Miracle at CVS

While in CVS today I was able to get a rather large knife out of the hands of a man.  And then I thanked him.  The amazing part of this story is not that the man pulled a knife on me – he didn’t.  It was that I asked him if he had a pocket knife I could borrow to pop open the back of a watch; and he, without hesitation, pulled out the biggest pocket knife I have ever seen.  He must have huge pockets.

I smiled about this for a long time because it did my heart good to be able to ask a stranger for help of this type, especially in this crazy world we live in today; and he helped me without hesitation.

Yes, Virginia, there are kind, knife-wielding people out there; and they are ready to lend a hand at the mere request of a stranger.  It’s a Christmas miracle.

Of course, it didn’t take but a moment to relate this to a Seinfeld episode or two.  This isn’t too Christmassy, but today I felt a little bit like Elaine.  Lesson to be learned here:  Never judge a book by its cover.



Where is Jesus?

The last of my father-in-law’s possessions was spread across my dining room table ready to be claimed by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren as keepsakes and reminders of him.  This was his collection of animal figurines and carvings which he collected from around the world and which were very dear to him.  Also included was a crèche complete with Mary, Joseph and a manger in which to lay baby Jesus.  Every Christmas he would display the crèche with all of his animals surrounding it.

Somewhere along the way Jesus must have gone missing, not unlike the time when Jesus was twelve and Mary and Joseph had traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.  On the way home, you may remember, they thought he was in the company they were traveling with and it took three days to find him.

The comparison breaks down quickly, but it does come to mind that sometimes one thinks they have Jesus and they really don’t.

IMG_2652Anyway, one of our sons chose the crèche.  The figures have wonderfully expressive faces and are stamped with Italy as their country of origin.  Jesus looked a little off to me.  He wasn’t made of the same material, but it was something about his eyes that gave him away.  We turned him over and there it was.  Jesus was made in China.  I’m guessing he was purchases in a Dollar Store and added to the scene like an understudy in a play.

This troubled me, but we figured lots of people display manger scenes without Jesus in the manger all through the Christmas season.  Then on Christmas morning He miraculously appears.  This hatched a plan to look on E-Bay to find a baby Jesus that was fitting to sit with his Italian-made parents.

IMG_2654I wasn’t comfortable throwing made-in-China baby Jesus away.  It seemed wrong somehow.  I figured we should put him some place where I could remember where he was; so just in case I didn’t find a suitable replacement, the manger would not sit empty on Christmas.  I put him in the china closet.  You know, China/china – I should remember that.

Then it occurred to me.  Bob and I are going to Italy in the spring to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary.  I can look for Jesus there.  That would be awesome.

So, this year if you come to my house on Christmas, please do not look too closely at Jesus in the manger.  We have hope that next year he will look a lot better.

I would encourage you to look for Jesus where he may be found this Christmas.  He is there at the mere mention of his name.  He is no longer a baby in a manger.  He is the Prince of Peace and our Savior.  Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:11-12:  “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign to you:  You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”



Four for Four, Plus One More

Our family has been a buzz of activity over the last few weeks.  It all began earlier this year when our youngest son met the girl of his dreams.  Now, there was a lot of pressure on him because our older three kids have amazing spouses who love them and fit in with our family like they were hand-picked by God, which we believe they were.  So, when Scott met Julie, there was a lot at stake.  It didn’t take long before we realized that she is wonderful.   Over the Thanksgiving holiday he proposed and she said yes!  So it looks like we are going to be four for four in the kid-in-law department.

But that wasn’t the only thing afoot.  Our son, Joe, and his wife were expecting their first child.  He came a week late but arrived on December 6, healthy and beautiful.  They are living with us temporarily, so our lives have taken a bit of a return to earlier times.  We live in the same house we lived in when Joe was born.  So just when my baby who is 27 is getting ready to get married, we are transforming the house for our grandson.

Before Thanksgiving my house was overrun with my father-in-law’s furniture, which we pulled out of storage so Bob could refinish it.  You may remember that he was blind so there were quite a few spills and rings from glasses marring its finish.  So arranged among my regular living and dining room furniture, we had a large credenza with bookshelf, two dressers and two nightstands.  There was also a pile of artwork resting in a corner of the room.  We suddenly had too much stuff!

I was desperate to clear out the excess because not only were we getting ready for our grandbaby, we also were going to need a spot to put our Christmas tree.  I was determined it would not go on top of one of my father-in-law’s dressers, but that was looking like a viable possibility.

