Wish I was eating cake with you

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After all these years, I can still see you standing there.  You, in your blue jeans, with your unruly curls, your lipstick on, nails polished, smelling like Cinnabar.

It is hard for me to imagine that if you were still here, today you would be celebrating your 68th birthday.  Time stands still and I remember you forever at 49.

Time hadn’t etched many lines in your face and your eyes were clear and bright.  The hand that only ever got to feel Morgan, when she kicked in my 8 month pregnant belly, was steady and bore no signs of age spots.  Before sickness took it’s toll, you were energetic and vivacious!

I don’t question why anymore, as I trust God’s timing in all things, but oh, mother, how I still miss you!

My heart still aches with grief sometimes and yes, the tears still fall, but not nearly as often.  There are so many things I would love to be able to share with you and I can’t count the times I still desire your wise counsel and advice.

Until heaven, I must be content with memories, so I am eternally grateful and immensely blessed to have a million good ones with you.

Feeling highly favored to have called you mine,

Lisa

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Family

At first I thought this challenge was going to be difficult as I love all of my family so much and there are hundreds of photos to choose from to depict “family”. Then, I saw this one. It perfectly illustrates the fun that my brother and sister and I have when we are together.  It’s not the greatest picture ever and they weren’t even standing perfectly to get the full effect, but it still works for me, because of the memories associated with it.

On this particular day, we were hanging out at a state park in North Carolina, enjoying the view, the weather and each others company. My sister had the idea for this picture, which was no surprise.  If there is a crazy idea amongst us, I can guarantee she will be the one who came up with it.

We’ve always enjoyed each other, but as life continues, with all of it’s joy and challenges, you realize more than ever how important family is.

By the time you’ve reached my age, you’ve likely lost someone dear to you, which further reinforces the brevity of life and a greater appreciation for it.  You realize tomorrow isn’t promised and the future is unpredictable.  People and the time you spend with them becomes a priority because you no longer take them or that time with them for granted.

May we be reminded today that “life is but a vapor” and make our choices accordingly.

 

I am mom

Dearest Mother BIG tag

Dearest Mother BIG tag (Photo credit: AForestFrolic)

From the time you see that soft, wiggly, bawling baby, you fall in love.  You become a fierce protector.  You are mom.  This tiny gift from heaven rocks your world and melts your heart.

You vow she will always be safe in your arms, sheltered by your love, kept far away from all evil and danger.  She needs you.

She will be given every opportunity, receive plenty of praise and encouragement along with proper discipline and instruction.

As the years go marching by in this journey, you stumble, yes you even fall a time or two, but you do your best.  You learn quickly that this thing called parenting is no easy feat.  Your best isn’t perfect, but you never give up.  You defend, you teach, your love grows deeper.

She drives you crazy sometimes.  She reminds you of when you were that age.  She makes you want to tell your mom you’re sorry again.

She grows up overnight and it seems she doesn’t need you as much anymore.   Thankfully, she still calls and asks your advice.  She doesn’t always take it.  You probably drive her crazy sometimes.  You have dreams and goals and hopes for her.  She has different ones, but you will love her anyway.

Your love grows ever deeper and she returns that love.  She begins to realize that you often make sense and tells you so.  You watch her become more like you in many ways.  You become one of her closest confidantes.

She’s not perfect; she stumbles and yes, even falls sometimes, but she gets right back up. You are her biggest fan and you secretly hope she got that tenacity from you.

Your role as a parent never ends; it merely changes.  You continue to pray that as the years pass and you both continue to grow older, that you are always what she needs you to be.  You are mom.

Cookies, lists and common sense

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Today has been a beautiful day in Southwest Florida but I have spent almost all of it inside, with the air conditioner cranked up and Christmas carols on.  I spent the day baking and making fudge, then allowed myself to take the time to deliver some to an elderly couple I haven’t seen in a while.  My first thought was, “I’ll quickly drop it off, so I can deliver others and get back home”.  Then, I thought about it some more and said to myself, “No, you will stop and breathe and relax and visit with them because you never take the time to do that anymore”.

I made up my mind that the days preceding Christmas were not going to be stressful this year, and that I would approach it differently .  Instead of having unending lists and must-dos because I have to, I decided to take it one day at a time, to do what I can and if something doesn’t get done, so what? Seriously, what’s going to happen if I don’t have all the shopping done by December 20th or I forget to buy all the ingredients for mom’s red velvet cake?  Nothing, that’s what.

If I forgot to make half of what I’m responsible for, our family would still have enough food left over to feed another family for a week.  And, if lo and behold that one gift I ordered online for my youngest doesn’t come in?  Well, then she will live and have a nice surprise a few days late.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to all step back and think about WHY we do some of the things we do.  Sometimes it seems we’re like hamsters stuck on the treadmill, running ourselves ragged, without accomplishing much.  Although I love traditions, if they become rote robotic type activities, they lose their significance and might as well be abolished.  What if you just make up a brand new tradition that fits your family?

