The first annual BOO-GA-LOO CAMP is history. But, history that is bound to be relived and talked about for a while to come. Because family is so important and I don’t get to spend as much time as I would like with mine…I decided that the big girls and the little boys would have a special few days together. Why ‘Boogaloo’, you may ask? Well, it had to have a name. And, the Boogaloo (bugaloo) is a fast paced dance with wild, crazy movements…. and with these little guys around, we ‘re nothing if we are not fast, wild and crazy! So Boogaloo it is. I also changed the spelling to my liking…because I don’t want it called the ‘bug’aloo camp. Cause bugs…not invited!
Joy and I arrived a day early to rest and reserve our strength for what we knew was going to be a wild weekend. We were wise to do so! However, I did have one small project for us to do. We bought pavers and sorta/kinda laid a walkway between the house (The Sandcastle) and the trailer (The Flamingo). We had to wait until it was almost dark for it to be cool enough for us to work outside. And, late afternoon…prime mosquito time! It wasn’t exactly perfect …but it worked well enough that the boys did not have to walk through the sand spurs to go back and forth.
The crew arrived and the first order of business was discussing all the activities that were to follow. Oh, yes! Arts and crafts, swimming, sunning, bumper boats, story time, water fun, go carts, and donuts, of course! We blew up a big pool for the boys to play with their new water squirters and boats and cars. While we girls sat around and visited.
After a meal out, we turned in…praying for a sunny tomorrow…with NO rain! The next day was our planned time on the beach. And, wow! we could not have ordered a more gorgeous day. Perfection!.
The boys and girls rode the waves, gathered shells, and floated in the glorious ocean under a blazing sun! Joy and I sat in the shade of a giant umbrella and enjoyed the show! Back at the Sandcastle, we got in a little art work. Painting, stamping, building boats…puzzles, cars, and games.
Levi even got a lesson in Solitaire from Aunt Joy!
After a night’s rest, we were up and ready to go again…this time to the Water Park. Oh, the boys love it here! There are fountains popping up from the ground to run through and glorious misters to stand in. The kid’s pool is only 2 feet deep and it is huge! There’s 2 slides and all sorts of water fun. There is also an olympic sized pool with obstacles to run. And around it all are ledges for the older folks to rest…’cause the little boys don’t stop when they get there…until it’s time to eat. Also lots of covered picnic tables to escape from the sun for a while.
After a little rest, we went to a wonderful place to eat…Boondocks. After dinner came go-cart time! This was our promise to Levi. And, then we had to scout out some shells. This was our promise to John Thomas….he has a shell collection…and there really aren’t many to be found on the beaches. Found a great place, and the boys were going strong. Joy and I, however, were fading fast. So we switched up cars. They went for ice cream and Joy and I went back to the Sandcastle.
Plans were to head to the beach for some crab hunting, but Levi came in the house in his Mother’s arms…already deep in dreamland. So that’s on our list for next year!
The crew left out by noon on Sunday. But Joy and I needed a day to recuperate. They all left and by 2:00 we were both napping! Revived, we did a little shopping, a little visiting, and a little eating. We finished cleaning the next morning and were home early afternoon.
What an amazing few days together we had! Time focused just on family and fun. And building memories for the boys. I think both boys were sad their dads were not along. It makes me happy that Will and Adam spend such quality time with their sons that they want them along wherever the fun is! Such good daddies! But, this trip was for us girls!
We are so thankful that God granted us these days to laugh, and read and sing and dance and play and swim and rest at night! God is good to us and His blessings can never be counted. It is He who established the family. And, it is He who blesses ours.
My eldest, my heart…you have struggled and overcome. You have the kindest soul and a genuine love for those who are suffering. You help these people everyday with courage and wisdom and compassion. This mother’s heart overflows with happiness. I am so proud of you. What a fine husband you are, a loving father to Levi, and a blessing to all of us in the family. I love you. Happy 40 th!
There are wonderful mothers in most families,,,mine included. These are the women who help lay the groundwork for the way you were raised. Much of what you and your grandchildren are taught to respect and hold dear, comes from the mothers who have moved on to another place. I can joyfully say these women who have physically left this earth are in heaven and waiting for me to join them there. How blessed I am to come from such a legacy. Here then is a gathering of the mothers who helped shape me.
