Monday, November 15, 2010
Honestly, I could fill pages with "Mamaw Stories". Things that she has said or done (mostly said) that could keep us entertained for hours on end. Mamaw is truly a "ball of fire" and she says absolutely what she thinks. And her grandchildren (now great-grandchildren, too) do no wrong. Just ask Woody. Before our wedding we were sitting at Mamaw's kitchen table when she gave him some unsolicited marriage advice. It goes something like this, Mamaw: "Woody, now you need to know that I don't believe that Mandy has ever made a mistake. So if you and her feel the need to squabble and you disagree with her, don't come running to me. I will always believe that she is right." Woody: "Mamaw, that is EXACTLY what is wrong with her!" And it is. But shouldn't everyone be spoiled rotten by their Mamaw? But while she was cooking me my favorite foods, letting me pluck snacks and gum off the shelf at the station, or letting me run up a tab at the Village Shoppe, she has passed on some pretty great traits. Here is just a few:
This might seem a little strange when one is describing their grandmother, but Mamaw truly has the best business know how of anyone I know. She has impeccable accounting skills and according to many a sales tax auditor keeps the cleanest, clearest bunch of books around. She ran a full service gas station after my Papaw passed when I was two years old. Her and the men. This is back when people actually pumped your gas for you(oh, how I miss those days!). The men pumped gas, changed oil, worked on tires (more often than not, timberjack tires. In case you didn't know they are pretty huge), and washed cars. Mamaw supervised it all from a stool behind the cash register. Along with several old men who sat around, drank Cokes, and talked about everyone who came through the gas pumps. Some of my fondest memories involve being up there at that service station. It is on that concrete wall that my height was measured year after year with black magic marker, and it was there that I learned to handle money, balance books, and keep track of profits. I was always so proud of her, she seemed so sure of herself and so smart. And I wanted to be just like that. She also made everyone feel welcome, which leads to the next point....
2. Politician-like personality
Award winning personality. Yep, she's got it. Adults and children adore her. Mamaw is as charming of a lady as they come. We often joked that she could have been governor if she would have just decided to do so. She doesn't forget names and she remembers everything about you after you've met. Probably because there has been lengthy discussions about you and "where you came from" after you've left. Must figure out whose child you are and your mother's mother who was the sister of so and so.....you get the point. She also sees the best in people which I believe leads to her charm. A person is never too high or too low to receive her undivided attention. One of the lessons she told me on one of our Friday night eating outs is, "You need to speak to people and hug their necks." Which meant, to make everyone you come in contact with feel special. Speak first, speak often, and people will fill welcome. She truly believes that we are all God's children and deserve her respect. However, once you are the recipient of her love and respect, you get the truth....
Gained a few pounds? Not been attending church? Hair too long or short? Dressing terribly? Again, gained a few pounds? If you are one of the chosen ones to be in Mamaw's "love circle", you are getting the truth, whether you like it or not. I have heard her give the what for to many of the old men that passed their golden years away up at the station and I have also been the recipient of the "gained a few pounds" comments. Whew! It's tough. When I would come home from college, I would always stop at the station (or later on the Video Store) first. It was tradition that I see her before Momma or Daddy and that is just how she liked it (and me too!) But before I walked in after a long three hour drive, I managed to slide on a little lipstick and I never wore slouchy driving clothes. Because intense scrutiny lie inside those glass doors and when you have been gone for a month, it is even stronger. She assessed and hopefully I came out favorably. Sometimes I did and sometimes I didn't, but you can be sure if I didn't, I deserved it. That is what is so grand. It takes someone who loves you to tell you "like it is" and the world would be a much better place if their were more people just like her.
4.Devotion to God
Mamaw is extremely faithful and her devotion to Jesus Christ is amazing. For as long as I can remember, she is there every time the church doors open, even when she worked six days a week. Every night, she reads her Bible and prays for her loved ones, the sick, and missionaries. The latter of which she read aloud to me every night from the book, "Open Windows", a practice adopted by her mother. By the way, I asked her just yesterday does she still do that, and she said, "Yes, every night." What faith! It was she that I loved to follow to church, to the alter, and to the Word of God. It was she and I that would head up to the Gospel Mission on Saturday nights and listen to old time gospel music. (I still love that old gospel music now) I hope that my in my adulthood, my faith and love for Jesus can compare to hers. She is truly an inspiration and a blessing from our Lord and Savior!
