I slow-danced with another man and I liked it

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photoMy first experience slow-dancing was traumatic.

Picture a teenage girl going to a Mormon youth dance. She misses her mom who’s in the hospital. It’s a weekend night. Her friend’s name is Michelle.

Platform shoes, lip gloss, a tender heart, polyester

Abba music playing in the background

This Catholic girl alight with anticipation

Who will pick me? Am I pretty? Has that pimple disappeared? More importantly, will there be enough disco music???

Then the creepiest, dweebiest guy asks me to dance. How can I say no? He isn’t cute but he’s the only one to approach.

Pressing me close to him, he slowly removes his glasses and whispers…

“I don’t need these to see you, now do I?”

Every shameful feeling a teenage girl can experience joined me on the dance floor that night

Clumsy feet step all over his until I can’t take it anymore.

I run into the girl’s bathroom, lock the door.

And upon my return home, immediately shower to remove that guy from my person.

Yeah, I’d say that qualifies as a traumatic slow-dancing event, wouldn’t you?

Since then, my slow-dancing skills haven’t improved.

Foot surgeries, knee problems, my list of excuses will impress.

It’s a standing joke with the Hubs.  I can’t slow-dance, I can’t follow his lead. It’s so silly when I even try.

But more than three decades later, there’s another guy who wants to dance with me.

My middle olive shoot – Aaron

On his wedding day no less…

Did he not remember the legendary tale? I mean, I only talk about it a couple of times a year. I plead with Aaron to not humiliate me by forcing me to slow-dance in front of people. Can’t we just leave it alone?

I send him videos of moms choreographing wedding dances with their sons. Don’t they look amazing? Doesn’t that look like fun? I think we should do that, don’t you? Heck, I even work with an up and coming dj on a dance mix.

But no.

The kid won’t budge.

He wants to dance with his mama.

Tears flow after the father/daughter dance. I know I’m next.

Aaron, I can’t do this.”

“I’m crying. I’ll look stupid. People will laugh. I will uglyphoto cry.”

“No, Mama, you can do this.”

He takes my hand and leads me to the dance floor.photo

Suddenly I don’t care. I almost feel pretty. I know I feel proud.

I’m in my son’s arms.

My charming, safe and oh so handsome child. He’s a married man. Sweet melodies serenade my heart-strings.

We step all over each other’s feet.

I twirl him to lighten the mood.

He spins me around. We look ridiculous. At one point, we miss intersecting after a twirl.

It’s a hot mess.

But I cry and look deep into his eyes. I caress his soft cheeks just like I did when he was a baby.

10172643_10203755528669758_7964348490121130609_n“Oh Aaron, I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Mama.”

And then it’s over.

The music stops.

I leave the dance floor glad. Really super duper glad.

10345846_10152968220578018_3115487111255556271_nI nearly passed up this imperfect moment.

I look at the pictures afterward and reflect.

I almost got in the way. Pride and self-consciousness, as clumsy as my feet trying to move at a gentle speed, nearly ruined the moment.

But the sun had streamed on the spot where we danced. We were unaware at the time. I had no idea. Beholding the images now, God’s hand held us together. 

Quite simply, despite our lack of skill, we were GRACE-ful. Not our feet but our hearts.

I feel resplendent. I feel healed. I’ve been dancing on air ever since.

Here’s my message to you moms – don’t pass up moments due to insecurity. Those times don’t come around every day.

And to you sons – encourage your sweet mothers. Take us by the hand. We get scared too. Tell us you love us and guide us to the adventure. You will never regret it.

Getting on the good foot, eventually

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photo 1photo 11photo 10 I awoke Sunday morning with the remembrance of a dream.

Have you ever done that? Had a dream that surprises or stirs you?

I’ve dreamt many strange things. Just before the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, I dreamt it just a few days before. I stood in horror watching it on tv and told the Hubs that I had those exact images in my sleep just a few days before.

But on Sunday, I dreamt of something ordinary. Something I miss and that must have spilled into my subconscious.

I dreamt of wearing TWO shoes. One on the left foot and get this,

the other on the right – (did that image just give you chills???)

Though I’m certain many of my previous dreams have included me in footwear, I overlooked their significance until today.

Weird how the mind works. Fascinating how things once commonplace become important when they are gone even if it’s only temporarily.

