Whipping up a picnic

Mom could whip up a picnic in a blink of an eye. That’s what I thought before I grew old enough to help her whip up one of those picnics. With my dad’s yen for just hopping in the car for a Sunday drive and five kids to feed, clean and entertain, Mom knew how to fix food fast. As her daughters, she expected our help in the kitchen as soon as we could reach the counter.

Let’s take a drive and go for a picnic.” Dad told Mom before he went to milk the cows at 4 a.m. 

We woke up to the wonderful smell of chocolate cake mix poured into a loaf pan. If time ran out before the cake cooled, Mom mixed the margarine, milk and vanilla with a box of confectionery sugar and spread the frosting over the warm cake. The frosting seeped into the warm cake, glazing and sealing in the richness of Betty Crocker’s best.

On the surprise picnic lunch days Mom fussed about all the things she had to do before we left. She fussed, but she did it. She had to. She did not have today’s plethora of options in fast food restaurants, diners or even grocery stores open on Sunday, let alone the cash to feed seven people in a restaurant. With a well stocked kitchen and freezer, she had no problem boiling eggs and macaroni for a salad and fixing tuna fish sandwiches.

Her well packed picnic basket included either paper plates or a stack of melamine plates and Tupperware cups from the cupboard that we had to repack, carry back home and wash. With five children, Mom always said, “fill up that Tupperware dish with water and put a clean wash cloth in it.” Mom knew five children guaranteed sticky fingers and messy faces. She did not have the option of packaged wet wipes.

Dinner out did not mean less kitchen work. It did mean we left very little to add to the landfill. Not even pop bottles or cans because Mom filled a jug with ice and water. For planned picnics she bought lemons and oranges to squeeze and mix with water and sugar yielding a gallon of delightful citrus drink.

When shopping days went longer than expected, Mom whipped up simplified picnics. She left us in the car (yes, folks actually used to do that sort of thing) while she ran into the grocery store for a few minutes and came out with a loaf of white bread and stack of thick cut baloney. 

She would put baloney between a couple slices of bread and that was lunch,” I once told my husband.

With some salad dressing,” he helpfully added.

No, just the bread and baloney.” 

He could not comprehend a dry sandwich.

It was a fast picnic. We were hungry. We ate.

Occasionally the parents planned picnics with cousins. No one packed toys, we had the forest. The boys built the forts.

The girls whined, “They have a fort. We want one. Daddy, will you make one for us?” So the men built the girls’ fort. Mom and the aunts spread cakes, salads, baked beans and casseroles on the plank picnic table covered with a real table cloth.

That’s how it happened while I was at home. Then three of us married and only my younger sister and brother remained. When they visited one day my sister whispered in a shocked voice, “Dad stops and we eat at the restaurant.” 

From then on Dad could whip up a picnic lunch in the blink of an eye. 

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I will always write back: penpals

Change happens when we look through a window into another person’s life. The authors of the auto-biography “I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives” tells the tale of teenagers discovering diverse worlds through their letters as penpals.

The name Zimbabwe caught the attention of typical suburban junior high student Caitlin Alifirenka when choosing a pen pal. Her letter went to Martin Ganda, the brightest, most promising student in his school district. His school paid to send his first letter, then the head master said, “we cannot afford anymore stamps.”

Neither could Martin’s family afford a stamp. They lived in a one-roomed house with a dirt floor and struggled to pay for his tuition in a country that did not have mandatory free education. Still, his mother found money for a stamp. When his dad’s job of 18 years ended, Martin carried suitcases at the train station to earn stamp money.

At first Caitlin wrote basic information about her life as a teenager, sent her picture and a dollar bill so Martin could see her and a sample of American money. His mother placed the money on a shelf.

“It stayed there for two weeks and then we had eaten sadza for days on end, no beans or even collard greens and our mealie meal was running low,” Martin wrote.

So Martin gave the dollar to his mother for food. With it she bought two weeks worth of groceries. He wrote to thank Caitlin for the dollar, but did not promise to send her a bill from his country. It would rob their table of the scant food they had. He did promise however that he “would always write back, no matter what.”

