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.

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I Haven’t Taken a Bath Since 2014

Yes, I figured that title would grab you.  Yes, it is true – since October 2014 to be specific.  A sit down bath that is.  I have not taken a sit down bath since my bi-lateral total knee replacement in October 2014 – 33 months!  Most of my fellow knee-warriors know this experience.  The fear is real people!

We have a very small tub here at Spooky Hollow Southern MS.  The shower portion is handicap accessible (done by my husband to take care of his klutzy wife), but the tub portion is not.  The only way for me to get out has been to kneel and slither out like a snake.  Well ouchy – I cannot kneel on my metal knees because that still hurts!  The fear is real people!

Oh how I wanted a bath.  Things have been rather stressful here at Spooky Hollow and I wanted to soak.  While a shower is cleaner, a good, long soak in hot water can do wonders for the mind, the headaches and the blood pressure.

AND, being the Avon lady, I have a bevy of bubble bath scents at my disposal (Endless Ocean, Cherry Blossom, Vanilla Cream, Cucumber & Melon, Lily & Honeysuckle – to name a few).  I stock up on these for so many uses besides in the tub.  However, this is a favorite of my grandchildren – and thank you Lord for that.  Did you know as the Avon bubble bath is cleaning your kids, it is cleaning your tub also?  Yes – so true!  No ring around the tub.  You get a twofer – clean kids – clean tub.

I keep multiple scents for multiple uses.  See a small compilation below:

  1. Use to wash down the tub surround, shower walls and doors (Mix baking soda, Avon Bubble Bath & vinegar).
  2. Leaves bathroom fixtures shining.
  3. Cleans the vanity top, cabinets, any surfaces, even your walls.
  4. Can replace your body wash.
  5. Good refill for liquid soap, it’s mild on hands – THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES!
  6. Helps reduce toilet bowl build up. Place 1 cap full in the tank every week.
  7. Can be used to hand wash dishes in the sink. DO NOT use in a dishwasher.
  8. Clean the fridge inside and out. It will help remove odors.
  9. Use as a laundry detergent and you no longer need a fabric softener. 1 cap full is all that’s needed to do a great job and to remove stains.
  10. Great for hand-washing delicate items. Miserly substitute for Woolite.  I like the Sensitive Skin Bubble Bath for this.
  11. Pre-treat stained items. Just dab the stain with bubble bath and let sit 10 minutes. Then wash as normal.
  12. Will clean your jewelry.
  13. Use to clean your eyeglasses.
  14. Add to the children’s wading pool to keep the pool clean.
  15. Add to cleaning water for cars, campers or trailers. (interior and exterior surfaces)
  16. Use to test tires, blow up pools or gas lines for leaks.
  17. Use as Snail Repellent  in the garden – mix equal parts water and bubble bath and spray on flowers. Do not spray directly on edible plants, spray soil around base.

BUT now I wanted to use my bubble bath for a relaxing soak, specifically the Lavender Garden.  DANG IT!  What’s a girl to do?  Well since I didn’t have a hoist readily available in my bathroom, I used the next best thing – my cell phone.  Yes, I brought my cell phone into the bathroom, just in case I got stuck.  What?  I needed a plan of attack to take the plunge – literally.

As advertised on my Avon website (YourAvon.com/ghegwood):

Bring the spa treatment home with the Lavender Garden Bubble Bath. Soak yourself in bliss and soothe your senses with the fresh aromas of lavender and chamomile. This relaxing bubble bath is great for daily use and its long-lasting bubbles stay the duration of your soak. Comes in 24 fl. oz. bottle.

