Thief of Hearts

20150213_205509 When Matthew was born and for a couple years subsequently we wrote a lot about his struggle through 3 heart surgeries. Here’s a snapshot of Matthew now, after he came to stay with me last night. We took him to a Mardi Gras parade in Orange Beach, AL – which is as tame as parades get and so perfect for kids (and snow birds, apparently!).

This little guy is so awesome. He walked around waving, smiling and announcing “Happy Mardi Gras!” to everyone he passed. To the ladies he’d announce: “Happy Valentine’s Day!” Then at one point he looked me right in the eyes and said: “You are special!” After a positive reaction from me he added this to his repertoire for others.

It was fascinating to watch as people just melted before him, in the presence of his big smile and endless exuberance. It was a bit like watching a crowd do “the wave” as we walked down the street. People standing, staring, lost in thought, concern and worries about whatever, waiting for a parade to pass before them and throw some trinkets. Then out of nowhere comes this sweet little voice, drifting into their ears spreading well-wishes and you could watch it move, like it was a tangible thing – recognition of something different, heads turning as they seek to identify the source, involuntary smiles lighting up their faces as they are pulled unwittingly into “the now” by this gregarious 4 year old. Without time to think about it, they do their best to engage him, not realizing what they want is to hold on to this feeling, this moment, when this little guy reached into their heart and effortlessly squeezed a little love from it, and then replaced it with pure joy, the joy that is simply – being human, and seeing in that sweet face, all the goodness that is in you reflected right back for you to clearly see.

For a kid born with half a heart, he certainly has mastered the art of stealing them from others everywhere he goes. On this day of love, it’s worth noting the half of his heart that functions is bigger and more full than most of ours with both sides functioning. We are so blessed to have this child in our lives. Matthew – YOU, my little buddy, are SPECIAL! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Blowing Away The Cobwebs

Orange Beach SunriseNothing like a 2 year writing hiatus, while MFN sits and collects some dust and a few cobwebs. Since the blog has emerged in conversation recently and seems to keep coming up I’ve found myself writing in my head again. This is where posts are born. I’m humming along, doing my thing (biking, kayaking, cooking, cleaning, showering, etc.) and suddenly words are being formed in my head and I’m forced to stop what I’m doing and capture them (or not, and allow them to vanish).

This hasn’t happened much the last couple years, as I’ve been in major transition. If you read my last post you know old Leon found me while I was looking at a house for sale on the Alabama gulf coast. Subsequently, I found a lovely home in one of my favorite little towns on Pleasure Island, about 30 miles from my encounter with Mr. N-U-L-L.

I bought said home and left Knoxville (and yes, the good man I married, from whom I’m happy to say I had the most amicable parting in the history of divorce – a testament to two people who truly loved each other but just weren’t compatible for the long haul), and spent the last couple years settling into my new city, which likes to refer to itself as “A quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem” (though I don’t think we have the monopoly on that description).

It’s been an interesting couple of years, filled with some of the highest highs and the lowest lows I’ve experienced thus far in my life. Oddly the biggest extreme between hitting the low and subsequently reaching the high was amazingly short. I attribute this to a number of things, not the least of which was finally asking for help when I needed it. To that end I’d be remiss not to give a shout out to my dear friend Wendy, who heard that request and responded in spades.  As did many others (all of whom I hope will forgive my omitting their names here – you know who you are and I love and thank you all).

Additionally, finding a fun, amazing, eclectic and very accepting group of locals has been like discovering an oasis in the desert. Not to knock Knoxville, because I know many people are happy there, but in 7 years I’m not sure I managed to accumulate more than 5 or 6 people I’d call “friends.” Here on the island, however, it’s like I’ve always known these people. Is that the island mindset, or is it that people who would make the choice many others only talk or dream about (moving to the beach) are just more likely to be MY kind of people?

What I can say for certain is that I have a TON of observations and stories to share from my short time here. Many days it feels like I opened up a fantastic novel and, rather than reading from the outside, physically wandered into the middle and became part of it, “Neverending Story” style.

So here is my “housecleaning” blog post… dusting off the cobwebs and shining her up again. Here’s me, rolling up the sleeves and blowing off the fingertips as I put them to keyboard and begin to let the thoughts once again take shape somewhere besides my journal (and my “Dear Wendy Diaries” – but that’s another story).

Deck Staining Project (or, the picture of true friendship)

Without hesitation I can say I have the greatest friends on earth. I know, everyone thinks they do, but seriously, check this out. About a month ago two of my friends, Carolyn and Jessie, spent the weekend with me and Ryan putting in two long days completely landscaping the front and back yard of our home. Last weekend, even though Ryan was gone, they came back and stained the entire deck with me. I’m talking about a second floor, 31×14 deck with more spindles than you notice until you are meticulously staining each one. We worked 11 hours Saturday and another 9 Sunday.

By the way, I hired Vince Henry to oversee the project and to do all the “ladder work” around the outside of the deck (plus all the other stuff we didn’t want to do). The four of us were like the dream team. Vince did an outstanding job and I highly recommend him if you need work done. Also, if you need to improve your golf putting game, check out his patented golf putter.

Before/after below:


Tragedy? What Tragedy?

As anyone with a CHD child in their life knows, good news is always fully embraced, while the fear of new potential health risks and dangers lurk, never far from conscious thought. In the McClurg family however, we have come to expect bad news to be but a wrinkle in our day, from which we gather ourselves, do what needs to be done, and move forward.

