Wednesday, August 28, 2013

they had dreams

I realized only today that Bill's parents, Joe and Elizabeth Haller, were married this day 70 years ago: August 28, 1943. I'm certain Joe and Lib had dreams. They must have looked forward to a life of fun and adventure, a house and jobs and children. They fulfilled all that and over the years had six grandchildren and now a dozen (#12 due very soon) great-grandchildren. Unfortunately, Joe passed away thirty years ago, just before our oldest was born. Elizabeth is nearly 97 and her memory is fading. She does not seem to remember Joe. That is very hard to witness.

My dear friend Grace was a college student on this date fifty years ago and went with her dad to hear Martin Luther King. She happened alongside Jackie Robinson and asked him to sign her program. She recently found that program while going through some boxes in her garage!

Joe and Lib, married 70 years ago. Martin Luther King's voice ringing from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, 50 years ago. You never know how a day in your life can carry great significance on down the road.

Let's live each day well!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

back on bikes!

Bill's big surgery in April kinda cramped our style when it came to biking. Most summers we were doing quite a bit of biking, both in town and taking our bikes to one of the rails-to-trails that we so enjoy here in Ohio.

Bill was determined to start riding again, but obviously wanted to be careful. Like not fall off! But he's done amazingly well, riding more than me. His biggest challenge is getting on and off the bike, not to mention maneuvering around lots of other bikers. So yesterday we headed to Mt. Vernon to ride the Kokosing Gap Trail, probably one of Ohio's finest. It's a gem. Katie was off work so she joined us. We got an early start to beat the heat, and riding on a Monday beat the crowds, too.

stopping at the Kokosing River

The first leg is about 4 and a half miles, where you find a wonderful train and restrooms at Gambier, right on the edge of Kenyon College. A plaque told us that many years ago, Kenyon students rode the train to campus. Then it's on to Howard, another 4 miles or so. We opted to turn around before Howard and return to Mt. Vernon, probably a good call ....

haha! Taking a break before the last leg.

It feels fantastic to get out on our bikes again. It's been a long few months, with so many adaptations required, plus the concerns over my dad and Bill's mom. I'm super thankful we have nearby trails to enjoy. Also very proud of my hubby for working hard!

Monday, August 19, 2013

a divine purpose

My dad, around 1949. Fort Riley, Kansas.
A few years ago I flew to Nashville to visit Dad and Sally.
Dad picked me up at the airport, but instead of heading home,
we ended up in an abandoned parking lot and had to flag down a guy in a pick-up
 to lift the gate for us to exit.
At the time I thought little of it; Dad just took a wrong turn.
But now I see clearly. Dad's mind was falling prey to dementia.
It was the beginning of a long, slow journey.
Ten years after this photo was taken, Dad was rolling on the floor
with my brothers and me, wrestling and laughing.  
A little girl with a strong, healthy, capable daddy can't know that time is fleeting.
That some day he won't be cutting the grass on Saturdays (how I loved that smell) 
or taking me to Sears to roam the hardware department.
That he wouldn't tend his tomatoes or build Mom a flower garden. 
One day he'd no longer grill out on Saturday nights or make sausage and biscuits on Sundays.
That even my teen years, when he didn't really know how to talk with me
and I was incredibly frustrated by him, would quickly fade away.  
That life stands still for no one.
Dad is still alive, but he's not living. I pray he doesn't grasp how much care he needs,
how his once-witty and intelligent mind has been scrambled and robbed.
I last visited him in June. So emotional was the visit
 that it's taken me two months to write these words.
His fluctuating condition weighs on my heart,
the sight of him bed-ridden replays in my mind nearly every hour of every day.
I felt I was staring down death. 
Dad's eyes were vacant and as I gazed into his face,
he barely realized I had tears streaming down mine.
It was a short visit, a detour home from Charlotte.
 On that full day I spent with him, June 10, he was awake maybe two out of the
 ten hours I sat beside him. It felt awkward, but I held his frail, white hand as he slept.
 I wanted to, for I was certain this would be my last day with him on earth.
I wanted him to feel my love and the peace that I prayed over him.

Late in the afternoon he opened his eyes and I said what I most wanted to say.
"Dad, do you love Jesus?" He brightened a bit, focused briefly and answered,
 "I do, I love Jesus a whole lot."

