loving little sons

They slid quietly onto the benches looking much like we did when we first arrived.

Red-faced with sweat dampened hair, three teenage girls took an open bench for themselves. Mom and two small boys, maybe 5 and 8, took a seat behind them on a bench already occupied.  Somehow the three of them squished into a space that was meant for one adult.

Needing to find – 1) a place to sit and 2) some shade, Doug and I and our 13-year-old grandson found ourselves at the County Fair Fiddle Contest last week.  Since our grandson plays the violin (and also football – he would want you to know!) and loves fiddle music, we had planned to attend anyway.  We finally found the venue after an hour of wandering in the heat through 4-H exhibits, covered by the smell of greasy fair food.

But this one mom and her two little boys, they captivated me.

Her strong arms wrapped around their waists and their small, suntanned arms around her neck.  Toes tapped to the music.  There was whispering and giggling, but kept to a respectful volume.  Her smile was constant.  She let them take turns to alternately sit on her lap or hang off the side of the bench.  It looked like an uncomfortable arrangement to me, but didn’t seem to bother them.

Watching them, I missed my boys at that age.

And I kind of wanted to take their picture, but thought that might be a little creepy.

As it turns out I didn’t need an actual picture because the mental image of them stayed with me all week.  I was in a wistful frame of mind that day anyway, trying to cram a pile of memories into 2 days with a grandson who is growing up too fast for my taste.

I remembered an older woman who chastised me years ago for the level of attention and affection I showed my sons.  It would spoil them.  It didn’t seem appropriate in her mind.  In my mind I worried that I didn’t give them enough.

I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she meant well then.  Just as I give it to her now, and to myself that I did OK.

When it comes to little sons, I am convinced there is no such thing as too many hugs or too much cuddling on the sofa or too much lounging on the bed with story books.  Is there an age limit to sitting on laps, holding hands, giggling, and public displays of affection? Probably.  But that’s something we figure out as we go.

So last week at the fair, I enjoyed fiddle music and snow cones with my grandson.  And it was good.

Soon enough he will walk away to his own grown-up life like his father did.  And while I pray he has his share of good things, I know he will have his share of adversity and hard lessons.

We only have them with us for a short while.  I’d like to think the foundation of love, attention and shared experiences give them strength and confidence along the way.

And I’m thankful for “fiddle contest mom and sons”.

The sweetness of their connection helped me remember a thousand little images never captured on film, but captured instead on my heart.



morning ritual

Lately I’ve been obsessed with the best way to start my day.

I’ve listened to podcasts and read some books.

I want to pray more effectively.  I want to add physical exercise to my morning.  And I need to get as much done as early as I can because my senior citizen status overtakes me every afternoon about 2 pm.

Fortunately, I love to learn.  And love to read.  I respect the lessons others have learned and that they take the time to share them with the rest of us.

Unfortunately, it’s also easy for me to believe that someone else ALWAYS does “it”, whatever my current “it” is, better than me.  My default is to believe I am doing it all wrong

So I’ve tried a couple new routines.  I’ve given them proper time and open mindedness.  And while there is worthwhile information to be had, I feel phony and fake in the doing.

I don’t get the right words said in the right order.

My body won’t exercise at 6 am.  It has made that very clear to me.

I’ve come to the conclusion that another person’s formula isn’t necessarily for me.

And that it is OK.

By nature, morning is my favorite time of day.  I love the peace.  I love to spend time with God.  And I love to start early.  Between 5 to 6 a.m.

The coffee pot goes on first thing.  That is the only consistent thing I do.

Then I read books and scripture.  I pray – sometimes out loud, sometimes silently, and sometimes in my journal.  If inspiration hits, I grab the computer and write.

Sometimes I put on a CD and iron.  Clothes.  Ironing clothes can be a spiritual practice… if you’re me.

Sometimes I throw a flannel shirt over my pajama clad self and go outside.  (benefit of living in the country)

I just breathe.  I walk.  I enjoy the flowers.  I take pictures.  I shoosh the deer away from the apple tree and she pays no attention.

I talk to God.