A few days before Thanksgiving we were able to consign and/or sell his remaining furniture and transform the living room and dining room back into something we could live with, even if that does include a sofa in the dining room.  Clutter stifles me, distracts me and gives me an excuse to be unproductive.   When the excess was removed, happiness and contentment returned.

Christmas tree and baby paraphernalia are all set up.  Notice no bedroom furniture in the living room.  Victory!

Christmas tree and baby paraphernalia are all set up. Notice no bedroom furniture in the living room. Victory!

Now all I have to do is finish my Christmas shopping, do some baking, clean the house (again), wrap the rest of the presents and finish the book I’m writing.  Last week I decided I would not panic until Tuesday (today).  So far I’m not panicking.  I guess I’m procrastinating doing that, too.

From Two to Ninety-Two

Easter Sunday afternoon has changed a lot for us over the years. Bob and I have always lived close to my parents. For the most part, we were the only of my four siblings that lived near them, and we’ve never lived close to Bob’s family. That made for fairly easy holiday celebrations. Mom and I would take turns having events at our houses. We’d flip Thanksgiving and Christmas each year, but until the kids were teenagers, we usually ended up at their house for Easter afternoon.

They had a beautiful backyard on a small lake.  The beach area was dotted with palm trees and citrus trees lined the edges.  Mom loved hiding Easter eggs and the kids loved the hunt. Those times were uncomplicated. Once in a while relatives or some friends were there, but things still fell on Mom and me; and we liked it fine. My mom and I could throw together a holiday dinner with hardly a thought. We just split things in half. We each had our specialties.

This Easter we met at our house. We equals Bob, me and our four kids, three spouses, six grandkids (plus one in the oven), my mom who is 86, Dad who is 90, and Bob’s dad who says he’s 92 but is really 91.

That means there are five wives to cook. What a spread we could put on! What culinary masterpieces we could display. How our taste buds could be titillated! But I choose Costco, the happiest place on earth. Nothing beats picking up a spiral ham (no slicing), Hawaiian rolls, redskin potato salad and a vegetable tray. Throw in paper plates and you have yourself a perfect day. Okay, we did have homemade deviled eggs and desserts – we’re still human.

It has taken me a while to be able to admit this publicly, but simply put – it’s time for me to simplify where I can. 20140425-141648.jpgI’ll also admit that when I see Facebook posts of lovely tables set up in anticipation of Easter lunch, I feel a little guilty, but the feeling disappears as fast as a bowl full of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.

20140425-113424.jpgThose wonderful, simple days of eight of us celebrating together are gone. I love having 18.25 of us together and look forward to the number growing. The challenge for me is remembering it’s about enjoying the people, and I don’t want to be so worn out from prepping and cleaning up that I don’t get to relax and play with them. Also, our people span 90 years. That means keeping the floor clear for a walker and a wheelchair, making sure I have my dad’s favorite root beer on hand, and giving Bob’s dad some time to tell a story to his grandkids and spouses. It also means having a portacrib for the youngest with a sound machine to drown out noise, and taking some time to play a board game with the kids. And, of course, there are always activities beyond the egg hunt in the backyard. Our oldest son is great about getting the kids outside and active. We have the added joy of our neighbors’ grandkids playing with ours – three generations of friends.

The Quest for the Golden Egg

The Quest for the Golden Egg

We are an exhausting group, so Bob’s and my parents don’t stay as long as they used to. My mom brings bags of treats, but now they’re for her great-grandchildren. We still have the egg hunt as the Big Deal of the Day.  My kids and I hide the eggs and Mom watches us.  I think she loves watching the children scour the yard for treasure more than any of us. I like to observe my mom. She stores up treasures in her heart more than the kids store eggs in their baskets. I want to be like her.


And let’s not forget about Jesus.  I’m not sure how we went from the resurrection of our Savior to dying and hiding eggs, but I don’t want Jesus to get lost in the shuffle.  When my oldest son was little, he and his buddy were into action figures.  They had all the usuals and a few unusual ones.  Among those were Jesus and Moses.

20140425-141704.jpgThis past week I found Jesus in the top of my closet, just in time for Easter.  I handed him to my grandson.  He couldn’t guess who it was and tossed him aside in favor of the Millennium Falcon.  I picked Jesus up and set him on the mantel among the chicks and bunnies.  He looked out-of-place, but I know better.



