Tuesday, December 23, 2014

90 years

My dad.
Born 90 years ago today,
December 23, 1924
in Hardy, Arkansas.
Thank you, Lord,
for giving me a loving father for 58 years.
He wasn't perfect and I didn't always understand him.
But he loved me and believed in me
and for that I know I was blessed.
Dad showed me that being a good dad, or mom,
is so very important ... and you only get one shot at it.
Love you, Dad.

Friday, December 19, 2014

the old Christmas trail

This post, by Donna Boucher (a blogger and photographer I love) set my mind near an old familiar trail. I took this trail every Christmas for too many years.

It started the year my mother died, 1979. Bill and I drove to Memphis to spend Christmas with my dad and siblings. Though we went through the motions of roast turkey and a trimmed tree, a heaviness hung over the house. Always the maker of Christmas in the family, my mother's absence was raw, sharp and devastating.

As the years went on, little things hit me. "Angels We Have Heard on High," a favorite carol of Mom's, would bring me to tears. Gifts hidden in closets. Christmas morning coffee cake and cheese grits. Once our children came along, emotions only heightened. I tried to make Christmas wonderful for my kids, to give them memories they'd always cherish. But by December 24, as much as I tried to ignore it, the combined stress and sadness swept over me. It really wasn't the proper focus at all, for me or the kids. I hope they "got" Christ at Christmas despite my gloominess.

My mother's death pre-dated my spiritual rebirth by 8 years. But by the time I yielded my life to God, habits were firmly rooted. Habits like fixing my eyes on the seen, not the unseen. Valuing a worldly view over an eternal one. And yes, allowing memories and the idea of a picture-perfect Christmas to overwhelm me.

These days? It's much better, though my mind can dally near that old trail. I pray for a heart focused on Christ and his will for my December. To give, to serve, to love better. And to be comforted by God.

Still, perhaps I'll always struggle with a damaged heart around Christmas time. It seems to be a condition shared by so many. If you find yourself there, I understand. As Donna Boucher says,
"I won't tell you to snap out of it. I can only say, I know."

I pray blessings, peace, contentment and eyes ever on Christ this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

back in the saddle

It seems I've been apologizing all year about being away from blogging. Just been one of those years. I think about writing, but then get stuck thinking of what to write, then on the verge of something and get busy or have a road trip and blah blah blah!

So we've kind of sort of already had Christmas. We - Bill and I, kids & spouses & girlfriend, and all five grandchildren, converged at Mark and Jill's house for Thanksgiving. It was fun and LOUD and messy (when was the last time you cleaned a handful of rice off a wood floor? not so pretty) and exhausting and love-filled and wonderful! So. My thought was to get Christmas gifts all together and take them at Thanksgiving. It was great in theory but made me a little koo koo for the month of November. Well, most shopping eventually makes me koo koo ya know? Here are a few photos ...


Air and space museum!
We were THRILLED to meet Chelsea, David's girlfriend!

It's funny how I was first a mom to three little boys ...
and now my first three grandchildren are little girls. Love!

 Until next time ....... 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Brittany ... and my babies

Late again. I'll give myself yet another chance, or rather another kick in the pants to get back to blogging.

Sadly, Brittany Maynard did carry out her plan to end her life on November 1. You may think whatever you like on this issue, but I find it very sad and wrong that "death with dignity" is a growing movement. See the post below, October 9, to read why. 

On a much different note, I road-tripped to see "my" babies three weeks ago. Bill was undergoing some physical therapy so he stayed here. These road trips aren't getting any easier or more fun. I don't like that it's such a big deal to see my babies. They're growing and changing rapidly and I miss them so much it hurts.

First to Charlotte and Ari, Ashlyn and Noah. The girls are suddenly older and more self-sufficient. They carry on wonderful conversations and get lost in their Legos. Noah's walking but still kind of a baby. Very loving but also a boy who gets into everything. This has mama Jenny a little frazzled. I started with three boys so it seems normal to me!