Sometimes I do all of the above.  Sometimes just a couple.  Sometimes the needs of another take priority.

I’ll never do them all at the same time, in the same way.  I’ll never say all the right words in the right order, but I don’t think that’s even a thing to worry about.  Seriously.

I’ll add new practices now and then.  I’ll forget to do something I’ve always done. (except for the coffee)

And I think that’s just fine.

God made me who I am… the need for orderliness, the hit and miss reality, but always the desire to know Him better.

As long as I start the day with Him, I figure we’re good.

narrow bands of time

Last weekend we made the familiar 10 hour drive south.  Since my husband and I wouldn’t see my uncle until the next day and there were no motel rooms available anyway, we drove the extra hour into San Francisco.

That choice gave us dinner at a favorite restaurant, and an unseasonably affordable, beautiful hotel room in Union Square.

From our 9th floor location, I couldn’t resist this shot of the narrow stairwell.


I imagined all the feet that climbed here a century ago.

I felt the presence of my grandmother and even her mother.  Both would have recognized this very building in the city that was home to several generations of us.

I thought about the narrow band of time each of us is given to use on this earth.  Some squander their gift.  Some choose the safe, quiet and, I suspect, unfulfilled path.  Still others dare to risk – –  to deeply love, to make mistakes, to give extravagantly and to make their narrow band a better place.

My uncle is one of the latter.

I’ve thought about him all week, his grave medical prognosis and the impact his life has had.  He joined our family through marriage when I was grown with children of my own.  Yet his connection and influence feels more like a lifetime.

I’m thankful for his example.

I’m blessed to be part of his narrow band of time.

WordPress ~ Narrow


Perspective Powered


Flower baskets have been particularly lovely this year.  There in the picture I snapped was the tree lined hill in the distance.  All the beauty God gives to us for free.  And I almost missed it because I didn’t feel like planting baskets.

Glad I did it anyway.


Wind blowing my hair, river rolling it’s way to the Pacific, good food shared with Doug.  And I almost missed it.  Because I don’t like to eat outside with the bugs… or any other airborne object that might drop in.  I wanted to say ‘yes’ when he asked, but my default is too often ‘no’.

Glad I did it anyway.

I wasn’t dressed right.  Had the wrong shoes.  Wasn’t really up for the slog thru the sand.  But if I hadn’t gone I would have missed it.  To see the river dump into the sea.

Glad I did it anyway.

What do I miss with my too often “no”?

How can I harness the power of perspective up front?

Perspective is great when you’re looking back.

But I’m going forward today.

A Remembrance

The name may sound similar, as in the outlaw from back in the day, but Jesse Jamison was actually a blacksmith in mid-1800’s Indiana.

I think I know how Elon, his mother, felt when he enlisted in the 66th Indiana Volunteers. When your child chooses the military way, you live with a mixture of pride and fear.  You mostly keep a smile on your face but there’s usually a knot in your stomach.  You pray a lot.

For Elon it was likely more difficult.  Jesse was the oldest of nine brothers.

And nine brothers enlisted in Abraham Lincoln’s Union Army.  I can’t wrap my mind around that.

All nine from Indiana – Thomas joined Jesse in the 66th.  Benjamin in the 79th, and James, a lieutenant in the 27th.  David, Jacob, George and Robert joined the 49th.  And Lewis went with the 16th Indiana Infantry.  Two brothers were carpenters, the rest farmers.  They all left families and sweethearts behind.

Patriotic holidays and stories of military relatives and friends were cherished in my family.  My normally reserved father spared no expense on 4th of July fireworks and sparklers when I was a kid.  Our house was the place to be.

And fortunately, I married a man who feels the same way about his adopted country, the USA, and his birth country of Canada.  Between us we passed along our fathers and grandfathers stories.  I am happy that our sons share our love of country.  They respect and know the cost of freedom.

When I take the time to reflect, I find it humbling that young men and women, from Revolutionary War times to present day, put their lives on the line for causes bigger than themselves.  Bigger than they knew.

They gave their lives for people they would never know… for people who would live a life they never dreamed of.

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms.  It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”

I hope I could be that brave.