Yesterday, I went to town to do some of my shopping and had it on my list to pick up poinsettias because I have an empty vase sitting here.  I also had two more pages of neatly penned items to do.  However, when I noticed my stress level beginning to climb and felt my allergy ridden body begin to tire, I came home.  No poinsettias and the list is missing many check marks.  I don’t care.  No one even knows and wouldn’t know now if I weren’t telling.

That’s my point, I guess.  We put ourselves under so much pressure to achieve self-inflicted goals that serve to prove what?  That we are exhausted and snappy and stressed?

This attitude is quite the departure from the norm for me as I even say sometimes, “I thrive on chaos”, or “I work better under pressure”.  Don’t misunderstand, I believe in responsibility and I take my obligations very seriously.  The problem that I’ve always had to contend with is that I over extend myself and give myself way too many “imagined obligations”.

Thankfully, I’ve finally learned my family wants my love and attention more than anything.  When we grasp that, the things like baking are actually fun and relaxing.  I didn’t set a goal for how many cookies I had to bake and how many people had to receive theirs today…I just baked and danced around my kitchen singing Christmas carols and texted pictures of cookies to family members.  It was fun.  I’m having fun a few days before Christmas!

As I write this, there are presents to be wrapped and a craft project left abandoned.  I will get around to wrapping the presents, but the craft project can wait until next year.  My house is clean, decorated and smells like cookies and peppermint.  I think we will all live if I fail to make one more decoration, especially if that means I have more time to enjoy my family.

Merry Christmas!

“Memories are the treasures that we keep locked deep within the storehouse of our souls, to keep our hearts warm when we are lonely.”  Becky Aligada

The lost laces

Shoe lace on a sneaker

Shoe lace on a sneaker (Photo credit: MoHotta18)

I began writing this on November 27, 2013 and about two paragraphs in, I got a phone call that my beloved Granny starring in this little story had gone home to heaven.  If you are a follower, you will know I have many posts starring the precious, Granny.  I hope you enjoy this one!

 

Granny lived in the yellow house across from the  K-12 school I attended during my elementary years.  Words would not begin to express the comfort that was derived from knowing she was so close, knowing that while I studied, she was in her rocking chair with the bible open on her lap, or visiting with one of her many friends, or maybe even baking my favorite chocolate pie.

One day in particular brings back another memory of a day Granny single-handedly turned my grey skies to blue.  It was a school day and on that day, I had P.E. as we called it back then, for physical education.  This meant I had to bring and wear the required hideous uniform which consisted of blue loose legged shorts which made my bony legs even more apparent, a white t-shirt, tennis shoes and white socks.  P.E. went well as far as I recall, except for Tommy calling me chicken legs, which always got him into trouble and upset me far more than I let on.

Afterwards, for some reason that eludes me, several of us had not only removed our shoes, but our laces as well.  When it was time to change and go back to class, I discovered that my laces were nowhere to be found.  This distressed me greatly and in retrospect, I have no idea why, but it provoked me to tears.  Granted, I was well known for losing or misplacing things and I was horrified at the idea of admitting that I had done it again.   This was also during a time in our lives when money was tight and I didn’t want to be the reason for another expense, albeit a small one, so perhaps this contributed to my extreme dismay.

I vaguely remember making my way to the office, with one thing on my mind and that was to call my granny.  I dialed her number on the rotary phone and when that beloved voice answered, I whispered my dilemma to her looking away from the eyes peering at me from across the counter.  Granny told me to come right over after school and not to worry about a thing.

So, when school was out, instead of boarding the hot, smelly school bus, I ran across the street to granny’s house.

After making sure I was well fed and hydrated, Granny and I left for the local hardware store.  We lived in such a small town, I remember doubting we would be successful in our quest.  Granny swung open the door and I followed as it chimed a greeting to us and announced to the proprietor there were customers.  She marched straight up to the counter and asked for white shoe laces, without even mentioning my name, bless her heart.  And lo and behold, they had some.

Granny paid and we waited for the little brown paper bag holding the laces to be passed across the counter.  I gushed with relief and thankfulness and Granny just smiled and hugged me tightly to her.

Now, I don’t know all of the details and never did ask, but my mother showed up later that afternoon to pick me up and not a word was uttered about missed school buses or missing laces.

My heart still swells with love and gratitude when I remember how granny always made me feel like I was the most important person in the entire world.  It’s funny because if you ask my siblings or my cousins they would tell you the same thing.  She loved us all and made each of us feel like number one without slighting anyone.  Tonight I’m feeling very blessed and thankful for her highly valued presence in my life once again.

