It was the best of days, it was the worst of days . . . .

Day_After_Christmas__NRockwell_1922

The day after Christmas.  When you’re a kid, it’s the worst day of the year.  It’s SO LONG till Christmas Day again.  When you’re an adult, and I have to say specifically a female adult (cuz that’s what I relate to), it’s the best day of the year. Because it’s SO LONG till Christmas Day again.  I think if you turn down the TV, turn off the music and stick your head outside your door, you’ll hear a sweet rush of air.  It’s not a cold front moving in, even though as I sit here in 80 degrees, I wouldn’t mind, but it’s the tired, relieved collective sigh of women all over America exhaling after feeling the weight of their household’s happiness on their shoulders for the last month, finally lifted.  My sigh of relief isn’t as heavy this year, as my kids are grown now, but I so remember feeling that huge sense of relief when all the presents were opened, all the secrets revealed, all the stockings – emptied. Everyone was pretty happy.  Happy enough.  Maybe they didn’t get every single thing they asked for, but they were still well-compensated.

Ah, to be a kid again.  Filled with hopes and wishes and absolutely no feeling of responsibility for anyone else’s fulfillment of hopes and wishes.  The thing about childhood is, you can never go back.

So to all my fellow-adult-females out there, I say “Good work!  Now, relax!”  No more Elf to move, stockings to stuff, presents to prepare, roasts to roast to perfection.  No more cookies to decorate, Pinterest posts to parallel.  No more “out-original-ing” someone else’s super-original-something-or-other.  Take 11 months off!  (Or until the next birthday in your household . . . but no pressure.)

 

 

 

I’m a Christian, but I’ll see your “Happy Holidays” & Raise you one “Seasons Greetings!”

Peace

Now that Halloween is one flip back in our calendars, “the holidays” are soon to be upon us. There’s just something I have to say right here at the “get-go” before things get really crazy:

“I celebrate Christmas, but you can wish me a ‘Happy Holiday.'”

There, I said it.

There sure seems to be a lot of people angry over the fact that more people say “Happy Holidays” than “Merry Christmas.” But I’m afraid that anger gets taken out on well-meaning grocery store personnel or unsuspecting retail staff. Or just people who might not know you’re a Christian. The thing is, you can’t always tell what holiday someone celebrates just by looking at them. And not everyone celebrates Christmas.

When I was in college and it was the last day of my finals in December, I was walking on campus and happened to share the stroll for a bit with my piano instructor. When we parted ways, I wished him a “Merry Christmas!” He smiled, nodded and went on his way. I don’t remember him actually saying anything in return, but I do remember the smile. I learned at some point later that he was Jewish. I had no idea. His last name was actually quite Scandinavian-sounding. There was no reprimand for what I said. I was genuine in wishing him well. He did not snarl at me and say, “I celebrate HANUKKAH, thank you very much!” He smiled.

More recently, just a couple of years ago, I purchased Christmas books for all my piano students as I always do this time of year. As one student sat on my piano bench, I pulled out his Christmas book and proudly presented it to him. His mother, sitting nearby, graciously said, “Actually if you have any Hanukkah books, that would work better for our family.” I had no idea that family was Jewish. Again – I didn’t know by looking at them and their last name happens to be Hispanic. No harsh words from his mother, no tsk-tsks, just grace and kindness.

If you know which holiday someone celebrates, then by all means, be specific in your wish! But if you aren’t sure, wish them a “Happy Holiday.” Is that really such a bad thing?

Please, before we get all bent out of shape because someone wishes us a “Happy Holiday,” can we just take a step back and take the well wish as just that? A well wish? I think the world could use a little more grace and kindness. More honey and less vinegar.  That just tastes better, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

Tissy

pink and yellow daisies

In memory of a sweet friend we lost one year ago today. I know heaven has been especially bedazzling this past year with Tissy in residence.

