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

{ Tribute to Mr. W }

Mr. W was our tough, joke-loving, retired farmer-neighbor who always had a twinkle in his eye. He passed away recently after enduring dementia for the past two years. My 16-year old son was frequently called upon by Mrs. W to help. Here is what my son wrote about Mr. W.

My Memories of Mr. W

Mr. W, a big man with a big personality, was my neighbor for most of my life. He and his wife would visit our house – just down the street – every once in a while. During those visits, they’d make us laugh and have a good time. It was always a pleasure to have them in our home. Occasionally, tiling would need fixing or the ditch needed inspection. Mr. W might drop by for a visit on his way to the field. He would sometimes bring his golf cart along. 

1. The golf cart. When he would stop by with his golf cart, I would always want a ride in it. When I got a little older, I drove it for a while (badly). Mr. W’s golf cart was indeed a coveted thing. It even led to me saying to his face one time: “Can you give it to me in your will?” Indeed, a very inappropriate question. At the time though, it must have seemed only practical. What other way would I secure that golf cart in my future? It would long be a conversation starter when our neighbors were ever brought up.

2. Working with Mr. W. One thing everyone knows about Mr. W is that he was a worker. He could fix, build, or remodel just about anything. One time not too long ago, I got to help him build his deck. Of course, I didn’t know much about deck building. But it seemed as though he had built things all his life. He had a confidence in his work that was nothing short of admirable. He was a skilled carpenter, farmer and handyman all at the same time. If you needed something done, there was a good chance he could do it. 

3.  On the deck. It’s actually funny that I just mentioned a story about the deck. It plays into this next one. When his disease was getting real bad, I was able to come by and help out. It was never a chore, because I genuinely enjoyed it. I enjoyed being able to serve a man who had done so much for my family. Occasionally, I would come by, sit on the couch, and he wouldn’t move an inch. It was as if I weren’t there on those days. He very rarely did anything that caused a problem while I was there. Mr. W was always better in the mornings. Anyone close to him in his last year could tell you that. He would be jovial in the morning. He would comply with just about anything you’d have him do. So it was, early one day in the beauty of the summer, we went out on the deck. The sun was shining, and I’m fairly certain that he had brought out a glass of unfinished milk from breakfast. Anyways, we were just sitting there, and I had the idea to video him. I thought it would make for a great memory if anything were to happen to him. I took out my phone, started a video, and asked him to say hi. He turned his head and smiled in his own way. Kind of an amused, skeptical smile. He never did what I asked, which is fine. I’m just glad I have that video of him in good spirits, on a beautiful day, just living life. 

So, goodbye Mr. W, I’ll miss you. I am glad for all the times I’ve had with you. I will treasure that video forever.

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Photo by Gozha Net on Unsplash

{ Fall 2018 In Pictures }

It’s difficult to condense a season into a few photos.  And, to look at these, you might think everything looks ever-fragrant and all-smiles at our house. A more thorough post would include snaps of dirty laundry & dusty corners and a soundbite of a squabble or two.  This is just a brief, pictorial record of an imperfect family, living day to day by God’s grace.  We have to ask forgiveness when we step on each other’s toes and get selfish or lazy about loving one another. Anyway, here are a few random pieces of fall 2018. You have to catch this fast-moving life while you can.

 

 

 

 

 

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.

 

{ Golden Birthday }

On my golden birthday, I wore a blue gingham dress and a bobbed haircut.

The doorbell rang.

Molly, Monica, and the two neighborhood Leslies arrived at my tenth birthday party.

Penny Brownell came too.  I think my mom invited her because everyone else in the neighborhood was coming. Penny talked loud and called her dad “George.”  She was new in the neighborhood and she was popular.  And, she was one of those girls who “took your friends away.”

(Little girls are often threatened by other little girls who “take their friends away” by being cuter, funnier or having better toys.)

My mom hooked up a modest, homemade piñata to the small maple tree in the backyard for later.

I sat on the red velvet-covered piano bench to open my presents.  Inside, I felt shy and self-conscious and I still don’t like opening gifts while a group is watching.

I don’t remember what anyone gave me, except Penny Brownell. She gave me an exquisitely tiny paint set.  The tubed acrylic paints and smooth brushes were housed in a petite plastic case that snapped shut.

Penny told me, “I gave you paints because that’s what you always give everyone for their birthdays.”

I was still thinking about her comment as we all piled into the van. I heard my mom say something like, “We’re going to a chocolate factory,” which sounded exciting.

We were really heading out to see the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

 

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The film was good, but a vague feeling of disappointment followed me back home where the piñata was waiting, along with Mom’s creative rainbow Willy Wonka cake and the paint set.

I blew out ten candles and ate rainbow cake with my guests.

We gallivanted out to the back yard, where a smiling Penny Brownell hit the piñata so hard it cried candy all over the limp August grass.

Word Prompt:  cake

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{ Chicken Pox Christmas }

Fourteen years ago, we were starting to get ready for Christmas…and then six of my children got the chicken pox.

We have photos of everyone reclining on sofas, trying not to scratch.

We didn’t go shopping, didn’t play outside and didn’t visit friends.

Instead, we listened to audiobooks, like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Treasures of the Snow.

That was a quiet and special December. I was present with my children, listening to the stories, offering liquids and resting while they napped.

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Maybe that’s the quiet, restful spirit I was yearning for when I broke out The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on Monday. I listened with my two youngest — and of course, cried at the end of this hilarious, touching story.

Now we’re listening to Treasures of the Snow – another one of those stories that adults can learn from, too.

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Armed with cranberries, we made a cheerful chicken pox snowman that year.

First Photo credit: Josh Boot

{ A Tribute to My Dad }

My dad liked to visit the hardware store, build fires and barbecue steaks.  He labeled things thoroughly with our names, made lots of lists, and didn’t like cats until we got one.

I will always remember the way his face lit up when he laughed, how he was gracious to everyone, and that he gave away many, many smiles.

My dad liked to work with wood, and he made beautiful keepsakes for us that reflected his love of creating.

He gladly labored to raise a crop of tomatoes, or patiently sand a wooden table.

He took no less care with his children.

I don’t ever remember that he spoke an unkind word to me, or lost his temper.  I always sensed from him something of what my Heavenly Father’s love is like:  kind and patient,  faithful and unconditional.

When my pilgrimage on this earth is over, I will eagerly look for my dad in the Celestial City of heaven, where I wonder if he will be talking over project ideas with the King.

Today was my dad’s birthday.  He passed away in 1996 when he was 61 years old.

I wrote this back then (to be read by someone else) at his funeral.  I resisted the temptation just now to fix and edit it — it was written from the heart.  And, it’s all true.

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Thomas J. Falstad  — November 7, 1935 – November 14, 1996