Not all of us are called to serve in the military.  But I think we’re all called to serve.  Perhaps the best way to honor our fallen, is simply to practice gratitude.  Live a good life.  Courage, honor and old-fashioned grit can only be shared by example.


Of the nine brothers who went to war, seven returned home.

Sgt. Lewis Jamison died at the Seige of Vicksburg.

Cpl. Jesse Jamison died and is buried at the National Cemetery in Corinth, Mississippi.

Jesse didn’t die suddenly in battle.  He died slowly, suffering from peritonitis.  The ten other men listed on the death register for that day died of diarrhea, typhoid fever and inflammation of the brain.

That deserves to be remembered.  They and their families gained no personal benefit for that suffering.

But we did.

Jesse was 36 when he died.  He left behind, Mary, his wife and three children – Lewis- 7, Cynthia- 5 and Laura- 2.

Lewis grew up and married Harriet.  They had Albert.

Albert grew up and married Vera.  They had Robert.

Generation after generation leaves its mark and makes its sacrifice.

Thank you, Jesse, for yours.

Memorial Day.

Full Heart Day.








the full heart life

Two team members are dead.

The third rests against a tree, mortally wounded.  His last words are to tell his wife how much he loves her,lone-survivor-movie-review

“and that I died with my brothers…with a full heart”

From the movie Lone Survivor.

The scene and those words are stuck in my head.

What does it mean to die with a full heart?

And how do you get a full heart?

Yes, movies are designed to pull your heart strings.  But it was based on a true story.  And that scene got me thinking and remembering my grandfather.

I was with him when he died.  I’d known him my whole life.  He didn’t do life perfectly, but he gave every bit of himself to every day that he lived.  He lived wholeheartedly.

And maybe that’s the key – to die with a full heart, you must live with a whole heart.

I can’t speak with authority about the soldier in the movie, but we know he had family he loved.  He was committed and well trained for the mission.  He fought to survive, to help his brothers survive.  I’m sure he would rather have lived.  But in the end, perhaps knowing he had given everything he had was enough to let go in peace, with a full heart.

I love the way John Ortberg talks about wholeheartedness in his book, All The Places To Go.  In it he says,

“I have never heard a football coach ask his team to go out on the field and give it 90 percent.  You can’t imagine a great leader standing before the team and saying, “Now go out and give it…most of what you’ve got.”

No.  It needs to be all you’ve got.

I’m not always good at that.  But I’m learning.

The professional soldier may be the ultimate example – – giving full on, everything you have, knowing you may die.  Doing it anyway.

Most of us are not soldiers.  But there are still a million little ways to fill up the heart.

I think it boils down to the commitment to love one another.  To be courageous, even if you’re fearful.

It’s going after that college degree, ignoring the set-backs and critics, and not stopping until diploma is in hand.

It’s offering the hug, the apology, the “Hi, I’ve missed you”, knowing it may be rejected.  Doing it anyway.  And keeping a joyful heart even if…

It’s raising your children, taking care of your parents, and not knowing how it will end.  It’s getting in the truck headed north and trusting God with the outcome.  It’s learning you can be afraid and brave at the same time.

It’s knowing you’re worthy and loveable, even when you’ve messed up.  Especially when you’ve messed up… and you didn’t let it defeat you.

It felt like a gift to be with my grandfather in his last moments of life.  I was devastated to loose him and oddly filled with hope at the same time.  It was like all the love and beauty inside that one man broke open.  It spilled across the room and onto every person in it.

His heart was full and he couldn’t help but share it.

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the man.  Proverbs 27:19












seeing thru the smoke

My husband and I like fresh air.

The good news is we both love the house filled with fresh air.

The bad news is we have varying criteria, methods and internal thermostats.

I may be feeling perfectly comfortable when he will suddenly fling wide the front and back doors.  While this creates a lovely wind tunnel effect on the main floor, it also welcomes bugs and critters to join us.

I am not a fan of bugs.  Or critters with wings.

When you’ve had a BAT in the house more than once, you become sensitive to these things.

A couple mornings ago I used my favorite method of air freshening.  This meant opening every window that has a proper screen installed, from first floor to second to attic.

