Sunday, June 10, 2018

This Is Not Easy For Me

In light of all the recent sadness brought on by so many suicides, I feel I need to share a story with you all. This is not easy to speak about.

When I was a young girl of about nine or ten, my parents took me for a visit to our relatives in the next town. I had cousins almost the same age as me, so I hoped it would be a fun time. It must have been a very hot day, so everyone decided we would head to a local pool for swimming. I was terrified of water, and not happy with the decision. I hated when rough older kids played near me, dunking one another and acting silly, and spent the day popping in and out of the pool to avoid them.

A little later in the afternoon--and this is sketchy--my uncle came to pick us up. It seemed that a little emergency had happened at his house, he'd said. And I found out it involved my mother. She'd been taken to the hospital. By this time, I was used to her hospital visits. Unfortunately, I knew all too well what her depression and mental illness looked like. I was used to the haunted look on her face, the words that didn't make sense sometimes when she spoke. I thought it was just another routine visit.

My father had asked my aunt and uncle if I could spend a few days at their house. I wasn't sure why, but I knew it was important. I was already a backward, sad young girl, not a carefree spirit as my cousins seemed to be, and I felt that I didn't fit in well with them.

When Dad picked me up after a few days, he didn't say much. I was thrilled to be back with him and my grandparents who lived next door to us. I became a bit needy, asking a lot of my father, wanting to spend as much time as I could with him, not realizing what he was going through. Mom still wasn't home, and quite a bit of time passed.

What I hadn't known, was my mother reached an all-time low during her visit with our relatives. In her mind, she felt worthless, unloved, guilty and condemned. Nothing looked right to her. Nothing made her happy. She fell into a pit of despair and decided she didn't want to live any longer.

When I saw Mom again, I had no idea what the bandages around her wrists were. All I knew was my mother was back! Maybe this time would be different and she would become a normal mommy.

As time passed, with the help of a great therapist, the love of my father, and a true miracle, my mother's depression lifted. It was as if the sun began to shine in our home for the first time!

My mother remained strong during my battle with scoliosis only a few short years later. A true steadfast presence and blessing to me, she helped keep my spirits up through frightening, serious surgery and a lengthy recovery. She used humor, great stories and prayer to get me through.

 She got pregnant in her late thirties, and though she was told to terminate the pregnancy due to complications from losing two other babies, she went on bravely to have my brother.

 She became an antique dealer, something she'd only dreamed about, and then went on to run a sweet little Mom-and-Pop grocery store where so many high school kids and others would stop daily for great conversation with her. Mom's infectious laughter, soft heart, and listening ear became known all around. To this day, I still hear stories about lives she touched during her time there.

In my later teen years, Mom had a talk with me about her dark time. She admitted her attempted suicide, and shock resonated in my whole being. Didn't she love me? Would she really have wanted to leave my father and I? Anger simmered within me. I needed time to process what she told me. But as more and more of her story unfolded, I began to understand the lost girl she had been. The child who hadn't been wanted. Who had heard her own mother speak of wanting to abort her. Who had a father who seemed like a monster as he beat his wife and frightened the children with his alcoholic rages. And then losing the most precious person in her world, her dear sister at a young age. All of these things coupled with the sensitive person my mother was, would contribute to the black hole of depression in her life.

It was as if the scales fell from my own eyes. Not only was I able to forgive her, but my mother and I became like best friends during this time. I could talk with her about anything. And I learned compassion, forgiveness and goodness from her. I spent my life thanking God that my mother was still here!

What if?

What if she'd succeeded in her attempt? How many lives would not have been touched, blessed and affected in an amazing way? You see, my mother also had a near death experience when she suffered a cardiac arrest after the depression. She was able to share her story of a glimpse of the afterlife and to describe just how wonderful the feeling of being in God's presence was. Her story would go on to bless countless people throughout her life, giving them a reason for hope when they lost a dear loved one.

