Tag Archives: daughters

Collecting leaves…

This time of year has always been a reflective time for me.

With all the leaves falling and changing colors? I stop to think about the year so far.

Some of the leaves falling are bright colored and fascinating. Others fall already dark and dull.

Some of leaves fall right next to the roots of the tree .. and some travel quite a ways.

Sometimes those leaves can be pretty messy.. and not fun to clean up. But I cannot help but be thankful for the trees anyway.

The bright colored leaves are fun to collect. I’ve often thought about making a collection of them. But then I always toss them back into the wind.

In many way, the memories from this year are like those leaves. Some of them shine with bright colors and bring a smile to my face.

Some of them?

Some are darker moments.. and take a lot more time to process .. They are still part of my year but not the memories I want to dwell on.

But today?

Today, as I watched a brightly shining leaf fall on a dried up dull one…?

I wondered… would that leaf look so bright…?

… if it hadn’t just fallen after the darker one?

As I picked up the bright red leaf…

I remembered the moment I put my feet in the grass for the first time… after I had been too sick and too weak to do so for weeks.

That grass.. that ordinary grass… looked like the most amazing of God’s creations to me .. in that moment.

But would it have looked as amazing to me? If I hadn’t struggled to get down the stairs? If I hadn’t needed to carry an oxygen tank to get that far?

No. The grass would have looked ordinary to me.. without the dull colored leaf to compare it to.

This November, I am going to post my thankful posts. But they may look a little different. I’m going to be thankful 2021 style.

I am going to collect those brightest colored leaves before they blow away… and maybe a few dull colored ones while I am at it.

The world I choose to live in…

The world I choose to live in? Is very big…

.. and full of love…

Over the last six years, our family has chosen to bring young people from around the world into our home, into our lives .. and into our hearts.

.. and I have loved every minute of it.

I started hosting exchange students so that I could share the country that I love with the rest of the world…

… what I got?

These beautiful souls… they gave me the world.

A big beautiful world.

But ever since January?

The world has seemed a little smaller. We have been watching as the Corona virus has edged closer.. covering distances that look so far away on the map.

Edged closer to us in the USA..

… but scary for us… closer to my adopted exchange children scattered around the globe…

My current exchange student watched as it affected her country… the beautiful Thailand.

… we watched how it affected the countries on the other side of the world, while we continued to live life … trying to enjoy every moment…

As countries started to go into lockdown, we watched Italy where one of our girl’s family lives.

.. along with the UK where she was at school. Checking in when she was trying to get back home to Italy after the flights were getting cancelled.

At the same time watching Egypt… checking in with my sweet Egyptian girl when I hadn’t heard from her in a while.

.. and South Korea… Relieved that their numbers weren’t as severe, even being close to China…

.. and Turkey… talking with my girl there as she needed to leave her college and return to her hometown. To pray as she took a long bus ride with possible sick people….

… then as it got closer to our part of the world.. I added Brazil to the countries we watched…

… and Columbia… the daughter that just went home…

… And we watched Liberia where my sister was working…

… Not to mention ALL of the pieces of my heart that live in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Belgium…

We watched as this virus shut down each state in the US… one by one. As the sick count grew.. and the deaths started to rise…

…and I could go on…

I have family around the world now…

… and a love for people and places around the world…

… a love for food from around the world….

But this virus has taught me something else…

As I watched all of my daughters talk about being quarantined.. a few saying that they can’t even STEP outside. They can’t go to the store.. or work..

All of them saying they need to stay at home.

I can see so much clearer how similar we ALL are..

We all are a little worried about the virus…

…we are ALL worried about each other….

We ALL miss our family a little bit more when we can’t see each other….

…and….

Ha… and we are all very bored and can’t wait for it to be done.

In this world that I choose to live in?

It is so easy to see how we are all in this TOGETHER…

…together in love and spirit… even if we are separated by miles and oceans…

And even though my heart hurts a little bit more today… having the pieces of my heart divided all around this big beautiful world… I am so thankful for this world that I choose to live in.

