The Difference

Today I helped my son and daughter-in-law move into their first home. Being there to watch them get their keys was amazing! As a parent, this is what you live for- to raise your kids and watch them thrive.

My daughter-in-law is so gracious to me. She lets me be apart of these special moments which I cherish. I am so lucky. I really got a great daughter-in-law.

We shared a quiet moment sipping champagne and unpacking the kitchen. I tried to stay out of her way for two reasons. Number 1, this is HER kitchen. I want her to have the joy of putting things exactly where she wants them without me telling her where things “should” go. Number 2 is a little harder to admit. My daughter-in-law has an amazing Mom who taught her girl things, like how to put on makeup etc. She also taught her household things. Like how many towels do you need? How do you pack up a kitchen? How do you fold sheets? You get the idea. My mom didn’t have the tools to teach me those things. I didn’t lean how to apply makeup. In fact I’m hopeless at makeup and hair.

My answer to the towel question is just to keep getting towels until the closet won’t close, and never get rid of any. I still have towels I got as wedding presents and that was 30 years ago. I don’t know how to fold sheets so I just roll them up and throw them in the closet. Martha Stewart would have a field day with me!

As I watch my daughter-in-law, I wish I were more like her. I wish I knew how many was “enough”. I wish I had a place for everything and everything in its place. My mother didn’t have places for anything. Having too many was better than not having enough. She had “junk drawers” and they were everywhere!

There are some differences between me and my daughter-in-law’s Mom. We both love our kids fiercely. We both delight in seeing them succeed. Her Mom is probably the one you want with you to set up your home, but I’m the one you want to come help you celebrate your move! I guess it evens out!

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The Winchester Mystery House

I lovingly referred to my home as the Winchester mystery House. We purchased it about 13 years ago in the midst of four children in private high school soon to be going to college and then getting married.  The previous owners had added on several times and so we lovingly nicknamed it the Winchester Mystery House. I have 3 staircases, none of which are connected. It’s a crazy house. It’s on an acre, has a magnificent view but also has weeds and unfinished projects everywhere. Today I was reminded how much this house reflects my life.

I help with a summer camp  for kids in foster care. This morning some girlfriends came over to help me pack up birthday bags for this camp.  When we were done I gave them the grand tour of the Winchester mystery House. I found myself embarrassed by its lack of completeness. I found myself over and over saying “we just haven’t gotten to this room yet.”  I was acutely aware of dirty dishes in the sink, dog hair on the floor and unfinished projects everywhere.  My girlfriends were so gracious, and yet when they left all I could think about was how “finished” their homes were,  and what a mess my own home was.

I do that in real life too. Oh her hair is perfect. Mine is frizzy. Her body is awesome. Mine is fluffy. Her job has purpose, I’m unemployed. Their business is successful. Our business sometimes barely pays the bills. They are smart. I’m not. You know the drill.

But in truth my house reflects my life. My house isn’t perfect for a few reasons. The first of which is that all our extra money goes to our kids and the ministries we support. Our extra time goes there too. So I may not have the perfect dining room, but I am available at midnight to run to a friend who is in crisis. My craft room isn’t organized, but 52 foster children get a week of positive memories each year. There are weeds in my garden, but my friendships are well tended to. My dogs shed everywhere but they are the love of my life

My house has held countless celebrations and a few funerals. It has been a place of refuge for friends who “needed a place to stay.”  My home was the place my father took his last breath. My home is a perfect reflection of me- a work in progress.

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I Can Only Imagine

Tonight I finally got around to watching the movie, “I Can Only Imagine.”  I saw a friend’s post on Facebook that said, “I usually don’t like Christian movies.  They can be a little cheesy, but I really enjoyed this movie.”  Well I’m all about cheesy!  I love the Hallmark Christmas movies.  I watch the Notebook over and over.  I love cheesy.

