Stay tuned and see what I report next year.

Do you need something new and exciting in your life right now?  If so, please consider joining my G’Money Avon Team.  We would love to have you.  You can do this by going to:

  1. StartAvon.com and typing in ghegwood as the reference code.
  2. You can also simply browse my website, YourAvon.com/ghegwood.
  3. You can also see my Beauty Page on FB. @BeautyBuzzwithGretchen

I am not saying I won’t have anymore bouts with depression, because I know I will.  But, God willing, I do not EVER plan to disconnect from Avon again.  God blessed me with this opportunity and I am going to hang on to Him and my business for dear life.  I have a plan.  I am a person that needs a plan.  I read my Bible more.  I need to make quarterly trips back to New Orleans to see my sister, stepdad, his family (which IS my family also – they are wonderful), in-laws, out-laws….  Brief visits to New Orleans re-energize me.  And guess what?  Avon RepFest 2019 IS IN NEW ORLEANS.  You can join us!  I have a plan for diligently working my business.  That is my story and I am sticking to it!

Stay tuned to see what happens during the rest of 2018!  This is me.  I am Avon.

My Harper Valley PTA Momma

Back in the late 60s, my sister and I were students at a Catholic school.  My sister, Kris, was in 8th grade.  Parties were the rage then.  They were innocent parties during innocent times.  But someone, I do not recall who, maybe the nuns, got the notion there should not be any parties, at anyone’s house.

This did not sit well with my strong-willed Momma at all!  AT ALL!

Mom had Kris and I later in life, so she wasn’t a spring-chicken, push over Momma.  She was set in her ways and knew what she wanted for her family.  Momma was mature enough to smell bull-doo and wipe it clean when necessary.

Momma marched to that PTA meeting, and listened to the nuns and some parents proclaim a decree that there will be no private parties held at anyone’s house.  When all was said and done, my Momma went all Harper Valley PTA on the congregation (minus the mini-skirt).  You younger folks will have to google Harper Valley PTA.

Momma said there will be a party at her house the next Saturday.  The entire 8th grade was invited, so were all the parents, all the nuns and the priest.  The party-nayers were incensed and all started speaking at one time.  Momma stood firm, said they do not pay her house note, she was having a party and if the nuns and Father Poche didn’t like it, they could all GO TO HELL!

With that, Momma turned her back, walked out, got home, and started prepping to have a party for my sister’s class.  Kids came (I don’t think any parents came), I spied on them from the kitchen (such an aggravating little sister), and a fun time was had by all.

I thought we were going to be plagued by crickets, or something, after my Momma telling the nuns and Father Poche to go to hell.  But we weren’t and my Momma and Father Poche remained very good friends until the day he died.  He would always say, “Gladys, remember when you told all of us to go to hell?”

By the time I made it to 8th grade at the same school and had parties, no one, and I MEAN NO ONE, questioned my Mother on this.

Today, Momma and Father Poche are buried across the hall from each other in the local mausoleum.  And I bet they are up in heaven still laughing at this story.

Funeral for a Strong Woman

This day has come.  And it has come too soon and suddenly.  I should not be surprised, after all, since you are 95 years old, Mom.  The day has come too soon because you told me you were going to live to be 100.  The day came too suddenly because you have never had a terrible sickness in your life, Mom.  Your strong will finally had to succumb to death.

But this has truly turned into a celebration of life – your life Mom.  You would not believe the people who’s lives you have touched.  You would not believe the support your daughters had because you raised us to be the people we are, and our friends care deeply about us.

When I first walked into the parlor, Kris was sobbing uncontrollably.  I was oddly calm.  I knew this strength came straight from God because of all the people praying on my behalf.  I hugged Kris and reminded her you told her to take care of me, because I am the baby.  We had a little giggle about that.  Kris and I walked hand in hand to your casket.  Oh Kris helped pick out the most beautiful coffin.  You so loved roses and Paw always flooded you with the most beautiful rose bouquets throughout your marriage.  Your coffin was rose colored, with roses engraved in it, and roses embroidered in the lining.  You look beautiful wearing the wedding dress you wore almost 32 years ago to marry Paw.  Your fingers are beautifully manicured in that red nail polish you always liked.  You are holding your treasured rosary, and Eric’s cross is lying beside you.  You look beautiful, Momma. More beautiful than anyone else I have ever seen in a coffin.  In my opinion, most people look terrible in death, while mourners look down and say, “Oh doesn’t she look pretty?”  I always want to yell, “No she does not – she is dead!”  That is why I made my husband and kids promise to cremate me.  But you are different, Mom.  You are truly beautiful and look at peace.

