Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Nightmare

Usually when I am in the midst of a nightmare, the instant I come to the realization that it is in fact a nightmare, I wake up.  That was not the case last night, which made it by far the scariest dream I've ever had.

As the nightmare begins, I am at a fundraiser.  I don't know what the fundraiser is for, or what my purpose there is, or how I even know it was a fundraiser, but I am at a fundraiser.  I am in a state of shock because I've just been told that my husband has been killed in a car accident.  I am looking around the room seeing people who I recognize (high school friends, Stampin' Up! customers, people from church), and I'm wondering if I should tell anyone.  If I do tell anyone, who should I tell first? 

Then I notice these two boys running around chasing each other, laughing and having so much fun.  I realize these are my boys.  The children my husband and I brought into this world.  The products of our love.  And I begin to feel a pain in my chest, like a hole in my heart.  How do I tell them they will never see their father again?

The reality of the situation starts to set in, and I know that I have got to get out of this place.  I grab their hands and try not to let them see that I am upset.  I tell a friend from high school that I have to go, and I wonder if she has heard the news that has suddenly destroyed my life.

I step out of the building onto a busy street, and it hits me.  This is just a dream.  Wake up... 

Wake up... 

Why am I not waking up?! 

Oh no!  It must not be a dream.  This is a nightmare.  This is my worst nightmare. 

At that moment, my pulse begins racing, and I feel a hole in my chest where my heart is supposed to be.  My chest hurts.  I am having a panic attack.  How can I not panic when I've just lost the only man I've ever loved?  How do I live without him?

A million thoughts begin to run through my mind.

"I need to call my mom."
"What am I supposed to do?"
"I don't know what to do."
"How did I get here?"
"We talked about this.  What did he tell me I should do?"
"I don't know what to do."
"What did he tell me I should do?
"I need to call my mom."

I look around, seriously trying to remember how we got to this place where the fundraiser is being held, because if I can't remember that, then how will we get back home.

My boys are smiling at each other, saying funny things to make the other one laugh. 

I tell myself again to wake up.  This is just a dream.  If this were a dream, I would wake up.  But I'm not waking up, so it hits me again that this is real. 

Oh my God.  He's really dead. 

Then my eyes opened, and I found myself lying in our bed.  My heart was racing, and I was in the midst of a real panic attack.  I looked to my left, and was so relieved to find my high school sweetheart sleeping beside me.  He's alive!  Oh thank God.

It was just a horrible, horrible nightmare - the worst nightmare I've ever had. 

I rolled over close to him and forced myself into his arms.  I laid my head on his chest, and I cried and cried and cried.  He didn't have to ask what my nightmare was.  I think he could tell by the way I clung to him.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Having Bryson

Yesterday, we celebrated the birth of my first son, Bryson Daniel Bray, born nine years ago.  Of course, this has me reminiscing about the hours leading up to my first child-birthing experience, and the beginning of my motherhood adventure...

Friday ~ October 11, 2002
My husband, Keith, and I arrive at Randolph Hospital, certain that I am in labor, and certain that Bryson will be born in the next 24 hours.  After a couple of hours in the triage room and walking the halls of the maternity ward, we are told, "You are not in active labor, which means you do not need to be here right now.  However, you are in the early stages of labor, so this baby should be coming in the next 24 hours.  Go walk around the mall, and we'll see you tomorrow." 

Saturday ~ October 26, 2002
FIFTEEN DAYS LATER!  I am at my parents' house, surrounded by my family.  We are celebrating my oldest sister's birthday.  There is so much food.  I am so hungry!  I've been starving myself for the past 15 days, fully expecting to go into labor, and hoping to avoid any uncontrollable bodily functions during childbirth.  However, my contractions stopped about a week ago.  And there is no indication that this baby is coming before Monday, when I am scheduled to be induced.  So, I decide to enjoy the meal.  I eat, and I eat, and I eat.  I even helped myself to a second piece of birthday cake, for the baby, of course. 

Keith and I go to bed that night around 11pm.  Keith falls asleep, as he always does, as soon as his head hits the pillow.  I lay there, wide awake.  I can't get comfortable.  My back hurts.  After about 10 minutes, I decide to get up.  I settle myself in the rocking chair in the nursery, gazing at all the baby stuff just waiting to be made useful.  That's when the contractions start.  But these contractions are different.  They hurt.  So much in fact that I cannot stand during the contraction, and I find myself utilizing those ridiculous breathing exercises, that before this moment, I could not imagine myself doing.  Between contractions, I walk to the bedroom.  I call to Keith, but he's snoring.  I wonder if I should wake him.  I had felt so foolish after convincing him I was in labor two weeks ago, only to be disappointed for the following 15 days.  I decide to let him sleep.

