Category Archives: Memories

..the game of life..

.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…

..now…?

Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…

But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.

… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…

HA ha…

I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…

.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…

.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..

As I watched them play?

I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.

Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..

.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..

Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..

…special needs

…widowed

… job changes

… house fire

The point is?

The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..

Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??

…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…

… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..

“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”

I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.

.. ‘‘twas the day…

…”Twas the day after Christmas

.. and all through the house

… were the clutter of memories

… as Mom sat on the couch

Ok .. ok.. I promise I won’t do my whole post in rhyme..

…but as I sit here this morning.. I feel much like Mary as I “store up these memories and ponder them in my heart”.

As with everyone this season, I think we spent a little too much.. ate a little too much..

But this season I also slowed down a little..

For the first time in who knows how long..? I didn’t send out Christmas cards.

We made Christmas cookies.. but not enough to share with the whole community around us..

And my house is clean .. but not immaculate…

As we spent time all over the state with family this weekend, I thought about the talks I had with my mom-in-law.. the laughter that I shared with my nieces and nephews.. the memories I cherished with my daughter.. and all the moments in between..

…and just like Jesus’s mom?

I am hoarding all the memories in my heart to think about later..

What memories are you saving in your heart ??

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.us/111/luk.2.19.niv

Left behind..

Today I was flipping through the 100’s of photos I took last week.. and I found one I hadn’t intended to take.

The accidental picture of my shadow on the pavement amused me at first..

Partly because my first novel is titled “Shadows” … and it’s based on my belief that we are often affected by the “things” left behind by others in our lives.. the “shadows” that are left behind..

As I flipped through the rest of the pictures from that parade?

I started to see that picture in a different light..

So many of my pictures were intentional. I was capturing memories of my son as he rode in the back of a truck with a top hat .. talking to an angel of a girl. I intentionally took photos of the international students as they carried their flags in the parade. I tried to capture the joy on the faces of those kids around me as they enjoyed that day.

THEN? Then in the middle of these amazing photos.. is a random picture of the ground (and my shadow) .. that I had not intended on capturing.

How often is that the way life is?

Today I INTENDED to comfort a girl who was nervous about a presentation…

Today I INTENDED on being a good influence on a young man who struggles to trust people..

Today I INTENDED to encourage a little guy who hates math.. because he doesn’t understand it..

Today I INTENDED to impress on my son, the importance of good behavior in all places.. even the halls of school.

…but what about the other impressions I leave with people ..

…the impressions I hadn’t intended to give them?

My last few weeks have been jam packed and as I go into the last few weeks of theater season? They aren’t about to get any calmer..

… I always worry that in my times of stress, I will leave behind an impression.. (or a photograph of time…) that I hadn’t intended to give…

As a result?

When I feel emotions in me start to rise? Anger, frustration, impatience, .. or tears…? I take a deep breath … and decide on an intentional impression…

… and I hope that it’s the “photograph” of myself that sticks with someone..

.. and hope that it’s enough…

What are you leaving behind today?

..from the sidelines..

This week has been jam packed for me.

Ok .. this month has been jam packed for me.

Starting a new job… jumping into high school musical season.. trying to meet writing goals.. paperwork.. phone calls..

…Not to mention keeping the laundry up…

Soon enough?

Yup.. I’m exhausted and behind schedule..

But tonight I took a couple hours and just wore my “Mom” hat… I just sat on the sidelines of the action…. and watched..

Our high school does an annual Powderpuff football game.. and as is the tradition? Yup .. the boys dressed up as cheerleaders.

This year my son dressed up with them. And he cheered with them.

As most of you know.. my son has Autism .. and a splash of mood disorder.

But have I told you how this community has embraced my son. Embraced him and encouraged him. They challenge him to succeed and cheer on his successes…

… and my son has soared here..

Tonight?

Tonight my son did not need me. He did not want me to stand next to him. He did not NEED to hold my hand.

I did not need to stand in the trenches… the trenches of fighting battles within ourselves to move forward.

Tonight I was able to step back and watch my son from the sidelines. I was able to watch his confidence. I was able to see his joy and his independence. And his laughter…

In a world where the internet says how bad the world is?

I see a world where a senior class nominated my son for Homecoming court. Nominated my son.. a classmate who struggles to succeed every day.

I see a world where a senior class goes out of their way to make my son feel welcome on the Powderpuff field.

I see a world where a group of students will pause in the hall to talk with my son as he waits for his mom (who was running late)…

I see a world where my son felt safe enough to grow into an amazing young man..