BENEFITS
• Relaxing bubble bath calms mind and body with fresh scents and long-lasting bubbles
• Up to 24 bubbly baths per bottle
• Dermatologist tested

I started the water, I poured in the bubbles, I smelled the heavenly scent, I was about take the point of no return.  Momentum was building.  In my mind I heard drums beating – maybe it was my heart.  Get in, get in quickly – before you change your mind (said the little devil perched on my shoulder).  I hesitated before I stepped in.  I put a toe in, I pulled a toe out, I shook it all about.  I turned around to run from the temptation.  Slowly I turned.  I put a toe in, an ankle in – then I went for it – I took the plunge.  Aaaaah!  That relaxing moment.  Life was good.  Like turning off the faucet, I had to turn off my mind as to how I was going to get out of the tub.

I relaxed.  Tension starting melting away.  The headache was going away.  Life was good.

UNTIL……

Until it was time to get out.  I starting letting the water out and started wrestling the exodus from the bathtub.  I could not stand up like normal people, because – well those that know me – you know I am not normal.  The bottom of my tub is much higher than the bathroom floor.  I threw my legs over the ledge of the tub, but my feet didn’t reach the floor.  I sat there scrunched like that a while, like someone put me in a fold-a-way bed and closed it on me.  I was trying to figure out a way of slithering out without having to put weight on my metal knee.  By now, the water was gone and I was getting cold.  My attempted exits lasted as long as my 20 minute soak.  Finally, I had to do it.  I had to put weight on one knee to get out of the tub.  Oh did that hurt.  And so did my back and neck from all the stretching and craning I was doing trying to get out of the tub.  Man oh man, I needed a good epsom salt tub soak now to relieve sore muscles.

Was it worth it?  You bet your sweet bippy.  In this hectic world we live in today, a 20-minute Avon bubble bath infused soak is a must.  Lesson learned:  Next time I bring in a thick piece of foam to kneel on for my exodus!

Death of a Strong Woman

I heard it.  I wanted to pretend I didn’t hear it.  That ringing of the phone in the middle of the night could only mean one thing.  I didn’t want to answer it.  I wanted to live in a world a little longer of where my Mom was alive.  But, alas, I had to answer.  Yes, she is gone.  Mom slipped away in the wee morning hours, holding Paw’s hand.

I was oddly at peace.  But I know why.  God’s promise – that is why.  The most important lesson Mom taught us was Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, and believing and trusting that, we would have eternal life in heaven.  I can temporarily step out of my selfish grief and rejoice for Mom for the reunion she is having now.  I know there are days of tears and pain ahead, but God’s promise and love will pull me through this.

1 John 2:25New King James Version (NKJV)

25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

Mom was – oh how strange that sounds – ‘was’ – past tense – Mom was a fierce defender of her family.  She prayed so hard for us.  Now I know I have a tiny, mighty champion in heaven, and that is comforting.

I choose not to look at Mom’s death like a terrible burden of sadness.  She is free.  She is free of anxiety and worry that plagued her.  She is free of pain from a 95 year old body.  Momma is hugging her son and daughter that she has missed for so long.  It is Eric and Donna’s turn now.  They are having a heavenly reunion with our Momma and that brings me true joy.

 

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.

As a Strong Woman Hovers Between Life & Death

I get the call no one wants to hear.  You need to get to the hospital, your mom might not make it through the night.  Wait – What?  Is my Mom’s life going to end in the same hospital where she gave me life – almost to the day – 56 years ago?

I sit at my Mom’s side, 2 weeks after I buried Frank the Faux Pug.  Her breathing is terribly labored and ragged.  Her blood pressure and oxygen levels are critically low.  The doctors say the odds are stacked against her.  My step-dad is telling me I need to spend as much time with her as possible.

In a very weak voice, Momma starts calling for Eric and Donna, over and over, my dead brother and sister.  Chills run up and down my spine and I think they are coming to take her away.  Mom told Paw (my step-dad) after her kidney surgery, she had dreamed about going to heaven and Eric turned her away, saying it was not her time.  I wonder if it is her time now.  Lord, I pray, Mom’s breathing is so bad, please take her quickly.  Please don’t let her suffer.

