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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.

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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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Missing My Mom

fullsizeoutput_395Yesterday, August 2, was the 11th anniversary of my mom’s death.

11 years.

Pancreatic cancer took her when she was just 73 years old. Way too young.

But cancer does that, doesn’t it?

My dad had passed away from a heart attack just 16 months before, so now my siblings and I were orphans.

I wasn’t there when my mom breathed her last. My family and I had plane tickets to go see her just a few days later, but she was on the other side of the country, so nothing was 101_0249going to happen quickly. My two sisters and my brother were all there, though.

They got me on the phone in her hospital room and put the phone to her ear. I could hear her heavy breathing. I told her not to wait 6-22-03_1for us. It was OK. She could go. We would be alright.

I tear up even now writing those words.103_349

It wasn’t long after that and she was gone.

No more care packages in the mail for whatever reason. Or no reason.

No more phone calls just to see how we were.

101_0250She would miss Morgan’s first day of kindergarten. Justin’s first job. Nathan starting college. Weddings, babies, graduations. Her great grandchildren, whom she would have adored.

Miss you, Mom. It’s not the same without you.

 

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

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A Grand Adventure or My Grandson?

horses by oceanThere will be no vacation for us this year. No foreign excursion. No Alaskan cruise. No bungalow on the beach. No mountain cabin by a crystalline lake.

Not that those things were very affordable in the past, but this year is different.

This year, David and I have committed to keeping our almost 6-month-old grandson for my son and his girlfriend when they are at work.kSlUPi%vRdWg+mZXzteP6Q

When we first learned of our grandbaby’s existence almost a year ago, the assumption was that they wouldn’t be able to keep him because they were very young, unmarried and would not be able to pull if off financially. They had thought it through, talked about it, and decided that adoption was the way to go.

And that’s what they told us when they finally got up the nerve to tell us about the baby.

But no, grace dove in and we were under it’s unrelenting power. If they wanted to keep this baby boy, we would do everything we could to help them, short of paying their bills. We would provide childcare—Nana Daycare we call it—and call upon our vast network IMG_9540 2of friends to help provide the necessities for setting up a home with a baby.

So this year we will take no vacation, but we will rest in knowing that God’s grace gave us this sweet gift instead.

You are the trip I did not take,

You are the pearls I could not buy

You are my blue Italian lake

You are my piece of foreign sky.

Anne Campbell

 

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

 

Restore the Fathers

Jesus with childrenFather’s Day is just around the corner. How very appropriate and heartbreaking that the immigrant crisis—children being torn from the very breasts of their mothers—now center stage in our country should be garnering so much notice at this time.

My grandfather was an immigrant. Granted, his parents went through the arduous process of coming legally, but had they not been able to do that, if they had been fleeing a dangerous situation and needed refuge, I can’t even imagine what would have happened had my grandfather been taken away from them.

We lost our younger son at Sea World one time. It was only for a few minutes, but the terror that was in my heart during those few minutes has never been forgotten. Had anything happened to him, I would have been devastated. So to know that hundreds, no, thousands of parents are experiencing their children being taken away from them by authorities in a country they thought would be their refuge is completely unimaginable.

The law of the land, they say. It’s biblical to obey the governing authorities, they say.

How they can look themselves in the mirror or even sleep at night is beyond me.

Families belong together. There is no excuse. Maybe the parents have broken the law, but IMG_0654there are better ways to handle the situation. I’m not a fan of illegal immigration, but I am a fan of people. You can’t treat them like animals. They are not cattle or sheep to be separated for slaughter.

It’s Father’s Day on Sunday. While you’re celebrating your own father, or being a father, or fathers that you know, take time to pray for those fathers who have had their children forcibly removed from their care by the governing authority, that they would be restored to their children.

And weep for them, as I’m sure Jesus is doing even now.

“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” — Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 19:14)

This post is a part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link up. Come join in the fun!

 

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Anonymous No More

I’m a fan of the new TV show “This is Us.” Week after week I watch this family make choices, both good and bad, and love each other through it all.

kevinIf you’re a fan but are behind on watching, I’ll warn you right now that there is a mini spoiler in here. I’ll give you time to look away.

OK, so Kevin is in rehab and it’s family day. Everyone gathers and they sit together in a room with the therapist and Kevin starts talking.

One thing that struck me that he said was “We’re a family of addicts.” Which of course didn’t go over well with his family. Much more was said in that room that wasn’t very pretty, but Kevin was right. Only no one wanted to face it.

An addiction is defined by dictionary.com as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming.” To end an addiction is traumatizing. Some would say “once an addict, always an addict.” You can never be completely free. But you can overcome it.

Baseball player Josh Hamilton battled drug and alcohol addiction and it almost ruined his career, not to mention his life. He got clean and sober and went back to baseball and was successful. Several years later, he confessed to having relapsed into cocaine and alcohol use. He was disappointed in himself, but he was aware that this would always be a struggle for him.

That’s the thing about addictions, especially when they involve chemical substances thatalcohol affect your brain. You can’t overcome them on your own.

My father was an alcoholic. It’s not something we ever talked about in our home. But when he fell down the stairs and suffered a cracked skull, he started going through withdrawal that at first the doctors didn’t diagnose. They thought he might be having a seizure or something else. When it became clear that it was alcohol withdrawal, we couldn’t really deny it anymore.

But still we don’t talk about it. Even when he almost turned into oncoming traffic on a busy thoroughfare just days before my wedding. I made him pull over and let me drive so I wouldn’t die before I got married.

My dad went to a couple of AA meetings, but then he decided he could beat his problem on his own. It didn’t work. He died of a heart attack 11 years ago, undoubtedly related to the strain he had put on his body for all those years.

The actions of addicts affect everyone around them. Be it alcohol, drugs, sex, or technology, addictions break relationships. An addict needs the help of others to overcome their addictions.

I watched a bizarre documentary recently about animal addictions in Great Britain. (Watch “41 Dogs in My Home” on Netflix.) To a person, none of them would admit they dog hoardingmight have a problem. One woman had 41 dogs. 41! Another man had 60 exotic animals. A woman had cats that couldn’t even be counted. Each one of them said they just loved the animals and couldn’t ever contemplate giving any of them away.

Relationships were lost (the man with the 60 exotic animals had been married at least twice) or severely strained. Finances were always a concern. Houses were a mess.

Yet they couldn’t see it.

We know a man who recently confessed to years and years of a well-hidden addiction. We were shocked. We had no idea. The effort it took to put on that façade must have been exhausting. He and his wife are now separated and he is absent from important family events. I’m praying restoration can happen. It’s heartbreaking. But he’s certainly not alone.

In “This is Us,” Kevin is going to need his family to listen to him, to support him and to help him beat this thing. I hope they’re willing to listen and to talk about it.

It’s not just a cliché; it really does first take admitting that you have a problem, not just being found out. If your heart doesn’t change, neither will your actions.

 

 

images from: usmagazine.com; bradfordhealth.com; viralnova.com