Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A sister at first sight

Her name wasn't really Mrs. Ward. The name on the room said otherwise, and I saw her write out her name, first and last, in cursive across the paper. Her handwriting was so lovely. I think she may have had a stroke. She struggled for words, yet some she spoke unmistakably.

Her hands were always quick to raise in praise of God. Her face showed many years. Sometimes, I saw her lost in sadness. But sometimes she laughed in joy and her smile beamed. She thought it was funny when I told her I mostly owned gray shirts, and she laughed at my stories.

Recently, she told me with great relief that she was being discharged (today!). I hoped to make it in to see her before she left. From the doorway, her bed was stripped, and I thought I was too late. But I saw her foot, and realized she was sitting in her wheelchair. I walked in quietly. She sat in that chair, eyes closed. I said her name softly. She opened her eyes, and immediately mine teared up.

"I'm so glad I got to see you before you left," I started. And before I knew it, she was hugging me and grasping my hands, and we were both crying and speaking blessing over the other. It was joy. She touched at her heart, and pointed to mine and said, "I know. I know. You! I know your heart. I know." She glanced over her shoulder, a worried look, and back to me, "It will be ok. You will be ok. You will be ok."

And thanks poured out of my mouth, tears from my eyes.

Wonder of unexpected turns life takes. Thankful to open my eyes to the people in this journey. Thankful for a sister in Christ, who often couldn't finish her thoughts because of a stroke, but who made sure to speak encouragement and blessing over me. As the attendant wheeled her to the lobby, the kids and I stood by and clapped and cheered. Well, I did most of the cheering because I don't mind cheering someone on.

God bless you, Mrs. Ward.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Peony in pink, thoughts on a year

A year ago (ish), I had withdrawn her from all classes but the ones that ran during my teaching time. A year ago (ish), I had seen her sleeping later, melancholic, dreading the co-op. A year ago (ish), she was paralyzed to write a sentence or answer a question.

There's good advice in the homeschool community--if a curriculum isn't working, don't stay committed to it if it will make you and your kids miserable. Find something else. And while there is something to be said for pushing through difficulties (subjects, curricula, circumstances), about persevering, what is the cost? For Erin, I was watching her confidence plummet, her love for learning grow cold, and depression take over her heart. We had to find something else. So this year, we stayed home, all of us.

We threw out the IEW method and turned to Bravewriter. We had read-alouds on the couch, on the patio, wherever--and poetry teas with treats and fanfare and, of course, poetry. I watched this sweet flower of a girl, her heart closed so tightly, begin to loosen up over the course of the school year.

blossom

Today, she is parked next to me on a computer. I am writing. She is writing. She asks me, "How do you spell ... ?" And she has a paper next to her full of answers to her questions. She jots them down.

"Mom, when was the camera invented?"
"What did it look like?"
"What language do they speak in Iceland?"
"Do people still use the name Jeremiah?"

She's writing stories and we are researching places and things, all born from imagination and passion. She talks run-on of plot lines and anecdotes. All day long. Her laughter is like bird song.


that smile, that heart


A year ago (ish), I felt really unsure of our decision to leave co-op. It was what we knew, and oh, how I wanted it to work. But it wasn't working.

A year ago (ish), we sat on the couch at home, reading, and she told me, "I want school to be like this next year. Just like today."

"It will be," I told her. And it is, and so much more.

We are still wrapping up last subjects, crossing the finish line a bit later than anticipated--in a season that was anything but predictable! But the victory isn't in the closing of a book--it's in the opening of a heart.

