Rhymes with “witch” – a daughter-in-law’s journey

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A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

A tender-hearted olive shoot and grandson

Under his breath, he muttered the word that rhymes with witch but starts with a “B.”

Only one person heard it

My youngest son

We were going to a wedding in Indiana

I was in the passenger seat, clueless, in a celebration dress

Quite honestly, I was being silly

It had been a stressful day.

But after the nuptials, on the way back to the hotel,

My youngest olive shoot says he’s in massive pain

Really sick, violently ill

We go to urgent care because Ike’s abdomen is cramping

And that’s when I learn the burden he had been carrying

Of course he felt sick to his stomach!

I mean what do you say or do when your grandpa calls your mom a cuss word and you’re the only one who hears it???

That incident happened three years ago and I’d be lying if I told you this didn’t create a rift between him (not my son, of course!) and me. I knew we couldn’t confront him about disrespecting me and putting our teenage son in a very awkward position. So we have sucked it up.

But I have kept my distance not to be hurt again. Plus I haven’t wanted my sons to feel that kind of slicing pain.

"Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering."

“Heavenly Father, sustain us all during this time of great suffering.”

But now here we are

The man has a brain disease

And he needs me.

So does my husband.

I can only do this because of Jesus.

Left to my own selfish abilities, I would have given up. I bruise easily.

But through Christ and with some distance and education behind me, I think that moment was just another sign that there has been a growing problem.

And that man who called me the word that rhymes with witch but starts with the letter “B.”

Guess what I’m calling him now more than I ever have done in my over 25 years of marriage?

I’m calling him

Dad ❤

Five minute Friday – remember

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This picture hangs in my dining room. So many memories.

This picture hangs in my dining room. So many memories.

As I returned the phone call, a warning was necessary for my husband. “I’m going to cry.”

The voice on the other end asked the triggering question.

“How’s your grandma?” she kindly inquired.

I had only seconds to consider a polite answer. The grief which has whelmed me came surfacing back though truth told, it’s never far behind.

“We lost her 19 months ago. I’m so sorry you didn’t know. It was quick, we only knew she had brain cancer for about a week. I’m so sorry to tell you that. She loved you. You were a good friend.” I choke back the tears, I’m in the hallway of the hotel. I’m in Fort Benning visiting my Soldier on a brief pass from Ranger School. My stomach lurches within, it’s shocking how hearing from my grandma’s old friend makes me remember this woman I loved so much. I remember that I haven’t forgotten that I miss her.

After returning home, a card arrived in the mail. It was from my grandma’s friend. It was a sympathy card. Like the phone call, this card was a surprise.

I so appreciated getting this card, what a thoughtful expression and kindness.

I so appreciated getting this card, what a thoughtful expression and kindness.

But it was a blessed affirmation. She remembered ME. More importantly, she remembered my grandma and the friendship they shared. She remembered the sadness displayed in our phone conversation even though I reassured her she had done NOTHING wrong. I’m glad she called though it was painful. She missed her too.

Check this out and write for your sanity, that's my personal experience!

Check this out and write for your sanity, that’s my personal experience!

Writing for five minutes can be a blessed experience even if you cry. Trust me, I know!

The party guest I invited

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Some of the decorations outside

Over 100 people came to my middle OS’s college send-off party.

It was a beautiful celebration and I just revelled in God’s goodness as I looked at the crowd.

I recall my high school graduation party and it was nothing like this one.

Mine had a keg of beer, Michael Jackson music and I remember my tube top falling down unexpectedly. Someone had yanked on it and whoops, there it fell right by the kitchen door leading out to the backyard.

I nearly died of embarrassment but shrugged it off because bursting into tears is just plain gauche for a burgeoning French major.

Possibly one of the sweetest sights at Aaron’s party is this one. People pausing to pray for my son. Such a tender moment, thank you precious family and friends.

