This Labor Day holiday morning is unusual as I prepare coffee for one. My husband is away with the teen girls visiting adult siblings in Richmond. I am home with a sick child and teen son who had to work. We are divided.
Instead of brewing a full pot, I take down the red single-serve coffee press, purchased the summer of ’89 to take with me to college that fall. I was inspired recently to forage through my parents’ china cabinet to see if it was still there. And it was.
This summer has been nostalgic in ways both good and hard. Mostly hard. The coffee press is good, bringing memories of preparing to leave home for the first time, albeit to a very controlled environment.
I remember wondering how I would make my necessary coffee and choosing to purchase a hot pot and this coffee maker. It bears witness to the importance of coffee to me, even then, much like this post does.
I grind beans and dump them in, boil water and pour, wait several minutes and press, transfer to a favorite mug and savor.
There is goodness and sadness. I miss my coffee friend. Slow mornings are a rarity in this season. I wish we were together in the slowness. I choose to enjoy my coffee for one as I read and write.
Grateful for a witness-bearer in vintage coffee pot form, I give thanks that it didn’t go the way of the Gucci bag. Protected from me to be found at just the right time, it now lives in safety on top of the Hoosier.
It’s a golden day. Fifty years ago, my parents said, I do, and have been doing ever since.
Staying married to the same partner for fifty years is a pretty big deal. My mom will chime in that her parents celebrate seventy-two years at the end of the month. In May we celebrated my in-laws’ sixtieth.
That’s a lot of collective marital years.
But today is the day for Nick and Caryn and their decision to make a commitment and stay the course. Together. Fifty years ago.
Earlier this year they took a celebratory trip. The pictures are delightful. Sun and fun and horseback riding along with amazing food dishes testify to a time well-spent together.
There’s nothing quite like the actual day, though.
I texted congratulations to my parents this morning. They were on their daily ritual walk to a downtown coffee shop. It was all low-key and routine. Settled.
That is what I love about these days. They have settled in a good way with each other. I have settled in a good way with them. This may just be the best year I can remember, and I have been told I remember too much.
This year I see more clearly the young college students taking vows. The 20 year old woman and 21 year old man are not enigmatic figments of my imagination but real people with real struggles hoping for the best.
Just shy of two years later, they are handed a newborn daughter with the parting words, Good luck!
Fifty years is so long, and it is not long enough.
I type those words, and tears fill my eyes. I pause to listen to what they tell me, and my shoulders shake with sobs.
Fifty years has given them time to bear seven children, see them marry and grow children of their own.
It has given them a great-grandchild.
It has brought tragedy and loss.
t has brought joy and gain.
It has given me time to grow to be curious, to question, to engage.
It has given them time to grow to be responsive, to answer, to engage.
This fifty year celebration is all about them, and it’s not all about them.
It is about the lives that have come through them. The love that they share. The fierce fighting forward to step into more truth.
That is what brings my tears.
It is the realization of this precious gift that I have been given, that we have been given. This golden light of relationship and love.
This is a picture from my son’s wedding last year. It is by no means representative of everyone in the family. Twelve people are missing (at least!), but it gives you an idea of what 50 years can produce. Quite a harvest.
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! May you feel just how loved you are today and every day.
Sometimes Mama needs a break from the nest. Mama and Papa Mallard were out walking late the Sunday afternoon I returned from a weekend away with my mister. Dewey was waiting for his walk, so off we went.
The ducks strolled near the nest, quacking and roaming. They took off for a brief flight when we approached. The eggs were safely covered. You would never know something was growing in the shade of the shrubbery.
I am grateful for an adult daughter who tended our nest so that Steve and I could get away for a marriage retreat. It was a gift to take time to learn more about our attachment styles, our story together, and all of the things that we know in our head but don’t have time to engage with our hearts.
We returned with a new sense of connection and direction, with more language to use. Refreshed by laughter and caught off guard by tears, we dove back into the life waiting for us. It is a forever dance, living in the tension. We continue to choose to dance together.
This view from a Charlottesville winery was one of many gifts I received this weekend. Siblings spent time together in Richmond, leaving the house empty and quiet.
Steve and I took advantage of the kid and car exchange to drive around looking at some of his Charlottesville job sites and ended up here.
