Homecoming

Last night, I wanted to call Mom. I wanted to talk to her about the new school quarter and work and other sundry things. She used to show up announced when I worked at the City, bearing gifts. Sometimes it was a blouse she picked up at Goodwill for me. Sometimes it was a funny mug. It was a little embarrassing. I won’t lie.

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As she hugged me, I would breathe in her scent. Peace would wash over me.

The last time we visited Mom, before she entered the hospital, I thanked her for giving me music. I wouldn’t be a musician or have pursued a degree in flute if not for her exposure from concerts, recordings, and active encouragement. I thanked her for giving me literature. She read books to me all of my childhood. I love books because of her. We had our own very small book club over the years, swapping books we enjoyed back and forth and discussing them. I thanked her for giving me comedy. My brother and I both have her sense of humor. She took us to see Wayne Brady at the Schnitz when he came to Portland. We love to laugh and often find humor in the worst situations. It’s a survival technique, I reckon.

Mom thanked me, looking me in the eye. She heard me. We connected that Saturday. Turns out that was the very last time we’d have a good connection.

But I couldn’t call her. She died the night before: Sunday, January 12.

On Sunday, she moved back to the VA home. She didn’t transfer well. Her breathing sped up. She couldn’t get enough to drink. Fortunately, some of her siblings made it into town and got to visit with her. We took turns speaking to her in the darkened room, Mom’s oxygen machine bubbling in the background.

When it was my turn, I held her birdlike hands with the long fingers. Her eyes fluttered open. I asked if I could sing to her. She loved to sing and grew up the daughter of an Episcopal minister. I started singing “Holy, Holy, Holy”. I managed the first verse and part of the third then forgot the rest of the words. No matter, I was crying anyway. The membrane between earth and heaven was so thin. She didn’t have long. Mom committed her life to Christ several decades ago at an Easter Service at our church in Coos Bay. I prayed He would take her because there was nothing any of us could do for her now but wait.

One of the Stanley clan read her the 23rd Psalm. This person felt like maybe they’d overstepped. Folks, that was her favorite psalm. Then they prayed an Episcopal benediction prayer over her. God whispers to our heart all the time, if we only listen. I thanked this person for doing what I couldn’t. They blessed Mom when she needed it most.

We went out to dinner and got caught up on each others’ lives. Though we hated the circumstances of why we gathered, the time together was sweet.

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That night (Sunday) at around 8:45 p.m., the VA home called. During the routine bed-check, they discovered Mom was gone. She held on as long as she could. I want to thank everyone who wrote or called to support me. I haven’t been super responsive, but appreciate each and every one of you. Your prayers and kindness have held me up.

However, life goes on. A gibbous moon shone down on Dakota and I in the early morning, complete with its own halo. It snowed last night. A thin frosty white coat covers everything. Yet birds continue to call to each other. They gather food and nesting materials. Mom is in a better place, safe with her holy Shepherd, singing her favorite songs, reunited with family and friends. I am glad.

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Journey of 2,000 Miles

This morning, we fly to Wisconsin. We were just there back in July, visiting Jonathon’s folks. Today we make the trek again because his mom has brain cancer. I’ve hesitated to write this, because I want her to beat it. She’s an amazing woman, strong and unstoppable, able to do almost anything she sets her mind to. But the fact is the doctors have given  her less than a year to live.  Hence the trip.

I’m sitting here typing this in front of the fake fire. It’s raining outside. Zac is showering. Ruby is doing whatever takes teenage girls so long to do in the a.m. Jonathon is reading something on his phone. It’s quiet. Right now, I need the quiet. It’s been go-go-go for weeks now, with the church Christmas program last night plus ensuing rehearsals f work exploding and me trying to fix it, navigating power outages (at work), and on and on.

I am tired. Coffee has touched the exhaustion, but barely. I am tired down to my hair. Even my fingernails feel pooped. All I want to do is curl up in bed and sleep until next week.

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One can dream.

I’m looking forward to the time with my immediate family and the Isham clan. We’ve got a 2-hour drive to SEA-TAC, a four hour flight and then a 3-hour drive to our rental home. Wisconsin has snow. Tempts are slightly above freezing during the day and then slide down to the 20s at night, at least in Beaver Dam, which is where we’re staying. Christmas forecast shows a light dusting of snow is possible. The kids are stoked.

It’s going to be good. I will lean on the joy of the Lord and He will hold me up. He will hold all of us up.

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.

They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary.

They will walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

 

Lost in Wisconsin, Part 2

We’re visiting Wisconsin again to celebrate Jonathon’s parents’ 50th anniversary. Two days ago, we pulled up to our Air B&B house in Sun Prairie at dusk. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied a spark. A bonfire next door?

