Tag Archive | summer

The Youthful Magic of Summer Days

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 I am being strict about my 5 minutes and so I have a start and stop in there. The prompt for today is “summer.”

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I remember when I was a kid, summer vacation was the best. I would stay up super late reading, and then sleep till noon or later.

My parents were both working by the time I was in junior high school, so there would be the inevitable list on the kitchen table of stuff Mom wanted us to get done before she got home. But it wasn’t bad.

The actual view from our house.

I grew up in the Oakland, Calif., foothills, so the days were warm but not hot. The mornings were usually cool and the nights could get cold. Our back deck looked out over the San Francisco Bay, or what you could see of it through the trees that had grown up over the years we lived there. It was very quiet. No major thoroughfares in the hills. Blue jays were our noisiest neighbors. Or sometimes the raccoons that would fight every evening when our elderly neighbor set out dry dog food for them to eat.

Taken by my brother on the last day the house was ours.

I remember going over there one night when she fed them to see a whole bunch of raccoons, young and old, holding those little brown balls of dog food in their paws, dipping them in the bowls of water, because raccoons apparently wash their food before they eat it. And then they’d fight over what was left.

I still like to stay up late, buried in a good book, but the responsibility of adulthood has crept in to take away the magic of those days. [stop]

There’s more I would like to say about those summer days in Northern California, but I’ll adhere to the 5-minute rule today. The rest will be for another time. Meanwhile, summer reading suggestions are welcome! Put your recommendations in the comments.

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.

 

Just Who Do I Think I Am, Anyway?

I’m think I’m lost.

fullsizeoutput_7d81And I’m trying to figure out how to find myself again.

I knew months ago that there would be a lot of change for me this summer, but since it was (supposedly) all good, I hoped it wouldn’t cause grief. But grief has creeped up on me, causing me to doubt the decisions I made that brought about some of this change.

Some changes were just part of life happening. Positions in which I had served for many, years ended or were taken away. 2 of my 3 kids have moved or are moving out of my house. And then I made the decision to leave the organization of which I had been a part for 32 years.

As I see multitudes of friends posting pictures on social media of their summer travels that will end in the Cru staff conference in Ft. Collins, Colo., and I anticipate my husband leaving tomorrow to attend without me for the first time in more than 26 years, I find myself grieving more than I thought I would.

Yes, I made the decision to leave and pursue a writing career. I could have stayed. But the discontent that had been bubbling on the back burner would still have been there. Still a big part of me wants to be in Colorado with my closest friends.IMG_4361

It was time, though. At the point of my decision, I didn’t doubt that this was what God was leading me to do.

Yet I grieve. And I fear. And I doubt that I have what it takes to make a go of this full-time writing thing.

Where is this that I have found myself? Did I hear God correctly? Maybe I made a big mistake.

My writing muscles have atrophied. I don’t even know what it’s like anymore to pitch articles and do research. And what topics do I even care about? What am I learned enough in to even consider writing for others?

Just who do I think I am, anyway?

And so the tears come.

Soon, summer will be over and my daughter will get into the swing of school. And I will figure out what God wants me to say and to whom He wants me to say it. Are there likely to be rejections? Of course. I’ve already received my first. But after not using my brain for anything more than teaching 6th graders language arts and Latin for the past 5 years, my muscles may hurt for awhile. I may want to quit because it’s too hard.

IMG_4473And at unexpected times the grief of what is left behind might crawl out of the corner in which I’ve placed it. Some days I might let it come out and sit in my lap, and I will embrace it for awhile. Then I will point it back to the corner, hoping it will stay there longer than the time before.

And the joy of the Lord will be my strength.

Who do I think I am? I’m just a girl, sitting in front of a computer, trying to write from my heart, asking people to love what I have to say.

 

The Power of Friendship

I told my daughter today that I needed to write. She said, “You should write about the power of friendship.”

IMG_0632That’s something she thinks about a lot, being just a couple of months shy of 15. This past year has been dominated by a group of friends she and her 18-year-old brother have that call themselves The Marathoners. It started as a small gathering from the youth group at church that got together weekly to watch movies (thus the name “Marathoners,” from movie marathons, not running marathons.)

It’s funny how just watching movies together can bond people so closely.

The group normally met at the home of a young husband and wife who were volunteer leaders with the group. We knew them fairly well, in fact I mentored the wife, getting together with her each week, so we felt comfortable with all the people involved.

Oh my, how this group loves each other. They formed a chat group and message each other numerous times during the day both to solidify plans and to share funny videos, songs, poetry, prayer, or whatever they desire. Many of them even camped together with a couple of the dads for one’s birthday in order to see a meteor shower.

