/> Raising Angels

Saturday, April 23, 2022

I Have Finished the Race

I was the kid in elementary school who asked my mom to write notes to excuse me from running laps in PE. There wasn't anything wrong with me, I simply hated running...with a passion. I didn't really see the point of running circles around a track, going nowhere, and not feeling good doing it.

And then, one day, in my late 30's, my brother threw out the idea that I should join his training group and run a half marathon. I'm pretty sure I laughed. Then I went home, and the Lord told me I needed to do it. 

Max was only a few months old at the time and we had just finished building this house and moved in. During the three year building phase, I rarely saw Nelson. He worked a full time job, came home, changed clothes, and headed to the house to work. Needless to say, after all that time with the kids on my own, I was ready for a break.

I signed up for the group and Nelson agreed to come home early one day a week so I could make one of the week night training runs. He stayed home Saturday mornings so I could do the long runs as well. That meant I got up an hour earlier than most people in the group so I could pump and leave a bottle for Max. I was still young"ish" and a little out of my mind.

In the training group, I was simply Amy.  I wasn't Nelson's wife, or my kids' mama (though of course, I was). To them, I was simply the lady who had never run a race in her life. I was AWAYS the slowest one in the group, so I got in a lot of really good prayer times, as well as plain old quiet time. I discovered that runners are some of the nicest people around. They cheer you on, encourage you, and even run extra distances to turn back and run with you. 

When I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon, I felt like a champion. It didn't matter that I was slower than most, I accomplished something that I thought was impossible for me and that felt great. Interestingly enough, what I realized after running 7 half marathons and many smaller training races, is that I despise running. It hurts every single step of the way. I have never, ever felt that elusive runner's high. I kept trying, for a really long time, but it never happened. Eventually, I decided I was done with running and I've never looked back.

When our school's senior class sent out information about their Spring Sprint 5K fundraiser, I thought long and hard. My first thought was a hard NO. Of course, Max and Felicity wanted to do it. The thought occurred to me, "What if I walk it?" That way, I can participate, support the seniors, AND enjoy it. I didn't sign up in advance though, because I had no desire to be the only walker. But, today, when I arrived at registration, I was happy to see that not only were other people walking, they were also willing to walk with me.

It was sunny and cool, a perfect combination for race day. I owned the fact I was walking and enjoyed every minute of it. I was able to speak to the seniors along the route and wish them a good senior trip. I was able to carry on conversations with several of the women walkers. I was able to finish the course still breathing and not in pain. Also, my partner and I were not last, which was my only goal.

Felicity and Max chose the one mile race, which followed. Neither of them trained, and I was a little concerned that Felicity would end in tears and Max would be frustrated. Once I made sure they were at the starting line, I made my way down the course to the first hill, the place I felt they might need some encouragement. However, before I could make it to the hill, I heard the patter of feet and the cheers of the crown for the first runner. I turned and look who I saw! Yep, that's Max, in full stride.
I decided to stay at that point to catch Felicity. Her running buddies, who were all much older than her, were no longer around. She was still going at it...uphill.
Once they passed, I went a little further up so I could see if Max was still in the lead. By the time he came back over the second big hill, he was, but he was walking. He played back to back soccer games Wednesday (who does stuff like that?) and followed that up with Social. He had another game Thursday afternoon, in which he scored two goals in the first ten minutes. He plays center midfield and runs the entire game. By Friday morning, he was out of gas and feeling sick.
He wanted to do the run anyway. I'm so glad he did. He came in third overall and loved it. I didn't see him cross the finish line because I was waiting for Felicity. I knew that final hill was going to be tough, and I wanted to run with her to keep her going. That look of determination and the fact that she was still mostly running, amazed me. And, she wasn't crying. 
She hit the water stand as soon as she finished and then, well, she was done. I let her stay there until everyone finished and they were ready to make the announcements.
Max got a medal for placing third among the male runners. His smile made the whole morning worth it. He couldn't believe he won. He's never been much of a runner, so it was a surprise to him as well as me. He told me he knew he'd be tired, so his whole strategy was to get as far ahead as he could before he had to stop to walk. He only had to do that for a few seconds and then somehow found the energy to kick it end and run to the finish. 
Today I'm grateful for the sport of running. I'm grateful for the friends it has given me, the accomplishments its helped me reach, and the fun other people have doing it. I'm grateful I was able to participate and in the process, cheer on many of my students. Most of all, I'm grateful for Felicity's perseverance and Max's multiple high fives today as he shouted, "Third place!"

