Tag Archives: family

.. angel wings..

Everyone should have an aunt .. whose face lights up every time they walk in the room. The aunt who laughs at every joke they tell.. (no matter how many times you tell it).. and claps at every performance you give on the living room “stage”..

My kids had that..

Whenever they went to Auntie and Uncle’s house, my daughter always had a “show” planned to show her auntie. And my son always looked forward to hearing “how tall he had gotten”… and he would smile as he called her his “medium sized” auntie.

This year we watched this beautiful soul battle against cancer.

And it was hard.

Yesterday she lost the battle to cancer..

.. but she won.

She won her angel wings.

.. and we won..

We won the beautiful legacy she left behind..

My kids learned that people can have an unfamiliar accent.. and not be a stranger in your heart. My kids learned that people can look different from us and they can be called family… She taught them what a generous heart looks like… what love looks like…

She showed everyone who came to her house that they wouldn’t leave hungry..

.. she showed her grandkids that they were the most beautiful things in the world to her..

.. and.. she raised 2 beautiful, amazing daughters… I can’t imagine the depths of the legacy she planted there..

Today?

Today we are all trying to imagine a world without Auntie in it. A holiday with no heartfelt hug from her.. family get together with no “Lumpia” (probably not spelled correctly) or other Philippine dishes.. (..though I imagine we will continue to hear about her first cooking disasters told through laughter.. and a few tears..).. not seeing her sneak dollars to each of the kids in the family.. making each kid feel like they are her favorites..

.. but I am so glad that I get to know what a beautiful world it was while she was here with us..

So today .. Auntie gets a new body.. a heavenly body.. one without cancer or pain..

.. and she gets her angel wings…

But honestly? She already had those.

guided by my shadows..

Last year, while shopping for a new Christmas tree.. I fell in love with one that sported pine cones, berries and a soft sprinkling of snow on the branches.

But.. when I saw the price tag?

Yup.. when I saw the price tag on that beautiful tree .. I hesitated.

With a smile.. I could clearly see the memory of my Aunt Diane leaning close to me.. like we were conspicuously conspiring against the “over commercialization of Christmas”..

She would lean in and whisper .. “We can make this.”

Her confidence always impressed me.

AND.. we always were able to make what we set our mind to.. exactly the way we wanted.

So last year? I smiled at my Aunt Diane’s memory.. and set about making the tree I wanted..

ok.. ok..

..it took me a year.. but I did make it..

As I added pine cones and berries to each branch.. I thought about how we are often guided by the shadows around us.

The shadows of the influences in our past.. and in our present..

Sure the shadow of the summers working with my Aunt Diane guided my hands into making a beautiful tree..

.. the shadows of her advices..

“ok.. that didn’t work. Try again.”

“By taking it apart.. you know how to fix it.”

“The only way to know is to jump in and try.”

.. but it was the shadow of my Aunt’s confidence IN ME that guided me to EVEN try..

I glued berries through tears.. remembering her chatting while we worked on crafts together… remembering her laughter…

As I chatted with my girl while we crafted this beautiful tree.. I was thankful for these beautiful shadows that guide me.

But not all Shadows are beautiful as they guide us.

My Aunt beat cancer her first time through.. but the second time it came…??

I drove hours to visit her when her body became weak. I stayed nearby and watched her visit with others..

.. but I never told her how important she was to me.

It was too hard.

What was even harder?

The months after her funeral. The months wishing I had been strong enough to tell her. To speak through tears and sadness. To admit that I was going to miss her until I saw her again.

We are guided by all the shadows in our lives.. the sweet ones.. the funny ones.. and the sad ones .. They ALL shape us into the people we become.. and guide us in the paths we choose in life.

And I have been Blessed by SO MANY shadows in my life!!

This week?

This week as we got together with family….

.. and we watch another loved Auntie battle with cancer..

Cancer is hard. It’s hard to battle.. it is hard to watch..

.. and it is really hard to accept ..

I think about the shadows of memories this Auntie has given to my husband.. to me .. and to my kids.. Her beautiful soul. Her happiness to give.. her capacity to love .. her smiles and laughter.. her joy..

I think about the smiles these shadows will give for years to come..

I’m still not great at telling people how important they are to me.. but this time the shadows reminded me to at least say “love you Auntie” .. and I am so thankful that I got a chance to tell her again this week.

As my family put the ornaments on our newly designed tree.. we found one that our Auntie gave my kids .. She bought it for them when they were small.

.. and I realized…

Christmas trees are full of Shadows.. shadows of Auntie from my childhood and from my adulthood.. shadows of my kids when they were little.. and now that they are big.. shadows of growing as a family.. and shadows that make us tear up..