But the movie wasn’t quite what I expected.  The main character Bart tells the story of his upbringing by an abusive father.  He speaks abusive words over him and physically abuses him as well. After high school Bart leaves the house to pursue a passion for music.  He’s gone for a while when he’s told his music “lacks something”  He realizes he needs to go home and deal with the pain from his father.

When he get’s home his father has changed.  He is dying of pancreatic cancer and has found Jesus.  He found Jesus listening to his son’s music.  It made me think of my own story and my father’s battle with pancreatic cancer.  He was a hard man in many ways.  When he came to the end of his life he realized the pain that he had inflicted and what’s more he realized what is truly important.  My father too found Jesus in his last days on this earth.  I call him the thief on the cross, just like the story in the bible.  My father waited until the end of his life to make amends and get right with God.  Is that fair?  Some would say no. The pain he inflicted was too big.  But God says yes.

You see God isn’t as concerned with when we back to him, just as long as we do.  Just as in the story of the prodigal son.  I often read that and felt it was unfair, until I had children of my own.  Then I realized the depth of a parent’s heart.  I wouldn’t close a door on my children, just as God won’t close the door on us.  So is it fair?  I don’t know… but I know a certain thief who is pretty grateful.

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My Friends

I met my old friend Caroline for lunch yesterday.  I see her maybe once a year if I’m lucky. Caroline lives in New Zealand.  Years ago Caroline and I were raising two very energetic boys and they were friends. It began a life long friendship for us.

What I love about our friendship is how opposite we are.  Caroline is a liberal.  I’m a conservative.  She’s thin.  I’m not.  She’s well educated and well read.  I’m not.  She goes on all sorts of adventures.  I don’t. She’s and extrovert.  I’m an introvert.  And yet in spite of all our differences, it is in the ways we are alike that truly cements our friendship.

When I arrived at lunch yesterday, I sat down and she said, “I read your blog last night.  Tell me about your Dad.”  I love that!  At my age, I love it when people get real with me right away.  We chatted about my family history and hers and learned that we have many similar life experiences.  An hour flew by.  Probably because we weren’t talking about the weather, but real life. We can even talk politics or religion.  She never argues with me or calls me names if I have a different point of view.  It was a joy to spend that time with her, just sharing as women. I love that about her.  She is real and genuine and has no time or tolerance for BS.

I had breakfast with another friend today.  Her life is hard right now. We talked about hard things today. Things we shouldn’t have to discuss. There was no fluffy “how are the kids?” discussion.  But sometimes life is hard.  I didn’t offer her answers and she didn’t offer me answers.  We cried. We shared similar experiences.  We left breakfast both just a little lighter to have shared our burdens with each other.

I have so many amazing women in my life.  I have a tennis coach who tries desperately to remind me what is important.  I have a friend that I can call day or night and begin my conversation with tears.  I had to call her today.  She is always honest with me.  She is always encouraging.  I have another friend who I think of as a ball of sunshine.  You can hear her laugh all the way down the tennis courts.  She is always there to help and is always there to offer encouragement.

I have friends who rely on me.  With my savior complex I enjoy being relied upon.  But the truth is their allowing me to help them, makes me feel valuable to them.  Sometimes I need that.  I have friends that I don’t see very often, but they can still send one text and have me burst out laughing.  I have friends who knew me when, who help me remember sometimes who I used to be.  I have friends who know me now, and really don’t need to know my history.  Sometimes that’s freeing too.  Just having fun with someone without any prior history. Of course there are friends that I may have too much history with.  We know each other too well and can drive each other crazy sometimes.

I just marvel at all the amazing women in my life and how each one of them occupies a piece of my heart.  I am who I am because of all these amazing women in my life and I am forever grateful for them! You know who you are…..

 

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Secrets

Remember telling secrets as a kid?  Your best friend would entrust to you who she had a crush on and you vowed never to reveal it.  I have to confess I was always like Kristen Wig in the “Excited” sketch on Saturday Night Live.  I may not have told the secret, but whenever the boy my friend liked entered the room my eyes would get big, I would look at my girlfriend and giggle and just make a fool of myself. I’ve never been good with secrets.

