Sunday, November 27, 2011


No doubt about it. God has blessed me with more than I could have ever imagined, or deserve. I try my best to teach that concept to The Boy, and this past week helped to illustrate some of the finer points of gratitude.

We packed up our Subaru on Thanksgiving morning and headed to Arizona to spend a few days with my parents. On our way out of town, we pulled over for a caravan of emergency vehicles that were on their way to some sort of tragedy or another. I said to Jacob, "Let's pray for whoever needs help," since that's our tradition when we see a fire truck, ambulance or police cruiser with lights and sirens ablaze.

Breakfast bellies calling us, we whipped into a McD's to carb- and fat-load for our mini trip. As we pulled out, headed towards the freeway, there stood a man on the curb with a bent and curling sign asking for food. I don't always stop ... if you've driven through San Diego you know that nearly every major intersection is filled with the hungry and homeless. But I pulled over, rolled the window down, and handed him a 5. I asked Jacob if he wondered why I did it this time, when I hadn't the day before. He said, "No, Mom. I know that we have so much to be thankful for. What if he doesn't? And even if some people that ask for money don't really need it that much, or they'll use it on something that they shouldn't, that's not our place to judge."

Three hours later, we were unpacking our 'Ru in AZ, and getting in Mom's way as she put the finishing touches on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner -- no small feat when accomplished in an RV. We spent the next few couple of days basking in the glow of family. Swimming, bike-riding and shopping were the most pressing agenda items. In the midst of our store-hopping, we were stopped by a major traffic accident at an intersection. Numerous ambulances, fire trucks and police were racing to the scene, and as we inched by on the shoulder, we could see that the emergency workers were trying to free passengers from a vehicle. I was more worried about getting by than anything else, but Jacob said, "Shouldn't we pray?" I told him yes, and that he should lead it.

"Dear God, please take care of whoever was hurt. And if they've already died, may they rest in
peace and know that they are with God. Take care of their families. Please help them to heal."
I had a hard time making my "Amen" audible over the tears I was choking back.

Today is Jacob's tenth birthday. I spent much of yesterday teasing him with "this is the LAST swim you'll have as a 9-year-old" ... and "that's the last hot dog you'll eat as a single-digit-aged kid" and .... well, you get the picture.

As Joel and I watched him rip into presents, feast on cake and generally act like a 10-year-old, we know one thing... we couldn't be prouder of the double-digit-dude he's become.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

'Tis the Season

I got "the call" today.

It's a call I start looking forward to in August. Once summer vacations are done, YMCA camp drop-offs are over, school is getting ready to start ... I wait for the phone to ring.

It'll be Dad on the other line. He'll make small talk, chat about weather and work, and then he'll get to the point.

"Getting ready to winterize the barn. Starting to think about packing for our trip. What kind of tools should I think about bringing?"

My parents spend the greater part of the cold months in my general vicinity. The last few years, they've landed in Yuma, AZ for several months. I can always count on their arrival by The Boy's birthday (always around Thanksgiving). I can plan on them heading back east to get their granddaughter fix around December or January. And I can bank on them heading back to the southwest and hanging out until the threat of snow is all but past.

My dad is a man's man. He knows something about everything. No offense to my husband, but I did not marry a tinkerer ... a builder ... a fixer. My dad is the guy who I call when my car is making a noise, I've got a door that sticks, or I need a cabinet built. And my husband's ok with that.

Getting "the call" gives me a little thrill that has nothing to do with putting my to-do list together for my dad. But it has everything to do with knowing that my folks will be here next month.

Can. Not. Wait.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

Can't believe that my last post was at the end of the summer of 2010. Here I am feeling like the summer of 2011 is whizzing by now.

The Boy and I spent just over two weeks in Michigan. Whenever I would tell people where I was going on vacation, I would usually hear something along the lines of, "Visiting family? That's not a vacation. That's an errand. You're taking a long errand."

A lot of families can feel like a checkmark. Not mine. I count myself fortunate that I wouldn't pass up time with my parents or my sister for just about anything. I don't dread holidays with them. I don't tense up when faced with a long car ride with them. I look forward to those things.

I truly love San Diego, but I'm not sure I'll ever feel like it's home for me. My son can't run
down the street to visit friends because none of his buddies live in our neighborhood. We may not have mosquitoes, but we also don't have room to run. When I sneeze, it's often my neighbor who God-blesses-me.

My parents and sister humor my excitement at going back home to Michigan. They look for touristy things for us to go do, and we either all pile into a car to go see something, or Mom & Dad graciously entertain the kids for a day or two while we head out.

This year's My Michigan was simply beautiful. We went to the BalloonFest in Howell, an art fair in Northville and drove along the Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City to check out wineries and take photos of the quilt barns. But that was just the on-the-road stuff.