And still counting (10,426-10,459)

chocolate bars for Lori
the way the neighbor's dog ran across their yard in the sunlight
Amelie and Milo
a woods walk
baby chicks to hold

field fragrance
a bird feeder and all the song birds
garden plants and vegetables
azaleas on sale
the mention in (her) journey

an invitation from Andrea
His word: restore
praying friends
that music jewelry box, found
lunch out with Erin

clean windows
the smell of laundry in the dryer
evening walks
a drive through the mountains
home, sweet home

a visit with a neighbor
tomato plants, gifted
a good storm
podcasts during the lawn mowing
sunshine

cat song in the house
his 50 years
quinoa cake
Marshall's Mom
a visit with Kristine

the fragrant yellow roses growing alongside his house
the summer smell in my house when I walk upstairs--reminds me of my childhood
peonies, gifted from Denise's garden
a friend at the table for dinner

Cubby!

ferns in the woods--maiden hair

love this woman

baby chicks

gorgeous shadows from the walnut tree

Haley

Five Guys lettuce wrapped burger and this little cutie

Happy birthday, my love
Thank you, friend!

Monday, May 15, 2017

And still counting (10,394-10,425)

visits with Lori
evenings at home

food in the fridge
a May day fire in the fireplace
Comet and Haley
running into Jennifer B's daughter
Michi at the table

nourishing talks
that man of mine
"Radio Silence" in the school room
dress shopping with the girls
and a later run out to the mall with Erin

a week of lasts: middle school literature and math
a piano recital
and the music that has filled this home all school year
so many song birds criss-crossing the yard
a call from a neighbor

a gift drop to Cindy
sangria on a Friday
all the rains
a yard mowed, and how the sun looked walking back to the house
nurse Debbie

Amy, the caseworker
truth reminders by email
Nora
Marshall's Mom
coffee in the early morning

66 Books
gf, df break-and-bake cookies on a chilly Friday
errands with the kids
this homeschool year, at home
camera 3





Monday, May 8, 2017

And still counting (10,373-10,393)

an afternoon nap on the couch
socks on my feet
camera 4 (skips and twirls and grins in my heart!)

a video team meeting
library runs
a sermon walk through Food Lion
her laundry to do
visits with my sister

Anita at the table
an afternoon snack with Anita

hot pots of tea
texts with Cindy
a lovely red on Friday
100% chance of rain

backyard frog on the back door

Friday night movie and wine with my man

frog song

a rainy, rainy day
a windshield replaced
these weeks turned months of craving rest
and the rest found in them
a fresh four a.m. morning seat at the table

Aldi cheesecake
Monday resets with Marshall's Mom
homemade egg rolls gifted from a neighbor

Monday, May 1, 2017

And still counting (10,360-10,372)

good podcast on integrity
arms around my shoulders in prayer
sunshine during a field cut
laughs during the nature walk
May Apples
truth

the video team
goal steps
flowers in the garden
butterflies
bird song

Shane
my girl, who still reaches for my hand at fourteen
this girl, this garden
showy orchid

roots

woods walk

Lady's Thumb

at the nature walk

bushy white azalea, thriving

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Unfurled

The latest read aloud with Erin is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Like Dickens and Steinbeck, this treasure is ripe of rich detail. Reading it awakens something full of hope deep down inside, poetic words of life, language that coaxes and calls a broken heart to proclaim, as did Master Colin in the face of beauty, "I shall get well! ... And I shall live forever and ever and ever!"

April showers. Rainy yesterday. We sat under blanket on the school room couch and I read out loud to her. When Dickon arrived at the garden with a pail of creamy milk and another pail of his mother's buns, Erin jabbed me. I continued on, thinking it a reflexive jump. Another mention of buns. Another jab. And then a third.

"Why do you keep jabbing me?" I asked.

"The buns! You were going to make buns on Easter and you didn't!" she said. Oh, the buns. Hot Cross Buns.

"Tomorrow is Tuesday," I mused. "And we haven't had a tea this month ..."

While no special guests surround our table, we'll imagine ourselves in a secret garden (which we sort of have), among woodland friends (woodpeckers, owls, colorful birds, and squirrels).

Today's menu: Baked Today Hot Cross Buns; Fresh Melon, Mango and Red Grapes; Chocolate Coconut Bread; a Sprinkling of Trader Joe's Scandinavian Swimmers; Cinnamon Orange Rooibos; Peach Mango Juice; Milk.