They both wrote. When she learned that he had to drop out of school because his family lacked the money for the fees, Caitlin looked at the $20 she earned for babysitting. “I was just going to buy another pair of stupid earrings.” she said and sent it to Martin. It paid for his semester of school and provided the first meat his family had eaten in months. Eventually monetary shortages forced Martin to write letters on garbage.

“After he sent the letter on the ice-cream wrapper, Martin started to open up to me in a way that made me realize how different our lives were. Until that moment I did not realize how privileged I was,” Caitlin recalled.

A part time job for most American girls pays for fun. Caitlin found a job so she could buy tarps, boots and rain clothes for the rainy season in Zimbabwe. Martin thanked her, “now I don’t have to sleep on a wet floor.”

Caitlin’s family joined her quest to keep the family alive, safe and in school during the country’s depression and political uprisings. As high school graduation neared, Caitlin’s mother began contacting colleges seeking a full scholarship for Martin.

Caitlin saw through another window when her family invited a German exchange student into their home for a couple of months. As the child of extremely wealthy parents, the visitor assumed Caitlin’s mom would bring her breakfast in bed and complained when she had to go to school. When her visit ended, Caitlin wrote, “I did a victory dance as soon as (she left).”

Through Caitlin’s mother persistence and prayerful pleas, one American college offered Martin a full scholarship. Caitlin’s family lavishly welcomed him to America. He worked hard in college and at part times jobs to have money to provide for his family. Everything he did, he said, “I did it for my family.”

Both families gained a broader view of the world thanks to their children’s letters from abroad.

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Visiting the snowbirds

Each winter, Florida’s warmth beckons baseball teams and snowbirds. We went south to visit my snowbird brother and cousins. Approaching my brother’s RV park, I texted an explanation for our late arrival, “Hitting noonday traffic.”

They call it snowbird traffic down here.” he replied. Passing one full RV park after another, I could only imagine the population difference between January and July. Last year Mel and Deanna spent a month in Florida renewing acquaintances with folks they knew from New York. This year they will stay and play for three months when Florida is hopping. The popular restaurant we visited at 2 p.m. had a waiting time of 10 minutes. By the time we left, a line had formed.

We hit the slow time,” Mel winked.

Two days later, we watched the professional snowbirds play during a spring training baseball game. “Looks like it won’t rain after all,” we said thinking of the day’s forecast of thunderstorms.

We spoke too soon. The game ended in the seventh inning due to rain.

For meals and migration snowbirds fly together. As March wanes, my brother will push in his RV slides and join the migration back to New York. Cousin Sheila and her husband Butch leave before Thanksgiving and stay until April.

Sheila and I strolled around their mobile park. I listened as she pointed to trailers, “He comes from Canada every winter.” and “They live here year round.” “She has been in the hospital a lot this year.”

At the restaurant, folks from her home town spotted her and stopped at our table to catch up on the news. This year she talks about her growing collection of figurines reflecting life back home. Little porcelain dogs and people line their trailer windows, tables and shelves. Some will stay in Florida, others she will take to New York.

And then there are the snowbirds who came and stayed. My cousin Donna left New York years ago to settle in Florida. She and Bob had settled happily into their retirement home when a friend asked them to look at a house about to go on the market.

We aren’t looking. We like it here,” they protested.

Just come and look at it.”

They went.

We walked in and through the living room I could see the view on the lanai and I said, ‘I want it,’” Bob recalled. The house had been built half a dozen years before for other snowbirds who rarely returned, “I think the microwave had been used once,” Donna said.

I loved their lanai with its collection of colorful toucans, Bird of Paradise floral arrangements and live plants just outside the screen. Their other collectibles fill the shelves and neatly line high ledges. “Our collection of world globes began with this little metal bank,” Donna pointed up at the long ledge filled with carefully arranged and dusted classroom sized globes and banks in every color and size.

Bob pointed out his complete collections of favorite authors and said, “I read six books a month.”