I walk to the living room.  I sit on the couch for a little while, as the contractions become closer and more intense.  The pain is more than I expected, so I pray.  Lord, please help me to know if this is real labor.  Please give me a sign.  I turn on the TV.  I had not anticipated that God would use my favorite show as a sign, but there in the middle of my living room, one of the the main characters on ER is in labor, about to give birth to twins.  I literally feel her pain.  Okay God, thank you!   I stand, fully intending to walk to the bedroom and wake my husband, but I hurt so much now that I cannot move my feet.  I sit back down.  I need Keith.  I yell to him.  Keith!  He doesn't hear me.  I yell again.  Keith!  Nothing.  Ugh!  I turn up the television as loud as it will go, thinking surely this will wake him.  Nope. 

I get on my hands and knees.  This is easier than walking.  I crawl to our bedroom door, open it and reach for the light switch.  Keith, it's happening!  We're going to have a baby! 

Sunday ~ October 27, 2002
When we arrived at the hospital at 2:00 this morning, I expected to give this child the push he needed to start his life on earth.  That is the whole reason I refused the epidural.  I wanted to go all-natural.  I wanted to feel him come into this world. 

Now I lay in my hospital bed, unable to move the lower portion of my body.  I feel so many things right now, and yet I feel nothing at the same time.  That's the only way I know to describe it.  I'm elated that Bryson is finally here, but I am so disappointed that I couldn't get him here.  I labored for fourteen and half hours.  I pushed for two and half of those hours, but I could not get him out.  I had an emergency c-section.  Bryson was born at 2:48pm, but not because of me.  The doctors had to cut me open and pull him out.  I did not see that moment.  I did not even feel that moment.  I feel like a failure.

The nurse asks me again, "Can you wiggle your toes?  Well, look at that.  They're wiggling.  How would you like to hold your baby?"

I cry as I remember the first time I held him in my arms.  I am in shock.  This is my child.  All I can say is, "Unbelievable."  I say it over and over again.  I can't believe he is mine.  I can't believe he is mine.  I can't believe he is mine.  I look into his blue eyes, and I feel an overwhelming sense of purpose and belonging.  I am his, and he is mine.  Thank you God. 

Monday ~ October 28, 2002
Dr. Lennon comes into my hospital room.  "There's the new mommy," he says.  He tells me I did good.  He tells me I am tough.  He tells me I have a beautiful baby.  I smile.  Then I apologize for all those bodily functions I wasn't able to control during child birth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Finding Joy

Have you ever hoped that something wonderful would happen?  And the more you imagined it, the more real it seemed it would someday be?  I do that, probably too often.  I get this idea in my head of a romantic evening planned by my husband, or an unexpected visit from my parents, or a thoughtful gesture from a friend.  And then when they don't actually do what I hoped they would, I find myself disappointed and feeling rejected. 

I recently inferred this type of situation upon God, thinking it would be such proof of His awesome power if He would allow this one thing to happen.  What a testimony it would be of His control in my life.  I really became quite engulfed in the fantasy, to the point that there was little doubt of it not coming true.  But then it didn't happen.  And not only did it NOT happen, but the total opposite of my envisioned scenario occurred just days after I realized this picture-perfect fantasy was just that...  a fantasy. 

So I found myself back in reality, where life doesn't always go as planned.  There are no do-overs.  And much of the time, wishes don't come true.  How can I ever be truly happy in the real world?

The answer came to me this morning during our homeschool Bible study.  We've been talking about the Israelites leaving Egypt, and complaining all the while they journeyed through the desert.  (This story has been reintroduced to me time and again over the last six months.)  To provide my children with a current life application for this Scripture, I read a story about "whining".  We talked about how irritating whining is to those around you, and how we whine to get attention and/or to get our way.  We talked about why we whine.  We whine because we don't want to do something or because we want something.  It really hit me when I heard myself telling my children, "If you spend all your time thinking about what you don't have, you'll never be happy.  If you think about what you do have, you will never be sad."  It was a "light bulb moment" for me. 

Just days ago, I cried myself to sleep, so overcome with the grief of losing the hope of something that was never even mine to begin with.  Since then, while I've nurtured and provided for my family on the outside, on the inside, I was drowning in the sorrow of what I will never have.  If I only ever focus on that, I'll never be happy again.

So I've decided to find my joy.  Thankfully I don't have to look very far.  I am so blessed.  Look at all God has given me.  I have a wonderful husband, two healthy boys, a beautiful home, family, friends, church, and so much more.  Most importantly for me, I have an awesome God.  When I think about all He has done for me, and all He has given me, I can't help but make a joyful noise!

