July 06, 2018

SAS

Eight years ago, my husband was blessed to get a job at SAS in Cary, NC. It took months of applying, interviewing, praying, visiting the campus, and waiting... I will never forget standing in the hallway on my preschool when he called me to tell me that he got the job... I jumped up and down, squealed, ran down the hall hollering at all of my friends with excitement. It was a game changer for our family. The salary was not going to be a big change, but the benefits effected our lives greatly... 

Two days later, our family drove onto campus for the first time. It was the annual family night. There were people everywhere. Gourmet food tents, inflatables for the children, live music, dancing, free drinks, pelican snowballs, games similar to the State Fair... we were overwhelmed... 

With everything going on around us, my oldest son (who was 12 at the time) sat up and said "Dang, look at the grass. Perfect rows... This place is beautiful. I would kill to cut this grass. Could I work here one day?"

Of course, we all laughed and said, "who knows, wouldn't that be great?"

Then my son took botany in school and loved it... Then my Eagle Scout found a teacher who was also an Eagle Scout and was willing to give up his planning period to teach my son even more in the greenhouse and called it Botany II... Then my son and his friend started their own lawn service, had shirts made, and agreed to cut more than 15 yards every two weeks... After graduation from high school, my son started working for the Garden Shed... He would work through 100 degree weather, and be upset when it would rain and keep him from working... 

fast forward

This past May, my husband saw on the SAS website that they were hiring for the Landscaping Team. We thought it might be a long shot, but my son really wanted to try... so he applied. He received a call for an interview, however, he was working out of state. So, we started praying. The job recruiter agreed to wait three and a half weeks until my son returned home. We couldn't believe it. He had three interviews.

This past Monday, my son received a life changing phone call... The recruiter called and offered him the job. Soon, my son will cut the grass that he fell in love with over 8 years ago... 

We are beyond proud!

Listen to your children - Let them follow those dreams - 
And celebrate when those dreams become reality!

We have a lot to be thankful for with my son... he has overcome a lot in his life... schooling, expectations, poor choices, and a tragic accident that could have ended his life... but prayer and perseverance have won. In a couple of weeks, he will live his dream.

I love you, my boy... (Whose initials, by the way, are SAS - how cool is that?!?!)  

April 03, 2018

Blessed

so incredibly blessed

today, my husband went to work at a company that is in the top five companies in the world... not every day is glorious, however he enjoys his job. His job has benefits that are the envy of every human resource director. He is given time off for scouts, family events, and more.

so incredibly blessed

today, my oldest went to work at a company that provides him with training for a trade that will hold value for him for years to come. He has benefits and is able to travel all over the country. He is seeing places that I could not have shown him. He loves his job.

so incredibly blessed

today, my middle went to classes at a small, private college where she is planning to earn a degree to become a nurse. She is safe. She is on the Dean's List. She is at her parents' college. She is meeting people from all over the world who love the Lord, and will be future leaders. She is excelling.

so incredibly blessed

today, my youngest walked over 11,000 steps all over the zoo. He told us about every animal. He explained subjects to me that I do not understand. He was funny and entertaining. He actually enjoyed hanging out with his mother all day long. He is a middle schooler who loves school and his siblings.

so incredibly blessed

today, I spoke with each one of my children. I ate supper alone with my husband. I chatted and joked with both of my parents who live right across the street. I texted with close friends. I am enjoying my spring break, but will also enjoy going back to a job I love on Monday...

so incredibly blessed

Like most people, I have a lot to complain about every day. I am too cold or too hot. My butt is too big. I am tired. I am cranky. I am too busy. I am bored... but overall... I have no business complaining. I am blessed. Not rich, not thin, not famous... but so incredibly blessed.

Lord, help me to focus on my blessings and point my friends to their blessings as well!

February 19, 2018

Diddy

Dad - JC - John C Atkins - Papa - Johnny -  DIDDY

Today is an important day in history... February 19, 1943 marks the day my life would be forever changed. A little baby boy arrived to rule the day... He would grow up having three sisters and two brothers... He had a hardworking mother and a father that was not known for greatness... but he watched him and did the opposite! He started working while still just a child - he would rise early in the morning and deliver papers, and then give his mother the money to help with bills.

Fast forward

He started his first date with my mother waiting for her while sitting on a trashcan holding a lollipop for her - she still has this sucker (the candy and the man). It was a quick romance... my mom could see that he was a hard working man who loved to laugh and joke. They married young.

