What Did You Learn From Your Parents?**

I learned to reach out.

My mom always told me things like, “Put yourself in their shoes.” She helped me see value in people that others would ignore, and to reach out to them.

We hosted a family with eight children for a few weeks, because they didn’t have a place to stay. At the time, I just thought it was fun to have friends staying with us, but I didn’t think about the challenge it must have been for my parents.

Many of my mom’s friends had hard backgrounds or difficult life problems. People like Norma, Gwen and Sandy needed rides, or encouragement, or babysitters, or a perm, or they needed my mom to help them do a garage sale. We saw her reaching out and didn’t know that we were absorbing it.

Because of my mom’s influence, I went on to attract individuals all my life who had a unique story and special need for a friend.

My dad had a quote that he kept in his desk drawer, in the county budget office, on the 21st floor of the government center in Minneapolis:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Henry David Thoreau

My dad was kind and respectful in the way he talked to everyone — never talking down to people.

He gave people a chance. He sold our station wagon to a rough new kid who visited our youth group, allowing him to pay him in installments. After one or two payments, Wally Johnson had the car and my dad never saw him again. Once or twice my dad asked me, with a twinkle in his eye, but with no malice, “Do you ever see that Wally Johnson?”

I learned to create art.

My mom and dad were both creative — each in their own way. They liked to garden. Mom liked to make ethnic meals and crafts, like stained glass and decoupage. Dad worked with wood, making my dollhouse, inlaid parquet projects, furniture, climbing bears and many other toys.

My mom and dad encouraged me to use my talents. Whenever my mom needed a card, she would ask me to write calligraphy on it, and when my dad made something out of wood, he asked me to paint something on it. They treated my art like it was real art, and because of this, it became real art. They valued homemade things, from Dad’s handmade antique-turned-lamps all over the house, to my mom’s oil paintings, to our elementary school art projects that hung on the walls. To them, the best art was meaningful art, made by people they loved.

I learned to seek God.

They took us to church every week. They took us to camp and youth group and confirmation class and Bible studies and reminded us to read our devotions. My mom, Sara and I memorized James 1 together. Mom gave me many Christian books (which I sometimes read and sometimes didn’t.) She passed on her love for Corrie Ten Boom and Joni Eareckson Tada, and we gobbled up The Hiding Place and Joni’s autobiography. Mom loved the Psalms, Christian books and showed her love for God by serving her family, other people and also becoming involved in the growing pro-life efforts of the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Dad read his Bible, too, but never marked it up. (I get that from him.) He was in Bible studies, but I never heard him talk about them much. He was a quiet believer who acted like a Christian more than he talked about being one.

These are my parents, Tom and Caroline, with me, on my wedding day 06/23/1990. My mom made my wedding dress by combining three different patterns, according to the way I wanted my dress to look. (She made her own dress, too!) And, of course….my dad paid for the whole thing.

** This was the question I got today from Storyworth. Storyworth was a unique gift I received from my children on Mother’s Day. I receive a weekly email question to answer, and it usually brings forth a flood of memories. It’s a good exercise for any blogger and the plan is for all of these excerpts to turn into a lovely book, full of a lifetime of memories. This gift of a Storyworth book is the kind of thing that is perfect to give to an aging parent who might be in danger of losing her full brain functionality soon…hehe…probably why I received it 🙂

Top image by Suzi Kim on Unsplash

| Your Child’s Summer Reading: 3 Picks for Book Series |

As a parent, perhaps you feel like the last academic year has been a rollercoaster ride, and you want your child’s brain to stay sharp over summer. Maybe you are wisely thinking ahead to rainy day activities, or simply want to find more quality reading suggestions. 

Here are my top 3 picks for kids reading series. These are suitable for parent read-alouds, audiobook, or for independent readers aged 8 and up, depending on ability. (I have read these books and they are not just for kids!)

