The Little Redheaded Girl

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A decade ago I met her when she came into the office and sat down beside me. She seemed to be very focused on her task at hand so any conversation during that initial meeting was limited. I could tell that she was not going to stop what she was doing to engage in idle chitchat. Subsequent meetings were pretty much the same…come in, sit down, turn on laptop, click away at the keys, fax a few things and out the door she would go.

Over time I was able to get her to talk a little bit more but even that was hit or miss. Why did she have to be so focused? Didn’t she know that I was not going to stay quiet? I had things to talk about, questions to ask, opinions were sought, including hers. Look up from the dang laptop and breathe three big cleansing breaths! I figured that would give me an opportunity to get her attention for a minute at least. It didn’t. Even though she was looking at me and smiling, I could tell that she was not really listening. She was thinking about how much work she had to do before she could go home. She wasn’t about to take her work home with her because as I eventually learned, she wasn’t going to work for free. It was then that I cringed and thought about the times that I had waited until I got home to complete everything and by doing that, I had “worked for free”. 😩. The little redheaded girl had a point and I tried to follow her lead. It usually didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I’m sure it wasn’t because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.🙂

Our jobs were stressful. People depended on us. We became part of their family. It was impossible not to let our professional lives spill over into our personal lives. Our cell phones were attached to our ears; the calls were many and the time of day or night didn’t seem to matter. We were their lifeline, their hope and their reassurance. As much as we loved what we did, burnout was setting in. Something had to change.

On one particular fall day, I was leaving a patient’s home when my phone rang. It startled me because I was so far out in the country and cell phone towers were not plentiful out there. I mean, you just about had to pump in sunshine; I was out in the sticks! In fact, I did have to drive up the road just a little bit so that the static would subside and the garbled voice would become clear. Quite out of the blue, I was being asked to come in to be interviewed for the assistant director of nursing position at a healthcare facility. Wow! We talked on the phone for a while and plans were made to continue the conversation in the office. I continued making my visits that day but I had one lingering question in the back of my mind. I had been in middle management for a number of years and it just about broke me. Did I want to do that again? I did not but I had someone in mind. The little redheaded girl would be perfect in that position. I called the facility, expressed my appreciation for being contacted and told the director of nursing that I knew just the right person for the job and it wasn’t me. It was the little redheaded girl.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. She got the job; I left home health and that was that. Only it wasn’t. The job that I had taken after leaving home health didn’t work out like I thought it would. I called the little redheaded girl and told her that my job was not working out and to keep her ears open for any available positions. Less than a month later, we were working together again, It was great. I had missed her.

We worked together for about seven years. I was in management again, reporting to her. It felt more like a mother-daughter team instead of a manager/assistant director of nursing team. I was the mother,🙂 During that time, she became the director of nursing and a friend of ours was hired to be the assistant director of nursing. We were a team for sure now and I was still the mother. We had some good times and some not so good times but through it all, we had each other.

I retired three months ago. Having been a nurse since 1973, it was time. The trio became a duet. They continued to work in healthcare and I began baking more bread. Our days were quite different. Changes were being made. We all began to focus on other things and as I said earlier in this post, the little redheaded girl could focus! Better than most I would say.

Last Friday was her last day. She will still be in healthcare only now it will be working with young people, not geriatrics. She will do a great job and I am excited for her. Watch out you high school students. She is little but that red hair…don’t mess with her or you may regret it! Oh, and she is from Texas and you don’t mess with them either.

The trio that became a duet is now a solo. Gina, you keep everyone straight and in line. If anyone can do it, you can. The 506 is always open if you need to get away for a bit. 🧡

Enjoy this new chapter in your life. You will be great. No more late night phone calls or texts. No more worrying about staffing ratios…Little redheaded girl, now you truly are back in high school.😉

Go get ‘em, Shauna. ❤️



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Change Begins With You

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A comment, a look, not hearing or understanding what was said…these are examples of things that can create friction or misunderstanding among individuals. It happens and often the person most affected has no clue other than his/her observations that something has “changed”…but what and more importantly, why?