I thank you for taking the time to read.  I pray you find your joy!

God bless!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering and Retelling

I was starting a new job at High Point University on September 11, 2001.  I didn't have the radio on during my drive into the city.  I was enjoying the peace and quiet, and praying that God would bless me in this new venture.  My new boss, who had at one time been my college professor, arrived at the office at the same time.  I climbed out of my car at exactly 9:00a.m., and was greeted by a startled, frightened look upon my boss's face.  His first words to me that morning were, "Did you hear?"  Did I hear what?  I suppose my blank expression said I obviously hadn't heard.  So he was the one who told me that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers in New York City, just minutes before.  I remember thinking how odd and how sad such an event was. 

We walked into the office, and I immediately turned on the clock radio sitting on my desk.  My boss had gone into his office.  The immediate words spoken from the radio said a second plane had crashed into the second tower.  He came out of his office, and our eyes met.  I know we were both thinking the same thing...  This is not a coincidence.  This is bad.  This is very bad. 

Our offices were actually located in a house set close to the University campus.  He had a class gathering downstairs.  I could hear the college students talking.  He went downstairs and turned on the television.  There was no television upstairs.  So I sat listening to every word that came from that little radio.  I called my husband, desperate to hear his voice, and feeling that we should be together.  I was frightened.  I simply wanted to be close to him.  I called my mom and my dad, and my sisters and brothers.  We were all frightened, but thankfully we weren't in New York. 

My work phone rang, and I was introduced to my boss's son.  He wanted to talk to his father.  When I was hired the week before, my boss had told me not to interrupt class except for emergency purposes.  I heard the fear in this young man's voice, and knew he needed to hear his dad.  I went downstairs and saw students crying as they were glued to the television.  I told my boss his son was on the phone.  His voice was trembly, but I could see the relief in his eyes when he spoke.

When he hung up, he told his students class was over.  He and I went back upstairs.  I turned the radio off while he made phone calls.  My cell phone rang.  It was my husband telling me that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon.  Apparently my boss heard this at the same time.  He came out of his office and told me to go home... 

I quit that job less than a year later, when I was pregnant with my first child.  I haven't seen that man who was my professor and then my boss since.  But I will remember him forever, and I'm certain he will always remember me.  Where was I when the world stopped turning that September day?  I was at High Point University with Patrick Haun.  I will never forget...

In the days that followed that horrible day, as all Americans did, I felt helpless and distraught.  When I am overcome by emotion, I write.  This is what I wrote...

The Fall of Twin Sisters
written by Marci Lee Bray
September 25, 2001

My sister saw me wounded
for all the world to see,
how such a stable structure
could fall to bended knee.
There beside me, her broken twin,
for a moment she stood tall -
unaware of her ill fate,
and that she too would fall.
As she mourned for me so helplessly,
terror again took aim.
Without warning, sign or caution,
her heart burst into flame.
We cried out in anguish,
for we felt each other's woe.
Our entire beings ached within
as the fire began to grow.
I watched my sister get weaker.
I knew she would soon lose hope.
Without my sister beside me,
there, alone, I could not cope.
I tried so hard not to buckle.
I tried to stand with pride.
I looked over to my sister,
but she was no longer at my side.
And so I too gave up the fight.
I surrendered to defeat.
The twins who filled the New York sky
stumbled to our tired feet,
leaving behind death and destruction,
a world fill with sorrow and grief,
and a nation with unanswered questions
in a state of disbelief.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What It's Like to Be Camden's Mother...

There is nothing like the presence of a child to make you realize just how vulnerable and helpless you really are.

My youngest son, Camden, celebrated his seventh birthday last week.  Of course, this annual milestone always induces a nostalgic trip down memory lane.  There are so many moments that jump out at me as I relive these last seven years.  There are memories that make me laugh, and memories that make me cry.  But mostly, there are startling memories that literally make my heart almost stop.

Even before Camden came into this world, he put a fear in me that has never gone away.  I'd only known I was pregnant for a month when I first thought I'd lost him.  I went to the doctor for my initial prenatal visit, and the "positive" on my pregnancy test was so faint, the nurse told me I'd most likely miscarried.  I was devastated.  We had to wait three days for the bloodwork to come back before learning that in actuality, everything was fine, and our second-born child should arrive in late August.  Thank you God!

Camden, however, decided he wanted to be a May baby.  He attempted to make his debut at twenty-eight weeks.  One steroid shot (to develop his lungs) and eight weeks of bedrest later, the doctor gave Camden permission to join the land of living-outside-the-womb.  Thank you God!  At which point, Camden decided to wait another three weeks.