“Fireflies!”

They winked on and off in the neighbors’ yard. Then we spotted some in our yard. They put out a tiny light in the darkening sky. After we moved all our gear inside, Ruby and I hung out in the yard. We tried to catch them, but they were too quick.

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We didn’t see nearly this many, but we are in town. It felt magical. The last time we visited Wisconsin, I missed seeing fireflies. I sacked out when it got dark. Jonathon and Ruby saw them, swirling around our cabin in the woods. I couldn’t understand why the neighbors didn’t enjoy them outside with us. Then I got bitten by a mosquito, under my clothes. Never mind.

It’s humid and stormy here of late. It rained off and on most of the day yesterday. Did I mention I brought no long pants on this trip? Because, Wisconsin in July. And when I’m outside, I’m not cold. But wet clothes + frigid air conditioning = cold all the time. So. I learned something. It’s okay to overpack a little. Fleece can span the seasons.

Today, despite a bit of run-walking yesterday, I only had energy to walk. I got out and the air blew cool. Rabbits fled from my presence. I walked along, admiring blooming yards. I willed myself to wake up. I spied a cardinal on a high wire, greeting the morning. I walked all the way out of Sun Prairie, past the cemetery and the middle school. I turned around and walked back.

I figured I’d check into one of the small neighborhoods off the main street to add a little more time. I hooked a left and then went straight. I found a penny on the sidewalk. Ala the Non-Consumer Advocate, I picked up the scruffy cent. I felt the back of my pants to slide it into the pocket. Why was my pocket inside out? That can happen with workout pants. A little embarrassed, I reached back and tried to push it back in. Which is when I realized my pants were on inside out. Again. Really?! I could see the logo on my right thigh, the North Star that guided me in getting dressed this morning. Now I noticed it was the embroidered underside of the logo, not the top. Up to this point, I hadn’t seen a single person out this early on a Saturday morning. A piece of God’s mercy, that. I pulled my shirt down all the way and prayed my good fortune would continue. I went on and took another left to get back to the road. But the left took me to a T in the road. Left was Davenport Court and right was Elvin Street. Hmm. Now what? I should mention the street was torn up, a sandy gravel surface and fresh concrete pours all blocked off. I was lost. Also, again.

Sigh.

I backtracked the way I’d come. I saw the street I’d turned down, Kohler, and ambled back to the main street. Aha! Now, which way? I looked left. I looked right. I saw the dumpster I’d passed before. Was that before or after I’d gotten turned around? I decided to take a chance and step right. “You can’t steer a parked car”, as the old saying goes. Then I saw the sign for MARS (a remodeling business, not the planet), with its paint-chipped Buddha squatting underneath it. Almost home.

As I walked down the short street, I remembered how getting lost can help us appreciate home, no matter where we are. I thought of a combination of bumper stickers I saw on the way into work the other day: Wander Home. It’s okay to get lost, to find adventure, but eventually wander home and find safety. Love. Security. Peace. Family.

P.S. Also, sometimes it can pay to get lost. But it might be only a penny.

 

All in the Family

Not the TV show.

Not the TV show.

Ruby and I have been in the bowels of sickness.  Not literally, of course.  Ruby’s had a bit of flu. Her temperature spiked yesterday morning before church and she played slug the rest of the day.  Her raccoon-ringed eyes, also worn red from rubbing, showed her weariness. I stayed home with her yesterday while the menfolk went to church. After a few movies and TV shows, I learned that the newer “Angelina Ballerina” stinks.  Just FYI.

Families are a great institution.  Ours eats meals together.  We play games, ride in the car, use the same bathrooms (separately) and common rooms.  We attend church, too.  Our faces and mannerisms resemble each other. We sometimes argue and disagree.  We have a similar sense of humor.  Poor kids.  Those good things make me happy; they help make us a united group.

Today, I’m feeling a little icky.  Runny nose and slight fever and very, very tired. This is one thing I dislike about families.  We share germs.  Sharing illness is another thing entirely.

I’m pacing myself through laundry. Ruby’s playing Minecraft now, a much perkier version of herself, though still coughing.  Zac got all his schoolwork done early.  We constituted a crowded crew on the couch, giggling as we view The Lego Movie yet again.

As far as the TV show “All in the Family” goes, I only watched it a few times.  Even as a kid, I hated the dysfunctional relationships depicted on the screen. Overbearing, bigoted Archie Bunker married to timid and idiotic Edith.  Their daughter, good-natured Gloria married to liberal-minded Mike. All of them forced to live under one roof and fighting, fighting, fighting.  Their dynamic may have been normal for some, but I didn’t like it. The disrespect between the family members turned me off.  I couldn’t see the love.  I wanted something better.  Heck, I craved it.  And I was barely out of diapers, anyway.  Ahem.

