{ Noisy Nature }

I hauled two busy boys along on a walk last Monday.

I warned them in my best tough-mom voice:

“We will walk ten miles today, boys. If you want your water bottle, carry it yourself. If you grumble and whine, you will not get a treat at the end. You can do this. We can do this. Let’s go build some muscle, guys!”

So we started off on a well known path.

They were trailing behind me.

Perfect time for me to whip out my earbuds and listen to my own audiobook.

Peace and quiet and lovely time to myself.

Nah, I will wait a little.

Then it got noisy.

That throaty, burping frog pond.

That airy, whistling, bird choir.

The rustles in the dry leaves of tiny who-knows-whats.

I couldn’t miss this.

Spring was waking up here.

The sun was melting my winter slouch.

My ears were being treated to a magnificent, miraculous, musical racket.

“Make a joyful noise,” said the psalmist.

Maybe this is what he meant.

~~~~

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 

Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

~~~

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

–from the 1901 hymn “This is My Father’s World” / lyrics by Maltbie D. Babcock

{ Spring Break with Mom — Part Two }

Waves

The beach is mesmerizing, and I could sit and watch the translucent-teal waves foam up on the sand all day long.

The way God fashioned waves is a repeating design pattern in life…but that is another blog post in itself.

Hypnotic waves on Miami Beach

Patterns & People

Last night, after the beach, after makeup removal, after getting cozy on my chair, Gino asked me to go for a walk around the colorful 4 x 4 block radius that we have called “home” this past week, where he has explored so much more than I.

How could I say no?

The air was balmy on our last night, as he led me through the upscale design district in my pre-bedtime state of appearance. We pranced right through a busy, outdoor bar where fancy people chatted in a courtyard. We weaved through a maze of colors and patterns, past designer shops with their sparsely-chic shelves and products. Everywhere we went, it smelled like someone wearing high-end perfume had just recently sailed through.

The abundant patterns and colors of the Miami Design District

Goodbye, Miami

All good things must come to an end.

Geoffrey Chaucer

When I start calling our place “home”…

When I start thinking about a Starbucks run every day at 3 p.m. just because it is within walking distance…

When I start swaying to Latino rap like it’s normal (all those Uber rides)…

Then I know it is time to hightail my homeschool-mom-self back to the Midwest.

{ Spring Break with Mom – Part One }

You might think it is strange for a mother to accompany her son to Miami for Spring Break, but here is how it happened…

My 20-year-old son Gino, who is taking online college classes, announced that he wanted to take a trip to Florida for spring break. After considering this, I mused aloud…

“It would be fun to go with you.

I wonder if I could swing it.

Would you hate that?” 

Then, I let it rest.

A few days later, he said, “That would actually be nice — you going with me.”

“REALLY??!!!!?” I asked.

My husband agreed, home duties were delegated, and so it was planned. Gino reserved our flights and our spot at a spacious 2 bedroom Airbnb. 

Day One

Arriving in Miami

We landed at 11:00 a.m. and basked in the 35 degree temperature change. We rode to our neighborhood, but the place wouldn’t be ready until 3:00 p.m. Gino stopped at Target and met me later, where I was lounging outside under the palm trees at a Starbucks. We hung out there before walking a few short blocks to our lovely little duplex in the Miami Design District. 

First Meal, Best Meal

Since Gino and I had been up at 4:00 a.m. for our 6:30 flight, and we hadn’t eaten a solid meal all day, we decided to go to Versailles Restaurant, whose tagline is: “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.” My Cuban-born husband and I discovered it when we went to Miami years ago, and its mouthwatering fare has haunted us ever since. Gino and I both ordered the Classic Cuban Sampler Platter. He polished it off, and I brought home half to enjoy tomorrow.

Day Two

Frank from Instacart left two grocery bags on our doorstep at 7:55 a.m. Gino went walking. I wrote out my own paraphrase of Psalm 9 and pasted it up on our refrigerator. The morning was leisurely, but our goal today was to hit the beach!

Uberimmediately

Gino takes care of (and pays for) our Uber rides and I am grateful, since I am quite unfamiliar with all that. Today, Gino asked, “Should I call for an UBER?”

“Sure.”

I started thinking about what to pack for a day at the beach, such as my:

  • walking shoes
  • snacks
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm
  • sunglasses
  • reading glasses
  • water bottles
  • earbuds

…and suddenly Gino announced:

“Okay, he will be here in one minute.”

Whaaaaa?!

