Sunday, December 18, 2005

The REAL Gift Is In The Giving!

My brother dancing with my best friend at a birthday party this past summer.

A quick review of my blog so far will illustrate a running theme: My family is important to me. My intention when I created this site, was not to spend so much time writing about my family, however, for some inexplicable reason, things have turned out that way so far. In the very near future, I promise I will focus on other more topical issues, but today's post, like those in the past is also motivated by my family, though topical, and I think, a must read.

In our society, almost anything you might ever need or want is available for a cost, and by hook or crook, most of us will find a way to pay the cost to get those things if we want or need them badly enough. On the other hand, they say "The best things in life are free", which though true makes having the best things in life (such as life itself)sound easier than it is, as this saying doesn't take into account that "free ain't necessarily synonymous with easy to come by". Currently, there are many individuals waiting and hoping to come by organs for transplant which though "free", are rarely available, especially to individuals in the black community who are in need of a transplant to survive or improve their quality of life.

My brother who is 45 years old was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure almost five years ago, resulting in his being placed on dialysis for 4 hours a day 3 times a week a year ago. In the absence of properly functioning kidneys, dialysis is a Godsend as it literally saves lives. This notwithstanding, and at the risk of sounding as if I'm "looking a gift horse in the mouth", if you've ever been close to someone on dialysis, you know that the quality of life that person is able to live is significantly decreased. My brother is a young, attractive, otherwise healthy, single, black man who is unable to do what most of us his age take for granted. Things like four day weekend trips are not an option for him. His diet dictates that he can't even partake of a baked potato or a plate of spaghetti for fear his potassium levels will be off-balance. At a time when having the support of someone who loves you means so much, he and others in this situation hesitate to date or become involved in relationships, not wanting to "burden" someone else with their problems. Without question, his condition in some way or other impacts every part of his life, and dictates what will or won't be.
After working hard to be compliant with his treatment in an attempt to demonstrate his dedication to protecting any kidney he might possibly receive in the future, my brother has been cleared to begin the process of trying to become a kidney recipient. I volunteered to be tested as a potential match for my brother, or in the event that we did not match, I agreed to participate in a "cross-match" scenario where my kidney could be given to another recipient who had a donor with whom they did not match but who matched my brother. When the transplant center called to tell us that our tests for compatability had been scheduled to take place on December first, I took that to be a good omen as December first is our mother's birthday. We both had to go in and give blood to be matched and crossed matched on a wide range of parameters. As the initial vial was filled, the phlebotomist removed it and attached another, then another, then another times "15 anothers" until I finally asked her if she was secretly feeding a family of homeless vampires or what! She smiled and told me to "buck brother had to give up twice as much!" The test was as simple as that.
The results were not due back until around New Years, but for some reason they came back early. Unable to reach my brother, the transplant coordinator contacted me with the news. I immediately left my brother a message to call me as soon as he could. In the interim, I twiddled my thumbs and about lost my mind. Finally, after two and a half hours he called. Acting nonchalant, I casually told him that the transplant center had called and said that if I wanted to, and had nothing better to do with my time, I could give him my "extra kidney". He was momentarily in shock, and then expressed his gratitude with a silence that was louder than any verbal thank you I have ever received. In his silence, I could actually hear his joy, right through the phone without even being able to see his face...BEAUTIFUL! Once he had recovered himself, he whooped and hollered and pretty much acted a stone-cold fool like we had been bred to do since before conception...its in our DNA and we're proud of it.
After a few minutes, I interrupted his glee saying I needed to say something. He immediately got quiet again and asked me what I needed to say. I responded, "I know you realize this means your ass ain't getting nothing for Christmas so don't be looking for no box labeled from me to you under that damned tree next week ;-)".
All jokes aside, I wish I could make anyone reading this post know how I feel about being able to do this for my brother. Though he will still need to take medication to keep from rejecting my kidney, (soon to be his as once you give something away, it is no longer yours!, "Right Mama?"), my brother will mostly have his life back and pretty damn close to what it used to be. My grandmother, once she heard the news was overjoyed at first, then immediate concern for me registered on her face. She turned to me and asked if I was going to do it and if so was I afraid. I answered, "Of course I'm going to do be tested, match, then say no would be just MEAN! Am I scared?, not at all." Call me stupid, but I prayed to be a match, and now that we know that I am, I know everything is going to be alright...this is the way it is supposed to be. Without question, God is Good, All the time!
Everyone who learns of this has complimented me on my generosity, and gone on and on about what I'm doing for my brother. I smile and say thank you, then I try to explain that being able to do something like this for someone I love is a priveledge, an honor. My brother has made it abundantly clear, how much he appreciates what "I'm doing for him", but I want him and the world at large to know that in fact, I'm the one actually receiving the real gift. The excitement, anticipation, joy, happiness, and peace I feel as the donor, is waaaaaayyyyyyyyy bigger than anything I have ever felt as a consequence of something I was receiving.
My mother told me about the theory of "cellular memory" which purports that memory is stored not only in the brain, but in every cell of our bodies. If there is any truth to this hypothesis, my brother may one day know how great I feel to be a part of this. He may also one day know some stuff he ain't got no business knowing as well. If that is true big brother, do me a favor and keep your mouth shut...afterall, we've all got our secrets!
Without question, GIVING IS THE REAL GIFT! Thank you big brother and I love you!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Four Generation Family Sleepover

