Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thank You for the Frogs and Toads and Lizards and.........

Aren't kids' prayers the greatest?  They don't miss anything, do they?  When they pray, they really pray!

"Thank you for my bike, my toy that goes beep beep, for my new book bag, my shoes, and my coat. Thank you for all the pretty things in the house like the lamps and the chairs and the tables and all the soap that smells so good in the bathroom."

"Thank you for my mommy and daddy and my baby brother and big sister.  Thank you for all my friends who come play with me and make me laugh.  Thank you for the sand and the stones and the moon and the stars and the clouds that float in the sky"

"Thank you for all of the pretty trees and flowers and the kites that fly on windy days.  Thank you for the stores and streets and the buses and cars and the trains that go past grandma's house every day.  Thank you for cookies and milk and for all the candy that daddy gives me when mommy isn't looking."

By now, we're about ready for our child to draw this prayer to a close.  After all, we're tired and would like to sit down and relax a bit before bed, too.  "Honey, let's bring this prayer to a close.  "God is very, very happy with your prayer.  I'm sure He is smiling about all of the things you've been praying about."

"No!  I have more things to tell God.  My prayer isn't finished yet!"  And, so the prayer continues..........

"Thank you for bugs and ants and dragons and dinosaurs.  Thank you for cows and pigs and roosters and everything that grows on farms.  Thank you for gardens and tractors and rakes and leaves and the tall trees -- and the little trees, too."

By now, our patience is running a bit thin.  "Okay, I really mean it.  It's time to say good night to God so that mommy can shut off the light and you can get some sleep."

"I'm almost finished with my prayer.  I promise.  Just one more thing.  Thank you, God, for the wiggly frog that I held today.  I sure hope he doesn't give me big warts like Lukie said he would.  And, God.......please help my mommy to know how to pray.  She forgets to say thank you about a lot of stuff, but I always, always remember because I love you very much!  Amen."

As I look into the eyes of this child of mine, I feel so ashamed.  She's right, you know.  I don't spend nearly enough time saying thank you to God.  She has this prayer thing down right.  And, so I turn out the light, fall to my knees, and begin my prayer......."Thank you, God, for all the little children who teach us all about you!"

Clara -- a mom who is still trying to get this prayer thing right! 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grandmom's Pumpkin Pie

Fall strikes up such wonderful memories for me, and most of them have to do with fall harvest and food! Oh, how I love the smell of apples baking! There’s absolutely thing to compare to homemade applesauce with a dash of cinnamon……..except Grandmom’s pumpkin pies made from scratch.

Growing up, I had no idea that pumpkin pies could be made from anything except fresh pumpkin. And, I have to tell you that when tasting the difference between fresh pumpkin and canned, I’ll take the fresh pumpkin over canned a hundred to one!

There’s something else about this pumpkin pie thing, though. I don’t think it’s just the recipe that makes the pies so good. I believe that a large part of my longing for homemade pumpkin pies has to do with remembering my Grandmother.

Grandmom was a plain lady – no frills or thrills about her. She was my mother’s mom, of German descent, and she was poorer than a church mouse, but also the richest woman I ever met! She had “wealth of spirit”, not physical treasure. She was always content with what she had. In fact, one of her well-known phrases was, “This is like Christmas in July!” She graciously and thankfully accepted hand-me-downs of any kind, and would literally give you the very shirt off of her back.

Grandmom lived in a little old house in the woods in New Gretna, New Jersey. She had pine trees in her side yard, a grape arbor out back, a flowerbed by her front steps, and a cranberry bog in the woods behind her house. I don’t think she ever owned a new piece of furniture in her 96 years of living on this earth. “Stuff” didn’t matter to her. What mattered to her was her loved and dedication to God and her total trust in God.

Grandmom lived as a widow without complaint for over 40 years. She lived to bury 2 of her 3 children and saw 3 of her 8 grandchildren buried – one of them being my 13-year-old sister. Never during all of that grief and pain did I see her faith falter, and to this day I marvel at her quiet, yet tenacious, faith in God. I honestly don’t know how she remained so strong in her faith!

She loved all people – rich, poor, strong, weak, Christian or non. She house strangers passing through and did not lose her faith in humankind when she was gagged, tied in a chair, and robbed of her only savings -- $100 hidden underneath her mattress. The robbers, who had fully intended to kill her, untied her and fled. I think she shook them up to the point of no return when she offered to fix them dinner, as they were about to rob her. Even in this situation she wanted to give!

Grandmom always said grace before each meal, and she opened and closed every day with a bible reading, memorization of one Scripture verse, and the writing of her list of blessings for the day.

When I think of fall and pumpkins and pumpkin pies, I think of my Grandmother and I miss her so much! As I bake my pies this eyar, I will she a few salty tears, I’m sure. Not tears of sadness as much as tears of joy and remembrance of the dearest lady I’m ever known. Grandmom, I sure do love and miss you!

PS If you care to have my Grandmother’s own pumpkin pie recipe, let me know. I’ll gladly share, but you have to promise to bake your pies with lots and lots of love!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seize the Moment -- Just Do It!

We’ve all heard the phrases, “seize the moment” and “just do it” more times than we care to mention. And, if you’re like me, you’ve bought books on how to take time to smell the roses, live in the present, and take time for the little things in life. Yet…….so much of our lives is spent doing “ meaningless stuff” that we really don’t take the time to “seize the moment” or “just do it” until something like a tragedy strikes. And, then we stop everything and spend day after day, hour after hour just wishing that we had taken the time to do the things in life that really count. Why does it take something terrible in our lives to happen before we truly “get it”?

Anyone who knows me also knows that when I was a teen at the age of 15 my middle sister died. She was only thirteen, and the impact that her death had on my life cannot even be put into words. When Carmella died, it was like someone took their foot with a heavy, steel-toed work boot and smashed my heart over and over again. My life as a teen was turned upside down and I really and truly understood how fragile life is and how quickly those moments that count can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

Ever since June 5, the day she died many years ago, my eyes have viewed life from a different perspective. I’ve wished a million times over that it didn’t take the death of my sister to impact my life like this, but I’m also thankful that her life had that much meaning to touch me for a lifetime. And, it is my constant prayer that not one day will slip past me without taking time to enjoy the wonder of it all!

What I’m trying to say is this. Life is short, and can end at any moment. Life is fragile and circumstances in life can change dramatically at any time. That’s not meant to be a frightening thought, but rather a thought to keep us focused on the real meaning of life. We are here for such a short time when viewed in the spectrum of eternity, so why not make the most of our living while on this earth? We’ve been given so much beauty to enjoy! We have oceans and mountains and streams. There are fields and flowers and rainforests. The sky is vast and blue and incredible! There are rainbows and bolts of lightening, the stars and the moon. There are butterflies and hummingbirds and eagles that soar. Not to mention the untold miracles found in a newborn baby or the tenderness and beauty found in the wrinkles of a wise and aged person of ninety. There is laughter and joy to be found everywhere if only we take time out of our crazy, busy daily routines to look around us!

Don’t delay! Grasp hold of some of today’s beauty and linger and enjoy it. Say “I love you” often. Did you know you can never say those words too many times? Give that hug you’ve been meaning to give. Study the shape and the color of the leaves. Be a star gazer and allow yourself to be “wowed” by the magic of the night lights. Just do it! Take a bit of time each and every day to enjoy the many wonders and miracles of life that surround you! Seize the moment. Just do it!

Mom of 11 children
Mom of 1 stillborn son
Mom of 6 angel babies
Author of Silent Grief

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Joy Comes from the Simple Things in Life!

I don’t know exactly why, but this morning was one of those days when I woke up early and started thinking before I ever got out of bed. My mind began to wrestle over some of the problems I knew I’d be facing today, and the more I thought, the more tensed up my mind and body became. Then, without any warning, a ray of sunshine found its way into the bedroom through the curtains that had been pulled shut the evening before, and that’s when my mind shifted gears.

There is so much that brings joy into my life. There are far more joyful things than those momentary worries, so why spend precious moments at the beginning of the day cluttering my mind with the things in life that don’t bring lasting meaning? Why not concentrate on the joyful things – the simple things in life that are my daily gifts to enjoy?

And, so…..I’ll share some of my list of the simple things in life that bring me such great joy!

Feeling the dew on my bare feet that covers that grass
Colorful flowers and leaves
Blue skies
Gentle falling raindrops
My warm, comfy bed
A steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee early in the morning
The sound of the birds singing
Watching a deer slowly walk across the front yard
Pears dropping from the ‘ole pear tree
The smell of pancakes on a crisp, fall morning
Snuggling up in my soft fleece blanket with a good book
Watching a sappy love story
Eating freshly popped popcorn
Sipping on hot peach tea right before bed
Standing on the porch and listening to the sounds of nature
Talking to Steph who always gives me something to laugh about
Looking at pictures of the kids when they were little – fun memories!
The smell of fresh paint
Vases filled with flowers from the garden
Picking a tomato and eating it straight from the garden
Lavender vanilla candles
The smell of a newborn baby
Hearing the giggles and laughter of little kids
Hugs from my kids
The smell of the crisp, autumn air

My list is never ending….but you’re getting the picture. The simple things in life are those things that surround us daily, but we so often don’t take the time to appreciate and fully enjoy because we allow our minds to be far too cluttered with the daily noise of “stuff”.

