Sunday, March 29, 2020

Journaling Through Coronavirus: Week 1

Week 1

Do you have your journals ready? Let’s start!

As a reminder, each week, we will do three activities: Capture/Collage, Create, and Communicate. (Just joining us? Start here for the big picture!)

I. In your journals this week, look for ways to Capture and Collage

Here are a few examples of things that made me giggle or maybe nod my head in agreement:

As you go through this week, look for things that speak to you: memes, news headlines, comic strips, a quote, song lyrics, a poem, a passage from the Bible, a paragraph from a book you are reading, photos. etc. Choose a few each week, and make a weekly collage page by printing, cutting, and pasting into your journal; writing out quotes; copying by drawing; or whatever method works for you. Share a photo in the comments at the end of the week!

II. Create

Do your own thing! Write a poem, make a diary entry (or one each day!), ask questions, make lists, paint a picture, draw a cartoon.

Need an idea? Here’s one of my favorite poem projects I use in my classes. The results are always distinctive, offering a window into each writer’s own, unique perspective. This is also super fun to do as a character poem, so instead of your child being the “I,” they choose a character from a book. For example, perhaps Harry Potter is the “I.” Remember, there are no right or wrong answers in writing poetry! As always, parents, please transcribe for your student of any age if he or she prefers to dictate to you while you get the words on paper for them.

I Am

I am (two characteristics)

I wonder (something you are actually curious about)

I hear (a real or imaginary sound)

I see (a real or imaginary sight)

I want (an actual desire)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I pretend (something you pretend to do)

I feel (a feeling about something real or imaginary)

I touch (a real or imaginary touch)

I worry (something that really bothers you)

I cry (something that makes you sad)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I understand (something you know is true)

I say (something you believe in)

I dream (something you actually dream about)

I try (something you make an effort to do)

I hope (something you actually hope for)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)


I Am

I am hungry and restless

I wonder what’s in the refrigerator

I hear a train whistle

I see a woodpecker.

I want to go hiking.

I am hungry and restless.

I pretend I’m in the mountains.

I feel the wind gently blowing.

I touch tree bark.

I worry about my friends.

I cry when I get a splinter.

I am hungry and restless.

I understand being home is the best place to be.

I say this will pass soon.

I dream about face masks.

I try to stay optimistic.

I hope we all stay healthy.

I am hungry and restless.

That’s just an idea! Students may prefer to draw or press flowers or make a list of all the shows they have watched on TV or all the books they’ve ever read. Remember, parents: you do this, too! 

III. Communicate

Do this however you wish—in a short freewrite, written out in dialogue, as an actual story. Think of this as stream-of-consciousness thinking. Just write what comes to mind as a response without worrying about proper grammar, sentence structure, etc. (Feel free to send me prompt ideas, especially ones related to the coronavirus that might come up at your house!) Guidelines to freewriting are found here at Brave Writer.

Here are a couple of prompts. The first one is not related to the pandemic, as some of your kids might need a break from thinking about it! (You may need to adjust them for younger kids.)

Option 1: “I stepped outside, the whole world smelled like…" Start with that line—and keep writing!

Option 2: Airports, museums, malls, sports arenas, libraries, Disneyland, Times Square: in the past month or so, the world’s busiest places have become empty. If this weren’t such a strange concept, it could be an absolute dream come true! Imagine that you were free to spend a day or more in a place that is usually crowded. Where would you go, and what would you do? Would you visit a theme park without having to wait in lines? Would you go to a movie theatre and binge on blockbuster films and buttered popcorn all day, or stroll through the Louvre with a magnifying glass, examining masterpieces? Close your eyes and imagine yourself—solo or with your family—then freewrite about your day!

{One reminder, one more time: This is not the time to correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Let’s let those things go, okay?}

That's it for Week 1! Remember: sharing is important! I encourage you to share some or all of your kids’ work. If they don’t want to share publicly, that’s okay! Just be sure to set aside time each week to share at home or send photos to grandparents, friends, etc. If you are a BHEA member, you can share either on the weekly Facebook thread or here on the blog, if you'd like. Others are welcome to share here in the comments or in whatever way works for you.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Journaling Through the Time of Coronavirus

Who wants to journal together? Let’s do it!