Perhaps that’s because secrets in my childhood were always tied to painful events.  Happy secrets are tied to birthday surprises and spontaneous trips to Disneyland. In my household, secrets were much darker.  Don’t let anyone know.  Don’t talk about this.  One of the biggest secrets came out when I was about 12 or so and my Mom let it slip that my sister was not my “full sister.”  I was dumbfounded.  My mother’s friend was at the house and her 16 year old daughter took me upstairs and explained to me that my mother had been married before and that my sister had a different father.  I knew never to ask my mother about it.  My mother never revealed to me or my sister who my sister’s father is or was.  My sister was never given the opportunity to know anything about her father because of my mother’s shame.  I realize my Mother felt such tremendous shame about this because not only of the era she grew up in but also the shame inflicted upon her by her father.  But she brought that shame into our family and passed it to us.  Instead of sharing with us this event in her life, she hid it.  Discovering it the way I did was more painful than if she had just shared it with me herself.

We had lots of those kinds of secrets in my family.  We didn’t have the “surprise!” we have a wonderful secret for you.  We had the life shattering kind of secrets. Thus began my hate relationship with secrets.  I did manage to turn secrets into a good thing (I hope) for my kids.  We had the get dressed for school, drive past school, get on the freeway, oh by the way we are going to Disneyland kind of days.  But I still had secrets from my family history that I had to find a way to share with them.  Some of them, I waited until they were old enough to understand, some I couldn’t.  Life forced them upon us and I had no choice but to sit my kids down and share with them some of the ugliness from my childhood.  Kids are so funny, when you share things openly with them, they process what they can, then simply move on.  They may come back and ask questions later, but they don’t seem to dwell or freak out when it’s presented with love and openness.

Unfortunately because of all of this, much to the dismay of my family and friends, I am a chronic oversharer.  If you ask me how I’m doing I will tell you so be careful.  I’ve always said that I don’t want anyone, especially my children, to hear or read something about me and say, “I had no idea?!”  I am a pretty open book.  Some of my friends shutter at how I can share some painful details of my life.  I know.  It’s not for everyone.  I get that.  And I don’t share to hurt or inflict pain or people who might be involved in my story.  That’s not it at all.  I’ve learned that tied up in secrets is usually shame.  The bible says that darkness and light cannot exist together for the light will drown out the darkness.  Truth out shines shame.  Truth takes away shame’s sting.  Truth kills shame.  And I’ve found that so often when I share my truth, someone stuck in their own secret lights up and says, “me too.”  Sometimes that little “me too” is one step out of the darkness.

So feel free to ask me how I’m doing.  But be warned.  I will probably tell you.  If you are just making conversation, just say “but I don’t really want to know.” I will love that truthfulness!

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Grandma Ester

I didn’t really have a Grandma.  My Mother’s Mother died before I was born, and my Father’s Mother wasn’t really interested in the position.  So I never had that person in my life who thought I set the moon, who thought I did no wrong, who was my biggest cheerleader and my confidante.  I will tell you that it was a hole in my soul.  Everyone needs that person in their life.  This world has plenty of critics, but everyone needs unconditional love.

My relationship with my mother was always difficult.  She saw me more as overwhelming and annoying.  Her nickname for me was “wild child.”  She definitely didn’t think I set the moon, she was always finding something wrong, but to her defense she had her own struggles.  As you can see there was just a big ol’ hole in my heart needing some filling.

Then one day God brought Grandma Ester into my life.  She was my friend Lyz’s mother.  Grandma Ester never met a stranger.  She was always happy and uplifting.  If you ever saw Grandma Ester at church, she was dressed to the nines with a beautiful hat and lipstick.  She always had to have lipstick!

