Living in the Digital Age

These past few weeks have been filled with nostalgia and dust. Lots of dust. At the age of 93, my Grandma Betty has moved into an assisted living home. Her health is touch and go, her eyesight is bad, and sometimes, she just can’t remember to eat. For us grandkids, this is devastating. Grandma Betty has lived in the same house since the 1950s. And it was last redecorated, I think, in 1979. Translate that into this: for my whole life, nearly, that place has not changed. No new carpet. No different sofa. The lamps? Same spot. The kitchen? Can we call it “vintage chic” or perhaps just waaaayyyyy outdated?

Walking into Grandma Betty’s house is a like walking into a time capsule. It looks the same as it has for my entire life. It smells the same. My handprint that we gave to Grandma and Grandpa when I was two months old is still on the original nail from 1975. So leaving it has shaken us to the core.

For my cousins Dawn and Sarah, and me, going to Grandma’s house was like going to a safe-haven. At Grandma’s house, we played ping-pong with Grandpa Art, we dug in the sand box (remember when we would find the toys we had buried the previous summer?), and we had Coke floats, and fires in the fireplace. We would eat breakfast on the patio, wrapped in Grandma’s fluffy pink robe. We would go for bike rides or walks in the evening. We tried on her clip-on earrings and her amazing shoes. Rummy Cube, Rack-O, Clue, Uno.

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But no matter what we did, even just sitting together reading books, there was always an abundance of love. We were cherished, treasured, indulged. We were the smartest kids, or the funniest. She would say, “Why I never!” through her giggles. We were the most talented. “Where did you ever learn to do that?” And no matter what we did, it was cataloged in pictures.

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The picture albums at Grandma’s house begin in the year 1969. Everywhere she went, her camera went too. There is evidence of our Halloween costumes (in 1980 I was Chewbacca), evidence of our school performances. There are snap shots from evenings spent climbing trees or afternoons painting her white picket fence. And going through these pictures has been a blast. Dawn and I have spend more than a few hours gasping (Do you remember how high my bangs were?), groaning (I can’t believe I wore that!), giggling (We look like a couple of sunburned lobsters!), and remembering (I felt so special when Grams and I went shopping together.).

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In her closets, too, I have found some real treasures… more pictures of Grandma’s brother, Marvin who went down over the Pacific in WWII:

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Pictures of her sister Mazie, who my older daughter is named after:

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Pictures of her first (yes, first) fiancé, Warren:

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And a real gem, a picture of her mother’s mother, dated 1871:

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Finding all of these treasures has made me reflect on my own record keeping. It’s easier than ever, now, to take pictures. And don’t pretend that you’re not just like me and that you don’t whip out your camera for an especially good latte:

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We snap pictures and videos like crazy, but how many of us still get them printed out? I know that I don’t. And right now, I’m a little sad about that.

What about when Mazie and Violet’s children are packing up my house?   Will they sit in front of a computer and look at my iCloud? Will it even exist any more? Will they find their mamas’ baby pictures? See them in funny outfits?

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Will they find pictures of me and my dad, and see his nose or his smile in their own faces? And one more question… Does it really matter?  Do these events, unimportant to everyone but us, have a place in our lives?

My answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Yes, they matter. Maybe not to the world. Maybe not to anyone but me. But they still matter. They provide a sense of belonging. In the pictures I can still feel the emotion of the moment, and I realized that Grandma and Grandpa were there, sharing them with me.  Here’s the literal moment that I caught the final out for a CIF softball title:

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Here’s where I laid my head on my dad’s shoulder on a Saturday:

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Or when I signed my national letter of intent to go to University of Virginia, at 10:55pm, in Austin, Texas, she has written:

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In the older pictures, pictures of my mother as a teenager, I see the hope and sparkle in her eyes and I realize that she was a girl before she was my mom:

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I see Nana, Betty’s mother, standing with pride on the porch of her home that had just been painted, a home that she purchased, maintained, and lived in all on her own until she was 103:

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This is where I am from. This is the very fiber of my being. These are the moments, big and small, that made up my life. And I am grateful to have seen them again.