I had foot surgery the day after Christmas. For many years, orthopedic screws in my right foot have caused me problems. It was a more complicated surgery than expected because one of the screws was deeply lodged in my foot and the doctor had to bore two deep holes in my foot to extricate it. Interestingly, one of the screws was loose which probably only proves the theory that many have held for a long time.

And then I developed a shin splint which further impeded my ability to move forward.  Why I was downright churlish when the doctor had the gall to insist on further restricting my mobility!

My tendency is to hurry out of a place of waiting but crud muffins, that’s my reality. Am I the only one who just wants to be over and done with a struggle? Of course not!

Here are the doctor’s orders.

SLOW DOWN! – I’m not used to being still. I’m a busy girl, things to do, people to see, places to go. Forced to move at almost a snail’s pace is challenging. Possibly this is a message for me even after I’m healed.

STAY OFF YOUR FOOT! – If I am foolish enough to walk on my foot without protection, I could break my foot and make matters worse. I might need to ease back into normal activity. I’m wondering if God wants me to do less and abide more.

IT’S GOING TO TAKE TIME! – I’m still learning that healing of the mind, heart and hoof require patience and perseverance. I can’t rush through the recovery but I can do a lot to impede it.

photo 12I know that I will be back in two shoes, Lord willing, by mid-February. I will savor that thrilling return of a simple pleasure. Driving a car, riding a bike, going on a walk, oh how I will cherish those moments!

What lessons have you learned in times of suffering? What have you taken for granted in terms of your health that you now appreciate more than ever? I’ve got about four more weeks of recovery, I’d love to hear! When you easily stroll from one place to the other, give thanks, friends!

When you’re a military family, Veterans’ Day takes on a whole different meaning

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2013-07-12 11.21.47Soon

very soon

my West Point grad, my Army Ranger, my handsome, beloved son will go to a faraway place

Not for vacation

Or to get married – though this will happen soon enough

But somewhere distant that brings a sense of fear over me if I’m having one of those days.

And so this whole Veterans’ Day thing is much more meaningful to me than it was, let’s say ten years ago.

(She types embarrassingly).

Last Friday, my orange hair, freckle face olive shoot sang in the school choir for a local Veterans’ Day celebration.

2013-11-08 18.18.25That in and of itself, is notable since Ike will not be dropping a CD anytime soon though he jokes that he is the songbird of his gen- eration. Hearing him sing, “God Bless America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (my personal favorite) caused me to grab the bag of tissues I brought expressly for that purpose.

My tears were mixed though because this year, another veteran in the family was missing. My father-in-law. For reasons we will probably never understand this side of heaven, he has been taken from us. Not by death but by a person. Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia contributed to the cause but the cruelty of it all is too painful to even share.

Grey-haired military people filled the community center. These folks still beam with pride when their song is played. It was not a time of  preference over which branch served – Army, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, even Navy (inside Army joke), were honored equally. There was solidarity and appreciation. I was among the ranks of those who love the “Armed Forces Salute” although apparently many of Ike’s classmates noted that I spazzed out during the Army song. I tried to be as discreet as possible! I couldn’t help it!

Two proud chunksters

Two proud chunksters

But little did I know, I wasn’t the only one who got choked up during the per- formance.

A certain someone whose name I can’t mention also had to push back the tears. It’s hard to sing and cry. Thinking about his brother, re- membering his grandpa, watching the 93-year-old man sputtering out Taps on his trumpet maybe for the last time, it got to a certain little stoic olive shoot. For the record, he DID NOT cry, he just wanted to for a brief, oh so brief moment!

As an American, I find myself proud of how we honor our veterans. In Brazil, for example, they do not have such a holiday. They have Children’s Day, Dentist Day and Teacher Day but no Veterans’ Day. To serve in the military is a rarity and something not especially appreciated according to my reliable source, my borrowed Brazilian olive shoot. They are proud of their country but those in the armed forces do not receive any special recognition for their service. I thought all countries had their own Veterans’ Day.

Today I remember those in my family who are in the military, past and present. I remember our honored friend, Colonel Eric Kail who was my son’s mentor whether he knew it or not. We love and miss him. Thank you all, bless you all. Happy Veterans’ Day.

Here is Ike and others in the choir singing “God bless America.” It is the land that I love.

Aaron is ENGAGED!!!

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photoThe time to drop your iPhone into the toilet isn’t hours before your middle olive shoot proposes.

Yes, you have read that sentence correctly.

