Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chapter 9 The Dogs

Although Elizabeth's disposition was sunny and cheerful the weather was not. The sprinkles falling from the sky quickly turned to waterfalls splashing down and bouncing upon the ground so hard that they would fly back up again trying to return to the clouds from which they came before settling back down into small puddles. The small puddles then became larger ones. Elizabeth looked out the window at the dog kennel. Oh how she hated seeing the dogs outside in weather like this but she was helpless since they were borrowing the parsonage and animals weren't to be inside.

The family had three dogs. Takoda was an old man of 8 years old. He was a charcoal gray lab mix Bob had brought home for Elizabeth from the animal shelter after she fell in love with his picture on Petfinder when he was only 5 and a half weeks old. He was her "therapy" after losing her daughter Grace and gave her a way to baby something rather than to drive him, Samantha and Wayne crazy. Ruger was Bobs Brown and White American Bulldog, He was 2 yrs old and Elizabeth had gotten him for Father's Day a few years back as her husband had always wanted an American Bulldog and she wanted to be the one to give him one. Lastly was Suka, Elizabeth's Siberian Husky that Bob had bought for her a year ago when she was walking everyday so she would have a walking partner on those dark nights. Takoda had hip problems, she had little to no control over Bob's dog Ruger so Suka became her new motivation to being fit. She had also always wanted to have a certain breed of dog and Bob knew it so he reciprocated and that is how Suka came to be. Too bad stress and emotions had taken their toll and she had gained back all of the 40 plus pounds she had lost only a year ago. The flood had taken away but had also given and she hated the gifts that were received. Tears, Anger, Weight Gain, Stress, Helplessness, Family Turmoil, Frustration, and Lack of Finances just to name a few. But that was neither here nor there and for now she need not let her thoughts dwell on them otherwise she would become depressed quickly so she brought her thoughts and eyes back to the dogs.

They were inside their doghouses staying dry but the tarp Bob and Elizabeth had fashioned for the top of the outdoor kennel was pulling apart from the sides from the weight the water was putting on the middle of it. The "roof" was almost down to the ground from the pooling rainwater.

Elizabeth checked to make sure the kiddos were preoccupied and then ran out to unbolt the locks around the kennel door so she could push the water off the tarp to clear it temporarily until the next time it gathered again. The rain pelted her hair and body, dripping off her and saturating her clothes. She wished she would have put a jacket on and hoped she would remember next time but this time it was too late. She fumbled with the extra locks on the kennel they had to put on to make double sure the dogs didn't escape. At their "old" home there was no need for kennels or extra locks. They had a fully fenced in picket fence and although it was only 4 foot tall the dogs were satisfied with the large yard to romp and play in and they rarely tried to escape. They also lived in the house rather than in a kennel, so when the dogs were done outside the family always just let them in through the kitchen and they would find places to lie down and rest.

Two out of three dogs had remained with them at the parsonage. The third was staying with Elizabeth's parents temporarily. They had tried bringing him but he was older and was not accustomed to being stuck outdoors. He hated it and showed his disdain by breaking out of the new dog kennel they were forced to buy after the flood. On the third time of breaking out, making his nose all bloody with scratches from forcing his way through the closely knit wires and then having to chase dogs around since he made an escape for all three, her husband had declared enough was enough- figure someone out to take care of him till they were settled or get rid of him. They didn't have money to keep buying materials to fix the kennel and it was getting really irritating having to corral dogs, so in tears and desperation she had called her parents and within 24 hours he had been on his way and now it was just the young dogs who stayed with them. They were resilient and didn't mind being outdoors so much. The only issue was Suka had learned to unlatch the door and after a few more times of chasing the two of them all over God's green earth, they had gotten heavy duty chain and extra latches so they could double lock the kennel and that seemed to be working.

