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An Angel Named Mike


Our pastor’s words at the end of the church service struck fear into my heart.

“There is freezing rain out there and it seems to be icy. Please be careful going home, everybody.”

I live in the mountains of northern New England. I am well acquainted with winter but I really have had enough of it.

Driving in snow is bad enough but ice absolutely terrifies me.

Things didn’t look good when my mom and I exited the church and her car was completely encased in ice. Why we didn’t just turn around and go back into the comfy, warm church to wait it out, I’ll never know.

We took a million baby steps to the car and sat there for a good ten minutes until the defroster melted the ice so she could see to drive. She insisted on driving because she was concerned about my blood pressure. I have only had two accidents and they both involved ice. That feeling of having no control over my vehicle was terrifying and it still haunts me.

We started out very slowly and made the decision to take the road that runs along the lake rather than risk the main road where people go much too fast under any conditions.

All was fine until we rounded the corner and the lake came into view. Suddenly, the road was like a skating rink and all control was lost. The car started to spin and slide from one end of the road to the other.

To our horror, we began to hurtle toward the boat launch. Miraculously, we came to a sudden stop right before we would have slid down the boat launch into the lake! We also narrowly missed hitting a parked truck.

It took several minutes until Mom felt okay to put the car into gear and keep going. We did fine on the flat part of the road but trying to get enough traction to get up the fairly steep  hill that would lead us toward home was another matter altogether. Her tires spun and we began to slide backward down the hill.

Mom valiantly tried to back the car into a driveway but couldn’t do it. So, she attempted to pull into a driveway across the street, sliding all the way. The car  finally came to a stop, half on the sidewalk and half into the driveway.

Our hearts were pounding right through our chests and we tried to catch our breath now that we were stopped and in a relatively safe place.

If you are ever in a crisis situation, you would want my mom  there. She remains calm and is the picture of efficiency.

The person you do NOT want with you if you are in a crisis situation is me.

I was shaking. I was crying. I was a mess.

I called my husband (who didn’t feel well enough to attend church this morning) to tell him what had happened. He tried in vain to get me to calm down and finally told me he was going to call the police and report that we were stranded and get back to us.

I just felt so helpless so I started to pray. “Jesus, please take care of us and get us safely home.” We were literally less than five minutes from home but it seemed like miles.

No sooner had I finished that prayer when a man walked (slid) up to our car. He was around 60 years old, had salt and pepper hair, and a wide smile. He explained that his name was Mike and he lived across the street. He had seen our troubles and walked over to see if we were okay.

I couldn’t believe I was meeting the man who I had disparaged for the past 7 years that we have lived here.

You see, he owns a junkyard.  There are a lot of No Trespassing signs everywhere as well as a fierce looking German Shepherd standing guard. His house/business is on my path when I walk into town and I have always wondered who lived there, thinking what a shame it was that this eyesore is located in such an otherwise pretty area.

And now here he was right in front of me, nice as can be.

Seemingly unbothered by the freezing rain, he stayed with us for the next hour, chatting amicably, spinning lots of stories, and doing a wonderful job of taking our minds off our situation.

He shared his life story which has been filled with hardships; yet he remains a cheerful person who is willing to lend a helping hand to those in need when he can. He is a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee, fiercely independent and occasionally some salty language slipped through.

As I listened to his stories, I could feel my heart rate return to normal and my breathing came much easier.

At one point, he suggested that Mom pull up further into the driveway so any other out-of-control cars would not hit us.

Not even 15 minutes later, a truck that was coming down the road too fast lost control on the ice, hit the back of a car  just a little further up the road that had gone into a ditch, and slid crazily all the way down the hill  finally coming to a stop right where our car had been!

He would have certainly hit us and since he was traveling at a pretty good speed, I shudder to think of the damage that we were spared.

Eventually, a salt truck came by to treat the roads. Mike informed us that he thought we would be okay to  take one more run at the hill.

Then he saw the looks on both of our faces.

“Would you feel better if I drove the car up the hill for you?” He asked. “My nephew just came over and he can follow us and give me a ride back down the hill.”

Mom gratefully accepted his invitation and he helped her across the car and settled her into the passenger side with utmost gentleness.

He drove with ease to the top of the hill and took another look at my mom, who was white as a sheet by this time at the thought of getting back behind the wheel.