Oh Christmas tree, MY Christmas tree

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

This Christmas is a first of sorts for my husband and I.  December 25, 2013 will be our first Christmas as empty nesters.

Don’t worry; this post isn’t going to be a sappy one lamenting a dismally quiet household and no one to wake up with us on Christmas morning.  Although we are disappointed that our eldest can’t make it home this year with our only grandchild, we will have our youngest and her husband here for the holidays.

With all of the ornaments laid out on the kitchen table this year, I made a decision.  I was going to split them and ship them!  I painstakingly and with absolute fairness, separated them into two large flat rate postal boxes.  I wrapped them using bubble wrap and tissue paper and one Christmas dish towel (a little extra). One of the boxes is on it’s way to Louisiana while the other heads for Texas.  Why, you might ask?  Well, I decided I had a couple of choices.  I could hoard them all and continue to have the same old tree year after year, or I could send them each a little piece of home, while also helping these young couples build up their Christmas decoration stock.  Why keep them until I’m old and grey? (wait, I’m already grey without color every six weeks) – anyway, I figured I would let them enjoy them and have memories of home hanging from their trees.

What was in it for me?  To be honest, as I packed all the cute, kiddie looking ornaments, I was dreaming of a tree similar to one I’d encountered on Pinterest, with a woodland animal theme.  You might think I’m not sentimental enough and that I should be pining for the ornament that a 6yr old made in art class.  Well, I did keep a couple that were made by their own little hands.  However, not for my tree; just for the memory.  I much prefer the memories of spending time with them and our conversations and laughter to things.

I marched right to Kohl’s the following day where I had already eyed the ornaments I liked and filled up a basket with owls, foxes, cardinals and others that would match my theme; Then it was off to Target and then Family Christian Store for more tree decorations.  I turned on Christmas carols, turned down the A.C. (yes, good old south FL weather) and began.  A couple hours later I stepped back, pleased and beamed when my husband said it was beautiful.

As families grow and change, a new tradition or a new twist on an old tradition helps to move us forward.  I have beautiful memories with my children decorating and them picking out an ornament every year, but they don’t live here anymore and this tree makes me happy.  It let me pour out some creativity and refresh an old theme.  We can’t dwell on the past and the way things were.  Things and people change and we can’t allow ourselves to get bogged down in the yesterdays and how things used to be.  We grow, people pass on, family members move, more members are added.

If you find yourself in a new season in life, make a change, do something different, something new and enjoy it!

I am reminded of a similar post called “Gone are the matching bows” that I wrote at a different time in my life last year about Christmas trees and letting them be for the children; you can click on the link below to check it out.

https://longwalksanddarkchocolate.com/2012/11/28/gone-are-the-matching-bows/

 

SONY DSC

 

Christmas threads

SONY DSC“Ma’am, may I ask you a question?”  The persistent young lady clutching a tube of sea salt, something or other, actually matched my steps for a few seconds as I hurried past the mid-mall vendor.  After my “no thank you” didn’t faze her tenacity, I tried “No thank, you I’m not interested” in a more serious tone.  When that also failed to weaken her resolve, I decided to just pick up my pace and ignore her.  She was intent on making a sale but I was determined to escape.

Moments later, I settled into a seat with my lunch to take a break and re-group.  I found myself feeling angry.  Why should my leisurely trip to the mall be interrupted by an incident that left me feeling like I’d done something wrong?  I don’t like to use my firm tone of voice and I certainly don’t like to ignore people.  My day begins with a prayer to show love to others, not return rudeness.

Determined not to lose my joy, I let it go, adamant in my desire to shine a little brighter for the remainder of my day.

I begin to recall memories of Christmas shopping in this very mall with my mom, my husband, my mother in law, my girls and many friends.  Some of them are no longer here, but I can meander through the memories and find the moments and share them again.

The heart of Christmas for me lies in my Christian roots; the reality of the gift given to the entire world on that Christmas long ago.  When we celebrate Christmas, it’s based on that love and although December can be hurried and harried, that is where the focus must remain.

As I began to look around a few stops later, I noticed the exuberant face of a little boy as he carefully selected ornaments with his mother.  She spoke softly to him, love and tenderness in her voice.  They were both young and creating “moments” together to be cherished for years to come.

I rounded the aisle and saw what appeared to be a family, according to their similarities in look.  There was an elderly woman in a wheelchair, being pushed by a younger woman, who could have been her daughter.  I paused to let them pass and they smiled in thanks.  Directly in pursuit of them was a younger woman, who was very noticeably pregnant.  I wondered if I was perhaps looking at four generations (one still in the oven).  They made me smile as they laughed and joked about who was “bringing up the rear”, obviously enjoying each other immensely.

We have to remember during all the hustle and bustle of the season to cherish one another and to savor moments and make memories.  Every moment, every event, be it large or small is like a thread, which when woven together with love, create a beautiful garment of memories, that can be thrown around our shoulders to embrace and comfort us time and time again.