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Learning to Let Go

Yesterday, I was at home. I finished a good workout, got a few things done, took a shower and was sitting at my desk making phone calls, when I got a text from a friend. 

"Did Aiden get you on the phone??" she asked.

"No. Why?" I responded as I wondered what could be going on. It was a strange text. 

Before I had a chance to think anything else, my phone rang. I don't remember her exact words, but I remember she sounded breathless and that she assured me that Aiden was okay. She said he was in an accident and told me where he was. She asked if I needed her to come get me. Other than that, what I remember is that my mind was racing and my heart was beating so fast, I had to ask her again where he was. 

Somehow I got my phone and the keys and told the kids I was going to check on Aiden so please pray. It was pouring down rain, but I didn't grab my raincoat, rain boots, or my purse. I needed to get there. As I pulled out of my driveway, I began to pray. As I did, I had this kind of other worldly experience. I was worried and scared, but I was peaceful. 


I was peaceful. I can't explain that. I was shaking and praying...and yet, at peace.

I've been working on a few things during Lent this year. One thing, that's helped a lot is detachment. Not detachment so much in the sense of things. I've already become fairly detached from most of my "stuff". I drive a 2002 with dents on every side, a broken tail light, and seats that are falling apart. My couches are covered over with duck tape (okay, not the actual stuff, but the faux leather patches that work about the same) and couch covers. My freezer and faucet leak, and I'm pretty sure my basement will never be finished. I've come to terms with those things. It doesn't mean that I wouldn't rather have a couch with no holes or a car with no dents, it simply means that I don't let the fact that I don't have those things steal my peace...most days.

This Lent, however, I heard a reflection on detachment I had never heard. We need to work on detaching from our will, our way, our plans. To me, that's a lot tougher than detaching from a vehicle. A few weeks ago, my mom called me to tell me that my dad, who is already a miracle, was in the hospital with chest pains. Because he's had a triple bypass, they don't take his chest pains lightly and my poor folks were in the ER for most of the day. 

After the phone call with my mom, who called to ask me to pass the word to my brothers, I stopped where I was and prayed. I remember praying first, "Lord, please don't take my Dad. I'm not ready for that yet." And then, I heard myself add, "If this is Your time Lord, please help me get ready." It was at that moment, which I can't even claim as planned, that an inexplicable peace came over me. Again, I was praying, but not worried. 

There's something that happens when you are willing to say, "Not my will, but Yours." I have come to terms with the fact that God knows better than I do. Yeah, I know, I've learned that lesson many, many times over the years, but now...after ALL that time, I'm beginning to trust it. The simple fact is that God's will is going to be done, whether I want it to or not, and so if I give in to it, I get more peace. That's not a bad place to be. It doesn't take away the sadness or pain, but the peace is there. It's so there it's hard to explain. 

And that's right where I was when I drove up and saw Aiden's car crushed and in someone's front yard.

It was clear he had come from the road, because the curb was cracked, the stop sign was midway in the yard, his tires were under the front porch, and there were skid marks across the lawn. I saw the car and then, I saw my 6'3" son standing upright and talking to the police officer, just as my friend had told me. 
Turns out, he hydroplaned, tried to correct himself once the car was on two wheels and headed into oncoming traffic, hit the curb, flipped the car 360 degrees, and landed right side up. I spoke to Aiden to make sure he was okay and then I spent some time, trying to calm him down. He was understandably upset. This is the second car he's totaled in a year. 

