Celebrating Mother’s Day

Motherhood has been good to me.

This is why I coined the name “Irritated Tya” for my daughter. She was clearly ready to get out of that swing. She’s 3 months in this picture.
My son Nate the Great at about 6 months.

I started early at 19. But I was so ready for it and blessed that God had allowed me to conceive and birth a child. At 19, I didn’t realize how hard that is for millions of women around the world. I didn’t take it for granted. Over the years of raising my daughter, and nine years later, my son, I thanked God for His provision in my life and covering my children.

I remember testifying one Sunday in church about how good God had been to me. I’d raised my children, primarily, as a single mother although I was married twice to their father and then my late husband. Unfortunately, though, neither of them were very helpful in crux of parenting. By that I mean, I was the one responsible for transportation to and from school, doctor appointments, emergency visits, extra-curricular activities, the birds & the bees talk, assigning chores, transporting to part-time jobs, disciplining, homework, college planning. All that! But the consistency with which God showed up in my life, I never considered it a struggle.

My mom with my children.

That doesn’t mean, however, that it was easy breezy. Parenting is parenting. The hardest and most important, and most rewarding job I would ever have. I made the sacrifices I considered necessary. Partially to make it easier for my support system of my family to help me. Partially because I wanted to be as available to my children as my mother had been to myself and my siblings when we were growing up.

My mother said something profound to me that her mother said to her. I don’t know if I was sharing my life goals with her or complaining about the overtime I was missing out on at my job at the time. But she said said my grandmother told her, “Your children won’t always be little.”

My mom was always present with my children ❤️

Of course, when they are little, you can’t see that far ahead. You just see the right now. But not too long ago, when I realized that I have a 26 year old and a 17 year old, those words resurfaced in my mind. And I was, wow, where did that time go?

My daughter is off on her own with a husband and baby, and, though, my 17 year old son is still in high school, he’s kind of doing his own thing.

I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about when this time in my life would come. But, I sure hadn’t expected to be a widow when I was entering the empty nest phase of my life. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying this space of time in my life.

I love that I can go on vacations with friends without having plan babysitting for my children. I love that I can pay for a membership to a Pilates class, that ten years ago, I would have swore was too much. I love that I can splurge on a private Hot Yoga class, if I want to. I also love that I can sleep in on my Saturdays because my son can drive himself to Saturday morning bowling league.

This is a good feeling. While I know that parenting never truly ends, the declining level of responsibility that develops over time is to be appreciated.

On this Mother’s Day, I’m celebrating my mother’s unwavering support and love of me and my children in the early years of parenting and right now. I’m celebrating God’s grace and ever-presence in mine and my children’s lives. And I’m celebrating me because…

I DID THAT!

Visiting Arizona for my daughter’s 26th birthday. See my grandbaby in the corner.

Remembering #myKevin: Day 1 Friday, December 15, 2017

The anniversary of my husband Kevin’s death, 12/18/17, feels more like a weekend event rather than one day. Because we had such an eventful weekend leading up to his death, my memory of his passing begins on the Friday before that fateful day…

In December 2017 the 15th fell on a Friday. Kevin and I are had plans to celebrate his sister’s surprise 50th birthday which was the day. I remember being at work that day and talking to my friend about possibly not going to the party. The terminal illnesses Kevin was dealing with, interstitial lung disease, caused him to be increasingly angry, resentful, and quite frankly, not pleasant to be around. For me, as his caregiver, at least. I was beginning to tire of the Kevin that Kevin became in the presence of his family. Positive, glass half-full, God is good all the time Kevin. Because with me, in the privacy of our home, I witnessed the total opposite. Full disclosure, he was often a jerk. But the expectation was for me to be with him. Not because he enjoying my company but because I was his wife, his support.

However, this day I was considering letting him go on his own and use the time with him away to enjoy some peace at home. I had a conversation with my coworker about it and she understood but she encourage me to go. And by the end of my workday I decided to do just that. Putting Kevin’s needs before my own.

I didn’t tell Kevin that I had thought about not going to the party. That would have just soured whatever mood he was in when I got home. Plus I had decided that we were going to have a good night. I was not going to press him about us being on time to the party to be apart of the surprise. He hated when I rushed him for anything. I told myself, “This is his sister’s party, and we will get there when he wants us to.” Once I relieved myself of that pressure, I was able to relax to tend to his his needs.

While Kevin prepared himself for the party, I prepared Kevin for the party. I put 8 full sized metal oxygen tanks & all five of the liquid oxygen tanks in the back seat of Kevin’s truck. We would need enough oxygen for the 35 minute ride to and from party and for the time we were at the party and anything that came up along the way. The time we had been dealing with life with supplemental oxygen we tried our best to prepared for anything.