Love, Friendship, Faith

Kate is making her First Communion with four of her good friends. So the moms hired a photographer and on Sunday we dressed them up, took them to a pretty farm and took pictures.

Officially, to mark the importance of the occasion.

But in the far-reaching, planner’s part of my heart, it’s so we have these pictures to show at rehearsal dinners when they are all bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. We do live in a small valley. You never know.

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These three met at our house to get their hair done. By the moms, none of whom qualify as “hair people”. It required wine…

We hired the magnificent and magical Tonya Poitevint, who did our family pictures last Fall. She was amazing, like a mother hen with five snow white chicks following her around. She has such a way of coaxing beautiful smiles.

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We shot at Orchard Home Bed and Breakfast , which has breath-taking grounds and the afternoon light was just…just.

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In the middle of the shoot, it came to me what we were really doing.

We were guiding our girls to the next place. We were doing it together and they were doing it together and Tonya became part of our together. It was this amazing, prayerful feminine energy and it was powerful.

These five beautiful girls, with their arms around each other, laughing in God’s sunshine.

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And the mothers, who have brought them this far in keeping with the promises we made when they were baptized, but really before that, when they were whispers of hope in our hearts.

As our mothers before us. And before them. And back and back and back.

All of this to say: You are a beloved child of God, and of mine. And it is your province as a woman to wear these things as symbols of who you are and celebrate what is holy and sacred.

This is what it means to be a woman and a mother in our church.

Love, friendship, faith.

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Tonya Poitevint Photography!

 

Holy Grace

 

IMG_20130325_161833Sometimes I get a little nudge that I haven’t talked about Grace in a while. This Sunday it was a BIG nudge.

On Holy Thursday night, the Apostle Peter, who my church recognizes as the first earthly leader of the Church, denied that he knew Jesus three times. As Jesus had foretold at the Last Supper.

I have never blamed Peter. Our first human instinct is to LIVE. Plus, at that point, he didn’t know what was at stake.

This was Peter’s all-In moment. Right? How many times has this happened to us, where we’re kind-of-committed to something in our lives, but at that last moment, we walk—from fear, from uncertainty, from misunderstanding.

Then we know almost immediately that we blew it. That we walked from something hard, but good. And usually, it’s only at this moment of loss that we see the true value of the thing we almost had, if only we had been all-in.

This happens so often in our lives that there are lots of sayings about it: Oh well. That’s the one that got away. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. Can’t unring the bell.

In this moment right here—the Peter moment—we can make a lot of choices. We can regret, or hate ourselves for missing out, or become angry, or blame others.

Or.

Here is Sunday’s Gospel reading:

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”      (John 21: 15-17)

I swear, the hair stood up on my arms in church. Because that right there is LOVE. And FORGIVENESS. And REDEMPTION. Face to face, one by one, Jesus healed Peter’s denials.

Peter went on to become the first earthly leader of Jesus’ followers and he was so all-in that he died on a cross for his faith.

Holy Grace.

Life is full of it. There is no wound that cannot be healed, no sin that cannot be forgiven, no fear that cannot be overcome and no Peter Moment that cannot become all-in.

 

 

 

No Excuse for Relative Pronouns

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I read a post the other day about the North Carolina transgender bathroom bill.

A mom in the comments said she stood in support of the bill because her young girls shouldn’t have to see THAT. And after she took a solid challenge from other readers, she signed off by saying that we are really screwing our kids up and IT is sad.

THAT and IT.

They jump off the page at me. Old habit. All English teachers know what I’m saying here. In the beginning of my career I would write little notes to my students in the margins, encouraging them to be more precise. By the end, I just circled the words, and drew a big question mark. On a poster board in the back of the room was a key to my corrections:

? = WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU SAYING???

When I read her comment, I thought What the heck is she saying? What is THAT and what is IT?

I played it out in my head:

A transgendered woman comes into the women’s room to pee. Regardless of how long she lived as a he, someone taught her that it’s not polite to pee in the sink. So off to a stall she goes.

How does my daughter even know what is happening behind those closed doors?

Or a transgendered man comes into the men’s room. The urinals are not an option—I actually know this from personal experience, it’s a physical impossibility—so off to the stall he goes.

