Sure I’ll pet your dog Butt-kins

After a busy morning of errands and a fun, noisy play date, we met David at the local playground for lunch while we waited for Phoebe and Joshua to return from tennis. We were sitting at the picnic table when two little boys and their dog came over from the playground.

The little red-headed boy walking the dog on the leash was probably about seven and his little blond, shirtless brother tagging behind was about three.
He inquired of us several times if we would like to pet his dog. We said, ” Sure, what’s his name?” He responded and I said, ” Oh that’s a nice name, hi there Butt-kins.” With the most incredulous expression, complete with scrunched up nose, and shocked tone in his voice, he stated rather loudly , back to me, ” His name isn’t Butt-kins. Butt-kins? Seriously?”

” Oh, I’m sorry, I heard you wrong,” I replied amongst the suppressed giggles of my husband and a few of my children.

” Butt-kins? Butt-kins? It’s okay. Well do you want to pet him?”, he still wanted to know.

The rest of our time together my husband good-naturedly teased me with various jabs about Butt-kins. In fairness, I thought the boy said, “Buttons” and David did too. But somewhere in the word association cobwebs of my rattled brain, I started thinking about a local bakery called Buskens, and the combination of Button and Buskens came out ” Butt-kins”.

We learned a lot about the dog in the next few moments. He was a small terrier, he had just been groomed, he has soft fur, he likes humans ( which was a good thing since we are humans), he likes walks and oh, his name is Watson.


Lactic Acid Build-Up of the Ears

My dear friend Katie, mother of seven, uses this phrase sometimes and I love it! As a wife, mother of nine, mother-in-law to one, and Mamie to two grand babies and lover of our six month old Goldendoodle, I have adopted it and stamped it on my forehead somedays. ” I have lactic acid build-up of the ears!” Yes, the exclamation point is there so you can imagine me screaming this declaration to you.

Lactic acid builds up when our bodies, in this case, I like to envision-our ears, perform strenuous activities or exercises. If you read about true lactic acid build-up, it is a much more complicated process then I have described. And who knows if your ears really can get lactic acid build-up? But I do know if you cultivate a household like ours where children are heard as well as seen, boy oh boy, can your ears feel overworked at the end of the day.

I am okay with giving them a good workout. I get to hear precious secrets, grand Lego building plans, secret spy missions being carried out, sad heartbreaks over ” the baby whale dying in the movie”, favorite colors, the tenth best-most-favorite doll, sweet prayers, hopes and dreams. And yes, I also get to hear the squabbles, the squeals, the angst. But it’s okay, I also get to put on a few more hats in my day by listening- referee, daughter, counselor, friend, sister,nurse, neighbor, teacher, Master Spy Extraordinaire to name a few, in addition ,of course, to my favorites-wife and mother.

So as I sit here cherishing only the sound of the dog chewing on a toy, the air condition turning on, the refrigerator humming while most of the little people that give my ears a work-out are at the pool, I recharge and smile. Gearing up for the rest of the day ahead, knowing silence can be refreshing, but oh, my ear muscles having their daily strenuous activity ,ultimately helps me see the beauty of the life I am living.


City Neighbors

I was sitting in the recliner in the living room listening to the sounds of the children squabbling, uh, er, I mean playing upstairs when my doorbell rang. As I approached our cut-glass front door, I saw it was a neighbor from an apartment group home a few doors down. He has a job at a local pizzeria and often stops by to use the phone for a taxi or ask for a ride to the bus stop. We learned the first time he stopped that the word “NO” is not part of his vocabulary. And I am glad. I realized today if we had not ever opened our door, I would not have heard him say today, ” We are friends. We have been friends a long time. You are my friend.” I didn’t feel well today and wasn’t looking for my doorbell to ring, but I am glad it did. The interruption made me quit thinking about my own concerns and take the time to dial a number, offer a water bottle and hear about his day. We have two other neighbors with different health issues that often like to stop and catch a ride to the bus stop. Again I remind myself of the blessings I have in my life before I utter excuses of being busy or not having the time. We have another neighbor who walks everywhere and does odd jobs for different neighbors. He has lived in the apartment next door for eighteen years and we are on a first name basis. It is a highlight to our day as we wave and discuss sports and the weather with him. he even came in and joined us for a burger not too long ago. Another young adult needed his bicycle fixed several times and didn’t have the tools. Another neighbors’ father has been cutting our grass for us for almost a month. He loves to cut grass and bless people that way. He had no idea with his first kind gesture that David had thrown his back out.