I sit there and think about a conversation we had just the previous week.  I, as her Avon lady, supply Mom with all things beauty.  She says in her thick N’Awlins accent, “Dawlin, I need some of that Natural Beige Cream to Powder Foundation.  I’m almost out.”  I re-assured her that I had a compact waiting.  My Mom has the tiniest face, but for some reason, she sops this stuff up.  My big, round face does not use the exact same product in the short span of time she does.  Maybe her 95 years of well deserved wrinkles need extra foundation, I don’t know.  This thought carries me even further back, 37 years, to a conversation I had with my dying sister in the hospital.  I was an Avon lady back then also.  I told my sister to order anything she wanted out of the book and I was getting it for her.  I was desperate to keep the conversation as normal as possible.  My sister didn’t even look at the book.  We both knew she wasn’t getting out the hospital.  Was history repeating itself.  As with my sister, would my last conversation with my Mom be about Avon?

I am trying to prepare my sister that Mom is not coming home from the hospital.  My sister keeps nudging my Mom to open her eyes and look at us.  She tries.  She even nods sometimes to our questions.  Mom’s little hands, with her painted red nails, are so swollen, and leaking fluid.  My Mom is leaking.  Why is my Mom leaking?  Mom’s don’t leak.  The nurse explains this is her body getting rid of excess fluid.

My mind drifts back again, probably about 46 years.  My Mom came home from the doctor and said she had diverticulitis.  I grabbed our “D” encyclopedia and looked it up.  I was terrified because the encyclopedia said my mom could die.  I told her that.  She said, “No Dawlin, I just need to watch what I eat.”  When you are from N’Awlins, how do you stop eating Corn & Crab Bisque soup?  You don’t, and you end up in the hospital over the years off and on.  Then you end up in the hospital with scar tissue from severe diverticulitis, have to have a colostomy, right after you just had a cancerous kidney removed.  See Momma, I told you this diverticulitis could kill you – the dictionary told me so at 10 years old – just took 46 years – but it is happening.

We try to make sure my step-dad is eating and resting.   His daughter and family are terribly worried about him.  My husband fries him chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, gravy, Ceaser salad and deadly corn.  Paw eats and tears up as he tells us before the last surgery, my Mom told him to kiss her on the lips because she was probably going to die.  My husband said don’t count Mom out.  She is a tough little lady.  But me and Paw are not holding out hope.

That very same night, I found out a childhood friend had died.  I sit on my Mom’s porch looking across the street at my old neighbor’s house.  Another momma in this neighborhood is going to bury a child.  And this one, like my Mom, will now have lost two children.  The Angel of Death is surely lurking over our old neighborhood.  My heart is so terribly heavy.

The next morning, Paw is heading to hospital.  He picks up his WWII Veteran cap and his Retired U.S. Navy cap, holding one in each hand.  What is going on in that adorable, little bald head of his?  Is he wondering which cap will make him look most dapper?  He decides on one and heads out with tears in his eyes.  Lots of us descend upon the hospital.  Me, my sister, step-sister, her daughters, one son-in-law and our step-brother.  We are all gathered around my unresponsive Mom.

Eventually, we end up chatting about everyday stuff.  My crafty sister and the crafty niece start discussing embroidery machines and how she will go to the crafty niece’s house to show her how to use it.  Me and the non-crafty niece said we will join in and drink Bloody Mary’s that the nephew-in-law will make.  Then, a miracle happens.  Mom is turning her head this way and that, like she is trying to listen to the conversation.  We ask her to open her eyes.  She does.  She looks at all of us.  She responds to our questions – somewhat. She tries to smile.  The nurses are shocked.  The nurses said she obviously needed everyone around her.  I guess Mom wanted an audience.  Heart rate went up, oxygen levels went up. We are cautiously rejoicing.  Other family members came throughout the day – grandaughter – great grandaughters.  With each visitor, Mom responded even more.

That evening, the nurses are turning my Mom and trying to get her to respond.  Mom opens her eyes and asks, “Am I alive?  I thought I was dead.”  We leave the hospital with better spirits.  The nurse said he would call during the night if anything happened.