Meanwhile Elizabeth had freed the locks and the dogs were going crazy jumping around and being very vocal. "DOWN!" she said sternly because she was already wet she didn't want to be covered in mud as well. She understood how they were excited for their human visitor and they still hoped they could come in the house when the weather was bad so they thought they could persuade her with their joyfulness but it wouldn't work even though she wished she could let them in. She used all her strength to drain the water from the tarp roof, pushing it from one end, then the other coming down like ocean waves, pouring from the sides of the kennel. What a wet mess. It was evident she would need to change completely after this. She pulled two rawhides that she had stashed in her jean's pockets and gave one to each of them to soften the blow that not only did she had to leave to go into the house, but that they had to stay behind in the kennel. They were satisfied with their treats and went to go lay down and start the chewing process. Elizabeth secured the locks and ran to the house to see three munchkins standing in the sliding glass doorway waiting for her and watching. They didn't miss a beat those three J Elizabeth put a short movie on for them while she got cleaned up, changed her clothes, fixed her makeup and brushed her hair. The next time she would be sure to be more prepared but hopefully the rain would stop soon. Wishing and Hoping aren't always the same as Reality though and it was evident that the rain had invited itself to stay again and wasn't leaving anytime soon…

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Chapter 8: RainClouds

"Mama, what are we going to do today?" asked Cassandra of her mother. "Hmm… What would you like to do today?" asked Elizabeth in response. "Can we go to the park?" questioned the little girl with bright eyes who already knew how to use them to her advantage. Those brilliant blue eyes framed by long lashes could captivate even the grumpiest of grownups. Elizabeth had already seen the looming clouds sliding through the gray sky and knew that today wouldn't be a park day. "I don't think that's going to work today Princess Bucko (the nickname Elizabeth and Bob had given their daughter a few years ago because she was a little bit of Princess and a whole lot of Bucko J) It's going to rain- see those clouds up in the sky?" her daughter nodded and she continued " Those clouds are full of rain- It's not going to be a good day for the park, let's think about what we can do inside instead." As if on cue Elizabeth saw tiny drops starting down from the sky. "LOOK, see it's already starting!" She pointed out the window for the eager faces to see the beginnings of what seemed to be an icky day. Elizabeth had seen her fair share of rain and then some. She was beyond ready for sunshine but it appeared she would have to wait a little longer for the warmth of the golden sun.
"How about we play with play dough, listen to PandaMania (the kid cd from vacation bible school that had become a favorite with her children) and bake cookies?" "YES!" three little voices chimed in response. "Okay, let me make sure Samantha is up so she isn't late for work and then we will get started." Elizabeth popped in the CD so the kids could listen to it while she went to check on Samantha. The tribal rhythms coming from the speakers were met with giggles and squeals. Elizabeth knew that even though it was gloomy outside there would be lots of smiles today, which was good because sometimes the gray dullness of the day could turn smiles upside down in a hurry. She would do her best to keep things on the upswing because she wanted no part of playing referee today.
