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Family of Five

Today’s post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a 1-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what we come up with. Today’s prompt is “Five.”

I’m going to tell you a little bit about my family of 5.

IMG_6427My husband, David, and I got married in 1991. That was the start of it all.

Five-plus years later, we added Justin David to the mix. He’s now 22 and a college graduated, restaurant-serving father of my grandson, Zayne. He’s a great dad, learning the ins and outs of a committed relationship, making his way in the world with a bit of advice from his old parents along the way.J&A

A little more than 2 years later, Nathan Allan made his appearance. This 20-year-old college student has spent much of the summer as a counselor at a camp in Alaska. He’s a lover of the Nathanoutdoors, but not so much in Florida. This opportunity has been so great for him.

Three and a half years and 2 miscarriages later, our daughter, Morgan Claire, came along. She will be 17 in about 7 weeks. She’s currently making biscuits and chocolate gravy (it’s a thing, trust me) in the kitchen. I’m blessed to have her home most of the time doing high school virtually. And she just got her first job!IMG_1422

After having dealt with infertility for several years, we are beyond blessed to have our 3 kids, and now a grandson in the mix. Our family of 5 will keep growing, I’m sure, but the core will remain. So much of what I write about, so much of what I’ve learned, is because of my family. Today, on the 12th anniversary of my mom’s death, it seems apropos. I wish she was here to see it all play out with my family of five and my sisters’ and brother’s families as well.

So there you have it. My little family.

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Feeling The Distance

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what happens. Today’s word is “distant.” 

I took my husband to the airport today for a one-week trip to a conference in Colorado. This conference is for the ministry we both worked with for more than 30 years, and that I left 2 years ago.

I know I was right in leaving when I did. God has made that abundantly clear in the past 2 years, but I can’t help being a little sad as most of my good friends gather without me in Fort Collins.

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Photo by my son Nathan. This sunset pic was taken at 12:25 a.m. in Soldotna, Alaska.

And I have a son in Alaska. And another good friend on a trip to Japan. And the last of our close-knit group in Ohio.

Everyone is in a distant place. Again. Last summer the majority of our little friend group was on a trip together to Hawaii. I wrote my feelings about that here. Not being envious and discontent is a struggle. To top that off, I’ve got a writing assignment that is supposed to take people on a journey through the mountains.

Talk about piling it on.

me and ZayneAnd so I sit in my distant chair in my distant house, not completely alone (it’s me and my 18-month-old grandson, 16-year-old daughter and 76-year-old mother-in-law holding down the fort), but bracing myself for the slew of Facebook and Instagram posts that will come in the next week as my friends enjoy each other in a place with beautiful scenery.

They are far away, but God is near.

Thanks be to God.

 

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Get Moving

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for just 10 minutes, without heavy editing, on a prompt that a friend has provided. Today’s prompt is “moving.”

I haven’t moved very often in my 57 years of life. When I was a tiny baby, my family moved from Sunnyvale, Calif., to Cupertino, Calif. Then we moved when I was 7 to Oakland, Calif. I moved away to college for 2 years, then I moved back home, then I moved to an apartment in San Bernardino, Calif. when I started my first job with Campus Crusade for Christ.

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The house in Oakland, Calif., that I consider the home I grew up in. We lived in that house from 1968 until my mom passed away in 2007. The house was sold later that year.

In San Bernardino, after the apartment, I lived in a house with 3 other women, then a house with 2 other women while I was engaged, and then my husband and I moved into our first little apartment.

Then came the big move across the country to Orlando, Fla. We lived in an apartment first, then built a house, then moved into the house we currently live in. We’ve been here for 19 years almost exactly.

So 57 years, 11 residences, including my college apartment.

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Friends helped load the moving truck for my husband’s sister and her family as they relocated from Texas to Orlando.

To me, moving means going somewhere. It means not staying in the same place. When we say a movie or a photograph or a speech “moved us,” it should mean not just that it made us feel something, but that it changed something deep inside us. It took us from one place of being to another.

If we were moved, we should not be in the same place we formerly were.

If the picture of a starving child, orphaned by the ravages of war, moves us, we should not stay where we are. We should do something about it.

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This sweet hummingbird enjoys a treat outside my younger sister’s home in Crested Butte, Colo.