If you read my last blog post ("I Can't Help It"), you'll remember that his birth was not without equally heart-wrenching incident.  His umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, but thankfully, he was a scheduled c-section, which allowed the doctors to react quickly.  Thank you God!  When he finally cried that first cry, I cannot begin to describe the joy and relief.  Little did I know that would be my reaction on so many more occasions in the years to come.

One of my most vividly terrifying memories of his toddler years occurred at my friend Molly's house.  We were visiting for a playdate.  While the little ones were playing downstairs, Molly and I snuck upstairs to her scrapbook room.  We had only been up there for maybe two or three minutes, when I heard a tiny voice say, "Mommy, help me."  I realized this tiny voice was coming from the upper-level of the house, rather than  the lower-level.  It honestly never occurred to me that my less-than-two-year-old would try and then be able to climb all those steps.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw Camden...  not actually on the stairs, but hanging on the banister looming over the stairway.  I somehow remained calm as I pulled him over to the safe side.  Then I burst into tears as I thought about what might have been.  Thank you God!

Soon after the staircase incident, at the age of 22 months, Camden decided he wanted to eat the same thing  his older brother, Bryson, was eating for breakfast.  When I wasn't looking (of course), he took a few bites of Bryson's peanut butter toast.  I had no idea UNTIL he started gagging and crying.  I ran to him.  His face was splotchy and he was scratching at his throat.  I knew immediately what had happened.  We raced to the doctor's office, and learned he is allergic to not only peanuts and peanut butter, but also to every tree nut.  He recuperated without emergency measures.  Thank you God!  However, he must have an epi-pen available at all times.

These are just a few examples of the heart-stopping incidents I've experienced as Camden's mother.  There are many more.  I am often gripped with the fear that somehow this child is going to be taken from me, whether it be him falling off of the the kitchen table, drowning himself in the toilet, closing himself in the dryer or getting ahold of another child's peanut butter crackers (all of which he has attempted to do).   There is only one way to overcome that fear, and that is to realize that I am not in control.  Thank you God!

If Camden has taught me anything in these seven years I've shared with him so far, it's that ~  if it were only up to me to keep this child alive, I would have failed him so many times.  What joy and relief I feel to know that it's not only up to me.  Thank you God!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Can't Help It

ALMOST SEVEN YEARS AGO...   I was sprawled out on an operating table on the brink of the ceasarean delivery of my second child.  The OB-GYN looked me in the eye and asked, "Are we tying your tubes today?"  I shuddered at the thought.  I don't remember my exact response, but I'm sure it was something like, "Absolutely NOT!"  I looked over at my husband, Keith, who hesitated, but then agreed with me.  I'm pretty sure he was on the same time-saving, money-saving wavelength as the male doctor who was about to cut me open - "We might as well do it while we're in there."

At that moment, there was no doubt in my mind that we would have at least one more child.  Little did I know what lied ahead...

TWO YEARS LATER...   I will never forget the moment I finally understood the absolution behind Keith's words as he raised his voice at me in desperation, "We're done!  We're not having anymore kids!"  The reality of his true feelings hit me like a ton of bricks.  Even after all we'd been through, I had not lost the desire to be pregnant again, to give birth again, and to be a mother to a third Bray child. 

I'd always heard, "When you're done, you'll know you're done."  Yet here we stood.  Keith, so certain that we were meant to be a family of four.  And me, so certain that we should have another.  How could we be so completely opposite on our vision for this family?  I remember feeling shattered, unloved and untrusted.  It was so unfair to Keith, but all I could think about at that time, is what I wanted - another baby...

TODAY...   Now that I am a few years older and few years wiser, I recall the moments that transpired soon after the OB-GYN asked that fateful question almost seven years ago.  I try to see what happened through Keith's eyes...

