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May ending

May sang her song: “Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day.” And then she broke into the chorus of: “The sun will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun.”

So much rain in May caused the grass to grow as high as an elephant’s eye, almost. Flooding in parts of our country caused grief as we watched our own Salt River rise and ebb. Our yard, with its peaks and valleys, was water-logged, and days went by when it was simply too wet to mow. It got so bad that a lawn care company rep came by to give me his card.

The rain also brought flowers, and oh how I love the flowers. I like to cut them and put them in the old mason jar filled with water. Whatever is blooming becomes a serendipitous bouquet. Sometimes a tiny bug or spider has crawled out from the buds, so I have relegated the mason jar to the table on the deck.  In the morning when I sit there in the quiet of a new day, I enjoy the flowers in the outdoors. The creepy crawly things are at home out there.

There’s been lots of outdoor work, planting, pulling weeds and digging in the soil. The dirt under my fingernails continues to be an issue. The yard looks reasonably well kept this spring, though not perfect. My yard will never be perfect or perfectly groomed like yards I admire, all prim and proper. I’ve come to terms with it, because this is the way I garden. It’s slightly wild and slightly pruned, and I’m OK with that. It is ever changing, evolving, becoming something different and new.

The daily walks for Maisie and me down our lane rewarded me with the heavy fragrance of honeysuckle blooming at one corner of the yard. It’s uncultivated growth sprawling in the little woods brings back childhood memories of pulling the buds and sipping nectar.

I had two recitals this month, one at the Academy of Arts and one for my home students. I am always aglow at these events, so proud of my students’ hard work that produces music to my ears. Teaching piano came to me late in my career as the result of a job loss. At the time, I couldn’t have dreamed what grace would come from something so shocking and disturbing. It is the way of God, to bring life from what seems like death.

Mother’s Day came in the middle of the two recital. My own mother has been dead for over 30 years, and our one and only son is in another state celebrating his wife, as he should. What’s a daughter/mother like me to do but be good to myself? I called a friend who shares a similar situation and suggested we spend a few hours together before Mother’s Day, somewhat grieving our loss but more celebrating friendship, our sons, and the love of all things growing.  We spent a lovely morning and afternoon together, and our shared joy helped us ease into the weekend when pictures of gathered families would multiply on Facebook.

On Mother’s Day, I did what I wanted and treated myself with much kindness and grace. It was one of the best day I’ve had in a long time.

I’ve enjoyed watching the Canadian goslings growing daily, grey downy feathers giving in to the white and black distinctive color of their parents. They look like miniature versions of what they will eventually become. I spy the single mallard mamma and her little bitties occasionally. There are six of them left and still so small in comparison to the geese. Watching these babies grow has been life-giving this spring.

I resumed my task of going through the saved mementos from the box in the garage. I came to the cards, letters, notes from my years working at the YMCA. It was my first management positions, and some days I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Nostalgia took me on a journey of memories and faces, experiences and people who helped me grow. It’s been over 15 years since I worked at the Y. They were formative years for me when I learned so much from the staff whose names appear on those mementos.

yard sale signIt’s the season of the Yard Sale. Usually I am quite the sucker for a neon pink hand-lettered sign, but I’ve passed by more often this spring. As the wise Solomon said, there is a season for everything, a time to gather and a time to scatter, a time to keep and a time to throw away. I’ve had my season of gathering and keeping. It’s time to let go.

Rather suddenly at month’s end, we excitedly arranged for a visit from my daughter-in-love, eldest granddaughter and her friend.  I prepared the house, filled the fridge and pantry, and cleared my calendar. The few days would be open for whatever plans they had. I would be bed and breakfast for them and take whatever moments I could get with each one.

They came for a wedding, my granddaughter being a first-time bridesmaid of a childhood friend. My granddaughter is grown up in many ways, and yet I see the little girl who used to come spend the night, who sat at my piano and learned music with me, who sat on the stool at the kitchen counter and told me what was on her mind.

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She and her friend had their own agenda, attending wedding festivities, visiting friends, and staying out later than my bedtime. And we who waited for the sound of them slept lightly as we prayed for their safe return. Her mother and I shared the mutual feeling of wanting to know all the chicks are home, safe in the nest, before we can settle down for deep sleep.