Some question the purpose of a life like this. Or God's timing. Or if God is even there.
We cannot know God's ways, so much higher than ours.
In His creation lie the mysteries of His love, justice, compassion and mercy.
We catch glimpses, but cannot fully know what God knows.
We aren't supposed to. We are not God.

Dad's lengthy illness has also brought gifts. 
Over these nearly four years, we've had conversations I never imagined;
 a glimpse into the heart of a man I never knew.
Up until about a year ago, he answered many of my questions about
his childhood. About his parents, and theirs.
How the mail was delivered on horseback to their Arkansas farm
and how his father offered to send Dad to Yale.
I forged a deep, sweet relationship with my step-sister Anne,
renewed the relationship with my sister (also Anne) and
had lovely visits with my step-mother Sally.
And Dad's caregiver Lisa is an angel on earth.
I've spent hours alone, driving to and from Nashville, talking things over with God.
I wrestle with things before God; I do not wrestle with God,
as Oswald Chambers so beautifully reminds me.
(My Utmost for His Highest, December 16)
He also explains how God's permissive will is used
"to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives."
Perhaps the best gift of all is, I hope my own children
have seen vulnerabilities and a faithfulness in me.

It's been an emotionally exhausting  journey,
but also one of the sweetest.
In this I am content and thankful.
Perhaps my discovery of these gifts on this hard journey
is God's divine purpose for me.

Go safely, Dad. God will hold you as you once held me, safe and sure.
I'll see you someday. You know I love you.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.        Isaiah 55:9

Friday, August 16, 2013

the rest of the babes

We left Lily, Mark and Jill and headed to Charlotte so Bill could finally meet Noah, his very first grandson. And he hadn't seen the girls, either, for many months. Or Dan and Jenny! That darn surgery kept Bill down for awhile.

It's a happy, hectic household, brimming with toddler mayhem. Fun, loving mayhem! Ari is three and a half and extremely verbal. Her little mind is racing with thoughts, questions, humor, ponderings, and participation in all that's going on. The big event of the weekend was preparation for her pre-K schooling at home. The cutting, laminating, and sorting ... all so exciting! I'm amazed at Jenny being ready to take on schooling. She is open to different options for the children.

Oh, Ashlyn, you are two through and through.
I was a very busy Baba those few days ... so I didn't take a ton of photos!
But Noah cooperated by not moving around much.
Sweet, studious Noah at eight weeks old.

You've seen my reading photos before ...
I'm just a reading-type of grandma.
It's snuggly, warm and calming and draws us wonderfully close.
So far all the girls: Ari, Ash and Lily love to read and I couldn't be happier!
We swam, fixed food, napped, changed many diapers, poked in the garden, and washed dishes. We rolled on the floor, giggled, colored, read books, and sang in the bathtub. And since our Katie was with us, some great photos happened. (the two above) That girl knows her stuff!

And for a brief, beautiful moment, we got her on the other side of the camera.
Love, LOVE this!
I think I'm the most blessed Baba/mom/wife on the planet.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

my babes

We've been back more than a week from a road trip to see all the little ones. It was worth all 1400 miles and rest areas along the way. The McDonald's $1 summer iced coffee special was a plus!

It's funny when people say, "oh, you have great places to go and visit your kids and grandchildren!" What can I say? I'm a homebody. Didn't like rides in the car as a kid and still don't ... but I'll do it for these treasured babies. We don't do a whole lot of sightseeing when visiting because, well, do you remember having toddlers? They eat often. They nap. And they go to bed early. If you push them to do too much, they let you know loudly and clearly! So much of the visit is spent in and near the house. And frankly, they wear us out! Wonderfully worn out.

Anyway, you know I go nowhere without my camera and I love to catch the children just being themselves. Forget trying to tell a two-year-old to "smile for the camera." So here's what I caught ...

I took Lily to a little playground near their townhouse. She loves to slide!


We went to Great Falls National Park, very cool ... Lily playing with Popsy


I love to see them learn ... great comprehension before all the words come!
Jill is already making learning fun.

A bit shy, but impish and sweet and coming into her own.

Playing doctor with Baba

Lily will become a big sister in a few short weeks! So I'm excited to go back.
Next post: the three Musketeers!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Happy 35th anniversary, my love

For the past three and a half years, our married sons and their wives have been filling the quivers. Ari born on New Years Day, 2010. Ashlyn in 2011, Lily in 2012, and now two baby boys: Noah was born in May and Mark and Jill's son due in just a few weeks. We're crazy blessed and thankful!
Last November in Virginia ... this photo already outdated!

