Category Archives: family

Merry Christmas! You are Special to Us…

To Family and Friends,

 

My Christmas confession:

Every year I apologize for not sending cards. I want to be better at that, I do. I love receiving cards, even secretly look forward to them. So, why don’t I reciprocate? After deep pondering, this is my reason…

If I send you a card, I don’t want to just sign it or tag it with a chosen mantra for the season. I want to tell you what you mean to me. Remind you of the times your smile, generosity and free gifts of kindness have blessed me. I’m mushy that way. So, when I think about sitting down and letting each of you know my heart for you, I get overwhelmed. I know you would be more than happy to have a card with our best wishes and signature, but I don’t know how to keep it simple.

So, this is it, our card to you.

Whether you are a blog follower, life long friend or a blood relative, we care deeply and thank God for you daily. Our prayer for you is that you and yours will walk in all the goodness God has intended for you. That you will be blessed with the ability to look upward and march forward in hope, grace and gratitude. That you will know your worth in Christ and bask daily in His love. That the abundance of  His love will continue to spill upon those in your circle. And, that you will know people like us, appreciate your unique God given qualities.

Merry Christmas from Us… Sandy and Deb Palmer

How Will You Be Remembered? Does Your Character Paint a Pretty Picture?

purple and yellow pansies    

      CharacterShe smelled of juicy fruit gum and carnations. The gum, she offered freely to grandchildren and strangers alike. The Blue Carnation toilet water, spritzed on a lace trimmed handkerchief, awaited up her sleeve to be waved at the first hint of a tear or runny wrigley-chewing-gumnose.

CharacterElsie, or Nana to family, would have been 116 years old in June. Sounds silly right? Yet, I know, when I’m tottering around in my elder years, I will stop, each June to do the math. You see, Nana, left a legacy that matters.

Character  “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water… no matter how suddenly jarred.” Amy Carmichael

Character  Like Michelangelo, Da Vinci or Picasso, she left hauntingly beautiful images behind on the canvasses in our minds. sweet peasCharacter

Character  Sweet Peas climbing the pickets, smiling orange and purple pansies in the stone pots, aside the painted stepping stones, leading to her one-bedroom cottage castle.

            Red painted nails with matching lipstick, rhinestone, button style, clip on earrings and finger waved hair; all of which she claimed to be “naked” without.

            A 1930’s rose mohair sofa with doilies on the arms. A picture perfect cake, iced white with dyed pink coconut, on a pedestal plate. The molasses cookies, cedar paneled walls and the oil stove hogging a third of the 9 x 12 living room.

            Nana left mantras and sayings both wise and silly for us to ponder.

            “A stitch in time saves nine.”

            “Bless your pea picking heart.”

            “Red and yellow catch a fellow.”

            “Thirteen is my lucky number.”

            With perfect timing she’d sling the apropos saying. Like the moment you stubbed a toe she’d chime in with:

            “Just think how much better it will feel when it quits hurting.”

            And right after you snarled a response to the above quip, she’d retort with:

            “Only dogs get mad.” mad dog

            Even more powerful than the scents and images or words of wisdom, are the lessons of character she lived and gifted to those around her.

            Another Nana witticism is: Always keep an ace in the hole.

            This served her well. With a humble retirement income, she was the family tycoon. The only person with money in the bank to loan when trouble threatened any one of us. And, without ever asking for it back, she managed to make you feel good about taking care of the debt. These were the days of penny licorice ropes, five cent gum packs and $5 bags of groceries given as prizes for radio bingo that supplied her weeks’ worth of needs. Yet, footing a loan for $200 or $300 was of no concern to her.

She oozed of character, most of which was taken for granted. I remember her letters in the late 1960s, hand written to me, a know it all teenager with her own apartment. My friends and I read them aloud after smoking a joint, laughing at the sweetness.

Dearest Debbie, Bless your heart. How are you doing? I hope you like the new apron I made for you. I used scraps from your favorite circle skirt. Remember the one you wore when you did the Mexican hat dance in kindergarten?

vintage apron character

 

Character

The thought of wearing my frilly handmade apron, while slaving over a box of macaroni and cheese, always cracked us up. I admit, after the laughs we shared an admiration for her pure heart of gold, followed by a quiet sadness and longing to believe life to be as good as she did.

She was known to read the Bible and give to the televangelists begging for money from her black and white console television. I remember a few times she was shushed for mentioning Jesus.

One thing I know now, that I was clueless to then, she prayed. One prayer in particular on my behalf. I know this because….

I pray for my grandchildren. I pray for a variety of God’s blessings but my most urgent prayer is that they will have an intimate relationship with Jesus.  That’s what my nana prayed for me. I know this because…
He answered the prayer. He pursued me down each road… waited patiently when I took a wrong turn… showered me with love when I deserved scorn… and so on and so forth.

When I was given the gift of grand-motherhood, I chose to be called Nana. My bucket list for this life, is filled with pleas to be remembered by joyful things and my faith and love for Christ. That’s the legacy I seek.

 

Granny Tennis Shoes… Sword Tongue… Praying Hands… What’s Your Legacy?

High top all star converse tennis shoes Praying Hands Legacy

Everyone knew her. That woman, older than dirt, bent like the crook of a cane to half her height. Back then, in the 60s, an old lady in trousers is today’s equivalent to a tube top and Daisy Dukes. Thus, all elderly women wore floral jersey dresses. But this lady, had it going on, donning the expected uniform dress, and thick, sagging, support stockings with her signature Converse All Stars high top tennis shoes. Praying Hands Legacy

The fashion statement earned the nickname, Granny Tennis Shoes, and a story, told as a warning, locally and beyond. The tale not only explains the physical ailment but also solves the fashion mystery.

