Tag Archives: remember

Friendship Friday ~ Alex

I am blessed with the gift of built-in best friends. Many moons ago, my fourth little friend was brought home from the hospital. That gave me two younger sisters and two younger brothers by the time I was eight years old.

When Alex began to talk, he called me teacher. That is the family folk-lore. I am not surprised, because I played school with all of my siblings and stuffed animals. I probably roped him in as a nursery student before he could talk. By the time he was four or five, I had him well-trained, as seen in these photos from a school picture day photo shoot I did with my class one summer.

I did individual photos, hands properly crossed over a book, most likely a Bible for that extra spiritual touch.

I took a class picture, as well.

Clearly I was inspired by the real school picture of this little preschooler.

Fast forward a few decades and lots of stories to this summer when Alex brought his entire family from Bolivia to the States. We were on the same continent for three months, though not all of that  time was spent in the same location.

It was so fun to catch up and connect. It felt like always. Just really good. Like this good.

There is so much love on our faces. So much contentment in this captured moment. Shalom.

Alex was ten when I left for college. One of my favorite letters from that season reads

Dear Julie, I love you. I miss you. We are still brother and sister. Love, Alex

We are still brother and sister.

This summer we took a trip with our mom and teenage girls to visit family in Ohio and Michigan. It was such a sweet time of laughter and conversation. And after this goodbye picture was snapped, I climbed into my car and sobbed down the driveway as I drove from Ohio back home to Virginia.

Happy Birthday, Alex! I love and miss you so much! I am thankful for your life. I am thankful that we are brother and sister.

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.

Seven Years Since

I do this thing with birthdays. On a particular child’s birthday I stop, subtract their age from mine and their siblings, and reflect on the numbers. It helps me process more fully a life that has been so full.

I did this recently when my third turned 22. I was reminded that at her birth I was 24, the same age as my firstborn right now, and that her siblings were 2 and 1. It put more of my story into perspective and gave me a tangible space in time to inhabit while processing it.

Today is different.

This Saturday marks seven years since I heard the news that Brian Carderelli was killed. Not only is there a number but also the feeling of the actual day.

That Saturday morning had been a difficult one. Seven years ago I was 39. It was the season of peak dependence of dependents in our family, as the children were 17, 16, 15, 11, 7, 5, 4, and 2.

My firstborn was out of the country. The others were home at ages where they could be left alone for brief periods of time together. This had happened ~ Steve and I left them alone to go out briefly ~ and we returned to them acting like siblings who had been left alone together, some of them in charge, some of them little.

It was a mess of feelings and emotions from everyone that triggered deep feelings and emotions in me.  I had often been left alone in charge of younger siblings. I had not yet begun to deal with younger me and all of the turbulence I felt inside.

Intense emotion spilled over and out and into my journal as I disappeared into my room to process a pile of pain that had nowhere else to go. After venting, I fell asleep.

I woke, and Steve had me read an email that Brian Carderelli had been in an ambush and was presumed dead. I remember sitting at the computer desk and going numb. It just couldn’t be true. Brian was a friend and neighbor whose presence in our life came at a time when a huge gift of grace was needed.

He often gave the teenagers rides to youth group. He would wave and smile at me from his car when he stopped at the sign on our street corner. I was usually outside supervising littles riding tricycles or drawing with sidewalk chalk. He was supposed to be coming home from his travels soon. How could he just be dead?

It was confirmed.

I cried a lot.

My kids are sad. I hurt. I hate killing and death . . . I am afraid. overwhelmed. hurt. So tense and overwhelmed which manifests in anger and panic. I don’t want to live in a hate-filled world.

These were some of the words written in my journal immediately after the news. Before any real processing began.

I took food to friends, because that is what I knew to do at the time. Bring food and sit with.

Seven years later, the day feels similar, yet different. I am 46. My children are 24, 23, 22, 18, 14, 12, 11, 9. Half have reached legal adult status. For those left behind, life marches on.

Still we remember. Still we grieve loss. Seven years since.