One has to experience it to understand. Parenting cannot be easily explained or described. The bond between mother and child is something unique and beautiful and lasting.

I enjoyed hours of conversation with my daughter-in-love as we sat at the kitchen table and drank sweet tea. For me it was like old times when she lived in the house next door. We laughed and remembered and talked about so many things. It was a balm for my soul.

I made strawberry shortcake for breakfast on the day before they left for home. It was well received and may become a tradition whenever my dear ones come for a visit.

I’ve missed my family in the years they have been living away. The few days with my girls were a jewel in the month of May, memories to record in my journal and on my heart.

Too quickly the days passed and  we said tearful good-byes, unsure when we would be together again, face to face.  And the house that sang with voices familiar is quiet once more, remnants of breakfast and cold coffee all that is left behind.

May has been delicious in lots of ways and difficult in others. And this life I live is very much like the garden surrounding me. Days are spent pulling up the weeds and clearing away the mess of a long winter. Other days I dig in the dirt and plant with hope for something bright and beautiful. Flowers bloom and fade, while others bud with promise. One morning is cloudy, rain falling; the threat of storms makes me run for cover. And then the sun emerges and water droplets glisten like diamonds. A rainbow appears in the sky and I stand in awe.

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There is a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance

May brought different times for me.  I live with fervor some days. I taste the bitter and the sweet. I sing songs and cry tears.

It is all part of this wild, wonderful life I’ve been given. It is mine to live. And I shall live it.

 

 

 

Sweet 16

Today is my granddaughter’s 16th birthday. I was blessed beyond measure to celebrate with her last weekend.

Sweet William and I traveled the long road to where our precious ones live, the one and only son and his family. The drive was worth the hours on the road to see smiling faces and be received with such warm welcomes.

I’ve missed some birthdays since they moved from the house next door. Thankfully, I did not miss this important milestone in my precious Grand Girl’s life.

She is the middle child. At times she is the quiet, introspective one. At other times she is the comedian, actress, goof-ball who makes us laugh.

the-3-grandsShe was born without me being at the hospital. Her older sister was brought to our house early one morning in November when time came for her parents to rush to the hospital. I supposed we had plenty of time to shower and dress since her sister took her time coming into the world.

I was wrong. Before many hours had passed, I listened to the message on my phone, “You have another granddaughter.” Elation and disappointment mingled, but I was thankful for her birth. We hurriedly made our way to the hospital where mother, dad, and new baby girl were contentedly waiting for us.

It was a day to remember.

Memories surface today as I think of my Grand Girl, us miles apart and in different states but joined at our hearts.061-2

She was the queen of dress-up. She loved the costumes and cast-offs kept in a box in the back room. She emerged as a character of some sort and took on the persona and accents with ease. One of my favorite personalities was Dr. Bendova, dressed in a white shirt, silly glasses and top hat. She made us laugh a lot.

Being the second child, she was often the companion and follower of her big sister. Once when she was allowed  to spend “alone time” with us, all by herself, she climbed up on the stool next to the kitchen counter where I spend a lot of time, and commenced to talk up a storm. I was surprised at all the words coming from this child who was usually so quiet. It was as if she finally had a captive audience to hear what she had to say.

She loved to cook with me, sitting on that same kitchen stool, us sharing tasks of making meals. Her consistent game began with, “Let’s pretend we’re on a cooking show.”

100_1062-2A few days ago we made pumpkin pie together in her kitchen. It was as special as it always was.

She was a girl of many faces, most of them silly. For years we could not seem to get a serious picture of her. With everyone posed for a snapshot, she invariably make a goofy face just at the moment of the shutter’s opening. While it was frustrating at the time, it has given us myriad photos of this girl’s special way of bringing comic relief to us all.

This past weekend, we celebrated that special girl.

She has grown tall and beautiful, graceful and distinctly herself, studious and artistic, bright and cheerful. She is thrifty with her money and has an entrepreneurial spirit.

She brings gladness to this Grammy’s heart. I love spending time with her.

As Sweet William and I drove home after our three-day weekend celebration, I thought of the trip, the memories we had made, the joy of being with our precious ones, the fun and laughter, the shared table of fellowship where hearts are content just to be together.

Time slowed for me those few days. I forgot what day of the week it was, living in the moment with each sweet soul.

