Bhplayon's Blog

Stories in the life of Betty Brown Hammond…..truth sometimes seems like fiction.

“Everything Happens for a Reason?”

Now isn't that Random?

Now isn’t that Random?

(this is an old post, re-inserted due to deletion) “Everything happens for a reason?” Personally, I really do not believe this. (did you just GASP?!!!) I think it is one of those things people say to you when you tell them something about your life that undeniably sucks. I think those platitudes are just our mind’s way of trying to contextualize experiences that don’t fall inside our usual frameworks for making sense of the world. I believe that sometimes we all make pointless, useless choices…..and these are the times you make “lemonade out of lemons”. There are just too many really bad things out there for me to rationalize “everything happens for a reason”. I guess a lot of it comes down to situations like this: The mother of a severely handicapped child who has to listen to the well-meaning chirping’s of her friends who say “everything happens for a reason…(or) God only gives special children to special mothers who are strong” Yes, these people do not know what else to say…they are well-meaning. But this mother is thinking…. “there’s NO reason good enough that I should have to deal with this severe disability….and I don’t think it is part of a LARGER plan!”. Here is what I DO believe: We ALL have life experiences that make us STRONGER. We learn from these experiences. These experiences are what mold us. They help us better our choices for the future. I have no real problem believing in the randomness of life.  Or, that maybe SOME  things happen for a reason.  BUT….. This is only MY take, albeit a very unpopular view…..but it is what it is And I am what I am:-) I’m definitely not trying to change anyone’s thought process. Just give insight on another view.

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Tuesday, June 30th

Sitting on the porch drinking coffee in Panama City Beach. Looking up through a  palm tree at the Morning Sun and thinking about my nephew, Matt Brown, who had passed away during the night. I was thinking about his dad who is my brother, Terry.  and his mother, Tami Warman, a close friend and ex sister in law. What pain they must be feeling at the loss of their son. Thinking of comforting words I might convey. There was not enough time to digest this information. When around 10:00 am  Dennis called my cell with news that would shake my  daughter’s world, leaving her in the darkest place she has ever been. Grief consumes her. The words, “Adam’s dead” sent a wave of emotions through me that paralyzed me. I could not fathom this news could be true…. He was much too young, age twenty- five! WHY??? Erin, who had called Dennis, could barely get the words out and that was the most news she could bear to convey the time. So we had no details as to how this could have happened for maybe an hour after we found out of his death. My mind was spinning trying to sort this out. Then came the unbearable details.  He was killed when his car hit a tree. He apparently had lost control of the car in a curve.  It was an accident.  . I immediately thought of the unimaginable sadness my daughter was feeling now. And I am so far away! I have to to throw all my stuff in the car and get to her! Dennis, who was on his way back to Florida had already turned to go to her. Stephen and Katie were on their way to the mountains for a hiking trip.  They had just got on 400 when they got the horrible news. Without hesitation they tuned around and headed her way. Shaking so hard I could bearly hold onto the phone I managed a call to  my niece, Jesse, who lives in Carrollton.  Hoping I could get her to go on over to comfort Erin.  She said Erin already called her…She was on the way!
This was the first of an overwhelming outpouring of kindness and generosity we would receive.  I grabbed my stuff and hit the road with a mission. Everyone I spoke to was telling me to drive responsibly, don’t speed!  But I was driving faster than I ever had before . I shouldn’t have…but I did. I was fortunate not to receive a ticket.  I had to slow to 45 around the Alabama line. It was raining so hard it was difficult to see. After a journey that seemed never-ending,  I finally made it home.  Dropped off the dogs, took the fastest shower I’ve ever taken and headed to Carrollton.  It was a relief to finally get to Erin to give her hugs and motherly support.  She was a basket case …as  expected.
Lord, please take some of this pain from our baby! We were and are hurting, too. Adam was our beloved son in law. How could we get through this? How was his mom and dad, going to get through this?  Youre not supposed to bury your children! Adam was extremely close to his siblings.  This was so incredibly painful for so many people!! His grandparents,  aunts, uncles,cousins and friends.. all in utter pain.
I was able to allow myself to breakdown on that torturous ride from Florida.  But was able to hold up , for the most part, as I felt I had to be strong for the kids and Erin My bestie, Jan, commented that she knew mom’s have superpowers as she witnessed this firsthand.
Faith is so important. Especially now. Many have shared words of comfort.  Being there for her is all I can do. I feel so helpless in trying to console her. Grieving will be a process,…I want her to emerge stronger. This has certainly put a new perspective on my relationships.  As I was caring for my precious grandchildren right after this happened. I was  Overwhelmed with the things I needed to do. Sitting in my recliner about to feed Bennett his bottle,  I was looking over my living room at the toys strewn about and dining room table so cluttered. In that moment I realized those things were not important.  I decided to just live in the moment.  I cuddled that sweet baby boy and fed him that bottle. I talked to him and the Instant reward was his sweet eyes soaking it all up .  Adam loved to cuddle with his children. I will never let them forget his love for them. He gave us those two wonderful boys.  What a blessing they are! Losing someone so close to us can help us focus on our relationships.  That is a good thing.  But anyone who  has followed my blogs knows how I feel about “Everything happens for a reason”. I just do not believe God caused Adam’s wreck. I didn’t believe he would have  Laura die such a brutal death. Awful things just happen.  But our faith can bring us through the pain. We just have to learn how to give it over to God.