Fast forward

They wanted children, but it was not happening. Medicine, procedures, appointments, paperwork, and finally they discovered the greatest lady - Judy Upchurch... she was the social worker that brought them the sweetest, most amazing little bundle of greatness... ME

Fast forward

Growing up, my dad would call me Amanda Jane, much to my mother's horror (she hates nicknames). I knew how to work it! A little back rub, sweet talking, love on him and call him "diddy"... and if all else failed, wait until he was dozing in and out on the couch to ask permission! As a matter of fact, that is how I was able to go on my first real date! I asked my dad if I could go out without a chaperone, and he said yes... I had mom stand there as a witness... after that, there was a new rule in the house... "No asking dad for anything while he was dozing"

Fast forward

When planning the music for my wedding, my main goal was for me to NOT cry and for my dad TO cry... I must say that I was successful! It was so important to me to have my dad think that I was beautiful that day. I wanted to see his emotion. I needed him to be proud of me.

Fast forward

Getting off the plane, I knew my mother would cry and lose her mind. I guessed there would be balloons and gifts - I was right... but leaving the airport, there was the sight... my father carried Alex the entire way from the gate to our red van. Never a prouder papa. He cried over baby Jessica and adored her. He was scared to hold Caleb (he was 5.5 weeks early, 5.1 pounds, and had some issues), and cried/worried over him as if he were his father... His grandchildren know they are loved. They will grow up knowing that there is a hard working man across the street who will have their back forever.

Fast forward

My Diddy is 75 today... still working way too many hours... still doting on my mother and me... still volunteering at his church... plays on a dart ball team (we have to have his birthday celebration at 4:30 today so he is not late to dart ball!)... still adores his grandchildren (just returned yesterday from driving to Georgia to spend the weekend with Jessica)...

Happy Birthday to one of my greatest gifts. God had to do a lot of maneuvering to get us together, but He knew it would be worth it.

Happy Birthday, Diddy! 

February 10, 2018

rain

I hate rain...

yes, the flowers need it
yes, the sound is relaxing
yes, people say we need to fill the lakes and reservoirs


however

I have white indoor dogs - they seem magnetically attracted to mud
I teach preschool children - they need the playground time


I am sure there are more reasons... deep psychological reasons...

but regardless,

I hate rain...

I need to move to Arizona... or San Diego...


UGH




...

February 05, 2018

HAZEL

My Hazel... My Linda Hazel Autry Atkins... my number one fan... my first friend... the lady who is in my corner... the one in every audience where I sang... heck, the one in every audience where my choirs sang that I directed... the first one I call for major life events... the one with the biggest smile and sweetest tears in the airport in 1998... the first one inside the hospital room in 1999... the one holding my left leg inside the hospital room in 2005...

Y'all, my mother has a birthday today... it is a big one. She turns 75 today. I have promised her that we would celebrate her 85th though... my mom has never understood those ladies who lied about their age or would keep it a secret... to tell someone that you are less than you are, she thinks that is crazy... If anything, she says, you should add ten years so that people think, "Dang, you look amazing!"

So, therefore,

HAPPY 85th BIRTHDAY, MOM!

I can not begin to imagine all of the amazing things that she has been able to witness. I have watched this lady have numerous surgeries, several hard times, hundreds of laughs, and tears from good and bad...

She is my rock.

Mom, I love you more than I can type or put into words. I hope you feel celebrated on this Monday. I can not wait to celebrate your day with you... your cake is ready and already has the "85" on it!



January 28, 2018

fun in the dorm

It has been fun having my daughter going to my alma mater... it has been interesting to see the changes on campus; the new buildings, the differences in the rules, the new professors... it has been funny to hear the same complaints; the yucky cafeteria food, no toilet paper in the dorm bathrooms, people not picking up after themselves... Scott and I have re-lived a ton of memories over the past 6 months. Jessica's best friend is actually living IN MY DORM ROOM which I loved dearly. So many memories and so many laughs...

Jess had the perfect roommate last semester. She was neat, kind, considerate, quiet, musical, and a wonderful student. Jess loves her. They did not hang out, but enjoyed being together... the perfect rooming situation. I told Jess often that she will never have such a great roommate! We were sad to hear that her roommate was moving back home to become a commuter this semester... we were also concerned to see what kind of girl would she be placed with after having such a great semester with "L".... well, there was not a ton of new transfers, so Jess will have the room to herself for now.