When I was a preschool music teacher several years ago, I remember marveling at the fact that even amongst three-year olds, there could be a “popular” kid that all the other little ones wanted to be around. Take, for instance, Natalie. Every child in her class wanted to scoot their mat right up next to hers during music time. This girl would have had a classmate on all four sides of her if I would have allowed it. But besides being a cute little girl, I can’t recall anything particularly remarkable about her. What attracts a flock of three-year olds anyway? Were they thinking, “She hardly EVER wets her pants , I want to sit by HER!”? Or “That girl right there? She KNOWS her colors, man. And she can count to five like that!” (snap of finger)?
I think of Tissy as “that girl” amongst us. Don’t you always want to be near Tissy? Doesn’t she have a way of making you feel better just by being with her? That smile and those eyes! She doesn’t even need to say anything and you already know you like her. And then . . . actually talking to her! How is it that a person going through what she’s gone through in the last couple of years can turn things around so that SHE is the encourager?? I remember so many times asking her how she was and she’d say, “OK. How are you?” And then 5 minutes later I’d realize I’m yammering on about some thing that was bothering me and she was listening and comforting me! What?? I’d walk away thinking, “You have cancer and I have heartburn and you’re the one ministering to me.”
We know it’s not that she’s potty-trained, or knows her numbers, but we know it’s that Tissy has Jesus shining out of her like crazy that draws us to her. I want to “scoot my mat” right up next to hers and just be near her. And I’m so grateful that though we will be separated for a time, I can count on sitting next to her again for all of eternity. With all of you! (I selfishly imagine there’s a “CBS” room in heaven where we all hang out together. We’re sort of in a circle like on Tuesday mornings and 11:30 just never comes – we stay all “day” and sing and laugh and share stories. Oh, and the temperature is just right there, too. Poor Jodi isn’t freezing nor is Susan P wanting to make it cooler! 🙂 )
When you all wrote down the title of your favorite praise & worship song or hymn last year, Tissy wrote “I Know Whom I Have Believed.” I just discovered this morning that is comes right out of Scripture (imagine that!): 2 Timothy 1:12 – “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.” (I love this whole passage, verses 8 – 13. I can just picture Tissy speaking those words.)
My imagination gets the better of me sometimes, but I can’t help picturing this going on in heaven right now: The angels just get word that Tissy could be arriving sometime soon. They look at each other and grin and get wide-eyed. The “Martha”-type angels fly around quickly and say “There’s work to be done!” (like there are any messy rooms in heaven??). The angels in charge of long white gowns and halos hatch a plan with a wink at each other. They’re going to go a little “off the beaten path” with this one. They fly quickly to heaven’s version of the big room of gowns on “Say Yes To The Dress” and start searching through the racks. “Here it is!!! I found it!” says one angel to the other. She pulls out a bright PINK gown with accompanying sunshine YELLOW sash. “Tissy is going to ROCK that!” says the second angel. Meanwhile, “Martha”-angel shouts to her staff: “GET THE BIG ROOM READY, EVERYONE IS GOING TO WANT TO SIT NEXT TO HER!! . . . . oh dear, do we have enough mats? . . . . . MARY? Where ARE you???”
See you again someday, Tissy!