Why not join me and make YOUR list of the simple things in life that bring joy to you each day? I’ll make you a little bet…..we can each easily fill a book with our personal treasures of joy!

I’m keeping my list right beside me where I can add to it daily. Who knows? Maybe one day it will be a book, or at least it will be a “mom’s journal of simple things” that I leave behind for some of my kids and grandkids to enjoy! Or, knowing them, the journal will provide them with hours and hours of laughter as they recall, “mom was the simplest thing of all”!

Mom of 11 living children
Mom of 1 stillborn son
Mom of 6 angel babies

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Everyday Heroes - My Inspiration!

I just finished reading a book for the second time -- Life's That Way by Jim Beaver. It's a personal journal that Jim kept when he found out his wife Cecily had lung cancer. I bought the book because I speak on the topic of grief and coping skills for grief, and thought this book might give me some more insight into how people cope when life is suddenly turned upside down. The book is great, but not as great as actually speaking one-on-one with what I like to call life's everyday heroes -- those people in the trenches fighting daily battles of brokenness, loss, undeserved devastation -- who never get a book written about them and who never really get much recognition at all.

And, so it is that I want to tell you about my friends, Mike and Darcel Fahy.

I've known Mike since he was little kid. He graduated in my daughter Mandy's class from a small hometown high school in Shanksville where everybody knows everybody. After graduation I didn't hear much about Mike until one day I saw him wandering the halls of the building where I work. He was applying for a job and I promised I'd put in a good word for him. Seeing Mike that day was a reminder that he had grown up, and I had grown old! Life moves on quickly!

Mike got the job, and he often visited my office sharing stories and photos of falling in love with Darcel, their wedding, buying his new truck, and then buying their first home. He and Darcel are one of those couples that you love to be around -- full of fun and laughter and lots of energy!

On June 29, 201o no longer were Mike and Darcel living lives as regular people, in a quiet little town, going through the normal carefree activities of everyday life. Suddenly, and without warning, they were thrust into the battlefield called CANCER and this young couple now has joined the ranks of those people I call my everyday heroes!

Darcel, at the young age of 25, was told by her doctor that she has stage 3 ovarian cancer. She went to the hospital for a procedure to rid her of endometriosis so that she could get pregnant. When she left the hospital a few days later Darcel had undergone a hysterectomy, had a temporary colostomy, and understood that she would be facing several weeks of chemo, other surgeries, not to mention all of the many changes in daily routine that would now become part of Mike and Darcel's new life on the battlefield.

Most of us would have left that hospital broken in spirit and depleted of all hope. Not Darcel! Not Mike! Darcel looked her doctor straight into his eyes and said with complete confidence, "I won't let this beat me", and that has been her battle cry every day since!

Rather than focus their attention inward, Mike and Darcel have taken this ovarian cancer and together they are touching the lives of thousands of others. Just days after Darcel got home from the hospital, Mike and a friend created the website and Darcel is making it her goal to educate as many women, young and old, about the insidious symptoms of ovarian cancer. Darcel is a young woman with a passion and purpose. She is determined to fight this battle and be a winner! She is working hard each day to get word out about ovarian cancer. Who knew that this cancer could strike a woman at such a young age? Thanks to Darcel's efforts, thousands of young women are learning about the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Dignity. Grace. Passion. Selflessness. Determination. Those are the words that best describe Mike and Darcel. No, they may never make national headlines in a newspaper or have a book on the National Bestsellers List. They don't drive a splashy car or live in a luxorious house. They're not worldwide travelers or among the world's top 100 wealthiest people. But, they are heroes! They are heroes not only to me, but to the thousands of others who are touched by their story of courage, determination, and unwavering faith. They are fighting a war, and they will win!

To get to know more about Darcel's cancer journey and to join in on doing your part to help find new ways of early detection of ovarian cancer, please visit Darcel at . Read her blog. Leave her a note and let her know that you have joined her in this battle. Buy a t-shirt and a wrist band and wear it with pride as you help Darcel in this undertaking she has taken on with such passion and pride!

Darcel and Mike, you are my heroes, and you are an amazing inspiration! May God graciously continue to bless you and your selfless efforts!



Monday, August 30, 2010

"Mom, there's just one more thing I need....."

I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've heard, "Mom, there's just one more thing I need....", and the list goes on and on and on. But, the odd thing is that I've never grown tired of hearing that. Instead, those words make me feel good, and happy, and useful, and needed. It's when I don't hear those words that I feel lost and lonely and a bit forgotten. Crazy, isn't it?

This morning was a regular type of morning....except that I was missing the kids. So many of them live far away, and our visits are limited to once a year. Most days I'm okay with that, but not today. It was just one of those "I'm missing my kids" kind of days. Maybe it's the changing of the season. Maybe it's just that kids are returning back to school, and that gives me reminders that I don't have any little ones home any more. Or, maybe I'm just more aware of the minutes ticking by more quickly as I grow older.

I was checking my emails and wishing that the phone would ring with a call from one of the kids when there -- I spotted it! "Mom, I hate to ask you, but.......there's just one more thing that I need!" You have no idea how much that lifted my spirts! I read the email request and thought to myself......I'm needed. I'm being call on as "mom". I'm not forgotten. I still serve a purpose.

Honestly, I think most of us as parents go through phases like this, but we feel a bit weird to express it. When our children are young, they depend on us for everything from their daily food, shelter, and clothing to their rides to and from school, the doctor, piano lessons, and soccer games.

Then, in the blink of an eye they're driving their own cars, and suddenly they become independent.....(except when they need cash to fill up the gas tank)! And, we parents have a tough time discovering the new role we now play in the lives of our children. They no longer need us as they did when they needed us to tie their shoes, wipe their noses, and pack their lunches. In fact, in this day of technology and instant everything, our kids rarely really need us for anything. Help is available at the click of a mouse on the computer, iPhone, or GPS!

I don't know that I'll ever outgrow the desire to be needed in the lives of my children. I want them to be grown up and independent, yet I still value my place in their hearts as "mom." I still like it when they call to ask my opinion. I cherish those times when I hear, "I don't know how you did it! Help me get through this!" I love knowing that even though we are all taking on new roles in life, I can still fill the slot as "mom." And, yes, I really do love it when I occasionally get the email or call that says, "Mom, there's just one more thing I need." To me, those words are translated into "Mom, I still need you!"
I love you, Steph!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Day the Rainbow Spoke

Each of us has a moment -- that special defining moment that we can remember when our lives made a pivotol change. For me, that moment came on the day the rainbow spoke.

To set the background, I had just been through the worst emotional storm of my life. In my seventh month of pregnancy, I went to the doctor for a routine monthly check-up only to find that my baby boy had died. Intra-uterine death are the words the doctor quietly voiced. "Your baby's heart has stopped beating."

It took a long time for those harsh, cruel words to sink in and when they did my world came crashing down. Due to the beliefs of my doctor, it was best for me to carry this child, my son, until I went into spontaneous labor. How long would that take? What would it feel like? What would he look like? Will I get an infection? What happens after he is born? So many questions, and nobody to give me answers. I got only tearful stares. People hurt with me, and nobody had any answers that seemed to be the right ones. Really, there were no answers that I wanted to hear. I only wanted one thing and that was my baby.

In three weeks, I did deliver this beautiful, perfect child, and he was just as the doctors said he would be. He was fully developed, he had a lot of blonde, fuzzy hair, and he was perfectly still. No heart was beating. When I think back to that moment, I can still remember the crushing pain my own heart felt as it broke into a million little pieces.

For months I cried every hour of the day. Nothing seemed right. Nothing looked right. Nothing felt right. The joy had died when my little boy died. The world that I once knew went totally black on me and I believed at that time that I would never again know joy in my life.

One particular day, I was driving down the country road that leads to my home, and a storm blew in rather abruptly. The sky became as dark as the night, and the winds whipped, and the sky poured rain as I've never seen before. The thunder clapped and the lightening flashed, and my tears began to fall as hard as the rain. The louder the thunder roared, the louder my wails became. I stopped the car along the side of the road and wished at that moment that I could just vanish into the depths of the storm. The pain I was feeling felt like far too much!

Then, something amazing began to happen. Just as suddenly as it began raining, it stopped. The dark turned to light so fast that it was like a light switch being turned on. I couldn't breathe right from so much crying, so I opened the window in the car, and as I did I looked upward through my swollen eyes, and then it happened. This was the day the rainbow spoke!