My mother's life had a purpose and a reason. Yours does too! Talk with someone. Even one person could change the course of your life. Share your feelings with anyone who will listen. Find a therapist, counselor, pastor, or friend. Be real with them. Be raw. You are needed in this world. Like my mother, you have so much more to offer. There will be someone who will benefit from your life, your very good life. There will be someone who is grateful for you being a survivor.

All my prayers and good wishes for you.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

My Unknown Siblings: A story of a heavenly reunion

Miscarriages seem to be a taboo topic still to this day. But I want to share some stories that will perhaps be a blessing to a young mother mourning the child she never had.

When I was a little girl, among the many other issues going on, I remember a very difficult time of hushed words, whispering and tears. I saw a sadness in my mother that didn't seem like her usual depression. It wasn't until much later that I learned that Mom had miscarried two pregnancies within a short time of each other. One of them was so bad that my mother almost died.

As I grew into my teenage years and beyond, I thought many times of the two who were lost. I wondered were they boys or girls? What would they have been like? How would it have changed our family?

 It wasn't until my brother Rick came along fourteen years later that I didn't think about them so much. I had what I always wanted: a sibling! Rick was named Matthew Richard. Matthew means Gift of God. He was truly that in our lives, the miracle baby who survived the odds, a great blessing in our lives.

But as the years marched on, and our parents began aging, when times got difficult, I began thinking of my two lost siblings once again. How nice it would have been to have a larger family! Perhaps they would have shared the burdens of our parents health issues and been a strength that our family needed so desperately.

I had read a book about the little boy who died and was brought back to life. He mentioned to his mother about his near death experience and said that he had spoken with a young girl and called her by name. His mother couldn't believe it, for it was the daughter she had lost in pregnancy and the name that would have been chosen!

I see so many women who mourn their lost children, wondering what life would have been like if they'd carried them to term. But I believe those dear little angels are in Heaven and they are waiting for us just like the story of the little boy who had met his unborn sister in the presence of the Lord. They are not lost forever and we will be reunited with them someday.

I now know who my siblings were. Their names are Kevin and Roxanne. Mom had always been fond of those names, and had almost named me Roxanne, and Rick, Kevin. I'm sure they would have been the names of my brother and sister.

And there's some neat stories during the end of our parents lives. There was one point that my dad wasn't doing too well. Rick was in the hospital room with him when Dad mentioned, "your sister's there in the corner." That really stuck with me because it certainly wasn't me. But I know now, I feel it deep in my spirit that it was Roxanne, waiting for her daddy.

A similar story happened to Mom. She was in the emergency room for the last time. She was drifting in and out. At one point, she awoke and said the word, "Bible". I asked if she was seeing one, and she said, "yes". I asked if anyone was there with the Bible, and she said "no". But shortly after, she, too, looked in the corner of the room and said the word:"Baby". I believe one of my Heavenly siblings stood there, ready to embrace the mother they hadn't known here on earth.

When I was saying goodbye to my father as he lay in a coma, I whispered to him to go to his children who he'd never met. I knew they were waiting for him. I told him how blessed Rick and I were to have him all these years, and now it was time for the other two to get to know their beloved daddy.

I have no doubt that there were two amazing family reunions in Heaven when Mom and Dad passed. The rejoicing of the children they hadn't known, the laughter and happiness that we cannot even fathom. Somehow it's easier for me to let them go to that glory and not hold on so tightly to my own grief. The Bible says: Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Wow, what a morning it must have been!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Earrings

Last summer, after my mother passed away, I had been in a deep sadness, unable to find a reason to smile or laugh. Nothing made me happy, and the weight of loss lay deeply on my soul.

I saw in my email a note from Guidepost magazine. I'd sent them several of my writings before, but had totally forgotten about it from all that had gone on with my mother's failing health. When I opened the email, I saw that they accepted one of my stories! Joy flooded back in. A reason to smile, and even to sing once again! Someone had recognized something good in my writing. And of course, it was an article I'd written about my mom. The timing couldn't have been better.