Mom, the parlor started filling up with your friends, Paw’s friends and our friends.  Mom please do not worry.  Kris and I work with some fabulous people and they were there to support us (and mine had to drive quite a ways to get there).  We also have fabulous friends, old and new, that were there.  I even had an Avon sister that we have only talked online, but she came to your funeral because she felt like she knew you through my stories.  Kodi’s in-laws came all the way from Purvis to New Orleans, at the height of Mardi Gras season, to see you one more time.  Your Theta group was there to honor you and gave a wonderful little ceremony on your behalf.  Two ladies from the group said I sounded like you.  They said they heard my voice and laugh from the hallway (meaning I am loud like you) and both were astonished at how much we sound alike.  I was truly honored by this.  Kris and I have had hundreds of messages from well wishers that could not attend your funeral, but they were thinking of us.  This was beautiful, Momma.

Of course, Kris had to tell my co-workers about the time I came home drunk at 15 and you were horrified.  Oh big sisters!  What am I going to do with her, Momma?

And I want to thank you, Mom, for marrying Paw.  You knew what you were doing marrying into that wonderful family.  Kris and I gained a sister, brother, nieces, nephews-in-law and great nephews.  These are truly wonderful, loving people.  They honored you so wonderfully.  They mourned as if they were actually born to you.  They knew your love for them and you have touched their lives tremendously.  And you might get a priest out of one them, Mom.  Little Sammy is definitely touched by God.  He is so pious and grounded in God’s word.  Even though he is not blood related to my brother, I think he just might join the Seminary, just like Eric.

I was calm until the closing of the casket.  Wait, you are taking my Mommy away.  That was rough, very rough.  I cried until I thought I was going to throw up.  We got into the vehicle to follow your hearse to church.  I was almost to the point of hyperventilating.  Guess what was on the radio?  Vince Gill’s Go Rest High on the Mountain.  That supernatural calm returned.  This was another gift from God.  Then Collin Raye’s In this Life.  Yes, in this life, I was loved by you.  Being loved by you is the most precious gift God has given me.

As we walked into church, behind your casket, I had to concentrate on the man (from Mothe’s Funeral Home) walking at the head of your casket.  He was walking backwards, holding onto you.  I had to concentrate on this for two reasons, (1) That he could walk so well backwards, and (2) concentrating on him walking backwards kept me from thinking that your little, lifeless body was laying in that casket.

Mom, your Mass at St. Cletus was beautiful.  Your favorite song, Ave Maria, was sung.  Father Tuan Pham gave a phenomenal sermon all about your goodness.  He made us laugh.  He said after every Sunday Mass, you would kiss him on the cheek and call him Junior (because that is what he was called in Seminary).  That sounds just like you.  Dana, your granddaughter, gave wonderful readings.  Her voice was clear, steady and paced perfectly.  But what I was most impressed about was that Dana could walk up and down those steps in high heels without tripping or falling.  You know I could never do that, Momma.

But I must admit, me, Scooter and Jay kind of misbehaved in church.  It has been quite a long time since I sat through a Catholic mass and some of the wording was changed.  I said Amen at the end of everything, but some of the replies were words such as “Thanks be to God.”  Scooter told me to stop.  So every time I said Amen I turned to him to make my point – gosh darn it!  He said if I keep it up he knows where I am going.  Then he spiraled his hand downward.  We giggled.  Father Pham came down from the alter to shake our hands and I almost missed it because I was goofing off with the family behind me.  I turned around in time to give him a kiss on the cheek and call him Junior.  When Father Pham began the Eucharist, and retrieved the host from the sacred place, Jay said “Well that’s the man who had the Holy Grail all this time.”  Mom, that kid is so funny and it was all Scooter and I could do to not burst out laughing.

