Lights of Love

This week sadly marks the one year anniversary of the last weeks of my brother’s, life. On November 7th, Marc was admitted to UAMS for worsening symptoms of shortness of breath and confusion. By November 12th, he was in the ICU, sedated, and intubated. We were told he needed a surgical procedure that he had only a 10% chance of surviving but would not live without. What a challenging decision for Nancy, his wife, to make. She looked to Mom, Dad, and I along with nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles and in-laws for comfort, support, and confirmation. She looked to God the most. This was evident when Marc pulled through the surgery.

The next several weeks were ups and downs. He actually came off the ventilator for a few short days but could not keep his oxygen level up. In the end, we lost the battle. Marc began having multi-organ failure and his body was too weak from the liver failure and transplant to recover. Even his surgeon held out hope until the very end.

We had the prayers of so many (some we did not even know), we had visits to UAMS from friends, family, and co-workers. We had a great team of nurses, doctors, and ancillary staff in the ICU. And, when the time came to let Marc leave this world and his tired and worn out body, we had a wonderful team of Palliative Care professionals to make it a comfortable transition for Marc and all of us.

NEABaptist Charitable Foundation hosts The Marc Ford Patient Assistance Program. It is a charitable fund we, his family, started to give back to the community. The love and assistance Marc received over the last years of his life were overwhelming. Nancy, Mom, Dad, and I wanted others to have that assistance as well. Since the fund has started we have seen others helped. In the words of Robbie Johnson, Director of the Charitable Foundation: “Through this fund we have already seen patients dealing with chronic kidney disease helped. These patients often find themselves needing dialysis three times a week. Buying a simple tank of gas in order to receive these lifesaving treatments can be a burden to the patients. But thanks to those who have generously given to support the Marc Ford Patient Assistance Fund, these needy patients no longer have to worry about how they will make it to their treatments.”

NEABaptist will be lighting the Christmas tree in the hospital lobby, November 22nd at 5 pm. The Lights of Love campaign will benefit Marc’s Fund at NEABaptist. As a way to honor or remember a loved one this holiday season, you may purchase a luminary which will be displayed at the ceremony and will remain in hospital lobby throughout the month of November. The name of each person honored or remembered will be listed in the Christmas Tree Lighting Program.

Luminaries are $10 each or $25 for a luminary and a keepsake ornament.

To order, click here on the NEABaptist Charitable Foundation website link to order online.

If you want to mail in your order, download this order form:

lights of love order form 1

And, please attend the Christmas Tree Lighting Program on November 22nd at 5 pm in the hospital lobby at NEABaptist. What a beautiful way to remember those who have gone on before us, this Christmas season, while helping others in need as well.

With Love,

Angie

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His First Birthday In Heaven

Today, June 26, is Marc’s birthday. He would be 42 years old if he were here. But, he is celebrating his first birthday in heaven this year. That is wonderful! That is a great way to look at it! But, in all reality, it hurts just the same. He was too young to end his years of celebrating and we, his family, will feel the void today a little deeper, a little stronger.

I have been reading a book by T.J. Wray Surviving The Death Of A Sibling. She points out that siblings are often dismissed or minimized in the mourning process, focusing on the parents, spouses and children of the deceased. I have been fortunate to not have experienced this and unfortunate enough to know several others who have lost a sibling and that helps. I was just commenting to a friend yesterday that I find Marc in so many little things in life. Often I feel I am searching (and I know you do when you lose someone) but in my defense, he was a tremendous part of my entire life. It makes sense that a summer rain like we would play in, an old movie we both loved and quoted, a song we sang together as children, or even the familiar smell of mom’s cooking would invoke memories. He was woven into most every one I made growing up.

“The sibling relationship is more complex than nearly any other, a mixture of affection and ambivalence, camaraderie and competition. Aside from your parents, there is simply no one else on earth who knows you better, because, like your parents, your brothers and sisters have been beside you from the very beginning…in terms of the span of time, the intimacy, and the shared experience of childhood, no other relationship rivals the connection…from schoolyard bullies to teenage broken hearts, from careers to marriage to dreams unfulfilled, our siblings have been there through it all…they are the keepers of secrets, perennial rivals for our parents’ affections, and a secure and familiar constant in an often precarious and uncertain world.” T.J. Wray Surviving The Death Of A Sibling

He was born when I was not even 2 years old (twenty months old to be exact). I do not have a memory without his presence. Mom and Dad were indulgent and with it just being Marc and I, we made birthdays a big deal. So much so, we each got a present for the other’s birthday. Maybe just a barbie or some hot wheels, and by no means as much as the birthday boy or girl, but Mom and Dad did this until we were adolescents. It would seem this was a bit much and they were spoiling us. But, I think they actually instilled in a us the importance of celebrating the other’s special day. I know other families celebrate birthdays but we have ALWAYS celebrated birthdays! And, I think we would find it offensive if we did not. In the 41 years Marc and I celebrated birthdays together, we forgot the others (that we would admit) once each. Now, he most likely had the assistance of a wonderful wife to remind him, but I never knew. It was funny that we both forgot the same year and we both called each other on the other’s birthday to “just talk” never realizing what day it was!