I know our newspapers around the country are full of stories about the horrible things that happen in the city and they most certainly do. But like with anything, the day to day humanity is missing from those stories. The familiar faces as people jog or walk their dogs. The passerby that stops to rub our puppy’s belly. The gathering in the street with nameless faces on the 4th of July to enjoy the sparkling, booming fireworks across our night sky. The driveway bonfires on Halloween night as children trick or treat and neighbors mingle.

Yes we all come in different family sizes and live in different dwellings from one room to whole houses. There are variants among our careers, physical and mental abilities , religious preferences, sexual orientations, skin colors, economic statuses and backgrounds. We are not cookie cutters. The day is not predictable. Like anywhere there are no guarantees. We are the city and we are each others neighbors.

Kids, Life

Momma I have good words to say

I was running a few morning errands- picking Caleb up from tennis, taking Lilly to work and stopping by the bank. Lydia spent most of our drive trying to decide if she was really ready to wake up and greet the day. We were almost home and I heard this sweet, small voice say, ” Momma, I have good words to say.”She proceeded to inform me she had found Hello Kitty’s dad. Honestly I was not completely sure what exactly this meant, except that it involved her new squinkie toys and brought her joy.

My heart of course immediately melted at her precious phrasing of her good fortune and then I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I thought of news I had to share as “good words”. I mean what if I viewed slicing the watermelon not as a chore, but found the “good words” in not only each slice my knife created, but the vision of happy faces with dripping watermelon juice smiles. What if the hunt for missing keys, purses, important papers brought thoughts of “good words” upon finally being found instead of exasperated relief, frustrated words and inappropriate #%%# exclamations!

I want my days and my life to be filled with my own “good words” as well as the conversations of the people I am surrounded by in life. So for today, at this moment, I share I have beautiful grandbabies and though I can’t touch them as they are far away, I get to see and talk to them often through modern technology. I cut a watermelon that brought big juicy grins all around. I have a healthy body and working van to run my errands. I have progressive lenses to give me clear vision and write this post. I can hear the hum of the neighbors’ lawn mower and be grateful I have a husband who is able and willing to mow our rain-soaked tall growing grass later. Yes, I like having”good words” for the most simple and mundane tasks in my beautiful day ahead.

What are the ” good words” you are using today?



Happy Birthday to Me

Wow, 46 years! I am sure I am not the first person to ask themselves repeatedly, ” Where does the time go?” It just flies by.
One year you are almost four passing the swim test for the neighborhood pool. The lifeguard is defensively telling your mother, ” But ma’am , I know the sign says anyone that passes the swim test can come to the pool by themselves, but she is four! ” To which your mother replies, ” Oh no, as long as that is your rule, you will let her take the test.” And then she stands there on a 60-something degree day waiting and watching proudly as you pass the test and you smile because she believed in you, even when you started to sink really low.
The next thing you know you are five living in PA with your grandparents and mom and sister while your dad is on an isolated tour of duty in Korea for a year. You wake up every day from nap time to your mom drying her eyes from writing your dad his daily letter and you get your first glimpse of real love and dedication. Then you walk to Joyner’s Store with your sister and cousins for real five and dime candy.
Then these fantastic years of elementary school with great friends that you still keep in touch with just fly by. Softball games, Girl Scouts, the pool, hours on the playground, digging holes on the playground while carefully laying sticks and newspaper to recover the holes only for some unsuspecting slide rider to come crashing down through the ground ( kids, don’t try this at home), first dances at the chapel, shooting spaceships from the back of a hatchback on the way home from the original release of the first Star Wars.
The next thing you know you spot the love of your life in middle school. Move to the rival school when your parents buy a house and make some of the dearest lifelong friends.
High school just buzzes by with sports, plays and musicals, dances, Keyettes, wearing your dad’s flight suit to school with bowling shoes with your buddy, burning tires at Reichle’s property, playing flashlight tag on the battlefield, stopping in at Pops for a game-winning hot dog, hanging out at Heritage Square McDonalds, cruising Yorktown and falling in love with the love of your life.
The next thing you know you are making memories at Ferrum College sliding on cafeteria trays in the snow-filled hills while starring as the lead in the school plays. A transfer to Old Dominion University to be with the one you love and joining Circle K co-ed service fraternity proves to be a fun, rewarding and bonding experience as you navigate school and then, poof, you are married.
Along comes your first precious little one and you learn to make the best monkey impersonations with him while eating your sandwiches on the bench in front of the monkey cage at the zoo. Then along comes another boy and another boy and a girl all in less than five years and your home and your heart are overflowing with love.
You spend the next nine years living life with amazing friends watching your children grow together. You share heartaches and sorrows and great mountain top joys. It is one of the most remarkable and unforgettable times in your life. Another sweet girl and then another and then you move.
Seminary stretches your family beyond words. Homeschool begins. So many times of laughter and tears, lessons learned, opportunities to be creative, and having two more boys. Up and down the highway you go between NC and OH making precious friends as you journey.
You move to your hometown and spend sweet time in ministry while you live life and make memories with your wonderful parents, family and great friends. God completes your family with the arrival of your baby girl. There are roller coasters and water slides to ride, special breakfasts, coffees in the vault, musicals, vacations, conferences, canoes to row, boats to ride, graduations, children to college, children married, floods to navigate, stopping by the parents’ house for candy and lunch, and just wonderful days lived.
The next thing you know, you are back in OH, reconnecting with precious friends from the past and making dear new ones, living in a house you feel you were born to live in, still learning and growing as a mom, relearning grammar despite your college English major, Reds games, sledding, pools, playgrounds, being blessed not once but twice as a Mamie as your wonderful daughter-in-law gives birth to two incredibly, beautiful redheads 19 months apart and then…
You wake up on the morning of your 46th birthday wondering why your organic honey nut oats cereal with strawberries and coconut milk is crackling like it is really Rice Krispies. You decide to eat it anyway because you realize getting older isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ve had one of the hardest years of your life during many moments as you work with your aging body whose hormones are misbehaving , so you decide, shoot, it’s going to take more than a chemical reaction in my bowl of cereal to take this girl out. I have a lot more living to do, so on brave days and happy days, I plan to do just that…LIVE, surrounded and supported by a loving family, grand friends near and far, embracing the laughter and the tears, looking for the next slide to ride, sunset to see ( very rarely a sunrise, I am not an early riser), concept to learn, and feeling blessed and grateful all along the way. You even smile when your four year old gasp and then says, ” WOW!” when she ask how old you are today.

