Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Roses

"That girl and her roses!" Sarah exclaimed a few weeks ago when I explained my Daddy and Bubba were harvesting sister's rose bushes in Rhome to be transplanted in her memorial garden in Hooks.

I laughed inside and said, "Girl, we are from east Texas. If there's one thing we're SUPPOSED to know, it's roses!"

There are over 100 species of roses in the world. These blooms, cultivated for their pretty colors and fragrance, "form a group of erect [that's what she said!] shrubs, and climbing or trailing plants, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles" (Wikipedia 4/21/11). Gayla and I have a plethora of rose bushes in our respective yards. We learned to grow them from our Mama and Daddy who have always had roses. We know they need sun and water to survive, and we know that on February 14th each year, we need to whack them down to almost nothing so they will burst forth with their beauty when spring arrives.

Roses are like road trips with friends. There are hundreds of destinations to choose and just as many reasons to go to each one. Each vacation builds our friendships with deeper roots of respect and more beautiful resilient memories. Even if the friendship has been "whacked down to almost nothing" with a long time between visits, a road trip with friends can nourish the friendships with sun and water so that they "burst forth with their beauty." Road trips with friends can be quick jaunts to the river or just a jump to an even longer cruise around the gulf. Road trips with friends are beautiful in the sites we see, the joy we feel at each little inside joke or oopsie-daisy we incur, the good food (and bad) we consume, and the memories they make to cherish and talk about for years to come.

Roses are individual beauty protected by thorns much like our friends are remarkable people protected by our love. Gayla was a superb gardener of roses and friends. With both, she provided nourishment and care and reaped bountiful blooms. With our caretaker gone, we all are taking turns being the gardeners and making sure our friendships continue to bloom as she would expect.

Special Note: I struggled today with coming up with a Note for the letter "R." I sent out a distress signal to Sarah Gray, Sarah Haws, Mike Smith, and Jeremy Hamilton. Almost immediately, each sent me the inspiration to write today's tribute. I thank each of you for inspiring me every day to move forward and to embrace this life's changes. Your love through this horrible time has been my life boat. I'll love you forever; forever my family you'll be.

Q is for Qi and Qat

All my Words With Friends fanatics know that drawing the dreaded Q can sink

your boat if you don't also find a U. However, I have made a point to find

words that are not restrained by English grammar rules! For

instance consider the following: cinq, cinqfoil, coq, qabab, qabalah, qadarite,

qaddish, qadi, qadiriyah, qaf, qaid, qat, qazi, qere, qi, qin, qintar, qre,

suq, tranq, waqf, and about 50 more! Is it really cheating if I study words for

the sake of winning the game? A common debate among Friends. What's the

difference in learning a word by chance and storing it away until it can be of
use and actively seeking to learn new words?

Nevertheless, I am guessing this is why Gayla always said I was "book

smart" and she was "street smart." Geniuses in our own rights

according to our doting mother (really!! Whose mama doesn't think they are

brilliant!). I think that was sister's way of calling me a nerd and making it

seem okay (AND keeping said doting mother from getting on to her!). I would

have to agree for the most part though. I am a nerd in that if you give me a

book, a class, or a demonstration, I absorb the knowledge like a sponge. Put me

out in the real world, and I "Forest Gump" my way to success. Place

sister girl in the same make up and flip the sitch. We were like that in most

areas of our lives...apples and oranges...peas and carrots. Different to our

very make up but superb when mixed together...complimenting one another. Almost

like the "Q" and the "U." Either can go it alone and be

just fine, but put them together and life is easier, life is more diverse, life

is "normal", life is filled with so much more! I am "Q,"
and I miss "U."

P is for Peace

I've been dreading the "P" note for weeks now because the only P

that I could come up with was PAIN. Pain is negative. Negative is bad. I have

been striving to be positive. Did you know there's an actual physical pain

behind heartbreak? It's not just in our minds. During a traumatizing event such

as loss of a loved one, the brain sends chemicals to the heart that weaken its

muscles. That's why we feel the pressure and pain in our chests. That's why

seemingly healthy people die from "broken heart syndrome" after the
death of a loved one.

However, as I began today with the title of this note, my fingers typed

"Peace" instead of "Pain," almost on their own volition. I

am not there yet by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to believe that

someday I will have peace in my heart for the tragic loss of my sister Gayla. I

have to have faith that the pain and pressure will ease over time and that the

sweet, wonderful memories I have for sister will replace the unbearable loss
and emptiness that I feel right now.

Our lives changed forever one month ago. We lost our Gayla to a senseless

event. We've spent a month trying to reason it out, explain it, cope with it.

We are grateful she did not suffer and that she did not cause her own demise.