Thankfully we made big to the party in time to yell “surprise” along with everyone else. Though kevin was physically struggling breath, I could tell he was happy. Kevin loved being around his family and his family loved to be around him. There was a lot of love between them.

If there was a prayer to be a given during a family gathering, Kevin was always the one to do it. But at this event, after taking family pictures, Kevin’s mom or sister requested prayer for Kevin. We formed a circle around him as the minister present prayed for him. When the prayer was finished Kevin had his own words to share.

“I don’t want y’all to worry about me. My God’s got me and I’m gonna be alright!”

He’d moved everyone in the room, in kid me, to tears. In that moment I couldn’t have been happy that I decided to attend the party with him. To witness the heart of a dying man who thought so much of his family to have comforting for them when he was one in greater need of comforting.

When we got home, I was in such a good mood. Kevin was too. The night had been a good one.

Life After Vlog Series–Widow’s Who Say They’re Fine

In this second video of my Life After Vlog, I talk about celebrating my 2nd birthday last month without my husband as well the approaching holidays. It still seems surreal that I’m living without him.

When asked in those early months how I was doing following my husbands passing, the answer was the same as what it is now.

“I’m fine” or “I’m doing okay”.

But what else would I be in those particular settings–at church, in the office, at a sorority function, at a party. I was absolutely fine in those moments. No one was there , however, to ask that question when I was alone in the rental house awaiting the repair of my home, or driving in the car listening to a song Kevin loved to sing or traveling along a route we drove so frequently together, or when I was enjoying something that I wished I were enjoying with him.

I wasn’t always fine when I said I was. Sometimes I say, “I’m fine”, to convince myself that I was. Other times, like I say in the video, it’s because I actually was in those moment. The best advice I can give when dealing with the widow in your life is to prayer for her continued strength. She’s needs it.

Naturally Yours,

Honoring My Veteran

Though my dad and I are currently estranged, his choice, I might add, I still take the time to honor him for his service to our country. My dad served in the United States Army and fought in the Vietnam War. I hadn’t been born yet, but it would be many years after my birth that I would begin to touch the surface of what he truly sacrificed for this country.

My dad never talked much of his time in the war. I can count on one hand how many times he mentioned something about it in my 44 years of life. But from what he shared about what he endured during the war coupled with his abandonment issues from his youth, I know my dad returned from the war physically whole but with emotional issues that only issues that God deliver him from.

My understanding of this is the only thing that allows me to focus less on my own pain from his deliberate absence from my life and to pray for his pain. I know my dad is only one of thousands of Veterans who return from war forever damaged. I’m sorry for the other children suffering in relationships with their mothers or fathers who suffered emotional damage from war. Our Veterans deserve so much more than the freebies they get on this day.

Today I texted my dad “Happy Veteran’s Day”, pushing away any expectation of a reply. It could go either way. Instead I reflected on fond memories of these pictures of better times with my dad. It was November 2015. My late husband, son, and I had gone to meet my dad at one his favorite steak joints. He way happy. I was happy. My husband and son were happy. It was a good day.

I was sharing these photos with a coworker when I received a text.

“Thank you”. My heart kinda leaped.

Happy Veteran’s Day,

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Naturally L.A. is Back

I hope you all are enjoying your summer as much as I have been. I knew it had been a while since I posted on this site but I hadn’t realize it had been that long. Over a year!

So much happened during that time.

My daughter got engaged!

My best friend and I joined the newly engaged couple on a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas.

I took my son on my 25th high school reunion cruise, his first cruise, the next month. Both of these trips were equally desired, deserved and needed after everything we endured at the end of 2017. Plus I figured we might as well enjoy some time away as we awaited the repair of our home. All in all we had a blast. It was surely the highlight of our summer.

If the stress of grieving the loss of my husband and dealing with contractors with the repair of my home, I decided to apply to a graduate program in Library in Information Science so that I could–obviously–work as a librarian. Classes started in August. And I wouldn’t be my over achieving self if I didn’t jump feet first and take two classes the first semester.

Needless to say I was swamped with fitting lectures, research papers, and group projects into my already full schedule. So blogging found its way at the bottom of my to-do list. But I missed it. So as of this post…I’m back!

I have so much to tell you fill you in on. From grieving through year two, surviving the contractor from hell, adventures with my new dog, dating (if you can call it that)! Be on the lookout for my next post!

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

P.S. Forgot to mention, I also had surgery on my left-hand in the middle of the semester, putting me in a cast for 5 weeks! SMH!

