Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough

What a media circus surrounding Michael Jackson's untimely demise. I have to admit, hearing all the snippets of his songs reminded me that his was the soundtrack of so many of our lives. I remember singing to the Jackson Five when I was in elementary school--ABC,123...I Want You Back...I'll Be There...then in high school...and college and beyond. Thriller was released when I was pregnant with Nicole--over 26 years ago!

Josh is dedicating his karaoke night at Hal & Mal's to Michael Jackson. All MJ, all night. He's encouraged everyone attending to dress up, so I guess there will be lots of glitter gloves, red jackets, military attire, white socks and black shoes...and make-up, lots of make-up. I'm not going (too hot! too late! I'm old!) but if I did, I'd show up with a big bandage on my nose. Enough said.

I had a nice evening out with Dominick and Tiffany last night. I met up with the two of them at Soulshine Pizza in Madison, where they were eating dinner with Larry and Nicole. We actually sat outside and it was comfortable. Not humid and muggy like the night before. Dom told us about his latest mission with the Marines to Africa--he just got back this past weekend after spending a month there. I'm so proud of him! He and Tif found an apartment that they are really excited about and they're moving this weekend.

After dinner, we went to the movies--we saw "Up" in 3D. It was such a touching, poignant movie to be animated. I thought it was just me, at the tailend of a long day, but my friend/neighbor Phyllis told me this morning that she cried almost all the way through it. So, it wasn't just me...

I'm back in the writing saddle again--several assignments (thank God!). I feel like I'm getting back to normal again. We are so glad to have Megan in our life this summer. She's been a godsend, taking care of Nicole by day so I can work. She and Nicole are cut out to the same cloth and they get along great. I don't know how Nicole will ever replace her when Megan goes to college this fall. If anyone knows of a fun, flexible person who would like to work with Nicole 8 hours a day/five days a week starting in mid-August, let us know!

I did get away for a couple hours today to hang in/around our friend Julie's pool. Jacqui and I went over and became sun goddesses for awhile. It felt good, but the sun pretty much wipes me out. I was worthless this afternoon. So, what are we going to do? Do it all over again tomorrow! Why not??? It's summer, and the living is easy!

I'm heading to bed early. For some reason, I'm feeling a little "out of sorts" tonight. Not really sad, just a little melancholy, I guess. I suppose I'm mourning for both of my kids...neither of them is doing what they want right now. However, I don't really think my mourning is necessary, as both of them seem very accepting of their situation and they both seem to be making the best of it. Life lesson #241: "No matter what, life goes on, so live life to the fullest!" I'm gonna follow Michael's advice: "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough!"

Blessings to all who read this!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Wow...what a HOT weekend this has been. Literally...like over 100 degrees hot. And it's only June. Yikes!

We celebrated my mother's 80th birthday yesterday with a fun party at her home. It was her first time home in weeks and she was absolutely thrilled to be home, and to have her friends/neighbors come by to wish her well. Sarah, Jacqui and I laid out a feast (thanks to Newk's Cafe and Kroger, we really didn't have to cook at all!). Ice cold lemonade and chilled pino grigio, as well as an ice cream birthday cake from Bruster's helped everyone forget that it was 79 degrees in the house. We couldn't get it to cool off in there for anything! Thanks to all who came and helped make her day a special one!

Today I laid low...too hot to move. I think it hit 102 here today. We got a little sprinkle of rain for about 30 seconds...the wind blew, thunder rolled, and then--spit!--we got a few drops of rain for just a few seconds.

Sarah came over tonight to try the watermelon margaritas we made last week for Father's Day. They really are good. This time, I used a Smith County watermelon. They say the watermelons from Smith County, Mississippi are the best in the world. All I know is that they make a great margarita.

To make the margaritas, cube and seed a watermelon and freeze. Put five cups of frozen watermelon in a blender, and add 1 cup white tequila, 1/2 cup triple sec, 1/2 cup of freeze-squeezed lime juice, 1/4 cup sugar and blend. Serve in a glass rimmed in sugar and salt. Tastes like summer in a glass!