That is the only sense of peace we have right now. Nevertheless, those

chemicals from my brain are flooding my heart, and the pain is tremendous. That

tug-of-war between Peace and Pain will show Peace to be the victor someday,
just not today.

O is for Open (as in Open Heart)

A few years ago, the advertising monster reached up and bit me in the butt

right before my birthday. I was drawn into the commercials for Kay Jewelers'

Open Hearts Line for two reasons: it was beautiful, and Gayla and I loved Jane

Seymour from "Somewhere in Time" and "Dr. Quinn." Plus who

isn't drawn to the idea that "If Your Heart Is Open, Love Will Always Find

Its Way In."

I couldn't wait! For the first time in a while, I had something to tell my husband that I wanted

for my birthday (other than my standard couples dance lessons or paint for our room)! However,

before I could tell him, he let me know that he may be laid off. Change of plans...secrets

kept only in my heart and never shared. Two days before my birthday we got the

bad word and that just buried my little wish even deeper. Then as if life

didn't suck enough, both our puppies were killed two weeks later. Stuff it down

a little further. I didn't want anything for birthday or Christmas that year!

Then as if hiding my wish so deep somehow sent a message to her gift-dar, my

Gayla surprised me with a necklace from the collection on Christmas morning. I

was elated and shocked because I hadn't said a word to ANYONE about wanting

something. I asked Gayla how she knew, and she said, "When I saw the commercials

back in November, I just knew you would love it!"

That was Gayla...she knew how to give gifts and always gave with a full heart. You actually had to

watch what you said around her or made sure you didn't linger over any one

thing too long when you accompanied her shopping. And if you did either of

those things, you better make sure it was something you truly wanted. Gayla was

a giver...if she knew you wanted something, she got it for you.

I don't think my sister had "acquaintances" because when she got to know someone,

she really learned who they were inside and out. She listened when you spoke

and had a keen sense for making sure all whom she loved were happy and taken
care of. Although I made sure that her birthday present that year was a piece from the same collection of jewelry and I always tried to make sure I gave as good as I got, I don't think I ever was as good at giving to others as Gayla was. I do however intend to spend the rest of this life trying to emulate that feature of my sister.

N is for Nanny

Church on Sundays

Home Perms before school picture day

Painting our nails at the kitchen table

Icing-covered sugar cookies at Christmas

Eating plums straight off the trees

Finding that one lost Easter Egg sometime in July

My homemade crocheted Strawberry Short Cake

Teaching all five of us how to cook and crochet

Pickling cucumbers

Publisher's Clearing House Christmas Presents

Never being able to leave without taking something with us

Your memories aren't as crystal clear as they once were.

This cruel time seems endless to you.

We wish there was a better way to help you.

All we can do is love you.

M is for Moore (and Mustard)

Two random stories Thursday! No deep meanings...just things on my mind.

Story One: When we were in our teens, Mama and Daddy took the three of us to Disney World in Florida for our family vacation. We drove all the way there in our new Astro van, listening to Ray Stevens' tapes the whole way. After our long day at the Great Mouse House, my parents took us for a late dinner at Denny's, which was right next to our hotel. Nothing like three strung out, exhausted children to add to everyone's dining pleasure. I ordered a cheese burger with mustard as usual. When our food arrived, I was looking at my first open face burger (thank you small town living!). I asked the waitress for some mustard, and she brought me a tall glass bottle similar to the ketchup. Having only ever used a knife and the short round container of mustard (this was pre-plastic-squeeze bottles with drip proof lids), I was confused. However, thank you for the directions, the lid said, "Shake before use." One or two good shakes later, we and some of the patrons around us were covered in bright yellow goodness. Seems someone before me had not put the lid back on the bottle after their use. Rather than be apologetic and embarrassed, our complete exhaustion from the day sent all five us into hysterical laughter. From then on, any time we went to a restaurant that used this particular mustard container, a member of my family would tell me, "Did you check that lid?"

Story Two: For anyone who knows me, you know I have been a "healthy" sized woman my whole life. One of the taunts from childhood was, "There's always MOORE of Jaimee." Thank you Last Name, First Name...Kids are so nice! Well after complaining to my sister Gayla about this one day, she started telling me various ways that she loved me more and what I have more of that others do not. To which I responded, "I love you more!" Enter the invention of cell phones and texting. Gayla and I were always chatting away with one another daily. When we were concluding our "conversations" sister always wrapped up with, "I love you." I would text, "I love you MOORE." She'd laugh. The night I found out I had lost my favorite friend, I grabbed my cell phone and started scrolling through our texts. I have never been more thankful that I never take the time to clear out my messages. I have texts all the way back to September 3, 2010. It's hard, but I am making my way through them and making notes in my journal of each day we had together since September. I am keeping a tally of the number of times we said "I love you!" They will never be enough to last me the rest of this life time without Gayla...I will always want MOORE.