I rushed to cram everything into my backpack, and bumbled awkwardly into the car as I simultaneously strapped on a mask. I looked at Gino, who was calmly sitting there with absolutely nothing in his hands. 

“Do you have everything?” I asked.

“Yep.” he said.

Miami Beach

Once we arrived at Miami Beach it was breezy and around 70 degrees, but the sun peeked out from time to time, which gave stunning photos!

We split up when we reached the sand: I walked north and Gino walked south. I trudged happily six miles along the windy, lapping shore, searching in vain for large shells, but finding bouquets of sea vegetation and washed-up iridescent jellyfish.

After a few hours of walking, I headed west to the paved pathway that runs parallel to the beach. I found a bike rental kiosk and on a whim, rented a Citibike for two hours.

After 20 minutes, I met up with Gino on the path (where I shared some of my snacks with him, since he had come without any…hehe) and after an hour and a half, we met up again at the kiosk and planned to get a ride home.

Once again, I had barely untangled myself from the bike and gathered up my bulky wares, when Gino said, “Okay, our ride is almost here.”

Tweaking Expectations 

After getting home, he showered off all of the sand, came out of the bathroom and said:

You know you can go places without me, right?

This struck me as a strange juxtaposition of the parent-child relationship, but maybe this is the emerging story of aging and could I possibly be on the brink already?

To reassure him that I was capable, I took off for a walk to Target when he wasn’t looking, and I forced myself to take extra time browsing so I wouldn’t get home too soon. 

As I was heading home, whom do I see on the sidewalk, but my own son, giving me a minimalist smile in exchange for my motherly wave hello?

I got home and boldly drank strawberry kombucha out of a wine glass.

Day Three

Gino moves in and out of this place like a Ninja. One minute, I hear him exiting the bathroom, and the next minute I walk out to the living room and notice that his shoes and keys are gone. 

So, to prevent myself from calling out his name just to see if he is still here (I think this annoys him) I have resorted to checking his Google location (a temporary, trip-only concession).  

This morning, I told him that I’m going to stick around home and relax.

“I will probably walk over to Starbucks later this afternoon,” I said, hoping this would impress him.

But tomorrow — our last full day — I definitely want to go back to THE BEACH!

{ Mama Makeover }

This post is not about pickles. Please keep reading.

Mama Makeover: Part 1

It started a few months ago, as documented in a previous blog post.

Summary: my oldest adult daughter gently wondered why I have been wearing such unlikely wardrobe combinations / mismatched outfits. I could blame it on a mid-life crisis, that I have nothing to wear, or on cabin fever. I could have blamed it on Covid-19 as many things were in 2020.

This first daughter pointing out my wardrobe issues was the initial step in what I believe may be a groundbreaking 2021 Mama Makeover. Yes, it is past due. Indicators that a mid-life makeover may be mandatory include the color-damaged lifeless hair, the lack of age-appropriate makeup, and the extra 10 pounds gained in record time.

Mama Makeover: Part 2

I showed up at my sister’s house on Christmas Day, feeling rather blah. Sara is only 4 years younger, but is slim and accomplished and doesn’t even have to color her hair. She is a great listener and encouraged me when I realized that I had forgotten our plate of cookies at home, but I brought a helping of my age-related grumblings instead. We commisserated together for a few minutes before diving into the lefse.

Mama Makeover: Part 3

Hours later, my next oldest daughter lounged on my bed (I love when she does that.)  I laughed and summarized my Christmas Day aging discussion with my sister. She affirmed me as she always does…and then gently and tentatively added some makeover ideas. 

Have you ever seen The Pickle Story episode from the Andy Griffith Show? Aunt Bea offers her homemade pickles to her neighbor Clara, who has been the winner of the county fair pickle contest 11 years in a row.  At one bite of Aunt Bea’s unsavory pickles, Clara winces and nods her head, trying to be kind. But then she slowly adds several recommendations, revealing that Aunt Bea’s pickles truly need serious improvement.