Passing judgement on someone, pointing fingers, making false accusations, jumping to conclusions, asking everyone but the one who should be asked can all lead to hurt feelings and confusion. Friendships, work environments, are strained and sometimes damaged beyond repair. The mental stress that is created can weigh heavily on the mind and is hard to forget; sometimes impossible to forget. Actions or lack of and most importantly the lack of communication can cause irreparable damage and that is so unfortunate because it can be avoided.

The environment in which we live has become so caustic. So many people seem to be in a defense mode much of the time trying to protect their turf, their space, their feelings of self-worth. What happened to focusing on the problem at hand and working together to solve the problem? Where has the trust gone? Have we become an “it’s all about me” society?

Colleagues working together for a common cause can achieve so much. Colleagues who are suspicious of others with whom they work can achieve very little. It is so easy to jump to conclusions or misinterpret what an individual said or didn’t say, did or didn’t do. The saga begins and often it is one-sided because the individual is clueless as to what is happening. How sad this is when adults forget that they are adults and begin acting like they are in middle school. Sides are taken, gossip becomes rampant and trust is no more.

We are all on this ride together. It is not about color. It is not about religion or sexual orientation. As individuals we should all try to work together. The world is becoming so complex and unpredictable. Attitudes need to change. Trust needs to be renewed. Respect for others and not being so harsh or quick to judge needs to relearned. Communication has to be a priority and this applies to all levels including in the homes, the workplace, among friends and acquaintances, etc.

We can make a difference. We can be the light that others want to follow. It has to begin somewhere so why not let it begin with YOU?

Code Name – Butch

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Sometimes you just can’t reference people by their given names and you can draw your own conclusions about that.  Nothing is wrong with that concept; sometimes names need to be changed to protect the innocent. 😉

I first met Butch several years ago. Immediately impressed with Butch’s sense of humor, smile, obvious love of life and all things orange, I knew that we would be friends for a long time.  Our visits have been scattered but rest assured there was always laughter with a little critiquing about food, weather, opinions, etc.  Other obligations meant that these visits usually were brief but a lot can be said in a short amount of time.

Fast forward a little and laughter and smiles becomes tears and concern. Anxiety and worry have tried to settle in but family and friends are trying to keep anxiety and worry at bay. Not going to bring Butch down. Too many prayer warriors; so much love. Those bothers can just move on out of here. Not gonna have it if at all possible.

Next Saturday will be filled with anticipation and hope. Spirits will be high, friends and family will gather around in support of their team. Old friendships will be rekindled and acquaintances will become friends. Tailgates become feasts, stories are told and memories are made.  Working together, that which could be challenging becomes easy and much can be accomplished.

This type of comaraderie is evident in so many situations.  People come together to help others because they care. That is what friends and family do…it isn’t necessary to ask or wish…it just comes naturally, sometimes when least expected. It happens because people care. Butch, the militia is coming together to help so just be gracious and say thank you. 🙂

Now go get ‘em!

What If…

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What if you or someone you loved or truly cared about was suddenly faced with life-changing events? What would you do?

What if someone you loved or truly cared about called you and it was obvious that they needed to talk? What would you say?

What if that same person was frightened? How would you comfort them?

You tell them that if they ever need anything, all they have to do is ask. What if they did ask? Did you really mean those words? Would you be too busy with your own life to help them?

What if you do nothing, offer no support, no comforting words or a simple touch of the hand to show that you care? How would you feel days, months, years from now when that memory suddenly comes to mind?

What if you had little to offer but for a few dollars? Would you give it to help someone or would you save it to buy something for yourself? In the Bible, the widow’s mite was more meaningful than the treasures that were being given by the wealthy. She gave all she had, literally. I have no doubt that she was blessed beyond measure because of her selfless sacrifice.