Today as I pray for my family here in my house.. my family here in Michigan.. my family around the world…. I pray they stay healthy… but I also pray that they have joy and laughter in their lives while they are quarantined…

…. and a healthy dose of patience with the world… as we ALL are trying to figure out the next step…

.. a whole new world for all of us!!!

Love from my family to yours!!!

.. finished plans

“.. and it is finished!”

20 years after I started.. I put the last photo in a frame and closed every painful prong..

Flipping it over, I let the memories flood over me as I studied each picture in my daughter’s collage..

Ok ..

It wasn’t really finished. I opened up those painful prongs one more time and straightened a couple pictures .. and… changed places of two..

.. but then it was finished..

When we started this project 20 years ago.. the plan was simple!

Choose 1 picture to represent every year of her life..

Add in her newborn picture and her graduation photo..

Waa Laa… Easy peasy plan… and Go!

At the time I made that plan? I’d only been a parent for a year.. with my second on the way.

BWAHAHAHA…

I had no idea what life had in store for me… how big my adventures with my kids would be.. NO idea how big my kids’ personalities would be..

I had NO idea how many pictures we would take each year..

After 5 years? … after only 5 years, the task of only picking 1 picture was too daunting.. and I did not chose that year.

The rule of no one else in the photos was quickly set aside.. and the rule against school photos.. gone..

The plan was to display this collage at my daughter’s graduation.. but it wasn’t finished ..

So the new plan was to finish it before the open house. I pulled 200 pictures to fill 20 slots..

Sooooo….?

So.. the new plan was to fill board after board with pictures that represented my daughter’s life… for the open house… then I’d finish the collage later…

..That was 2 years ago…

This morning I was supposed to be cleaning.. because we have a houseful of guests coming to celebrate the New Year with us!

..so naturally ..

I pulled that collage down and started pulling pictures to put in each year’s slot.

I started pulling one picture for each missing year.. but they didn’t fit the sized pictures I needed… they weren’t following the rules.. and it still wasn’t working the way I planned..

The more I sorted?

.. the more I realized…

Life doesn’t follow rules.. and it doesn’t take plans into consideration…

So instead.. ?

I started pulling the pictures that showed the light in her eyes .. the ones that emphasized her beautiful soul… and sense of humor..

.. and before I knew it… ?

It was finished..

Parenting is like that…

Parenting doesn’t follow rules.. and it doesn’t take plans into consideration…

We started out with ideas.. a road map.. an “easy peasy” plan for success..

.. and then we went off-roading.. so far off road that our parenting job could not be more different from what we thought..

But .. you know what??

I think it’s better than what we planned..

This life? …it is so beautiful…

I have a collage full of pictures to prove it..

..among the weeds…

We planted a garden this summer.. the way we usually do.. Planned which vegetables we wanted to plant.. the way we usually do. And then my husband installed the irrigation system.. the way he always does..

… and then life happened…

This time of year usually finds me knee deep in green beans and surrounded by quart jars of dill pickles..

.. but life happened this summer… and we have neither..

With graduation events.. family trips planned… and family emergencies that weren’t… laughter and camping that were scheduled into our plans… finding a sick kitten in the driveway tube that wasn’t.. lawn mowers that wouldn’t start…  to-do lists that wouldn’t end…

img_0462

… with no rain… high temperatures… and no extra time to weed and pamper the vegetable plants…?? The garden didn’t do well… and by the time we remembered to check on it.. the weeds were high and it was definitely too late to replant…

Wandering through the weeds today, I noticed a couple plants had survived.

One was the reliable zucchini plant. It’s not very exciting but we are really good at growing zucchini in our garden.

More exciting to me.. there were quite a few tomato plants. I always enjoy tomatoes.. especially the little cherry sized ones. NOT to mention fried green tomatoes…

img_0790 YES.. the tomatoes were a good find.