I want to share that article on my blog today since everyone may not be subscribed to "Mysterious Ways," Guidepost's sister magazine. It is not as I originally wrote it, as their editors had an idea to focus on the earrings. I had to make a few changes to my first draft. Looking back now, I see exactly what they intended. May you be blessed by the little story you are about to read:

The Earrings
     Mom’s earrings. I had to find them.
     I dug through the top drawer of my bureau, rummaging through my jewelry box and the knickknacks accumulated over the years. Printed scarves, strands of beads, dried flowers. Where were those earrings? I could see them clearly in my mind. Pink teardrop diamonds framed by rhinestones. Costume jewelry from the nineteen fifties, certainly not worth much. Yet Mom had to have them.
I’d been at my parent’s house earlier filling their pill containers and washing a few dishes left from the night before.
     Mom had been sitting at the kitchen table, nibbling the corner of a jelly donut and licking her fingers like a little kid. Her wiry gray hair stood on end around her face. Food from the previous day stained her sweatshirt.
     “Kar,” she asked, using the nickname she always called me. “Do you have those earrings I gave you? The ones with the rhinestones?” She stared at me expectantly as if she needed me to understand.
Dad and I glanced at each other. I knew what he was thinking. How in the world could she remember something like a pair of earrings when she could barely remember the names of her grandkids? Dementia had turned my mother into someone I barely knew. And here she was trying to tell me something with those earrings—giving me a clue of some sort. But every time she mentioned them, I felt like we were speaking two different languages. Like I was losing my mother all over again.
We hadn’t always been close, Mom and I. When I was little, she suffered from deep bouts of depression. She’d been in and out of hospitals for most of my childhood. She got better around the time I entered high school. A time when we became like best friends. We remained that way until three years ago when Mom was diagnosed with dementia. Now every day only seemed to bring more darkness as Mom became like a stranger. I was worried for her. I was worried for Dad and me too. What did the future have in store for us? What little did it hold for Mom?
     “My earrings,” Mom said again.
     “I’ll look for them when I get home,” I told her, giving her a kiss. “I promise.”
     Now I picked though the clutter in my bureau, searching for a pair of earrings she’d given me some twenty years ago. She’d gotten them from her mother and then passed them on to me. I’d never seen her wearing them. Why were they so important now?
     I turned to a small wooden jewelry box, one I’d kept since I was a kid. I nudged aside my grandmother’s gold locket and an old cameo pin. Underneath a tarnished seahorse necklace, I saw them. Two brilliant pink gemstones. Mom’s earrings!
     The rhinestones twinkled, casting prisms of light against something else in the box. A piece of paper so worn I could barely read the writing. What was it doing in there? I picked it up and stared at it, recognizing it at once. A page ripped from my girlhood diary.
     I plopped down onto my bed as tears welled up in my eyes and then made their way down my cheeks.
     February 14, 1970, it read. Mom went to the hospital in an ambulance today. . .
     The memories flooded back. Valentine’s Day, 1970. Mom was thirty-three and I was eleven. Too young to know the full extent of her battle with depression, but old enough to know it was bad. Mom would arrive home from one of her hospital visits with dark circles under her eyes and a haunted look on her face. When relatives and friends came to visit, I’d hear whispered words like “crazy” and “suicidal.” Dad did the best he could to take care of both Mom and me, but I felt so alone. I’d escape to my room, soaking up fantasy books and writing in my diary, trying to imagine what it would be like to have a normal mother and a normal life.
     That Valentine’s Day, her admission was different. Mom had been rushed to the hospital. She’d suffered a cardiac arrest in our upstairs bathroom. I’d watched terrified as she was taken out of the house on a stretcher. I thought I’d never see her again, that she was gone. That her depression had finally caused her heart to stop. But a week later, Mom was back at home. And she was completely different.
     The dark circles were gone and her face glowed. When she spoke, I noticed that the confusion, anxiety and sadness had vanished. There was a lightness to her step I’d never seen before. My parents became affectionate once again. Laughter replaced hushed voices and secrecy. Mom finally fulfilled a dream of becoming an antique dealer. And several years later, at the age of thirty-nine, she gave birth to my brother. Life settled into the kind of routine I’d always envied in my friends’ lives.
     I didn’t question Mom about the change, too afraid the spell would be broken. It wasn’t until four years later, when I was in high school that my mother shared what had happened that Valentine’s Day.
     “You remember my cardiac arrest, Kar?” Mom asked one night while we made dinner together. “I didn’t tell you the whole story. I didn’t tell anyone except your father. I was afraid people would talk.”
     “What do you mean?” I asked.
     Mom paused. “Kar, that day in the hospital, I died.”
     I stared at Mom, confused. Died?
     “I remember falling in the bathtub,” she said. “But the next thing I knew, I was at the hospital, staring from above my body on a hospital gurney.”
     She felt herself floating away and found herself at the entrance of a dark tunnel. The further she traveled through the tunnel, the brighter it became. She became wrapped in a brilliant light, unlike anything she’d ever seen. The feeling of complete love washed over her, surrounding her. Yet after a few minutes, Mom felt herself being pulled back. All at once, she was on the gurney again. She heard the doctor’s exclaim, “She’s back!”
     “The light was so pure,” Mom said, a starry look in her eyes. “Like an all-encompassing love. That’s the only way I can describe it. I got a glimpse that day, sweetheart. Of the joy waiting for us all.”
     I stared at the page in my hand now, and the earrings—their light so brilliant, so like the light that returned to Mom’s eyes that long-ago Valentine’s Day and the light Mom encountered when she died and came back.
     She knew. Somehow, even in the midst of her dementia, Mom knew that I needed a reminder. Of the joy that awaits her, and the light that overcomes darkness.