Right before my eyes was a glorious rainbow stretched across the sky that just moments before was black as night spilling forth torrential rain. The sun came out bright and wonderful, and the rainbow continued to speak. "Be calm, my child. I have sent you this rainbow as your sign of hope. No longer will your days be black, but you will be filled with Light and Peace. I will hold you in the palm of my hand and will take you in the shelter of my wing."

And, that is exactly what happened. It was just as I say. God had given me the sign of His everlasting promise of hope. He was with me and I no longer had to walk this path alone. It was right at that moment -- the day the rainbow spoke -- that my heart began to heal!


Mother of 11 living children
Mother of 6 angel babies
Mother of 1 stillborn son

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the Way to God's Garage!

This blog spot is about healing, and sometimes I feel really bad that I lack organization. My topics are here, there, and everywhere.....some funny, some real tear-jerkers, some kind of blah, but all with an intended meaning to help bring us closer to a healing place in life! So, bear with this old mom and read on about some of my thoughts following my daughter's trip home from a mission trip in Haiti.

Right up front I'll put it on the plate. I know that not everybody is in favor of "us" (US citizens) being in another country helping out when we have so many problems right here under our own noses. However, I'm entitled to my own belief and opinions, and I want to say that I know that we should be helping all people who are in need, not just those in foreign countries. We are to serve wherever our hearts lead us. The key word phrase here is "we are to serve", not sit idly by and complain, fuss, and give thoughtful insights as to how the world got to be such a terrible place. We are to get up off of our dusty butts and do something to help better our world!

That being said, I will tell you that I am a most thankful person every day of my life. I'm thankful for things like food, a home, peace within the walls of my home, health, a loving family.....all of the things that everyone places at the top of their own thankful lists. But, when my daughter and her fiancee' came home from serving a week in a Haitian orphanage, spending time hugging the aged and those dying alone , and visited a debtor's prison, my life experienced unrest and is still in a mindset of restlessness.

I say "thank you" for everything, and every day I am overcome with appreciation for my wonderful blessings. But, when I saw the photos that Stephanie shared of the Haitian children, something began hurting in my heart like never before. I saw the faces of the oppressed. I saw the look of loneliness. I definitely saw starvation. The intense, sweltering heat, and the lack of blessings such as cold, pure drinking water were evident in every photo. No formula for babies. Nobody to extend caring, loving arms to children roaming the streets with no place to call home. My heart really aches just writing these words!

Here I sit and not far beyond the boundaries of my home is the daily scene of poverty, not just physical poverty, but spiritual poverty, and I'm aware of this. Yet......I sit. Something very big is missing in my own heart that Stephanie and the others who went on this trip possess. My heart is missing the final part of love. My heart is missing the "giving" part. My heart is missing the "action" part of love! I say love with my lips, I feel it in my heart, but I'm not always living it. My heart needs a tune-up and I cannot rest until I get my heart into "God's Garage" and allow Him to give this old woman the tune-up of her life.

Stay tuned........I'll be posting lots more of my thoughts and actions in the days to come. Want to join me as I travel to the tune-up place? I'm not sure yet just where it's located, but I know I'm on my way, and I know the Master Mechanic that's in charge!



Monday, June 14, 2010

Born with a Silver Spoon in his Mouth!

Have you ever heard people say, "He's so lucky! He had so many breaks given to him along the way to success!"? Or, "He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had everything given to him." You know the type of thoughts I'm referring to -- those thoughts that are the negative, self-defeating thoughts.

Nobody in this world who is successful has ever had "easy breaks", "everything given to him" or "every door opened just at the right time" without working hard and staying focused! Easy Street just doesn't exist UNLESS you call having a plan, staying focused, and persevering no matter what "easy"! And, really, following the success plan works and is a lot easier than floundering around having no plan at all! Have a plan; stay focused, and never quit!

Consider this: "He failed in business in '31. He was defeated for state legislator in '32. He tried another business and it failed in '33. He had a nervous breakdown in '36. In '43 he ran for Congress and was defeated in '48 and was defeated again. He tried running for Senate in '55. He lost. The next year he ran for Vice President and lost. In '59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated. In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln, was elected the 16th President of the United States. The difference between history's boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often, simply, the diligent will to persevere."

What are your goals? Do you live them, breathe them, sleep them? Are you willing to persevere in the face of seeming failure? Abraham Lincoln did and look what happened! You can do it! FOCUS and PERSEVERE and you'll win! Today is the day to keep on keeping on!

PS Okay, so once in a while it's fun just to experiment the feeling of having a silver spoon dangling from your mouth!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oh, the Things My Kitchen Clutter Taught Me about Myself!

Today I decided to do it! Just dive right in and clean out that nasty kitchen cupboard that has been bothering me for a long time. WOW! What a job! Even more than the work involved in cleaning out that space, I sure did go through a mind-boggling process of learning a lot about "me" in the process!

For years, I've been my own worst nag about keeping clutter cleaned up. Now mind you, I will take all credit for personally birthing eleven -- yes, your heard it right -- eleven kids, and I gave birth in succession similar to a machine gun. One right after the other! No breaks long enough to even catch my breath, let alone clean the clutter that came with each new child.

Fast forward to the point where I am in my life right now. I'm down to one child living at home. Life today is nothing in comparison to the days back when the washing machine was my closest love and companion. When the washing machine broke down, so did I!

As I'm tackling cleaning each and every space in my home now that the kids have cleared out, my eyes are enlightened more and more about who I am. I'm not a hoarder in the sense of keeping things so cluttered that you can't move. But, I've been a saver of things. Many of my saved things have emotional attachment such as kids' report cards, letters they've written to me, some articles of clothing. Actually, I'm finding I'm no different than any other parent in that respect.

Until.......I hit the kitchen! Today, I think I came across at least ten thousand pieces of plastic serving pieces! Yes, you read correctly. Those little plastic knives, forks, and spoons that you use when you don't want to use your "good silverware" (of which I have none). Why? Why have I saved so much of that plastic stuff? Add to that at least two hundred fifty plastic food containers, most of them without lids. What was I thinking? Why didn't I at least stuff some fun things into that cupboard space like cookie tins and funny mugs and stuff that would at least have made me smile? Plasticware? You've got to be kidding!!!

After two hours of sorting through the "keep" pile and the "throw away" pile, I finally figured it out. My kids were forever fighting over food. Food was not a staple while they were growing up. Food was something that they fought for! There was only so much to go around and if the cooked food didn't make it to your plate, you were out of luck. You were the one that got peanut butter, a piece of bread and some watered-down powdered milk.

Suddenly, as I was looking at those thousands of plastic forks, a light went on! I saved all of that plastic stuff because I was a good mom. No, I take that back. I was an AWESOME mom! I wanted to give my kids a fair shake at getting their portion of food. I'd lay out the plastic stuff, we'd always take the time to say a prayer of thanks, and then they'd grab their utensils and run for the food! See? I was helping them get a good start in the food line. I never wanted to run out of the necessary items! I wanted to give each kid equality in the food line!

Ahhh...I'm so glad to have solved that mystery today or that would have plagued me for years to come!

Clara , the very good mom
PS The truth of the matter is that my brain was so fried from having all of those kids that I forgot what I bought, and just kept on stashing the things I knew we'd need so I didn't have to separate kids from extra fist fights, hear any more outlandish crying, or see blood pouring out on the food because somebody didn't get a fork. Eh...any way you look at it, maybe I was an okay mom.

Anybody need some extra plastic stuff? I've got tons!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Do You See What I See?

What do you see when strolling along the streets in South Side downtown Pittsburgh on a rainy day? Do you see the many different storefronts decorated in everything from 50's to modern day memorabilia? Do you see the cars jammed bumper to bumper on the streets? Do you see the faces of the people passing you by? Do you see the colors of the coats and hats that people are wearing? What do you see? I'll bet one thing. I'll bet you don't see what I see!

We are each so individual in our thoughts and levels of creativity that no two of us are alike. We are unique in our personalities and daily activities. Our likes and dislikes are often worlds apart. You like homemade ice cream on a snowy day to remind you of summertime. I like homemade soup to take away the chills of the winter. You like modern art. I like folk art. You like the ballet. I like the modern dance. See what I'm saying? All of these things add to what we see. We see what we like to see. We see what we're programmed to see. We see the things that we're used to seeing. Is that good or bad? Hmmm......let's see.

I'm what I call a universal see-er. I very rarely can tell you the details of anything. I know when the sky is blue, but I can't recall details like what kind of clouds that were in the sky, the shade of blue, the size of the clouds, if they were clustered, if there was a rainbow, or if the sky had streaks of blue or was solid blue. I can't tell you those details, but I can tell you how I feel when I see something.

Some people are detailed see-ers. (I think I just invented a new word!) They can tell you things such as the sky was aqua blue at noon, sea green blue at one, cobalt blue, cyan blue, steel blue, tiffany blue, and dark blue at the end of the day. They can tell you when the clouds appeared, what they were called, when they disappeared. They can even tell you the approximate size of the clouds in the sky on any given day! And, they no doubt can also tell you how seeing each of those details made them feel. Interesting stuff, isn't it?