I must be honest, in reading back over this blog. This truly does not capture everything about her personality. But she is not one to be summed up in one simple article, as I stated before, a book could be devoted to her story and the stories that she herself creates. A pillar of strength, a bundle of charm, and a dash of simply hilarious, I love everything about her. The impact that she has had of my life cannot be measured, but I hope that the lessons stick. She has tried her best to instill in me the best things that she has to offer, but as hard as I try, she cannot be duplicated. And that is truly for the best, because she is one of a kind.
Monday, November 8, 2010
|Momma with Cooper, the day he came home from the hospital|
In honor and recognition of the lovely month of November, the month in which I was born, I am writing a multiple part series on the people that have influenced my life the most, or people that I want to imitate in my life but I am failing miserably in doing so. (doesn't mean that I will ever stop trying) Featuring a new person every few days, (let's face it, I am not disciplined enough to make it EVERY day) these articles are identifying various people who have impacted me in the most dramatic ways. I only feel that it is appropriate to make the first entry about my Momma, my best friend and my steady rock. So without further ado, here are some things that she has tried to instill in me over the years, either intentionally or unintentionally.
|Momma and Caroline at Christmas, 2009|
Ok, so I didn't say that I am a fast learner, because I haven't exactly learned these two traits well, but looking back over the years with my more seasoned hindsight, I have realized to some extent how selfless my mother is regarding me. She has truly went without material possessions so that I may have. I cannot count all the exact instances of these precious sacrifices, but I want her to know that I see them clearly now. I see the love that pours out of her heart for Mack and I, and the wherewithal to go barefoot in the snow for the two of us if she thought it would make us happy. I believe that it took having my own children to realize the magnitude and scope of her love for us. I truly (along with my brother) feel like my momma's proudest possessions, and she has never done a single thing for me to doubt otherwise. This also makes me feel ashamed, however. To have grown up as I did with blinders, seeing only what I wanted to see, seeing only what relates to me and my comfort. I have wasted 35 years (oops! didn't mean to let that age slip...moving along) not letting her know everyday how much I love and appreciate everything she is and everything she does. I would love her desperately no matter what, but her selflessness makes me want to repay her with all my love and admiration every day.
My momma clearly has the driest sense of humor of anyone I know, and she always makes me laugh...at the MOST inopportune times!! Momma can take the most morbid and sad moments and manage to comment (sometimes unintentionally) a quip that can make you grin through the tears or seriousness. However, I believe this comes from having superb emotional strength. She is truly a "steel magnolia" and has been since way before the phrase became so popular. Not one to wallow in self-pity or give into melodramatic drama that is so characteristic of our gender, she can truly make a strong face in a bad situation. Laughter through tears is truly a wonderful emotion. It reminds us that life does go on, and that what is waiting for us in eternity for those who believe in Jesus Christ, is sorrow free. Isn't that grand? Therefore, it isn't necessary to take this life here on earth too seriously, for "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." Proverbs 17:22 Just ask my momma, life is truly too short to spend it not laughing about the little things that get you down.
3. Girls can like football, too....and look good at the same time
Football as a spectator sport has come a long way. I truly feel in this day and age of all-access, twenty four hour a day media coverage and the soap opera-like drama going on off the field, more ladies watch the sport that I have channeled into since I came into this world. My momma has always been an avid follower and watcher of college football (so was my great-grandmother, but that is another story). She can call a block in the back before the yellow flag is flung from the pocket of a referee and cheer with gusto a spectacular catch that results in a touchdown for her beloved Crimson Tide. Few women I know watch the games with as much attention and fervor (much to her blood pressure's chagrin). But never one to be labeled with a stereotype, my momma is what you would call today a "guy's girl", but she is as prissy and conscious about good grooming as the next princess that wouldn't know a wide receiver from a defensive lineman. Don't let her looks fool you, she can get as feisty as a firecracker about a erroneous (depends on which way you look at it) pass interference call (or lack thereof). But then lower her blood pressure after a particular stressful game with some good old fashioned retail therapy. Everything in moderation, my momma has good balance, she can hang with the boys and giggle with the girls. And everything else in between.