As I pulled back some weeds to give these plants some room to grow.. I stumbled across a couple cucumber plants. Struggling to survive without sunlight.. choked out by the tall weeds.. but still alive.

Excited to see so much surviving in this overgrown and neglected garden, I started pulling weeds with more energy.

As I knelt there in the dirt… I realized our lives are like my garden..

There are seasons where we will not have the energy or resources to water our talents or hobbies. We may not have the time to weed out our bad habits or negative thoughts..

And harvesting? That will have to wait.

When I first became a mom.. the only thing I paid attention to? Yup.. watering those baby plants. The other corners of my garden were virtually forgotten..

When my son was diagnosed with Autism.. and then a mood disorder… Yup.. the corners of my garden grew high with weeds again..

I didn’t water my friendships… I didn’t weed out my worries… I didn’t take time to read for fun.. or to write for enjoyment.. My adventure plants were nearly choked out…

…and my self care?

I don’t think that plant survived…

Doctors and friends often remind me that I never take enough time for myself.

You see?

My “zucchini plant”? My boring, stable.. always present … can’t kill talent?

Taking care of others..

And I do it really well… sometimes too well. So well.. at times.. that I over-volunteer.. I over-work myself.. over commit …

…under eat.. under sleep.. under relax ..

… and forget to leave enough energy to enjoy my interests…

My tomato plants…? My exciting adventure plants… my love to read and write… my love to play baseball in the backyard? .. to watch Jane Austen movies?

Those plants are surviving.. but they don’t have a lot of fruit on them.

And those cuke plants? Friendships and relationships?

Pulling back the weeds, I always find that they are still there. Ready to listen .. and to laugh. But I need to go looking for them more often.

Surprisingly… after the really long year ?

My garden is full of ALL KINDS of interesting things. I pulled out unique plants I have never seen before, beautiful weed flowers.. and huge pricker bushes.

I find that all kinds of beauty.. and ugliness can come from struggles in life. Doubts and bitterness… anger… fears… they can ALL take root in your garden. So can surprise friendships, new knowledge… new skills… blessings in unexpected forms.

While I walked my journey as a parent of a son with Autism.. I had doubts as to whether I could be a good parent.. I had anger that my son had to endure so much.. FEAR that we would never make it past each “phase”… fear that I would fail my son…

… but…

But I also found some amazing friendships among the flowers that walked with us… Paraprofessionals, special education directors, speech therapists, teachers… students in his classes… parents of his peers…

I developed a huge knowledge data base.. that I found could be applied to all kids..

I developed a vast amount of patience… that I didn’t know I had… Patience that I apply to every aspect of my life.

When a difficult season of life was over?

I found myself kneeling in the dirt… pulling weeds.. letting the sun shine on forgotten parts of my life.. finding friendships that I had neglected…

Today I pulled out those pricker bushes… all the fears and anger… Remembering how happy and thriving my kids are… I threw those fears in the pile with the doubts and exhaustion….

But… when my hand came across a weed flower? A friendship I hadn’t expected.. one I didn’t plant… and I certainly didn’t plan for?

I simply smile… and clear the plants surrounding it.

And today.. as I looked around my garden…? Among those weeds..?

I realized that some of my favorite things weren’t planned for…

.. mosquitos ..

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind here in our house..

.. graduation and family vacations …

… emergencies…

.. new pets…

It was so busy that I almost cancelled one of my author events. It seemed selfish to do something for me, when there was so much to do at home.

But in the end, I kept my event. And I spent a marvelous couple days with my girl..

.. even though my girl didn’t feel well..

.. even though the hotel was less than we had hoped for..

… even though the weather was a little too cold for the sunset..

Still???

Still we had a marvelous time..

.. we laughed and talked as the sun went down..

.. we shivered and talked as we took pictures of the seagulls..

… created works of art and had a few laughs as we watched the sun go down a little more ..