What do you see? Do you see what I see? I took the picture in this blog of my son and daughter for the sole purpose of documenting our fun day spent in Pittsburgh. I wan't interested in any of the details at that moment other than capturing two of my children that I love in this photo. Now that I'm studying it more closely, though, I can see all kinds of details like the traffic light, the size of the pavement blocks, the kinds of cars people are driving, the color of the umbrella Alex is holding, the lawn chairs on the sidewalk, the manhole, and even the sprinkling of rain falling on the umbrella. WOW! There's no end to what I can see when I really look!

So, what's all of this mean? Well, do you see what I see? I sure hope not! You see what is meaningful and special to you just as I see what is meaningful and special to me. And, that is the beauty of life! We each have the ability to see a million and one different shades of a rose. We each have the gift of seeing countless levels of beauty in a piece of artwork. We each have the wonderful blessing of seeing unending details of love in the soul of a person. The possibilities of what we see in any one object, person, or event are never-ending!

Life is exciting! What we see each and every day is exciting! We should never find ourselves bored or feeling like a day has been wasted. Every day is a new and exciting package of miracles just waiting to be opened and viewed by me and you! Let's do it! Do you see what I see? Well, I do see one thing in this picture......I see a coat that I wish I had bought for myself rather than for Alex! I really like that color of blue!

Here's to seeing your day in a beautiful way! Don't allow one day to slip past you wtihout seeing the countless blessings given to us! Life is beautiful from any vantage point -- if only we take the time to see!



Monday, June 7, 2010

The Setting of the Sicilian Sun

A few months ago, I had the most terrific trip of a lifetime! I got to visit my homeland of Italy! While there, many nights were spent watching the sunset over the crystal blue sea, and what a magnificent sight that was! The sun shedding its bright rays of light over the water looked almost like what you'd describe as a heavenly scene. All that was lacking were the angels!

The sky turned from bright blue, to strawberry pink, to a blazing orange right before my very eyes. I stood with awe as I took in all of the beauty and began to imagine what was beyond the sunset. The land of Italy seemed so big while watching the sunset, yet I knew that in comparison to the world and all that lies beyond, it's only a tiny speck in this big, wide, wonderful universe. It's easy to get lost in this world and feel like we don't matter. It's so easy to feel as though we're only a tiny speck the size of an ant in a land that is bigger than our minds can imagine. And, yet..........

There, under the Sicilian sun was a boat gliding along the beautiful sea. I kept my eye on that boat for almost two hours as the sun took its time setting. The boat began it's slow journey in one corner of the water and gently swayed to and fro with the calm, white breakers. I assume the two people in the boat were fishing. Or, maybe they were two people who just decided to take out the boat on a warm spring evening to soak up the beauty of nature in a place where they would have none of the earthly distractions that seem to invade our over-burdened minds.

As I watched the boat and the sun drifting out beyond the sunset, I became a bit envious. I kept thinking about how lucky the people in the boat were to be in that particular spot out at sea watching the sun disappearing beyond the horizon. They were up close and personal with so much of nature, and I only had a bird's eye view standing on the sidelines.

Then, it dawned on me almost as if I got hit on the head with a brick! I have that very same opportunity as the boaters. In fact, I was enjoying that very same sunset! I had the same breathtaking view, the same lovely sky, the same warm beams of sunlight touching my face as those people in the boat. Why did I think my experience would be any less peaceful? Why did I think their view was any more beautiful?

Aren't we all like that sometimes? We don't see the beauty right in front of us because we're too busy watching other people and thinking that they have it so much better than we do! What an untruth! What a disservice we do to ourselves when we have little, pint-sized thinking! What a shame that we often miss out on the blessings of the moment because we're wistfully thinking that there's a better world beyond the sunset -- a world that we can't see.

I continued to click and shoot with my little little pocket Sony and got some of the most amazing photos ever! I watched the setting sun until there was no more sun to see. I kept my eyes on the floating boat as it continued on its journey even after the sun had quietly closed the curtains on this day. My heart felt full and complete and joyful as I discovered that my setting sun is available to me 365 days a year if I take the time to view it. I am surrounded by beauty, by nature, and by all of creation. It's a gift that has been freely given. All I am asked to do is take the time to enjoy it! And, enjoy it is exactly what I did!



PS I'd still like to see the setting sun boat side. Do I have any takers?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Memory of Bijou, My Dog and My Best Friend!

When visiting Brook Green Gardens in South Carolina I came across a tombstone that read, "In Memory of dear Bijou, who died at Magnolia Beach, Aged About 13 years." The tombstone is a marker in memory of a dog, man's best friend. This marker is large -- much, much larger than many people have, and it fascinated me that so much thought and money went into this memorial for a dog.

But, wait a minute! I sat under an old oak tree and thought about this for a minute. I've always had a dog. In fact, my earliest memory of myself as a kid is of me with Big Red, my German Shepherd who had a fascination for chasing our mailman all through the streets of Egg Harbor City while latched onto his tan pants leg! Gosh, how I loved Red!

I also loved Blackie, Midnight, Reuben, Raphael, Laddie, Lassie, Lady, Luigi, Furry, Spike, Missy, Batler, Bella, Poochie, and now my little furry Oscar. But, I never had a marker made for any of them, and now I wish that I had at least carved out an etching in a rock to leave as an everlasting memorial for each one of them for the love that they gave to me. I knew that I could count on them for a good morning kiss, a good night kiss, and lots of fun and playful times no matter what. The weather never mattered to them -- cold or hot they still loved me. My mood never altered their love for me. It didn't make a difference if I had a dime or a dollar in my pocket. They each loved me the same. In fact, I got showered with slobbery kisses, wagging tails, and lots of attention even when I wasn't very nice returning the same affection. Dogs have such amazing hearts. No wonder a dog has been rightly labeled as "man's best friend"!

I'm sure that's how it was with Bijou, too. Bijou's owner obviously had a deep love for him, so much so that a special gravesite was prepared and a big stone marker was engraved with words to remember the life of Bijou.

Did you ever think about what you want engraved forever on your marker? Did you ever give any thought as to how you want to be remembered? "She was a funny lady who never stopped talking! She had a cackle when she laughed that sounded like a rooster ready to go to slaughter. She was good at slamming cupboard doors right off the hinges when she got that hot Italian temper flaring! She never had a gray hair 'cause she colored every hair clear up until the day she died!"

Okay, how do I really want to be remembered? Just like the owner of Bijou remembered him. She was kind. She showered me with affection. She was a true and faithful friend. She loved her family. She loved God. She loved me through the thick and thin of life. She gave food out of her cupboards even when she didn't have it to give. And, best of all......"She died in the 'Ville aged about a hundred years." Gotta love Bijou's owner...."aged about 13 years." The years weren't the important part. The important part was that somebody cared enough to put thought, blood, sweat, and tears into remembering Bijou. Yes, I'd be mighty happy with be remembered with fondness and kindness that is as fitting as Bijou's!

Live with gusto! Live with laughter! Live for God! And, most of all live the way you want to be remembered! Your legacy counts! Who knows? You might even rate a tombstone in a garden surrounded by flowers and trees and everlasting love just like Bijou's!

PS The memories we leave behind come from the memories we make today. Live like a dog, and you'll get it right every time! They understand the unconditional love thing better than most humans!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Parents Drugged Me!

I came from a messed up family -- dysfunctional in so many ways by today's terms. And, to add insult to injury, I am now openly speaking about the days my parents introduced me to the word "drug" and they actually incorporated the "drugs" into my life at a very young age!

My childhood did not consist of methamphetamine, or crack, or even pot. But, I can tell you that I had some kind of "drug" put in my life most every day by my very own parents!

Can you believe I was drug to church every Sunday? I'm not just talking Sunday mornings, either! I was drug to Sunday night church, and Wednesday night bible study! I was drug to my elderly great-grandparents' home every Sunday after church, too, where I had to sit and be quiet and "show respect" to my elders.
You want me to go on? Well, even if you don't, I feel compelled to tell you how much they drugged me! I was drug to the kitchen sink every day, seven days a week, to wash the dishes. That was after I was drug to the chicken coop to milk the goats, water the horse, and gather the eggs from the hens. Oh, it doesn't stop there! Then, I was drug to the cellar after school where I learned how to clean, weigh, and grade eggs. Yep, you guessed it! I was drug to the front room in the cellar (which was sparkling clean, I might add) where I had to wait on the egg customers, be polite, and never take a dime for doing my work. "You do this because we're a family. We all help out. You need to learn from little up what it means to work to keep us together!"

I was drug to nursing homes, hospitals, and church plays to be a support and encouragement. I was drug to the homes of sick neighbors to help clean their houses and hang out their laundry on the clothesline. And, if I ever refused to do any of this, I would have been drug to the back bedroom where the wooden spoon was waiting, and it wasn't waiting to ladle out the homemade soup! My butt felt the spoon on more than one occasion!

