Saturday, April 30, 2011

The return of Girl Reporter

I used to be a newspaper reporter—that was over 11 years ago. I quit my job so I could move again with my ex-husband and I never worked again after that.

I was totally burned out on journalism and thought that I would never want to be in that field ever again. My daugher was born 9 months after I quit and I have been a stay-at-home mother ever since.

In college, I worked for the school paper and I referred to myself as “Girl Reporter” and the nickname just stuck.

I originally called myself Girl Reporter as a joke when I turned in my stories at the newsroom. Most people did not take a young woman in college seriously, so I tried to not take myself seriously either.

As I moved on to the real workforce after I graduated, I soon realized that most people wouldn’t take me seriously as a woman or a reporter, so I continued to refer to myself as Girl Reporter. Everyone in the newsroom would laugh when I would walk in and say, “another day saved by Girl Reporter.”

Today I went to interview some students at the annual SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival for a project for one of my writing classes. As I walked down the sidewalk on Bull Street on my way to Forsyth Park, I thought to myself, “Girl Reporter on assignment in Savannah, Georgia.” I smiled to myself—the thought calmed my nerves and helped me to remember to not take myself so seriously.
I soon found my zone as I walked down the sidewalk lined with chalk drawings. The artists were mostly barefoot with colored chalk smeared on their hands, knees, and faces. I spotted my first targets and walked up to them. “Would you guys mind answering a few questions for me?”

It was one of the easiest things I have done in a long time—no pressure, no nerves, no worries. By the end of the afternoon, I realized that I enjoyed being Girl Reporter again.
Perhaps I just needed a break from journalism. Or maybe I’m just becoming the girl I used to be—the girl who believed she could take on the world and win.

This may seem simple to you, but it’s huge to me. I am now forced to rethink what I want to do with my life once again. Perhaps there is still room for that young bright-eyed girl who believed she could change people with her stories.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Awkward Silence, my ex-husband, and online dating

“Life is weird.” That’s a phrase I find myself saying several times a day. And today is no different.

Here I am stuck in this dark hospital recovery room watching my sweet little girl sleep. She is recovering well from her foot surgery which is such a blessing. Before we flew out to Texas, I had two major concerns—Veronica’s recovery and having to be around my ex-husband.

It’s no secret that we split on less than amicable terms. To say we hated each other’s guts would be putting things nicely. So, now I am faced with the fact that he showed up for his daughter’s surgery and wants to be here for her.

It’s his right to do so and I didn’t plan to stop him from doing that. So, after Veronica’s surgery was over, I was paged to come down and speak to the surgeon.

My ex was sitting by himself in the recovery room. My parents and I had not made any effort to include him in our conversation and I didn’t feel guilty about that.

As I gathered up my belongings, I looked over at him and said, “Well, are you coming or what?” He looked surprised and followed quietly behind me. We spoke to the doctor and found out that the surgery went great. We were asked to sit and wait for Veronica to wake up before we were allowed into the recovery area.

Sitting together alone in the hallway was awkward. I hate that weird silence, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything nice to say to him. Then I said it, “How’s everything going?”

“Pretty good,” he said. Then he proceeded to tell me about his brothers (whom I used to be extremely close with but haven’t spoken to since our split). The conversation began to get a little more casual and we even managed to laugh a little and make eye contact a few times.

Then it got quiet again. With a deep breath he asks, “Are you seeing anybody?”
I nodded and said, “Yes, I am.”
“Is it serious?” he asks.
“Yes it is,” I say with a little smile.
“Has he been around the kids?”
“No, not yet,” I answer. “But it’s definitely moving in that direction and I need you to be okay with that.”
He looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath. I noticed I was holding my breath.
He looked over at me and smiled. “Of course I’m okay with that. I’m actually very happy for you and I am really proud of you for moving on with your life in such a graceful way.”

I was a little shocked, and I hated to ruin the moment but I had to ask one more question. “Are you sure you’re okay? Because the last time we had this conversation you said you would kill anyone that I brought around the kids and I know that you meant that.”

He nodded slowly and sighed. “That was the old me,” he said. “I’m not like that anymore. I’m too tired to be mean to you anymore.”

Relief settled over me and I smiled at him—a real smile, not the fake ones I usually flashed him when he came to the house to pick up the kids.

“So where did you meet?” he asked.

“Online,” I said with a laugh.

And then we sat and talked for about 30 minutes about our adventures with online dating. It was one of the best conversations we have ever had.

What can I say? Life is weird.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You are not forsaken

My daughter Veronica was born in December 2000. Before she was born, the doctor told me, “There is something wrong with your baby and it probably won’t live. We can send you to a clinic in Seattle to have the pregnancy terminated if you wish.”