It went something like this…Praying Hands Legacy

            One day a poor penniless widow found a pair of Converse All Stars in a dumpster. While lacing them up, the plan emerged, catapulting the old woman from rocking chair to entrepreneur, soon branded as Granny Tennis Shoes. During peak traffic times, taking a two-point stance at the street corner, she’d wait for the light to flash green, pouncing onto the crosswalk, (hence the tennis shoes) in front of a car, (hence the crippled body). Afterward, Granny drug her tired, tread riddled bones to court, suing the traumatized driver, for all they had.

And the saddest part of the story?

We all believed it.

It was not until I told the story as an adult that I realized how unlikely it would be that she would survive more than one attempt. Poor old Granny Tennis Shoes, clueless as to why… fingers pointed… cars swerved at the sight of her… wide-eyed children gawked or ran away. Praying Hands Legacy

Have you ever wondered what stories are told about you? I cringe at the thought. Labeled a feisty redhead with a nasty temper, my brother nicknamed me Sword Tongue saying,“Watch out, if you make her mad, she’ll slice you to pieces!” Praying Hands Legacy

That’s not a good legacy. I pray today my words be sweet, that the blade of my tongue is guarded, never wagging amok, or used as a weapon. I confess and repent of times my nearest and dearest have witnessed my tongue unsheathed. It’s true, I ’m not the person I could be, but it’s also true, I’m not the person I once was. The one who took pride in verbal slaughters. Glory to God for the changes and praise for His continued work. Praying Hands Legacy

I remember the first time I knew there’d been a paradigm shift in the way people define me. It was my birthday, the one when my now 18-year-old grandson was just four years old. With no help or suggestions from others, he selected my present. By the look of anticipation on his beaming face, I knew whatever it was, he believed it to be a grand and perfect gift. I expected a mug, or socks, maybe even a “NaNa is the best” placard. I did not, nor could not, have imagined the treasure concealed inside the box, wrapped slipshod in the funny papers. After peeling the last layer of comic, I opened the lid, lifting the mysterious cube from the box. Dazed, I stared at the gift, mirroring what my grandson sees when he looks at me. A battery operated crystal cube that lights up, revealing a silhouette of praying hands. The loveliest gift ever. Praying Hands Legacy

A drop to my knees, state of mind, moment. Hyper aware of the miraculous transformation, present in me, a task only God could pull off. How flattering… what an honor… to know my grandson pictures me as a woman of prayer who loves God. I’ve never felt more gratitude for God pulling me up out of the muck and mire, hosing me off, presenting me as lovely, in my grandson’s eyes. Praying Hands Legacy

Had I kept going the way of my past, my grandchildren might see me as someone chasing the wind, or worse, they might not know me at all. Because of our powerful awesome God, my five grandsons know what’s important to me. God, their Grandpa, and family.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

That birthday was a defining moment for me. A day when I received a priceless jewel. Proof that God is working miracles every day, in every way, even if you are just a “me,” like me. Undeniable evidence that I am not the godless woman I once was. For me, the wondrous change is no less a marvel than if I’d sawn off my leg and God grew it back.

Grateful! Grateful! Grateful!

Thank You God that who I see reflected in the eyes of my loved ones, is good.

Hmm… maybe Granny Tennis Shoes’ grandchildren and those who actually knew her, saw her as a loving grandma, who happened to wear cool high top tennis shoes. I hope so.

 

See below to read a sample chapter of our book in progress.

New Christian Author Preview Chapter: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Forgiving the Naked Lady Tattoo and the False Teeth Abandoned in a Tuna Sandwich

forgiveness quotation quoteMy childhood nemesis: Roberta Sherard.

She flaunted perfection, from the house next door to mine, twirling polished pirouettes, a blonde ponytail floating in slow motion behind her. I tried to keep up, spinning and stumbling, bedecked with scabbed knobby knees, red hair doomed to frizz, by a Tony home permanent gone awry. Roberta spoke softly, poise oozing out her pores, a finishing school graduate. I reeked of awkward, spewed hillbilly slang like Warshington, gonna, and I-dunno, and I carried the mantra, “Debbie, settle down.”

Roberta’s father wore a suit and tie, called her princess, bored my family with tales of her delight fulness. My dad yelled, wore Big Mac striped overalls, told me to pipe down.

“No man is gonna marry a girl with big feet,” he’d say, pointing a greasy truck driver finger at my bare feet.

I coveted Roberta’s family, but I loved mine.

The McFarland’s were not without charm. Summers we’d put on neighborhood shows, an amazing feat, performed completely without the benefit of talent. No musicians, singers, dancers or actors, just raw desire to be the center of attention, and the guts to charge for it… a silver quarter per show.

Saturday’s we ’d canvas the block passing out hand written invitations, for Sunday afternoon’s back yard performance. A typical show, featured my lip sync to Ricky Nelson’s Traveling Man, sister Nancy’s loud version of Peter, Paul and Mary’s Kumbaya, accompanied by imaginary guitar strumming, and our star, little Danny, singing most all the words of Sukiyaki, a Japanese pop song from the 1960s. We served popcorn and lemonade for a nickel, and gave away taffy, because we didn’t like it very much.

By midsummer our crowds always dwindled, leaving sticky face Johnny and his whining sister, Margaret, alone on the grandstand of grass. Unwillingly to fold up the makeshift floral sheet curtain, we spawned an idea for an act, no child of the 1960s could resist.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the dancing naked lady…”

naked lady tattoo US Navy
My dad’s genuine United States Navy tattoo.