I often complained about my parents when I was growing up. They were tough. They were no-nonsense. They were old-school. And, they put drugs in my veins that still affect the way I act today. I've never had a hit of cocaine, crack, or heroin. I've never visited a meth lab, nor do I want to. I have drugs running through my veins that are way stronger, and more addictive, than anything you could ever grow in a field or mix in a lab.

God bless my parents and all those like them who thought it was best, and right, and good to drug their kids with a reverence and respect for God and all of His creation. I can only pray that I gave my own kids enough drugs to carry them through a lifetime, too!
Love and prayers,
Clara / Mom

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Have you ever looked at someone and wondered just what was going through his mind? More importantly, have you ever talked to your kids and wondered just what made them tick? What were they thinking when they escaped from the house in the middle of the night and rode their bikes ten miles into town? What were they thinking when they lit a match to see if the carpet would really burn? What was going on in their minds when they decided to take off their clothes, climb on the hot shingled roof and suntan their bare bottoms? WOW! I'd love to have had a penny for their thoughts back then!

In reflecting back over my own life, I'm sure people have said that about me, too. What was she thinking when she drove her little VW bug all the way to Oklahoma from New Jersey without knowing where she'd stay, without a job, and without a friend in the entire state? What was going on in her mind when she allowed her ten-year-old daughter to watch the other 7 kids "for just a few minutes" while she drove uptown to pick up some medicine for the sick kids? What in the world was she thinking when she allowed her 16-year-old and 15-year-old to drive three fourths of the way across the country just a few weeks after getting a driver's license? I probably would have made people quite wealthy if they had had a penny for my thoughts during those times in my life!

Most of the time, we don't have a clue what is really going on in the minds of others. Oh, we think we do! We take psychology courses that teach us how to analyze. We can study human behavior and think we know the next step a person is going to take based on previous thoughts and actions. But, do we really, really know? No way! Our thoughts are often a million miles away from what others think goes on in our minds.

Except. Except when we become a true follower and believer in God. "His ways are my ways. His thoughts are my thoughts." We can place that penny on the dime knowing that a believer in God has mostly pure and godly thoughts. We can flip that coin and know that it's going to be "heaven up" when that person is filled with the Spirit of God. We can be certain that a penny is a penny and it remains true to that when we are talking to a mature child of the Father. There is no mistaken thought identity when a person is feasting on the words of God.

Why do we do what we do when we're kids? Why do we make strange and odd choices? Why does our brain seem to malfunction when we're still experiencing growing pains? Why do we go kind of bonkers in our thinking when under stress? We know those answers! When we're young our thinking needs time and experiences in order to mature. We can't reason things out, so we make crazy and wild choices at times based on our childish thoughts. But, as we mature and learn that our thoughts turn into actions and we desire our actions to be good, wise, and godly, then we can channel our thoughts through the brain and sift out the dirt and keep the gold. it's beginning to make sense!

Don't get all bent out of shape trying to figure out what people are thinking about all of the time because you're never, ever going to get it all right. Only God knows the contents of the heart and mind. But, I'll bet you a penny or two that we can know that the overall thoughts of a person who knows God are kind and loving. Peaceful and gentle. Patient and kind. And, above all full of love! How do I know? Because our actions are a direct result of our thoughts! What we think about we become, and that's a godly teaching!

What am I thinking right now? Do you really want to know? Okay. Alright. I won't keep you guessing any longer! I'm thinking I'm hungry and some pizza would taste mighty fine right about now!

PS You're right on the money about what I wrote. All of the examples I used in this blog are true. And, I can tell you from experience, raising eleven (11) kids, very seldom was I right about their thoughts when they were little, but I sure can see the fruits of their thoughts now that they're older. I can see the beauty of God interwoven in their thoughts and actions and it's a beautiful, awesome sight! I'm continueally stacking those pennies up every day!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Let Me Tell You 'bout the Birds and the Bees

When I planted this flower in my garden, I had no idea that its name was "Bee Balm" nor did I know that aside from the obvious visual beauty of this gorgeous flower it attracts birds and bees.

Immediately, upon hearing that, I remembered the song "let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees and a thing called love'', and then I chuckled out loud. And, then I sat and reflected about how much life has changed in the arena of the birds and the bees and the story of intimacy and sex since I was a kid.

For one thing, when I was growing up, the word "sex" was never used! Never, ever, ever did I hear that word in my home, and I only heard it in school when used in reference to "being dirty." I can almost see today's kids rolling their eyes at this one. I know my kids sure do give the eye roll when I talk about my days of growing up!

I honestly and truly didn't find out about "the birds and the bees" until I was in 8th or 9th grade and the details were pretty sketchy because I had to sneak a peek in Webster's Dictionary and the only photos I could find weren't very graphic at all. I promise you that nobody talked about sex back then! Yes, I know that people did the birds and bees thing, but they didn't talk about it!

I was about 16 when my mother had "the talk" with me, and it consisted of "Watch what you're doing when you go on dates because you could end up pregnant." YIKES! Some education, huh? I didn't have a clue. And, there really wasn't anybody to ask because everybody's lips were sealed on this topic. It was something you talked about when girls got engaged, I guess. Okay, I'm sure there was some talk about it before getting engaged, but it sure wasn't like today! We blushed, we did a silly giggle, we got embarrassed, and we definitely thought we were getting away with murder if we whispered the word "sex" when we were in a group talking as highschoolers.

My kids grew up in an entirely different era, and as a parent, I've watched things move from the story of "the birds and the bees" to today's times of ads on TV for condoms, sex toys, and advertisements for websites that can introduce you to a sexual playmate. Quite a distance from the days of the "Bee Balm" plant!

Good or bad, this is the time in which we live, and I believe today's times carry an even greater responsibility on parents to have "the talk" with their kids than ever before! And, hopefully your talk will be a little more detailed and bit more God-centered than the one my poor mom gave to me. The story of love and making love (God's way) is beautiful and sincere and pure and perfect! And, it's a story that every child needs to hear!

As I was checking out the old "Bee Balm" plants, I thought, "Why not? What would be so wrong with going back to the basics of explaining how God designed things to be for husbands and wives? What would be so wrong with using the example of how bees carry and deposit pollen and then the plants blossom and grow? Why not use God's beautiful creations to explain His most wonderful design for love? Would today's kids grasp it? Or would they make fun?"

Today's kids would not only grasp it, but they would delight in it, I'm sure. And, they need to hear the story of love and sex as told from a godly perspective! We all love hearing the truth. We each have a place in our heart for purity and beauty. And, there's nothing that
draws kids closer to their parents than to hear them speak about God's plan for their lives.
Go for it! Buy a few Bee Balm plants, wait for the birds and the bees to arrive, and talk on! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

PS How did I explain love, sex, and God's design for marriage to my kids? I'm sure you're dying to know. Okay. Okay, I confess. I didn't do so well. I bought a book that had little naked cartoonish stick figures and gave it to them to read. I still have the book, and it will be a conversation piece for time evermore!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

There's a Little Mask in All of Us!

One of my most fun times of the year comes in the month of October. Not only do I love the pumpkins, and cornstalks, and the crisp fall air, but I love the parties that are associated with fall harvest, trunk-or-treating, trick-or-treating, or whatever else you want to call it.

As I kid, I can remember loving to dress up in a costume, put on a mask, and go try to fool all of my relatives and neighbors. I always thought I got them good, and sometimes I probably did! Some of my costumes were pretty awesome if I do say so myself!

This fun tradition has carried on into my adult years, and I still love putting on a costume and a funny (or sometimes scary) mask and trying to fool people. I used to spend hours planning who I would be when I disguised myself and when and where I would appear in order to trick my kids when they were little. Oh, how much fun that was!!!!

One night I can remember dressing in a black top coat, dark gray scarf, work boots, ragged jeans, work gloves, an old farmer's hat, and a crazy wig. The final touch was the mask. was a killer of a good one! Mean and nasty looking! Frightful! I looked in the mirror and about came out of my own skin. I looked nasty!

My heart was thumping faster and faster as I sat on the chair in Steph and Alex's bedroom in the dark waiting for them to come to their bedroom. I wasn't going to say anything. The plan was to sit on that chair in the dark, and then have them discover me when they turned on the bedroom light. (I know....I have a warped sense of humor, but it only happens once a year!)

I could hear their steps coming closer to the bedroom. I sat in the chair good and straight hardly breathing. They were chatting girl talk as they opened the bedroom door and turned on the light! WOW!!!!!!!!!! I have never heard such screams in all of my life! HELP! PLEASE, HELP! SOMEBODY'S IN MY BEDROOM!!!! SOME STRANGER IS IN MY ROOM!!!

