motherly imperfections


… taking an extra-large “mother’s cut” of Easter candy before filling your baskets

… needing a “sweat rag” to hold while teaching you to drive

… making up excuses not to take you places because I didn’t feel like it

… making up excuses because I was afraid

… serving you fish sticks, French fries and corn… all in one meal

serving you fish sticks

… being too involved when I shouldn’t / not involved enough when I should

… crying while you were trying to hold it together

… making you wear the red jeans

… killing every flowering plant you ever gave me

These things are true.  But you, sons, already know.  And graciously so.

I wish I’d been braver.  More patient.  Wiser.

I wish fear hadn’t been my default decider.

I wish I’d never cooked a fish stick.

And I wish I could do some things over.

But maybe that wouldn’t be good.  Because things would change.

And you wouldn’t be the YOU you are.

And that would be a perfectly unacceptable imperfection.






encouragement to grow on

One advantage of having your parents live with you is tapping into their memories.  And your mother’s photo album.

These are my grandparents, Dan and Gladys, holding my mom.  So this must have been 1927-ish.


It’s fun to see my grandmother standing on the California beach where I grew up, sporting a bathing suit.  Might have been a bit scandalous in the day!

Since I never saw her in a bathing suit, ever, this sight isn’t in my memory bank.

My memories include a garden full of geraniums, a spotless house,  new Easter outfits, her piano, the long drive to church camp every summer, paints and glass jars filled with brushes, the smell of wet ceramic clay.

But no bathing suits.

In fact, I still see her in the every day uniform of long, wide-legged pants and a work smock.  This allowed her to move from home keeping to gardening to art creating without ruining her good clothes.  Very common sense of her.

I loved to visit because there was always something different for me to do.  And she didn’t hover while I did it.  She would give me a canvas and paints and tell me to paint it… a hunk of clay and tell me to shape it… a tablet and pencils and tell me to write it.

She let me make my own, messy art.

Then we talked about it.  Approvingly.  Maybe a gentle lesson on how to mix paint colors, or if you pinch the clay a certain way you get “this”, or a suggestion to write a couple more sentences to give detail about “that”.

She always pushed me to do a little bit more.

Once after a heavy rain, we went to a bare patch in her garden where she gave me a hand trowel, an assortment of old dishes and told me to make mud pies.  When I was done we sat in the sun with a cup of coffee and pretend ate my pies.

I was six.

I loved her.

I love that she never stopped creating her own art.

And I’m pretty fond of coffee.


When I joined the blogging world several years ago, I found many blogs full of inspiration, courage and beautiful art.  Some were created by regular folks like me.  Some more well known.  But all of them inspire in their unique way.  And encourage me to hang on and do a little bit more .  Just like my grandmother did.

You might have noticed, in fact, there is another tab on my blog which says Favorite Links and Things.  It’s been “under construction” for too long.  I’d intended to list blogs and websites, books and such that might be interesting to others.  Of course, I realize there’s Pinterest for that purpose, but I’m going to keep my own little list going right here anyway.

It’s a partial list.  So hope you’ll check it from time to time for some great reading, photo viewing, and inspiration gathering.

hope and time

Time is moving on.

I’m still mourning the end of Downton Abbey.  I wasn’t finished with it yet.  There will be no familiar theme music at 9pm tonight.  I’ll just have to deal with it.

And Daylight Savings Time started today.  Spring Forward.

I lost one precious hour and do not like it.  I know I’ll get it back in the Fall, but in the meantime it feels as if something was stolen from me.

This week my granddaughter lost her first tooth.  Among the younger of my grandchildren, it shocked me that she’s old enough to loose teeth.  Here she is next to the toothless grin of her father some 35ish years before.

“How did it get so late so soon?”  Dr. Suess


See.  I told you. Time is moving on.

(And I’m sorry, son.  About that haircut.  I was trying to save money by doing it myself.  You were adorable… trust me.)

Fleeting time is something I used to stew about.  But I’m learning to lighten up on the subject because the thing is… the more I stew about time’s passing, the more of it I waste in the stewing.

