Category Archives: Family

45 Years…Still Counting

She was a pretty, brown-eyed girl from a small town. He was a handsome, small-town musician. He told his mama after he met her he knew he would spend the rest of his life with her, and he did.

On a sweltering summer day in a South Carolina church, they made promises to each other…

Promises to love.

Promises to cherish.

Promises meant to last forever.

IMGP3834They didn’t have much money, but they had each other and soon their family grew. My brother and I became part of their love story and we learned from our parents how to love well.  No matter the address, our house was always a  home where love lived.

The years brought good times and not-so-good times, as the years are prone to do. The young lovers attended weddings and funerals. They fought and made up. They laughed and cried. They made memories. They became parents and parents-in-law and grandparents.

papagramannaThey had done life together for so long it became hard for people to tell where one of them stopped and the other began.

One fall, he started having symptoms no one could explain. Something inside her told her this was something big. After several appointments, the doctor said the words no one ever wants to hear. It was cancer. It was bad. He might not have long.

So she fought for him. She researched and googled and called and emailed. She never left his side during the surgeries and the treatments and the therapies. She argued with doctors and refused to take no for an answer. She had leaned on him, but now she was his strength. Sometimes love means fighting like your life depends on it. And so they fought together.

DSC00841During his last hospital stay, he told her he wanted to go home. Something about the way he said it made her ask him which home. With tears in his eyes, he pointed up.

So that day she packed his things and took him to the home they shared. And they waited for Jesus to come get him and take him to the home He’d been preparing for him. Because sometimes love means putting someone else’s needs before your own.

One day, he told her about a dream he’d had. Only it wasn’t a dream, he said, because he wasn’t asleep. He said he saw a field and in the middle of the field was a big tree. God was there and He invited him to sit with Him under the tree. He said it was a beautiful and peaceful place.

As the days passed, he talked less and slept more.  But she stayed by his side. We all did. We knew he would be leaving us soon, and even though he’d said everything he was going to say to us, we just wanted to be in his presence for as long as we could.

One night–or maybe it was day; the hours seemed to run together–she curled up beside him in the bed they’d shared and she played their songs for him. Songs from the days when they were first getting to know one another. Songs that had grown to mean something to them over the years. Some of the songs were as familiar to me as the family stories we told around the dinner table at holidays, but some were songs I’d never heard before. And I was reminded that before they were my parents, they had a love story that belonged only to them. I felt like an intruder there, but I dared not move lest I break the spell of that moment. So I watched as she kept her promises…

To love and to cherish…

In the end he seemed to be caught in some sort of battle. He didn’t seem to be able to let go of the life he’d made with her or to leave the people he loved.  He struggled between his desires to be here and there. He fought for every breath. It was excruciating to watch. But we stayed there with him, knowing our time together was almost done.

I watched as she held him. She leaned in close and whispered to him, “It’s okay to go home now. Go find the tree. I’ll meet you there. Wait for me under the tree.” Sometimes love has to be brave.

She was brave through the visitation and the funeral and the burial. But now she has to figure out how to be her without them. When the two have truly become one, how do they become one again? Almost four years later and there are no easy answers.

This isn’t how she planned it. It isn’t how any of us wanted it.  But this is the way it is.

So she continues to love him well because that’s all she knows to do. To carry on the best she can. To finish what they started together.

In fairy tales, love stories end with happily ever after. But life isn’t a fairy tale and this world is too broken for happily ever afters to take place here. But the best love stories really are forever. I was blessed to have a front row seat to one of the greatest love stories the world has ever known. Their legacy is mine to continue.

To love, really love well. And to build a home where love can live.

Forty-five years and counting, their love story continues….


Mama, I’ve been thinking about this day for awhile now. I wanted to do something to make today easier for you. But I can’t. Some days are just hard and I’m sure today was one of those days. I wish I were better at making my words match everything in my heart, but after many attempts, this is the best I could do for now. I struggled with sharing some of these memories because they are so private and precious and beautiful to me they almost seem fragile. But I just want you to know I noticed you there. And I didn’t want any of them to be lost because they forever changed me. Thank you for loving him well. No one could have loved him more or better. Thank you both for giving us a home where love lived.



Filed under Family, My Grief Observed

In Memory of the Minutes that Made the Days That Made the Life

One of our favorite things about living in Boston was our church,  Hope Fellowship. We felt more like members of a family than members of a church.

The Brown family has been part of Hope Fellowship from its beginning. We didn’t get a chance to know Jeff and Carolynne very well. For a good part of the time we attended Hope Fellowship they were away.  The Browns had one son, Grant.  Grant was only a toddler when we lived there, but he never seemed like a baby to me. He always struck me as an old soul, a little man trapped in his tiny body.  Grant was certainly the sunshine of his parents’ lives. You didn’t have to be around the Browns for any time to see how much they all loved each other.