Even the smallest gift is valuable. The smallest gift may be just the amount that is needed to start a new program, continue research, help a patient, etc…No gift is too small.

Please take a moment out of your busy day or better yet, as soon as you finish reading this blog, and make a donation to the ALS Association. Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a progressive neurological disease for which there is no cure – yet. Your donation may just be what it takes to tip the scales to success! Go to this ALS site: http://web.alsa.org/goto/wsexton and make a donation. The monies will stay in this area and will help families while research continues. All “likes” to the blogs are appreciated but “likes” don’t offer monetary assistance, but you already know that…

I pray to God that you and your loved ones never have to hear the words, “You have ALS.” If you ever do hear those words, I know that you would be educating everyone that you knew about the disease, the progression and the promises that research is so close to making a reality.

Think about it and donate today. Join the team to walk in the ALS walk in October in Greenville, SC. You will feel so good knowing that you are helping someone who very well could be a total stranger, but in the eyes of Christ, that person is your brother or sister. That total stranger could become one of your best friends.

Our brother was diagnosed with ALS 3 weeks ago. He and other ALS patients need your support through donations and prayers.

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I Didn’t Want to Like Her

We met her for the first time the weekend of Clemson’s homecoming. We had heard a lot about her but we had not had an opportunity to meet her until then. She and Doug came up and she watched the Tigers beat the Louisville Cardinals. It was her first Clemson game and I wanted everything to work out.  I had texted her the week before they were to arrive and told her that I (we) were looking forward to meeting her.  I meant it.  I had also prayed that I would be able to maintain my composure and that she would feel welcomed.  I think that I succeeded and I think that she had a good time.

She seemed to be a very genuine, caring person.  She had a great personality and any concerns that I had about being able to carry on a conversation with her were soon put to rest.  She was very easy to talk to and seemed to be interested in our conversations.  We had a good first visit, BUT…I didn’t want to like her.

That weekend we saw Doug in a very different light.  For the first time in a long time we saw him really having a good time.  He was laughing a lot and smiling even more. He seemed to be enjoying each and every moment.  For that, we were grateful. We knew that he had been sad and lonely since the death of his wife, our daughter, almost three years ago.  It was time that he found happiness again and it was obvious that he had.  Still, though, I didn’t want to like her.

We had brunch on Sunday before they left to go back to the coast.  When Doug was not at the table I told her that I knew she had been nervous about meeting us but I had also been nervous about meeting her.  It was then that I began to tear up and I apologized for that.  She looked at me and said that if I needed to cry,  she would cry with me.  I believe she really meant that.

On the anniversary date of Jennifer’s death I received the sweetest text from her.  She will never know just how much that text meant to me.  I think that she really was concerned about all of us on that day.  I called her to thank her and I cried.  I cried for our loss and for memories that would not be made.   I cried and she listened and suddenly it was ok.

It was then that I knew that by liking her I would not betray Jennifer.  I knew that by liking her, she would not take Doug away from us.  I knew it was ok for me to finally admit what I had known all along.  I didn’t want to like her but I did, almost from the moment we met.

She said “yes” today and we are thrilled.  We love Doug and we love her.  She makes him happy and that is so important to us.  He will always be an important member of our family…he is Britton’s godfather…Wesley’s uncle and our son-in-love. Now we get to welcome Kayla into our family and I hope that you don’t mind being a part of this family, Kayla. It can be crazy at times but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We also look forward to meeting your family. Let’s hope that happens soon.

Lots of love and many blessings to you both.  Have a wonderful cruise. ❤️

 

 

Nighttime

I dread nighttime. When the sun goes down so do my spirits especially during this time of year. I think that maybe it would be good to live somewhere where the sun never sets, at least from November to March when the nights are so long.

