Category Archives: memories

Tin Roof Sundae

I arrived at my friend’s house exhausted from a seven hour drive. What feels different from the last trip is the intensity of emotional work in addition to the changes and transitions going on at home.

Mid-winter is also not an active time of year. That first trip was an adventure and foray into the unknown. Now I know a little more about what I am showing up for. It is also spring, a beautiful, yet busy, time of year.

I remember when I was a young girl my Aunt Marilyn came to visit us on Nicholson St. in Maryland. She drove down from Michigan. I’m sure I spent the day eagerly anticipating her arrival and all the fun we would have together.

When she finally reached us, her first words were, What a drive. I need a nap. She lay down on the couch for a rest as we waited nearby for any indication that nap time was over and she was rested. (Meaning, any sort of movement whatever)

That is how I felt when I arrived. I set a timer and went to my room for a rest. After 30 minutes of quiet I was ready for a walk. We walked to get ice cream.

It felt good to move after a day in the car, and the company was wonderful. We walked and talked and chose our ice cream.

When I saw Tin Roof Sundae was an option, I knew I had found my choice. There are several stories there about me and ice cream sundaes and where Tin Roof Sundae ice cream enters my story. I also understand better why Peanut Buster Parfaits are my Dairy Queen weakness.

Now it’s time to rest and write and read and talk and transition into what is coming. I am so grateful for a kind space and for kind people who care for my heart and soul so well.

To all of you who care for, have cared for, are caring for me on this journey, know that I am so grateful and hold you close at heart.

Duckling Drama

The ducklings hatched while I was away with a friend last weekend. My husband sent a picture. It was more than I got last year which was a live view of an empty nest with a few broken eggshells. I felt grateful and said as much to him.

Last Sunday evening, I walked Dewey downtown to the water to see what I could see. There were a mama and Mallard wrangling a passel of puffballs. I knew they were mine and kept the dog up on the bridge, away from the activity, watching from a distance.

Late yesterday afternoon, my youngest asked if she and her visiting cousin could walk the dogs. (My firstborn and her husband were in town with the granddog.) I agreed with the caveat that I go with them.

They eagerly leashed the animals and headed outside. I followed close behind.

Can we walk down to check on the ducks?

I allowed them to lead the way downtown. The break in the rainy weather was nice.

From the bridge over the water, we saw a mama and Mallard with three little puffballs. Not far away was a large family of twelve ducklings, tended by their mama and Mallard. Suddenly chaos ensued as one of them wandered too close to the puffballs.

New mama pinned the wanderer to the ground, quacking furiously. With a flurry and flutter of wings, junior’s mama hurried over, giving the protective mama what for for interfering with her offspring. Order restored, new mama returned to her puffballs and the other huffed away with her ducklings in tow.

Following their Mallard, the large family waddled up the hill, leaving behind a straggler, wandering down by the water. When the lone duckling realized he was left behind, a continuous peeping quack escaped his bill as he frantically ran to and fro in the empty space by the water, looking for his family.

It was no use asking new mama for help, though he tried wandering in her direction. She came at him in a fashion that said, I dare you to come closer! Resignedly, he turned back toward the water, still calling for help.

Meanwhile, the large brood had flocked up the hill away from the water towards the parking lot where I was standing,leashes in hand. By this time I had been relegated to dog keeper while the girls sat on a bench watching the duck drama unfold.

Oh no! That duckling is lost! We have to help him!

They proposed the idea of chasing him up the hill, but then the duckling stepped into the water and swam to the rocks on the other side, still peeping and quacking.

I decided to use the dogs to herd the wandering flock back to the water. Leading Dewey and Wren toward the large brood, we watched as they ran back down the hill and stepped into the water. They began to glide toward the duckling, his peeping quacks still out of reach.

Excitedly the girls cheered the family and duckling closer, hoping to witness a reunion. Rain began falling in a light drizzle. I, too, was hoping for  reunion and resolution of this duckling drama rather than a lesson in survival of the fittest.

Suddenly there was a burst of speed as the duckling made connection with his family and came flying across the water. Literally. I have never seen a duck swim as fast as this little one who was making a mad dash to reunite with his raft.*

On the shore we cheered, then turned to head home.