I guess that included the books in his Marilyn Monroe collection that he began many years ago. I doubt that Donna counts it as a collection, but near her completely furnished doll houses she showed me six fat notebooks filled with pages of pictures taken through the years with people identified and events noted. We enjoyed seeing their collections and visiting them after so many years.

Hours later, we left this last snowbird’s home having added one more memory to our collection of visits with family.

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GPS girl speaks

The flight of the Snowbirds called me to visit family in Florida. El Dorado falls far short of having a true winter, so I called it a vacation and packed suitcases and the GPS. Hubby prefers the assistance of the GPS over my map reading. Plus, I think he has a crush on the GPS girl. She definitely anticipates and responds to him faster than I do.

As we wear away the miles, he casually asked me, “how far is it until we turn?”

I started to reach for the GPS to check and she blurted out, “In 600 feet turn right at Exit 45.”

We laughed at the coincidence.

Twenty minutes later he puzzled, “I wonder where that place is?” I shrugged he would figure it out when we get there.

“Turn left and your destination will be on the left,” she insisted on telling him.

All very helpful until GPS girl told us to turn off our route to a store in a new community.

“I thought we were almost there,” I said.

“She said turn here,” hubby swung the car around several turns before I said, “this looks exactly where we just were.”

“It is,” he pointed at stores we had just passed before five minutes of unnecessary detour.

A minute later GPS girl announced, “Your destination is on the right.”

A time or two, I yanked her monitor off the dash, found recent addresses, chose and set our destination again. She straightened up and gave us accurate instructions for a while.

A few flukes we could excuse. Then as we left my cousin’s house, GPS girl said, “Turn right.”

“I thought we would be going left here.” hubby said. Like a child running away from home, that girl took us up and down some back roads left and right until she giggled and brought us back to the same highway dictating, “Turn left.”

“I thought that was where we should go in the first place,” one frustrated, tired driver said.

He looked at the traffic flowing back and forth on the divided four lane highway with a knoll to his left where cars appeared from nowhere. We needed to turn left across it. As he started across the four lane highwy a car on the other side stopped in the turning lane in front of us.

Two vehicles can not occupy the same space. “You can’t turn.” I gasped. He started to turn away. A black sporty car came over the knoll, saw our white van, hit the brakes and slammed our front side. We felt the impact of that car’s passenger side hitting our van’s driver’s side. Our van moved to the right, his car bounced to the left. A curtain of air bags exploded on the driver side of the van.

Silence and shock followed.

I unlatched my safety belt and tried to open the door. It barely moved. The front end had warped up and sideways. The flat tire with crushed rim sagged beneath the ruined grill exposing the car guts hanging out and dripping.

“Are you okay? Do you need an ambulance?” someone asked us.

We did a quick review. Just a couple bruises on my shins. We walked away from the wreck as did the other driver. The GPS girl went silent. She did not recalculate, let alone apologize for her frustrating instructions.

She offered no directions, reminders, or suggestions as folks called 911 and we answered first responders’ questions, canceled reservations and contacted the insurance. GPS girl silently waited until we bought a vehicle and headed off to visit my cousin before she said another word.

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The man carrying a cross

Each day Steve Epp, 66, picks up the two beams forming a cross and walks down the road. He does not have time for retirement hobbies, sports or TV. Steve has a mission to tell others about God’s love. His mission began in 2015. At the time Epp had planned to start a new church in another community as he had done before with his wife Saundra.

Instead, Steve felt God leading him to carry a cross and walk across the country. With his wife’s agreement he bought a tiny travel trailer. They locked up their comfortable home in Oklahoma and headed down the road away from their five grown children and nine grandchildren to talk with folks about God’s love.

The Epps return home every three months. They could stop, sit down and stay there now that Steve is retirement age, but Steve feels compelled to walk along the road, talking with folks, praying with them and showing them the love of Christ. He is known as The Cross Man. Each day folks notice him and pull over to talk. Steve greets folks with 14 words, “Jesus loves you and so do I. What can I pray with you about?”

