Piper

10168158_10202717133561593_1647046179_n

I remember when I met him.

2005. I was just about to graduate from college. My parents said for my graduation gift I could have a class ring or a puppy. I had been talking about a puppy for years. Obviously, I could have cared less about a ring. Puppy!

1620856_10202280591768321_1578315130_nIt was a Sunday. The weather was looking pretty awful. I was in Florence about to head back to Columbia. I saw an ad in the State Newspaper for “CKC Yorkies. $400.” and a phone number. I left right then. Just felt like I needed to go. Storm or no storm. I picked up my friend Jessica and we headed to what felt like the middle of nowhere. When I say it was storming – it was STORMING. Jess and I thought that was a good sign – we would get the pick of the litter. We were right. No one else braved the storm that day to pick out their pup. We walked into a little barn and saw a chicken coop full of tiny little brown and black puppies. I picked up a big fat one and 7245_10202234432174360_1093073600_ngave him the once over. Jess picked up this tiny little puppy – the runt – that all the other pups were jumping on. She said “But look. I’m wittle like you mom!” That was it. That was Piper. We went to a sketch ATM in a gas station. Got some cash. Signed some papers. Snuck him to Jess’s house. I was living in college housing so dogs were not allowed. He stayed with Jess for the night and eventually hung out with my mom and dad for a few weeks until I had my apartment.

1930333_582465547337_3671_nI named him after a girl I saw on MTV True Life: I’m Obsessed with my Dog. Fitting, really. His middle name was Amadeus, named after my favorite composer. Over the years, he would pick up quite a few names: Pipe, Pierre, Pickle, Pearl, Woglin, Dog Face Killer, Peezy, P. He had lots of phrases for things that were so uniquely Piper: “Oh de Pipe.”, angry bees, diggin’ in da dirt, fakin’ in, sniffin’ dem eyeballs, shiver shakes, chester cheesin’, zombie eyes….

Piper was my first love. My big, big love. I lived in an apartment a couple of years 10443426_10203488167516960_2935947960387808809_nfollowed by my first house. Just him and me and Izze. I traveled every week for work. He went with me. It got to the point that the double tree always had a dog bone for him. He was never treated like a dog so I don’t think he ever thought he was. He was OFFENDED if a dog tried to sniff his butt. He was allowed on all furniture. Slept with me in the big bed. He was brilliant too. He only chewed on toys that I handed him. Never anything else.

When I would get home, he would get so excited that he would “butt tuck” through the house. Imagine a dog tucking his butt low to the flo’ and running full stop. Between that and his beloved ‘Woo Woooooooo’ – he was pretty unique.

When I met Kyle, he told me he was allergic to dogs so if we were to keep dating, Piper had to be a1187097_10202572638709312_1225231883_nn outside dog. I told him if he was asking me to pick between the two, it wouldn’t end well for him. He made the right call. In an utterly amazing act of fate, it turns out Piper’s unique PH of hair is the ONLY dog Kyle isn’t allergic to. He was made for him.

Piper wasn’t really willing to share me with Kyle for a while. We said he was our chaperone. Kyle couldn’t get too close. He would break that crap up so fast. Kyle, elated that he found a dog he could finally snuggle, spent all his time petting Piper and “harumph” ing him (imagine making that noise in his neck.) Piper loved it. We knew it was real love when we went away for a vacation and came297259_4345524128412_1614209182_n back to pick Pipe up and he ran past me to get to Kyle. Instant, big, huge love.

When we got married, my gift to Kyle was to officially get Piper’s last name changed to his last name. He was his son, after all.

This is little known, but Pipe and I had a sort of ET/Elliot connection. If he felt sick, I felt sick. If I had anxiety, he had anxiety. The last two weeks, I obviously have not been myself. I’ve had an incredible deep sadness that I couldn’t define. The day he died I had a massive panic attack that morning.

10806226_10204471241693200_2602312729303788386_nIn 2014, Piper started acting like he was having trouble jumping. That was unusual. If you knew Pipe, he was called hyper Piper for a reason. He could jump as high as a chest of drawers. He could run faster than any person I know. The trepidation was unsettling. The vet thought it might have been a slipped disc. Two days later he was paralyzed. Our wonderful, wonderful vet called me and was very blunt. Take him to the ER and get an MRI and spinal tap, or put him to sleep. We chose the very, very expensive option. Of course we did. There wasn’t really another option. He had meningitis. He had to take roughly 8 medicines in various amounts 4 times a day. I had to teach him how to walk again. I had to give him warm baths each day to do rehabilitation on him to massage his muscles into
remembering how to work. It worked. We got a platform bed so that getting in at night wouldn’t be so much trouble.