My mother’s mother…Annie Mariah Tew Merritt….when I was just a baby…
Here she is a few years before she passed away…Granny Merritt…
Here is the sweet mother of my Daddy… Ester Lillian Hallman Townsend…..Granny T…
And this is a picture of Don’s Daddy’s mother…she passed early in our marriage…Ola Owens…
Sitting with my young boys is my mother in law and Don’s mother Sarah Elizabeth Meadows Owens…..
Elizabeth Owens…she was a kind and gentle soul who loved her Lord and her family greatly…..
Here is my mother a day after I was born…Elosise Merritt Townsend….
With me, ready for church….
With her grandchildren, Ian,Lori, Alex, Adam, Tara, who learned and loved so much from her…
With Joy and I on one of our fun trips together…
My beautiful mother, whom I miss every day….
Joy and I holding our precious grandsons….Levi Hampton Owens, and John Thomas Bush
My Sister, with her children…Joy Annette Townsend McKibben with Lori and Tara
Me, with my children…Tonja Lynn Townsend Owens…with Alex, Ian, Adam…
And the next generation….Tara Suzanne McKibben Bush with John Thomas
Suzanne Michelle Horne Owens with Levi…
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
What a whirlwind my life has been the past few days. On Tuesday night, I got a call that our dear Aunt Marie Pope had passed away. She was in the hospital originally for bronchitis, but then the kidneys and her heart became involved. She passed without too much suffering…and I rejoice to say she had secured her place in Heaven long ago!
Joy, Pop and I made plans to fly up as soon as we got the details. So very early Thursday morning, we boarded a flight from Dothan to Raleigh. Ian was going too, so he flew from Birmingham to Atlanta, and met us there. Then we flew on to Raleigh, where Ian had rented us a car. We drove about an hour to get to Clinton. The visitation was that night, so we had flowers to pick out and other business to take care of. But, we were ready and at the funeral home at 6:00. It was a sad time, because the whole family loved Aunt Marie so dearly, but it was a wonderful blessing to see so many of my family who I had not seen in years.
We were pretty tired so we went back to the motel and got some sleep. But up early the next morning to get ready for funeral. We left a little early…Pop wanted to visit the cemetery where some of the people he served in the Navy with and their family are buried. Then we went to the Rowan Church cemetery where my Grandparents are buried…and where Mom and Pop were married….in the church, not the cemetery.
The ladies of the Epwoth Methodist Church had prepared a wonderful meal for us at the church prior to the funeral. Amazing food. While we waited for the funeral to begin, we took the opportunity to make pictures of as many family groups as we could.
….Cheryl, Uncle Elwood Merritt, Aunt Betty, Debbie (missing son,Woody)…this is Mother’s brother
….Tony, Jeannie, Kay, Kim (Warren family…my mother’s sister Della Mae, and Uncle Jefferson…both deceased)
….Uncle Charles Pearson, Aunt Evelyn, Uncle Elwood, Aunt Betty, Pop
Jennifer Pope (married to DeLeon, Aunt Marie’s grandson) and Charlotte Pope (Aunt Marie’s daughter-in law, married to Harry, deceased)
…DeLeon Pope, son of Harry, grandson of Aunt Marie) Lisa Pearson (daughter of Charles and Evelyn) Ian Owens ( son of Tonja)
….Lori Pearson (daughter in law of Evelyn) Aunt Evelyn Pearson ( Mother’s sister)
….Uncle Elwood and Pop
….Ian, Clyde Townsend, and Nicholas Pope (son of Harry and grandson of Aunt Marie)
Tonja Owens and Ian Owens
….Group picture of cousins, (first and second…Missing Chris who was a pallbearer)
We then attended the service, which was beautiful. It included a heartfelt letter written to her by her grandson, DeLeon, beautiful music, words by the pastors. We were all reminded again just how special Aunt Marie was to all of us. She loved and cared for everyone in her path. So many people loved her, as was evidenced by the packed church. This is a country church and the cemetery was right across the road. We walked over, in bitter cold and wind, to hear scripture and prayers by the pastor. But, quickly, we hurried back over to the church fellowship all to greet friends.
Someone sat down at a table, and slowly…it filled up as more and more of the family pulled up chairs. What a beautiful picture of ‘family’…expanding and letting others in…and closing the gap when one moves on. Thanks, Ian for capturing this.