Grandma quickly became my buddy.  She would always go on about how beautiful my hair was.  She would encourage me with anything that I did.  But most of all, she loved my children.  They called her Grandma Ester.  They would run to hug and kiss her, because she thought they set the moon too.  She attended their weddings, and graduations.  My favorite story is when Grandma told my girls, “girls you are so beautiful.  You need lipstick, so I bought you lipstick.”  It was bright red lipstick.  My girls later put it on and sent Grandma a picture with their lipstick on.  She was thrilled.

Grandma and I had lots of adventures together.  We’d go to Green Thumb together, and I would lose her.  Even though she had a walker she was fast!  She loved Weinersnitzel.  I would take her and we would have lunch or I would bring some by the house for her.  She was so thrilled.  Grandma loved watching sports on TV and we would even sit and watch tennis together.

I’ve never met someone with so much love.  What I am describing about Grandma, hundreds of others could also share.  She loved everyone well.  She didn’t just compliment, she meant it.  She loved big.  She was always happy to see you and she loved to cook for you.  Grandma taught me to make salsa but hers was always better.

The last two years have been especially difficult for me in my marriage.  Grandma has faithfully prayed for me and would call me just to tell me she’s praying for me.  In fact, it had been quite a while since my husband had seen Grandma.  When we walked into her room last week although she couldn’t speak, you could tell she was so excited to see my husband.  She fought so hard to talk but couldn’t.  She then took both of our hands and put them together.  She kept trying to talk.  I went to her ear and whispered, “you don’t have to talk Grandma. We already know how much you love us.”  Then she puckered her lips for a kiss.  I went to my car and sobbed.

Grandma had a stroke earlier this year and though we have been preparing for her passing, walking in and seeing her unable to speak knocked me off my feet.  I thought I was prepared, but nothing prepares you to lose your biggest cheerleader.  Nothing prepares you for the huge hole it will leave.  I am a better woman for being able to call Grandma Ester my Grandma.  She taught me to love well and love big.  Because of her there will be lipstick and hats in heaven.  My only hope is that now I can pass on her legacy of love to everyone I meet.  Thank you Klopman’s for sharing Grandma Ester with us.

 

 

 

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Memories…

Logan Middle School

Facebook now sends you your memories.  This one came up for me today.  This is my daughter Logan at her orientation for Oaks Christian Middle School.  You would look at this picture and say “cute” and move on.  But for me, there are so many memories tied into this picture.

At this time 4 years ago I had just lost a school that I though I could save.  Devastated would be understating how I felt. Logan was right in the middle of it.  Logan was in 6th grade at the school at the time.  She was the “owner’s daughter”.  The man who took over the school lied to people and told them I embezzled funds so even worse, Logan became “the embezzler’s daughter.”  She was told by friends that they could no longer play with her because her mother had lost the school.  She was subject to evil looks and whispers she could not even begin to comprehend at her age. She had adults say ugly things to her.  Her Momma was beside herself with grief, her friends were rejecting her, and she now had to abruptly change schools mid-year in 6th grade.  6th grade is such a hard and awkward year.

Logan ended up going to public school to finish the year then, by the grace of God she was accepted to Oaks Christian for 7th grade!  We were so blessed and grateful that Logan would finally be surrounded by security and love.

As I look at this picture, I see the insecurity that I couldn’t bear to see in her eyes at the time.  I see the face of a kid longing for some normalcy and peace.  But I also see the face of an adventurer.  Logan has always been an adventurer.  While her Mom is probably not the most adventurous, Logan has always been.  It’s a complete contrast in personality because she also suffers from anxiety and yet, she is always on a new adventure.

This new adventure for her was middle school.  She nailed it!  She nailed it with grace and determination to walk in the same footsteps her siblings walked in and yet blaze her own trail.

Logan DMV

This is Logan today.  Blazing her own trail and thriving.  Memories are a funny thing.  Logan looked at that 6th grade picture and said, “ew!”  I looked at that picture and saw so much.   Both memories are accurate.  I could live in the “ugly” part of the memory or I could celebrate the beauty in the growth by my baby girl.  I’m gonna live in the beauty today.  But fair warning – she can drive now and she’s an adventurer.

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