But, I have to show for the majority of those birthdays, a collection of humorous cards (mainly potty humor), practical joke gifts (he never failed to make me laugh at myself) and a phone call to say, “Happy Birthday, Sis”.

Marc’s First Birthday with me (most likely about to blow his candle out for him):

marc first bday

Marc found joy in life. He never missed an opportunity to celebrate it and find new ways to have fun. He was the one who wanted to deep fry the turkey for Thanksgiving, he made dirty santa the best part of our Christmas traditions with his “creative gifts” and he was the most fun in the pool when we celebrated his birthday, Mom’s birthday or the 4th of July. Every time we deep fry a snicker, cannonball into the pool, shoot fireworks or choose a funny card, Marc will be with us.

So today, the family will gather at my house around the grill and in the pool. We will eat cake, laugh, and remember the good times with Marc. We will create new traditions for his children, Ethan and Darcy. We will celebrate him. There is no sadness in knowing he is in heaven. There is a joy in knowing heaven is real and he is waiting for us there. But, there is a sadness that Mom, Dad, Nancy, Ethan, Darcy, I and his closest family and friends feel because he is not HERE.

missing you on bday poem

Marc Ford Patient Assistance Fund benefiting NEABaptist Charitable Foundation:

The Sun article of Marc

My brother wanted to help others. He was always thinking about someone else and his heart was his best feature:) He would be so happy this Charitable Fund has been created to help others who suffer from chronic illnesses and their families. His wife, Nancy, my parents and I went to NEABaptist Charitable Foundation and with their help, started this fund to help other patients and families who struggle with day to day expenses due to chronic illness.

We are selling t-shirts to benefit the fund:

GGT tshirts

You can order one by filling out this form.

We will then contact you for payment information and delivery. The t-shirts are $20 each and all proceeds go directly to the Marc Ford Patient Assistance Program with NEABaptist Charitable Foundation

God’s Got This!

Angie

Time- a poem by Marc Ford

Time

Is it what you have from this point forward,

Is it what you have spent on life’s giving few.

Is it what we expect to have plenty of tomorrow

or do we always run out too many too soon.

Is time like a pond on a clear quiet day,

or is time like the waves of an ocean spray.

We begin life one day then we are gone.

Nothing is left to say but “I wish I would have spent my time in each moment of the day”.

-Marc Ford: June 26, 1973-December 11, 2014

Nancy, his wife, found this poem among some of his things just a few weeks ago. This poem is not dated so we are not sure when he wrote it. My brother was a fun, carefree guy and it may surprise many that he had a “poetic” side.

As his sister, I knew how prophetic he could be. He loved to ponder things, speculate and dream. As a child, Marc often seemed to have his head in the clouds and I’ve often wondered since he died, what his childhood mind was thinking so hard on?

Marc loved to laugh but he also loved a good debate. Perhaps he had a better grasp on the importance of life than most? He spent his days smiling, laughing and purposefully making other’s days brighter as well. He truly knew how to spend life in each moment.

Grief is Experienced, Not Learned

I am a nurse. Actually an advanced practice one (Nurse Practitioner). So, when I say I have learned about the stages of grief, I am for real. I am currently working on my Doctoral in Nursing Practice and I am enrolled in the third theory of nursing class in my life. You could say Kubler-Ross and I are pretty tight;)

I have stood at patient’s bed sides as they died. I have counseled families on why their relative was not going to make it. I have treated patients with terminal illnesses and I have treated family members grieving due to the loss of a loved one. I have seen it all and have been equipped with the skills and license to deal with it.

However, there is not enough college education, not enough licenses or degrees to prepare you for personal loss and grief.

You can never really understand it until you have experienced it yourself.

I lost my brother 6 weeks ago. He was only 41 years old. He left behind a wife and two seven-year old twins. A son and a daughter. Miracle babies in that we never thought they would get them. He was a good man. No, he was a great man. The kind that never made an enemy and befriended those whom no one else would. He had suffered from a chronic illness that eventually wore his body down and took his life.

He was my baby brother. My only sibling. My first friend. My first adversary. His list of attributes could take up an entire blog and more. Even in the worst times, when he was in pain and worried about his future and his health, he never failed to lend a smile to others. To say a kind word or even apologize for his inability to give more of himself at the time. That was just my brother. He had been that way his whole life.

I’ve lost grandparents. I loved my grandmother dearly and was sad when she died, but she lived a long life. She was my grandparent and I expected to live to see her death. Not my baby brother’s.

Having said all of this, I can say with confidence I understand grief now. And it is not the result of an education, a degree or a license. I know grief from experience. An experience I am still fully immersed in.

I know the heaviness in your heart firsthand. I can explain to others what the physical ache you carry around feels like. I recognize the inability to find happiness in life and the anger you feel when others try to thrust it upon you. I can justify the rage and the injustice that you deal with because “it just isn’t fair”.

I know the guilt that comes from carrying on with your everyday life despite the fact someone very important to you is missing from it. The guilt you feel for being healthy, having a good life and being alive. The guilt you feel for just laughing or smiling.

I’ve yet to find a theory or philosophy that encompasses all the emotions and phases of grief. Maybe it is because each human being has their own.

I have read, memorized, studied and been tested on Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief. I’ve been through most of them the past six weeks and revisited many more than once. I am not at acceptance yet.

