Category Archives: celebrating

Rehearsal Dinner Blessing

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I find it interesting, curious, and playful that the morning we were to drive to Lancaster, PA, to begin celebrating the wedding weekend by hosting the rehearsal dinner, Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 were my scheduled readings. This is from a plan chosen in January, focusing on a different section of the Bible each day.

While reading I wrote down today’s season . . . harvest, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, quitting searching, mending, being quiet, loving, seeking peace.

This is how the day began.

Gradually, adult children convened and loaded various younger siblings into their cars, leaving Steve and me with the youngest to bring up the caravan’s rear, several minutes, or hours, behind. The best decisions made were to send the beverages ahead with my parents to be dropped off at the rehearsal dinner location and to have those involved in the rehearsal riding with siblings.

When all was said and done, Steve and I were checking into the AirBnB and hurriedly changing at 5. Dinner was set to be served at 5:45. In our hurry to arrive on time, we may have turned the wrong way onto a one-way, two lane highway, the lights of a semi truck shining in our eyes.

Did I just turn onto a one-way road?

I DON’T KNOW, DID YOU? WE ARE ON A ONE-WAY ROAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!

I am waiting for traffic to clear, so that I can turn around.

We sat in the left-turn lane face to face with another car who patiently waited on us. Every day, every moment, is such grace.

We arrived at the Hollinger House intact and greeted our guests who were waiting on this porch ready to begin the festivities. It was a beautiful sight, a beautiful beginning to the weekend.

My morning reading felt long ago when I composed the following to share as a rehearsal dinner blessing . . .

This is a season to harvest the love that was planted in hearts generation upon generation ago. It is a healing time where we acknowledge that though, by all means, all is not well, all is healing. We can rest in that today.

It is a time of building, as a new family is joined and created, built upon this foundation of love. We gather to laugh and dance and live in the moment that is now.

Embracing one another right where we are today, we celebrate with Caleb and Dana that they can quit searching, because they have found the one their soul loves.

This is a time to keep in our hearts, to mend what was torn, and to be quiet about what would divide us. We are hear to love and celebrate in peace.

There is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. All people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecc. 3:12,13)

We spent the rest of the weekend putting these words into practice as we celebrated the long-awaited union of our son and his beloved bride. And it was so very good.

All a gift. All deep, deep grace. Every moment.

Hanging Dresses

They hang from a curtain rod in the laundry room. They have been hanging there for over a week. Left to dry after being carefully washed, they have been dry for days. They have come to  represent a symbolic hanging on to all that happened over wedding weekend.

There is still much to process.

I say this out loud, and my husband asks for specifics. What do you still have to process?

Isn’t all of life a process? Will I ever be finished? I answer lightheartedly, because though I feel the weight of feelings, specific words evade me.

Folding laundry, I look up at the hanging dresses, grateful for what they symbolize. Just as I was clothed for my daughter’s wedding in an outfit carefully curated, so I was for my son’s, in a different way.

My metallic-colored, sheath-style Mother of the Groom dress was a Ross find over the summer. I knew it was the dress, and that by fall it would look even better on me as I tended to healthier eating and exercise habits.

A girl can dream, right?

Jewelry was found at a local consignment shop for under $15. A sparkly $6 scarf from TJ Maxx, a $10 purse from another consignment shop, and free sandals from my closet brought the entire look in at under $75.

I consider this a kindness for a season that found us in the midst of a major life change. When our son proposed to his beautiful wife in 2017, things looked a lot different in our world. Maybe the hanging dresses are continuing to remind me of the faithfulness of God in every change. Especially then.

There is enough.

I wore the black dress to the rehearsal dinner with shoes and a sweater from my closet. It was found, along with a sparkly necklace and silver purse, on a seasonal clearance sale at a consignment shop for $18, total.

I write of costs and consignment shops and looks, because I want to remember. I want to remember that even in seasons of uncertainty there are reasons to celebrate. Maybe especially then.

I want to remember that there is room for creativity and expression and for thinking outside of the box when finances are tight. I do not need to worry about what to wear. I can consider the lilies.