“You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and drive you lovely ladies home,” he announced, motioning his nephew to follow him. We only lived another half a mile away. He delivered us right to our front door.

“What can we do to thank you?” I asked as I shook his hand.

“Not a thing!” he waved his hand dismissively. “Just say a prayer for me the next time you go to church. I was happy to help.”

He looked at my mom and smiled. “She reminds me of my mama, God rest her soul, and I would have wanted someone to help my mama if she was in this same situation.”

With a cheerful wave goodbye, he climbed into his nephew’s SUV and off they went.

Jesus answered our prayers by sending us an unlikely angel in the form of Mike.

Sometimes He answers our prayers in the strangest of ways, but they are nonetheless beautiful.

We will be forever grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Broadway Revue


This past weekend, our daughter participated in “100 Years Of Broadway” at her high school.

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She had never done anything like this before and wanted to surprise us (which she certainly did).

She has always been very shy about singing in front of us. The only time we have ever heard her sing is when she is in the shower. We were watching TV one night when a most heavenly sound floated downstairs. I muted the TV and we listened, spellbound to the clear, beautiful voice coming from above. I even went to stand outside the bathroom door so I could hear better.

The haunting, gorgeous sound literally brought tears to my eyes.

We heaped praise on Julia when she came  downstairs but she was so embarrassed that we let it go. She has never been one to seek the spotlight.

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So imagine our surprise when she invited us to opening night to watch her perform!

She had decided that since this is her senior year, she would go for it and try something she had never done before.

Her solo was “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” with another cast member.

She was a revelation.

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Broadway-0140She was sassy.

She was bold.

She was fearless.

Her voice soared through the auditorium and we were amazed.

Later, she told us that person after person went through the cast line and said “I had NO idea that you could sing!”

Julia had broken out of her comfort zone and it was a beautiful thing to behold.

And as I watched her receiving praise, it reminded me not to sell anyone short, as we have no idea what talent might be lying dormant that will leave us stunned with wonder when it is finally revealed.

Let’s never think that we know all there is to know about our loved ones. There is always more to discover if we are willing to see, to listen, to ask.

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I experienced so many emotions during the show.

“Send In The Clowns” had me stifling laughter. Several decades ago, my family and I attended my cousin Bobby’s wedding. As soon as we opened up the program, my dad and I burst out laughing, right there in the pew. There it was, right before the processional: “Send In The Clowns.” 

This struck us as so hysterically funny that we could not contain ourselves. The harder we tried to stifle the laughter, the more we failed until we were red-faced and helpless to stop the mirthful tears.

“Stop it!” my mom hissed, mortified by our shenanigans.

By the time the bride walked down the aisle, we had managed to compose ourselves. But I can never hear that song without a smile breaking across my face.

“Try To Remember” brought a sweet ache to my heart. That was one of my dad’s favorite songs and I have many memories of him singing it.

And there was the joy of all those classic Broadway songs that had toes tapping and hands clapping. A true feel-good evening was had by all and the applause was prolonged and enthusiastic for these talented kids.

 

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Broadway-0269  Broadway-0351-2Two days later, Julia and I were driving in the car talking about the show.

She mentioned that she loved the song “Try To Remember.”

I told her that that was one of her grandad’s favorite songs. Then I mentioned that she must have inherited her amazing singing voice from him. (He was the only member of our family who could sing).

“I remember him singing all the time,” she said wistfully.

Julia was only 5 years old when her beloved grandad died so I’ve never been sure how much she remembers of the man who adored her.

I love that music still binds them together across the years and that a part of him still lives on in her.

 

 

 

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Think Before You Speak


One of my Facebook friends posted something poignant this morning.

She showed a photo of her son walking toward his plane on his way to basic training. He will be gone for 7 months and she wrote about how much she would miss him and that the tears were plentiful.

I got a bit misty-eyed reading her post and left a supportive comment.

My son just left yesterday to head back to college and the ache is real.

Josh-s Luggage-0005It was with great sadness that I read a comment one her friends left after mine.

It said, “Time to cut the apron strings.”

Those words struck me as unnecessary and cold.

Why in the world do we always feel like we have to give advice?

Why can’t we just let people feel what they feel, sit  quietly beside them, offer words of encouragement, or just say, “I’m sorry.” and leave it at that?