I do know this: it is forever changing. Some days I wake in tears. Some days I wake with a contentment about things to only find myself blindsided later that day by something said, something I saw or a song I heard.

Some days I want to talk about him to everyone. Strangers, family, friends, the dog! I look through pictures, I post them on social media, I read the text he sent me and listen to a voice mail from him that is still on my phone. I start some mornings listening to the songs we played at his funeral. I want to soak in his memory. Other days I can barely let his memory cross my mind’s eye without a clinching in my gut and a sting in my eyes. In fear that at any moment I will lose control of my emotions and not be able to reign them back in. Some days I want to avoid my family because of the pain. I dread my daily call to mom. What if she wants to talk about him? I avoid texting or calling my sister-in-law, niece and nephew. To hear their voices is to bring him back to the forefront of my mind and to cause an ache in my heart that I just cannot bear that day.

A friend of mine lost a grandfather the day before my brother died. She posted this to her Facebook wall and I found her words so appropriate and moving:

“Sometimes, there just are not words… just the overwhelming sensation of losing someone. Though I want to tell everyone just so there can be some release, I want to tell no one because the words are just too heavy. And, by speaking them, they become real. And, that reality is hard… overwhelmingly hard. Today, with your departure from this earth, I selfishly grieve in hopes to rejoice tomorrow in your memory.”

I have learned that nothing is set in stone and although some stages of grief are identifiable, they do not follow a particular order, pattern or rationale. Sometimes you are experiencing two stages at one time and at other times you are just walking around on autopilot and not processing anything at all.

I feel we were all in denial through out his funeral and the days to follow. I felt numb to it and looking back was in a dream like state. Denial is a safety mechanism that your brain utilizes to prevent breakdown.

Although I do not feel “bargaining” has been one of the stages I have experienced, it may have come in another form I do not readily identify. But anger? Yes, I have felt anger the most.

I am angry he had to die so young. I am angry he will not see his children grow up. He will not be at their high school graduation or walk my niece down the aisle on her wedding day. I am angry they finally found a way to eradicate the disease that killed him but it was too late for my brother. I am angry that he was doing so much better this time last year and we had no idea at that time we only had one year left with him.

I am angry that life goes on. I am angry that others are happy, events are scheduled, holidays are celebrated, people are laughing and smiling.

I am angry that I didn’t do more even though I am not sure what more I could have done. I am angry about words I said to him or that I may have pushed him too hard just because I wanted him to be better. I am angry that he never got to take his children to DisneyWorld. And, our family will never have another beach trip with him.

I am angry his children will not ever experience firsthand what a fun guy he was. I am angry he was sick the majority of their lives. I am angry that he and his wife fought so hard and had so many disappointments before they finally had those babies and he only got seven short years with them.

I am angry that his life was not only short but full of heartache, disappointment, stress and worry. I am angry that he felt so bad the last few years of his life. I am angry that an infection anyone else would not be affected by killed my brother because he was immunocompromised.

How do I deal with so much anger? Well, days I don’t deal well at all. But, some days I do okay. Mostly, I pray.

I pray for comfort and acceptance. I pray for a way to cope. I pray for meaning but I know that meaning is so beyond my comprehension I could never understand. I pray for peace.

I thank God for the time he gave us with Marc. I praise Him for his grace and the promise of eternal life through Him. I try to focus on the hope and assurance I have that I will be with my brother again someday.

I try to focus on the good things in life. What Marc left us with and the memories we shared with him. I try to be the way Marc would want us to be. Happy, joking, loving one another and everybody we meet.

This grief is a personal journey. It is not text book and it is definitely not comparable to anyone else’s experience with it. Your grief is your own. So, I am working through it. One day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time. I have faith God will see me through and I will be “okay” one day.

It helps to talk to others who have experienced it. I now know why support groups are so instrumental.  I’ve found comfort in hearing another’s story of loss and grief. That may sound strange, but I guess it is true that misery does love company…

Health is Wealth

It seems there is a new diet fad every week. A get thin quick scheme that reels people in with the propaganda it sells. Most is extreme. Most is short lived. Most works for only a short period of time and the user will either burn out, gain the weight back (plus some) or have financial set backs and diet failure stories to tell as a result. The list is endless and I won’t go through them all. You know them! We have all tried them, right?! I’m as guilty as the next person! We live in a society that wants everything fast and easy. No one wants to work for what they want anymore. Even fitness programs offer fast results. “Five minutes a day!” or “No sweat, no workout”, “Lose fat while you sleep”…
It’s enticing, but we know better. In our subconscious we are thinking, “there is no way this could possibly work!”. It’s still a scientific fact that we must burn more calories than we consume to lose weight. There is no trick.
Some say eat whatever combination you like, just watch your caloric intake. Some say watch your fat! Fat is bad! Others say carbohydrates are the enemy. Of course there is the more extreme diets that require you to only drink one type of liquid for an extended period of time or just one type of soup for several days in a row…ect, ect…
BUT, the truth is NO one diet works for EVERYONE! We are individuals. God made us that way. Just as some have blue eyes, some have brown hair, others are tall, while others are of fair complexion we all have different metabolisms, different gastrointestinal flora and enzymes that work together to break down food and use them for our bodies. What works for one person, may not work for another.
The KEY is to find the type of diet that works for YOU! Is it paleo? Is it vegan? Does your body respond better when you stick to whole grains, raw fruits and veggies? Or are you more of a lean protein type of person? Do you do better when you avoid dairy or gluten?
As a Health Coach I can help you figure these things out! In my 21 Day Clean Up Your Diet, I will walk you through the process of how to eliminate the things that are not right for you and focus on the foods that do work for you! Plus, give you recipes and tips on how to prepare meals for a better you:) Instead of diving into the next new diet craze, how about learning how YOUR unique body works and why it needs the foods it needs and how to give it what makes it the happiest?!
Knowledge is Power and Health is Wealth! Join me for the 21 Day Clean Up Your Diet!!

