Tag Archives: gift

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.

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.

Hanging Beauty

I love the way the morning sunlight shines on the tree in my front yard, illuminating its leaves in a sunny green glow. I also love the addition of the hanging basket found on the steps of my side porch. I do not know where it came from. It is a mystery. 

Truly. It is lovely. I will enjoy it while it is here.

These flowers are a bright addition to the morning view, as they also glow in the sunlight. It makes returning from the dog walk an extra treat.

They speak to me of goodness and beauty in the midst of the hard. That vision was beginning to slip away.  My ability to see redemption in the strange places, small spaces was waning.

These flowers are one of many things that converged this week to offer hope.

Sometimes it’s hard to hold on. In those moments I will look out and remind myself to just be like the flowers and rest in the container. I do not have to work so hard at hanging on and holding everything together. I can just be and bloom.

I am glad that I sat down to write today. If you have time and are so inclined, actually check out the links. As they came to mind and I added them, the act of reading truth and seeing God’s faithfulness recorded in the archives of the blog offered encouragement to my soul.

Maybe you will be encouraged, as well.

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?

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!

Pie Dough

I would like to think that I had a hand in this, but I did not. It was my mother and grandmother who invited child six over to learn to make pie crust, and she picked up the skill like a champ.

I can make pie dough, but it always feels like a complicated and precarious process. My daughter whips up batches like a pro to the tune of random pies appearing on the counter. One day I find cherry, the next pumpkin, for no reason other than the joy of baking.

The day I packed the crockpot full of chicken thighs before embarking with my friend, Angela, to UVA’s Medical Center, I came home late at night to a container of leftover chicken in the refrigerator. The meal had not been a favorite, but it had been food, and now there was cooked chicken to be used. I stashed it in the freezer and added Chicken Pot Pie to the following week’s menu.

Since it is my son’s favorite, I planned it for an evening when he would be home for dinner. It happened to be a night when my daughter would be out. Since she is not a fan of Chicken Pot Pie, the timing was perfect.

I am learning to ask for what I need, and since daughter would be around after school, I asked if she would make a pie crust for me. She obliged, and in no time it was in a bowl on the Hoosier ready to be rolled flat.

I rolled the dough and lined the pie plate after preparing the filling on the stove top. Soon the house was filled with a delicious smell, and my heart was filled with a delicious warmth. I think it is called gratefulness.

I am grateful for the help of a daughter who is willing to do what she loves to help me do what I need even when the end result is not her favorite. I am grateful for the gift of grace, because that is all that anything is. 

Bloom

Discovering the bloom was surprising.

Why am I surprised, again?

God continues to surprise and amaze me along this stretch of the journey, and I continue to struggle to believe the goodness is real and really for me. He shows me that he sees me and is here for me in the bigness and chaos with just what I need, and I wonder about next time.

Will you still see me then, Father? Next time?

The bloom in front of me whispers this time. Grace for today.

It came on the day that I finished a big story for this session in Seattle. This weekend we delve into sexuality. I tiptoed in last year via Red Tent. It’s time to go deeper.

I could have missed this tiny bloom completely, but I didn’t. The pink flower adorning the leggy growth propped by the plant stand called to me as I passed by, stopped, and marveled.

Steve, look at this!

So many things spoke to me through this little pink flower. I immediately texted the giver of the transplanted-from-broken-small-shoots in a little pot to tell her. I had transplanted the growth to a larger floor pot. It’s the one to the right of the stand in the picture. It took off wildly. Like my life.

So there it is. The bloom. The special sign to me that I am seen, it is time, and all will be well. At the end of the growth will come the flower.

But first, the terror of being dumped out and re-potted. First the mess.

In the Box

This past week was a dear friend’s birthday. We share the same birth month, and several weeks ago went for coffee together. She gave me a card with a gift card to the coffee shop that we often frequent. She also gave me a box.

The box was significant and special, because it was handmade by her. What was inside the box was even more significant, especially at this time in my life.

While reading and preparing for my certificate work this coming school year, much is made about memory and story and processing and trauma. This month was all about the reading. Next month comes the first writing assignment.

Stirring around inside are memories to be curious about and stories to process. Launching another big while continuing to parent four littles middles stirs different feelings now that there are no more babies. I see more of myself in the life stages of my five girls ~ wherever they are.

And also my three boys.