Yes, as moms, our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. We raise our kids to be self-sufficient and independent, fully knowing that there will come a day when they leave the nest to begin to live their own story. That is good and it is right.

However…the pain of them leaving is still very real. There may be regret over things done or things left undone. There may be sadness over how fast the time went and a longing for the days when they were young and you were their whole world. The quiet in the home may seem deafening at times. There may be concern about some of the choices the kids will make, driving us to our knees in fervent prayer. There may be that wish for the time to say just one more thing, give one more piece of advice, to experience one more hug.

There is nothing wrong with that!

It is not a place we want to stay indefinitely, of course, but for crying out loud let a mama be honest about the fact that she is going to miss her boy!

Let’s not be so quick to put in our two cents the next time someone shares their feelings with us. If your advice is wanted, it will be requested.

In the meantime, just give them the dignity of letting them feel what they feel and extend the beauty of grace in the midst of their struggle.

Then  your corner of the world will be a kinder place.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Moment In Time


This photo makes me all kinds of happy.

Mom and Josh-0005-3My son goes back to college tomorrow after a wonderful holiday break.

After dinner, he turned to my mom and said, “Will you rub my head for awhile?”

Ever since Josh was born, he and my mom have shared a very special bond. She rubbed his head from the time he was a toddler and he never outgrew it.

The fact that he is a college freshman and will be 19 years old in less than three months matters not at all. The unconditional  love they share is a beautiful thing and I was so grateful that I could capture this moment in time.

My mom’s favorite role in life is that of grandma. And she is a stellar one. (I love that she was even wearing her favorite “Grandma” sweatshirt. I couldn’t have planned it any better!).

Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Photographs capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”

That is why I love what I do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Many Faces Of Buddy


Ten years ago, we got a puppy named Buddy.

He is a Bichon Frise and he was 5 pounds of furry, white cuteness.

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He was playful, fun, sweet-natured, and energetic. He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but we all love him.

All of us except my husband, who tolerates Buddy at best.

Guess who Buddy loves more than anyone in the world?

My husband.

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As cute as he is, Buddy can be temperamental. When we are gone for longer than Buddy would like, he leaves us little “presents” as a sign of his displeasure.

Every morning without fail, he picks up his favorite toy, a blue rubber barbell, and walks all around the house whining loudly as if he has lost his best friend. This goes on for at least ten solid minutes.

The first time we left for a vacation, we innocently packed our bags and left them in the foyer to load into the car in the morning. Buddy promptly took one look at the luggage, somehow knew that that meant that we were leaving, and had a nervous breakdown. He drooled copiously. He vomited. He tried to attach himself to one of us, any of us, so that he would not be left behind. We assumed he would be fine once we left.

My brother (who was watching Buddy for us) called two days later, sounding exhausted. Buddy was such a nervous wreck that Jeff had barely gotten any sleep. Buddy was refusing to eat or drink. He was not sleeping. So, Jeff was forced to take him to the emergency vet ER, where they had to hook Buddy up to IVs to hydrate him and prescribe tranquilizers so he would sleep.

(After getting the bill, it was my husband’s turn to have a nervous breakdown).

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When we lived in Florida, my brother thought that Buddy might enjoy running on one of the beaches that welcomed dogs. He was absolutely terrified of the sand and ended up vomiting everywhere…including all over Jeff’s truck.

Buddy never went back to the beach.

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Buddy is wearing a cone here because in a fit of neurosis, he would not stop licking his paw, and all the fur was gone. This was our only remedy. (Well, that and some more prescribed tranquilizers).

Buddy always slept with our son until he went off to college. We assumed that he would then be happy to sleep with our daughter.

Not so.

Buddy whined. Buddy scratched at the door.  At one point, Julia left her door open  and Buddy made a beeline for our room, only to be returned to his rightful place. He sulked.

Finally, one night, my daughter appeared at our bedroom door, clutching the white furball, declaring that she was desperate for sleep and could we please let Buddy sleep with us from now on?

We reluctantly agreed.

We haven’t had a good night’s sleep since.

Every single night, Buddy leaps into our bed and proceeds to lick Doug’s face and wag his tail, so delighted to be with his beloved. The more Doug protests, the closer Buddy tries to get to him. He literally just sits there and looks lovingly at Doug, completely obliviousness to the hostility. Doug’s very existence seems to be his reason for living.