He was questioning God and asking why; a fair question, under the circumstances. I asked him if he's ever read the Book of Job. I'm sure he thought I was out of my mind. "Bad things happen to good people all the time," I tried to comfort him. "How you deal with it, that's what matters. God saved your life today son. That's what you need to focus on."

Every window in the car was gone except the front windshield and the driver's side window. The passenger side of the car was obviously the side that hit the ground (you can see the grass in the door). Thanks be to God, he was wearing his seatbelt, and other than a small burn on his arm from the airbag, he was fine. 
The woman, who's yard he was in, was as sweet as she could be. When I arrived and identified myself, she was crying. Aiden's was the fourth car in several months that has hydroplaned and ended up in her front yard. After she settled down, she asked Aiden to come to her. She grabbed his hand and the hand of her neighbor and said the most beautiful prayer, thanking God for Aiden's life. She had a big support system arrive. Her daughter, who is a nurse, checked Aiden over. Her son-in-law told me, "You know, it's just a yard and a porch. Ain't no big deal, because those are just things. They can be replaced. Son," he said as he looked at Aiden, "your life can't be replaced and it's the only thing that matters here today."
All of this happened in the yard, in the pouring rain. One of my neighbors (the accident was about .3 miles from my house) ended up at the scene before me. He helped me get Aiden settled down, as well as pick up all of his things that were scattered across the lawn. When one of the homeowner's  family members suggested we get pictures before we cleaned too much up, my neighbor took photos so I could speak to the police officer with Aiden. 

My friend who had called me, drove back by and got out of her car to see if I needed anything. Then, she took me into her arms and hugged me. That's when I cried, really cried, for the first time. She knew how scared I was. That hug meant more to me than she will ever know. As we wiped away our tears, she unzipped her raincoat and put it on me. It was such a small, yet colossal gesture. In the midst of a terrifying moment, she knew what I needed before I said a word, and I will be forever grateful for that.

In about an hour's time, the stop sign was replaced, the car cleaned out and towed, and phone numbers exchanged. I drove Aiden from that scene to my mom's house so she could check him out. As a retired ER and hospice nurse, she knew what to look for. I thank God she's always used her ER skills for my kids, and I pray she never has to use her hospice knowledge on them. After triaging him, she gave him some Ibuprofen and the green light to go home, saving us an unneeded trip to the ER. I still can't believe that I'm writing this after seeing his car. 

On our way home, I noticed Aiden wasn't wearing his glasses. "They were broken in the crash," he told me and when I saw the marks on his face, I figured he was probably right. After telling me he didn't have any contacts at home, I realized the next call needed to be to the eye doctor. 

Even though I called during regular office hours, I got the recording that said to call back when they are open or, if it's an emergency, call the on call number. Because Dawson had an eye emergency not long ago, I knew the on call number was the doctor's personal cell. I sent a short text explaining the accident and asking if there was anyway I could buy Aiden one pair of contacts to get him through the week. He responded within minutes apologizing for the early closure (the weather was getting worse by the minute), and that he was out of town. He asked if I could meet his father, who he shares the practice with,  at the office in 30 minutes. I responded with a resounding, "YES!"

While I was getting all of that lined up, I asked Aiden to see if he could find his glasses on the off chance that they could be fixed instead of replaced. He found them as I was walking out of the door and glasses in hand, I took off for the office in a rain storm with lightning striking all around me. I began to pray, since the conditions were dangerous and, well, I was scared. It was a simple prayer, "Lord, please don't let me die while trying to help my son recover." Sometimes I get a bit dramatic with my prayers so God is sure to know how I feel. Again, I was nervous (lightning that's so close the hair on your arms stand up is scary), but not unpeaceful. I was doing what needed to be done, when it needed to be done, and if God wanted to test my trust or take my life, then so be it.