In like manner, my daughter rolled out a few tips:

  • Maybe you could get bangs again, so your hair would frame your face…
  • You seem to wear a lot of dark colors. If you wore bright colors once in a while…
  • And, your glasses make you look a little severe…
  • I follow this one homeschooling mom on Instagram and even though she is home every day, she always wears lipstick…

The Makeover Continues

Guess what? I have explored and followed many of these suggestions. Why? Because when a Mama gets makeover support from her young adult daughters, this is wise advice from the people who know her the best and love her the most.  My girls know that I don’t wear lots of makeup or fancy clothes and I usually keep my hair in a ponytail. They know my favorite accessory is an apron, that I shop at GoodWill and that I could never give up cookies. They are the ideal consultants to brainstorm a few changes that I can live with — so, the 2021 Makeover is to be continued….

~~~

Note: Because I believe that God created me in His image, it is my personal desire to make improvements where needed — not to try to recapture youth, over-focus on outward appearance or to imitate the world and its values, but to make my aging, imperfect body the best it can be for myself, my family and for service to my Creator.

~~~

I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself…” 1 Corinthians 9: 26-27 The Message Bible

{ The Blind Friend and the Sobbing Drunk on the Beach }

Yesterday, I sent a message to a total stranger, requesting help for a spiritually blind friend. 

Think: Asking Santa for a new baby sister, or calling on the President to help the family purchase a new dishwasher.

I am now sitting here at 3 a.m. wondering what the response will be, and I am comforted by sudden thoughts of being in good Bible company.

I recall — with hope — some innovative, yet seemingly inappropriate ventures that pop out of scripture — ones which ended remarkably well:

  • A harlot with faith who hid foreign spies in her roof. (Joshua 2)
  • Buddies who lowered their needy friend through a crowd and a roof to get healing ~ budding in line at best, and at worst: breaking and entering. (Mark 2:4)
  • A controversial woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet, in front of a batch of scorners, then went on to wipe His feet with her hair. (John 12)

Have you ever done something outlandish or eccentric, but for a worthy reason?

  • Said to a stranger: “God told me to talk to you…” 
  • Dumped kindness and grace on someone who slighted or offended you?
  • Sent an anonymous gift in the mail?
  • Stretched beyond norms to rescue someone you love?

God’s ways — as seen in scripture — show me that He doesn’t always work within our manners, ways, protocol, or traditional appropriate-ness.

Jesus doesn’t bid us all approach Him as gently weeping sinners, sitting in shiny church pews. Sometimes repentance and God’s forgiveness wash over a sobbing drunk, stretched out on a sandy beach. 

So, all to say, I am praying that God, who creatively used a donkey to speak to a prophet (Numbers 22:22), will use my strangely unexpected message, sent off to a total stranger, to open the eyes of a blind friend.

Photos:

Bible Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Blind Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

{ Mom Life: Donating Love }

Being a mom is not a BEING LIFE; it is a DOING LIFE.

It’s a constant, daily, demanding string of decisions between selfishness and donating love cheerfully.

  • When a sleepy wanderer-child interrupts my calm early morning…
  • When I want the kitchen all to myself…
  • When I had a busy day and just wanted to rest….
  • When I am trying to think and someone asks me rapid-fire questions…

Will I snap in irritation, sigh impatiently…or donate love cheerfully?

Donate: verb:

1. to present as a gift, grant, or contribution; make a donation of, as to a fund or cause:to donate used clothes to the Salvation Army.

2. To provide (blood, tissue, or an organ) for transfusion, implantation, or transplant.

Yep, that is motherhood. Donating gifts, contributions, blood, sweat tears, heart, soul and more — whatever one has left to give.

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls…

2 Corinthians 12:15

It’s holding tight, It’s lettin’ go
It’s flyin’ high and layin’ low
It lets your strongest feelin’s show
And your weakness too
It’s a little and a lot to ask
An endless and a welcome task
Love isn’t somethin’ that we have
It’s somethin’ that we do…

There’s no request, too big or small
We give ourselves, we give our all
Love isn’t some place that we fall
It’s somethin’ that we do…

from Love is Something That We Do by Clint Black

Still working on it.

~ Lisa

{ Confessions of a Reluctant Homeschool Mom }

I have been living carefree, as if summer would last forever. Casual breakfasts at 9:00, lingering discussions over the kitchen table with my cup of coffee…late lunches at 1:00…cat naps on the sofa….easy, cool dinners created with garden produce. I have awakened in the morning thinking: maybe we will go to the beach today? Or the farmer’s market? Or perhaps we will grab our books and art supplies and blankets and fall asleep in the sun?

Fun bike rides on rail trails over the summer.

Not anymore. It is time to pay for the slothful sins of summer. I should have been hunting down appropriate textbooks and gathering resources. Week after week, I saw the universe of school supplies, shining from a distance in the aisles of Walmart. But did I walk toward the light? No. I lived in avoidance, by walking the long way round, through automotive or pet supplies.