Larry was off work today, and he and Nicole went to see Star Trek. I enjoyed the time home alone for awhile. Nicole is just a joy to have around. Larry loves to go to the movies with her--but really, I think he'd do anything just to spend time with her. He and I talked this morning about the day Nicole came home from the hospital in New York. It was the hardest day for me throughout this entire journey. I knew she was anxious about flying, and I wanted to take all her fears from her...so I took them on instead. By the time we landed, I was emotionally exhausted. We looked back on that time and realize how far she's come and what a wonderful journey we've been on. We watched the video Jef made yesterday at my parents' home with Sandy and Alicia Franklin. Both are nurses, and both have known Nicole since birth. Seeing Alicia's reaction really helped it hit home for me--once again--what a miracle Nicole's life is. Alicia said she knew about the accident, and she's seen Nicole, but seeing the video of where she fell, and how she looked in the hospital in New York really made her realize that Nicole has made amazing progress in an incredibly short amount of time.

Tuesday will mark ten months since Nicole's accident.

We celebrate my mother's recovery and birthday! We celebrate Nicole's recovery! We celebrate Lester and Ellen's new marriage! We celebrate Nicole and Josh's safe return from their trip! We celebrate Joe's newfound determination to excell in school! We celebrate life!

Blessings to all who read this!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Today it is NOT all right with the world...

The thrill is gone. Or thriller. OK, so I just heard the news that Michael Jackson died today. As did Farah Fawcett. What is the deal with these '70's icons leaving us?? I heard about Farah first. No surprise, as she's been battling cancer for so long. But Michael Jackson? Ouch.

I was already in a sad/bad mood. Up at 5am today to leave at 6 to drive to USM. It was "Preview" day for transfer students, and Joe and I were registered. He was to have gotten his student ID today, registered for classes, gone on a tour of campus...but all that was a no-go. Seems his partying ways during his freshman year of college hurt his grade point average more than his good grades at Holmes Community College last semester could repair. So, no cheerleading on the sidelines at USM...it was heartbreaking to see him so disappointed. I was disappointed too.

But we went outside and found a quiet spot and talked about it. We both thought of Nicole, who is in a situation she did not plan for herself. But it is what it is, and she is working hard to reach her immediate goal of simply walking. And here Joe is, able to walk, run, jump...and all he wants to do is go to USM. So, like Nicole, he, too, has to make up his mind to move forward. He must do what it takes to get his grades up so he can go to USM. And as we talked, I saw a determination well up within Joe that I've not seen before. He asked if we could drive straight to Holmes and register for summer school. And that's exactly what we did.

We are sad, but accepting. And if we've learned nothing else from Nicole's accident, we've learned that things happen in God's time, not our own. It simply isn't time for Joe to be at USM. God must have another plan for him right now.

As I clicked around on the internet today, reading about Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett, I ran across the most wonderful quote that seemed so appropriate to our situation:

"Happiness is to be found along the way, not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it is too late. Today, this hour, this minute is the day, the hour, the minute for each of us to sense the fact that life is good, with all of its trials and troubles, and perhaps more interesting because of them."

Robert R. Updegraff
Author of "Be Thankful For Your Troubles"

So, as I try to digest this new turn of events, I am going to search for the happiness in it all. We can't wait for Joe to be on the sidelines at USM cheering for the Golden Eagles to be happy. We must find happiness in what's happening now. I am happy I have Joe home with me for another year...(so what if my nest may not be empty for awhile...), and Nicole's here too. And Larry and I get to enjoy both our our children during a time in their lives when most kids are long gone. So like the quote says, "life is good, with all its trials and troubles, and perhaps more interesting because of them." I know it's been more interesting because of Nicole's. I'm sure there will be some pretty interesting moments in the months to come with Joe...because for him, the thrill is not gone!

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, June 22, 2009

And All's Right with the World...

Sometimes it just feels like everything is right with the world. Today is one of those days. As a matter of fact, it started on Saturday and just got better.

Saturday was a "stay at home" day, which is always nice. Nicole was getting ready for a trip (more on that in a moment) and I was piddling around, doing a little of this and a little of that, all the while making our home a little less chaotic and a little more organized. That always makes me feel more at ease. Megan came over to help Nicole pack, which was nice, because she and I have different ideas on what's best to take on a vacation. I stayed out of the way, and they really enjoyed each other's company. Megan has been a godsend for us all.