I want to show our kids what membership in God’s family looks like as well. God’s family is a community of believers, growing in love together.  However, we’re not perfect.  I have a role in the family, as do my fellow Christians.  I need to continue to seek His face and walk in the fruits of the Spirit.  I take communion regularly, remembering Christ’s sacrifice. I need to offer forgiveness and ask for it when necessary.  The only way into God’s fellowship is through repentance for sins and accepting the blood of Jesus as sacrifice to cover you.  The best part is it’s never too late to become part of the family.  There’s room for you.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

I’m listening to the rain.  We’ve got another flood watch warning.  Plus snow on Saturday.  But to quote Scarlett O., “Tomorrow is another day.”

I made four pies for Thanksgiving: two pumpkin, one pecan with chocolate chips and a peach pie.  No, I didn’t make any of the crusts.  While I can make pie crusts, I don’t like making them.  It’s a messy and iffy ordeal, at best.  By the time I got to the peach pie, I realized I didn’t have enough butter in the house to make a top crust.  I didn’t want to shop anywhere on Thanksgiving.  It’s a holiday, people!  Go home and be with your families and watch football, or nap.

This is why the pie looks like it’s composed of human remains. Eat up, me hearties!

peach pieSigh.  Baking fail.

I’ve got plenty of leftover pie (especially peach), though.  So…win!

But none of that matters.  My family is gracious and kind.  They even tried it.  I tried it, too.  It tasted…okay.  A little whipped cream didn’t hurt, either. We sat and laughed around the table.  We told jokes and stories and ate juicy turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings.

On this day after Thanksgiving, I guess what I’m left with is a glow that can only be described as gratitude.  Things will never be perfect in life, whatever that is.  But I’m loved and very blessed. I’m thankful for family and friends and you, dear readers.  Happy post-Thanksgiving!

 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. – Psalm 107:1

 

 

Rockaway Redux

We’ve been down in Rockaway, OR, for a family reunion-vacation.  Seventeen of us, 10 adults and 7 children, fill this lovely hilltop home. Each morning starts out foggy, the beach and Twin Rocks completely obscured by the white blanket.  At times, if you’re out running on a weekend morning, you might think the fog smells a lot like bacon. That’ll make you pick up your feet.  

If you’re out early, you might see newts sitting in the middle of the road.  Optimistic, that.

You might also see deer crossing 101 in search of the perfect early morning nibble. 

 

You might also create something playing endless games of memory and canasta, talking over old times along with new challenges, and eating great food with people you love can give you: great memories.

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The view from our house.

The view from our house.

Zac, with Ruby as photobomb

Zac, with Ruby as photobomb

Dad and Ruby, goofing around

Dad and Ruby

 

Lonely Banana

Ruby and I did some food shopping before school this morning.  Her school, that is, not mine.  We also needed to put gas in the car.  She helped me pump it. I like Ruby’s company, and this way I took care of one of several chores listed for today.

We strolled the store. We looked at cereal.  We picked out soda.  We also got meat, honey, and a bunch of other stuff.

Rounding into the produce aisle, we hit up the banana stand.  I’ve become more of a banana convert since getting serious about running.

I picked up a bunch, held it and estimated its weight, then put it in the cart.

“Mom, look at that banana,” Ruby said. She pointed at the display.

I looked.  One banana sat alone, not attached to any pack.  A rare sight indeed.

“It looks…lonely,”Ruby mused.  She didn’t like the banana, off by itself.  It disturbed her somehow.

She picked up the singular banana and placed it on top of another grouping.  Of course, anyone grabbing up the bundle would know it didn’t belong.  But this way the crescent-shaped loner could at least *look* like it was part of a large family.

I chuckled.  I don’t think of my food having feelings.  Ruby does.

I immediately thought of the scripture: God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. – Psalm 68:6

I don’t think bananas are rebellious.  Usually.  And they thrive in sunny climes.  I don’t think the prisoner part applies to this situation, either.  But the lonely acquiring a family, yes! Everyone has value and deserves to be included. However, not everyone has a natural family.  I’m blessed to have all my parents and in-laws still around.  I’ve got siblings and nieces and nephews, not to mention a husband and kids of my own.

Are you an only banana?  Look and see if there isn’t a family who would love to add you to their cluster. For those of us who already belong to a tribe, who needs to be in our family?  Who are the “lone wolves” who could use companionship? Are we so busy taking care of “us four and no more” that we fail to look outside? As believers, we get to be God’s hands and feet here on earth. With the Lord’s help, I know I can do better.