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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Languor

I suppose all literature professors carry a bit of drama in their pockets. A simple poetry reading with the right dramatic flair, strong enough to cling to the crevices of gray matter twenty years and counting. It called out to me yesterday.

Il pleure dans mon coeur

I could remember his rich French accent as he taught us how to read poetry. 

***

Yesterday. I slept in after weekend commutes to the hospital. [She] has been there officially two weeks now, and what started off as an admission for pneumonia has become a bigger battle than anyone ever imagined.

I started a load of laundry. I fixed a coffee. I finished a thankful list, and just barely. Of all the things I've felt this week, numbness and exhaustion have been gaining ground.

I started a fire. I took a shower. I read to Erin under a blanket. She cried during the history reading, of children shuttled away from their families, for years, during war. It's been an emotional two weeks here.

Erin asked for chips and dip, and I joined her. I dusted the bookshelves. I dusted the bay window ledges. I cleaned the powder room. I started a new load. I realized I've never been more thankful, and a burden so light, as to do a load of laundry, dust a shelf, clean a mirror. Never so light. Did I ever think that those things were work? Because they're not. They are not work.

I was thankful for the warm fire and socks on my feet. I was thankful to sit next to Erin during math. The only sounds were the hum of the woodstove blower. The spin of the laundry. The phone rang and it was a bestie. I didn't answer. I just needed the sounds of home.

I thought on days when I made plans a week or two in advance. (Shane told me for the first time in all our years together that I need to make getting a haircut a priority this week. I wanted to laugh. I don't know how to make a plan when the days change on their own, out of my control. I wanted to laugh that I thought they were ever in my control.) When the dentist's office called to reschedule an appointment, we looked out into May. Maybe things would be predictable by then.

***

I remembered the poem and how he recited it. I remembered it incorrectly though. I thought it was douleur.

Quelle est cette douleur

But it was langueur.

And I know I will never forget it.

Monday, March 27, 2017

And still counting (10,236-10,262)

dinners from friends in my fridge
Becky and Ann who took my kids
Michi at my house and on the phone
praying friends always checking in on us
timely scriptures of God's goodness

Tracey
Lori's open eyes
her fight
her hand squeeze
her smile

chocolate kisses
hot tea with extra honey
a shower
enough sleep
Nora with me at the hospital

talks with Val
that man of mine
Comet and Haley, house guests
strengthening words from people in my life
hope

mountain views, covered in fog
a foggy Monday in the school room
a sleep-in day
coffee
gentle rhythms of home

respite in the stillness
Amy, the case worker

Monday, March 20, 2017

And still counting (10197-10,235)

a safe place for my sister to stay during the snow
good care
reliable snow removal at Dad's house
his good neighbors

a snow day home with my girls
her hours of fun outside--HOURS
a sled run, over and over and over
hot chocolate
a movie

a picnic blanket for the years
heat from the fireplace
a waggy dog
His timely word
shampoo

talks with Tracey
her 57 years
Christy
Rebecca
Michi

sweet notes from Lanie
Erin, with me everywhere
math, canceled
another home day
read alouds with Erin (The Secret Garden)

Amy, the case worker, who drove out to see my sister at the hospital.

Melanie, who checked in on the cats and brought in the mail. For her visit to the hospital to check on Lori.

Diona, who, unbeknownst to her, texted me and asked how she could pray for me in that minute, as I sat at my sister's bedside and watched her shut down from the stress of it all.

Tracey, who talked to me the whole way home.

Michi, who was willing to put her Saturday on hold to go out to my sister's to help clean her place. Who made calls to the caregiver company and talked me through some really tough moments.

Marshall's Mom, who met us Sunday and worked hard at cleaning bathrooms and Lori's bedroom to make a welcome home for my sister. For her prayers and her in-the-trenches friendship.

Shane, without complaint, who helped at the house and waited patiently in the hospital while I sat at my sister's side for hours.

My kids, who pitched in cleaning Lori's basement and played with the cats. They waited for me and gave me space to be with my sister.

Neil, who hardly knows me, told me to call him first with any need and offered to take over my management responsibilities on video or blog.

Anita, who has heard me ugly cry more times this year than in the twenty-plus years I've known her. And it doesn't phase her. 

Rebecca, Christy, Nora, Dave, Kellie, and many others who prayed over our situation.

