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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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?”
I started thinking about what to pack for a day at the beach, such as my:
…and suddenly Gino announced:
“Okay, he will be here in one minute.”
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.
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.”
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.
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!
We just wanted to touch base and let you know that, despite all of your villainous efforts, we are grateful you came along.
When we first saw you come into our lives (thankfully, late — around the first part of December) we weren’t so sure. What with isolating mandates and masks in play, we didn’t exactly welcome anything else that would disrupt life.
Covid Winter, you were a taker — upsetting plans and outings with cancelled meetings and closed public places. You tried to ruin our lives with blizzard warnings, wind chills and the fear-mongering tactics of icy roads, spin-outs and accident reports. Oh, you weren’t just a taker, you were a giver, for sure:
Instead of red hearts, you gave us those red hazard triangles on our screens — those weather alerts that made chills run down our spines. (As if we didn’t already have enough chills running down our spines.)
You gave us a frozen laundry pipe, so we had to manually drain the loads.
You gave us an opportunity to park outside, because the garage door froze in its tracks and the spring broke.
You gave us cracks on our skin and frost on our windshields.
And that brings us to why we are grateful — despite all of your endeavors to make us miserable. Even though you tried to give us your worst, we are emerging victorious. We are adding books to our Goodreads list like crazy, creating delightful things in the kitchen, and focusing on home repair. We stayed on top of our homeschooling, with limited outings or events that would have distracted us from our schedule. We haven’t wasted time on the library computers, loitering in coffee shops or browsing in stores. We have found fun things to do at home, and some of us have:
Become yoyo experts
Recently read or re-read one or more entire series of books
Returned to daily violin playing
Affirmed that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing
Made and eaten soup every day, realizing that you don’t really need a recipe
Written and received snail-mail letters regularly
Discovered and excelled at watercolor painting
Covid Winter, you have given us what spring, summer and fall have not been able to give.
And, for that…we say a big “Th-th-thank Y-you.”
When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here in February, and basking in the warmth of our books, our soups, our blankets and our cozy naps, we couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.
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
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.
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.
God is sovereign and never changes. The pandemic is raging, but the rest of the natural world still proceeds predictably and peacefully at God’s direction. He is in control.
My imperfect marriage. Sometimes, my man and I are a real piece of work. But, because of Jesus, my husband is mine and I am his and there is hope and humor and love that can go the distance.
Prayer. It is only recently that I am really clinging to the power of prayer in the lives of my children, teenagers and young adults. I cannot control their worlds anymore; only God can. Talking to God about them is the only thing that gives me peace about them.
Little outdoor getaways. I cannot get out of the house and sit at a coffee shop and write or read or think right now. That used to be my little treat to myself; my little breakout time. But I am thankful recently for walks on local trails and a beautiful spring so I can enjoy peace and quiet outdoors.
Homecomings. Because of the pandemic, most of my young adult children had to migrate back home and work remotely. This has been such a pleasure.
Food. There is enough.
Home Repairs. Another silver lining within the sad, global pandemic. With an altered work schedule, my husband and sons had time to work with an expert to get a new roof put on. One son painted a needy room and we also got rid of lots of junk.
Health. I am grateful for good health and don’t take it for granted.
Vehicles that work right now.
Fun books: read-alouds, audiobooks and volumes that keep people happy in hammocks all day long.
A new puzzle. This is our third Mudpuppy puzzle, and it’s Kaleido-Beetles! I like Mudpuppy puzzles because they have three pictures of the finished puzzle for reference as you go, making it easier for 3 or more people to work on the puzzle.
Here’s a great post and idea to welcome the new year, from fellow blogger The Dolly Mama. I plan to figure out my word of the year and post it soon! Visit Dolly Mama’s site for simple steps to a non-condemning alternative to New Year’s Resolutions — then let me know if you find your word…
A “Word of the Year” is intended to be a kind guide that walks along side of us during the year, not a harsh master that dictates a set of “to-do’s” (God knows we don’t need any more of those voices in our heads). It’s a friend that accompanies us during our journey. (The Dolly…