I’m Not Ready To Die!

24 Sep

I’m gonna try to think of a nice way to say this.  A way in which I won’t upset Taylor Belle.  Because I know that she will read this, and dealing with a teenage girl is challenging enough.

That being said … OMG!  I’m teaching Taylor how to drive.  I’m not sure what to say that won’t hurt her feelings, but I realized tonight while she was driving that I’m not ready to die.  There’s still too much that I haven’t done with my life.  I haven’t even started writing a bucket list yet.  Just saying.

I texted Joey because I don’t remember it being this hard when he learned to drive.  I asked him if I ever even taught him how to drive or if I just handed him the keys and let him go.  I’m still waiting for his response.  It was eighteen years ago.  Maybe he doesn’t remember either.  We were both young.

I’m trying everything I can think of to successfully teach Taylor to drive.  I’m pointing things out to her that she should learn while she is observing me driving.  I’m using my calm voice.   I’m praising her – telling her that she is doing a great job.  Which she is.  Until a car full of boys pass us while she is driving and hang out their windows to wave at her.  And she almost runs off the road because she is distracted.  Or she decides to look at the speedometer while she is driving, and almost runs off the road.  Or another car comes up along side of her in the next lane, and she gets nervous and almost runs off the road.  Then I’m using my really calm voice.

The truth is that Taylor is doing a good job at learning how to drive.  She has figured out the basic rules.  And she hasn’t actually run off the road.  Not even once.  She is getting more comfortable each time she drives.  Maybe it’s just me who isn’t getting more comfortable.  Maybe it’s me who just isn’t ready yet.

One thing is for sure.  I have a little over four years before Mason is ready to start learning to drive.  His only hope is that I will have forgotten what this experience is like.

I love you Taylor Belle.  Go to bed.

Doing The Best We Can At That Very Moment

9 Sep

I would have smiled.  If you had asked me two weeks ago how Christie was doing, I would have smiled and told you how proud I was of her.  It had been a long four weeks since Christie first showed up at my door.  Tweeking.  Strung out.  Thin as a rail.  A meth addict.  Without her children.  And with no place to go.  Asking that I help her.  But Christie was doing so much better.  And I was so very proud of her.

Christie is family.  She is my niece.  I have loved her since the moment I first laid eyes on her, and nothing will ever change the love I have for her.  Absolutely nothing.  She is precious to me.  Helping her was not an option.  At least, not for me.

If you had asked me two weeks ago if it had been easy. I would have told you no.  In fact, the last four weeks had been hard.  Very hard.  I took away Christie’s phone the first night she arrived, along with her car keys and most of her personal belongings.  But I didn’t have to force her.  Christie readily relinquished everything to me.  She wanted to get better.  She wanted to be free of the demon that had taken hold of her.  The demon of meth addiction.  She wanted her life back.  She wanted her children back.

Christie pretty much just slept and ate that first week.  But that was good.  She was exhausted.  She had been on a long downward spiral of drugs, very little sleep and inadequate food.  Her body needed time to heal.  Her mind needed time to heal.  I believe her very soul needed time to heal.

Christie seemed more like her old self that second week, and things seemed a little better.  There was laughter.  And silliness.  And late night talks.  There were tears as well, but that was to be expected.  It had been a long painful road to get to where she now found herself, and with that came a lot of guilt and remorse.  But plans were being made for the future.  For Christie’s future.   For her children’s future.  And we were all so hopeful.

If you had asked me two weeks ago if I thought Christie was going to be able to beat her addiction, I would have said yes.  Christie, Taylor Belle and Mason had all just been baptized that evening.  Three cousins being baptized together at the river.  I thanked God, and felt so blessed.

Christie had started working at a job that she really enjoyed.  She had been nervous when she first started, but had been working for a week at that point and was doing well.  She liked it.  She felt important.  Like she was good at something.

We had been able to spend some time with Christie’s children the week before, and it couldn’t have gone better.  Christie was worried that her little girl wouldn’t remember her.  Grace is only thirteen months old and hadn’t seen Christie in several months.  But all of Christie’s worries quickly vanished when Grace grabbed ahold of her and would barely let go the whole time we were there.  I’m not sure who needed it more, Christie or Grace.  Everyone was happy, there were smiles galore, and plans were made for another visit.

