I survived: Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Check out that hat!
Check out that hat!

The Hubs has been traveling a bit for work again. But when he said he was going to Birmingham, Ala., next, I said there was no way in hell that he was going without me, you are not leaving me home alone with your kids again the kids and I would love to come with him.

I have heard so many good things about Birmingham, and even though it was going to be a very short trip, I was excited to go. I reviewed a lot of things close to our hotel that were kid friendly. We do zoos and science museums a lot already, and I loathe amusement parks and water parks. So I decided we should do something completely different. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens looked like the perfect spot to get some sunshine, stretch our legs and see truly vibrant gardens. The botanical gardens there are essentially a living museum with more than 12,000 different plants on 67 acres and in 27 unique gardens. Meemaw gave the kids cameras this year, and this seemed like a brilliant opportunity to use them!

What I did not anticipate about Birmingham though, was that is a lot like Houston. Only so much worse. It was 100 degrees by 10 a.m. and so humid, we could not breathe. People. My sweat was sweating. So our first stop had to be the new Super Target, an immense air-conditioned slice of heaven, filled with sunscreen and floppy, wide-brimmed hats. Bodacious even found a pearl-studded baseball cap that she said made her look “awesome.” I thought she looked like a tiny old woman, but what the heck! We were on a mini break and I intended to go with the flow.

So, $80 later we were back on the road again. Ish. Because now we needed to stop and eat some lunch. But it was so hot inside the sandwich shop, we actually took our food outside to eat in the car. When we left, I took a wrong turn onto the freeway and it took me another 10 minutes to get turned back around. It’s amazing we got there at all, really. I can’t read a map and I couldn’t hear the mapping directions on my phone over the movie and video games that were cranked up in the car.

We have all melted together!

But success! I am parking the car in the last shady spot available. It is now 2 p.m. and I am starting to look … wilted. In my mind, I was channeling Julia Roberts in the polo scene from Pretty Woman, but I suspect that I actually looked a little crazy. I had on my orthopedic tennies, a black and white striped skirt and light brown t-shirt, plus the biggest coral straw hat you have ever seen. Make-up running down my face ala a sobbing Tammy Faye Bakker. And we haven’t even started trekking yet. Sixty seven acres. What was I thinking? Continue reading

About a boy: See you on the other side my sweet Cole Austin

“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.” — Saya Nelson

Cole, learning to ride a four-wheeler in the mountains of New Mexico.

My precious nephew Christopher Cole Austin died Sunday, May 31, 2015, in a Lubbock hospital. He was 15 and he was perfect.

From the moment he was born, Cole captivated everyone who met him. A beautiful, happy, round baby, Cole was always smiling and laughing and loving. His best friend was his sweet Golden Retriever, Rusty. Cole grew into a beautiful young man, brilliant and funny, still giving his heart completely to the menagerie of animals that trooped through his life. Gracie, Kuma, Reese, Soldier Waffles, Toby Cheese – even the feral Mr. Boogers – they knew that special love that can only come from a child.

His inquisitive mind, fearless nature and adventurous spirit led him outdoors. You could often find him in the pool or on a sled, skateboard or four-wheeler. He dreamed of learning to surf, and his agility and strength served him well when he visited the aquashop in Plano for his first lessons. He inherited his mother’s love of playing practical jokes, and was known to hack cell phones and to leap into picture frames unexpectedly. He enjoyed reading, playing games of all kinds and telling mildly inappropriate jokes. He was sarcastic and witty, and he had the kind of hair that would make even Justin Bieber jealous. He was gifted and compassionate, and so very loved. His little cousins cherished him and he never tired of playing with them. He had this amazing way of making the people he was with feel … special. If he ever looked at you, intently, and held you there with him in that moment, you know exactly what I mean. He wanted his people to know they mattered to him.

Cole with his father, Jon Austin, at a swim meet with the Midland Freshman High swim team.

We will never know why Cole took his own life. His potential was limitless. He possessed a brilliant mind, and I loved watching the way he saw things around him. While other babies learn circle and square, my nephew dazzled me with the rhombus, tetrahedron, trapezoid and octopus. He was gorgeous, and I’m not just saying that because he was mine. He was a perfect combination of his father and mother, tall and lean with feet his momma jokingly described once as “flippers.” He excelled as a competitive swimmer and loved being part of the Midland Freshman High School swim team. So if there were signs that this beautiful boy who literally had the world in his hands was suicidal, we all missed them.

Something so right about a boy and his dog.

Though he was growing up, he was still young and impetuous. This one flitting thought — that his life was not worth living, or that we would be better off without him — has changed us forever. According to the World Health Organization, suicide is the third leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-44 years. Our own little community has not been immune, experiencing several teen suicides over the last three years, all inexplicable. Good kids from families that loved them. We all need to learn to be proactive. Parents, please talk to your kids. Tell them you love them and that their lives matter, that there is always a tomorrow and there is a huge beautiful life after high school. And I know that is hard to convey. The hormones, boundary-testing, big feelings and drama that is teen-agerhood is hard to see past. Learn the warning signs of depression and of suicide. Let your children know that is OK to hurt and don’t judge them. Just get them the help they need. Let your kids and their friends know that you are a safe harbor, they can come to you any time with anything. And tell your kids that if they think a friend is considering harming himself, to please tell someone. Kuddos to Midland ISD for offering grief support through Midland Freshman High School.

We take comfort knowing that Cole no longer hurts, and that he is reunited with Rusty. Our sweet boy did not die in vain. As an organ donor, he will help almost 200 people continue with their own lives

Cole with his beautiful mother, Rachel.

We are especially grateful to Midland and the West Texas community, and to the thousands who prayed for Cole across the world. The continued outpouring of resources, prayer, meals and grace has been beautiful and overwhelming, and we cannot thank you enough. In the touching words of his friend Saya Nelson, “Cole, if love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.”

See Saya’s video with Cole here. He has grabbed her cellphone and was taking picture after picture. You can see his little smile and her realization that this was all being caught in pixels. She wasn’t getting her phone back any time soon! I have found this video and her story so comforting this week. Please say an extra prayer for Cole’s sweet friends, they lost him, too.


Bathwater blogger Rachel Austin with her son, Cole. Please pray for a miracle for Cole and for peace and strength for my sister, 'Rockstar' Rachel.
Bathwater blogger Rachel Austin with her son, Cole. Please pray for a miracle for Cole and for peace and strength for my sister, ‘Rockstar’ Rachel.

by Cathy Frye

This. This photo.

This is a mother, praying over her teenage son in the intensive care unit. This picture has gone viral. Why?

Because we mothers know what it is to love a human being beyond infinity. We know what it is to offer ourselves in exchange for a life, to be willing to die for a child.

Look at her. This mother. Her son, once just a fluttering inside her stomach, once the baby scrounging for a nipple, once the little boy who collected rocks or bugs, once the little boy who shared all of his secrets with the main woman in his life …

She kneels before his bed and prays. She begs God to bring him back to her. She just wants one more conversation, one more hug, one more chance to let that boy know that he is her everything.

Please remember this mama and her boy in your prayers.

This post first appeared on LittleRockMamas.com.