Monday, April 17, 2017

Ten Things About My Dad

1. He and my mom were best friends and head-over-heels in love. I never saw them fight, and I only saw my mom mad at him one time ... and he deserved it and made it right. They did everything together. Several people who came to Dad's funeral expressed their love for my mom as well and said it was impossible to think of one without the other. They were a perfect pair.

2. He had some fun stories. Somehow my Uncle Bill (Porterfield) had an extra press pass at NASA in Houston during the moon landing in 1969 and offered it to Dad. Of course he took it! He said Bill assigned him to interview journalists from other countries and get their opinions and reactions to the big event. He also used to tell the story about the time he was in high school playing touch football with some friends on a weekend, and a limo rolled up ... and Elvis stepped out! He asked if he could join the game, and thus an epic game of touch football was written in my dad's history book.

3. He loved tennis. He and Mom used to play tennis every weekend and several times during the week. I remember playing at the Country Club, and later at the OB City Park, while they played. He also had the opportunity to call games during a celebrity tennis tournament that came to Memphis once a year. He took me a few times and I got to watch some true greats. He also used to bring home autographed score cards, from players like John McEnroe, Billy Jean King, Ilie Nastase, and Andre Agassi. And one time, I met Jimmy Connors in the hallway and got his autograph myself! He and Mom (mainly Dad, actually) wanted to see all four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, and a couple of years ago he did it! He went to the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open all during one summer, then about a year and a half later he went to the Australian Open.

4. Dad was a romantic at heart, but his approach to life was always level headed and logical. He had some great one-liners. A few that I can remember from my childhood ... When I was acting up, he would say, "I love you no matter what, but I want other people to love you, too." Or, "Nobody cares how you feel; they only care how you act," which seems pessimistic, but pretty accurate when you think about it. (And he always cared how I felt.) It was his cynical-sounding version of 'put on a happy face.' He also used to say, "I may grow old, but I'll never grow up!"

5. He was the principal of the Olive Branch Middle School for more than 30 years. At the time (I'm sure it's different now) paddling was an acceptable punishment at school. His former students have said to me that when they got sent to his office, he always talked to them about their choices, never raised his voice or showed anger, and often gave them words of advice. He then would offer them the choice of a paddling at school or something else, like a note sent home or in-school-suspension, depending on the severity of the offense. As far as I've heard, he always showed respect for the students, regardless of the circumstances. Even when one of them had to come see him in the office, when he saw them later in the day, he would pat them on the back and smile. And no, he didn't use the paddle at home, and since I had a summer birthday I never had any 'licks.'

6. Dad loved history. He studied English and Anthropology in college, and he loved visiting new places and learning about the culture and the people there. He knew all sorts of interesting facts about almost everything.

7. He was always willing to help, more than I realized. For 35 years he volunteered as the emcee of the OB Christmas Parade. It was a lot of work, took an entire Saturday, and often he had to sit out in the cold or the rain, but he did it. Since his passing, family members, students and friends alike have reached out to share stories of times Dad helped find a job, provided motivation to keep them from quitting college, provided words of advice at a pivotal moment or pointed them in the right direction when they were having trouble finding their way. He spent hours personally installing lockers at the middle school to save the school money; he wrote letters of recommendation for former students and teachers; he was always willing to lend a hand.

8. He had a great sense of humor and a huge laugh. He taught me to find the humor in everything and even to laugh at myself. When Mom was alive he laughed easily and often. In recent years he lost some of that spark, but I am sure he and Mom are having a great time together now. Probably laughing at me. ;)

9. He loved his backyard. Mom put in flowerbeds in 1989 and always kept azaleas, impatiens, hostas, nandinas, and other beautiful things. Dad used to have birdfeeders in the yard until he just couldn't stand watching the squirrels steal the food from them anymore. He also had a system installed that sprays an organic mist (from chrysanthemums) twice a day to repel mosquitos and biting flies, so he could sit in his backyard and enjoy the birds and the flowers. He told me one time that he felt closest to God when he was sitting in his backyard on a beautiful day enjoying nature.

10. He enjoyed art, in all its forms. He and Mom bought season tickets to the Orpheum in Memphis for years, and he continued going after her death. He loved going to see shows there. He also decorated his house and his condo downtown with beautiful original paintings. He would look at them and talk about how much he admired the colors, the lines, etc ... they brought him joy. He loved going to museums, which was one of my favorite things to do with him when I was a kid. He viewed nature as art, whether he was soaking in sunshine in his backyard, looking for a bird he had never seen before on a vacation, or admiring the colors of the desert in Arizona. He could get lost in a book of poetry, another one of my favorite pastimes with Dad. He had great respect for anyone who could paint a picture with words. He memorized his favorite poem, "Sea Fever" by John Masefield, and always teared up when he recited it. We had it printed inside the program at his memorial service. It was perfect.