Oh, Olive

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Recently our daughter and her family came to visit us while Kevin and I are at our cabin in northern Wisconsin. (Just a refresher, Maria is married to Jared and they have three girls: Winnie – 5, Olive – 3 and Molly – 3 months.) It’s been a couple of years since they were here, so Winnie had some memories of the place, but not Olive, as she was just a baby on her last visit. Even though Olive has flown before she had an interesting perspective on the whole experience of traveling by airplane.
First of all, though, you’ve got to understand the two personalities of the two oldest girls. Winnie loves everyone and everything immediately and without reservation. She’ll tell you you’re beautiful and hug you and give her life for you as soon as she meets you. Maria has had to make up stories about how ant poison doesn’t actually kill the ants . . . (“They just taste it and they don’t like it so they move on to someone else’s house”) . . . because, not only does she love every person on the planet, she also loves and cares for every animal as well. Bugs must be rescued and set free rather than squashed. And let’s also include inanimate objects in her realm of lovable things, ‘cuz . . . . oh, who knows why, just because she has so much love to give it extends to anything that gets in her path, living or non.
Now, Olive, on the other hand, isn’t so free with her affections. You have to earn her love and trust and, by gum, she’ll make you earn it. While Winnie is busy loving the world and attempting to either go home with strangers or invite them all over to play at her house, Olive is close to her Mom’s side eyeballing that same stranger and will gladly tell him/her to “not look at her.” She has no trouble speaking her mind, a quality I wish I had honed better in my 54 years. But a 3-year-old doesn’t have much tact, so it often comes across as quite blunt, which can cause her sweet, kind mother to roll her eyes on many an occasion and say, “Oh, Olive.”
So, on with the story, now that you know these girls a little better. Olive knew she was “going to Maga & Grandpa’s cabin” when she got on a plane a couple of weeks ago. Well, imagine it from a 3 year old’s point of view. She’s going to the cabin. Her whole family is on the plane going to the cabin. There are a lot more people on that same plane, which she knows is taking her to the cabin. She thought EVERYONE on the plane was going to the cabin! Mortified at the thought of so many people she didn’t know from Adam going with her, was a horrible predicament. When she inquired about this, Maria reassured her these folks were, indeed, not all going to the same place as she was. Whew. Well, in perfect Olive form, she took in upon herself to inform the other travelers that they were NOT going to the cabin. Complete with pointed finger and furrowed brow. Just in case there was any question. I’m picturing this scenario: Olive: “YOU’RE not going to the cabin!” Random traveler: (Hands up in a “don’t shoot” position) Nope. I’m not going anywhere NEAR the cabin! Please, can I just get past you? I promise I won’t even look at you!” Olive stares him down for a second, lowers her finger and says, “Move along.” Oh, Olive.
I have to add this, though: When Olive loves you, she’s all in. If you pass inspection and are allowed into her inner circle, you are privy to one of the sweetest people on earth. The last night they were with us, we were all playing outside in the yard. Olive’s shoe came off and I was helping her get it back on. I knelt down in the grass and she wrapped her arms around me, laying her cheek on the top of my head, and she said in a sweet voice, “You’re my great Maga.” Skiiiiiiiiiiiiiid!! Stop. Right. There. My internal organs turned completely to mush and I was in hog heaven. Her hugs and smiles may not be as prevalent as her older sister’s but man, they pack a punch! They can leave a grandma breathless and saying with a sigh, “Oh, Olive.”

Olive roasting marshmallows

“The Empty Manger Bed” (or “I Left Baby Jesus in the Piano Bench By Mistake”)

It’s January 2.  And I’ve already messed up the new year.  So much for starting afresh, with a clean slate, full of potential to be a better person in the new year.  Perhaps this will serve to make YOU feel better, though, and so maybe THAT’S my true purpose.  Some good may come from this, me serving as “how not to be.”  You see I was starting the process of “de-Christmas-ing” my house.  It has to happen in stages as the task has gotten bigger than life with each passing year.  The Dickens village went away on New Year’s Eve.  The Nutcrackers, this morning.  The tree. Oh, the tree is a two-day process in itself.  That starts tomorrow.  That one is a back-breaker.  So, I thought I’d tackle putting away the nativity set as that is fairly easy, though I do so hate to wrap up my three wise men and put them away.  They have become quite popular on Facebook for the past three years now.  I got out my box that says “Nativity People” (though there are many animals involved as well.  Animals are people to, you know.)  I can’t tell you the shock I felt when I looked down in the tiny manger bed and found . . . . . NO JESUS!!  What?!?  I always tuck Jesus into my piano bench each Advent and we anticipate His arrival every Christmas morn.  He can’t just show up sometime in December – everyone knows He was born on the eve of December 25! (I’m being facetious here as we don’t really know His actual birthdate.)  I always tuck Him tenderly into my piano bench until He’s due.  I think this may the first time I ever just plain forgot to take Jesus out of my bench and put Him in His manger bed.  I totally forgot about Jesus.  It was enough to stop me dead in my tracks and cause me to take a photo of my erroneous blunder.  Here, wanna see?

Where in the world is Jesus?

Where in the world is Jesus?

So after I thought to myself, “Way to go!  You call yourself a Christian?  What kind of Christian completely forgets to take the Lord & Savior out of that cold, dark piano bench?  Why’d you stick Him in there anyway?  Why didn’t you just leave Him with His Mom and Dad and all the other ‘Nativity People’ so He wouldn’t feel so lonely?  You probably should just count this year as a loss and hope to do better next year.  You only have 363 more days to be a Jesus-leaver.”  I’m afraid to go to sleep tonight because I’m scared I’m going to have bad dreams about being locked inside a giant piano bench and not be able to get out. It would serve me right . . . right?