Christmas Wrap-Up

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday season. Our Christmas was wonderful. Bob’s dad, my parents and my brother were with us on Christmas Day, as were all our kids and grandkids except for our son and daughter-in-law, who are still in Paris. They did visit us by video chat. We passed them around the room on my iPad for everyone to share a few minutes together.

There were a few unusual or noteworthy things this Christmas Season.

1. We decorated the inside of the house early this year. It was complete before we left for Europe back on November 15. I did not want to return home on December 1, jetlagged and worn out, with that task ahead of me.
2. Our first weekend home, we decorated the outside of the house. We scaled back – no lights on the roof so we (meaning Bob) didn’t have to do any climbing. The mandatory outdoor decoration is my Christmas moose. He is made from grapevines and stands proudly in our front yard with his head swaying back and forth as he greets passersby. This year, however, the lights on his antlers didn’t work. In the dark it looked like a headless moose – not too Christmassy. We never got around to fixing him, but as we walked into the house the evening of Christmas Eve, we noticed he was fully lit from antlers to tail. That’s right – it was a Christ-moose miracle.

Christmas Moose

Christmas Moose

3. I saw Santa Claus shopping at Costco on December 23. Further proof that Costco has the best stuff.
4. On that same Costco trip, I was nearly run over by a man texting while driving a motorized shopping cart. Makes you wonder how he ended up needing that cart to begin with.
5. While waiting in line at the grocery store I heard the elderly woman behind me quietly singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It struck me as funny that out of so many beautiful Christmas carols, this was the one she was singing. She must be a grandmother.
6. I did a photo Christmas card, which I have never done before. One of the photos was us posing with a monkey in Gibraltar. I mainly did this for my relatives who live out-of-state and figured it would be the only card they received with a picture of a live ape surrounded by family. This checks another thing off my bucket list.

Pictured left to right - Aubyron, Joe, Monkey, Me, Bob

Pictured left to right – Aubyron, Joe, Monkey, Me, Bob

7. I successfully made two new recipes for our Christmas meal. This is very unlike me on both counts – trying something new and having everyone like it.
8. There is one day out of the year that I can count on Bob being totally exhausted. That day is Christmas Eve. He hits the wall around 10:00 every Christmas Eve night without fail. I typically have crazy energy on Christmas Eve and am constantly amazed that he doesn’t. I’ll be getting stockings out to stuff and putting gifts under the tree and he will be down for the count. This year, however, Bob stayed up all the way until 10:30. That may have something to do with #9.
9. The stockings were stuffed and 95 percent of the gifts were wrapped by December 23.
10. Dena’s oldest three children painted a statue of whales for Bob’s dad. Dad is almost 91 and legally blind.  He has a collection of carved animals, which he has acquired from all over the world. He was holding his gift and trying to figure out what it was. The kids told him it was two whales. He strained his eyes and asked, “Are they doing something obscene?” Another classic Grandpa quote.

On that note, I wish you a Happy New Year!

Stuck in the Middle

If you are a middle child, please stand up. Be careful when you do, though, because your older sister or younger brother is likely waiting to take your seat.  They will claim you got up and everyone knows there is no seat saving.  Mom will give the seat to the baby of the family to keep peace and the oldest will take the next best one.  You might as well sit on the floor.  Such is life for the middle child.

This should cheer you up, child in the middle.  You have a national holiday, Middle Child Day!  It’s unofficial, but you have to take what you get, like your sister’s jeans with the hole in the pocket and green paint on the leg.  Or your brother’s jacket with his name embroidered on it.  I digress, which is something we middle children tend to do.

The special day was August 12.  Sadly, it came and went without any fanfare, but because I am a middle child (number three of four and the middle of three girls), I cannot ignore this day.  (I can’t ignore it, but I can manage to be late to blog about it.)

My middle-child experiences include my dad referring to me as his Number Two Daughter, which is appropriate because, like Avis, I try harder.  The good thing about being Daughter #2 is I’m better than Daughter #3.  (Yes, I realize that his ranking is by birth order.  At least that’s what I tell myself as I pour him a drink and rub his feet while repeating how much I love him.)

I’m also a mother of four children; therefore, I have two middle children.  My daughter’s status is not as distinctive because she is the only girl.  My son, Joe, is like me – number three in line and the middle son.  I have determined not to call him my #2 Son, but that’s all the headway I’ve made in keeping him from having Middle Child Syndrome (MCS).

I thought I was being creative (that’s the middle child in me) when I wrote MCS.  Wanting to be thorough, I googled it.  It’s real!  Isn’t that something a middle child would do – make up something that she thought was funny only to find out that somebody else already made it up, probably someone’s older sister?