I stayed with them for 7 hours on Saturday so Dan and Jenny could have a date. I'll admit my self-confidence in this task was lacking, but everyone survived. Whew!

Next it was on to Virginia to visit Mark, Jill, Lily and Ethan in their new home. After two years in a townhouse, they have a house! And yard! So great for them.

Lily is definitely two and has those moments. But she's so full of love and sweetness, too. She loves to have me read to her, go on walks, and color. We have more conversations now which I just love.

Little Ethan just turned one. I got very few photos of him with the camera, ugh! He crawls constantly when not in his chair and poor guy has had lots of fussiness from teeth coming in. But he's a sweet boy who loves watching all that's going on around him. Baba introduced him to frozen peas which he found yummy.

And what in the world, I don't have ANY photos of Dan, Jenny, Mark or Jill! Maybe we'll do better later this month when we're all, yes ALL, at Mark and Jill's for Thanksgiving!!

(So happy to "find the light" in their breakfast nook - a photographer's best friend.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

happy birthday, Jenny!

We met Jenny exactly 10 years ago at Taylor University's parents weekend. I eyed her carefully as we ordered ice cream at Ivanhoe's. My son Dan was smitten, but she'd momentarily broke his heart over the summer. Early in sophomore year, they seemed to be "an item." Jenny was smart, cute, forthright, light-hearted, but I was suspicious of her devotion to my son Dan. She was the first love interest of any of my boys, so I didn't really know much about the girl part of new love. But I was fiercely protective of my son's heart.

Within a month or so, Dan brought Jenny home for a weekend. She fit in comfortably right away, cooking with us and making bead bracelets with Katie, who thought the idea of a big sister was totally cool. And Jenny won me over, too, mostly because I saw her heart for God and for Dan.

So here we are, ten years later! Dan and Jenny married in 2007 and now have three wonderful children. Though young adulthood didn't play out as she planned, Jenny has grown into motherhood (and wifehood, is that a word?) beautifully. Her get-it-done personality is still evident, but so is a spirit of flexibility and acceptance that evolves in mothering three small children. Jenny is devoted to her family and her God and is passionate about educating the children creatively. Perhaps best of all, Jenny recognizes and appreciates that each child is different, created uniquely by God. Also, I don't know what Dan would do without her!

Today Jenny turns 30 so I'm wishing her a very happy birthday. Jenny, I hope you'll embrace this season of life. Oh, how I know its intensity, exhaustion, and frustrations: how overwhelmingly hard the days can be. I pray you realize that with each passing birthday, you've acquired experience and wisdom for the tasks before you. I admire you for mothering well with love and humor. I love you like a daughter and thank God for you. Happy birthday!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

the beauty in dying

Did you read the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old with brain cancer in Oregon? She plans to legally end her life on November 1. When I read her story and watched her heart-rending video this week, I was saddened and horrified, especially by the support and encouragement she is receiving regarding her decision.

But then, I'm not dying of cancer. I didn't know how to express my sense of how Brittany's decision seems so wrong. I couldn't lend credibility until I read a post on Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience. Ann's friend Kara Tippetts, a 38-year-old mother of four, also has stage 4 cancer. Kara opens her heart to Brittany, imploring her in love to reconsider her decision that looms less than a month away. It is tender, affirming and loving in every way. Please read and decide for yourself:


"In our dying, He meets us with His beautiful grace," says Kara. How I came to know this truth on my four years of trips to Nashville to be with my dying father. I hated those trips. But I loved them, too. In that last year, as painful as it was to witness Dad's agonizing decline into dementia and death, I emerged on the other side realizing that beautiful grace.

God granted me the beauty of getting to know my father: a man who managed to hide his real self. God showed me how to stretch beyond my comfort and pain-free life to hold the hand and heart of my dying father. He comforted me on every drive home from Nashville as tears fell. God drew me ever closer through music and scripture, speaking to my heart that He had me, and He had my dad.

If this wasn't grace in dying, please tell me what is. Grace. It's a gift, an unmerited gift. My father's death was a gift of grace and powerful love for us both as we drew ever closer.