I arrived at the downtown office and had no trouble parking, since no one else was crazy enough to be out in this weather. I saw a light inside and knocked on the window from under the overhang outside. It didn't matter much, since the rain was coming down sideways by now. 

The doctor let me in with a huge smile. He gave no sign that I had interfered with his time off. In fact, he apologized for closing early. His next question was about the safety of Aiden and I cried again as I told him the story. His compassion was tangible. He took the glasses from me and said, "I can fix these. Come with me." 

He let me sit down and told me stories as he worked on the glasses. He found a pair of contacts for him as well. He handed me the things and said, "Okay, you're good to go. Please tell Aiden that God was watching out for him today."

"I will. What do I owe?" I asked as we headed towards the front. 

"You don't owe me anything," was his quick response. "I'm so happy I could help. You just go home and take care of your son."

"Are you sure?" I asked again. "I'd really like to give you something."

"You folks are good people, friends. That's what friends do for each other," he said with such authentic kindness that I wanted to hug him tightly. Instead, I thanked him profusely and walked back to the car. 

Driving home, I was overwhelmed by God's love for me...and for Aiden. Now I was praying again as I drove home on flooded streets. I was shaking, not just with the what could have been, but with the fact that in the midst of such an awful situation, what God let me know is that He has my back. Yes, kids are hard...especially when they total cars and spend time in the ER (not this time, but many others), but they are also blessings and force us to let go of our idea that we can control anything. And when it feels lonely to drive to the scene of an accident your kid has had, God knows you're going to need some back up so He sends it, in abundance. And when you think that most people in this world are only in it for themselves, he sends you to a doctor who drives through a monsoon to fix glasses, find contacts, and love you through his generosity. 

Every time since then, when Aiden leaves the house, I tell him I love him and to PLEASE drive carefully. I'm not sure how long that will last, but the sentiment will be there even when the words aren't. I'm grateful, so very grateful, that God saved Aiden today. I'm grateful for strangers who pray with your kid, friends who give you hugs and raincoats, doctors who truly care for you, and the opportunity to learn once again how to detach. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

From One Mama to Another

Tonight, as I walked Felicity into her gymnastics class, I saw another mother struggling to get her double stroller from the parking lot up onto the sidewalk. I asked, "Hey, may I help you?"

"Oh, I'm just waiting for you to go by so I don't run it into you," she said with that sweet, tired mama voice. 

I grabbed the front of the stroller anyway. "I had one of these," I told her. "I remember how heavy they are." That sparked a conversation about strollers and the pros and cons of the double front and back stroller and the double jogger. As we talked, I smiled and made faces at her sweet red-headed boy in the back (I'll admit, I have a fondness for red hair), and the blond curly-headed girl in the front. The two of them were probably only a year or a bit more apart. 

"How many kids do you have?" she asked as we got deeper into the conversation.

"Five," I responded.

"Oh my, I would have never guessed," she said. Now that I don't have most of my kids with me when I go places, I forget that people might assume that I only have Felicity. 

We discussed ages and spacing and then she said, "I was just in the car crying to my mother-in-law. One of the parapros basically accused me of abusing my child because she went to school with a black eye she got from jumping off a couch. She told me her teacher thought the same thing. What do you do when you figure out that everyone at the school thinks you're abusing your kid?" By the time she finished, she was nearly in tears again.

From the looks of the two little ones she had with her and their lack of marks or bruises, as well as by the mom's demeanor, I could tell she was telling the truth. "I had a kid like that," I let her know. "I figured they were going to call DFACS on me, we were in the ER so much. Bruises like that are a sign the kids are playing and having fun. Mine needed seven staples in his head, impaled himself on a tree, and slammed his finger in the door so hard, he ripped his nail off...in one day. I've experienced it all."

"Wow! I guess when you have five kids, you see your fair share of injuries," she said feeling reassured. 

