Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Night

My grandchildren are in town visiting and yesterday they spent the day at our house. Since we only see them once a year, I always wonder how they will have changed. Having four sons of my own, I know that boys can turn into strangers at a certain age. It is very troubling at the time and you don't know until years later that they will eventually return to their former selves. So I wondered about Seth especially this year. He is fourteen.

To my delight, Seth greeted me with one of his trademark hugs, the kind that nearly breaks your ribs. He is taller and more handsome, but otherwise he is still our Seth, funny and sweet. Kelsey has grown up and matured. She handles her brother's teasing now with great patience.

It was a hot day and swimming is not available to us, so what to do? Seth is not a sitting around kind of guy so he suggested miniature golf. So that is what we did. Afterwards we made homemade chocolate chip ice cream and ate it before dinner. Grandmas can get away with that.

Damien had invited us for a cook-out. We admired his gardens and talked about how to improve the soil for vegetables. I'm amazed at my son's gardening knowledge and that I am actually asking him for advice. Jon and Chrissy and Lana came and we had great fun laughing and just being together.

You can be in the midst of some activity and all of a sudden get a sense that these are moments to treasure. You pause and take it in, wanting to hold on to them for just a bit longer. Damien had served his famous blackened barbeque chicken with the sauce glazed on it just so and we were digging in and enjoying. Lana and Liana sat side by side sharing a big chair. Lana was talking about the animals she saw at the St. Louis Zoo. Gretchen and I were discussing her upcoming wedding. Citronella candles flickered on the tables as the sun set and the dark shadows of the trees surrounded us. This is what life is about, precious family time with my children, grandchildren, and the young women that have joined our family. Ordinary times, yet extraordinary. I am so blessed.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chicago--the Reception

After the wedding ceremony the photographer was busy taking many pictures on the beautiful grounds. We joined him in taking our own. Then we all went inside for a lovely lunch. I had the privilege of sitting beside Stacia's grandparents. Once again, I wish we lived closer so I could get to know Stacia's wonderful family.

We were entertained with Irish dancers! I've never seen that at a wedding reception. What a treat! The little girls invited others to come on the stage and learn a traditional Irish wedding dance.

A wedding usually focuses on the bride. It is her big day, and rightly so. But Dominic and Stacia turned their wedding into a celebration of friends and family. They stood before us and gave tribute to family members and friends who have been an important part of their lives. They said they would not be the people they are if not for many of us. They took the glory away from themselves and gave the honor to us. It was very humbling and also very beautiful. I have never been to a wedding like this.

After the luncheon we climbed back into the van and rode to Stacia's family home for yet another meal. Her parents were so gracious to add yet another celebration time for us all. I am still in awe of their hospitality and generosity towards us. Too quickly the evening ended. We had an early flight the next morning. There were sad good-byes and thank yous that didn't seem adequate for all we had been given.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chicago--Getting Ready

We got up early the next morning so we could be at Stacia's parents' home to get our hair done. A stylist was there to work on the bridesmaids and mothers, and, of course, the bride. Chrissy fixed Lana's hair and Gretchen did a great job on Arielle and Liana. What fun for all of us girls to be together! Once again we were treated to such warm hospitality as Stacia's dad had prepared breakfast for everyone. After we were ready, we rode in a huge van to the wedding site. There was time for a few pictures before the big event began.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chicago Day Two--Rehearsal

We woke early the next day, still on our East coast time. I made a pot of coffee in the sunny kitchen and we feasted on the bounty Stacia's family had provided. We didn't have a lot to do since we wouldn't be meeting up with everyone until the rehearsal later that afternoon. So we eventually ventured out to explore the town. The area was so different from ours--flat, with wide open spaces of farmland interspersed with new little shopping centers and housing developments.

There were few businesses and few chain restaurants. Searching for lunch became the number one task. Damien had his GPS but it didn't give us many suggestions. Not knowing the area, we didn't want to wander too far. We headed down one road in search of something that sounded good, but it was closed. Someone remembered we had passed a little strip mall and had seen a sign that said "Tacos Locos." A very small strip mall, a very small sign. But we headed there.

Inside Tacos Locos was a pleasant woman at the counter and several small clean tables. The woman brought us menus and Damien and Gretchen, admitted food snobs, were delighted to see authentic Mexican food. Cheap! We ordered and were delighted with our meals. Great filling food! Tacos Locos will become one of those fond memories.

We met up with Stacia's family and Dominic at the venue. It was a long drive from the house where we were staying. Not long in miles, but long in travel time. Damien was beside himself with how slowly the Midwesterners drive. I found it rather refreshing. The people here do not live with the frantic pace we have. I enjoyed seeing the different little towns and the wide expanse of land all around us.

Dominic and Stacia had planned an outdoor wedding in a beautiful setting with gardens and a fountain and gazebos--perfect for photographing. I met Stacia's mother and her aunts as they bustled around setting up the decorations. Real people, authentic people. There was no pretense, no front, no cold reservedness. Each person welcomed us warmly. I have a lot to learn from their hospitality.