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Despite being only 20 pounds, Buddy emits the heat of a furnace. He also tends to sleep sideways, taking up a large portion of a queen size bed. I have woken up more than once clutching the very edge of the mattress while Buddy snoozes away, blissfully unaware of the discomfort he is causing.

He also seems to think that my bright orange earplugs ( that I have to wear in order to continue to sleep in the same room with a husband who snores) are some kind of tasty snack. He literally stalks them. I will find him at various times throughout the day on my side of the bed, straining to reach them on my nightstand, then looking extremely guilty when he realizes he has been caught. Every other week or so, I forget to move them and discover they have vanished when it’s time to go to bed.

Still, with all his neuroses and ridiculousness, I adore this dog.

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This afternoon, Julia decided to give Buddy a good brushing, which  is his second greatest love.

I grabbed my camera and decided to capture those moments. I swear, it was as if Buddy saw the camera and started posing (It is too bad that the groomer left his ears so long, which gave him an unfortunately girly look).

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Buddy-0006See? He is ridiculous, but I love him.

I posted these photos on Facebook and one of my friends wrote, “I hope he’s doing great. He sure is cute.”

My response: “Buddy is 10. Bichons can live to be 20. Doug is full of despair. I, however, love him.”

That about says it all.

 

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A Great Start!


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I had the chance to spend this New Year’s Day at a party with lots of good friends at a home by the lake. I am sure it would have been lovely and I would have had a great time.

However, I decided to stay home with my family instead and welcome in the new year with the people I love most in this world.

That was definitely the best decision.

Sometimes the most magical times happen most unexpectedly and your heart feels like it is going to burst from all the happy.

It began with my son and I meeting in the kitchen to get something to eat. We got to talking and before long, we were joined by my daughter, my mom, and my husband.

As the cold January sun shone through the kitchen windows, life in all its wondrous beauty happened.

My son sat on the kitchen counter while the rest of us sat around the table.

We talked about everything from Jesus to college life to politics to childhood memories, to church, to hopes and dreams to future grandchildren to sports.

There were serious moments but there was plenty of laughter. At one point, I literally had to wipe the tears from my eyes from giggling so hard.

How I treasure moments like this. They cannot be forced; they just happen organically and they are beautiful. It is one moment in time, never to be repeated.  Eventually, we all drifted off to our own pursuits, but the memories of that two and a half hours will always live on in my heart and bring a smile to my face.

Just as I was leaving the kitchen, I noticed that the light from the setting sun was particularly golden and it lit up my son’s profile in a lovely way. So I grabbed my camera (my New Year’s resolution is to not go anywhere without my camera) and started clicking away.

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Eventually, my mom joined her grandson on the counter and they both allowed me to continue to shoot.

Oh the laughter!

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And silly expressions…

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Josh & Mom-0030My heart sang as I clicked shutter after shutter.

Almost more than anything else, I LOVE capturing authentic moments as real life unfolds.

I have realized that I am most at home when  my hands are holding a camera  and my eye is looking through the lens,  constantly searching for beauty to capture in the midst of ordinary days.

I am so grateful for the gift of today.

A new year and a fresh journey beckon…and I am ready.

2015 is off to a beautiful start.

 

 

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Letting Go Of Those Expectations


Photo credit: Google

 

The year 2014 has taught me to let go of expectations and just accept what is,

That has proven to be extremely liberating.

I had high expectations about many things going into this year. However, practically nothing happened as I envisioned it would.

In fact, a lot of things went wrong.

There was injustice and frustration.

My heart was broken and there were many tears and some sleepless nights.

Life was mysterious to me in a way it had never been before. There was so much I just didn’t understand.

Eventually, I gave up my need to understand, as well as trying to manage all my expectations and just decided to embrace what was.

I embraced it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  In the proces of doing that, the expectations died a natural death.

I began to count my blessings in the midst of the mess. I simply lived each day as it unfolded.

I chose to trust my heavenly Father’s heart, which is the safest thing we can do, as we have His promise that He can only do good to us and His specialty is turning ashes into beauty.

Life is lighter, even though troubles still exist and many questions remain unanswered.

As I approach a new year, I am not going to let my mind race  ahead about how things might go. I will accept what comes and trust that He will supply the grace needed for life in 2015.

Besides…His reality is much better than any expectations I could possibly have.

 

 

 

 

 

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