Thursday, January 30, 2014


I'm spending a rainy morning in a library in Jensen Beach, Florida. As I reflect over the past ten days,  a soup pot of thoughts, emotions and experiences fill my mind. And stretch my heart.

A dear friend who lives here, Beth, asked my daughter Katie to consider a job in Florida. Katie came to Florida earlier this month and decided she'd make the move. And so we made a plan: I would drive with her from Ohio to Florida and help her get settled. She had two weeks to get her ducks in a row.

But then life happened. My dear friend Pat (see previous post) died about a week before our departure date and plans quickly changed. We would leave a couple of days early and drive to Charlotte and I'd fly from there to Rhode Island for Pat's service ... then I'd fly back to Charlotte and continue on to Florida with Katie. (She stayed there at son Dan's house and all the fun chaos of the little ones.)

But the weather changed our plans once more when we realized the forecast of a massive snowstorm headed toward the mountains of West Virginia: smack along our route on our travel day.

I must give huge hugs and credit to Katie, a most careful and methodical packer, who agreed on Monday morning, January 20, to hit the road THAT AFTERNOON and drive into the night for Charlotte. And not just a road trip, but a MOVE!

We were off by 5 p.m. We don't love night driving but the light traffic was AMAZING. Most of the truckers were dozing at the rest stops. We talked, we snacked and listened to music. We pulled in at Dan and Jenny's at 1:30 a.m., dodging the storm completely.

I was able to fly to Providence and back on Wednesday and Thursday, though not everyone was as blessed: hundreds of flights were cancelled by that storm. I'm so thankful to have spent some time with Pat's husband John and their children, who I hadn't seen in many years. My brother Mark and I toured the snow-covered and frigid towns of Westerly and Watch Hill, Rhode Island: seaside towns that teem with summer residents but were buttoned up tight for winter, especially Watch Hill.

Back to Charlotte on Thursday: Katie and I hopped in the car and put 200 miles behind us, arriving at Callawassie Island, S.C. to spend the night with my brother Pat and his wife Janet. That was a fun and last-minute stop: so glad we did! So good to see Pat and Jan ... and oh the Low Country boasts a stunning beauty.

On Friday, January 24, we headed south, Florida-bound, to complete the purpose of this adventure: relocating Katie to Jensen Beach, Florida. It's been a busy, busy week: helping Katie move into her new home, finding her way around, errands, and starting her new job. And all the while, I've been treated to warm and loving hospitality by Beth and her husband Dan. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, dear friends!

I pray for my kids: their jobs, lives, spouses, choices. For months I've prayed for Katie to boldly take some new steps in life and discover what God has for her. This week I'm seeing His loving and timely answers: a job that seems a good fit, a great place to live thanks to a Godly, generous lady named Cynthia, and reminders to always depend on God, not self. This is a very big step for Katie ... but maybe a bigger one for me.

Tomorrow it's off to Tampa to visit my sister and son David for the weekend, another little blessing of perfect timing. Then I'll fly home Monday.

I couldn't have dreamed up the past two weeks, or even the past year, as I impatiently waited for what might unfold for Katie. But I continue to learn to trust God's heart and stand amazed at His faithfulness.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

a 50-year friendship: goodbye, Pat

Only today did I realize it's been 50 years. I was nine years old in early 1964 when our family moved to #1 Fernwood Drive in Simsbury, Connecticut. Straight across the street lived the Powers. And so it was that a 50-year friendship began with a wonderful family, John and Pat Power and their three children. Chilly, unfriendly New Englanders? Not a chance!

I received a text message late last night from Pat's daughter Jan. "Mom's had a massive stroke; outlook not good." Pat died this morning in a hospital in New London, Connecticut.  I called on her 80th birthday last Monday. She was so tickled that all three of her children had shown up at her door last Saturday as a surprise for her birthday. Yes, just one week before her passing, Pat was a happy lady, at home with her husband and grown kids. I pray for the love of her life, John, and their 3 children and families.

I wrote this essay, which ran in the Columbus Dispatch in May 2007. It will give you an idea of what this precious lady meant to me.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Only the most precious of mothers adopts the children of an absent mother.

I know such a woman. And she has made it her business to know me. Her name is Pat. She lived across the street from us in Connecticut and befriended my mother, who was born and raised in the Deep South.

No matter to this Boston-bred Irish Catholic: Pat might not have fully understood the “foreigner” who arrived in small-town New England, but she embraced her.

In those days, our families lived on shoestrings, and Mom carpooled with Pat and her preschoolers to the grocery store each week. They were riotous outings lasting several hours, with fidgety toddlers wedged between grocery sacks in the back of our station wagon.

The two spoke on the phone daily as they washed breakfast dishes or folded a load of towels. They cackled hysterically over who-knows-what.

Sharing first days of kindergarten, child psychology and recipes, Mom and Pat forged a sisterly friendship - one that lasted 15 years, well past our family's move in 1971 to Tennessee.

But when my mother died eight years later, she couldn't have imagined the extent to which Pat would honor their friendship. She slid unobtrusively into the roles of mother, mentor and grandmother for my three siblings and me and the 11 grandchildren my mother would never know.

Pat wasted no time demonstrating her devotion: The morning of Mom’s death, she dropped what she was doing to make arrangements for her two high schoolers, tend unfinished household details and book a flight to Memphis. Once there, she comforted us in small but memorable ways, like helping my sister and me clean out mom's closet.