While keeping tabs on the kinds of things they were sharing with each other, I also cautioned my kids to beware of becoming a clique and to be sure they were including FullSizeRender-3others, especially at youth group meetings where there could be those who felt left out. I told them there would be those who were envious of the kids in the “cool group.” They assured me, “Mom, we’re far from the ‘cool kids.'”

Maybe so, but the closeness and love the Marathoners show for each other would be obvious to those observing.

And then something catastrophic happened.

The young wife, whose secrets I had been aware of for quite some time, went public on Facebook that she and her husband were separating and the leadership of the church had told her that she was not allowed to have contact with any of the youth inside or outside of Wednesday night youth group.

FullSizeRenderTwo problems: #1 That statement wasn’t true

and #2 Without any context whatsoever, that announcement sent the Marathoners into a tailspin.

In a rush of texts and tears and frenzied phone calls, we pulled together the Marathoners and the leadership of the youth the very next day, knowing that we needed them to hear the truth of the matter and have a time to process it all together.

I will forever be grateful for the way the leaders handled that meeting, and for the maturity that my kids showed. As we processed together in the following days, my son showed a huge heart for these friends who meant so much to him. And my daughter, who had been very close to the young wife, cried over this situation more than any other in her life, but found solace in the group who leaned in and loved each other even more.

Just a couple of weeks later, both of my kids were asked to speak to upcoming middle school and high school students at a graduation event at church. My daughter, who hates being in front of people, bravely took the stage to address the rising 5th graders and spoke from her heart about how having the right friends and trusting the leaders of TheCity (the name of the youth group) were so very important for their middle school years. If it FullSizeRender 2weren’t for The Marathoners, she didn’t know how she would have survived struggles she had with long-time friends at school. They meant the world to her.

I can’t say that I have a lot of friends still from high school, and certainly not from junior high. Not only do I live on the other side of the country now, but that was almost 40 years ago. But those friendships I have maintained grew and blossomed in the soil of a solid youth group.

This summer, we’re enjoying having the group over to swim. It gets my 2 introvert cave dwellers out a lot more. I love hearing their laughter, watching their friendship and praying for them.

FullSizeRenderThe power of friendship. It can change everything. It’s what Jesus wants for us. Oneness with Him, and oneness with each other.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47 ESV).

Seasons of the Soul: A Guest Poem

Again, my 18-year-old son, Nathan, has composed a poem that I wanted to share with you here. Enjoy!

Seasons of the Soul

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It’s Summer in my soul.

My smile reflects the vibrant sun that always seems to shine,
My heart is light just like the days, and everything is fine.
The warmth I feel in summer is a constant source of peace,
And I hope this optimistic Me will never start to cease.
Even in the dark of night my hope just can’t be quelled,
Firefly thoughts dance through my head, their light won’t be dispelled.

But nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Autumn in my soul.

A chilly wind sweeps through my mind and leaves: a reddish hue,
All my dreams begin to Fall, as dreams so often do.
No vibrant smile shines from my face, no happy thoughts glow bright,
The setting of the sun preceeds some dark and endless night.
Crimson trees bathed in blood from hopes too soon destroyed,
My spirit sinks lower as the dark takes over and fear is now employed.

No, nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Winter in my soul.

The darkness that surrounds me is as frigid as my heart,
The blizzard raging within me wants to tear my soul apart.
Buried under the weight of all my fears that pile like snow,
I’m trapped, my body’s numb, and now there’s nowhere left to go.
There’s a barren winter wasteland where the sun no longer shines,
And though my soul looks like it, there’s still hope for better times.

Nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
This Season of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

It’s Springtime in my soul.

From this barren wasteland Springs life that blooms anew,
The tender light of daybreak mingles with the morning dew.
Fresh thoughts of hope grow like flowers in my mind,
There’s life again inside my soul! I’ll never look behind!
For even in the coldest winter when everything seems lost,
Never stop hoping that things will get better, no matter what the cost.

Because nothing lasts forever, this truth we cannot bend,
These Seasons of the Soul will pass, for all things must surely end.

image from 123RF.com

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Nathan Reeves is a senior at Colonial High School in Orlando, Fla., graduating on May 22nd. In the fall he will be attending the University of Central Florida’s Burnett Honors College, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with an Environmental Science track. Nathan hopes to be a park ranger in one of America’s beautiful National Parks after he graduates from college. Though he claims to not like to write, he has a poetic gift that makes his writer mama proud. He is an enthusiastic collector of swords and knives.