you are what you eat

Greatest Dad in the World… for real!

This Friday, March 21st, my dad will turn 70 yrs old. It doesn’t seem possible. In some ways, over the last several years, I’ve noticed both my parents aging. But, in my mind, when I think of my dad, he is still the man I saw when I was little looking up at him.
I’ve always known I was a very lucky girl. There are plenty of “daddy’s girls” out there, but doubt there are many as fortunate as I. You see, I have the perfect father! I’m serious! Look up “perfect dad” in the dictionary, google it, search any resource and you will find a detailed description of my father. You ask, “how do you know he is the perfect dad?” Well, I’ve thought about it a lot. Here are the basic qualities my dad possesses that make up Greatest Dad Ever material:
1. He had a good dad. That is so important! Having a good example of how you should be. I’ve seen others who haven’t had an example. They just either have to learn the hard way, find guidance somewhere else or perpetuate the cycle. Whenever my dad talks about his childhood, it’s always happy, fun memories. Some of his favorite stories involve my Grandpa Ford. His dad wasn’t rich. If anything, he struggled very hard to provide for eight children. But, he was rich in love, understanding, and humor. I give Grandpa Ford much credit for making my dad who he is. Grandpa died when I was 4 yrs old. I regret not getting to know him like my dad knew him.
2. My dad was the “middle child”…Yes, I do believe that birth order shapes who you will be. Research has proven middle children behave differently than first borns or the babies of the family. Often they are polar opposites of the other children in their family. They are not doted on as the baby is and they are not held to the high standards of a first born. In a sense, they have the freedom to be who they really are. No pressure, no fussing over them. My dad was far from a perfect child, but I believe his placement in the family structure allowed him to be truly who he was. Not being held to a level of perfection that his older brother was and having younger siblings who often took the spotlight, made him a well rounded young man.
3. He married a good woman. I have to give my mom credit in this. She encouraged him to stop smoking before I was born. She got him involved in church, which subsequently led to his salvation and his call to ministry. If not for my mom, who knows where dad would have ended up! She is still his biggest supporter and I’ve always envied their relationship (happy to say now I have that too!) You know what they say? Behind every great man….:)
4. He always put family first. My dad was never a “man’s man”. He didn’t have a lot of extracurricular activities that took him away from Mom, Marc and I. He lived for us. He worked hard to provide for us, he was enthusiastic about our lives and what we were doing and he always supported our dreams and did his best to help us accomplish them. When I was in college, dad helped me study for all my exams by listening to me ramble on about microorganisms, the kreb cycle, pathophysiology and psychology. He wasn’t particularly interested in these topics, nor did he understand most of them, but he listened and let me talk. I aced many a test because of him. As a grandpa, he built tree houses, he played dress up, danced in the kitchen with Madison and even let Keegan ramp over him, as he lay on the ground, on a dirt bike! My dad has a firm grasp on the small things and how some day they truly are the big things.
5. He lived a good example for us. He always said there were 3 keys to raising good children: 1. Example 2. Example 3. Example:) And, that he did well. I’ve never known my dad to be anything but honest, trust worthy, kind and compassionate. One of his favorite quotes and one he actually used in my yearbook my senior year was “There are four things that make life. A faith fit to live by, a self fit to live with, a work fit to live for and somebody to love and be loved by. Along with these, if you learn how to live with thanksgiving you need not seek happiness, it will seek you”. And, he truly lived this way. I always said he had a Clint Eastwood quality about him. My dad rarely had to say much. He walked the walk and my brother and I knew where he stood on just about everything. We also knew when he was disappointed, mad or hurt. His silence said more than any words he could have spoken. He garnered respect from us in living the example of how we should be living as well. Integrity and honor are two good words to describe my dad. I’ve always admired that about him and strive to be like him.
6. His great sense of humor. My dad can find a laugh in any situation in life. Some might say our family has a morbid sense of humor and perhaps we do. I know we have been able to laugh through most every hardship that has come our way including my brother’s liver failure, dad’s heart attacks and stroke and in the death of loved ones. I guess it’s been our therapy and it has helped us cope when grief, sorrow, worry or even anger that could have destroyed us. Dad has always been the one to lighten up every predicament and ease the tension in the room. Since his stroke, he finds more things humorous than before! It’s hard to spend more than 10 minutes with my dad without laughing.
7. Last, but the MOST important thing that makes my dad so great? He has lived a good Christian life. He showed us that loving God and your fellow man were the two most important things you can do. I remember once he told me that being a Christian isn’t about keeping the Ten Commandments, going to church every week or knowing your bible verses. He said it was about loving God and loving your neighbor as you would love yourself. He also expressed to my brother and I that offending others, regardless of what we were doing, was a sin. No matter how small or how big. It’s not about the actual act so much as how it impacts those around you. This blog is not big enough to share all the lessons I learned from listening to, but mainly watching my dad live. He is not perfect but he has walked closely with God and it shows. His Godly example has been my rock in life and has impacted my children’s lives as well. I know that I am here today, healthy and happy, because my dad spent many a night on his knees in prayer for me.
My prayer for him is that he has many, many more happy and healthy years. I pray he is here to welcome in his great grandchildren and that they may know him like my brother, my children, my niece and nephew have known him. I pray his legacy lives on in me and my children long after he is gone. I pray my son is learning from him what makes a good man, a good husband and a good father. I pray daughter seeks to find a man that lives up to my dad’s qualities as a husband and father.
I am thankful God has spared him and retained his health despite many a scare (2 heart attacks, a stroke, diabetes, a pacemaker to name a few!). I am also thankful that through his example, I have found a man that is just as wonderful as he to spend the rest of my life with!
There are men who, in 70 years, have created large corporations, built buildings, communities or served public offices and been influential in government and even helped make history. There are men who have made a fortune in their 70 years on earth and have much monetarily to leave their offspring when they are gone. But, the wealth that my dad has accumulated and passed on cannot be bought. It cannot be quantified in dollar signs or graphs. But, my dad’s legacy lives on in each of us. It lives in my brother who will pass it on to everyone he touches. It lives in me, my children, my niece and nephew, my cousins…I could go on and on.
To say you’ve had that kind of impact in just one person’s life is more rewarding than anything physical you could ever leave behind.
I am proud to be the daughter of Dwayne Ford. I hope when others see me, they see a glimpse of him and even at 42 yrs of age, I still strive to make him proud. I love my dad and I hope this 70th birthday is a special one for him:)