* a dense flock of swimming birds or mammals

Idle Words

But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Matthew 12:36 (KJV)

As a child I grew up in a Baptist church where three times a week, Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night I was in the pews. Dad was up front leading music. Mom was coordinating the nursery.  Sister was shining her Strawberry Shortcake mirror into the aged pastor’s eyes. Church was familiar, comfortable, unsettling, scary. All of the above.

Familiar and comfortable were the people and routines. The red of the sanctuary cushions and carpet, the curve of the armrest at the end of each row, the red Great Hymns of the Faith hymnbook to look through finding Fanny Crosby’s name (because Fanny), the tiny pencils and offering envelopes on the back of each pew, these all brought comfort and delight.

Unsettling was an open cross panel behind the pulpit, revealing the baptismal tank, or the atmosphere of the sanctuary was tinged with tension over a business meeting, or someone choose O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus for favorites night. These moments stirred anxiety.

Scary was the talk of judgment and hell and the end times. The rapture. The trumpet of the Lord. It seemed as if these days were imminently looming, and the only way out was 100% assurance by saying the Sinner’s Prayer, thus knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt with every head bowed and every eye closed, no one looking around.

Of course, I looked around, and if I was looking around how could I trust that no one else was?

I tried, but was never quite sure if I got it right. I never felt safe in God’s hands. I could never escape the shadow of a doubt. When that trumpet sounded and time was no more, I wasn’t certain that I would be there when the roll was called up yonder.

Those were terrifying thoughts for a child growing up outside of Washington, DC. Every midnight ambulance siren, train whistle, or police chase resulted in a frantic leap from bed to make sure my parents were sill in their room, and I had not been Left Behind.

How would I face the terror of the tribulation and the second chance that would only come if I did not receive the Mark of the Beast, enduring unspeakable torture inescapable even by death? The end of the world was always upon me, and I lived with a level of anxiety over my idle words to be given account of and shouted from the rooftops. I was a child full of words.

Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
Luke 12:13 (KJV)

This was especially poignant, because the closet in my bedroom was the perfect hideout, clubhouse, safe place for secrets. It came complete with a sliding board (following the construction line above the stairs) and was where I told the most important things to my teddy bear or my sister.

I often pondered how all of those idle words were tracked. What would the judgement day be like, when I stood before God to give account? I pictured God turning to a card catalog, like the one at my local library only bigger, and pulling out a drawer with my name on it. There were all of my idle words, categorized.

How times change.

I never imagined the technology of today, where idle words abound and multiply. They are everywhere, our own and others. We share them in texts, comments, and emails. We carry them in our pockets on our phones. They can be retrieved with a click of a mouse or swipe of a screen or insert of a flash drive.

In having a Baabish talk with my children recently, we discussed the importance of being thoughtful and careful with the words they use and send in cyberspace. Some are newly navigating those waters. I am well-aware I cannot monitor every word texted, sent, or spoken. I can remind them that once the words go out, they stay out there somewhere, even if we do not understand where or how.

I tried to explain my card catalog story, but I might as well have been speaking a foreign language. Times. They change. Words. They remain.

Choose wisely, choose well.

How to Enjoy Spring Break

1. Pack up the kids and head out of town.

2. Visit the new home of your adult daughter and son-in-law.

3. Sleep in the best room of the house on account of being the oldest person and the Baab (and Scoby) of the family.

4. Attend church as a family on Palm Sunday.

5. Pick up pizza after church and arrive home to find everyone singing karaoke.

6. Join in.

7. Do a Costco run with adult daughters and pay for everything in the cart, because looking around you realize you are the Baab and that’s what the Baab in the group does.

8. Come home and play Game of Things after figuring out where the pen is.

9. Laugh a lot and then some more.

10. Shop at LUSH getting bath bombs for most.

11. Meltdown on a double dog walk and crash from exhaustion while everyone else plays Quiplash into the night.

12. Keep your regularly scheduled Tuesday call due to no WiFi to send an email postponing it.

13. Go to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art with 9 other people related to you.

14. Relax and enjoy the museum.

15. Watch Netflix Nailed It over lunch.

16. Read 2 books.

17. Dream deeply and vividly each night.

18. Watch the kids open the pool for the season with a polar bear swim.

19. Wrestle your demons while your kids exercise their freedom.

20. Grab a second of hotspot to blog quickly before going off grid again and diving into a third book in as many days.

Tended Trauma

Childhood vacations consisted of camping or visiting grandparents in Michigan. Sometimes we camped with grandparents or other relatives.