Journaling is incredibly beneficial to all ages. It helps us process and make sense of the world. And--you’ll be happy to have a written record of this strange time in the years to come, I assure you!
Here’s what we’ll do. And when I say “we”—well, you decide who “we” is to you. Maybe you will do one journal as a family, or maybe you will each have your own journal. This should work for any age level, child to adult. I strongly encourage you, the parent, to participate too!

First, of course, you’ll need a journal. Normally I would recommend buying a new writing journal for each person and making this an exciting event; however, in the spirit of sheltering-at-home, I encourage you to scrounge around in your supplies and find some kind of notebook —and then let your kids make them their own. One easy way to personalize a journal is to decorate the front and back with scrapbooking paper, photos, magazine cut-outs, etc. You can use Modge Podge or just a gluestick. Take some time and thought in doing this—make it an event! Don't forget to make yourself a journal, too!

Each week, we will do three activities: Capture/Collage, Create, and Communicate.
  • Capture/Collage: Capture things that speak to you during this strange time. For example: memes, news headlines, comic strips, a quote, song lyrics, a poem, a passage from the Bible, a paragraph from a book you are reading, photos. Choose a few each week, and make a weekly collage page by printing, cutting, and pasting into your journal; writing out quotes; copying by drawing; or whatever method works for you.
  • Create: Do your own thing. Write a poem, make a diary entry, paint a picture. I’ll post weekly poetry ideas that may spark ideas.
  • Communicate: I’’ll provide a couple of prompts each week for you to respond to. Do this however you wish—in a short freewrite, written out in dialogue, whatever. Think of this as stream-of-consciousness thinking. Just write what comes to mind as a response without worrying about proper grammar, sentence structure, etc. (Feel free to send me prompt ideas, especially ones related to the coronavirus that might come up at your house!) Guidelines to freewriting are found here at Brave Writer.

{One note: Please do the handwriting for your children if this is laborious for them! We want to tap into their thoughts and ideas here, so feel free to remove the handwriting obstacle. And…this is not the time to correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Let’s let those things go, okay?}

Okay, here’s one more thing: sharing is important! I’ll provide a place each week for sharing photos of your journals or snippets from them if that works better. Maybe your kids will want to share each page, or maybe just one. If they don’t want to share publicly, that’s okay! Just be sure to set aside time each week to share at home or send photos to grandparents, friends, etc. If you are a BHEA member, you can share either on the weekly Facebook thread or here on the blog, if you'd like. Others are welcome to share here in the comments or in whatever way works for you.

First assignment: get your journals ready! Start whenever you want! See prompt links below.

Week 1 Journal Prompts

Thursday, March 26, 2020

January-March Books Read

Top of the List

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: Stevenson's story of starting out as a young lawyer defending impoverished, innocent people who were unjustly convicted of crimes and sentenced to death row or to serve life sentences, including women and children. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and every single story he tells is heartbreaking—but lots of redemptive stories, too. Everyone should read this!

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama for President. Please, oh please! My admiration for her quadrupled after reading this memoir.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson. Total surprise! This is a book I "found" on my Kindle that I must have downloaded as part of Amazon Prime's free monthly book program. I loved this sweet, charming, and fast read! This is absolutely perfect as a lighthearted, happy ending but totally engaging book. In brief, Blix has the gift of matchmaking—of seeing people who would be perfect matches. When she meets Marnie, her nephew's fiancee, she realizes  two things: Marnie and Noah are not meant for each other, and Marnie has the same matchmaking gift. Super sweet book.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. Bruce for Michelle Obama's running mate! I've loved Bruce nearly my entire life. I love him even more now. Utterly open, honest, engaging....and I watched a whole lot of Springsteen videos while reading this book. I love him. The only thing that would have made this book better is if I had listened to Bruce Springsteen  actually read it in his gloriously gravelly voice on Audible; but alas, I didn’t know this was a thing until too late. Sorta side note: Bruce Springsteen was THE BEST CONCERT ever.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Parenting is hard. Being a boy named Claude is hard. Being a girl named Poppy is mostly wonderful. Claude or Poppy? This is a novel that tackles a tough subject with love and candor and puts us right in the midst of a wonderfully complicated family.