Brian, you are missed.

All the Dimes

With a week to go until trip number three, it’s time to write about the dimes. There are certainly other things in my heart and on my mind, but the dimes matter, too. They don’t feel as emotionally charged as so much else in my world does. They bring feelings of hope, and hope is always good. I could use a hefty dose right now.

The Dimes.

Last Christmas/ New Year’s season a simple money-saving challenge was floating around social media sites. A two-liter plastic bottle, filled with dimes, illustrated a simple way to save a few hundred dollars. With finances being one of the barriers to my pursuit of the LCC at the Seattle School, I thought this would be an easy, fun way to begin saving to fund my dream.

Procuring a two-liter plastic Coke bottle, I dug through my wallet and scoured my home. Those dimes alone filled the four little bumps at the bottom. I set an intention of dropping each dime I found into the bottle.

Playing fair, I made sure the dimes were not off of my kids’ dressers or out of my husband’s change jar. Only ones from my wallet or those found in stray places like the laundry room floor or the couch cushions were allowed. Dimes found on walks with the dog and in parking lots were definitely fair game.

My eyes became sharp. Each dime was a reminder to stay the course. I grew in confidence that God would provide for the work I was doing. Each shiny gleam brought encouragement. It became a game to see where the dimes would appear. I felt God’s smile on me through tiny bits of silver alloy found in random places.

All was well and good, but honestly, after the initial fill of the four little bumps at the bottom, the pace slowed. A lot. After a year of saving, maybe an eighth of the bottle is filled. I don’t think I will be making my final Seattle payment in dimes. I am grateful for the provision that has enabled me to do this work without depending on loose change.

Though the bottle is more empty than full right now, my heart is the opposite, illustrated by the overwhelming meltdown I experienced while attempting to clean the TV room. The space has never fully recovered from Christmas, and asking the child who plays there most to help with the cleanup was met with resistance. This tipped me into a state of upheaval while attempting to clean it myself.

Frozen, I sat on the floor, tears pouring from my eyes. It’s too hard. It’s too much.

And here I was expecting an eight-year-old to do it. It wasn’t really about the room, though.

Mustering strength and resolve, I broke down the job in my mind, grabbing a broom to sweep the perimeter of the wood floor surrounding the area rug. Almost immediately two dimes swept into the pile.

All will be well.

Shannon’s Mom

Would Shannon’s mom report to the mall office, please? Shannon’s mom to the mall office.

My heart is in my throat as I step from the carpeted floor of Centerpointe, the Christian bookstore in the mall next to JC Penney, to the sleek tiled floor of the mall’s common ground. Already, time has passed too slowly and too quickly in my search for a preschooler entrusted to my care, not for a few hours a day, but for LIFE.

I am failing at it. I can’t even keep track of ONE small child. How can parents continue to trust me to care for their children day after day? In that moment, all I feel in my brain is the relief that Shannon is found and only gave her first name. What if someone heard that Mrs. McClay had lost a child? I would never be trusted again.

How did this happen?

It was supposed to be a quick, after-work trip to the mall, bringing my youngest child along for some quality time together. We entered through the Walmart anchor end, making the long trek past all of the stores towards our destination at polar opposite.

She noticed the coin-operated merry-go-round and asked to ride it. Not now was my response, because I had no change, and we had places to go. Let’s be honest, my response was usually not now, because, well, just because.

Today we are pressed for time, because I have just gotten off of work, and there are things that I need to look for before heading home to fix supper and get on with the evening. There are always things to get to. Always that next thing.

We enter Centerpointe, precursor to Family Christian Store, and I begin to look in earnest for whatever it is that I need. I enjoy it here, because there is a play area for kids in the back where VeggieTales videos loop and books and toys are accessible, while moms like me peruse the latest CDs and Christian books and tchotchkes.

Shannon is into VeggieTales, these days, so much so that her birthday party was a VeggieTale theme, so I am more than happy to oblige when she asks if she can go to play with the toys.