This is my actual diary entry that I'd found. 


Saturday, April 14, 2018

I Am Not What Fear Says

What went wrong today? It was a lovely, warm, sunny day. All my preparations had been done for the upcoming author event. Little gift bags were colorfully put together; a big basket and afghan also completed for a giveaway. People were kind and by all rights, nothing should have been negative.

Why then did I falter so terribly? My palms sweated, my hands and voice shook. My throat dried up and felt as if it was closing on me. Darn body! I couldn't trust myself to give a good talk. All the other authors did excellent in my opinion. We had been kind and courteous to one another, listening as our fellow authors spoke. But when it came for my own turn at speaking, I completely dropped the ball today.

Life is like that sometimes. No matter the preparation. No matter how confident we feel, how good we put ourselves together, something can sneak in and loosen the best laid plans. The enemy wants nothing more than to rob us of our joy, or hit us at our most vulnerable. For me, it has always been about insecurity. I have often felt I will never measure up to others. They do everything better than me.

It had been a rough work week. Our boss has been on the warpath with several office changes. I had felt stressed to the point of not sleeping well. I had a bloody nose that wouldn't quit the other morning and I scared myself to death with it. Just an all around yucky week. I am the type of person who enjoys having something to look forward to. So it was with happy anticipation that I began planning to make the author event something special. I had all of the perfect words to say. The blog I was going to read from was heartfelt and the writing, good.

But there I stood at the head of a room filled with women and I began the comparison game. If I had stayed in the moment, if I'd have spoken from my heart as I had wanted, I think I would have had the confidence I needed. But the minute I tried to turn the page I was reading and my fingers wouldn't work, the old voice of "you are failing; you aren't good enough; you are making mistakes" kept nagging at me. My own voice croaked like a frog, and I stumbled and stuttered over what I wanted to say.

Did anyone notice? I was sure they all did. I felt certain that they were wondering why they ever invited me in the first place. After all, I only sold one book to top it all off.

Tonight I'm going to pick myself up, dust myself off, and know that I did my best. Though fear stood solidly before me, and lies tormented me, I am NOT what fear says I am. I am bold, confident, redeemed, loved, accepted and worthy. I am what God says.

When you find yourself in such a moment; when fear beckons and calls you nasty names, plug your ears, sing a great worship song, and remember "Whose" you are.