As long as I can remember, I always wanted a guest bedroom in my home. In previous houses, I have had a home office/guest bedroom which was a bedroom which had been outfitted as an office with a futon stuck in there for the occassional overnight guest. Though this was better than nothing, for anyone who is as compulsive a host as I, it just wasn't the ticket.

In April of this year (2005), I moved into my current home which finally provided me with enough room to have both a home-office, and my heart's desire...a separate, dedicated GUEST BEDROOM!! Bring on the company ;)

Since I moved in, back in April, I have had many guests lay their heads on what I am told is one of the most comfortable beds you could ever want to sleep in. However, no turn at hosting has given me the sense of satisfaction that I received this past weekend when I hosted my spontaneous "FOUR GENERATION FAMILY SLEEPOVER"! On Saturday morning, I called my Grandma up out of the blue and invited her over to help me decorate my second Christmas tree downstairs and without thinking twice she agreed after which I suggested she pack a bag and make a night of it. My mother had been rolling with me the day before on a Christmas shopping excursion and had stayed over the night before, so she decided to stay again as well. My oldest brother and I get together occassionally and have movie nights at my spot so I decided to call him as well seeing as I have plenty of extra space for sleeping with the huge sofas I have in the basement. He agreed as well and thus...the sleepover began.

(l to r: My son, my brother, my Mother, and my Grandmother)

Pictured on Sunday morning sitting around my breakfast table, eating a breakfast I personally cooked (which if you knew me constitutes a miracle in and of itself!) are: (r to l) my grandmother (generation 1), my mother (generation 2), my brother (generation 3 which includes me, the missing person in the empty chair ;), and my 16 year old son (generation 4). As I sat at the table with my family members who I had gathered the night before for this impromptu sleepover, it occurred to me that I was actually sitting there having breakfast with four generations of my family. I was overwhelmed by how blessed that made me, and quickly ran to grab my trusty digital camara.

In the times in which we live, the liklihood that any family will span four generations is not something most would bet on, and at that moment, I realized that four generations were sitting at my table, and in actuality, I am part of a five generation family that is NOT the result of babies being born to babies barely old enough to have babies (No 13 year old mothers here!).

(The Five Generation branch of my family tree: Grandma, Hazel (my cousin), Odessa (Hazel's mother-my aunt), Anita (Hazel's daughter-my 2nd cousin), Storm (Anita's infant daughter-my 3rd cousin)...)

