God Bless Us, Everyone

It’s one of those nights where the cup is full. Running over. Seriously. The cup could fill a bathtub. Maybe a small reservoir.

Jack and I are home in the light of the Christmas tree– in a room with little, flickering candles, and our Church on the computer. We’re on the livestream– which is made possible tonight by the very handsome video guy that I’m married to.

Our tree has presents under it for us and friends and family. Our kitchen is stocked with a wealth of rich treats and the makings of some great meals for the next few days. Tomorrow we will spend the day with parents and sister and cousins… and we will be spoiled in both gifts and the joy of giving.

But tonight– in the quiet… with just Jack and the two pups and a house that is dripping with Christmas decorations– it’s lovely.

We are still basking in the perfectly sweet Christmas service put on by the kids and youth at our church. Jack was Joseph this year– his big part was helping Mary up the stairs and into the tiny stable. And trying not to crack up at his buddies, the three kings, when they knelt in the most reverent way 11-13 year old boys can in front of a plastic baby doll and a girl that has been known to chase them in the halls of the church.

If a tiny 4 year old with a tinsel halo and bent up feathered wings doesn’t put a lump in your throat then your stocking should be all lumps of coal. But when said angel starts busting out some sweet, sweet dance moves– well… Glory, Hallelujah to the newborn King.

I couldn’t want any more in this life– we’ve been given so much. There isn’t anything I could unwrap that would be better than this feeling tonight.

Tomorrow we’ll read the Luke 2 account. We’ll put the tiny little Jesus in his manager bed and we’ll unwrap our gifts– we’ll eat our favorite foods– and the anticipation of that is delicious. But tonight we’ll fall asleep knowing that 2000 + years ago we were given the only gift we could possibly need.

Happy Christmas 2015. And God bless us, everyone.

 


September 20, 2015 — the night we wait for the Hogwarts letter…

Dear JackRabbit,

Unbelievably, incredibly, completely without fairness or justice– you will turn 11 tomorrow. ELEVEN. (When you’ve only been 10 for 5 minutes. And alive for maybe a week.)

Our middle school kid is growing up too fast– you love to tease me about this– even while, sometimes, you are so sweetly sensitive to it. We can’t slow down time– and there is very little about this year that I would change– other than it went by too fast.

This year has taken you to so many magical places– you slept in the Natural History Museum in New York City, made a snow ball in the shadow of Mont Blanc, spent two weeks in Deutschland without us (stories that you dole out to your Dad and I that amaze us), relished a week in the woods at church camp, hit happy hour on the fancy Club floor of a Chicago hotel, spent a week with the Grandparents at the Cottage, and learned the Shema at family camp. This summer was insane– you spent a month in Europe between Germany and France. It was fantastic– you’re still pulling out memories and churning them around.

When you finally got home you fell into Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (only because your mother’s copy of HP & the Philosopher’s Stone is missing) and came out the other side having made lifelong friends with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. (Whew! We had concerns that you might be a Muggle…)

You played soccer, read a shelf (or two… or three) of new books [The poor Nate-the-Great series only lasted a few weeks you went through them so fast.], and rediscovered the joys of riding your bike. [Stubborn boy that you are you hardly touched your wheels last year after a nasty fall.]

You graduated 5th grade and met your goal of straight As and figured out that the only consequence to being labeled a nerd is that most of the people that jeer at nerds end up working for one.

You sang in choir, acted in the church play, joined (officially! no longer just a mascot!) the Youts, and memorized the Fruits of the Spirit. And, in the airport while waiting to fly out to Germany you told a youth group there (from Detroit?) that you’ve decided you are going to be a pastor. (An announcement that didn’t surprise us at all.)

Dad and I are so, so grateful for you– and that we get to be your parents. We’re both so glad that you are still eager to cuddle with us both and have someone snuggle you off to bed. (Dad gets most of the night time chats. I get the morning chats. It’s a good trade.) We love your heart and how big it is for trying to understand God’s Word and what it means to be Christian… even while we are beginning to experience glimpses of the sullen teenage moments to come.

This September is bringing so many changes for you with Middle School and band (finally!) and Youts Group– but, remember, Bug– we are here to weather it with you. You’ve got this.