…a world where my son has loved to go to school every day.. even though it was difficult for him to concentrate there. ..

Tonight as I took a break from my hectic schedule? I let the joy and peace from my son’s soul seep into me..

I don’t know how to thank so many people for the impact they have had on our family and most importantly on my son. They are ALL my heroes.

But I do know that today I enjoyed seeing my son be so Independent.. I enjoyed not being in the trenches of Autism…

As for my son… I’ll always be right here.. cheering him on from the sidelines..

Cherished messes..

I am sitting here this morning.. drinking my coffee out of my favorite cup.. and looking fondly at the messes I need to clean up this morning.

I know.. I know..

I sound crazy..

No one likes messes..

This weekend I had a few of my favorite kids over to my house.. (ok.. more than a few).. and we had some chaotic organized fun..

Organized.. because there was a plan (in there somewhere)…

Chaotic.. because… well? .. because it's life … and well? …they are kids..

We had game time, swimming at midnight, shaving cream painting, sundaes after dark, bonfires.. beautiful makeovers… movies until dawn..

.. and so much laughter..

For me?

I like to sit back and picture the room full of kids.. full of laughter.. full of memories.. full of chaos… so I can take a picture with my mind.. before I clean up the mess…

Those cherished memories stick with me long past the popcorn under the couch .. or the crayon marks on the table. Long past the grass in the pool or the loads of laundry..

And these little faces grow faster than I like..

Cherish your messes today.. and hug your loved ones..

Campfire stories..

When I was a little girl, I always had stories roaming around my head.

While I was picking flowers.. or doing chores.. or laying in bed.. the stories were there .. flitting in and out like snippets of a movie.

Ha.. many times I would get SO lost in the stories I was creating.. that I would pause in my chores .. and JUST enjoy the storyline I had come up with.

Yes… I probably was frozen in place, still washing the same cup.. with a dopey grin on my face…

((…you can imagine how thrilled my mother was with me.. most of the time….))

Then my two youngest brothers were born… the perfect audience for story snippets .. mwahahahahaha

Sitting out under the trees, I could weave grand adventures for the teenage mutant ninja turtles.. and Star Wars characters. And they would listen enthralled.. and then act them out.

Ok.. ok.. not the best characters for a teenage girl who wanted to be creative and adventurous.. but I honestly didn't mind.

Why?

Well?!? .. probably because for the first time, I was able to let those story snippets out of my brain and into the air. And 2 little faces enjoyed them as much as I did.

It felt amazing…

Years later I am still telling stories to little faces. First to my own kids.. and then to my nieces and nephews.

In fact… if we have a family campfire? I usually have a child or 2 on my lap (of varying shapes and sizes) asking for a story.. or 2 .. or 3..

Sometimes I tell stories of my kids when they were little.. (..especially stories of my daughter and her imaginary friends..)..

…sometimes I tell stories with "not so hidden" messages in them.. little pigs getting lost in the forest.. or trains that keep on trying..

… sometimes stories just for fun… stories about Curly (the smallest pig of 9 brothers.. who never gets enough to eat.. and is always looking for food.. )…

… lately I have been getting requests for stories that put the kids on my lap into harm's way.. so that they can be saved… (..bears, wolves… little old ladies who don't live in "gluten free" homes .. (shudders)..)..

But whatever the storyline, I love to see the upturned faces hanging on to my every word.. waiting to see what will happen next..

..begging for another one..

And it makes my heart happy when they tell me stories in return..

Life is so good..

That moment.. 

A million years ago.. ok.. it was more like 7 years ago.. I stood on my own doorstep letting the tears run down my face.. 

Someone had asked me how my son’s appointment had gone for his legs.. 

..it had NOT gone well.. not even close to well… and I could no longer hold my fears in.. or my sorrow .. 

I am a cry-er.. I am not a loud cry-er .. ha.. but neither am I a pretty cry-er .. I do think that I have cried enough tears (in my lifetime) to fill Lake Michigan. Tears of disappointment, tears of sadness.. tear of joy .. and worry.. and often anger.. 

But in that moment? 

In that moment.. I felt so many emotions I couldn’t sort them out. 

Why? 

Well.. what I thought were simple growing pains for my son? Those pains weren’t simple.. and my son needed an emergency surgery. The appointment that I had put off because it wasn’t convenient for my schedule? Putting it off those few days had caused my son to be in prolonged pain.. 

My 10 year old son’s growth plates were too soft to hold up his weight.. he would need a screw to hold that growth plate in place if he wanted to walk.. 

.. and me? I had been too busy trying to balance everything in my hectic life to notice…

.. so in that moment? 

