Category Archives: niece

My beloved …

much missed and cherished convertible is back.

She still makes noises and currently has no back seats, but she’s running.

I have missed my little car.

I mistreated her by making her pretend she was a Jeep, but she took it.

I will mistreat her again to get to the places I need to go and she, as she always has, will understand.

She knows me, my dreams and aspirations.

She understands my yearning to see and photograph.

I’m very happy to have her back and hope she knows how much I’ve missed her.

She’s mine; she was always meant to be mine.

I won’t trade her when I am finally able fulfill my lifelong dream and get a Jeep.

No, she’s safe here. She will always have a place in my heart (and in my driveway).

I’m pretty sure she knows that.

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She took me to my falls many, many times.

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She took me to the high places at Clingman’s Dome in the Smoky Mountains, where snow fell heavily in October.

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She took me, in the pouring rain, to Hungry Mother Park in Marion, VA

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She took me up and down Big Moccasin every day, stopping often so I could photograph my favorite trees.

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She took me, more than once, to the Outer Banks of NC.

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OBX again …

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and again.

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She took my girls with me many times …

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      many times.

Yes, I’m very happy to have her back.

Very happy, indeed.

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My nieces …

are remarkable.

Each of them brings me unspeakable joy.

Sophie, the oldest, was my first. I watched her being born and captured the first photograph of her.

She became, that photograph did, anyway, a greeting card.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/holiday-cards/nurses-day-cards/general-nurses-day/nurses-day-obstetrics-new-baby-exam-150758?aid=133039

Gracie, known to me as Gracie-Bell, was second. I didn’t witness her birth as she decided to create all kinds of drama.

She, like her older sister, is a drama queen.

Gracie has Down’s Syndrome but lives life as though it will end tomorrow. She’s a character and, as you may have imagined, a greeting card as well.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/holiday-cards/nurses-day-cards/general-nurses-day/happy-nurses-day-child-dancing-803906?aid=133039

Life happens as it happens and as it does, I capture it.

It’s what I do.

My daughter, for instance, was a music education major.  She’s chosen a different path, yet still found herself on a greeting card.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/miss-you-cards/general-miss-you/girl-with-trumpet-music-135567?aid=133039

My dad, an inspiration to me though we often butted heads, is my mentor. Guess what?  Yep, a greeting card.

http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/dad-father-birthday-cards/general/happy-birthday-dad-farmer-246883?aid=133039

Life happens.

In that life is magnificence.

Live.

Love.

Embrace.

Enjoy.

Time passes, life goes on, memories fade.

Enjoy each moment for there will come a time when nothing, except memories, remain.

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Family. Friends. Creation. Life.

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Nothing matters more.

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Learning from Gracie as she contines to grow …

is an experience in humility.

She has Down’s Syndrome, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to or watching her.

She runs, plays, swing, argues, wrestles, loves, hugs, manipulates and somehow ends up being the center of attention wherever she goes simply because she has a larger than life personality.

She knows what she wants and how to get it.

Usually by putting her innocent-looking, pixie-faced, tinkerbell eyes on her Papaw.

He can deny her nothing.  He says he can, but he can’t.

Or maybe won’t is the better way to say it.

She has him wrapped as tight as Dick’s hatband around her little finger, her forefinger, her middle finger, her thumb.

He is wrapped.

Period.

Ice cream, Papaw.

Okay.

Pretzels, Papaw.

Okay.

Murder the neighbor and bury them in Louisa’s spring, Papaw.

Okay.

It is a joy to watch her as she learns to manipulate the ones she knows are easy marks.

I, on occasion, an am easy mark, but for the most part, she knows that Nini means business and expects her to act like a human child; but even I have my limitations when she flashes that smile and says “I love you, Nini”.

I am, after all,  human.

She is growing up so fast.

It seems like only moments ago that she was in the NICU with lines and tubes and a tiny body that looked as though it would break with a look and shatter with a touch.

But she passed the shatter stage a while back.

She is a pistol, is our Gracie, and as tough as nails.

She doesn’t take no for an answer, asks a million questions one after the other and could give Flash Gordon a run for his money when she feels like it.

I think we have all chased her (and lost) at some point, while she laughs and skips and eludes our efforts to catch her.

She is a bit like the gingerbread man.  Catch me if you can, she says, knowing we are too slow to be any real threat.

She went back to school this week and loved on all her classmates as though they had been cruelly separated for years.

I don’t know much about anything but I know this … a hug from Gracie can make the worst day, the most difficult moment, the hardest trial seem as nothing.

She has way about her.  A being, an aura, a spirit … call it what you will, but it is irresistible and it is life-altering.

She has a way of making you feel, at the moment, as though you are the most important thing in the world; and the ability to make you believe it unequivocally.

I cannot imagine, and will not imagine a world without Gracie for it would, without doubt, irrevocably break my spirit.

She is the epitome of sunshine.  I’m pretty sure when Jimmy Davis and Charles Mitchell wrote “you are my sunshine”, they did so because they had a premonition about Gracie.  God is cool that way.

She is a bright spot in the lives of everyone she come across.

It would be my great pleasure for all of my friends to meet her, to know her and to benefit greatly from one of her “I love you even if you are an idiot” hugs.

She doesn’t take into account how smart, how talented, how boring, how nerdy, how geeky, how crazy, how messed up, how depressed, how out of touch or how indifferent you are.

She changes lives, just by being, by smiling, by living.

A smile from Gracie, unless you are the devil  himself, will melt you like warm chocolate.

She is, unto herself, an entity.

There really is no way to avoid the beauty that enters your person when she hugs you tightly and puts her little face into your neck.

She is a gift from God.  A simple truth.