I scan the CD display, searching for something new, that I know will lift my spirits, though I won’t be able to buy it. I remain lost in thought for a few minutes before returning to reality and heading to the back of the store for my girl.

I find emptiness.

The play area is empty.

Bob and Larry sing silly songs to an empty chair. There is no little girl in sight.

Panic rises in my chest as I run to the front of the store where a cheerful, curly-haired cashier is ringing up a purchase.

Did you see a little girl walk out of the store?

Looking at me with concerned eyes, she shakes her head. She has not seen a child, but she has been busy ringing up purchases. I feel her care and concern as shame washes over me. She is doing her job. I am clearly not doing mine.

It is at that moment, in the front of the store, that I hear the mall loudspeaker calling for me, and I rush out to the mall office.

Scooping Shannon into my arms, I have never been so happy to see a little face.

What happened?

Well, you SAID I could play with the toys, so I went out to try to find them, but I went the wrong way.

The toys. The TOYS. The merry-go-round. She was asking to go play on the merry-go-round.

We talk it over and realize where she made a wrong turn, and where I made a wrong assumption, and I tell her I am glad that she was able to say her name so that I could come and find her. We leave the mall together with a memory and the huge relief of being reunited.

I have been Shannon’s mom for 21 years, now. I love her and how she has helped me to grow and become a better mother and person. I am realizing that there will always be wrong turns and wrong assumptions, but if we remember our name and ask for help, the reuniting is sweet and the memories are rich.

Shani first birthday

This is from Shani’s first birthday. Her face captures her essence even at a year old. Those big eyes and that furrowed brow speak volumes. I just want to scoop her up and hold her close again. Love those babies, Mamas!!! Time really does fly. Happy 21st, Little Angel!

Friendship Friday ~ There’s Something About Second Grade

Maybe second grade friendships are in my face, since I just finished the school year, and my daughter just finished second grade. Maybe it is because one of the generous donors to my counseling certificate was a friend from second grade. Maybe it is because of this. Whatever the case, second grade has been on my mind, lately.

I corralled my three little girls one spring weekend to watch The Sound of Music while all of the boys were away. Forgetting that it is long enough for an Intermission, I settled in with them, to much initial protestation.

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Immediately I was transported back to second grade, when I sang that very song to a girl in my class named . . . Maria. I thought it was so funny and clever, until the call came from a mother that I had called her daughter a demon. She didn’t appreciate that much. Turns out, it wasn’t so funny or clever, after all. Or kind.

I don’t remember if I found out from a parent or teacher, but either way, that lesson stayed with me always. It was my first experience with the blow that I had hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally and that words have meaning and consequences.

Take a minute to watch this clip. Seriously. Excuse the poor quality, but it’s the only I could find that played the part that I sang to my friend.

A few things stand out to me as curious about this incident and movie.

First, I knew the song well enough to sing it through, which means I must have watched the movie or listened to the soundtrack quite a bit. Second, I can remember facial expressions and things about this particular scene that intrigued or bothered me as a girl . . . the nun who pipes up, Except for every meal with a friendly smile on her face ~ intrigued.  Mother Superior singing, How do you hold a mooooon-beam in, your, hand? ~bothered. Third, I remember acting out scenes from this movie, including putting on my twirliest dress and running up the “hill” in our back yard, and then twirling down singing, The hillllls are alllllive, with the sound of muuuuuusic.

I am serious.

I didn’t really think that my friend, Maria, was a demon. I did think that it was interesting that she had the same name as one of my favorite characters in my favorite movie. I risked getting too playful and too carried away, and that is a big part of second grade.

Second grade is playful and funny and innocent and hurtful all rolled into one. Friendships need help to grow, and little people need help learning to care for one another’s feelings and hearts.

The sweetest thing about second grade is how golden the friendships can be. There is something about someone seeing and knowing you and liking you for who you were at the beginning, before the messages of not good enough began to set in.

As I watched my second graders signing each other’s yearbooks, I was reminded of that same activity with my own second grade friends and pulled out a yearbook from 1979 to take a look.

