Friday, December 27, 2013

Genetics: We pass it all down. The good, the bad and the ugly!

From the beginning, when our offspring are still growing and kicking on the inside, we wonder...who will she look like? Will he have his dad's big hands and feet? His grandpa's red hair? This new one entering the gene pool will carry traits from ancestors, many of whom they will never meet. 

The majority of what our children become is most closely linked to momma and daddy. My 18 year old Rebecca, is almost a clone of me. It's been like that since she was born. I produced a mini-me. Actually, there's not much of her dad in her at all. She's an Underwood through and through. Not only does she resemble me, but her talents, traits and hobbies are mine as well. She's a hair twirler. All of my dad's sisters did that. Eight of them, I think. I never had that habit, but all of my Underwood aunts did. Rebecca never knew any of them. They are scattered all over, so she has never been around them. She winds a little hair around her index finger and pulls it along the hair. It's a coping mechanism. She says it's either that or picking her cuticles. That would be from me as well. 

My dad was a thumb twiddler. He rolled his thumbs around and around each other, probably not even realizing he was doing it sometimes. When James was little I looked over at him in church, and there he sat, twiddling his thumbs. My dad died when James was two. I asked him if he had ever seen anyone do that and he said no. He just liked doing it. 

Both of my daughters have my love of music and singing. They can carry a tune and love many different genres. The Chaffins are singers too, so I should be fair and not take all the credit there. James, however, was not blessed with the gift of music and song.

Then there's the "bad" stuff they get from us. Rachel and James had wisdom teeth that tried to come in sideways. The top of the tooth would have poked out the side of their gums, if there was enough room for them, which of course, there was not. Narrow jawbones. Underwoods have strong genes. Apparently, ingrown toenails are very hereditary. Rebecca has yet to thank me for that. 

James has my dad's height, my long neck, and more of his dad's personality traits than mine. He likes working with his hands like his dad and both Grandpas. Like them he doesn't care much for academics and only likes school for the fellowship. 

If you want to know what a girl is going to look like in twenty or thirty years, usually, just look at her mom. Sure there are lots of girls who more closely resemble their dads and boys who are more like their moms. Sometimes a girl looks more like her aunt than her mom. Genetics are strange. They skip around the generations landing on whichever newbie they chose. 

We pass it all along. The good. The bad. The ugly. Not just genetics determine our offspring's appearance and behavior, but our homes and lifestyle. They learn what they live and are probably going to repeat it as adults. For better or worse, most kids end up with a marriage similar to the one their parents had. They learn about work ethics and morals. Or they learn to be lazy, believing they are entitled and live off hand outs. It's nice to know there are some things we can control. Can't do much about body type, eye color, height or how straight teeth come in. But we can try and help them grow into responsible adults who aren't a burden to society. Hopefully, we can do that in spite of however the genes collide. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

(Car) Accidents Happen

On this early Christmas Eve morning, I'm wide awake. Occasionally, I wake up at 3 or 4 and it's just time to get up. No going back to sleep. My body would be happy to stay warm and wrapped in a cocoon of blankets, but my mind is at a Nascar race. 

This year I didn't buy as much as I usually do for my kids. It's just stuff and they already have plenty of that. I'm trying to follow Dave Ramsey's philosophy about going in debt. I doubt if I'll ever do his envelope-thing, but he's right on the money about credit card debt. It's a pit that's difficult to claw your way out of. 

After Christmas last year Rebecca and Rachel took and old coffee can and wrote on it, "I was happy when...." We took little pieces of paper all year long and added them to the happy can. It's full now. They reminded me often to write something that I'm happy about. We decided to read them all after we open gifts. Each one will spark a sweet, happy memory. Something that makes you smile is worth writing down and remembering. I'm looking forward to that as much as the gifts. I added dozens of little scrap papers to the happy can, but the one dearest to my heart was written just a few days ago. I am SOOOO happy that Rachel was not hurt in a car accident. 

We finally got her car up and running. The car that we thought needed a few repairs was actually a fixer-upper. Saturday, the combination of a sharp curve and going downhill on wet pavement resulted in a crash. She spun out, crossing lanes and hit a guard rail. As traumatic as it was, it was relatively minor as far as car accidents go. It all happens in a second. A second that can change a life or end a life. Okay, I won't go there. We covered that on the last blog. If there had been oncoming traffic, it would have ended much worse. If there hadn't been a guard rail it would have ended much worse. I'm so thankful for the nice lady who stayed with Rachel til Cliff got there. I wish I knew who she was so I could hug her. She was with my girl when I couldn't be. She comforted and calmed a shaken and scared teenager. She is my Christmas Angel. Cliff beat the police there and miraculously did not cause another accident by speeding and wreckless driving. I suspect he may have taken out a couple mail  boxes or taken a short cut through someone's yard, but he hasn't fessed up to that yet. The car has front end damage and Rachel is sore, but both will recover. A car is just a thing. People are more important than things, according to the other financial guru Suze Orman. She is 100% correct. Cars can be replaced. People can't. 

So on this morning, I'm thankful to have Rachel well and unscathed. I'm blessed to have a home and family. I'm beyond blessed to have presents waiting under the tree for tomorrow morning. 

Reminder from Dave Ramsey: Avoid credit card debt at all costs. 
Reminder from Suze Orman: People are more important than things. Reminder from Debbie Chaffin: Be thankful. Be blessed. Make yourself a happy-can and open it next Christmas! 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

On Death and Dying....

Death does not care who you are. It does not care if you are rich, poor, happy, sad, black, white, straight, gay, young, old, fat or skinny. It does not care about your religious views or social status. One day, this old world will still be spinning and I won't be here. There is no more humbling thought. I am mortal.

I wonder if my death will be peaceful and a relief after a long illness or sudden and shocking. Will I ever sit in a doctor's office and hear, "Get your affairs in order," or will a drunk driver take me out on the way to Kroger? Sudden deaths are harder to cope with. The shock value changes everything. 

I hope I never have to live one day on this planet without my kids here. Parents who have buried children are a special kind of brave and strong. I just don't want to ever have to be that brave and strong. 

I can't go to a funeral without looking around and thinking, "Who's next?" I also can't go to a funeral without bawling, no matter how close I am to the one who died or their family. It's just heart wrenching to see a wife stand over her husband or a dad touch is son's cheek as his tears fall on the boy's shirt. I never know what to say to the family. No need to even say, "I'm sorry." They've already heard it a hundred times. Usually, I just hug and say nothing. I hope that's okay. Sometimes words can hurt more than heal, even with the best intentions. 

I hope I never live to be a burden to my kids. I never want to live in a nursing home. I don't want to have a poor quality of life. I don't want to lose my memory and mind to alzheimers. If I can't move, am blind or deaf, if I can't enjoy my friends and family because I don't know them anymore, then I'd like to bid this world a fond farewell and go sing with Jesus. 

I've never been with anyone right when they died, but I have been with people shortly before. I find it fascinating that they see things! If they can talk, they might say they see angels, or people who have gone on before. My grandma saw golden stairs with angels. She said they were there to help her walk up the stairs. At the top was a door. She would reach her hand out like she was trying to grab something. I asked what she was doing and she said, "Trying to open the door." My dad had a premonition of his impending death. Something in his soul told him he would not live much longer. He did a few things, out of the ordinary, that now make sense as something he wanted to do before he died. 

God didn't make our bodies to last long. Just as a fog or mist. We are here, then we are gone. I hope when I'm gone I will leave a legacy of love and compassion.