Becky P's offers to take my kids and make us dinner.

Val's help in what could be causing her decline, and her suggestions on next steps.

You, God, and your miracles in what seems like madness. For restoration like I never imagined. For mercy in her hallucinations. And for your grace when she was present.

Lori, my sister. Her fight. Her happiness. Her forgiveness. Her faith. Her story.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Taking it back

I think if any phrase sums up our school year this year, it's "taking back Tuesday." Tuesday was the co-op crunch day of stress and hustle between making sure all their work was done and making sure I was ready for my class, too. There wasn't time for much else.

I remember one day last year sitting at the table all day and past dinner. I had commented to a mom that we were still at work after dinner, and she replied, "We all are." Everyone understood the Tuesday crunch and what it did to a household.

A Tuesday, last year.

That one day, specifically, on an already growing load of wonder and why, changed me. It changed us. It was the start of taking things back. Restoration. 

This school year, Tuesdays are, by intention, our lightest day, and once a month, they are a celebration.

We missed out on a formal Tea Party Tuesday in February because of all the twists and turns in my life since my dad died, and March felt like it might become trampled by the pull and tug of other things. But yesterday was a snow day.

We always hope to have a special guest join us for the parties. (With deep sadness, I think on how my dad didn't get the chance to join us.) March was going to march on whether I was ready with a guest or not.

I built a fire. I got my poetry books (some people stress eat, some binge shop to feel the joy--I load a virtual cart full of $3 used books). And at a recent library trip, I grabbed a copy of "The Sound of Music" to watch with the kids.

The fire was delightful. I spread a picnic blanket (which seems to grow smaller each year) onto the living room floor. I loaded up the movie and brought out the books. It was just the girls and me.

My life is not the same since my dad died, and not even for the obvious loss and grief. I'm still trying to tame the days and the feelings, to take back some of the normal and familiar. We need them. So much is still falling into place, and I'm walking through it step by step to find the balance.


I'm thankful for a snow day. Thankful for snow's soft fall. Thankful for the spitting sleet. Thankful for field foxes. Thankful for her hours of outdoor play. Thankful for a warm fire. Thankful for mugs, full. Thankful for so much.

Yesterday, a Tuesday, we took it back.

Popcorn, Trader Joe's gluten-free chocolate cookies, marshmallows and cocoa

I got tulips at Wegmans before the snow came because everyone else was buying up all the chicken

Sweet checkered cloth from lots of picnics
It was simple and cozy. And it's exactly what we needed.

Monday, March 13, 2017

And still counting (10,166--10,196)

fat flakes
It was just starting to snow. She was ready for it!

daffodil blossoms
French toast, pain perdu
hot coffee
a blanket around my shoulders

silly string
milkshakes
Fourteen!

Stacy, the bank manager
Lucy B's honesty and vulnerability
mountain views

Comet, the cat
the video team
read alouds with Erin
a hot fire
Friday night by the fire. No place like home.
my hound dog
that man of mine
talks with Tracey
free samples from the owner at the salon
a chat with a dance mom

podcast walks through the grocery store
chats with Lori
comments on a comment, prayers from strangers
his face in the sidebar
the Facebook anniversary reminder that we are friends

tea, with extra honey
GPS
Lori's safety and well being
prayers from friends
a warm welcome home

a bright full moon
deep sleep



Friday, March 10, 2017

Pain perdu

It's hard to believe it's Friday. Another week, flown by.

Wednesday was the hardest of the days yet--begun and finished with heavy heart. It was the hardest of the days. The hardest.

Yesterday, I felt so grateful for love, lifted. I had received very unexpected texts and messages from people just reaching out to me. It brought new tears, but the grateful kind. The kids and I had many errands to run regarding my father, but then we went to Walmart and grabbed a few accessories to go by a friend's house. Her daughter turned fourteen--and we pinned her with a birthday girl pin, presented her with a rainbow of balloons, doused her in a webbing of silly string, and brought chocolate milkshakes for all to indulge. I loved her smile. It meant more than my own.

Erin and I wrapped up reading The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan, after which Erin cried about missing our cat, Rudy. We spent some time outside, and visiting with a neighbor and her pooch. I made a new dinner last night that I'll definitely make again for a Friday when Linda comes back.

(I miss her.)