Since then, he has relapsed twice. His neurologist is one of the kindest most wonderful 10336782_10203126284790118_2575367786680184193_ndoctors and would return emails at 1 in the morning. No matter what. Each time, Pipe wasn’t ready to give up. I told him as long as he wanted to fight, I was in it with him. When he was done, he had to tell me.

These past two months have been different. He lost weight dramatically. Walking became really difficult. He fell a lot. He slept a lot. We had to carry him everywhere. He cried a lot out of fear of falling. I told his neurologist and he said he thought his meningitis had gotten to the point where it might not be treatable anymore. He also probably had a secondary condition. We knew then that our time was limited.

1462907_10201882438134729_44171352_nWe took him to the beach so he could dig in the dirt. He loved to do that. He loved to feel the breeze. We got him a new bed so his bones wouldn’t hurt so badly. We gave him so many treats. We told him we loved him every second we could.

Two days ago he was outside yelling at the neighbors when he collapsed. What happened afterwards is not something I really want to go into detail about except to say that it was the worst and hardest thing I have ever had to do. But he told me when he was ready and I promised him I would. I will always be willing to hurt so he wouldn’t have to anymore.

I miss him so much it physically hurts. We got home that night and I immediately threw 1904111_10202364451024750_65294833_nup. I don’t know if it is because of the grief or the severing of our ET/Elliott connection. I threw up the entire next day too. I don’t think I will ever stop missing him.

I miss the way he roo rooed at me when he was frustrated.
I miss the way I could stare at him in the eyes and he would do his head back and forth and pounce.
I miss the way his paws smelled like gingerbread.
I miss how he always licked. All the time. No matter what.
I miss how he sniffed eyeballs.
I miss how much he desperately loved Locke. He keeps calling for him. “Piiiipuhhh”
I miss how he nosed through every plastic bag that came in this house.

I miss my best love. If you know me, you know Pipe. What am I without him?

 

Ebb and Flow, Ebb and Flow

A very smart man once told me that. In life, there will be good and bad. Moments of triumph. Moments of hardship. Ebb and flow. Sometimes the ebb, however, is completely overwhelming.

I’ve gone through a lot since the end of 2013. Some super good (hey Locke!). Some super bad. I try to stay optimistic, because honestly, I can’t function when I feel sad. I literally do not like how it feels, so I choose to “snap” out of it. I mean, who am I kidding, some days are better than others, and some days snapping out of it takes a lot longer. I’ve tried to learn to be gentle with myself. I’ve gone through a lot. It’s okay to take time to process.

unnamedMy social media looks like Disney World. I know. I purposely choose to only post the good and the funny. I don’t want to remember or reflect on the bad. And, I don’t want anyone else to ever judge or feel sorry for me. I’m fine. Someone once told me they liked the way I branded my family. Such a weird choice of words, but for someone in marketing like myself, very true. It made me feel guilty. I think about it a lot, actually. I chose carefully the pictures I would share publicly when Gavin was sick. I chose carefully the pictures I would share when Piper stopped walking for the fourth, and probably final, time. I chose the pictures of Locke smiling in most instances when him crying or screaming probably outnumber them. Carefully curated.

But, I don’t really do it because I want people to have a specific image of me or my kids or my life. I do it because out of all the millions of moments I am humbled to experience, those are the ones that stand out because they are beautiful. That smile when Locke saw his cake – even though he was grumpy and refused to eat it? That was real and brief and precious. That look when Piper saw the ocean again last weekend. Brief, beautiful and he stood. You don’t need to see the many, many times he fell before and after. The picture of Gavin playing his violin with such tenderness? You don’t need to see him getting super frustrated because “Popcorn and Candy and Popcorn and Candy” rhythm exercises are hard and he gets mad at himself. He’s learning. I choose to focus on the triumphs.