We left the church and all gathered at Aunt Marie’s house. This little cottage has been her home ever since she was married at 15 years of age. It has changed little over the years. It’s tiny…with a small kitchen and 2 bedrooms, one bath. Amazing the food that could come out of that kitchen! Food fit for royalty. And, she had always just cooked something anytime you may happen by. She could move like a magician there. Stove in front…sink in back, one of those old long porcelain sinks with the drain slabs built into each side. She could stand there and reach almost anything she needed and never leave her spot!
I must say, walking into to her house…even though it was full of family…was a cold feeling. For no matter how many people were filling up her tiny kitchen and den…she would leave where she was and go and greet them and tell them to come and get something to eat! The light was not there anymore…the warmth…the “Shug, don’t you want something to eat…I know you’re hungry?” Some of us sat in her living room..a very unusual thing. It was for show…not visiting. But we had to split up due to the number of folks there. We reminisced about the dining table…how it used to look so big! And how we as children only got fed after the adults were finished. Oh, and memories poured. Then we began getting reacquainted with one another and catching up on each other’s lives and children. It had been a very long time since I had seen them. They of course see each other more often as they all live fairly close…but Joy and I had lots to hear about! More pics, too…
all the first cousins minus Tony and Woody…at least we got Chris in this one!
And, we hugged and cried and said our goodbyes. And, walked out into the the cold night air to go back to our motel. We had an early flight…and a long ride to the airport.
All in all for the Townsend family, our trip to Clinton and back took exactly 60 hours. But, oh, the tears, and joys, and hugs that were crammed into them!
A beautiful wreath of fresh flowers on Aunt Marie’s front door gave passerby’s the information that someone very special lived here. But, almost everybody that traveled highway 701 knew the Popes!
We walked around her little house earlier in the day and remembered.
This was, for Joy and I, the place we learned that there was a different way of life that the one we lived in Dothan, AL. This is where we learned about getting up too early, and going to ‘work’ with Uncle Arthur Lee. We’d ride to the store and get a pack of ‘nabs’ and a mountain dew…and call it breakfast! (If mother only knew!) Then we drove all over the area to pick up the ‘hands’. Back to the field to pick tobacco, or hang tobacco, or stack tobacco, (Probably don’t have those terms right) Then we had to go and check other barns to see of there were any problems with them. And, when we were older, he put us to work to do some of those things ourselves. Don’t remember that that lasted too long, though! So, we just rode all morning…called it working…and got filthy! But, it was nothing short of wonderful! And, so different from the life we lived in Dothan. Granny Merritt and Aunt Marie would start cooking when we left before day. Getting lunch ready! And, it was a feast, let me tell you! Harry and Uncle Arthur and maybe one or two others would eat an enormous amount of food…then relax and watch All My Children…and back out to do it all again. Joy and I tended to stay home for the afternoon! We learned about combines and tobacco pickers, and tractors in general. We learned about people who work the land for a living.
….Marie, Della, Eloise, Evelyn
….Grandmother and Grandaddy Merritt at home in Wilmington
….Aunt Marie and Eloise
We went to Vacation Bible School in the same church Aunt Marie was buried in . We went to church on Sunday. And, when we weren’t in the fields or eating…there were always beans to snap, or peas to shell or corn to shuck or some unknown food source to be dealt with. Didn’t mind the shelling…didn’t ike the picking! And, always…ALWAYS…lots of family dropping in several times a day! It was a time of playing with cousins, learning from my grandmother, and Aunt Marie, and visiting with the Warrens and Pearsons, and Merritts ,as well! Little community stores dotted the road…with delightful offerings for a hot, thirsty child. And, there were always chickens…millions of chickens at the Warrens, and goats and pigs…BIG pigs…along with cows and donkeys. We would usually move around a little to see everyone a while. It was an idyllic part of our childhood.
So many memories in those yards between Aunt Marie’s house and Granny Merritt’s trailer, and up the road and down the road.
But, yesterday…the trailer is gone…only the steps remain…and the little house where Granny stored some outside things. No one lives there anymore. The birds are not in the trees, because the bird feeders are empty and gone and the flower gardens are not dug up and spaced around so nicely. This land has long since finished being dug up, planted, swept up, lived on by our Granny.