Back in Davison, I tried to maximize my son's Michigan summer. We caught lightning bugs, had a backyard camp fire, visited Sabo's ice cream shop and set up backyard soccer and baseball games. We kept watch over a nest of Robin's eggs in my parents' front yard, from which emerged the fuzziest littlest birds I've seen in a while. My mom even set up an all-nighter with the kids ... she fed them crazy amounts of sugar and yummy treats, arranged for bowling, movies and ice cream-making. Jacob had non-stop doses Vitamin D, and he didn't care how hot it got.

San Diego summers are different. We walk over to the park for concerts. We plan week after week of summer camps at the Y where he will get to skateboard, play soccer and even iceskate. At night we sit outside and listen to the crickets, bundled up because it gets pretty chilly when the sun goes down. It's not quite the same to me without the lightning bugs, though.

I often wonder if I'm as sentimental about my Michigan summers simply because that's how I grew up, or because they truly are better than our SoCal experiences. I guess Jacob will have to tell me when he's 40, and bringing his kids over to Grandma's house for their own summer vacations.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where Summer and School Collide

Today's the day. It will be spent in that strange no-man's land between the end of summer and the start of fall... Ok, not fall officially, but the start of third grade.

It's the end of laying around watching cartoons. Soon we'll hoot and holler at The Boy's fourth and final soccer game of this weekend's tournament. They'll walk away with first or second place.

Next up ... Haircut. The shaggy 'do will be done. He'll be ready for a clean look. Ok, I'm the one who's really ready.

The rest of the day will offer up opportunities for prepping school supplies, school uniforms, a backpack and lunchbox. And maybe a little final summer reading.

We'll squeeze in a little basketball too, promise.

Summer of 2010, farewell. You treated us well. You offered cool weather in July but brought the heat in August. You gave us family time, a vacation to see more family, and great summer concerts.

See ya in 2011.
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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Shadow Lost

I've been without my shadow for five days now. When we brought Sadie Rose home from the rescue agency, she chose to attach herself to me and never looked back. We weren't looking for a dog for me, but she decided for herself who she would belong to. When her adoration became apparent, I worried that my son would be disappointed. He accepted her choice with amazing dignity, and was still so very happy to be the one she turned to when I was away or busy.

Last week I had to make the decision to end her suffering. She was just two years old, but was born with two malformed and defective kidneys. We didn't find out about her illness until we had fallen in love with her and made her a part of our family for several months. And although we ended up spending thousands of dollars in special medications and treatments to make her months on earth comfortable and happy ones, we wouldn't have changed a thing.

Even thought it's just been five days, I wonder how long it will be before I walk straight into the kitchen, instead of making a wide arc around where her dishes used to sit. How long before I don't stretch my feet in front of me at the dinner table, looking for a tail to nudge or an ear to scratch. How long before I stop reaching my hand out from under the covers at night to search for her head near my side of the bed on the floor.

After she left us, I sat on her bed for quite some time and held her favorite toy. She used to play with it for hours, finally tiring but not willing to leave it alone. She would fall asleep with her mouth wrapped around it. In the week before she died, she didn't go near that toy. That was the first sign for me. Her eyes always sought mine, and she wouldn't break eye contact with me ... I always had to be the one to look away first, until the very end.

Her toy has become a talisman of sorts for me. It sits on my bedside table when I go to sleep at night. It is sitting next to me at my desk now. That toy serves many purposes for me. It brings to mind some of the most joyous and peaceful moments I've had in the last 18 months. It reminds me that life can be fleeting, whether it is that of a person or a pet. And it symbolizes the truly faithful and unconditional love that I was blessed to enjoy. Not many among us can say that they've experienced that pure of a love. We enjoyed a lifetime in just a year and a half with our Sadie Rose.

Do dogs go to Heaven? How can they not? God blessed us with her joyous soul for but a moment. But I'll hold onto her toy until she needs it again.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Big Things, Little Things

I had another blog entry mostly written that I was going to upload this week. It's about my husband, who has been gracious with the knowledge that he hasn't been the focus of too many writings in the past. Actually, I think he's relieved. But something else has been consuming my life of late, and I thought that today was a good day to get it out.

I -- like most of you, although I'm kind of hoping it's pretty much all of you -- have a hard time staying focused on what's really important in life. In my job, we have a saying. When we're preparing for battle (a discussion with a school principal, an employee, a colleague), we ask, "Is this the ditch I'm willing to die in?" I need to do a better job of asking myself that question on a regular basis.