Well, in an attempt to help me feel a little better about myself, I’ve come up with some excuses that I can report to God on Judgement Day when He asks how I could have possibly left His Son like I have.  The first being that I’m just really forgetful lately.  I could honestly stop there, but I don’t feel like I’ve redeemed myself quite yet.  So, I thought of all the piano lessons I had during the time Jesus was tucked inside that bench.  Silly as it sounds, I do say a quick prayer before each batch of kids starts for the day that I’ll be the music teacher they each need for that particular day.  Maybe having Jesus right there with us (He was situated right in the corner of the bench – positioned between me in my chair and the kid’s butt on the bench) helped me achieve that a little better.  You know what I have half a mind to do?  (OK, stop with the snarky comment you’re thinking right now about me having half a mind) – – just leave Jesus in the bench all year!  I still could!  I haven’t put away my Nativity Peeps yet!  (I was so distraught by my error earlier, I decided I needed a nap and would deal with it later.)  By George, that’s what I’m going to do!  Mary, Joseph, animals, extras . . . . you’re OK and everything,  but you’re going back in the box. Three kings?  Gosh – I love those guys.  I may wrap them up and put them away, but at the top, where I can get to them easily enough if I miss them.  Jesus?  I might just keep You in the piano bench this year.  I mean I know You’re with me anyway, I know I don’t need a little plastic representation there, but it’ll be fun to some day open that bench, looking for some Debussy . . . . and there’ll be Jesus!  This is how we “turn that frown upside down.”

There.  I’m feeling a little bit better about myself now.  I sure hope God accepts this explanation later. I’m open to any other suggestions you might have that you think He’ll more readily accept.  Please feel free to comment below.

Deo volente – – – Patti (aka Maga)

“My (nonexistent) Bucket List”

I love Ferdinand.

I love Ferdinand.

Am I a complete bore if I don’t have a Bucket List?  I usually like to keep “current” and be  “relevant” (it’s very relevant to be current, you know) but one bandwagon I haven’t jumped on is the formation of my so-called “Bucket List.”  I just can’t think of anything I want to do, or place I’d want to visit so badly  that I’d consider it “bucket-list-able.”  Perhaps that does make me a bore.  God knows I’m not the adventure-seeking sort.  Honestly, I had to talk myself into going to Target today; I was perfectly content to stay home.  Rock-climbing, sky-diving, mountain-conquering . . . . (but what happens if you need to go to the bathroom?  Huh?  Does anyone think about that?  I do, people, I do!)  I get dizzy just  watching people doing those things on TV!  (OK, sometimes I simply get dizzy walking from one room to another.)  No, I was not cut out to be adventurous.  (Though I did dye my hair really, really blonde once. Crazy stuff.)

And I just don’t have a great desire to “see the world,” though I have nothing against the world, generally speaking.  In fact, I really like to watch Rick Steves on TV,  jaunting all over the place and visiting those “out-of-the-way” places all the ordinary tourists would never in a million years  know about!  Oh Rick, how do you know so much about where to get the best cepelinai in Lithuania??  What could Rick Steves possibly have on HIS bucket list??  Travel to outer space??  Or has he done that already?  How much do you wanna bet he knows where to get the best moonrocks?  C’mon, you know he does!

When my kids were little, one of their favorite books was “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf.  (Come to think of it, it might have just been one of my favorites, actually.)  While all the other young bulls ran around and butted their heads together (see, this does NOT sound fun to me) Ferdinand liked to “sit just quietly and smell the flowers.”  I’m with you, Ferdinand.  Make some space for me under that cork tree!

Maybe it’s because I know I’m living a really, really, really blessed life already.  I have a wonderful, loving, hard-working husband.  I have three grown kids that are my favorite people on the planet.  I have two granddaughters that bring me so much joy and another grandbaby on the way!  I live in a very comfortable house and really want for nothing.  I’m healthy.  And friends!  I’ve got the most amazing friends coming out of my ears!  (Figuratively speaking, of course)  To cap that all off, I know that God loves me (despite my boring ways) and I’ll get to see Him face to face some day when this wonderful life is over! (Let me point out that I would like to hang out on earth for as long as possible, but I know when it’s my time to go, I’ve got a pretty cool place to go to.)

A verse that hit me square in the face many years ago was this one:  “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11)  Did I pray that one a little too much over the years?  Shouldn’t I want to go to the grocery store when there’s nothing for dinner in the house?  Nah – I’ll go tomorrow.