But, I’ll give you the behind the scenes of what life is like right now. Just this brief
unnamed-1glimpse. I’m tired. Gavin was awake half the night crying because he had a bad dream and desperately wanted to go to his Sue Sue’s house for a slumber party. Locke cries all.the.time. He is going through intense separation anxiety with me which means I can’t leave the room or the table without him or we have a full blown angry meltdown with throwing stuff, yelling, the works. Piper, my sweet love, is dying. We can see it in every step. We don’t know how long we have left with him, but no matter what, it will never be long enough. He mainly sleeps, but when he does get enough energy, he wobbles and falls before finally just giving up.

I feel guilty just about 95% of the time that I’m not doing enough. Not spending enough time being a wife. Not being present enough for the boys. What I do to myself when I am consumed with work, life, kids, balance, guilt, anxiety, is I let myself go. I don’t put on makeup. I don’t do my hair. I don’t take care of myself because that’s the easiest thing to let fall, in order to keep everything else in the air. I know I need to do better. Not just for my boys, friends, and family, but for me. I miss texts or I miss events or I back out of plans because I am too tired and can’t think about it. In the end, that lets everyone down. Someone is always disappointed.

Go easy on me, though. Ebb and flow. Ebb and flow.

Reflecting

There is a quote that has gotten me through the past year (or as my family calls it: “The year from h e double hockey sticks.”) The year wasn’t confined to just one person in my family – the horrible hit us all. And it didn’t stop. Just when we thought the light was finally peeking through, bam something else would happen. Anyway, one simple little quote helped me try and stay clear and not spiral down into the despair of all the bad.

“I like projecting positivity. I believe that we are all fields of energy and you have the choice whether to be a positive or negative field of energy. I know that sounds hippie-ish but it’s what I believe fundamentally. So you could be a bag of toxicity, or you could be a happy, good person that spreads joy. I believe in spreading joy.” Drew Barrymore

It’s simple. It’s cliche even, maybe. But keeping my eyes towards finding a way to spread joy or looking to focus on someone else is what helped me stay in a positive space when everything else was so bad and all I wanted to do was spiral into grief, anger or utter sadness. I loved E.T. from the day I saw it and I especially loved Drew’s character, Gertie. So thank you Gertie for being my phrase in the dark.

I think I am most proud of my parents through all of it. They experienced so much loss. So much stress. So much worry. Yet here they are…still smiling. Loving on a little dog named George. Remembering all the good times they had with those they lost. George is actually named after my mother’s dad who loved a good dog. Some of our favorite pictures of him were when he was snuggling up to his dogs. That’s how my parents are – so remarkably strong that they can find the good parts of any bad situations. We’re coming up to the end of the year from h e double hockey sticks and we are all very, very hopeful and very, very ready for clear skies and calm hearts.

But even if the storm does get bad again, Lord knows he has equipped us with an incredible amount of strength. Strength we didn’t know we had until now. And the love and support of so so many of you who have reached out, said kind words, and sent sweet messages. You will never know how much they have meant.

December 2014, you have a whole lot riding on your shoulders.

Journey.

I wouldn’t have believed you if you had said all of these things would happen in 6 months: Gavin would go from seemingly 100% healthy to allergic to the world, that I would have to call an ambulance due to an allergic reaction, that I would have to crawl over a minivan’s backseat to prop him up during an attack while Kyle was driving down the interstate, that I would be projectile puked on 4 times, and that finally, two of the people who are the most important to me would pass away – I would have laughed. How do you have all of that happen at once?

IMG_2001First. Gavin literally never had so much as a cold his entire first year of life. Chalk that up to breast milk and organic baby food? Good luck? Who knows. He was literally off the charts. The day after his first birthday, I decided to scramble up some eggs for him to try for breakfast. He immediately blew up like a pumpkin, had labored breaths, hives everywhere. After putting him in the bath to get the residue off of him, we headed to the pediatrician. Long story short, they were closed. That’s when projectile puke number 1 happened and the breathing got worse. That’s when an ambulance was called….and a fire truck. In theory, that was probably awesome for him to see. In reality, I was truly terrified. Turns out Gavin is highly allergic to eggs. He now is a proud member of the epi-pin carrying club.