She sees life and people  in one dimension and that is unbiased love.  She doesn’t understand anything else (except the occasional temper tantrum that makes the Kraken look like a goldfish).

But we’ll save that tidbit for another day.

For now, by proxy, be encouraged by Gracie. She is a power to be reckoned with and it is wonderful to be a part of this precious child’s life.

“It’s Nini” she says, as she runs with her arms outstretched to me.  Every other thought in my head dissolves for it has no power against such beauty.

I am thankful for her.  I am grateful for her.  I am indebted to her.

May God continue to bless our sweet Gracie.

She is beautiful and she makes everything and everyone around her beautiful as well.

like a mermaid, she take to the ocean ... free and beautiful

like a mermaid, she takes to the ocean … free and beautiful

no matter where she goes, she will always be her daddy’s girl

Sometimes, only a papaw will do …

Where is that thing …

the TV remote, that is.

My niece Gracie came over for a visit today and the very first order of business for her was to turn on the TV.  She turned it on by the power button on the set (what a concept) and there was nothing but static.

She said “fix it Nini”.  And I stood there, dumbfounded, because I couldn’t fix it.

In order to fix it, I would need the remote and I haven’t seen that particular piece of equipment in weeks.

Or maybe months, I’m not certain.

She frowned at me as though I had popped her brand new balloon with a needle.

But what was I to do?

I don’t know where it is.  I have looked for it so I could watch “Lord of the Dance”, “The Fugitive” and “Wolf”.

I haven’t found it, but I have, most diligently, looked for it.

Mayhaps the elusive mouse that I have been trying to catch carried it off.

I have looked everywhere, even in places that I am certain, without a shred of doubt, that it could not possibly be because who really knows what goes on when I sleepwalk?

But I looked anyway just to satisfy my own curiosity.

It has simply disappeared.

I haven’t had the TV on in months and have had no need of the remote.  That doesn’t justify its disappearance.  It didn’t simply evaporate.

Or maybe it did.  What do I know?

So instead of the TV, I subjected her to my current obsession with John Cougar.  She didn’t seem to mind, not overmuch anyway, but every now and then, she would look at me and shake her head.

It is hard to swallow the disappointing looks from a five year old.

Sorry, Gracie. I’ll try to do better next time.

kisses blown from an angel

kisses blown from an angel

I wonder at times …

just what kind of influence I have on my nieces and if it is, in fact, a good thing.

When they come over, we stand in the rain and try to catch raindrops on our tongue.

We stand on the porch in the dark of night, talking to the man in the moon and try to count the stars.

We watch lightning bugs and look for meteors.

We laugh at silly stuff and listen to music.

We bang on the piano keyboard making all manner of noise and then pretend that we know what we are doing.

I play Mahler, Beethoven and Bach for them and then we dance like mad to Crazy Train.

We watch Lord of the Dance and documentaries on Alaska.

We make up songs and sing them loudly, through a hairbrush microphone.

We burn incense and light the lava lamp.

We brew tea using a teaball and have tea parties with Irish Breakfast tea.

We sit in the floor and draw pictures using markers, chalk and crayons.

Blue is my favorite.

We let the dog in the house during a thunderstorm because I have a hard time denying them anything.

We don’t watch TV and we rarely watch movies.  There is so much that is there that they, as little girls, don’t need to know.

There is so much there, that me, as a big girl, don’t need to know.

I want to let them know how much I love them without exposing them to the things about myself that make feel crazy and out of control.

I don’t want them to know that sometimes my thoughts race, my mind falters and I don’t, more than any other hope I have, want them to be like me.

Manic and exasperated or crying and inconsolable.

I want, though, to let them know, that it is OK to be different from everyone else, to march to their own drummer, to follow their dreams and to seek what they want to know.

I want them to know that wherever they go, whatever they do, whatever endeavors they undertake, I will support them, love them and will always, always stand in the rain with them.

joy unspeakable

joy unspeakable

youthful innocence

youthful innocence

There is something about snow-sledding …

that never gets old.  It takes me back to my childhood and brings great memories to mind and at the same time, lets me know that I’ve still got it.  Last weekend, my nieces, brother and friends were sledding on the best sledding hill in Scott County.  They had been on the hill the day before, so the snow was packed and slick, as it should be for an incredible sledding experience.

My niece, for whatever reason, wanted to ride with me down the hill on one of the runs.  Being that she is small (at seven years old) and I am not, I was a bit apprehensive that she would be  hurt were we to have a wreck.  But nothing else would do her, so away we went.

Nearly three quarters of the way down, we were lucky enough to hit a dip that caused us to go airborne.  While that would usually be a good thing, Sophie’s safety was my primary goal.  I had my legs around her and put my hiker thighs to work to keep her intact.  There was no way that kid was going anywhere.

We did go airborne.  And while airborne, we did a full 360, then bounced and continued on down the hill.  At some point, Sophie said to me “Nini, you are crushing my lungs”.  It didn’t matter.   At the end of the ride, even though we had an awesome wipe-out, she was secure within the confines of the inner tube we were riding on.  No injuries were reported and there was much congratulating and high-fiving between herself and me after the ride was over.

She said to me as we prepared to go again “Nini, I love you, but you almost crushed me with your legs and my mom would be upset if you had killed me”.  LOLOL … this amused me as she is only seven (six at the time of the ride) and had enough sense to know that sometimes, I go overboard in the protection department.  She didn’t however, fall off because she was caught in a vice grip.  How much fun that was.  I only hope we have the chance to sled down the hill again; next time though, I will  try not to hold her so tightly that she feels like she’s being murdered.  Now, all we have to do is wait on more snow.  Some things just never get old.  Sledding is one of them.

sophie