Life Goes On

Did you ever notice how birthdays have a way of showing up every year? No matter how I hide or run, there it is waiting for me, same day every year.

Great. Super. I’m so excited.

Not.

But then, life isn’t so bad when you get right down to it. Sure, I have the cheapest dumb phone available. Sure, I sit home, day after day, trapped with no vehicle because my husband feels that he actually has to go to work. Sure, my kids come home, interrupt my work to tell me about their day and proceed to dirty the dishes I had just washed, again. Even with all that and more- life is pretty darn good.

My dumb phone is nevertheless a working phone ensuring that when my kids or someone else needs me, they can reach me. Since my number is given to a chosen few, I am not swamped with calls that are not important. My dumb phone can even text, which for me, who hates to actually talk on the phone, is a wondrous thing. Now if I could just get to the point where I can make appointments and sell stuff by text instead of phone or face to face, I would be on cloud nine.

I sit home without a car most days, but I also have this lovely computer that allows me to do what I love, write. Day after day, I sit here and write my own stories or critique the ones my friends have written. In this way, I can add to the stockpile of well written words that millions can access for entertainment and encouragement. Added to that, I have a husband who supports my literary efforts and has a strong work ethic, even at a job he hates. He agrees that it is important for me to stay home and focus my efforts on my writing and raising our kids even if a second income would help pay nagging bills.

My kids come home from school everyday with their noise and their appetites. but I am grateful they have food to eat, a good school to learn stuff in and maybe best of all, they feel comfortable enough with me that they can tell me the ups and downs of their day. How many moms have teenagers who actually like to spend time with her? I am blessed.

Now my birthday looms over the horizon and as I look at the halfway point of another decade I realize something. I am far from where I wanted to be when I reached this point. But where I am . . . with all its trials and blessings. . . . is right where I want to be. Not that I wouldn’t mind some of those fancy electronic gadgets, or my own vehicle, or a maid to do those darn dishes-again. I am human enough to want such things. But when you get right down to brass tacks;

Life is Good . . .

Spring Pond1

 

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My Empty Nest (Temporarily)

I didn’t do a post yesterday because I was out of town. My husband and I drove my three kids to a summer camp, Circle ‘C’ Ranch, nearly two and a half hours away.Mainstreet_edited-1They are teenagers, (well the youngest is a year shy, but that’s beside the point) so they are more than old enough to be away from mom and dad for a few days. I know this camp well, I worked there for summers during college and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I know the owners and directors and trust them implicitly. They are solidly grounded on Christ and make sure their summer staff is the same.

But . . .

My babies have never been away from home for more than a sleepover unless we went as a family. They are picky, overly-emotional, cranky and at times they are very hard to live with. But they are mine. Will the counselors know how to talk them down when they get angry or sad? Will the middle one, the picky eater, find enough to fill his tummy? Will the youngest, my sweet daughter who changes moods at the drop of a hat, get homesick and cry for me or the stuffed animal she forgot?

When we arrived at the camp, in the rain, we went through registration with nerves prickling. Will there be any kids that will be my friend? Will my counselor be nice or mean? When’s lunch? We met the counselors and dispersed to the different cabins, the boys sharing different sections of the same cabin, my daughter across the street. Within minutes, my oldest found a like-minded friend and I all but ceased to exist. The second one followed us around for a while, then went back to his cabin to see if he could repeat his big brother’s accomplishment. My daughter stayed with me until the final minutes before going off to her counselor and the young cabin-mate who asked her to take the top bunk so they could stay close.

My husband left to get the car and I was left alone. The rain had stopped, but the roof was still dripping and main street glistened beneath thinning clouds. It looked so much the same as it had 20 years ago, yet it was different. This time I was the parent leaving my kids to find their own adventure. I found I wanted to stay, to experience it with them, yes, even to relive my youth and those four wonderful summers.

Now here I am, the house achingly silent around me. I thought I would enjoy the time to myself; No more arguments, no more complaints, no more ‘I’m bored’. But instead, I find myself straining my ears for the sound of laughter as they watch a video together. I listen for a newly changed voice to sing, slightly off key, with his ‘tunes’. I need to go to the store, but there is no one to go with me. There are no young arms wrapping around me, my daughter coming close for a cuddle. There is no younger son coming in from a bike ride to tell me, in detail, how he got the new scrapes on his legs because he was trying out a new trick. No oldest son interrupting my writing to show me his latest drawing.

My nest is empty. I finally understand why my mom held my sisters and I so tight when we came home from college or for a visit. I understand the tears when we say good bye again.

My nest is empty, and I can’t wait until it’s full again.040 (9)

Family Jewels

I just returned from a weekend outing with my husbands family. His parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They didn’t want a big party or expensive296 gifts so we (their kids and their families) kidnapped them for a ‘quiet’ weekend. We rented some cute little cabins in a tiny campground deep in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. There, far from our TVs, computers and phone signals we were able to connect on a deeper level than other recent get-togethers.