Friday, March 30, 2018

I Can Truly Imagine

I want so much for my children. I want them to have good health, happiness, and blessings. More than anything, I want them to know what a relationship with Jesus is like. They were brought up in an era that questions everything. And questions can be a good or bad thing. But they also seem to be a little more skeptical of what is holy and good sometimes. They seem to confusion religion with what really is relationship.

I can't blame them because our faith always taught us that doing good and being good would earn eternal points. God seemed like a big nasty teacher, one that would pounce on you and give you a good smack with his almighty ruler when you got the answer to one of His questions wrong.

The God I've come to know is nothing like that. I am so grateful for my church's messages and music and how they've shown me what a loving God's grace is all about. Prayer is so very real to me now, and it's something that I cannot go a day without. My conversations with God are friendly and real. I can speak with Him about everything that is in my heart or on my mind.

This Easter I wanted to do something special with my son. I thought we could go to the Good Friday church service together. It had been a very long time that he'd come with me to church. He agreed to dinner and church, and I secretly glowed. But then something else hit me strongly. That nudging of the Holy Spirit. The new movie "I Can Only Imagine" is playing in our local theaters right now too, and I wondered if perhaps this was more of what I was looking for with my son. Visuals seem to resonate strongly with him. He had loved the movie "The Shack" and gotten much from it, he had said. So I gave him the choice: dinner and church, or dinner and an inspirational movie. He chose the movie.

If you haven't seen it, may I suggest "I Can Only Imagine." It's a true story of Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me. His journey was difficult at the hands of an abusive father. He could not realize his talent and passion until he came to grips with some very hard truths. This movie was real and powerful. Though we may not have suffered abuse as this man did, we all have our own areas of pain and suffering. My own was with my mother's mental illness when I was a child. All of a sudden it hit me; I should write more from my heart and pain. Not to make my mother look bad, but to make God shine. This is what Bart Millard did: he was able to tell a story, but not glorify the bad so much as give glory to the One who can make all things--all people, new.

When the movie was over, my son leaned over and said, "Wow, that was amazing. Everyone should see this movie. You didn't tell me it was a tear jerker, though." I glowed. This one-on-one moment with my son was priceless. Being able to discuss the Lord for a few minutes with him, and for him to have sat there in awe as the story unfolded before us, showed me that God had indeed answered my prayer for the day. I don't know my son's heart. And I worry that he isn't where I think he should be in a walk with God. But God assures me in the quietness of my soul, that all is well. He has everything in the palm of His hand. It will be His timing, not mine.

Today, another seed was planted. God will water it with His word. And I can only imagine where the journey will lead.

(Top photo courtesy of David Hoffman)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Birthday Letter to My Father

Dear Dad:

I wanted to let you know that I'm thinking of you  today. It's your birthday. I remember how much you enjoyed this day. You loved the little fuss that was made over you. The fact that Mom would bake a homemade cake, and we would place that one big candle in the middle for you to wish on. I wonder what your wishes were through the years.

 It hasn't been the same since you left us, but we are managing. I know you wouldn't want us to grieve too much, but some days are more difficult than others.

I listened to your favorite piece of music tonight after work, Dad. "The Emperor Waltz." Sometimes I can picture you dancing to it. Sometimes, I dance with you.

 I dream about you, Dad. It is so good to see you and I always wake up content, knowing that we spent a little more time together. Please visit me again soon.

Dad, my brother and son are so much like you. I can see you in them every time I talk to them. They have the qualities you passed along--a quiet strength and a good heart. I know I am a lot like you too. I find myself saying your silly phrases and it warms my heart.

I don't know how you celebrate a  birthday in Heaven, Dad. I guess it's all very different. But I can imagine who is at the party!

You were my knight in shining armor when I was little. You were the one constant in a turbulent sea. You showed strength with your simple ways and humor.