My son and daughter had a beautiful wedding weekend. There is more to share slowly as it unfolds in my heart, and I find more words. I am thankful for those of you who have been with me behind the scenes as life returns to what has never been normal. Part of this return should probably include taking down the dresses and putting them away.

Here is a peek at the wedding day. There is a bit more sparkle to my hair than there was 4 1/2 years ago at my daughter’s wedding. I love it.

 

Moments of Laughter

Not all has been sad in my world. Though the tears often eclipse the smiles, I am trying to focus on the splashes of joy that creep up and surprise me. One of those moments happened last Saturday.

It was a rare afternoon plan that came together at the last minute. Two of our daughters were at a middle school retreat, our youngest was with her cousin, and teenage son was recovering from a band all-nighter.

Steve’s planned weekend away with friends was postponed, leaving him home unexpectedly. We decided to seize the opportunity for a real date away from the house. That is an important part of the equation. This was a last-minute plan.

We decided to visit Crozet, an area Steve had traveled to for work and wanted to return to together. We would do wine tasting, get lunch, and end with coffee, keeping all of the activity together in the same location.

Another key point of this story is that it was bachelorette weekend for our soon-to-be daughter-in-law. I found this out on Labor Day from my adult daughters. They were attending the weekend festivities to be held near Charlottesville.

For this reason, I wanted to avoid wineries in that area and keep it all in Crozet. That is why we chose King Family Vineyards over Jefferson Vineyards .

Our drive over the mountain was relaxing. We marveled over getting away and actually doing something fun. Though overcast, it was not raining, and we enjoyed conversation. When we arrived at the vineyard and pulled into the parking area, Steve received a text from our oldest.

I think you would enjoy being the person behind the counter doing wine tastings for people (my paraphrased version of her words).

I would! Mom and I are at King Family Vineyards to do a wine tasting  (my paraphrased version of his response).

Immediately Steve’s phone rang with our daughter’s voice on the other end.

That is where we are right now!

Looking up past the parking area and towards the tasting room we saw her running towards us. At picnic tables on the lawn beyond, with a bountiful spread of food and several bottles of wine, were 18 women celebrating the bride-to-be.

I could not believe it. Laughter was my only response. That and profuse explanation.

I had intentionally stayed off of the bride’s social media sites to avoid creeping on the events of the weekend. I had intentionally chosen a winery that I was certain they would not choose (though if I had investigated further, I would have noticed that this one accommodates large groups, which I learned in the tasting room).

We said hi to our daughters and daughter-in-law (to be) and laughed together at the coincidence. We made it clear that we were there to do our own tasting and would not intrude on their picnic space. We made a crazy pre-wedding memory that could not have been planned.

And there was joy.

Still Summer

I know it feels like fall. School is back in session. Football games have begun. Life has resumed routine. Morning drives to school find me facing a blinding low-rising sun in the eastern sky. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back.

But it’s still summer for a little while longer.

Today I celebrated that truth by stepping off into the deep end of my daughter and son-in-law’s pool and swimming to the other side. It was my first time in the water this summer. The sensation was lovely.

My intention was to try to turn around the funk that seems to have settled around my shoulders, pressing into my heart. Surely water and sunshine would wash it away.

It was worth a try.

Several of my kids and my husband joined me. Others sat on the edge. We talked and laughed. We played games.

It was a relaxing space to regain perspective.

I wish I could say I left my troubles at the bottom of the pool with the leaves that have begun dropping, but it is not that easy. I wish I could say that I have leaned from Dewey to just live in the moment.

I am still practicing and being given plenty of opportunities to do so.

This afternoon brought laughter and connection and escape. It brought exercise and fresh air and a son-in-law who grilled hamburgers while we swam in his pool.

It brought goodness and kindness and another reminder that even when life is hard and unpredictable and wearisome, there is beauty and joy and love.

It’s still summer.

Birthday Wrap-Up ’18

This morning was the final birthday celebration, breakfast with Dad. When the celebrating is over, it’s time to write the wrap-up post.

I was at a birthday lunch with a friend on Monday. When she asked how my actual birthday was I had to stop and think. I could not remember well, which is why I am trying to remember now. Even as I try to write, lethargy engulfs me. I am trying to push through.

