Author Archives: Julie

Tending to Treasure

A family with an old person has a living treasure of gold. ~ Chinese Proverb

Recently I tended living treasure while my parents went out of town. I am blessed to still have three of my grandparents! That itself is worth its weight in gold. One of them lives with my parents, and she is the one I spent time with.

I tease that she is what keeps me at the peak of middle age, since doubling my current age equals hers. She was my age when I was born. We have a long history. Our time together added to our memories.

It is a sacred space, tending the elderly. Recovery from a recent broken hip and fractured pelvis means her mobility is not what it was. We did everything slowly and carefully. When I was looking.

The tricky part came when I was not looking. That is when I would hear movement and footsteps and know that she had gotten up using only her walker without following our carefully choreographed wheelchair routine. I would run to where she was and be met with the words, Don’t let me fall!

She had me there. I was figured out. My plan foiled. That was exactly my intention!

I’m right here. You won’t fall. Maybe we can get the wheelchair? Should we try that?

Our days followed a rhythm of eating, drinking, tending to physical needs, watching Hallmark Channel movies, conversing with visiting friends, playing cards, talking, remembering, trying to remember, repeating the cycle.

I slept on the couch downstairs so as not to miss anything in the night. Even with a radio monitor to alert me, I feared not hearing. After the first night I remembered why I never used a monitor when my kids were little. There were lots of sounds. Then when there were none there was anxiety about why there were no sounds.

On Sunday we dressed a bit fancier. She added sparkly necklaces to accent her pink top. I gingerly ran a comb through her hair, but she would have none of it. Don’t be so careful. Do a good job! So I wet the comb again and brought the more stubborn strands to order vigorously.

Our time together was sweet. It was hard. It was exhausting. We took a lot of naps.

There were things that I brought that I did not need. Yoga mat, computer for blogging, art journal supplies, and coloring items all went unused. My Bible and journal were the only items I opened briefly.

Tending treasure requires attentiveness in any stage of life, for isn’t all life a treasure? Whoever you are tending to, old or young, healthy or sick, hold onto the moments. Be present. There are no guarantees that we will all make it to old person status. So let’s seize our time together now.

And while we are at it, let’s practice being who we want to become.

Hello, New Beginning

May I use the picture if I write a blog post today?

Yep

Our text exchange took place at 6:20, after my man left for his first day at the new job. He is excited. I am anxious. Change is exciting. Change is scary. Change is here.

I thought he had already left when I woke at 6:00. Monday mornings are early ones for him now, and, kindly, this is the last Monday of the school year. A decent morning school day routine has evolved over the past nine months, and I still had a few minutes in my room alone before engaging the morning, solo.

A tapping at the door startled me as I was making up the bed. Opening it a crack, anticipating one of the kids entering, I saw the mug of coffee before the arm carrying it.

I thought you had already left!

I grabbed my phone to snap a picture as he said, Take a picture of me.

So here it is. The first day picture.

Movement towards this new beginning had been difficult and kind and has taken years of preparation. Small steps have gotten us ready for larger ones. Sitting in this space of writing and reflecting, I am aware that the anxiety I feel comes from a younger place inside of me.

Just as I took my 19 year old self to Certificate 2 training last month, my 20 year old self is in there, newly married, newly pregnant, newly graduated from college. Changes on the horizon felt big and scary to her and choices made during that summer season affected the next 25 years of her life.

This new beginning is a gift. It is a gift to be aware of the root of my (seemingly irrational) fear and over-responsibility surrounding my husband’s new job. It is his, not mine, and he will be great at it. I do not have to walk in fear over how his day is going.

This is another season of growth for me. It feels embarrassing to admit the places where I am developmentally behind. In this case, it is in stepping out into the unknown and trusting that things will work out. It is watching my husband do something completely unrelated to what I know and bearing witness to his growth and success. It is finding my own places to grow and succeed.

It is celebrating all of the goodness that the past 25 years has brought to us and looking ahead to the next 25 with eagerness about what will come. We do not know what tomorrow holds, but for today, there is a new beginning.

Sunday Cookie Making

If you are looking for something to do this rainy Sunday afternoon, consider mixing up a batch of cookies!

I just finished a recipe of Cocoa Oatmeal Treats found in the Hershey’s Homemade cookbook. This little gem filled with dessert recipes has been in my cupboard since the early 90’s and sustained many a declutter rampage. Now it is considered vintage.