The time you spent with me when I was a child will be something I carry in my heart forever. I can remember the Crystal Radio kit we built together, the wood burning craft that made Mom worry that I might get burned. I picture us painting little miniature football players in my first electronic football game. I see you making plaster statues for me. I remember asking you questions during football games, and how you patiently answered them.

You were the best role model to my son, Dad. All the quality time you gave him when he was little, building blocks and towers for him to knock over and the crafts made out of clay. And the little plastic bowling set as you patiently set up pins and played over and over, just one more time. He was so proud of showcasing you in his YouTube videos, and his fans really loved seeing "Lamp" play. He really misses you too. And I know there are days he has a hard time. Won't you visit him in his dreams from time to time?

In closing, I want to wish you a Happy Birthday. I want to thank you from my heart for being the best man I ever knew. I want to ask you to keep us all in your heart and prayers. And give everyone a big hug from all of us.

I miss you so much, Dad. And I love you.

Your little Tenya

Sunday, February 4, 2018

For the Love of a Dog

Maya, smiling.

The bond between human and pet. It's beautiful. Many of us have stories from our childhood of our beloved dogs or cats, stories that almost seem incredible. Dog walks miles to be reunited with family. Or, cat shows up one year after it disappeared.

Last night I dreamed for the first time about a dog that had been with my family for many years. Her name was Maya and she was a beautiful Husky. She stayed with my parents for many years and the bond became unbreakable. Dad had been a heart patient, so walking Maya was a daily ritual for his health, but we knew that he secretly loved it too. How proud Dad was to walk alongside such a gorgeous creature. And that dog, sensing that our father had limitations, would choose to walk carefully beside him, always at Dad's pace. She understood his commands during their jaunts, and I know she kept our father healthier for this daily exercise they shared.

Mom loved her even more if that was possible. Our mother was the St. Francis of the family. Every stray animal, hurt bird, or furry casualty on the side of the road, she was the type to cry over their plight. She bonded with every pet we'd ever owned, and each of them loved her right back in turn. Maya was a faithful companion to Mom. Especially after our father passed away, that dog would be just inches from wherever mother sat. And even with her dementia, Mom treated that dog in the most loving ways.

When Maya got sick last year and my brother had to make a most difficult decision, I was worried how Mom would take it. I swear that our mother went downhill quickly right after Maya departed. She lost a true spark of living after that, and was never the same.

I remember at one of the emergency room visits last year when Mom was laying in the hospital bed, she was drifting in and out of sleep or consciousness. There was a point where she began "petting" an invisible animal, one that I could not see, but nonetheless knew was there with her. Because afterward, Mom reached her hand up as if grasping someone's extended hand. I felt that Dad and Maya were there with her at that moment.

Last night, for the first time, I dreamed about that dog. My father was walking her on a leash. Dad looked younger with dark hair--handsome. And Maya was beautiful and fluffy and whole. She ran over to me, licking my face, jumping on me with excitement in the dream. I remember feeling such happiness and wished the dream would continue much longer.

I just found out today that only four short days ago marked the year of Maya's passing. How odd that she would feature so prominently in a dream last night. And not only my dream, but my brother shared one of her too.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Signs and Wonders

I have a little story to share. Now, to set you up, you have to realize I am not one usually to believe in signs and such. I don't want to get caught up in mysticism and not miracles.

The other day I was missing my parents so much. I talked to God and asked if someday He might share a small sign that they were near with me. I have never asked this. As I folded clothes later that evening in my room, I felt as if someone stood next to me. I looked to my side and said, "Hi Mom and Dad," and went right on with the clothes. I didn't see anyone.

Later that night as I turned in for the evening, I said "goodnight" to a picture of my parents that is laying on top of my nightstand. It isn't framed, only a regular photograph laying there.

The next morning when I awoke, (I'd like to say I hopped out of bed with a spring in my step, but, well....arthritis and all...), but when I got out of bed, I looked over and the picture of my parents wasn't on the stand. I looked and it was laying on the floor on the side of the nightstand, face up with their beautiful smiling faces looking at me.