I have been “not content with my circumstances” plenty of times (ungrateful punk that I can be – thanks, Christi, for the word “punk”).  It’s not a good place to be.  The weather there is always cloudy and everyone that lives there has a perpetual stomach ache.  Everybody wants what someone else has and by everybody, I mean “me.”  I’d rather not live there again.  I do go there from time to time, still, but prefer to see it in my rear view mirror than through the windshield.

So please don’t forget to send me a postcard when you’re off on your adventures! I really do love hearing about them!  And seeing the pictures!  I’ll just be here, sitting quietly and smelling the flowers.  Me & Ferdy.

“My Stick-Duck” (or . . . “How Really Poor Eyesight Can Sometimes Make You Happy.)

Most days, I wish my eyesight was a whole lot better.  I’ve worn glasses since I was in 6th grade and for the last 34 years have worn contact lenses.  I don’t even think anything of it anymore.  I can see “fine” with my contacts in or glasses on.  Or so I think, until my husband (we’ll call him Cyborg-Eyes) reads a road sign while we’re traveling in our car and I think, “What?? You can actually SEE that??”  I’ll eventually be able to read it . . . when we’re right up on top of it (this usually happens too late when I’m driving so I have mastered the art of the perfect u-turn). And Kevin doesn’t even wear glasses!  I can’t quite imagine having eyesight that sharp.  Well, as it happens, my poor eyesight brought about the most ridiculous of situations one day.  My apologies to Facebook friends who know this story since I wrote briefly about it the day it happened.  I felt the need to expound upon the absurdity of the source of my happiness that day.

It all begins with my hatred of ironing.  I know,  I know . . . “hate” is a strong word, but I do use it from time to time, especially when talking about certain things (for me it’s ironing and going to Costco).  I have to mentally prepare myself for (sometimes) days before I set about the task of actually ironing.  It’s one of my hopes that the clothes will actually press themselves by simply being folded and stacked up into a pile.  Believe it or not, this method works fairly well, especially if you let the pile build up till it’s a heavy enough mass to press out all the wrinkles.  (See, technically I am still “pressing” my clothes this way.)  Probably twice to three times a year, however, I decide it’s time to really iron.  But I have to get a lot of things in place first:  I need to set up the ironing board in such a way that I’m looking at a TV.  There needs to be a good movie on because I’m going to be standing there a while and I need to be entertained.  The weather needs to be sunny with no chance of rain.  Ideally, the temperature is in the mid 70s.  Snacks and a beverage should be readily accessible for sustenance.  My phone should be handy in case I need a quick “Words with Friends” break to help me get through this.  That’s all I ask.  No more.  No less.

One day the stars were aligned and it was time.  Not only did I have the appropriate TV distraction in place, but I also had a lovely view out our bedroom window.  There sits a rather large rubber tree beside a canal.  Kevin has threatened on numerous occasions to “get rid of that thing” because the “roots might get into the septic tank.”  I happen to love that tree and am simply hoping for the best possible outcome in regards to the roots-meet-septic situation.  It drops leaves that gather around the bottom of the tree and lots of times we have ducks that meander through our yard, sometimes taking refuge in the leaves under this tree.  Well, on that ironing day, I looked up from whatever garment was receiving my attention at that moment, and saw a duck sitting amongst the leaves.  I love birds of all sorts and just felt all happy and peaceful inside that I got to look out upon her feathered beauty for a while. I say “her” because I extrapolated that this was a female duck, perhaps sitting on her nest.  She was so, so still and kept her vigil so patiently.  I went about my ironing, her peaceful presence giving me an odd sense of calm (in the midst of my “strife”… aka ironing).  At one point, (am I really going to admit this to you?) I looked up and saw a small leaf sitting on her head and I thought, “Ohhh!  She doesn’t even move with that leaf on her head?  Doesn’t she feel it there? Is she sleeping?  Is she trying to be funny??”