.. and this Christmas tree?

This Christmas tree shows me exactly how much I have to be thankful for..

..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…

.. thrive

img_0574As we traveled home from dropping my daughter off at her first apartment, we pulled off on a scenic overlook.

High on a hill overlooking the beautiful Lake Superior, the colors were vibrant.. the lake was calm… The whole area was stunning.

Everything was thriving.

Except one tree…

There in the middle of all the green trees.. in the midst of the green grass growing high… right next to one of the largest supplies of fresh water in the world… ??

Right there was a very brown, very dried up tree.. The brown was such a contrast to the greens around it, that you couldn’t help but notice it.

As I snapped a few pictures of it, I wondered what was eating at it. This tree couldn’t thrive in the most optimal environment.. so something had to be eating at it.

I enjoyed the view for another moment and then continued down the hill to the beach below.. img_0591

The lake was unusually calm.. and it was a beautiful place to take pictures..

As I tried to get artistic with a pile of rocks, my foot came to rest next to a stump in the sand. At first, I thought it was a rock and tried to move it… but it wouldn’t budge.

So I shifted my footing and snapped a picture of it.

A stump… from a tree… that had survived and grown on a sandy beach. No dark rich soil.. No minerals and nutrients… nothing to shelter it from the winds.

As I pushed on the stump again, I could feel how solidly the roots were planted still.

img_0676 Here was a tree who had lived in an environment full of difficulties and right next to a turbulent body of water.

And yet?

Yet.. this tree dug its roots down deep.. deep enough to hold on and thrive for a number of years.

Again my attention was drawn to the brown tree on the hill.

So often we are like these trees.

Some of us are planted in fertile soil.. in a beautiful environment… with so many blessings…

Yet?

And yet… we let things eat at us. Anger.. disappointment… something from our past that we feel like we can’t let go of… Something that has a deep hold on us..

But those things eat at our roots.. and steal the joy from our lives if we let them control us.

When we let those things go?

When we let them go.. they can’t control us anymore. And we can thrive…

I have met a number of people in my life… who are like the stump on the beach. Some of them were parents of kiddos with extreme special needs. Some were people with the most horrific childhoods.. Some survived diseases.. some survived without parents…

But… ?

But they ALL survived…

What stood out about these people?

They stood on the shores of those turbulent waves… they dug their roots down deep…

..and they survived…

In fact?

They didn’t JUST survive.. With smiles on their faces.. and counting their blessings … and reaching out to help others… They were thriving…

I snapped a couple more pictures and thought about my daughter that we just dropped off at college.. I thought about my son that stood there beside me… We have no idea what the future holds for either of them. We have no idea where the future will take either of them…

A smile came to my face as I whispered a prayer for them.

My prayer? … as I sat there in the sand?

My prayer for my kids is that they will thrive wherever they are planted …

… my smile?

My smile is because I believe they will…

Cousins weekend…

Ever since my family moved home to Michigan, I started a new tradition where I picked one weekend, over the summer, and invited all of my nieces and nephews to my house for a sleepover.

Now.. one of my nephews was too old to enjoy this.. and.. some were too young..

..but every year I get a few to come..

Ha! By a “few”.. I mean 10 or more..

This year.. I had 18 kiddos at my house..

Age range .. 4 years to 20!

Doors were left open… noses were skinned… heads were bonked… snow cones were spilled.. a bean bag lost its beans… shaving cream in the eyes… stubbed toes… there were hurt feelings.. disappointment over the rain.. and cancelled bonfires..

…but there was also.. laughter .. games… late night talks.. talking in sleep… snow cones.. sundaes on Sunday… frog hunts.. snuggles… hugs… movie time… swimming… a small obsession with the kitten.. good food… some amazing fairy/gnome/snake houses craft time.. and a lot of new memories made…

Some people ask how me how I can do it?

Well?

I don’t do it by myself. My husband stayed this year for some of it. A couple of my Sisters-in-law stayed and pitched in. This helps with the mixed aged groups. And everyone sends food.

But over all?

I go into this weekend EXPECTING them to act like kids.. and then? I expect chaos. I plan certain activities to give them focus. I provide spaces for them interact.. I give them my expectations.. but give them the freedom to make choices.

And I don’t know? It just falls into place..

But what I do know?

I know that these kids all look forward to it every year… counting down the weeks until it happens.. talking about “next year”…

And every year.. I fall in love with these blessings who create huge messes a little bit more.. until my heart is near to bursting…

So this morning as I clean up beanbag “beans” in my living room.. mop my kitchen floor.. kill the flies buzzing my head… clean up the craft supplies in the garage.. and put away the bounce house..?