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. I adored this debut novel, set in London amidst the bombings during WWII. Emmaline Lake accidentally finds herself working for the intimidating and terribly proper Mrs. Bird as an advice columnist for a sinking women's magazine. Emmy is gutsy and sweet and this novel just made me warm and happy, in spite of its moments of tragedy.


Thoughts on the Others

Such a Fun Age and If Only I Could Tell You: Both were engaging and definitely had good moments, but something about each one fell apart for me. Too much tragedy in the latter, and the ending was off in the former.

Snow: I really wanted to love this book but it was too dense. I don't know enough about Turkish history to truly appreciate it. Beautifully written though—and I felt triumphant and enlightened upon finishing it.

Mrs. Everything I didn't hate this book, but it super annoyed me. It felt extremely forced. Practically every Big Issue between 1950-2016 is covered in the lives of Jo and Bethie, from sexual abuse to Civil Rights to interracial marriages, the Vietnam War, women's rights, sexual identity, drugs, sex, rock and roll, rape, cancer, abortion, on and on and on. I don't mean to be flippant about ANY of these issues, and she isn't flippant about any of them, either. But tackling them all in one book? To one family? Too much happens. Way too much. I stuck with the book because the characters interested me enough to keep going.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Books Read in 2019

I read 54 books in 2019. My goal was 52, so I am definitely pleased with myself. I was on what amounted to bed rest for six weeks this summer, so I no doubt got more reading done than I would have otherwise. We'll see if I can meet that same goal this year, without being sick!

Here are all the books and my brief remarks about some of them.

Thoughts on this set:
• I loved Valencia and Valentine but I don't remember anything about it.
The Known World took me a looong time to get through. It was a book club book, but I didn't make it to that particular book club.
• I absolutely LOVED Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone. I was hesitant to read her again because I was so disappointed with subsequent books after reading the incredible The Nightingale. But this one was one of my favorites of the year.
The Music Shop was definitely worth reading.
Pachinko, Fred Rogers, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and Girls Like Us were all for book clubs. 1) Pachinko was AMAZING but took me weeks to get through. It followed several generations of a Korean family, and I learned so much about the relationships between Japanese and Koreans, as well as cultural information, throughout the book. 2) I wasn't crazy about the Fred Rogers book. It was poorly written and rather boring. 3) Tattooist was amazing. It's hard to imagine a happy story about Aushwitz, but in many ways, it was. 4) Girls Like Us is an incredibly important book, detailing the lives of girls in the commercial sex industry.
The Quintland Sisters was fascinating. I've always been a little obsessed with the Dionne Quintuplets, as they were contemporaries of my mother's. She had the Yvonne doll when she was a little girl, and I still have a pin with the name "Yvonne" inscribed on it from that doll. Really interesting story.
• Mary Oliver. Enough said.

Thoughts on this set. Ooooh, these are some of my favorites of the year.
• I don't remember a lot about The Wedding Date, The Woman in the Window, and Sometimes I Lie, but I know I really liked them.
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane was absolutely stunning. The story follows one mountain girl from her impoverished childhood through her adulthood as a tea seller, and it was all fascinating and beautifully written.
The 57 Bus— WOW. This is the true story of two teenagers in San Francisco who inhabited totally different worlds: one white one who attended a private school, one black one who lived in a neighborhood with high crime. A single, impulsive event changed both their lives forever. This was an eye-opening book for me. Powerful.
An American Marriage was one of my favorite fiction books of the year. A beautifully told but heartbreaking story of race, love, and how quickly a life can be derailed.
Walking to Listen was our first book club book of the year. It was a wonderful and fascinating story of a young man who walked across the country just to hear people's stories and, of course, find himself.
Nine Perfect Strangers started wonderfully and ended horrendously. My least favorite Moriarty book.

