Sister

Over forty years ago today (and just how much over, I’m not telling) I was given a new role in life.

To be

a big sister.

I got two more chances to do this over the years, but this first one–the one I asked my parents for–she was the first, the one I learned and practiced on.

Some days I’ve done a better job than others of being a sister.

What being a sister means and looks like has changed over the years.  Sometimes drastically.  What, when we were little, meant whispering secrets after bedtime or fighting over who had to turn off the light (she didn’t even have to leave her bed–not really sure WHY we had that argument so often) turned into her being there to encourage me and stand up for me and even help me pack the night before my graduation.  Help?  No, she pretty much did it.  All of it.  As we both grew older and had our own families, what sisterhood looked like changed again.

It’s always changing.

Because relationships are fluid.

And I think that can be really beautiful.

Because, though it’s fluid and changing, it still is.  The relationship is still there.

And as long as it is there, no matter how hard times might be or how much we struggle to find time to be together, there is hope. There is possibility for our relationship to grow and become even more precious.  And there is grace.

Tonight I am thankful for my little sister, who all too often has been a big sister to me.  She has never been afraid of the dark and time was, she’d take on a giant to defend me.  She loves hard with a gentle voice and a passionate soul.  I don’t remember life without her, since I was three when she was born–it’s as though she has always been a part of my story.  She grounds me, she loves me, and she walks alongside me.  Even when things fall apart or we argue or have doubts and frustrations, she is my sister, and that will always be one of the things I’m most thankful for in this life.

That and grace and hope.

Love to all.

Little_Julia_tending_the_baby_at_home

“Little Julia tending the baby at home”  By Lewis Hine, 1874-1940, photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Watching Her Become

We’ve been excited about tomorrow for MONTHS.  And now, it’s finally here.

Our Princess’ 11th birthday.

Standing on the precipice of growing up and staying small, of childhood and adulthood, of elementary school and middle, of little girl and young woman, of joy-filled wonder and emotional angst, she is a sister and friend and daughter and student and swimmer and dancer and gymnast and pianist and scooter rider and ball tosser and bicyclist and laugher at jokes and unloader of dishwasher and our imagination-run-wild gift from God.

She is.  A blessing.

Born in Japan, she surprised us two weeks early.  I barely had my bag packed, but it was enough so that I was able to grab it and drive myself and Aub to the hospital when my water broke.  The funny thing is I felt no fear.  Each morning when I changed her diaper in those early months, I would say out loud to her, with her: “Thank you, God, for another day.”  And we would laugh together.

Her name is an old English name meaning joy or happiness.  Spelled differently, it’s also the middle name of one of my favorite cousins.  She carries her name well.  For the most part, she is a loving and affectionate child who loves hugs and laughter and games and being with people she loves.  And Minecraft.  How she loves Minecraft.  Other times, when she’s not so loving, well, she’s a Scorpio.  Watch out for that.  When her voice deepens (and it’s laughable if it’s not your name she’s saying), someone is in deep trouble.  And she knows how to let loose and do some correcting.

We recently saw an old video of her and Cooter on his first birthday.  We were all encouraging him to dig into his little mini-cake.  She was bouncing around talking about cake and wanting some, but when he went for it, and we all got excited, her voice deepened, and she immediately started reprimanding him in her three-year old voice: “Cooter, no!  Do not do that.  Mama, he is making a mess!”

And so it is.  To this day.  She’s his best friend and his third Mama all rolled into one.

She has her own sense of style and is unapologetic as she somehow pulls off the oddest of combinations.  I’m envious and a little bit in awe of that.  She has a very strong sense of justice.  Don’t let that sweet face and smile and twinkling eyes fool you.  Say something to her that lets her know you don’t see women as equally capable of living life, and she will. LET. LOOSE.  All the madness.  I do hope she will see a competent woman President in her lifetime, because as we are studying government and elections, she is about to lose her mind over this issue.  She is constantly checking with me to make sure no one is leaving any other group out.  When she senses injustice, something she just cannot fathom, it upsets our whole home because she carries it with her constantly.