                                       Sea Fever
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; 
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ten Things About My Mom

1. She loved to laugh. She laughed with her whole body. She didn't even mind laughing at herself.

2. She really shined when she was up in front of people. This is one thing that made her such an amazing teacher. All through my childhood, she was involved in community theater. It was so fun to help her memorize lines, then see her put on a costume and become a different person on the stage.

3. She was a traveler. She wanted to see everything. She and Dad traveled back and forth across the US many times and all over Europe. She wrote in her journal every night on our trips and took pictures of everything. When we went on a road trip, she would choose another trip to read about from her journal. We had fun remembering and reliving our previous adventures.

4. She made friends everywhere she went. People were drawn to her because she was just fun to be around.

5. She kept friends. She listened when they had troubles, she shared their joys and sorrows, she never forgot to keep in touch. She had friends who had been close for decades.

6. She really wanted to get the most out of life. She never stopped. Lunches with friends, golf, trips, volunteering, making cheeseballs with women from St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, working part-time at Weight Watchers on the side while teaching middle school algebra. I know some of you think I'm busy ... well, this is where I get it! Two days before I was born (full-term), she was out playing tennis in the July Mississippi heat! However, I should add, she rarely passed up an opportunity to sleep in!

7. She was a voracious reader. She was always in the middle of a book. I'm not sure how she found the time with a full-time job, a house to keep, and a family, but she sure did. The last book she read was "The Help."

8. She was a good cook. Dad used to tease her about not cooking much. It wasn't her favorite thing to do, but when she did it, she was good at it. Even when she was using weight watchers recipes.

9. She used to worry about her weight. It was something she struggled with for years. She used to get a solid milk chocolate bunny at Easter and keep it in the freezer. That way, when she wanted to indulge, she could get it out and cut off a small piece to gnaw on for a while.

10. She was brave when it mattered. She didn't like roller coasters and refused to try sushi, but she loved to go whitewater rafting and traipse all over the globe. When she got sick, she looked death right in the eye and said, "I know you'll win, but you're not getting the best of me!" She planned her own funeral and arranged for her cremation so Dad wouldn't have to do it. She bought her own urn and his as well because she got a good deal on two. She asked a couple of friends to play flute and sing at her service, and she asked her brother Clay to give the eulogy. She asked my sister to write her obituary and had me  help choose the music. I don't think anyone can fully appreciate how awful that must have been for her. But she still managed to smile through the awful, greet friends who came to visit, and comfort my dad. She was the strong one. She knew what was coming, but even when she was in pain, she understood that others needed to come see her to say goodbyes and gain closure, and she handled all of it with grace.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rayburn Update

"Ni Hao" written by Lillie on her iPad

It seems I am only capable of writing 2 or 3 blog posts in a year, so here is an update on our family:

Lillie is going to be 9 in less than three months. Where did the time go?! She is in the third grade, and she's doing wonderfully. She still reads everything she can get her hands on ... today she took to school an old college textbook of my mom's. It's an anthology of children's literature. It's hardcover, thick, yellowed pages, a little light reading you know. She also loves science. She questions and examines everything. On her first quarter report card, her science teacher wrote:
Lillie is making great progress in science.  She is engaged in learning discussions and activities and she puts forth great effort to use the  science vocabulary in her communications.  Lillie makes super learning connections and she often has insightful questions for her teacher and  her peers.  Lillie moves us all to a deeper understanding about science!  Lillie works well independently, in partnership, and in a group setting.  She is able to focus on her science learning and to complete her notes with detail and accuracy.  
Funny ... her homeroom teacher wrote that she had trouble focusing and completing assignments, and seemed bored working in a group. I think science may be her "thing." :)

Harlan is having fun in first grade! His weekly behavior reports have been pretty consistently great over the past couple of months, which is AMAZING!! I think he has become more mature lately ... overall, that is ... he can still throw a doozy of a tantrum when he feels inclined. He is getting really good at reading, and he reads ahead of his grade level. A little girl in his class has decided (and he is fine with this) that they are going to get married. She has even named their children. And last week he brought home a few drawings that had "I Love You" written on them. I thought he made them for me. NOPE, this little girl gave them to him. I think it's funny (because they are 7, not 14) but her mom is not happy with her daughter's single-mindedness on getting married and having babies. It is quite amusing. (Again, because they are not teenagers... in a few years, I'll have something quite different to say if this is still going on!)