This reminded me of another time in church, probably about 45 years ago.  You, Kris and I were sitting in our usual area.  There was a tiny ant crawling on the back of the pew in front of us.  You did not see it because you were intently listening to what Father Poche’ was preaching.  Kris and I, on the other hand, were quite entertained by the ant.  The ant crawled onto the back of the lady in front of us.  Kris and I looked at each other, giggled and watched the ant crawl circles on her back.  Then we had to stand.  The ant crawled downwards and starting crawling circles on her rather large backside.  As it is in the Catholic Mass, sit, kneel, stand, sit kneel, stand.  She sat.  Uh oh!  Kris and I waited with bated breath to see if the ant survived.  We were elated to see the ant crawling up her back again.  This tiny entertaining creature got back onto the back of the pew.  It crawled past Kris and she moved her hands so the ant could march on.  It crawled past me as I moved my hands away.  And then – you spotted the ant and squashed it with your thumb.  The end.  Kris and I looked at each other horrified.  We had quite some time invested in that ant!  What a memory to pop into my head during your Mass.  But this reminded me of good times, such as leaving church to head to McKenzie’s Bakery for a ‘sweety’, then heading home to eat the wonderful Sunday meal you cooked for us.  Such fun, innocent, carefree times for me and Kris.

Back into the car to follow you in your final ride to the cemetery.  You are riding in style, Mom, like the Queen of Mardi Gras.  We arrive to your final resting place.   You are being reunited with my Dad.  Kris, Cindy and I are sitting holding each other.  I start rubbing their necks because I can feel how tense they are.  Father Pham is saying beautiful words – I think – because Cindy and I were busy battling gnats.  Good grief, can we have a moment, please?

We now head to the house you and Paw have shared all these years.  Cindy’s church bereavement group have been busy setting up food.  We had a wonderful time celebrating you with family and friends.  We were missing your presence terribly.  You would have loved being a part of this.  All the great grandchildren were outside playing, running, laughing, having such fun.  It was good to see children in the old neighborhood again.  Mrs. S. had been at the funeral and she came to the house after.  I know this was so hard for her, so soon after losing her son.  But she loved you so much she was able to push past this pain.  The chocolate brownies didn’t hurt either.  You know Mrs. S. and her love for chocolate.  She taught me how to make a chocolate sandwich – remember that?  Well I poured her a tall glass of chocolate milk to go with that chocolate brownie and we shared stories.

Life goes on and things already start happening.  Your microwave broke, my washing machine breaks – all of this to remind us that we cannot melt into a puddle and stop living.  Life goes on and we will carry your memory with us.  We will draw on the strength you have exhibited your entire life.

Night time comes.  I do not give in to tears and self-pity.  Instead I thank God for all the wonderful years I have had with you.  I am thankful that you now get to spend time with Eric and Donna.  It is their turn to have you.  I will see you again one day, due to God’s promise of eternal life.  And I thank God so much that in this life, I was loved by you.

 

Love Letter to my Momma

I am beginning to not like the phone.  The phone is not my friend anymore.  As I was leaving work, my sister calls to say, “Hurry Gretchen.”  Is today the day you are leaving us Mom?  “Lord,” I pray, “please Lord, let me make it to the hospital on time.”

After consulting with the family, the doctors are removing tubes and medicines from you Momma.  They fully expected you to fade away quickly.  Your BP immediately dropped by half.  But those doctors don’t know you, Mom, like we do.  You stabilized yourself and kept whispering, “I love you, I love you all.”  Then you started saying your prayers.  I really think you were saying the rosary.  And, of course, you were talking to your deceased children, Donna and Eric.  You will be seeing them soon, Mom.  I know you miss them so much, and we had you far longer than we could have ever imagined.  We are at peace with letting you go.  But it still hurts, DAMMIT!  (That brings a laugh.  DAMMIT was your favored curse word.  I think that was the first word all of us kids muttered.)