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One woman’s trash is another’s HUGE DIY PROJECT!

So I’ve rented a booth at a local flea market and I’m loving the whole refurbishing, up-cycling and re-purposing of  things other people do not want…basically their trash! In order to do this, I have found myself scouring other flea markets in search of a “deal”. I found just that on my lunch hour (my first job…the profitable one!). It was a pretty little curio that was very beat up and dirty but it was a steal! image (4)image (1)

 

After working on the clean up portion of this little DIY project, I realized what I had gotten myself into. Not only did it need stripping and refinishing, but I had to do a little carpentry work as well. I can hammer a nail or two when needed and I am proud to say I didn’t ask my husband for one minute of help:)

The plan was to clean it up, strip it down, sand it and repaint it with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint…I chose Duck Egg for the occasion. Determined to finish it in one weekend (mainly because of the look on my husband’s face when I hauled the piece and supplies into our basement) but I was also very excited!

It wasn’t long into the project that I realized why others blogged their DIY projects! Sure, it is helpful to see someone else’s work and a step by step breakdown of how it was done along with useful tips but I wanted something to show for my sweat, tears, sore muscles and time devoted! Someone else needs to see this!!

Don’t get me wrong, I watched many a “how to” video and read numerous blogs on the subject before diving into my own. I just never dreamed I would be offering up advice myself?! I’m sure I will be sharing more useful tips as I complete more projects…trial and error!

So, here it goes!

First, like I mentioned, it was very dirty and it was heavily waxed/stained. I used three products that I felt did a good job (in addition to sand paper and good old elbow grease!

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The trisodium phosphate took off tons of stain/wax and the denatured alcohol did a great job of just cleaning the piece up before starting the painting project. I did sand quiet a bit to cut back on extra paint needed and I wanted to prevent peeling and scratching off of the Annie Sloan paint. Lets face it, that stuff is wonderful but way to expensive to use carelessly! The wood glue was used to put a few pieces back together with a nail or two. It did have a crack that required wood putty. I will not share the product I used for it because I was sorely disappointed in it.

I removed all the doors, hardware, ect before starting.

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As per advise, I used a fine grit sand paper (220 or higher). I also used a respirator and thick rubber gloves when working with the TSP. Trust me, your sinus passages will thank you later! To apply the chalk paint, I used natural bristle brushes and sponges for tight corners and the framing around the doors.

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Two coats is all it took with a touch up here and there. I did prime the inside of the hutch simply because it was plywood/particle board and did not sand down well.

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After painting, I debated on dark wax or just clear…I obviously had not cleaned my wax brush well from last project and when I started to apply clear wax with it, it still had dark wax on it…thus, my mind was made for me:) I am, however, very happy with the result.

After painting and waxing each of the individual pieces…

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I then, started to reassemble the curio. I painted the hardware with gold metallic paint to give it a shine after cleaning it did not remove the tarnish and rust like I wanted.

Remember to let the wax sit for a day or two before manipulating the piece and it actually takes about 20-24 days for Annie Sloan to “cure”. Until then, it is susceptible to scratching and such.