Thank you God for the 46, I am looking forward to more 🙂



The Four Sisters In The Picture

There is an exhibit that travels the country that contains photographs of four women, the Brown sisters, together in the same order for a thirty-six year span. It all started when Nicholas Nixon, a professional photographer, took the first picture in 1975 of his wife Bebe and her three sisters. They decided to make it an annual tradition. Their tradition has not only turned into a traveling art exhibit, the pictures have been made into a book.

The siblings were between the ages of 15-25 when they started, making them between 51-61 years old when they stopped. The pictures capture many things- hairstyles, clothing, weight gain, weight loss, gray hairs, wrinkles and aging. If you look past their poses without smiles ( as almost every single year there are none) I think you can really feel their love for one another, sense seasons of pain and moments of joy.

I have read many comments on the volume of work with many of them being unkind criticisms. ” Gee, that one gained weight” ” Ouch, a few of them sure aren’t aging well” ” I think they could have smiled at least” ” they didn’t believe in make-up” ” boy they got old quick” and the observations go on and on, some of them downright mean and not worth repeating.

I recently had my hair cut and also joined the over 40 crowd that finds themselves wearing progressive lenses. The hairstyle change was prompted by viewing myself in a picture for Lilly’s graduation. I had not darkened the door of a hair salon in eighteen months. I was enjoying growing my hair out and pulling it back in a ponytail, a different fresh look. And then yikes! One look at the graduation photos and all I could think was ” what was I thinking ? Who is that old lady?” The dress, the hair, yuck. I had my hair cut two days later and felt instantly younger, hipper and more alive.

I didn’t look at the pictures of the Brown sisters and see the comments of others I mentioned above. I did at first wonder why they didn’t smile more but then as I viewed their passing years, I found their straight faces intriguing. The lack of an upward turn of their mouth caused me to concentrate on their eyes, their posture, their attitude behind the expressions and their love and commitment to agree to meet annually in this busy world of ours and document a moment together. I found them to be brave to share with the rest of us a glimpse of their family togetherness and the aging process we are all going through, day by day and year by year. I enjoyed wondering why some years one or more of the sisters did look tired and worn, only to look refreshed and brighter a year later. Their photographs stand as a testimony that life is a process and it has an effect on each and every one of us. And mostly that the beauty is in the living, not the polished appearance of the pictures we take.

My girls have decided to start their own annual snapshot that will give a glimpse into their lives and love as sisters, but a photograph will always only tell part of their story.