We are all in your hospital cubicle, Momma, up here in SCU at West Jefferson Hospital.  The staff is the most wonderful staff in the world.  They had all been celebrating your fighting spirit and your will to live.  They are all as heartbroken as us.  We are watching every breath you take.  We are watching the monitors.  Surprise, surprise, your BP climbs a bit and your oxygen is at 100%.  Every little sound you utter we jump up and surround you.  Please Momma, please, open your eyes one more time.  I have got to see your eyes open one more time.  Nothing.  The priest visited earlier to give you your Last Rites, and that seemed to be the end for you.

Late at night, everyone has gone home except me & Paw (my most wonderful step-dad of 31 years).  I feel a sneeze coming on.  I always said I had a sneeze that could wake the dead. Time to test that hypothesis.  Achoo!  Sure enough, you open your eyes wide and stare at me surprised.  Then you look a little angry.  I say, “Sorry Momma.”  You grumbled something and shut your eyes, possibly never to open them again.  But that is okay.  I got to see your eyes open one more time.  God granted me that wish.  And a little lagniappe, your BP rose even higher.

Paw and I call it a night about 1:00 in the morning.  Paw starts to cry on the way home talking about you.  It hurts to hear Paw cry.  He goes home to his empty, over-sized Paul Bunyan bed.  You have shrunk so much in recent years, Momma, and Paw always had those little, short legs.  The little set of steps on each side of the bed are so adorable.  It was always cute to watch you two, tiny elderly people climb in that big, old bed.  Now Paw doesn’t even sleep in the bedroom.  He sleeps in his recliner, missing you, Momma.  Your laundry basket with the rope tied to it sits empty by the dryer.  You were always so cute dragging that laundry basket behind you all around the house, dragging clothes to and from the wash room.  Your presence will live on forever in that house.  Please, Momma, please wake up and come home.

I open my eyes to a new day, Momma.  Our new life without your lively self.  Before I head back to the hospital, I have to go see your friend, Mrs. S.  You don’t know this yet, Momma, we haven’t been able to tell you that Dennis passed away.  Like you, Mrs. S is burying a 2nd child.  As I am walking across the street to her house with tears in my eyes, my mind wonders back almost 37 years.  I was 19, home alone, after visiting Donna in the hospital.  I had to come home.  I couldn’t take watching my sister die.  Everyone else stayed at the hospital.  I was home alone and the phone rang.  My phone was not my friend that day either.  It was your aunt, Momma, calling to say how sorry she was Donna had died.  But I had not known that yet.  I was home alone, after just burying my daddy a year before, and I hear my sister died.  I panicked.  I ran out of the house to Mrs. S’s house, crying the entire way.  I ran into her house and into her arms, and she hugged me and took care of me until you got home.  Today, once again, I have tears in my eyes.  Donald, Dennis’s older brother, opens the door for me before I even knock.  We look into each other’s tear filled eyes and don’t have to say a word.  I rush into Mrs. S’s arms and we cried and cried.  We cried over Dennis and we cried over you.  We remember good times and finally part, but we each have a little lift in our step.  Please, Momma, please wake up, your friend needs you.  Mrs. S needs her friend.

Kris and I are headed to see you again, Mom, wondering if today is the day.  We stop to buy a muffaletta for Paw and Cindy (our beloved step-sister of 31 years).  Today is the day you are being moved to a private, hospice room.  I do not like that word – hospice – so final.  I do not want final when it comes to you, Momma.  Your BP was down to 60/33 when Cindy first got there in the morning.  But her hugging you and rubbing your hand raised it back to 70/33.  The family is ushered up to your room to wait for you while you are being prepped for the move.  I hand Paw a root beer and he says the root beer is really big and will last him well into the night (he’s used to sharing his root beer with you).  Then he knocks it over and spills most all over the floor.  Well now it won’t last you all night, Old Man.  Then Cindy drops her muffaletta on the floor.  Well I tell you, Momma, that was the best fed floor.  We were having a good laugh when your bed is rolled into the room.  You look so tiny.  I had to tell you about Paw and Cindy how they were misbehaving and you should get up out of that bed and fuss.  Please, Momma, please wake up and fuss at Paw and Cindy.  But you chose not to comment on that.