Our risqué, bare bottomed star, a genuine United States Navy tattoo located on Dad’s forearm… and she could dance. Quarters jingled, filling the jar. We had it made. That is, until a power wielding censorship group of one, cancelled the dance, insisting Dad roll his sleeve back down. Mom never did have a sense for business.

One day, Roberta’s family packed their perfect possessions, and moved to a wonderland of princess worthy neighbors. Around this time, Dad’s toothless gums and the tattoo, turned from an attraction to an embarrassment. I grew to hate his stories, and loathe my one time heroine, the dancing naked lady. To my friends, NOT asking, he’d share the demise of his toothless grin.

“I left my teeth at a café’ on highway 99, stuck in a tuna sandwich.”

Thanks for sharing Dad.

Resentment seeded, bitterness took root. Like many families walking the tightrope between alcoholism and recreational use abuse… stuff happened… words carelessly tossed, lies slung, shame spilled, fists bristled.

When I looked at my dad, I saw nothing… except who he was not. The dad I loved for his loud voice, silly jokes and Popeye grin, disappeared. I forgot the man who provided for his family, fudged paperwork miles, enabling longer shifts. The good forgotten, leaving only the bad to define; a man who hurt the ones he loved with neglect and fists.

Over time, the naked lady tattoo shriveled and sagged. Her one time peppy, flirty dance, was at best, a sluggish, sway. Our relationship deteriorated, along with the tattoo. Bitter years of forgiveness proved too much to carry, spilling over, slopping onto my other relationships; husband, children, friends, co-workers, even strangers.

Alas, God moves ever forward, albeit seemingly behind the scenes, but oh so powerful! In His perfect timing, knowing the moment my heart reached ideal compliance, help came knocking in the form of a class called Surrendered Hearts. There I struggled, alongside three other women, clinging to ancient justifications for stacks of resentments. I listened… they listened… to tales of rage… to pent up screams. We cried.

For me, graduation meant forgiving my dad. I said the words, sincerely wanting to mean them. I forgive you Dad. I forgive what you did and what you did not. I mourned the dad I thought I wanted. I thanked Jesus for forgiving my judgments and bitter vows.

Shortly after the class completion, my mother died. That meant spending time with Dad. I wanted to be a good daughter, a comfort for my dad. My willingness to forgive, bought some patience, but not enough. Daily, I spent hours on the phone, listening to him complain. Nightly, I begged God to help me forgive him. Each day a clean slate, ending, soiled with new found rage for his latest rant attempting to justify wrongs done to my mom and siblings. If he’d just keep his mouth shut, maybe I could actually forgive him.

I don’t know how or when God removed the stain from my heart. I didn’t notice it getting lighter or less. One day, on the phone with him, I realized I cared. I felt love for the man he was, right then and there. The dad, the man with skin. While he talked on about what a good guy he was, God flipped the forgiveness switch in my heart. At least, that’s the best explanation I have.

More years passed, at least once a year he nearly died, springing back each time leaving the doctors shaking their heads in wonder. Driving his scooter, oxygen tank at his side, dad pressed on, losing the family home to gambling, nearly blowing his face off smoking Chesterfield’s while hooked to the oxygen tank, and getting slugged by a miscellaneous woman he somehow offended. Same old dad, but something was different.

That would be me.

Forgiveness benefited me. I was free to love and care for Dad, AS IS. Did I condone his actions? No. Did he sometimes make me crazy? You bet. But I loved… I love… I love my dad.

At some point, he quit justifying wrongs and attempted to right what he could. He died, with the faithful naked lady tattoo, loved. He left this world broken, forgiving and forgiven. He left, a dad, I’m proud to say is mine.

 

Coming in 2016 – In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

In Spite of Us - Stalked by a Loving God Promo Banner

Sample Chapter of our book

 

Second Preview Chapter From: In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God

Christian Author Book Chapter Preview. In Spite of Us - Stalked by a Loving God

A few months back we shared a sneak peek chapter from our book, “In Spite of Us – Stalked by a Loving God.” Thanks to everyone for the encouraging buzz and interest in reading more! That felt so good we’re doing it again!

Our book is the story of an unremarkable couple pursued by God at every turn. It’s written in two points of view – his and hers – bi-chapterly. By the way, the His and Hers monogram belongs to my husband and me. It’s a true story of God’s perpetual grace in our lives, even through seasons of irreverent, stiff-necked refusal of His power and love.

The last preview, Chapter 14, featured my husband, Sandy’s point of view while meeting my colorful parents. This time it’s my turn to speak out as I experience dinner with his family rainbow of characters.

Here’s some general background to set the stage:

It takes place early in our courtship, after a blind date that should have killed the attraction, that miraculously limps on. We are 40-somethings, recent college graduates, beginning lives meant for 20-somethings. Stacked around us, at the relationship hearth, are piles of dirty laundry.

Sandy is three years sober, has perfect A.A. attendance, clings to a God of his own understanding. Coincidentally, before we met, he went through alcohol treatment with my brother Danny. An interesting side note: Sandy does not believe in coincidences.

I consider God a crutch for the weak, have no need or desire for sobriety for myself… BUT… I see the benefits it offers others… AND… I want Sandy to fix my brother using whatever powers available.

We hope chapter 19  leaves you wanting more as the last one did.