In that moment.. as I let the tears pour down my cheeks..? 

I was so angry .. angry at myself for not seeing how much pain he was in (even if he didn’t complain).. I was so angry that I hadn’t made it a big deal about it when I called the doc for an appointment.. I was so angry that the surgery was going to cause him pain.. 

..  I was worried because.. well? ..worried because it was a surgery.. and worried because my son did not do well with hospitals …

..and disappointed.. 

.. disappointed because nothing in his short life had gone easy .. 

.. and .. I was sad… 

I was always strong.. I always carried my Faith in God’s plan like a Shield.. I always smiled through my tears .. always cheering others on .. 

..but in that moment? 

I couldn’t breathe.. I was broken.. 

..but on the other side of those tears? I picked myself up and trudged through the unknown territory that God had planned for me..for my son.. for our whole family.. 

I have often heard people say that “God will not give you more than you can handle”… I would often laugh and reply that I wish God didn’t have so much faith in me.. 

..but I think that statement is a lie… 

I think that God absolutely gives us more than we can handle.. but NEVER more than we can handle WITH HIS Strength .. 

With God .. All Things are Possible..       

                                      Matthew 19:26

.. even with my great Faith in my Heavenly Father.. I often find myself thinking I can plow through problems with my own strength.. I find myself not wanting to trouble God with my “little” problems because of all of the BIG problems that deserve His attention MORE than mine do.. 

..sometimes it takes me falling to my knees in tears .. sometimes it takes me feeling broken and alone… sometimes it takes “too much” .. to show me that I can’t do it on my own.. 

.. and then? 

Then God fills me with His Strength and His Love.. and All the things I have to do? They all become possible..

.. and it is all Beautiful in its time… 

Memories.. 

 I grew up a 1/2 mile from my grandparents’ house. An easy walk or ride from my house to theirs..

So is it any wonder that so many of my first memories had them in it?

Most of them were good memories.. at least until that heartbreaking day in fifth grade.. when they loaded up their new 5th wheel and drove to Florida for the winter ..

Even after that LONG winter FINALLY ended..  I collected good memories with them.

As the years passed, the visits became less frequent. I moved to Missouri with my husband (for his job). I became busy with my children… and schedules didn’t always  line up.

… still visits were a treasure ..

The last time I saw my gram, she didn’t recognize me. My aunts warned me ahead of time that it might happen.

But in that moment? That moment that I realized she indeed did NOT recall who I was?

It hurt .. for a moment ..

Then she smiled at me.. and patted my hand..

and I realized..

it didn’t matter if she remembered me..

Why?

Because I remembered her..

I remembered her keeping special toys at her house for us.. A little people’s school and camper..

I remembered how she would always keep fruit around to give us..

how she taught me to eat rhubarb with sugar…

how she loved the color blue, but “hated” her red hair..

How she loved working with her roses and her rhododendrons.. and her fruit trees..

how every card I ever got was simply signed “Gram K”…

I remember how she greeted every LEFT handed person she met.. how she taught us to make her potato salad.. her spending hours with us sewing clothes.. her salt & pepper collection.. and Norman Rockwell plates..

…singing with her.. laughing with her ..

And when I said “good-bye” at the end of that last visit? She smiled and said “I’m so glad I got to meet you.” That same smile that would light up her eyes.

So you see? It isn’t important that my Gram didn’t remember me in the end.. because it wasn’t really about me.

It was about her.. 

..and her legacy that she leaves behind. And as long as I remember her? As long as I continue to retell her stories and sayings?

Then she will continue to live on in our hearts ..

So tell her stories I shall..

Imagine…

Do you know what you get when you are raised in a family with a Strong faith in God.. AND you have a vivid imagination?

Something beautiful .. aaaand a little scary at times. 

When I was little? My dad would tell me that even if I THOUGHT I could get away with doing “little” bad things with no one knowing..? That God would still know.. And it would break His heart to see me make bad choices. 

In my mind’s eye I could see a God like “face” looking at me .. The same way that my earthly father looks at me when he had to punish me.. Broken hearted and sad.. Maybe tears in His majestic eyes? 

Yup.. That kept me on the straight and narrow.. (90% of the time).. 

But sometimes my imagination is just plain good.. 

This morning I received the call that my grandma passed away. 

The only grandma I have ever known .. Had gone home to heaven. 

It was peaceful for her .. She was surrounded by the family who could make it in time.. They were loud at times.. (How could that be peaceful you ask?)  She would have liked it loud and lively. She loved to see the “characters” around her. I think even when she was resting .. she was probably comforted by the loud voices and laughter.. 