IMG_2439We started noticing hives a lot more than normal after that. Took him to Disney (whichwas awesome) and stopped to have a yummy vacation dinner at an Italian restaurant. Gave him some ravioli to try. The same reaction. Got in the car, started heading to the hotel and that’s when the puke started again. Cue incident #2: Kyle pulling to the side of the interstate while I run to his car seat to keep him from asphyxiating. Turns out the ravioli had an egg wash. Who knew.

At this point we are referred to an allergist. They do the skin test on his back. Literally ever single dot had a reaction except for hazelnut (YAY NUTELLA!).  So at that point we know he has a sensitivity or full blown allergy to everything from nuts to eggs to shellfish. Awesome! Needless to say his appetite started to diminish probably because I was afraid to cook him anything with a flavor to it.

unnamed

Fast forward to his entire body breaking out into a rash. No one could figure it out. They sent him to the children’s hospital for testing. (Which is more of a test on parents than kids I think. NO one and I mean NO one should have to watch their kid cry during blood sampling. It took years off of my life.) The big test comes back and yes he is highly allergic to eggs. Tiny bit of an allergy to nuts and milk – but not enough to cause an alarm. Oh guess what else he is highly allergic to? Dogs. Holy crap what about Piper?? No dog can be truly hypoallergenic, but Piper comes pretty dang close. He has to have more baths than usual and can’t go into where Gavin sleeps, but other than that they seem to coexist peacefully for now.

So, in a way it’s a relief. We know exactly what to avoid and we know what to do when he does have a reaction. Like he did last night at 1am…all over me. That’s nothing compared to the time he puked all over my shirt, into my pants. You have not LIVED until you have swamp butt from someone else’s puke. (You are probably grossed out. Tough luck. You didn’t have puke in your pants.)

IMG_2004

Second. I think my family and I are still grieving the loss of my grandparents. My beloved Nanny passed away in early September and my Granddaddy Hammet passed away in early November.

1208906_10201276933917502_1904186402_nNanny and I had a special bond. We spent almost every day together growing up. My Granddaddy Smith and her would pick me up after school and we would work on homework and eat Nutty Buddies and drink Bright and Early orange juice together. Nanny was a weird one and Lord knows she said what she thought at all times (she was born without a filter), but to me – that’s what made her so much fun. We spent a majority of holidays together and I could always count on her to call me once a week to catch up. She made the most amazing food which I later found out had a lot of Crisco in it. People cook with Crisco still? Anyway, I always say she is the mighty Oak from when this little acorn fell. She is the tall tree of weird that many of the Smith quirks come from. Every member of our family has a “can you believe Nanny said…” story. Which is awesome. I still miss her everyday. When she passed away I couldn’t sleep at night because I felt like she was there. On the day of her funeral, I decided to write something to say during the service. Before she passed away, I had given her a journal to write her life story. She has a crazy story. She gave it back a year later filled to the margins with stories and letters to me and prayers to Jesus. Saying that eulogy out loud was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I did it for her. I hope she would have been proud. I miss her.

Granddaddy Hammet was a legend of a man. I mean that truly. A LEGEND. He worked for decades as a SLED agent 1441183_10201753028779576_952039433_nbringing in bad guys from arsonists to serial killers. You could imagine, that would mean he had an arsenal of stories. Oh, and he did. And he loved to tell them. He and Kyle used to love to share stories of their court experiences. When Kyle would have a big case go through, he often called my Granddaddy to tell him about it and Granddaddy would tell him how proud he was of him and how “I guess we’ll keep you around, Carl (he never called him Kyle). You are part of the Hammet clan.” For our wedding, he “passed the torch” and made Kyle a rolling pin with Granddaddy’s title and rank as a way of metaphorically, rolling out justice. Kyle proudly has that at his office. Granddaddy cooked almost weekly for the volunteer firemen in his hometown. Chicken bog was his specialty. And fish stew. They loved it and he loved being with the guys and telling stories. On the day of his funeral, those firemen were his pallbearers and every street leading the processional blocked traffic by a firetruck with their lights on and hands over their hearts. It was breathtaking. What a legend of a man to receive such a tribute. His “gators” as he called my mom and her sisters, were beyond proud to call him daddy and he loved those girls more than anything in the entire world. I miss him.

It’s been 6 months of gaining fortitude for sure, but also for giving thanks for those anchors in my life who have left us but shaped me, for doctors who continue to try and make a little boy better and for family and friends who have been so kind.