On July 23, 2013, six-year-old Grant died after a horrible accident at day camp. Hope Fellowship has done what families do when a member needs support. They’ve provided meals, transportation, lodging….anything Jeff and Carolynne need. But they can’t provide everything they want or need. No one on earth can. No one can give Grant back to them.

The church created a website to help spread information and solicit help for the Browns. On the site, they published a picture slide show the family used in Grant’s memorial service. I watched the video today.  Picture after picture flashed across my screen. While I watched, I thought of all the pictures I have in my photo library, so similar to the ones I was seeing.

Times like these always remind me of how fragile life is. How none of us is guaranteed one last picture. Every time I hear about a tragedy like this, I tell myself I’m going to be more intentional. I try to carpe diem and celebrate the every day moments just in case everything ends without warning. I go into my babies’ rooms and watch them sleep, trying to freeze time and the memory forever. I try as hard as I can to make every second count.

But then it’s Monday and someone left the milk out again.  We’re out of toilet paper and the library books are overdue.  For Pete’s sake, the kids won’t stop touching each other and I could not care less who did what to the other one first.  Sometimes I can’t wait for those moments to slip through my hands. Sometimes the minutes are hard and I’m tired and I don’t feel joyful about unloading the same dishwasher I’ve already unloaded seven times this week.

Big Mama’s daughter just had a birthday. Her posts about Caroline usually strike a chord with me because my daughter (and youngest son) are only a few months younger. I feel like our children have grown up together even though I’ve never even been in the same room with Big Mama or Caroline. In her post about Caroline turning ten,  Big Mama said this:

Time is fragile. You can’t catch it. You can’t hold onto it. You can’t make it go backwards. It slips right through your fingers and you’re left wondering what happened to the last year or five years or ten years. You remember the high points and the low points, but it’s the every day moments that get lost in the shuffle. I would give my right arm to have one more morning with you as a chubby two year old cuddled up next to me watching Sesame Street.

My oldest will be thirteen in less than half a year. My first baby will be a teenager. Like most boys he doesn’t talk about feelings and matters of the heart very often, so when he does, I need to be ready to listen. Unfortunately, he usually is ready to talk at times I find inconvenient at best, like this evening when I was driving the kids home through downtown Honolulu in traffic down an unfamiliar road. I wanted to say encouraging things like, “Oh really? Tell me more!” or “How did you feel about that?” but I was thinking, “Oh, my word, I can’t hear myself think!” and “Did I just miss my turn? I think I just missed my turn!” I compromised and listened as best as I could while navigating through lane changes and uncooperative drivers, giving an occasional nod and “Hmmm…” as encouragement to continue.

Being present and assigning meaning to the minutes is hard sometimes. It requires us to slow down and be still and quiet. We have to notice, really notice, what is happening around us and stop trying to fast forward to the next scene.

I constantly need to be reminded to slow down and be in my life. Tonight, Grant’s video is what reminded me to pay closer attention to my people. Left to my own devices, I would plow through many days, with the goal of surviving and no thought to relishing. I’d look without seeing, hear without listening, eat without tasting, and touch without feeling. I wish being intentional were more automatic for me. I wish I didn’t need for someone else’s deepest pain to be the impetus to slow down and love wholeheartedly with my full attention.

But tonight that’s exactly what I needed. And I decided to write about it in case it’s something you needed to hear today, too.

Do you struggle with letting the days pass without really noticing them?  My friend Candace read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts and she has been listing what makes her grateful every day, usually accompanied by her beautiful photos. What do you do to remind yourself to be more grateful and intentional as a parent, spouse, friend?


My favorite people after a memory-making afternoon spent fishing this weekend. Cue the Andy Griffith theme.


Filed under Family

Give Me a Break!

I love my family. I would rather spend time with them than any other people on the face of the earth.

I love being my kids’ mom. I have enjoyed all the little stages of their childhoods that have brought us to this point and I truly love the people they are becoming.

Even if sometimes the people they are becoming can be a little bit goofy.

Every time we are at Aloha Tower, they have to pose like the statues.

IMG_5417 IMG_5420

One of the three was not in much of a posing mood.


I need time to not be with my children.

One of the best bits of advice Sus gave me when I was a brand new mom was to schedule time away from the kids. She told me that even if she got away for just a little while, she was always a better mom after a little break.

As usual, she was right.

It has been harder to find time to myself since we moved here last summer, but this weekend, I had the opportunity to get some hairapy and spend time with two of my favorite people. It was fun to laugh and eat and talk with grown up friends. Not to say that we weren’t a little goofy at times ourselves. Conversations took strange twists and turns that resulted in weird and random Google searches.