Tonight I’m thankful for this next chapter in our girl’s story.  What a beautiful unfolding of her soul we get to see.  The one who came into this world loving pink and dresses and dancing and playing dressup is growing into someone who still loves those things but also loves jeans and hoodies and blue and purple and dressing up as real people who have made a difference in this world.  She talks about traveling and being in the Olympics or coaching or teaching or being a Mama or all of these things.  Our girl already knows where she is going to college and is ready for me to make a room deposit for her at the “Oldest and the Best,” where her Maemae, her sister, and I all learned.  She dreams of a day when race and gender don’t matter, that a good heart is seen only for that, and of the day when food allergies will be cured.  She loves biographies and Harry Potter and books about fairies, and each night when I sit in the quiet house, I hear a creak that means she’s gone into the library searching out another book to help her fall asleep.  She is a beautiful, unique soul whom I get to love and learn from up close and personal.

And for that I am most thankful.

Happy birthday, baby girl!  May it be the best one ever. yet. always.  Love you mostest.

Love to all.

Just for fun, a sample of the art in our birthday girl’s room, which shows her beautiful and complex spirit.  

Her spirit flies and soars and fills our home with love and laughter and a lot of wonder.

Her spirit flies and soars and fills our home with love and laughter and a lot of wonder.

A Christmas gift from her big sister last year I think.  She loved it, because Disney and all those movies--her FAVORITES.

A Christmas gift from her big sister last year I think. She loved it, because Disney and all those movies–her FAVORITES.

A gift from our cousin who shared a birthday with our Princess.  She actually wanted our girl to be born on her birthday.  And so it was.

A gift from our cousin who shared a birthday with our Princess. She actually wanted our girl to be born on her birthday. And so it was.

A gift from the brush of her big sister, with whom she shares a love of all things Potter.

A gift from the brush of her big sister, with whom she shares a love of all things Potter.

This year's gift from her big sister, just given early tonight by her "returning to college" sister.  This one melts MY heart.

This year’s gift from her big sister, just given early tonight by her “returning to college” sister. This one melts MY heart.

Growing Pains and Blessings

A couple of weeks back I was trying to plan out what we’d do to celebrate our Princess’ upcoming birthday.  As I planned and brainstormed, I mentioned my ideas to her.  She was far from thrilled.

“Mama, why didn’t you bother to ask ME?  How old do I have to be to plan my own birthday?  Because that is NOT what I want to do.”  It seems she and her friend had been talking about what we could do to celebrate, and my ideas were sorely lacking.

At least she didn’t roll her eyes at me.  Yet.

She’s not quite eleven, y’all.

Bless.

I was left wondering when did she all of a sudden become so sure-of-herself-growny-acting, and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.  I’ve given up trying to influence her sense of style.  She marches to her own beat, that one, and nearly always looks adorable doing it, despite the fact that I wasn’t a part of wardrobe planning.  I’ve given up so many things that happen when they are little and still malleable and easily convinced that whatever is going on is the best idea ever.

And now, I guess, I’m giving up planning birthday festivities too.

I was sad until this morning.

Cooter and I have taken the brunt of this bug that came through our family.  Our Princess had two weekends of dealing with this or something similar a few weeks back, but last night I got concerned that this might be something completely different.  When I checked her temperature on a lark, she was just barely above normal, but still I worried.  She’s my one who can go from just a low-grade in the morning, to full-fledged high fever, bronchitis, and all the bad things by night.  I try to watch her closely.  So I told her to get good rest last night, and we’d see where today took us.

She was still sleeping when Cooter and I decided to venture into the kitchen and see about starting our day.  I took Miss Sophie out in the cold, rainy, and dreary morning, and when we returned, our Princess was still sleeping.  Cooter had eaten his breakfast, so I suggested we get a nap.  He had a headache, and my fever was returning (it wants to be my BFF, but I’m sorry, I want it out of here!).  We curled up, and I dozed a bit off and on.

Later when I got up, Princess came in and apologized to me.  “Mama, I am so sorry I slept late.  I am so sorry.  I’ve been trying to make it up to you by cleaning up the kitchen and the table and picking up things and getting Sophie’s toys put back.  I had Cooter help me, and then I let him watch a video when we were done.  I hope that’s okay.”