The girls and I went for a quiet night ride under a big, bright moon to the library. I could hear the spring peepers singing. Books on hold, and a few videos. I told the kids that if it snowed (Friday), I would make French toast and hot chocolate for breakfast.

We woke to rain. The kids were bummed. We haven't had a real snow all winter (in some ways, a blessing!). I made French toast anyway, and skeptically looked at the basket of coffee pods. There's no way our stash will make the weekend.

"Mom, how do you say French toast in French?" Lanie asked. I had no idea.

So I looked online. A descriptive blurb accompanied, and who knows what blurbs are believable, but if you want a little historical morsel to accompany, enjoy:

http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/where-does-french-toast-come-from

Moving on to a Friday at home. Outside, now, fat flakes falling. Getting reading to start a fire. Savoring the last of my second cup of coffee. Erin bundles up in winter gear to a freezy start with the dog--she's my outdoor girl.

Watching the snow. Glad to be home.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Closing doors

[monday] I spent the 90s in those parts. They are familiar and comforting, despite all the growth and change. The familiarity and comfort helped. I was there to close out my father's accounts at different banks.

I drove to one. I walked inside. I sat and waited. The woman who helped me was efficient and kind. I tried hard not to think of my dad in that moment, of the years he'd spent in that area, of the life he established, that I now closed.

I drove on to the next location. I walked inside. I sat and waited. Of the three possible helps, I got Lucy B. She was friendly and warm. She chatted Erin about her doll and told her of her own youth playing with dolls and a sister. I sat down with Letters of Administration and a death certificate. I pulled out my ID and handed it to her.

"My father died a month ago. I'm here to close out his accounts."

She helped me. She was efficient and kind. I sat quietly and signed where I needed to sign. She put things in an envelope for me. And then she said, "I'm sorry about your father."

I reached out my hand to shake hers. She met it firmly. It was such an intentional, real contact.

"Thank you," I said, off guard and grateful.

"My father died--it will be a year tomorrow," she told me.

We looked at each other. She reached across the table and hugged me. I spoke into her ear, "I'm sorry about your father."

"It's hard," she said. "I needed therapy. It's so hard." She talked about her anger that her father was gone. She talked about missing him, the comfort and strength he had been, his kindness, and how life wasn't ever the same. She was always aware of the void.

My own tears, brimming. I pushed the swell down.


***

[these days] His cars are parked in my driveway. Every morning I see them outside the window, and they seem out of place here. One morning, I will look outside and they will be gone, and that will seem equally unusual.

He had a package of Starbursts in one of the vehicles. He'd snack on them and drink sodas to keep himself awake on Sundays for the ride home from visiting Linda. I packaged up a yarn project he was working on.

As I wrap up the legwork errands, I'll switch to cleaning out his cars and getting them ready for sale.

***

[wednesday] His face still appears in the sidebar of my Facebook friends feed. I don't ever want it to go away, and yet, I know it will from inactivity.

Even this morning, I looked at his face and cried. Then I pushed off the feelings to get on with the list of things to do today. I'm glad Erin will be with me.

***

[remembering] (I'm sure [she] meant it in comfort and kindness. She told me how proud he'd be, how proud they'd be, my parents. How proud of the mom I've become. How proud of the management of this all, the grown-up stuff of packing away a life. I just smiled politely. I stayed quiet and looked into her eyes while she spoke. These words mean very little from the grave. They mean nothing at all.)

***

[remembering] I held my mom's hand when she died. God knew my heart needed to be with her to speak last love into her ear. To catch sight of her last tear. I never imagined what it would be like when my father died. That I would have no idea how short the time. Would not be at his bedside, his words, in fact, telling me to just stay home. Would it have been different if we had known? If I had known? I had no idea it would be Tracey who'd call me with the news. He'd been gone all through that night. The hospital didn't even have my number.

But God knew things I would hold dear. Anyone could have driven my dad's truck home from the hospital. But I'm thankful God let me be the one, to sit in that seat and think on his last day outside; to drive through the streets that were new to me and imagine him there once upon a time; to walk into the dealings of this life: the pharmacy, the banks, the businesses and offices. To pack up his life. To arrange the things for his grave, the clothes, the flowers, the casket. To sell off the things he loved (his cars). As I close the doors to each of these tasks, it gets harder because the doors are fewer. And very soon there will be a last. I am glad to do them instead of someone hired. They wouldn't understand how intensely meaningful this is. But God knew. He knows how much goodbye means to me; He gives me this goodbye when my voice didn't have that final chance.