Moving is not always easy. It’s not always comfortable. Often, things get lost in transit. Or broken. When we first moved into our apartment in Orlando, we found that it wasn’t what was promised to us. All our earthly possessions were on a truck headed our way, but we had to have the apartment complex move us to a different unit because the one we were given was not right. New checks had to be ordered with our new apartment number; the moving company needed to be contacted to bring our stuff to the right door. We spent a  few sleepless nights on the floor of the wrong place until things could be made right. Our cat was not a fan of all this upheaval.

But where we ended up was better than where we started. Moving across the country from my entire family made me sad. In the ensuing years that distance would be made more difficult by my mom’s bouts with cancer and eventual death and my dad’s sudden death 16 months previous to mom’s. But we weren’t supposed to stay where we were.

Even when we live in the same house, we’re not supposed to stay where we are.

I See You

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up where we write for 5 minutes on a one-word without heavy editing and see what happens. Read all of today’s post here.

Like any typical American parents, we were armed with our video camera (this was in the days before cell phones with cameras) and waiting expectantly for our sweet tow-headed 4-year-old boy to appear on the stage for his end-of-year performance for Mom’s Day Out.

When he came out with his classmates, dressed in his green collared shirt and cute khaki pants, I looked through the viewfinder of the camera to make sure I could get him in focus before things began.

 

What I noticed as I watched him through that lens was that he was looking all around the crowded church sanctuary, searching for us. I could read his little lips saying, “Where ARE they?” as his gaze grew concerned. David and I waved our arms and halfway stood trying to get his attention, but the lights were too bright on the stage, and there were too many bodies in the auditorium.

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He couldn’t see us.

Once the music started, he was happy singing along and doing the hand motions as he’d been taught, and I recorded him and clapped when it was done. But my heart was a little sad. I so wanted him to know that we were watching him. That we were there. That we cared.

Now, 18 years later, that little 4-year-old is 22 and searching for who he is. During a crisis time just a few months ago, I wrote him a letter reminding him of that night all those years ago and asking him, “Do you see us now? Do you know that we see you, that we’re here for you, that we love you?”

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Hagar gave God the name El Roi in Genesis 16:13, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”

 

 

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Family Treasures

This post is a part of my 10-Minutes Tuesday collection, written today on the prompt “family.”

85670316F034We found out I was pregnant after 4 years of infertility treatment right around if not on Father’s Day itself. How ironic and sweet is that?

15 weeks later, after we thought we were safe and had told our friends, we discovered that our baby had not made it past about 6 weeks. I didn’t have any sign of miscarriage until that day.

Not knowing whether we would ever be able to grow our biological family was crushing to us. But now, as I sit here and write this, I gaze upon the pictures and portraits of our 3 kids that grace the walls, shelves and pretty much every horizontal surface of our home.

Now almost 22, 19 and 16, my kids are my treasure. The thought of them ever moving far away from me where I won’t see them frequently squeezes my heart, and even more so now that I also have a grandson that I care for 5 days a week. But I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

DSC00247_2I myself moved across the country from my own family of origin. My parents have passed away and my sisters live in Colorado and Washington State, and my brother is still in California where we grew up. I don’t see them nearly often enough.

Family is a complicated, hard, beautiful thing. We can either thrive or flounder in our relationships with those we should hold most dear. Just a few years ago, my husband’s sister and her family moved from Texas to Florida, to a house right across the street from us. Just this week, that sister and her husband signed divorce papers after more than 30 years of marriage.

She doesn’t live across the street from us anymore, but her husband, 15-year-old son, and 27-year-old son who is about to get married, do. We value these last 3 years with them so close by. It means the world to me to be able to see them and know them and be there for them, especially during this hard time. My father-in-law is far away. But my mother-in-law lives with us. See what I mean? Complicated.

fullsizeoutput_1e0Many people complain about Facebook, but I’m thankful for it because of the connection it has given me to my faraway family. I can see pictures of my great nephew and great niece that I’ve never met, and know that my oldest sister is loving being Mimi to her new granddaughter. I long for my grandson and her granddaughter to meet. They would be super good friends. They are 2 months apart.

But for now, we treasure our family both far and near. Keep up as well as possible, and build an extended frie-maly here. You know, friends who are like family. They mean the world to us too!

With the holidays right around the corner, I know many people will be facing family situations that will be uncomfortable, hard, ugly even. I pray that you can find peace and maybe even that some relationships can be repaired.

Sweet Summer Memories

Today’s 10-Minute Tuesday post (a day late) is on the prompt “Summer.”