Aaron’s bash was nothing of the sort…No booze, (none necessary) folk music, Christian fellowship and everyone remained fully clothed to my knowledge. 😉

Among the treasured guests were our current church family, close personal friends, extended family, pastors, friends from our old churches, some of Aaron’s former teachers and classmates that were in choir and drama together.

Our pastor spoke a beautiful prayer just before dinner which was a gift in itself.

We ate Chicago style hot dogs from Sonic, Chicago style pizza from Rosati’s and filled in with healthy food like cranberry quinoa salad, lentils and jasmine rice, marinated mozzarella, watermelon juleps and other lovely treats.

All the hard work paid off seeing the faces of people who obviously loved my olive shoot and felt cared for by him as well. Afterward, I told Aaron it was like a wedding but no wife and no sex. He wasn’t sure how to respond but appreciated the sentiment and just chalked it up to another one of Mom’s awkward sayings of which he has quite a collection.

Oh yes, knit Chicago style hot dogs and knit Chicago style pizza slices!

But in the back of my mind throughout the preparations and during the actual party, when I allowed myself to think,

I remembered that a year ago on this same day marked my grandma’s last full day on earth.

That is a very hard thing to process when one is getting ready for a party, I assure you. Myriad emotions wafted in and out.

I loved her so much, she was so dear to me.

She profoundly loved my babies.

How had I even survived this year without her?

Step right up and get your picture taken with Aaron in front of the Sears Tower!

It was a Chicago theme celebration since our ministry-minded OS is going to Moody Bible Institute in the heart of the Windy City. As many of you who have been reading my blog have noticed, I built a Sears Tower (I refuse to call it Willis Tower) in my family room.

Each guest got a picture with Aaron in front of our own homemade indoor skyscraper and I chuckled to see small lines of families getting ready for their turn in front of the impressive structure.

And in my own way, unbeknownst to most people, I secretly invited my grandma to the party.

She had to be a part of the night and oh how Grandma loved to party. The poor woman couldn’t cook worth a darn but she was an enthusiastic and memorable party guest. Young and old alike loved it when Grace was coming over. She had a way of getting a party started as many will attest.

My orange hair freckle face OS and his great grandma. She made everyone smile.

And that’s what I did.

I took her to the party.

It was hard to do but I wore her Chicago Cubs shirt to my OS’s celebration.

It didn’t matter that it wasn’t especially flattering or that it slightly clashed with my skirt, I wanted my grandma there with me.

I also wore her high school necklace which rarely leaves me. And I ate some hot dogs. Grandma ate like a bird but loved hot dogs.

Grandma joined the celebration last night. She would have had a blast even if she had some Alzheimer’s, rarely wore her hearing aids and needed a cane. Heaven is the only thing that stopped her from making an appearance and if my grandma is with Jesus, I completely understand her not wanting to leave the ultimate celebration.

All of us, Nate is even in the picture. And I’m wearing my grandma’s Chicago Cubs t-shirt

As the night drew to a close and August 5th soon approached, more tears fell from my tired eyes.

The one year anniversary of my grandma’s passing had now arrived.

I saw my family’s facebook statuses change and their profile pictures show photos of them with Grandma.

I was not alone in missing her.

And those tears mingled with the tears of joy I experienced toward my treasured OS. I can scarcely take it all in today but all is well.

I miss her.

I love her.

I will miss my boy.

How many people can say they have done the YMCA at their grandma’s 80th birthday party? And how many can say that later on in the night, they danced a conga line through their aunt’s house with that same grandma? I did both and will treasure those times forever!

I love him.

I praise the Lord for all the tears, all the people, all the kindness, all the sadness, all the memories, all the love, truly I am blessed on this most notable day.

These two people were crazy about each other.

PS. In honor of my grandma who loved to party, remember to enter my give-away for a fun party gift! I’ll draw a winner tomorrow! Leave a comment on this page if you want to be entered in.