Good-byes are never easy, no matter how often we practice them. But good-byes are as much a part of life as the welcome homes are. We must receive them both if we are to be loved and to love in return.

As we headed east to our old Kentucky home, the sunset glowed brilliantly. A song came to mind:

I think of my Grand Girl on her special day. My eyes mist and there’s a lump in my throat as I remember the child and watch her blossom into a young woman.

Her life is a gift to all of us who know and love her. Her gifts and talents are from the Father above who planned for her life. My prayers seem unceasing for her, that she will know the way the Father leads her, that she will follow Him with all her heart, that she will understand how great the Father’s love is for her.

I pray that her heart is open to receive all He has in store for her. It’s her birthday today. I’m so thankful she was born.

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The gift

airplane ride

I was out of town last weekend, flying by myself on an airplane and finding my way through Houston International Airport for a connecting flight.  I felt like a grown up and a child at the same time, navigating signs, regulations, and my own insecurity.  I did it, a bit nervously, with purpose.  I went to get my granddaughter who lives-too-far-away and bring her home to stay with us for a month.

And that is a gift.

She’s the eldest of my three wonderful grands, and the one who first made me a grandmother with that bursting wide open of my heart.  I had no idea that love could just break me right apart as I scooped up this tiny being who would take the heart of me and change me forever.

Love does that.  It transposes the song of life and we are never the same.

Love gaps us open, open for joy but also open for pain.  Pain is often the price of loving deeply.

I’ve felt the contradicting emotions, the loving and the losing, the holding close and the giving up.  The loss comes in different forms, whether by moving, misunderstanding, divorce, or death.  It happens to all of us sooner or later.

But the risk of loosing is more than worth the joy of loving and being loved. “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” is so true.

The granddaughter and I flew home together, our heads bent in conversation, laughter, taking selfies (with a photo bomber), stories, tears, and hugs.  She is a kindred spirit and we feel the connection deeply.

selfies of me and E

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A melancholy musing

Two almost-sisters were blessed with new grandbabies last week.  One is a cousin by marriage who has been family a long time  The other is a life-long friend who calls me her “forever friend.”

I am so happy for both of them.  There is nothing like holding a new baby in your arms, and when that baby is your very own grandchild, well you just have to experience it and you know what I mean.

I was blessed beyond measure to be at the birth of my first grandchild, a girl.  Our one and only son and his beautiful wife lived close to us then, and her parents were driving from out of state to be here when she entered the hospital.  So it was my great priviledge to be in the birthing room when that tiny little creature breathed her first and squalled like a baby.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,   Because birth itself is simply breathtaking.  But when the son of my heart gives life to his own child, that is a mountain’s high peak.

My melancholy comes when I wish for and long for that grandgirl to be closer to my house.  She, along with her two siblings (my other equally precious grandchildren), and her parents moved far away three years ago.

So when I get a Facebook message from that first grandgirl saying, “Dreamt that I arrived at your house after a long trip. I miss your face!!!!!”, I weep.  I just can’t help it. Because I. Miss. Her. Face. So.Very. Much!

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I know I’m not the only one.  I have friends whose grandchildren live across country, and we often share our joys and heartaches at short bursts of togetherness and long stretches of being apart.  We understand each other.

So I rejoice with those almost-sisters who have new babies to hold and snuggle.  They will cherish these days.  And I weep with those who wish their grands were right next door, like mine were for twelve years.

I thank God for those twelve wonderful years.  I was given time to invest in relationships with three that are still precious and dear to this Grammy’s heart.  Those years were a gift, an important and valuable gift that I don’t take for granted.

In my tears, I will remember the hugs, the smiles, the cups of hot cocoa, the snuggles with a thousand Disney movies, the tucking into bed, the reading of books, the telling of stories, the prayers.  Ah, the prayers.  They never stop.  They go wherever the grandchild goes because that is my connection with her and with God.

And I trust God to hold her.

Grand-motherhood

Fourteen years ago today, I became a grandmother.  My oldest granddaughter, Elyse, celebrates her 14th birthday today.

Becoming a grandmother has been one of God’s best blessings. He is so creative to plan that as we get older, along come these little people to bring back the kid in us.