As she made her way downstairs she hoped that waking up Samantha wouldn't take a turn for the worse. Words were often misconstrued, arguments often erupted at the drop of a hat and she hoped today wouldn't be one of Those days. Elizabeth knocked on the door but heard no response. She knocked again and this time slowly opened the door. Samantha was buried under her covers, hardly noticeable except for some dark strands of hair that found their way out from under the blankets. "Samantha, you need to get up for work." No Response again. This time Elizabeth said it a little louder "Samantha, You need to get up for work, you can't be late." "MmmnHmmn" Samantha muttered in response. "I mean it, Samantha it's almost time for you to leave." "OKAY ! I Heard You." Samantha snapped. Elizabeth knew it was time for her to go before this escalated. Samantha was not a morning person, never had been and if she continued pushing Samantha would become really irritated and it would ruin both of their days. Often she would push the envelope and respond to Samantha about disrespect and such, but today wouldn't be that day. Today her little ones were happily singing upstairs and she wanted to keep the happiness going. "Sorry, just wanted to make sure you were up for work is all." Elizabeth said quietly as she shut the door.
Elizabeth went back upstairs and sat on the couch for a bit watching the little ones dance around before getting out the cookie cutters and play dough. They were so cute dancing around in their princess gowns/ dress up clothes while singing to the music. They could take the rainclouds in her mind away easily. If she dwelled on thinking about what had almost transpired between her and her eldest it would really get her down but thanks to the joy on the little ones' faces she would be saved from her own thoughts for a while longer. Elizabeth had always been super-sensitive and overly-emotional, ever since she was a child. She had tendencies of making more out of things than what should be made of them. She also was a dweller. She was not a forgiver- and forgetter like some people. She was a grudge holder and had been since she was small.
Elizabeth would never forget when her mother was having complications after her littlest sister was born and had to stay in the hospital a few days. Her Uncle had stayed with her and her siblings while her dad was at the hospital with her mom. Elizabeth had never really been left before, and definitely not with her bachelor Uncle who had no children of his own. Elizabeth missed her mother desperately and tried to call her at the hospital, even though she had been told not to call and bother her mom. Because of her direct disobedience and regardless of the fact that she was only calling because she was having a difficult time without her mother, her Uncle had spanked her with a green hairbrush. He hadn't beat her, or abused her, just spanked her to make sure she understood that disobedience was a sin and punishable even if intentions were good. She had never forgotten that day and never would even though she had since forgiven her Uncle, it had clouded her thoughts for years.
She heard steps coming up the stairs and knew Samantha was leaving for work. Elizabeth went to the top of the stairs to say goodbye but Samantha spoke first. "Sorry mom for snapping, you know I am tired in the mornings, sorry." "It's okay… Have a good day at work and I'll see you when you get home." Elizabeth replied. "Thanks, See you." Samantha said as she closed the front door behind her. Ahh… It didn't turn bad after all. Elizabeth was thankful that today things would be good between her and her daughter thanks to her daughter's apology. Those were hard to come by and she appreciated the fact that Samantha had spoken to her and apologized rather than just leaving quietly for work. Elizabeth sighed a breath of relief and turned back to work on making play dough cookies with the little ones before making real ones with them. She smiled as she knew that the rainclouds in her mind were diverted and soon the kitchen would be warm from the stove and the rich smells of the chocolate chip cookies she would be baking.
It was going to be a sunny day for Elizabeth after all. J