My iPhone took a swim in the toilet on Saturday morning…

And my sweet boy Aaron is now engaged.

As of today,

I have an iPhone that needs repair – waa

BUT much more importantly

In the span of just SIX weeks

I have gained not ONE but TWO future daughters-in-love.

I have been the mother of three awesome olive shoots for many years

And a Brazilian exchange student for about two months

Truly the Lord has taken our family on a fascinating and creative journey. Love and loss, Alzheimer’s and abandonment, family and friendships, oh my goodness. Central America, South America, Chicago, South Carolina, our hearts have been all over the map. We have had a jam-packed season of suffering and joy, our spirits are dizzy and blessed. I scarce can take it in but I’ll try.

Here’s how the proposal unfolded.

After spending the day together in Chicago strolling the Lincoln Square area, Aaron took Kelsie to PF Changs for dinner.

Then they went for a stroll to the Trump Tower. The night was starlit, a slight chill in the air.

Aaron reminded Kels that this was the place where he had asked for their first kiss and professed his love for her.

And then Aaron, all fancy wearing a tie and looking oh so handsome,

My cherished bairn, he took Kelsie’s hand and got on one knee.

With all the confidence and happiness he has probably ever felt, with a host of truly thousands of prayers spoken over this boy throughout his lifetime just in anticipation of this one moment, my treasured Aaron reached into his pocket. Presenting his beloved her great aunt’s wedding ring, a family heirloom, he inquired,

“Kelsie, will you marry me?”photo 4

With nary a moment of hesitation, this dear young woman answered, “YES!!!”

It was a surreal moment for the both of them.

Apparently so surreal that my ministry-minded olive shoot carefully placed the ring on the WRONG HAND! Oops!

But don’t you just love it when things don’t go perfectly?

That’s how life happens, it’s not flawless. I want my children to live real lives and be authentic people. Those little blips and bloopers are what make memories stick. Kind of like what happened when Nate proposed to Lu. Click here for that story. The Hubs and I have so many moments about our own engagement, I’ll save those for another day. I pray that my children accumulate many stories throughout their lifetimes.

photo 5So yes, my phone fell into the toilet yesterday.

It was an unused toilet, for the record and I wasn’t on the phone when it happened. It just fell out of my back pocket. I promise!

But I am thankful nonetheless.

God has answered my prayers. He has been good. So many nights, so many dinner table conversations and prayers about the women my boys would someday marry. And now two of them know who she is.

Nate and Lu –

Aaron and Kelsie –

praise Jesus for my two future daughters-in-law love.

A gift of words to my beloved olive shoot

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r-dayandafter210My arms reached down and pulled the orange-haired baby out of my body. Ten days late, I wanted to get this show on the road! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

That old song by Helen Reddy, “I am woman,” could have been my anthem cry. I felt like I could conquer the world by this one singular action. I still get rather uppity whenever I think about my hands being the first ones to touch my child and being the one to welcome him into the world personally. It was instant love and connection.

The delicious ginger boy I once cradled in my arms has now become a handsome 17-year-old man.

Today I honor him.

I praise the Lord for him.

My heart bursts to overflowing because of him and I’ll stop there or I’ll just start crying.

Sometimes it takes my breath away when I consider God’s goodness, how He knit that boy in my womb. I imagine most moms feel that way about their children, how blessed we are to hold vessels of love in our bodies, don’t you agree?

wh401Truly it is by grace that I am the mama to three awesome olive shoots. I know the person I was, I did not deserve such bounty. One day when I am before Jesus, I will tell Him, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over again into eternity.

Though I will never know what it’s like to have a daughter, I do know what it’s like to have a ginger.

Furthermore, I am an authority on raising an Isaac and could easily write a book on this journey.

These might be a few chapters –

Laughter – True to his name, Ike is the child who makes me reel with giggles. Once he gets going, there’s no stopping this kid. Often the Hubs will be driving and Ike will begin using one of his funny voices. Soon Ike and I are both competing each other for who can drive the Hubs the craziest with our silly antics and jokes. The Hubs will have to scream for us to stop because he lacks our jocularity. We rarely stop. 😉

Tenderness – As humorous as Ike is, he also has a gentle side. He is warmly affectionate to me even at this age and I have seen him deeply touched by the pain of others.  He recognizes others’ struggles and is on the side of the weak and impaired.

sc00305c8bLast year, I was sitting next to a boy during a basketball game. This young man attends our school and he has some disabilities. He beamed as he cheered Isaac on from the bleachers. This boy didn’t know I was Isaac’s mom and when I introduced myself to him, he said, “I love that guy.” I believed him, it was so obvious. When I asked Ike about him afterward, he smiled and said, “Tom’s (not his real name) the man.” Time and time again, I have noticed how my orange hair, freckle-face olive shoot has compassion for those who don’t really fit in with others. My heart bursts with joy each time I see the sincerity of his heart.