I was so relieved she was fever free and feeling better, I could have cried.  I just knew we would have another week of this mess to deal with when she slept in so late today.

But no.  She was and is fine.  And she took initiative today.  Something that comes along with the same territory as wanting to plan one’s own birthday celebrations.

Yeah, toddlers–they’ll love whatever kind of theme you choose, but they’re not so much on the whole seeing something that needs doing and then doing it.

I’ll take it.  I’ll take now.

And I’m thankful.  For my Princess’ health.  For Cooter’s improvements today.  And for the fact that I think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel of this horrendous virus that got a hold of us.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the sweet spirit and giving heart of my Princess.  I’m glad she could sleep in–it’s very possible she was busy rejuvenating and healing in that extra hour or two.  She was adorable as a toddler and as she grows, she becomes more beautiful everyday–inside and out.

And while her outer beauty is quite spectacular, it’s that inside stuff I’m especially thankful for tonight.

Love to all.

Looking Forward To…..

Such a lovely day today.  The sunshine.  The crisp fall leaves beneath our feet.  The colors of the trees, the faint smell of fall in the air.  The children ran as far as they could until they collapsed in a pile of arms and legs, laughing.  We explored the park, read the historical signs, the children played, and we adults talked about all and none of the important things.  Moments of conversation punctuated by laughter and shared stories and companionable silences, during which all that was unsaid was understood.

A picnic lunch under the trees wrapped up the morning.  The quiet except for the rustling of napkins and children chomping away was a testament to the energy expended and fun had. As goodbyes were said and pictures taken to remember, we all hugged and nodded, “Yes, we will do this again soon.”

After a brief afternoon slumber to recuperate and rejuvenate, we were off again.  To share coffee with friends and do gymnastics and visit with my sister and her family. Again with the storytelling and remembering and catching up.  I think my favorite moments in life will always be the ones where stories are told–whether I’ve heard them ten times before or not.  After a lovely supper and candles and cake and singing and wishing, we were headed for home and closing the house and the day up tight.

Such a lovely day to have a birthday.

Except that none of this is true.

And yet–it was still a day with lovely moments.

Poor Cooter.  He is a sick little fella.  Round two with this cold/allergy/upper respiratory MESS.  We are so over it.  (But not over it, if you get what I’m saying.) Our Princess had two bouts with it and came out a winner, but then she had the help of her inhaler.  Cooter has no such help.  He only has his secret weapon.  Me.

Bless him.

He wound up in the bed with me last night, which suits me fine.  I like to be able to hear them breathing and check for fevers and besides, when they are sick, it’s just so pitiful.  When he woke up this morning, he lay there for a while, looking at the ceiling or a book and then, suddenly, he popped up, “Hey!”  He looked really close into my eyes, “Today is your birthday, isn’t it?”  I nodded.  “Well, happy birthday!” he said, with his croupy little voice.  Then, “I’m sorry I’m messing it up by being sick.”

For the love.  Priceless.  No, buddy, no.

Tonight as I hugged our Princess good night, she said, “I am worried that I messed up your birthday.”

“How?”

“By playing too much Minecraft and not just sitting with you.”

Oh my stars.  Can’t you just picture that?  Let’s all celebrate my birthday by sitting around together.  And hanging out.  And just sitting here.  With folks glancing at their watches (okay, phones) to see how much longer is left in this. very. special. day.  Hoping it will be over soon so we can all return to our regularly scheduled way of living.

Ummm, no.  I assured her that I did not begrudge her the bit of time she had played her game.  No worries.  She smiled and hugged me once more (when did she get to be as tall as I am?) and headed off to bed.

Between the moments of my littles’ worries about my day, there were some very precious moments.  My children’s neighborfriends wishing me a happy birthday because a little birdie had told them it was.  A gift bag on my doorstep from my sweet neighborfriend.  Message after message from all the people from different parts of my story sending well wishes for the day.  Phone calls from people I love, offering to go get Ginger Ale or whatever we might need, offering to tote my non-sick child to her practice, offering best wishes and much love.  Seeing faces I love on the screen, live and recorded, thinking of me on this day of days.  Cards in the mailbox and old pictures coming out of the woodwork. And the laughter.  Yes.  That too.