Monday, April 23, 2012

Better Days

Chapter 7 Better Days

"Samuel, Time for School! I had no idea what time it was- the bus will be here in a few minutes! Put on your socks and shoes and I will grab your hat and coat for you." Elizabeth told her 6 year old son Samuel. "It will be here really soon? Okay Mama, I will be fast!" Samuel responded. In a matter of moments Samuel was back with his socks and sneakers on. Elizabeth helped him into his coat and handed him his bookbag. "Give me a kiss." She told him. "You wearing lipstick??" He asked. "No Buddy, no lipstick-Promise!" Elizabeth assured her son as she kissed his hair. "Let me go check" he muttered as he went to inspect the top of his head to verify no lipstick marks were left anywhere to be seen. When he was sure that he was mark free Samuel said "bye…love you Mama." "Love you too Buck. Have a good day at school!" She heard a faint "I will" as the door creaked behind him. She couldn't help but smile at her quirky son who daily had to make sure he had no mama residue. Heaven forbid she leave a mark, she thought with a smirk playing on her lips. She understood though, and would never do anything for her son to be taunted and teased at school; she had withstood her fair share at school herself and would do everything in her power to protect him from the same fate- if only he would take her word for it! Her Samuel… That boy had stolen her heart and been a healing balm to it over and over again. She opened the door and yelled from inside one more time "Bye! Love You!" She watched him turn around, smile, wave and yell back "Love You Too." She would take as many "Love You Too's" as she could get for Elizabeth knew that soon enough it wouldn't be cool for a boy to say that to his mom and she would be lucky just to hear those words inside of her home. Home…She missed that word…
She was so thankful for this large beautiful brick house her family was staying in, but it wasn't her home. It was the parsonage of the church she and her family attended weekly. Elizabeth and Bob were still amazed and in awe of the huge gift God had given their family though their church. Her family was rendered homeless from the recent floodwaters that had ripped the back foundation from her house, destroyed many of their possessions, and even robbed them of many of the things upstairs that weren't affected by floodwaters. The house was in a dangerous condition and was held up only by the back porch steps so she was forbidden by her husband to take things out of the house or else it might fall down with her in it. Her husband was brusque. That was his way. Whenever Elizabeth would plead with Bob to allow her to get more things out he would say "You are done- they are just THINGS Elizabeth. Our family being safe is what's important, do NOT go in there." She understood but she had this desperate need to save what she could. She had such a hard time leaving things there that were in fine condition. The bedrooms were full of clothes, shoes, coats, toys, dressers, mattresses, furniture and so much more that could be salvaged and used. It choked her up to think about it, but then she remembered what Samuel had said recently. She was going to the house to save as much as she possibly could in one day, for that was all Bob was allowing her due to the condition of the home and safety issues. She had asked Samuel if there was anything particular he wanted her to get out of the house for him. Without blinking Samuel responded "No Mama, there's nothing I need. The only thing that matters is we are okay and we are together. I don't want anything else." The tears freely slid from Elizabeth's eyes down her cheeks. He was her soothing balm once again. Her 6 yr old had a better grasp on what was truly important than she did. God was teaching her a lesson through the words of her child…
Elizabeth pondered how not long ago she and her husband had left the safety of her sister's home where they had been staying after living in a shelter for 3 days when a flood had put 95 percent of their town under water, to survey damages and get started cleaning/ getting out what they could fit in the back of their mini-van. Their pastor happened to be driving past and stopped when he saw Bob outside. The church family had been worried and wondering if they were okay but had no means to contact them since their landline was gone and that was the only phone number they had to reach the Browns. Bob greeted Pastor and briefed him on the condition of their home. Elizabeth came out of the house with her hands full of things to put in her van. Sweat dripped off her brow from the heat and the hard work she had been doing. As soon as she saw Pastor and her husband together talking quietly, her eyes filled with tears. She was broken and emotional from all that had happened as of late. Bob went to Elizabeth and with a crackling voice told her that Pastor offered for their family to stay at the parsonage house while they sorted things out and found another place to live. He had also offered help the next day and a trailer to get whatever they could out of the house. Bob was taken aback at the kindness. He couldn't even believe that they would do so much for a family they only had known a few months. Within moments the tumult of their world had turned itself around. God had provided a place for her children to live, people to help them work and move, when all seemed lost... Her life felt washed away but by the Grace of God the tide would change for her once again..

So here she stood, in the doorway of the house she and her family were staying in and as she looked around she reminded herself how blessed she was. There were so many people, so many families still displaced and even though her family was still technically displaced, they had a private place to live, beds for each person to sleep in each night, couches to sit on, games to play, and a kitchen to cook in. She shuddered at what may have been if God hadn't led her family's footsteps to the door of South Apalachin Baptist Church. She didn't have a clue what was going to happen about the whole house situation but she knew it would be okay. God had protected her family and provided a place for them to stay while they had no home to speak of, so even though they had gone through some serious valleys as of late, Elizabeth knew in her heart this too shall pass and things would get better, for they were better already!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Lord Takes.

Chapter 6 The Lord Takes.

