A Necessary Adventure

Today dawned early with the rustling of chipmunks outside of our two man tent. I could hear them scurry through last falls leaves, over the cooler, and up the neighboring tree. Not long after a ‘good morning’ text chimed from my North Carolina son (oops, I forgot to silence my phone.) Next thing I know foggy brown eyes are looking at me from across the tent. “Mom, let’s make breakfast so we can go fishing!” ….he is always on the go.

A little furry friend

Bringing a touch of wonder into our “Groundhog Day” summer, (1993 Bill Murray movie where he relives the same day over and over again), has become a must. Yesterday afternoon my daughter, youngest son, and I departed to a nearby state park to add a smidge. I haven’t tent camped in years; unless you count last summer’s overnight tree house adventure in the back yard. I’ve certainly not “roughed it” without a guy to split wood, start a fire, haul water, etc. I think I liked the idea of the challenge. Okay-so we’re not exactly back woods roughing it. There is a paved spot to park, a nice even place for the tent, electricity, and water across the drive….but I’m used to a trailer with running hot water, a shower, stove top, and a pillowtop mattress. 

Cooking over the fire in my cast iron pans has been a good challenge but I did precook our breakfast sausage at home, just in case. We wouldn’t starve if I couldn’t pull it off. So far we’ve achieved Mac-n-cheese in a Dutch oven to compliment last night’s brats, and eggs in a skillet to go with our warmed precooked sausage. Mission accomplished.

After a brief breakfast cleanup we were off to the fishing pier where I promptly lost a bobber and hook to a field of lily pads. Last night’s sleep had been interrupted by strange noises, which became quickly apparent as someone’s little temper reared its ugly head. My sarcasm returned with “like I did that on purpose”..and “As if you bought them in the first place. I’ll buy you another.” Oh I had to shut it down fast before the ‘wonder’ of camping became nothing but a bad memory. Four little fish were caught before we decided to head to the trails. A mile hike was rewarded with a close encounter with a deer and a new, better, view of the lake. Maybe we will try that lily pad free spot tomorrow morning.

Next we’ll head to the beach front where many heat tortured locals find solace. I’m currently avoiding that by sitting here writing in the shade of towering oaks. I’ve sent my tired dirty boy to the tent to read a book in front of a fan. 

Sure, we could’ve done this at home. We could’ve popped the tent in the yard, cooked from our fire pit, drove to a lake (swim and fished), and we see deer everyday from a distance. But it’s just not the same. Our swimsuits are haphazardly strung across a makeshift line. A calm lazy feeling hangs in the air. Food out of a cooler is just different; besides just tasting waterlogged and questionable.

Somewhere down the line, maybe in twenty years, my son will remember this outing while a campout at home would likely be forgotten. My daughter had to leave at dusk last night so she didn’t have our overnight experience, or today’s adventures. I think we will have plenty of stories to tell the rest of the family later.

Hard Work Pays Off

Whether we’ve had a mild start to summer, cool and rainy, or a hot blazing dry one, a certainty here in southern Michigan is that shortly after the 4th the wheat is going to be golden-ready to harvest. Simultaneously the blueberries will be turning from greenish purple to a lovely shade of dark blue.

There’s always been plenty of wheat fields around, but when I was a kid dad decided that we had too far of a drive for a good picking of blueberries. Obviously, we needed our own. As I picked, picked, and begged my husband and son to help me pick yesterday I couldn’t help but retrace the lives of those bushes.