I eventually got to the bottom of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and got everything put away.  I left my bedroom and headed off to my next task.  Hours later, I returned to my bedroom and just happened to look out my window.  I’d forgotten all about my fine-feathered-friend, but she was still there!  Really??  She hasn’t moved yet?!  Wanting to get a really good look at her, I moved very slowly over to the window.  I hid to the side for a minute and then ever-so-carefully, moved my body over so I could look at her real close.  Are you even kidding me?  Upon closer inspection, I could see I’d been duped by my own eyeballs.  The source of my admiration all day?  My sense of calm and wonder?  Not a duck at all.  Not even a living creature.  It was a stick.  A DANG STICK!!!  I wasn’t sure whether to laugh at myself or be mortified at my error.  (What’s the saying . . . “Dumb as wood?”)  Want to see what I was looking at for so long?

Awww - just look at her there, sitting so peacefully.

Awww – just look at “her” there, sitting so peacefully. One might think she wasn’t even real! 😉

So that’s the story of how a stick brought me a few hours of peace and tranquility one day.  I guess sometimes it doesn’t matter what you are seeing, but how you are seeing it.  With a little help from some bad eyes, something quite ordinary was a source of contentment that day. Not so ridiculous after all.  Oh wait!!  What on earth . . . ??!! Oh my gosh, is that? . . . . You guys – Tom Hanks just walked by in my neighbor’s yard!  What are the chances of that happ . . .?? oh . . . . never mind . . . .

Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be . . . TOO BUSY!!!

Can I pass along a thought to some younger Moms out there that might be reading this?  Moms who still have some “chicks” in their proverbial “nests?”  I’m feeling a rumble in the distance, and I think it’s the start of the stampede of parents and their kids to all the activities that will be starting now that school has just gotten underway for another year.  Yesterday was the first day of school in our county and we live just down the road from our local middle school.  I saw lots of parents taking their kids to school, perfect backpacks on their sweet little backs.  Soon to be filled with so many books, they’ll need a chiropractic adjustment by the end of the week.  It makes me miss those days with my own kids on one hand, and on the other, I’m happy to be through those years and on to the next season!  (The math was already getting way too hard for me when they were in about the 4th grade, so it’s a good thing mine are grown up!)

So here’s my sage advice:  Don’t succumb to our culture that says you have to have your child signed up for an activity every day after school and three on Saturdays.  I know that no parent intentionally sets out to stress out their own children and there are so many great clubs, activities, opportunites now-a-days (oh my, I said “now-a-days” – old folks like me say that).  All parents want to provide the best for their kids, want to let them experience a wide variety of things so they can “find their niche.”  But I’m afraid in the process of wanting to be really great parents, we’ve become a culture of stressed out, over-busy, “hurry-up-we-gotta-go!” type people and our kids are not getting better for it, they’re just learning that running around like a chicken with no head trying to do everything is “normal.”  Not even just normal, but it seems to be coveted.  It’s almost become a badge of honor:  “And our ‘Most Harried Mother of the Year’ award goes to . . . . . . ”   Don’t buy it, Mamas!!  And lest you think I consider that I did this perfectly, au contraire!  Mine are all grown up now, but I spent many a year hurrying kids into the family mini-van, peanutbutter sandwich in hand, shoes untied (once we even drove to a destination three hours away and realized Teddy didn’t even have his shoes with him!)

We don’t get many Christmas letters anymore, the popular thing (now-a-days) seems to be a family photo with a pre-printed greeting.  But for years and years I swear the same family wrote every Christmas letter we got.  Everyone was so busy.  And then you’d get to read about what each family member did to contribute to the overall busy-ness of the group as a whole.  It honestly seemed like a competition to see who led the busiest lives.

I have the priveledge of seeing a few kids for piano lessons each week.  Sometimes I want to just grab their exhausted little faces (face-grabbing, where have I heard that before?) and tell them to “chill out” (as much as I don’t like that phrase.) I struggle with the  constant conflict of a.) getting irritated that they don’t practice their lesson, and b.) the realization that they are trying to juggle school and scouts and sports and clubs and piano, all with their puny little arms.

I don’t want anyone to come away from this feeling “scolded” for having your kids in lots of activities.  I just want to say to you, it’s OK to NOT have your kids signed up for a million things. Before you know it, you’ll be old(er) like me and you’ll be watching the neighbor kids go off to school, remembering when your own were doing the same.  Soak up this time with them.

Grab someone’s face today.

