And So She Flew….

This blog has been quiet lately, but my nest has not been. My just-turned-23-year-young daughter (one of the twins) landed the kind of job we’ve been praying for since graduation last May. I rejoiced alongside her four weeks ago that God answered our prayers BIG, but was stunned that the job was 7-states and 16-hours away (by car). Sigh.

I write the beginning of this post from the airport concourse, waiting for my flight back to the nest.

The last month has been slammed at work, then crazy at home with planning, packing and preparing. Now, this huge, life-altering event is behind us. The wheels of my return flight squeaked as they tucked under, making me want to tuck my own feet under me and squeak a bit about what a huge hole there will be in my nest…

I had finally adjusted to the bustling activity and non-stop-in-and-out of the twins returning home from university last May. Although my youngest is still away at her school, the nest was no longer a silent space. We were literally back to “Mommmmm!” at the bathroom door the second I started the shower. Whenever I felt annoyed at something, I mumbled thanks that my nest was alive with life.

My saver-daughter independently purged years worth of clothes and shoes, and thinned three giant bins of cards and notes into one. She even found her saved baby teeth and notes to the tooth fairy (“please leave my teeth and thank you”). Piles to be packed and donations to be given away were strewn throughout the house and her room.

Her room.

The Jonas Brothers. One Direction. Taylor Swift. All decorations from her youth were recently replaced with fresh paint, a new travel theme – complete with photographs of her many adventures in travel. She had wisely turned down a job a Boston a couple months ago and arrived back home ready to nestle in…accepting that it could be a lonnnnnng wait for the “right” opportunity. God has such a sense of humor.

Her and I had just hung the last of enlarged photos from her trips and our summer vacation in Scotland and Ireland when the interviews began with her current job. The room we just completed was quickly deconstructed with all the décor in boxes for her first apartment.

While the mess strewn everywhere, she began wrapping fragiles in what we wrapped her in 23 years ago in the hospital. All of us parents have these exact same, thin, worn wraps somewhere in our homes and it was too much for me when I saw them.

This baby girl is my independent one. We have a favorite family video of her loudly announcing at 2 1/2 years old, “I can do ittttt!” She did not want help. Her independence is part of her. While this is how she can go to a place where she knows zero people, this quality has also (somewhat) eased my Mama-pain over her departure from the nest.

Funny how she’s my most independent one, but she’s also the only one who still sleeps with the same “dollies” at 23 that she did at 2yrs old.

These near stuffing-less treasures went with her far away.

Though Google and Zuckerberg and Apple’s leadership were decades ahead of us in copying and saving our so-called “personal” data – long before society bothered to contemplate if snaps and posts and emails were being saved in massive data centers – and I really go off on a tangent about all of it :), I still embrace certain technologies that keep my babies and I connected. I wonder how I lived without Snapchat to show my kids something at a store. I’ve always refused to use FB despite the disappointment of my friends, but I spend plenty of time on FaceTime with my kids.

Even more than when the twins were at their universities and we talked every day, “live” technologies have officially become a greater blessing during my daughter’s first full week on the job. Snaps of her new office help me picture her there. Snaps of her food make me laugh since she loves to eat! FaceTime on lunch breaks and after work help us still “do life” together as much as we can with 7 states between us.

Though my independent one, she was quick to confirm that it would only be 7 weeks until I arrive for Easter weekend….”you are coming for Easter, right Mom?”

Well…who can say no to that invitation!?

“Mini Holidays” Help Us Celebrate Life and Keep Us Moving Forward

We tend to prioritize Christmas, Easter and Independence Day over holidays that we don’t get off work or school, such as the upcoming Valentine’s Day.

Rightly so. When we’re celebrating our country or our God, such holidays should take precedence.See the source imageAlthough many grumble about the so-called “Hallmark Holidays” – those that we spend on but keep working through – I fully embrace them. I’ll even put up a few decorations, albeit nothing like the winter wonderlands we all erect for Christmas. I like the little joys the mini-holidays bring.

I forgot this truth about myself as I grumpily walked through a store the week after Christmas.

Wandering the aisles on December 28th, I saw the line up of Valentine’s, a few Shamrocks and a couple of cotton tails. Although I admittedly grunted out loud because I couldn’t locate clearance Christmas wrap, I quickly shrugged off my silly disappointment and embraced the idea of moving forward.See the source image

Momentarily mesmerized by the glittery Valentine cards, I thought of my friend who we lost three years ago. The month before she met Jesus, she was talking about the trip we were about to go on together. It was her entire family of about 15 and us closest friends and our families, totaling around 27 for a week in the Outer Banks. As we finalized a few details, she looked at me solemnly and said, “I’m afraid that when we get back from this trip, I will decline rapidly…I’m looking forward to this but realistically, I probably won’t make it to Christmas.” She was thinking about the next big celebration. The anticipated vacation to North Carolina had kept her moving forward.

That was in June. She passed away in July, shortly after we all returned from that final trip together.