During the day everything is ok usually. I stay busy and don’t allow my mind to wander. My thoughts are happy; the memories are precious and there are times when I close my eyes and we are together sitting on the beach laughing and talking. We may be shopping but mostly likely just people watching or, we may be just sitting on the sofa and I am holding your hands or your head is lying on my shoulder as we talk. I still find myself needing to call you or looking towards the door expecting you to walk in the door and with your big, beautiful smile say “hi mom”. Oh how I miss those moments.

As soon as I lay my head down, no matter how tired I am, my mind revs up and it begins. I begin reliving the days and weeks that you were sick. I question myself over and over. I should have known how sick you were. I’m a nurse so why didn’t I realize the severity of your problems? Until my last breath I will always feel like I failed my baby girl. This was not supposed to happen. You and Doug were going to start a family and I couldn’t wait to hold your baby and love on your baby like I was doing with Wesley. All you ever wanted was to be a wife and a mommy. You would have been a wonderful mommy, too. I should have known….why didn’t I pay closer attention to the little things? In 45 years of nursing I recognized issues, symptoms and listened to my gut. Multiple patients over the years have told me that I saved their life. Multiple times over the years, patient’s family members have thanked me for helping their loved ones and doing what needed to be done even when the doctors didn’t want to listen. There were times that I had to go out of my comfort zone and really plead my case for the patient. There were times when the doctor would be upset with my persistence only to apologize later for not listening to me initially. Why didn’t this happen with one of the most important people in my life? Why? I failed my baby girl and I am so, so sorry. We prayed to have a child for 5 years before you were born and then I failed. I will never forgive myself. I should have known.

It will be 3 years on December 19th. Still as raw as ever and time doesn’t heal. Learning to accept is a constant process but through it all, the pain remains. It does not change.

I love you and miss you so much.

Mom

Mimi and CC

We don’t see each other very often; wish we did. Sadly, the distance between us is too far for frequent visits. When she and CC do come down, however, the lively conversations  quickly begin. No time for being “proper” and reserved although I can’t see that happening with either one of us anyway! One big hug and we pick up where we left off at the last visit.

We talk about hair color and style, comfortable clothes, keeping up with our reading glasses and so much more. We laugh; sometimes we shed tears; sometimes we just sit but no matter what we are doing or saying, we truly enjoy each other’s company. I think that speaks volumes because Mimi and CC are “the other grandparents”! There is no jealousy, no comparing one against the other, just mutual respect and admiration for each other. Actually I prefer to think of it as love. It is hard to believe that less than ten years ago we had not even met. My, how time changes things…

Last night was so much fun. The grandsons did not disappoint in their antics, the food was delicious as always, and watching Wesley and Jarren (next door neighbor) make s’mores was the best. Their excitement was contagious!

Perhaps the best time though, was golf cart sitting, watching cars drive down the street and turn around in the cul-de-sac in front of mommy and daddy’s house. Was it the aroma of the wonderful s’mores, the music, or all of the smoke generated from the fire pit? I prefer to think it was the s’mores. 🙂

Our visit with Mimi and CC was too short. I am so glad that the weather cooperated most of the time that they were visiting Caitlin, Robert and the boys. I know that their time with Mimi and CC was much too short and I know 4 people who are going to miss Mimi and CC when they leave tomorrow. Why does time seem to fly by so quickly when you don’t want it to?? On second thought, make that 6 people…😪

Take care and safe travels tomorrow, Mimi and CC and please hurry back.  We have more golf cart sitting to do. ❤️

 

 

 

Caitlin

It seemed to rain almost every time she visited from Chicago. In fact, we started joking that she must be in town because it was raining. She would earn a few points only to lose some of them when she brought the rain; I worried that she would soon end up in the negative column! She never did, though. There were too many special things about her that would “earn” her some points.