Nic and I did leave Saturday evening to make a Wal-Mart run. We waited 'til almost dark, hoping to escape the oppressive heat wave we've been experiencing. Thank God for handicapped parking tags--we parked up front at Wal-Mart on a Saturday evening. Nic decided to push the shopping cart--similar to pushing a walker, only it looks more "normal." We had alot to get, and the list was scattered all over the store. But we did it, and she really hung in for the duration of our shopping adventure.

We got home and collapsed, tired but satisified that we got all she needed for her trip. (WHAT trip, you ask?...Keep reading!). We both went to bed early, because Sunday was a BIG day.

We got up around 6:45am Sunday to get ready for a surprise event. I wasn't supposed to know what it was, but because I'm a super-sleuthing mama, I figured it out. Josh picked Nicole up at 9am and whisked her off for the exciting event...Josh's dad, Lester, married his sweetheart, Ellen, in a wedding ceremony on the back of the Fondren Trolley, right in front of Beemon Drugs in Maywood Mart where they first met! It was a small, private affair, with Lester, Josh, Jordan (Josh's sister), Ellen's two children, the preacher and his wife, and of course, Nicole. She was honored to be included. Afterwards, they took a trolley ride to Fairview Inn for a fabulous Father's Day brunch. I wish I knew how to insert photos here, but I don't yet, so your best bet is to go to Josh Hailey's facebook page and check out the photos there.

Nicole and Larry both came home early in the afternoon, just in time to enjoy a visit with Mama and Papa Dale (my parents) who were visiting for Father's Day. Jacqui was here as well, along with Joseph and his friend, Cameron. We made stuffed hamburgers--stuffed with feta cheese, bacon, and sauteed mushroooms and caramalized onions. They were only delicious! Thanks to Susan and Larry Luke, who introdued us to this delicacy just last week! We also enjoyed refreshing frozen watermelon margaritas. It tasted like summer in a glass. I gave Larry and my dad both an electronic bug zapper--it looks like a tennis racket with batteries. They were both delighted. Now I hope PETA won't come after me...

Again, we hit the sack early, because we had to get up early again today. I helped Nicole get ready and Josh picked her up at 10-ish for their big trip--to Gulf Shores! He has a photo assignment there, so they are spending a few days on the beach before heading to Birmingham for yet another assignment. A few days away should be great for them both...and for me! I'm home alone as I write this!!! They looked so happy this morning as they drove off in the sporty convertible Josh rented for the trip! I know Nicole will be brown and beautiful when she returns!

I'll be focusing on Joseph this week...getting him ready to move to Hattiesburg for college. We have to go down on Thursday for tranfer student orientation, and then he has three days of cheerleader practice. I'm excited for him!

I've got writing assignments this week, so that makes me feel normal again. I can get up and go straight to work without having to help anyone else first...I'm looking forward to spending Tuesday and Wednesday in my favorite writer's attire--my pajamas!

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How can something so tragic generate so many blessings? Nicole's accident has certainly resulted in some really wonderful things in all of our lives. Like today, when Nicole was honored at the Broadmoor Baptist Church's Special Needs Vacation Bible School. Rebecca Phelps, leader of the Special Needs Ministry at Broadmoor, contacted me last night to let me know that they are having VBS this week from 6-8 each evening for the youth and adults with diasabilities who are in our area. Rebecca said that they are an incredible group of very loving individuals and that this is the seventh year that they have offered this VBS and each year they have a mission project. This is where Nicole comes in. They have been praying for her each night and they have been collecting their change in order to give her a small gift to let her know that they have been thinking about her and praying on her behalf. She went by the church this evening to visit with those attending and to receive her gift in person. She was so touched and so grateful for their prayers and outpouring of kindness.

We also experienced blessings in a big way on Monday, when the City of Madison teamed up with the Malco Theatre to present a movie night for Nicole. Volunteers from the City's youth leadership group assisted, as did our friend Terri Cribb. We had a big crowd who came to watch a movie, eat some popcorn and support Nicole. The proceeds raised will help tremendously with her medical bills. Thanks to Mayor Mary Hawkins and to Justin Bennett for making that event possible.