***

[remembering] The morning my father died, I woke up like it was any other Saturday. I had coffee. I sat at the computer.

I tried to call my dad's cell phone at 8:30 a.m., no answer. I told myself he might be busy with medicines or breakfast or doctors. I would call back at nine.

Tracey called me just before nine.

"Hey!" I said. "What's up?"

"Did the hospital call you?" she asked.

"No," I said.

"Oh," she said, and I could hear everything in that word--the sadness, the heaviness, the loss, her realization she would be the one to tell me--even though I tried to convince myself in that one second she had something else to say.

***

[remembering] That Saturday, after the news, I was up in my room on the phone with a friend. I was pacing, pacing, pacing. I walked over to my nightstand where the necklace my dad had given me lay. It had been there for weeks since I'd last worn it. It was always heart-side up. I had seen it every day. Weeks. Heart-side up. Every day. The morning he died, I found it turned over, to inscription:

I love you

***

[remembering] Waiting for Shane to meet me at the lawyer's office. Sitting in my car in the parking lot. Every time a white-haired man entered or exited the building, I looked hard. Is that my dad? He looked like my dad. And so did another one. Of course, I knew better. But it jolted me each time. I wanted this all to somehow be a bad joke. I wanted my dad back.


***

[wednesday] I stopped by more places today, and one to open his safe deposit box. I stood in the tiniest room with the long skinny box. I opened it and examined the contents. A card on the counter, where the teller instructed me to sign, below his name. His signature, so familiar, reaching out to me from 2009, when he was there. Now, mine below it. I handed the box back to her empty. I gave her the keys. I watched as she put the drawer into place and locked it with two sets of keys. I closed the account.

***

[wednesday] At a different place, a manager tells me how she spoke to Dad by phone the day before he died. My dad had called about some business; he told her he was concerned he wasn't making it out. My eyes watered.

I wondered if she had even known my name before today. Did she know I was his other daughter? Did she know I threw him birthday parties? Did she know how much love I put into planning our gatherings all the years, and that I felt deep happiness when he went back for seconds at a meal? Did she know I always wanted things to be lovely for him?

***

[remembering] The last time I saw him alive was January 1, when he came over for a bit to teach me a new crochet pattern. My house was cold. I'd been at church in the morning and hadn't had time to get a fire blazing before Dad arrived. He sat bundled in his coat. He was always cold. I offered him hot chocolate, and he happily accepted. He drank from the sweet mini mugs we have. (Did I make him a peppermint one or a regular? I can't remember.)

I worked on the stitch. He brought remnant yarn for practice. He handed me the ugliest bright orange, but I didn't care. It was just practicing.

"I have to lighten up on my grasp. The stitches were getting so tight, I had a hard time with the hook," I said.

He learned to crochet from his mother just after his first heart attack in his forties.

"My first project was a blanket--the stitches were so tight!" he told me. He's made hundreds of blankets since then. He taught me how to make granny squares when I was in high school. "I put that first blanket in the casket with my father when he died,"  he said.

I never knew. I was moved by his gesture. (I placed paper hearts with names of his kids, grand kids, great grand kids, and Linda. Scattered them across my dad's chest. I put in the words of the eulogy I spoke at his service. Erin had made a plaster project for him for his birthday or Father's Day or some occasion. It was at his house, in his room. She wanted to put that in the coffin. I couldn't part with the scarf he was teaching me to make. I wanted to hold that for myself.)

He was heading back to Linda's. We talked about meeting up again soon. I was looking forward to it. Restore. My word for the year.

From the front door sidelights, I watched him drive away. I watched him turn at the bend of the driveway. I watched him stop at the road. I watched him turn right onto my street, and then I didn't see him anymore. I went up to the office and cried in Shane's arms.

***

[wednesday] Later, I took Erin to McDonalds. I called Lori to see if she wanted lunch. She asked for a fish sandwich and small fries. We brought them to her. I was happy to serve her.

Now, home. Coffee consumed. I ate apples slathered in almond butter. I walked up to the mailbox, past my dad's truck. Erin's out playing in the late day sunshine. I feel an exhaustion, weighty. Emotional days of driving and consolidating, and more ahead.

I thought that first week, the funeral week, would be the hardest. It was busy, and it was hard. But it was just the start of harder things.