I am blessed to be a part of a family that doesn't only get together for special events, or sad events, or because we're obligated to, but just because sometimes we just want to! I am blessed to be part of a family that doesn't just "love each other", but one that actually "likes each other"!

Since I was a little girl, I can recall my extremely large extended family (at last count my grandma had 12 children who had given her 69 grandchildren who had produced 23 great-grandchildren one of whom had produced the single great-great grandchild...yep!, fertile as the Napa Valley ;) getting together at the drop of a dime and any reason or no reason was reason enough!

(Okay, okay, I'm third from left standing in grey dress with lollipop stick hanging out my mouth)

This picture was taken at my grandmother's when I was about seven or so, and though money was never something that was overly abundant in my family, its absence did little to curtail the joy we found in they say, "Membership has its priveledges"!

So with Christmas fast approaching, I'm looking forward to hosting the annual family shindig at my digs. There will be more folks than I can begin to anticipate and yet, I invite more everyday. There will be plenty of good food and drink...because you know how we do. ;) But most of all, whether or not I will like my present is a moot question, because my present will be the sheer ecstacy that comes each and everytime I get to be swallowed up in the crazy, fun-loving energy that comes with membership in my big, loud, some say ghetto-fabulous, five-generation family.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy Birthday Baby Bro!

Day before Yesterday, as in December 6, I remembered that tomorrow (December 7) would be my baby brother's birthday...I even shared the information with my son Ryan and agreed to remind him to call my brother Chris to wish him a Happy !

Today, as in December 8, I remembered that yesterday (December 7) I forgot it was my baby brother's about TRIFLING!

Twenty-nine years ago when I was about 12 years old, my mother hid her pregnancy from me, my little sister, and my two older brothers for seven months for fear we would be upset about it. To the contrary, when we were finally told, we were estatic. I even got her to agree to let me name the new baby and I chose Christopher which was the name of the first boy I ever loved back in third grade ;)

The Master of Disaster as I used to call him was born on the coldest, snowiest night imaginable, and I can still remember my uncle trying to unfreeze his car door locks at 2am trying to get my mother to the hospital to finally have this baby whose existence in my mother's womb had only been revealed to me two and a half months before... In the real morning, I was sent to school by my Grandmother as usual, the sixth grade, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening in my life. It was brutal, the not knowing what was happening...I never would have been able to wait nine whole months. I returned home that afternoon to learn I had a new baby brother. A more loved baby never entered the world, than my baby brother!

He was everything to everyone in my family and especially to me. I can recall as my friends one by one began to have babies as teenagers, my mother jokingly saying she had Chris so I would know what it meant to take care of a baby and would not fall into the trap of teenage pregnancy. Whatever her reasoning, without question, I fell in love with my baby brother and in a world where people who disappoint you appear to be the rule more so than the exception, I would have to say, my brother is the exception that proves the rule! He is always there, when you need him for whatever you need him. In a world where so many folks take, take, TAKE, he is a GIVER, plain and simple.

As babies tend to do, he too grew up. I left for college when he was five, but when I came home, it was less than two years before we had convinced our mother to let Chris live with me since I handled everything relative to him for the most part anyway and he spent all weekends, and summer vacation at my place already. This essentially resulted in Chris having two mothers, and I for one don't know how he coped, but he did. As much as I took care of him, he took care of me...maybe even more. From protecting me from any noise, light, or other painful intrusions during my migraines, to helping to raise my son, Chris was always there...being Chris. His graduation from high school was one of the proudest moments of my life and had a more profound effect on me than my own; afterall, my oldest child was graduating!!

Now, he is all grown up and in love with the girl of his dreams, my new baby sister Katrina. He has a new woman to take care of him, but just as my first kiddie crush for whom he was named did, Chris stole a large chunk of my heart the day he came home from the hospital, and no matter who I love, or who loves me, my baby brother will always have his piece of my heart to keep!


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No Scrooge Here!

