Category Archives: memories

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!

 

Advent Candles

I decided to get more candles. Rather, I requested that my husband pick some up last Saturday while running errands with a daughter. I knew exactly where I had seen the boxes of pre-packaged, advent-colored, purple and pink candles.

They were sold out.

Instead a text image came through with the image of bulk candles and a question, Is the indigo color okay? I missed the message.

He bought three indigo and one white candle. I like the indigo color much better in person.

The following day, I used the seasonal snowflake paperbag that the candles were packaged in to cover a small cardboard box. I glued the words Get ready on one side and Celebrate on the other. I pressed the five candles into floral foam, lining them with pinecones and berries.

It was my adult son’s idea to move it from the living room mantel to the lazy Susan in the middle of the table. Each night we light the candles during dinner and put up the felt tree piece afterwards. It has been the most chill Advent to date.

If you look closely, you can see some scatter I added this week in honor of Hanukkah.

I love all things miniature and could not resist them!

Speaking of felt tree, this is how ours looks today, December 16, 2017. There are 15 objects placed, and the wall hanging makes 16. Since this particular activity begins December 1, we are actually on track. This is a momentous occasion for us.

Usually we miss several days and spend much time catching up. The candles on the table have been the game changer for us this year.

I chose to persist, in keeping with my word for a few more days. It has not been easy, but it has been good.

Coffee Corner

Fresh Coffee

I hear the grinder in the kitchen whirling beans. Rattling, Clanking. Pouring. Fresh coffee is set up by the one who loves me so well. This Wednesday morning is Thanksgiving Eve, and instead of being dressed in the kitchen doing a final slapping of peanut butter on bread or filling a thermos with Spaghettios, I am sitting in bed, Bible and journals scattered.

Usually by this time the house is in full buzz with last-minute running around and waking of sleepers whose errant alarm clocks failed to alarm. Today my scholars are home beginning their holiday rest, so I rest a little longer, too, savoring the blue glow of the approaching sunrise outside my bedroom window. I write a bit more and try to silence a mind already racing ahead to the rest of the day.

Fresh coffee means love and kindness from the one who knew I would be sleeping in, and its meaning is not lost to me.

I remember drinking coffee in Florida, its taste a comfort as I got “toddies” with my sister from Barnies Coffee and Tea Company before walking around Coastland Center in Naples. It offered respite from the work week, transition to shopping for a new outfit or item.

Akin to Starbucks with a signature plaid green trademark, coffee at  Barnies symbolized rest and hope. I carried the ritual with me to Pensacola and the rare opportunities I had to get off campus with money. Both transportation and finances were in short supply back then.

I began drinking coffee in earnest when I lived in Golden Gate, Florida. It helped fuel my early morning work hours and kept me going into an evening full of classes. Warm comfort in a mug adorned my desk, carrying me away to a time when things would be different. I am in that time today ~ or am I? Are things different? I wonder.

Coffee.

It is a ritual that Steve and I have shared since our PCC “coffee station” days. He would walk from our breakfast table each morning to fill our mugs. Handcrafted coffee beverages were not as popular thirty years ago as they are today. There was not a campus coffee knockoff of Starbucks ~ or Barnies Coffee and Tea Company. There was morning coffee with Steve in the Varsity Commons out of beige melamine cafeteria mugs.

Family legend holds that I drank coffee at two years of age out of tiny creamer cups. My mom would fill them for me while we visited with her friend, Sarojeni, an Indian woman whose name I could pronounce perfectly, according to folklore.

So I have always been about coffee, which is why I can sit and sip and close my eyes and let all of the feelings flood me like the water that would flood the grounds in the single-serve red French Press that I got as a teen when trying to find who I was.

I was coffee. Fresh.

Just like this day.

Friendship Friday ~ Dewey’s Doggie Morning

My daughter faithfully rises early each weekday morning to walk and care for her dog. She is often up before me, pulling on a coat and slipping on headphones before grabbing the leash. I remain in my room, doing my morning routine, preparing to engage another day.

One morning, I heard unusual scrambling and barking from Dewey upon returning from his walk. Run-in with ZephyrI conjectured. She’s the boss of us all. I wonder what is up with them this morning. He must have crossed her.

I stepped out of my room to find a ball of white scampering around and under the dining room table with Dewey following closely behind, barking and snapping at it. It was another terrier.

I found Louie this morning on the walk. He was loose, so I brought him here to call his owner.

Sure enough, the name on his tag read Louie, which was kind of funny considering we have Dewey. We wondered aloud if they had been at the SPCA together, and if there was a Huey out there, also.

The morning routine continued as Dewey and Louie dashed around underfoot, reminding me of why I was hesitant to get a dog in the first place and why we have only one. Steve called the number on the tag which went directly to voicemail. He then offered the following words while preparing to drive Kirk to school:

I’m going to walk Louie around the block to see if someone is looking for him while Kirk finishes getting ready.

I got in my car to wait for the girls to come out for their ride to school. They exited the house as Steve returned from his walk around the block with another little dog under his arm.