If you did not read our first preview, check it out here: Sneak Peek Chapter 14

Chapter 19

Roll Models 

Sandy ignores my eyeball darts, shooting across the dinner table. It’s my first dinner with his family. Laurel, the mom, stands over the table, rebounding orders like a devoted bat boy, wanting nothing more than to serve and please her team. Flavius, the dad, Mark, the brother, Robin, the sister and Sandy, demand more gravy, rolls fresh from the oven and another glass of milk. The words please and thank you are foreign to the masters of this slave, and no one but me, seems to hear her pleas for approval. New Author Preview

“Who wants more of this crap?” she asks. New Author Preview

Taking the bait, I ooh and aah like a fool, hoping someone, maybe Sandy, will join my chorus. New Author Preview

“Oh… oh my… these are the best rolls ever… Mmm-mmm… and this gravy! Sandy?  Sandy! Don’t you think the rolls are amazing?” New Author Preview

Talking over my solo of compliments, they joke, asking who posed as the roll model, each insisting the other’s buns match the rolls. I feel like I’m held hostage by The Three Stooges, plus one. Laurel ignores my orgasmic sounds of pleasure for potatoes and gravy, playing along with the roll model gag. New Author Preview

Later, she tolerates my help with the dinner dishes, frequently suggesting I join the others lounging in the living room. She pours the last of the bottle of Thunderbird wine into her glass. When the twist cap hissed earlier, all eyes turned her way, then diverted as if long ago the family agreed to look away. I wanted to say yes, when she offered me a glass, but I’ve realized I’d rather have none than a little. This is not the time nor place to let loose. Besides, getting sloshed with boyfriend’s mom is a dangerous game. I’ve walked that tightrope a time or two in the past.

Robin goes home, leaving the original Three Stooges in the living room, talking over a rerun of Bonanza on the television. I’m sitting at the kitchen table with Laurel. Her lovely, tall and elegant frame is mismatched with an, “I’m less than demeanor”. Waving away my rerun of oohs and aahs of the feast, she spills a story with the opening line, “I’m a bad person, you don’t know the things I’ve done.” I counter with, “No you’re not a bad person.”

Appointing me as judge and jury, she shares the details of her past like a vehement lawyer’s burden to prove her lack of worth to me. The story rivals “Gone with

the Wind.” It’s a real page turner, but I’d prefer to view it on the big screen, or better yet, read the book in private. Face to face with Scarlett in catharsis mode is beyond my comfort zone. In less than an hour I learn that Sandy’s oldest brother Jim, who was killed in a car accident, was not the son of Flavius. He was the product of a one-night stand, occurring while Flavius was away at sea, in the Navy. All through the story she emphasizes what a good man Flavius is to have married her anyway.

I perform acrobatic feats in body language and facial expressions, hoping Sandy will come save me. Alas, the men are busy poking fun at each other, comparing stomach bloats, oblivious to the melodrama unraveling in the kitchen.

“I told you… I’ve done terrible things.”

“No, no… it’s okay. Don’t say that.”.

My impersonation of Charles Manson in the morning, before coffee, finally grabs Sandy’s attention. He gathers our coats, as I sing a solo chorus of thank you, dinner was amazing, truly wonderful, thanks again.

“If you have any notion that I might be willing to live a life of hell like your mother, get over it,” I say before the car door shuts.

“What the… what’s wrong with you?”

“You treat your mother like dirt!”

He shakes his head, like I’m out of my mind. I make a mental note: Do not marry this jerk.

The answering machine beeps as we walk through the door. It’s Danny, saying he’ll be swinging by tomorrow morning. I’m disappointed Haley and Jay are at their dads. They adore  Uncle Danny. His teasing leaves them begging him to stop, while asking for more. I suspect he wants to talk alone. Last week he was in jail again. He needs help. I have to do something.

I don’t know the, “how tos,” of brothers and sisters, I just know our rule book. There have been times when I wanted the little sucker gone for good. Like when he hid under my bed with a stuffed glove attached to a broom handle, or when he’d pop out from behind the shower curtain just when I turn on the light, or the time he knocked on my bedroom window at 6 A.M., with his pimply, yellow-toothed friends, pointing and giggling at my pink foam rollers. Still, he was, is and will always be, MY pain in the butt, and, when I’m not planning his demise, I love the idiot.

When I was thirteen, and Danny, nine, a silent, bond took place. Mom and Dad wanted to go to Esmerelda’s, a bar in the skid row section of Tacoma. They’d spent the day, doing what they called, “things for us,” and wanted some “adult time.” In the spirit of parental multi-tasking they handed us a handful of change, along with a couple of Archie and Casper comic books. Upon cautioning we should not to talk to strangers, they left us in the pool hall next door. Mom checked in every 30 minutes. It was fun. That is, until around 1 AM, when the semi-normal looking people left us alone with the remaining sour smelling men, whose chins dripped of snuff, after swigs from paper bags. Tired, we huddled on the floor, reading our comics. We kept our backs to the wall so no one could sneak up from behind, and our eyes downward. I felt a creepy stare coming from a guy with a spider tattoo on his hand. Danny felt it too, wiggling and pressing close to me. As the guy’s pointed toe boots shuffled toward us, my goofy little brother puffs up, placing an arm around my shoulder.

“She’s with me,” he said in a squeaky voice.

I looked up, expecting the guy to laugh. Surely even a dedicated ax murderer would think he’s too cute for slaughter. When my eyes met the man’s, it felt like when you have one of those naked in public nightmares. What did he see in place of the pair of redheaded, freckled faced, scared, dopey, ivory skinned kids? Danny’s skinny arm quivered atop my shoulder, his legs bent, preparing to stand and… what? Fight? That’s when I swore a silent oath to protect him all my days, and to quit calling him names. As we stood up together, a voice boomed from the adjoining door to Esmeraldas… it was Dad.

“Let’s go!”