First Responders loaded Elizabeth and her teeny bundle of a daughter into the back of the ambulance. While one got Elizabeth settled as quickly as possible, another started working on her daughter. It was soon discovered that the baby's nostrils were too tiny for the oxygen tubes and so once again it took a moment for the ambulance staff to figure out how to help the wee babe. They resigned themselves to placing an oxygen mask directly in front of the child's face so that hopefully she would breathe in as much of the precious air as possible.
It seemed as though they hit every bump and pothole in the road along the way. It felt like an eternity before they arrived at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. Meanwhile, the tiny baby had been without any type of life support other than a little bit of oxygen blown into the baby girls' face for an hour and a half. Her life signs were fading fast, her little heart was starting to slow and her tiny body was getting colder and colder. They rushed the baby into the NICU and wheeled Elizabeth into a hospital room to be examined and to wait. That was the last Elizabeth saw her daughter alive. She had wished that she had demanded to hold her child in the ambulance the whole time rather her mind had held onto the idea that these people were professionals and could care for her daughter better than herself. She kicked herself for thinking that, for all they had done is held oxygen to her face. Elizabeth was certain that she could have done the same thing while giving her daughter the warmth and nearness of her skin and body. This was the first in a cycle of "what if" thoughts that tortured Elizabeth for days, months, weeks, and years to come.
Bob met her in the room after he settled the kids in a waiting room with coloring books & crayons, storybooks, and kid's shows playing on the TV. They had snacks and drinks given to them by some caring nurse staff and were being kept an eye on while Bob went to check on Elizabeth. A kindhearted nurse had helped her change into a dressing gown and was checking her to make sure everything was normal for Elizabeth post-delivery. After the numbness of the shock wore off, the tears wouldn't stop pouring down Elizabeth's cheeks. The sweet nurse shared her tears and squeezed her hand "I am So, So Sorry for your loss… If there is Anything, Anything at all that you need, PLEASE let me know." Her voice wavered as she spoke and she hovered over Elizabeth as a mother hovers over her child. Elizabeth's thoughts raced as she reflected on this and although she was so thankful for her loving nurse she couldn't help but think that it was as a mother hover overs her living child- Elizabeth's child was probably not going to make it and could already be dead. She still held onto the tiny sliver of hope that her daughter would be okay but within moments the Dr. on call came into the room to confirm her worst nightmare. As her husband stood by her side, the Dr. gravely spoke to them both "I am very sorry but there was nothing we could do. Your child is gone. She was just too premature, her veins too small for an IV and her vitals were just too weak when she arrived, we couldn't stabilize her. I am sorry for your loss. Your husband told us your Uncle is the Head of NICU here, so we contacted him and he is on his way to see you. Once Again, I am sorry for your loss." The Dr. looked at Bob and Elizabeth once more with serious eyes, and turned to quietly leave the room.
Elizabeth had thought of her uncle but her emotions were overwhelming and she was glad that Bob had said something about having him come. She needed comfort from a family member, and especially from one who was a doctor who specialized in "lost cause" babies. He had seen many miracles in his time in the NICU, but he had had also dealt with the loss of babies just like hers as well. Her husband was having a hard time dealing with this as much Elizabeth. Bob was trying to be supportive the best he could, but he was struggling with emotions as well. Her husband was usually a very tough, very resilient man who never cried. While he stood with her absorbing the Dr.'s words, he became choked up and started to cry. He held her hand and the cried together for the first time. The nurse walked in and apologized and he immediately straightened up and recomposed himself to the strong, unwavering man that Elizabeth knew so well. She was thankful though for the brief moment of brokenness that she saw in her husband, and the feeling of unity she so desperately clung to facing the loss of their daughter.
The nurse asked if Elizabeth wanted pictures of her daughter. The hospital photographer took pictures for families who had suffered pregnancy loss free of charge and it was offered to parents if they wanted a They had angel boxes for babies such as hers and she asked Bob and Elizabeth if they would like one. Bob was indifferent but Elizabeth's voice shook as she said "yes please". The nurse said she would get her daughter ready, have pictures taken, and bring her to them to say goodbye.
