A Whole Bunch of Firsts…

The day we first met. – July 31, 2004

First Kiss – Chicago, IL

Meet the Family weekend/First catch on the UNCSea – October 2009

It’s Official, first picture as a couple – Thanksgiving Day, 2009

First Trip to Savannah, our future home – February 2010

First day as an Engaged Couple, Charleston, SC – June 2010

First dance as Husband and Wife – March 19, 2011

Celebrating One Year of Wedded Bliss (belated) – June 2012

Celebrating my First Day as a PA-S – August 2012

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Then…

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The FIRST BIG SURPRISE of our lives! – February 20, 2013

First time seeing Baby G on our 2nd Wedding Anniversary – March 19, 2013

Coming soon, our First Baby!! – due October 24, 2013

Happiest Day in Heaven

I truly believe the saddest days on earth are some of the happiest days in Heaven.  The celebration that awaits us when we finally go Home is something I have always imagined to be simply amazing.  I don’t know if the celebration is any bigger for some than others, but if that is the case then let me tell you, Heaven is a hopping place right now welcoming in it’s newest angel, Mr. Tim Ballance.  Mr. Tim is my sweet Tar Heel’s step-father and an incredible man.

We only had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Tim for a brief period of time, but in that time he has managed to make a lasting impression on each of us in a profound way.  His strength, courage and incredible compassion and wonderful sense of humor is what we will all remember about him.  I remember last January, just a couple of months before our wedding, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride down to Savannah from NC with Mr. Tim and Mrs. Kay (the Tar Heel’s mother).  It was their first trip down to Savannah to visit our house and the city, and that trip will always be one of my happiest memories.

Mr. Tim and Mrs. Kay made me listen to 70s on 7 the entire five hour trip which actually took around 6.5 hours because Mr. Tim didn’t really like to drive over 60mph on the interstate :)  Once we (finally) got to Savannah, the Tar Heel wore a sweater vest in honor of Mr. Tim.  Mr. Tim was known for his love of sweater vests so the Tar Heel thought it would be “cute” if he wore one too. We toured the Tar Heel’s school buildings at SCAD, and I was most excited for showing off our house to Mr. Tim and Mrs. Kay (even though I wasn’t technically a resident there until two months later).  We ate at our favorite restaurants in town like Soho Cafe and The Shrimp Factory.

The best part of the entire trip occurred entirely by happenstance.  The Tar Heel was driving us around Savannah since he was the most familiar with the area at that point, and for some reason I was reprimanding him on his driving and getting a little worked up.  He pulled the car over and looked at me and made a funny hand gesture and said mostly playful and partially serious, “Take it eeeasssy.”  After about 5 seconds of complete silence, Mr. Tim ERUPTED in laughter which created the most hilarious domino effect you can imagine.  Mrs. Kay started cracking up at him laughing so hard, and soon Dustin and I joined in.  SO there we were, on the side of the road, packed into one car and laughing so hard we all had tears in our eyes.  It was so spontaneous, perfectly imperfect, and hardly recognizable for the gift that it truly was.  The best things in life often turn out that way.

Even when you expect it, you think you can prepare yourself for this feeling, but you can’t.  Living in Savannah, the Tar Heel and I have been distant from facing the pain and reality of the situation.  I think we kept thinking we would come home to visit and things would be back to normal.  But I knew last weekend when I went to see Mr. Tim in the hospital that things could never be that way again.  I also knew at that time that we would be selfish to want Mr. Tim to stay with us down here when he was suffering so badly.  He is so, so much better off in Heaven with our Lord and all the angels.  But it doesn’t make things any easier on those of us he had to leave behind.  We love you, Mr. Tim and can’t wait to see you again.  Keep a good eye on us until then.

All my love,

Gifts from Above

James 1:17 (NIV)

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I love this Bible verse.  It is one of my favorites, and one I have always associated with my relationship with the Tar Heel.  Truthfully, this verse has kept me open-minded, honest and most importantly grateful for the Tar Heel.  It is a reminder of everything that is good when I am upset, and a constant comfort when I am sad that we are apart.  It is a reminder of how very much our Father loves us, and that he brings people together to complete each other in ways we did not even know we needed completion. During the course of planning our wedding, we have certainly experienced some very exciting moments and some very stressful ones.  Now that we are exactly two months away today, we are really in the “short rows” (that’s country for “almost done”).  One of the most special things happened this weekend and I could hardly believe it when I found out.  It also really brought a new meaning to me and this verse.