I think they belong together, because this little one came running up. I had to grab him quickly before he got away.

Then there were three! I was laughing out loud in disbelief. The little brown dog had no tag. Of course we called him Huey.

Please don’t call the SPCA until I get home. The little brown dog is SOOOOO cute! Can we keep him?

I was beyond my comfort zone as Steve deposited the dogs in the backyard while I assured my daughter that I would make no sudden moves without her. We left for school.

I am not exaggerating when I say that at the top of our street there was a large white dog off-leash doing his business. No human in sight.

We are not even stopping for Donald! We have GOT to get to school. 

I returned home to the sight of two dogs looking longingly at me through the fence.

Inside, Dewey was waiting by the back door. I opened it for him to join his friends in the back yard.

There was an incredible amount of cuteness.

Then it was time for me to go to breakfast with my son. This meant bringing Dewey inside but leaving the others out in case their owner should come looking for them. Can you guess the dynamic here? Which dog is supposed to be coming inside?

Please can I come in, too?

After a leisurely breakfast downtown, my son and I returned home to an empty yard. The dogs had been picked up. At least I hoped so!

The call came later. The dogs had, indeed, made it home, and we had made a fun family memory. I’m grateful for caring hearts, bounding dogs, and healing laughter.

Also for a fenced-in yard.

Oh. And the little dog’s name is Chance.

All the Books

I am grateful that my kids are readers. I remember when the final child learned to read. It was as if I could let out a giant sigh.

Mission Accomplished!

I have always loved books. As a little girl, I remember being excited about trips to the library or school book club fliers. Caddie Woodlawn came from a school book club flier in fourth grade, I think.

I needed a reminder of the goodness, and my love, of books tonight when I walked up to tuck my youngest in bed and found her digging around underneath it. Just looking for Pony-wa. That was fine until I decided to actually look at what she was doing and realized there were tons of books stuffed under there, too.

What?! I like to read!

Fishing book after book out from under the stuffed animals piled in the crack of her bed, I tried loosely sorting them into stacks in the hall to reshelve. You can see just a few of her very favorites still on the bed.

I’ve read ALL of them, too.

A redeeming factor maybe is that the lost library book that I finally broke down and paid for yesterday was not among the stacks. Also, I found something else in the process.

Those of you who follow the blog know this significance, and I smiled inside while tucking it into my pocket and proceeding to shelve the books in the hall.

New Thing

There is another new thing in this season. After many years of having children participate in the Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir, I am finally a participant as a Parent Assistant to the Preparatory Choir.

Little Mae joined choir this year. Since I no longer have infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, I decided to use the time to help out during rehearsals by assisting with check-in and helping the director (restroom breaks, room transitions, Band-Aid passing out, tissue patrol, etc. . .). There are other moms helping, as well, so it is a team effort.

I am not a newcomer to the choir. My adult children sang for years. I traveled to Hawaii as a chaperone with them when my twelve-year-old was an infant in a sling. Her singing siblings were eleven and twelve. Her aunt was also a chorister at the time! There have been many years of sparkling since then. The eleven-year-old grew into a choir director.

There have also been years off.

I am enjoying this new thing in this new season. It is fun to bring my skill set of connecting with children to this space and to spend time with Little Mae in the process. For years I was the mom wrangling lots of littles and frantically trying to sign homework and work out all the schedules.

Now I am the older mom reminding them that to everything there is a season. This is my season to give back.

Saturday’s End

Saturday’s end finds me sitting in my corner in the space of in between.

I am waiting for Steve to get the girls settled for the night. I am searching my brain for words that keep drifting just out of reach. I want to write, to keep up the momentum, but there is not much coming.

Saturday’s end finds me both wrestling with and resting in enough. The things did not all happen today, but enough of them did. What constitutes a good Saturday?

For me it was the impromptu phone call after lunch when I was ready to jump out of my skin. Hearing my sister’s voice on the other end as I walked the neighborhood alone was both comforting and clarifying as she talked me through the struggle to the other side.

It was the father/daughter yardwork , the sound of a chainsaw cutting stray tree branches allowing more sunlight into the yard and the smell of cut branches burning in the fire pit.

It was the smiles and laughter and engagement I witnessed through the window, because close up it is difficult to see.

It was the joy of finished chores after the angst of wrangling everyone through them, because no one wants to pick up after others, but we all live here and have responsibilities.

It was dinner around the table with enough asparagus for all, because it is the current favorite vegetable.

It was the laughter following dinner as an impromptu photo shoot took place. So much laughter. Sibling love is the best.

It was a son preparing for homecoming and another preparing for work and daughters doling out shower time to ensure there was enough hot water for all.

It was the realization that here we go again with the refrigerator that is never fully stocked and the people that have lots of things to say and the laundry pile that is never ever finished and the hot water tank that is never quite full.

It was being reminded that there is life in this place, even in the midst of all that is hard. There was a lot of hard today, too.

At Saturday’s end, I will choose to rest in enough. It was enough to have been given another day to live and to love and to laugh. Because those things all happened, and it has not always been so. Today it was.