This was the beginning of a lovely, slow weekend. After stocking up at Trader Joe’s and Martins for food necessities, we returned home to hang out and chill. We ate, drank, and relaxed. We watched some Netflix and took naps.
We grilled steak and roasted asparagus.
Sunday morning we woke slowly and arrived at church in time for me to hang out with my toddler nursery buddies during the Sunday school hour. Church followed and then more naps, some reading, art journaling, and a long walk.
We went to dinner downtown with friends. We made tea and went to bed early to start the week well-rested. I woke this morning to a silent house.
After feeding the animals and walking the dog, I took my time getting ready for the day before driving to Charlottesville to exchange cars again.
My ducks are all back in the nest. It was a nice break for us all to have the gift of space from each other, but it is so good to have them home.
On an ideal morning I rise early, gather my Bible, devotional book, and prayer journal and head for a quiet space to read, think, and reflect. My favorite destination, the TV room couch. The trick lies in rising early enough to get there before it is taken over by a child or pet.
Shuffling out of bed, pouring coffee, hunkering down, I begin my morning reading routine. Sitting across from me is my love, doing his own thing. We are together in the early morning silence. On an ideal morning.
I wonder what it is like from his perspective. I imagine it is not ideal to be interrupted by conversation surrounding the random thoughts that pop into my head. It might not be easy to have me hunker down to begin journaling only to discover I have no pen, a common occurrence. (The need for tissues is another.)
He is always kind and patient with my interruptions and random thoughts.
One morning I felt overwhelmingly loved as I plopped down in my usual space and discovered a full cup of pens waiting for me on the end table. It was such a kind, generous act. I was seen and cared for, and I was grateful.
I have fallen off of my early-morning TV room wagon and cannot seem to climb my way back on. It has been weeks since sitting in my favorite space, and most mornings my mind shifts into overdrive as soon as my eyes open. I think of all the things all at once.
Then I turn off my alarm and fall back asleep.
The pen cup came to mind today. I walked into the TV room to see if it was where I had left it and if there were any pens remaining. Yes, it was, and yes, there were (three of them!).
Maybe I will put my early- morning book stack back in the basket under the coffee table next to the cup of pens. Maybe I will try to rise early, once again, and inhabit that quiet space with my coffee and best friend.
Maybe it is okay to push the reset switch on my early mornings and start over again, cheered on by a sunny cup of pens. Where are you feeling the nudge to push reset, these days, Dear Reader?
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
I find it interesting, curious, and playful that the morning we were to drive to Lancaster, PA, to begin celebrating the wedding weekend by hosting the rehearsal dinner, Ecclesiastes 3 and 4 were my scheduled readings. This is from a plan chosen in January, focusing on a different section of the Bible each day.
While reading I wrote down today’s season . . . harvest, healing, building, laughing, dancing, embracing, quitting searching, mending, being quiet, loving, seeking peace.
This is how the day began.
Gradually, adult children convened and loaded various younger siblings into their cars, leaving Steve and me with the youngest to bring up the caravan’s rear, several minutes, or hours, behind. The best decisions made were to send the beverages ahead with my parents to be dropped off at the rehearsal dinner location and to have those involved in the rehearsal riding with siblings.
When all was said and done, Steve and I were checking into the AirBnBand hurriedly changing at 5. Dinner was set to be served at 5:45. In our hurry to arrive on time, we may have turned the wrong way onto a one-way, two lane highway, the lights of a semi truck shining in our eyes.
Did I just turn onto a one-way road?
I DON’T KNOW, DID YOU? WE ARE ON A ONE-WAY ROAD! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!!
I am waiting for traffic to clear, so that I can turn around.
We sat in the left-turn lane face to face with another car who patiently waited on us. Every day, every moment, is such grace.
We arrived at the Hollinger House intact and greeted our guests who were waiting on this porch ready to begin the festivities. It was a beautiful sight, a beautiful beginning to the weekend.
My morning reading felt long ago when I composed the following to share as a rehearsal dinner blessing . . .
This is a season to harvest the love that was planted in hearts generation upon generation ago. It is a healing time where we acknowledge that though, by all means, all is not well, all is healing. We can rest in that today.