It was lovely.

I took deep breaths.  It felt like the house did too.  I drank my coffee, read, got dressed, had breakfast, all the while devouring that lovely fresh air.

Until… that early bird neighbor set his burn pile ablaze.  And I begin the race to slam windows shut.


But I’m never fast enough.

My nose and eyes were assaulted.  The house had lost its fresh.  And the atmosphere felt full and heavy.  For a while, my stuffy head had trouble focusing on the task at hand.

Some days feel that way even without a burn pile fire.

It’s been a little over a month since we returned from our North Carolina trip.  My refreshed spirit seemed to shrivel away quickly.  My grand list-making, project-doing plans have faltered.

Oh, I’ve been busy.  Just not doing the things I’d hoped to do.

My big, grand plans pile up in a heap and spontaneously combust with great regularity.

I need to remind myself there is only so much you can do with the circumstances you have.  I need to remember to work toward the goal in normal size steps.  To take bite size pieces, not the whole enchilada.  And I’m always up for the whole enchilada.

I don’t know what the sky looks like where you live, but more often than not we are treated to a beautiful view every evening.  I can’t stop taking pictures of the sky.

The same day as the burn pile event, we had this gorgeous view.  And then it’s God who reminds me to slow it down, enjoy the day (smoke or not), take it one small step at a time.

In short, just chill, lady.

So regarding that burn pile fire, it actually wasn’t the neighbor.  It was my very own husband who smoked us out.

But I didn’t say anything to him.  He’s been working hard to clear debri.

And because, Heaven knows, I’ve started my own share of fires.











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.






staying the course…

Saying “no” to a slice of thickly frosted, gooey chocolate cake can make you feel dazed and confused…

Staying open to love, when there’s a choice to judge, feels risky…

Completing the project, the one they want, the one you want to quit, taps every reserve you have…

But you will feel better in the morning.


the thin line between good and hard…

If you post on Facebook regularly, you are familiar with your “memories” from a year or two or five popping into your daily newsfeed.

This week, this photo memory caught my attention.


It was exactly one year ago that one of my new daughters-in-law very bravely, on her own, bought a cute little house.  She searched, weighed pros and con, did the math and just plain did a great job on her first home purchase.  Our son was out of town, so I snapped this picture and posted it on Facebook.  The message was that Andrew had much to look forward to.

I’ve been reflecting on the good stuff from April 2015 to April 2016.

  1. This particular son came home to a big wedding and a new home.  He’s only a few weeks away from his university graduation.
  2. We had a mini family reunion last June… so rare to get our sons together.
  3.  Our son, David, got married right after Christmas prompting yet another family reunion.
  4.  Recently, Doug and I went on our first vacation in 4 years.  It was extra special to have our oldest son and his wife with us.
  5. On said vacation, we witnessed David retire from a 21 year military career… and enjoyed quality time with our newest daughter-in-law.
  6. And sprinkled throughout the year were holidays and occasional Sundays with grandchildren.

Sweet memories.

Fortunately, Facebook doesn’t throw our screw ups and failures into the daily newsfeed.  But you never know… I suppose they could develop an App for that!

Those happy memories I listed, came easily to mind.  I’m glad, because I’ve worked hard to stay focused on the good and let go what pulls me down.

The reality is that lingering close by, on the flip side of good, are the hard parts of life none are exempt from:  health issues, fractured relationships, losses, having to wait.  The photo I snapped and posted to Facebook a year ago was for a military son in Iraq.  David followed for a short deployment later in the year.  And after Andrew’s happy wedding day, the very day after, his youngest brother was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash.

I had no idea this past year, April to April, would be filled with so much good and so much hard.  I’m glad I didn’t know.  And kind of think that’s how God must plan it.

I’m learning.  To rejoice in the good stuff.  To rejoice.  Period.

To hold lightly the hard.  Fix and learn what I can.  Then let it go.

Over and over and over again.

This week we had several days of summer weather.  At 8 o’clock one evening, there were still soft breezes.


The next evening we had a very different sky.

And before I had the dishes done, it was raining.