I travelled down to Georgia for a quick 24 hours visit this past weekend to help her set up the room. We dressed the bed for overnight guests, yet comfy enough to be a couch when she wanted... We added rugs to try to hide the same yucky carpet that I would swear was there when I was a student. We put pictures on the wall and hung cute little lantern lights. She added her favorite Bible verses to the walls. Basically, we kept command strips in business... seriously!

It was crazy to see that girls were just starting to get up and move around after 2pm on Saturday. It was so quiet in the dorm. I do not remember the silence.

I am proud of my girl. She has worked hard, kept grades up, and kept her eyes focused on her goals. She is definitely her daddy's girl.
It was nice to be with her, even if it was for a short moment.
It was a quick reminder that she is amazing...
I love you, Puddin'.


Jess, I love your room. I think you chose wonderful colors, rugs, and pictures... but my favorite thing in the room is the beauty sitting at the desk - xoxo

January 22, 2018

almost

hard to think about... nine months ago, I almost lost my oldest son. It was 8pm. I was sitting in a dark movie theater alone... I had never been to a movie alone before. My daughter and a friend were watching a movie somewhere else in the building, so I went to enjoy alone time... I got a text from Alex at 8:03 saying "hey"... I replied that I was in a movie... at 8:06 I received a text from my husband saying,  " call me 911"

worst feeling ever as I ran out of the theater, down the corridor to the exit, tried to locate my car while in a panic, find rides home for the girls I was abandoning in the theater behind me, call two friends to alert them that I was headed to the hospital and had no idea what was going on...

I arrived at Durham Regional Hospital as Scott drove up with our son... My son who is taller than anyone in our home, the most athletic child, the strongest young man I know, was folded in half in a wheelchair, moaning/crying and did not recognize me as his mother... In that moment, I immediately knew it was beyond horrible. I could not process anything for the next few moments.

As we moved to the back of the hospital to the emergency room, lots of people came in and out. Scans were done, doctors spoke, nurses flew in and out... and then there was the declaration of skull fracture, brain contusions, brain bleed... life flight needed to Duke Hospital... It all happened so quickly that I struggled to stay on top of things and be able to hear each word... I wrote notes in my phone so I could remember phrases and diagnoses... meanwhile, Alex went silent. He made no noise except for random loud moans that could make my heart rip out of my chest and bleed silently on the floor...

no parent should ever hear these noises

It was a parental hell in which I wanted to escape, yet I could not move. The waiting room filled quickly with my parents, close friends, small group members... their texts to us back in the back depths of the hospital kept me focused and sane... their presence meant that people were praying for my baby boy who was laying in front of me hurting and unconscious. I was unable to pray that night... sadly it never came to mind. I was so intently focused on every syllable that uttered from any person in scrubs. I paced floors, held my child's hand without his knowledge, and wanted to scream. I would have laid on the table beside him if allowed. Heck, I would have hit my own head and taken all of the injury just to allow him to walk out...  but he did not wake up.

He had three MRI's in the span of four hours. Each one was worse than the previous one. He was labeled a Level Two Brain injury... there are seven levels and level one is the absolute worst and close to death. He had 30 electrodes placed on his head to monitor for seizures... I was transfixed on the monitors and the IV of which he had 5 bags hanging and draining into his arm. He had an open wound on his right palm... actively dripping blood on to the floor... I begged a doctor to please get someone to dress that wound... it was at that moment where I learned that this was so much worse and more horrible than I had even allowed myself to believe... "If he makes it through the next 24 hours, we will worry with his hand..."

no parent should ever hear these words

I did not sleep Sunday night... Heck, I rarely slept that week. Scott finally went home Monday night to check on our other two kids and get a suitcase packed for the hospital... we agreed to alternate nights in the hospital so our other two kids could see us and hopefully not fully understand how serious our sweet baby boy's injuries were... As a mother, I desperately needed to protect all three of my children... from everything... I realized that I can not do that at all. We merely existed Monday, Tuesday, and half of Wednesday... there are many stories from those days... many miracles... many more heartaches and fears... many visits from family and friends who had words of encouragement and prayers of healing... I would love to say that they meant so much to me and encouraged me... But my only focus was my baby boy... I would see him in that bed... almost too long for it, messy blonde hair from the glue left from the electrodes, unable to move, unable to speak, struggling with communication, rarely aware of his surroundings, and yet I would only see a little 16 month old toddler walking out of an orphanage and into my heart... hoping desperately that he would walk again and be able to speak to me...