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The day had been its normal hot in Bakersfield that late summer day in 1968 when I was approaching 7 years old, the thermometer topping out at 100 dry degrees. My older sister and I had gone to bed in the cool back bedroom of my grandparent’s ranch house on Wible Road, anticipating a phone call about the birth of our new sibling.

I’m not sure where my brother was, but I don’t remember him being with us.IMG_9994 2

It felt right that that’s where I was awaiting this announcement, because I loved that ranch. I loved everything about the house and the grounds. I spent many days playing in the irrigation ditches among the cotton or alfalfa plants, whatever happened to be growing that season.

The smell of cut alfalfa still takes me back.

It always seemed to be summer when we spent time there, so hot was something I was used to. I clearly hear my grandmother “Mimi’s” voice yelling, “Close the door, the refrigeration is on!”

The kitchen of the ranch house was huge, the eating area separated from the cooking area by a bar. The windows looking out over the back yard with the brick walkway and covered outdoor kitchen area that I never remember being used as such. My great grandmother Nona’s house sat just feet away. The rose bushes in their neat rows bordered the side driveway where visitors often parked.

From the old wooden storage shed that held remnants of tractors and other paraphernalia of ranch life to the long rows of growing plants, everything about the place spoke of family history. And I loved it.

IMG_9993I remember one particular summer when I was either in junior high or high school. I went to Bakersfield to stay for a week. I spent most of it that summer at my great aunt “Zizi’s” apartment.

Zizi was my grandmother’s only surviving sister. They had lost my mother’s namesake, Ada, when she was young. Zizi, Zia Emma (“zia” being Italian for “aunt”), had never married, though she had been engaged at one point. We never really got the full story, only that she had moved back with my grandparents when she suffered a nervous breakdown in the aftermath.

That week I spent with Zizi, all I wanted to do was read. She tried to get me to go to the pool, but I only wanted to read. I don’t think she quite knew what to do with me.

Three years ago, my aunt—my mother’s sister—and her son—my cousin—made the decision to sell the house and land. It broke my heart. Never again would I spend any summer days in the stifling heat and lovely memories of that Wible Road home. My grandparents are gone. My great aunt is gone. No more card games with my Nona at the kitchen table of her little green house just a few yards from my grandparents’ place.

My heart yearns for them, those lazy summer days and my precious Italian family.IMG_9995 2

Oh yeah, and my newborn sibling was a girl. Not that she’s a side note; it just happened to be this memory that first came to mind at the word “summer.”

I have so much more to say about this place, but my 10 minutes are up :-). I will touch on this again in a future post.

 

The Pursuit of a Heart

Neuroscientist Curt Thompson has said that each one of us comes into this world looking for someone looking for us.

IMG_9760We long to be known. To be loved. To be pursued.

Thompson goes on to say, “We can grow up in homes in which the food finds the table, the money finds the college funds and the family even finds the church each Sunday, but somehow our hearts remain undiscovered by the 2 people we most need to know us: Our parents.” (Quoted by Adam Young LCSW in a podcast titled “Why your family of origin impacts your life more than anything else” April 16, 2018.)

I was the 3rd child in just over 3 years for my parents. That’s rough on anyone. I don’t have specific memories of my very young years, so I can’t say with absolute certainty that my parents were thrilled to welcome another baby into a home already hopping with a 3 year old and a 19-month old.

I never felt unloved, but I did feel undiscovered.

12 years ago I was with my mom the week after my dad died. Returning from dinner atIMG_9761 my brother’s house I said to her, “We’ve never been very good at heart-to-heart talks.”

She said, “No, we haven’t.”

And that was the end of the conversation. 16 months later she passed away from pancreatic cancer.

I determined when I became a mom that I would have open and honest conversations with my children. I would answer their questions no matter how embarrassing they might be. I would pursue their hearts. I would get in their business.

IMG_9762When I started being interested in a guy (who has been my husband now for 27 years plus), my mom never asked me about him. When I asked her why that was, she said she didn’t want to pry. Umm, you’re a mom. That’s your job. It doesn’t make you a busybody; it shows me that you care to know.

My mom loved me. I know that. But she didn’t pursue my heart. I don’t think she really knew how.

I don’t hold it against her, I’d just like to do better with my kids. Their hearts are worth knowing as deeply as they’ll let me know them.

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This post is a part of the Five-Minute Friday link up. Join the fun!

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