Had my father been able to take a pill to end his life, well, the gifts and grace and intense beauty would have been stolen. And his life would have ended before God had planned. God creates life and it is He who takes it away.

My times are in your hands ...
Psalm 31:15
As for God, his way is perfect ...
Psalm 18:30

Thursday, October 2, 2014

happy birthday, David!

I entered motherhood 31 years ago tonight when I gave birth to David William in West Palm Beach, Florida. Have to say he was probably the calmest baby to ever
enter the world. At Christmas we grabbed the camera to photograph him screaming his head off because we hadn't seen him cry so hard before.
And he's continued to be pleasant and easy-going ever since.
David's spending this week with us and we're loving it!
Lots of eating, visiting, laughing, walks and just hanging out.
It's rare and really special.
I love you David and am so thankful God gave you to me!


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Elizabeth is 98!

                                               With my sons: Dan, David and Mark in 2008                       (by Katie Haller)

This amazing lady turns 98 today!
Elizabeth Thayer Haller, born September 20, 1916.
She is dear to our family: everyone loves "Aunt Lib," "Grandma,"
"GG," "Mom."
She counts 2 sons, 6 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren!
Elizabeth has lived in assisted living for five years.
In the past year she's slowed down a lot and her memory is failing her.
It's very hard to see.
But today she'll have visitors and cupcakes on her special day.
And, I hope, feel the love that she's given for so many years.
Happy birthday, Elizabeth!
You are cherished.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

they came, they played, and played some more

Limping along a little bit late, but here ya go. Three-plus weeks ago, all five of our grandchildren (and their parents, yah) drove many, many miles to Ohio to visit us for the weekend. Such great, loud fun! We have just a few more months that we can say "five under five!"

Someone asked me what we would "do" with the grandchildren during their visit.
I guess my mothering experience kicked in because I correctly predicted
what would be best:
1. Outdoor play
2. Regular meals and snacks
3. Naps and timely bedtimes
That pretty much summed up the weekend!
I tried to snap a few photos; here are some favorites:
"the girls table"


"I do NOT need your help blowing out my candle, cousins!"
(Celebrating Ethan's first birthday.)

Dan wanted to take the kids to Dairy Depot, where he grew up having ice cream
after Little League games. Ari "interviewed" each person in line,
asking their reason for coming to Dairy Depot. Ha ha!
I love her spunk.


In 15 years they'll both have their licenses! Gah!


I got to take a little dip in our neighbors' pool with the girls. Thanks, Exlines!

I sent home some toys with both families, including LEGOS. Everyone's happy!

It took nearly 40 shots to get this one, which is my favorite. Whew!
THANK YOU, Dan & Jenny and Mark & Jill for making the long
drive here. It means so much to us!!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

one year later: choosing joy

My brother Pat called one year ago this morning. "He's gone," he choked out.

We knew it was coming, we actually prayed for Dad's release from his prison of dementia. Still, it was a hard, hard day.

An emotional week followed: getting to Nashville, all our kids and my siblings and their kids, the service in Nashville and burial in Memphis, and an 11-hour drive straight back to Ohio. The comfort of my stepmother Sally and her family was wonderful.

In the past year I got a new job. Made trips to see grandchildren. Moved Katie to Florida and was stunned by the sudden death of dear friend Pat. We made three trips to our cabin (for sale) in northern Michigan. Bill's still dealing with significant back pain. His mom, Elizabeth, is almost 98 and growing more frail.

Life goes on and there seemed to be more challenges over the past year. But God is faithful and I choose joy: joy in seeing my children strong and independent. Joy in a loving and supportive husband. Joy in the truth that God is always good, his ways and timing perfect. Joy in the memories of having had two parents on this earth whose presence is missed but whose teachings I hold close.

Life isn't always what we want or hope, nor can I demand to always be "happy." But I can choose joy, seek peace and practice contentment.

... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Philippians 4:11

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ethan is one!