Each day we experience moments of grace and blessings big and small. We recognize them and appreciate them, grateful that people around us are willing to help Nicole in her fight to be "normal" again. I know people are inspired by her attitude, motivation and determination. I know I am!

She and I will be on the road again tomorrow...heading to Birmingham to do a little something at the Southern Living at HOME corporate offices (top secret...stay tuned to learn more later!). We are excited about staying in the super cool aLoft hotel again, and this time, I have a new Garmin GPS System to help me navigate around Birmingham's confusing streets! We'll be back on Friday for a very special weekend. If only we'd have a cold front move through...it's HOT in Mississippi!

Blessings to all who read this!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Long Time...No Blog

It's been a week since my last post. That can be interpreted as either nothing exciting happened this past week, or that I've been too crazy busy with our exciting life to write. You decide...

Monday was therapy day. Larry usually takes over on Mondays, as it is his day off. But instead, I drove because it's swim team season, and Larry had to be at the CC to make sure all went smoothly with the little swimmers.

Tuesday Nicole had a Bioness session at rehab, then to the Fondren building for a workout with Eclecius. Wouldn't you know...the elevator was out, so she had to go down the big flight of stairs to the basement, then back up them again when she was finished with her workout. Her little legs were like Jell-o when she was done! We ate a quick lunch from Basil's before heading to the orthodontist office. She got her long-awaited braces! I have to admit, she looks really cute in them, but she'd better keep her ID handy, because no one will ever believe she's 26!

Wednesday was therapy day again, then we headed over to the rez to meet up with "Aunt Carol," Nicole's godmother and my old college roommate. Carol was visiting from Nashville, and we spent the afternoon floating around her Uncle Jimmy's swimming pool. Nicole was so funny when she got in the water--it was her first time in a pool since her accident. With the bouyancy of the water, she was able to stand with no problem and walk around the pool! But most of her time was spent floating on a raft, enjoying the sun. She tried oh-so-hard to get top secret details of my college years out of Carol, but I shot Carol the stink-eye, letting her know that no good would come to her if she spilled the sordid details of my past life to my daughter. (Kidding...we actually had pretty boring lives, but Nicole doesn't have to know that!)

Wednesday night we all headed over to Hal & Mal's for Josh's first-ever "Full Frontal Karaoke Night." There was a good crowd and we had fun listening to all the wanna-be singers. Josh and Nic took the microphone to sing "Love Shack" (excellent, I might add) and later, "Dancing Queen." They actually do really good duets together!

Thursday we started the day with breakfast at the new Embassy Suites Hotel in Ridgeland (across the parkway from the Renaissance). Larry, Carol, Nicole and I met up with our pal, Skip Lowe and had a wonderful breakfast. From there, Carol, Nicole and I went to St. Mark's Episcopal Church on the Jackson State Parkway to surprise the kids at the Vacation Bible School. Nicole and Josh volunteered there last year, and although Josh was back this year, Nicole wasn't able to because of her therapy schedule. The kids were so excited to see her, and they wouldn't stop hugging her. It was so fun to see!

Next it was on to therapy. Nicole spent an hour with the Bioness then the three of us had lunch in Interiors Market in Woodland Hills. I left Carol there to look at all the pretty things while I dropped Nic off at the Fondren Building for her workout with Eclecis. Afterwards, we headed home to get ready for the opening of Tony DiFatta's art show at the Mississippi Arts Center. We saw lots of friends there, including Jake Smith, Merill McKewen, V.A. Patterson, and one of Nicole's buddys from her St. Joe days, Talara, who is now a beautiful woman who is promoting her own fashion line. The show will be up through the end of June, and I strongly encourage folks to go see it. Tony is a very gifted artist and this show in particular is really exceptional. (The MS Arts Center is the one next to the Planetarium downtown...and best of all, it's FREE!) Afterwards, we had a fun dinner in the lounge of Sal & Mookie's before calling it a night.