We would tease her about her lack of knowledge or understanding of the South and the southern customs. How could someone not know about fried okra, biscuits with gravy or chicken and dumplings? Bless her heart. She couldn’t help it that she was from a foreign place called Connecticut and her relatives were all “up north”. It was our responsibility to expose her to the finer things in life.😉 She called a buggy a grocery cart; she referred to a toboggan as a stocking cap. Mercy. Poor girl. In spite of her lack of familiarity of “all things southern”, there was something special about her. She had manners. She was quiet and unassuming. She was respectful. Qualities that you hope to see in every person were very obvious in her. Good job, Kathy & Chris. I imagine that Lucy and Bootsie also contributed to her becoming the person that she is today. Caitlin is the kind of girl that moms hope their son will marry one day.

We hit the jackpot or I probably should say that Robert “chose wisely”. Of all the girls that we had met, as nice as they were, something was missing. Not with Caitlin, though. We knew she was special the first time we met her. In a short amount of time we grew to love her and we began to hope that Robert would realize just how special this sweet girl from Connecticut/Chicago/Higgins was. Soon we realized that this “friendship” was more than that and we were thrilled.

Fast forward to today, Mother’s Day eve. We are very proud grandparents of two awesome grandsons. Robert and Caitlin are doing an exceptional job as parents. I will occasionally laugh out loud watching Robert, Wesley and Britton as he is teaching them something or playing with them. Caitlin has three boys to keep in line and I imagine that challenge is going to intensify as Wesley and Britton get older. I can see the three of them now singing all of the words to Robert’s favorite songs and, of course, watching a movie and reciting all of the lines verbatim along with the actors. Help us all when some of the Sexton uncles and cousins get together with them! There will be a competition amongst them as to who can remember the most lines and act them out. Thinking of that makes me smile even now.

Being the person that she is, Caitlin will probably shake her head and say very little. She understands the Sexton boys. She understands and she loves. I have said on more than one occasion that Caitlin was hand-picked by the angels. Parents pray for their sons to marry someone like Caitlin. Parents pray for their grandchildren to have a mom like Caitlin. Parents pray for a daughter-in-law like Caitlin.

We are the lucky ones. Our prayers were answered on all accounts. Robert chose wisely and we are grateful that Caitlin said “yes”. Caitlin is so much more than a daughter-in-law to us. She has a very special place in our hearts and she is loved more than she will ever know.

If all moms could be like Caitlin…if only. Our grandsons have the best mommy in the world. The. Best.

Happy Mother’s Day, Caitlin. We love you.

 

 

 

Frozen

This winter has been an unusual winter. We have already had two snows which resulted in schools and businesses being closed.  Driving on snow covered roads is not something we in the south are accustomed to doing. We also do not have the equipment to clear the roads like our friends up north have. By southern standards, our 2-3 inches of snow was a lot!  The anticipation of predicted snow sends many people running to the grocery store to get milk and bread but who can ever walk out of a grocery store with just milk and bread? Certainly not I.

In South Carolina, it is not uncommon to have to bundle up one day to stay warm and then pull out the shorts and flip flops a day or so later because the temperature has gone from freezing to the 60s.  That happened this week.

Tuesday morning we awakened to the eerie silence and beauty of a winter wonderland. The ground was covered and the snow was still falling. Beautiful snowflakes. A dry, powdery snow that was a skier’s dream and perfect for making snow cream.  If you have never made or tasted snow cream, you must. It is a southern delicacy in the winter. Every southern woman knows the importance of keeping evaporated milk in the pantry during the winter months. You can’t make good snow cream without evaporated milk!

By Thursday, most of the snow had melted and by Saturday, it was warm enough to wear shorts and flip flops. Playing in the snow one day and walking around in summer clothes a few days later…Mother Nature keeps us on our toes for sure.

We rode to the mountains this afternoon, only a 45 minute drive, to see if there was still any snow on the ground. It was 61 degrees at home but we knew it would be much cooler in the mountains, The closer we got to the mountains, the more diverse the scenery was. We saw acres of pastureland seemingly untouched by the recent snow. A couple of miles further up the road and we would see random icicles on the sides of the road, hanging from rocks or bushes; some were shimmering in the sunlight as they begin to melt while others were solid with no evidence that they would soon be transformed into a slow, steady drip of water.