The first family vacation I remember was a camping trip to Cowan’s Gap State Park. I was six years old. My sister, Deborah, was three, and my baby brother, Nick, was six months old. Mom was newly pregnant with sister, Sharon. While there was a baby and an expected baby, the focus did not seem to be all on babies, yet, like it would soon become. It was exciting to be camping.

Our family camped in a square, heavy canvas tent, secured to the ground by metal stakes. I remember the distinct canvas smell and expansive space.

Cowan’s Gap State Park had a sandy beach area for swimming. There were also rowboats for rental. I know this because they seemed so exciting, and I really wanted to ride in one. The answer was no. They cost extra money which was something my Christian school teacher father and stay at home mother did not have.

My mom’s late-seventies style consisted of blouses, wrap-around skirts, and navy blue Dr. Scholls Exercise Sandals. These sandals were wooden with a toe-grip under the single adjustable strap. The action of walking in them provided exercise for the legs, hence the name.

We were at the campsite, and I was running around wearing mom’s exercise sandals with bare feet. I dashed behind the tent, and as I circled and rounded the right side, I didn’t clear the perimeter. My left ankle raked against the edge of a metal tent stake, slicing it open. There was a lot of crying and blood.

Dad took me to a small medical facility for care. I sat on a table in an exam room under bright lights. The doctor said, We just have to squirt some ketchup and mustard on your ankle, and then we will stitch you up.

I felt safe and at ease. It was funny to think about squirting ketchup and mustard on my foot! I got six stitches and clear instructions for their care ~ especially not to get them wet in the lake. This was disappointing. Swimming was my favorite activity.

As a consolation, Dad rented a rowboat and took me out in it. He also put my foot in a bread bag on the last day, so that I could go near the water without the stitches getting wet. I felt special.

Weeks later, after returning home, it was time to remove the stitches. This was done at home using my mom’s sewing stitch ripper to break the thread before pulling it out. I remember the funny, tickly feeling.

I wore my scar as a special badge for many years. Looking at it reminded me of how brave I had been on that table getting ketchup and mustard squirted on it, and how fun it was to ride in a rowboat with my dad.

This story illustrates how a traumatic childhood event became a memory of care because the trauma was tended well. There was no yelling at me in a panic or lecture on why I should not have been acting like a child. I understood about not renting a rowboat, since I knew why we couldn’t. It made the subsequent rental more special, because my disappointment in not being able to swim was noticed and cared for with kindness. A creative solution for going near the water on the last day was thought of, again, making me feel special.

The removal of the stitches at home could have been traumatic if I were fearful and being coerced forcefully. Instead it was explained and tried and did not hurt, as my memory of the tickly feeling reveals. It felt adventuresome. In hindsight, I also know it was much less expensive for my parents to remove them at home, but that was not made an issue to me at the time. Because of how my parents cared for me in this situation, I am able to look back at this childhood story and feel loved and safe at six years old.

As you think about stories from childhood, what comes to mind? What tales are told of you, and how do they feel?

Tomorrow I embark on Certificate Training, Level 2. I will share a story of childhood trauma that was not tended well. I will hear stories of others with the goal of learning to listen to and engage with stories of heartache to foster healing and hope.

Friendship Friday ~ Esther

I know what you do in your spare time. 

Esther’s knowing eyebrows move up and down rapidly. She says this each time I tell her, or she overhears, that I have eight children. She seems to know what everyone does in their spare time. When a portly man passes us on deck she looks to me and says, I know what HE does in HIS spare time.

Esther is 88 with bright eyes and a foggy mind. Attentive to her appearance, her thin white hair is updone with various clips and combs, topped with a black floppy bow. This gives the appearance of a crown which helps me to remember her name. Queen Esther. The black bow is a fixture of her look each time I cross paths with her.