And there’s no time for that.  Not if I want to live every moment well.

This week I had two odd, time related dreams.  Actually, one was substantially more than odd.

…I’m in a huge government building getting ready to leave on a space mission.  So already, anyone who knows me can see this is crazy because I don’t even like to fly in airplanes.  But here’s the thing (please don’t judge), the space mission was being lead by Donald Trump… and we were both having our blood pressure taken… and mine was 200 over 85 (probably because I’d just heard one of his speeches).

I was told I couldn’t go on the mission, it wasn’t my time to go and I needed to get that blood pressure down.  Maybe later.  Keep trying.  There’ll be time later.

Time.  Later.

I was crushed (in the dream) because I really, really wanted to go (in the dream).

I woke up super relieved to be on earth, but couldn’t stop thinking about the weirdness that had been in my head… and wondering if I should call my doctor.

The next night I dreamt my 3rd born son was getting ready for school.  Elementary school.  He was dawdling and I was impatient, late for work.  Finally he’s out the door with his backpack and I’m in my car.  He begins walking.  I begin driving with no intention of giving him a ride.  He made me late, after all.  But being a mom, I had to ask if he had a lunch.  Which he didn’t.  So I slammed on the brakes and a huge clock popped up on the dashboard.

6AM it said.  We had time!  We had two extra hours of time!

I woke up feeling the need to call my son with an apology.

And relieved to know there is time.

I’m not sure what any of this means.

But I feel hopeful.

And happy for this new day to make the most of.. lost hour and all.


So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12


What you left me…

She was born 138 years ago.

Married at 19.

Died at 95.

In between the beginning and ending she raised five children, kept home with none of the conveniences we take for granted, was an accomplished pianist and did fine needlework.  She survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake while pregnant with her oldest daughter.

She worked hard, cleaned thoroughly and no matter what might be expected at any given moment, her dress was tidy and her hair curled, twisted up and pinned into place like a proper lady.

Mattie Phillip and grooms parents bb

And she was always a proper lady.

She knew well the contents of her Bible, but never preached.  Simply lived it.

She fed homeless people.

In fact, until recently I labored under the misconception that she ran a boarding house in San Francisco, but my mother corrected me – – – “no” she chuckled “my grandfather just liked to bring bums home for a hot meal…. and my dad happened to be one of them”.

While no one I know would ever describe my grandfather as a bum (he was a self-proclaimed “hooligan”), it was a great day when his path crossed hers because she took a liking to him.  In fact she loved him as her own and invited him to stay… as long as he went to church.

So he did.

Then he married my grandmother.

And because of all that I got to be the great-granddaughter of Mattie May Jordan from Mariaville, Maine.

I’ve been a little bit obsessed the last few months with  I love putting small bits of info into the system about people I already know and build a picture of where they came from, what they did, who and what influenced their life.

Here’s a picture of Mattie on her wedding day in 1897 and another of her at my wedding in 1969.

Wow!  How tiny her waist was!

And, wow!  How big my nose looks from that angle!  Well anyway….

She was loving and generous.  Her children adored her.  And no one, not one person I know ever heard her complain.  About anything.  Other than traveling as a teenager from Maine to California, she never went anywhere.  Never owned anything.  She lived with her youngest daughter all of my growing up years.  And later with her youngest son.

Her specialty was prayer.  She did it well and often.  My favorite memory is hearing her pray for her sons as I climbed the stairs to her apartment.  I didn’t want to disturb her so sat on the steps for a long, long time.  Although they were grandfathers with well established lives, her prayer for them was as fervent as if they were young men in battle, as if she were in battle.  I think she was.

She left me with a template for prayer for my own sons, even though she didn’t know it.

Her fingers were badly twisted with arthritis, but it didn’t stop the piano playing.  Nor the stitching.  I broke the zipper in my skirt one day and as I sat beside her in my slip, she ripped out the old, pinned in the new, and sewed that zipper in by hand.   The stitches were tiny and even, almost invisible.  The zipper was still going strong when the skirt met it’s end.

I wondered if her fingers hurt.  But then, how would anyone know?