Ethan Henry Haller turns one today!
I'm smitten with his boyish cuteness.
Two weeks ago we celebrated his birthday when he was
visiting us, along with sister Lily and his three Haller cousins.
Ethan was content to sit in the yard with his little cake, taking a
nibble or two.
He then proceeded
to crawl right through it!
Ethan is happy, strong, determined, curious,
satisfied with anyone holding him (it seemed to me),
and a ravenous eater, like his dad.
I'm so blessed by this second grandson.
Happy, happy birthday, Ethan. And a hundred more!
I love you.

Monday, September 1, 2014

blogging and a birthday

Where has all the blogging gone?? It's been a full, hectic, somewhat stressful summer. And then I don't write much. But I hope to change that and get back on track, beginning today, the first day of September and my mother's birthday.
Not to cheat or anything, well maybe I am. But I'm borrowing a past birthday post. I don't know, it seems I've entered a new phase of life the past year. Both my parents are gone. (Though I am very thankful for my stepmother, Sally.) I appreciate the impact my parents made on my life but I don't dwell on it and life goes on.
This photo of my mother was taken around 1950, when she became engaged to Dad. It's a sweet photo of the young bride-to-be but goodness, so long ago. Isn't life short? And sometimes I think, is it even possible to love someone who's been gone for so long? In a sense it's like I never knew her.
Hey, Mom. Today you would have turned 89 years old. It's hard to imagine you that old, because when you left us, you were younger than I am now.

I still miss you. How I would love to call you (or email!) and share something about the kids. You would be so proud of David, Dan, Mark and Katie, and Jenny and Jill, too. You would have built tender relationships with them. You were such a warm and relational person.

You always looked forward to grandchildren and now I know why, with five of my own. You somehow knew the precious love they would bring to a grandmother's heart. You'd be a great-grandmother now! Not sure you even thought ahead that far. But I am sure of one thing.

Through the short 24 years we had, you taught me to laugh at myself, not others. To listen to my children. To love my husband. To care for neighbors and love the unlovable. To try new things. That life is short and a few dirty dishes or dusty shelves mean a lot less than time spent with my children. And in the end, if our time on earth is shorter than we hoped, to have no regrets in how we lived.

Thank you for all you taught me. I love you, Mom. Happy birthday.

See you all again this week. Promise. After all, some grandchildren came to visit ...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

36 years

Today Bill and I celebrate 36 years of marriage! There have been ups. (Having 4 great kids in 7 years, adding 2 daughters-in-love and 5 grandchildren.) There have been downs too. But what I've learned is married love is a decision, not a feeling. "Trust your heart, go with your feelings" is the world's terrible advice. For me this usually results in a selfish mess. Follow God and trust His heart is the safest, if sometimes scary, route.
Love you, Bill. And thank you for loving me through all these years, even when I'm not easy to love. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

happy anniversary, Mark & Jill!

Five years ago, these two cuties got married. What a sweet ceremony, what a fun reception with family and friends.

In these five years so much has happened in our family. Last of the college graduations. Births of five grandchildren! Losing my dad. Our nest emptying. And countless road trips to spend time with them all: now six kids and five grandchildren. What a mixed bag of joy and tears.

Wishing you a happy anniversary, Mark and Jill. You amaze me with your hard work, dedication to God, your children, and each other. You committed to each other so young and are proof that young love can be a lasting love.

Here's to the next five years! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

just a sewing machine

I finally ended a friendship, one spanning 45 years. She was faithful but I need to simplify life. And get down to one sewing machine.

In 1968, after a humiliating and hilarious foray at 7th grade sewing class, I decided to buckle down and get serious about learning to sew. Dad was skeptical and told me if I would sew for an entire year on my grandmother's treadle machine (circa 1925), the kind you foot-pump, he would buy me a new electric model.

I was off and running and treadle-ing for one solid year. The machine was in our basement/TV room, so Dad kept a keen eye on my efforts as he watched football and golf on TV. In April of 1969 he kept his promise and bought me a sweet Universal sewing machine in a wooden cabinet. I thought I'd zoomed ahead a century or something, sewing like a maniac.