Another tip: when applying wax, use the dark wax, applying with wax brush and then go over it with clear wax, using cheesecloth or cotton rag. The clear acts as an eraser for the dark and it also smooths out the dark wax and makes it look more natural. If you’ve used too much wax, just keep buffing with cloth. The more you buff, the shinier the surface.

Before:

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After:

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I am a very impatient person. Most of my “projects” turn out unsatisfactory because I rush the job. I did get this entire piece completed in 2 days but I took my time and did things right. I did not skip steps or skimp on the work. I have aching hands (probably will be drawn in an arthritic claw by morning), down in my back, sore knees, shoulders and chest from the sanding, waxing and painting. I sweat nearly as much as I do in a 60 minute spin class and I’m currently so tired I cannot rest!!!

My husband says, sell it in your booth!!! I say, NO ONE will pay the price I want for it given the blood, sweat, tears and pain I put into this piece. No, this one goes in the dining room. It is my inaugural piece into the world of refurbishing!!

As soon as I can get up off the heating pad, taper off the muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories, I will start another project;)

 

 

You’re as smart as your playlist…

I am a music enthusiast I guess you could say. My dad raised my brother and I on loud rock and roll from the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s. He often sang us to sleep on the side of the bed strumming his acoustic guitar to Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. I was in college before I realized The House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals was about a whore house in New Orleans! My dad sang that song ALL THE TIME! It was not uncommon for him to sweep me up in the kitchen and swing dance with me to Elvis, CCR, The Drifters, Four Tops or Temptations. I knew them all and when I became a teenager, I loved MY music. The Awesome 80’s:)

As I age, I find myself increasingly repulsed by today’s music. I want to be a hip 40-something year old mom of two grown children! However, I just cannot make myself like the music coming out today, in particular, the hip/hop/rap variety. I find myself not only correcting the grammatical errors but wandering, “was that even a word?” when listening. Actually, you probably could not understand a rap song today without an Urban Dictionary or a worldly 13 yr old handy. I feel our nation is growing dumber with each rap song produced. Little Einsteins has proven that what a child listens to and watches has a profound impact on their brain (just to keep it simple…I won’t site the millions of research studies that have proven the same).

This line of thinking reminded me of my younger years and listening to my dad complain about the music of my generation. I remember listening to Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” with the volume as low as I could get it so that my dad would not take the cassette away from me. I know Prince (or the artist formerly known as the later?!!) pushed boundaries with his lyrics as well. I can even recall the first “explicit lyrics” label to get slapped on 2LiveCrew (spelling?)….but none of these compare to the stuff I hear spilling from Nicki Minaj or Lil Wayne’s lips! There are three general themes in all rap songs now: getting drink, high, stoned, ect…, sex, and not just the act in general, but in explicit detail including body parts (see Urban Dictionary) and what to do to them, and stacks on stacks of money…

We say music is the voice of a generation. But is it really? Or, does it actually DEFINE that generation? Is it because I am mature and a conscious, decision making, confident in my actions adult that I choose not to listen to the music of this generation or that I do not relate to it? Who really relates to rap music? Rappers? And do they really or do they just wish?

We worry about what fashion magazines tell our daughters about their body image. What is the rap genre telling them? What is it telling our young men about respect for women, their parents and authority?

I believe the music of a generation shapes the way the youth of that generation think and act. Look at Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. They are slowly becoming the norm.

And I know some may argue that each generation thinks the next generation’s music is worse than the last. And, it is! We are becoming desensitized with each new introduction of more vulgarity and profanity. My dad told me my grandmother wouldn’t let him listen to The Beatles or Jerry Lee Lewis in the house. She considered it trash;) I pray Grandma cannot get satellite radio in heaven…

What scares me? How much worse can it get? What will my grandchildren be listening to and influenced by?

Give me Cyndi Lauper any day…

Thankfulness is “relative” and it is a relative I’m most thankful for this year!

ImageMy brother has fought a long, hard fight most of his life. He won a big battle this year when he finally received a liver transplant September 13th. He had been on the list for nearly three years and the last was a miserable one for him and our family as well. He is my baby brother by only 20 months. We are the only two children of my parents. When mom and dad married, they had no idea their blood types would cause so much pain and worry down the road. You see, my mother is A negative and dad is A positive (dominant) and I was born first with my father’s blood type. This is very common and women who are Rh negative give birth to Rh positive babies without difficulty everyday. My birth was not a problem (even though I was breech!), however, the medication given to my mother after my birth to destroy all Rh positive antibodies her body formed having me, did not work…of course there was no way of really knowing that and she assumed like most would that it would not affect any future children.

