A Giant Died Today

I am sure the thud was heard near and far as a Giant died today. The deep chasm in our hearts has left an imprint so large that I am quite sure it will never be completely filled. 
My Dad- strong, large and in charge, brilliant, generous, loving , tenderhearted, a man’s man, lover of God, his family and his country, left us today to be with his Creator, our great God.
He had one of the brightest minds I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I could list his accolades -too numerous to count-from his years serving our country in both the military and as a civil servant, but I won’t. Because his crowning achievement was the way he loved his family and the people around him.
He and my mother Phyllis shared a life together for over 62 years, married almost 59 of their journey together. And that is how they lived- together. Supporting one another’s careers, hobbies and interest. They were a smashing couple. Stepping out the door to go to a dance in tuxedo and ball gown, bowling strikes together at the bowling alley, waiting all over the country for the announcer to say, “Gentleman, start your engines”, laughing as they played card games with friends and family, shopping for Beanie Babies and glass slippers, traveling the world-they lived and loved having a full life together.
My sister Diane and I can attest to the fact that he was a Papa Bear. We, along with my mother, were the “darlings of his heart.” There was not a day in our lives, he would not have moved mountains for us. And honestly, there were many times, he did. He was strong and loving, teaching us the meaning of unconditional love. We certainly could illicit out of him a ” for crying out loud!” response sometimes, but a “you okay little girl?” far outweighed those moments. And being a father didn’t just extend to his girls. His heart was large enough to make his son-in-laws feel respected, admired and loved. 
His twelve grandchildren and eight great grandchildren were “the apples of his eyes.” Whether taking them to a NASCAR race, playing “booger your neighbor” and other games, watching a favorite tv show together, calling one of the grandsons “Roy” when they were little, feeding them too much candy, tickling enormous giggles out of them, or listening to the latest events of their lives- he was active, present and there for them.
Friends- who were many, and family alike, could affirm the hospitable nature of my mom and dad. My mom may have made the dinner, but my dad served up the jokes. And he never disappointed. He could tell a story that left most grown men in the room crying tears of laughter and quite frankly, women running to the bathroom to see if they had peed their pants. 
For everyone- he always had a listening ear, solid and loving advice, a shoulder to cry on, a dollar to spare, and a chair to sit beside you. 
Many would describe him as tough as nails, but in the same breath they would speak of his kindness and fair approach. He was a lion and a lamb.
John Greene was a child of God, a Boy Scout leader, a military soldier, a WRM Logistical Manager, a lover of John Wayne and westerns, a devoted Steelers fan, a dancer, a bowler, a singer with a rich baritone, a fan of country music- old style the likes of Conway Twitty and Johnny Cash , a NASCAR fan, a deer hunter, a friend, a storyteller, a brother, a son, a beloved uncle, a true gem, a charmer, a lover to my mother, a husband, a father, and a Pap. He lived a life full of adventures and has left a legacy that will carry on in those who loved him and knew him. 
He will be missed. His memory will be cherished. And most of all, he was greatly loved.

 

“A heart is not measured by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz

My Dogs are Multilingual

My dogs must be geniuses. My theory is my dogs speak, well understand, many languages. This truth or at least my version of the truth, occurred to me today while I was trying to coax them inside during a particularly cold spell here in “sunny” Ohio.
Facing the elements to beckon in a dog is no small feat. It really is a an act of balance. Trying to figure out just the right amount of your body you have to stick outside so they see you and know you come in peace. My dogs are spoiled, er, I meant well-loved. There are two in particular who do not come right away when called. And there is one tiny, white, alpha dog who shall remain nameless, that completely ignores any pleas to come in. So we have often resorted to bribery, uh , I mean treats.
As we were gathering said treat, I remarked to my number 5 son, ” Dogs must speak or understand all languages. I am surprised I never realized this before today. Because if our dogs were in Portugal or Italy or Kenya, they would understand their owners commands in Portuguese, Italian or Swahili.”
So I tried out my theory with a little Spanish. I took Latin in high school, and while it is an intriguing language- it’s a dead language. I thought a phrase in Latin might be setting the bar too high, even for my little Einsteins.
So, with my head out the door, my right leg firmly planted on the backyard patio, the other in the air behind me like a prima ballerina, I waved my right arm with a tasty treat in my hand in the air with a lively motion. This is not a new trick on my part, but what I said absolutely was a first for them and me.
Okay, so it took me awhile to google the phrase I wanted and my furry beast lived on in the wild Arctic tundra of our backyard a bit longer, but this is what I said. ” Perrito, veni, TRATAR!” I think loosely translated it means “Puppy, come, treat!”
And voila, like the intellectual creatures I knew they had the capability of being, they came running!
After several leaps in the air on my part, not the dogs, I declared, ” They understand other languages, they other stand other languages!” 
“Mom”, number 5 son matter of factly  said, ” I think it is just the way you are making your voice sound.” 
“You mean, the inflection?” 
With maybe an eye roll , he replied, “Yes, you are making it sing songy at the end, like you always do.”
With righteous indignation, ” No, I don’t thinks so. I think they understood me. They came running. I know they understood me.”
So that’s my story and I am sticking to it. My dogs are multilingual.