 He is trying out a new sport to see if he likes it. Recently on a walk on the University of Missouri campus, we saw some guys from the Mizzou Lacrosse team tossing a ball around, and Harlan was really intrigued. Long story short, one of the guys let him use his stick and Harlan got in on the game! The guy told me that they were all really amazed with how fast Harlan seemed to pick it up, especially for a first time playing and using a stick 2x his size! So tomorrow he is having a lacrosse lesson, and we're going to see the Mizzou team play a game! I picked up some cheap plastic lacrosse sticks ("Fiddlestix") and he has been practicing. ... with a foam golf ball, because within 10 minutes of opening the package he had thrown the rubber lacrosse ball on the roof. That's my Harlan! :)

Sophie LOVES junior kindergarten! She has all sorts of friends in there, including a boy named JT, who holds her hand on the playground and orders lunch for her in the cafeteria. (That's for real.) We are just glad that she's out of her boy-crazy phase from the beginning of school, when she only played with boys -- several boys, evidently -- and they played "bad guys" on the playground. Every night at dinner, she would tell us all about her "Bad Boyfriends." We were a little worried. She has started reading some sight words and she's figuring out how to sound out words she doesn't know.

It has come to our attention that Sophie is having some difficulty learning songs at church and school. I think she has trouble differentiating the sounds of the words from the sounds of the music, and in the words of her audiologist Michelle, "The sounds get mushed together." So I've been researching music therapy, and working closely with her piano teacher and primary presidency, to figure out the best way to teach her songs. I've also been communicating with her music teacher at school, who thinks Sophie is doing great and doesn't need any extra help. I'm hoping to go observe her music class soon to see for myself. It would be odd for her to be struggling with church songs and piano, but somehow understand music at school with no problems. Maybe he has a different teaching style that is working better. Hopefully I'll know soon enough.


The 3 bigger kiddos have all been involved in extracurricular activities lately. Lillie and Harlan have Chess Club and Running Club once a week after school. All 3 played soccer this season, and started taking piano lessons. At school they are all learning Mandarin. Lillie has the best handwriting and pronunciation in her class (according to her teacher) and the other day she and Harlan had a conversation at home! "What animal is that?" "That animal is a dog." Cool stuff!! I need to learn, too, so they don't start to have secret conversations right in front of me that I don't understand.

Suzie turned one! She is cruising all around the furniture, but she hasn't ventured out into the middle of the room yet without holding on to something. We bought her a little toy for her birthday that has a handle and wheels, so she can hold on to it and walk around. She has a lot of fun with it. She is happy almost all the time. She really enjoys the dogs and squeals, "Dah! Dah!" when she sees them. She also makes noises that sound a little like Dad, Lillie, and Hi. But she's got Mama mastered. She likes to call me Mom. :) She has the sweetest laugh and is just a little ray of cheery sunshine. Unless she isn't getting what she wants, in which case she screams and hollers at the top of her lungs. She knows how to get attention.

Suzie is always busy. Reaching for whatever is within her grasp, exploring all the places she shouldn't go, crawling treacherously close to the top of the stairs, then turning around with a mischievous grin to see if I'm watching. She is constantly on the MOVE, which makes me wonder what will happen when she's old enough to actually get around a little more, and too old to be strapped into a high chair or confined to a "Jenny Jump-Up" hanging in the doorway. I have a feeling this kiddo is gonna bring trouble. :)

Wes is working A LOT. Besides his residency, he is also working about 40 hours (or more) per week in the emergency room in Boonville. So we hardly ever see him. And when we do, he is sleeping, or changing out of scrubs into khakis, or vice versa, and rushing out the door. But we paid off a few credit cards this month! When we get a handle on our debt, and start to bring up our credit scores, he will be able to back off the moonlighting and we will be able to factor him into our daily routine again.

I'm still juggling -- kids, pottery, laundry, dishes, cleaning (that ball gets dropped a LOT), church, errands, bills, etc, etc, etc. I've been exercising consistently for a while now. I set a personal record this week of 5.33 miles in an hour on my elliptical machine! That is my main method of exercising, although I occasionally go for bike rides with friends on the MKT / Katy trail. I exercise to ward off migraines and as a "mood stabilizer." (That's my fancy way of saying I was depressed and this is helping.) Oh and there's also the bonus of being able to fit into my skinny jeans again, a nice side benefit!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Hello, family and friends! Just a quick update ... It has been a very hectic year so far! We have had a total of over 2 feet of snow descend upon us in the past month. Last week the kiddos were out of school 4 days because of the snow! We are very happy to be back in school this week. Besides the snow, we also made a whirlwind trip down to Jackson, MS, for my grandfather's funeral. Daddo was 91 years old and had lived a very happy and full life. We will miss him. The bright side of it, though, was that it brought the family together. I got to see cousins I hadn't seen in years!

Lillie is having a blast in 2nd grade, reading voraciously and learning cursive! She loves science best of all, I think. She recently celebrated her 8th birthday and was baptized! (More about why kiddos are baptized at age 8 here.) She is excited to start going to "activity days" at church every other Wednesday.