I recall it being a chilly gray day when we went on a family outing somewhere to get 100 blueberry starts. I have no idea where it was or how long it took, but it seemed like a haul. And yes, you read that right…we got 100 of them. They looked like little more than sticks when we placed them in holes filled with peat tested for the correct soil PH. When one goes to the effort of digging a perfect patchwork of 100 holes in their front yard it’s worth the extra detail. One wheelbarrow load after another rolled out to the front as two little girls were encouraged to help…or get out of the way. I was old enough to lend a hand but young enough to be a nuisance. I remember it being fun at first. Like a grand experiment. It quickly became a tedious chore I wanted little to do with. As spring turned into that first summer they had to be watered. All of them. Individually. One at a time.     It. Took. Forever.  Guess what..those bushes are a couple hundred feet from the house so even dragging the hose that far took effort. By the end of the summer I hated them already. As it turns out snakes loved them.  The cold water filled the grass covered holes and out would slither a snake or two right at my feet. After not too many of those I received an education on how to use a garden hoe as an attack weapon. From then on I was armed when I watered the bushes.

As I got older ones of the jobs I grew into was lawn mowing. The riding lawn mower wasn’t generally hard to manuever, but weaving through the gridwork of growing bushes had its challenges. The first time I mowed one completely off I dreaded telling dad because I knew he wouldn’t be happy. Though I had been careful to take it extra slow, alas, we were down to 99. Over the course of time I had been the end of three of their lives..because of my lack of lawn mowing finesse they had been bitten by the blade. I had become the family joke. My way of ridding us of work, one bush at a time???

The bushes that remain…😉

Here we are years later. I don’t even know how many. At least thirty??? The painstaking care my dad took initially is still paying off today. Only halfway through yesterday’s picking I had over 24 cups worth of juicy deliciousness that could only come straight from the bush. No store could rival the taste of handfuls eaten on site. About 90 plants still remain, give or take. (I imagine those lived mostly because I quit mowing the lawn when I married and moved out…) They produce faithfully year after year allowing enough for fresh treats and and freezer bags to last the year.

I couldn’t resist whipping up a batch of grandma’s muffins last night. They taste so good made with fresh berries once a year. The rest of the time they’re made with the freezer stock, but these just taste better.

One of my favorite muffin recipes in grandma’s handwriting..

Hard, tedious work often pays off with big dividends to spare. That usually doesn’t come to mind when dragging a hose through the yard as sweat drips down your face. Or when snakes are chasing you down. ….but thank you dad for lessons learned that are being enjoyed today.

Independence Day

As I sit on my front porch this evening I reflect on the last few weeks. Those who’ve read my prior posts know that physically they’ve been a couple doozys. This last week though I had an enemy of another sort. While I’ve been able to accomplish more than I have in awhile, emotionally the pressure of all I’d fallen short on (and all I had yet to do with a holiday weekend looming large) was immense. I reached my breaking point leaving my family to wonder at the pieces. I won’t get into all the details but being ‘on the go’ constantly tends to bring out my worst rather than the best. If summer is supposed to be anything resembling relaxation I haven’t seen it yet.

Today has been spent prepping for our 4th of July festivities. We will be spending it at the lake with family and two of us will remain overnight. One is also leaving on a camping trip shortly thereafter. While I’m not a helicopter parent, this 16 year old will remember his clothes, but is totally cool with packing shorts that have a hole in the backside. Luckily I still keep track of what he’s bringing. Into my sewing room I went to find a make-do patch and turn on my iron. Waiting for it to heat up my eyes wandered the room landing on a sign I’d painted some time ago.  Faith makes things possible…not easy.  Well, thats for sure. A bit of conviction set in as I pressed the patch into place.

I felt better this week than I had in two, yet I allowed the weight of the world to press where Grace was meant to lighten the load.

All packed and ready for tomorrow’s AM commute now I watch the fireflies float through the darkening yard. Soon the pop of firecrackers will fill the air, and distant colored sparks light the sky. We discovered yet another mechanical problem with my van today. Sigh. Its not driveable until fixed. Add that to the list of things I’ve allowed to twist me out of sorts for the past few days. But the holiday I’ve prepped for, and the fireworks on the horizon, remind me there’s always been pressures-ones much larger than mine.

Over two hundred years ago were people dealing with life as we do in a different time. Daily struggles met daily prayers lifted to a God waiting to guide and help as a Revolution raged on around them. They fought a land across the sea trying to keep their own fields, farms, and freedom. Faith made it possible, but not easy.