On the other end of life, our two surviving parents are declining significantly. They occupy a good part of our thoughts and attention. We definitely feel that sandwich generation label.

There's really no secret to staying married this long. God should come first. He thought up marriage and has the corner on it. Then my husband, children and self. I also think a healthy dose of common sense got us this far. I often wonder why somewhere around 50% of American marriages go off track.

No relationship, no marriage will ever be perfect because no person is perfect. I know I do things that bug Bill. And he can push my buttons. The culture says "my happiness first," telling us to please ourselves above all else. Problem is, won't there be faults with the next spouse, too? At those times when my husband was driving me bonkers, I kept in mind that I will never find the perfect husband so I may as well stick with the first one who is pretty great. Not saying subsequent marriages can't work, but it seems so many people believe the grass will be better in another pasture so off they trot. If our pasture was parched, I guess I just waited until the next hour, or day, or season when a fresh rain fell and the grass grew tasty again.

I think marriage is a lot like a relationship with God. Satisfaction isn't *poof* guaranteed after the wedding. That is when the work begins. It was when I began to learn that to make this work, I'd have to die to self a whole lot. I'd have to listen even if I knew I was right. (ha!) I'd have to consider the preferences of my husband, and apologize when I wronged him. I'd have to let little stuff go and realize that most things are little in the big picture. I mention God because it's a perfect parallel. As in marriage, my walk with God has taken work, too. When I work at learning who God is and how to please him, our relationship intensifies and is sweeter.

I don't mean to get all analytical with marriage and dampen the celebration of this anniversary. But younger people do ask, "what's your secret?" I just want to say there's no secret, no magic formula. We live in a microwave society, but a lasting marriage takes time, thoughtfulness, commitment to the one you love, hard work and at times incredible patience.

When I first married, my father gave me one piece of advice. "Making marriage work isn't 50/50 effort. Sometimes it's 60/40 or 100/0. Try to give more than your share. Don't try to keep it even because it won't be." I think Dad gave excellent advice.                   

I'm not always a selfless giver. But I love you, Bill, and am overwhelmed by the blessings of these 35 years. Here's to many more!

Due to distance and the kids' jobs, we all get to gather about once a year.
November 2012

Friday, August 9, 2013

35 years!

At our Michigan cabin on our 25th anniversary, 2003.
It's universal: life seems to speed up as kids get older, as we get older. Our lives brimmed and spilled over with high school sports, kids learning to drive, me leading Katie's Girl Scout troop, two of the boys in Boy Scouts, youth group, and never-ending homework. (Ya know, I hated homework!) The baby we moved with to West Virginia graduated in 2001 and so began the college years.

I felt I was on a carousel those years, spinning round and round and trying to focus on something stationary. It was a rich and amazing ride, witnessing all four children transition to young adulthood and all three sons find jobs and move away. David, Dan and Katie all graduated from Taylor University, a gem of a school tucked away in rural Indiana. It might sound odd, but Bill and I fell in love with Taylor, for its Christian foundation and commitment to preparing kids to be Christ to a world in need. When Katie graduated last year, the only thing we were happy to leave behind at Taylor was tuition payments! 

Dan and Mark both fell in love with darling girls, Jenny and Jill, and we had weddings here in Delaware in 2007 and 2009. I always prayed for my children's future spouses, but never imagined how God would honor those prayers. I couldn't ask for more wonderful young women as my daughters-in-love as I call them.

Mark and Jill's wedding, August 1, 2009
In all the chaos, Bill continued to steady me. He found ways to take the pressure off, whether delaying a road trip by a day (because I'm never quite ready), or offering to pick up Chinese take-out so I don't have to cook. Whatever I make into a big deal, he somehow makes into a smaller deal. He's so flexible and accepting of my can't-always-get-it-together ways. Love that guy!

We didn't have a wedding of our own, so we enjoy our kids' weddings!
August 1, 2009
Well tomorrow is our anniversary! On more post to top it off. Our family grows by leaps and babies!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

35 years!

Spring break in Florida, 1994
True story. The morning after I gave birth to our son Mark, the phone beside my hospital bed rang. It was Bill. "How would you like to move south, to North Carolina?" Oh sure, why not? It was time for a move, since we had a new baby!