With that, the pervert scattered like a cockroach in the light. My folks apologized for being late, explaining their helpless situation.

“Everyone kept buying us drinks. They wouldn’t let us leave.”

I’ve kept the vow, best I can. Except for the name calling. When he was sixteen, smoking weed and failing school, he moved from Auburn to live with my husband Jerry and me in Yakima. Together we shopped for the best high school, with me, barely 21, asking the school authorities questions like a mother of six. It’s always been Danny and me. Right now, he needs some help. He was willing to stand up at and fight for me, and I’m willing to do the same for him.

When he shows in the morning, he’s noticeably hung over. He refuses a Bear Claw, grabbing for a coffee cup like an old man reaching for his cane. I listen to the ongoing saga of court dates, car accidents, stalking collection agencies and girlfriends who exaggerate about his temper. I want to mention A.A., but he might as well be wearing a sign reading – I will bite the head off anyone who mentions my drinking.

“I need to ask you something, you can’t tell anyone,” he says.

He tears up. We light smokes. Sobs take over as he chokes, swallowing words.

“I’m having problems… sex… you know…”

‘Like what?” I ask, buying time.

“I can’t… I don’t… you know… C’mon you know!”

He’s crying. I’d do anything to help. Desperate, I resort to my one true talent, telling lies. Say what you want, lying is a skill, when used responsibly. It’s saved me many times, from a variety of threats, like jail, rape and getting fired.

“Sandy had the same problems. That is, before, he quit drinking. He told me all about it. He couldn’t function. Now he has no problem at all.”

“Really?” Danny asked, swiping the back of his hand on his cheek.

“Yes, really,” I LIED. “You know he goes to A.A. meetings every day. You should talk with him.”

“A. A. is bunk. I’m doing this other deal. It’s not just the alcohol. The guy I’m seeing takes a holistic approach. No carcinogens, sugar or white flour.  I’ve already paid $1200.”


 

Auld Lang Syne – “I’ll Be Seeing You… “ Hold Your Loved Ones Close This Year

2015

I don’t yearn for the past, nor desire to have it back. Not a bit. You see, God’s already done a great work in me and continues on with needed changes, of which I anticipate the polished results. I do pay an occasional visit to the days of yore, to honor and cherish the people I’ve known and loved. Listening to the old song “I’ll Be Seeing You… In all the old familiar places,” always reminds me of the impressions people leave behind, some subtle, some bold.

I believe we are the sum of the characters in our life. They mold our capabilities, our service, our fears. So on the eve of yet another New Year, I’ll raise a glass of virgin cheer in honor and remembrance of those I love and look forward to seeing one day again.

As a small child I raised a glass of juice, happy to be awake at midnight, confused why the others were crying.

As a teen, I raised a glass of the alluring forbidden champagne, thinking only of whom I’d like to kiss me and who had better not try.

As a young wife and mother, I raised a glass of bubbly, tears streaming in love for the crazy but loving family around me.

As a mature woman I raised several glasses in regret, remorse and hope for a better year.

As a sober woman, I was back to juice, knowing well, the reason for the tears.

This coming year I hope to hold my loved ones close, well aware how fragile life can be. A quick look back… a glance forward… a long savoring linger in today.

To Nana: (Elsie)

Wise beyond her exit age of 95. She knew the power behind small gestures given consistently. Like licorice ropes, deck of cards and stickers received in the mail. I’m eternally grateful for her secret prayers for my salvation. Guess what Nana… it worked! I miss your exuberant welcomes, the phrase “Bless your heart,” the smell of juicy fruit gum laced with blue carnation toilet water. Mostly, I miss knowing you really liked hanging out with me.

To Mom: (Dema)

Remembered first always for physical beauty… auburn hair, long, graceful limbs, soft brown eyes… old movie star glamor. Her breathtaking outer loveliness, birthed from deep within by a heart of service for others… her children, husband, neighbors, friends and strangers. She modeled a grand spirit of forgiveness. Some days I ache for her smile.

To My Brother: (Danny)

Gone too soon at age 52. Known for extreme character. The joker, prankster, life of the party. To those in close proximity, known also for a big heart. A heart surrounded by a pack of underdogs, accepting his perpetual helping hand. I miss telling you to leave me alone a zillion times, your zeal for life, and that stupid voice with the bad Asian accent. I’m forever grateful for the intense time we had before you parted sharing scriptures and God stuff, side by side, like we used to play Canasta and Monopoly. I expect when we meet again, you’ll jump out from behind the pearly gates, startling me with that familiar “bahahaha!”

To Dad: (Mac)

Big voice, personality and nose… all perfect and belonging together. Would travel cross country to tell a joke if he thought you might laugh. Loved my mother, our country, fried chicken, labor unions. I miss the man you revealed in your last days, the softer, deeper man of thought. I’m grateful for the strong work ethic you instilled and for your drive to support your family, no matter what the cost.

Celebrate the characters in your life, today. Tomorrow they might not show up for the party.

The Redheaded Step Child – Sobriety, The Unpopular Choice

The Temperance Movement.  The country's first serious anti-alcohol movement grew out of a fervor for reform that swept the nation in the 1830s and 1840s. Many abolitionists fighting to rid the country of slavery came to see drink as an equally great evil to be eradicated – if America were ever to be fully cleansed of sin. #sobriety #christian

Twenty-two years ago if given a choice between sobriety or death, I would have gotten back to you with my answer. Today I fit right in with the Women’s Temperance Movement … you know those babes from the prohibition days, banging tambourines, threatening, “lips that touch liquor shall not touch ours.”

Please hear me out before snagging the tambourine from my enthusiastic hand.

