Saturday, February 26, 2011

a grandparent's legacy

(This post didn't come easily, but it's actually been in my heart for many years.
I hope it hurts no one who reads it.)

I came across this photo recently. It's the only photo I have of my paternal grandfather and me together.
I'm about six years old and Granddaddy is about 75.

I didn't have a real relationship with him.
Granted, we moved far away when I was just seven,
but I hold many memories of other people in my life at that age.

This is what I wish my grandfather had chosen to do:
Be happy to see me. Though he might have been happy when I visited,
I never sensed it.
Be demonstrative. I never remember hugs nor sitting on Granddaddy's lap.
Share stories of his childhood.
Find out what interested me and talk with me about it.
Ask questions, tell me a joke.
Tell stories about life on the farm when my dad was a boy.

I doubt that my grandfather, a hard-working Arkansas farmer who
in the prime of life fought through the Great Depression,
gave a moment's thought to the legacy he was leaving
his children and grandchildren.
Maybe the terrible reality of survival sapped his capacity to love.
At least that's how it seems to me.
I don't mean to disparage the memory of my grandfather,
but he died over 40 years ago and I don't know who he was.
That saddens me. And if he had an unspeakably horrible childhood,
that saddens me, too.

I know this sounds judgmental,
but sometimes I wonder why some people have children at all,
if not to love and know those children, forge relationships, teach compassion,
and pass on the baton of faith.
Parenting means sacrifice and a commitment to mold little hearts to
love, respect and serve others.
I think the same can be said for grandparenting.

These memories have helped me decide what sort of grandmother I want to be.

I will hug the daylights out of my grandchildren, if they're ok with it.

I won't demand affection from them, but I hope to foster it.

I will be more tender and patient with my grandchildren than I was with my children.

We'll get lost in books, especially the ones their dad or mom liked.

I will pull a chair to the kitchen counter and let them bake cookies with me.

I will tell them a joke and laugh at myself, never at them.

I will spend time outside in the sun and snow, or walk with them in the rain.

In summer I'll sit with them on the sidewalk and draw with chalk. We'll stay at the pool as long as they want.

I will listen to their fears, hold them close and pray with them.

We'll go to the park and swing, slide and climb together.

I'll tell them about my pranks at Girl Scout camp and of my childhood with no computers, cell phones, or DVDs, how we'd wait a whole year to watch "The Wizard of Oz" on TV.

I will talk with them about God and point to everything around us that speaks of His creation and love for us. 

I will take a moment every time we're
together to look
deeply into their eyes.

I will spoil them rotten. Ok, I know I'm not

I will remember they are children and delight in them.
My grandchildren will know my smile,
my touch,
my laugh, my tears,
and especially my heart.
Without a doubt they'll know that
I love them fiercely and forever.

I won't waste time silently sitting on a chair
as my grandchildren walk through the room.

Friday, February 25, 2011

beautiful light

Light. Beautiful light. A photographer's best friend. I discovered some lovely light just a few steps outside my back door today after the storm that blew through last night and this morning.

There are things nobody would see
if I didn't photograph them.
- Diane Arbus, 1972

Thursday, February 24, 2011

another courthouse

My friend Dove commented yesterday that there are other beautiful courthouses in Ohio, including the one right here in Delaware. So I pulled up a couple of photos I shot last spring. Indeed, it's a beauty and is still a fully functioning courthouse after 153 years. And this is only the back view!

Do you have a favorite courthouse?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

a courthouse

Throughout the midwest you'll find courthouses,
most dating to the late 1800's.
I'm always surprised at the grandeur 
of these buildings.  

Even in the smallest, most rural county seats
such as Hartford City, Indiana,
it seems an attempt was made to make the courthouse
the town's crown jewel.
On Saturday we passed through Hartford City on our way home
from celebrating Katie's birthday.
The courthouse was stunning to me,
illuminated and rising into the cold Indiana dusk.

So many little jewels in our great country.
I love discovering them.

Blackford County, Indiana:
established 1838 
2010 population: 12,766
Courthouse completed: 1895
entered on National Historic Register, 1980

Monday, February 21, 2011

Indiana cows

In case you think we - or someone else - posed these cows, no. They're the real deal.  During Saturday's birthday trip to Muncie, Indiana, Katie and I yelled, "stop!" Bill backed up so we could photograph this trio of cows.