Harlan is doing great in kindergarten! His amazing teacher, Mrs. Washer, is very patient and understanding of my little man. Just in the past month or so, I have noticed a remarkable improvement in his maturity and his ability to handle his frustrations. He is growing up! He looks forward to his piano lesson every Monday after school, and he has even started composing a song of his own. He's excited to start playing soccer next month.

Sophie is silly and fun as ever! Friendly and boisterous! Her speech and listening skills are improving all the time. Even her audiologist is very impressed. She had surgery in December to put tubes in her ears, hopefully to relieve some pressure she was having that was causing her right ear to hurt when we put her processor on that side. So far it seems to be doing the trick! She will start horseback riding again next month.

Suzie is the most delightful baby you could ever meet. She is happy and calm, she only fusses when she's tired or needs a diaper change, she has got herself on a schedule, and she sucks her thumb to put herself to sleep. She smiles a lot, giggles, blows bubbles, and babbles. She loves to watch her big siblings play, and I can tell she's just so excited to be able to go and participate!

Wes is working hard at the Rehab hospital as well as moonlighting in the ER. He doesn't get much sleep. He continues to impress the attending physicians and other residents. He is presenting a poster at the AAP (Association of Academic Physiatrists) meeting in Phoenix in April. So we are all going and having a vacation! Finally Lillie will get to see the Grand Canyon!

I'm trying to keep juggling everyone and everything. People need to get their homework done, have clean clothes to wear, get around to different places on time, eat, etc ..... I've done a little pottery lately but not much. I'm hoping to do more soon.

That's about it! I'm planning to write more regular updates, so check back soon!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

As promised, here are some pictures from Christmas Day. Enjoy!  :)

There is a lot more stuff under him that you just can't see, I promise.

Lillie with her loot

Soph and her treasures

Wes with MY Christmas present, a new Dyson!  :)

Harlan sporting his new robe from Papa

Wes made his famous cheese grits, eggs and turkey bacon for
Christmas breakfast, and I made biscuits from scratch! For the first time ever!

cookie cutter biscuits ... they were a smash hit,
and very yummy if I do say so myself!

Sophie with her nightgown from Papa ...
Lillie has one that matches.

Harlan with his new pj's from Grandma and
 Grandpa Rayburn

Lillie models her new pj's from Grandma and
Grandpa Rayburn

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010 - in pictures

Christmas this year found my emotions running amok ... missing my mother, my family in MS, yearning for things to be the same even though they will never be the same again, wanting to make the best of the holiday for my kiddos and alternately wanting to hide in my room and just cry.

We (I) was surprised by a visit from Wes's mother, who flew here from Seattle. I am so glad she got to meet the baby and hang out with us, and with June, who drove up from Oxford (MS) to celebrate with us (and to catch the flu, which was no good! But thanks to Wes's powers of prescription, she was all better within 24 hours!) Wes knew his mother was coming but did not share this information, and she appeared on our doorstep wrapped up like a package with a red plastic bag. The kiddos were thrilled and overjoyed. And so was June. Wes continued to lie and say he had no idea. Land spent great quality time with the kiddos and with Suzie, and she helped nurse June back to health. Too bad their time together was spent with illness. :(

As for me, I was just tormented by my aforementioned emotional meanderings. But I am okay.

Here are some pictures ... just from Christmas Eve. I'll put some from Christmas Day in another post. There was just a lot going on.

Christmas Eve Morning: Homemade snowman pancakes!
June got in on the decorating, too.

Suzie braved the cold ... for a minute.

Harlan is quite the strong man!

I came out periodically to check on things
... then went right back in.
I don't think cold/wet/slippery stuff is fun!

Sophie attacked Harlan with a snowball!

Harlan's counter attack was a little more effective.

Harlan rolled a huge snowball! It was too heavy for Wes to add
to the snowman he was working on, though.

We blew bubbles to see if they would freeze.
It wasn't quite cold enough for that.

I'm not sure what this game was, but they were having fun.
A snow face on the tree!

Lillie was working on a snow fort.

Final measurement of the snowman stack: 12 feet!
Wes named the bottom one Tiny.
Harlan named the other two Cocoa and Weirdo.
Soph, being fabulous, as usual.

June, Lillie, Maggie and Buddy. (Land and June's dogs.)
We made s'mores in the fireplace.
Definitely better with dark chocolate candy bars.

June and Suzie hung out while the kiddos
decorated cookies for "Santa."

Then Granyan showed up at the door!
Wrapped up like a gift!
And we were all so surprised.

Happy reunion! They hadn't seen each other since last January.
Long distance relationships are no fun.

Granyan meets Suzie for the first time!

Then she sat down and emptied her two bags
 -- they were FULL of gifts!

Hugging goodnight, happy to
be together for Christmas 
After big kiddos were in bed, we let Suzie
open her gifts from Granyan.

She was so excited!

Suzie tries on one of her presents
while Buddy gives Granyan some lovin'

Sweet pic.