Here I am . . . home, or am I . . . merely “back?”  It feels like “home” when I’m in Wisconsin, but then again, home has been South Florida for the past 17 years.  At any rate, I’m writing this to you from my kitchen in hot, sticky, humid, pretty-darn-mildewy Florida. But enough about the weather, I wanted to encourage you to grab someone’s face today!  Before I go any further, please enjoy this sweet pic of Winnie grabbing her own face:Face-grab Winnie

I’ve had a couple of face-grabbing experiences over the summer and it occurred to me it was something pretty special.  I wish I would have done more of it in the past and am convicted to grab more faces henceforth.

I just spent a few weeks in my hometown of Washburn, Wisconsin (probably the best place on earth) and spent a good bit of time with my 92 year-old Mom.  She lives in an assisted living facility there where she is looked over by a wonderful staff.  Want to see a picture of her?  Here she is just after we went out for a “stroll” (stroll is in quotes because it involves me pushing her in her wheelchair.  Not exactly level streets, mind you.  It’s an effort to push her up the street and then a task to make sure I don’t lose my grip when we’re headed back down.)  She loves fresh flowers so we picked a sweet little posey.

GG with flowers

Lookin’ like a movie star in her shades.

It’s not really easy to hang out with my Mom.  She’s very hard of hearing, so you have to shout and you can count on having to repeat almost everything you say 3 to 4 times.  God forbid you want to ask her something that requires discretion; speaking in a hushed tone is not going to work with her. And it’s hard work getting her in and out of a car (you can actually hear her bones knocking against each other in her knees. Oh, the thought makes my stomach flop) but she absolutely loves to “go for a ride,” so struggle we did, so she could enjoy the beautiful summer.

Something else my Mom loves is to hear my sister and me play the piano.  I should add that my sister, Chris (Chrissie to me) is really good at playing the piano and I’m just . . well, I like to say I’m “pretty good at being a fairly average piano player.”  There’s an out-of-tune piano in the dining room where my Mom lives and several times we’d play and our Mom would sing along.  We’d go from “Amazing Grace” to “Beer Barrel Polka” just like that!  (Honestly, in Wisconsin The Beer Barrel Polka is considered a sacred song, I think.  I’m fairly certain even the most devout church-goer would not be offended by a rousing round of Roll Out the Barrel, even at the most reverent of moments!)

When it came time to say good-bye to my Mom for the summer (she “walked” Kevin and me to the door when it was time to leave), I got down in front of her to hug her and give her a kiss. (I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about this – every year I wonder if this is the last time I’ll do this.)  She grabbed my face in her hands and looked straight into my eyes and told me how much she loved me.  After a summer of being exhausted from strenuous walks, listening to bones crunch and shouting in her “good” ear, that all went away in that single face-grabbing moment and all I knew was my Mom loved me.  I felt like a little girl.  Of course, I cried as we slipped out the door,  still feeling her cool hands on my cheeks.

Flash forward a bit to just a couple of days ago.  My daughter, Maria, was dropping me off at the airport to come home . . or . . back.  I had just had a complete meltdown with Winnie (Olive was napping so she was spared this mess) on the kitchen floor as we said good-bye to each other.  Winnie feels her feelings very strongly and lets it all out – I love that about her.  But, man, when she cries and says, “I don’t want you to go, Maga!” and throws her arms around my neck, I’m completely undone. But I had recovered on the 30 minute ride to the airport.

As we were pulling up to the drop-your-person-off area, I spotted another Grandma getting dropped off by her daughter.  This Grandma was little farther down “Maga Road” than I (I noted her grandkids to be about 8 and 10 years old).  As we got my bags out of the back, I looked over to my “sister in Maga-hood.”  She had properly hugged the kids and now was saying good-bye to her daughter, her daughter a bit older than my own.  She had her daughter’s face grabbed in her hands and was telling her something up close.  The daughter was crying and I so wanted to know what her Mother was telling her. It was a sweet moment and I felt a bit ashamed being the voyeur, but  I’d like to think she was telling her daughter to hang in there!  “You’re doing a great job with these kids!  I know it’s tough, but just keep at it.  They’re going to be grown-up before you know it and you’ll wonder where on earth the time has gone.” Things I should say to my own daughter more often as she’s in the throes of child-rearing right now.

