Memorial Day – How We Can Honor the Fallen

America is in such turmoil these days. We fight about everything. We demean each other, we shout in protest, we sue each other, we shoot each other; we have become so hateful.

On this Memorial day weekend, when I think of all the soldiers and airman who have died fighting for our freedom and peace, I have to admit, I feel a bit ashamed. My father and mother served in the Navy during WWII. My father-in-law and husband are retired Air Force. Here’s a picture of the husband of a friend, coming home to his young girls after a long deployment.

Serving in the military comes with a price. It is not easy. It is not free. It is sacrificial, sometimes taking the ultimate toll. Spouses lose mates; children lose parents. We lose siblings and cousins and friends. This weekend, we remember those we’ve lost, even those we never knew, soldiers from the Civil war, the Revolutionary war. America has been fought for repeatedly.

I wonder what those who died fighting would say about America today. Would they believe it was worth it? Would they still fight today?

I pray they would. Because as unkind and unjust as Americans can be, it’s still our choice to create the life we want. We can choose to be cruel, and sometimes we do. But, we can also choose to be kind, and we’ve done that too. (No other country is more generous than America). Hard-one freedom sustains that choice for us. 

So, it’s imperative that we remember those who have died trying to preserve our freedom to be kind – or cruel. My parents and husband understood that those in generations to come might take for granted the freedoms of this country. And they were right.

We don’t usually link the most significant choice we have – to love, or hate – to the long-ago or recent death of a soldier.

But, we should.

We can best honor all those who have died in service to America by simply choosing to be kind.

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10 Things I Needed Quiet Time to Remember

It’s one of those “I’m so grateful” days. Nothing spectacular has occurred, I didn’t win the lottery or anything. I simply had some quiet time this morning, and I noticed the many blessings in my life.

Do we need quiet time to recognize all that we’ve been given?  Yes.

When life is frantic and I just run from thing to thing, my overall mode is “hurry up and finish this, there are ten more things I have to get to.” That’s a perfect recipe for becoming cranky and then resentful. When I can’t really pay attention to the task I’m in, I’m certainly not going to appreciate what I’m doing and why it’s important. Think of Road Runner’s legs. Spinning and spinning, moving through everything instead of being fully present.

So, this morning, it was quiet and I read Jesus Calling (several days’ worth, because I was behind.) And in the quiet, blessings bubbled up.

1. Today is our daughter’s birthday. She’s a blessing in so many ways, and also a feisty testament to life. As a toddler, she had a severe seizure that caused her to stop breathing. If not for one doctor, well…you can read about that HERE.

2.  Grandson James. This sweet child gives me the opportunity to just stop and hold a baby. If he’s fussy, or feeding, or sleeping, he has my full attention. He puts life in perspective.

 

3. Our older son and his wife visited recently. They drove to Florida from Virginia to meet James. We took lots of family pictures (because we’re rarely all together) and I got lots of hugs. I have to say, there is nothing a mom loves more than having all her youngin’s together. All the pieces of her heart reconnect. And if the youngin’s don’t gripe about getting numerous family photos, that’s icing on the cake. Thank you, youngin’s!

4.  After four months of unemployment, our younger son has a job. This son is the father of James, and husband to our sweet DIL, so we all had anxious hearts about how this new little family would manage. But, our son is resilient and our DIL is supportive, so they are working it out. We’re so proud of how they are growing through this challenge.

5.  After a head injury this week, the hubs is fine. At work, a piece of equipment hit him in the head. He needed 6 staples in his scalp, but has no other damage. He doesn’t even want me talking about it, so don’t mention it.

6.  Mom’s treatment for lymphedema is working. Her legs looked like tree trunks, but after two weeks of special wrappings, she’s on the mend. Once treatment is over, she’ll have to wear compression stockings, which she’s not looking forward to. Life at 95 is not as much fun as it used to be.

 

7.  Dad is getting new glasses. After sitting on/rolling on his wire frames a thousand times, they were shot. Pliers and duct tape didn’t work anymore. He’s getting titanium frames. Seems fitting for his titanium spirit. 

8. We’re getting a new dishwasher. In comparison to loved ones and jobs, this is an insignificant thing. But once the current dishwasher starts depositing rust stains on the plates, it’s time.

9.  My Visa bill is at 0 again. This only happens about twice a year, so I like to highlight it when it occurs.

10. I’m eating dark-chocolate malt balls for breakfast. I really have to stop this, because my inflammation numbers are up a little, and I know sugar is the culprit for me. I’m my own worst enemy. The good news is that in heaven, I won’t have to deal with any more of this nonsense.

What blessings have you missed recently because life is too hectic? Make quiet time a priority (that’s the only way to do it), and you will be reminded of how much God loves you.

 

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BOYS TO MEN

My two boys have birthdays every summer, about two weeks (and 9 years) apart. 

We were all together recently (which is rare) and took this picture. 

Our oldest, on the left, used to be bigger than our youngest, on the right.  And the hubs (in the middle) used to be bigger than both of them. James, the baby here, is in the 100 percentile in height for others his 4-month age. Everybody’s growing. 

