lunch and christmas gift exchange with Dave

Too many of us never understand what we owe to our dear ones — until there remains no further opportunity of paying love’s debt.  JR Miller

I just downloaded 44 photos that could be grouped into a gazillion blog posts.  I was tempted to just dump them all into ONE but I can’t, I just can’t.  They deserve their own posts.  (Okay, It really might be ten, but with the rate I’ve been blogging it would take me a gazzillion days to post the ten.  I’m determined to do a blog a day until I’m caught up.)

I’m sitting on the couch in the livingroom.  Three of our four cats are prowling around.  Walter is sitting like a king by the kitchen door, Sherlock is sitting on the counter watching over things.  Bagheera snuck up behind Sherlock wanting to play and was hissed at, meanly.

Grace is also prowling around, warming up a cornbag and preparing a breakfast bagel.

It’s a gift to have her home on break for the next few weeks.  Her older brothers already had to drive back to Castleton on the 1st.  We are thinking about going to visit them at some point, just for the fun of it.

But today Grace and I are picking up Seth at the school at 10:30 for an orthodonist appointment.  He has an expander on the roof of his mouth, and a habit breaker, and I wonder if he’ll have either one of them removed today.  That would be nice for him.

Rich and Dave have a wrestling meet today after school.

This would be a nice weekend to visit us if you want to see the boys wrestle.  Dave has a meet on Saturday.  Caleb and Seth have their first meet on Sunday.  They will both be half- a- day long affairs, I will be taking headphones, a charger, and a book so the noise and activity doesn’t daze and confuse me.  I’m already praying they have fun and do as well as they can.  I’ll let you know if they place and get medals.

Sarah Joy was rummaging around the shelves this morning searching for lost school library books until I finally said, “You should have done this last night!” and she went to school with one missing.  She’s wearing blue pants, a purple velvet-textured shirt with ruffled sleeves, her trademark ponytail.  And a smile.

This morning I’m thinking about way back on December 18, 2018 when I drove to Clarks Summit.  The purpose of the trip was first and foremost to get my daughter home for Christmas, but at the same time I was able to spend time with Joanna and stay the night all by myself in a hotel.

I was also able to visit with my brother Dave.  He drove about an hour to meet me for lunch at a favorite little Greek diner.  He did all the ordering and we had the grandest time sitting and enjoying each other’s company while eating delicious food.

56684586932__E92D405E-9B56-4C40-97DC-071EDF7A019C

Dave is one of the best brothers in the whole wide world (I have two others).  We are a year and two months apart in age and we like to tell each other, “You’re my original best friend.” It’s true.  We’ve been together all these years, and now, even though we live 4 hours apart, we text each other almost daily and talk on the phone once or twice a month.

IMG_5226

This was before our main lunch plates came out!  We had spinach pie, a piece of cheese that the waitress lit on fire next to our table so we could eat it sizzling hot, and pita with a sour cream/feta cheese dip.  All of the foods had Greek names that I now cannot remember, (I should have taken notes.)

IMG_5227

IMG_5229

IMG_5230

Then our meat kabobs came out and we kept right on eating.

IMG_5231

We ate and we ate and we ate and then had dessert.  We were stuffed full of good food.

IMG_5234

The waitress cleared away our dishes and packed up the remainder of my cheesecake, which I would finish eating at 9 o’clock that night.  I asked her to take a photo of us and now I have this picture to remind me of the day Dave came to meet me for lunch.

I’m leaning toward the computer screen right now, looking at it and smiling because I can’t help it.

***

I posted the quote at the beginning of this post as a reminder to me to take every opportunity I can to spend time with the people I love, and to show them that I care about them.

nancy drew books

When I was around 10 years old my Grandma brightened up my entire world by giving me a set of Nancy Drew books, which I absolutely loved to read.  I got so I would read one a day….all summer long…the summer I was ten.

I love how as an adult you remember things you did as a kid and think, “I still do that!!”  I HATE endings, I hate finishing things that are extra-special.  Most of the time you just have to go ahead and end, but sometimes you have a choice and just can’t.  For example, I read Winnie the Pooh to my son when he was little and I never read him the last chapter because I just couldn’t.  Well, I never read the last Nancy Drew book from Grandma, either………I never will.  It would be over.

I kept them all on a bookshelf in my bedroom,  in an orderly row.  My baby brother Isaac went through a stage when he would deliberately crawl in my bedroom just to pull himself up and pull all big sister’s nice books down in a heap.  I wonder if we have a photo of that.  I would have to put them all back again every single day, half annoyed and half forgiving because he was so cute and I loved him.

I had neglected the books.  I had all but forgotten their existence.