Mama's Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

This evening I baked my Mama’s special fall cookies with her birthday cake cookie cutter.  She made those cookies for me so many times over the years.  I love the recipe, I love that cookie cutter, and I love remembering her hands making them.  I can see so clearly what the early morning on my birthday was like all those years ago–walking in to the dining room where my present was sitting in my chair waiting for me.  That is, until the year I told them I really didn’t like getting my present first thing in the morning.  I liked it better after supper–because it gave me something to look forward to all day.

Which is why my cards are sitting right there, waiting on me to finish writing to open them.  I’ve been looking forward to this all day.

So lucky to be so loved.

So lucky to be so loved.

And perhaps that is what I have learned today–that while much of birthdays can be about looking back and remembering those of years past, it is just as much about looking to the future.  Now that I’m a woman “of a certain age,” *ahem* I find myself a little braver, a little louder, a little less serious, and a lot more in touch with where I am right now.  And I’m looking forward to the wheres of tomorrow and a year from now and years beyond that.  Some days I’m just plain looking forward, and while things might be too far in the distance to see them clearly, I do know that I’m heading in the right direction.  Oh I’ll still glance backwards every now and again, there’s nothing wrong and everything right with that.  But I can’t live there, though goodness knows I’ve been tempted.

I am looking forward, because if life has taught me anything, it’s that there is so much waiting there for me at the end of the day.  So much to treasure and unwrap.  So much joy.

Love and happy everyday to all.

another year older

another year older
older but wiser
none the worse for wear

I don’t know about that
I’m older for sure
but not necessarily wiser
I’ve just spent the better part of the past forty-seven years
watching and taking notes
at what happens when certain choices are made
and so if that’s wise, then so be it
but I just call it noticing and paying attention
and listening to what Mama and Daddy said

and I’m for sure worse for the wear
my mirror doesn’t lie and anyone who says
different might need to have their eyes checked
I’ve grown to appreciate the scars though
as they show that I can heal, come back from the wounds
of this life
and the cracks allow the most beautiful light to shine through
and to change how I see things
rose-colored glasses have nothing on a soul that’s been
broken and still carries on

tonight I got a message from a friend in another country
on another continent
that warmed my heart
and made me smile
it’s already the day there
and in other places it won’t be for quite some time

that sort of puts it all into perspective
another year older
but really it’s just another day
another day to get more right than I do wrong
to try once more to put the pieces back together
and paint a beautiful memory for the ones I love to
look back on and remember

another day to act like the person I was raised to be
and honor those who brought me up
all these years
and still surround me with the love they did
from my very first breath and before

another day to breathe out kindness
and banish hate from my vocabulary
and from the tone I use
and the way I see the world

another day to live out my story
intertwined with all of yours
a good story
one that is filled with laughter and love and
meaning and
forgiveness and
grace

another year older
another day to live
“let us rejoice and be glad in it”

The Fella’s Big Day

Shortly after I knew the Fella might be the One, I had a dream.  It was a time of war, very WWII era like–planes flying over, dropping bombs, warships on the water, fire everywhere, people frantically running.  And in my dream, I stood there watching it all.

And I had a sense of peace.

Because in the midst of all the chaos, I saw the Fella standing over across the way, handling things.

And that’s all I needed to know.

It’s not that he was rescuing me.  Or anyone else.  I’ve reached an age where I realize that there is no such thing as someone else really rescuing me.  If I find myself locked in a tower, I’d better get to work figuring things out for myself as to how to get out of there if I want out. And if I don’t, that’s on me too.

But here’s what I do know.  If I find myself locked in a tower or pursued by wicked and evil, I know that I want the Fella there.

Because he remains calm.

Yeah, well, sometimes it is to the point of frustrating me just how unshakeable he can be, but when I get myself “situated” as my Mama used to say, I know his calmness is just what I need.  He is a rock.  My rock.

He has seen me through the heartbreak of death and the joy of new life and the fear of illness and worry over raising children.  He doesn’t slay dragons for me, but he sure stands by my side ready and willing when I take them on.  And he’s okay with me taking them on.

Which is pretty huge I think.  He empowers me, and he believes I am capable.