But something is coming to life there. Something is budding out and getting ready to enjoy the bright wonderful world. Planted by loving hands…long stilled…but growing and blooming still and bringing beauty to an empty yard full of dead leaves and grass. Just as our memories bring beauty to our hearts when we remember.
And, even though Aunt Marie’s house is still and quiet…there is the love and care we felt from her oozing out every window and door! We will never drive past her house without feeling it and remembering how great it was to be loved by her.
And, just look at THIS house…in her front yard tree awaiting a new family who will sing the songs of joy to the Father that she used to sing. How fitting!
And, a few pictures from several years ago of all the brothers and sisters together before some of them moved to Heaven.
….These following were made in Dothan, 9/8/07
….Harry,( Aunt Marie’s son, deceased), Tonja, Lisa, Joy
Rest in Peace, Aunt Marie. We are all better people for having known you, better for having learned from you, and better for being loved by you. You remain forever in our hearts.
Those of you who follow my blog or who know me personally, know the issues of our middle son, Alex. He has a degenerative brain disorder called Cerebellar Atrophy. It affects his vision, his balance, his motor skills…and causes him severe pain daily. It does not affect his mind in anyway, thank God! When I say that he is never without pain…it is not an exaggeration.
For years, ever since he was diagnosed when he was in the eighth grade, we have sought help from anywhere and everywhere. The trouble is, there’s just not a lot of information, and fewer doctors who specialize in this. We have looked the world over…literally. We have gotten the most help from the University of Michigan and they have been able to give us information, but no help in dealing with the pain.
Alex is a regular patient of the Pain Management Center here and is on quite a few medications. And, that is where we have been for about 10 years. A few months ago, his doctor told him about a new treatment that could possible give him some relief. He began looking into it and trying to get it available in Dothan. However, we told him we would go wherever it was available. The procedure is done every 4 days, so it really needs to be done as close to home as possible. Finally, it was approved for him to get the equipment here in Dothan. Then came a whole mess with insurance coverage, etc…since it is still considered by some to be experimental. Another month or so and that was finally worked out. We told them we would cover it out of pocket if insurance wouldn’t cooperate. But, finally it was all set up. And the device was implanted behind his ear last Thursday.
********The P-STIM is a miniaturized device designed to administer auriculo (ear) point stimulation treatment over several days. Stimulation is performed by electrical pulses emitted through selectively positioned needles. The advantage of using the ear is that it offers numerous points of stimulation within a small area. It provides continuous point stimulation for several days and then is removed and replaced with another.********
I share this with you to ask for your prayers. Regardless of the efficacy of the treatment, ultimately Alex’s well being is in the hands of our Heavenly Father. I truly believe God wants Alex to have a better quality of life. After all, He wants us all to have the joy that only He can give. We know the outcome of this procedure is up to Him. Our prayer is that it would give him some relief. Our prayer is that Alex could be completely healed. Our prayer is that he could live a normal life and get out into the world and not be home bound. And, we know God is able. God is able to do more than we could ever imagine. Our prayer is that He shows us grace and mercy in Alex’s life.
But, if He should choose to let things remain as they are…we will still praise Him. He is good…all the time. And, He sees farther along than we ever could. His will may be to teach us all a lesson in accepting what we cannot change and learning to look for the blessings of each day.
Pray with us, if you will, that God will give us the grace to accept His decisions…and the strength and perseverance to continue the fight.
1/26/15…..Edited to add: Today Alex went in to have the second device implanted. No news yet on if it is working, Even the doctors and reps don’t know how long it will take to see results. But, my God is big!
Yesterday, 1/14/15, I had a doctor’s appointment and Levi was going to stay with his Pa at work. I had some time to kill before I could drop him off, and I was already on that side of town, so I decided to go by and visit my Mom at the cemetery. As I pulled in…
Levi…“What is this place? I never been here before!”
Lulu….“I’m going to show you something.”
And, then I realized that Levi had probably never been to a cemetery before. Oh, my! How was I going to explain this to him? I sent up a prayer…“Please, Lord, give me the right words.” I did not want it to be a frightening thing for him…but just a fact of life.
We drove past the entrance and into the winding lane between the graves.
Levi….”Oh, I know what this place is! It’s a flower garden!”