I sit here praying as I hold my wife's hand.  I can see the fear in her eyes as she tries not the think about the c-section they are performing, evicting our child from the only home he has known for the past nine months.  It seems ironic.  She has been praying so desperately to keep him in there as she was forced to bedrest since going into pre-term labor at 30 weeks.  Now they are cutting her body open to pull him out.  As I'm watching her face, trying to remain calm, I see her cringe.  Despite the spinal that is supposed to make her numb, she grows pale as she is overcome with pain.  I listen as the doctor explains that the baby's shoulders are wider than they expected, so she might feel some pressure.  I'm studying her.  She is not just feeling pressure.  She is hurting.  She is hurting a lot, and there is nothing I can do about it.  The color drains even more from her face, and the fear in her eyes turns to panic.  She is frightened.  She tells me her chest hurts.  She tells me again and again.   And I just sit there holding her hand and rubbing her hair because there is nothing else I can do.  I decide to look over the blanket they have hanging to block our view of her torso and what they are doing down there.  I see what must be her organs lying above her belly.  And then I see him...  our precious child - the product of our love, and my heart stops.  His face is blue, and there is something wrapped around his neck.  Oh God, please no.  The next seconds last for what seems like forever as they quickly unwrap his umbilical cord and suction all kinds of fluids from his mouth.  I hear my wife's panicky weak voice, "He's not crying."  I am frozen. "Why isn't he crying?," she asks.  I struggle to grasp the reality of what is occurring right before my eyes.  Then it happens.  "WAH!  WAH!  WAH!"  Thank you, God.  I crumble back to my seat beside her.  She is sobbing.  I think I'm crying too.  She starts heaving because the pain she is experiencing is almost unbearable.  Between heaves, she begs to see him.  "I need to see him.  Please let me see him."  The pediatrician allows her a quick glance, and she is happy.  I know she is still in pain.  But her colorless face is glowing with motherly pride.  She says he is perfect.  And she is right.  He is perfect.  Thank you, God.  The nurses tell me I need to go with our son.  They reassure me that my wife is in good hands.  I watch her as I walk out the door.  She looks so pale and so exhausted.  I feel like I should stay with her, but I know I need to be with our son.  So I go.  I leave my wife.  I leave her in God's hands.

I sit here with tears uncontrollably rolling down my face as I relive that moment.  I honestly thought I was dying as they pried my belly open to get Camden out.  And the world stopped as we waited to hear that first cry.  What joy and relief we felt when at last we heard him scream.  It was the scariest moment of my life.  I imagine it had to be the scariest moment of Keith's life as well.  If I put myself in his shoes, there is no way I would willingly walk down that road again.  So I honestly cannot blame him for not openly embracing the idea of another pregnancy and birth.


I can stifle it.  I can suppress it.  I can pretend it doesn't exist.  But as I held my sister's newborn baby girl in my arms yesterday, all the walls I built in my attempt to block out those feelings came tumbling down. 

I can't help it.  I want another baby. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Shame on Me

My mind had been racing since my husband and I sat down to reconfigure our monthly budget last night.  I will soon be quitting my job, thereby allowing me to fully focus on homeschooling our two boys.  So we are trying to decide how to adjust to that loss of income. 

As we looked at each line-item in our budget, I became more and more anxious.  How are we going to do this?!  We cut from our grocery line, planning to utilize coupons and take advantage of weekly sales.  We cut from our medical line.  We rarely have to use it, and prayerfully we won't need it now.  Still, we had a significant amount of money that still needed to be cut.  My heart sank as I realized the exact line item it would have to come from - my spending money for the boys and me :( 

I cried on the inside.  You see, schooling at home, while so incredibly rewarding, can also be suffocating at times.  There are several days when I feel like we just have to get out of the house.  Of course, this costs money, not only for food and entertainment, but also in gas.  The realization that we simply won't be able to go out just anytime we want to was terrifying to me.  But it is what it is... 

I couldn't sleep at all last night.  (For the record, I don't recommend talking finances with your husband just before bed.)  I began wondering if I'm doing the right thing.  (I always second-guess myself.)  Despite the fact that I have been wanting to quit my job pretty much since I started it a year ago, I began to wonder.   Maybe I shouldn't quit my job. 

When I got up this morning, I was still a bit overwhelmed by the reality of our financial situation.  I felt anxious and unsure.  As a dear friend reminded me just yesterday, where can I go but to the Lord.  So I sat on my bed and reached for my Bible.  I guess, due to lack of sleep, I forgot today is Wednesday.  I opened my Bible to Tuesday's devotion, which I had neglected to read yesterday. 

The passage came from Exodus 13 - 14, when the Israelites had been given permission to finally leave their lives of slavery in Egypt and were fleeing toward the Red Sea.  Ironically, my friend with whom I enjoyed a four-hour breakfast yesterday had just spoken to me about this passage.  Coincidence?  I think not.  I read on and was reminded how the Israelites complained to Moses when all they saw was water in front of them and angry Egyptians behind them.  They wondered why they had been freed from slavery only to die in the desert.  As certain death stared them in the eyes, they began to think their lives as slaves wasn't so bad afterall.  At least they had food and water.  At least they weren't about to die.

I thought about how this scripture applies to my current situation.  I spent the last six months trying to convince my husband to give his blessing for me to quit my stressful part-time job.  Homeschooling and working part-time, while also being the homemaker, was just too much for me.  I have been praying and praying that God would release me from this heavy burden.  And about a month ago, that prayer was answered.  The stress of my workload took a toll on my body, and I wound up in the hospital having a tube run down my throat, only to find out what we already knew.  I was totally stressed out, and I simply could not handle it.  So Keith decided it was time for me to quit my job.  Woohoo!!!!