We want to thank everyone who gave their sympathy. All the Facebook comments, the cards, flowers, donations, food, babysitting, and being there for us… by so many people. ALL  was so appreciated. We are so grateful. Please know it lifted us and we felt the love.

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Gender Dysphoria…..Have Empathy? Hate? Not sure?

You are as God made you! You have NO right to change your gender….no matter how unhappy you are!  This is a common reaction to anyone experiencing gender dysphoria. I’ll start by saying my  knowledge of this, or sexual disorders is minimal.  That is exactly the basis for my stance.  Since I know so little about any possible causes, I do not have a negative opinion.

Recently I have seen Bruce Jenner’s transgender story in many media outlets. In stunning juxtaposition,  a picture of him as an Olympian Gold medal winner in 1976, and as Caitlyn Jenner plastered on magazines, television, Twitter, and Facebook posts.  This is understandably shocking.  Is this just a crazy ploy for media attention?  I really do not know. I do not know Bruce/ Caitlyn.  I remember Bruce from the 1976 Olympics. Proudly winning the gold medal for the decathlon. I’ve never kept up with the Kardashians.   I would know little about these people if not for the media frenzy. 

There is an outpouring of antipathy from so many people. Some have strong religious reasons for their feelings on this matter, saying that prayer can change this sort of person.  Honestly, this is something I cannot wrap my mind around. It is something I’ve never had to deal with personally.  However, I had a male first cousin who chose girls as friends to play with instead of boys. From a very young age he enjoyed toys and games that were typically associated with girls instead of sports, cars, trucks or things boys usually like.  He came out of the closet so to speak as a young adult. Lived his life as a Gay man. I loved him. He was a unique individual. But wouldn’t his life have been easier if he had naturally been attracted to girls instead of boys? Why would he choose a more difficult lifestyle? This is a bit off the beaten path.  Not exactly the same as the opening transgender story. But it supports the point I am trying to convey.  Studies suggest that gender dysphoria may have biological causes associated with the development of gender identity before birth. While I am not in a position to know anything about this particular case involving Bruce/Caitlyn.  How would I feel if I was indeed more male than female biologically?   There are so many variables.  In researching sexual birth disorders I was overcome with empathy for any child born that way. What if I was born with both male and female genitalia?  My gender determined by my parents or a doctor?  What if they got it wrong?  I am not saying this is the case for everyone experiencing gender dysphoria. What I’m indicating is  we do not know everything about the complicated world of genetics and sexual birth disorders.   How could I,  a woman comfortable with her gender,  possibly know what its like to have feelings to the contrary?  We are a long way from Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.  It isn’t a perfect world.  There are so many sexual birth disorders.  Children born with both testicular and ovarian tissues, some born with both male and female genitalia, babies born with male genitalia and female organs…..and many more variations. It isn’t cut and dried, it’s complicated.