Elizabeth's Uncle came in as the nurse was leaving. He came over and gave Elizabeth a hug then shook Bob's hand. "I am so sorry Elizabeth, for the loss of your daughter. We don't understand why things happen the way they do, but God in His wisdom had a plan for your daughter, and for whatever reason wanted her to be with Him today. Your Aunt Jan and I are so sad for you and your family, and will be praying for strength for you. We know God will keep you through all of this but we understand how awful this must be for you. I am so thankful though, that you love the Lord, because you have the Hope that many don't. The hope of seeing your daughter again in Heaven." He paused and squeezed her hand. "Thank you for coming to see us and talk to us." Bob and Elizabeth responded. "I am so glad to have been able to do so, I wish it was under different circumstances, but I am thankful to have been able to see you, talk with you, and be here for you. I have to go now, but remember we are praying for you and trust God in this. He will help you." Oom Elise' left the room. His words were like a soothing balm to Elizabeth. Her heart was so broken. Her daughter was less than a pound and only inches long, but filled every portion of Elizabeth's heart and mind.
The nurse brought their tiny daughter to them. "What is her name?" She asked them. They exchanged looks and without hesitancy said "her name is Grace Antoinette Rose Brown" "That is a beautiful name. I will be back in a little bit, take your time." The sweet nurse replied as she wrote down the name and left the room. Her husband could hardly look at his daughter, it just wasn't in him, but Elizabeth reveled at looking at her. Someone had dressed Grace up in a tiny, soft pink, hand crocheted dress with a matching crocheted pink hat, and had wrapped her in an equally tiny, soft and pretty hand crocheted baby blanket. She looked like a tiny baby doll. She looked so beautiful and Elizabeth kept searching for her mouth to move, but it moved no more. She was gone… Elizabeth searched for the words to say goodbye, but all she could do was gently kiss her head as tears poured over her daughter's pretty dress and blanket.
The nurse came back to take baby Grace away for the last time. Elizabeth gently whispered "Goodbye my daughter, I love you and miss you already." In her mind she breathed a prayer to her heavenly Father, "Please hold her in your arms till I can hold her myself in Heaven." A simple prayer but a helpless plea to her God to take care of her daughter since Elizabeth couldn't take care of Grace herself here on earth. The nurse took Grace from Elizabeth within a few minutes of taking her baby she was back with an Angel box. Inside was a heart with Grace's tiny feet stamped on it and her name, height, weight, and date of birth written on it. Also the measuring tape that had measured her, Her hospital id band that was so loose on her little leg that it slipped off and on easily, the sweet dress, hat, and blanket she was dressed in all fit inside the oval cardboard box with an angel painted on it. Her heart was so full of thankfulness yet sadness that when they left there would be no car seat with a sweet baby girl in it, just a small box of memories of the daughter that her husband lovingly referred to as Gracie. She wept. Someday she would be okay, but not today.
The ride home was quiet, eerily quiet. Even Samantha and Wayne said little and hardly bickered even though it was a few hour's drive. Bob was lost in his own thoughts and Elizabeth was lost in hers. She was full of "what ifs and whys". What if she listened to her body better and realized she was in labor sooner? What if she would have woke Bob up and forced him to take her to the local hospital, would her daughter have lived? What if she would have lived, how long would she have been in the hospital in Buffalo and what would they have done? Could she have done anything differently and her daughter would be living right now? Why had this happened to her and Bob when they wanted their daughter so much and couldn't wait to have her join their family and shower her with love? There were women who didn't want a child, yet they were giving birth to healthy unwanted babies, or even worse aborting them, even at the same time as her beautiful daughter had to die. Her heart was troubled but she knew she could count on the strength of her husband, whose strong grip held her hand the whole way home to help her through this. She also knew God would help her, but God felt so far away and distant right then, she would need to rely on Bob for the time being.
"Wow" thought Elizabeth as she regained her thoughts. She had been lost in the remembrances of her daughter long enough, too long actually. It was time to join the here and now. The kid's had finished their breakfast and the rattle of cereal bowls, and spoons clinking down into them brought her back into reality. Look how far God had brought her family. Look at all the children God had placed in her and Bob's lives. "Thank you Lord" she whispered. She had been blessed in abundance, and even though her home was gone, and many possessions were gone from the recent flood, she had her family and that was most important to her of all.