I'd beg Mom to take me to the local fabric store nearly every Saturday. I made skirts, dresses, jumpers, floppy hats, bathrobes (and one for my excellent seamstress grandmother; she treasured that thing) and even a swimsuit. It's said that sewing skills skip generations. If a mother sews, her daughter doesn't need to. This certainly held true in our family: Mom hated to sew.

The Universal moved all over with me: to Florida when I married, and every subsequent move to four more states. I made a few things for the boys and a few dresses for Katie on my machine. A few years ago Bill insisted I get a new one: what a sweet baby she is!

As I worked to de-clutter the basement last week, my eyes fell on the old Universal, closed up and pushed against a wall. I remembered Jenny, a girl who was on the tennis team with Katie and who heard about all my machines (oh yes there are more). Jenny asked if I might ever get rid of one. And so I called her. She was surprised and thrilled to be offered my 45-year-old machine.

On Sunday she came by. I gave her a short tutorial as well as the original instruction booklet (please let's go back to simple instruction manuals!) and a box of attachments. We removed the machine from the cabinet and carried it all out to Jenny's car.

It felt a little sad to say goodbye. But then, I haven't said goodbye at all. The unique way I acquired my sewing machine through my Dad's thoughtful motivation will stay with me always.

Once again, the things of life don't really matter. It's people and how we love well, teach wisely, and care for each other that matter most.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Simsbury summer

How to describe that particular smell: the steamy, oily, tar-laced goo of summer? It's unmistakable but it also takes me back to summers as a girl in Simsbury, Connecticut. It seemed the day school let out in June, the tar trucks began their rounds and continued all summer.

The 300-year-old town of Simsbury spread for miles in all directions so I couldn't ride everywhere on narrow back roads. But I rode my bike through those summers: through neighborhoods the back way to the dime store and to friends' houses. Sometimes I simply jumped on my bike and rode our one-mile circle like a maniac for the pure freedom it offered. I loved how the wind whipped my hair (no helmet of course) and the cool New England  air cleared my head. And mixed all through was that smell of winter-beaten streets being repaired and resurfaced.

Yesterday Bill and I biked to a city park for a picnic by the Olentangy River. About halfway there, I smelled it: Simsbury in summer. That is, a tar truck was surfacing a street or perhaps it was only a driveway. Immediately I was ten years old again, riding to the dime store, hair flying and legs pumping.

Amazing how the sense of smell stays with us and carries us. What smells take you back?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dan & Jenny: 7 years!

College graduation weekend, 2007

These two lovebirds were married seven years ago today:
my son Dan and his college sweetheart Jenny.
They were pretty crazy about each other from the beginning, I believe.
The first time Dan brought Jenny to visit was such fun.
Katie loved having a "big sister" around and we spent the weekend eating, laughing, and making bead bracelets.
Dan and Jenny's first seven years of marriage have been a roller coaster of sorts.
Moving to a new state, major job change,  and
1 - 2 - 3 babies in 3 and 1/2 years!
I'm proud of you, Dan and Jenny, for working hard for your
family and marriage and for holding fast to your faith.
Much love for a happy anniversary!


Sunday, July 13, 2014


Man oh man. Three weeks since a post! Sorry 'bout that. Excuses? No kids to run to baseball practice, the pool, or out for ice cream. But ... life has gotten a little ornery and I get feeling a little overwhelmed and then my writing freezes! Grrrr.

If you've been with me awhile you probably know about this place; our cabin in Presque Isle, Michigan. We still are crazy about it, but it's time to sell. With kids and grandkids all living east and south, the cabin is too far for them to enjoy. And frankly, much as we love it, we'd rather spend our time and money being with family. So, know anyone looking for a sweet place? The views are spectacular!

Anyway, we've already made two trips up since May to tidy things up. And there might be another trip.

We had Katie with us for two weeks, helping at the cabin: fun! While I love being there, I do want to close this phase of our lives. Trusting God's perfect timing!

So. The writing might be sporadic, but I'll try to jump back in.

Thanks for checking in; hope you're having a great summer!