My son would assume one thing: serious business. And he would get out there as soon as possible to avoid the smell.

All good so far.

What WOULD cause an uproar is the reverse of that. There’s a McDonald’s in Redding where the bathrooms are reversed. Usually the women’s room is on the right. THE RIGHT. Annie had to pee and the door needed a token and no, I didn’t look at the sign.

The guy at the urinal sure did shriek like a woman when I rolled in there with my preschooler. Safe to say that he didn’t want to see me any more than I wanted to be there.

In my world, it will be a few more years before my little people notice things that may be seem different to them. I stand firmly by my “Need to Know” style of parenting. I’ll find the words then.

Because I have never once thought how I would explain transgendered to my kids.

There it is.

Maybe this mom who commented was her older self, with kids who are asking questions that need answers. Maybe she’s watching her babies take giant steps towards adulthood and suddenly all  those hard words she was going to find on a far-away tomorrow have to be in her head today.

So she’s freaking out and using relative pronouns.

Sister girl, I can relate to THAT.

But I don’t want to live in a relative pronoun world. And I need to stop punting to my older self because I’m tired now and my older self, the one with teenagers, will be tired and old.

So I’m going to remember that we are people who believe where we stand on the important things in life is not as important as how we stand. We stand in love.

Then I’m going to call my girlfriends and invite them for coffee but really it will be a brainstorming session called “What to tell our kids when”. Together we will buck up and find the hard words because fear is no excuse to use relative pronouns.

But also.

For the love of God, can we build children with hardier hearts? Children who aren’t so fragile that they will need twenty years of therapy at the sight of a woman peeing standing up? Or whose faith in all that is good and holy will not fall to pieces in the face of a man who appears to have boobs? That’s a house of cards built on shifting sands and I am not interested in that.

I want mighty warriors.

If I’m doing my job well, they will see things different from their idea of right and wrong and say “Huh.” Then go about their holy and sacred business of standing in love.

 

 

Grace

Last week sucked.

Wednesday,  we had to put our beloved Sugar girl down. She was 13 and it was time, but I’ve never had to make a decision like that before and it was awful.

Friday was my Reggie Jackson birthday. It’s a big number. Look it up.

We went to the coast for the day, where a giant seagull got into our car through the open sunroof and ate our picnic.

Shea and Gabe got hit by a scary rogue wave at the beach.

Gabe was carrying a glass bottle off the beach and up the trail when he slipped and smashed the bottle into the rocks with his hand. He cut himself good.

Saturday, I went looking for some Kleenex. There was none. Not one square of facial tissue left in the whole house. And no wonder.

Yep, last week sucked.  And then, in the middle of the crap, this happened:

After the girls shower every night, they get dressed in a tumble of pajamas and towels and dogs. When they got out the shower on Wednesday night, it was the first time there was just a dog.

Kate fell into a sobbing heap on the floor.

I left her with Shea while I dressed Annie and coaxed Lizzie into the kitchen for her medicine. When I came back to the room, Kate had calmed down enough to say “Mama, can we pray?”

I don’t remember her exact words, but she asked for God to take good care of Sugar and make sure she was with her family. She asked Him to tell Sugar that we love her and miss her. She asked Him to help us all feel better.

And then I asked God to send Sugar to Kate in her dreams so that she would know Sugar was ok.

The next morning, Kate came bursting into our room.

“Guess what?! I had a dream about Sugar! I was walking her with Lizzie and they were running and jumping and she was happy and her legs were fixed! I am SO GLAD that God answered our prayer!”

Then she went dancing back out the door. And she’s been ok ever since.

What do you do with a week like this? I don’t know. I’m living in a house with two dog beds, two dog food bowls, one dog and a puppy finder app on my phone. I got nothing, except the only way out is through.

And watch for the grace.

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It will be impossible to replace a dog like Sugar. She was such a good girl. I’ll tell you more about her one day when it doesn’t break my heart to do it.