We chatted a bit more and then began walking towards her car. "God must have wanted us to run into each other today," I told her. "What you're doing is so hard. I'm so glad you're willing to have four kids. Big families are a blessing. You're doing a great job. Keep up the good work!" As we parted ways, she was beaming. 

I still remember those days of struggling with double strollers, diapers, short nights, and toting little people everywhere. I made a promise to myself and to God that I would encourage others I saw in the same boat. I would hold doors open for them and lift their strollers. There were times when people did that  for me that almost brought me to tears. I felt cared for and seen. I begged God to give me the opportunity to bless others in the same way when I could. Today, He gave me that chance and I'm so grateful.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Delightful Dinners

For over 21 years, we have hosted what we call household dinner once a week. It began with a coworker of Nelson's who was going through an awful divorce and has included many, many others since him. We don't really have any kind of rules about who we invite. The Lord has always led us to invite who we invite. The only real stipulation is that we keep it to singles. Once they get married, we send them on their way so we can include more people. 

We currently get together on Monday nights because we have several students who work in F&B and most of them are off on Monday. The problem was that during basketball season, we had a lot of games on Monday so we weren't able to get together as much. Once basketball was over, I sent out a welcome back text and said we were looking forward to seeing everyone regularly again. I sent that out on Friday. On Saturday afternoon, I got a text from our school that soccer season is upon us and the team would be practicing Sunday for their first game on Monday. The athletic department likes to keep us on our toes.

As luck would have it, Max's team has a game every Monday for the next two months. However, middle school games start at 4 PM and it's only one team playing, so I figured we would give it a try. The meals will be much simpler than what I usually cook, but the important thing is that we get together. 

I raced home from the game today and threw together a taco salad, some Spanish rice, and guacamole with Mackenzie's help. The nice thing about this group is that it's mostly made up of college guys who don't really care what the house looks like as long as there is food to eat. 

As they lingered around the table and let me join in on the game they were playing, I became so grateful for this gift in my life. Because of these dinners, I have had the opportunity to develop relationships with some amazing people. Also, it makes me so happy when people eat my food. 

Sunday, March 06, 2022

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends

It's soccer season now and Felicity's learner's league practices EVERY Sunday. On top of that, so does Max's team. Sheesh.

I'm all about team sports and activities for kids, but I'm kind of a stickler about my day of rest. I like Sundays to be a family day. Also, I teach elementary kids all week, so the last thing I want to do is hang out with all of them the day before I start teaching them again. It's not that I don't love them, but I need a recharge on the weekends. 

Thankfully, my neighbor is Max's coach and he was happy to give him a ride to practice.  Felicity also has a few classmates nearby and one was happy to give her a ride as well. They got to be with their friends and learn new skills, and I still got to have a bit of time to myself - win, win.

I'm so grateful to live in a neighborhood where we all watch out for each other. It's so much more than just borrowing an egg or a cup of sugar. It's Stations of the Cross, rides to school, corn hole in the yard, walks around the block, and drinks on the lawn. I'm grateful for all of it.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Quite a Day

Today was Felicity's First Reconciliation. She has been preparing for this day all year and she was VERY excited about it, because it means the next step is First Communion. 

Two weeks ago, I was talking to another mom who has a child in the same class and she was saying her son hadn't memorized his Act of Contrition yet. "No worries," I assured her, "it's not until March."

"March is NEXT week," she reminded me.

We found the Act of Contrition that day and began work. Thankfully, Felicity is self-motivated and a champ at memorizing, so after a day or two, she had it down. We said it every night at prayers just to be sure.

They had a little "rehearsal" in class last Sunday, so she was ready to go. This morning, as I was doing her hair, I asked her if she had though about what she was going to say to the priest. "Our teacher said if we have trouble, we could just ask our parents and they would be able to give us lots of things to say." I laughed.