Doing Hard Things – Aaron sharing from his heart

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My feet and those of my boy – both of us getting 
ready for the service. I love how our feet 
are touching, I didn’t realize it until now 
when I posted the pic. 
My middle OS Aaron entered the world with great gusto on August 30,1996. Almost exactly 17 years later, on a beautiful summer’s day in the Chicagoland area, that same precious child approached a microphone and through words, gave a final gift to the grandma he loved dearly.
Pretty sure I used that entire box of Kleenex!
My grandma’s memorial service brought forth countless blessings. On every level, from the music selected, the pictures featured, the location of the service to the tender common spirit filling the morning, it was obvious that the Lord had given us a day to reflect and celebrate a remarkable person. 
Aaron was the first family member to speak.This wasn’t his choice and he fretted about the pressure and enormity of the task. Not a lot of teenage guys would relish his position. From the perspective of a great-grandchild, my OS desired to recognize and share a central message about someone we all adored. Prone to migraines, we had been praying against him having one during the service and praise the Lord, he was fine. But think of how many adults cower in front of a microphone, let alone how many grown ups willingly speak at a memorial service about someone they love… Ok, now you have a slight understanding of the pride I had in my OS. 

Aaron spoke from this podium (so did everyone else).
You can see a funny picture of Nathan 

and Grandma in the background. 
We always had so much fun with her.  
My boy had worked so hard on his message. He sought counsel from teachers, asked for prayers, listened to our advice, changed a few words and added others. He considered his outfit, his hair (it really is that important!) and his shoes. But the foremost thing Aaron desired was to fittingly articulate the impact Grandma had on his life and on the lives of all the great grandkids. 
At the beginning of his message, Aaron accidentally omitted the name of his big brother, Nathan when he was recalling all of the great-grandchildren. True to form, Aaron gracefully recovered and it gave us all a moment to chuckle when he humorously, begrudgingly inserted Nathan’s name in the list. 🙂

Grandma and her boys at The Sound of Music.
As a music lover, Aaron equated Grandma’s life to a soundtrack. He told of the time we took her to see The Sound of Music. Grandma seemed less interested in the actual performance but more focused on the time with us as a family. Grandma closed her eyes, still fully awake and hummed away at familiar songs. Aaron recalled how he looked over at her during the musical and observed such joy on her face. My OS said that the soundtrack of Grandma’s life was one with strong notes and crescendoes, beautiful and melodious. It was a moving and fitting analogy.
He continued and the tears in Aaron’s eyes and voice mirrored everyone else’s as we wept during his message. My ever growing pile of Kleenex only increased when Aaron spoke of Jesus and His love for all of us. While we were there to mark Grandma’s passing, we celebrated the depth of happiness she gave to us all. Aaron acknowledged the Source of that love, Christ our Lord. I sat there draped in the arms of my other two OS and the Hubs never more thankful for this family I’ve been given. 
I like to imagine that my grandma is in heaven and that she could see us on August 27, 2011. Since there is no sadness or pain in heaven, in my heart I envision her utterly resplendent and I wonder if tears streamed from her sweet face. Not from sadness or cancer or dementia but from joy. I picture her absolutely overwhelmed being in the presence of the Lord, worshipping Him forever and for this one shining moment, seeing her handsome teenage great grandson confidently speaking of her and standing near her portrait. Oh how that picture in my heart brings me peace. If only everyone could be loved like this on earth and then to have that love exceeded in heaven, I want to live that kind of life now and eternally.   
Thank you Aaron. Thank you Grandma. 
Thanksgiving is mixed with sorrow, tears erupt with little warning and that’s the way I process grief. I realize that it’s going to be like this for a while as I have mourned other loved ones in the past. It is possible to be simultaneously sad, proud, grateful…after all that’s just what happens when you are Aaron’s mom and Grandma’s grand-daughter. 