My mom and I have always been close.  She is the sweetest, most loving and selfless person you will ever meet.  I can say that with all certainty now, only because the one other person in this world who could rival her ability to love and be selfless was my MaMa, her mother, who passed away almost  7 years ago.  MaMa was definitely the sweetest person I knew, besides my mom.  Every single ounce of goodness, love and selflessness I have, I attribute to these two women.  I think I am a perfect mix of “toughness” from my dad and “sweetness” from my mom.   I was definitely raised by three people when I was young, my mom, my dad and MaMa.  My MaMa was the person who gave me my first bath.  She was the one who always had a sausage patty on a piece of white bread waiting for us before school every morning (she lived only four houses down from us).  We went to her house after school, and stayed with her every summer.  Mom, MaMa, my brother Michael and me would go to Nahunta Pork Center every Saturday morning to buy meat (we are so country around here).  She was constantly there for every soccer game, tennis match, awards banquet, everything we ever did she was there.  So it is easy to understand that her passing was very difficult on all of us.  However, it didn’t really “hit me” until much later on. When I was in 10th grade, MaMa suffered a mini heart attack that left her unable to live on her own.  She came to live with us.  I was very unhappy about  this.  Just a few months before she came to stay with us, my brother left for college and I was finally the only child and had my OWN BATHROOM.  It was all my 16 year-old self cared about.  So having your very elderly, fragile grandmother move in with you at that age was unbearable to me.

Slowly we watched MaMa deteriorate.  She became more and more frail and sick and there was nothing any of us could do.  My final semester of high school I was taken out of school one day because MaMa had been hospitalized.  She suffered from a stroke and was left very weak.  She had to be moved to a rest home.  The rest home was in Smithfield, and my mother went to see her nearly every day she was there.  She brought her things she knew she couldn’t use.  She went religiously to see her, usually all by herself.  My dad and I always made excuses not to go, and Michael was still in college when this happened.  Regardless, none of us could stand going to see MaMa like that.  She wasn’t the MaMa we knew growing up, but my mom was the only one who understood how much she still needed us.  The rest of us were too busy being so selfish to visit the most selfless woman we knew.

She passed away shortly after I graduated from high school, and just a few weeks before my brother’s wedding.  I had no idea how selfish I had truly been until the years to come.  I started having dreams about MaMa on a regular basis.  She consumed my thoughts, and  I was consumed with guilt.  Finally, I started to realize that she was not in my thoughts to burden me with guilt, but to grant me peace about what happened when she died and help me to move past the guilt and into acceptance.  I am so thankful she has been a constant reminder of goodness and love in my life, even though she is not physically present anymore.  Instead of thinking back in pain of how I treated her at the end, I started to use the opportunities in front of me to be a light in other’s lives.  Every time an elderly person came to the pharmacy where I worked in college, I made certain to go out of my way to listen to them and help them as much as I could.  Eventually, every shift I worked the pharmacists and techs would transfer any and all calls from elderly people to me, because they knew the patience and care I would take with them.  I was so happy to help, and I loved seeing them happy in return.   Anytime someone made the comment “I don’t know how you have so much patience with them” I would always respond “Because someone once had the patience for my grandmother.”

The verse above took on an even greater meaning for me this past weekend.   While I was down in Savannah visiting the Tar Heel with Mama Kay and Timmy Buffet, my mom was running a few errands around home getting ready for the bridal shower she is hosting for us.  I stopped by my parent’s house on the way home from Savannah late Monday night, and mom was excited to share some news with me.  She was showing me the napkins she ordered for the shower, and told me I would never guess what happened at the florist when she went to order my corsage and centerpiece flower.  She went to a local florist, the same one she and MaMa have used for years.  After ordering the flowers, she went to pay for them and the owner of the shop told her not to worry about payment.  He remembered that MaMa had a credit on her account, after all these years.  I sat in shock as mom told me that MaMa bought the flowers for my bridal shower.  It was one of the greatest reminders I’ve had in a long time that love transcends all things, and that nothing can keep our Heavenly Father from providing us with gifts from above every single day.