And so we packed and moved. Six weeks later. We mini-vanned our way to Chapel Hill, North Carolina with three little boys, ages 4, 3 and 6 weeks and Bill's mom as our helper. The azaleas and red buds welcomed us in their full bloom! On move-out day in Ohio, it snowed. On move-in day in Chapel Hill, I went digging for shorts.

Making friends was as easy as walking across the street in Chapel Hill and that's exactly what I did. Directly across from our rental house was a neighborhood pool, crawling with young moms and their kids. We also walked David to the elementary school each day where there was no shortage of friendly faces. I think having school-aged children is the golden ticket to feeling at home in a new place. Almost without trying, the boys had friends, play dates, birthday parties, and I forged friendships with some wonderful women.

Bill experienced a bump in his career while in Chapel Hill, and we decided to relocate back to Ohio, this time to Delaware. Frankly, the move wasn't my choice. The boys and I were feeling settled and well, I was getting sick of moving. But I had resolved to support Bill in his career and so we moved. However this time, we both agreed that this move, if at all possible, would be our last for a long time. We wanted for our children what neither of us had: a hometown.

In this season of marriage, we began to shift our focus and efforts onto our children. I don't think it's an especially healthy thing for a marriage to let the scale tip toward the children: physically, mentally, emotionally. We were pretty good about date nights when the kids were young, but as they got older and busier, we tended to stay home with them and time for us took a back seat.

Oh, and I didn't mention. Another move = another baby! Bill went on to Ohio work while I stayed in North Carolina to sell the house. For three months we did this and I absolutely didn't think I would make it. The boys were ages 6, 4 and 19 months. I was pregnant, keeping the house realtor-ready, and so exhausted I wanted to die.

One afternoon a friend called. I burst into tears over the phone from sheer exhaustion. She said, "put the boys' pajamas in  a bag, I'm coming to get them." She fed them dinner, bathed them and brought them home at bedtime. I can't even remember the friend's name, but she was an angel on earth.

Montana: on top of the world for our 20th anniversary ...
on the memorable trip in Big Red with 4 kids.
We moved into a spec house the week before Christmas, 1989, the same house we live in today. I delivered Katie two months later and we launched into a wild and wooly 10 years of school, sports (oh mercy, the interminable sports), scouts, church, orthodontics, millions of laundry loads, a dog at last, and vacations. Anyone who says, "what's two more kids, once you already have two?" is lacking in math skills. Two kids in sports does not equal four kids in sports. Two sets of braces does not equal four. And eight years of college most certainly doesn't equate to sixteen!

I once heard someone say (and I think it offends Bill just a little): "sometimes the hardest part of being a parent is the other parent." This is the raw truth. I was the stricter disciplinarian because I was with them all day. He expected the kids to unquestioningly work hard in school; at times I questioned the benefit of homework. I was a yeller (not proud of that, and worked on it); that embarrassed him so he'd slam the windows shut so the neighbors wouldn't hear the bath-time chaos. He had only one brother and I had three siblings; I don't think he anticipated the decibel level at almost any time of day. I was into scouting and he wasn't. He was into sports and I definitely wasn't. On and on it went. At times, all these created differing expectations and standards in our home. And most days, we had very little time, energy or patience to hash it all out for a united front. Honey, did you ever figure out the difference between PG and PG-13?

There was also joy. And thankfulness. And humor. And music and laughter. And patience learned in late-night homework sessions. And listening, oh how I tried to listen. There was wonder in the growth and maturity of our children. We all learned grace and forgiveness, though it didn't always come easily.

Maybe most of all, I appreciated when Bill walked in the house after work. The kids would yell, "hi, Daddy!" and he'd wrap them in his arms and roll on the floor with them. He didn't care if the house was a wreck or dinner not ready. He valued cared-for children over a clean house.

I was exceedingly blessed in the ways he validated me, even if he couldn't know every detail of my day.

Tomorrow: though no more moves, the next ten years brimmed with changes!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

35 years!

I joke that every time we had a baby, we moved. This certainly was the case from 1984 to 1988. In the spring of 1984, we left our beloved little house in Lake Worth and headed north with baby David. Our new home: a Girl Scout camp in the hills of West Virginia. The culture shock might have rocked me if not for the fact that we jumped into directing and managing the camp that summer. A camper died on the opening day of camp, we had numerous staff issues, oh, and I got pregnant.