Paw’s legs are swelling, Momma.  He’s not taking care of himself like he should.  We convince him to rest with his legs up in the recliner.  He is struggling with those little short legs and Cindy is trying to help him.  Well, lo and behold, the recliner is on wheels and Cindy inadvertently sends Paw rolling across your hospital room.  I tell you Mom, we can’t take these two anywhere!  We are belly roll laughing as the social worker walks in the room.  He must be wondering what kind of nuts we are.  We diligently listen to him speak about hospice and we become somber.  But, it doesn’t take long before we are belly roll laughing, again, and the social worker walks in, again.  We are filling your room with laughter, Momma.  Please, Momma, please wake up and laugh with us.

You have a visitor, Momma.  It’s Bradley.  Well, of course, I had to tell the nurses all about Bradley.  Remember, this is one of our favorite stories, Momma.  I remember coming home from first grade at St. Anthony.  I said, “Momma, there is this bad little boy named Bradley at school.  He’s really, really bad.”  Remember you told me to stay away from him?  Then one day I am looking out of the window from our house and I yelled, “Momma, Momma, that bad little boy Bradley is across the street!  Momma, Momma, come see.”  You told me to just stay inside.  Little did we know that 24 years later that bad little boy Bradley would become my step-brother.  Poor Bradley (my beloved step-brother of 31 years).  We never let him forget that.  But he is a good sport and let us laugh, at his expense, to make you happy.  Please, Momma, please wake up to hear the Bradley story one more time.

Kris decided to share a Katrina story.  You remember this one.  This was when you, Paw and Kris were hurricane refugees in Beaumont, TX.  Paw wanted to fill up Kris’ car and get it cleaned so he took her to a quarter machine car wash.  Well Kris is handy with a sewing machine, but don’t give her anything else mechanical.  She has never held a car wash wand in her hand.  She put the quarters in, and had no idea of the water pressure that was about to come out of that wand.  Paw happened to be standing in the wrong spot at the wrong time.  Paw was now covered in pink, blue and white suds from head to toe.  Kris is still trying to control the wand and continues to squirt suds all over him.  He said Kris wouldn’t point the wand the other way.  Cindy asked Paw why didn’t he just move.  He said he was in shock.  After the spraying quits, Paw and Kris are laughing and he removes his eyeglasses.  Kris said all she could see were two big eyes staring at her from a mound of pink, blue and white suds.  They said you were so shocked when they returned to the apartment and Paw was soaking wet.  Oh Momma, please wake up and laugh with us.

Look Momma, you have more visitors, your nephew Rusty, his wife Gladys, and one of their daughters, Ingrid.  Now Erica is here, or as you lovingly call her, your first bad-egg grandchild.  And then Shawn (our beloved niece of 31 years) stops by.  Your room is full, Momma.  We are all reminiscing, laughing and filling your room with lots of love.  Please wake up, Momma, and join us.

Well Mom, it is time for me to return home.  I have to go to work tomorrow.  I leave the hospital crying crocodile tears.  I want to call my daughter, Kodi, but I cannot get that lump out of my throat to speak.  I finally get my act together and call her, but she doesn’t answer.  So I continue with my cry-fest, Momma.  I am already missing you.  I am in full blown hysteria mode and my phone rings.  It’s Kodi.  I summoned your strength, Momma, and got my act together to talk to my baby.  Well I could have kept crying for the blubbering mess me and Kodi were.  She doesn’t want to lose her grandmother.  Please, Momma, please come back and live with us a little while longer.  Eventually, our phone conversation turns to fun times, but she has to go to tend to her young family.  Rowen, your youngest great grandson, has taken off his diaper with poop in it.  Shane and Kodi must go search the house for poop.  I am once again left alone to my memories of you.

Life is still rolling along whether I want it to or not.  I stop to see my Avon sister and we discuss our Avon booth at the upcoming Picayune Street Fair.  I called Kris to let her know I made it home.  Home – to Spooky Hollow – and the tears start flowing because you will never be able to visit here again.  Your son-in-law, grandson and great-grandchildren are all waiting to greet me in my fragile state.  Please, Momma, please wake up and come visit me at my crazy Faux Farm.

