Monday, September 22, 2008

Family work day

Some days are just perfect. Family relationships shift with the slightest shuffle. Like a kaleidoscope, the colors re-arrange and fall into place beautifully.

Dominic came on this late summer weekend. Right on schedule the nights have a chill but the days warm up. We had three cords of wood dumped on our driveway on Saturday and Fred wasn't home to receive it. Poor Dominic! This is usually a job for the girls and me, but of course, he helped us get it ready for winter. It's a difficult chore we do every year, but like Liana reminded us, we need to think of the cozy fire in our little school room when the cold wind whips around outdoors.

By coincidence, Damien was planning to trim the hedges that same day, as he does twice a year. So we were all out in the yard working hard. Arielle and Liana loaded the logs into the wheelbarrow, Dominic pushed it to the garden, and I arranged it on the racks. When Damien finished his job, he joined in to help us. Then a friend of his stopped over and he helped us finish up. In a final whirlwind of motion, we actually completed stacking all the wood! It's back-breaking, but exhilarating work, and we were all quite pleased with ourselves. Fred came home from his class and was shocked to see it done.

It was only appropriate to celebrate that night by going to our favorite Chinese restaurant. Marissa and her boyfriend joined us, along with Damien's girlfriend. We all joked and laughed and carried on in the restaurant--the way close families do. There were no harsh words, and no hurt feelings this night--just pure fun.

Dominic needed a haircut so Marissa came back to the house with her scissors. Dominic requested something to keep the hair off his neck, so when I gave him a trash bag, he fashioned it into a cape. Fred came into the kitchen to show off his new bifocal safety glasses and I snapped a picture of these two goofy guys.

To top off the day, we had a rousing game of Blokus Trigon. Dominic had earlier bought this game for the girls. Just as when he was younger, he is tagged as "the one to beat." Everyone tries to beat him (usually unsuccessfully) at whatever the sport or game. In a battle of wits, I think his true rival will be Arielle in a few years. She is very competitive and can almost top him now.

Families! The joy, the grief. We have so many kids, there are plenty of both. That's just life. But it's a good life.

This morning I read Psalm 66 and as I reflected on the weekend (and my life) I realized these verses sum it up. "We went through fire and through water, yet God brought us out into a place of abundance...Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what he has done for my soul. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor his lovingkindness from me."

Monday, September 15, 2008


The professor ran out of funding. Just like that, I'm out of a job. Every day for almost a year I have immersed myself in reading Congressional hearings, studying the words and attitudes of our members of Congress. Politics became my passion and the pay from this job kept us afloat some months. Now gone. On top of that, Fred had yet another real estate betrayal. Just when a sale was ready to happen, the buyer gives the business to another realtor. These are not only strangers who do this but friends, family, church members. I remind Fred (and myself) that it is God we trust to provide for us, not people.

So what do I do over the weekend without my Congressmen? I need a new routine. I feel lost. So Arielle and I cleaned out cupboards. We dusted furniture and vacuumed. Liana and I made a chamois-covered field book like Lewis and Clark used on their journey, and we will use when we take our nature walks. I even got out some fabric I bought in Lancaster last year and cut squares to finish my quilt.

I call my quilt "October." It has all the colors of autumn--rusty browns and muted greens, along with rich reds and splashes of bright oranges and yellows. I lay out my new squares next to the 9-patch blocks I created a year ago. The new hand-dyed cloth I just cut looks like dappled sunlight peeking through the trees. As I admire the colors, joy peeks into my heart. Just a little. A reminder that God is present, no need to worry.

Later on that night I am washing dishes and hear a song coming from the TV show Fred is watching. I remember this music! It is Celtic Thunder! Fred in his channel surfing found a PBS fundraiser. We watched this several months ago and we both were mesmerized by the group. So now we drop everything and cuddle up on the sofa to again see this concert. Celtic Thunder is four Irishmen and a 14-year old Irish boy named Damian with the most incredible voices. As we listen, the joy that seeped into my heart earlier spreads out and leaves me renewed. Life is full once again.

These gifts from God abound--free for the taking. Oh, give me better vision to see them and ears to recognize them! And a grateful heart to remember to thank God for them.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


My two older grandchildren are moving to Minnesota. Today I met my son and his children at a local park to enjoy one last day with them. Arielle and Liana adore Kelsey and Seth and they all had fun playing, but it was a sad day overall. The impending move comes as a shock. What will this mean to our family? These kids have been part of everything we do together. To not have them around is unthinkable. Two boys not talking and now my grandkids gone. I'd like to skip holidays this year.

We so often take for granted what we think will continue on forever. Kelsey and Seth bounce into our house at every visit and run off to play with my girls. Kelsey is three years older than Arielle and the two of them have long, serious conversations. Seth, our little whirlwind, is three years older than Liana and from the time Liana was little, the two of them were drawn together. Seth has always been her playmate and protector. A little boy who was rough and wild with others was tender towards my baby.

I wanted to give Kelsey and Seth something to take with them and couldn't come up with a good idea. Then last night I decided to make pillows to take on their long car ride. I found some colorful fabric--one, given to us by Great-Grandma, is a riot of colorful cats and the other is orange and white koi swimming in a black sea. The cats for Kelsey and the fish for Seth. The kids seemed pleased with the pillows. Seth hugged his to his chest and said, "This is like a Christmas present." I said no, it wasn't his Christmas present, it was a "going to Minnesota present." He said, "Well, it could be my birthday present." In April? No, I assured him it was not a birthday present. I said, "It's because I love you." He then gave me on of his famous hugs. I always tell him he gives the best hugs. They are actually more like a Heimlich maneuver!

I'd like to think this move might be good for the kids--growing up in the Midwest, a better school for Seth, wide open spaces. But oh, we are going to miss them so much. What joy these kids have brought me! What regrets I have. I haven't been a good grandmother. I was closer to them when they were younger. But then I got busy with my own two daughters. Later on, Kelsey and Seth's parents separated and the kids moved to the city and I didn't see them often. Lost years.

Their loss is greater than mine. They are moving without their father or baby sister. I could hardly bear to take this picture of Kelsey saying good-bye to Laci.