She has an amazing family heritage.  And it turns out there were a lot of Jordans in Maine.  The earliest ancestor I’ve traced settled there in the mid-1600s.  Her grandfathers and uncles were farmers, clergymen, mariners, soldiers, carpenters and lumbermen.  Mattie’s father was a tanner.  They had great, solid sounding names like Solomon, Nathaniel, Ebenezer, Dominicus and Fredman.

One of her great-great-grandfathers was killed in an Indian uprising, his wife and children “carried off”.  They were later released in Quebec.

Her grandmothers and aunts were “home keepers”.  Many worked along side their husbands.  They had children.  Lots and lots of children!  I love their names – Jerusha, Priscilla, Eliza, Adah and Abigail.  Oh, and Hannah.  Lots of Hannahs.

But only one Mattie.

I look back at these connections to people who really existed, people who struggled so hard to build lives, families and a nation, and wonder what they would think of us now.  Especially in this ugly political season when we show how soft and entitled we’ve become.

I’m glad I live now, but admire who they were then.

And on those days when I feel put upon and tired, tempted to slip off the edge of my own path, I think of Mattie.  While it’s too late for me to be known as a non-complainer, I do feel an encouragement to hang on, to believe, to put love first.

They speak without a sound or word; their voice is silent in the skies, yet their message has gone out to all the earth and their words to all the world.  Psalm 19: 3&4

That verse was speaking of the heavens displaying God’s glory, but it instantly brings my great-grandmother to mind.

She may not physically be here to impact a life, but her words, prayers and examples already have.  They linger on in unseen places.

I carry them with me every day.  Along with the question…

What will I leave behind?




A mom can find her kid. Even in a crowd.

I could find Andrew on the football field by watching for arms and legs. I can spot Daniel by the sound of his laugh. And Ian’s voice draws my attention. Much like his dad’s, it’s distinctive and pleasing.  And as with Andrew, if he’s moving, I can find David.

Several years ago, Doug and I flew across country to meet David. His back to back deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq had taken a toll on this mom.  I needed to see his face.

Normally, crowds distress me and I’m never one to push to the front of any line. Ever.  But once the soldiers were in the building and their commander began to speak, I couldn’t wait.  I made my way to the front, held out my camera and took the shot. Other cameras flashed around me and I wasn’t sure what I’d get.

It turned out to be one of my favorites.

~ I found you – I see you – you’re OK ~ David in crowd

I’m always amazed at the ways God finds me. It can be a phone call from someone with just the right words, a scripture that jumps off the page, a series of events that fall into place… or that unexplainable peace He gives when they don’t.

I have a persistent memory that floats in my head… a million years ago, or maybe 35-ish, I sat in a coffee shop in Anchorage, Alaska. It was middle of winter and my two sons (at the time) and I had come inside for hot chocolate.  Since we didn’t get to the “big city” all that often, the boys and I tagged along with Doug who had come in for an interview.

Jobs seemed to come and go all too often. We were always struggling.  I’d been questioning if we were doing right by our boys.  I missed family living so far away.  And did I mention… it was winter in Alaska.  Serious case of cabin fever had set in.

Honestly, I don’t remember many specifics from that day, or even if Doug got that job. What I do remember is an older couple who sat at the table next to us. Out of the blue the woman tells me she could see we belonged to one another… same beautiful smiles, same beautiful eyes.

She was sweet and motherly.  She talked to me like we were old friends.  Our conversation was brief, but as they left she put her arm around my shoulder… kind of a side-ways hug. Her parting words were that I was blessed with a beautiful family… that everything will be alright… to enjoy every single moment with my children, no matter the circumstance.

They paid for our hot chocolate.

At the time I felt so grateful.  Touched that a complete stranger would be so kind.  Amazed that she knew exactly what I needed to hear.

As years have passed, I’ve drawn a few more gifts from that memory, like that “kid in a crowd” thing. If a mom can find hers, how much more our Heavenly Father?

…and becoming more like that unknown woman.  God chose to use her arms to hug and her words to encourage.  And she let Him.