Happy New Year Somehow

Less than a month ago I was contemplating my end of year post. I didn’t want to follow the usual course of declaring what I’d planned to do in the new year. Instead I began compiling a list of what I was leaving behind in 2017.

Stressing over weight loss

Lack of confidence

Indecisiveness

To name a few…

But the night of December 17th changed all of that. After a day of church, movies with my son, and an evening stretched out on the couch watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel, I fell asleep easily on the couch feeling that it had been a good day.

Then at about 11:30 that night, not long after I’d fallen asleep, the fire alarm broke through my restfulness. I leaped from the couch and came upon a torch-like flame blowing from my husband’s oxygen tube in the hallway of the kitchen.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. From there everything went so fast.

My husband was standing in the doorway of our bedroom. Not panicked at all.  He calmly told me to get the fire extinguisher. I did. I pointed it toward the flame, squeezed the lever and hardly anything came out. I didn’t waste anytime with it anymore. My son was there too. Both of us tried to extinguish the flame to no avail. I thought I saved the day by carrying the burning cord onto the porch, throwing it in the snow, where eventually that flame went out.

But, apparently, something else was burning. When the fire department arrived and I stood outside hoping that they arrived in time to get our dogs out of the house, I saw a flame coming through the other side of the house. Obviously, the firefighters were as cautious as I was about entering the house with oxygen inside. Still, I thought we’d only end up with some smoke damage in the back of the house.

Not so.

Within a few hours I’d lost my home, my two dogs, and my husband.

My husband’s scarred lungs and heart couldn’t handle the smoke inhalation and trauma of the night. He suffered cardiac arrest, I believe, before the fire department even arrived, which was within 10 minutes of me calling. From one hospital to another, he never regained consciousness.  He was never able to tell me what happened, what caused the fire, if he even knew. He was never able to tell me that he loved me. Not that night. But luckily he expressed his love to me all the time, even when the frustration of his illness got the better of him and he wasn’t so nice. I never doubted for a minute that he loved me and appreciated me for being there with him during this challenging time in our life.  And he knew I loved him.

Now I’m beginning a new year without him. Totally didn’t see that coming. Nothing in my plans for 2018 included him not being apart of it. I had bought into my own optimism that my husband wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. God knew better.

My husband departed his earthly body in a hospital room with myself, my children, and his two daughters by his side. I know he didn’t want to leave. But when the Lord says its time, it’s time.

My heart is broken. I miss my husband. Still I was able to receive Happy New Year wishes and express the same because I know healing and restoration is coming my way.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Wellness Wednesday–Move Week

I have learned first hand over the last several days that healthy eating and moving don’t mix. If you follow my blog, you know that I closed on my new house at the end of September, approximately a month after the initial closing date was schedule. Although I started packing up and cleaning out the apartment in early August, there was still much to done as the movers arrived this past weekend!

moving

After the movers dropped our belongings off at the new house, there was now work to be done at both locations. With no vacations left for the year, that leaves me to do all of this in between full-time work hours, school drop off and pick up for my son. So needless to say, there has been no time to cook.

Thank God for the bag of apples I bought on my last trip to the grocery store!

Between Pizza Hut on Sunday, KFC on Monday, and  McDonalds on Tuesday I have eaten the most consecutively unhealthy than I have in a long time. An apple a day and a serving of greens to go with the chicken and mashed potatoes (with gravy)  from KFC has been the only healthy things to grace my stomach. Hopefully carrying boxes from the apartment to my truck to the house has worked off some of those calories.

However, we’re still not done. But I am not feeling good about these high calorie food selections I’ve been making. Wish I had been stocking up on healthy grab & go foods while I was stocking up on boxes to pack our stuff in.

Not that I’ll be moving any time soon, but if you have any cost-effective, healthy food ideas to get me through the rest of this week, please share them in the comments below. My waistline will appreciate it 🙂

Naturally Yours,

L.A.

Letting Go

I celebrated my birthday on yesterday, October 15th.  My Facebook notifications began chiming as early as 12 a.m. Text messages a few hours later. Birthday wishes from my husband, son, daughter, other family, and closest friends.  A beautiful brunch of fine dining with my husband at a historic mansion in our city of Detroit. A gorgeous bouquet of fall flowers and a scrumptious cupcake from my daughter added to the festivities. It was a wonderful day. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Why, then, on the morning after such a wonderful day was my heart saddened that my own father didn’t call or text, at the very least, to wish me a happy birthday? Though I’m not surprised, my feelings are still hurt. Hurt that my father willfully didn’t acknowledge my birthday. Who does that to their daughter who has only shown him love, kindness, forgiveness, and respect?