So let me do that right now!  I’m doing a virtual face-grab – to my own sweet Maria and any other Mama out there who’s wondering if there’s life after toddlerhood.  You can do it!  Maria – you are the sweetest, most gentle soul I know and those girls are beyond blessed to have you as their Mother.  I know there are more trying moments than easy ones right now and you’re wondering if or when on earth your kids are going to “rise up and call you blessed.” (Oh, that Proverbs 31 woman and her to-do list!!)  Just keep on keepin’ on!  You can’t even imagine the rewards coming your way!  *smooch*  (A face-grab is best followed up with a kiss.)

In closing, I’d like to sing this:  “Oh, give me a home, where the small children roam, where the Barbie’s and toy horses play!  Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the dishes stay dirty all day!”

I love you Mom.  I love you Maria. Considered both of your faces grabbed!

 

Hakuna Matata.

 

So I was wondering, do you have any tattoos??  If you’re a person about my age (I’m 53, wellllll closer to 54, actually) chances are you don’t.  And chances are pretty good you might have grown up kids that do.  I just recently discovered my 24-year-old son is the proud wearer of two.  That’s a whole other story, but let’s stick to this one for now.

Every now and then I just get a wild hair and think I want to get a tattoo. This coming from a pretty non-rebellious-type person who thinks using SPF 15 rather than 30 is totally wild and reckless!  I’ve flirted with the idea of getting another piercing in an earlobe (bringing the total piercings to 3) but that just seems so, I don’t know, so 1990s now.

I’ve thought that if I were to take this action, I’d get some sort of music symbol, being that I’m a musician and all.  (Doesn’t that sound impressive?  I’m actually just a piano teacher so it’s not like I’ve met Bon Jovi or anything, but I just like to say, “I’m a musician.”)  A cute little eighth note appropriately placed might be just the thing.  Well, that is, until I saw this . . .

 

Isn't this the best?

Isn’t this the best?

 

 

I was in Coco’s http://www.coconorth.com , a great restaurant/bakery in my hometown, ordering some lunch.  When the sweet young lady who took my order turned around, I spied with my little eye this amazing tattoo on the back of her neck.  She moved quickly, so I didn’t see it clearly, but I thought I saw a treble clef!  (We “musicians” love treble clefs.)   When she handed me my order I had to inquire – was that indeed a treble clef?  Actually, no!  Get this (and I just love this!):  it’s the Swahili symbol for Hakuna Matata!  What?!  For some reason, I just LOVE that!  You know what Timon & Pumbaa say . . . it means “no worries, for the rest of your days!”  Who doesn’t love the thought of that?

I think Hakuna Matata might be the Swahili counterpart to a couple of great Bible verses I can think of – how about this:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  Or especially this one from Matthew 6:27 – “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Really I love that whole chunk starting from verse 25 till the end of the chapter.)  Now THAT would be a big ol’ tattoo.   But that symbol?  That pretty much sums it up into a very pretty, treble-clef-looking package!  But where on this body would I put it? That’s the next question . . .

The back of the neck is really cool-looking, but I want to SEE it myself.  I’m the one that needs reminding not to worry.  I like the top-o’-the-foot tattoos, but I’m fairly tall and have poor eyesight, so I’m not going to see it way down there.  I want to be able to see it regulary, but then again, don’t forget I’m a piano teacher (ahem . . . “musician”), I work with kids and don’t want them or their parents thinking I’m too wild and crazy (do NOT tell them about the SPF15!)  What’s a gal to do?  Where would YOU put a great-looking Swahili symbol?  (Plus, I don’t want, as time marches on, my Hakuna Matata to turn into something entirely different, given the aging process and gravity).

When I was a young music therapist working in Minneapolis, I helped to lead a choir of senior citizens (more stories to tell some day). I once was worried about an upcoming concert.  (I know, right?  What could possibly be worrisome about a concert involving sweet elderly folks.  Well, worrying is a family trait I’ve inherited and have been trying to expunge from my life for some time now.)  When I expressed my concern to one dear old woman named Myrtle, she calmly looked at me and said, “Honey, worrying doesn’t do you any good.  It won’t add a single minute to your life.”  She was quoting Matthew 6 here, but I didn’t know that at the time.  (Hmm, I wonder how Myrtle would feel about me getting a Hakuna Matata tattoo?)

Well, check back with me in a bit and see if I’ve done anything about this wonderful whim.  I’ll try not to worry too much about it!