Monday, March 6, 2017

And still counting (10,134-10,165)

all the geese returning home, honking overhead
warm days

cleaned spaces
floors, mopped
a great review
hot tea in a pot
extra honey

Christy
the Rocky Mountain tumbler, 30 oz
the scarf he made, around my neck
the wrestle and tears
the seeking

a visit with Anita
her strength, straight talk and love
Linda's sisters
my own sisters
read alouds with Erin

my girls
piano music in the house
wood stacked
library finds, so I don't have to buy the book!
hand lotions, gifted

66 Books
Marshall's Mom
good sleep
10,000 steps
a walk with Lanie

a Sunday home
kids playing
an afternoon nap
chocolate bread in the oven
a fleece blanket on the bed

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Otherwise

I'm an easy sell. I came across a few words that captured my curiosity. Add a mention of tea? I'm there. Whether the cup is in front of me, or a feature in a story--I'll figure out how to fit in an 800-page book.

Show me a poem? Pour me a cup and save me a seat. Suddenly my online shopping basket has five (or more) poetry books. Birds. Memorization. Robert Frost (a favorite!). And more. Thankful for Abe Books, and their easy-to-find, $3-books-and-free-shipping deals. Otherwise, I'd be broke.

I ordered a tablecloth in floral and blues. I can imagine it already, set up for a springtime tea in the front nook. (This house was built in 1971, and I wonder, what did the owner envision for that front nook? He may have never imagined his den would become a [delightful, music filled, coziest] classroom, and that nook would be a host to monthly poetry teas!)

A podcast recommendation of her long-favorite tea, and I have it in an Amazon basket for a someday purchase. I listened as Julie Bogart read from various selections, sipping at her tea and sampling a scone. She has been a true inspiration on restoring our homeschool. Making learning fun again. Tea times in our home--something anticipated. She read one poem, "Otherwise." And maybe her eyes teared up, it was hard to tell because she wears glasses, but she brought that poem home when she made the comparison to homeschooling. Once full tables, now otherwise emptied as children grow up and move on. And, yeah, she got to me.

I mentioned recently to my sister that Lanie would be in high school next year. Four more years. Are there things I would have done differently in this homeschool journey? Yes. And mainly this: I would have read aloud to her more often and longer. She was such an independent girl, devouring books (and still does) in the quiet of her room. When she was really little, we'd check out 20 or more books a week from the library. I got a big, sturdy tote from LL Bean to hold the load, and we still use it today. But by first grade, she read to herself, and I let her.

It's very different with Erin. Even now in fourth grade, I read aloud to her, and she snuggles close. She pulls a blanket over us. And if I get through a page without interruption, it's unusual. But that's what I love about reading with her. She asks a lot of questions, and that's where lots of learning takes place. She follows along and makes corrections if I skip a word. She laughs out loud. She tears up. She makes connections. This year at home has been exactly what she/we needed.

(The other day, we read from a YWAM book of Christian heroes, Corrie ten Boom, and I got to the part where Corrie calls out to her father, and he calls back to his daughters for a last time, and I paused and pushed down the tears. But it wasn't lost on Erin, whose heart is sensitive, those words of goodbye got to her too and she cried about her granddad, missed deeply.)

Already into next year's planning, and lots on ancients since both girls are starting the history cycle over. I found a deal on some mythology books. I look at my bookshelves. All the books we've read. All the books we'll read. A next-year selection piled on the floor. The books in the basket on birds and butterflies, on trees and weeds, and all the poetry books (and, good grief, more on the way--hooray!). So much to see from my seat at the table.

One day, we'll close a cover and look into each other's eyes and wrap up a final school year, a last book. One day, The Saturdays and My Side of the Mountain and A Christmas Carol will sit on a shelf, more than stories, keepers of fingerprints upon the pages, keepers of many memories--laughs, tears, time together.

I am too aware of the quiet that awaits these rooms, the stillness of this yard. And all the books upon the shelves, staring back at me. A treasury.

Sometimes my girls tell me they'll live nearby and close enough that their kids will be able to walk through yards to my house--for cookies and tea and read alouds. It is the sweetest vision and a sweeter dream that this house will be a hospitality house.

This week, savoring. A fire in the fireplace. Pumpkin muffins for a welcoming scent. And just because, a teapot of tea and some little snacks for a Monday middle school literature discussion.