Now, do you want to know their real reaction? They turned on the light, took a slight step back, stared real good, then said, "Real funny, Mom. We knew it was you sitting there. Nobody else would be that dumb. You didn't scare us one little bit. And, take off that mask while you're at it."

All of that work for nothing. I tried to disguise myself real good, and they still knew it was me! Isn't that how it is in real life, though? We put on masks of all kinds. We put on our "church mask", our "everything's fine mask", our "happy, smiley face mask". You know what I'm talking about. We pretend. We hide behind the masks and act like we're somebody different. We think we're fooling others, when in fact, we're not even fooling ourseves. We know our hurts, pains, and struggles. We know our temptations, anger, and jealousy. We can't hide things like that behind a silly, old mask!

What's all this mean? No matter how hard we try to hide who we are behind a mask, we're going to be found out, so we might as well be ourselves right from the start -- dimples, pimples, simples, and all! If God loves us just as we are, then why should we try to be anything but who we are? We're a work in progress, and there's not a mask that can be made that can hide the heart and soul of a person! If we're good enough for God, then we're good enough!



PS The fright night didn't work on my girls, but the boys......they never made it to the bathroom! Oh, was that fun!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Duck Tail -- You Gotta Love the 50's!

My kids think it's so funny when I tell them stories about "my times" of growing up. It's definitely a hoot for me to think back to how different things were back in the day.

So, let's talk for a minute about the duck tail hair cuts. I can remember standing on the playground of Hammonton High School in New Jersey swooning over Frankie Avalon as he would walk on by the chain-link fence and talk to us. Okay, maybe he didn't always talk, but he did wave at us as we girls gripped the fence in hopes that Frankie would walk over and touch one of our hands. No, trust me, he never touched mine. If he had, I would never have washed my hand again!

Frankie had a duck tail which was the absolute most studly fashion statement for guys' hair in the 5o's. This awesome style was the dream-child of barber Joe Cirella (Italian, I'm sure) and this fashion became the craze when television and movie stars began waltzing the streets with their ducktails, also known as the Duck's Butt, or the D.A., but we'll keep it polite here and stick with ducktail. You can actually look at the tail of a duck and see how Barber Cirella came up with this idea!

I remember my father ranting and raving about how awful that was! He had plenty to say about the ducktails! Truth-be-known, if he hadn't been in his 30's at the time or had a head of kinky waves that wouldn't comb straight, he would have strutted a duck tail, too.

What's all this have to do with us today? I guess I just think fashion raves are just that.....they come and go like the waves of the sea, and sometimes we get so hung up on what people wear, how they style their hair, or better yet, what color they put in their hair, that often we miss out on the heart of the person.

Ducktails in the 50's. The disco punk in the 60's and 70's. Long hair for guys. Short spikes for girls. Vice versa. Who cares? What really matters is what the person is made up of on the inside. The outside is nothing more than a signature fashion statement of the era in which we live. It's been that way for time evermore, and fashion statements will continue to change like the tide until the end of time.

I'm sure you're wondering if I had a ducktail? No way! That was for the guys. Me? Beehive all the way!



PS I sure do wish the ducktail would come back, guys! Why don't you work on that?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Inside Every Peanut There's a Man!

As a kid, I can remember many hours spent finding the "Peanut Man" inside of every peanut that I opened. If you haven't tried doing that, you should! You can see the shape of the man's face, his top hat, his moustache, and his long beard. You can even see Mr. Peanut Man's eyes looking right at you! And, the fun part is that no two peanut men are exactly the same!

Most of us have probably never looked for the man in the peanut, though. We dig through the bag, shell the peanuts, gobble them down, and then we're done, often hardly even taking the time to savor the lingering taste of the peanut. (Can you tell I'm a fan of peanuts?)

Isn't that how it is in life most of the time? In the course of a week, we come in contact with so many different people, we say a quick "hi", and exchange of few words, then go on our way never even savoring the flavor of the individual much less taking the time to look for the man inside each person!

Life is too wonderful to allow it to pass us by unnoticed! We do it with people in general, with our friends, and many times we even do this with our close family members including our children. We just gulp down the "mundane stuff of the day" without taking time to look at the individual man inside of each flavorful peanut. We busy ourselves with the menial tasks of everyday living, and carelessly toss aside the meatier parts of life, including spending enough time with one another to really get to know the heart and what makes each of us tick.

Who are the peanuts in your life? Your co-workers? Your aunts, uncles, and cousins? Your friends at school? Your mate? Your children? Your grandchildren? Do you take the time to really see them for who they are? Do you make the time to enjoy their individuality? Do you look for the things that make them uniquely and wonderfully different? It's FUN getting to know people, especially those close to us, on a more personal level. Everybody has something special, something unique, to add to the beauty of the day, but we must take the time to look for it!

Inside of every peanut there's a man just waiting to be discovered! There's a wonderful personality, a terrific brain, a flavorful side, and a uniqueness that was meant to be discovered.

Why not try something different today? Why not spend enough time with those you come in contact with to find the peanut inside the man? I have a feeling you're going to be happily surprised at all of the neat faces you'll find!



PS For those of you who are allergic to peanuts, keep in mind there are all kinds of other nuts in this world just waiting to be discovered!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Bible Totin' Kid from Nashville

Every now and then something strikes a chord in your heart that plays a song that you'll remember forever. That's just how it was on my most recent trip to Nashville to visit family.

We were gathered in the livingroom saying our final goodbyes when my two-year-old grandson entered the room with all smiles. He was dressed up in his Sunday best and ready to go to church! He was happy from the inside out and you could tell. His eyes sparkled, there was dancing in his steps, and he clutched ever-so-proudly to his very own Bible! Yes, you heard me......he has his very own Bible at the age of two! Name inscribed on the Bible, too!

I captured a picture, not just because I think he is cute as all dickens, but because that was a sight precious to my heart. My son and his wife are teaching their children from little up the absolute JOY of knowing God! Going to church isn't a drudgery. It wasn't a sacrifice to get up early, get all dressed up in church clothes (when sunshine and a swimming pool were calling to them outside of the dining room window). It wasn't a hardship to carry that Bible around, nor was it an embarrassment. He was proud to be going to church! He was so happy to show me his name written on the front cover of his very own Bible! He was full of joy, and for all of the right reasons! God is love! God is our Father. God is our Redeember. God is our Everything!

In this hurried world of ours, we sometimes allow "things" to get in the way of way of the meatier parts of life -- those things of lasting significance. And, we often drift far, far away from what is of eternal value. We get sucked into the temporary fun stuff of life, and forget that we can have absolute fun while we're being totally in love with our heavenly Father. Joy and God are synonymous....they are not enemies of one another.

This photo of Zach is etched in my mind and burned on my heart forever. May we always strive for that child-like love of God! May we never be ashamed of calling God our Father! May we display our Bible in our hands, hearts, and homes with the same joy of this little one who so innocently said, "Gram, look! MY Bible!"

By giving our children the words of God, we are giving them the map to an eternity spent in heaven, as well as the guide for all of life while on earth. There will be hard troubles that smash into our lives. There will undoubtedly be difficult challenges that test us to the very core of our being. But, if we cling tightly and proudly to the words found in that Bible, there will be nothing that will ever pull us away from our God, our Father, and our Saviour!

Who knows what lies in store for this little two-year-old Bible totin' kid from Nashville! Maybe he will be the next voice that God uses to tell the world of His love. And, to think it all began with a little tan Bible in the hands of a very young boy from the hills of Tennessee!


Clara Hinton

Thursday, May 13, 2010

There's More to Ice Cream Than Meets the Eye!

I don't know about you, but I love ice cream! I mean I really love ice cream, and apparently so do a lot of people! Give me the plain flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, and I'll get wowed! Give me the totally scrumptious flavors like almond peanut butter or black cherry and vanilla bean and I'll jump up and down with craziness!

For a lot of us, ice cream is a much more than just frozen milk, cream, and some flavoring. Ice cream is reason for getting together. Ice cream always is present at a party. Ice cream is something that cools us down on a hot, summery day. Ice cream is that stuff that gets all gooey on the faces of little ones and makes us look at the children with delight and say, "Oh, my word! Look how cute!" Ice cream is a great way to make memories!

Last weekend, I had the most wonderful Mother's Day ever! I got to visit with family in the grand city of Nashville, Tennessee! Granted, I love the city, and it's an awesome place to visit, BUT the city would not be what it is to me if I didn't have loved ones living there! I got to spend precious moments with some of my children and my grandchildren! And, guess what helped give us some of our most cherished moments of our time together? Ice cream!!!!!

We laughed, we talked, and ate all kinds of flavors of ice cream. The kids had ice cream all over their faces, on their shirts, on the tables and chairs, and nobody seemed to care. The "ice cream social" was too good for words!

We all need those "ice cream moments" when we can get together and just let our hair down and enjoy life. Those times when we forget we have any cares in this world, and we fall into the "I love life more than anything" mode. Those times when all we care to do is laugh and play and enjoy the moment.