When I look at this set, I go from one extreme to the other. There are some that were absolutely wonderful:
Evicted: nonfiction account of eight families in Milwaukee as they try to avoid eviction. Provides an incredible perspective on poverty and just how hard it is to keep from being on the streets.
Once Upon a River
Eleanor Oliphant: can't wait for the movie!
Americanah: I never wanted this one to end
Born a Crime: Trevor Noah's memoir of growing up a child of mixed parentage during apartheid in South Africa

And some that make me feel tired and frustrated:
Maid: felt inauthentic. Too many things unsaid.
The Dollmaker of Krakow: weird
Bridge of Clay: too obtuse

All the others in this set were enjoyable but not quite up to the level of stunning.

And finally...

Snowflower and the Secret Fan was a re-read for book club. I loved it the first time AND the second time. Sworn to Silence was also a book club read, and that was chilling but satisfying! I loved The Homecoming of Samuel Lake, and all the pscyhological thrillers are fun. But my favorite out of all these is Where'd You Go, Bernadette? What a weird and wonderful novel, much like Eleanor Oliphant. I love quirky characters like Bernadette and Bee, Eleanor, and  The Rosie Project's Don Tillman.

I wanted to love City of Girls and Searching for Sylvia Lee, but meh.

Top Ten Books of the Year:

1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
2 The 57 Bus: A True Story of Teenagers and a Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
3. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
4. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
5. Americanah by Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie
6. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
7. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
8. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
9. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
10. Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time by Andrew Forsthoefel

What about you?

(Visit me at SmallWorld Reads for occasional reviews throughout the year!)

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: It was a doozy

I came across last year’s Christmas letter, and I had to laugh at this line: "I think 2018 was a year for us to breathe a little, because 2019 is going to be a doozy. “

I had no idea just what a doozy 2019 would be. So many changes, both expected and unexpected. Amazing, joyous celebrations and not-so-fun health issues. We had lots of endings and some amazing new beginnings—an unusual number of milestones in 12 short months. And so, here we go:

1. Randy and I celebrated 30 YEARS of marriage. 
THIRTY! All I can say is: I do, I do, I do.

2. The end of homeschooling. 
For 19 years we’ve been doing this. A whole career! These pictures still get me weepy: Duncan during his last week of school, curled up on the couch, reading, like hundreds of other days; Duncan and me on his last official day; and all three kids on our very last, last-day-of-school celebration. I could write pages and pages and pages about these nearly 2 decades of homeschooling, but I’ll save that for a blog series…one of these days.

3. Two graduations:  
Duncan from high school (our last high school graduate!) and Laurel from Lipscomb University with her BA in psychology (summa cum laude).


4. Wedding!
Our daughter, a beautiful bride…and our new son-in-law. This was the most perfect wedding, the most glorious, joy-filled day. What a celebration! I’ll never get tired of looking at these photos and remembering this day.

5. S I C K. 
I spent a few days in the hospital and then the entire summer recovering from pericarditis. It was a long, slow recovery that basically required me to do absolutely nothing but read and watch Netflix for six weeks. Trust me: that sounds a lot more fun than it actually is. 

 6. New floors! 
While I was recovering, Randy was renovating. Not only did he rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors we found beneath, but he painted the whole living room and gave us a gorgeous new space to create our new life of empty nesting.

7. School, school, and more school. 
August brought new adventures for all our kids. Duncan started college; Laurel and Hunter both started graduate school; and Jesse started law school. So proud of all of them!

8. Engaged! 
We recovered from Laurel and Hunter’s wedding just in time to start planning Jesse and Summer’s, coming on July 4, 2020!

 9. Fix ‘em up! 
Our precious parents: broken arm, broken ribs, broken-ish toe. We’ve become well-acquainted with doctors’ offices, home health care, and rehab facilities this year. Mom’s all healed now; Dad and Pat (Randy’s mom) are works in progress. We love them all so dearly.

 10. Empty nest.  
I could share of photo of Randy and me sitting on the couch, watching reruns of ER every night, to illustrate our empty nest; but I’ll go with this. For the first time in over 20 years, I’m no longer driving a minivan. And I have to say: I don’t miss the van one bit!