Just as I'm sure the Israelites were overjoyed to soon be out of Egypt, I was overjoyed to soon be done with my job.  THEN just as the Israelites became frightened as they realized what lay ahead of them - the Red Sea, I became frightened of what lies ahead of me - less financial security.  I began to rethink this whole job-quitting thing.  Maybe it wasn't so bad afterall.  At least I could come and go as I please.  At least I didn't have to think about every dollar I spent.

Even though God was a big enough God to save the Israelites from what the enslaved lives they'd been praying He would save them from, they still considered going back to that life, rather than trusting God as the Red Sea loomed ahead. 

Even though God was a big enough God to save me from this job I've been praying He would save me from, I still wondered if I should reconsider quitting, rather than trusting Him as I face financial change.

Exodus 14:21-22 says, "And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and waters were divided.  And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left."

I can only imagine what the Israelites were thinking as they walked between those walls of water - blatant evidence of God's almight power.  Surely they were ashamed at their lack of faith and trust in Him. 

I have yet to see how God will carry us through this next year, but I am certain that He will.  And as I walk on dry ground, I am certain that I too will be ashamed that I ever feared what might lie ahead. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons Learned from the Daytime Emmy Awards

It amazes me how, when I least expect to be reminded, God shows me how blessed I am. 

This morning, I was watching the Daytime Emmy Awards because, as I admitted in my last post, I am a Y&R junkie.  I was eager to see if my favorite daytime show would win.  While I sat on the floor, indulging in this guilty pleasure, I hadn't noticed that my children had snuck up on the couch behind me and were watching as well.  Thankfully, this was the award show, and not the show itself, or they might possibly be scarred for life.  No, instead of seeing something that was well beyond their years of comprehension, God turned what might have been a misstep on my part into a teaching moment for myself and my children.

In the middle of the show, the daytime stars took a moment to showcase some of their charity work at a children's hospital.  The glimpse into the lives of these sick children and their families was so unexpected that it brought me to sobbing tears.  My boys were shocked at the sight of these kids with their hollow faces, bald heads, and weak bodies.  I just sat there on the floor of our beautiful home and thanked God for what I take for granted everyday.  My children are healthy.  Thank you God!  The scariest things I've had to deal with, when it comes to my children, are severe eczema and food allergies.  What these parents must deal with everyday is beyond my ability to fathom.

As you can imagine, my boys were wondering what was wrong with these children.  So I told them.  I told them everything.  And I reminded them how blessed we are to be so healthy. 

A few minutes later, there was a lady on the show doing sign language.  My boys wanted to know what she was doing.  I explained that she couldn't hear, which made her unable to learn how to speak like we do.  So she has to talk with her hands.  I was surprised as I realized that this topic had never come up before.  My children had no idea that some people cannot hear and speak as we do.  Wow.

Thankfully, and unexpectedly, we were able to turn a few minutes of TV time into lessons that will last a lifetime.  We are so blessed.  Thank you God!

Who would have thought we could learn so much from watching the Daytime Emmy Awards Show...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If I Lived in Genoa City...

My most guiltiest pleasure is my daily viewing of The Young and the Restless, also know to the daytime drama's most avid fans as Y&R.  I usually avoid telling anyone that I "waste" an hour of each day losing myself in the non-reality of this soap opera.  I fully expect the jaw-dropping, wide-eyed expression, followed by, "How can you watch that garbage?"  My only response is, "I don't know, but I LOVE it!"  I love the fact that none of what I am watching is at all close to the reality of my life.  Therefore, it serves as an escape from those mundane activities that are required daily of a wife and mother - the laundry, the dishes, the sweeping, the mopping, the scrubbing, the ironing (wait, I refuse to iron...  scratch ironing), the cleaning, the cleaning, the cleaning, etc., etc., etc.

Still, if you're not a soap opera junkie, like me, I don't expect you to understand.  There is only one person in the whole world who I know without a doubt will understand, and that is because this show gets to her in just the same way it gets to me.  So to my bestest friend in the whole-wide world, Wendy ~ I dedicate this blog to you!  :)