Two are rump-to-rump, perfectly lined up. The third is straddling the two. What on earth could they have in mind? Is it family bonding? Pre-mating? Post-mating? A stance predicting impending weather?

Any cow experts out there, I'd like to know!

Who says the country is boring?

(And last year, also in Indiana, we saw a goat getting a boost from a goat buddy: front hooves on the other goat's rump in order to nibble from a tree. Indiana animals are an odd lot!)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

happy 21st birthday, Katie!

Who would think we could so thoroughly enjoy a Saturday
spent in a tiny, rural town tucked between Indiana cornfields?
In the middle of winter?
It happened yesterday and is perhaps a combination of a daughter
becoming a young woman before our eyes,
and us settling in to our new role as parents of young adults.
It was a day not out of the ordinary, yet indescribably special.

I brought cupcakes ...

... for Katie to share, with hungry friends like a roommate.

Dad and  daughter cooked up some plans
for Scrabble games via their phones.

We talked over a leisurely lunch at Panera and stopped by a mall.
We've had some rough patches, Katie and me.
That's why this time in our relationship is so sweet.
We talk more as friends than mother and daughter.
I prayed this time would come, and thankfully it's arriving.

Today our daughter Katie turns 21.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

happy birthday, Pat

I'm only a year late finding this photo ... the year was 1975 on Martha's Vineyard. My brother Pat and I ferried out to visit a friend of mine. While she worked her restaurant job, Pat and I explored the island a bit. How I love islands. I could live on one, selling seashells or tending a lighthouse.

It was the first - and only - time I hitchhiked. I felt very daring and disobedient, remembering our dad's warning about the dangers of hitchhiking. I felt safe with my big brother. If I got kidnapped, so would he.

A mom with two kids picked us up; safe but boring. That was summer life on the Vineyard.

Thanks for keeping me alive in '75, bro. Happy birthday, with love.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

on the sunny side of the street

Our house and drive face north and neighbors across the street face south. It's as if they've jumped ahead to spring! I was describing this to my Florida friend Beth who couldn't quite believe it. See for yourself:

I remember this song from my childhood, but I doubt my kids do!

Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
to the sunny side of the street.
Can't you hear a pitter-pat
and that happy tune is your step
Life can be so sweet
On the sunny side of the street.

On the Sunny Side of the Street by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, 1930.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

breakfast fail

My turn at providing food at Bible study this morning. I popped out of bed and excitedly assembled a breakfast pizza. This long-forgotten recipe from my file neglected to mention an important detail: USE A PAN WITH A RIM. Instead, I used my flat pizza stone. Further: DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO ADD 'JUST ONE MORE EGG.' Here we have the pizza, ready for the egg and milk to be poured upon. I was very careful to make a rim of dough to hold in the egg ...

...but the rim failed miserably.

Someone at study said she cooks the eggs first.
What a great idea.

 The finished product looks pretty good, however uncooked egg dribbled onto the dish towel on the drive to church. So breakfast pizza got a second baking at church. The ladies liked it. I say phooey!

Breakfast Pizza

1 pkg crescent rolls (I used half of another package)
1 pound breakfast sausage, cooked & drained (cook the day before!)
1 cup shredded hash browns
1 cup shredded cheddar
5 beaten eggs
1/4 cup milk
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Separate rolls and place in a greased pizza pan, pie plate or something with a rim!  Push it all together to seal the seams.  Layer on sausage, hash browns and cheese. Mix eggs, milk, salt & pepper (or soft-scramble first) and pour over pizza. Bake at least 30 min. Cut into squares and enjoy.

Monday, February 14, 2011

love defined


 Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
(The Message Bible)

Even if you don't receive a valentine or chocolates today,
may you know the Source of true love. May you realize the power and preciousness of God, creator of all,
 and who gave his life away.

Just to be with you, I've done everything
There's no price I did not pay
Just to be with you, I gave everything
Yes, I gave my life away.
- Third Day

Saturday, February 12, 2011

the magnitude of love

She was among the least popular girls in school. Frankly, she scared us. Homely, awkward, loud, and, scariest of all, mentally challenged. The girls in my Girl Scout troop came from upper middle-class families in a small New England town. We were all well-behaved, good students and nice, normal girls.

Barbara Winkle wanted to be a part of us. Like any seventh grader, she desperately sought acceptance in a group of girls her age. But she so bothered me, rushing up like a hurricane, too close for comfort, talking loudly with a horrible head of unkempt hair, slurred speech, and bad breath.