When did that happen? 

Our oldest son used to look like this. He was three when lava lamps were cool. 

Our younger son used to look like this. 

He wore vests and bow ties and Redskins caps on Easter. 

The older one is no longer blond. The younger one has not been seen in a bow tie since this picture.  Both boys loved baseball, Legos and macaroni and cheese. Those things are still true. 

Now that we have a grandson, I‘m reminded of the days I changed diapers on and gave raspberries to my own sons. When I was home with my children, the hours seemed long at times, but looking back…they are but a wink of one eye.

Somewhere along the line…boys turn into men.  They work through challenges, try to figure out women, change jobs, move, try to figure out women, make mistakes, mostly figure out women, and settle in to the game of life.

They begin to resemble their father, their grandfathers, their uncles.  Not physically (although sometimes), but in action and habit and character.  

It’s supposed to happen, of course, that they grow up and onward, but it kind of happens when you’re not looking.  And then…one day…you just see it.  

With my sons, it was choosing marriage that added a new depth to their lives.  They both met women who sparked in them a willingness to be vulnerable, to sacrifice, and to commit.  These are honorable – and sometimes rare – traits in a man.  

It’s heart-warming to see.   

My sons are not little boys anymore, but strong, hairy adults who give me great bear hugs, which I love, love, love.  My prayer for them is that they continue to grow in tender-heartedness, courage, and conviction.  

Because life will continue to throw them curve balls now and then.  

I want them to know we will always been in the bleachers rooting for them. 



Our Newest Valentine

This is what has my attention this weekend.

 

James was blessed with a full head of hair.

It’s similar to the color of his Aunt Sara’s hair.

James is three weeks old and almost 8 lbs. this Valentine’s day weekend.

He wasn’t due for nine more days, but he was eager to meet his family, so he poked his water sack and announced “I’m coming!” His parents had moved to a new home just hours earlier. They thought they’d have a month before James appeared, but I guess he didn’t want to miss anything.

So, today we have a new Valentine to celebrate. He’s sweeter than any box of chocolates.

In three weeks of being a Nana, here are some things I’ve learned.

1. Parents with thick, dark, abundantly curly hair can have a child with light, straight, silky hair. God loves to surprise us.

2. Things that seemed important before James arrived – like cooking and cleaning – are suddenly on the back burner.

3. Holding James makes me think of my parents (who are 95 an 92.) The age span and the contrast of new life to old – it’s very philosophical.

4. Our son and daughter-in-law are naturals at caring for a newborn. I’m sure they have moments of being unsure, but they handle James with tender, unhurried confidence. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.

5. Having a newborn in the NICU for a week allows the nurses to get Junior on a schedule. This has turned out to be very beneficial for James and his sleepy parents.

6.  I can’t express how much I love and adore this little boy. It came immediately, like the rush of a waterfall. When I snuggle him close, the worries fade, and life is perfect. He is so tiny, yet brings big joy to my heart.

For Valentine’s Day, my husband and I got each other the Willow Tree grandparents statues.

We are so grateful for the gift of James.

Baby James – a Month Early!

Hope everyone is having a good 2016!!!

Since Christmas, I’ve been wanting to spend some time blogging, but life has intervened. We’ve had a job loss, a move, a snow storm and THIS precious event…

Baby James arrived one month early!!!

By the hand of God, he was 6.15 lbs. upon arrival, so he was not in any danger, but he was wheeled into the NICU anyway, because, well…he was a month early! He spent five days there under a blue light with nurses getting him on a wonderful schedule, and his parents holding him whenever they could.

I WAS STUCK IN MARYLAND IN THE SNOW BLIZZARD!

I can smile about it now, but at the time…my heart was breaking because I so wanted to be here to see our first grandchild arrive. I figured traveling a month before James’ due date to see my sister, I would be fine. James had other ideas. The best laid plans…

I met James the night I came home. We drove straight to the NICU from the airport, where I got to cry over this beautiful child with a full head of hair.  He was wrapped up like a burrito and as warm as a baked potato. I think he winked at me in our time together, but I’m not positive.

I looked at our son, who was now a father, through tears, and I cried as I embraced our daughter-in-law, who did a marvelous job of handling labor (she pushed for only about ten minutes before the boy was free – who gets that?!?)

I don’t even have words to describe our love for this child, who is now home. Every grandparent knows the feeling. I’m now in the ‘I’m nutty about my grandchild’ club, and yes, you’ll have to tolerate photos now and then of this sweet boy.

A side note – I had a great visit with my sister, even once the snow began. I’ve not seen snow like this in 25 years. It was beautiful, I must say. And we had fun digging out.

TWO CARS BURIED

MY FIRST MESSAGE TO JAMES FROM MARYLAND

It was an emotional week. The day James Daniel was born in sunny Florida, even the skies in Maryland celebrated, raining down two feet of angel flakes.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

My 2015 Grateful List – from the Handy Man to Baby James

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s like Christmas, without all the crazy shopping and overspending. And Easter, without all the candy. It’s a day that refocuses my mind – for at least a week – on what’s truly important. We need more holidays like this.