If I Lived in Genoa City....
  1. I would always be beautiful.  Every hair would be exactly in place.  My makeup would be perfectly applied.  And I would have the most awesome wardrobe EVER.
  2. I would never wear jeans, because I would have the most awesome wardrobe EVER.
  3. I would never cook or clean, or even go to the bathroom for that matter.  I have servants who can do those things for me.
  4. I would marry my soulmate, then cheat on him with his brother or his best friend, or possibly even his father (because he doesn't look old enough to be his father).
  5. I would wind-up divorced, yet still be filthy rich, so no great loss.
  6. I would marry my soulmate's arch-enemy, even though I am still so madly in love with my soulmate.
  7. I would be involved in some sort of disaster (a car accident, a fire, a building falling on top of me), and my soulmate would realize how much he loves me, even though I cheated on him, and he would rescue me.
  8. I would leave my soulmate's arch-enemy, and remarry my soulmate.
  9. We would have beautiful children together, whom we never have to do anything for because we have servants and nannies who raise them for us.
  10. We would send our beautiful children off to boarding school at the young age of two, and they would return one year later at the young age of eighteen.  My how time flies in Genoa City!
  11. Someone I know would end up in a coma...  for three months... and just when we think they won't make it, and we've given up all hope... they'll wake up. 
  12. My soulmate would be murdered right before my very eyes.  And I'll cry and sob and scream, but still look beautiful.
  13. I would learn that my father was not really my father.  My mother actually had an affair with his brother, and he's my real father.  WHAT?!  How could my mother cheat on my father with his brother?!  Oh wait, I did the same thing.  Oops.  My bad.
  14. I would learn that my soulmate is not really dead after all.  He was just pretending to be dead because he was trying to protect me.
  15. I would be angry at my soulmate and cry and sob and scream, but still look beautiful.  Then I would forgive my soulmate and be so happy that he is alive.
  16. I would figure out that my soulmate is not my soulmate, but he's my soulmate's evil twin brother whom I never knew about. 
  17. I would find out I have cancer, and it's so agressive that I probably won't live, but I WOULD live because I'm so young and too beautiful to die.
  18. I would become an alcoholic and be a lousy drunk, and my soulmate, or his twin brother (because they are both so madly in love with me) would swoop in and take me to an awesome rehab center, where I would be totally rehabilitated.
  19. I would never age.  How nice.
  20. I would never die.  You might think I was dead.  They would have my funeral and everything, but I'm not really dead.  I've been living in a small-recluse town, where no one knows who I really am.  But don't worry, I'll always come back to life in Genoa City!!!!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Dad's Shorts

Yesterday, I was rummaging through my dresser drawers, searching for something comfortable to put on.  The boys and I were going to hang around the house for a couple of hours, and I just wanted to be attired in something that I didn't have to suck my gut in to wear.  I came across an old pair of navy blue shorts, and I smiled - JACKPOT!  These are the most comfortable pair of shorts I own, and they are not really my shorts at all...

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was so close to the finish line, that my husband feared leaving me home alone.  So each of those last 14 days of my pregnancy, my mom would come pick me up and bring me back to her house.  One of those days, I was miserable in the clothes I had on.  I was hot and felt restricted.  Truthfully I was about to pop (literally), and simply needed bigger clothes.  But being in the homestretch, it did not make sense to buy more maternity clothes.  So my mom gave me a pair of my dad's shorts to wear.  They are 100% navy blue cotton, and on that day, they were heaven.  Not only was I able to breathe (and waddle), but I also found comfort in the fact that, as I was about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life, I was wrapped up in something that belonged to my daddy.

You see, I've always been a "Daddy's Girl".  For as long as I can remember, I've idolized my father - hurling him up on this tall pedastal, thinking there was no greater daddy in whole-wide world.  When I married my husband at the young age of 20 years old, it was a quite a shock to both my father and I that there was a new man who I loved more than any other.  I didn't expect the change it brought to our relationship, and it has taken the better part of my 13.5 years of marriage to cope with the difference. 

When I need guidance, I look to my husband.  When I need encouragement, I look to my husband.  When I need affirmation, I look to my husband.  When I need a hug, I look to my husband.  [Although I will argue that my dad gives the BEST HUGS in the entire world.  I mean seriously, he wraps his arms around me, and I can literally feel his love for me.]

I love my husband, but I miss my daddy. 

I guess that's why, when I unpack the summer clothes, I smile everytime I pull those shorts out of the box.  That's right, I never gave them back.  Sorry Daddy!  I'm keeping your shorts!  :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dear Job, Why Do I Hate You? Let Me Count the Reasons...

Dear Job,

As I sit at my computer struggling to focus on the Marketing and Advocacy training manual  I am supposed to be writing, all I can think is how much I hate you.  I am truly sorry to say this, but I am an honest person, and I feel it is only right that you know how I feel about you.  I hate you.  I loathe you.  I can't stand the thought of you.  On Wednesdays, my "work" day, I have all I can do to crawl out of bed because I know I will spend the next eight hours forcing myself to look at you and think about you all the livelong day!  I hate you.  I hate you!  I HATE YOU!