She first introduced herself to my mother, who led our troop. "My name's Barbara Winkle! Rhymes with twinkle! I want to be a Girl Scout!"

Mom laughed and talked with Barbara as if she were the most normal kid. Didn't she bother Mom just a little bit?

I took her to task. "She's weird, Mom. Does she have to join our troop?" I couldn't imagine weekly meetings or worse - camping trips with Barbara along. What if we had to share a tent? It also bothered me that her name was the same as mine.

"Barb, she may be different and unpopular, but that's exactly why she'll be in our troop. Those who are hardest to love are the ones who need it most."

And so we reluctantly followed my mother's lead. Barbara Winkle became one of us. A sort of annoying little sister we learned to tolerate. I know I never accepted her as my mother did. At best, I ignored her.

But I can't forget the love in my mother's eyes each time Barbara came roaring in to meetings. A smile lighting her face, Mom asked, "How are you Barbara? It's so good to see you!" And they'd chat a bit like old friends.

Real love comes not in valentines, but in the hearts of those who choose to love.

Friday, February 11, 2011

the measure of love

With Valentine's Day coming up, I thought I'd write a few posts on love ...

Though our three sons have been gone for some time now, through marriage and/or jobs elsewhere, it seems I'm only now sensing a true empty nest. I became a mother over 27 years ago, and that role doesn't leave as they pack up their rooms.

Letting go isn't so neat and tidy. In the ten years since our oldest left for college, call me slow, but I think I've only been rehearsing for the empty nest. These years, I've decided, don't really count.

Anyway, it's cool how God delivers the tiniest message of reassurance that He understands. This week I received a card in the mail in which the sender referred to one of my children. It ended with, "you did good." Just three little words that serve as a powerful reminder that most of my job as mother is over.

Too, those words encourage me that the sacrifice, sweat, tears and broken bones (I once broke my arm for one of my kids) of motherhood have ended well. Not perfectly, but well. And accomplished by the wisdom and grace of almighty God who loaned me my four children for a time.

The fact is, I can't sit on my mom emotions as I would a bulging suitcase, hoping to snap it shut. My overwhelming feelings pop out in my thoughts, words and actions from time to time. As Elisabeth Elliot so aptly put it, "emotions are the most unreliable things in the world."

So. I let go not because I want to or feel like it or hope to feel good about it. I do it as a matter of the will. We raised these children as best we could and now release them, like it or not. I hope that someday, as my kids release their own children, they will know the measure of their love by how hard it is to let go.

They may have packed up their rooms, but I'm finding it harder to pack up my heart.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February projects

Considering the outrageous ice, relentless snow and plunging cold,
it's a great time for clearing bookshelves, drawers and closets.
That's exactly what I'm presently doing.
In fact if you ask my hubby, he might say I'm a bit obsessed. Boo.

How many coffee mugs does one family need?
Not as many as we had so I let go of a few.

Glasses and jars - no longer at risk of an avalanche!

And the (usually) ever-cluttered phone counter
is clean as a whistle.
Well, as clean as it's gonna get around here.

I've got a couple of other projects on the burner, so stay tuned.
Got any winter projects in progress?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

happy birthday Mark!

My son Mark is turning 23 today.
I see him as:
A loving and devoted husband to Jill.                      
Uncle to Ari (well of course I had
to throw that in!)
Possessing great independence,
resourcefulness, and motivation.
Seeker of God's purposes.
One who cares about and invests in people.                                                             
An incredibly hard worker.
Has made his dad and me mighty proud.

With lots of love, for a
happy birthday, Mark!


Mark and Jill on their graduation day at Miami University, May 2010.
(Though it felt like November.)

Excuse the formatting ... I give up!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thursday, February 3, 2011

didn't mean it!

I take it back, February. You packed a wallop and you win! Inch-thick ice, huge limbs brought down, and our street transformed into a skating rink. Throughout Tuesday night we were awakened by ice crashing on our roof as the wind loosened ice from the trees. Eerie.

Rough day yesterday. We had no power for about 14 hours; other parts of town even longer. The house grew chilly but thanks to our gas stove, I was able to heat soup and make tea.

It's strange. By last night, I was exhausted. How is doing nothing - except trying to keep warm all day - so exhausting?

Thickness of the ice brought by the storm.

Our maple took a hard hit; not sure of its future.
My son Dan said, "I remember when that tree was a twig!"

It's ok, February.
We don't need any encores.