Pink thrill of Dogwood tops

Last of our tulips

Gorgeous colors

Bleeding hearts

One in the azalea patch
Buns

My favorite--the red lobster


Easiest dough

I had my doubts at first, but they turned out great--except for the cross part (my bag split)

Our first tea in the rain



Monday, April 24, 2017

And still counting (10,344-10,359)

everything about Anita
a car--sold

fresh field fragrance
coffee with my neighbor
and the unexpected chocolate-wonderful pound of beans gifted
grass, cut
texts with Cindy

leftovers on a busy day
hot tea magic
fabulous fabric bookmarks to hold our place
encouraging words from strangers--so uplifting
patience and grace to handle tasks

getting things done on a rainy Saturday
snoballs
homemade chicken soup, delivered by a friend
a Sunday camped on the couch



Monday, April 17, 2017

And still counting (10,326-10,343)

a coffee invitation with a neighbor
a card in the mail from a (former co-op) mom
azaleas on sale, and four lovelies for the garden
buttery yellow primrose
phlox in bloom

the cherry tree in bloom
the scent of apple blossoms in the field
sticks piled high for a future bonfire
food in the fridge
Lori's better days

the wildly creative minds around the (church) table
blue hydrangea blossoms
cherry blossoms sprinkling down
that man of mine
days home in the yard

a visit outside with Lori
books in the mail
spring



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Day story

April


Outside my window, the front garden is raked and leaves hauled off. It's full of blooming primrose, and the azaleas are sporting new buds of their own. The house gardens show off tulips and stunning purple phlox. The cherry tree rains gentle petals over the lawn. The sky is blue. The sun is out. The air is warm. Breathing in this life.

Giving thanks for Easter worship at church, hugs from friends and neighbors, spring awakening. Thankful for green fields and new growth and vibrant color. The apple blossoms have the most delightful scent. And I'm already making lists for new plantings.

In the school room, preparing for a new week. A calendar light from so many full weeks--a home week of hunkering down, connection, restoration. A curriculum fair in the future; is it time already?

From the kitchen, I made a favorite strawberry salad often served up at Easter time. Thinking of Easters past at the old house with my dad, Linda and Lori. Today, at Lanie's urgent request, blackberry cheesecake bars. Easy recipe, and easily adaptable to a gluten-free life. Burgers on the grill for dinner.

I am creating memories. The girls found Easter baskets this morning. I hid eggs out in the gardens, and still they run and rush to collect them all. I joked with Shane, "Let's enjoy this Easter, we only have fifteen more years of hiding eggs for them!" Truly, I'm glad my kids are kids to the core and that they delight in the fun of finding things. Baskets with a few little treasures. Erin said to me, "This is my favorite Easter!" And then admitted she doesn't really remember the other ones. Ha!

I don't want to forget these good years here. This home has been so full of love and life. From the moment it captured my heart, and every step of the journey, it has been a sweet gift. I'm thankful for Cindy and Joel in my life. I'm thankful for good neighbors whose arms, hearts and homes are open to us. I'm thankful for a woodland wonderland. Sitting with Shane in the nook outside, blossoms like a gentle spring shower around us, slow motion confetti--a celebration of new life. Abundant life. 

Around the house, washing brick pavers, raking flower beds, pulling weeds. A new season and I want to embrace it completely. Welcome beauty. Welcome. Welcome home.

I am hearing nearby lawn tractors. So many birds this year, and so much song. There's no place like home. There's no place like here. Grateful.

A view of my favorite things:
garden phlox

This sweet trio, and Nella leaning in for the loving!

cherry blossoms

never too old

that man of mine

At the table, sitting at the school table thinking. I think about family and extended family and friends like family. One of the last calls my dad made was to his banker about paying off his truck. He took the time to express his feelings for her and their relationship over the years. I think about what my pastor said Saturday night, about success and what we think is success, and climbing ladders--only to find the ladder was propped up against the wrong wall. My dad had some people he had known at his funeral. But the banker wasn't there. Or the other people he had business relationships with. His sister wasn't there either (this is not said in criticism of them, but in reflection of relationships). You can climb all the wrong ladders, try to please all the wrong people. And the only blood that guarantees anything is the blood of Christ. These months have taken me on a heart journey for sure as I've thought long on who I thought my dad was, and what I've learned about him since he died. I've learned a few things about myself as well.