And, looking out over the neatly manicured lawn with flowers springing up everywhere…it did look like a flower garden!
Lulu…“There are sure lots of flowers here, aren’t there?” And, I kept driving until I got close to Mom’s grave. I parked and we got out. He immediately took off running and exploring this new place.
Levi…“Look, Lulu! There’s flowers and rocks in the ground!” (He was referring to the headstones that are flat to the ground.)
Lulu…“Come with me, I want to show you something.” And, I took him over to Mom’s grave. I showed him the tree we had planted there, and the little redbirds that hang from the branches. I showed him the bench we had placed there to sit and rest.
Lulu…“This is where My Mommy rests, but she lives in Heaven.”
Levi…“Where is Heaven?”
Lulu…“I’m not really sure, but I think it is on the other side of the sky. But, I know for sure that Jesus lives there. “
Levi…“Does she have a house?”
Lulu…“The Bible says that she will have a house there. And, the best part is, God is there, too!”
As he took all this in, he noticed the mausoleum close by.
Levi…“Is that God’s house?”
Lulu…“No. That’s not His house.”
This was really a lot for a little boy to take in. So, I just sat and let him ask what he needed to know.
Lulu…“Look, here is my Mommy’s name.”
Levi…” What is her name?”
Lulu…“Her name is Eloise…but your daddy called her Granny. Some people called her Ella, or Miss Ellie, or Annie. I called Mama.”
Levi…“Is that her rock?”
Lulu…“Yes, that’s her rock. See! We put flowers right in here. See how close it is to the redbird tree.”
Levi…Look! her name has an ‘L’ in it, too!
Lulu…Yes, and look! it has an ‘E’ and an ‘I’ in it, too!
As he ran around, he picked out letters in other names on the ‘rocks’.
Levi…“Are they all your Granny’s name?”
Lulu…”No. Those are names of other people who are resting here, too.
Levi…“Did they go live with God, too?”
Lulu…“I don’t know, Levi. But, if they loved Jesus in their heart, they sure did!”
I sat down on the bench and he climbed up beside me…swinging his little legs and looking around. I knew his mind was full of questions.
Levi…“I like this flower garden. I think it is a happy place.
Lulu…“Oh, it is a very happy place! I like to come here. But, we’ve got to go now…it’s very cold.”
Levi….“Is your Mommy cold, too?”
Lulu…“Oh, No! She is in heaven…and she is singing and dancing and having a great time. She doesn’t get tired and she doesn’t get sick….and she doesn’t get cold. She’s happy all the time.”
Levi…“Can we come back next time?”
Lulu…“Of course we can!”
Wow! What an amazing exchange! I think God gave him a little understanding and me words to say.
This morning, before breakfast, Levi said the blessing.
Levi…“God, please look after Lulu’s Granny in heaven. I like her flower garden. I will come see her one day. I like the eggs and the bacon. I like my school. I like Jesus. Amen.”
Friends, these are the moments that you take and tuck into your heart of hearts. These are the moments that remind you that God cares about the hearts of little boys and big Lulus. These are the moments that remind us that He watches us everyday, in everything we do. And, He plans special moments for us to savor.
It has always saddened me a little that Mom never got to know John Thomas and Levi, and now Jackson. She loved her grandchildren so much and her great grands would have thrilled her! Joy takes John Thomas to visit quite often and now Levi has visited her resting place. I don’t know if she sees them or knows of them, but I sure like to think that she enjoys it when they visit her.
This little visit to The Flower Garden was a spur of the moment idea…not planned or even thought about until it happened. Well...I didn’t plan it. But, perhaps God had other ideas!
It is important that in matters of theology we don’t give more information than a child is old enough to comprehend. I gave Levi as much information as I thought would make sense to him and I answered every question he asked, but I did not try to explain to him that her body is under the ground, or that she is dead. That can be quite confusing to a young child. and that understanding will come to him at a later time. So, I followed his lead. What he needed to now…he asked. What he asked…I answered. The main thing this little visit did for Levi was show him that a cemetery is not a scary place. This sets a foundation for the times he will encounter death in years to come. To him, at this time, a cemetery is a place where there are lots of flowers…it’s a place where we talk about people we don’t see anymore…and, he had a happy time there.