If you had asked me two weeks ago if I was worried that Christie would start craving her old lifestyle, I would have said yes.  It was constantly in the back of my mind.  That she would get lonely for the man she had left to come stay with me.   That she would forget how bad it was and what she had been through to get to where she was now.  That she would simply get restless and bored.  But even though I knew there was always that chance, the unflinching optimist in me didn’t think it would happen.  If Christie started feeling that way, I could talk to her and make everything all better.  Or so I thought.

If you had asked me two weeks ago how I felt, I would have said happy.  So proud.  So hopeful.  Christie and my two younger children had just been baptized hours before.  Things were going so well.  I thanked God.  And went to bed with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

And I woke up the next morning.  And Christie was gone.

Just like that.  No warning.  Absolutely no warning at all.  All of Christie’s stuff was still here.  The pictures of her two little children on her bedroom wall and on our refrigerator.  Her journal.  All of her clothes.  The pair of boots that she loves wearing.  Her jewelry.  Her Bible and the Joyce Meyers book she was reading.  The only thing missing ….. was Christie.

I spent the morning hoping that she would be at work when I got there.  That she had just left earlier than usual for work, and that I would walk into the dining hall bakery to find her already up to her elbows in flour or pizza dough.  But she wasn’t there.

If you had asked me one week ago what I was doing about Christie, I would have said that I didn’t really know what to do.   I sent an email to an address that Christie’s mother thinks she still uses.  There was no reason to believe that Christie would ever even see the email, but I had to try.  I told Christie that if she thinks she fucked up by leaving in the middle of the night, without a word, and not showing up to her job, she’s right.  She did.  It was a big fuck up.  Huge.  But I went on to say that if she thinks it can’t be fixed, she’s wrong.  Completely wrong.  It’s fixable.  This is not a one shot and you’re out kind of deal here at my house.  I probably fuck up at least once a day.  And yet I’m still here.  All we can do is the best we can at that very moment.  And then try again the next day.  I told her that this is her home.  This is where she is loved.  This is where she can get her life back together.  We will help.  We want to help.  She is part of us.

If you asked me tonight if I have heard anything from Christie, I would have to tell you no.  Not one word.

And if you asked me tonight if I’ve given up hope, I would smile and tell you no.  I haven’t given up hope.  For giving up hope would be giving up on Christie.  And that’s not going to happen.  We all make mistakes.  As long as no one has died, it’s always fixable.  I’m just going to keep loving Christie.  And praying for Christie.  And will welcome her back with open arms if I ever get that chance.

And we will start again.  Doing the best we can at that very moment.

 

 

Did Someone Say Chocolate?

15 Aug

If someone screws up, but it’s not on purpose, does it still count?  I wish that it didn’t.  I really do.  But I’m afraid it probably does.  And my friend would likely agree.

It was my friend’s birthday at work.  My boss and the birthday girl are the best of friends, and he asked one of the girls in the office to have a birthday cake made to help us celebrate the occasion.  Can’t have a birthday celebration without a cake, right?  Wanting to do a good job, she asked my boss if he knew what the birthday girl’s favorite kind of cake would be.  He thought about it for a moment, and suggested white cake with strawberries.  Probably felt pretty good about the decision.  Maybe even smiled as he thought about how happy she would be with the cake.  And didn’t have a clue how he had just screwed up.

My friend was very gracious when her birthday cake was brought out after lunch.  She said it was beautiful.  That it was delicious.  That she absolutely loved it.  And all that was true.  It was beautiful.  And delicious.  And she did love it.  But there was one little problem, even though no one at the birthday celebration even realized.  While my friend would agree that white cake with strawberries is good, it is not her favorite.  Not even close.  Want to know what her favorite is?  Well, that would be chocolate.  Chocolate cake.  Chocolate pie.  Chocolate brownies.  Pretty much anything chocolate.   That’s the kind of important information friends should know about each other.  And, so you see, we screwed up.  Not on purpose, but it still counted.