So there we go. What a year! 

Can’t wait to see what 2020 brings…I think!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving, All Grown Up

 No melted crayon leaves shining in the windows. No "I'm thankful for..." tree decorated with orange, yellow, and brown leaves that say MOM, DAD, CANDY, and PLAYSTATION. No storybooks or history lessons or discussion about the real meaning of Thanksgiving. 

There's no "Pick up your Legos" or "Do NOT make a mess in the living room! I just cleaned!"

None of that.

We're all grown up around here.


The day before Thanksgiving, I bawled my eyes out. I mean, I sobbed and sobbed. It's because of music. I had the grand idea to listen to CDs while I baked. And then a whole album made me think of when were first married, and all our college friends and how much fun that was. I didn't cry then. Not even close. Thinking of college friends comes with pangs of anxiety and betrayal, almost always. Not that day—I just had a happy feeling.

But then I put in another CD--a compilation—and suddenly I was hit with such a longing that I just sobbed. Because this is the first year that my daughter wasn't home, and I miss her. I miss how pretty she'd make things, and I miss asking her opinion and, sure, I miss her help. I love when she would be dusting in the living room while watching Netflix, how she'd make things just so.

But we're all grown up around here, and she's in Nashville with her husband and his family this year. She's making her own pies and figuring out how to roast a turkey and cleaning her own house. She's making her own traditions.

I stopped listening to music and watched New Girl instead while I baked a cherry/cranberry pie. And I thought about my father, as I always do when I make pies, and how every holiday feels like it could be the last one with him. And how will I cope... how will I... how? 

And back to New Girl, which is silly and sweet and utterly not sob-inducing.


Thanksgiving day started quietly. No Macy's Day parade, no dog show. Those were things the kids became enamored with just the past several years, so without them here, we left the TV off. Duncan went to his girlfriend's house early. Randy prepared the food; I prepared the house.

I drove across town to pick his mom up. This past month, she's fallen deeper and faster into dementia. Alzheimer's most likely, like her own mother. She was "so surprised" to see me; she had "no idea" we were coming for her. We tried and failed to find her purse, her keys, and her phone (she's taken to wrapping things up and putting them in suitcases), but we successfully found the cat. 

All grown up now, parents to our parents. 

 One by one the cars pulled in: Jesse and his fiancée, one family, another family, Duncan and his girlfriend, my parents. Champagne punch all around, and the house if full to bursting. Dad turns off his hearing aids; it's all just mumbling noise to him. Mom, the original party girl, is thrilled. 
"How many people are here?" she asks over and over.
"Fifteen," we remind her.
"Fifteen! I beat our neighbor. He was having 11 people over. I can brag to him!"
"You can!" we encourage her. A few minutes later she asks it all again. 

 We pray, we feast, we exclaim over each and every dish. It's glorious, this mix of family and friends who are family. 

I don't let myself think too often of our girl. I don't let myself think that this may be the last year my parents, now 92 and 94, are with us, or how far gone Randy's mom might be by this time next year. I look at my handsome boys and listen to stories. We laugh a lot.

Dad's usual after-dinner nap


It's not so bad being all grown up; in fact, it's lovely for friends to stay late and play board games. The punch bowl gets refilled again and again. We nibble at the turkey again, have more pie and whipped cream, break out the cheese board and homemade Chex mix. The teenagers go out Black Friday shopping but return within an hour or two. "It was boring," they report. "No fights. No lines. No crowds."


Before I go to bed, I text my girl. She's had a wonderful day, she says. She's sent photos throughout the day, so I've seen her turkey and pies and, most of all, her beautiful smile. 

I was dreading it just a tiny bit, this first Thanksgiving all grown up, but it was actually one of my favorites ever. I am deeply blessed by this life, by the sight of my parents across the table from me still, by my children love to come home and be with us, by friends who make themselves at home and linger well into the evening. 

Grateful, as always, to the giver of all good gifts.

The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful. That the gift has been given.
{Mary Oliver}

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Things I Learned This Summer

I can't begin to count the number of times Randy and I looked at each other these past few months and said, "This is the weirdest summer ever." Here are a few things I've learned this very strange summer.