” We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the
Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done…
so the next generation will know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn will tell their children.”
THE MERRIEST CHRISTMAS DAY…2014
The last car has gone from the yard and the house is too quiet! But, OH! MY! the fun that has gone on within the walls of the Creekhouse during the past few days! I think it was the best Christmas ever! (But, I say that every year). But, this one was surely among the top!
Christmas Day started bright and early with me getting the turkey in the oven. Then finishing the meal prep with Don’s help, and getting dressed and ready for the fun! First to arrive was Tara and Will and John Thomas, followed by Lori, and Tommy and Joy and Pop! We knew Tina and Ian and Jackson were on the way, but were going to go ahead and start eating! We held hands around the table and prayed together. As soon as we said “AMEN”…in they walked! So, we quickly added a postscript to our prayer and thanked God we were all together and for safety in their travels. Alex was able to be up and enjoy the family, too! Thank you, God! (Adam had to work…and Suzanne and Levi were joining us after lunch at her parents.)
After lunch, Adam and Suzanne came in and I followed the advice of several of my friends. Last week I posted a pic of our 3 little guys made on my front porch steps.
Several of you suggested I make this an annual photo of the boys and I thought that was a wonderful idea! So here is CHRISTMAS ON THE STEPS…2014
We had a big surprise for Levi, and as soon as we had snapped these boy’s pics, we took him into the garage where he had this waiting for him! He was ecstatic! We were trying to give him a chance to ride it a little before it got dark! He jumped right on and the other boys hopped in too! Off they went…down the drive, and all the way to the bridge! What made it even more special was that Adam and his work partner happened to be free and swung the ambulance by the house in time to see Levi’s big surprise! Thank you, Lord, for working that out! As it turned out, we all went outside for the big ride…and made lots of pics while there.
We gathered in the den to share some gifts. Pop blessed us all by donating gifts to Heifer International, in each of our names. This organization provides animals to those who live in deep poverty around the world. By using the animals, goats, sheep, chicks, cows, pigs, rabbits, etc., they are able to have milk and eggs for their family, and some to sell. They then can breed the animals, as well. By suppling a few families in the poorest of villages, soon they are able to help each other out and help provide for the village as a whole. This is a Christian organization and well worth supporting. Also donations were made to Clean Water and Smile Train. This is such a worthy gift and honors us greatly. Pop and Mom started doing this years ago, and it has become a blessing to our family. To know that we, who need so little, are helping many who are in such need, is humbling. Thank you Pop for having such a giving heart and for being so willing to share so others may have a better life. You lead us well!
Levi sang ‘Happy Birthday, Jesus’ for us, and we all sang some Christmas songs together.
Then the little boys dug into their gifts and had a ball! Too soon, we were all stuffed and sleepy and the celebration came to an end! It couldn’t have been any sweeter!
THE MERRIEST DECEMBER 26….2014
Because Adam could not join us on Christmas, we extended our family celebration into the next evening. Oh, what joy it was for me to have all my children and all my grandchildren and Don and I in the same room at the same time! Adam and Alex and Ian had fun just playing and sharing tech stuff. They laughed and danced and sang and I watched it all with pride and happiness!
Levi finally gave out on us and the night had to come to a close. BUT…I had told the whole group I was getting pictures of my boys and nobody was leaving until I did! So, grudgingly, I got the boys and Don and I in three quick pics! Treasure, I tell you! Treasures!
You’d think folks would be glad I made a few photos of the day, wouldn’t you! They all like to have them after they are made! And, most of the family is cooperative….but these guys? Party poopers!
Can you believe it?
Jackson got his bath and posed for a sweet Christmas picture in his Christmas PJ’s beside my tree….gladly, I might add!
And, a few minutes ago they pulled out of the driveway, heading back to Birmingham. Levi is spending the day playing with his new toys, at home with Adam and Suzanne. Alex has retreated to his apartment to recuperate, Don is watching a movie, and I…I am here…documenting it all. I love to record the happy memories we make. I want my children to be able to look back on these posts one day and remember just how sweet the times were. I want my grandchildren and grandnephew to remember how blessed they are to be in a family that loves and adores them. I want us all to remember this is not by accident. It is by the grace and mercy of our Lord. Thank you, God.
“It is God who gives us these times of joy!” Nehemiah 12:43