Reeses Christmas Trees

I know our world and especially social media is full of debates right now. There is never a shortage of opportunities to read people’s opinions, to witness tempers flair and unfortunately much of the time just being generally disgusted by the lack of compassion and courtesy out there.
But I have good news.
I have found a topic that really has no room for debate.
The peanut butter wrapped in scrumptious milk chocolate that is currently being called a Reeses Christmas Tree. 
I guess there was a major brouhaha a few weeks ago about the candy not really looking like a Christmas tree. It was such a HUGE deal that the company who manufactures the treat came out with an ad campaign that was proclaiming “all trees are beautiful” and “we celebrate trees in all shapes and sizes”.
So I just had to know for myself. I purchased a bag, brought it home and opened it to share with my family. Everyone had a thought or two about the treat. Aside from it being delicious, I think Caleb summed it up best, “It looks like a log of poop, but it sure does taste good.”
So I have good news friends, a topic with no real debate. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder and we may all have our own idea of art, but I think the candy factory mold was broken this year.
So give the company an A for effort on spin control, an A for tickling our holiday taste buds, but an F for tree making.
Here’s a picture for you. Don’t be the judge on this one, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the fact that this controversy is resolved.

  

Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?

Mondays are long days for our household. Mondays are good days-fun days, but long days. We are members of a local homeschool co-op that meets on Mondays and takes up most of our day. Our evening is full of one activity or another for several members of our family.
I allowed myself to sit for a short time on the love seat in our kitchen before I accepted a simple everyday fact- yes, these people really do need to eat (again) and I probably should feed them. I sat just long enough to feel my hips stiffen and my knees ache. We had decided on boxed organic chicken noodle soup and drop biscuits for dinner. A simple meal.  Lydia and I took on the role of biscuit makers. After we made our buttermilk substitute we mixed the remaining ingredients. My oven reminded me for the umpteenth time this week that it was long overdue for a cleaning, as I stood fanning the smoke detector to appease the head-splitting beep. All three dogs chose to hide under my legs each time the box on the wall screeched.
As the soup began to steam and the cheese bubbled on the biscuits, I had many hands wanting to help and make our workload lighter. I wasn’t sure I wanted help. The extra patience to make sure this one didn’t get burned on a cookie sheet and that one on dripping hot liquid was a virtue I had to dig deep in the moment to find. I was hot and tired. I was weary from our pace of life, but it took me more than a minute to realize I was hot because I stood over the open flame of the burner, forgetting to turn it off as I lifted the pot to pour.
The song, ” Can Anybody Find Me Somebody to Love?” played in the background. We had one of those TV commercial moments where everyone was singing as we ladled the soup and placed our nourishment on the table. We were in sync. Singing and dancing rejuvenated us all.
As the music faded and we bowed our heads, all I could think was, “Thank you God for giving me many somebodies to love.”