Doing Hard Things – moving forward

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I wrote this post while traveling to Chicago to attend my grandma’s memorial service. I am now back home and reconciling myself to a different life without someone I loved very much…

My feet at my grandma’s service
It’s not that my feet have failed me. It’s not their fault, I can’t blame them. They have moved forward. They will be walking into a church tomorrow and at the appointed time, they will walk up to the podium.Though my heart is breaking, my feet will be sturdy forces even in mid-size heels. My feet will propel me into places I know bring sorrow and there’s nothing I can do about it. They are doing the right thing.
Ok, so the folks in West Virginia might NOT be
moving forward if they are bringing bologna biscuits back!
As we have journeyed from North Carolina, through the voluptuous hills of West Virginia and then through the flatter plains of Ohio, I note that everyone is moving forward. When we arrive in Chicago, it will be apparent EVERYONE is moving forward at breakneck speed. 
The windmills in Ohio moved slowly forward.
They were beautiful.
This week during my water aerobics class (another tribute to my grandma), I considered all the people in the pool. We vary in size, color, age and athleticism. Ashamedly I admit that it’s been a long time since I have really pondered this but as I stood in the water awaiting instruction, I thought to myself, everyone in this pool has lost someone. Everyone in this water knows grief. We have all cried pools of tears. Possibly some are as fresh as mine. 
We are all moving forward in some capacity. Sometimes I look at the ladies in the pool and see wisps of my own grandma. It might be in their carriage or bathing suit styles. I observe their little chicken legs, a charmed feature of my grandma’s and my own feet resist the temptation to run up to them. It would just make them feel awkward and I would cry. Not too many people cry during water aerobics~


Writing is cathartic for me and these fingers push words forward which spring from an aching grand-daughter’s heart. My fingers are blessed to tell you about the tender caresses from my OS and the Hubs as I grieve. They have loved me, allowed ME to lean on them and I’m comforted by their gentleness. My middle OS has told me that he is old enough to handle my pain. My oldest bairn at West Point sets aside his own worries and concerns to listen. The orange-haired, freckle face Isaac grants more hugs than usual without getting annoyed. Their Hanes cotton t-shirts have deposited many of my tears, their rugged hands envelope mine reassuringly.
Perhaps I have shared this previously but I did not grow up in a family with an emotionally accessible father. We were well acquainted with his angry side but vulnerability was rarely shown. Until I met the Hubs, I didn’t realize men were capable of sweet and tender feelings. This, along with my total lack of being able to discuss the merits of menstruation (!), have led me to believe that the Lord gave me three sons to heal a woundedness in my heart.
Going forward while Doing Hard Things
In my next post, I will share things I’m learning while Doing Hard Things and some of the dearest moments at my grandma’s service. Thanks for listening.

A Gift from a Gift – Ring Weekend

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West Point is the place for Nate

Four years ago when my oldest OS decided on attending the United States Military Academy, I distinctly remember giving him a motherly nudge in the ribs. As I learned about the many attributes associated with this historic institution, I realized that quite possibly there might be something in it for me. What mom doesn’t like to know that her hard work might be rewarded one day with something sparkly and shiny?

Nate and Grandma along about the time
that he lit some toilet paper on fire…

True, having Nathan as a son is a gift from God. Aside from the time when as a teenager he lit a piece of toilet paper on fire in our carpeted living room just to see how fast it would burn! (who does that???), Nate has been a delight to raise. And though, you’d think that would be enough for me, I admit, I’m a sucker for a pretty bauble. On Friday night, my OS delivered big time.

Nate’s ring is fine but what’s in it for me???

He had just received his beautiful sky blue topaz West Point ring and we were staying at a friend’s house. Although I was unaware, the moment that I had hinted about four years ago had arrived. 


Nate was doing a load of laundry and I was downstairs in the basement with him. As my OS prepared to dump a bunch of stinky Soldier clothes into the washing machine, he pulled out a little black box.


My boy then said with a warm embrace and a satisfied grin, “Hey, Mom, this is for you. Thanks for your support. It has meant a lot to me.”


I held the velvet box in my hand and pried it open. My gift from God was giving me a gift. And this is what I found. 