Today was practically perfect. It’s one that we will remember a long, long time. You participated in the Youth Service at church– several people commented on your poise at sharing your scripture passage (Deut. 6:4-7) and your comfort with serving communion. It came as a little big of shock to count the heads of “my” Youts and realize that your familiar, thick-haired one was in the count! ¬†After church you helped us get the house ready for your Very Harry Birthday party– we turned it upside down to celebrate Potter style and you loved it. “Mom! This was the best birthday party ever!” (of course two minutes later you asked, “What should we do next year?”) It was fun to watch you and your buddies tear through the house and yard with your wands making up new games.

But my favorite was when everyone was gone and you snuggled up to both of us to say thank you and that you had a wonderful time.

We are, too– we are, too.

I love you, sweet boy– Try to make this year a little less fast, please?

Mom

P.S. I have it on very good authority that your Hogwarts letter is due to arrive tonight.


Look Ma! no tears!?

Jack left for Germany today.

We were– and are– dried eyed. Around us parents broke as soon as the van pulled away from the school.

This is when I am super grateful for all the things that prepped us for these 14 days without our baby–.

1. A strong belief that Jack is surrounded by angels always– but especially in these kinds of situations.

2. Those little mini-weeks and then a full week at church camp. That first mini-week was rough. The second was a little less wrenching. Last year’s full week was a victorious realization that our boy is growing up.

3. Both Robby and I went on exchanges (to France) when we were Jack’s age–our parents modeled for us the confidence we, in turn, showed to Jack– that not only can he “do this” but that he would have a marvelous time in the process.

4. A well packed suitcase. (Thanks to my Momma for those skills.)

5. Knowing that we three are being held up in prayers and good thoughts. Between texts and facebook (let alone the people we actually see in person) we have been and will be buoyed up.

(It also helps that Jack’s host family is also Christian and very kind in their preparations for him to stay with him.)


Tick.

My sister is quick (maybe a little too quick) to point out that I have entered a new demographic today. I am now to tick the 45-54 box. I find it insane to realize that I’m in my mid-40s (let alone that I’ve bypassed my 30s).

The idea that to be in the middle of my life now requires me to make it to 90 is a little disconcerting. The balm is that life is better now than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

My sister posted a picture of me today on facebook. It’s one of my favorite childhood photos so I quickly made it my profile shot. I’m about five years old. I still have long hair (before the shag hair cut that was a horrid mistake). I’m standing on a big pile of sand at (I think) Silver Lake. I’m wearing a large straw hat (my mother’s?) and a bikini. The bikini is one of two that I have owned. The latter one was tried and quickly discarded in my 20s. This predecessor was orange and terrycloth with white piping. I was a skinny kid– my sunburned knees are knobby and there are huge welts of bug bites on stick legs– the suit is loose and gapes. I don’t think I’ve ever worn an article of clothing since with such pride or abandon. I don’t plan on adding any bikinis to the wardrobe this year (even if I could find one that was orange and terrycloth).

Taking stock– there’s not much that I could add to life that would make me happier than I am tonight. The Rabbit is curled up asleep in his bed. Robby and the pups are waiting in our bed. There is tea in the cupboard and books on the shelves. Travel is looming. Spring is springing. There is health and wealth (relatively) and merriment.

Tick.


Another Dad day.

In a few minutes it will be another long Dad Day. A normal Wednesday– breakfast with Jack, school for him/work for us, a morning meeting, Jack’s choir practice and dinner at church, 5th grade homework, bed… but pulsing throughout the day is a semi-conscious awareness that 19 years ago we were called back from our drive to our little apartment to the hospital where Dad was suddenly dying.

The details of that day are both stark and vague– and, for the most part, they are kept at bay with much better memories of Dad– but on this day the veil is a little thinner and they come parading with a terrible affrontery and hideously perform shadow puppets under the rest of the day’s activity.

Dad is missed on every day– so this day doesn’t make a difference other than to bring to the foreground the realization of how much time has passed since we’ve heard his braying laugh or joyful singing or even the illogic of his terrible temper. It’s still unfathomable to me that he never held Jack or saw my nieces grow up into the lovely young woman that they are– but only knew them as babies.

The grief now– almost twenty years later– comes when I hear one of the kids at the university complain about their parents. Worse is overhearing the confessions that come to the professor next door– just this week a girl dully related that her father was non-existent in her life. His alcoholism had ruined her childhood and she’d long grown out of wishing that he was a dad. Her voice carried into my adjacent office and I was sad that I’d been so wealthy and she’d been so poor in the same area.