But I can imagine that moment when she slipped from this world into the next.. 

In that moment?

 Standing outside those pearly gates.. She would see her 3 children, that went along Home before her, waiting patiently for her. Her parents would be there too.. And her siblings.. 

But in the middle of them all? 

In the middle of them all, I imagine my grandpa standing. I can see his eyes light up when he finally sees her. The way his eyes always lit up when he saw her. 

And then? 

Ha ha.. Then he’d say something sassy like.. “What took you so long?” Or “I’ve been waiting for you for ages!”

Then I imagine my Gram K would smile gently and put him in his place.. With a “It wasn’t my plan to send you on ahead..” Or more likely… “Well .. waiting builds character.”

And then my Grandpa will laugh .. The way he always does when her quiet sass amuses him. 

Someday it will be my turn to meet them all at the pearly gates.. And I know they will show up to meet me. 

Until then I have to finish the things God sent me here to do.. 

But I am so curious.. 

I wonder if my Gram K will have her bright red hair back in heaven.. (Which would make my Grandpa happy..) .. Or if she will be able to convince God that the gray hair suits her better .. (After all? You can’t wear pink with red hair..) 

Deep Roots…

dpp_0017I love family trees.. I love to try to trace my ancestors back to their origins.. The countries they were born in..  Oh the stories these trees would have to tell.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to listen to these ancestors tell their stories..?? And to be able to ask them questions.. like why did you leave your countries? Would it have been for adventure? Greater freedoms? Escaping bad memories?

Oh the possibilities…

I mean .. really? I have a great great grandfather named Dougal McDougall. An afternoon with him?

YES PLEASE

But there is more… Great people like Fredrick Law Olmsted.. or the original Olmsteds who came over when America was young. Sarah Fitzgerald (what a fun name).. the Von Kuhlmans from Germany..

All of it has me so curious and writer side of me ITCHES to record it all…

But then there is the Start side of my family. My Grandma Betty.. and her parents. They are Dutch.. all from the Netherlands. This side of the family never seemed as interesting to me.

Why??

Well… because they were so familiar to me. Familiar and safe. My grandma’s dad had a soft laugh when he was amused. My grandma’s mom was always smiling. They would offer you little candies from little dishes. Their backyard was like a little park. And even when they were upset with you (hey.. we were kids).. you just felt disappointed in yourself.. not scared.

My Gram Betty is in so many of my memories.. I remember her singing Brenda Lee songs with me.. and Johnny Cash’s “Everybody loves a nut.” I remember her always giving us fruit to snack on.. teaching me to eat rhubarb with sugar…. telling me that her “mom always said there would be days like this,”… sometimes adding with a wink, “she never mentioned there would be so many”… I remember her wearing hats… I remember laughing with her when she recalled being relieved to turn gray so “early”.. instead of “that awful red”… (Which we all know her red hair was actually quite pretty.. because grandpa always told us).. and I remember her being called Miss Blue. Because she loved the color blue.

img_3496After my grandparents moved to Florida, my memories of them were more sparse.. but just as loved. I loved hearing about their travel adventures.. their little arguments… and hearing my grandma use her age as an excuse for not having to do things she didn’t want to..

My grandpa died young.. only in his 60’s.. but I have so many teenage memories of him teasing my grandma, winking at me.. his laugh that echoed joyfully where ever he was.. his bear hugs.. and his more serious moments when he encouraged me to reach for the stars. (Not his exact words.. but that’s how I always felt. He had so much faith in my future being great.)

This side of my own family tree is the strongest side.. The Start/Kuhlman Roots of my tree go down deep… Deeper than any roots on paper. The love.. the stability.. the generations of support.. those roots go deeper than any other branch of my family tree.

But as a teenager?

These roots felt like home.. and I wanted adventure.. I wanted to be like Dougal McDougall and set forth from my homeland for adventures and tales across the sea…

As an adult? I realize that I missed an opportunity to explore those roots. I was always exploring the branches.. looking out over the horizons.. looking to the future.

Today?

Today instead of looking for adventures… instead of feeling curious about the great people of the past.. or wondering what tales my exciting ancestors might have to tell?

Today I am wishing for a conversation with my quiet, safe Grandma in Florida… To hear her soft laugh.. or hear her tell me that her “mom always told me there would be days like this”, and that “this too shall pass”.  To hear her tell of her sassy days of dating my grandpa.gram-k-2016

And I’d love to tell her how much I love her .. and how she shaped my life and gave me such strong roots.