Mornings I sit at my keyboard writing the story of a woman whose picture belongs in the A.A. dictionary under the definition of insanity… repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results. I know how the drunken escapades end because I am said woman in the story. Some days I wonder if I’ll ever get to the chapter with my “last drunk. ” You can’t look at your past under a microscope without pointing your finger, screaming, “Hey stupid, look out, there’s a bus coming!”

By removing one ingredient, alcohol, the course of my life changed from a raft heading over the falls to one that even on my worst of days, still floats. I’m not pushing mandatory sobriety for all. I’m aware of the OTHERS who live happy, productive lives, sipping cocktails with an occasional occurrence of over indulging. If you’re one of those freaks, stop reading, now. But if you have ever measured the cause and effect syndrome of inebriation, yours or others, asking how a good time turned sour, keep reading.

Take any event… say family camping. I have fond memories, especially the days of Eight Mile Creek in eastern Washington. The first day we’d set up camp, digging steps in the dirt leading to the creek, preparing wash stations with soap savers hanging in trees, and choosing river rocks that served as weights for checkered plastic tablecloths. Once camp was secure and comfy, it was a day of popsicles and butterflies… the worst threat, a bite on the rump by a giant horse fly while wading the creek. Evenings we’d gather round the campfire with guitars and whiskey, singing, “Red River Valley, You are my Sunshine and my favorite, Sioux City Sue. “ We were hokey like Roy Rogers, as hillbilly as the songs we sang. A sweet and safe place. But then… someone (like Uncle Roy) stumbled drunk into the fire and we’d have to roll him in the dirt to put him out.

Or how about a simple Sunday visit? You’re greeted by loved ones so pleased to see you. Fed, loved on and joked with. But then… someone (let’s say June) gets soused, sparking old jealousy. The visit ends when June backs into a tree with husband hanging out of the hood attempting to rip out the distributor cap.

There’s always the picture perfect Thanksgiving with Eau de turkey teasing from the oven since dawn, gravy taste tested by the toughest critics, pies, spuds, rolls… the works. After the feast, stuffed bodies sprawl sofas, spill out on the floor, snoring, waking only to fumble that top pants button loose. Whispering and laughter carries on in card games with poker chips and raisenettes. But then… someone (usually all of us) screams. Screaming is an antidote raising the amino acid tryptophan victims from death. Uncle Elden is chasing Aunt Nell with a butcher knife, again. He’s been on the wagon for six months, but toppled off earlier with good intentions of only having one short toddy. And who left the knife out? Now we have to wrestle him to the floor and take it away.

There are recent memory spoilers, but I can’t tell you much because the details are gone along with some friendships and respect. The sad truth? You must get sober before you can see the benefits. Typically drinkers hang with other drinkers. That way you have less chance being the one who stumbles into the campfire, a safety in numbers thing. Usually the only sober people who stick around long, are children who don’t have a choice. Many of us have not clocked much time in a sober environment… sleep and work do not count. We’re ignorant of what it might look like, leading our imaginations to pictures of dim rooms with lethargic people listening to chamber music. Here’s a news flash rarely broadcasted… sober people laugh, carry on… the difference, is it’s a conscious choice.

I’m grateful to have found this alternative lifestyle. My hope and prayer for others is that when all good intentions to drink responsibly fail, they realize there’s another option and it’s not the sentence to a hell of boredom that you might believe. Yes, some friends may change and yes, the dynamics of some relationships will certainly change (my bet is for the better). One of the many cool benefits of sobriety is that you have a lesser chance the proverbial lightening will strike you down.

I have five grandsons who’ve never seen me puke, slobber or fall down drunk. I may embarrass them with a big public kiss on the cheek, but I do it in all soberness and I not only remember it but even share the picture on Facebook. So yes, I’m banging my tambourine in celebration of a sober life and in hopes that if drinking is causing unwanted havoc in your life that you might consider a rarely talked about option – abstaining.

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The Marriage Dance – Our Top Ten Differences that Sharpen our Marriage

Marriage - Relationships- Harmony
Marriage: A graceful dance for few – a time of stepping on each other’s toes for many.

As iron sharpens iron,

so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17

            The marriage dance… synchronized grace… harmony… coordination.  A couple gliding across the floor, form and shadow… perfection. Sigh…

Then there’s real life marriage, like ours. It’s a dance too. I’m the one, beat abandoned, arms flailing, one foot clogging, the other waltzing. My dance partner/husband Sandy, is the easy does it guy with a lackadaisical sway, dancing, mainly with facial expressions–just picture a stoned mime. That dance accurately describes our daily challenge to not step on each other’s toes.

            Recently on a short road trip we were brainstorming topics for potential blog posts. Doesn’t everyone do that for auto-tainment? I had a banner idea… the top ten annoying things he does that make me crazy. I scribble them with ease in my notebook while he quietly drives down the road. “Finished ta-da!… piece of cake… I’m ready to write the sequel.”

“Okay, but first, I have ten of my own, counter to yours.” he says.

A strong marriage team is like complementary colors which, when placed next to each other, create the strongest contrast and reinforce each other. So here they are below, in living color.

Number One

He’s like a GPS chatterbox. Have you ever heard that saying “ask the time and he’ll build you a clock?” That’s my husband. If you ask for driving directions, you have to know when to walk away, usually after his first three steps. After that… he wanders… listing alternative routes… sharing memories of the last time he was there… asking questions like, “remember the auto parts store on the corner?”

She never pays attention to where she’s going. Even if she’s been someplace a dozen times she’ll ask me for directions… walking away, fingers in ears before I’m finished. Later, she calls, irritated with me because she’s lost.