Even though some may believe this is abhorrent behavior.  A deliberate choice.  That is not my take on this.  I choose tolerance. It is not possible for me to know everything about this subject.  God reads hearts.  I’m mindful of one of my favorite scriptures, recalling the admonition of Jesus, John 13, 34:  “A new commandment I give to you,  that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Christians have  an obligation to lead by example.  Tolerance for people isn’t embracing their actions. It is simply not being the judge and jury. Leaving that to God. Showing love. 

I do not know if Bruce becoming Caitlyn is a ploy for media attention. It is such a good feeling to be a wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt. I’m grateful my children and grandchildren were born without any biological gender issues.  When I see that picture aforementioned of Bruce and Caitlyn, empathy is what I feel, not disgust, hate, or anger. 

That said, I am a bit annoyed that the Jenner case is being glorified. Media gives this way too much attention

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Don’t worry about me

I have been very mixed up about religion my entire life. Having been raised in what I consider a cult  The religion of my birth has caused great divides in my family. The members claim it is the ONLY TRUE religion. They actually say you will know it by the love shown. I am here to tell you, I have not felt any love. It is a very cold religion.  Recently at a funeral for my cousin there were many witnesses present. Some were cordial and spoke to me.  One uncle , however,  would not even return a polite nod.  How Christian is that?  Going as far to walk off when I attempted to take a picture of him and his siblings.

Since being free of that cult, I have visited many churches. I have learned the things taught about other religions as a child was false. the people there were nice, honest,  and sincere for the most part.   I was especially impressed with all they did for the community and the mission work overseas.  And WOW, the witnesses were especially harsh on Catholics. Since I’ve been out I have had a few friends who are of the Catholic Faith. They are the most loving, giving, honest and wonderful people I know.  Coming out I found that all religions were not bad.

Here is my view, however unpopular.  I do not believe that going to Church is a salvation issue. I believe I can, and do, have a relationship with God through Christ. Some feel going to church strengthens that relationship. For them, it probably does.  But, for me, putting that time and energy into something else, like simply talking to God through prayer and meditating on his works, is what bolsters my relationship with God.  It solidifies my faith every time I pray for a friend, or a friend of a friend who is sick or having some difficulty. I feel the power of prayer.   I have attended different Churches from time to time.  The people there have been very nice at most of them.  I’ve enjoyed the sermons at most.  I have a great respect for churches that give so much back to their communities.

I am a very private person. I don’t have to let anyone know what I do or give. God knows. And he knows me as a person.  That is enough for me. I accept the gift of grace. Ephesians 2:8:

American King James Version
For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God

What really seals my attitude is when someone says "You need to go to church." Or "You must not have Jesus in Your life." How could anyone know that? Or the worse one, "you’re going to hell!"   This kind of thing makes me turn to God in prayer for them.  We all are imperfect. We all make mistakes. The best we can do is love one another.  Let people make their own choices. Can anyone honestly say everyone not going to church is evil and all churchgoers are saints?  I think not.

What I would say to the Church-goer worried about me because I do not go to church:  Don’t worry about me. Jesus died for us all. My relationship with God through Christ is a very personal one. I am happy for you, please be happy for me.

Post note:  I feel we raised our children with good morals. We taught empathy for others.  We are very proud of the adults they have become.  My son and his wife attend Church. My daughter does not. One can only look at the way she is raising her children, the way she handles her responsibilities,  and her conduct to see she is a good person. I’m proud of my children. Whether they choose church or not. She may choose to attend a church one day. I don't think she is opposed. Sometimes a church has to be the right fit for a person.

However, if she never does, I will never doubt Jesus’ love for her and her love for Jesus.