Savor the treasures

Wow this has been quite a year for us! But it is such a joy to see all the beauty God has brought to our lives this year- a sweet marriage, a beautiful babe, and today I find myself philosophical as we celebrate our sweet Phoebe girl’s 17th birthday. Our former neighbor in Richmond posted a tribute of sorts to her son Jimmy. I met Jimmy when he was 13 and he died when he was 21. He died of a heroin overdose. I have never forgotten Jimmy or watching the boy grow into a man. His life and his death impacted me greatly. These are Karen’s words:

“Our son was a delight to all of our family and was born again as a child of God, but chose to try heroin and became addicted to it. While he was trying to get free from it’s control( moved back home, daily N.A. meetings, working daily) he succumbed to that lure and died in a work van of an overdose. The thing that a friend said at his funeral is always a comfort to me. “Jimmy is in heaven, not because he was good, but because he is His(God’s)” . Even suffering the pain of the loss of this precious son, I have remained grateful that I was allowed to enjoy him while he was here and I look forward to the day that I will see him again in glory. One thing I have learned is that my husband, the daughters we have and the precious grandbabies we enjoy are treasures to be savored. I don’t want to waste a second of such a gift.”
She also posted a link about the crisis of heroin today and its link to OxyContin. Here it is in case you are interested in reading it:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-farrell/im-a-heroin-addict_b_8371058.html

Karen’s words touched me today and were a great reminder. I have never forgotten Jimmy and the beauty of a young man that he was- I still think of him often. The ugly of his death does not define the beauty of all that was his life.

I know all of our children are in various stages of ages and we are on a journey molding them and watching them grow. Our children will do things and have things inflicted upon them that we would NEVER write as part of their life path. They will at times, and on different levels, pull us through heartache and struggles, or one could say, we will help pull them through and out of heartaches and struggles. It is not a tug of war that necessarily has an equal balance. But friends, as most of you know, there is beauty in the ashes. Sometimes we will feel like a spectator on the sideline watching them as they grow, unable to place a cartoon character band-aid on their scrape. Sometimes their wounds are not mere scrapes but gaping gouges strewn across the mapping of their heart.
Remember there will be times when we feel like they rebel against us- even hate us, but their true issue is not with us. It is their wrestling and working out their relationship with our great God who we stand for and love. And love is where I will leave this letter. Friends, love really does, it-

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love sees past the temporary. It sees past the long hair, the nose piercings, the angry rants, the hurtful words, the poor choices. It sees past the appearance of things, the derailment of our plans to their plans, our hopes to sometimes their desires, our need to control and our deepest fears. It sees past the good choices they choose to make for their lives. The choices that make us proud and keep us awake in the night, crying out  “Please just keep them safe!”

 Love sees the heart.

It sees the heart of a person, the heart of our child. It sees past the child to our God who loves them even more than we possibly could. Love sees and trust that He who created them has a plan for them, a plan of hope and one to prosper.

So whatever struggle you may have in life, whatever fears, whatever triumphs,  release them to God. He’s got this, He really does. Breathe in deeply, look around, soak in the beauty of the big and little moments, do not waste a minute- savor them. See the love and beauty ; see the treasures.

   One of my treasures, my birthday girl, koala Phoebe 😊

We are called to be bold

I am blessed to share with you the guest post and words of my new friend and Boston Marathon runner Linda Leonard Ambard. May her journey and words encourage you and deepen your faith in humanity and God.

Thanks Linda!

For five years, I felt like I was called to do more than I was doing with my life. For five long years, I prayed that God would help me to be the woman I was being called to be. When I didn’t find the answer, Phil told me that it was because I was living my faith, yet I knew that there was something I was to do. On 27 April 2011, that calling was directly shown to me. I could never have foreseen the events of that day–events so terrible that the human heart cannot wrap it’s arms around the vile act. Do I think that God took my Phil? No, I think that my Phil was received into heaven, but I believe that God knew that it would take me five years to be ready for what was going to be asked of me.

You see, my husband of 23 years was assassinated by someone he liked and trusted. This vile monster looked at my Phil and shot him time and time again. The media figured out who the fallen Air Force Academy Professor was and my children found out through social media. Imagine finding our from Facebook or an acquaintance. I, however, was at school teaching. I thought I might lose my job that day because I had volunteered to be the one let go (because teachers were losing jobs due to district bankruptcy essentially). I knew we would be moving when Phil returned from Afghanistan. When my principal got me and we were walking up the hall, I saw media trucks outside. I thought I would have to give an interview about school politics. I never dreamed that the media would be at the school, my house, and the airport because Phil was never coming home.

As I saw the military men and women in uniform, and as the words began to be uttered, I fell to my knees keening. As I fell to my knees and I heard sounds I could never again replicate, a singular thought crossed my mind. I had a choice to make. How could I claim to have faith if in my darkest hours I get angry or question God about the loss of Phil. I chose. I chose to fall into my faith and in that singular act, I have been carried and blessed beyond belief. Make no mistake, the walk is hard; it is lonely; and I do not understand why him and why not me, but here is what I do know. I see the people God has put into my life. I see the ways that I have grown in faith and with my testimony, but again, it was a choice.