I wrote a birthday list on the marker board in the kitchen at the beginning of the month. Little Mae printed hers in red pen and posted it to the refrigerator much earlier. Hers contained everything from Lego Ninjago to Black and Whilte Guinea Pig named Cookies and Cream.

Because we share the day, Little Mae and I planned a schedule of how to spend it, beginning with me attending a sixth grade awards assembly at school while she did morning screen time at home. This hanging basket greeted me upon return.

We took our birthday checks to the drive-thru window of the bank to cash them.

Then it was McDonald’s for lunch and Barnes and Noble for books and a birthday treat.

 

Rainbow came along.

While we were at Barnes and Noble a text came through that an adult sister was in town. She wanted to pick up the newly double-digit little and spend time with her. That meant I got free time!

It was such a surprise I almost cried.

A free afternoon offered a chance to grab the shower I had missed that morning, getting everyone to school solo. It was Steve’s first week at the new job, and we were all adjusting. I had to adjust my attitude with a phone call to a sister when my birthday morning was not going according to plan!

First on my free time list was a plant rescue at Lowes. A cart filled with clearance flowers cost $18 of birthday money. Coming home alone to plant and hang them, priceless.

I showered and rested and picked up the girls from middle school. We did our afternoon routine, and I worked on the birthday dinner planned in advance when planning the cake. It was a simple meal of ham, herb dinner rolls, and vegetables. I put ingredients in the bread machine and a ham in the oven.

Then it was time to make a side dish for my son’s band picnic. Since ham is not his favorite it was a good night for him to have an alternate plan. My adult daughter rode with me to the park to drop the food off and then to Starbucks for my birthday drink, another thing I had missed along with my shower that morning.

Birthday dinner was relaxing and fun with adult daughter and significant other, adult son, and phone calls from those adults not in attendance. Everyone wanted me to know that they had helped with the gift that would be delivered the next day.

Those around the table presented me with gifts of a new tea kettle and journal. We watched Little Mae open her gifts and ate cake. It was an enjoyable ending to a kind day.

On Friday a package arrived. I messaged my daughter to tell her that she had a delivery. She said it was my gift and that she would come over and open it and give it to me. I had some errands to run. When I returned she handed me a slim wrapped box, telling me it was from all of the adults and their significant others.

I was speechless after opening it. I am still learning to use it. Best feature so far is the voice text, though I have had some faux pas with the text still recording when I thought I was finished. Oops! My younger generation thinks technology is being wasted on an old person.

I am so grateful for another year, thankful for life, humbled by lavishly generous gifts and by the love so freely given by all in my family. I look forward to 47 with anticipation.

And yes, I got the Lora Kelley download that was on my list. You can get it here.

Week’s End

Dewey captures perfectly the way I feel at the close of this week. As I write he sprawls on the floor, moving only to change lounging positions.

This week has been full of beginning and ending and celebrating which all adds up to exhaustion. If I were a dog, I would have the answers to life’s complexities. Just sprawl out and sleep.

Steve began his new job and the kids entered their last week of school. We adjusted the routine that had served us well all year. I am grateful it was only one week of adjusting. That was disruptive enough!

In the fall when we begin again, things will look different. I keep reminding myself that it will not always be this way. It will not always be my husband’s first week at a new job and my kids last week at school.

There will not always be the transition of an adult moving out while the youngest excitedly anticipates her double digit birthday. I will probably always dread my birthday, somewhat, though. And life will always be full.

Much fullness converged this week in the form of awards assemblies and final projects for my school-age kids. The youngest was home with me as we tried to find some sort of a groove while preparing for our shared birthday.

My husband began a new work schedule which left me in the role of solo home front manager getting kids to and from school. We were reminded of the need to communicate better, as the old morning routine we had settled into no longer served us well.

I was reminded of how I always think I will find the magic solution to make all of life feel wonderful when in reality I have to learn to live in the tension. That is a constant process.

I need to learn to bask in the patch of sunlight even if everything around me is a mess. Dewey illustrates this so well on the floor of my room moving from place to place and hunkering down.

This is the last morning before summer break officially begins when I pick up the kids from school at noon. It finds me in the aftermath of a birthday celebration and a day full of goodness and surprises.