But I know that will not happen.  The phone, which is not my friend, will soon bring the dreaded news.  When that does happen, please, Momma, please come and see me in my dreams.

Life of a Strong Woman

Mom called me from her ICU room this morning to wish me happy birthday.  Ironically, she was in the same hospital 56 years ago today delivering me.  Her little 95 year old self sounded so frail and tired.  But I know the iron and steel behind that frail sound.  Momma has been a fighter since the day she took her first breath and has lived to witness much happiness, lots of tragedy, and almost a century of history.

Late December 1921, when Warren G. Harding was the 29th president of the United States, my mom was making a two month premature entrance into this world.  The doctor and the mid-wife were at my grandmother’s house.  A lifeless, tiny one pound baby girl came into this world.  The midwife put the dead baby into a shoe box and returned to tend to my grandmother.  Once finished, the midwife was about to prepare the baby for burial when she noticed the tiny baby kicking and full of life.  1921, no neonatal, no oxygen tents, no major medical advancements, this little miracle survived and became a full-fledged fighter.  While that little baby was making her entrance, the U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled labor injunctions and picketing unconstitutional.  People were flocking to see The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which vaulted Rudolph Valentino to stardom (maybe because he did that sexy tango dance in a smoke filled Argentian cantina), and the kids were dancing to  I Ain’t Got Nobody by Miss Marion Harris, and Ain’t We Got Fun by Van & Schenck.

Valentino’s sexy tango was nothing compared to my mom’s parents going through a divorce in the late 20s.  Scandalous.  Her daddy left her, a little sister, a sick baby brother and a good wife, all for wayward women.  That left an impression on my mother all the way to this day.  This made her fight for everyone she loved, to keep them close and protect them from the hurt she felt as a child.

The Great Depression came, but being poor was nothing new.  After her dad left, the family, once thriving and financially fit, was thrust into a world of poverty.  But my mother only grew stronger.

In 1939, mom graduated high school at 17 and married my daddy.  Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States.  Lisa Meitner, a Jewish woman in exile in Sweden, published her discovery of nuclear fission, otherwise known as atom splitting.  The United States declared its neutrality regarding the war in Europe.  Kids were dancing to Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday, When the Saints Go Marching in by Louis Armstrong and crooning to Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland and Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller.  My mom and her friends flocked to see Gone With the Wind to hear Rhett Butler say that famous phrase with the curse word, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

The 1940s came, growing my mom’s family and taking my daddy off to WWII.  My mom was told she would never have children, that her insides were too small and deformed from being a preemie.  That didn’t stop my momma.  In 1944, while WWII was raging and FDR was re-elected, making him the only U.S. president elected to serve a 4th term, momma delivered a bouncing baby boy.  The favored movie that year was Arsenic and Old Lace about two sweet old spinster sisters poisoning lonely gentlemen callers and burying them in the cellar.  The last line of the film was censored and changed from “I’m a bastard” to “I’m the son of a sea cook.”  Kids were dancing to Swinging on a Star by Bing Crosby and the Trolly Song by Judy Garland.

In 1948, my mom thought her family was complete when they welcomed a daughter into the fold.  Harry S. Truman was the 33rd president of the United States, and he ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Korea (to be completed in 1949).  Ella Fitzgerald sang Tea Leaves and Judy Garland starred in Easter Parade.

The 1950s brought some surprises.  In 1956, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, and the Methodist Church opened fully ordained clergy status to women and called for an end to segregation within the denomination.  And 8 years after they thought their family was complete with a boy and a girl, mom and dad welcomed the birth of a 3rd child, their second daughter.  Surely this was the final child and the baby of the family.  Dwight D. Eisenhower, our 34th president, was re-elected.  The movies to catch that year were Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The King & I, and the Ten Commandments.  Doris Day sang Que Sera Sera and Elvis Presley shocked audiences with his grinding hips while singing Heartbreak Hotel. My mom thought he was so vulgar.