…but mostly, it’s not so much God “finding” me. He already knows where I am.  It’s reminding myself every day, or every hour if need be, that I am “found”.

Beauty and Grace and Seedless Green Grapes

I perched on the edge of the pool in all my 13 year-old gawkiness… poised to dive head first.  My wet hair and wet suit had long since dried.  I was a wreck.

I wanted to jump.  She said I had to jump.  But I just couldn’t jump.  Irrational fear flooded my mind.  Arms and legs were getting stiff.  I almost, kind of, didn’t like her anymore!  Why was she making me do this?  Why did every summer visit have to be a “learning experience”?

She got out of the pool, one more time, and said “watch”.  And again she dove, head first, into the water, barely a ripple, all beauty and grace.

My aunt.Auntie Moe Me

I always adored her and was a little bit afraid… all at the same time.

She was the “fun” aunt.  She had the best treats at Halloween.  When I spent the night she let me stay up late and watch movies.  We ate bowls of popcorn and seedless green grapes and had grown up conversations.  She made me learn to do my own hair because “your mom will not always be there to do it, young lady”.  And there was the Christmas she gave me the Tiny Tears doll I absolutely had to have or life would not be worth living.

In my teens she taught me the therapeutic effect of shoe shopping.  She always found me the perfect swim suit.  She let me drive her purple Pontiac Bonneville.  We sobbed, loudly, in the theatre over Doctor Zhivago.

Every summer there was something to learn… like swimming or diving.  We did artistic things like painting, or leather tooling or mosaics.  I loved mosaic summer, which was also Camp Pendleton summer.

She took me to my first “fancy” restaurant and coached me how to order my own meal.  And to order exactly what I wanted, because “when you pay good money for something you should get what you want”.

The first time I flew on an airplane was from San Francisco to San Diego to spend a month with her while my Navy uncle was at sea.  I was afraid to fly.  And I was afraid to land.  And I was sure I’d never find her.  But when the plane touched down, there she was in all her emerald-green glory of a dress with matching broad-brimmed hat.  She was the brunette version of Grace Kelley.  No one could possibly miss finding her.  And we swam every day, watched movies every night and ate popcorn and seedless green grapes… and every week we went to the movie theatre on Camp Pendleton where I discovered how awesome Marines look in uniform.  I can’t remember any of the movies.

I loved to drive places with her because she got lost a lot, which was strangely fun.  There was the night we turned the wrong way down a one way, big city street and screamed like little girls until she found her way off.  I have been inordinately aware of one-way traffic patterns ever since.

She was my first employer… at a small diner, in small town Nevada.  No special favors because I was her niece.  I was to keep a smile on my face, the customer was always right, and I didn’t dare go anywhere without a pot of coffee and a cleaning rag.  Because someone always needed more coffee and something always needed fixing up or wiping down.  I thank her for my work ethic.

She pushed me hard to do things I didn’t think I wanted to do… but things that made me happy once done.

I watched her suffer unimaginable loss.  The kind of loss every parent fears.  And I watched her come thru the other side still a lover and a giver.

She was not perfect.  She made mistakes like anybody.  But the interesting thing is I could tell her I didn’t understand, and I could tell her I didn’t agree and we would talk.  And still not agree.  But love anyway.  Because, I think, that’s how we’re supposed to live this life.  Yes?  Doing the best we can, making mistakes, disagreeing… but loving anyway.

She’s been giving me things for years… a box here, a bag there, occasionally a whole trunk load.  Recently, my mom helped her sort jewelry and other personal things… labeling where they will go and who will receive.  And a couple of weeks ago she called… all concerned… for me.  Like she doesn’t have enough problems of her own?

So tonight I can’t help but remember standing on the edge of that pool, all afraid and then so relieved once I made the jump.  I’m glad she made me.  I’m glad she was there to root for me… to witness my jump.

For a few weeks now she’s been standing on the edge of eternity.

I don’t know what thoughts or fears or questions swirled in her mind… because that kind of standing one does alone.

Today she went in… with barely a ripple.

She left the pain behind… with beauty and grace.

And I stand as witness to a beautiful life that helped to shape mine.