With that background, I was curious about the box. I opened it to reveal this. . .

inside the box

Can you guess the significance? Anyone? Need another clue?

Sunshine Family

It’s the Sunshine Family!

She passed her childhood set along to me for safe-keeping, knowing my love for the dolls and their place in my story.

Playing with Sunshine Family dolls is a HUGE childhood memory. This was my alternative to playing with Barbies ~ modestly proportioned, flat-footed mom, solid, hard-working dad, baby, and even a big sister in one of the sets, this family provided me hours of creative fun.

I only remember having the dolls and some of the baby accessories. Mine were yellow ~ cradle, bathtub, high chair. There was even a tiny bottle. I don’t think I had any of the store-bought big accessories, but that certainly didn’t stop me from creating multi-level houses out of cardboard boxes, filled with hand-crafted furniture.

My dolls had yellow shoes. It’s funny the memories that stick.

Among my Sunshine Family memories are the pantry shelves that my mom created out of a Velveeta box, cardboard squares, and tape. The dining room table was cut from the bottom of a plastic gallon milk jug with chairs made from paper cups. One was turned upside-down, the other cut in half. The bottoms were glued or taped together, forming a chair with a back. Fancy.

Plates were the flat tops of milk jugs, cups were toothpaste caps, and baskets were egg carton sections cut and woven with yarn. The humble shoebox was a treasure trove of possibilities, most obviously, a bed, but also a closet or stove or counter.

To this day, my sister and I have an inside joke where we say, “It can be a bed, or a dresser, or a table, etc. . .” whenever we see something with multifunctional potential.

In my mind, I spent hours armed with fabric and scissors and wallpaper samples, creating and designing beautifully furnished housing for my dolls. I remember learning a pattern for a tiny bonnet for baby and diapers, as well.

This Pinterest board stirred lots of memories and maybe a feeling or two.

I know that my sister played Sunshine Family with me, and I think some friends did, as well. Did any of you play with or remember these dolls from the 70’s? Did any of your children play with them? I am curious and curiouser!

What about you, Dear Readers? What are some of YOUR significant memories of play? Do share in the comments!

 

 

Restoring the Swing

This year’s word, Restore, has proven itself surprising in many ways.

One such way happened on Mother’s Day, but not really. Mother’s Day was the culmination of the restoration. It took awhile to process all of the feelings that swirled inside of me that day. After some time and a little bit of quiet, I am able to write.

Last September there was a post titled Seasonal Ritual where I detailed the return to the basement of the porch swing and my feelings about the whole thing. Not long after, I received a message from a dear friend asking about the swing.

She read the post and, having given birth recently and living in the country where there was a porch without a swing and having a baby who needed lots of movement, wondered if she and her husband could pick up mine to borrow for a season if they returned it painted.

I was more than happy to oblige, and my son kindly catered to a request that once again he bring the swing up from the basement to the porch. Soon after, it was gone. I was glad that it was being used and thought no more about it.

Recently, while catching up, my friend noted that her family was moving and that they would no longer need the swing. Sometime it would be returned to my porch. I assured her there was no rush and, again, thought no more about it.

This is what made for quite a surprise when Mother’s Day afternoon found me returning home from planting the planter to finding a painted swing sitting on the porch. There was a thank you note with the swing and the following comment on the blog:

We dropped off your porch swing this afternoon (this is me letting you know, so that in case somehow it isn’t there, we can sort it out!). I noticed the reno, but I also noticed the chair by the door, the beautiful house number plaque, the lantern, and all the pretty flowers growing around the house. I had been having a “wait oh no what if this is the wrong house” moment, until I saw those things–and then I thought, “Nope, this is Julie’s house.” Because of all the beauty in the midst of the mess. Because of all the ways I can see that you intentionally took time to create loveliness, even though it’s not all perfect. Keep up the good work, friend! 🙂 Thanks again for the swing; it provided this new and growing momma with many breathers.

Tears began to flow which morphed into sobs as I read her words affirming all that I was feeling insecure about with regards to my house and all that is unfinished and messy. The fact that the swing returned to me on Mother’s Day was also significant, and my heart opened to the magnitude of that gift.

The following weekend, my luvvah made a trip to Lowes for supplies and hung the swing for me. I love it.

porch swing

So do the kids.

porch swing

And things are still not perfect on the porch.

Roo on swing

But there is beauty.