If you've noticed the date of this blog, you'll know that my visit to Nashville was directly following the flood that did billions of dollars of damage in that fair city, as well as claimed lives of some very precious people. You might ask how we could take a break away from the heavy pain of this time of sorrow to eat ice cream and laugh. We did it because that is often how we deal with the deep sorrows of life -- we take some necessary small breaks away from the pain in order to recharge our batteries. We take mini grief breaks to give ourselves time to replenish and refuel.

The Nashville people were doing just that, too! Many were out last weekend talking, laughing, and enjoying some ice cream. They weren't disrespectful. They weren't forgetting the massive clean-up about to begin in the city. They weren't making light of the pain. They were simply getting energized for the work that lies ahead.

What's your pain today? More importantly, what's your plan for survival? Do you have an "ice cream social" planned? Maybe a "chocoate chip cookie fest" ? Or how about a movie-marathon? What is it that recharges you? What fills up your tank when it is running on low? Whatever it is, then do it today! It's a matter of survival!


Clara Hinton

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Making Amends after Mom is Gone

Since Mother's Day is coming up, and the original use of this blog was for "healing", I decided to take a brief break away from talking about the Italy trip, and post some of my thoughts on how to make amends with your mother after she is gone (if, of course, there is a need to make any amends.)

Making Amends after Mom is Gone

Mother's Day has been one of the most difficult days of my life for two reasons. Twenty-two years ago I was carrying a 28-week-old son who died in my uterus. I knew he was no longer alive, but my doctor felt it was best for me to wait for spontaneous labor to begin, so.....while I waiting for these two longest weeks of my life to pass, Mother's Day arrived. I wept, I sorrowed, I grieved, and I wailed to God for allowing this to happen. The Thursday following Mother's Day, I delivered my baby boy who was forever still.

The Mother's Day before the loss of my son, I did something that was so out of character for me that I still cannot believe I did it. I totally ignored my mother on Mother's Day, and I did it knowing that I would hurt her deeply. I was angry with her for her alcohol problem. I was angry with her for destroying her health. I was just plain angry with her! Mostly, I was angry with her for not being the mother I thought she should be, so I foolishly and selfishly made the decision to withhold love from my mother on that particular Mother's Day. I've never been the same since.

Life never gives us everything we want or everything we think we need. My mother had problems dealing with depression. She had serious physical illnesses. And, to top it all off, she was a full-blown alcoholic shedding her misery on others every day of her life. And, I wasn't happy at all about that. "Why", I asked myself, "should I buy her a card filled with flattery and tell her things that weren't true?" "Why should I shower my mother with love when she would probably be far too drunk to even know that I tried to show her that I cared?"

Mom asked for a simple gift that year. She wanted a lawn chair -- the inexpensive kind that can be folded and carried any place in the yard. She wanted a $10 lawn chair, and I wouldn't give her that as a gift because I didn't feel she deserved it. Talk about having the wrong understanding of love!!! I didn't acknowledge her at all on Mother's Day, and forgiving myself has been a long, difficult, tear-filled journey.

Little did I know that my mother would never again see another Mother's Day. She died 10 months later from complications of the liver brought on by her constant drinking.

God, in His mercy, allowed me to hold my mother's hand as she drew her final breath, yet I never spoke the words I wanted to say to her. I never said, "Mom, I love you so much and I'm so ashamed of myself for not thanking you for giving me life, for taking care of me when it was so hard for you to even take care of yourself, and mostly of all thank you for pointing me to God." Instead, I pulled inward and kept that wall between us as she breavely took her final breath. My mother was gone, and I was left with only guilt. Guilt for not being being the daughter I should have been to my mother. Guilt for not acknowledging my mother on her final Mother's Day on earth. Guilt for not getting her that lawn chair that would have been so easy for me to give to her as a gift.

I have had lots of time to repent, and it has taken me years to finally feel the heavy weight of guilt removed from my heart. I learned an eternal lesson that I want to share with you on this Mother's Day and every Mother's Day to come. Please don't ever deny your mother the gift of love even if you think she doesn't deserve it. You have been given one mother, and it is both an honor and a privilege to show your mother that you care -- even if that love is never reciprocated. Every mother deserves to be hugged, loved, and treated special, and most especially on the day set aside for honoring mothers -- Mother's Day.

I miss my mother, and I have wished thousands of times over that I could tell her what I feel in my heart. I have visited her gravesite and talked with her there. I have written her letters and asked for her forgiveness. I have even bought her a lawn chair! In fact, every year since the death of my mother, I buy one lawn chair and give that chair to someone who might enjoy just sitting in the sunshine for a while.

Life without mother on Mother's Day is often empty and hollow. Add guilt to that, and it is horrible. Why not do something to remove that awful burden of guilt if you are feeling the same as I did? Do something special for your mother today! Don't delay. You don't have to have a special day or a special reason. Just do it! And, if your mother is no longer here, you can easily find another mother who just might need an extra hug, a smile, an "I love you" and maybe even a lawn chair!


Clara Hinton

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Nine Hours and Twenty Three Minutes to Italy!

March 1 - March 2, 2010 - The Italy Trip

What do you think about when you are only nine hours and twenty three minutes away from seeing your lifetime dream fulfilled? Do you plan out what your reaction will be when you reach your destination? Do you try to imagine the sights, sounds, and tastes of your dream-come-true? Does your mind suddenly get flooded with questions? Or, do you remain calm and just take in each moment and savor those moments with every single breath you take?

Well, sit back and relax while I share with you just what I did when about to see my dream turn into reality.....

1) The first thing I did was to get situated right by the window seat on the plane because I was not about to miss even one second of the take-off for Italy, nor the landing in Rome, or anything in-between. Thank you, Chris, for giving me the window seat! I appreciate that more than you'll ever know!

2) I wrapped myself in a wool blanket so that I would stay warm for the next nine hours. (I'm an Italian granny, and this is what old people do!)

3) And, finally.....I tried to relax, but instead.........I went blank. Totally, completely, undeniably blank! My mind left me. It completely, "for real" left me!

So, I began to panic. I slapped the side of my face. I snapped my fingers. I kept pushing my feet hard against the floor of the plane until my toes went numb in my shoes. I pulled out the mirror in my purse and looked at my reflection to see if I had spinach stuck in my teeth. I combed my hair. I drank some water. And, I got up close and personal to Chris and stared at him ony to have him turn his face away from me as if to say, "You have got to be kidding me! She finally did it. She went toally nuts on me!"

Sorry, Chris, but I had to do something to make sure this trip was real. I honestly thought maybe -- just maybe -- I had died and was somehow being allowed to see Italy as a dream from heaven. Or, maybe I was in a hursing home, and all of my kids posted pictures of the passport, the airport, the plane, and signs that said "Italy" so that I would think, in my senility, that I was on my way to Rome. IT WASN'T REAL!!! But, then again, maybe it was! Maybe this was truly happening to me!

The attendants on the plane spoke only Italian, so you know how good I did with that. I whispered to Chris several times that I didn't understand one word of what was being said (although I sure did love hearing Italian being spoken), but he just looked straight ahead with eyes closed and headphones on. He was like a statue and he refused to turn his head to acknowledge me. He didn't blink. He sat frozen....face straight ahead, ears plugged, eyes closed.

Note to all parents: When your kids put on headphones, it's not because they're really listening to music. They're just tuning you out. And, when they close their eyes, they're not at all sleeping. They're totally ignoring you. So, don't even waste your time trying to talk to them. It never works. They just continue this routine until you finally go away.

Continuing on....after about the 4th hour into the flight, I knew I had to use the bathroom or it was not going to be pretty in our little seating area. But, my fake-sleeping son wasn't about to open his eyes to let me out of my seat, so I did what any mother would do in an emergency situation. I stood up and gave him a gentle, but firm, motherly push. And, in response, he gave me back a look that said, "Make it quick, lady, because I am not in any kind of mood to play games!"

Another note: Don't always take things at face value. Little did I know until several days later why Chris was so crabby with me when I wanted to go to the bathroom. He had been knocked around, bumped into, and shoved all night long by people shuffling back and forth to the bathroom. He had the aisle seat, remember? And, worst of all, "Barney"nailed him hard every single time she passed by! Nope, I'm not telling you any more. You'll just have to read what Chris has to say about that!

After the bathroom break, I finally concluded that this entire adventure must be for real. Angels don't have to pee, so I absolutely had to be alive. And, to build up an even stronger case for reality, if I was in a nursing home, I'd be wearing a diaper and wouldn't have to use the bathroom. This was it! I was half-way to Italy! This is for real, and there were only a few more hours to go!

I managed to fiddle around with the little monitor in front of me long enough to figure out how to turn it to display the flight map. We wer over Madrid....and getting closer and closer to Italy. We had been flying all night, and it was soon to be "sunrise over Italy." I pressed my face to the window and gasped with excitement! Yes, I took out my trusty Sony Cybershot and snapped some pics of the sunrise! Breathtaking! Gorgeous! Magnificent! Miraculous! I T A L Y!!!