Answers vary. For instance, a truck driver parked behind a Walmart, planned to end his life that day until he saw a man carrying a cross and went over to talk with him. Steve looked him in the face, and said, the 14 words, “and I could see the tears well up in him, just knowing that he was loved.”

In Arkansas, Steve has had more folks stopping to talk. “Somedays I meet a dozen carloads of folks and get in several miles.” Other days are slower and the road is quiet for lengthy periods of time. In Arkansas, Steve observed, “This state has been amazing. At least 10 to 20 people have stopped about everyday. Rarely do they turn down prayer. They are friendly, but I’m feeling a hunger more than anything. They are looking for someone to bring them hope.

As a fellow believer. Epp welcomes their prayers and visits. Other days he meets those with hurting hearts like the man who hopped out of his car to snap a picture. “He had been a hard core drug addict for 37 years,” Steve said he learned before they prayed together.

In 2015, Steve walked from North Carolina to California. Since then he has walked other directions and states. He said, “I have walked in 19 states. I hope to eventually hit all 50 carrying the cross and talking with anyone who stops.”

Steve walks. Saundra drives. Every day she takes him from their small travel trailer to the road where he stopped the day before. Then she waits at a nearby library for him to call for lunch or to finish for the day.

Instead of planting another church, he plants the love of Christ in one individual after another. “I think it is about being there. We are being The Gospel. We just want to let people know we love them. Everyone needs prayer for something: a physical thing, a family, a job… Some do not see fulfillment in the church; we point them to Christ.”

With that in mind, Steve plans to be in Washington D.C. this spring, to walk in from Virginia carrying the cross, praying with whomever he meets along the way. He will go on praying for individuals and the nation because he is The Man with The Cross bringing the love of Jesus to one person at a time wherever he meets them.

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Aunt Millie and The Diamond Ring

The will said “share and share alike.”

Does that include The Diamond Ring?” my parents, aunts and uncles asked.

What diamond ring?” my sister and I asked.

My dad settled in to tell the story, “There was this gypsy ..”

It was a French man!” my mother interrupted.

My dad looked at her. “There was this gypsy …”

He was a French man!”

There was this French gypsy who came to America with diamonds hidden in his boot’s heels.”

Andre settled in New York. Aunt Millie, a country girl, went to the big city to work. The two met. Andre gave Millie The Diamond Ring. They married. “Then the French Gypsy disappeared and was never heard from again,” my dad concluded.

My aunt’s began the story differently, “Aunt Millie had three diamonds. Two in earrings and The Ring. Aunt Millie were not married very long when we children were told she was coming home to ‘help Aunt Belle with her three children.’ Belle’s husband, a railroad worker, had fallen off the caboose and died. There had been so many railroad worker accidents back then that we had an Engineer’s Room for the injured when I worked at the hospital.”

No one said divorce. Millie moved in with Aunt Belle, sold magazines and they lived together until Aunt Belle died. Neither remarried. “When we went to Hornell to visit the aunts, there were no men there.” my aunt recalled.

After Aunt Belle’s death, mother looked at Aunt Millie and said, ‘You can come live with us.’”

So she did and stayed even when dementia took over her mind. Family history includes the day she accompanied a young adult to town wearing three dresses. Left in the car alone for a few minutes, Milllie slipped out of the car and began pulling off her top dress to the amazement of nearby folks.

Belle’s daughter Gladys asked to buy the diamond earrings with regular payments. When the payments stopped. Millie said, “Write to Gladys and tell her I’m not dead yet.” Payments resumed, according to my aunt.

Before her death, Millie gave The Diamond Ring to my grandmother who cared for her. Grandma went about her life as a farmer’s wife. Grandpa retired. The ring sparkled on Grandma’s hand as she knitted and sewed. Grandpa’s health failed. When he passed no one asked about the ring. Grandma gave the ring to her daughter, my aunt.. Grandma asked to have it back and later handed it back to my aunt. When Grandma died, my aunt had The Ring. That’s when her brothers began asking, who owned the ring? Their sister or the estate?