As for me- there will always be places to go and things to do…some of them outside my realm of comfort or joy. Vans break down, appliances quit, money runs tight, kids fight. Its all small potatoes in light of the fact I’m sitting on what is now considered American soil. Its a country that’s still great no matter what some say. What I deem “a hard day” is laughable in other parts of the world. We are truly blessed. Happy Independence Day.

A gross but timely reminder….

Being the mom of an eight year old boy gives me an interesting job description at times. This week entailed squished, smeared, lightning bugs and boogers just to name two things. Immediately the ‘EEW’ radar goes on for most, but I’m writing this with a huge smile and a chuckle.

I had a migraine…ALL WEEK LONG. OTC meds had me pain free for awhile but feeling very foggy- almost like I was in a tunnel. The little things even took a back seat in life. By Friday night I’d had more than enough and decided to do what I should’ve done from the get go. When I had yet another sleepless night I grabbed my phone and lay there in the dark with one ear bud listening to my Bible app read the Psalms to me. I heard about 50 chapters but already began to feel comfort after the very first one. Theres a lot about David’s pleas to the Lord that calm and reassure me to my core. Saturday morning I woke up (I had finally fallen asleep sometime around 4 am) knowing my head felt different. The ache had broken and all that was left was tired remnants. 

Friday evening we had chased lightning bugs in the yard. Catching them one by one we temporarily caged them in a bug box to watch them glow. It was a necessary summer night activity that I enjoyed, but would’ve liked much more without the oppressive headache hanging over me. It had to end. I had missed enough smiles already. Why do we wait to bring something to God until we just can’t take it anymore?

Upon releasing the little critters I discovered the fate of one poor bug smeared on the porch boards. 

“It would be cool if they were all different colors!” thought my boy outloud. I envisioned a rainbow of smeared bug guts on the porch and answered “what if we fed them food coloring?” 

“Would that work?” 

“Well, no. But that’s a funny thought” I had to smile whether I felt like it or not. 

The glow of captured bugs…

By Saturday night the smiles were much easier to come by. It’s a good thing because that nights conversation had me laughing out loud.  We have a little devotion time before bed and while I was reading aloud I noticed him picking his nose. He was headed to his mouth with it until he saw me looking at him.

“I saw that! You’re busted” I said with a knowing smile.

“What? I wasn’t gonna. It wasn’t a good one anyways!”

Hesitantly I responded with “what do you mean a ‘good’ one? They’re all yucky!” (not really sure I wanted to hear the answer at this point but I was intrigued.. .)

“No they’re not”, he says. “The black ones are yucky because they’re the dirty ones.”

As opposed to….?

He reassured me the white ones were clean and much tastier. At this point I’m disgusted but laughing and yelling for his dad. Maybe he could convince this boy how gross this bad habit is. To borrow a word from a dear friend (you know who you are)  ‘hoart’.

Oh the little things in a day that I can’t help but smile at. Someday I’ll haunt him with this post…and I’ll re-read it myself as a reminder to not let oppression of any kind hold me down. While I’m fairly certain it isn’t God’s desire we eat boogers or kill bugs for fun- I know Hed rather us be able to laugh at the prospect than to be too worn down to smile at all. I know He wants us to give our burdens, all of them, to Him. 

Loving Fathers

Another Sunday dawned threatening rain, but never really delivering. We need the rain right now, but I was hoping for it to pass because today was a special day in the Irish Hills. The NASCAR stage was set at Michigan International Speedway and we had three ticket holders here waiting for a spectacular day. This week’s heat broke a little as well so an afternoon in the bleachers with a sturdy breeze would be tolerable. 