For example, on July 3rd, 2001, my father was told he had renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer), and should return to the hospital on July 5th to have his kidney removed. Continue reading “Tragedy? What Tragedy?”

Matthew’s Journey

I’ve been ignoring my own blog lately, but with good reason. The last several weeks I’ve been channeling my “inner Matthew” and posting on Matthew’s Journey, in his own words, of course. Matthew is my nephew, son to my youngest brother William and his wife Nikki. In the final few months of anticipation of and preparation for the arrival of their first son, William and Nikki learned Matthew has a rare heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) with Endocardial Fibroelastosis (EFE). Continue reading “Matthew’s Journey”

The Littlest Food Critics

After several months of research and writing around oil spill related topics, it was nice to have my 7 and 8 year old niece and nephew up for a diversion, I mean visit, over the last week. This was their first time staying at our house without their parents. Since we live in Knoxville now and they live in Mobile, we all met in Birmingham to make the switch.

The drive home really set the tone. We began by instituting our “everybody plays, nobody whines” weekend theme. They had to chant it 5 times to ensure they got it. Since they hated saying it, that was a handy little gem during their tenure with us.

We then embarked on a discussion ranging from cellular regeneration to the placebo effect, eliciting rapid-fire questions from the 8 year old, who was totally engaged. It’s so funny how quickly children can switch between intelligent adult conversation and random make-believe. I wish there were a physical switch for adults for just that transition! We could go from a business lunch to a city-wide game of tag in seconds.

Their biggest challenge turned out to be in the food area. We have fairly strict food guidelines in our house (nothing with HFCS comes through the door, we avoid packaged, processed foods, buy local and organic to greatest extent possible, and all meat comes only from grass-fed and/or free range, hormone-free etc. animals, for example). So when the kids said they wanted “hot dogs” apparently what we served them is not what they had in mind.

Another great thing about kids is that they are brutally honest. Well, it CAN be great. After about the third meal setting down a dish in front of them, only to be followed by: “I don’t like this!” I started to wonder if honesty really is always the best policy! It’s a little ego-damaging to be told, meal after meal, that you’re a complete culinary failure, even by an 8 year old.

I did discover that my idea of “parenting” was all wrong. If you aren’t a parent and haven’t had the joy of extended trips with little ones, I would best define it as: slave labor. I felt less like their caretaker than their personal servant!

We watched Harry Potter, which they’d never seen. Although we’ve seen the movies already, I found it was a totally different experience to watch with the kids and to see them through the eyes of the children.

I got to have lots of little side conversations about how the brain works and of harnessing the power of our minds to influence our realities and to positively impact not just our lives but the lives of those around us. This is one of my favorite topics so having the little ones so interested in it gave me great joy.

The dogs however, were a bit less pleased. Occasionally I’d glance over to see one of them covered in kids and casting a glance my way, as though to ask: Why?? But we all survived, even the kids, I’m happy to report! They went home yesterday, and I returned to two happy puppies, both of whom think I’m Julia Childs meets Emeril Lagasse! Ahhh… everybody’s happy, nobody complains!

Latest Miracle Discovery: Bar Keepers Friend

Last summer I told you about an all-natural solution to a gnat infestation problem we had, recommended by my friend Jessie, the organic gardener. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I have discovered that for every household problem I encounter, no matter how obscure, Jessie has a remedy. And they always seem to work like magic!

On Jessie’s latest visit to our new home we were talking about our counter tops, which are Corian, as is the sink. The sink started out a nice creamy shade of off-white, but it seems that everything that touches it leaves little stains, which we can’t seem to get clean. Off-handedly I remarked: “yeah, and if you know of anything that will actually get the sink clean, let me know!”  In what I now know to be perfect Jessie style she said: “As a matter of fact, I do.”

She then proceeded to tell us about the Bar Keepers Friend. It has since become a very good friend of the Roth’s as well. Ryan found some in the store, brought it home and used it on the sink. I could not believe my eyes. The sink was sparkling like new again.

Ryan then decided to see what else it could clean. He used it on the shower doors, which we usually end up scrubbing to get clean. He proclaimed it allowed him to simply wipe the shower doors clean, no scrubbing needed!  Then he tried it on my tea press, which I use to brew my loose leaf tea each morning. Suddenly the once brown press was now bright silver again, like new!

Having a success trifecta firmly in hand, I decided it was time to share the latest miracle with the rest of you loyal readers. Now go, and live cleanly, effortlessly. 😉

Celebrating Dr. John (Tom) Mentzer

During the course of my MBA studies at The University of Tennessee I was one of the fortunate students to have had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Tom Mentzer. Much has been written about Dr. Mentzer and in far more eloquent ways than could I, so I won’t attempt to replicate that here.  Dr. Mentzer passed away last Friday, following his 2+ year battle with cancer.

The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals has written a bio about Dr. Mentzer’s incredible life, and has made available a short book Dr. Mentzer wrote during his battle and you can find it here.

I read the book this week and can tell you the first 5 pages alone changed my attitude. I would sum it up this way: “do more celebrating and less enduring in your life.”  One section talks about the question “Why?”  I love his point that some questions simply do not have answers and we call those: “fundamental axioms.” He says: “What a great term! I will never know the answer so we will assume it’s a certain way and then not worry about it.”  What an excellent philosophy!

Give yourself a gift – read his short book (45 pages) this weekend.  Then, go celebrate life!

Cheers, Dr. Mentzer! Thank you for continuing to give to us, even in your absence. We celebrate you!