Monday, April 10, 2017

And still counting (10,301-10,325)

spring fragrances
the neighbors' lovely lawns
an evening walk with Lanie
Erin with me, everywhere
warm days

piano music in the house
a camera back in my hand
the very good memories my husband and kids have given me
seeing Lori daily
great care for her

sweet, hot tea
chocolate kisses
socks on my feet
the beginning blossoms on our late blooming cherry tree
a complimentary hand massage

sticks in the yard to pick up
that man of mine
chips and dip
her exclamation at a kite in the sky
sweet joy

being "back" at video
Sunday drive with my people
breakfast for dinner
sunshine
a tractor, waiting

Sunday, April 9, 2017

(Un)birthday

Our family get-togethers were always Dad's birthday, Lori's birthday/Father's Day, and Thanksgiving.

Last year, he turned eighty. He wondered during the luncheon if I'd be lighting up a cake full of candles, but I didn't respond and I don't think he expected it (all the candles). Oh, the look on his face when he walked into the room and saw the blaze and felt the heat, made me realize he had secretly hoped for such fanfare. And that look on his face filled me with great joy, his secret hope realized.

His smile meant everything to me.

Happy birthday, Dad.

80 years old

His birthday hat left at his seat.
Hospitality looks to fill the spaces. A sense of belonging someplace. A sense of welcome. A feeling of worth. Being seen.

I joked with him that I'd stick an eight and a one on his cake this year. But this year, no cake. This year, an end of day reflection, and not long.

Oh, if he were here, what things would I say? The conversation in light of these past months would be very different than January niceties over cocoa and knitting. The grave doesn't answer back. It holds no answers. No warmth. Oh, if he were here, what things would he say?

***

I texted with a friend last night. I had been out of touch with her since Lori's hospitalization. I filled her in, briefly. I told her how I am back to getting my bearings, after being pummeled by waves repeatedly, I'm getting on my feet again and bracing. She knows from her own knocks. She knows about bearings. She commiserated.

But this: We rise stronger. Even if it doesn't feel like it. 


***

Yes, this year, this day, hot tea with extra honey. Thinking of April and May poetry teas with my girls, and wondering who will fill our table. Hospitality looks to fill those spaces with belonging, welcome and worth.

On, on.


Monday, April 3, 2017

And still counting (10,263-10,300)

yellow tulips in a vase
milky brie in the fridge
a mailbox, new

reunited with my sister
her cry to see me--like we'd been separated ages
a chat by phone with her
home fires
hot chocolate and tea

Wegmans
answered prayers
house guests, Comet and Haley
The Secret Garden, read alouds
a burger from Five Guys

love notes from Lanie
encouragement by email
nights when sleep comes without interruptions by fear
rough days that smooth by morning
the very real presence of friends

eighteen years married to a Good Guy
balloons for my sister
sunshine returned
lunch with Lori
weeds in the gardens, pulled

warmer temperatures
British Breakfast tea in a big mug
baptism weekend at church
before service preparations, camera 2

the video team
Easter tickets for five

her play at the table
Erin and Lego Friends
April brides, kindred love
a hound on the ground in the sunshine
primrose to plant
Erin running in the yard

hydrangeas in blue
the cutest silicone baking cups shaped like tea cups
a spring walk with Lanie
bird song and frog song
texts with friends in the hard times


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Day story

March


Outside my window, it is bleak and gray. Many local areas have ornamental trees sprouting blossoms. Our dogwoods have died. Our cherry tree is a late bloomer, if it blooms at all. Anita once called this a lush land, and I often feel it is a wonderland, but today, everything feels slow to waken. Fall's leaves still fill the garden beds. Maybe next week I'll get outside with a rake. I always felt my garden was a reflection of hospitality--an inviting space. The garden fascination feels far off without Linda.