Friday was a little more relaxed. Nicole didn't have therapy until 11, so we had a leisurely breakfast of blueberry pancakes on the patio. While Nicole was at therapy, Carol and I went to visit my mother at Wisteria Gardens. After picking up Nicole,we met up with my dad at Cerami's for a fine lunch. Just when we thought we had the afternoon free, Nic got a call asking if she could be at WLBT at 4pm to talk about the upcoming Movie Night for Nicole. Carol and I just sighed, disappointed that we couldn't just prop our feet up and relax for the afternoon, when Nicole had the idea to call her newly-hired Personal Care Assistant, Megan. Yeah! Megan came over and helped Nic get ready and drove her to the TV station. Carol and I were able to kick back after all, eating popcorn and watching Nicole on TV!

Saturday, Carol got up early and left...she had a long drive back to Nashville. Nicole and I stayed home all day. We watched movies and I did a little laundry. It was a day of rest for both of us. Larry came home and we went over to the Luke's house for dinner. We had stuffed hamburgers. Amazing. Two thin patties of beef, and in-between was bacon, feta cheese, mushrooms and onions. We can always count on eating well at the Luke's house! But now we'll have to travel further to have those good meals, as they are moving to Cincinnati next week. We will miss them soooo much, but we will still see them often (a promise or a threat?!).

Today we had a great Sunday lunch...not so much the food as the company. Daddy "sprung" mama from Wisteria Gardens and brought her over, and Josh came and brought Dirty Betty (his grandmother). I actually cooked, and it felt good to serve up Sunday dinner in the dining room. It's been too long... Josh took Nicole to a lake party while Betty and Mama and I visited in the keeping room. Daddy enjoyed an afternoon of watching baseball.

Speaking of baseball, the University of Southern Mississippi is playing in the College World Series in Omaha right now for the first time ever...score is tied, bases loaded, and we only have one out. Larry's about to pee his pants! I guess I'd better go see this--it's history in the making for our team!

So...boring week? Or beyond crazy? As I said before...you decide!

Movie Night for Nicole--$10 for movie, drink, popcorn, and all the money goes to Nicole's medical fund. 7pm, Monday, June 15, Malco Grandview Theatre in Madison!

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Saturday is Par-tay Day!

What a day of celebrations this has been! First of all, it was an ideal, as in not humid, summer day. Blue skies, mild breeze...perfect!

Nic and I got ready this morning and took off for the Reservoir area where we attended a 10:30am baby shower for Ashley Ricotta, Nicole's OT at MRC. She's having a baby girl next month, so there was lots of pink! Great food, yummy mimosas and really nice folks made for a fun morning.

From there we headed home where we met up with my parents, Mama and Papa Dale. Papa Dale took Mama out on a "day pass" from Wisteria Gardens. She was going stir crazy looking at the four walls of her room and needed a change of scenery. I made homemade strawberry ice cream (creamy delicious!) and a pot of fresh coffee, which we enjoyed on the back porch under the whirring ceiling fans. Jacqui came to join us and indulged my mother with a manicure. Hot pink becomes her!

After they left, Nic got ready for a birthday party for her high school friend, Laura Blackmon. This was about the fourth or fifth year in a row that Nicole has been in town for Larua's birthday. Laura's dad always cook steaks on the grill and Nicole always comes home raving about the delicious food! I'm sure this year Laura's party was an extra-special one for Nicole. She's so happy to be back in the "real world" doing things she's been doing for the past few years.

Larry, of course, is at work, making sure the parties at the Country Club go smoothly. It's wedding season, so lots of rehearsal dinners and wedding showers. Joe just naturally finds parties. This afternoon he was trying to figure out which parties he'd be hitting tonight.

With everyone out of the house, I was ready for a TV party by myself on the couch, when friend/neighbor Phyllis called and suggested we enjoy a cocktail or two on my front porch. Seems her brood was all out for the evening as well. She brought over some sweet potato fries and cosmo mix and we just made a fun time of it!

So I began and ended my day with parties, celebrating babies, family and friends. Life can be a party if we only allow ourselves to slow down and enjoy those we love the most, and those who love us. It doesn't have to be a planned out formal affair. Sometimes impromptu gatherings are the best, as you don't have the stress of planning, preparing and such. Simply dig in the fridge and pantry to see what's on hand and then serve it in the finest pieces you have. In the end, the thing that is remembered the most is the conversation and time spent together. It's summer...why not get your party on?!!?!!??!