He’s the cool kid who is relaxed around people of different cultures and skin tones. He hopes to one day adopt and have a melanin-rich child in his family. I adore picturing Ike as a husband and a dad, he will be a wonderful leader and mentor.

Struggle – But it’s not like life has been easy for him. Ike had a speech problem when he was younger and it was only through hard work and perseverance that he was victorious over this.

Also having two high achieving older brothers can leave big shoes to fill. He often puts a lot of pressure on himself though we reassure him that we just want him to be the best ISAAC he can be. And at times, by his own admission, Ike can have a temper as red as his hair but because of what the Lord has done in his life, Ike usually (not always) can now control his anger and tongue. We rejoice in his accomplishments. God is good!

Humility – This is my precious OS who freely apologizes to me when he is a stinker. He desires to be in right relationship with the people he loves. Ike is able to speak into people’s lives because he knows what damage a prideful heart can cause. As a teenager, I cannot recall one single time when I genuinely apologized to the extent that my son does and trust me, like most of us, I should have done that with great regularity. Ike is the kind of kid you want as your friend because he will tell it to you straight and speak with a voice of experience and authority.

Suffering – This summer I sat Ike down and spoke honestly with him. Since he is the only boy living at home all year, I told him that I felt the Lord was calling Ike into a difficult time of suffering. He was going to get a front-row seat into Alzheimer’s and dementia that his brothers would not know. It would be a very painful time but one that the Lord would carry him through. His grandpa’s conditions were serious and there would be great sorrow. Although the situation has not mapped out exactly as I expected, my words have proven true. As much as I hate it (I will refrain myself about some other feelings I’m having…), Ike has been resilient and strong. His heart has been courageous beyond his years.

photoServant – Which leads me to the next part that I didn’t expect. Though Ike has faced great suffering, God has also recently blessed him with a super cool surprise!  A “little” brother! We are now hosting a Brazilian exchange student for the year! Instead of being the youngest brother, our ginger now shares his home with Chico, the 6’1″ dark-haired guy from the Sao Paolo area! The two are quite a pair and you can’t help but smile when Ike is helping him. He shows Chico how to mow the lawn, take out the trash and empty the dishwasher. Ike helps him with homework, the proper use of American slang and how deal with us as his foreign parents. My OS is a living example of how a teenager can live a Christian life and not be swept up by the world. Yes, it’s not always perfect but no one is and that’s ok. Ike truly pours himself out in joyful service to Chico in every way. There is a smile in our family with this new addition and in many ways, it’s because Ike takes the lead in caring for his new buddy/brother.

photoOctober 29th is a day which calls for great celebration! I am the mama to a strong, kind, talented, adorable, hilarious, gentle, super studly olive shoot! I love you, my Isaac.

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 – last

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We are a good team doing a very reluctant task.

We are a good team doing a very reluctant task.

I have fallen into a black hole of despair

Beyond depression

This abyss

Has left me wondering where I went

But I’m not the one with a brain disease

So it’s weird…

Sometimes the Hubs and I feel like we’ve lost our minds

While caring for someone who is losing his

It’s the last thing I want to do

photo copy 3But oddly enough, it’s the first thing I want to do because I have no choice. And I love him and I know it’s the right thing even though Alzheimer’s is the last thing I would ever wish on a person.

Comfortphoto copy

Encourage

Problem-solve

Discover

Feed

Understand

Restore

Calm

Those are first places in my heart

But here I am doing the last things

Removing rotting food from a fridge

Counting pills to help prevent a medical emergency

Cleaning poo off a toilet seat for the millionth time

Being afraid of what’s going to happen next.

Abba, Father!

There’s so much more…I’ll save it for next time.

So what does the word "last" make you think about? Join this writing community and share! You'll feel better, trust me!

So what does the word “last” make you think about? Join this writing community and share! You’ll feel better, trust me!