Lindsey

On this day, 35 years ago, a beautiful baby girl was born. She was ‘knitted together in her mother’s womb and fearfully and wonderfully made’. I am certain that the song of her heart would include more verses from this 139th chapter of Psalm, which state: 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me. Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.    

The name Lindsey is derived from Old English meaning the linden tree. I have written previously about that name being so right for our Lindsey. She is a lovely slender tree that moves and bends in the gentle breeze yet has the strength of deep roots to withstand mighty winds.

I fully believe that she was created to marry my son, Andrew. And he for her. 

On this birthday she is celebrating across the ocean in a little French town named Colmar. It is in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. Colmar is nestled among vineyards and is known for its amazing cuisine, charming accommodations, and bakeries full of croissants and pain au chocolat. Someone once described the town as “so pretty that it doesn’t feel real. Cobblestone streets run next to canals lined with half-timbered houses in shades of rose, sky blue, lemon, peppermint, and apricot.”  

In communication with Lindsey and Andrew today, they said they expected Belle to be singing in one of the windows. It is picturesque perfect. 

Happy Birthday to our dear Lindsey. What a gift you are. 

Miles

A few of my favorite humans. I have more, lots more, but here are a few that gathered this morning as one sweet newlywed couple began the long trek cross-country to Seattle. That is a lot of miles to put between us. It is a lot of pavement and trees and mountains and plains. It is a lot of road signs and trucks and hotels and McDonalds. It is a lot of coffee and granola bars and trail mix and apples. It is a lot of nights and days and nights. 

We held on to them tightly and then put them into their car and truck with reminders of safety and promises to check in and some spontaneous tears. All weekend I had been biting my lip to keep them away but it all got real this morning and the hot water in my eyes, piped in from my heart, could not be contained. 

These two make us better. Not that, as a family, we are not pretty great in our separateness, because we are. But when they are with us and we are all together, the pieces fit and we make a beautiful puzzle of love. 

My hope is continued abundance for my family. Abundance in numbers, in depth and gratitude, in emotional, mental, and spiritual wholeness, and abundance relationally. 

Tonight you are in Kansas City. You have crossed one time zone. By tomorrow night you will be in another. And then another. 

When you awaken next week at 7:00 a.m., I will be on my second cup of coffee at 10, having had my morning devotions, perhaps yoga and well into my work day. By 11:00 p.m., I will be fading as I try to stay awake to catch the weather on the local news. You may be finishing up a work day or chatting around the dinner table, or on a bike ride at the park. I will miss being ‘together’ with you at lunch time and early morning and Friday night pizza.

But love is bigger and love is stronger than time zones and mountains and plains. And the miles between us are lovely ribbons that bind us and keep us and tether our hearts.

It is nearly 10:30. I must floss and brush and wash my face and apply hopeful, youthful night cream. You two are probably finishing up your evening coffees, having picked them up from a local KC coffee shop, and checking into your Airbnb, tired from a day of travel.

Rest well, my darlings. Tomorrow is another day of hitting the pavement and adding up the miles, every rotation of the tires sealing and smoothing that lovely ribbon.

Healthy Thursday

A few weeks ago on one of our drives to visit my father-in-law at the Ohio Veterans Home in Georgetown, my husband and I ran through the McDonald’s drive-thru. I wanted coffee. He wanted a Big Mac.

When I reached into the bag to pull out the Big Mac, this little card was inside.

As noted on the sheet, McDonald’s wants to make it easier for parents to select balanced meals for their kids. They are evolving their nutritional standards for Happy Meal offerings. There are now only two options for Happy Meals ~ a hamburger meal and a 4-piece Chicken McNuggets meal. 

Where is the cheeseburger meal you may ask. Apparently the Cheeseburger Happy Meal does not meet the new nutritional criteria. However, they are quick to note that you can add cheese to your Hamburger Happy Meal at no additional charge. Okay then.