I placed the photo back on the nightstand. I tried creating a breeze with my arms, with my bed blankets, with the closet door, etc. Nothing stirred that picture at all. I tried to replicate laying there and hitting it with my arms, but it was too far away from me, and I usually cocoon myself like a burrito when sleeping, so flailing arms aren't usually my thing anyway.
 "Well, Lord," I thought, "I did ask. The Bible says you have not because you ask not." Perhaps God's gentle breath blew through my side of the room that night. He stirred the picture of my parents to show me a sweet little sign. They're okay, Karen. They are here with me. They still love you, but they've changed, and they don't have the worries and concerns they once did. Be happy for them.
When I look at the photograph now, a huge smile breaks out onto my face. For in this picture, they are young, healthy, happy, and so in love. And I believe they are like that right now.
What signs and wonders have you seen perhaps in nature, or in your own home that reminds you of God's existence and love?

This is the photo:


Thursday, January 11, 2018

When a House is Truly a Home

When I was twelve years old, my parents told me that we were going to be moving soon. They'd been looking for a new house in a different area of our small town. I must say that I wasn't too upset by the prospect, after all, my best friends would still be fairly close by. And a fresh, new start is exactly what our topsy turvy lives needed. We'd just been through hell and back with bouts of mental illness with my mother. Though she'd been hospitalized many times throughout my young years and hadn't even known who she was during the worst of it, Mom became completely well--healed and whole. We had no idea how the miracle had occurred, but to my father, it meant a clean slate was also necessary. Too many sad and frightening memories in the house I'd grown up in.

The day they brought me to the house on Highland, I knew it would be a place of magic; of life, love, and goodness. There were two back yards! A smaller one bordering woods with a rustic firepit, and the main yard with so many trees and greenery! I'd grown up in the cement jungle in town, with barely a patch of front or back yard.

This new home had the most adorable screened porch off to the back-- perfect for viewing nature and the little raccoons who would soon become like friends in a Disney movie. There was a paneled basement with a custom-made wooden bar, and even though my parents weren't drinkers, to a young girl, it would mean hours of playtime and imagination.

My room held two twin beds and had windows that viewed the glorious backyard. My parent's room was huge, and right next door to mine. No more nighttime fears. No wondering if my mom was gone. I would know where they are and I would feel safe and secure.

This house was situated on a beautiful, pleasant road. Hardly any cars, and I could ride my bike right in the middle of the street. On a summer night, the chirping of crickets...and during the day, the sweet music of birds.Though I still saw my old friends, I made one of the most important friendships of my life with a girl who lived down the road. 

It was in this home that memories began to be made. First, my mother announced she was pregnant after having two miscarriages a few years back. I couldn't contain my glee! I'd always wanted a sibling, and the anticipation for me was enormous.

My brother arrived in 1974 when I was fourteen years old. Like a second mother, I watched him and loved him. And as he grew, we became like best friends. Through the years, my brother established some of the best friendships of his life. It was his little group that I would feel close enough to that I called all of them my brothers.

And they would have so many fun adventures in the woods behind our home, the basement, and riding bikes all over the area. My parents became their parents, and our house, their house. It was the closeness of our loving family that became the glue that bonded the lives of these boys with all of us.

Christmases at the Highland home were cozy and warm. The aroma of my mother's baking and all the special foods which were prepared at that time of the year, always permeated every room of the house. When company arrived, there was always cheerful laughter and fun banter. Everyone felt truly welcomed there.

Halloween became the focal time of the year, and we decorated outdoors as if trying to win some type of contest.With the magnificent dummies we fabricated, and the frightful accoutrements, children feared walking to our door for candy until one of us would unmask, proving we weren't the crazy monster we appeared to be on that special night.

My parents love for one another deepened in this home. Never did I hear a fight, nor any type of harsh words, or tears of sadness. I watched the two of them as if they were newlyweds.

The house saw many different types of pets, from scruffy stray ones that we nursed to health, to beloved pets that became like family members. It was a place of refuge for all.