I needed a dessert to send to youth group tonight. Rather than baking my go-to chocolate chip cookies, I mixed up these no-bake ones. They are my oldest son’s favorite type of cookie. I remembered this as I was making them.

During one of his birthday celebrations, my dear friend Heather helped me make them in the kitchen as his party was happening. She stood at the stove stirring and mixing and dropping onto pans to cool. I bagged them to send home as party favors. 

This time, my daughter, Coco, helped me with the cocoa cookies. Here is the recipe we used as found in the Hershey’s Homemade cookbook before she ran out the door on an errand with her father. He and I will drink coffee and enjoy a cookie when they return.

Cocoa Oatmeal Treats
2 c sugar
1/3 c Hershey’s cocoa
1/2 c milk
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
1/3 c creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 c quick-cooking rolled oats (or regular oats if that’s all you have)
1/2 c chopped unsalted peanuts

In medium saucepan stir together sugar and cocoa; stir in milk and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter. Add oats and peanuts; stir to mix well. Quickly drop mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto wax paper or foil (or parchment lined pans). Cool completely. Store in a cool, dry place. About 4 dozen.

These are so good. Truly like butter because, well, butter! I enjoyed my quota before remembering I was supposed to have cookies and coffee with Steve when he returns. Oops!

(They contain peanuts and peanut butter, so be mindful to label for allergies.)

Heartache and Grief

The post is first in my Facebook feed when I wake this morning. Shared by a family friend is an obituary for a young woman I met and knew briefly as Cassie when she was a girl and teenager. Our families crossed paths when I was a young mom with small children of my own, her mother a season ahead of me.

I am better acquainted with her oldest sister who taught with me at the school back in the day and her oldest brother who was a friend to my youngest brother. Even then, I was so wrapped up in my own newly-minted adult life that I was not engaged with them on a relational level.

Still. there are people whose lives touch yours who feel like family because of the seasons you have shared or the events you have experienced together. This young woman was born into a family that crossed paths with mine during the 90’s and early 00’s. We attended weddings, church services, picnics, and celebrations together. I remember her and her younger sister as the ages of two of my girls now, teen and tween.

It brought great sadness and deep grief to read of her recent death. I learned of her life in her obituary and of her death on the Facebook page set up for medical updates. I am trying to process the depth of loss it is to lose a beloved daughter, sister, wife, and friend so tragically and so young.

It does not make sense to have one with so much life taken this way. Her adult woman eyes looking into the camera show me her mother, her sister, the women I knew. My heart aches for them. I cannot imagine losing my third child, losing a sister. I do not have adequate words for the grief.

Today they will celebrate her life, grieve her death, bury her in the ground. I will be here tending my family as I was during the season when I knew hers. I will grieve from a distance. I will feel vicariously what it would be to lose a dearly loved one unexpectedly in their prime.

To the George family who I know, and all who loved Cassie that I do not know, I am so sorry for the loss of the one you loved so deeply and who loved you so well. It shows in her smile, in the pictures, in the words. May you find great comfort during this difficult day and in the ones that follow.

For those interested, a Go Fund Me is set up here.

Goodbye, Costco

A week ago I met Steve at Costco. We each needed items. Him for work, me for home. Since its opening in our town over 20 years ago, we have held membership through the school. This is one of the perks the move to a new career leaves behind.

Walking through the store last Friday, and unspoken sadness surrounded me. This is our last time to be in this space, this way, together. Many times we have met up to combine errands and grab samples. Sometimes a small person was with us. The milestone happened when we were alone, and it felt like a date.

I often make much and more of what is happening in my world. I sensed this was another ending as a boogie board, bathing suits, and a package of tortillas was placed in the cart.

Costco has played a big-box sized role in our family. At maximum under one roof level, there were ten of us living together. Countless Christmas, vacation,  Saturday stock-up, and midweek shopping trips have taken place. I am sure membership could tell us how much money we have spent. I am sure I do not want to know.

Costco prepped me to welcome several babies, but number six stands out most. That winter I needed all of the fruit in the house before going into labor. I remember walking through the pantry on the way to the kitchen after a Costco run and saying, There is so much fruit. I bought all of the fruit. Now the baby can come, because we have fruit.

Then I organized the china cabinet.

In a weird way Costco feels like family. You cannot engage people and a place for 23 years and have it not. But Costco is not family. Or if it is, if I want to carry out that analogy, it is the family we need to take a break from in this season.