She introduces herself as Esther the Pester, but I cannot bring myself to call her that as so many passengers do freely. Hey, Esther the Pester! To me she is just Esther.

She is the one who ends up with the heartiest portion of food at our plated dinner each evening. While my plate arrives with a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables, Esther’s is piled high with pasta, topped with a chicken breast or two.

Oh my, I’ll never be able to eat all of this. Do you want some? This question is rhetorical, as Esther begins cutting into chicken and sliding pasta onto my plate. She comes from a time when it was a sin to waste so much food. I agree that it is wasteful, but how did I end up the starving child that Esther must feed?

I take the food onto my plate graciously, for along with the generous sharing of her food is the generous sharing of the wine she has brought on board. It is not a bad tradeoff. My glass is filled and refilled copiously.

Esther was a beauty in her day, I am told. I believe it. Her eyes still sparkle, and her smile is free. The deep wrinkles on her face give her character and don’t seem dour at all. She, or someone who loves her, is attentive to her appearance. She looks attractive and smart in her dress.

Each night the photostaff takes several pictures of our table. Esther looks lovely in every picture. She really does. This hints that she looked pretty good once upon a time.

I used to live in Hollywood at Hollywood Studios when I was younger. Several other girls who lived there became actresses in movies. I could have, too, but I wouldn’t cooperate. She says this with that up and down eyebrow movement of hers. It’s pretty clear that cooperating would have involved sleeping with someone somewhere along the line.

This conversation took place eight years before its time, back in 2009. The media had not yet exploded with Hollywood (and beyond) sexual harassment allegations. If hashtags were even a thing, they were not yet mainstream. I was just a young woman listening to an old one relate her life experience and a part of her story.

I assure Esther that I’m glad that she didn’t cooperate or we might not be sharing a table on this cruise ship. I have no other words to offer. Only presence. We sit.

If I get ice cream for dessert will you have some? What flavor should I choose?

Something in me senses that Esther is a Butter Pecan kind of girl, which is exactly what I request for her.

I am right!

Changes

It’s after 10:00 on Saturday night, and I’m picking up American Girl dolls and accessories from an elaborate set up in the TV room. They have been there for over a week.

I remember the intricacy involved and time it takes to set up and orchestrate proper play, and I want my youngest to have that freedom for as long as possible. As a result, we have all been navigating over and around tiny dishes and clothing and furniture and dolls, so many dolls. It is time to clean them up.

There are bins to contain everything, but Little Mae is clearly avoiding the task.

I warn her that if she doesn’t pick up, then I will do it for her.

Ok, Fine! She calls over her shoulder as she runs upstairs to play in her room with a sister before bed.

This is how I find myself here, and I do not even take a picture, though the thought crossed my mind. What if this is the last time?

It really could be now, unlike times before when there was always another sister or sibling next in line.

I allow myself to hold the memory of the scene in my heart as I sit in the midst of the play circle, paralyzed. I am transported back to my young self who desired to keep her world ordered, a seemingly impossible task with six younger siblings coming behind and messing things up.

I understand now Little Mae’s avoidance. It is overwhelming. In my overwhelm, I release perfectionism and just place things where they fit. Like with like, mostly. There is fun in unpacking surprises when the bins are brought back out.

Whenever that may be.

My husband works on his own late-night project in the kitchen, just off of the room where I sit. I gain momentum and snap tops on full bins, stacking them, preparing to move them back out to the kitchen set.

Music plays from the speaker in the kitchen. . . Changes . . .and the tears well in my eyes. My heart already feels fragile, and now I am packing and stacking and storing away toys that are nearing their expiration date.

Doubt creeps in and over and around my heart as I question my choice to allow the girls to spend so much birthday and Christmas money over the years on dolls and tiny dresses and miniature shoes and furniture.

I remember and question my own rush of anticipation, stalking Cyber Monday deals and trolling secondhand shops for unique tiny things.

Changes.

I find a paper rolled and taped into a tiny cone shape with pompoms glued on it for cotton candy and ice cream sandwiches cut from craft foam and the tiny empty plastic bottles that held beads from a recent craft kit and smile.

It was worth it. IS worth it.

And I allow the tears to come.

Unprepared for Goodbye

There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

I was not prepared for the news.

It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.