At almost midnight, the phone rings.  Paw and I almost have a heart attack.  Turns out it was a nun friend that didn’t realize the time.  Phew.

The next morning, Paw picks up both caps again, picks one, and said “Well, we made it through another night. I am dreading heading in.  I am afraid your mom will be unresponsive again.”  Well not so.  The drain tube was removed.  The oxygen mask was removed and replaced with the nostril tubes.  Oxygen and BP were higher.  They are feeding her warm broth through her feeding tube.  Mom was opening her eyes more, responding more, excited to see her grandson and more great-grandchildren.  Then she yells out loudly, “WATER, WATER, WATER.  Swab my mouth.”  We all almost jumped out of our skins.  The doctors and nurses are astounded at this turnaround.

Yes the odds are against her, but my Mom has met the odds many times and showed them who was boss.

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.

Frank the Faux Pug, Part 2

For months I knew it was getting closer and closer to the time we would have to put Frank the Faux Pug down.  I dreaded that day.  I teared up every time I thought about losing him.  You see,  Frank was my constant companion for 16.5 years.  He chose me as his person.  I was his voice to defend him and protect him from ‘those mean people who tried to correct him.’  My rule was no one was allowed to fuss at Frank or correct him.  Yes, he was my spoiled baby and I was his person.

I prepared myself so much that when this day came, I was clinical, I was numb, I was ready to see Frank out of pain.  But obviously, the rest of the family was not clinical, or prepared.  My 12-year old grandson was brave enough to carry Frank in his arms and put him on the table for that final shot.  And then he was shattered.  The tears came in like the mighty Mississippi River overflowing her banks.

I am a puddle of mush when I see someone cry.  I may not know what they are crying about, but I will join in.  So my tears were more for my grandson than for Frank the Faux Pug.  I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

My husband, myself and my grandson arrived back home with our lifeless Frank the Faux Pug.  My son and granddaughter barreled out of the house with tear streaked faces to give Frank a final hug and kiss.  My 10 year old granddaughter was wailing and shaking with grief.  I cried for her and my son (who was supposed to be Frank’s person, but Frank chose me) because I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

The funeral procession marched to the backyard by the blueberry bush, Frank the Faux Pug’s final resting place.  More hugs, final goodbyes and crying.  The family group hug as Frank was being buried brought on more sobs.  I cried for them because I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

I gathered my grandchildren close as we walked back into the house.  They were a sobbing mess and I hurt so bad for them.  They were already feeling the pain of a life without Frank the Faux Pug.  I was okay because I was clinical and numb to the process by now.

By bedtime, I was more weary than everyone else.  But that is nothing unusual.  Frank the Faux Pug and I always retired first.  He would let me get about 6″ of the mattress, then he would perform his ritual of 3 turns and plop against my back.  This was our nightly routine.  I could immediately drop off to sleep once Frank was firmly planted against my back.  Then we would wake up in the morning hugging each other.  We shared a pillow.  I would lay in the darkness of my bedroom petting Frank.  This moment was always my calm before the storm of a new day.

This morning was different.  I awoke hugging a stuffed giraffe.  My husband told me our grandson brought this in after I fell asleep and tucked it up against my back.  My grandson – who is usually a terror – who always writes the word ‘poop’ on the foggy bathroom mirror after his shower – who always sticks his fingers in candle & scentsy wax and messes it up, even after constant admonishment – who poured baby powder in front of a running fan and covered the entire room with powder dust – who took Vaseline and rubbed it over all the faucets in the bathroom – who also has a heart of gold.  My grandson knew that come morning time, I would  not be clinical and numb to the process.

I was clinical and numb to the process of putting Frank the Faux Pug down.  But I am not clinical and numb to life without him.  As I lay in my darkened bedroom this morning, petting a stuffed giraffe, I was having the calm before the storm of a life without Frank my Faux Pug.