Through the years, postcards from “Gramma Pat” arrived in our mailbox as she lovingly related a travel adventure to my children. Boston Globe articles were carefully clipped and mailed as only a mother does -- articles often about the Red Sox because Pat and her husband John share a love of baseball with our son David.

Birthdays, Christmases, graduations, and even the occasion of a new driver’s license – Pat remembers them all. She and her husband John have attended both my sons' weddings.

I treasure the phone calls and notes in which Pat still encourages and guides me by sharing wisdom from her seasons as a mother and grandmother. Even with a sizable family of her own, she has taken on another. Pat has doubled her love-output for over 30 years.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

It's almost unthinkable that a woman would fulfill her best friend's role for almost 35 years. But that was Pat. She loved my mom and our family and to her, (I can see her shrugging) it was no big deal. For that, and for her, I am grateful. How I will miss her loving, selfless ways. I love you, Pat.

Pat, with me, my brother Mark and sister Anne, and Pat's husband John
at my son Mark's wedding in 2009.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

happy birthday, Bill!

 Happy birthday to my husband Bill!

We have been married for 35 years, but in the past 9 months I've seen Bill on a whole new level. The casual observer might not realize that he continues to recover from a serious spinal fusion last April. He drives, goes to church, out to eat, visits his mom, and runs errands. At home he functions around the house really well, but there are still several things that challenge him. (And he won't want me to write about this, that's how he is.)

When people ask how Bill is doing, the answer that comes to my mind is, "he doesn't complain." If I'd had such a serious surgery, you can bet I'd still be moaning about it. But Bill goes along, day after day, doing what he can and letting the rest go. He's full of grace, a lesson that I sorely need. He also encourages me to get on with life, even if it doesn't always include him.

This may be an unusual birthday blog post, but I want you to know, dear Bill, how much this year has revealed about you. And how I notice. I love and admire you more than before and I want your example to speak to those whose road is hard. You press on, taking each day as it comes.

I love you and wish you a happy, happy birthday!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

venturing outdoors - day after Christmas!

Dan and Jenny kindly hosted us all at their house, and we were thankful. But when the sun shone the day after Christmas we grabbed the chance to get outdoors. Thank you, North Carolina!

There's a neat park, formerly a farm, nearby. Off we went.

Jenny and Jill swingin' their boys

the best we could do with squirmy girls

Though Noah was happy to oblige for a photo.

I love how Ash pauses just long enough for a sweet photo.

Our Ari just makes you catch her exuberance ... no poses!
Nothing's much sweeter than seeing my sons and their wives love
their children. Wonderful parents, all of them. (Jenny & Noah)

I think everyone except Bill and me is in this photo!

Aw, Lily, climbing a tree like her cousins.

Ash with her daddy Dan.

Mark and Jill with Lily and a snoozing Ethan.

Playing the simplest version of hide 'n seek with Aunt Jill.


After a bit, we'd had all the play we needed and headed home.
Jobs, where they live, and our kids' busy lives allow us to all gather about once a year. It's an especially sweet and treasured time. Love you all, miss you. Thank you for making my Christmas the best yet.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

catchin' up on Christmas

One of my favorites of our Christmas photo shoot!
Whoa, Christmas flew by, but seeing as how we spent it with ALL our kids and grandkids way down in Charlotte, it's taken awhile to get back on track. But I'm excited to share some photos.

Between Katie and me, we got a few decent shots. But oh goodness we couldn't man the cameras all the time. There was cooking and cleaning up to do, diapers to change, stories to read, bandaids to apply, toys to shove aside, popcorn to make, children to bathe and cuddle, and plain catching up with each other. Gloriously exhausting, it was!

So here goes ...

What a difference a year makes! (2012) ...

... and 2013. Whew, wasn't sure we could hold on to them all!
l to r: Noah, Ashlyn, Ari, Ethan and Lily

the guys seemed to have it all together
Mark and his boy Ethan
Uncle Dave can handle these guys, no problem!

So what's going on here? The guys are each making their own "Scotto" board. Same as the game 'Sequence,' but homemade on plywood with decks of cards, glue and polyurethane.
It was quite the project but they've always wanted their own boards.
 (We made one for Bill in 1997.)
Ari reading "Fancy Nancy Christmas"

Come on, what's cuter than the girls' table??

Bill (aka Popsy) found a few sweet moments with his grandbabies.

Katie and Jenny cooking up something fabulous. We ate well!


Er Noah, you're losing your pants. hehe

Oh gracious, this I love!
Jill's a wonderful mama.

The weather improved enough to get to a park. That's what you can do in North Carolina in December and it'll be my next post!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

top ten (and final) posts of 2013: happy 35th anniversary

Sorry, fell a little behind there. Here's my final of the top ten posts of 2013, August 10, our 35th wedding anniversary. It was an incredible year of highs and lows: births, death, major surgery, and a big anniversary. A microcosm of life, you might say. Enjoy ... then it's on to 2014!

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 guaranteed after the wedding. That's 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


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ari is four!

My first grandchild, Ari Taylor, turns four today. We stayed up that entire night, ushering in a new decade and awaiting the news. What fun!

Ari came just after 3 a.m. She was - and is - so loved.


You made me a grandma for the first time,
but I oh how I'll love being your Baba forever.
Happy birthday, Ari!