Now, I humbly and hurriedly dig through a tangle of spiral wires, only to uncover the wide ruled notebooks that nobody wanted. I have ordered books on Amazon, but they won’t arrive until next week. My younger son asked yesterday, “I wonder what the spelling words will be?” I muse internally, “Hmmm, I wonder, too…” I start scratching down a possible word list.

How could I have lived in such denial? Even now, just hours before the bell rings, am I planning? No, I am sitting here at my computer, looking for suitable photos to post here with my ramblings.

The air is chilly. The coffee is brewing. I don’t know what I will serve for breakfast. The First Day of School has arrived.

More soon.

We discovered a lovely new beach this summer. I wish we had gone just once more…
This is me. I turned 55 this summer and I have been homeschooling for around 25 years.

{ Vamos a la Casa del Señor }

I wrote once before about my mother-in-law, Zenaida, on this blog, but last week I had the privilege of writing about her again, because we said our final goodbyes to Mama Z last week.

Here are some words I shared at the funeral of this tenacious Cuban lady, and the full story of her courageous exit from Cuba follows…

“We have a big family and each time after we had a baby, Zenaida would come for a visit, bearing LOADS of food. She didn’t just bring a meal and a bag of salad. It was more like:

  • A huge watermelon
  • 2 XL bags of tortilla chips
  • 3 pineapples
  • A large, heavy homemade loaf of banana bread, baked in a bundt pan
  • A 10-pound package of ground beef
  • And an institutional sized box of cereal

When she arrived, our refrigerator and freezer would be stuffed full and there was so much food on the table that there often wasn’t room for anyone to sit down and eat there.

That was just how she gave. 

She gave BIG. and

She gave generously.

On these visits after a new baby, Zenaida would find things to clean. She was thorough, and there was always something to clean at our house. She would scour the grimy highchair, she would pull out the washer and dryer and sweep behind, and once she used a toothpick to completely detail our toaster — removing every last crumb.

Zenaida loved to work with her hands, and she would add beauty and sparkle to her creations and sometimes add her own creative touch to something she had purchased. She made her own clothes and was not afraid to tackle complicated styles. She usually chose fancy fabrics with a little sparkle, and she always wore her outfits with her favorite jewelry.

Zenaida and I shared a love of sewing, however, the fabric I usually chose was much more plain and simple and I seldom wear much jewelry.

One time she took me aside and said:

“Lisa.  You shouldn’t dress so much like a nun.”

She sewed many dresses for me and for our daughters. Once she made me a jumper that had an opening cut out at the bottom.

She said:

“I made it like this, so when you are walking up the stairs, the dress will kind of open up at the bottom and show your legs a little bit.”

Actually, the dress I am wearing today is one that Zenaida made for herself and wore 30 years ago at our wedding. I think she would be happy to see me wearing something she made — and with a touch of sparkle in the fabric!

Tomorrow’s funeral service will include a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 about an inspiring, God-fearing woman. This is a fitting passage for Zenaida, because it includes phrases such as:

  • She works with her hands in delight!
  • She makes coverings for herself;
  • Her clothing is fine linen and purple.
  • The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life. (I never knew Zenaida’s husband; he passed away many years before I became part of the family. But whenever she spoke about him, her words were loving and honoring.)
  • She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
  • Her children rise up and bless her. 

And that last phrase is our desire: to share words that explain what a priceless part of the family that she will always be, and to express gratefulness for her investment of love in all of our lives.”


More family members have written about Zenaida; read Theo’s tribute and Sophia’s story.

———————–

Zenaida’s Obituary

In 1963, Zenaida Martinez Araujo Luciano left Cuba with her beloved husband, two young sons, and nothing else but her faith and courage. 

On August 15, 2020 Zenaida left this earth with a full life, along with the admiration of her large and loving family. 

Zenaida was born in the town of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1932. She was the only child of Francisca Martinez Araujo. Zenaida and her mother lived with Josefa Fernandez, a dear family friend, who became like a second mother to her. 

Zenaida attended Escuela de Comercio where she joined the marching band as a drummer and played on the volleyball team. After high school, she studied at Escuela Profesional de Comercio and earned her degree in international trade and customs in 1955.

After finishing college, she fell in love with and married Antonio Luciano. The couple welcomed their first child, Antonio Jr., while living in New York. After Cuban dictator Batista was removed from office, they returned to Cuba, where their second son, José was born. When the new leader, Fidel Castro, declared Cuba a communist state, Zenaida and Antonio applied for permission to immigrate to the United States. 