no parent should ever have these fears

Wednesday afternoon, they brought in a tall walker... it was a struggle, but he made it down a hall... I cried as he left the room. Scott walked with Alex and his therapist, but I could not budge. I was too emotional to stand up from the chair... I was in shock that he could do it but devastated to see my strong, tree climbing child struggle to walk... It was almost too much. It took a lot out of him and so he then slept for 6 hours (minus the constant waking for neuro-checks).

Thursday, they did not bring a walker... yet, Alex walked. He walked a lap around the entire floor. His neuro-surgeon and residents were standing in the hallway - they gave him double takes... and triple takes, then stopped by our room to ask me "was that really just Alex that sped passed us?" We could see him getting better. But Alex could not speak. The moan/groan that he made when attempting to speak was disturbing, loud, and unrecognizable. The doctors said it would be anywhere from 12 months to never before he could talk... it could be that he would have no speech ever. With brain injuries as serious as his, one could not predict anything... I was happy to have him alive. We would deal with the language... just give me my child to take home.

Alex had a 2.5 inch skull fracture, two brain contusions, and a 18mm brain bleed that were all located at the communication center area of the brain... He could understand what we were saying. He could write some (his handwriting was amazingly better than anything he had ever written). He could use hand signals or point to pictures on a communication board. But he could not make any sounds close to words.


Back to Sunday night - Alex had returned home from working in Oklahoma around 5:30pm. He had taken his brother to go bowling. The bowling alley was packed, so they came home and he decided to take his long board out and go for a ride. Alex is 20 years old... he has ridden skateboards, skim boards, ripsticks, and long boards since he was five. He is crazy coordinated and talented on these things. He understands parkour and knows how to jump off and land softly... He left the house on his longboard around 7:30pm. Around 8pm, Alex sent me a snapchat of him riding his board on a flat surface having fun somewhere in our neighborhood... less than five minutes later, his doctor predicts that he was hit by a car due to his injuries. He had a severe blow to the head on his left side and then all his abrasions were on his right hand, arm, hip, side, leg... Alex was able to have the clarity of mind to text me then try to call Scott. However, when Scott answered the phone, Alex could not speak. He could not say where he was, what happened, or anything. Scott immediately got in the car and started hunting for him. By the time he found him, Alex could not walk and could not speak and did not recognize my mother. Scott drove him to the hospital. At the arrival there, Alex could not move, could not communicate at all, did not know who we were or where he was... it was 8:25pm. We were admitted at 8:35, travelled in the Life Flight ambulance (scott and alex only) at 9:40... Spent numerous hours in the neurological ER at Duke before being admitted to the Neuro ICU at 3am Monday early morning.... it was all a blur and whirlwind.

Thursday evening, we were able to move to the step down unit on the Neuro Floor... then every hour was an improvement with still no words... He was able to put on real clothes. He could bathe himself if Scott was in there in case he got dizzy. He could decide his own meals and request food from area restaurants that I would call friends and make happen... but he did not speak. He took walks and even climbed several flights of stairs to the rooftop in order to see the life flight helicopter and meet the pilots. We took tons of pictures and were finally hopeful that we would leave the hospital...

Sunday... exactly one week from the scariest day of my 46 years, we were able to leave Duke. As we packed the bags and were preparing to walk out of his room - I saw a gorgeous bird... I asked "did you see that bird?"; I was talking to Scott... but I heard a loud, odd sounding "I do"... the most beautiful voice ever spoken. It sounded odd, stuttered, and like that from a hearing impaired child, but it was glorious.

every parent should feel this joy and hope

After the longest week of my life, we jumped in with two feet to the fastest several weeks ever. Alex's words started coming the following Tuesday while playing a video game with a friend... His speech was slurred like a drunk man, but it was getting better...


Nine months later, my child is working in San Antonio, Tx. He is healed... sometimes if he is tired or over-excited, I can hear a little speech impediment... but he is alive, strong, working, talking, and back to being the annoying crazy child that he has always been!

God is good, my friend... He came even without me asking. He healed when we did not know it would be possible. He has a plan for my boy... and I vow to watch every step of the way!