Connections ~ Wirelessly Delivered to the Heart

Last week I wrote of the recent road trip to visit family.  One evening I joined my parents, sister and niece for dinner at a favorite Mexican restaurant in downtown Auburn.  It’s right close by the old gold miner. gold miner  And it was the last place I ever took my grandparents before Papa died.

The place had not changed… same table, same chairs, same corner where the three of us sat. I could visualize us eating what we always ate.  Enchiladas.

It’s funny how some experiences stay wrapped around you.  They hold tight with an invisible thread, stronger than anything man can make.

Kind of like those phone calls from sons away at war.  Satellite beams not seen or felt brought me voices I love from places called Balad, Fallujah, Taji, and a nameless mountainside in Afghanistan.  For those few moments I could almost relax and believe they were safe… as long as they stayed on that phone.  We didn’t always have a lot to say.  There was a lot they could not say.  Just hearing them breathe was good enough.

Long ago when the boys were small and the husband and I were trying to keep a business afloat (which eventually sank us), I closed the doors early on a rainy Sunday.  I rented a video, drove home thinking of piles of laundry and fought the guilt of being away so much.  But honestly, I just wanted to take a nap.

I walked into a neat living room…which was the first surprise.  And cooling on the kitchen counter were six, individual sized lemon meringue pies, made from scratch, by my two oldest sons… the second surprise.

The movie was popped into the machine and I remember nothing until I woke up two hours later.  Laying on my side, my feet were on my oldest son’s lap.  One boy was sound asleep above me, lying mostly on the back of the sofa and partially on my shoulder.  My youngest son, who literally grew up to be a “mountain of a man”, was small enough then to curl up in the spot created by my bent knees.  And another boy sat on the floor directly in front of me, as if on guard.

At risk of sounding too mushy whilst talking about sons, I felt absolutely loved and happy and that I had to be the luckiest woman in the world.

Sometimes I wonder if I invent or embellish memories.  But this particular one came up at a family dinner recently.  My oldest son remembered.  He said he always sat at that particular end of that particular sofa.  He remembered the pies because he had to whip the egg whites by hand with a fork… which doesn’t surprise me.  He couldn’t find the beaters for my hand mixer.  And when he decides to do something he always finds a way.

Simple moments of life lived…

Memories to treasure…

And they didn’t cost much… just time… just love.

Back in the day... brothers who make pies

Back in the day… brothers who make pies

Connections ~ From The Road

A couple of weeks ago I headed south… just a quick trip to check in with my folks and help with tax paperwork.

Over the years driving has become my least favorite thing, especially when I’m alone.  But staying connected to family is one of my most favorite things, so I get in the car.  From the rural road I live on to the fast paced interstate, I find my groove in the southbound lanes and go.

This time the snow level was high, pavement dry and the sky was clear.  The mountain fuel stop filled my car and my lungs with crisp, clean air.  I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I or they or we have driven this highway, traversed these mountains, bought fuel at this location and a burger down the road.


I-5 has linked me to family my entire life.

Visits northbound when I was small… I don’t know how Dad did it.  The interstate we use today was a two-lane then.  Mom packed food and there were few restaurant stops.  It took two full days and one night in a motel.  Dad was silent, strong and focused as he drove.  And I loved to watch him.  He did it with a wife,  two noisy little girls and no modern rest stops.  Amazing.

Visits southbound when I was grown and married… one husband, one wife, four little boys  and money didn’t grow on trees.  The husband’s rule was everyone ate the $1.99 Grand Slam special at Denny’s… whether you wanted it or not.  (cheap and filling, you know)  The upside… it was only a one day trip on a modern interstate WITH rest stops and Grandma’s good food at the other end.

This solo trip I packed a few snacks… knowing I would eat at a restaurant on the way.  Snacks are tradition.  Makes me think of my boys, or mom… good memories.