One of the most endearing of Bill's traits is that he helps me to slow down, take a breath, and think about our situation. That August we packed David into our Mazda and took a road trip to Maine for two weeks. We needed a break after that crazy summer, and time to talk about our future. Another move came of it: Bill landed a job as a financial adviser and we moved to the northwest Ohio town of Defiance a week before Christmas and just a month before our son Dan was born.

That winter nearly stole my sanity. It was brutally cold and snowy. I didn't have a single friend. And no family. Bill was studying in the basement and driving to a distant town for training. Our house, near the historic Defiance fort grounds and public library, felt like a prison at times. Bill was so busy I'm not sure he realized the depth of my loneliness. But he has always, intentionally or not, left me much to my own devices emotionally, and I am the stronger for it.

One raw winter day as I left the library holding David's hand and bundling Dan inside my coat, I noticed another young mom heading to her car with two small girls. "Hi," I called out. "Do you go to story time?" We exchanged numbers and I invited Jean over to the house for coffee; she invited us to her farm north of town. It became a fun friendship.

In our kitchen in Defiance. Check out the maternity overalls I made!
Seriously, I have very few photos of Bill from this era.

Our three years in Defiance taught me that while marriage came first, I couldn't rely on my husband for my every need. If I wanted friends, I'd have to make them. If his job required long hours away from us for a time, I'd have to stay busy with the boys and be creative in breaking the boredom. While the boys napped, I curled up with parenting books by James Dobson to solve my current challenge: usually potty training or disciplining toddlers. The real blessing was that I focused on my job and got to know my boys thoroughly. I had no cell phone or computer to distract me. We cooked, read books, colored, played cars and trucks, visited parks, the library, and grocery shopped. Money was tight, so when the boys were in bed, Bill and I made a simple dinner for two and played board games on the porch for date night. I know I grumbled at times and lost my cool. But I knew the toddlers would grow and (hopefully!) so would Bill's business. Life is ever-changing, no doubt about it. A new season would come.

I also met God during that time through the solid teaching at First Church of Christ, now Defiance Christian. My spiritual sponge received a quenching and my life, my marriage, and role as a mother came into focus. How very thankful I am for that body of believers, and Bill, who insisted we go to church.

It was a hard season at times, no lie. But by the time our third son was on the way and our next move in the works, I had grown as a wife and mother, though still had a long way to go. As husband and wife, we were in this thing for the long haul!

"Yard work" in Defiance, 1987
Next: parenthood moves into high gear, and we move again: twice!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

35 years!

This Saturday my husband Bill and I will celebrate 35 years of marriage. Thirty-five! It blows my mind, really. As I thought about all these years, and since I'm a photo freak, I began digging. Through photos and through my mind and heart. Here goes, from the beginning.

Bill and I dated for over four years before we married. Not because I wasn't sure about marriage, but because I was in college and my parents would stop payments if I married. "You'll be a grown, independent woman then," my dad said. Not that he wasn't ready to cut the apron strings, quite the opposite. With Dad, when you leave the nest, you fly. I also loved college life and wanted to complete that. So we dated and waited.

It's lame, but here's our wedding "portrait." We were married at a courthouse in August 1978 with no family in attendance. Would I do it differently? Yes, I sure would. But I had a job waiting in Florida and we didn't have much time to get our stuff together and move. So we got hitched. That's that.

The quality of this photo is awful, but I love it for the memory. We were on a drift boat off the coast of Lake Worth, Florida, the sweet little town where we spent our first five years of marriage. We went on a fishing trip on a Saturday and I got seasick, but it was one of those fun, early-marriage experiences I treasure. Almost everything was different in south Florida: the weather of course, living by the ocean, the rustling palmetto outside our bedroom window, getting rock shrimp for dinner fresh off the boats, year-round warmth for jogging, swimming, beaching, biking, you name it. And we were doing it together, in love, starting out our lives. I worked a job I loved, Bill did various jobs, and we lived in our little Lake Worth house for five years, with its wood floors and pool and orange tree. I had a lot to learn about being a wife. I was way too focused on myself first. I didn't know God. I loved Bill and somehow, thankfully, he loved me through my time of growing. 

In 1983 we became parents and life changed completely and wonderfully.
October, 1983: David makes three.
That's a quick summary of our first five years. See ya tomorrow!