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Hanging on to my Valentine

Me and my Husband, Dennis

Me and my Husband, Dennis

 

Intermittently in our twenty-six years of marriage, and five years of dating before, I have been so angry at Dennis I have felt like walking out.  Packing up and taking off. But I never did. First of all I have always loved him even through the tough times. Even when I didn’t like him very much,  I always loved him.  When the kids were small it was tough at times.  We didn’t get along perfectly. But he was a wonderful father to our children and there was no way I would take them away from that.  Just thinking about a step-parent situation with my kids made me sick. I didn’t want my kids to have a step mother. I only wanted Dennis to be their father, no stepfather. He was such a doting and loving dad. He was tough when the situation called for some tough love.  The kids respected and loved him.  Focusing on the love was what bound us together.  No matter what the problems were, we had love. I could not imagine being with anyone else.   Sometimes I take for granted how good he is to me.

Now we are empty nesters. Kids out of the house. We have a couple of wonderful grandson’s.  We still continue to have conflicts.  I’d rather he not climb on houses or flimsy aluminum ladders with his bad hip!  He took a fall just the other week and could hardly move for a day or so. Thanks to Aleve, Advil, and the Chiropractor, he managed to feel a little better. Enough to go to his gig in New Orléans  for Mardi Gras Security.   I nag him about his health. He needs a hip and shoulder rotator cuff surgery. He has agreed to call a doctor for an appointment for his hip.  I will update if that happens.  I am looking forward to growing old-er with him. Still so many things we would like to enjoy.  Got to get started on that bucket list.

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Groundhog day 1987

baby StevoThis was the day a Beautiful boy would rock my world. He was HUGE, sick, and alert as a three-month old.  Of  course being born on February 2, although due December 23rd might have given him a little extra time for maturing.  This ten pound seven ounce baby looked like a giant in the neonatal nursery at Clayton General Hospital!  Especially when they placed his little bed next to the preemie weighing only two pounds.  My boy was very sick, with an infection from the fluids in the womb and Jaundice. To compound issues, one of the nurses there was sure he had Down Syndrome.  Which clearly he doesn’t.   Stephen was born with what appeared a simian crease in his hand. Only one dominant line.  He also had a lot of fat. He weighed ten pounds seven ounces. The nurse I mentioned said there was a redundunt skin roll in the back of his neck.  I thought his whole neck was chunky!   But she was really upsetting me by being so matter of fact.  She said there were help groups available and I should contact one or either decide whether to on raise this child.  This blew me away!!!   Stephen was at the hospital ten days and since he wasn’t in a room,  they had thrown Barco lounger in a closet for me to set up camp.  It was easier to stay there as I was nursing him.  When she had this discussion with me, I remember walking to the cafeteria with tears streaming down my face, and I sat alone in the most private corner.  There was no way to find out definitively immediately.  The test they sent off would take a couple of weeks.  But, I KNEW she was wrong.  This child didn’t look like anyone I had ever seen who had down syndrome.  His eyes were badly bruised from birth.  But I could just tell. Mother’s instinct, I guess.  Later that week, I was in the nursery getting ready to hold and feed him, and the head of one of the departments (I think it was radiology, but my memory fails) came up to me and asked if I was Stephen’s mom.  I said, “Yes, Sir” . Wondering , what now?  He was so nice. He showed me his hand. He had a simian crease. He told that he had heard about this possible down syndrome baby and wanted to see him. He said I have no worries!   This child is going to test negative. He does not have it. He said if I have not already done the tests, don’t bother.  WHEW!   What a relief!  That was my angel sent from heaven.

This boy came home the tenth day. Bright eyed and smiling so big.  What a blessing in my life. So dependent on me. Would I be a good mom?  From the time I brought him home, his needs or even wants are more important than mine. Ahhh, Motherhood.  Stephen had some reflux issues.  It was an enigma! he was gaining weight because he threw up so much. The ongoing joke with my sister’s was Yeah, I’ll babysit, just let me get my slicker and rain bonnet on.  Because sometimes it was projectile type.  My sister, Margie, counted six times of throwing up in just the time it took her to get up from the couch and walk across the room to get the remote control for the T.V..   Yet, his pediatrician said not to worry. He would outgrow it. He is thriving and gaining weight.