4. Her foundation is set upon Jesus Christ....and she showed us how to lay our own stones
My momma has always taken us to church, no matter what. There was never a question of if we were going on Sunday morning. We got up, we got ready, and barring sickness we were there. She and her two little troops. Looking back, sometimes for her it would have been easier to be more lackadaisical about church attendance. She was a young mother, and most of the time she went by herself for whatever reason. The young sometimes do not realize the importance of Christ in their own lives, much less the lives of their children, but my momma had us in Sunday school and taught us at a young age about salvation and the love of our Creator. Maybe this is the most important thing that she ever did for us, surrounding us in Christian love and a showing us how a devotion to Christ and his church was a never failing source on strength and power. I have been blessed with many Godly people in my life, which you will see in the coming blogs; however, it is my mom's persistence, prayers, and presence that have helped me the most in my struggling walk with Christ.
|Caroline's 4th Birthday|
Any love is good love,
So I took what I could get.
Then she looked at me with those big, brown eyes
And said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet"
- Bachman Turner Overdrive
- Bachman Turner Overdrive
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
|Caroline in a self designed tooth fairy costume, poor Cooper doesn't know what to think.|
|Note the zebra print backpack and sunglasses..and we are driving a tractor!|
2. Wrists and/or ankles must be adorned I must admit that I can relate to this one on the surface. I truly feel a bit bare without a watch and wedding rings when I leave the house, but this is a whole other level. Miss Priss must always have something, whether it be the multiple plastic bracelets (see #1) or a silicone wrist watch or simply an elastic ponytail holder. You will not catch her without something. Sometimes we just loop the ponytail holder around the ankle. This helps when we have to do activities such as gymnastics where the bracelets aren't practical or go to Kindergarten where they are just banned. Such absurdities are simply a natural part of life for her, it separates her from the masses.
3. Must have high maintenance demands Maybe I should have labeled this one needy personality quirks. Call it what you want to, but in order to be a true in training diva, you must have a couple of "need these to get through my day" demands tucked away in your back pocket. A good example is that Caroline must always be accompanied by a stuffed animal, two blankets, and a pillow pet dolphin when she is lounging around the house or traveling or sleeping. Flippy the Dolphin and BB and Soft B (the blankets) are a staple, but the stuffed animal or animals are interchangeable. This week it may be a Care Bear, next week it may be a stuffed horse. Who knows? There is no rhyme or reason, and that is what keeps her entourage (that is us...the rest of the family) on our proverbial toes. Bedtime and we don't have Jessie's hat, oh how can we ever sleep? Going to church and we don't have Shiny GaGa, (which by the way is a very specific Care Bear, thank you very much) we can't possibly learn about Jesus without her!! See how this works?
Friday, August 27, 2010
2. Cooper Baffles with his Extensive Vocabulary It's true. I know that every Momma worth her salt can pick out the absolute best about her little chickens, but one of Cooper's is his ability to communicate. Seriously. The quintessential politician, he remembers every one's name that he meets and can usually drum up an interesting fact about that person during the conversation. There are no strangers in Cooper World. He remembers song lyrics, (get him to bolt out, "Hello, I Love You" by The Doors), movie lines, and anything that is said in our house. Which can get you in some sticky situations sometimes. (the Momma and Daddy quotes usually come out when we are in public, refer to #1 for mischievous!) There are no words too complicated and he seems to enjoy it when people comment on this fact, which also leads to the fact that he loves being the center of attention. He likes all eyes on Cooper, and whatever he has to do to achieve that, is done. Whether it be acting like a wild man, running, talking, or even dancing. (He dances like Elvis Presley...just ask him) He soaks up admiration like a sponge, and usually that attention warrants more antics, which leave me tired until.....
3. Cooper Grabs your Heart with Unabashed Affection Huge hugs. Loves to snuggle and be held. Cooper has loved to be close to me ever since he came into the world. After he gets in trouble or if he is sleepy or if he is watching a movie, he wants to sit in my lap and be held. See #2 about his name memory, and that, combined with his uninhibited affection, gives him the ability to make any person at any time feel special. He honestly loves and cares for all of God's creatures, and he is always doing what he can to bring smiles and happiness. Also, he loves to bury his face in my neck and when he is tired, twirl my hair with his pudgy fingers. In fact, that is how he goes to sleep. He lays in bed right beside me and runs his fingers through my hair until he drifts into a peaceful slumber. (There is nothing peaceful about my hair when he is done,though, I come downstairs looking like I stuck my finger in a light socket) He will periodically throughout the day..every day...come to me and say, "Momma, I love you sooooo much." And my heart soars. He will put his arms around my neck so tightly and I, for a moment, do not want to let him go. This week, we were in the grocery store, and I put popsicles in the buggy. He announced loudly and repeatedly, "Thank you, Momma" and repeated his "so much" mantra. And gave me a huge bear hug. Over a box of rainbow popsicles. So at the end of the day, when he is being such a two year old, that is what you need. That is what keeps you going. When Cooper loves, I am no longer tired or frustrated, angry or exasperated. I simply feel joy.