I am so truly grateful for what this school year has done in our home.

Monday, February 27, 2017

And still counting (10,108-10,133)

for Erin, eating spaghetti squash
mild days
outside play

food in the fridge
Anita at the table
her friendship and wisdom
good podcasts on good thoughts
Aldi shopping with my girls

my man
warm flagstones for a hound dog
Christy
all the questions during read alouds
birdsong

clean clothes
open windows
fragrant wafts from the woods
a swingset
books to read

frog song emerging, coaxed by spring-like temperatures
texts with a neighbor
so much sleep
an after dinner walk with Lanie
waves to friends passing by on the road

a beautiful wreath, gifted
and the other things, treasured
peace





Monday, February 20, 2017

Day story

February


Outside my window, bubbles sailing past. Erin is over the flu. I hear remnant coughs, but she doesn't want to come inside. We've spent the afternoon outside, reading and talking. I came in for coffee. She grabbed the bubbles. I can hear her singing.

Giving thanks, for new responsibilities, relationships moving to restoration overnight, the wrestle and wrangle of thoughts and flesh, her phone call last night full of gratitude that melted my heart, for good friends and good neighbors. I am so very rich--and not by American standards, but by heavenly ones.

In the school room, sympathy cards stacked, lesson plans stacked, projects awaiting review, my dad's paper scraps of miscellaneous notes about crochet or knitting patterns. The room is darkened because we've spent so much time outside. When I woke this morning at 7:30 (the second wakening after making his sandwich), I felt thankful my kids could sleep in this morning after a week of illness, that there was no place we had to be, that this day could unfold by its own rhythm. I didn't mind the sun had been up longer than I had. I would take all the grace this day had to offer.

From the kitchen: taco night. Coffee. A cookie batter waiting.

I am not creating. I am observing and thinking and recovering and resting and waiting and hoping and everything else but creating. After weeks of drain and hustle, I just want to be still with the people I love. Empty and full all at once.

I don't want to forget the timeliness of song, the way she hugged me on the front step and told me about how she prays (that Daddy would say yes to a cat! And a long list of thanks.) She said I was the best mom ever because I stayed right with her while she was sick, even if it meant I would get sick too. Stayed right by her side, and that meant everything to her that she told me about it often these past days and today too, in case I forgot (and told Shane too). "Not all moms would do that," she said. I don't know why she thinks that.

I am reading The Giver by Lois Lowry for our middle school book selection. And All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen. Erin and I are reading a story about Corrie ten Boom.

Around the house, sticks to pick up in the yard, onion grasses and other weedy things to pull. Dirt under my nails. This spring teaser of a day (the last few days) awaken something deep and primal--a need for basics and roots. My dad hated winter because he was always cold, and the cold air gave him chest pains--the season was brutal. I remember hoping for a mild winter for his sake, and lately a sadness that, among all other things too, he isn't here to enjoy these mild temperatures. I got an issue to one of the Taste of Home products he sent as a gift subscription. They'll run out one day. I feel too keenly aware of that. And I got an email of a lovely hat and scarf pattern I would have shared with him. I will have to learn how to do it myself. There are moments, powerful and fleeting panic in all of this, that he's no longer alive for me to call when I forget things or wonder. Boo. I swallow it down, the panic. Down, down.

I am hearing scampering squirrels through the leaves. Bird song all around. The crackling clapping of stubborn oak leaves that hang on and on through the winter. And the occasional sound of a teenager calling out, "Mom!" because there are questions to ask and things to need. Somewhere, there is the buzz of a chainsaw. Oh, woodslife. I'm glad you're mine. This is a good life.

A view of my favorite things:

From Valentine's Day

A text to him on the last day I saw him, when he taught me the Tunisian crochet stitch.
Video team behind the scenes with Kathy

Sheets on my bed, a night's comfortable sleep

School with no walls

New shoots.

Old bricks

Hanging out with this ray of sunshine


At the table, a plan for tea with my girls. Something with scones and jam and clotted cream. And maybe something chocolatey. Something grounding, centering, on all that is simple and lovely.

On valentines and love

We baked cookies in the old neighborhood and delivered them on Valentine's Day.

My kids and I would walk from house to house and drop them off at doors. If the weather was too cold, I'd drive. My kids learned about giving and about thinking of others. And while the door to friendships I had hoped would open didn't, we all learned a valuable, valuable lesson on love. Do it anyway.