And he makes me laugh.   Which is pretty much my most favorite thing ever.

Tomorrow is his birthday.  We’ve been together for fourteen of his birthdays now.  His first one, we weren’t yet engaged, and his birthday came before mine, so there was ALL THE PRESSURE of what to do about a gift, how much to say in a card, and all the stress.

I like being an old married couple so much better.

Because this year, he’s getting a–

*spoiler alert, Fella, if you haven’t opened your gift yet, DON’T read this*

goofy Star Wars humor t-shirt and some Lego minifigures that we hoped he’d like and homemade cards because we are all about the creativity and using all the colors.

And all our love.

But he gets that most days anyways.

I am thankful for this Fella who was born ALL THOSE YEARS AGO.  (Yes for six weeks he’s TWO years older than I am, and I do not let him forget it a single day.)  He jokes about how he lived in Georgia for a couple of years when we were both teenagers and how he drove by our exit on the interstate several times and what if, all those years ago…..

Then he laughs and says I would have never given him the time of day back then.

I don’t know for sure if that’s true or not.  But I’m mindful of a quote my friend shared at Evening Prayer last night.

“When conditions are sufficient things manifest.”–Thich Nhat Hahn

And so, instead of being sad over all the years we missed being together, I am thankful for the fact that conditions lent themselves to this Fella crossing my path a little over thirteen years ago and him inviting me to come along with him.

It’s been quite the ride we’ve had, the two of us.  I’m glad my Fella’s the One riding shotgun as we see where this road takes us and our crew.

Happy birthday, Fella.  Thanks for all the days.  And the love.  But mostly for the laughter.  😉  And because it’s your special day, I’ll save you the last bag of sweet potato chips.  Yeah, you’re just that loved.

Twenty Years Gone By in a Second

The night before I turned twenty, I had all the teenage angst.  I pondered life from the small room I had on first floor in the dorm where I’d also lived two years before during my freshman year of college.  I can see the comforter and my peach colored sheets, as I remember sitting there and putting into words all of my emotions about leaving my teen years.  Sentimentality and questions were predominant in the lines I filled with my handwritten thoughts.

Tonight I sit here again, pondering the end of the teen years and all that encompasses.  My oldest will be twenty when we all get up in the morning, as she was born at 3:32 a.m.

Twenty.  How can that be possible, when I can still feel nearly everything I felt the night before I turned twenty?

This is the decade when she will grow by leaps and bounds into whom she will be.  She will finish her education and choose a career.  She will meet all kinds of interesting people and possibly even find someone to share the rest of her life with in this next decade.  She will do more than dream in this next decade–she will make things happen.

And that is mind-boggling.

I don’t have all the fancy words tonight that I did over twenty-something years ago. I won’t jot the thoughts I do have down with pen and paper.

Instead, I sit quietly and give thanks for every one of the past twenty years–each minute of every single day.  Even the hard ones.

This night twenty years ago when I arrived at the hospital, my doctor met me there.  The nurses had checked my blood pressure in the pre-admission room.  They expressed concern to Dr. B that my blood pressure was up just a little bit.

“Of course it is,” he said, in a “duh” tone of voice.  “She’s about to have a baby.  About to become a Mama.”

Exactly.

There have been many moments since that night when “being a Mama” has raised my blood pressure just a little bit.

And I wouldn’t change a single thing.

In the hours after my girl was born, people gathered close.  People who were anxiously awaiting her arrival and who have loved her ever since.

Every minute of every day since the moment she took her first breath, she has been loved.

I think I hold on to those two things tonight, and I want her to hold these close to her heart as well.

There will be hard moments in this life–hard days, even hard seasons.  Times that will raise your blood pressure.  There’s no getting around that.  But when those moments come, and they WILL, know this–you are loved.

Every moment.  Of everyday.

May that love carry you in its arms through the hard times and carry you on its shoulders in times of joy.

And may this next decade find joy chasing you down and tackling you.  All the days.

Love to all.

And happy birthday, baby girl!

My girl with her love.  So thankful for all the music she brings to our lives, and I look forward to all the music she has yet to play.

My girl with her love. So thankful for all the music she brings to our lives, and I look forward to all the music she has yet to play.