It also finds me in a bit of chaos. My temptation is to try to do everything to fix it all immediately which is unrealistic. So instead of doing all of the things, I am sitting and writing, inspired by a small dog who is now curled into a ball close to his grandpa’s flip-flops.

Week’s end reminds me of all of the grace that gone before and behind and surrounded me during this transition. There is much more to write, but for now I will say, Happy Weekend! Enjoy the start of Summer Break!

Ice Cream Birthday Cake

Today is my and Little Mae’s birthday. I am sharing our cake creation with you here as we spend the day celebrating another year of life together with our family.

We agreed upon an ice cream cake. The recipe we use is one that I remember Aunt Caryl introducing to the family when I was a girl. It has ice cream sandwiches as the base layer in a 9×13 pan followed by a layer of softened ice cream. Finally Cool Whip is spread on top.

That’s it!

Our week began on Monday with Steve’s new job and Mae and I home together. We went to Sharp Shopper, the local grocery outlet, for some items. While we were there, I found the ingredients for our cake, only slightly varied.

That is the way it is with Sharp Shopper. You have to hold expectations loosely and be willing to improvise. Things are usually slightly varied.

Here are the ingredients purchased for our cake.

Instead of ice cream sandwiches which they didn’t have, I bought chocolate ice cream sandwich making wafers, which they did. I bought two cartons of Moose Tracks frozen yogurt and two cartons of Cool Whip light topping.

For you locals, the only reason I didn’t use the Pumpkin Pie ice cream is because it is a shared cake. 😉

In the bottom of a glass 9×13 baking dish I placed a layer of chocolate wafers.

A carton of softened frozen yogurt was spread over the chocolate wafers. If these were ice cream sandwiches they would have ice cream in them already, but this is the Sharp Shopper version.

A second layer of wafers went on the softened frozen yogurt.

Another carton of frozen yogurt was spread over it all.

The final layer was Cool Whip, two 8oz cartons. I sprinkled everything with rainbow sprinkles and wrote with chocolate icing.

The finished cake went in the freezer, uncovered, to set the writing before covering it with foil to save for today. We will enjoy it after our birthday dinner!

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.

 

 

My Real Valentine

From the first day
I saw your face
I hoped that we would be
More than friends
Acquaintances
I wanted you to see

That I found you special
Uniquely designed
And in your eyes
And in your smile
I saw that you were kind

You brought such joy
Into my life
Such laughter and such fun
And deep inside
I wanted you
To be the only one

That I would walk next to
To have and to hold
And I believed
With all my heart
Our love was strong and bold

But fragile was
The seed of love
We wanted it to grow
Impatient and impetuous
We simply did not know

That you cannot force love
Demand it be strong
And after many lonely years
We found where we went wrong

We’re standing now
Together here
We’re facing each new day
With boldness and integrity
We’re learning how to play

 It’s knowing what we’ve lost
That helps us be found
Our hearts are drawing close again
We’re coming back around.

Happy Valentine’s Day ’18 to the Love of My Life who has made me laugh and feel safe from day one. You are a gift, Steve McClay. Thank you for becoming more real with me through all the seasons, especially those winter ones. Something beautiful is growing from all of this compost. I just know it! Something beautiful already has. Our love.

This image created with Wikki Sticks was stuck to my car window by Steve in 1987. I saved it in my scrapbook for posterity.

***The header image is from a helium balloon that I deflated and saved to remember the playful love of my then boyfriend, now husband. Thank you for your steadfastness, Babe. You’ve always been the best Valentine.***

Postscript

So you must share with your loyal readers what the gift was that you gave Steve. . .

Loyal readers? I have loyal readers!

I love that I have curious loyal readers, so when the text came through I had to respond. While my turnaround time is not always this swift, in this case, well, here you go . . .

For all of the pictures he loves to take and share on Instagram as well as for future creative endeavors, I got him a mobile photography kit to use with his phone.

And this book to, well, hopefully do its thing. He even offered to share with me,

Thank you, Loyal Reader for reaching out. Oh how you are loved and missed!

So, what do you think? Were these good choices?