So if mom and dad thought the 50s brought surprises, they were in for it in the 60s.  Six years after their little bundle of joy, my mom was sick and not getting better.  She finally went to the doctor for tests.  The doctor later called her and asked, “Gladys, you really don’t know what is wrong with you.?”  She said “no I don’t and you are scaring me.”  He said, “You are pregnant.”  Momma cried.  She said this baby will be in kindergarten and she will be walking with a cane.  My daddy couldn’t believe he was going to have kids going on dates while a baby still played on the floor.  They accepted this fact and just knew they were having a baby boy, which they would christen Matthew.  Surprise again.  Their 4th child and 3rd girl was born.  John F. Kennedy was our 35th president, the U. S. broke diplomatic relations with Cuba and East Germany erected the Berlin Wall. Breakfast at Tiffany’s and West Side Story were the popular movies and Patsy Cline was rising to fame, signing I Fall to Pieces.

In 1962, their son graduated high school and joined the Franciscan Seminary. In 1963 a horrible tragedy struck and Kennedy was assassinated.  In 1965, their oldest daughter got married.  But a terrible tragedy close to home was about to happen.  In 1967, their oldest child, their only son, would succumb to throat cancer.  While movie goers were being shocked by The Graduate, and young girls were fainting at the sight of The Beatles, my mom was burying her first born.

My momma’s heart was pierced.  Mom had a picture of the Blessed Mother hanging in her room.  Mary’s heart was pierced by a small sword.  That picture used to scare me until my mom said it was a representation of how Mary’s heart felt after the crucifixion of her son and how her heart felt after losing Eric. Well now I was terrified by that  picture.  Whatif my mom died of heartbreak and left me?  After that I was truly protective of my mom’s heart.  I was so afraid of her fracturing.  But my mom was tough – a true steel magnolia.  In 1968, when Robert Kennedy was assassinated, I saw tears streaming down my mom’s face.  The pain on her face was so raw.  I knew she was thinking about Eric.  I was so heartbroken for her.  But she plowed on and tried to make things as normal as possible for us.

Onward to the 70s, and we were hoping for a calm decade.  In 1975, as President Ford (our 38th president) announced that the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.” He said that “the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, is in their own hands, not ours.”  We were rather oblivious to this though because my oldest sister was about to give birth.  My mom and dad were having their very first grandchild, a little girl.  Such exciting times.  Jaws and Rocky Horror Picture show were the box office hits, and John Denver was thankful he was a country boy.  At the end of the decade, mom’s 3rd child was preparing to get married, and her 4th child was going to graduate from high school.  Things were looking bright (except that Jimmy Carter was our 39th president).  But fate would try to smack down my momma again.  As people were watching Alien and dancing to Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough, my mom was burying her husband of 39 years.

In 1980 mom welcomed another grandchild, but also found out her 2nd born (and 1st daughter) had cancer.  How can that be?  How can fate deal this.  My mom lost one child to cancer, and now another had this horrid disease.  This just could not be.  But it was.  We lost Donna in 1981.  While the world impatiently waited to find out Who Shot J.R., my mom was burying a 2nd child.

Life moved on.  Mom married off her youngest child (me!) in 1982, welcomed two more grandchildren in 1985 and 1988, and married a wonderful man – our neighbor.  I told her that brought on a whole new meaning to Love thy Neighbor.  We welcomed new siblings and grandchildren to the family, faced the deaths of mom’s mother, her aunts, her sister and her brother.  Now it is just mom and her sister 11 years younger than her.  And that youngest sister has developed dementia these past few years.  My mom is the lone one standing out of her siblings – the oldest – and still kicking.

Mom was born when the United States had only seen 29 presidents and she recently just watched the swearing in of the 45th president.  She has lived through highs and death blow lows.  I truly believe had my mom not had me or my sister late in life, she would have succumbed to sadness after the death of her second child.  Eric died at 23, Donna died at 33.  The year Kris turned 43, my mom cried the entire year, fully expecting to lose another child.  Alas, the spell was broken and mom didn’t even wince when I turned 53.  Mom never expected to see me, her baby, grow up.  But she has surpassed that. She has watched me become a senior citizen and has seen her great grandchildren.

Yes she called me from ICU this morning, but she is going to recover fully and live to be 100 just like she promised me.