And what about the Mighty Kids Meal? Well, it is no longer available. But…you can still request six Chicken McNuggets by adding two to your 4-piece McNuggets Happy Meal order for an additional charge. Wait, what? So the Mighty Kids Meal is not available per se, but you can still create it by mixing and matching and adding an additional charge. Ah, now it makes sense. Kidding.

And lastly, chocolate milk is no longer on the menu. Stop crying, kids, your mom will buy you a toy later at Walmart, to soothe your angst. McDonald’s is quick to note that they are reformulating the chocolate milk to reduce the amount of added sugar, so hopefully it will make a return. Crisis averted. 

In spite of my snarky remarks, I applaud McDonald’s for their attempt to keep kids healthy as they grow into (hopefully) healthy adults. 

My concern is what are the parents ordering for themselves as they ‘choose’ healthier options for their kids? Newsflash, parents, your kids are watching. 

The best option we can give our kids and grandkids is making better choices for ourselves and have them take note. 

Just sayin’. 

Ninety going on Three

The last time Mama was at my house, I got out my bow, which was a Christmas gift from my husband. I shot it a few times right after Christmas, but it was a cold and snowy winter so I didn’t get a lot of opportunity to utilize it.

A June evening seemed like a fitting time for all of us have a little archery practice. I purchased a large target at Cabela’s a few weeks ago, knowing it soon would be perfect weather to shoot. And it was.

Mama has always been somewhat competitive so when I asked her if she would like to shoot the bow, she got a bit of a sheepish grin and said “Oh, I probably can’t do it.” Right. She was simply waiting for me to ask a second time and encourage her to try. Which I did and she did.

Mama is, in many ways, not unlike a three year-old. She occasionally pouts. She can be a bit manipulative. She often asks for several drinks of water before bed, a typical toddler move to avoid going to sleep. She also has a tendency to, in her words and actions, state “I can do it myself!”

Such was the case with the shooting of the bow and arrow, until one of her grandsons offered to help. She was more open to his assistance than mine. I snapped this photo which captures Mama to a tee, or to an arrow, I should say. She has the stance. She is eyeing the target and she is full on ready to shoot.

Days like these with Mama are good. She is distracted. There are others around. And she is ready to prove her worth. These days are not necessarily easier, just different. During this season of life with her, changing it up is entirely welcomed by both of us. 

We kind of roll with it. We occasionally fly by the seat of our pants. It is new territory almost every day. I am considering taking her fishing. This could work out well because her truculence could come in handy when I do not want to put the slimy worm on the hook. Sometimes her feisty spirit comes in handy.

I also got her into the go-cart but that is a story for another day.

Cookies and Other Things

I had the distinct pleasure to spend a truly lovely evening with a dear cousin of mine, JK. On a side note, she is one of my loyal blog readers, for which I am very grateful.

JK spends two weekends a month with Mama. She is an incredible help to our family and Mama loves her completely. JK is a gem. She is authentic and kind and loving and fun. Mama once told her she is a goddess. Mama has never called me a goddess, but maybe someday. 

I am so glad that Mama loves her. Though, Mama has always loved her. JK is the youngest of three daughters born to my Mama’s closest sister, Jane. JK and her sisters pretty much grew up with my siblings and me. We were like one big family, living next door to each other for a while and after that, moved only one street away. 

This evening we grilled burgers then sat on the deck to eat and talk and laugh. JK said she was surprised that I did not write about a national day yesterday, being Saturday. I asked her what day it was that was being observed. She told it was National No Underwear Day. I laughed and told her that I did not know. I utilize a website called National Day Calendar. I checked that website tonight but it was not listed.

I decided to “Google it” to see what I could find. 

Upon research, I discovered a website which stated that June 23 was indeed No Panty Day. This is not to be confused with National Underwear Day on August 5. 

As you can imagine, I am a bit befuddled to write a blog about No Panty Day. My writing mind is bare as I am unsure how to undress this subject.

However, I did find it interesting that No Panty Day  coincided with these other national remembering days ~ National Hydration Day, National Pecan Sandies Day and National Pink Day.