As executor for the estate my uncle insisted my aunt give him the ring. The next day my father teased his brother into letting him hold the ring then he refused to return it. The Diamond Ring became a bone of contention, the focus of the family’s pain from their loss of Grandma. It took months before they agreed that my father inherited The Ring and the other two inherited other unique items.

My mother put it away. When Mom died, Dad offered the ring to my sister. She took it. Dad asked for it back. He gave it to her again and took it back again.

The next time my sister had the ring she gave it to my brother. He put the ring in a safe deposit box. Many years later the ring went on another finger as an engagement ring. The fiancee never heard about the French gypsy who brought the diamond to America. And that’s the way we will leave it.

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I looked up from my book and sniffed. Something smelled medicinal. Turning to my husband working behind me in the kitchen, I asked, “Are you doing something with medicine?”

Crushing pills, measuring out drops of Nervestra to stop the sciatic nerve pain,” he said. 

I shook my head. No, that wasn’t it. Nervestra smells like the daily vitamins my mother gave all of her children. We took the red coated pills obediently and faithfully until one of us asked, “I wonder what’s inside?”

Here’s a knife. Let’s cut one open,” my sister said. We cut open the pill and wrinkled our noses, at the smell emanating from the yellow-brown substance. “Ewww! It smells like ca-nure!” As farm kids, ca-nure was our code for cow manure.

That ended the daily vitamin ritual for both of us. That smell so seared our brains that even as new mothers we both struggled to remember to give our own children drops from the brown bottle filled with those disgusting yellow drops of health. My sister taped a large sign “Vitamins!” to her son’s high chair to remind her to add them to his cereal and still forgot.

So I knew the smell of Nervestra did not match the medicinal whiff akin to rubbing alcohol that filled my nostrils. I sniffed again.

Definitely medicinal but not the smell of medicine that I associated with old Doctor McDonald’s who treated me as a child. Dr. McDonald held office hours in the parlor and office of his home in the village of Woodhull, N.Y. The waiting room smelled of tobacco and rubbing alcohol. Tobacco because McDonald took cigarette breaks between patients.

No, I detected a modern medicinal smell. Not finding the source, I gave up and went to bed. Next morning, with my husband sound asleep in the bedroom, I again sat on the couch and the smell returned. Curious, I reached for the source of all knowledge: the Internet. I googled, “smelling something that is not there” and learned a new word: Phantosmia: a phantom smell. Or cacosmia if it smells really disgusting. I posted my new word on Facebook. Friends replied with their personal experiences with phantosmia.

It can be linked to autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia or lupus.” a local woman wrote speaking from personal experience.

One elderly woman suffered from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and already was the cleanest person ever when she began smelling an intolerable stench. “She was getting up twice nightly to wash and dry bed sheets. We printed all the information about phantosmia for her, but she never believed. She actually smelled like beautiful flowers, but could not be convinced. It also did not help that her regular doctor was less than sympathetic or informative.” her daughter-in-law said.

Before one woman realized the smell originated from a sinus infection, she made her husband “tear out a bathroom wall because I could smell something rotten. Bless his sweet heart. Now, I have a wonderful immunologist, allergist who treats me for this. I am so glad I found a good doctor and found my problem. Before that I cleaned, sprayed and threw away. It takes a good specialist to keep you out of the nut house with this,” she concluded.

Thank goodness my experience with phantosmia came and went in a 24 hour period and did not send me into a cleaning frenzy. For all my friends who suffered longer and more miserably with cacosmia, please accept my sympathy. I enjoyed learning a new word, but I would not care to share the experiences you have described beyond that passing medicinal smell.

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Grumpy prayers

Sometimes, I simply cannot be a sympathetic listener. Sometimes, I have to bite my tongue to not laugh as happened decades ago when an acquaintance vehemently said “Those cousins better not try to get all her money away from us when she dies.”

“Where does she live ?” I asked.

Several states away.

“And when was the last time you visited, called or wrote to her or them?” I asked.