Abortion was not an option for me at the time, so I just lay in bed for weeks wondering, “Is today the day my baby will die?” I didn’t think I could go on living if something happened to my baby—I had wanted to be a mommy for so long and I just couldn’t believe that God would do this to me.

Feb. 2001, Veronica's first foot surgery

I am blessed because my baby did not die. The doctor’s initial prognosis was incorrect and I gave birth to a healthy and beautiful little girl with a rare joint disease called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) —which means hooked or crooked joints.

We lived just outside of Seattle at the time and the children’s hospital there has one of the only clinics in the world dedicated to AMC. So I was able to get Veronica the help she needed from day one. I started to think that maybe God didn’t hate me so much after all.

When Veronica was born, she couldn’t move her left arm, both hands were flat against her arms, her hips were dislocated, and she had very severe club feet. I was told she would never walk.

She now walks around quite well and she has full use of both arms and her hips were successfully reconstructed when she was about 2 years old. But her feet have been a constant source of pain for her.

She's wasn't fast but she had fun

Most kids with club feet are able to have special shoes, casts, or surgery to correct their feet--but not Veronica. Her feet are what they call reoccurring club feet and what I like to call the most heartbreakingly painful thing a child should have to endure.

So, now that she is 10 years old, it is time for her to have yet another foot surgery.
And so, here I sit in the recovery room at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, TX typing this blog and thinking about how far Veronica has come since the day I was told that she would probably die before her birth.

I still haven’t figured out what good Veronica has gained from her disability—she is such a happy and outgoing child but her legs and feet are a constant source of pain for her.

Veronica's feet before surgery

So, as I sit here in this hospital surrounded by sick and crippled children, I have to ask myself “why does God let this happen?”

For me, the answer is easy. Through Veronica, I have learned how precious life is. Every minute of the day has meaning and purpose to me.
I never took her two-armed hugs or messes for granted. I can clearly remember her first steps and the way her face lit up as she headed toward me with outstretched arms.

I didn’t see God until I saw Veronica. I believe God puts these amazing people in our lives—even if they are only here for a minute—to soften our hearts and force us to look beyond ourselves.

I know that God will be watching over Veronica tonight as she sleeps in her sterile hospital bed hooked up to tubes and machines. I know this because I know God has a plan for her life—otherwise, what is the point to all this pain and suffering?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Going Home

I am on the plane flying home to Texas with my kids—my daughter is having surgery on both her feet. I always have mixed feelings about going home. Usually I’m excited to get out of town and go see my family and my friends, but I am making this trip with a very heavy heart.

I grew up in a little town in Texas called Dublin—home to the oldest Dr. Pepper bottling company in the world. People come from all over to sample the only Dr. Pepper that is still made with real pure cane sugar. And if you stop and take a tour at the Dr. Pepper Museum in Dublin, you may catch a glimpse of a photo of me dressed as Pretty Peggy Pepper on the wall.
I lived in Dublin until I graduated from the nearby college. For the first 22 years of my life, I lived in what is known as the dairy capital of the world. And whenever I smell cow manure, I always think of home.

My parents still live in the same house I grew up in. They have had the same phone number for 35 years. My dad is a creature of habit and likes for things to stay the same.

I, on the other hand, longed to be anywhere but Dublin. So, I married a military man and we changed duty stations on a regular basis. Our first eight years of marriage we moved to Columbus, GA then to Fairbanks, AK and then to Fort Lewis, WA and then back to Columbus and then to Savannah, GA.

Our last move together was to Denver, CO.  Luckily for the kids and me, we were able to get back to our home in Georgia and I’m pretty sure we’ll stay here.

Unfortunately my ex-husband lives in Texas, too. He doesn’t come around much to see the kids so I don’t have to deal with him often. But he called my cell phone before I boarded the plan in Savannah and informed me that he would be at the hospital for Veronica’s surgery.

I’m surprised he even remembered her surgery. He forgot the last one. I can think of a million other things I would rather do than see him—having an icepick shoved into my eye seems like a better alternative right now. I don’t want to watch him pretend to be a caring father at her bedside.

But that’s just the way life goes. I married that man and had kids with him, so now I have to put up with him several times a year so he can check the “father of the year” box on his list of pretend duties for 2011.

Growing up I always had the feeling that I just didn’t belong in Texas. I’m not sure why. There are so many things about Texas that I love—Texas rock, Austin, the desert, Shiner beer, and amazing Mexican food.
But I already have that “I don’t belong here” feeling now sitting here in this airplane 30,000 feet above the “in between” of Texas and Georgia. I long for the tall oaks draped with Spanish moss and the cool breeze that comes in off the Atlantic while I’m sitting in the sand at Tybee. The smell of the marsh on a hot summer day has replaced the manure and the sand gnats don’t really bother me much anymore.

Coastal Georgia is not the home I ever imagined as a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere Texas. But it’s my home now. And for the first time in a long time I finally feel like I belong somewhere.