Sisterly Love. . .The Rixie Girls

I am sandwiched between two sisters, Valarie (one year older) and Nancy (two and half years younger.) Both of these ladies celebrate birthdays this week (Feb. 14th and 11th), and I am grateful for them both.

When I was growing up, Valarie was a typical big sister, bossy and opinionated. When we were kids, I wanted to tag along, do what she did. She was a tomboy of sorts, loved sports and anything military. (Can you say “Rat Patrol” lunchbox?) When she tried out for the basketball team in elementary school, I followed her lead, got hooked, and ended up playing sports too.

Unlike me, Valarie was uber-organized. Her room was immaculate, her bed unwrinkled.  In her closet, clothes were organized by categories and most of her possessions were stored in their original boxes. You were sure to incur the wrath of Valarie if you messed with her things.

After Al and I were married, we spent a night with Valarie and her husband Tim. Al asked to borrow Valarie’s iron to touch up a shirt he was wearing the next day. I still remember his look of incredulity as he found the iron, its instruction booklet, and cardboard dividers all perfectly aligned within the original manufacturer’s box, just like the day it was bought. And believe you-me when he was done, he was kindly reminded to reassemble all-said items back into the box, just like he found it, thank-you-very-much. Like I said, Al was a bit shocked at my big sister’s precision.  I was used to it.

Valarie is married and has three daughters, two still at home and one in college. She fills her days with homeschooling the younger two, and their activities keep her burning up the roads. When Valarie does something, she still does it to the nth degree. Her smart, vibrant children are a testimony to her committed investment in their lives.

Nancy and I also had many moments of “sisterliness.” She and I (to the great relief of Valarie, I’m sure) had to share a bedroom growing up. I remember more than a few heated arguments between us. I guess Mom and Dad got their fill of bickering. After a couple of years, they added a new bedroom onto the back of our brick ranch for Nancy. I was never so happy as the day she moved out, because then I had my own room!

My sister Nancy, from the start, was girly and loved pretty, feminine things. She was always into the arts more than sports and still enjoys crafts of all sorts. She can knit or crochet anything from directions and creates the prettiest photo scrapbooks anywhere. She energetically tackles home improvement projects without a lick of experience, and they always come out looking professionally-done.

Baby sister is  also decisive and verbal. Once when we were traveling together, we pulled off the road to eat at a Pizza Hut. It was well past dinnertime, and our young kids were ravenous and cranky. The staff dispensed with drinks, took our order, then disappeared from the face of the earth.Trying to made the best of a bad situation, we patiently waited in the empty dining room. Other folks came and went with their take-outs, but our food never came.

After more than enough time, Nancy’d had enough. Fuming, she found the staff hiding out in the kitchen. She canceled everything and proceeded to royally chew them out for their neglect of little children. She came back, informed us what she’d done. “Pack up,” she said. “We’re going somewhere else.” Within a few minutes, we’d found a McDonald’s, and soon everyone was happy.

Nancy is married, works full-time, and has a daughter in college who enjoys fiber arts as much as her mom does. When my parents relocated to Nashville, they bought a house nearby baby sister, so nowadays Nancy is assuming the role of caretaker more and more. I appreciate her heart of sacrifice and know Mom and Dad in good hands.

I love you, Valarie & Nancy!

Lookin’ up,


A New Start for My Late Bloomer

(This story originally appeared as a guest blog I wrote for Kim Crabtree Stewart’s “The Mother Load.” Since it is about my daughter Audra whose birthday is tomorrow, I thought it would be good to repost. Enjoy!)

(P.S. That’s really a Halloween Oreo covering Little Orphan Annie’s eyes to the left over there. . . )

God gave me a late bloomer. Audra is my middle child, my second girl. She was preceded by the typical first-born sibling, my take-charge first daughter, Melanie. Audra was then followed by the baby in the family, a fun-loving, let’s-not-take-anything-too-seriously son, Casey. Yep, the typical compliant middle kid, sandwiched in between two strong siblings.

I remember her terrible ear infections as a baby and the difficulty she had learning how to talk. She mimicked others’ speech, babbling like a brook and attaching the important word at the end of the sentence: “Yabdanneubullubeindabaludna-cookie?” A couple of years later, Audra was formally diagnosed with learning disabilities. She has attention deficit disorder and also has receptive/and expressive auditory processing disorders. The latter means that she cannot always easily understand what is said to her and she can’t put her response back very easily into words. The words seem to get stuck, both ways, for her. Still do sometimes, though not as often.

Because of her communication levels, school was HARD. Public school was ESPECIALLY HARD. Real friends were a valuable commodity for her. It was painful for Al and I as parents to watch this happy, pretty-much-oblivious child go through life, taking her share of hard knocks. I remember the doctors telling us to be patient. We were told to expect her to be behind the eight ball for a while until she became an adult, when everything would eventually “level out” academically, socially, and emotionally for her.

She’s 24 years old now (25 tomorrow!), and she’s just about there. (Big sigh of relief.) She lives at home with us until the time she can support herself out on her own. She has an associate’s degree from Durham Tech (in a technical field not hiring because of the poor economy, sigh) and another certificate of training in another area (the internship and job opportunity never manifested themselves, another sigh). Yet, she works as part of the DPAC event staff and actually has a blast doing this. If you know Audra at all, this is right up her alley. . . .She is her father’s daughter.

She’s also begun to learn medical transcription under my tutelage and works from home as I do. Once she has enough experience under her belt, the doctor’s practice I now oversee for her will be her account alone, and she can hopefully go on to other transcription gigs or medical office jobs in the future.

Our children are not always “finished” when they reach the end of high school. Or even when they have a college degree hanging from their wall. Some special little plants need a little more sunshine, a little more water, a little more TLC to grow and flourish, to reach their highest potential. If you have been blessed with a child like this, God chose you for a special job. He knows you are up to the challenge, even if you don’t think you are!

The winding road thus far has been long. . .and full of potholes and accompanying tears. . but God is faithful, as always. He has listened to my heart cries as a mother, He has remembered Audra. And He is in the midst of carving out a “good place” for her to serve Him in this world. For this, I am truly. . .thankful.

Lookin’ up,