I want to share with you how, despite some heartaches this year, I am still mindful of how blessed I am. These blessings are in no particular order.

1.  I still love our 25-year-old house, despite the fact that the kitchen is about the size of a walk-in closet. This dear home has raised three kids to adulthood, weathered copious Florida hurricanes with no flooding, housed many, many friends and family, and tolerated one lovable dog who liked to drag dead squirrels inside.

2.  I’m so grateful for dark chocolate-covered malt balls.

I don’t know why it took someone so long to create these, but they should get the Nobel peace prize.

3. I’m grateful I have a handy husband. Between the two of us, we can manage most home repairs and updates. Recently, we re-framed an old, industrial-grade bathroom mirror.

(If you want to do this, here are detailed instructions: GETTING FRAMED)

4.  I’m beyond grateful that my handy husband is finally recovering from vertigo – a condition that made him so sick a week ago, he was sleeping on the bathroom floor. It’s an odd inner ear imbalance problem that is completely debilitating, and it often springs up for no apparent reason. Whoever figures this one out really deserves a prize.

5.  I’m grateful the little fender bender I had two weeks ago hurt no one and no one else’s car either. Only my own, which is fair, I suppose. Luckily, I have first-accident forgiveness, so I have only my deductible to pay, and I can move on with my life. Thank you, USAA.

6.  I’m grateful for a week in a condo on the beach last month to celebrate our 40th anniversary. This was a gift from many family members and we have great photos to remind us of this time away from our own lives. Here’s one of my favorites.

Thank you, son Jeremy, for taking so many lovely photographs.

7.  I’m grateful for my nutritionist, who by muscle testing keeps me on track with eating well, despite my occasional cheating with chocolate-covered malt balls.

8.  I thank God that Dad is finally recovering from his fall six weeks ago. He had several set-backs, and we wondered if he would be able to return to his ALF, where Mom is. Looks like that will likely happen now.

9. I’m grateful that my ebook about our family Christmas project (HERE: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE) is finished and was published in July. I felt called to write it and share it with the world. What happens with it now is up to God.

10.  I’m grateful for our local thrift shop. It reminds me that “stuff” is recycle-able and share-able and trade-able. I love taking a bag of things there just about monthly, and I love finding an item there I need. We could all save so much and probably help the planet too, if we would just rotate our stuff.

11.  I’m grateful for good pie crust. I’ve never been able to master it, so I really love and admire a baker who can do it. JOAN’S PERFECT PIES here in Melbourne has the best pies I’ve ever tasted. Joan won second place in a national pie championship in 2014, so you know there’s only one baker better than her in the nation. If you’re ever in Melbourne, FL…check out this pie shop.

12.  I’m grateful for Champion brand sport bras. For various reasons. Enough said.

13.  I’m grateful, delighted really, for our first grandchild James, who is six months, pre-born. Here he is with his folks, our son and his wife.


Isn’t he the most beautiful pre-born you’ve ever seen? He looks great in plaid, don’t you think? Clearly, I’m going to be one of those nutty grandmas, but I’m OK with that. James and I will be buds.

14.  I’m mostly grateful that I know there is a sovereign God who loves me and has a plan for my life. Without that, nothing else makes any sense.

40 Years! Holey Moley.

Today is our 40th anniversary. I remember when my parents celebrated their 40th, and they were old. Now that we’re here, it looks different. Funny how that happens.

For our 40th, our kids, siblings, and parents put together for us a week in Nags Head, NC in a beautiful condo on the Sound with nothing to do but sleep when we want to, eat things like custom-made donuts (divine) and crab cakes (love), shop in quaint haberdasheries, and soak up as many beach breezes and heavenly sunsets as we want. We feel quite spoiled and lazy. And it’s wonderful.

Thank you, sweet family. We never know how badly we need to get away until we do.  We think we’re so important at our jobs and in our responsibilities, but when we get out of the picture…surprise! Life goes on.  It’s funny how that happens too.

This morning, I bought a precious charm for my Pandora-like bracelet. Take a look and see if you can determine its significance.

 In case you’re baffled, here’s another hint.

This is our daughter-in-law (with gorgeous curly hair) and a little something she’s been growing for about five months now. I love this picture. With the Redskins game on in the other room, I’m imagining our son and his son plopped in front of the tube in a year or so, rooting for the burgundy and gold.

Here we are with our older son and his wife (with gorgeous red hair), who drove five hours to spend some time with us. Woo-hoo! We don’t see them often enough, and it was heart-warming to get some good hugs from these two.  I love this picture.

It’s 5 p.m. and I’m in my PJs already, because it’s my anniversary and apparently, I’m old. My kids probably think so. So, here I am writing in a swivel rocker with a zebra pattern, tummy full of custom-made donuts and dark chocolate malted milk balls from Fresh Market. I’ll pay the piper when I get home.

For now, I’m grateful for a generous family and 40 years of a marriage to a hard working, Air Force guy who always supported every crazy idea I ever had.

Except baked bean sandwiches. He wasn’t a big fan of those.