It is strange having that door closed to us. It was open for so long. It is time, though. It is time to cut back on all of the spending for all of the deals. I hope to occasionally tag along as a guest to stock up on essentials. Canned chicken, coffee beans, dog and cat food, dog dental chews, and hair care products are all Costco staples here. Maybe I will splurge on the black olives.

So many things are not staples, though. Non-essential. Too many of those items find their way to our cart. For now it is all about essentials and all about saying no to the Costco draw.

Good-Bye, (for now), Costco! How we will miss you!

In Between

I am in the middle of the in between. It is a week I have referenced and talked about for two months in various conversations. Now it is here.

Friday was the final day of my husband’s (and if we are totally honest here, mine, as well) 25 year career. No, I was not in attendance all of those days, but I was present for many. I offered behind-the-scenes support. I was affected by early-morning and late-night calls and texts. We were both all in.

Now we are both all in between.

On June 4 Steve begins his new job. Many have asked what’s next?  He will be a salesman with Valley RoofingWhat about me? I still do not know, though the mothering and home management part of my day take quite a bit of time and energy.

I am confident that the right paying job will present. For now it is summer, school is out, and the best way for me to help with making money is not to spend it. That is easier said than done.

This entire transition has been a complete walk of faith. The past 25 years have been a walk of faith, as well, but stepping out into the unknown in this stage of life has taken courage. It is a decision not made easily or lightly, but it was time.

There was much behind-the-scenes work leading up to this in between place. Many conversations, feelings, lists. When my two cons were fear of the unknown and finances, I knew it was not enough to stay with the status quo.

The ending has been kind, the in between a gift. Walking the dog together this morning, we reflected on the fact that we have never had a season of just us. It has always been us plus all of the responsibilities. 

We have accepted that we will never escape responsibility. We have grieved the loss of our youth. Watching our young adults navigate their individual worlds has given us perspective and more words for what we did not have at their ages. These days together this week have given hope for what is possible. For what we do have.

We have a rich life.

This week we savor a space that is not completely ours. It has never been. Little Mae finished school last Friday, and our 19 year old moves out next week. We laughed that we have the youngest of each bunch of babies home with us.

We also have the dog and cat. We are never alone.

I will hold these final in between days as the gift that they are. I will embrace the laughter and tears that spontaneously erupt and slow down to walk to the ducks or watch a movie together at a completely irresponsible time of day. I will celebrate what was and what is to come, rejoicing in the great faithfulness that has brought us to this place.

In between.

Goodbye, 25 Years

This is it. Today is the day. When my husband leaves work, it will be his final time leaving as administrator of Good Shepherd School and Daycare.

So much has led up to this moment. Twenty-five years worth of events have occurred, each setting another bit of infrastructure in place. Life. School. Family.

You should have done this years ago.

Statements like this have been made and are not helpful. It’s easy to look and tell others what they should have done without knowing the full extent of their story. In our case, there is much complexity surrounding that 21 and 23 year old who moved to Virginia with their 10 month old daughter while expecting their second child in August of ’93 to begin working with family in a newly-opened daycare.

His first project was building bookshelves that still stand. It is the kind of man he is. He can go from solid construction to solid leadership while remembering faces and names along the way. It is the faces he will miss the most, I know that. The names he will remember mostly and boldly risk using them, even if he is wrong. Be forewarned.

25 years is a long time. Our firstborn turns 26 this fall. Our youngest will soon be 10. This has been their life. This career path is what has raised them and provided for them. It brought insurance for medical bills and care when I took trips to Ohio, California, the Bahamas, Michigan, Boston, Seattle, and Chicago.

It has provided an education and music instruction. It was a space where we could all be together until the pond grew too small and the needs too great. It’s where we wrestled through how to best serve our own children while serving other people’s.

The school brought dear teachers and friends into our life. 25 years worth. It brought goodness and grief, both given and received by us. There were years of our own small children with their overwhelmed parents trying to figure out how to make it all work. There were sacrifices, not always in the best interest of our family. Sometimes we got it right. Sometimes we did not.

We tell parents that this program isn’t for everyone. I think we have one of those kids.

When I stopped working to stay home with child 4, was one of the right times. That I did not realize I had the power to make that choice with children 1, 2, and 3 still grieves my heart. That we can talk honestly about that with each other now is a gift beyond words.