1. You can make it through your daughter's wedding (the most perfect wedding ever) without sobbing uncontrollably.
When I imagined my daughter's wedding day, I was sure I would have these moments throughout the whole day when I would not be able to stop the tears. Happy tears, tears of melancholy, tears of joy—all the tears that come when your child transitions to a new season. Because we all know that a new season for a child changes the shape of the family. But when the day really came, I was filled with joy. Sure, I had moments when I got choked up, but I never wept, never had mascara-running tears. I distinctly remember smiling as my handsome sons walked me down the aisle, looking at all the guests and loving each one of them, appreciating our village, our family, our new friends. I made it through with joy and gladness, from these first moments to the toasts to the father-daughter dance. What a beautiful evening it was.

2. I was not having anxiety attacks.
When I first went to the ER with chest pains back in late April, I was assured that I was not having a heart attack. A follow-up visit with my doctor confirmed this. She suggested that I was most likely having an anxiety attack, which made total sense with all the huge things in my life in the past year: planning a wedding, planning a graduation ceremony for our homeschooling group, Laurel's graduation, Duncan's graduation, coming to the end of 19 years of homeschooling, all three kids starting new chapters, caring for my aging parents as well as Randy's mother, becoming empty nesters, and on and on. Anxiety made sense. But, I told her, I am really not an anxious person. I am relaxed, laid back. Even though I certainly feel stress, I've never been incapacitated by it. I've always been thankful for this gift of optimism and trust that things will work out. My doctor explained that sometimes the most relaxed people could experience the worst cases of sudden anxiety. Again, that made sense.

So when it happened again at Laurel's graduation, I attributed the pains to stress and moved on. When it happened a couple weeks later, between Duncan's graduation and Laurel's wedding, it made sense. I prayed that I would not experience that searing pain on Laurel's wedding day, and I did not. I breathed easily, enjoyed every minute of the day, and hoped that, with all the big stresses now done, the pains would be done, too.

And then a week after Laurel's wedding, I had another episode, and this time the pain didn't go away. I went back to the doctor, really seeking reassurance that this was anxiety. This time she ran another blood test and the results prompted her to send me to the hospital for a possible blood clot. A WHAT? CT-scan, x-rays, a heparin drip, and finally the diagnosis: pericarditis (in short, inflammation of the pericardium). Pericarditis feels like a heart attack, or, as one friend put it, "torture of the torso."

{Y'know, I should have trusted my gut more. I just couldn't get on board with the anxiety attacks, but it really did make sense. TRUST YOUR GUT. Will I ever learn that lesson??}

And so, after being in the hospital for a couple of days, I was released for my long recovery: some anti-inflammatory meds and 6 weeks of rest.

3. A whole summer of reading and watching Netflix isn't as blissful as it sounds.
No housework, says the cardiologist. No heavy lifting.  No yard work. Sounds like a dream, right?
No working out. (Like, none?) Nothing that will raise your heart rate.
No hiking. No walks with friends in the park. No anything.

I sat on the couch all summer.
I read a lot of books (17 between June-August). I watched many hours of Netflix, Hulu, and Prime. (My favorite: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Oh, how I love that series!! Also, I only watched season 1 of Outlander but I really hated the last episodes so much that I couldn't watch but one or two episodes of season 2.) And that's about all I did, for real. I thought I would use that time to do a lot of writing, catch up on photo albums, publish lesson plans, etc. but I was just so tired all the time. Brain tired. Heart tired. I napped a lot.

4. It is wearisome and worrisome to be sick.
I have developed tremendous empathy for people who are chronically ill. I have friends who struggle with this, and I will admit that I have been annoyed sometimes, thinking "Just get out and DO something and you'll feel better!" I have learned that, even as you begin feeling physically better, it is just hard to get back into the swing of things. You feel lonely, anxious, and just not yourself. I can see how my sick-self could take over my "real" self, how I could succumb to choosing a nap over coffee with a friend, even when my body says it is okay. When you are sick all the time, you live way too much in your own head. We need friends to shake us out of that, to remind us of what we have to offer the world. I have been re-entering the world these past 4 weeks—going to church, walking with a friend, even going on a short trip with another friend. Those things have been so healing for me!