I’ve looked at middle-child life from both sides now (to quote Joni Mitchell).  From being in the middle to observing it.  My conclusion – it’s not bad.  In fact, it’s quite comfortable.

As a kid I admired my older sister.  I wanted to be like her, so getting her hand-me-downs was great.  When I wanted to play with dolls and my peers made me feel like I was too old for that, I could play with my little sister.  As long as she promised not to tell anyone, I could stay in a child’s world longer and also make Mom happy.  I was never lonely.

There are down sides.  Middle children have probably shared a room most of their life.  Then there’s the baby book – mine is practically empty.  But since I’ve been on both sides I declare, “I forgive you, Mom!  To make you feel better I have left large portions of my third and fourth children’s baby books empty, too.”  (See, I’m still trying to please!)

Hanging with My Peeps

Before Easter my daughter was wandering around Pinterest and came up with a picture of an Easter version of deviled eggs.  I’m not very creative in the cooking department, but I can devil an egg, so I thought to myself – Challenge Accepted!

The eyes are capers and the beaks are carrot.  I think they’re pretty cute, but they were not eaten as readily as usual.  I guess it was awkward to bite the head off of a chicken as part of the Easter celebration.  Although, nobody has a problem biting the ears off of a chocolate bunny.  As long as the real meaning of Easter – Christ is Risen from the Dead – is not lost, it’s all okay with me.

My Peeps

My Peeps

Valentine’s Day – It’s Not for the Faint of Heart

Did I tell you about Bob and me getting cussed out by popular British singer/songwriter Adele?  It was the culmination of a typical Valentine’s Day.  First we went out to dinner where we were forced to eat inside a loud, crowded restaurant due to our plans for alfresco dining being washed out by heavy rain.  After eating we headed to the parking lot only to witness somebody back into our car and drive off totally oblivious.  (There was no damage, so we just chalked it up to Reason #14 of Why We Don’t Like Going Out on Valentine’s Day.)

Earlier we considered going to see the movie Identity Thief, but on discovering that it has about 50 f-words in it, we decided against it.  So, Bob surprised me with Adele Live at The Royal Albert Hall, thinking we could enjoy a DVD concert at home.  Now, there is a bit of a language barrier between citizens of the U.S. and those of Great Britain, so it took me a few minutes to realize that Adele cusses like a sailor.  We likely would have been less verbally assaulted by going to see Identity Thief.  (This is an example of Reason #48 of Why Valentine’s Day Never Turns Out Like You Plan.)

So, here is a summary of our Valentine’s Day:

  • We ate dinner in a crowded restaurant at a folding table.
  • We couldn’t hear each other talk.
  • Somebody backed into our car.
  • We were cussed out by Adele.

Not the worst Valentine’s Day we ever had!  Next year I think we’ll stay home, order pizza and watch a movie.  Maybe by then Identity Thief will be on TBS.

Let Your Imagination Go Wild on Valentine’s Day

Ella's Valentine Note to GW

Ella’s Valentine Note to GW

I remember when my kids were young what a pain in the neck Valentine’s Day was – all those cards, all that candy! It was worse than Halloween or Easter because you added to it the notion of romantic love, which really should not be pushed on any seven-year old. I always preferred to introduce that concept to my kids when they were well into their twenties.

And, speaking of seven-year-olds, our granddaughter Ella has been preparing her Valentine cards. She is a very loving little girl and made sure not to forget anyone. She went down her list – parents, sisters, her brother Jett, Jett’s imaginary friend. Yes, she included them all.

Jett is four. He is badly outnumbered in his house by his three sisters. Thankfully, he has a very special, though imaginary, friend who is a boy. Jett’s friend is a bit different from most of the imaginary friends that I have heard about. Jett’s friend is a blankee; actually he’s more of a persona. His name is Green Wee. We don’t know why.

Green Wee, or GW for short, is so life-like to Jett that he talks about him as if he were real. He told me one day that Green Wee had his cousin visiting him. Jett was happy for him to have company and wasn’t threatened at all by another imaginary friend in the life of GW.
Sometimes GW disappears. (I guess we all need some alone time.) When that happens the entire household is enlisted on a search and rescue. Usually he hasn’t gone too far (after all, he is a blanket). GW closes himself in the bathroom cabinet when he has to “go.” I suppose his waste is akin to lint – he never puddles on the floor.