I wouldn’t be surprised if he was waiting for me to call him for a personal invitation to tell me happy birthday. Honestly, I considered it, then decided not to. I’m in the midst of raising a 13-year old soon-to-be young man, caring for and dealing with the often bad attitude of a chronically ill spouse. There is no time in my schedule to hold the hand of the man who should be the strong shoulder for me to lean on.

daughterdad

According to him, he lost me and my two siblings in his divorce from my mother 5 years ago. Five years ago, meaning all of us are good and grown. He didn’t lose anyone. Instead, he cast us away in the guilt that he feels for intentionally losing our family home to foreclosure so that mother wouldn’t get it; the guilt he feels for turning his back on the daughter he had with another woman at the onset of his marriage to my mother; guilt and shame that he can no longer declare himself  to be one of the last good men around as we know much of his dirty deeds.

Rather than admit that he can’t handle being around us in his unveiled, flawed state, he projects onto us, claiming we have deserted him. In the case of my brother and sister, they haven’t deserted him, but stopped chasing behind someone who will keep running away and blaming them for the distance.

The sympathizer amongst us, I hadn’t gotten to that point…yet. I loved my dad so much and I know that the messages that he hears in head are from the pit of hell, designed to keep him alone, angry, bitter, and filled with resentment and un-forgiveness. I had made it my mission to be there for him no matter what.

“I’ll never let you push me away Dad,” I declared to him a few years ago.

Fast forward to the present, that declaration is slipping from my heart like a freshly peeled mango slipping from my hands. Worrying about whether or not my father will accept my love and my willingness to have a relationship with him is as emotionally taxing as trying to get my husband to stop saying, “This could be my last Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday, etc.”

Last week I purchased a book: Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls. Interestingly, I bought it for spiritual guidance for loving but letting go of some of my husband’s wayward ways. Hadn’t considered that I’d need it for letting go of my father’s waywardness, too.

By the completion of the book and steadfast prayer, I hope to have the following questions answered:

Am I wrong if I don’t call my father again?

Am I acting out of hurt and frustration?

Am I contributing to the problem by letting go?

Will my father ever understand the effects of his behavior on his love ones?

Do I continue to pray for him while keeping my physical distance? Or is it time to trust God to answer the prayers I’ve already prayed?

 

No Time Like the Present

My longtime girlfriend has been living in Dallas, TX for at least 7 years. She relocated there after accepting a promotion with the company she’d been working for in our hometown.  Once down there, she met her current husband and they’ve since started a family. Dallas is clearly her home now. As most of her family is here in Michigan, she comes to visit once or twice a year. However, her time is usually consumed with family so I never get to spend much time with her.

I don’t know why it never occurred to me to go visit her. Actually…I do.

Before I started visiting my husband on weekends he was out of town for work or attending a conference for my sorority, I was not really into traveling. The only trips that I took my children on was 5 hrs away to Chicago and across the bridge to Canada to enjoy an indoor waterpark. Traveling was not something I fit into my vacation or financial planning.

This past summer a friend invited my son to go on a trip to Disney World with her family. I didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunity but I was hesitant. First, he’d never been on a plane before. Second, he expressed fear about getting on a plane. So I decided that his first flight needed to be with me. Around this same time, I was on the brink of caregiver burnout and didn’t see a way to give myself a real break.

Lo and behold, the company I work for hosts an annual conference in Dallas that I always say that I’d like to attend. Why hadn’t? There was no good reason. So this year I took the opportunity to kill three birds with one stone: attend the conference, visit my friend, and take my son on his first flight.

Everything was awesome. That Dallas September heat was no joke but it was so good to be away from home. To be a guest in my friend’s home. To wake up on Saturday morning and not have to think about what I was going to cook for breakfast for myself or anyone else! My friend and her husband took good care of us.

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My son in the co-pilot seat

 

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A round of miniature golf in the hot Dallas son with my friend’s family

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Go-Kart racing

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Partial group family pic…my friend’s husband was MIA

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Taking a break from the conf. Enjoying a book in the pool

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My son getting his swim on

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Mom & Son chilling at the pool

The question that repeated through my head was, “Why’d it take you so long to do this?”

I have another girlfriend who’s been living in Atlanta for the last 7 yrs. Besides going down for her wedding five years ago, I haven’t been there for a real visit. After I visit family in Tennessee next year, Atlanta will be my next stop.

It’s funny how, in theory, we know that tomorrow is not promised. Still, we tend to live our lives like we have all the time in the world. My husband’s diagnosis with a life-threatening illness changed my perspective. Although  supporting him through this illness doesn’t allow me to a lot of time to do as much as I’d like, I still make a point to do as much as I can.

Is there anything you’re putting off for tomorrow that you need to be doing today? Share in the comments  below.

Naturally Yours,

L.A.