5. This is a BIG one: Preparing to be empty-nesters was one of the smartest things we have ever done.
Last year, Randy and I looked at our very tall baby and realized that he would be leaving the nest soon. Your baby leaving home is traumatic enough, but I have been homeschooling for 19 years—and that meant that I would essentially be out of a job. Retired. We have been blessed with an incredible homeschooling community, and my ties with that would essentially end. (But we have an amazing group of friends—a whole village—we've cultivated from that group over the years. That certainly hasn't ended!) So we started getting ready. We began embracing our soon-to-be empty nest rather than dreading it. Our son was working 25 hours a week and finishing his senior year of high school, so he wasn't around much, providing us with a perfect practice year. We joined a hiking challenge group. We called friends to meet us for drinks at a local brewery. We started being regulars at a Wednesday night music event. We kayaked and walked and went on a few weekend trips, just the two of us. We were intentional about moving into the next season of our life with anticipation and joy, rather than feeling lost and lonely. Our son left for college nearly three weeks ago, and this has by far been the easiest transition. We miss him, of course. We have moments when we look around our house and hear the voices of our children shouting to each other, imagine their laughter and their little feet. But we DID it! We raised three beautiful human beings who are kind, compassionate, and truly enjoyable adults—people that we love to hang out with.

This is taken right before we left our youngest at college! We're not crying!

6. "Normal" is elusive.
Oh, it is so very, very slippery.
For months now, we've been saying "After the wedding, things will get back to normal." Hahaha! Hello, pericarditis. Or after I'm feeling better, things will be normal. Yeah, well, I forgot to mention that we ("we" being Randy) launched a massive renovating project right after the wedding but before my pericarditis diagnosis. I mean, I was planning to help him, but instead I watched as he prepped and sanded and painted. We slept in our attached apartment, ate dinner with boxes of books piled all around us, and said goodbye to 19 years of carpet and wallpaper. Our living room is livable now and, while it's not quite finished, I absolutely adore it, by the way.

But things cannot be normal when your last child is leaving home. We purchased and packed and had a goodbye party or two and then dropped our sweet boy off.

We were ready to embrace our new normal. But wouldn't you know it? Just as we pulled out of his college and got back on the interstate, we got a text from my Dad saying that Mom had fallen and was in the hospital with a broken arm. That's a big deal when you're 92. Normal slipped away again. The next couple weeks were a blur of overnights in the hospital and then the rehab center with Mom. My brother, father, and I took turns sleeping in the room with her, as we were afraid she would get up at night and fall. Also, she just really loved our company.

She is home now, and I hesitate to say it but... life is feeling a little more normal this week. We are developing a rhythm to our new life, just Randy and me. I know, I know. It's only been a few days, but somehow life seems just a little slower this week, and I can almost feel a sense of normal. Almost.

7. My kids have grown up.

I mean, look at them.
One started college. Our baby!
My daughter and her husband (HER HUSBAND! My baby girl is married!) started graduate school.
Our oldest (he was our little Jesse Bear, our first little love!) is now in law school—and planning a wedding!

Duncan and his girlfriend, as he moves into his dorm room

Hunter, who began his MDiv, and Laurel, who began her master's in marriage and family therapy
Our future lawyer!
And also, Jesse and his future wife!

They are grown, and they are such wonderful people. We like them SO MUCH! We are still adjusting to having adult children, but I am really liking this concept.

What a crazy summer this has been. What a blur, what a time of transition! Things have just been weird, and I have to say at this point how incredibly grateful I am to my husband. He has been an absolute ROCK through all of this. He's made me laugh, cooked nearly all our meals, sanded and painted like crazy, held my hand, encouraged me and our kids, taken care of his own mother, and so much more. He is the kindest, gentlest, and funniest man I know, and I am so glad he is mine. I learned that a LONG time ago, though.

And so, that's what I've learned this very weird summer. I'm joining lots of others at Emily Freeman's blog, sharing what they've learned, too!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Most Perfect Wedding Ever

It seems like a dream, really. 