After a bit of thought, “about eight years.”

“So how do you know she is still alive?” I received no answer – maybe because I failed in my struggle to not laugh.

Sometimes it’s folks focusing on their half empty cup such as the person who ended their birthday stating, “This has been the worst birthday ever.”

Why? Short answer, “Except for many birthday greetings, a couple meals made just for me and an early party, nothing else happened. I had to clean house, let the cats in and out, fix my own dinner and make my own coffee.”

I could not say a thing because ‘make my own coffee’ tickled my funny bone instead of my sympathy. Most sympathized. One person observed, “So you got two meals! I never get that.”

I wish having a miserable birthday had been my only issue a few months ago. Perhaps then I would not have had so work to hard obey the Good Book’s admonition, “In everything give thanks.”

Everything? Even birthdays that are the worst! Even when cousins and relatives I have not seen in years may inherit while I get nothing?

Yes. And even when I think circumstances excuse me from giving thanks. Those words reverberated within as I sat in my figurative corner pouting and silently fussing over all the details of wrongs done me.

Finally, I relented, “All right, God, I will give thanks. But only because you said I should. Thank you for this miserable situation.” I told Him everything and I caught a glimpse of a different perspective. I saw what I had: God with me even through difficult times.

The Good Book has another difficult command that really eats my lunch, “Pray for your enemies, for those who mistreat you.”

Say what?! “Pray for that person, God? The one who did steal my inheritance, ruined my birthday?”

No way. Not when I want to list all the wrongs done to me. I don’t know how many times in my life I have fought with God over that verse. In my 20s I remember sitting in an overstuffed chair mulling over the flaws of my enemy of the day when that verse came to mind.

Very grumpily I grouched out a prayer, “Well, God, you told me to do it, so I am doing it. I am praying for my enemy – this person who mistreats me. I don’t like doing it. I don’t like them. I don’t think it is fair, but you said to pray for them. So I am praying for them, but I sure do not want to do so.”

My argument of a prayer went on for a while. When I finished, I slept better. I had a calmer stomach and I could focus on all the blessings I enjoyed even in the midst of my problems with my enemy.

When I do pray as God tells me to pray, I catch a glimpse of ‘why’ He commanded it. It changes my perspective. But if you think I am going let you know more about my miserable situations, think again. I do not want you chuckling at my misery of the moment.

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Parker speaks up

Naptime and Parker could not rest. He had a very important question. “Mom, did the workers pop my head on?”
Mom looked at him in astonishment, “What workers and what do you mean?”
Parker looked at her in exasperation before he impatiently explained, “When I was made at the baby factory. Did they pop my head onto my neck?”
His mom giggled, “Sure. Go to sleep Bud.”
Parker studied her face before promising, “Okay, but we’ll finish this conversation when I wake up.”
When his mom posted the story on her Facebook page she clarified, “I didn’t tell him that babies come from a baby factory. He got that from the Boss Baby movie.”
Parker watches enough videos that when his mom turned on a modern day cartoon for the boys recently, he said, “Wow! this show is old school.”
This from a child who has yet to go to kindergarten. Puzzled his mom asked, “Why do you say that?”
“Because I haven’t seen it in a few weeks.”
Those same weeks he has been doing chores around the house and saving his money to buy toys or candy – or so his mother thought. The other night he asked her, “Mom, how much money do I have in my piggy bank?”
“About twelve dollars. Why? What do you want to buy?” she asked.
“I want to buy you a Christmas present, Mommy.” he said.
Her heart melted, “Aww, that is so sweet of you! But we don’t need anything.” she said referring to herself and his dad.
Parker shook his head, “No, not Dad … you, Mom.”
Mom is the center of the world for pre-schoolers like Parker and his little brother Carter. They want her around all the time. Usually they wake her up early as they begin the day playing. Recently, however, they surprised her and crawled into bed with her instead of pulling out their toys. Everyone slept in until nearly nine. “I don’t even know what to do with this kind of rest,” she said.
Perhaps get ready for more questions from Parker. After viewing a video of himself as an infant trying new sounds, Parker asked, “why couldn’t I talk?”
“He did not take long after that video to start talking,” his mom notes wryly. He keeps her on her toes. Before Christmas he had a thousand questions about Santa Claus and she had to come up with an answer for each one. One day’s worth of questions follows:
Q: How does Santa fit down the chimney?
A: Santa has magic dust that makes him fit in chimneys of all sizes.
Q: How many elves does Santa have?”
A: 900
Q: Why can’t I be awake when Santa gets here?
A: If every kid was awake, they’d all wanna talk and hang out with Santa and he wouldn’t have time to get to every house in one night….so we have to be asleep.
Q: Which United State is Santa going to first?
A: He goes to whichever state has the presents on top of the bag.
Q: Would it take us about three days to get to the North Pole?
A: We can’t go to the North Pole because it’s a magic place and only Santa knows where it is.
Q: Why is Santa so fat?
A: Because of all the cookies.
Parker’s mom encourages him to question and learn. As they assembled a puzzle of the country, Parker pointed to a state and asked, “Have you ever been there?”
“Yes. I visited friends there.”
“What? Wait, you have friends?” Parker asked.
So much information awaits to fill the head popped on Parker’s neck at the baby factory.