25 years was the right amount of time to complete the work we were given to do here. To have left sooner would have been to miss the gifts of friendships and growth that the past few years have brought. To stay longer would be to prolong the status quo and stand in the way of others who are ready to step up to the plate.

As for this man, he is on to new things, and I could not be more proud.

 

 

Swinging

Quick! Mom is on the porch swing!

This rare sighting is engaged with buckets of water poured over each other’s heads, while videotaping the action in slow motion. One sister stands on the grass and the other on the porch.

I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

In my childhood days, baptisms took place in the swimming pool as we fully immersed one another, Baptist-style. My Presbyterian children have witnessed differently.

Steve walks past with the mower, and I am secretly grateful he chose to pull it out in this golden hour of the day. This means I will not have to mow, and the grass will not have to be bagged.

The dog scratches at the front door.

One thing we agree on is getting soaking wet!

Soaking wet is an understatement. I remind myself that squealing, soaking girls means outside engagement is happening. We live in a great house in a great space. I am thankful for our yellow house on the corner, always a work in progress.

A breeze blows over me from the east, towards the setting sun.

The dog is brought out and clipped to his leash on the porch long enough to get wet in residual puddles of water left by soaking wet girls. He is then let back inside to shake it off. I hear this through the door.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, my 19 year old son steps out, and we look at each other and laugh. What else is there to do, as he observes the journal on my lap and bears witness to the chaos taking place? There is nothing idyllic about the moment other than the glorious rays of the setting sun.

Pressure on my chest reminds me of more to come. Two days more.

Two days are all that remain of what has been our normal for almost 25 years, Steve going to work each day at Good Shepherd School and Daycare, providing for our family. Over seasons we have worked together. We have worked apart.

I was a working mom, teaching through my 20’s. I took my 30’s off to be home with our children. At the peak of parenting there were eight of them under our roof that needed care. I returned to teaching when the youngest was in kindergarten. I was 42.

I ended my time at Good Shepherd last year. This was my year to regroup and be home; to figure out what was next. I jokingly called it my gap year. Mostly I spent time repairing harm done from times when I could not be there for my son, now 19, who had fallen through a gap in the family and was living with us in his (finally) finished bedroom after traveling abroad.

The year brought such a sweet space of breakfasts and coffee dates and sharing memories, both good and bad. There was laughter and lots of tears. I did not know at the time of Steve’s upcoming mid-life career change. It is probably good. Otherwise I would not have been able to be as fully present to my family and their needs.

Last night’s sleep passed as slowly as the water pouring over my daughters’ heads in the slow-motion videos they created. Insomnia is no stranger to me. Each hour I woke felt like another wave washing over me, as I mercifully fell back asleep. Dreams came in equal waves.

Tonight is Steve’s final program as Administrator of Good Shepherd School. Little Mae is playing recorder and singing and doing all of the things that kids in the programs have been doing for 25 years. Some of her siblings will be there to watch, remembering when it was their turn to sing the Piggy Song or play recorder.

I will remember the programs I directed over the years at all of the various locations. I will remember the peak season when large numbers of students were transported to Lehman Auditorium or Massanetta Springs Conference Center and the smaller ones of late at West Side Baptist where they all began for me.

One blog post is not enough to capture what is stirring in my heart. What do I do? Give a factual update? Share nostalgic memories? How do I honor the blood, sweat, and tears that my husband leaves behind? How do I honor my own?

This day brings both goodness and grief. Isn’t that all of life? Sitting and giving myself time to write is kindness. Allowing the tears to freely flow and be followed by deep sobs is necessary. More words will come in the future, but for now I will sit in the present.

Maybe I will go to the porch and swing.

Date Night Flight

Last evening my luvvvah and I took flight from the house and walked down to Pale Fire Brewing. I was reminded of why I love living downtown as we wandered by the stream to look at the ducks tucking in for the night before making our way to the Pale Fire patio.

After making my choices, I walked out to a freshly-dried table to enjoy the twilight.

My handsome date carried out the goods.

We prepared to enjoy some good beer and good conversation. I was not disappointed.

After all of the rain, it was such a beautiful night.

I’m not usually a beer kind of girl, but I’m learning. I enjoy savoring new tastes and flavors. Mostly, though, I enjoy the company of my man and the moments we get to take flight together and remembering the goodness that is being married to each other.

It is so good.