BUT THEN.  My brother David went to a huge antique store in Savannah, Georgia and sent me these photos:

(by the way it feels so good to be seen and known and loved by family–by Grandma years ago, and by Dave in sending me these photos bc he remembered I had them)

44188840_10156476485431343_6566359878611238912_n

44061617_10156476485806343_3327399812336189440_n

The memory of Nancy Drew books came back to me as I thought of how amazed I was when Grandma gave me the set, how I treasured them and read them.  I would study the titles and the pictures on each cover.  I loved the size and feel of the books in my hands and their nice hard yellow covers.  I thought how I’ve kept them for 32 years now…..but not on shelves.  Shelf space for Nancy Drew had run out years ago and other books had become more important because life was busy with raising seven children and I rarely had time to read anything but children’s books to them, and no time to enjoy my own collection of books, much less the ones from my own childhood.  I like to enjoy my books by looking at them, pulling one out to look through, putting it back, rearranging them, putting them in neat orderly rows.  Feeling that they were mine, all mine.

I texted him back:  “When I was 10 Grandma gave me the whole set.  And I read one every day.  I should put them on shelves instead of in boxes.”

I’ve been cleaning and cleaning the basement for days.  And as I did, I came across some of the books!

Yesterday, Dave (my son) had an appointment and afterwards had to go back to school, but, “It would be WRONG if we were right next to Goodwill and didn’t run inside quick.”

WE FOUND A BOOKCASE!  It was made of pine (light enough for me to carry myself) and only cost 10 dollars.

Once books are on a shelf no one notices the shelf anymore so any ol’ bookcase of any quality (as long as it is sturdy) will do for books.  When I showed it to Rich he asked how much I paid and I said thirty and he said “good” and then I laughed and said “IT WAS TEN!!!!” to surprise him and impress him.

It was wonderful to gather up my old Nancy Drews out of a dark lonely box and put them all in one spot for the first time in 20 years.  I opened them up to see my name written inside.  I admired the covers.

There were a BUNCH MISSING.

This morning I wanted to blog and could not find my computer anywhere.  David uses it more than I do these days so I kept muttering his name as I went from room to room looking for MY computer.  Ugh.  I felt just as annoyed as I did when I found all my books on the floor.  Boys!  Brothers and sons.  cute.  loved.

I remembered that he had gone to the garage where we have a work out room upstairs.  He goes over there every day to exercise and he is very proud of his resulting muscles.  “Maybe he took my computer to the work out room,” I thought.  I don’t like going to the garage and mainly stay away.  But I tromped on over to look and… since I was there… I looked in the storage closet and FOUND A WHOLE BUNCH MORE OF MY BOOKS.

Thanks Dave (1) for inspiring me and thanks Dave (2) for misplacing my computer and forcing me into the garage this morning!  It’s all because of you two that I’m getting this silly little project done!

fullsizeoutput_5b7e

I carried them back to the house in this basket.

fullsizeoutput_5b7f

Getting ready to add them to the shelf.

fullsizeoutput_5b83

the shelf I bought at goodwill for ten dollars is already filled up

fullsizeoutput_5b81

I wrote down the ones I am still missing.  It’s like a treasure hunt!  I bet they’re around here somewhere!

DSC_0423

the beautiful blue of an autumn sky

fullsizeoutput_5b5b

Samantha cat has a sore paw.

fullsizeoutput_5b74

Seth

fullsizeoutput_5b70

David was using this tool to retrieve Seth’s football from the pond.  He wasn’t being nice. He knew he had to do it because he was the one who kicked it in.

fullsizeoutput_5b6c

When he saw me up on the porch taking his photo with my zoom lens he did what he loves to do…….

fullsizeoutput_5b72

…..take his shirt off and show off those muscles from his daily work-outs.

DSC_0418

b213477033

I have three brothers and these five sons. (photo from 8 years ago)

Why am I crying?  I guess it’s because I’m happy and life is beautiful…and fleeting.

deep down joy

fullsizeoutput_4e37A sibling may be the keeper of one’s identity, the only person with the keys to one’s unfettered, more fundamental self. ~Marian Sandmaier

Brother Dave came the day after Christmas and stayed until Friday morning.

He’s a brother in every sense of the word.

I noticed that Sarah in particular had to be close to him as much as she possibly could.

DSC_0947

He hardly had room for his arms at times.

It was like she could sense that deep down inside, Uncle Dave could use another human Right There.  Us Grown ups all seem to have a little bit of sad vulnerability within us that is healed by the love and simple phrases of a child.  “Sit by me!  Can I come, too?  Will you read me a story?  Let’s snuggle.  Can I have a taste of your smoothie?  Will you play a game with me?  I don’t want you to go!”  Healed.

If a child is not available, any ol’ human will do.  “It is not good for man to be alone.”

DSC_0951

Right away we had Christmas again.  Dave had already sent cards with money to the children but he brought the gifts from our parents that we all enjoyed opening up.

fullsizeoutput_4dee

Sarah received the most adorable green umbrella with piggies on it.

fullsizeoutput_4e48

DSC_0963

The men received new shirts.