Number Two

I’m in the middle of a project, reach for my hammer, but it’s nowhere in sight. Why? Because Mr. Neat Nik put it away. He’s OCD about his sacred tools. One day I’m searching for a simple screwdriver. He runs into the garage, clearly shaken, accusing me of tool abuse. The specific crime was opening and closing the drawers too fast causing the pretty little rows of tools to fall out of alignment. Really?

I know Deb’s up and ready to start the day when I walk into the kitchen and bang my head on one of all the cupboard doors left open. Her logic is that she might need back in there someday. And, she’s a junkie for junk drawers. We have 27, with more on the way. What goes in a junk drawer? Whatever fits. She even carries a mobile junk drawer disguised as a purse.

Number Three

I’m forced to live my life at least 15 minutes early. All those minutes spent waiting for the normal guests to arrive. We are always first, period… no challengers. I suspect our friends will soon start tampering with the time on our invitations because they’re tired of entertaining us before the party begins.

She calculates our departure time like a ticking time bomb, not wanting to arrive one millisecond early. What’s with that? What horrendous plight awaits early guests? Do the hosts eat the first to arrive? Punctuality is not a crime. And ish? It’s not a time. Period.

Number Four

He won’t try new things. Food likes and dislikes are written in stone. If it’s green, he’s leery. If he tried something once as a toddler, he’s not giving it another chance. Memories of childhood food traumas rule his adult taste buds.

 I – DON’T – LIKE – LIVER. Is that so complicated? I don’t care how many people she has converted to “liverites” with her special recipe, the flavor and disgusting texture have not changed since I was a kid. That goes for most green foods, like avocados. How about oysters? She tosses raw oysters down her throat and wonders why I don’t trust her food judgment. 

Number Five

As picky as he can be, (see above), he has no problem devouring 30 day old leftover pizza. He responds to my concerns for his health with “what?” And expiration dates on food? They’re just some conspiracy theory bunk.

 40 years ago, she may have gotten food poisoning after eating a burger from one of our local restaurants. It’s obvious she was the only target because they’re still in business today. If they still want Deb dead, she’ll never know because she’s not going back. If I get a craving for one of their famous juicy burgers, I have to sneak for fear she’ll barge through the door with a makeshift stomach pump. Even worse, if she hears someone reported slight nausea after eating at a national chain restaurant across the world, our local version is exnayed off the list… forevermore.

Number Six

Remember the story of the Princess and the Pea? She was so delicate and sensitive she could feel a pea placed under a stack of 10 mattresses. That’s Sandy. He complains of imaginary minute particles jabbing his back side. This carries over to his clothing. He’s been known to remove tags from shirts leaving a gaping hole and according to him, he’s under constant attack from his killer underwear.

You know the saying that “____ rolls downhill?” Well, I‘m bigger than Deb, so my side is where all the crackers, peanuts and popcorn end up. There’s nothing worse than starting the day with a peanut embedded in your back like a 3-d tattoo.

Number Seven

Rules are suggestions and never apply to him. He’ll suffer dire consequences to reserve his right to break the rules. If the button says don’t push, he’s going to push it. If the sign says wrong way, he ignores it. He even jumps up and down on motel beds. My guess is he was told not to when he was three.

She’s a slave to rules. It’s genetic. You better read the guide book before meeting the family. There are rules for all occasions, even simple ones, like dinner. I was warned not to pass food in the opposite direction. If her dad orchestrates the peas, potatoes and meat clockwise, you must abide. I tried, but wouldn’t you be curious what would happen if the biscuits rebelled and suddenly turned counter clockwise? As you can imagine… nothing horrific happened… until later when I got an earful from Deb.

Number Eight

If it were up to Sandy, all life would be freestyle. No plans. There’d be no such thing as wedding planners, special event coordinators or even simple dinner menus. We’d all just show up somewhere random and fend for ourselves. Yet, when life gets messy, he’s right there asking me questions like “what shall we do?” Stick to the plan… oh, yeah… we don’t have one.

Compared to Deb, the Boys Scouts of America are slackers. She over prepares for everything. Her to-do lists have master lists, outlines for future lists and appendices for existing lists. Once she’s tortured me with the original micro-plan, the second “just in case” phase begins, . If she invites you to dinner and you find fifty hungry strays on the way, no worries, she’s ready.

 Number Nine

In his mirror, dressed up means wearing a T-shirt with a clever (subjective) statement. If it’s a worthy quip, holes or stains are no concern. What’s wrong with a starched white shirt and blue jeans? Someday I’m having a shirt made for him that reads: Disclaimer: My wife does not pick out my clothing. 

She gets a sadistic thrill when I wear uncomfortable clothing. Starch is her friend, not mine. My neck will be red, raw and my legs chaffed and bleeding from new stiff jeans… she’ll shoot me a sick grin saying, “you look so nice.” I suspect it’s payback for high heels and bras.

Number Ten

He doesn’t even try to keep up with the conversation. This is the man who can build a house from a tree, fix just about anything and tests high on IQ tests. Yet, he can’t keep up with a lighthearted update chat of the week?

Once again, I try. Yet, I’m the insensitive jerk because I’m lost between conversation change one and two while she’s darting between 11, 12 and 13. How did we go from squash to her mom’s hair color? I’m not sure what kind of tree that is? Yes, I agree the treehouse needs painted this year. I didn’t realize buttermilk was a color. Yes, biscuits sound good for breakfast. I try, I really try.

     Yes, he drives me crazy and, I guess, I have the same effect on him. The truth is, we celebrate these differences as they make us better individuals and strengthen our coupledom. There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper, making the knives more efficient in their task to cut and slice.