L is for Love

Love is...

my mama making a homemade bannana pudding whenever I come home to visit

my daddy holding my hand while we wait to hear what the doctor says

my brother poking me in the stomach after surgery and saying, "Does this hurt? How about this?"

my sister buying me a gym membership and being my workout partner because she wants me to live longer

my sister-in-law taking me to Girl Scout Camp and garage saleing

my husband, who's not a morning person, walking with me at 6 a.m.

my daughter telling me, "You're the best!"

my father-in-law building cedar chests for me and my sister

my mother-in-law bringing me dinner and making sure I eat

my other sister-in-law taking care of me after almost every surgery I've had

my Sarah throwing me a birthday party two weeks after meeting me

my Jeremy buying me a gold fish when my first one committed suicide onto my kitchen counter

my Mike cooking breakfast for all of us anytime

my Valerie and crew making sure I do "normal" activities like lunch with the girls

my countless friends writing, calling or texting to let me know they are thinking of me

K is for Kindness

Do you remember when you were young and somone had wronged you in some way? You ran home to Mama and she took your side, and your enemy was her enemy? I don't! My Mama, although seething on the inside I'm sure (I hope...), made me see things from my enemy's point of view. To me, this is the ultimate act of kindness. By making me try to understand what others were seeing, feeling, and thinking, Mama taught me to think of others first. Now if you kept on wronging me, then Mama was a force to be reckoned with! No greater protector exists than Brenda Moore.

No greater fighter for the under dog exists either. When we were in our tweens, I remember my mother bringing home whatever free kitten or found dog she came upon. The cats never lasted long but one dog in particular still warrants teasing my mama about. Folley...because he follied her home! This little poodle something mix was covered in patches of tar from Mama's rural route being repaved and boy howdy he was skinny! In the entire time we housed this poor creature, we were never able to free him of the mats. However, that didn't keep mama from trying constantly. She not only wanted to help Folley, she wanted to give this puppy a home. In this, my mama taught all three of her children that everyone deserves a family. I think that is why all of her children have taken in the unwanted dog at one time or another. I think it's also why we all have made a point to be a friend to anyone who needed or wanted one. Her acts of kindness taught us how to embrace the world.

J is for James

The meaning of James, according to the baby name books, is "he who supplants." The synonym for supplant is "succeed." No matter which branch of this gal's family tree you choose to climb, you'll find a plethora of James's, including my little variation of Jaimee. Grandfathers, uncles, in-laws, brother, nephew, and the one and only Daddy.

If you've had the pleasure of meeting my Daddy, you well know he is a complex man wrapped in a simple exterior. His favorite nuggets of wisdom: "Do as I say, Not as I do" and "I just keep my mouth shut, and I stay out of trouble." His deep voice, sometimes gruff to others, can sooth the rowdiest of babies and children. He's almost like a pied piper in that area. Although I don't remember the exact words of love he bestowed on me and my sister more than two decades ago, seeing my Darby tear up a few weeks ago when Daddy gave his "dating speech" reminded me that when he does speak, my Daddy's words are profound and heart touching.

Daddy has always made our famly priority number one. He and mama may not have been able to give us three everything we demanded on the exact minute we wanted it, but they would make sure our hearts were content and, most importantly, filled with an immeasurable amount of love. Not everyone knows this, but when my Mama and Daddy renewed their marriage vows the summer of their 25th year, it was entirely and totally my daddy's idea. He is my Mama's number one fan and the basis for which I used to choose my husband. Daddy's focus is always us...his greatest loves.

Each of us has had the wonderful experience of being Daddy's "favorite" for a day. There is something special and cute about those days spent on the creek or where ever we were when we had his undivided attention. Daddy takes great pride in making sure we each know how much he loves us. I think three of his proudest moments were the days Gayla, James II and I graduated from college thus completeing one of Daddy's life's goals of having three college educated children. Each of our weddings' pictures show you a man with great love and pride in his children as he gave them to another to love just as much as he loves us.

It is safe to say my daddy James Moore is a success.

I is for Ice

One Christmas morning about a decade ago, instead of waking up to presents and family, sister and I awoke to my daddy packing our cars to get us on the road home before an ice storm hit Texarkana. We literally raced the storm back to DFW. Sister and I spent that holiday holed up with frozen dinners and each other. Although not our most favorite memory of Christmas, we had each other. No matter the situation, we always had each other. In just the last four years, Gayla spent at least two nights in a hospital with me maybe three. She was always counted on for anything to do with going to an event for Darby. The best times were just lazing around on Sundays watching movies or NASCAR. Together. Gayla's presence always made the hard times better and the good times the best.

H is for Hug

If my sister Gayla could have taught the world to give a proper hug, we would be celebrating world peace. She didn't dispense one-armed half hugs either. Gayla wrapped both of her arms around you and made a point to not be the first one to let go. My sister really knew how to love. Hug your family and friends today and every day!