This year, I was running the Boston Marathon to honor the second anniversary of the terrorist that took Phil. I had been given a number because of my story. I was the girl running in a red polka dotted skirt, a smile, and with a spring in her step. I was running well and I was but a quarter of a mile away from the finish line when all hell broke loose. I had conquered 26 miles of the course. The finish line was in sight. I never got to cross the finish line. Another terrorist sought to take the singular facet of my life that gives me joy and lets me fall into my faith, but even as I cowered and broke in a Dunkin Doughnuts shop, God worked through people and through my heart. My heart began to blaze. I cannot let evil people take any more from me. I must stand up and be bold. I am a woman of faith and no matter what happens, I can say, it is well, it is well with my soul. Easier said than done at times….

Faith and happiness are choices. I am nobody special really, but God can make a work of beauty even among the debris and ashes of my life. There are days, days like the Boston Marathon, when I am transported back into the darkness, but I am well aware that God is in control. People make choices. I choose to be bold and to step forward one faltering step at a time. I choose not to let my tragedy define who I am, rather I embrace the life I have been given because if I don’t evil people will have won two of us versus just one. By standing firm in my faith, and by choosing to live in the light (sometimes with pink polka dots), I know that though today I may break, there will be someone some where that will be the hand that carries me. I know that some day some how, I will live a life of joy. I have seen it, and I own it.

My writings are the story of my walk in faith and it is the story of the way I can find joy and life even now.

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Linda and her Phil

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

David and I were riding down the street the other day when we stopped at a red light. It was finally a warm spring day and we had the car windows rolled down. It was fun to listen to the sounds of the city. Lawn mowers buzzing, children playing, radios blaring, car engines idling, sirens in the distance, birds chirping, dogs barking and people’s voices.

Right next to us, two men were having an animated conversation. One elderly man with excitement in his voice and eyes was leaning on his building while he shared statistics and facts to another man standing in the street leaning on his trunk. They were talking about the Cincinnati Reds.

I love how the Cincinnati Reds bonds this city together. Whether or not you like baseball, there is an energy that is brought to the city with the first crack of the bat on opening day. The city practically shuts down on opening day with a parade and parties. Flags fly, jerseys are proudly worn, upscale women’s boutiques mix and match stylish red outfits in their display windows, radios are tuned to the voice of Marty Brennaman announcing the game, and strangers engage in laughter and smiles all over our city’s beloved Reds.

Cincinnati does a fantastic job making a family outing relatively cheap with decent five-dollar seats with a view you can’t beat – overlooking the Ohio River. The Reds Heads program for children 14 and under can’t be beat. For $25 a child receives a hat, dog tags, a jersey, a backpack, special prizes, four game tickets, and special promotion events like autograph signing, pre-game parades and running the bases. This is smart fan-base building. Bring them in young, make them feel special and a part of the team – you have fans for life.

We love the Reds. It’s not just the cooler packed full of game snacks (yes you can bring your own food) or the line for $1 hot dogs, we love game food! We even chuckle at the outcome when Caleb attends the game without Mom and Dad is in charge. Caleb sneaks into the snack bag one too many times and he always ends the night tossing his cookies – literally. I can’t complain – David follows through on clean-up. It’s not just the roar of the fans, the entire stadium standing to participate in the wave, the kiss cam, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy in the air, the cool breeze blowing off the Ohio River, the ball soaring out past left field for a home run – it is the camaraderie.

It is the bond of rooting for the same team. It is the sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves and it is big – The Big Red Machine. Anywhere you go in the city, you will most likely overhear a conversation about the Reds. And feel free to join in the bantering and add your two cents. The human connection of walking away from a complete stranger feeling a bond – it may be a very superficial one, but it is still a connection outside of our busy lives.

On game day, life slows down a bit. Even when you are walking downtown to your car caught up in a sea of red and white jerseys listening to the street drums on the corner, you breathe a little deeper, smile a little more. There is a fever, an excitement in the air. It is no longer my team or your team – we are unified by our team and we can’t wait until the next time to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

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