I don’t think we ever figured out which newscaster Alex was trying to remember. It wasn’t either of these.

I came home Sunday evening to a clean house and a family who loves me.

So here’s the takeaway point on this short little post:

Friends, no matter how hard it is to schedule, you need time away to recharge your batteries. You need date nights alone with your husband (That’s still a challenge we need to make happen at my house!), you need time with girl friends, and you need time all by yourself. Of course, you also need a husband who will support you in these endeavors and I am more than blessed to have a man who doesn’t begrudge me any time that I get to sneak away.

I’d be curious to know how you all schedule time away from the kids. And if you had a dream weekend all to yourself, how would you spend it?

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Filed under Family, Friends, Kids

Little Curly-Haired Boy


Where did you go in such a hurry, Little Curly-Haired Boy?

Couldn’t you slow down and stay little just a little while longer?

More than anything else, I wanted to be a mom and twelve years ago you gave that gift to me. Because you were my first baby, sometimes you got the very best of me, but at other times, unfortunately  you got my worst.

I guess I’m still practicing on you as we go through each new stage together. Now you’re almost a teenager. Not only are you growing out of your clothes and shoes, you’re pushing against the boundaries that confined you as a little boy and trying to find the man you’ll one day be. Sometimes, because I love you and, though you may not believe it, know more than you, I have to push back when you want to travel down roads that wouldn’t be good paths for you to travel. But mostly I marvel at the great person you are. I’m so very proud of you even though I know I can’t take the credit for the Goodness that is in you.

I used to be in charge of all the minutes of your day because I was with you almost every minute of every day. I chose your clothes, your friends, even what you’d eat. Now I’m not with you all the time and you’re making more and more of those choices for yourself. I’m trusting that you will rely on the Goodness that is in you, the Keeper of your heart. I pray that you are allowing Him to order your steps and that as you become more independent of me, you’ll become more dependent on Him. As much as I love you, He loves you more.

I do love you. So very much. As we walk through this next season together, I pray that you will grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

He has big plans for you, Little Curly-Haired Boy.



Filed under Family

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered….Especially Bewildered

Today is the first in our weekly series of tips and ideas to help us not feel “whacked’ this holiday season.  Raise your hand if you’re surprised I remember I even said we were going to do this on Wednesdays. I’ll admit it, my hand is raised!

I thought we’d kick off the series with a discussion about Halloween tricks, treats, and traditions.

First, just a word about family traditions. If you don’t have any, get some. They don’t have to be elaborate, but they are the memories our children will talk about for the rest of our lives and may continue in their own families. For example, I’ve carried on two of my family’s Halloween traditions: corn chowder and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!   Every year my mom would make corn chowder for Halloween. Soup, stew, or chili is a good choice for Halloween because you can keep it warm on the stove. Everyone can have a small bowl before trick-or-treating and warm up with a little more (if it happens to be cold where you are) after the Halloween festivities. I haven’t put our corn chowder recipe online yet, but I do have some other favorite soup/stew/chili recipes to share and I have a few on my Pinterest Looks Good Enough to Eat board that I haven’t tried yet.

This link has my recipe for Ashley’s Tortilla Soup, Mom’s Beef Stew, Hoppin’ John Stew,  and Sus’s Black Bean & Pork Chili.


My favorite chicken & dumpling recipe (from Southern Living)


My new favorite chili recipe: Rocky Top Chili

Back in the old days, we had to watch Linus and the gang whenever the network felt like showing it to us, but now in the day of the DVR, you can tape the show and watch it as a family whenever it’s convenient for you! Pop a bag of popcorn,  make some Whimzie Crack, or if you’re really in the Halloween spirit, roast the pumpkin seeds from your jack-o-lantern. I’m linking you to a basic recipe, but you can jazz it up with any seasonings you like to make it sweet or savory.

A new Halloween tradition we added a few years ago is our candy corn and peanuts mix. You’ve tried this, right? If you haven’t, maybe you shouldn’t, because I’m warning you, once you start eating it, it’s very hard to stop.

Pinterest can be a black hole that sucks all the time out of your afternoon, but it can also be a great place to find and store ideas for new Halloween traditions. I like one having one central location to put my ideas. Here’s a link to my Fall Pinterest board. Now, will I try all of those ideas? Absolutely not. But I will try a few. I really want to try the toilet paper roll pumpkins this weekend. Our neighbors have a four-year-old son. This looks like a super easy, no sew, no glue craft we can all do together. Remember, the goal is not to create the perfect holidays that all the moms in the neighborhood will envy. The goal is to create moments with the people you love that will become the memories you treasure.

Does your family have any Halloween traditions?