Family members set up a large buffet of food on tables outdoors. Stacia's mom had prepared gluten-free food to make sure Dominic and I could eat. It was delicious! Are there insects in Illinois? We didn't see any on this summer afternoon. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm. Dominic invited me to sit with Stacia's mom at their table so we could get to know each other. I think we would be friends if we lived in the same area. She is a lovely woman, open and friendly and generous. Dominic is so fortunate to become a part of this family. After our wonderful meal, we walked across the grass to the gazebo to rehearse for the wedding. It was a lot of fun watching everyone joke around and practice their parts. Afterwards we traveled the dark roads once more and rested in that peaceful home. I discovered another difference in this area and ours. Stars! We could see millions of them spread out like fairy dust across the sky! I had forgotten about stars in our neighborhood where lights from the city always intrude.

Monday, July 11, 2011


We just returned from our trip to Chicago for Dominic and Stacia's wedding. I'll be writing in parts, as there is so much to tell and recapture. Someday I hope my children will read this and know how very much I love them and how much joy this trip brought me. I know the kids all enjoyed it too! Arielle and Liana will always have these memories to make them smile.

When we arrived at the airport, Dominic and Stacia picked us up in a big luxury van and we rode in style down to the city. I watched out the window and as I saw familiar street signs, my mind went back thirty-eight years to when I first arrived here one winter--pregnant, frightened and lost in the sense that I did not know where my life was heading. I remember the birth of my son Nicholas, the rat-infested house, the streets...these same streets I am walking now. I realize we are now only a few miles from that place where I lived so long ago.

What a journey it has been, but now we are in a good place. I am with some of my beloved children and two of my soon-to-be daughters-in-law and we are walking to Navy Pier! Arielle and Liana absolutely love family events and they are having so much fun. We leisurely walk the pier and mingle with the crowd and see Lake Michigan and, most of all, just enjoy being together. Dominic bought tickets for us to see Peter Pan in a 360 degree tent theatre, so we are on a bit of a schedule, but there is still time for a nice dinner outdoors on the restaurant's patio. We take a very fast taxi ride, more like a thrill ride, to the theatre. The play is like nothing I have ever seen and very hard to describe. It is a combination of live drama, magic tricks, aerial performances, and dazzling flying scenes. In one word, it was spectacular! We all loved it. Thank you, Dominic, for such a generous gift to us all.

Dominic then drove us out to the dark quiet suburbs to stay at Stacia's grandparents' home for the weekend. After a long day, we were treated to comfortable beds, hot showers, and a refrigerator full of delicious food stocked for us by Stacia's mom. I am in awe of this family's gracious hospitality. And this was only the beginning of our trip.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sewing Season

From the time my future daughter-in-law invited Arielle and Liana to be junior bridesmaids in the wedding, I have been sewing. Months and months. There were cotton versions to make for practice and for fit. We shopped for fabric and notions. Two dresses, fully lined. I have been only sewing quilts in recent years and garment construction was an almost forgotten art. But with the encouragement of the 4-H teachers, I took on this project. Finally, finally, the dresses are finished. Here are the girls modeling my creations, along with Lana the flower girl. Lana's purchased dress only needs hemming. I see Arielle's skirt is turned up. Nothing a good pressing won't fix.

I had so much fun sewing my girls' dresses, I decided to make my own dress too. Until yesterday afternoon I was plugging away on it with a nagging suspicion something wasn't quite right. Liana adored it and thought it was beautiful. My sewing skills weren't the problem, so what was it? Wrong pattern for me? Fit not right? Arielle finally gave her honest opinion after I finished it. "It just doesn't work for you."

At this late date? After months of planning and sewing? How discouraging! And what to do now? The reason I have been doing all this sewing was to save money on formal wear. I sat outside with Fred while he barbequed trying to figure out a solution to fix it or embellish it or accessorize it or something... Sweet little Liana kept telling me she loved it and it would be fine. Then I remembered an old dress I have. Packed away in storage. Would it work? I found it. Fred and the girls all agreed, this would be perfect. It needs hemming as this dress comes down to my ankles. Sewing season continues!

Liana made me promise I will wear my dress at Christmas. It is green. Maybe that's it. The color was wrong.

Shadow of His Wings

The girls and I were riding along in the car heading to our favorite clothing store. We came to an intersection where you have to crane your neck to look for cars coming down a hill. It is not a perpendicular intersection, and for some reason, it is difficult to see. At the moment I got there, I stopped, looked, saw nothing, and proceeded across. Then behind me, I heard the whiz of a car at high speed and a horn blaring. I never saw a car, not when I stopped to look, and not now. But I believe I pulled out in front of this car. It must have been in a blind spot. I was shaken. My precious daughters would have been hurt.

All the rest of our journey I kept replaying this moment, trying to figure it out. We all thanked God for protecting us. As I pulled off the exit at our destination, a huge hawk soared overhead, its shadow cast upon our car. God's answer. He gave me these special verses years ago. I know many others also claim them as their own.

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you may seek refuge." Psalm 91.

When bad things happen, people often accuse God. How could he let this happen? Bad things do happen. But for us, not today. I wonder how many times throughout life God has intervened and prevented disaster? Times we reflect on, like this day, and times we never even knew about.