It has been almost a year since my friend’s birthday celebration.  We are gonna try to do better this year.  And in her honor, I want to share the best chocolate recipe I have.  It’s not chocolate cake.  But it’s a damn good pie.  And, most importantly, it’s chocolate.  Here’s to you girlie.

The first chocolate pie I ever made turned out to be a disaster.  Honestly.  An absolute disaster.  Determined, I didn’t stop trying.  I found an old recipe for chocolate pie and tweaked it a little to make it where it could be cooked in a microwave oven rather than having to spend a long time stirring it on the stove top.  It’s an easy recipe.  The hardest part is having to wait a couple of hours for it to set up in the refrigerator before you can cut that first slice.  But it will be worth it.  I promise.  Enjoy!

2-½ cups milk

1-1/3 cups granulated sugar

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa

1-½ tablespoons unsalted butter

6 tablespoons water

7 tablespoons cornstarch

3 extra-large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup miniature marshmallows

Deep-dish pie shell (frozen)

First, you will need to cook a deep-dish pie shell, and have it ready.  I simply buy a frozen pie shell, thaw it a little, puncture holes in it with a fork to keep it from rising too much while cooking, and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until it is brown.  Set it aside to let it cool.

Get a glass bowl that will work in the microwave (a Pampered Chef batter bowl works great), and put in 1-1/3 cups sugar and ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa.  Mix that together using a wire whisk, and gradually add 2 cups whole milk until mixed well.  Next, cut 1-1/2 tablespoons butter from a stick of unsalted butter, and add it to the bowl.  You don’t have to melt the butter, it will melt while cooking.  Cook the mixture in the microwave on high for 5-1/2 minutes, stopping it every two minutes to stir with a whisk.

While the chocolate mixture is cooking, combine 6 tablespoons water and 7 tablespoons cornstarch (mixing well with a spoon), together with ½ cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 3 extra-large egg yolks, and mix all well with a wire whisk or fork.  Add to the chocolate mixture with a wire whisk (once the chocolate mixture has finished cooking for 5-1/2 minutes) and cook for additional 2-minute increments (stirring each time with a wire whisk) until the chocolate mixture has thickened.  Once thickened, add a heaping 1 cup of miniature marshmallows to chocolate mixture and stir with a wire whisk.  Cook for three more 2-minute increments (stirring after each increment with a wire whisk).  Pour the chocolate mixture into the baked deep-dish pie shell, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate for a least 2 hours.  Overnight is best.

You will want to top the chocolate pie once it has been refrigerated for at least 2 hours.  For the topping, beat 2 cups heavy whipping cream at high speed until it begins to thicken.  Add ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.    Continue beating until fairly stiff peaks form, and then top your pile.  Finally, add chocolate curls to the top of the pie.  For this, I use a Ghiradelli Semi-Sweet chocolate baking bar (found in the baking aisle of the grocery store) and shave it with a vegetable peeler to make the chocolate curls.  It shaves better if it is a little bit on the warm side, so I microwave it for 2 or 3 seconds to warm it up.

This chocolate pie was a favorite at Mama’s Dessert Kitchen.  It made a lot of people smile.  I hope it makes you smile as well.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One

2 Aug

So ….. there was this fifty-something year old menopausal woman, a twenty-eight year old woman who is addicted to meth and determined to get clean, and a hormonal, drama-filled sixteen year old girl who just got her driver’s learning permit – all living in a tiny two-story apartment in a small Texas town.  Sounds kinda like the beginning of a joke.  Or maybe a really bad reality tv show.

Between the three of us girls, I believe that we are feeling almost every emotion there is to feel.  Pretty much on a daily basis.  There have been tears.  Exhaustion.  Depression.  Frustration.  Fear.  But there have also been smiles.  Laughter.  Love.  And, most important of all, hope.

We know that we are blessed to be going through this together.  That we each have the other.  You should probably feel blessed that you don’t have to be here with us.  Did I mention that we are living in a tiny two-story apartment?  Yeah, I guess I did.