Because it took my parents years to get pregnant with me, they immediately started trying for my brother. Mom got pregnant very soon after and Marc and I were scheduled to be almost 2 years apart according to her due date. However, things did not go as planned for Mom and Marc. The obstetricians found out soon into her pregnancy that her antibodies for Rh positive blood were still circulating in her bloodstream despite the medicine she received after my birth and that my brother had Rh positive blood just like my dad and myself. Her blood was essentially trying to destroy my brother’s blood in utero. In Jonesboro, AR in 1973, my mother received amniocentesis every two weeks. BLIND amniocentesis! Meaning, no ultrasound to guide the huge needle. They listened for babies heartbeat to confirm they had not injured him…

After 25-28 weeks gestation, the local doctors felt mom and babies fate were out of their hands. She was sent to Memphis where they performed emergency c-section to save my brother’s life. He was born severely hemolysized meaning mom’s antibodies had destroyed his red blood cells to the point he was severely anemic and needed not one, but nine blood transfusions to survive. This was a record set in 1973. The doctors and nurses in Memphis told my parents to go home and attend to their other child, his chances of living were grim. They were wrong. He lived, without insult or injury from the Rh incompatibility and had a very normal, healthy childhood. I have since learned about this condition and know that many babies are left with brain damage and deficits due to the lack of oxygen at birth because they are so anemic. This was the first miracle in his life.

It never occurred to any of us that blood donated in 1973 was not tested for many of the things it is tested for now. And, nine transfusions? That increases your chances of receiving a blood borne pathogen greatly. We found out soon enough, Marc did not dodge the bullet on that. He was indeed infected with Hep C. He started developing symptoms in his mid-20’s and was shortly after diagnosed. It took nearly 10 years of study treatments and trips to specialists before the virus got the better of him and he was placed on the liver transplant list. He started 2011 out weighing in over 240 lbs and by September 2013, he weighed 100 lbs less, he was malnourished, severely anemic and battled with fluid retention in his abdomen, legs and lungs. He spent most of the last two years on the transplant list having his abdomen drained of peritoneal fluid (sometimes 20 lbs or more) and in and out of the hospital for various complications. He turned 40 yrs old June 26, 2013. Image

His spirits were low, he was scared that he would not live to see his twins, now 5 years old, grow up. A once optimistic person who worried more about making others laugh and smile, he was reduced to tears of pain and worry. However, he never lost faith. Had it not been for his strong faith, the faith of his wife and the rest of the family, I shutter to think what his mental status would have been reduced to! So many friends, church members and family came to his aid. The transplant doctors had grown very fond of him and we could see the worry on their faces when he went for check-ups. They wanted to get him a transplant badly.

The call finally came in September. It was a Thursday afternoon and I was at work. When I missed the call from Marc and then one from my parents, I thought the worst. I assumed we were headed back to Little Rock for breathing difficulties, infection or a mental status change. But, I was completely floored when I called my brother back to hear him say, “they got me a liver”:)

Before sunrise on September 13th, Marc had a donor liver in his body and the surgeon reported to us that he was doing better than expected already. Same story, second verse…Marc breezed through recovery just like the day he was born! His nurses commented frequently about how well he was making progress even in the ICU immediately after transplant. He was home from the hospital a week after and now, two months later, he is driving, eating whatever he wants, gaining weight but more importantly, smiling and happy! Image

I’m thankful for so many things this Thanksgiving, but I feel exceptional that we have my brother, his transplant and his new found health to be thankful for! Most of all, I am thankful for his donor, his donor’s family and the ultimate gift he gave my brother. By simply designating on your driver’s license, you can potentially save another’s life. It’s such a simple act but it means so much. Marc’s donor, I pray, is in heaven and can see how his life has impacted my brothers. I pray he knows how thankful we are. I pray his family is blessed beyond measure for the very hard decision they made September 12th. Their sadness brought about our joy. Sounds Christ-like, huh?!

So, this year, Thanksgiving 2013, I am thankful for my freedom, my family, my wonderful husband, my job, a warm place to sleep and food to eat but most of all, I am thankful for my brother’s new life!  He is a living, breathing miracle. I have no doubt God has bigger plans for him and I cannot wait to see what’s in store.

IMG_1869December 30, 2104 addendum to original post:

I am adding to this original blog because we lost my brother 3 weeks ago. After his long battle, he finally said goodbye to this world December 11, 2014 after a months stay in the ICU at UAMS. Approximately 5 months after transplant, he developed a viral infection which is very common with liver transplants. It was almost expected and he was immediately treated for it. His health did not progress from that point on. He remained thin, unable to eat much, short of breath and altered mental status that would improve to only worsen again. The doctors found his hepC was actually coming back and they feared it would destroy his transplanted liver. They started him on a very new antiviral for hepC that proved to be a success in ridding his body of the virus. However, it did not improve his health. He remained tired, weak, short of breath and began to retain fluid again.

The first week of November, after a week of mental confusion, his wife, Nancy, took him to UAMS Emergency Department and he was admitted. He had always carried fluid on his right lung. This is a phenomenon that occurs with liver failure. He had the right lung drained of fluid a few times pre-transplant but they had not attempted it after. Most likely due to his immunocompromised state brought on by the “rejection prevention medication” he was taking. However, upon this hospital stay, they made the decision to do a thoracentesis (draining the lung). It immediately caused severe chest pain and his shortness of breath worsened. They feared they had nicked an artery and his lung had collapsed due to the blood in his chest cavity. He was soon placed in ICU because he was quickly deteriorating. That was a long first night in the ICU. His wife and I sat up the whole night with him. My parents napped off and on in the ICU waiting room.