As Stephen grew he picked up on things very fast.  He had an amazing vocabulary before the age of two. I remember a conversation with him about his second birthday party. He was describing his cake and what kind of balloons he wanted.  I couldn’t believe how smart this little guy was.  He was already proficient at working our  VCR .   He always knew which movies he wanted to watch each day.  He and I had a lot of One-on-One time before the arrival of his little sister, Erin.  So, I was afraid he might be a little jealous.  And he was, a little, which is normal. But I was so happy he embraced her and seemed to really love her from the beginning.  Stephen was a sweet child.

From four to five, this was the early l990’s and y’all know what that meant. BRAVES were HOT. Or getting hot. It was an exciting time for baseball.  And little Stephen Hammond was a Braves fan from a very early age. Stephen had never gone to preschool or a nursery because I wanted to spend that precious time with him .  We lived next door to Dennis’ parents.  We also lived a house over from my Dad. His mom was so good about having him over when he wanted.  Of course she always had a Yoo Hoo or Hug in a Jug in the Fridge for him. That is what Grandma’s do, isn’t it?  Spoil the grandkids with goodies.  Stephen would sit with his Pop (D’s dad) outside as he would peel an apple with his pocket knife and cut him bites.  Those were the days.  Both my kids were so blessed being raised next door to such wonderful Grandparents. We miss them dearly.  Although Stephen had no formal schooling at this point in his life, I had taught him his alphabet and numbers, and when he was in kindergarten he was putting words together and reading.  At the age of five he would go to the mailbox to get the mail and the newspaper.  He would spread the paper all over the living room floor and dig for the sports section.  Then check out his favorite Braves players and their line scores or stats.  Of course with his love of Baseball, he also wanted to play. We started him in little league when he was about five.  He started playing  Muppet soccer when he first turned four.  At one point he was wrestling with the Coweta Cobra’s, playing soccer, and baseball.  One Saturday he had all three events in one day. A wrestling match that a.m. , an afternoon baseball game, and a late afternoon soccer game.  He LOVED it.   It was a lot of planning and work for me as I had to pack coolers and uniform changes and try to hydrate and feed him properly.  His grades were always extremely good and never suffered through all the extra curricular activities.  Stephen was a very motivated child. He asked for an alarm clock when in elementary school. He set it to wake up and get ready for school on his own. I think he enjoyed it.  Or at least resolved to go as he knew he had no choice in the matter.  He was also very good with money. He would ration his birthday money or Christmas money so that it lasted until the next occasion he would receive money.  He earned money as a referee for CCSA at the age of fourteen.  He collected our cans for extra money as well as doing other jobs for money. He also had his regular chores he did which did not pay anything but a “well done” from his parents.  He was pretty good at doing his part. Once when we first built our new house back in 1999,  we asked Stephen if he thought we should build a swimming pool.  He gave it some thought and got back to us. He told us he just didn’t have time in his schedule to keep a pool up. He realized he would be responsible for a lot of the upkeep and didn’t want to take this on.  He enjoyed his sports and knew his classes were just going to get tougher.  He was able to handle his tough classes and Ace them. His grades always made us so proud.  He graduated with high honors from Newnan High School.  That is where he met his Sweetheart, Katie.  I remember thinking there is something about her.   I could tell there was a spark that day we were standing in line at the DMV to get Stephen’s learner’s permit.   Katie was there with her dad, Mike.  Stephen and Katie both have birthday’s in February. Stephen kept turning around to smile at her.  I believe that was 2002.  They graduated three times together. Once from Newnan High.  Twice from Mercer. First time at Mercer for their College diploma,  Stephen completed his Doctor of Pharmacy program and Katie for her Masters.  They got married in 2009.   Stephen is a Pharmacist for CVS.  He is also a Spanish major which helps since his CVS has a lot of customers whose main language is Spanish.   Katie teaches Advanced Placement History at Newnan High.  An interesting note about Stephen’s school career from Kindergarten through twelfth grade;  he was only counted absent once!  This was when he signed out to attend a friend’s father’s funeral. And with block scheduling he was not counted present for that day.