In all honesty, I don't remember much more about the plane ride except what I've shared with you. I didn't do much journaling on the plane, as I was far too excited about the entire experience. I do know that the sunrise was nothing short of majestic. The puffy clouds were amazing. The streaks of red in the sky reminded me of the sun rising above the ocean on a perfect kind of day. The snow-capped mountains took my breath away. WOW! This was already far more than I'd imagined! I have no idea how the hours managed to tick by so quickly, but they did, and now we were hearing the announcement I'd been waiting to hear for over five decades. "Welcome to Italia!!!"

What's next? Well, let's just say that airports aren't all they're cracked up to be -- not when you realize that you're the only English speaking person among thousands! And, there is no real feeling of "safety while in a foreign land" when you are relying on a son who not only cannot understand a word of Italian, but who is sporting a rattail, a front fanny pack, and who uses a green shoe lace for his luggage carrier. Yep, more adventures are coming!

With love and tons of excitement,


Friday, March 26, 2010

Sleep? Nobody Needs Sleep when in Italy!

For those who have been traveling along with me on this journey from the US to Italy through my jouranl, let's pick up where we left the airport where when Chris and I landed after traveling 4,408 miles and 9 hours 23 minutes to reach a life-long dream!

WOW! WOW! WOW! Italy! Italia! Italians! Beautiful people! Beautiful language! Pinch me. Is it real? It's funny how your body and mind seem to work in high gear and run in overtime when you're having fun! There is no way under the sun that I was about to feel tired. Not now, and not for a long time to come! Just walking through the airport in Italy was an adventure, and I didn't intend to miss one second of it!

Chris and I realized within seconds that we might be up against a bit of a "problemo" since neither one of up spoke Italian. Let's just say that the Italians made it very clear.....THEY were not the foreigners. We were, and it was our responsiblility to speak to them!

NOTE: When travling in a foreign country, bring along an interpreter, a dictionary with translations OR get really smart and study the language so that you can get directions, ask where the bathroom is located, and order your food!

Chris has a way with women, and he soon met "Anna", pronounced Ahhhhhna. She was drop-dead gorgeous, and she could also speak enough English to help us get pointed into the direction of a bus to Rome. Yep! Off to Rome after no sleep for twenty-four plus hours! Our plans were to tour a bit of Rome, get some great Italian food, then get back on a bus that was headed in the opposite direction, travel for three more hours, and meet up with our friends from the States, who are now living part-time in Italy.

My journal is as mixed up as I was at this point. Nothing was done in order. Nothing was planned, and we didn't care! We soaked up everything like sponges! The beauty of the buildings. The gorgeous blue sky. The long stretch of seamless highway. The miniature cars. The fast motorcycles. The scooters with lady drivers. The speeding trains. I'll say it again -- and all of the beautiful people! Italy was already proving to be an amazing place!

When the bus stopped in Rome, the very first thing we did was hit up a place for food! Authentic Italian food!

Three observations and then I'll close this chapter of the trip for today:

1) Never once did I reach inside my purse for my cell phone. When in the states, I couldn't go five minutes without calling or texting someone. What does this mean? Nothing philosophical, really. I knew my phone wouldn't work in Italy, so I didn't even try! *insert a big funny smile!*

2) I finally realized that my number 5 child, my son Chris, was a bit crazy. He is fearless. He walked up to any and every stranger on the street and gave a nod of the head and a bit of a side-kick dance with his tennis shoes and bright, neon green shoe laces. He also spoke words that he thought were Italian, but were really made up words. Chris, I knew you were faking it all along!

3) Chris is certifiably the most giving, caring person in the world to take, of all people, HIS MOTHER, on a trip to Italy! I could tell it was a stretch for him at times (okay, it was a stretch the entire trip), but HE DID IT! HE TOOK HIS MOM TO ITALY, and for that I will be forever greatful!

Chris, I can even *almost* get over the fact that you were sporting a rat tail and that golly-awful front fanny pack!

More tomorrow.......stay tuned for the ride to Petriotoli to meet up with our friends in Italy! That is where the true "Adventures in Italy" began!



Dulles Airport to Rome, Italy - but Hot Tea First!

C'mon and get ready for another adventure or two as you follow the traveling mother and son duo to Italy!

Monday, March 1, 2010 - 3:00 p.m.

Believe it or not, the half-hour flight from Pittsburgh to Washington was uneventful. In fact, I didn't even make a journal entry about that part of the trip. However, that all changed once we landed in Dulles Airport!

We had a few hours to kill before the final boarding for Italy, so Chris and I decided to get a quick snack to eat and then we would do our final money exchange. Okay, for me it was the only money exchange. Ever since Chris told me about this trip I had fussed and worried over the money. I told him I had a secret stash of cash saved for this trip, but I needed to know how much to bring along. Now, for me a "stash of cash" is an amount of coins that will fit loosely into a small coffee can. For Chris, a "stash" is...well, slightly more.

He kept telling me that I didn't need to worry about the money part, but I'm a mom and I wanted to pay for at least part of my way on this trip. So, I spotted "The Money Exchange" in the airport, and off I dragged Chris to help me get this task completed. I boldly stood up to the window and counted out my one dollar bills (I think I drove the teller crazy, and I know I drove Chris even MORE crazy). Yay! I now had "Euros" of my own to spend! I could treat Chris to meals, and I could buy some gifts. I could even help pay for gelato! Until this very moment, I didn't even know what the money exchange for Europe/Italy was called! Obviously, I had not met Rick Steves yet. (Do you remember him from a previous blog entry?)

Note: It's a super wonderful thing when your kids back off from showing you that you really are dumb! Even though you know that they know, when they don't tell you to your face it's greatly appreciated. Chris, thanks for allowing me the dignity of feeling like I was paying for some of this trip. I needed that! I really, really needed that! Thank you for allowing me to feel like I was contributing my part even though we both know that I wasn't.

Chris followed me to the window for the remaining "extra Euros" he was going to bring to Italy, and like a pro, he flashed that fanny belt of his to the teller, whipped out his plastic card, and said......"Cash it in!" We were set to go! The money exchange was completed. Look out Italy! Here we come!

We had another hour left to wait for boarding, so we went to our gate, and I was fidgety so I stood up and watched other planes taking off and landing. Chris was content doing the same until five minutes before time to board. No, I take that back....the call for boarding had been made. "Section 1 -- time to board!" We were in Section 2 which meant we were next!

What did Chris do right at that very moment? He looked at me and said, "You go ahead and board. I'm going to look for a place that sells hot tea." WHAT?!?!?! "We're boarding -- right now! You cannot leave here! We are boarding!" "Yes, I sure can leave! I want some hot tea, and there's no rush with the boarding. They'll be a good half hour boarding this plane." And, with that, off he went!

My stomach felt sick. Why does he have to do these things? Is it fun to see the color drain from my face? Is it a kind of game to play to see how long it takes to bring on the "big one"? He didn't need hot tea any more than I needed to meet the man in the moon. He wanted to make a momentous impact on me by missing the plane! I could see it in his face. This was all part of the plan. He'd call the other kids and tell them the trip was off because I went crazy on him right before the plane was ready to take off.

Now, this is where a lot of my family will be saying, "She's doing it again. She's exaggerating. She's fabricating a story. That really didn't happen the way mom is telling it." Kids, listen up! It DID happen, and it got worse!

The plane to Rome boarded..........and I continued to stand "alone" by the gate and I continued to text Chris. "Where are you?" "Please answer me!" "Everyone is on the plane but the two of us." "Please don't do this, Chris!"
Nothing. No answer. No Chris. So, I looked at the lady at the desk by the gate and explained, "My son and I belong on this plane that is going to Rome, but my son went to get some hot tea, and I can't find him." "Ma'am, I strongly suggest you get on that plane now because in exactly two minutes the doors will be shut, and that plane is taking off."

No time or energy to cry. My hands were trembling as I began another text. Darn him! I know he has his phone on. Where is he? I'm gonna kill him when I see him!!! That's when the text came through. "I got my tea. Got a bit side-tracked looking at the chicks. Am on my way."

I looked up to see Chris slowly walking along with that darned Rat Tail, his cup of tea, and his phone in his hand. And, he was laughing! He thought the entire incident was funny! He really, really did!

Another Note: All kids work very diligently to make their parents sweat blood, and most of them succeed more than once. And, for those wondering....yes, Chris was a success! I'm still very much in recovery!

We ran to the door of the plane, showed our boarding passes and passports, and the door was successfully slammed shut. This was it! Nine hours and twenty three minutes in flight. There were no more escape routes for Chris. The two of us, mother and son, on a large jumbo jet filled to capacity with people headed for Rome. Thank you, dear God! We made it this far!

There's no turning back now. The dream...... the life-long dream is finally going to happen!!!! Italy, I can almost touch you!