My husband and two of our son’s spent this Fathers Day together enjoying this first race for the boys. It was bittersweet watching them drive away. In years past I would’ve been right there with them. I actually enjoy the jet fly-over and roaring of engines as much as some of the guys. As it was though, I found myself experiencing a fibromyalgia flare up so a day at the track wouldn’t have bode well for me. Good thing our daughter and I had planned on spending the morning together instead before she had to head to work. 

Headachy, foggy headed, and sore I tried to focus instead on meal prep for a homemade dinner for my dad. I opted for a slow cooked beef noodle recipie from Pinterest. I have never bought a pie at the store but I bought his lemon meringue today. It’s his favorite, and though he deserved one from scratch, I just couldn’t make it happen. It was nice to spend the meal together; just him, mom, and I no matter where the pie came from.

I feel so discouraged when I view these setbacks as losses. I wish I could do everything I used to without physical consequences. On days like today I have to look at these men we celebrate: everyday they march on with tasks because they feel they must. They work hard. It takes a toll on their bodies and minds, just as certain tasks take a toll on mine. They rise before dawn, toil in the sun/rain/sleet/snow to earn a life for those they love.

As I’ve mentioned before, my dad is a farmer. By itself it’s a tough job. He also simultaneously spent years on the city road crew. Quite often that’s an unforgiving job. Long days loomed before him no matter what the season. He did it for mom and us. Our clothes, sports, private schooling, cars, gas, etc. He does more than he should to take care of us still today. 

My husband’s the same way. He works constantly for our care by literally building everyone else’s dreams. He comes home each night to a family who wants even more from him…and he gives it.

I can say no less of my father-in-law who in his retirement selflessly toys with lake improvements…not for his enjoyment necessarily, but for everyone else’s. Its not easy making others happy-meeting their wants and needs. 

All of the dad’s in my life are still trying.

With a grateful heart I hope to relay my thanks despite today’s appearance I might not care much at all. I look to you dad’s and pick up my chin- I am encouraged and challenged by you.

Lost In A Story

When the heat of summer presses in heavy even basic daily chores take twice the energy. Here I lay on the couch expending only enough of myself to operate a papermate pen. Earlier all I held was a book.

My optimum function occurs on a cool breeze- so in the summer that’s early in the morning or later in the evening. Right before the current heatwave my son and I ventured to the city library to find some hot afternoon reading material. An old pillared one and a half storybuilding met us for the first time that day as we wandered through a few basement rooms of children’s books. Once those selections were made we ventured back up the narrow wood railed staircase to the adult fiction on the main floor. I found a title that caught my eye and not knowing how much time our busy week would allow me it was my only choice. It has become a welcome diversion to the heat. An author previously unknown to me has successfully drawn me in to her tale: A single mother has desperately run away from a life of abuses to her childhood coastal memories. Hoping to start afresh little by little she sees herself with new eyes and purpose through her now deceased land lady’s hidden prayer boxes. Hired to clean out the residence she discovers them in a closet and begins to read a lifetime of written notes to “Father”. Piece by piece a picture is drawn that not only rescues her, but an entire town. 

A great story takes a message, slowly infuses it throughout the pages, drawing me into lives that become real in my mind. It was this authors purpose to show how a hidden woman’s life and prayers effect more than anyone ever imagined. It struck a chord, and a fountain of tears, in me. How many times have I asked God what purpose I could have from my small corner? Obvious answers include my impact on my family, but the broader spectrum is the world around. Do I have any influence on my neighbors, town, or even my region? What can a housewife do? Pray. One never knows the opportunities presented through life and how each could change someone’s circumstance.

I closed the pages today hot and tired, but challenged. As another week looms ahead with more heat and inevitably more work I’d like to table until a cooler time I have to place my hearts scribbles before the Lord. All that I mumble through the day may best be written for some days future review. In amazement I’m sure I would look back and see the pieces connecting in a way I don’t see right now. Maybe my children, or even a stranger, would be more moved by the prayers than even the answers. 

Heavy food for thought as the heat finally lifts and dusk sets in.