 

All I See Is Perfection ~ Guest Post by Jennifer

 

 

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Andrew just a few days ago, 2yrs and 4months

Hi everyone. I’m back again, writing for Full of Graces. I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a while now but haven’t been able to put my thoughts to paper. We have just put the boys to bed after an afternoon at a birthday party. Some of the older children at the party asked about that thing on Andrew’s chin. Jacob, my oldest, explained that it was a hemangioma and that it doesn’t hurt his little brother; he knows that kids usually are concerned that Andrew may have hurt himself. Nate, my husband, told the kids that it would be removed in two days. But that didn’t stop them from using words like “gross”, “disgusting”, and “ugly” to describe it. These were first grade kids. Jacob heard them and so did Andrew. I know they didn’t mean for their words to hurt but man, my mama heart is heavy tonight.

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Andrew in NICU, no hemangioma

 Andrew was born at 36 weeks and he did not have a hemangioma at birth. By the time he was released from the NICU we noticed a tiny mark on his chin, almost like a bruise, which we assumed was from the tape on his face that held various tubes in place during his hospital stay. But it never went away and instead started growing. We now know that hemangiomas are common amongst preemies.

Initially, we were told that the hemangioma would eventually lighten in color and begin to recede. Yet, it has not done so and after several visits with a pediatric dermatologist we were told that it had mushroomed with fatty tissue beneath the blood vessels; it would be unlikely for it to go away. The pediatric plastic surgeon we were referred to recommended removing the hemangioma sooner than later in order to allow the surgical scar to heal as much as possible before Andrew starts school. We have been praying about this hemangioma since Andrew was a newborn and we feel that putting him through surgery to remove it is the right choice.

 

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Andrew at one year old (Photo credit: Brianna Kiefer Photography)

 Having a child with a hemangioma in a very visible place on his face has been an interesting experience. Overall, it has not been too bad. Little kids are curious and usually just want to know if Andrew has had a boo-boo or if it hurts him. Parents of children with hemangiomas have stopped me, usually at Disneyland, to share their child’s hemangioma story. They have always been positive interactions meant to encourage me in that it would go away eventually and I appreciate that. However, we’ve also had enough interactions where older children say something negative about my baby’s beautiful face. As much as I have hated those negative occasions, I also wish the positive experiences had not happened either. It’s not that I wish people would pretend the hemangioma doesn’t exist, I just wish it weren’t the first thing that people notice about Andrew. He was the sweetest, chunkiest baby and is now the most entertaining, happy little boy; there is so much more to him than the hemangioma on his chin.

Andrew can identify his hemangioma just like he identifies his eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc. I wonder if he realizes that no one else has one. I will say this experience had been a good teaching opportunity even if it isn’t one that I asked for. Jacob and I have had several conversations about why people always notice Andrew’s hemangioma and sometimes aren’t nice about it. He and I have prayed for the hemangioma to go away and for those that have been unkind. Andrew doesn’t talk much but someday I know I will teach him about how to, and how not to, approach someone who is different. I know that many of my friends are having these conversations with their children too. If you haven’t talked to your child about using kind words, please do. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is simply not true. Words hurt the most.

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Andrew at 2

 Unfortunately kids can be mean and we don’t want Andrew to be hurt by other people’s words about it. So we are going ahead with plastic surgery on Tuesday, December 15th. We’ve been told that the procedure will last 30-45minutes; Nate, my doctor husband, says that’s not long at all but I am sure those minutes will feel much longer. Andrew is expected to bounce back quickly because he is young but we have been warned that the scar may be very red for up to a year. That means it should be fading around when he starts pre-school. I am praying that it does fade by then but that if it doesn’t, that the children in his class are kind.

Please join me in praying for a successful surgery, quick recovery, and minimal scaring. Thank you.

 

 

Welcome the Stranger

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I stopped and started this 12 times, trying to find the right words, until I gave up. My words are not called.

We need the words of Jesus.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. ‘Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’”  (Matthew 25)

Those poor people, the mothers and fathers and babies and grandparents fleeing from the very evil that struck Paris?

We have to shelter them. Here or there, no matter. Somewhere. Because those people are Christ walking in the world and if we turn our backs we fail our Christ.

This is our prayer: Open. Soften. Lighten.