Blessings to all who read this!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Work It Girl!!!

Although summer doesn't offiically arrive until later this month, we all know that summer is here!

While other folks are laying by the pool or heading to the beach, Nicole's idea of summer fun is working out, going to therapy, working out, doing Pilates, working out...you get the idea! She's now working hard five days a week because she's got a goal of walking on her own, with no assistance, by August 30--the one year anniversary of her accident. I believe she'll do it!

She will have a little R&R one day next week...Josh and crew are planning a trip to the water park in Philadelphia (that's in MS, for those out-of state folks!). Relaxing in a cabana poolside for the day should be very good therapy!

Summer is a fun time, but a busy one for me. I have mountains of insurance papers, doctor and hospital bills and such that I'm trying to organize and make sense of. Also, we filed an extension on our taxes, so those still have to be done. Lots of busy paperwork. I'm also working on getting my Southern Living at HOME business back off the ground. I've been a consultant for over three years and love it! I don't know of any other job that I could drop like a hot potato then pick back up where I left off several months later, which is exactly what I'm doing now. I love the company, love the products and love the extra income. That's more necessary than ever now with Joe headed off to USM. So, if anyone would like to have a party...and get the things they love the best for FREE or half price...give me a holla! OR, if you would like to make some money of your own, I can tell you how to become a consultant as well! Check out my website at www.southernlivingathome.com/smarquez.

I'm finally able to breathe a bit since Nicole continues to regain her independence. She's interviewing folks our the next few days to be her Personal Care Assistant. We've been approved for 4 hours/day, 5 days/week, but we have to find the right person, meaning someone who can deal with Nicole's limitations, as well as her wacky life!

Nic isn't the only one who lives to work out. We went to visit Joe at his job today at 1-2-3 Fit! in Ridgeland. It's the coolest little gym that features circuit training. You spend 30 second on each station and work out for 30 minutes. Joe is a personal trainer there and he's got quite a following. When he's not working at the gym, he's working out at another gym. Go figure.

If you know Larry or me, you know our kids didn't inherit their physiques or their desire to work out from either of us. I'm just amazed that we gave birth to them!

Nic spoke to the Madison-Ridgeland Rotary Club yesterday at Bonefish Grill. It was great seeing so many familiar, friendly faces. She did a good job with her presentation, giving credit to the community where she was raised for giving her the confidence to pursue her dreams in New York. I have always been proud of her, but now so more than ever.

Speaking of the community, they are doing it again! There are a couple of fundraisers planned this month for Nicole's medical fund. One is artist Anthony DiFatta's art show at the Mississippi Arts Center downtown. The opening reception is Thursday evening, and the show will hang throughout the month. Tony is donating 20% of anything that sells during the show to Nicole's fund. PLEASE try to get down there to see Tony's work. He's such a gifted artist, and he has a heart of gold.

The other big event is Nicole's movie night at the Malco Grandview Theatre in Madison on Monday, June 15. The movie is "Land of the Lost" starring Will Ferrill (one of our favorite comedic actors), and showtime is 7pm. The cost for the movie, popcorn and drink is $10, with the entire amount going to Nicole's medical fund. This event is sponsored by Madison the City and the Malco Theatre. Incredible! We are so blessed to live in MADISON!!!! (Many years ago, Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler herself told us "You have just GOT to move to Madison." We figured since the Mayor herself was inviting our family to move to her city, then we should. So we did. And we are so grateful!!!)

Nic and I are going to celebrate the impending arrival of baby Josie (who is still living inside OT Ashley) in the morning. A big baby shower is planned and we are excited to be included. Daddy is going to "spring" Mama from Wisteria Gardens tomorrow afternoon and bring her to our house. I might see about whipping up some homemade ice cream! Tomorrow evening, Nicole will be celebrating friend Laura Blackmon's birthday, just as she has for the past several years--steaks on the grill!

Looks like a good weekend ahead before hitting the gym again next week. Larry and I really have to step up our game.

Blessings to all who read this!