Here’s my challenge question for the week: How do you handle the leftover Halloween candy? Do you have rules on how much candy the kids are allowed to have after Halloween? How long do you keep the candy around? Do you allow everyone to keep their candy separate or does it go in one big communal pile? I’d love to hear some of your ideas!

Also, if you have any more ideas on how to make this time of year easier or more special, I’d love to hear them! Email me:


Filed under Family, Kids, No More Whacked Out Wednesdays

Teaching Gratitude

I’m trying something new today. I decided to participate in 5 Minute Friday with The Gypsy Mama. No editing or self-critique. Just write for five minutes and publish. It is taking great self-restraint not to read over this and edit before I hit PUBLISH, but I’m going to do it anyway. Cringe!  Today’s writing prompt was: GRATITUDE

It sounds innocent enough, but underneath the words I hear something more dangerous than just an off-handed complaint, I sense a more menacing threat.

“I didn’t want to eat here.”

“This is boring.”

“I’m too tired to clean my room.”

Taken as isolated comments, these sound like harmless ways my children express themselves. But string them together over the course of a day and throw in a little attitude, and I become aware that my children need to learn to live lives of gratitude.

We have so much. Sure there are those who have more, but we have much more than we need to exist. I want to provide opportunities and fun experiences for my children, but I also want to see those things as privileges, not rights.

The Bible says that to whom much is given, much is required.

So how does a mom teach an attitude of gratitude?

As I brainstorm this morning, I record these ideas:

1. We need to spend more time serving people who have less.

I need to let them take more active roles in communicating with our sponsored Compassion child. I should teach them about Ethiopia and what everyday life must be like for Tekalign.

I should look for ways we can serve those in need right here in our community. My children need to know that it isn’t just people who live in third world countries who need our help; many in our own city go to sleep hungry and without the basic provisions we take for granted.

2. I need to express my own gratitude more freely. They need to hear me thank more and complain less. I feel like I am a grateful person but I wonder how often they hear my appreciation.

They also need to serve others. They need to know what it looks like to put others before themselves. I need to become more faithful in writing thank you notes to people who have shown me kindness. Thank you notes have become a lost art and I’m so guilty of letting my verbal thanks serve as my only expression of gratitude.

How do you teach your children to be grateful?


Filed under Family

Snow Day in the South

We don’t get many snow days where I live, but last Friday, we had snow. Before 10 a.m. we had created a multitude of heavenly hosts (aka snow angels) and an androgynous snow person. No one could decide whether we’d made a snow”he” or a snow”she.”

I took pictures. Want to see?

Sometimes I fancy myself to be a real photographer. K gave me a fancy, new camera for Christmas. I planned to learn how to use it by reading the owner’s manual on the way to his family’s house for Christmas, but I packed the Spanish version of the manual instead of the English one. I took Spanish for Medical Professionals for one semester when I was in nursing school but I all I remember is how to say “Where does it hurt? (“[upside-down question mark] Donde le duele?”) and “Push!” (“Empuja!”) I also speak a little Dora (“Come on! Vamonos!”), but I’ve never seen an episode of Dora where she deals specifically with aperture settings. Hence, I only know how to use my fancy, new camera on the automatic setting.

Anyway, here are my artsy pictures of snowy trees:

The tire swing in our yard:

I was trying to do a “Narnia” thing here with the lampost. I didn’t realize the car was in the frame. That kind of ruins the effect for me:

I love it when trees come together like this to make a little tunnel of sorts:

I like to think that my little signs are part of the reason the snow decided to visit us. (Never mind that I put them out many a year with nary a flake to be seen all winter.):

My “home sweet home gnome.” He makes me smile:

Feeling artsy again:

Real live snow really falling down right here in Louisiana. I took a picture. It will last longer:

Find the cardinal:

My mom used to get irritated when we’d get our vacation pictures developed only to find that my dad had taken six rolls of film with nothing but birds and trees on them. I wonder if Ansel Adams’s wife gave him the same kind of grief. I did take pictures of people. Here are a few:

He owns a coat and yet he doesn’t always wear it:

His brother, on the other hand, is ready for some black diamonds. Ski googles are a must:

Always camera ready:

One of the obligatory snow angels:

Grammy takes Colonel out for a romp in the snow:

The obligatory snow person. We thought it was a snowman but look at those eyelashes!:

Mugging with the snowperson:

You know what I like about snow days? I mean besides the…snow? I like that we take the time to notice the stuff we miss when our schedules are full and our days are “normal.” I don’t usually take the time to look at trees. I don’t always take the time to make our hot chocolate more special by adding whipped cream and peppermint syrup. I go from Task A to Task B and sometimes I don’t fully look and listen to the people around me. But on snow days, I slow down and enjoy life one minute at a time. We play and laugh and rest. I think I’m going to schedule more snow days….whether the snow comes or not.


Filed under Family, Kids