When I was pregnant with my own child, some 30 plus years ago, there were no machines to picture the embryo in the womb.  I barely got to hear the heartbeat in the last month.  For the entire nine months, we had no idea what we were having.  Several people told me I must be having a girl by the way I carried the baby.  Someone else told me she could not imagine me with anything other than a girl.  Did she mean that I was way too prissy to raise a son to be manly? I still don’t know.

When the doctor announced, “It’s a boy,” the surprise was wonderful.  I was thrilled, delighted, overwhelmed and humbled to have been chosen by God to be mother to this wee baby boy.  I loved every minute of him. 

After a number of years and a few heartaches, we realized our son would be an only child.  I put away some of the things from my childhood, my doll furniture and dolls.  The hope of giving them to a daughter were gone.

Instead my days were filled with being mom to a boy, and not a dull one was among them.  I picked out boy clothes and made a Spider Man cape. I bought little cars and trucks and yes, even fake guns, boy toys, for him to play with. I made his room look masculine and cut his hair to look like his dad’s. I was a den mother for a batch of his Cub Scout friends. I dealt with a caged gerbil that was bound and determined to escape. I even shared his affection with any number of the fairer sex, until I finally took second fiddle to the one woman who truly captured his heart.  All the stuff boys are made of became our experiences, Sweet William and I.

Can you even imagine, then, the excitement I felt when my son and sweet daughter-in-love announced they were having a girl.  Visions of pink ribbons, frilly dresses, tea parties and baby dolls danced in my head.  I was going to have a girl-child to snuggle and cuddle, to share girl playtime and chit chat, to experience female moments that can drive a guy to distraction. A girl would understand that giggles and tears are just an emotion away.

Since that day 14 years ago, I’ve been blessed with two more grandchildren, a loves-to-dress-up girl named Celeste and our all-boy Ethan.  Let no one try to argue with me, there is a difference in boys and girls.   And I am loving every single minute of experiencing their uniquness.

Want to know the amazing thing about these grandchildren? They are equally delightful, they bring equal but different joy, and they have burst my heart wide open with love.

Being a grandparent is like getting a do-over, a rewind, a second chance. The things I would have done differently with my son, I get to do differently with my grandchildren. Things I thought so importance during my son’s boyhood, really don’t seem to matter that much now.

I think it is due to growing older and wiser, seeing life with mature eyes, and knowing we parents made a lot of mistakes and in spite of us, our children turned out OK.

I think I’ve become more fun as a grandparent, less particular, open to new experiences. I count the moments precious.

One day, I will pass on to my heavenly home. While I have this day, I want to build a house of memories for my grandchildren. I hope they remember laughter, funny stories, hugs and kisses, good-night prayers and blessings, unconditional love, complete acceptance.

I am depositing love into their hearts and I am storing up prayers. Sometime in the future when they hit a snag in the road or when something almost crushes the life out of them, I hope they will remember how much their Grammy loved them, believed in them, and talked to God about them.

Being a Grandmother is one of God’s best blessings.

Driving Incognito

Just a couple of months ago, late October, I said good-bye to an old friend, my 1993 Blue Cadillac Deville.  Sweet William and I had purchased it used in 2001 from a couple who only drove to Southeast Christian Church on Sundays.  Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly like that.  We did, however, feel like we got a great used car that had been cared for and had low mileage for its age.  It was big and roomy, had leather seats and a few bells and whistles, luxurious compared to what I was used to.  And it had horsepower!

At the time of purchase, my two granddaughters fit comfortably in the back seat.  When the grandson came along, there was plenty of room for all three of them.  People who rode with me often said, “This car sure rides nice.”  And it did.  I loved driving that big blue car.  We became friends.

I was fairly recognizable driving around my home town.  Not very many people drive light blue Cadis, so I was spotted easily. 

As the years and the mileage crept up on the Cadi, more repairs were needed.  It was in the shop so many times our auto repair guy at Chuck’s Automotive came to expect us regularly.  The last time the Cadi broke down on the side of the road this summer, I didn’t know whether to call Chuck or the county coroner. 

Bill and I began to think about looking for another car.   After trying out several makes, models, and sizes, we found a pretty little black Honda Accord, 2007 with low mileage.  It was another gently used car that we hoped would serve us for many years.