Two weeks ago it bit...I arrived at my best friend's house in Nebraska to celebrate Thanksgiving with her and her family, and when I arrived the exterior of her house had been decorated in full Christmas glory. With every ounce of my being, I fought the urge to rush into the season, preferring to let it gently wash over me instead, but every house in her neighborhood was in full Christmas regalia, or on its way.

(Angie's house all decked out for Christmas before Thanksgiving!)
Even still, I resisted the urge. Then, on black Friday when everyone else was up early spending money, my best pal recruited me to assist with set-up for a wreath auction to be held locally in the near future. Just what I needed, MORE decorations to drag Christmas and all that goes with it to the forefront of my brain. Withstanding this challenge without too much trouble, my buddy then decided to pull out the stops and convinced me to help her with decorating the inside of her house...

It was almost more than I could take...but still I returned home intent on resisting the urge to bring Christmas into my home early.

Unfortunately for my little great-niece, the urge to decorate and make things (even people) festive became too much to resist, and she ended up being my target...check out the coat and hat!!

As they say, the first step to recovery is to acknowledge you have a problem! I AM A CHRISTMAS FANATIC!!!! I love everything about the season and can't wait for any signs of it to make their appearance. When others are complaining on Halloween about the Christmas decorations going up in the malls already, I am getting lipstick on my earlobes my grin of anticipation is so huge. I am without a doubt in my element and at my best for the month of December each and every year!

So, take a little photo journey into my particular brand of madness; and if you happen to be in town Sunday, December 25, 2005, stop in and join the party...afterall, I'm expecting at least 50 folks, what's a few more!!!

Christmas in my living room......

A miracle on my mantle...

Christmas cooking in the kitchen...

Presents to poinsettias, to trumpet playing Santa Clauses and Snow Men who sing "I'm a SNOW MAN! A Rock and Roll Man!" on top of my kitchen cabinetry, I am completely, totally, unabashedly enamored of everything Christmas!!! So for those of you for whom all the "hoopla" over this most festive of all seasons is to quote a classic, "ba humbug!", my condolences...because without a doubt, with the exception of the arrival of a new baby, I can think of absolutely nothing more exciting.

No, without a doubt, There's No Scrooge Here!


Thursday, December 01, 2005

NaNoWriMo Officially Over In My Neck of the Woods!

That's right literature fans, it is official the results are in...National Novel Writing Month has officially ended in my time zone and I am exhausted, but proud to say that I, on my very first attempt have managed to exceed the 50000 word expectation (slightly), and just timely enough to qualify as a NaNoWriMo 2005 Winner!!!!!

I have to say that this has been a great experience for a literary perfectionist like me. I have written in some shape or fashion for as long as I can remember, but have never actually been able to "complete" a project because I have chronic "edit-itis". Edit-itis is a condition typically contracted by those who would write which causes them to be incapable of getting to the end of a piece of work because they are constantly re-reading and subsequently editing the body of work they have actually produced. A vicious cycle emerges, resulting in a complete and total failure to produce even one finished product.

When I began my NaNo novel two weeks after the start pistol had been fired, I was still suffering from this terrible condition. As the days passed and my word count did not grow quickly enough to meet the average per day needed to sucessfully complete my task, I realized that something had to give or I would FAIL! Obsessed with the desire to say I had done it, I forced myself to focus only on being as wordy as I could possibly be while at the same time trying to tell the story I had originally set out to tell. Slowly my daily counts started to climb until I completed a marathon writing session over the last two days which resulted in the addition of almost 20000 words, putting me over the top and into the Winner's Circle.

There are lessons in all things...what were my take-aways from this exercise?

  • Stay the will pay off--->I have actually written my first book! Right now it's short and it needs work no doubt, but it EXISTS!
  • Perfection can be created only if there is imperfection first;in other words, to perfect something, you gotta have something to perfect--->I have a novel, bring on the revisions!
  • NaNoWriMo works and creates writers if you work at it, writers Rock, and if the transitive property applies (if a=b and b=c, then a=c)--->I worked my ass off, I became a writer, and therefore, I ROCK!