I thought I knew what it would say.

There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.

My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.

Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.

A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.

He loved.

Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.

He cared.

There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.

He encouraged.

He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.

Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.

Goodbye, Bob.

Christmas Changes

I sit in the day after Christmas, carving out some reflective quiet in the midst of all of the celebrating. In the moment there is relative peace. There are no deep conversations to engage, no projects to help facilitate, and no needs to meet. In the moment.

There has been much change and growth this season, and like most growth and change, it is not noticeable until you look back on what was. The looking back took place through the eyes of an adult son who was on the other side of the world last Christmas.

Christmas morning was so much more chill than it was two years ago when I was home.

It is true. Little people have grown and are growing, and while there is still excitement, there is not the frenetic level that once was. There is greater ability and capacity to wait with expectancy and hopeful patience and to enjoy the process of giving and receiving gifts on Christmas morning.

I noticed changes in many areas over the season.

Cookie baking looked different. It required minimal help from me in the gathering and helping to mix ingredients for dough. The rest took care of itself as four sisters sat and decorated them together.

There was such playfulness in the decorating, as inside family jokes were engaged and battle scenes created with cookies and icing. Growth. Laughter.

Christmas dinner felt calmer as we ate and laughed and played a game around the table. I really want to insert a picture, but it is the season where not everyone is fond of being posted. Changes. So I refrain and instead post the final result of our Advent tree.

That was a change, as well, since we kept up with the pieces and candles this year after a rocky beginning.

I am thankful that I pushed through the hard to get to the other side. We made a lot of memories around the table and the tree.

A final note on this day after Christmas is how my gifts have changed over the years. From giant plastic candy canes of days gone by to thoughtful gifts that show just how much my kids have grown and know me, this year’s Christmas bounty was so sweet. And I am not talking only about the giant truffle!

This is me entering the last week of 2017, blogging about Christmas changes, anticipating other changes on the horizon. While I do not know specifically what they are, I feel them inside.

I hope to have more time to process this week, maybe even on the blog, about what is coming up in 2018, including my word which will be revealed New Year’s Day.

Change is not easy for me.

We shall see!

Christmas Cards

It is Christmas Eve, 2017, and Christmas cards have not been sent. There are no Christmas cards in the mail this year. No New Year’s cards. None. If you have not received a card and you sent one, thank you for the joy that you brought to us. Thank you for extending grace and understanding this year.

It does not mean we will never send out cards again. The tradition may resume next year. It is just that this year Christmas cards were a thing we could say no to, and it is nobody’s fault, in spite of any rumors you may hear.

If there is any fault, I am the one to blame. The decision was made for sure after Thanksgiving, though the thought had been rolling around in my head a bit before then. Thanksgiving brought confirmation that I was trying to hold onto something that is not here right now, and the tighter I tried to grasp, the faster and messier it slipped from my hand.

Last Thanksgiving, all eight children sat around the table. It was a rare moment, and I thought, This could be the last time this happens in this way ~ no spouses or significant others ~ just the siblings. After our 4:00 meal, we dashed outside so that the grandparents could snap a picture of us, which became our Christmas Card.

That is how I remember it, dashing outside to snap a quick picture.

So this year, even though some were missing, I thought, We will do the same thing. Eat at 4, then head outside for a picture, and that will be what I use for Christmas.

Only we did not eat at 4, and with each passing moment, as the sun lowered in the sky, the photo-op slipped away. Still I grasped, and worse, I did not communicate my thoughts or desires to the family. That is what did me in and where the fault lies, if we are finding it.

I am not the only person in this family.

It was after 5:00. The sun was setting. People were being summoned from all corners of the house to come to the table, and I threw out, But first, let’s run outside and take a picture.

It did not go over well. Understandably. Each person has feelings and experiences tied to having a family picture taken, and just because some were more vocal does not mean others did not feel similarly. I realized immediately the many errors of my ways and retracted the request.

It’s okay. Really. We do not need to take a picture. I think I was trying to hold onto something that has passed, and I did not even prepare you for the moment. It’s nobody’s fault (because we often move to blame), it’s just what it is this year.

So Merry Christmas, Dear Readers and Friends! May you honor what is real while holding hope for what is to come as you celebrate!