If you want your own messy relationship to flourish, we have one word of advice:

Lead each other to the cross. Start there… live there… die there.

When We Unplugged the TV … We Created Our First Children’s Book

I’ve had it … done … so over it.

Never listening …

Always talking … making noise

Telling me I should lose weight … smooth my wrinkles … take drugs with scary side effects

So … consider yourself unplugged.

That’s what we did about a year ago. We cancelled our cable TV service and haven’t regretted it for a moment. The decision was brutal. The consequences? Surprisingly fruitful.

We talk more. Walk more. Read more. And when we get bored? Well, we write a children’s book together. The one below is based on a true story told by our Grandson Ryder. I hope you enjoy the outcome of our new found creative family time.

Goldie: A Boy

(Of Course)

Cover Page

Written by Nana & Evan

Illustrated by Evan

Published by Grampa

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The story begins inside a sandwich bag.  I look up … down … side to pg 1side. I’m not alone.

 

pg 2                A door opens. I see a school sign. Fish know all about schools! We all swim happy laps in our bags.

A real teacher carries us to her classroom. She picks pg 3me to be first. Holding my bag up in the air she asks, “Who wants the first fish?” “Me! Me!” said a blonde boy with a big smile. “I’ll name him Goldie the Fish.”

 

 

All the other children named their fish Goldie too. pg 4

 

They call my boy Ryder. He introduced me to his Dad. He seemed grumpy on the drive home. All the Mom’s and Dad’s wanted to know why the children had a bag of fish. “What about candy hearts and Valentines?” they asked. pg 5

 Ryder’s Mom was nice. She asked if I was a boy or a girl. He told her I was a boy of course. That’s why he named me Goldie.

Pg 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My boy must have known I was coming to stay. Next to his bed was a bowl fit for a Kingfish and fully stocked with food. Fish Bowl 1

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning I exercised with a mess of guppies and then ate them for breakfast. When Ryder said good morning, he didn’t seem to mind.Fish Bowl 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch was grand. A bluish fish with more guppies on the side. Ryder didn’t seem to mind and even served me dessert from a small box. Fish Bowl 3

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner? Exquisite! A tasty, plump yellow fish, some wormy looking thing and more guppies. Ryder was still smiling when he said good night. Fish Bowl 4

 

 

 

 

The next morning I hear my boy yelling for his Mom. They point and stare with mouths open. Fish Bowl 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day Ryder asks Mom if I can go to school with him. “How are all the goldfish doing?” the teacher asked.

pg 12

My boy holds me up for all to see. pg 13“My Goldie is great!”

 

 

 

4th of July – A Time to Celebrate Our Freedom to …brag on Grandchildren

gboys2
Smitten image of Grandpa … watching a rocket soar.

With NO apologies, I’m using this blog post as a virtual wallet to show off our Grandsons. You’re welcome to counter with your own Grandchild boasts. Go ahead… it’s not a competition but rather a testimony of God’s grand crop of good fruit.

This weekend our five stunning grandsons will be together in our home to celebrate the 4th of July… that means blowing stuff up with Grandpa! I could go on about their many accomplishments in academics, sports, drama, blah –blah –blah. That’s all super, but I’m more enamored by their hearts, character, ability to love and their quirky senses of humor.gboys7

gboys9
Last year’s safety talk before the fireworks begin.

God promises good fruit for trees that stand firm. Celebrations like this prove His promise is alive and well. You see it in their eyes – hear it in their giggles. “Hey Na-Na … hey Na-Na … Na-Na? … Grandpa said it’s okay to spray you with the hose.” You feel it in the hugs. You question it during the tattling and mischievous acts. And, when the apologies, forgiveness and moving on occur, you cherish it. God’s promise shining in all they do.

Ryder, six, our youngest, is a sprite determined to do whatever the older boys do, plus one more. He steals hearts using an effective kindergarten version of Clark Gable’s grin. He’s half and half – love/stinker. His smile could light the ocean if ever the moonlight ceased.

Next comes ten year old Ty. Look out world! Wise AND willing to do whatever it takes to “get ‘er done.” We’ll find out what that means later. I just know it will be amazing. One of my favorite things about Ty, is that he’s always shown gratitude for God’s beauty – trees, sky, wildlife.

Of all our grandsons, Jarod, eight, is the one I’ve butted heads with the most. Why? He’s a  genius and knows how to use it. If something blocks the way to what he wants, before you can say “no” he’s built a bridge across the obstacle and is standing on the other side – smiling. He doesn’t know it, but I’m writing a guide for his future wife entitled “Jarod’s Bag of Tricks.” She’ll need this to counter his SUPER CHARMS.

Mathew, eleven, studies life … quietly, carefully. I don’t think he misses much. He has so many talents and gifts he could easily entertain himself with self-amusement, but instead he looks around. Wise, beyond his years. He’s our King Solomon, the one with the thoughtful answers.

Our eldest, Evan, at sixteen stands at the cusp of manhood, a young man of God. It feels like yesterday we were giggling at a tiny sparrow flapping its wings and now here stands an eagle… powerful… mighty… capable. The coolest thing about Evan is that he seeks after God, after righteousness. He wants to do what is right. He’s a humble eagle with a big heart.gboys3

All our Grandboys stand, proof of God’s amazing creativity. Each different… yet perfect in love.

When we’re young we dream dreams of who and what we want to be. I can’t say I remember wishing to be a Na-Na and yet this role has been the best blessing ever. Thanks God.

Okay… all done for now. Please feel FREE to share your own Grandchildren boasts.