DSC_0978

DSC_0982

Rich tied the ribbon around his head.

DSC_0983

Grace received beauty products.

fullsizeoutput_4e4c

By the time we opened our gifts Rich was ready for a nap.  He had already been awake for hours and had worked out with his wrestling team.  He likes to trap Seth in his arm on the couch when he goes to sleep.  Seth either falls asleep too, or waits quietly until he can sneak away.

fullsizeoutput_4df2

fullsizeoutput_4dbf

Big family dinner all around the table.  I used the crock pot.  Flank Steak, sliced onion and green pepper, sliced fresh mushrooms, minced garlic, and a pat of butter slow cooked all day and then served over your choice of rice or mashed potatoes.

g+wGwp55SWyllrZ28PbKIw

After dinner we sat at the table and visited and I ended up french braiding Dave’s hair like a Viking.

IMG_4639

We went downtown for breakfast at the diner.

fullsizeoutput_4df6

Su+k2rreRdGporf1qEzz2Q

“When your breakfast is brought last.”

fullsizeoutput_4df9

After eating we were filled with happy energy so we gave Dave a little driving tour of our town.

Meanwhile, it was so cold, in the single digits.

9873pUzNSlWDucPMK8+NTg

We made a stop at the thrift store.

gdFXVTMjTHySHTjUsTpxuw

I took this photo of Hess trucks to show Rich later to see if he had any of them as a boy.

And to show Seth what they used to look like.

fullsizeoutput_4dfc

And this one for my son David who likes knives, especially sharpening them.

fullsizeoutput_4dfa

Sarah found some boots for one dollar and a couple of books.  David found and purchased a big print of ships on the ocean.  Grace shivered.

fullsizeoutput_4e01

Then we stopped at the coffee shop.  (This photo was taken across the street from it).

r3tvxVSLS8SIKPhadXFp0g

When I think back on our visit with Dave, the coffee shop stands out as a very pleasant memory.  It was warm and busy, art work on the walls and fairy lights around the windows was beautiful.  We had a corner table by the window, it was light and bright inside.  We played cards and talked and waited for our warm drinks.  Oh it was just so good for the soul.  Completely comfortable and relaxing…..so needed after a busy week/month of Christmasing.

Quick photos with five of his nephews and our dog Parker who also loved Uncle Dave.

DSC_0991

Another very special memory was the walk we went on, just the two of us.

It was, I say again, icy cold outside.  But we bundled up and walked briskly in the freshest of winter air.

DSC_0993

It was a delight to see tracks everywhere in the forest.

DSC_0994

DSC_0997

DSC_1002

DSC_1005

Shards of snow

DSC_1010

DSC_1013

Visiting the stream deep in woods is always a winter wonder.

DSC_1014

DSC_1015

DSC_1016

DSC_1017

DSC_1018

DSC_1021

DSC_1022

DSC_1023

sister and brother

DSC_1024

We ended up at the chicken coop and I walked back to the stream to get a bucket of water.

DSC_1025Our brothers and sisters are there with us
from the dawn of our personal stories
to the inevitable dusk. ~Susan Scarf Merrell

 

1 concert, 2 concert, 3 concert

“Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body.  If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.”  Luke 11

Grace longed for us to be there for her Holiday concerts this last weekend but it was not to be.

Thus, on Friday evening I sat alone on the couch by the light of the tree, and by the light of my reading lamp.

The house was FINALLY quiet after a longer-than-usual evening.

I was nearing the end of my book and I was totally immersed in its pages.

Everyone else was asleep.

 

 

I had my phone nearby and I heard it notify me of a facebook message, I turned it over and saw it was from Joanna.

fullsizeoutput_4c58.jpeg

While all was peaceful one moment, in the next moment as I listened to the sound clips she was sending me and saw the photos, hot happy tears were running down my face.

I hadn’t known she was going to be there at Grace’s first concert with her husband, Steve.

You can imagine the moment; a quiet house, a lonely mama missing her firstborn daughter, and like a kiss from heaven the gift of words, music, and photos from a dear friend.

Heart bursts.

fullsizeoutput_4c60

And it didn’t end there.  On a whim or a prompting, I texted my brother Grace’s concert schedule for Saturday and as he was free for the 3pm performance he drove almost an hour to go see her.  He had a big delicious meal at a local Greek eatery and then went to campus, found our girl, and sat in the audience for her second concert.  He recorded every song for us and sent beautiful photos of the two of them after the show.

fullsizeoutput_4c59

For her third concert, her boyfriend Caleb was able to drive from New Jersey to attend.  They went out to watch the new Star Wars movie together afterwards.