Giving thanks, hard thanks. Walked with Erin through the wine store to stock our Friday wines, and my chest felt tight. How it could hurt to reach for brands we'd shared before over the years. Linda is not at my table, and as the weeks pass to months, the familiar things hurt: a bunch of tulips for the island pitcher, a milky brie for appetizers, the white chocolate raspberry ice cream that she'd indulge in (her whole life a vanilla girl). Everything reminds me of her, and it hurts that she is gone. I picked up a card to send to her, a third with no response. I don't even know if she is getting them. Oh love's double edge of hurt and healing. I don't know what to do with it. Thankful for conversations with my sister after weeks of decline, and now her voice is back--she is back. We are looking forward and thankful for each other. Thankful for all types of restoration. Thankful as I adjust to this new normal, even when the pieces haven't settled into place. February was a blur. And March is too. I have never carried so much.

In the school room, Erin's on a new cross stitch. The room is cold, and I will start an afternoon fire. I'm thankful for homeschooling. Thankful for my kids. Thankful for the closeness we've had this year. Erin asks about poetry teas in the summer, and I think of Linda and wish that she could join us.

From the kitchen, a pitcher of yellows to cheer a space. I bought a gluten-free cookie mix to make blondies from. I keep trying to keep the days normal. Our fridge is packed full, and our freezer too. Today, too many binge purchases: chocolate covered pretzels, a favorite tea, sushi for lunch, crackers and brie, pizza crusts and ice cream. These things not on my list at all. I drink from a favorite mug I use just for tea or hot chocolate. It warms my hands. I still want to cry.

I am creating a new life. Trying hard to push forward. I cannot bear the empty spaces. The old of my life, ripped away. Who will He bring to our table?

I don't want to forget five years of Fridays. Garden walks and herb talks. We shared our hearts, even the hurtful things, we found encouragement and healing from each other. I wondered what our lives would look like when Dad was gone--but I never imagined this. Any of this. God brings good from the hard things, I KNOW! But the waiting ... the wondering ... Thank you, God, for those Friday nights with Linda. Thank you that we found each other and filled something in each other that the world wouldn't and couldn't. Thank you for the power of love. Those days meant something.

Around the house ... I bought a bird feeder staff that I hope the fat squirrels won't climb. Piles of my dad's mail. Piles of my sister's mail. Bags packed for her transfer, and me, ready for the signal. We went from zero cats to two cats overnight as we've taken in Comet and Haley as house guests. The girls are thrilled, but poop scooping novelty and early morning breakfast cat calls aren't as fun on day three and four and five. The cats are fun, and they're comfortable here. Haley is a sweet girl with honey-colored eyes. Comet is a fat boy that I call Pigeon and Fat Head and Bully--because he is.

I am hearing the spring peepers at the pool. Their cheerful chirp, sometimes all day, and some other frog song that feels alien, long and eerie. It calls out at two and three and four in the morning. I hear birds singing. Squirrels tramping through dead leaves. Cat meows. Kids laughing.

A view of my favorite things. All of March is nearly passed, and I have just a handful of pictures.
Lori and me, we were so young then

these three

Lanie with Haley
When he said I need a haircut--maybe next week.

A bestie drops off a garden gift

Comet, Cosmo, Fat Boy, Fat Head, Bully, Pigeon. He's got to weigh twenty-five pounds. Seriously.

At the table, I menu plan for another week. Oh, how Fridays stare back at me. There is such an emptiness. Such a void. Almost two weeks ago, my family of four sat at Lori's kitchen table, and I cried to think of how her table at home was transformed when our dad died. Oh, tables matter. They can be uplifting or destructive; they can be inclusive or lonely. Tables matter. How we'd crowd around my (Joel's) kitchen table, more than four with friends and family, and plates and wine glasses, all the food arrayed, displayed, and music playing and merry talking. Chairs pulled up tight. Elbows to elbows. Or in the dining room, spread out and grand, a feast. Oh, the life. It was good.

With Dad and Linda

Dad ate everything on his plate, and I felt full for it.

It was a good day.

This was the last time we were all together. Thanksgiving 2016.