The Mysterious Benedict Society (5 Books in the Series) 

These action-packed volumes take a group of gifted (multi-ethnic) children through physical and mental challenges and the readers will enjoy the ride immensely. Friendship, danger, riddles, puzzles and mysteries await readers of all ages. These are tremendously well-crafted, intriguing stories and we loved the audio versions, read by the talented Del Roy.

Awards include: E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers, Massachussetts Children’s Book Award, Iowa Children’s Choice Award Nominee.

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (7 Books in the Series) 

This is an engaging series of seven books about a 13 year old kid lawyer. Theo faces typical and unusual challenges as he uses his gifts to help others, hunt down fugitives, defend himself when framed and dig through evidence to discover the truth. Written by bestselling author John Grisham and designed for young readers. Excellent audio version for all books in the series narrated by Richard Thomas. 

Here is one adult review to which I can relate:  

…”I purchased the Theodore Boone novel not realizing it was geared towards younger readers. I’m 47 years old and a professional in the communications industry. I found the novel refreshing and interesting…definitely recommend this series regardless of your age…” (Amazon.com review)

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (5 Books in the Series)

Kyle Keeley would rather play games than read, but he and his team end up getting the chance to spend a night in the new town library, which was recently designed by the eccentric game creator, Mr. Lemoncello. The exciting team challenge is to complete all of the puzzles and clues in order to escape from the technologically-savvy new library. These books have been called a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Night At the Museum, and are peppered with humor, quirky characters, and suspenseful fun. We loved the audio versions of these books, read by engaging narrator, Jesse Bernstein.

Happy Reading!

–Lisa

Photo by Unsplash

{ Practical Bucket List }

Some folks build a bucket list

With fancy places to go

An ascent on the highest mountain

Or a trek to the Changtang Plateau

Me? I’m a little more practical

When it comes to making my list

I don’t have to travel or spend too much

To check off what I don’t want to miss

I really should sort through my fabric

And divide up my rhubarb this season

There’s a lonely stack of half-finished books

“No time” is always my reason

I’d rather not leave without finishing

My bottle of favorite perfume,

And I’d like to become a mother-in-law

And a grandma, before I’m entombed

I could add a few lines to my list here

Like ceasing to bite my nails

Or making my casket far lighter

By decreasing the pounds on my scale

But there are some things more important

To accomplish before my end

Like scheduling those casual “let’s do lunches”

And meeting up with long ago friends

Me and my lifetime love.

Au revoir!  should be said with a smile

Our imperfect marriage at peace

My thank yous expressed and my family blessed

Before Jesus grants me release.

And with your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side
And fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus and live.

~ Chris Rice

~~~

Psalm 39:4

“Lord, make me to know my end

And what is the extent of my days;

Let me know how transient I am.

~~~

Romans 14:8

For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

~~~

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days,

That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

{ 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

{ Ava Eleanor }

When most of my people have exited the house on a busy Saturday, then my brain has a chance to focus on the few who are still at home for the day.

Today’s “brain focus target” is my youngest daughter, Ava.

When Ava was born, she looked like a beautiful, brown-skinned Nunavut native. “Our Eskimo baby”, we called her.

Ava means “birdlike”, which suits her, because she likes to feed suet and seed to the many hungry birds who flit around our rural property. She also likes to paint with watercolors, but she doesn’t favor anyone hovering over her shoulder while she works.

She makes thick, fruity smoothies that overflow a pint-sized Mason jar, and she has a favorite book series about Peter Pan that she has read several times.

Today, I worked in my room while Ava sat at my desk and browsed over the latest library book Beautiful Boards, a photo cookbook of appealing snack boards you can create at home.

Then I rested on the sofa with a headache and when I woke up, Ava had made lunch.

“I saved something for you…” she said.

“ARE YOU THE BEST?!” I asked her. “…THE BEST?!”

Then I ran off after her, laughing and calling out: “ANSWER ME!” 

Ava Eleanor and her blessed Mama.

{ 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