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A week after New Year’s my husband and I celebrate our Birth-aversary: his birthday, our anniversary and then my birthday. During those three days my daughter posted the following on her Facebook page.

Happy birthday to my dad.
You taught me to use tools and stick with a project until it’s done. … and if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
You taught me to love travel and ‘stop in’ to see people when we’re traveling.
You taught me to identify plants, bugs and birds.
You helped mold me into a lifelong learner who isn’t afraid to ask questions or do research when I don’t know the answer.
You modeled reading the Bible, with your brown, leather Bible under a single light.
You helped me get the presentations right for science fairs, yet allowed me to do my own (usually shoddy) work when I thought I was too smart for your help.
You set boundaries that I hated with my best interest at heart.
You have helped us with countless construction projects. …and when I say ‘helped,’ I mean you did them because we couldn’t.

I’m thankful for the modern medicine that helped you regain much of your stamina this year. In your 30s, you didn’t think you would have your real teeth in your 40s or live through your 50s to see 60, but here you are, saying farewell to your 70s and knocking on 80’s door with all your teeth and wits!

Happy Anniversary to my parents.

For 47 years they have upheld their vows. I’m thankful for the example of commitment they have set for our family. They are promise keepers. Their marriage has morphed and changed. Some of the changes over the decades possibly threatened the fortitude of their vows.

They have remained committed through plenty of trials. Some of the difficulties have been theirs, some their children’s or grandchildren’s: Renovations that lasted years, legal woes, joblessness, broken cars and hearts, individual and family counseling, mental and physical illness, addictions and thousands of miles on the road, chasing bucket list items or hobbies.

When I was younger, I thought maybe my parents were just incredibly strong (stubborn). They ARE strong, but more than that, they both took their vows before God seriously. For better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. I won’t say, “they make it look easy” because marriage isn’t easy. They make it look real. It takes two people choosing every day to do what it takes to stay the course. I am thankful for the legacy of love they are still making.

Happy birthday to my mom.

If you have known me very long, you have heard me refer to my mom with deference and respect. Her advice, stories, and perspective are golden. I share them frequently. Our personalities are completely opposite. I often find myself wishing I could be more like her.

She listens first. Rarely overreacts. Reads voraciously. Serves consistently and quietly. Isn’t afraid to try new things. Thinks before she speaks. Forgives readily. Examines both sides of issues that often divide. Studies the Bible, praying for fresh eyes. Prays consistently. Travels to see family. Wakes early. Uses her resources wisely and generously. Sews warm blankets. She makes plans, but often just goes with the flow. She’s practical, but has a good sense of humor. She answers her phone all hours of the day and night. She remembers my family’s preferences and loves us well.

She’s great at math but terrible at punctuation. Love you, Mom. Thanks for being you.

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