Jennifer

Here is a signature and drawing by my generous donor.

II Timothy 2:15

Next to that is a Bible reference. Always an important part of a Christian school yearbook signing.

best friend

And this message signed by a friend who I didn’t realize considered me her best. That is the beauty of second grade friendships. Every one is the best!

I love you, my grown-up second grade friends. You, too, Maria.

You’re a lamb, wherever you are.

Keeping Memories

I don’t think it’s that you have too much stuff. I think it’s that you have a lot of people to keep track of, and so it looks like too much.

These words of wisdom, spoken by my recently graduated high school senior, offered comfort to my heart, as I sat sorting and sorting and SORTING at the dining room table. End of the school year papers, awards, and report cards only scratched the surface. There were bits of art work, creative stories, and pictures in the mix. There were outgrown toys being boxed up and brought down from rooms.

There were my own issues coming into play, surfacing in the midst of the sorting. There was the reality of another year passing and change knocking on the door of my heart, or at least tapping me on the shoulder. There was a deep sense of reminding and remembering.

Once upon a time I dumped my memories into the trash. Boxes containing awards, medals from band and music achievements, childish journals and pictures, scrapbooks, all were cast aside. In their stead, I packed boxes of magazines for the mid-senior-year move that wrenched me 1,100 miles away from all that I knew.

Upon arrival at our new house, I asked when trash day was, so that I could leave the box of magazines on the curb. When packing up the old house, now several states away, mom had to leave her dining room chairs for lack of room on the moving truck, and dad’s tools went like hotcakes at a fire sale. I think we all were in a state of disorganization, shock, and chaos.

Maybe this factors into why my children’s memories are so important to me, and why I find it necessary to save things of perceived meaning. I want them to remember, or at least have the option of remembering. I don’t want to revise, though. Therein lies a bit of tension.

Each child has a clear plastic tote in the basement where items holding memories can be tossed. They also have a binder on a bookshelf with clear page protectors where papers can be inserted. Finally, each has a file folder where I can quickly sort and stash paper items to save for later.

I realize that everything cannot be saved, and I am not an advocate of hoarding. What holds meaning for one child does not for another, so one may have notebooks filled with written stories and hand drawn pictures, while another has objects no longer played with but still special.

Some kids are more sentimental than others.

Here is a list of things that I place value on and often date and save:

  • Creative writing or original stories
  • Hand-drawn pictures, especially “firsts” first drawing of a person or drawing of our family or written name. Usually found on the back of proper school work or on a church bulletin somewhere.
  • Samples from various developmental stages A kindergarten drawing of a family looks different than a third grade drawing, so I might have a sample of both.
  • Places where identity or dreams are processed What I want to be when I grow up. What makes me special now at whatever age I am.
  • Notes from others written to them
  • Words of affirmation
  • School certificates or awards
  • Team pictures
  • Programs or playbills from concerts or performances or recitals they were in
  • Notes written by them to us, even painful ones where they are angry
  • Birthday lists
  • Anything they request that marks a milestone or end of an era One child often asks me to put small items in the memory box that are outgrown, yet meaningful.

There are so many other options, and each family and child is different. I tend towards the tangible rather than the digital, even though I blog and do plenty of work with technology. No, I don’t save everything, and sometimes when going through items, I pare down further, realizing that I was a bit over-the-top.

On this particular sorting day, I processed my workbasket which was piled high with end-of-school-year paper items. Pulling everything out and separating into piles for each child and then into binders and finally onto shelves, the feeling of a slate being clean was very real.

I am ready for fall with the middle schoolers’ elementary items boxed away and the elementary child’s sorted into her binder. The high-school graduate is preparing to move and doing some serious de-cluttering of his own.

Maybe it is the season of mid-life processing that I am entering that calls me to keep memories for those who do not know their value, yet. Maybe it is the reckoning with myself. Whatever it is, by keeping memories for my children, I want to hold for them that who they are is connected to who they were as they grow into who they are becoming.

I also want to get a jump on my mama final exam.