As we limped across the sharp rocks to the warm car, we laughed at each other’s gasps of pain..

BUT when I got into the car.. it filled up with mosquitoes..

when I left the door open to get one more pictures.. ?? Even more mosquitoes flew into the car..

ok.. more than few.. it was like a cloud of mosquitos… and they were biting me through my sweatshirt..

This surprised me…

We had sat on the beach for over 30 minutes.. and I had not noticed ONE mosquito..

.. NOT ONE…

.. but then? Then I realized .. I had been focusing on the moment. Focusing on my girl and what she had to say.. focusing on the laughter.

There could have been a million mosquitoes.. and I wouldn’t have seen them.

Life is like that..

If I let the mosquitoes bother me? The bills.. the busy schedule ahead.. the housework.. conflict.. ??

It blocks out the “present”..

But when I write down those worries .. and schedule a time for them? Then maybe… JUST maybe.. I can focus on the present …

MAYBE I’ll even find time to write more..

As we drove away from the beach that night.. we laughed at the mosquitoes swarming around our heads..

… then decided to stop .. and get one more picture…

Growing.. 

A little over a week ago, I took my exchange daughter to the airport. It’s always hard to say “see you later” to these girls. They truly become a part of my heart during the time that they stay with me. 

But this last daughter was something that I didn’t expect. She was something I didn’t even know I needed. 

She helped me grow. 

Yes .. yes.. I know.. I should be done growing. 

But I’m not.. and honestly I doubt I ever will be. 

And today? Today I am so glad that she was a part of my year. I’m glad she taught me to live in the moment.. and to love myself.. and to remember what is truly important.. 

I can’t wait to hug her again.. but she is a part of my heart everyday from now until I do!!! 

I love you Başak.. today and always… and I am EVER so thankful that God led you to my door.

Sunsets.. 

The number one reason people give for NOT hosting an exchange student? It’s that the “good byes” would be too hard in the end.. 

..and today I would agree..

..the good-byes when I send home an exchange daughter are hard.. 

..beyond hard.. 

But the alternative would be hard as well.. 

In order for me to never hurt.. in order for me to never cry.. never hesitate.. or miss someone? 

Yup.. 

I would have to NEVER grow close to any one .. not a pet.. not a child .. and not an exchange student.. 

I would have to NOT live.. 

…and BOY have we lived.. 

Today my 3rd exchange daughter carried her luggage out of my house and loaded it into her mother’s rental car.. 

A year’s worth of memories and living were packed into those suitcases.. A year’s worth of holiday gifts and souvenirs… and some chocolate covered pretzels too.. 

..but what weighs more than those suitcase?

The love that we shared over the last year.. the laughter … the inside jokes.. the memories.. the songs we sang in the car.. the movies we watched.. the hugs.. and the tears we shared.. 

I can’t say that I would give back that “living”.. just to save a few tears .. (ok.. a LOT of tears)… 

I thought about that as I watched the sunrise this morning… 

..sometimes we only appreciate how beautiful the day was as we watch the sun set at night.. and sometimes we are sad to see it end.. 

..but then? 

Then if we watch carefully (and get up early enough).. we can watch the sun RISE on a new day.. a day full of promise and full of new possibilities.. 

So today as the “sun sets” on the time my exchange daughter stayed in my home.. I am a little sad that it’s over.. and I am spilling more than a few tears remembering how much we have lived this year.. 

..my cup runneth over tonight.. 

..but tomorrow morning?

Tomorrow a new day will dawn. A new chapter with my borrowed daughter.. a new life where we exchange pictures and video calls.. and ridiculous snapchats… where we continue to share in each other’s joys and sorrows.. and plan visits.. and I think that day will be just as beautiful (in its own way)..

So tonight I will enjoy my beautiful sunset.. with a few tears of love.. 

I loved my “day” with you here Bea.. can’t wait to spend tomorrow with you.. 

Turning a page.. 