A Lasting Impression

It was the year 1923 and the world was spinning forward with new life and invention. With the Great War behind us authors like Agatha Christie and William Yeats took the forefront. A “Hollywood” sign was built in California as an actor named Charlie Chaplin made a silent film called “The Pilgrim”. Greats like Babe Ruth made history winning the Yankees first World Series that year as well as his award for MVP that season.

Charles Lindbergh made his first solo flight. The Nobel prize was won for the invention of insulin. Calvin Coolidge took the office as US President after Warren Harding’s death. A massive earthquake shook Japan on September 1st, leaving Frank Lloyd Wright’s newly built Imperial Hotel as a survivor.

On November 8, 1923 Adolf Hitler launched his first attempt to seize control of Germany named the Beer Hall Putsh. History was definitely on the march.

On the same date in the quiet little farm community of Clayton, far removed from world events, a man named Lewis Hawley scratched his name by our entry door. 

Though not brightly visible these scratches are still marking a date from 1923

That was 94 years ago. As famous men and women made their mark for me to google, Lewis left his mark as well. My romantic side wonders if he scratched his name while waiting for a girl inside to come to the door. Maybe he lived here but the only records I find during this time period are for a man living in Union City, MI about 50 miles from here. He left his mark but all I have are romanticized ideas and questions. My main question is what mark we’ll leave on this place. During its time many metamorphosis have occurred here transforming structure and landscape. As people have come and gone through these doors some have lefts notes, scribbles, height measurements, and dated signatures.

Yesterday I power washed an old wood fence in efforts to add a little character to our chicken yard. In keeping with this property’s age the ‘new’ old fence had to be cleaned before I can add a fresh coat of white paint. I’ve never power washed anything, so after a few hours I was sore and quite a sight. My hands were cramped. I was head to toe mud and paint chips. I can only imagine the birds eye view the neighbors had. In creating a lovely home there’s a lot of ugly work. Anything meant to last probably requires some elbow grease. Those famous figures from 1923 didn’t get that way without effort.

While this world keeps spinning, in this small farm community I too am scratching my name on some bricks. I hope to mark my existence for years to come. My lasting mark here is filling these walls with the joy of the Lord and the yard outside with life. It’s not always easy.

Worth the Fight

On this weekend which generally represents the precipice of summer I sit here on my porch pondering. All of the little everyday pleasures I enjoy, and often take for granted, are borne on the backs of men and women spanning our history. These walls were erected only a short time after our Civil War. I imagine through the time spanning just shy of 150 years these bricks have observed gains and losses worthy of the red, white, and blue banner that still flies outside today. 

This day also marks my parents anniversary. I’ve had the privilege of being raised by two people who have loved each other throughout my whole lifetime. They are together today having withstood hardships of everyday life which can take a toll on any couple. Before they met my dad served this country in Vietnam-during a time when we stabbed our own in the back showing them little thanks or respect for the atrocities they’d faced. They returned scarred only to be further beaten by reproach. My dad is quiet on the subject, but I know it effected him along with so many others.  He was able to continue on after his unwelcome arrival home and live a “normal” life.  The same cannot be said for all in his position during that era. 

Its these scars of war, the living losses, I think about most this weekend. I honor the dead, but also the living, who live their lives with buried pasts. I drink my coffee on the front porch without loss of limb, peace of mind, or flashbacks. These men and women who give all of themselves for a span of time by becoming the property of Uncle Sam and then at the end must figure out how to be normal again- how to hold down a civilian lifestyle- as if that chapter were behind them. But it never really is because it is now who they are. Because of them we are who we can be.

For the service man/woman who have returned to build a life, a home, thank you. And thank you to those who are too scarred to do so. I’m sorry. My debt to you is great as you’ve given your peace for mine. To those whom have never come home: tearful gratitude to your families. May our future generations continue to mark your passing.  May they remember how our homes here in the US came to be and that as the saying goes “Freedom isn’t Free.”