And that reminds me of the comforting love of the Father – Have a blessed day and cherish those moments!

Grateful always

SONY DSC

The sun will soon rise, on this Thanksgiving Day

I’m up with my coffee, to read and to pray

The oven is buzzing, time to take out the yams

Next on my list, replace them with the ham

Ham is now cooking, time to start fudge

On Mom’s recipe card, an old chocolate smudge

This makes me smile and happy memories recall

Family cooking, playing, laughing and having a ball

The fudge turns out nicely, you never can tell

About half the time, my fudge is a fail

My phone begins ringing, my girls on the line

They will be missed this year, those daughters of mine

Topping fudge with pecans and peeking through oven door

My fuzzy socks dancing on my kitchen floor

Dancing with joy, Macy’s parade on t.v.

For all this and more, I am thankful you see

Green bean casserole is next and then my part is done

Then, it’s off to my sisters for more family and fun

This day a reminder to show gratitude always

Every day of the year, not just on Thanksgiving day

Thinking and thanking

spaghetti-squash-with-parmesan-cheese

spaghetti-squash-with-parmesan-cheese (Photo credit: famfriendsfood)

The smell of bacon permeates my kitchen as it pops and splatters noisily in the pan.  Tonight is one of those “force yourself to put one foot in front of the other; just hurry up and get it all done so you can relax” kind of nights  Tonight I find myself lamenting the fact that I pulled out new recipes to try, but stubborn enough to try them anyway.  My back is achy because my job in front of a computer all day was a tense one and I can’t wait to hop in a warm shower.  At least there is an extra piece of bacon I can munch on as I continue cooking.

Today has been the kind of day where I had to choose to make a conscious effort to see the positive, to choose happy.  Throughout the day I reminded myself, “this too shall pass” and “you are blessed to have a job”.  As time rolled around for dinner preparation, “I am thankful I have food to cook”.

By the time I pulled the spaghetti squash out of the oven and started removing the tender threads, my mood was already elevating.   I don’t know what it was; the smell of the yummy food, the call from my husband (because once again our wedding song is playing on the radio and he likes to play it for me), the message from a friend, or a combination of it all.  I just know I stopped and remembered to be grateful.  Sometimes you just have to turn off the distractions and take a few moments to realize what you already know.

The truth washes over me afresh, that there are so many people out there who would see one of my “bad days” as one of their “very good” days.  The truth stings as I begin to think about those people and some of their situations.

Something to think about as you reflect on your Monday.

This too (the chaos) shall pass

Morgan and a FL sunset

Morgan and a FL sunset

How did the time get away from me so quickly this morning?  My daily routine was all out of whack and it wasn’t even 8:00am yet.

As my daughter reminded me that we had to drop off her car before her hair appointment, the phone rang, adding a few minutes more delay.  Finally, I was in the car and on my way and then I saw him.  Our elderly neighbor was slowly making his way to the side of the road, waving his hands up and down holding what appeared to be a card.  I had to stop, even though I knew this would make me even later.

He had a card for the bride and groom, but expressed his apologies that he and his wife couldn’t attend the wedding.  He hung in my passenger-side window and began to remind me of how my children used to plant flowers with them.  As much as I knew I needed to go, I couldn’t.  This little bit of conversation and the card and well wishes to my daughter were important to him and appreciated by me.  He solicited a promise from me that I would remind my daughter of the times planting flowers and encourage her to teach her children to garden as well.  As I made my way to pick up my daughter, I remember thinking about how fortunate I’ve been to have great neighbors and friends.

Fast forward past long appointments, crazy traffic, and Costco crowds, and “the list”; the one that never seems to shorten and once again, the stress level seemed to reach it’s almost breaking point.  I just had to call my sister.  Just hearing her voice helped right away and she began to remind of a few things.

First she said, it’s all going to work out and then she provoked me to remember; these emotions aren’t just about the many “to dos”, or even about the chaos of preparing for a wedding.  More than anything, it’s the deep-down inside knowing that in a few days, my baby will be gone.  I’m holding that part in, to deal with it later, alone, after all the relatives and friends return to their everyday lives.

With that realization, we both gushed fresh tears, but they were cleansing ones.  They absolved my earlier guilt that said I couldn’t handle all of this planning and preparation without wanting to hide in my bedroom.  She left me with a heartfelt prayer and hung up to begin cooking dinner for her family and mine.  It’s the little things that mean so much.

I can’t even count the number of people who have called, emailed, messaged or sent word by a family member that they are there for me, if I need any help as “wedding day” looms closer.  Then there are the wise voices of counsel that comfort and provide that faith bolstering word when things get overwhelming.  And as for me, I’m smiling now as I write, although I still have tears.  They are happy tears though.  I’m so blessed with so many people who love me.

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