I have been blessed with wonderful in-laws. My husband’s parents spent forty-three years serving in Chad, a country torn by poverty, war and political unrest. Their three sons were raised in a culture far different than what I have known. I married the oldest son almost 21 years ago and have learned a great deal from his different perspective.

This past weekend some things came into crystal clear focus for me.

305My children who sometimes struggle to fit in with other kids, click seamlessly with these cousins. My husband, who is an extreme introvert, was able to relax and communicate with the few people who can truly understand where he comes from. Even I, who am only related to these people by marriage, have always been accepted and loved as one of them.

I was able to connect with my two 17yr old nieces as well. We talked and found that although we are decades apart in age, our love of reading and writing are ageless. We all struggle with the need to express ourselves while battling the insecurity that makes us hesitate to offer up what is crying out to be shared. That is a war that many writers face everyday. I am hoping we can continue to keep in touch from our different corners of the country and encourage and strengthen each other for a long time.

This weekend has become a precious jewel in my memory. One to be taken out and polished and cherished whenever I am feeling lost and alone. This family is a handful of gems with each facet adding its own glint of light, its own sparkle of joy. I am blessed to not just have my own family that I love, but a second family as well, a family that offers a whole new outlook on life.347

Spring Break

065 (6)Ah, those word invoke visions of young bodies on warm beaches drinking in the sunshine. School is out for a week and frazzled college students pack their bags and head south for a glorious week of stress-free playtime before having to come back to face the last push at the end of the semester.

At least I assume that is what it is like.

I have never had a Spring Break like that.

Nope. My spring breaks have mostly consisted of yard work, spring cleaning and maybe, if I am lucky, a picnic lunch in a newly green park near home. I have never felt the loss. Being an introvert, the thought of crowded beaches, mobbed theme parks and packed bars made me shudder. Add to that the stereotype that all the young bodies belong to  ‘beautiful people’ intimidates me beyond belief. True or not, that stereotype has kept me safely home for decades.022

This year is no different. Instead of sprawling my out-of-shape-middle-aged body on sun-warmed sand, I am raking debris out of the yard and gardens. I am listening to the joyful laughter of my teenage kids as they play together, the battles and frustration of winter melting like snow under the warming sun. All around us the world is returning to life, bulbs are beginning to bloom, new green grass is emerging from the brown of last year’s growth and the air is filled with the songs of birds returning to their summer homes.

020I am not so good at the spring cleaning inside. It often takes me until fall to get that done. But the windows are open and warm fragrant breezes flutter my curtains. The floors are swept to clean up the mud tracked in by happy kids and dogs (not to mention the copious amounts of hair from two shedding labs!) But then the warm breezes and sunshine lure me outside once more.

So while warm sand and crashing surf are nice, I would not trade my Spring Break at home for any beach in the world.

 

 

A Look Back

Sometimes it is good to stop where we are and look back at where we have come from. Yesterday I downloaded all my pictures off my old computer (5 years worth) and loaded them onto the new one. I spent a large portion of the day scrolling through them and reliving some old memories. I saw my kids grow from toothless wonders to moody teenagers.

I saw oodles of pictures of puppies that we have raised as well as the canine matriarch, Maggie, whom we had to put down earlier this year. Hundreds of photos brought back memories or past family trips. Even more taken at family events, Birthdays, Anniversaries, and funerals.

Who can resist?

Who can resist?

In the large majority of the pictures, we are smiling.

That may not be indicative of our daily lives, which are often filled with grief and drama, but it proves that every life has both joy and sorrow. Life moves on in an endless series of ups and downs, mountaintops and dark valleys. In the last five years of pictures, I saw glimpses of that road. In each one I saw evidence of God at work in our lives; puppies that came at just the right time to help pay  over due bills, Old wounds within a family begin to heal at a party celebrating the life of my brother-in-law after he was diagnosed with cancer. Those wounds healed further as people gathered at his funeral just over a year later. God has always provided us with the means to make family trips to the ocean or even to a local park to help us grow closer as a family. Away from home, my kids are able to relax and have fun again, laughing and playing together the way they did when they were younger. My husband and I can enjoy each other’s company without the endless pressure of housework and projects.  There are so many that don’t have that ability to get away, or they don’t have anyone to get away with.

our yearly trip to the ocean

our yearly trip to the ocean

I am blessed. Looking back, I can see so many blessings that I have lost sight of in the stress of today.

Thank you Lord, for taking me on a trip down memory lane so that I can remember that life is a journey. No matter how hard it seems right now, there will be an end to these troubles. Thank you for walking alongside me through the valley so that together we can climb to the next mountain top.

From the mountain to the valley, You are always with me.

From the mountain to the valley, You are always with me.