I love you all.

Meg

Be You.

When I was younger, I was not a normal kid. I got mono when I was supposed to have a growth spurt so I was temporarily half the height and weight of my peers. On top of that, my mom (love you bean) got me a sweet haircut I can only describe as….Harry Potter on a 9 year old? Oh and glasses. Not just small cute girl glasses. Big fat tortoise shell bifocals. All of that awkward, unattractiveness in one little girl would be enough for a rough time with other kids, but nope, I had to add a love of reptiles. Sugar and spice did not make a Meg. Frog legs and mud pies made a Meg.

260005_1934996426726_8246587_n

Why tell you this? My childhood could have been rough. I was bullied really badly. To be honest, until I got married, I still got bullied daily for being too thin/small/eat-a-sandwich/insert insult here. Luckily, I was surrounded by really really great people who never once made me feel different or unusual. My best friend since I was 3 is still to this day the most beautiful girl I have ever met – and she never ever once made me feel less than. My mom, of course, was a mom who thought I was a precious little girl and preached the “haters gonna hate” mantra basically my whole life.

But the REAL reason I turned out alright…The REAL reason I was okay with being me and proud of who I was…was

148861_1580669608777_3638239_nbecause of my dad. My dad was the one who would not pacify me if I started

thinking that what others said might be true. My dad was the one who said “Are you kidding me? Don’t be normal. Normal is boring. Normal is ordinary. Are you ordinary and boring, Meg? NO! Let your freak flag fly, little girl. You do you.” And I did. I did me. Love or hate me – I am a weird, quirky, stubborn, loyal, opinionated, creative person, because that’s what my dad taught me to be.

My dad is a pretty cool guy. My earliest memories of him are sitting on a porch listening to classical music. He taught me harmony, minor/major chords and how to listen to the story of music. I could sing before I could talk. We danced often. (His favorite thing to dance to is weather on the 8s on the weather channel.) He taught me about wooshland: a magical place where the music that makes you wistful lives. Wooshland is a state of mind. A state of peace. A state of fairy tales.

247366_1936652228120_4797552_n

My favorite thing about my dad is his love of all things fun. Dad is my Peter Pan stuck in the body of a man in his 60s. Life is too short to be an adult, I think, and he whole heartedly agrees. For holidays, we get him remote control planes, make your own snow kits, marshmallow guns – you name it. The guy loves toys. And starting in

October (much to my mom’s dismay – she has him pushing it to November currently lol), the house turns into Christmas. The music plays throughout the house, it’s decorated in every single room. It’s magic. We go to the Nutcracker every year because we love it so much.

222852_1839235392760_1451534_n

When my niece visits their house, they get to pick a holiday and Dad decorates accordingly, no matter what time of year. If it’s Christmas in July, he will shred newspaper and they pretend it is snowing. When we all get together, they often disappear to create a show for all of us that premieres later that evening. I know, he’s awesome, right?

I’m so thankful for the person that my dad is. The fun he creates. The strength he demands. He’s stubborn like crazy, but that’s okay. At the end of the day, I’ll take someone stubborn who will go outside and shoot nerf guns with me any day.

I love you, Baboon.

IMG_1406

IMG_1382

IMG_1699

IMG_1697

149537_1575799527028_4684344_n

Dear Gavin,

I am watching you sleep right now. Not a care in the world. So peaceful. When you wake up everything will be exactly as you left it – superbear in one hand and mommy right beside you. You will wake up with a smile, as you usually do, and we will play, as we usually do. I hope for this peace and happiness for you to carry on as you become more aware of your world. The world can be such a tough place. I pray your spirit is strong and your convictions deep. These are a few things I want you to know:

1. Be you. Unapologetically you. If you love something others tease you about, love it harder. At the end of the day, be someone with confidence in who you are. There is only one of you and no one is allowed to say that the perfection that is you is weird/strange/different.

2. Stick up for others. When you see someone else being teased or if you hear of someone being spoken about badly, have the courage to stop it. It may not win you cool points with those doing the teasing, but you have affected the life of the person you stood up for more than you know.