There it is. A tiny glimpse into the roller coaster of emotions that I roll around with every day. Sometimes, even when he is misbehaving, it is funny. When he scolds Sissy and tattle-tales (which I strongly dislike), and then he says, "Mommy, Sissy is aggravating me." Or when Woody leans down for a night night kiss and Cooper decks him with a right cross to show Daddy how tough he is, I hide my snicker. And sometimes when he is being lovable, I want to cry. Because one day he will not want to hug on Momma as much. In that same vein, I am just fine with that. I want him to grow and prosper and stand on his own, without my help. I just need to make sure he has a solid foundation on which to stand.
And then roll my eyes, because when you are late for church or school, and you need Cooper to hurry......
Monday, August 23, 2010
1. God's Amazing Grace I am an unworthy sinner. This is a fact that I have known growing up in church and have bandied about for years. But here lately, I have realized how truly unworthy I am of God's love, and I wept. I wept for the despicable person that I am and for the undeserved blessings that have been bestowed on me throughout my life. Then, the Holy Spirit hit me. You can't earn God's grace, none of us are worthy. And that is what makes it so amazingly wonderful. God's love is unimaginable, our human brains can't even fathom this type of love. And in the place of my grief, there was remaining, a great joy, independent of outward circumstances. God created me, God loves me, and no ebb and flow of life's sorrows can change that.
3. Riding Around with my Husband This one is a classic. Without realizing it, when Woody and I get a few hours alone (which is rare) we love to pile up in the vehicle, stop at the gas station and get two cold cokes (or Diet Dr. Pepper for me) and ride. To nowhere. Preferably a small town or a back road where we have never been. We happen upon landmarks and small forgotten towns left to dry up by the end of a railroad. We see old graveyards and historical markers. We admire the change of landscape and marvel over rows of farmland or high peaks that look over bends in the Alabama River. It's relaxing and makes you realize how much more interesting everyday life is "off the interstate".
5. Full Moons Not the dropping the drawers kind, but the actual full moon. The moon that seems to have punched a hole in the inky black night. The luminescent orb that turns the earth around you into a silvery glow that makes an ordinary night seem more magical. It's when the pale light drifts through your windows and you have to stop, look out, and drink it in. My whole life I have loved the moon. Dating back to when I slept on the top bunk and my bed was even with a high window. I would gaze out this window on a full moon whenever it shown down on my upturned face. It represented hope and a watchful eye, a possibility that God was showing you His power to make the dark less scary for a little girl. I could sit on my porch at night bathed in moonlight for hours. Everything just seems better.
6. Late afternoons watching the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico Pick a town, doesn't matter. It has the same lure, no matter which chamber of commerce brags that theirs is the best. I love to be on the beach all day,skin kissed by the sun and sunscreen. Small granules of sand stuck to every thing that you own. Then, to come in, shower it all off, and sit on the balcony overlooking the water. It is something about that moment. Hearing the waves crash on the sugar white sand while the sun flirts lazily with the water. At this point, you are relaxed. You allow yourself to think of...nothing. And this is happiness.