I wasn’t too thrilled when Mason decided to drive down with his daddy when he moved to Florida.  It’s just for a few weeks, since school will be starting soon, but Mase is only eleven.  I knew that I would miss him and his smiling face.  He is the only person in our family who is happy ninety-nine percent of the time, and he always loves his mama.  Who wouldn’t miss a kid like that?  But I had no idea what was coming.  As it turns out, Mase is getting to enjoy spending time with his daddy in Florida while Christie is going through what I hope is the worst part of this withdrawal process here at the apartment.  Funny how God works things.  And sad that I don’t trust Him more.

I saw a penny in the parking lot while I was walking into work this morning.  I smiled and picked it up and put it in my purse.  I’ve never really believed in luck.  But I figured it couldn’t hurt.  Who knows, maybe God left it there simply to see me smile.

There are no tears here tonight.  At least not for the moment.  We are feeling very thankful.  Blessed beyond measure.  And one more night has almost passed.

 

Days One and Two

29 Jul

I am feeling scared. Feeling completely inadequate. Lacking sufficient knowledge to even begin to know what to do to help Christie save her life.

When I found out that Christie was coming, my plan was to love and encourage her. Give her a place to stay until she got back on her feet. Show her that I care. Build her back up. I’m really good at that sort of thing. And I thought that would be enough to make everything ok. That was my plan. But I was naïve. She was worse than I had expected when she showed up at my house on Saturday night. Much worse. And my plan flew right out the window when I saw her.

Christie is an addict. There’s just no way to sugar coat that. And while loving and encouraging her will be important, it’s not going to be enough. Not even close. And I have no backup plan. Absolutely nothing.

I find myself feeling the same scared and inadequate feeling that I felt a couple of months ago when a teenage boy needed my help. He was with a big group of summer campers who came for dinner one night at the dining hall. The campers were being loud and silly, as teenagers will be when they are in a large group and away from their parents. I was at the cashier stand, and first noticed him when he left the group he was with and went into a side room of the dining hall. He was jumping up and down and making strange noises. None of his friends seemed to notice as they went on out of the dining hall.

I didn’t know that something was wrong until this boy starting coming toward me, still jumping up and down and making strange noises. It was then that I realized that he was choking. He couldn’t breathe. He was jumping up and down, trying to get whatever was caught in his throat to come up. He had a terrified and panicked look on his face. He ran toward me and started throwing up, while still choking and unable to breathe. I went around behind him and tried to position myself to do the Heimlich maneuver, but he was much taller than me and I had no idea how to make it work. I tried hitting him on the back like I had done with my children when they got choked, but it didn’t help. About that time, the boy feel to his knees, threw up some more, and was finally able to get a breath of air. He stayed there on the ground for several minutes trying to recover as I helped clean him up and reassure him that everything was going to be ok.

I thank God that He helped this boy. Because I was absolutely no help at all. I have taken CPR and life saving classes. I have been taught what to do in case someone chokes. I thought that I was prepared for something like that. But I was wrong.

Day one consisted mainly of Christie sleeping. I woke her up to eat lunch, and then again for dinner. Other than that, she slept. Which I believe is good. Her body needs to heal. Her mind needs to heal. Her soul needs to heal.

Christie had willingly given me her phone the night she arrived. I hid it from her in a safe place in case she changed her mind. It rang all through the night with calls from her friends trying to pull her back in. Calls from other addicts. Tweaking in the middle of the night. Unable to sleep and wanting her there with them. Her phone was still ringing when I threw it away this morning. Christie won’t need that number any more. Turns out the phone was stolen anyway.

Today was day two, and it was pretty much the same. Lots of sleeping. Only getting up to eat. Except that Christie was awake for a little while longer tonight before she went back to bed. And she said that she has started craving a fix. And she is depressed. Both of which are to be expected. But it worries me. I have done everything that I know to do to keep her safe. But what if it’s not enough. What if I can’t keep her safe from herself. From her addiction.

And then, as I sat here writing, it suddenly hit me. There is no doubt that I will do everything within my power to help save Christie. I will show her how much I love her and will encourage her. I will give her a bed to rest her exhausted body, and will give her food to help make her strong again. I will make every effort to keep her safe. But, like with the boy who was choking, I know that I am not prepared. There is no plan. And that’s when I pray that God will once again step in. And save a life. Save Christie’s life.