Why do I hate you?  Let me count the reasons...
  1. Because I am a stay-at-home mom, which means my days should be spent caring for my children and cleaning my house and preparing meals for my husband - you know, not WORKING!
  2. Because I am a homeschooling mom, which means I already have a full-time job!
  3. Because when I am working, I have to pay for my children to stay at someone else's house, which kind of defeats the purpose of being a stay-at-home mom.
  4. Because what do I really care about marketing and advocacy?
  5. Because I would so much rather be scrapbooking.
  6. Because, if I am paying for kids to stay at someone else's house, I would much rather be enjoying this time taking a nice warm bath, followed by an hour long nap.  And then go shopping with my best friend.  :)
  7. Because no amount of money in the world is worth the amount of stress you cause me.
  8. Because I do.  And I'm the mom, so no more talking!
I know it wasn't always like this.  I used to enjoy spending time with you.  You were an escape from those overwhelmingly stressful toddler years.  But now, they're school-aged.  I'm homeschooling them.  And I cherish my time with them. 

I'm sorry to be so cruel.  But I've tried everything else I know to make you understand.  I've distanced myself by cutting you down to one day a week.  I've stopped thinking about you on the days we're not together.  You're just not going away, like I would like for you to.  So here's the bitter truth...

You've really become more of an intrusion than anything else.  I don't need you anymore.  So...
I quit.  I'm done.  We're no longer friends.  Now go away.

Regrettably yours,

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Homeschool Highs, Homeschool Lows

I am so excited to report that the Bray family has successfully completed our first year of homeschooling at Chapel Hill Academy.  What a year it was!  When I decided last spring that we would begin homeschooling in the Fall of 2010, I thought I knew what I was getting into.  Silly me...

If you know me at all, you know that I am an organized FREAK!  So, I spent the entire summer dedicating a room in our house to serve as our "school".  I told myself all summer long, "If I can get this room set up and organized, I'll be good to go".  I spent hours searching the web for the best prices on the things I wanted for this room - a dry erase board, a cork board, a book rack, curriculums, etc.  I  went to thrift stores and yard sales.  I got everything I thought I needed.  When August arrived, we were ready... or so I thought...

Our first month was a breeze.  It was fun.  It was exciting.  And I was thrilled.  But as the days of October passed, I started to lose my confidence.  We had finished our first unit study in Science, and I had no idea where to go from there.  I do what I always do when I don't know what to do...  I panicked.  I carried on as best I knew how, but I felt helpless and clueless.  I began to wonder if I was really doing what was best for my children. 

A friend of mine, who has homeschooled for the past three years, recognized the first year jitters I was experiencing, and swept in to rescue me.  (Thank you Bethany!)  She reassured me that all was well and introduced me to the curriculums and methods she uses with her children.  I felt reassured and found renewed self-esteem, which carried me through the next two months... 

Then I started questioning myself again.  That voice of negativity crept into my mind and whispered self-depracating thoughts - "What am I doing?"  "Are they learning what they need to know?"  "I'm not a teacher."  "Am I ruining my children's education?"  "Am I ruining their lives?"  But then the sweetest thing happened...

My kindergartener read a sentence to me.  He read a sentence!  All by himself!!!  I taught him that!

This changed everything, for me and for them.  I realized, I can do this.  And they realized, Mommy can do this!  And all was well, at least for a little while...

In April, my oldest son took the CAT test, which is required for homeschooled children ages 7 and up.  I was much more nervous than he was.  In fact, I totally played it down for him because I didn't want him to feel stressed out.  I was stressed enough for the both of us.  This test requirement is really just for the parents, so we know what our children are learning and not learning, and we can adjust our teaching accordingly.  So it really is not that big a deal.  But if you know me at all, you know that I cannot ignore the results of this test.  I want him to do well, so I know if I am doing well.  So he took the test, informing me afterward that it had sections on Science and Social Studies, and he didn't believe he did well on either one.  I totally freaked out!  I didn't realize these subjects would be on the test, and I hadn't focused on them much this year.  Oh no!!!!   I'm thinking what a horrible job I've done.  How could I not have focused more on Science and Social Studies?  What kind of teacher am I?  These subjects would not have been ignored at the public school.  What is wrong with me? 

We waited a grueling month before we got his test results back.

I think I've posted this before, but in case you forgot, I'll say it again...  MY SON IS A GENIUS!!!!  I'm saying that as a completely unbiased mother of course :)

All kidding aside, he did very well.  (Thank God!)  Even on Science and Social Studies.

So, I'm feeling pretty good right now, despite the frequent highs and lows we faced on this roller-coaster first year of homeschooling.  My youngest son can read, and my oldest son knows most everything a second grader should know at this point.  It seems that Chapel Hill Academy is a great place to learn.