I’m missing the Sister who has taken herself on a vacation this week. We usually meet up on Dad day and only briefly acknowledge it. A long-established pattern not out of stoicism but out of the need to be more like our father in the way we (first) raised up her girls and now Jack. We are proud when we are privy to some tale of Dad’s legendary generosity. We soak up the stories now– because it is rarer and rarer that we are recognized as “Bruce’s girls”… so many of the people we’ve added to our circles came after we buried Dad. I forget sometimes how few people there still are (that we see regularly) that know me as one of his daughters. Only a handful of people at church. Just a few at work. One or two at Jack’s school.

Oldest friend, Melle, reached out on Sunday with a long text about feeling as though Dad were right there with her in the church they were visiting. Hearing him sing (“belt out”) during a favorite hymn. He’s visited her a few times in strong sensation or dreams– always when I am most missing him. Melle is practical– the Diana to my Anne– so I never question his visits to her. I was probably jealous in the beginning that he would show up so vividly in her dreams– when she’s not even a dreamer– until I realized how much lovelier it was to be given this gift from her now and then. Never expected. But always welcomed.


Quiet Thanksgiving

We lost most of November to a bug that took us all out, at one time or another, then lingered with me. I still have a cough that is phleghmy and hacking– but with decreasing regularity. I’ll take it.

It all made for a semi-quiet Thanksgiving. We pulled together a lovely meal with a little help from our mothers who joined us (with Robby’s Dad– Eric being home with The Bug). And we went to church on Sunday… but the rest of the long weekend was spent inside watching Christmas movies and decorating the house in little spurts. There were also long naps. And a little work here and there… but mostly rest and quiet and the three of us. We missed our usual Thanksgiving trip– up north or some lovely place to unwind… but found it in our living room.

I petered out with my #thankful posts on facebook this year– I stumbled after the first half of the month. But the last, uncounted days, could be summed up with being thankful for the chance to slow down. Cut out all the unnecessariness. The chance to curl up on the couch with out any responsibilities. A series of little Sabbaths.

It’s a good way to go into Advent. Quietly. And with an intent to stay quiet and rested and sated with family. Expectant. Wary. And hopeful.


First Score

Twenty years ago this past week Robby and I were married. It was a cool November day. We were surrounded by our family and friends and the ceremony and reception passed by in a blur of happy moments. I loved my dress (my mother’s) and veil (seriously loved wearing a veil. Bring them back. I wear one well.) and carried an exquisite bouquet of champagne colored roses. Robby was handsome in a rented morning suit. We were both ridiculously naive and happy and pleased with ourselves.

I’d do it over almost identically. I’d wear fun colored shoes (a trend that was unheard of in the mid 90s). I’d have fought for the secular piano theme I really wanted my bridesmaids to walk down the aisle to (The “Friendship Theme” from Beaches. Cheesy movie– but lovely melody). I’d have figured out a way to spend more time with everyone that weekend– it went by too quickly. I’d have eaten more cake (it. was. amazing.). And I’d have doubled the pictures and video– because they had so many people in them that are gone now. But the really– that’s all small stuff.

Oh. One more thing that I’d have done. There was a brief moment on our wedding day where I was left alone in the bridal suite. If I could, I’d slip in (the Now Terri) and congratulate the bride on making such a fine choice. She would, I’m sure, be quite confident of that already. I might ask her to tell me what she thought life would be like in 20 years. And maybe she’d have some silly notions of grand returns to the honeymoon locale (Alaska) or a perfectly candle-lit dinner in some magically perfect restaurant… and I’d take in the impossibly perfect details and nod and smile and then tell her it would be so, so much better than that.

Our twentieth anniversary was an ordinary work day complete with ordinary tasks and errands. A department meeting cut into our plans for lunch so we skipped out on our church dinner for plans to go out to a dinner just the two of us. But by the time Robby was able to get away from work, we were both feeling under the weather so we spent the evening holed in our living room with take-away ham and cheese grinders. I was miserably achy and cold. I took an Excedrin PM and a bath. Robby retrieved Jack and we settled in for the night only to wake up to Jack calling from his bedroom in a shaky, panicked voice. He’d thrown up. In a loft bed. Over the blankets and down, in cascading glory, to the floor below. This resulted in Jack crying. Robby also vomiting. And me coming in and out of the sweet, sweet sleep that whatever they put into the Excedrin PM affords. Eventually the boys were cleaned up again. The bed was remade. We all went back to sleep. We spent the next day huddled under blankets and trying to decide what would bother us least to eat (or smell).

I couldn’t help but remember that a blink of a score before I was on my way to the snowy brilliance of Alaska with my brand new husband admiring our shiny new rings.

I have the better deal.


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