At home, sometimes it's shoes. Shoes end up in every nook and cranny of our home. Under the desk I'm sitting at now (two pairs), under the dining room table (three pairs), in the family room (two and a half pairs ... really). In my better moments, I just deal patiently with the perpetrator. In my so-not-winning-mother/wife-of-the-year moments, my head actually pops off of my body and I convince myself that my house is crumbling down around my ears because there are shoes left willy-nilly about the floor.

I spend some of my downtime on Twitter (@falulaminute, in case you're wondering). A while back, I stumbled across a Twitterer called @liftupellie. Ellie is a beautiful young girl -- eight years old, like my son -- from North Carolina. Her passions were like any young girl's. Disney, girlie stuff, good family fun. A couple of years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. She has dealt with more pain, misery and suffering than many of us will see in a lifetime. We've all heard of kids like Ellie. We sigh in sympathy, we send up a quick prayer to Heaven, and we get back to whatever we were doing. Like planning summer camp schedules . Or rounding up shoes.

Because of Twitter, however, I've spent a lot of my free time checking in on Ellie. I learned of doctor's visits, her sense of humor, her up days and her down days. I read a post telling us how much longer she might be with us. I read of her trip to the doctor's office two days ago, and how a tumor on her hip burst open in the waiting room. I marveled at her mom's amazing words to calm Ellie's nerves at seeing the blood, because she knew they had a lung scan to get through. I saw the lung scan, and my heart broke in two.

I saw all of this online, or on my phone. I read updates at stoplights, in bed before turning out the lights, or in the morning before turning the coffee pot on. When I read that Ellie's family was counting down their time left with their angel in hours, not days, I wept. I awoke at 2:30 this morning, and reached for my phone. I saw that Ellie's mother was praying for her to finally accept the wings that Jesus was offering to her. And later this morning, she did just that. I got the notification on my phone while I was responding to e-mails at work. And I wept.

Ellie's family welcomed us into their pain. Not to gain sympathy or to "trend" on Twitter. They laid their tragedy out for us to witness. So we could pray with them and learn about other Ellies in the world who need our prayers. And so we could get a glimpse at God's work. We all wonder how God could take a child so young, after so much pain. But that's the miracle of it all.

If it weren't for Ellie, and her story, I wouldn't be contemplating the priorities in my life, looking for imbalance. I wouldn't have had daily conversations with my son, Jacob, about appreciating all of God's gifts. I wouldn't be sharing this with you.

So thank you, Ellie. Thank you for allowing your voice to be heard. Thank you, Potvin family, for letting strangers in to the most painful and tragic part of your world. And thank You, God, for reminding me of Your plan and greatness.

Fly, Ellie, fly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Sounds of Mother's Day

This past Sunday was a milestone of sorts for me. I celebrated my 10th Mother's Day. (Before you math whizzes start questioning whether I realize my son is only eight, just know that I found out I was expecting Jacob in May 2001. )

Sunday began with an oozy, scratchy voice appearing just inches away from my face. The Boy was trying his hardest to share the cold he was trying to get over. "Mama, can I sleep with you?" One eyelid opened enough to let the harsh morning glare in and I could see that it was about 5:30 in the morning. I knew that if I didn't give in, I'd be giving up on any idea of sleeping in I had. The Man was already up and about, so this was my last chance at rest.

A blissful hour and a half later ... "Mama, will you make me pancakes?" Of course I will.

And then ...
"Mom, I need help with my book report."
"Pyu, pyu, pyu, pyu!" {my best phonetic interpretation of an inter-galactic weapon sound}
"I'm on chapter 21. What chapter are you on? Oh. The newspaper doesn't have chapters?"
{singing} "He's got the WHOOOOOOOLE world in His hands! He's got the ... "
"Mom, my voice hurts."
{back to singing} "Just a small town boy ... born and raised in south Detroit ..."
"Oh. I guess singing hurts my voice when I'm sick."
"Wanna play Uno?"
"Can you finish putting the Cub Scout patches on my vest?"
"Mooooooooo-ooooooooom.... I can't find my ... "
"Mom, Dad's not sharing!"
"Mom ... Mom? Are you there?"

And this was all before my first cup of coffee was finished. Typical day.

Our Mother's Day celebrations are simple. I get lots of hugs and kisses (whether they are cold-laden or not). I usually get a big show of "please" and "thank you" responses when I ask for things to be done. I get to pick the Sunday movie we watch as a family. But most of all, I get to hone my mad skills at mothering. It's not something I'm anxious to take a vacation from.

This year, the boys were particularly excited for the "big reveal" ... the gift they had picked out together to honor my mom-ing. A beautiful silver necklace with 3 rings on it ... they argued quite a bit over whether to interpret that as past, present and future or Dad, Mom and son.

And they're both right. I wouldn't change a thing.