I found Mom and Dad well, since their move eight months ago.  Their apartment in an independent-living senior community is cheerful.  And Mom knows almost everyone, how long they’ve been there, where they’re from, what they did before retirement and how the bus system works.  She’s good that way.  But Dad… not so much.  He hangs back.  And I know this because it’s my default setting as well… when I’m not sure… and when change is relentless.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    I think Dad is sad though.  He misses driving.  It was kind of the last thing he had to give up.  It was his connection to the way things were.  And it was the last thing the doctor told him… that he shouldn’t drive.

Dad is the best driver I ever knew.  He was unflappable.  It was his thing.  And he taught me well.

He even taught me to do minor maintenance, because “not all men will do this for you”, he often said.  And he was right.  Thanks, Dad.

When I call, I make a point of telling him that I got the oil changed or the tires rotated.  He likes to know stuff like that.  And he nods approvingly when I check the tire pressure before I head north.

Because, inevitably… I always have to head north.  Again.  And this time Dad is on my mind.  I look for our favorite restaurants, the “safe” rest stops, the easy fuel access.  I pass the olive groves and where we used to buy big cans of them, the lake just before we climb the mountain pass and the peaceful farmland on the other side.  He has seen and memorized those same things.  And sometimes, even though I am alone, I feel his hands are on the steering wheel.

So I channel my inner Bob… and drive on.

How He Makes a Home

We’ve lived here almost one year now… still living out of boxes.  Should I still feel like I’m living in a motel room?

It’s not my place to decorate or make wholesale change because, in a sense, I’m a guest.  I keep clean, keep safe and keep familiar the surroundings of the one we care for.

But what about the space we do occupy?

Last June we (and when I say we I mean the man and me) visited a son at his new home in Kentucky.

You wouldn’t think a single man with an army career would be such a homebody, especially as busy as he’s been the last 10 years…

… multiple combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq, an instructor at Ranger school in Georgia, a deployment to Haiti right after the earthquake…

If anyone knows uncertainty, the fragile nature of life… I imagine it would be a combat soldier.  Yet during that time he bought and sold three homes.

He put down roots even knowing he would be deployed again and again… and again.

He took the time to paint the walls and hang the pictures, fill the bookshelves and make it be that comfy space called home… right down to the cowbell hanging on the front door.

He makes friends, wastes no time finding the nearest fishing hole, and his dogs love nothing better than to hunt the woods with him, then curl up at home.

His door is always open to family, friends and his soldiers.  He lives each day with purpose.  He doesn’t put things on hold until everything is “back to normal”… as I’m prone to do.

And he’s teaching me a lesson.

That very uncertainty of life seems to compel him to make a home base.  A safe place.  A recharging space.  It’s healthy and good.  And I need to do that.

I stashed a favorite painting behind the bedroom door when we arrived here.  I think it needs to see the light of day.  And perhaps I should dig a few family photos out of boxes to sprinkle about the room. 

Oh yes… I believe it’s time.

~ ~ ~ Rangers Lead The Way ~ ~ ~     thank you, my dear.

A Perspective on Coming and Going

Grandsons in the morning before school….

photo credit Courtney McGillivray

“but I don’t want you to go”

photo credit Courtney McGillivray

“I’m sorry buddy, but I have to go to school”

photo credit Courtney McGillivray

“but why”

“because I have to learn”

“about your letters and the alphabet?”


…meanwhile… an hour away on the other side of town….

another grandson leaves for his very first day of Kindergarten…

photo credit Michelle McGillivray

photo credit Michelle McGillivray

photo credit Michelle McGillivray

Oh, the joy!  The expectation!  The thrill of it all!  He gets to ride the big bus with no seat belts!  Could there possibly be anything better??

Not likely.  At least not for him on this particular day.

We come. We go.  From the day of birth until the day we leave this earth.

Sometimes we laugh… or cry… or get all crazy in the face.

But come and go we do.

As these three start their journey, I hope they will always…

…run happy to the bus, even if they don’t know what to expect

…be excited to learn, even when it is hard

…know they are loved, even when they doubt

…remember the way home, especially when they’re grown

…be sweet to their little sisters… yeah, this might be unrealistic

…hug their mamas

And speaking of mamas… they have the best of the best.  Thanks for sharing your photos, my dears.