And on that note, I will bid goodnight and leave the rest up to your imagination. 

Processes

It is 12:14 a.m. We are peacefully exhausted. If it can be said that a day of funeraling was a good day, then I will say that it was.

Two hours on our feet, talking, hugging, laughing, crying, remembering. When you have a large family and a large circle of truly great friends, these events become a homecoming celebration. These days become something that the one lying in peace would have orchestrated on his own, if possible. It was possible.

Flowers and military salutes and a lingering summer breeze through the trees at the cemetery. Home-cooked food, memories of childhood and youth and just for fun, removing sport coats and shooting baskets in the church gym, photos, smiles, prayers. Old friends, such old dear friends. Priceless.

My four men in suits, freshly starched and pressed white shirts, perfectly tied ties. Grandpa would be proud. 

It was a day of honoring. It was a day that pushes us to the next one and the one after that and the one after that. 

Because of the one lying in peace, we have the responsibility to love harder and louder and bigger and better. 

And we will. 

Men of Valor

At exactly 9:00 this morning, that phone call came. My mother-in-law was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from watching her once strong husband, struggle for each breath. My dear sister-in-law, who is a registered nurse, said to my MIL “Why don’t you just tell him it’s okay to go.” My MIL wasn’t sure. But minutes later, after my SIL had stepped out of the room and then returned, my MIL whispered to her that she had done it. She had leaned over close to her husband’s face and told him it was okay to go. About 10-15 minutes later, he gently sent out his last breath and stepped into the arms of Jesus. Blessed be.

The Ohio Veterans Home has a beautiful tradition of sending off one of their own. They call it a “Red, White and Blue Ceremony.” The funeral home comes to retrieve the body. It is rolled out with an American flag draped across the top. Residents who are able, come to the front of the building to give a final salute to their fallen comrade. All is silent, except for the solemn sound of Taps playing in the background. These vets come out in their wheelchairs, on their walkers and any other mode of transportation. It is a truly beautiful tribute to the brotherhood. 

It was one of the most moving things I have seen. 

The staff at the home told us that the last comrade went out at 2:00 a.m. and these WWII heroes insisted on getting out of their beds and coming to the ceremony. One even hobbled on one leg, wanted no assistance and stood at attention while his brother was carried away from his earthly home.

The reason these men take this stand and make this effort is for their brothers but it is also for themselves. They know that they may be the next one being rolled out beneath the mighty flag and hope their brothers take the same stand, literally, for them.

And they will. 

Waiting by the Phone

As mentioned in a previous blog, my father-in-law lives at the Ohio Veterans Home, at least for now. He is close to passing from this world into the sweet arms of Jesus. We have been spending hours with him, simply watching him take breath to breath, his thin chest rising and lowering. So very difficult. So very difficult.

Tonight when we were heading out of the building, I saw this on the wall. A pay phone. A pay phone! I loved that. I love that the Ohio Veterans Home did this thoughtful thing for their residents. Ninety-two year-old heroes wearing WWII Vet baseball caps do not need an iPhoneX. They remember when the purpose of a phone was to call someone you care about. Done and done. And it is low enough on the wall for a person in a wheelchair to have access to it. Perfect.

Twenty-five cents for the first five minutes is a pretty good deal. And just because, I pushed my finger through the change return to see if there were any coins in there. Of course I would have left them but it is always fun to make that discovery. 

These days are long but they are important. Sometimes being seemingly inactive is the most proactive thing one can do. There is great power and grace in waiting. It is not for sissies. Though, not one person at the OVH is a sissy, not the staff, not the vigil-sitting family and definitely not the weak-bodied ones lying in wait for the general of all generals to call them home.

Family Reunion, Ben Carson, and Chemistry

I had a tough day with Mama. We have discovered that following a large family gathering, there is much confusion. Everyone means well and loves her so much but it is a simple case of over-stimulation. In kindness, nieces and nephews come to her with hugs and kisses and pure motives of explanation to connect her with themselves. It is sweet and lovely and unraveling.