Stephen started Kindergarten at Moreland Elementary.   He began Cub Scouts in the first grade and stuck with it through fifth grade.  I was one of his Pack leaders.   He worked hard at this and anything we ever involved him.  He had such a competitive spirit and  a wish  to learn.  He cultivated some friendships at Moreland that he still has to this day.  His best man at his wedding was a grammar school buddy, who he had also been on his little league baseball team as well.  Moreland Elementary was a wonderful school with excellent teachers who really cared about the children.  I feel blessed that my children attended that school.

Middle school would bring exciting times. He was able to play school soccer in the seventh grade. And of course we all know about those middle school dances.  Stephen had not hit a growth spurt and was a bit shorter than his date. But he was so handsome.  He was always smiling and had such a likeable personality, and still does.

One thing I remember about middle school is a talk Stephen had with his Dad.  He came to him and said school was boring. He felt he wasn’t being challenged….he needed more.  That is how hungry he was to learn.  His dad contacted some of his teachers and they gave Stephen extra work. Some said he would not get credit, but that really didn’t matter to Stephen. He also became active with First Baptist Church in Newnan. He enjoyed the youth programs.   One year he and sister Erin, traveled to N.Y. on a mission trip.  He actually got to travel to Costa Rica with a select group of young men through a church mission program.  He developed a friendship with the Youth Minister, Drew Porterfield.  Even though this person was not associated with First Baptist when Stephen was ready for Baptism, he agreed to baptize Stephen.  This took place at his friend Seth’s Grandparent’s, pool in our neighborhood in Moreland.

Stephen received an academic scholarship to attend Mercer University at Macon.  He was inducted into Pi kappa Phi Fraternity.  Affiliated with an organization called Push America. n 2007, my son, Stephen, raised around $5,500, for Push America, an organization that exists to improve lives of those with disabilities, in an event called Journey of Hope.  He bicycled as part of a 30 man team from San Francisco, CA to Washington, DC.  It was a 63 day journey stopping daily to volunteer and interact with people with disabilities. Dennis, Erin, Katie, and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet him as he  pedaled in to finish this journey.  He was fortunate to not have any illness or bicycle malfunctions that would inhibit this journey. He was able to pedal every mile of that journey. Something to be proud of.   He did have some stomach issues, but none that were severe enough to keep him off the trail.

Well, I have so many stories about Stephen I could share. I could go on an on. He kept us all entertained. He was good at that.  We all still remember his special words for certain things that he made up when he was little. Erin thought these were the real words for these things and when she found out they were bogus via using them in front of friends, she was pretty mad.  I guess we just took it for granted she knew Stephen made them up.  Words like Dadoo for Apple, and Pootah for Foot. I don’t even know where he got these words because from a young age he could articulate.  He also made up a “ditty” or two we all still sing from time to time.  His most famous video as a child is “There’s a Spider outside”.  I love this video because it showcases both my babies. Erin as a newborn. Stephen as one of the cutest little guys ever.  Trying to talk his mama into letting him take his shirt off in October.

I hope I have inculcated a love of music to my children. I always had music playing when they were young.  I introduced them to music of many genres.  I picked up on some of Stephen’s musical favorites when he was in high school. We have attended several concerts together. Music is very important in my life and I am so glad Stephen enjoys music.

Although Stephen rarely ever disobeyed or gave us any trouble whatsoever. We had rules and most of the time he followed these rules. I stumbled upon some video of he and some of his friends recently and it was truly funny at this point. But had I known then, he probably would have been in trouble…well for breaking a rule or two.  In these videos he was lighting tennis balls and slinging them, riding the four-wheeler wildly with no helmet. Many other shenanigans.  Priceless, boys will be boys type stuff.

I am so proud of Stephen. He is an intrinsically good person….and very handsome.  Even though each Ground Hog Day marks another year that he is older, I still think of him as my son, my boy.  He has grown into such a wonderful man.  In closing I want to give his dad a lot of credit for being such an exemplary father. He was always leading as a role model and always put his kids first. I think this was a huge influence on Stephen.  I will close with a quote I recently sent Erin after the birth of her second son, Bennett. It is a quote that touched my heart…..it is so true. Stephen, I hope you know I love you.

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.

It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.

-Agatha Christie

oh henry (3)

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