Zenaida and Antonio finally received authorization to leave Cuba in 1963, and when they departed their homeland, they were forced to leave behind their family and friends, their wedding rings, and all earthly possessions. After a brief stay in Miami, the family obtained sponsorship generously offered by the Richfield Jaycees in Minnesota. When Zenaida’s friends warned her that she would have to milk cows up in Minnesota, she laughed and said she gladly would.

While living in Minneapolis, Zenaida and Antonio’s family grew as they were blessed with sons Nicholas and Giovanni. Sadly, in 1974, Zenaida’s beloved husband died of cancer, which left her with four children, limited English, and without a driver’s license, car or income source. Dauntless and determined, Zenaida pushed through these new challenges, and studied to become a U.S. citizen in 1976. She learned to drive and secured a job at the VA in laundry and food service. Later, she transferred to the IRS, where she worked for 20 years. After retiring in 1997, she was free to travel, sew, care for her grandchildren and attend their important events.  

Zenaida will always be remembered as a persistent, generous, faith-filled person who never gave up. She was the #1 fan of her grandchildren’s activities and she was always the first person to deliver a happy birthday phone call or a severe weather update. Among many other things, she was an expert seamstress, a sports enthusiast, the best banana-bread-baker, a lavish food-giver, towel-embellisher, soup-maker, salsa-dancer and the rainbow-jello-queen. 

This past year, Zenaida faced her cancer with dignity and courage, and she often expressed gratefulness to her family, who cared for her in her home. Zenaida passed away on August 15, 2020 at age 88, surrounded by her devoted family.

———————————————————————————————————————

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

{ Am I the Only One?}

Am I the only one who….

…adds more butter to the empty butter dish?

…picks up tiny dropped things (both wet and dry) all over the house?

…sees those two stray (dirty) socks that have occupied the corner in the front hall for the past three days?

I wonder if anyone else in the world…

…praises God when she sees a sunrise or a full moon or a rainbow or when watching bees do their thing?

…feels like taking the next day off after finishing the final book in a series, or after having company over? 

And am I the only one who…

…avoids looking at old photos of her children because it makes her feel sad?

…wishes life could always stay the same?

… cries (or laughs) when she reads her own blog posts?


~ Lisa

Photo: Aaron Burden on Unsplash

{ Door Knocking }

My husband is running for a local government office, so he and I have been knocking on random doors, asking strangers in our county if they would be willing to place one of his political signs on their property. For me, this is like a series of cheap and daunting date nights; he and I with our clipboards and phone books, pulling up to farmhouses we have only viewed from a distance. I slowly crunch gravel as I tiptoe out, hoping for a positive connection, while at the same time, hoping no one is home. 

john-reed--04wiGkb8Jc-unsplash

Door knocking is full of surprises. Since we started, I have had strange dogs jump into my lap, and felt forced to pet them while listening to passionate stories of local history and watershed issues.

We have been chased down by a protective father whose child was in the house alone when we knocked on the door, and after the child phoned him, he pursued us for two miles to find out our business.

Yesterday, while chatting with one woman at her door, her husband yelled out the screen door: “If you are not wearing a mask, we are not putting up a sign for you.”

So be it.

But door knocking has been unexpectedly rewarding. We have met farmers — smart, sensible, resourceful individuals who push on with their strenuous, smelly, thankless work through hot haying weather and frigid winters. I am grateful to live around such hardy, independent people.

When we approach doors, we are reminded that joy and pain and history live inside these unpretentious homes. One neighbor greeted us warmly, even though we were strangers. After connecting ourselves to a common acquaintance, we watched tears trickle down his weathered face while he apologized, confessing that his wife had just died a few weeks ago. One hour later, we left his kitchen not caring why we had come and glad we had offered ourselves as company. 

Door knocking has given us a reason to march onto a neighbor’s acreage and introduce ourselves. We have been living next to these people for more than two decades, and have never met some of them, seen their backyards, or known things like:

  • Some dairy farms offer spa-like perks for their cows, such as fans, body brushes and pedicures. 
  • One neighbor drove a daily carpool 40+ years to work at a candy factory in the Twin Cities.
  • Around here, we have some innovative business owners, former federal agents, and 2:00 a.m. risers. 

So, I guess we will keep knocking on doors, putting up signs, and handing out pieces of glossy paper, because there are more fascinating neighbors to meet.

Photo: by John Reed / Unsplash