7. Music or The Right Song at the Right Time I am a music lover. Unabashedly singing to the top of my lungs in the privacy of my car. (I didn't say I was good at it, just enthusiastic) And there is nothing better than the right song at just the right mood. If you are sad, happy, bored, thoughtful, restless, etc. the right song blasting from the speakers that really says what your mood is thinking is nothing but joy. I love all music, and I have eclectic mix of "mood" songs right on my Ipod. They range from Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of my Tears" (which reminds me of my friend, Meg) to KC and the Sunshine Band's "Give it Up" (which just makes me happy). Music speaks and stirs one's soul if you will really listen. When I here Elvis Presley's version of "How Great thou Art", I tear up thinking of my precious Saviour and his mercy and wonder how anyone could truly listen to this song with a dry eye.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Once upon a time, in Montgomery, Alabama, there lived me. And Woody. I was a rookie fresh out of graduate school starting a new job at a CPA firm in town. Woody had been out of college three years and was a senior auditor at the very same firm. At this particular firm, a different division of the company took the rookies to lunch every day of their first week at work. One of the days in question, another newbie and I were taken by the utility division group to Tomatino's pizza for lunch, a crowd favorite. We were escorted by a manager and two staff members, Woody being one of them. As we rode along in the car, we all laughed and talked the usual get-to-know-you talk of young professionals in the South. Such as: where are you from? What football team do you pull for? After discovering that Woody and I were on the same side of the gridiron, the manager, who clearly enjoyed humor at Woody's expense, suggested that this may be the springboard of a lot we had in common. We both laughed it off. Upon arrival at the esteemed pizza joint, the manager looks down and discovers that when Woody takes off his coat, he has popped a button on the cuff of his dress shirt. Woody, having already been aware of that fact when he got to work, had cleverly "tied" it together with a paper clip. The manager apologized profusely to me saying that he would have a hard time convincing me how good the firm was when his top senior was wearing a paper clip for a cuff link! It was clearly meant to tease Woody, but my future husband never missed a beat. He replied, " I just thought that you would praise me for my ingenuity, not every firm has staff this smart." The quickness of his retort earned my admiration, but it wasn't until several months later that the spark would turn into flame.
|Caroline snapped this picture of us all by herself at Disneyland. I felt inclined to include it in this blog.|
So on February 22, 2002, Woody proposed. We were in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, celebrating the end of our busiest season. He had told me that the trip was my Valentine's present and I was completely surprised. He had gotten me a card for Valentine's that read, "I was going to write something sappy in this card, but I thought that just wouldn't be me. Love you." That was one of the sweetest things that I had ever read. It said to me, "I know that you love me just the way that I am" and I did.
When it came time for planning, Woody did not want to be involved AT ALL. To reinforce this point, one day I asked him did he have any song suggestions. He suggested that the bridesmaids come in to "It's Hot in Here", and I come down the aisle to "Man on Constant Sorrow" from the soundtrack of "Oh Brother, Where are Thou?". It worked. No more questions came his way, and the Constant Sorrow song story traveled far and wide through the family, making it now a staple of the West family folklore. Even today, eight years later, Woody has it on his phone as my ringtone. I can't complain, it could be "Fat Bottomed Girls".
There you have it. The beginning of the sitcom that has been the marriage of Mandy and Woody. Since Constant Sorrow, we have had two beautiful children and still laugh and carry on today just like we did back then. We still share the same love of sports and our favorite date is an Alabama football game, bar none. On a more serious note, Woody makes me a better person. He is a strong Christian and loves the Lord. He would walk on glass for the kids and I, for our happiness has always come before his own. He is smart, funny, and yes, handsome. He is a hands on Daddy and loves playing with the kids. And he still thinks I'm beautiful...even after two kids. (at least he better!)
Thursday, August 12, 2010
|Caroline, with backpack, headed to preschool at Gulf Beach Baptist Church.|
Speaking of random emotions, I am not just a basket of tears. I am also excited. Kindergarten is so important and I can remember so many things about it that I can't remember about other elementary classes down the road. Their are a lots of firsts, and firsts always stick in your mind. It's these firsts and the wealth of learning opportunity waiting for her that I can't wait for her to experience. Although I have already figured out, her Kindergarten is going to be vastly different than mine. As different as mine was from Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie with her chalkboard slate and my fat pencil and actual paper. She learns computer, she learns how to read at a higher level, she learns science, social studies, the states, etc. She will have tons of homework (we have been warned) and a part of me is actually looking forward to sitting down every afternoon and opening new doors for her. And she is excited. She is a sponge and wants to learn and experience new things, and I am tickled that she is beginning her academic endeavors. I am also excited for her to see her first pep rally. We love football, and she will get to wear her Volunteer cheerleader uniform every Friday during the fall. Cooper and I can go also, and he has a football jersey, #7 of course, just like his Daddy, in Monroe Academy orange. Let's not even mention the actual football game!!
And to think it all started with a tear and a pencil box.......