When we moved here, my kids still wanted to deliver cookies to our (new) neighbors. That first Valentine's Day here, that first year here, that walk to a neighbor's house seemed the longest and hardest. I had to remember the example it set for my kids--do it anyway. They were excited, and always had been, to be bearers of treats to people. This was no different for them.

I still remember my utter amazement and delight the time we came home to find a red box gifted to my girls. I probably cried. (Oh, hope restored!)

This year, unexpected sadness. My dad died. I had a funeral to plan. I had his affairs to wrap up in a county an hour and a half away (each way). A sister to check on. Appointments at offices. Homeschooling my kids. An upcoming portfolio review. And then Erin got sick with flu. (And even this list is not the full list ...) When Valentine's Day came, I already put off our tea party for a meeting with an advisor. Erin wasn't even sick at that point, but the week ahead was weighty enough on paper.

My kids still got the Valentine morning trail of hearts to the breakfast table. They had, each, a little box of chocolate and small gifts waiting for them (water bead bracelets and Beanie Boos). We celebrated, still, but it wasn't in the way I hoped or planned. And we didn't get around to baking anything for our neighbors (in hindsight--a good thing with flu at our doorstep!). I was surprised how heavily that weighed on my heart. It felt like failure. Because it's not about the cookies.

A neighbor invited us over to give gifts to the girls, and a potted plant of lilies to me. How I wished to muster up lightness in my very heavy heart.

"I didn't even have time to bake the cookies," I said, lowly. I felt so bad. So bad. A Valentine, lost.

Erin came down with fever on Wednesday. Everything felt like heaviness in the house. The review. The estate tasks. The next steps. The appointments. Thursday I went out to meet again with the lawyer--sick kid at home on the couch. I went by the store on the way home to load up on gingerale and crackers and other things in case we all succumbed. I went to the mailbox.

Inside, chocolate hearts for me attached to a gluten-free cake mix and a card. I thought the handwriting belonged to my best friend, but I opened the card and saw it was from my next-door neighbor.

She was wishing me a happy Valentine's day and thanking me for being good to her. She wrote some other things. I texted her immediately. She didn't know my dad had died and that these few weeks had been a hustle and blur. I wanted her to know how much, oh, how much, her words and gift touched me.

Thank you, God.

Your promises are true. Love anyway. That if we don't give up, in time, there will be a harvest. This year, I saw fruit--and it wasn't only a package of cake mix, it was a pouring out of love from all my friends and neighbors, letting me and my family know that we are loved and not forgotten.

Not only a Valentine's Day message, but a Gospel one.

And still counting (10,069-10,107)

flowers from a neighbor
their Valentines for my kids
they made a hilarious Valentine's date video--these two!

and a special Valentine for me from Pamela
hot fires
snowflakes outside the lawyer's window
meeting Drew
thank you notes and a card for Linda, mailed

the hard questions
the stillness and wait of no answer
unexpected changes
Your good in all things
that You equip those You call

her phone call of thanks after nine p.m.
the necklace for Casi
colorful yarn balls in a tote, waiting
the rides out to his house, scenic
food in her freezer, made by friends

Comet the cat
blankets by Granddaddy and TV marathons for Erin
her sweet heart
Fever, headache, lethargy--FLU

for scary things that pass
Slurpees and a stethoscope from a bestie

a review, rescheduled
a clean school room
fever cuddles with my little
and last night, finally off the couch and back in our beds
nine hours of sleep, in a bed, with warm covers!

containers for chocolate chips
a cleaned space for spices and supplies
the mini trampoline
warmer temperatures with Erin outside
Early spring teaser

steam showers

hugs from Becky
the video team
two hawks perched outside the living room
Two hawks for Erin

coconut popsicles
time with Lanie
Lanie and me

Popsicles for hydration (Ok, the coconut ones were really for me)
Greek salad dressing talks with Tracey
a new (to me) mama to write encouragement

On, on.