*taken from the introduction to myGayla's memorial tribute

G is for Gayla

Girly girl from tomboy

Always smiling and loving the world

Your best friend whenever you need one

Loving, laughing, living out loud

Away for a while but to be with us again someday

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Friend

Friends are people we are attached to by affection. They are people we rely on ... people we help and are helped by. Friends are the family we choose. Someone once told me, "Friends are the people who see your faults, your temper, your dirty laundry, and they love you anyway." Seems these days I have more friends than I ever imagined, and I am blessed.

MyGayla was my best friend from the day I took over her world of only-child-dom. I was blessed that my best friend was also my sister. We may have argued and bickered like siblings do, but we always loved each other. My husband was shocked and amused when I told him we fought just like sisters do. He said he couldn't see it. I'd tell the stories but just don't have it in my heart right now.

F is for Friend. It's also for FORT. Friends help each other build forts of all kinds. When we were growing up, Gayla, James and I were tight. We played together like any other children. One day in March of some year in the 80's, sister and I had the bright idea to build a fort in our back yard. We drug all of mama's kitchen chairs into the backyard, borrowed some plywood from daddy's garage, and made a fort with a quilt floor. Gayla, genius that she was, even pushed one of our bikes up to the "door" to act as a sliding glass entryway into our kingdom. We played in and around our little castle for hours. I don't remember much else or why this is an important event to me. I just know that it is a happy memory.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Elephant

Somewhere in her almost 14 years, my darling daughter Darby decided her favorite animal was an elephant. She named almost all of her stuffed toy pachyderms "Ellie" or "Phantom." Her Aunt Gayla told me a story once about her taking Darby to the store for groceries. In true Darby fashion, she convinced her Aunt G to "just let me go look at the toys. We don't have to buy anything." Sister said Darby found a cute fluffy elephant, held it up and smiled that beguiling Darby smile. Gayla told her maybe another time, and when recounting the event to me, said, "Y'all don't stand a chance! That little cutie hovered over and around the elephant just hoping I would tell her to go ahead and get it." True to Gayla form, Darby received that little treasure for Christmas a few months later. Push over!

Elephants are known for their memory, intelligence and wisdom. They have no known natural predators, but human poachers rob them of their lives for their tusks. I pray my sweet girl has picked a symbol for herself in the elephant. Darby has already shown us that she is strong and sturdy, a dependable friend and kind soul. I hope for her to be mindful of others, to remember all the love she is given, to use her intelligence for good and to always (or almost always) make wise choices. I beg the world to protect her from predators of all kinds. It's never too much to ask; I hope it's not too much to expect.

D is for Dog

Yes! We are "those" people. Our dogs are our babies. My mama even calls them her granddogs! When we lost Sofie and Ellie in December 2008, I just couldn't imagine having any more. However, Chad saw it differently, and we brought home Hope a week later. Two weeks later at her first appointment, I was crushed to find out Hope's heart had a murmur. We decided then if her life was to be shortened, she needed a sister to play with as much as possible. Enter Faith. For a time, we didn't think Hope's heart would sustain her much longer, but Faith's spunk (and twice daily heart meds) have given Hope a year more than we were told to expect. In fact the vet told us at her last appointment to keep doing whatever we are doing because it's working! Both babies have been my snuggles and comforts in this terrible ordeal. Just goes to show a little Hope and Faith makes the world a better place!

Monday, April 4, 2011

April is National Grilled Cheese Month

If you google April, you'll find that it is National Child Abuse Provention Month, National Humor Month, National Poetry Month, and on and on and on. MySarah sent me a text yesterday letting me know it was also National Grilled Cheese Month. Out of all the more important awareness issues that this month represents, NGCM is the one I am focusing on because my sweet precious Gayla was a grilled cheese fanatic!

When we were in college at UNT, sister and I had the very good fortune to be roommates for my first two years of higher learning. During that time, I was an employee of the student union's night grill, and I learned to make the most amazing grilled cheese sandwhiches. Just like tieing perfect bows on her dresses and French braiding her hair, Gayla always wanted me to make her a grilled cheese for lunch/dinner (sometimes breakfast!) because, "You make them the best!"

We have joked during the last two weeks that a lot of our interactions with Gayla revolved around food. Funnily enough, at one time sister told me, "I hate eating! I wish there was just a pill that we could take that would give us everything we need to survive." I suppose in time, Gayla learned that around the table is where we meet the family that we collect as well as grow with the family that God gave us. Certain foods remind us of home...that's why they are called comfort foods. Grilled cheese is home...I'm so lost and uncomfortable right now without my Gayla, and I just wish I could make her a grilled cheese sandwich.