As my parents began to age, the home became more precious than ever. They would sit on the front porch together, bird or butterfly- watching for hours. Dad's beautiful flowers would sway gently in a warm, soft breeze as they chatted about all the years that had gone by. On days that I visited, a sense of peace would wash over me as I sat with them, sometimes saying nothing at all, soaking up the love and contentment.

They are gone now, my parents. Yet this past Christmas, we still celebrated at the beloved house on Highland. New memories were made, and old ones cherished. But sadly, due to many financial difficulties, our family may lose this precious home. I've been praying for a miracle, believing for God to move heaven and earth so that my brother will somehow be able to work out a way to keep this house, and sell his quickly. It feels impossible, insurmountable, but I know God is the God of the impossible. He has made a way when there seemed to be no other way many times throughout our lives.

Join with me please, if you would, in prayer, that a miracle will occur, and this home will be able to stay in our family. And think about your own special place, perhaps where you grew up, or a beloved grandparent's house. Somewhere that you felt safe and loved.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Auld Lang Syne and other New Years thoughts

I'd been approaching the new year with trepidation. In my mind, all I could picture was the fact that neither of my parents had made it to 2018. It would be the first full year that they weren't around at all together or apart. And I grieved for all that was lost. But then I began to look back, way back. To a time when I was a little girl. I thought about the days leading up to New Years, and how special they had always been.

I remember when I was little, in the week between Christmas and New Years. Mom always donned a festive tablecloth over our table, and upon it were cut glass bowls of fruit, silver trays of nuts in their shells, and the nut cracking implements laid off to the side. There were Torrones, the little Italian boxes piled high on a plate, dried figs, and scads of her homemade cookies on a tiered metal holder. These stayed throughout the week, lest a visiting relative miss out on a table made ready.

In our fireplace colorful, discarded wrapping paper was waiting for the fire that my father would soon build. My toys lay scattered under the tree, a mixmash of dollies, games, and other assorted items, blending in with the manger set; the camels, wise men and holy family. And don't tell me you never played with the set under your own tree. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had quite a few adventures under ours!

Our large picture window which faced the road, was painstakingly hand-painted by my father, adorned with all the wonderful decorations of the season. Through it, I could watch the falling snow, the passersby, and my cousins as they filed out of their cars so they could play with (and sometimes break) my new toys.

Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents would visit during this most festive time. Talk was lively and loud--true Italians do not merely talk with their hands. Everyone tried to outdo one another with gift-giving tales, stories of food, and memories of their own youth.

We also would venture to the homes of other relatives in that week. My mother would insist that I stop playing with my precious new toys and that I could not bring them with me to our outing.Though I never complained, I longed for the new Playdoh set, favorite doll, or latest family fun game while it seemed like forever that my parents talked and talked and talked to the relative we were visiting.

New Years Eve would arrive, and though my parents were not drinkers, it was the one time, perhaps that I would see each of them with a tiny glass of wine to toast the new year. I was given ginger ale or some other childlike substitute. The song Auld Lang Syne always brought a lump to my throat even then.

As the years passed, the special holiday week leading up to the new year was filled with new memories after my brother arrived. Then marriage would follow for me a few years later, and then my own child. I sit here now wondering where the time has flown to, for it feels like yesterday that I was the child.

With fresh hopes and dreams in mind, we each face the ticking of the clock, the countdown of the crystal ball on Times Square. Auld Lang Syne still will bring a tear to some of our eyes, and we, too, will become the memory for our own children and grandchildren.

A good friend had this to say when I told her how sad I felt about my parents not seeing the new year:
Your parents were such love birds. Just think. They will never have to begin another year separated from one another.....

Yes, I believe that.  And what of your own losses? What of the changes of life, the ups and downs of health issues, the fact that we all must leave our youth behind and memories that held our family together?  I believe they, too, go on . . .

Modern English version of Auld Lang Syne:
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago!
For times gone by, my dear
For times gone by,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by.

 Pictures from my youth. You'll notice the picture window that my dad hand painted.