It is a time of building, as a new family is joined and created, built upon this foundation of love. We gather to laugh and dance and live in the moment that is now.
Embracing one another right where we are today, we celebrate with Caleb and Dana that they can quit searching, because they have found the one their soul loves.
This is a time to keep in our hearts, to mend what was torn, and to be quiet about what would divide us. We are hear to love and celebrate in peace.
There is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. All people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. (Ecc. 3:12,13)
We spent the rest of the weekend putting these words into practice as we celebrated the long-awaited union of our son and his beloved bride. And it was so very good.
Today’s reading in Deuteronomy had the word marryin it. It was in the context of what not to do in a list of regulations (7:3 for the curious), but it was there. Since it is wedding week, I find it kind to art journal marry.
The morning got off to a good start. Phone calls with two sisters, a birthday text and clothing text exchange with another, asking my daughter to take pictures of me in my wedding outfits to send to my fashion advisor. . .
A phonecall at 10:17 alerting me to the fact that I was missing a 10:00 appointment for my daughter. While asking her to snap pictures of me, time was ticking away past when I should have had her somewhere. Thankfully, we were able to redeem some of it as we rushed out the door.
That is what found me cutting and gluing in a waiting room.
How am I the mother of the groom? How did this happen?
Tears streamed down my face and sobs filled my chest as I curled on the bed in the guest bedroom of my soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s childhood home. Her parents had graciously invited our family to stay with them for bridal shower weekend. Here we were.
It was late. I was tired.
We arrived Saturday evening in time for appetizers and dinner. Wine flowed freely into my glass. The large, gracious house was filled to the brim with family and bridesmaids, all converging to celebrate the beautiful bride-to-be at her shower the following day.
Experiencing Dana’s family space made me appreciate even more all of the times she had stayed in ours. There was a clear difference in size, decor, and number of people, yet she always was gracious about our accommodations when she visited us.
I did my best to avoid comparing and conjuring up stories of what everyone thought of us. This time was to celebrate the woman my son loves with his other family who loves him well. I was grateful to have a weekend of shared space together.
The 321 mile drive from Virginia to New Jersey was worth it, especially since all of my children can now tend their own rest area needs. In an act of brilliance my husband handed each passenger $5 at the beginning of the trip for any necessaries they may require along the way.
When we first met Dana, the not-so-little-anymores were 8, 6, 5, and 3. Now they are 15, 13, 12, and 10. They are all as tall as her or taller. I was struck by that reality as we emerged from the cramped mini van and crowded into the backyard. There were all of these big people. They were mine!
Gathering a plate of brisket, corn, and potato salad, I headed to the dining room where bridesmaids were seated around the table. Listening to their laughter and conversation took me to a young place inside. How could I be the mother of the groom when I felt younger than these women surrounding me? Where did time go?
This feeling is what followed me upstairs to bed that evening. It carried me into the space where my daughters were staying, Dana’s childhood room. A collection of Snowbabies lined a high shelf while her American Girl Dolls rested on another. A shelf of books caught my eye as did the bulletin board full of pictures, my son with her in many of them at various stages from ages 17-24.
All this is what primed my heart for the tears that began to flow, first in the presence of my teenage daughter standing beside me in the room, then with my husband comforting me in ours. Both offered kind space for my feelings that felt so big.*
I woke to coffee, quiche, and preparation for celebration. The bridal shower was beautiful. The joy was real. It followed my night of weeping.
I am here.
It happened because of grace.
*Edited to note that the flowing tears were only from me and not from said daughter and husband. They just kindly did not judge.
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 Roofing. What 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.
Last evening my luvvvah and I took flight from the house and walked down to Pale Fire Brewing. I was reminded of why I love living downtown as we wandered by the stream to look at the ducks tucking in for the night before making our way to the Pale Fire patio.
After making my choices, I walked out to a freshly-dried table to enjoy the twilight.
My handsome date carried out the goods.
We prepared to enjoy some good beer and good conversation. I was not disappointed.
After all of the rain, it was such a beautiful night.
I’m not usually a beer kind of girl, but I’m learning. I enjoy savoring new tastes and flavors. Mostly, though, I enjoy the company of my man and the moments we get to take flight together and remembering the goodness that is being married to each other.