You know that feeling when you are in the middle of a great book? 
One of those books that is SO good ..you just can’t wait to see what will happen next or how it will end.. 

And it is so good that you don’t want to miss a single word.. 

…no speed reading this book…   

NOPE.. You read each sacred word and savor them all… 

But then? 

YUP.. Then you have to put that book down because life is going on around you… The dishes need to be done, the chickens need food.. the kids need to be socialized …

…but all the while you are being a responsible human being? The whole time ALL you can think about is that book … ??

WHAT is on that next page? What will happen to the heroine? What adventures and mishaps are in store?

THAT is how it feels to drop your daughter off at college.. 

.. I can’t wait to pick that book up again and see what is written on those pages… I can’t wait to hear about her adventures .. 

… but I admit.. It is hard to walk away from her beautiful book… 

Into the future…


One minute your little girl is knocking over bookshelves, breaking priceless souvenirs, throwing rocks at Scrooge on tv, writing on walls, putting pop tarts into the VCR, serenading the neighbors as they stroll past your front porch, trying to defy gravity, writing stories that don’t make sense, reading encyclopedias to get out of cleaning her room, reading books thicker than her arm, breaking lamps with her imaginary friends, performing lion king in a bathing suit and a scarf, wearing underwear on her head, and asking endless awkward questions in her endless pursuit of knowledge… 
.. and the next minute you are dropping her off at college.. Wondering what kind of trouble she can get into there.. 😳😳😳😳

Seriously love this girl of mine… And so stinking proud..

The thought of not hearing her practice her operettas in the shower EVERYDAY? It almost makes me miss the times she used whole bottles of conditioner in her bath time experiments.. 

…almost…

Actually I don’t… I don’t wish that time back.. I enjoyed it all while it happened.. 

But I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this magnificent blessing God entrusted to me.. 

Love you Princess Tiger Lily…

Eyes wide open.. 

While I was pregnant with my first child.. my strong willed daughter.. we could not decide on a name. So my husband and I struck a deal.. 

When our daughter was born.. If she looked like a “princess” then we would name her “Sabrina” .. 

..and if she looked like a “little ruler” we would name her “Ryanne”.. 

THEN? 

Lol.. Then I prayed to God He would send her into the world boisterous and crying.. 

When that moment came? The moment I laid eyes on my girl? I had been awake for 40 hours.. And in labor for 28 hours.. 

FYI .. They call it labor because it is REALLY hard work.. 

Someone placed that beautiful baby in my arms.. 

..and.. 

Well? She stared right back at me. Her eyes were wide open .. and so curious. She was taking in the world around her without saying a word. 

When her Daddy commented on something? She turned her head toward him and listened. When I laughed at her serious expression..? Well.. then she turned back to me. 

The nurse commented that she had never seen such an alert baby.. And our girl turned toward her and listened carefully. 

We quickly decided that her serene and graceful personality was more fitting of a “princess”.. And her birth certificate was filled out.. 

The last 18 years have sped by so quickly.. But she has remained much the same.. Always looking at the world around her with her eyes wide open… Curious and alert.. Learning as much as she could.. Holding her eyes so wide, as if she could soak in knowledge faster that way.. 

Lol.. But she also learned to express her opinion.. And negotiate.. 

Soon? Yup.. Her father and I wondered if we should have named her “little ruler”.. 
Recently I looked up “Ryanne” again.. Wanting to use it in a new book series.. And I realized the technical meaning was “a feminine version of Ryan”.. And Ryan means “little King”.. 

So Ryanne would mean “little queen”.. A mature and educated ruler.. 

Hmm.. So my husband had chose to name our daughter EITHER a queen OR a princess? Both of these names mean a natural leader.. 

And a leader she is.. An educated, empathetic, observant leader.. 

Maybe we should encourage her to run for President.. We could use more leaders like her.. 

But my little princess has dreams of her own.. And she will go on being a leader in her own world.. Clearing her own path.. 

Always with her eyes wide open..