As one storm passed leaving a rainbow over our flag I couldn’t help but acknowledge the irony of yet another storm moving in. So it is with our freedom: a wave of storm, peace and hope, and then another wave to fight. Its a constant flow in humanity..you must fight for the peace youd like to keep.

No Flights Today

It is 10 am Monday morning, and though I like to write my blog in the quiet of a Sunday lull that didn’t happen this weekend. Mostly because there was no lull. So here I sit with coffee cup number two while waiting for my son to finish his hour long breakfast. It consisted of an egg with cheese bagel and a cup of milk. An hour folks. He is still reeling from his birthday celebration yesterday. It was a late night with lots of sugar and the thrill of new toys. Not sure how any form of focus will be achieved today. There is too much to tend to.

If that were all we did this weekend we might not be so divided. We’ve been running non-stop for over a week now. Envision a woman with a distracted child in tow running frantically through an airport in efforts to catch the next flight: that’s me. In my own home. Everyone is taking separate flights in different directions and the departures are marked on the side of the fridge. 

I am trying to finish up the tail end of second grade with one child while running 40 minutes each direction to fetch another from his summer job to connect with his drivers ed classes. Throw meals and some necessary laundry in there and the days are gone before I know it. Grocery shopping filled one entire afternoon. This is what the last week has consisted of. 

Saturday we spent our day with a family we love celebrating a graduation. It was a sweet time filled with joyous smiles. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Yet, during a quiet moment between conversations, my mind panicked at what was waiting at home. I needed to be there. To catch that next flight. I would have Sunday School to prep for and a party to pull off afterward. But not before cleaning up the house along with the remains of 1000 purple sprinkles I had on the floor from said graduates cupcakes I had decorated. In that moment I had to intentionally breathe and choose to enjoy the day I had right in front of me. I couldn’t clean my house or throw laundry in the machine while at the party anyway. I had to choose to be present.

I get so frustrated with my boy who dawdles at an extreme. His focus level is at a 0 today. It turns out that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I have age (for sure) and maturity (I think), yet still find myself fighting the same battle. There is no flight leaving this house today. We are grounded for repairs. Thank God. Any departure may crash land at this point. It is now 11:30- still doing that math lesson. Another cup of coffee anyone?

On Being “Mom”

When Mothers Day dawns all sunny and bright marked by vibrant florals and sentimental cards it may be possible to forget for the day how hard motherhood can be. Carrying the name “mom” comes with joys and sorrows-thank God there’s usually enough of each to balance out. One thing’s for certain, not much else on earth will test you as a human like trying everyday to be worthy of the title.

Growing up it was just my younger sister and I with two parents who loved each other and us. Our home wasn’t perfect, but the older I get the more I see the cracks that exist in us all. No-one is perfect so I never expected my parents to be. They did what they could the best they knew how. My mom would cry at her failures. Though there were some, it’s mostly the blanket tents she’d build for us, the way she would get down on the floor and play, and the handmade gowns she made for our Barbies I remember most.

One of the many ensembles mom made for us..complete with little tiny handsewn seed beads.

She was present. There wasn’t a basketball game she didn’t attend to watch us cheer for….and I still hear her screams echoing from the bleachers. Most importantly, her love for Jesus still echos in our hearts. That counts more than anything.

We hold our mothers, more than anyone else, to unrealistic standards. We forget they have lives outside of their children..and their own pieces to hold together as well as everyone else’s when life falls apart. Everyone needs their smile, grace, and strength..but they need those things as well. They have lives they lived before us. Behind the scenes they were a person we may never know. There are things they hide in hopes we don’t fall into the same patterns, and things they reveal for our betterment. All of us mothers are woven with the same colors in different patterns needing and wanting the same things. We all want the best, deep down fear the worst, and pray to God He answers somewhere in the middle. We try our hardest; sometimes to our own detriment. We look forward to hopefully seeing our children grow into better humans than we are. We cry. We laugh. We love deeply. We are mom.