I find myself planning for next year…

.. our own luck..

Today is Friday the 13th .. one of the most superstitious days for some people…

As I sit here drinking my coffee, I started to wonder how many people are waiting for something bad to happen…

Not that I don’t believe in bad luck..

.. in the theater, we have a “tradition” where we have one performance where EVERY THING falls apart backstage. Costumes disappear.. buttons come off vests.. props break.. someone falls apart emotionally… the lemon/orange water springs a leak all over the floor…

.. every season it is the same..

.. we learned to expect that “bad luck” show..

.. and we laugh during the absurdity of it all…

So I can’t laugh at people who are superstitious.. and go into the “Friday the 13th’s” of this world.. prepared for the worst.

..in fact? Maybe it is foolish for me to go naively into the world .. ASSUMING that I will be able to handle any bad luck that comes my way.

Naively thinking that my Faith in God.. my faith in my family.. my faith in my friends.. and my faith in myself will get me through any luck that life throws at me..

But honestly?

The curve balls that life has thrown me aren’t things I ever would have expected.. let alone things that I could have prepared myself for..

yeah.. I’ve had an accident.. and a flat tire.. and some car issues.. and I even locked my keys in my car once..

.. but having a kid who has Autism?

I didn’t even know that was a possibility 19 years ago.

… having to have my son’s hips screwed back together?

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

.. having severe food intolerances be the cause of my kids health issues?

That only happened in movies.. right?

… a pack of raccoons wiping out my whole bird flock?

Ok.. I probably could have expected that one..

Recently my mom was in the hospital. It was pretty scary. The nurses needed to draw blood from her but they were finding it to be nearly impossible.

When another nurse came in to try to find a vein that would work..?

Well? Someone wished him luck..

Without looking up? He stated, “I make my own luck.”

And he was successful!!!

At the time, we were all simply grateful for his confidence.

But since that day?

Since that day, I have found that this simple statement is true.

We do make our own luck.

There is a saying out there..

Life isn’t about surviving the storm…

Life is about learning to dance in the rain..

I laughed when I saw it because this was how I approached raising a son with special needs…

… this was how I approached raising a very independent, strong willed daughter..

.. this is how I approach life…

I could let bad luck hold me back.. or I can focus on the good things that are still there..

Through everything? Through every tough situation I still have 2 beautiful children.. I have an amazing family… a Merciful God.. and some pretty spectacular friends..

… through everything we choose to laugh through the tears… sing through the frustrations .. and dance in the rain..

After all.. can it really be bad luck if we are all together? Or can we change those bad situations into good luck by finding the good around us? Can we change that bad luck to good luck simply by having Faith in ourselves and those around us?

So today?

Today I won’t worry about what bad luck this “Friday the 13th” has in store for me…

.. because I make my own luck…

.. 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…

..eye catching

Yesterday was Easter.. and we headed out into nature to recharge..

Our family parties were done … the Easter baskets opened.. and my daughter headed back to her campus.

And.. well?

And the sun was shining. We didn’t really need any OTHER invitation.

As we entered the woods, we were reminded that Spring really hasn’t arrived yet.

The landscape was beautiful. Rolling hills… sloping roads… lazy rivers…

So beautiful!!

But nature is still sleeping here. So everything is brown. So many different shades of brown… but still just brown.

And SO cold!

Then?

Then every once in a while, we would go over a hill.. or around a bend… and something would catch my eye.

There amongst the dead leaves and the cold wind? There would be the brightest green moss growing.

I know.. I know…

Moss isn’t really that pretty.. and it isn’t SUPPOSED to be growing on the sides of trees and rocks.

But the bright green of that moss against the shades of the sleeping nature around it? It was so startling. It caught my attention every time.

That moss?

That moss reminds me of people who show happiness and positively impact the world around them .. every day.

Not just showing their green color when the sun is shining and the warmth is all around. But glowing a bright green when the winds are cold enough to make your nose hurt and cause your lungs to burn. Glowing green when nothing else is even growing.. when there feels like there is no hope of hope.

So today I wonder?

Am I showing a bright green color of hope and love against the dull colors of today?

There are always “dull” things going on around us..

..extra bills… health concerns… raising kids.. car issues… and messes to clean up..

..not to mention world troubles…

…but amongst those shades of “brown”…?

Among the lifeless colors… am I shining some green into the world? Am I handing out genuine smiles.. holding open doors… sharing my resources with the world around me… lending a hand where I can…? Am I looking for hope?

Am I offering to share the small amount of hope that I hold in my hands?

Because that is what I want.. I want my love and my hope to shine brightly against my surroundings.

What color are you today?

..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.