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
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!”
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.
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.
All good things must come to an end.
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.
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!
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
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.
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?
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.
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…
My oldest daughter and I were in the kitchen yesterday and she looked me up and down with concern.
“Umm..I was just wondering why you dress with such a mix of patterns lately?”
I looked down at my flowered skirt and buffalo checked shirt. “What’s wrong with this?” I asked. “They both have blue.”
This daughter has been professionally trained to assess cognitive loss in the elderly population.
So, I second-guessed myself.
Am I losing it?
Is the fact that I seldom leave the house starting to affect me?
Am I just getting old?
But I’m of Scandinavian descent — I like bright colors.
I’m an artistic type — I don’t mind a little mixing of patterns here and there.
Perhaps this is how I see myself:
But maybe this is how she sees me?
Part 2: My Morning Trip to Walmart
One day later, I got to Walmart as the doors opened; as the masked shoppers rolled past the greeters who now double as patron counters.
I was wearing a flowered skirt (again), athletic shirt (matching color), baseball cap (hair needs coloring), barn jacket and black boots.
Halfway through the dairy section, I noticed an elderly, well-dressed woman. She was a petite, classy grandma type, with snowy white hair, wearing a flashy red dress, fitted black wool coat, nylons and dress shoes, gold earrings, and red lipstick.
Remember, this is Walmart. The sight of her really stood out.
We finally crossed paths near the empty toilet paper aisle, eye to eye and cart to cart, though still six feet apart.
“I like your skirt,” she said to me.
“Thanks. I was noticing you, too — all dressed up here at Walmart.”
She leaned in and quipped, “We need to class this place up a bit, don’t we?”
I laughed and rolled away, smiling. (Also rare at Walmart these days.)
Who said Love is pretty? Love is not a fragile flower Or a delicate blossom Love is a stubborn weed that refuses to be uprooted. Love is not a silky, elegant fabric It’s a stained and sturdy tarp A rough and lowly burlap Love is a rusty anchor A moss-covered boulder A weatherbeaten barn. Love has been through Waves Trials and Storms And love will be there forever.
Love gets Wrinkled Burned and Scarred But love is too busy Doing Working and Praying To look into the mirror