On the outskirts of Highlands we began to see mounds of snow that the snowplows had piled up. The pretty white snow that had fallen just a few days ago was now dirty. No one wanted to see dirty snow but there it was, piles of it.  Forget any pictures of snow today but we had other ideas for photo opportunities.

Within a 10 mile radius of Highlands there are several waterfalls and no matter the weather, pictures of waterfalls are always pretty. One of our favorite waterfalls is Bridal Veil Falls. Literally on the side of the road, at one time you could drive under the  waterfall but that is no longer allowed. Now you must park your car and walk to and behind the waterfall. Standing behind the waterfall is quite an experience. The sunlight bouncing off of the water that is cascading down creates a beautiful scene. Dancing water, sparkling water, a waterfall symphony…get the picture?

Today there was very little waterfall. Today there were icicles of all shapes and sizes. Some were perfect, delicate ice sculptures and others looked like huge daggers that could be used in battle. As we looked at what was once a waterfall, it was interesting to see how different each portion looked due to the amount of sun that shone in that direction. Delicate beside dangerous, sharp beside blunt…it was all there.

The other waterfalls that we visited were not accessible. The entrances had been closed by the park service for safety reasons. Disappointment but a hike to these waterfalls was necessary and the ice along the paths created a risky situation. Falling into freezing water was not on my agenda today or tomorrow for that matter.

With the sun beginning to go down, we headed back home after we made our obligatory stop at the general store to get a small coke and a bag of peanuts. If you have never put peanuts into your bottle of coke, well you haven’t lived. Like the snow cream, coke and peanuts is a southern tradition. Try it one day. I bet you will like it.

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The Not So Still of the Night

He’s working so hard but no one notices.. He calls out to them but no one is listening. He kicks his legs and waves his arms. He sits straight up and with a stern voice tries in vain to get their attention. A dream…it’s just a dream. Everything seems so real and for a moment so does the fear, until in the stillness of the night sleep comes once again, but only for those who dream.

Our Lives Will Never Be The Same

December 19, 2015. The day that you became an angel.  The day that our lives were changed forever. Not a minute goes by that I am not thinking about you, missing you, wishing you were still here. The hole in my heart remains and no matter what happens, no matter the amount of joy and happiness in our lives, that hole will never close. A part of me died with you. Our family is lacking because you are not present. Nothing is the same anymore.

The “what if’s”, the “why didn’t I”, the “if only” questions return again and again. Why couldn’t things have been different? You and Doug were so happy. You wanted to start a family so badly. You would have been a wonderful mommy; all you ever wanted to be was a wife and a mommy. Ever since you were a little girl you talked about being a mommy. You would play with your dolls and if the way you talked to and loved them was any indication of how you would love your children, no children would have been loved more by their mommy than yours would have been loved by you.

I cry, I write and I cry some more. No matter what I write, no matter how hard I pray and yell out to God, nothing changes. The hole in my heart remains, the sound of your laughter is heard only through my memories now. I often look towards the laundry room door and expect you to walk through the door with that big smile on your face and wait on the big hug that always followed. I wait, but the door no longer opens. Your laughter, your big smile, everything about you is missed terribly. If only…

We will continue to honor your memory. We will continue to tell Wesley and Britton about their Aunt Jenn and tell them about how much love you had in your heart and that the love in your heart would have certainly been showered on them. We will tell them stories about you and your brother and the adventures that y’all had growing up. We will keep you alive through stories and through precious memories.

Another year without you and it has gotten no easier. It will never get easier. How could it? Why would it? Love is only a 4 letter word but it is one of the most powerful and painful words in the dictionary. It is a word that can bring ultimate joy and heartache almost simultaneously.  I know because I have experienced those emotions daily since December 19, 2015.

I love you,

Mom