3. Try new things. I hate onions. HATE onions. The thought of onions makes me cringe. Time to time I will try something new with onions in it on the off chance that maybe it will be something that I love. I would have gone my whole life without it! (status update: still hate onions)

4. Learn a talent. The beauty of the arts is it helps nourish a different side of you. One that is often neglected in children. Try many different instruments. Paint. Sing. Act. Write. CREATE.

5. Nothing in life that is right is easy. Do it anyway.

6. Call your grandparents. They have loved you before they knew you. Call them.

7. Explore your new world, but come home. You will have many adventures in wonderful places, but come home from time to time. I love you. I need to see you.

8. Laugh everyday. Even if you don’t feel like it.

9. Learn how to do chores. Yeah, they suck. No one likes them. Do them anyway. It will make you a better roommate, friend, and spouse. It will also make you more self sufficient.

10. Be independent. Take heart in your ideas and what you want to do. This is your life. If you want to do something. DO IT. (Unless it hurts you. Then you answer to me, punk.)

11. If you can brighten someone’s day – do it.

12. Leave the house. In the age of technology and way too much TV, it is really easy to stay inside all day. (Your dad and Pop Pop will disagree with me here because they LOVE technology.) GO OUTSIDE. Some of my best memories from childhood and beyond are adventures I took outside. Things I found. Stuff I made up. Mud pies I put in mom’s fridge. (Don’t put mud pies in my fridge.)

13. Spend some time with God everyday. Just like all relationships, they don’t get stronger unless you see the person daily. God is the same way. Make an effort to spend time with him daily. It will be the best relationship of your life.

14. Call mom.

I love you forever. I can’t wait to see who you will be. What you will love. What you care about. Your hobbies. Your stories.

-Mom

I love you once. I love you twice…

I just watched Steel Magnolias for the first time. After crying my face off, I got to thinking about how very fortunate I am to have my very own Sally Fields. You see, when it comes to mothers – I have the best. Hands down.

IMG_6745Mom and I have always been close. Always. She’s one of those people you just WANT to be around because what makes my mom so special is the amount of goodness in her heart. She always says “even if it isn’t easy – always do the right thing.” And she does. She really, truly does.

My mother never gossips. Not once. Never. She thinks everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. Don’t get that confused with weakness though. She won’t talk about others, but if you say even the slightest disparaging word against someone she loves…. well the phrase hell hath no fury comes to mind. My mom is fearless and no one will intimidate her if she is defending her family.

My mom is my moral compass. Literally – my decisions are made based upon her voice in my head telling me if something is a good idea or not. Because she is always right. Always. She always does the right thing. How many people are there in the world that can say they do that?

IMG_6753My mom is not fancy. She doesn’t buy a lot of things for herself. Instead, she always gets things for others. Stuff here and there. Dad and I joke that she makes us feel guilty when we buy things because while we are picking out some shoes or a gadget, she’s buying gifts for others. That’s just my mom. She is happier giving.

When I had Gavin last year, my mom was there in the room the entire time. I had a lot of difficulty and went into panic shocks/anxiety attacks a few time and my mom whispered things in my ear that I can’t remember now but apparently were the only way I would snap out of it. She was there when they decided to do the emergency C section. She was there in the recovery room when I wouldn’t snap out of my twilight stage. She was there when I finally did. She went home at 3am that night (two hours away) and was back up the next morning by 10am. She had a lot of other things going on that day, but never spoke of them. Her focus was me. She stayed with me for a week when I came home and made me lunch everyday and dinner every night. She stayed awake until 4am the first night home rocking Gavin because I was sick. The day she went home I cried harder than I have ever cried in my entire life.

IMG_6790

We have a phrase we say to each other: “I love you once. I love you twice…” and the other finishes “I love you more than beans and rice.” The day before I got married, I gave her a little silver necklace with one little silver bean on it. She wears it every single day.

If I can be half the mom – or heck, half the human being – my mom is, I will consider myself a success. The world would be such a better place if there were more people like her. Because she is the best.

I will teach my son her patience and her guidance. I will teach him to ALWAYS stand up to bullies even if you aren’t the one who is the victim. I will teach him to never settle and always strive to be better because better is always possible. I will teach him to love God. I will teach him that happiness and love is all you need. I will teach him to do the right thing, no matter how difficult it may be. I will teach him to be uniquely and fearlessly him.

Because that’s what my mom taught me.