So you can see, even though her parents couldn’t make it to her first Christmas concerts at college, we were overwhelmed by the blessings of a best friend, a wonderful brother, and her dear boyfriend who all stood in the gap.

(At about the 2 minute 15 second mark in the audio posted above you will hear Grace’s voice singing a descant part in the beautiful and mournful song “Lully Lulla Lullay”.  There is a video HERE.)

Our eyes are wide open to see God everywhere.

Yes.

 

 

 

I just cried a little

17626292_10154933480691343_2659208735809490452_n

Brother Dave sent me this text last night:   _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ !!!

We texted back and forth, playing “wheel of fortune” style but with only one letter guesses like every hour or so and none from 9pm-7am.  He was very strict.  If I tried to sneak in extra guesses I got a big huge red “X” back.

After all those hours, I finally ended up with this:  happy _a_ _ !!! and then while I was down taking care of the chickens waiting for the time I could guess again, the answer popped right into my head.

So then the mail came and there was a package.  I ran to the house, opened it up and saw a wrapped present, which revealed neatly folded yards of fabric:  one of cherries and one of cats.  Two things I ADORE.

This is from my brother.  He’s turning 40 in a month.   What 40 year old motorcycle riding manly man with a big beard and tattoos does this???  My brother that’s who.

He had driven our mom to the fabric store over the weekend and as she browsed, he selected and bought the fabric for me, took it back home with him, wrapped it in pretty paper, and mailed it.

I’m crying over the thoughtfulness and text him a big thank you.

He writes me back, “It’s the little things that mean the most.”

 

what my brother did for me

13599889_10154142453811343_8054984175973185965_n

About a week or so ago, while my poor brother Dave was in pain passing a kidney stone, he read my blog post about how and why I was a fan of Rosemary Wells.

And guess what that thoughtful guy did without me knowing a thing about it?

He emailed Rosemary Wells with the blog link and she read it!

She emailed him back and said thank you for the once in a lifetime review and asked for my address so she could mail my family the newest books.

They came today!

13592771_10154142452411343_6671055470632548668_n

I love how she wrote “For Shanda’s family”.

I will treasure these books for the rest of my life.

13620895_10154142452861343_2857852271605854518_n

I already read them out loud to Sarah, of course.  She liked the Warthog’s wedding story best because it had an *ibunny phone* all throughout out it, with a flap she could lift in order to see a map.   The green dot on the map was where Max and Ruby were in the hotel as they searched for a lost wedding ring.

Anyway, aren’t brothers the best?  I’m so thankful to have three of them and Dave is now my absolute favorite because of what he did.  (((LOL) only teasing, Nate and Isaac!)))

To think, she saw my post!!  And sent me two hardcover books!

It was just the uplifting mail we needed today because………..

DSC_0944

…….tomorrow little Sarah bird is going back to the hospital for another surgery.

This one is to fix a “congenital obstruction of the ureteropelvic junction.”  The surgery is a “robotic UPJ/pyelopasty”.

It is expected to last 6 hours, or more.

This obstruction is what the doctors believe caused the large amount of kidney stones which they removed in January.  She also has reflux but they told me that as a rule they fix the obstruction first…..so…..ugh. (hoping we are reaching the end of this adventure but I know we have a few months and procedures left)

Gratefully, Sarah is happy.  We are all acting like it’s an exciting sleepover with Mama.  She knows that she will get to watch movies in the middle of the night if she can’t sleep.  And during the day she can go to an art class and the family resource center and the toy room, so in the knowledge of these joyful prospects, we conveniently forget about the surgery part.  And besides, she’s asleep the whole time and it doesn’t hurt when you’re asleep!  (that’s what we overheard her telling Seth in a very authoritative voice).

We have our bags packed.

The best part for me is that Rich has the entire week off and will be with us the whole time with no pressures to get back to work.

DSC_0924 1

little bouquets by the kitchen sink

DSC_0926

hugging the best cat ever

DSC_0959 1

a soft sweet neck and little whisps of blond

DSC_1184 1

a pair of cardinals that I photographed this morning from the porch, while it was raining

 

and they also went to Brussels

IMG_0895

IMG_0929

 

IMG_0920

IMG_0934(The Atomium)

IMG_0943

IMG_0944

IMG_0946

IMG_0955

IMG_0956(The Grand-Place)

IMG_0958

IMG_0959

 

IMG_0947(Manneke Pis)

IMG_0951

The World is a book,
and those who do not travel
read only a page.
~St. Augustine

IMG_0984

IMG_0985

IMG_0986

IMG_0997

IMG_0998

IMG_1000

IMG_1004

IMG_1005

 

Dave and Maria went on a high speed train from France to Brussels, Belgium.  They spent the day wandering about, and exploring.  They ate waffles and chocolate.  In the evening, the buildings lit up and glowed like stars.

*****