Every time I think about their wedding, I see a floating white veil, shimmering summer green grass, and smiles so bright they could light up a city.

I see my daughter, excited and nervous, too, but with a confidence that speaks volumes: she is more than ready to marry this man. She is radiant. She glows, she floats, she beams. She sees herself in the mirror and knows she is beautiful.

 She laughs, cries, prays with her bridesmaids; they wait on her hand and foot. This is her day.

On this day, I don't think about the little girl she was in cowboy boots and a ruffled dress. I enjoy every single moment, immersed only in the day. I can't keep my eyes off her, to be honest: the wave of her hair around her face, her brown eyes like some exquisite piece of art, her smooth skin, her beautiful smile. Her wedding dress is perfect, and for just one second, I let myself glimpse her in a white Cinderella dress, age three or four—just for one second.

My princess.

I zip her up. I put the flowers in her hair. She gives me a delicate mother/daughter necklace, with a card that makes me cry.

She meets her father, taps him on the shoulder. He turns and breaks into a smile as he sees his girl transformed into a bride. She gives him a gift she used to give to him when she was a little girl: handkerchiefs she embroidered with tiny hearts. He cries.

And so the day progresses, from moment to moment...

The details, so tailored to fit their personalities, who they are as individuals and as a couple.

The first look between Laurel and Hunter.

The incredibly fun wedding party. What fabulous bridesmaids and groomsmen!

And then the ceremony. Walking down the aisle with a son on either side, seeing chairs filled with friends and family who love us. My mother, the flower girl, and Laurel's cousin (the second to youngest grandchild), the ringbearer. And then the walk down the aisle, my daughter and my husband.

The readings by their brothers. Poems read by Laurel's brothers: "I Carry Your Heart With Me" by e.e. cummings and "Coming Home" by Mary Oliver. Scripture read by Hunter's brother: 1 Peter 4:8-11, "Above all, love each other deeply..."

The ceremony was truly a perfect blend of smiles and tears, laughter and solemnity. Their precious vows that they had written (seriously, the best I've ever heard), their shared communion, a few jokes, and lots of blessings: what a joyful celebration!


Ah, and the reception. What a party! The food, the drinks, the music, the toasts, the cake, the dancing: everything about the evening was wrapped in happiness, tied up with joy. So much dancing! The June evening was clear and just warm enough, the lights twinkled, we soaked in the love of tables filled with our friends, our families, and their joy in our joy.


It sounds idyllic, I know. I could go into all the details—the months of planning and all that entailed— but the end result was the most magical day without, for me, one single moment of stress.  I will say that I'm so thankful for our wedding planner, Megan. She made all the difference between a stressful event and one in which all the parents could just sit back and revel in every moment.

The wedding was glorious, it's true. But a hundredfold more than the candlelight and the flowers, the tender toasts and the exuberant dancing, are the vows these two made to each other, before all of us, as they committed their lives to each other and their marriage to God. Their trust in each other and their faith in Christ is tangible and strong, and they are clearly excited to grow together in every way.

I think of the words of Hannah from 1 Samuel 27: "I prayed for this child..." Of course I covered my girl in prayer since before she was born, but I also prayed for her future husband through the years: that he would be having a happy childhood, that he would be kind and generous and compassionate, gentle and funny and Spirit-filled. The rest of the verse goes like this: "the Lord has granted me what I asked of him." Hunter is all of that and more, and I love to watch them embracing this life together.

 Our family of 5 is now a family of 6, and I couldn't be happier.

 And we got some pretty amazing in-laws, too!

If you read all the way to the bottom of this, THANKS FOR SHARING this special day with me!

Photography: Jamie Pratt Photos
Planning, Coordination, and Decor: Margaret Claire’s Weddings and Events
Venue: The Stables at Strawberry Creek, Knoxville
DJ: Margaret Claire’s DJ Services
Floral Design: Echelon Florist
Catering: Best Bites
Bartending: The Pour Guys
Bride’s Cake: Publix
Groom’s Cake: Bees Knees Bakery