After finishing her dinner tonight, Christie asked if I had something sweet she could eat. Maybe something chocolate. That made me so happy that I started laughing. And Christie smiled and laughed as she ate the chocolate cupcake I handed her. It’s a baby step for sure. But definitely in the right direction.

They Made Me Smile

28 Jul

I bought flowers at the grocery store tonight while I was shopping for something to cook for dinner.  I probably shouldn’t have.  Money is tight right now, and every dollar counts.  But they were the most beautiful bouquet of gladiolus and they were only three dollars.  And they made me happy when I saw them.  They made me smile.  And that felt good.  I decided that alone was well worth three dollars.  And so I bought them, and I’m still smiling as I look at them now.

We are blessed.  Everything is not perfect.  Far from it.  But I’m old enough to know that there will never be a time when everything is perfect.  At least not on this earth.  And we can’t wait until things are the way we want them to be happy.  We have to be happy now.   We have to purposefully look past our frustrations, our sorrows and our hurts, and see the blessings that are also there.  We have to find reasons to smile.

An old friend of mine was at a rodeo in Oklahoma City recently and was involved in a roping accident.  He was coming out of the box to head a steer and his horse stumbled.  He landed on his head and fractured his C3 and C4 vertebrae.  He was given CPR to keep him breathing and was careflighted to a hospital.  He has been in ICU for over a month now, and continues to be on a breathing machine, something to keep his heart working and a feeding tube.  He is an amazing man, with a wife and young son, and it is heartbreaking.

But I’m not telling you about my friend to make you sad.  Quite the opposite in fact.  There is a website called Caring Bridge, where people can post their loved one’s status while they are in the hospital.  It is especially helpful when someone is in ICU and visitation is limited.  My friend’s wife has been posting since a couple days after he was admitted to the hospital.  I downloaded the app last night on my phone when I was told of his accident, and was able to quickly catch up on what has happened this last month since the tragedy.

I don’t know my friend’s wife.  But after reading her posts, I wish that I did.  Day after day, she has been at her husband’s side while he is fighting for his life.  Each day, she has been posting news of his condition.  And day after day, she has written about how they are blessed and the things she is thankful for.  She has consistently focused on the good, rather then being consumed by the bad.  Amazing to say the least.  Absolutely amazing.

I refuse to wait to be happy.  I am blessed.  I want to focus on that.  Even in the midst of troubles, there is always something to be thankful for.  If we just look.

And so I bought flowers at the grocery store tonight.  And they made me smile.

Tell Me I’m Not A Fool

27 Jul

I have a banger in my house.  And I didn’t even know what that meant until tonight, when I welcomed her into my home with open arms.  Tell me that I’m not a fool.

Christie is my niece.  She is twenty-eight, and has two precious children.  She is a beautiful woman with dark brown hair and big brown eyes.  She has an identical twin, and I had a hard time telling she and her sister apart when they were little girls.  She is intelligent.  And creative.  A little bit shy.  And one of the hardest workers that I know.  I love her dearly.

But Christie is an addict.  And by that I don’t mean a recovering addict.  She confessed that she has been actively using as recently as last night.  And then again this morning.  And the demon that is chasing her is one of the most addictive drugs there is.  Methamphetamine.  It has been tormenting her off and on for a long time now.  She was snorting it when she first started, but then moved on to smoking it and, finally, started shooting it.  Banging it.  Tell me that I’m not a fool.

Christie has lost custody of her children.  She has tried to kill herself.  More than once.  She has been in rehab and then continued to use.  She has avoided family for the last few years, and has lived in conditions lately that most of us cannot even imagine.  She knows that she is at the end of her rope.  She is in agony.  She is scared.  She is literally crying for help.

It’s not that Christie could die if she doesn’t stop using.  At this point, I would say that there is no doubt.  Christie will die if she doesn’t beat this demon.  She is coming up for her last breath of air and is trying to grab ahold of anything to keep her from going down the last time.  The final time.  And she has grabbed me.  And I won’t let go.

No one has died.  And I’m determined to keep it that way.  Please tell me that I’m not a fool.  And pray for us.  We need a miracle.

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