The next morning we were confronted by the severity of his condition and told he would need surgery to fix the problem with his lung but his chances of survival were 10%. His chances of survival without the surgery were 0%. We gave consent for surgery and prayed. I think the whole continent was praying for my brother that day. We knew he was on hundreds of prayer lists and many prayer chains had been started for him. The prayers had kept him going this far! We were overwhelmed with the prayers and love of people we had not even met as well as those we knew and loved. He had prayers lifting him up from the West Coast to the East Coast and everywhere in between. While in the surgery waiting area during his operation, a lady walked into the bathroom where my daughter and I were embraced crying. She had never met us, but stopped, hugged us up to her and prayed for my brother in that bathroom. It is moments like this that I will cherish in my heart forever. My brother’s church family had called a special prayer vigil for him while he was in surgery and my own church staff came together at the same time and prayed hard for him.

My brother survived surgery. Again, God carried him through. The situation was totally different than the surgeon expected. It appeared Marc’s right lung had become calcified in a way from the scarring each time they drew fluid off of it. The surgeon described peeling the calcification from his lung like an orange. His lung did re-inflate but was damaged. He came back from recovery with 3 chest tubes and ventilated still. He came off the ventilator once for a few days, but his oxygen levels and agitation forced them to reintubate him and eventually led to a tracheotomy. He had an infection in the right lung and it wasn’t long until the left (good lung) became infected as well. They had stopped his immunosuppresant drugs to encourage his body to fight the opportunistic infection but he was too weak. His liver soon began to shut down. His kidneys failed as well. He was on dialysis the last few days of his life and they were certain he would not have regained kidney function had he lived. He certainly would need another liver as well but he might not ever regain the strength to undergo another transplant surgery. His oxygen level began to plummet despite full ventilator settings. That last week was an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Even his doctors, who held out hope through it all, tearfully informed us he would not recover.

After calling the family all in and speaking with a palliative care physician, we chose to remove the ventilator, dialysis and feeding tubes, give him medication to make him comfortable and let him slip away from that sick body. I was with my sister in law when she made that decision. I have always loved her and felt close to her but that is a bond nothing can break. We held each other up until the rest of our family arrived.

With his wife holding his left hand, I holding his right, our family (Mom, Dad, cousin, aunt, nieces, nephew, and in laws) joined hands around Marc’s bed. My father prayed over him and as my Dad said amen, my brother took his last breath. It was the single most emotionally crippling experience I have ever had, yet the most beautiful. I held my little brother’s hand as he exited this world, took on wings like eagles and soared. He had a distant, peaceful look in his eyes. His body was there on that bed, but my brother’s soul had glimpsed heaven, he was reaching for our Heavenly Father’s outstretched hand and he was being ushered into eternity. We remained with him in the room after he died. We played music and we talked, cried and held one another.

If one could orchestrate their own earthly departure, it would have been exactly how Marc’s took place. It was perfect.

I miss him every day. I cry for him every day. I am going through the stages of grief just as the rest of the family. I worry for my parents. I worry for my sister in law and for my niece and nephew. I grieve that they will not know their dad the way I knew him. The way my own children knew him. But, we will keep his memory alive for them. And, he lives on in them and in our hearts.

I know this seems a bad ending. It looks like the miracles ran out and Marc lost in the end. But, that is the farthest thing from the truth. Marc had developed a catch phrase through the worst of his ordeal: God’s Got This. And, God did have it. He always had. He knew how this would play out for Marc the day he spared him on June 26, 1973. We do not have the answers, but we have faith. I saw a quote not long after Marc died: It’s not about finding the reason. It’s about trusting there is one.

Marc’s life is the happy ending. Marc’s life had purpose. I think of all those prayer chains and prayer lists. I think of all the lives he touched through his struggle. People he never had the opportunity to meet but impacted their lives just the same. I think of the testimony that my brother’s life was and still is. I think of all the things I learned from him. His struggle was not in vain. God had a purpose for Marc. It was not to live a long healthy life. It was to make a big impact in just 41 years!

There are two things I hope everyone learns from reading this:

1. Never take life for granted. Love one another, Don’t hold grudges. Take time to create memories and enjoy each day.

2. Don’t go another minute without Jesus. I cannot imagine the grief that I would be feeling if Marc had not been a man of faith. That blessed assurance that we are not truly saying goodbye is the most comforting of all. Marc’s favorite verse was Isaiah 40:28-31

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
Marc has a new body. One that is not weak, sick or worn out. He is soaring on wings like eagles, he is walking and running without growing tired. He is basking in the glory of our Lord and Savior. He has placed his trophies at the feet of Jesus and is now wearing his crown. And, what a crown he must have! I’d like to think, when he arrived, he was shown his purpose and the impact he had on this earth. And, one day, my brother will be standing at heaven’s gates to greet me. Who wouldn’t want that guarantee?
His donor and his donor’s family did not donate in vain. Marc used that liver for 15 months. In that 15 months he made more memories, he gave his testimony in the pulpit, on social media and in the example he lived. That was a valued investment and it paid off well. Perhaps Marc has embraced the man who gave him that liver in eternity. I’d like to think he has.

If you have not become an organ donor, I urge you to do so. You can sign up online at http://www.donatelifearkansas.org. It’s as easy as a few clicks on your keyboard. If you have not ask Jesus into your heart, that is most important decision you can ever make.

In loving memory of Marcus (Marc) D. Ford.