I don’t know why my mind goes to such deep places so quickly while merely rummaging through pretty things at a store🤔, but it gave me perspective. Retailers prematurely stocking shelves for holidays that don’t happen for months is a silly thing to grunt about. These little holidays keep us moving forward. Nothing wrong with spending a few short minutes staring at a sea of sparkling red in one aisle, green in the next and happy, fuzzy bunnies in the third aisle. We can enjoy a little pretty inside stores and our homes when the world outside is sometimes ugly.

I agree that the constant “too-early” merchandise displays are annoying and if we let them, they can rob us of living and enjoying the moment or truly, completely enjoying whatever holiday season it may be. I resist the retailers’ psychological ploy intended to create urgency that we “better get the stuff now” – 2 months ahead of time – when what we have stored in the basement is no doubt already more than we need.

However, I choose to buy candy hearts and expensive chocolates for my February 14th kitchen table, rejoicing that I have people to love and spoil. I put up shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day and decorate for Easter with the holy reminders along with big, stuffed bunnies. Who doesn’t feel better after squishing a soft, cuddly bunny? 🙂

The Superbowl tomorrow, MLB kickoff in March, NHL playoffs after that…these too give our families reasons to gather and eat and celebrate life. Some may scoff, but if such celebrations bring a little joy amidst the mundane and routine, why not?See the source image

(Click on images for source(s).)

One of the Best Christmas Gifts I Ever Received

I’ve never been great at answering the question, “what was the best gift you’ve ever received?”

Salvation? My children? Health? …. the list is long. But when pressed this year to come up with something tangible that was actually wrapped in paper, I had to say it was a Hallmark Store book titled, The Night Before Christmas.What’s so special about a story we’ve all heard since birth?

This one records voices.

My friend recorded my kids’ voices reading the famous tale in another room while I was prepping a meal, wrapped the book and gave it to me the same day. My twins were around 10 yrs. old and my youngest around 8 yrs. old at the time.

I was so touched and gushed about what a thoughtful gift it was. I meant it but could not have known how PRECIOUS that book would become in the subsequent years.

My daughters voices matured and of course my son’s voice has changed dramatically. Every year that I pull the book out and open each page, tears stream down my face. I close my eyes to picture those little voices running through the house at Christmas…over a decade has gone by since that gift was given to me.

If you regularly follow my blog, you’ll recall my posts about the wedding I attended in Scotland this past summer. The bride’s mama was my precious friend of 20 years who lost her cancer battle three years ago. Her departure at the too-young age of 49 makes me clutch that voice-recorded Christmas book even tighter to my chest, knowing that she gave me that gift that was so much more of a gift that I realized at the time.

The first few years, I think the book was nicely placed on top of some other decorations in a regular Christmas box, packed away until the next year. A couple years ago, I began wrapping that book so carefully…storing it as if it were gold. It is gold to me.

As I contemplate gifts for others in years to come, I’ll search out books that also record voices. It is a treasure for parents and if the book remains in tact as time passes, grown-up kids will certainly get a kick out of letting their children hear them when they were young.

I Can’t Have a Relationship with my Turkey

(Many people enjoyed this post so much last year, I thought it might be fun to re-post as we enter into Thanksgiving week…)

I live in a suburb that is home to several beautiful farms. Recently, I saw two different signs offering turkeys for sale for Thanksgiving. I pulled over to take photos of both signs so I could call the numbers in the next few weeks to place an order.

I thought it would be neat to tell everyone at Thanksgiving that they were enjoying a healthy, no-hormone-injected, no-inhumane-treatment-turkey from the local farm.

Then, at the second farm, I looked to my right to see the other sign that said “choose your turkey”. There in the cutest little coop were several, beautiful white turkeys clucking around with their fellow feathered friends and family members. The customer could select their turkey, visit it regularly, watching it grow plump over the next few weeks.I stared at them. They were adorable! I suddenly thought about how the kids would name the horses or cows down the street when they were little. I didn’t have the heart to tell them back then that those cows we were visiting would end up in someone’s freezer by fall.

Not to sound like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but I’m a meat-eater. I love a good roast, pulled pork and definitely a Thanksgiving turkey with plenty of gravy. However, I don’t think my enjoyment would be the same if I visited my selection for a month before picking him up headless.A few years ago, one of our 4H Moms had us over to plan out the year of crafts for our daughters. About an hour into the meeting, her daughter got up and said, “I’ll be right back, I need to go feed him.” I inquired about who she was feeding. Mom explained that every year her daughter independently purchased a small steer. She fed it daily and cared for it, eventually selling it the following year at fair.

When the girl came back into the house, I asked if she ever got attached and felt bad turning it over for slaughter. She shrugged saying, “Nope. I get paid $1300 at fair. I’m saving for college.”

While some may not get attached, I fear I might. Knowing me, I might actually name the bird during a visit. Then, I’m likely to share with the family that our meat was once “Bob” and we are eating him. My kids might get a chuckle, but I may have trouble digesting.

I momentarily felt conflicted about the whole turkey situation, but it does not make me consider being a vegetarian. I’m looking forward to the cherished meal.  I have to go order my turkey now. But, I’ll let the farmer choose one for me.