We spent much of this morning going over names and faces, trying to connect which one of her eight brothers and sisters to whom this one or that one belong. I patiently explain but it does not permeate the concrete parts of her brain. 

Quite often, Mama confuses generations. She believers that children of her siblings are actually her siblings, still living and young. She occasionally thinks I am her younger sister, which, of course, makes it impossible that I could be her daughter.

The morning melted into noon and both of us ended up in (soft) tears as we talked about what to make for lunch. 

By early afternoon, I was able to keep her busy with some outside chores. She pulled weeds out of my brick-paved sidewalks and swept my front porch till every piece of dirt and flower petal and pebble were gone. 

She then talked on the phone with both of my sisters and by dinner, she was a bit more cheery. 

In the evening, there was some family tension in the house with my youngest son, Noah, struggling though chemistry summer school. It’s a bear. He has been working very hard, yet it still brings great frustration.

Mama loves my boys, for which I am so grateful. She saw (and heard) Noah’s struggle, which hurt her. In God’s kingdom, He is able to turn something difficult into something good. Mama forgot about her own troubles for a while. She focused on someone else. 

Though, it was momentary. A few minutes later, we were sitting on the front porch, eating a bowl of chocolate salted caramel ice-cream (hey, she likes it) and she stated that she was very worried about her plastic Adirondack chairs sitting on her fenced in, canopy-covered back deck. I said: “Mama, forget about those chairs! No one will steal them while you are with me.” She looked at me defensively. “Let’s pray for Noah tonight and not worry about those chairs, for goodness sake!” 

I snapped her back to reality.

After helping her put on pajamas and brush her teeth, with her own toothbrush, not one of the boys this time, we sat on the edge of her bed and prayed. I held her hand and listened while she smoothly and beautifully and flawlessly called out to the Lord for help and strength for Noah and for all of her grandchildren. It was as if she were 70 years old again. 

I then prayed and first, thanked God for the blessing to sit and pray with my 90 year-old mama. What a gift it truly is. 

I tucked her into bed and told her I loved her. She (mostly) smiled and said she would read a bit of her Dr. Ben Carson biography (on whom she has a mad crush) but would then fall asleep in continued prayer mode.

Fair enough. 

Serious Sunday

My maternal grandparents were humbly devoted to God. They lived it out every.single.day. They lived it in their love for their children and their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren and for strangers. They also lived in out in their love for each other. 

I have sweet memories of my grandma wearing dresses, with full front aprons and hose, and I don’t mean panty hose, out to work in her flower garden. And she sang. She sang about Jesus. And she laughed. Man, did she laugh. She had this great gold tooth that gleamed as brilliantly as her laughter.

I need to check with the family historian, my cousin, MJ, but I believe it was the late 1970s that we started a tradition of celebrating Grandma’s birthday, which was June 10. We had a family reunion/picnic in the park. Of course Grandma and Grandpa awakened in Glory years ago but we have continued the tradition to this day. 

And this day was that day. The crowd waxes and wanes from year to year but there is always a group that sets aside the day to come together to eat wonderful food, including myriad desserts that would make Grandma smile. We talk and we laugh and we take photos and we remember how important is the bloodline. 

It is rich and red and strong and runs through us with vigor and persistence. We know it is bigger than us as individuals. When we are together, it is fierce and fearless. We never forget from where we came. And we are grateful.

The prayers of my grandparents, the love of my grandparents, and the faithfulness of my grandparents are the shoulders on which the rest of us stand. 

Our legs may get wobbly, our eyes may occasionally fall away from the prize, our hearts my wander, but we are never far from Grandma. Her voice is the tether that keeps us close. She never lets us go.

I pray that we continue on the journey and that those who come behind us know that their ease in walking it is only possible because our grandparents forged that path.

The two in the photo are my mama, Evelyn and her younger brother, Jay. They are the last of their generation. They are listening for the voice of my grandma as she sings about Jesus. And that voice is getting clearer.