Bedtime, of course, is when GW is most needed, and he is the only one that can make Jett feel better if he gets a boo-boo. He is one compassionate blankee so I think it is entirely appropriate that Ella sent him a Valentine. It is extra special when you notice that she took the time to make sure that Green Wee knows that Jett loves him.

When I look at Green Wee, I see a well-used blanket or lint in the dryer. In Jett’s imagination he sees a friend. This challenges me to make sure that I’m not treating my loved ones like dryer lint. And I especially don’t want to be a wet blanket to them.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Not Too Funny but All Too True Story of How I Spent Christmas Vacation

What do Betty Crocker, Costco and my family have in common?  I wouldn’t have made it through the holidays without them.

My last post was on December 11.  I usually post on Tuesdays, but decided to push my Tuesday the 18th post to the 20th to time it closer to Christmas.  (This was influenced greatly by the fact that I had not written that post.)  I also figured that, if you are like me, you wouldn’t be reading as many blogs over the week of Christmas, so I planned on skipping that week altogether.

Plans are made to be changed, tweaked and invaded.  On the morning of the 19th of December my plans were invaded in the form of four of my grandchildren coming to stay with us while my daughter, their mommy, was rushed to the hospital with a major gall bladder attack.  If that wasn’t bad enough, she also had pancreatitis, which had to be resolved before the gall bladder could be removed.

So needless to say, life got serious.  Very serious.  Dena was in bad shape.  Her husband stayed by her side, as my husband and I, along with our sons and daughters-in-law prayed and watched the kids.  The kids, who are 9, 7, 4 and 8 months old, were wonderful, especially in light of being slightly traumatized as I  picked them up and brought them to our house while they watched their mommy be rushed to the hospital.

It was a very different Christmas season.  Thankfully, Dena was released from the hospital on Christmas Day and she came right to our house to nestle in our Lazy Boy and celebrate Christmas with us all.  We are grateful to God.  We are also amazed at the wonderful family that we have been blessed with.  Our son, Scott, took off of work that first afternoon to stay with the kids so I could go to the hospital and then watched the little two the next night so Bob and I could surprise Mia and Ella (the oldest two) with a night at the theater watching The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which we had arranged weeks beforehand.  My son Joe and his wife Aubyron arrived on Friday afternoon for Christmas only to jump in with all four feet with the kids, chasing them around the yard, taking them to a movie along with Uncle Scott and helping in every way possible.  My son Jesse and his wife Dacia took Bob’s dad to the hospital to see Dena as he was so worried about her, and then carted the three oldest kids to their house for an afternoon giving us a much-needed break.  And that doesn’t even count the friends who prayed.

I am amazed at God’s provision.  Here it was the busiest time of year and because of that very fact, my family was around.  Bob had even previously scheduled vacation days the week of Christmas.

In light of all of this, our Christmas Eve dinner was a bit different.  We decided to let Dena off the hook regarding preparing any dishes.  After all, she was in the hospital and on a liquid diet.  It just wouldn’t have been right to put that kind of pressure on her.

Between my mom, my daughters-in-law and me, not to mention a strong showing by Costco and Betty Crocker, we had it covered.  Dinner consisted of a Costco spiral-cut ham, frozen yeast rolls, Betty Crocker Au Gratin potatoes (yes, right from the box), and green beans and pan roasted red onions (the one and only home-made dish).  Dessert was apple pie, fresh from Costco’s bakery.  We ate it all on fancy paper plates.  It was delicious.

After dinner we sat around a fire and sang Christmas carols, drove around looking at lights and then returned home to put the kids to bed.  We used our iPhones to face-time with Dena and her husband Derek so they could see their kids in their new Christmas pajamas.  I cried.  Dena cried.  But we all knew she would be home soon.

As I mentioned, our prayers were answered when Dena came home on Christmas.  She was still pretty weak, so she recovered at our house for the next four days.  Most of that time was without her kids as they were home with their daddy allowing Dena more effective and undisturbed rest.

So this is a portion of what I’ve been up to lately.  There has been no time for writing, at least no time that I have opted to use for writing.  Sleeping and being with the family took priority.  I hope to be back on a regular Tuesday schedule, but I can see that my life is not my own and that’s good.  I make the plans; God has his way.  It is very good.

Now I’m working on getting my funny bone back in shape.  Maybe Costco has something that would help with that.  I know my family always comes through, especially the grandkids.  All I need is a little energy to write things down, and I’ll be back in the swing of things in no time.  Meanwhile, I think I’ll pull out my Betty Crocker Cookbook and look for a chicken soup recipe.  That’s always good for the soul.