Monday, February 13, 2017

And still counting (10,036-10,068)

warm days, like spring
schooling outside

deep breaths and long walks
Erin alongside, everywhere
Lanie's resilience
sleep-in days

Your strength
Your compassion
Your power
Your provision
that I'm Yours

meals for the week from Marshall's Mom
a visit with  my sister
Miss Pat at Wegmans
double socks
the softness of rose petals

Joel's voice
spider plants from Cindy
these days
Shane
the cyst, gone

canned goods from Joanne
black tea with honey
a love note from Lanie
gifts from Rebecca
a country drive in my dad's car

running into Dave B at The UPS Store
a hug from Katie A at the post office
Tracey on the phone
creamy coffee
Christy

gf French toast for dinner
the video team
my dad's face, still, on the sidebar

Monday, February 6, 2017

Buried

Saturday. The words by phone. The grief that ripped my heart wide open. The want of more--so much more to say, and the things to do. We had plans. We had plans. Renewed visits, crocheting and maybe twice a month. He was going to come over that Sunday. He'd been looking forward to it, messaging me in the preceding weeks. Then canceled from the hospital. Then, unexpectedly, gone.

Sunday. I went into his home--the first time ever. And that sank in. The boxes. The papers. The counters. The piles. She handed me the tote of yarn balls he himself was going to give me that day. It overwhelmed. And I felt buried. Buried by the overwhelm. Buried by the papers. Buried by the tasks upon me. Buried by grief.

I went to the hospital to the get last of his belongings. Opened the bag and sifted through--wallet, keys, cell phone, charger, watch. Oh, time. I turned away and mumbled thanks in tears.

I got his truck and sat in the place he parked it last. I looked out the window, this view, his last walk outside into an emergency room. I looked for him, fully knowing he was gone, imagining his walk in that day. And in there still, in a morgue. I held the steering wheel and drove away. Drove through the streets and the town that were familiar to him, listening for the call from my GPS to turn left, to turn right. This was his landscape.

Online, his face in the sidebar. The messages, silenced. Conversations over, to be buried in a feed flowing new. Feelings bubbling and my hand suppressing. Down, down, down.

Monday. The important calls and the overwhelm. A funeral home, the memories--old neighborhood, and the funeral home where my mom's services were held.
Tuesday. A cemetery. Grandparents' marker--name in bold across, and his flags placed out, where to dig new. I hadn't stood there since my mom died. I held my daughter's hand.
Wednesday. Gathering his belongings. Documents. Clothing. A drive home by the mountains. A heavy heart. The things that want to bubble up at an intersection.
Thursday. The funeral home to drop off the clothes. A long walk around the block. The memories calling and greeting and I want to go back. I want to go back. We drove to a bakery where I used to work. She got two donuts because she couldn't decide. A woman I used to work with was still there. Her hug spanned the years.
Friday. The viewing. The greetings. The resolve not to cry. Don't cry. Don't cry. His coworkers. His cousin. My cousin. My friends. Oh, my friends. Don't cry. I read the words out loud at the lectern. I folded the papers. I tucked them in his arm. Colored hearts with the names of the ones he's left behind, scattered across his chest. The cemetery. The service. Don't cry.

"Ashes to ashes ..."

The things that are buried. His stories. His voice. His touch. The birthdays. The holidays. The pecan pie after dinner conversations. The crochet dates. The Facebook messages. The laughs.

"Dust to dust ..."

They lowered the coffin. And with it, all the unanswered questions, the wondering, the what-ifs, the hopes. Buried.

Don't cry.

I pulled roses from the floral piece--three reds for three sisters, two whites for his loves, and a lily for the ones behind me. My sister and I tossed them in, and then we turned.

These days are ours now.

I didn't see full restoration with my dad, but maybe I'll see it in other places

Who knew the canyon's edge overlooked a grave?

And STILL counting (10,001-10,035)

the comfort and prayers of friends
challenges and obstacles that build endurance
a eulogy
beautiful flowers
a room full of friends and family

roses and lilies
strength to get it done
old roads home
a bakery
a hug from the ages
I used to hustle bread at this place back in the college days.

walking around the old block with Erin
I didn't knock on the door this time. And I walked really slowly around the block. Home.

the view from the bridge
I used to ride my bike over this bridge

no traffic
time to sight see
peace

good sleep
good coffee
good food
good friends
good words

good life
hearts of the hearts he leaves behind scattered across his heart
back road rides home
mountain views
that home is multidimensional

tears of gratitude for precious friends
community
worship
strongholds broken
a gluten-free dinner cooler--meals for a week at least!

an afternoon drive by myself
new lipsticks, favorite shades
tears
phone chats with Lori
that You make all things new