We arrived at the church and took our place in the pew. Father did a wonderful (and very brief) introduction and gave some instructions. They arranged for two priests since the class is so large. That was very nice, except that they put the visiting priest in the confessional, where all of the kids wanted to go, and our parish priest, who all of the kids wanted to go to, in the cry room. Felicity was a little torn, but finally decided on the confessional. 

I'm glad she was peaceful about her choice, because the kid who was in front of her came crying to her mom, and Felicity ended up being first. She went right in and I could see her little frame through the window. My two friends urged me to take a picture. "That feels kind of like a violation of privacy," I told them. However, after some more encouragement, I gave in and I'm glad I did.

She came out absolutely glowing. She knelt down right next to me, closed her eyes, and did her penance. 

We celebrated afterwards at my favorite little coffee place close to the church. She held my hand as we were walking in. "Wow Mama! We're going to have three days in a row at church. We went to first Friday mass yesterday, First Reconciliation today, and church tomorrow."

"That's a pretty great weekend," I said.

She smiled that sweet smile and agreed. 

In the meantime, somewhere in the Atlanta area, Nelson took Max to the Knights of Columbus state free throw competition. He won his age group in Augusta, and today was the day he had to shoot for the state award. He placed a very respectable second place, making 20/25 free throws.

It was a pretty great day in the Parris house, where there's never a dull moment.

I am so grateful for the sacraments in my faith. I'm so grateful to be able to pass them on to my children. I'm grateful for fullness of this life with five kids and for all the memories we get to make with them.


Friday, March 04, 2022

A Weighted Choice

This morning started a bit earlier than most, as Felicity and I attended first Friday mass in our school gym. After a week of very short nights, it was tough, I'm not going to lie. However, I never regret doing it. It's a great way to start the school day and the kicker for the kids is that there is breakfast afterwards. Today, it seemed especially appropriate since we're in the first week of Lent. 

Mass also kicked off 40 hours of adoration in a new chapel in our neighborhood. Our bishop gave us permission to try these 40 hours of adoration quarterly to see if we have enough interest/participation to have the chapel become a perpetual adoration site. Walking to adoration? What a gift!

Before I realized it was Lent, I signed up to cover 5-6 PM. That means, I couldn't take the kids to the Stations of the Cross, which is a Lenten tradition for us. I got a text from one of my neighbors when I got home from school saying she was organizing a neighborhood Stations of the Cross at 5:30. What a great idea, I told her, but unfortunately, I can't do it because of adoration. "Send the kids!", was her generous response. 

I printed out the children's version of the Stations of the Cross she sent me and offered a choice to each of the kids - attend Adoration with me, or Stations of the Cross with the neighbors. "Neither," was both of the boys' response. 

"It's not optional," I explained. "It's Lent and this is what we're doing."

The next question, of course, was how much time each would take. When they discovered Stations of the Cross would be shorter, it was the obvious choice. That meant they would have to get themselves there since I would already be at adoration.  I gave Felicity this task, as she was the only one who chose to go willingly. I handed her the papers and set a timer on the oven. I walked out the door and prayed they would make the right decision.

I had a wonderful hour of adoration. I wanted to linger much longer than my allotted hour. There's just something so peaceful about being in Jesus' presence. However, I knew the kids would be hungry and so was I. 

I made it back to an empty house. I took that as a good sign. The kids came in a few minutes after I did. Their attitudes were changed and all were in good spirits. Well, Felicity was a little sad she didn't get picked to read one of the Stations, and her brothers each got to read two. "Maybe next time," I told her and got to cooking dinner. 

As I was cooking, my neighbor sent me a sweet text. "I have to sing your kiddos praises. They came to stations with great attitudes, participated and had far better behavior than any of the other kids!" Talk about a proud mama moment! 

I am grateful I have neighbors that do things like let my kids walk and pray the Station of the Cross with them. I am grateful my kids made the right choice and did it with a great attitude. I am grateful that my parents ingrained these traditions in me. I am even grateful for the season of Lent.