Now I’m driving incognito, no longer easily recognized as people pass me on the street.  Have you noticed how many black cars are on the road?  Do you know how many black cars are in the parking lots?  A bunch, let me tell you.  I stood beside one, pressing the key’s remote unlock button over and over while nothing happened.  “Is the battery already dead in this thing?”  I thought, quite exasperated.  Then I discovered it was not my car. 

Recently I was walking through the church parking lot looking for my black car in the dark of night, pressing the button over and over hoping the lights would flash where I could see them.  Several cars looked promising until I realized people were in them with their lights on ready to exit.

It’s embarrassing.

I’ve been reading Matthew and Luke, reliving the story of the first Christmas. I find it so fascinating that God concealed Himself in the womb of a young virgin. His birth, though miraculous for certain, was still quite ordinary in most respects. Think of it – God Incognito!  The glory of the Almighty God was hidden, disguised, and undetected by most. 

Scripture tells us God revealed Himself to a choice few in the days surrounding his birth:  Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men, Simeon, and Anna.  After that, Jesus lived an undetected life for about 30 years, walking the earth disguised and hidden.  Do you know how many Jewish boys ran along the paths around Galilee, how many were budding carpenters, hammering out wooden creations? 

People watched him grow up, become a teenager, take on his manhood, and yet they didn’t recognize that He was God incognito. John 1:10 tells us He was in the world, and though the world was made by God through Him, it did not recognize Him.

Just a few verses down, however, John says, “We beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” (verse 14b).

Ah yes, God is still willing to reveal Himself to those who have eyes to see.

There is a funny thing about my little black Honda. It recognizes me when I push the unlock button. It flashes its lights at me even though I may not always see it.

God recognizes those who are searchng, those looking for something they think they need, somthing they hope will satisfy.  And all the time God is flashing His Light at them as if to say, “I’m right here!” 

Over and over in the Bible God says, “Call unto me and I will answer . . . ”  It is His assurance that He does not want to remain incognito any more.  He wants to be found, to be recognized as the Savior who came in mystery, only to reveal His glory and His love on the cross.  

Christmas fun – December 8

After an early morning appointment, I went to Little Flock to help set up chairs, music stands, and lights for the orchestra.  The music department and media are gearing up for the annual  Christmas Choir concert.  This year’s “Gloria” promises to be glorious.  I can’t wait to hear the drum line march in and play during “The Little Drummer Boy.”

Afterward, I picked up the three grandchildren to help me with a little Christmas decorating.  Pulling the multiple boxes from their storage area, I was amazed again at how much there is.  The children and I looked at some of the items and remembered them from years before.  I told them the story of the ceramic carolers I painted before I was married and the small village their daddy gave me to go with the carolers when he was old enough to buy a gift himself.  They carefully placed them on the piano.

Celeste found one small box and exclaimed, “The Snow Man Tea Set!  I love the Snow Man Tea Set.”  She took it immediately and set it up in their room.  Later, Celeste took a thow-away box and created a stable.  She set up a manger scene in it.    

Ethan pretended to be a puppy, dressed up like an egyptian sheik, then became Robin Hood with a mask I made him from an old Christmas card.

Elyse got on line to search for a Christmas tree for our house.  No, I don’t have a tall tree this year for all the beautiful ornaments I’ve collected through the years.  But Elyse and I are still looking for the perfect one.

All of us decorated the Jesus tree.  Only two feet tall, it holds small ornaments like a lamb wrapped in a red ribbon, a star, a heart, a tiny Bible, a cross, and other things that remind us of Jesus and tell his life’s story.

We took a break with hot Tazo Apple Red tea steeped in a pretty new green teapot given to me by one of my piano students.

I unpacked the Candy Cane mugs my mother gave me the last Christmas she was with us.  The children already know that story.  The mugs are treasures to me, and I think of her when I look at them.  It just isn’t Christmas until those mugs are hung on the little rack and sitting on the kitchen counter.

After the children left, there were boxes and greenery strewn about.  Dishes needed washing.  Stuff was in stacks here and there.  The house was rather a shambles.  I had to rush off to church for work, piano lessons, and choir practice.  No time to pick up and put things in order.

Back home, I looked at the mess that still waited for me.  I thought about the good time we had today, the memories we had made, the food and laughter we had shared.  This mess represents a little Christmas joy.   And I am so glad for it.