My beautiful pendant

A stunning West Point pendant made of yellow gold twinkled at me. A sense of wonder wafted over this mama’s heart. Nate had remembered the nudge from long ago. He also remembered that I love the color purple because he chose a light amethyst stone for the center. As Nate placed the pendant around my neck, I knew that many other WP mothers had a similar moment and the same feelings. So much love, pride, gratitude, would it be possible to wear this pendant ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE? 

I can’t lie, yeah I felt pretty special.

I do know one place where my pendant will be seen. This weekend as we travel to Chicago to celebrate my beloved Grandma’s life, it will be draped around my neck for everyone to notice. All I need now is a pair of versatile gold hoop earrings, Hubs if you’re reading this, our anniversary is coming up…hint, hint.


So tell me, do you have a special treasure from one of your children? If you’re a WP parent, share about your “jewelry” experience. Let’s remember together.

A West Point weekend – ring!

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The journey wading through grief while learning to swim continues. In future posts, I’ll document more about this but I have determined that swimming is an homage to my grandma. Not that she was a great swimmer, in fact, how crazy is this, I’m not even sure she swam though I do have pictures of her in the pool and in the ocean! Nonetheless, swimming has become an emblem, my emblem of moving forward despite the current of sadness which I now possess in my heart.   

West Point firsties during the Ring Ceremony

But over the weekend, I set despair aside and experienced the unmitigated joy and pride of being the mama of a West Point firstie. How sweet and kind of the Lord to perfectly situate a celebration in the midst of a loss. My oldest OS is now a firstie at West Point. In civilian terms, he is a “senior” in college. And when you are a firstie, the plebeian life is wayyyyy behind you. Sure, you have some very big decisions to make regarding your future but for a precious weekend in August, you leave those worries behind. It’s all about one thing…getting your ring. Yeah, it’s a pretty big deal. 

Moments away from getting their rings!



Lowly plebes refer to the ring as a mass of crass and brass and glass but for a firstie, it is an epic embellishment. Overlooking Trophy Point, the Hubs and I along with many equally exuberant parents, observed nearly a thousand firsties savor that moment. Once that ring is slipped over each firsties’ finger, all the muck and ruck and toil and moil they have endured at West Point, kinda sorta melts away. At least that’s what I noticed in my OS. 


My OS marching to the Ring Ceremony.
(That’s not me in the yellow shirt.) 😉

With literally hundreds of stones to choose from, it wasn’t easy picking the right one. Nate selected a striking sky blue topaz set in yellow gold. On one side of the ring are the words United States Military Academy and on the other is the class crest “For More Than Ourselves 2012.” Knowing my OS as I do, I can’t think of a more fitting motto. Two “diamonds” are set on either side and when coupled with the middle stone, a brilliant streak of blue catches the eye. 

Nate’s mass of crass and brass and glass. 

As impressive as the outside, the engraving on the inside of Nate’s ring was as significant. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is the inscription he personally selected from Romans 8:31 in the Bible. I.love.that. I mean I really love that.

A mama, an oliveshoot, an impending storm 
and a gorgeous ring

This weekend our family will travel to Chicago for my grandma’s memorial service. My oldest OS will be in attendance and that means so much to me.  Grandma loved all my OS and told everyone about Nate attending West Point. Years ago, while out for lunch, she even got the address of a cute waitress for Nate because she was so proud of him and hoped they would correspond. (Um, they didn’t!) 


As an extended family, we will cry and laugh and profoundly feel the gaping loss together. We will eat pizza and Portillo’s then make more memories in honor of her. And that gorgeous sky blue topaz ring will be on Nate’s finger. Grandma would have had everyone gushing over this ring. She would have grinned from ear to ear as if she birthed him herself. 


Again, I sense the Lord’s blessing because my grandma would have beamed with pride seeing my OS united celebrating her life. A mixture of sadness and pride fill my mama/grand-daughter’s heart. Tomorrow I will share with you the reward I received for being a firstie mom…(hint, it’s shiny…)