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A Legacy of Love

(Note: I’ve been on a blogging break since last summer, focused on writing my book. I’d say it was a neat coincidence that my last post was about my dad, except I don’t believe in coincidences. This tough post hopefully marks my return to blogging, as I’ve stored up some stuff to share with y’all. But that’s for another day.)

Tomorrow, December 10th, will be a difficult day for my family. Although it seems like just last week, it’s been a little more than 6 weeks since my dad went outside to walk his dog, Luke, and passed away lying under a grove of oak trees. Had he been given the opportunity to choose where he would die, I’m sure that Dad would have chosen it just that way — just him, outside, somewhere beautiful.

Tomorrow would have been my parents’ 54th wedding anniversary, and I can think of no better way to honor my father’s legacy and his love for my mother and the family they created than to share with you the following piece that my dad wrote just six days before he died.

Despite how very, very much I miss my dad, and how grieved I am for my mom, I have been so comforted by the clear movement of God’s hand in the timing of events allowing my mother to find this the night of my father’s death. Dad died right at the start of a big wind and rain storm, and the power was out for several hours afterwards. Not only did the storm, the dark, and the quiet feel appropriate to us in those first horrible moments and hours, but it meant that when my mom was finally alone that evening, she could not turn to friends by email or Facebook as she might otherwise have done. She was alone and unconnected that evening in the dark, numbly looking at her tablet, when she saw the “Pages” app, which she’d never seen or used before.

The only thing in it was this piece, created just the week before, when my dad had spent a few days in the hospital. He had not mentioned it to us, but clearly Dad had some sense that his life was drawing to a close. Had the power not been out that night, it might have been days or weeks or more before my mother found it, but because the power was out she found it and was able to immediately recognize it as my father’s last gift to her, and to us.

There was nothing left unsaid between my father and I, and I cannot be anything other than grateful for the 45 years I had with him. I knew he loved me and was proud of me, and he knew I loved him. I’d had a wonderful lunch with Mom and Dad just the day before, and I am so grateful that the gift he left us, through his life and through this letter, is that we have no regrets.

I share this with you then in my dad’s honor, and in honor of the nearly 54 years he spent loving my mom and our family. I hope that after you read this, you will determine to share that same gift with the people you love.

Life is short, and we do not know how much time we will have.

Make sure your people know you love them.

by Howard Lowery

I was born July 25th, 1939, in the middle of the night in Salinas, California. I have lived 75 exciting years of adventure, love, worship, dedication, and faithfulness.

Every phase of my life has been an adventure; marriage to the love of my life, my life partner, camping buddy and confidant. Adventure with our beloved children Tara, Scott and our Grandchildren (and little squirt, the new great grandson) and Tara’s wonderful husband, David Rolstad. What marvelous descendents Carol and I created!

I have loved Carol with unbridled abandon, our children with awe and wonder and our grandchildren with devotion.

I have loved all my assorted family and enjoyed them when we had contact. I have greatly cherished brother Ken and his family and enjoyed many adventures with him and them.

My spiritual life has been with constant love and worship for my Lord and Savior, striving to share and be a blessing to others.

I have always strived to be faithful to the mission of free public education and a career well served and enjoyed.

I hope that I have been faithful and true to all my many friends over the years as they have been an inspiration and blessing to me.

There are no regrets; if I missed it it wasn’t for lack of trying.

— Written October 25, 2014, one week before his death

63597_1700747449538_261456_n 63206_1700748449563_6185717_n Dad and fish

I STILL Win Father’s Day

One year after I wrote this post, and my dad is still the greatest.I was gonna write a new post, but I just reread this one from last year and I just want my dad, and my reader’s, to know all of this stuff AGAIN.

I Win Father’s Day!

Dad, I love you, I am grateful for you, and I want to grow up to be like you.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

Simmer Down, Missy!

Simmer Down, Missy!

I am a master of catastrophizing. That’s a word, I assure you. I learned it in parent classes I took for my niece when she was in DBT, or dialectical behavioral training, for her mental health struggles. It was actually, um, disconcerting how much helpful information I learned for myself from those classes.

Catastrophizing is the tendency to see everything in black and white, to immediately assume the worst possible outcome and spend precious time and energy spinning out instead of SIMMERING DOWN,  and proceeding with reasonable caution and cautious optimism. Isn’t it amazing how quickly we can assume the worst, and spiral into a vortex of impending disaster and doom?

It’s extra “special” that I am so good at catastrophizing, since I’m a Christian who professes to believe that God has good things planned for me, that He is working even the bad things out for His good, and that He walks alongside me in the hard times. I say I believe He is more interested in who I am and who I am becoming, and not in what I achieve.

That’s what I say, but I still spend far too much time panicking and freaking out, careening wildly between frantically trying to fix everything myself and anticipating the worst.

I was doing just that yesterday. We are in the final days of preparation for a church event for which I am nominally responsible (nominally because, you know, it’s really God’s bidness) that is shaping up to be, shall we say, more intimate than we had hoped for. More intimate to a degree that is possibly not, um, self-sustaining.

The more prudent approach that would protect your perception of how awesome I am would be to tell you all about it in a few weeks, after we make it work and we’ve learned lessons and I can tie a pretty bow on it. That would be prudent. But after an exhausting self-centered day yesterday of worrying about what people will think OF ME, I awoke this morning with a clear understanding that once again, IT AIN’T ABOUT ME. (Apparently a lesson I need to have repeated frequently.)

So I’m confessing my crappy attitude now, publicly, to do absolutely everything I can to get myself out of my own way before I even know how He’s going to work it out, because this is where the rubber hits the road.

(Anybody counting cheesy cliches in this post? I hope not.)

This event isn’t about me, and it isn’t about attendance numbers. It’s about what the Lord has planned for the women who He knows are coming. It isn’t about my leadership or reputation, it’s about the message we’ll hear and the stories we’ll share. If worst comes to worst, it won’t be about me being embarrassed but it will be about me being faithful, following His leading, and doing the best I can AFTER centering myself in prayer, in His Word, and in the counsel of others. It will be about me trying to follow as much of Him as I understand with as much of myself as I can.

You know what I get out of that approach?

A clear head for decisions.

A calm mind for creative problem-solving.

An open heart, ready to perceive the best way forward.

You know what I got out of yesterday’s approach?

A headache.

A self-indulgent pity party, party favors not included.

Shoulder muscles so tight you could bounce a quarter off of them, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

You know what my family got out of yesterday?

Cranky mom.

Cranky wife.

Cranky daughter.

They deserved better.

 

Today is better. I am not the center of the universe. You know what? Neither are you. Thank goodness!

So simmer down with me, huh? He’s got this.

 

How about you, been spinning out lately? What helped? If you’re a Christian, what verse from Scripture helps you remember Who’s in charge?

Not My Favorite Spring Break

Not My Favorite Spring Break

Thank goodness school started again today. Our spring break kind of……sucked. Not only that, but I’m suffering an uncharacteristic  — for me — amount of mommy guilt over the whole thing. Gotta be honest, mommy guilt is normally not in my wheelhouse (whether it SHOULD be is another question), but this week threw me for a loop.

I had all kinds of grand plans: a thorough spring-cleaning and purge of all boys’ rooms and belongings; outings to the zoo, the science museum, and hiking; frolicking in the great outdoors; garden planting and yard work. Not to mention relaxing extended family reading time, etc., etc.

We made it to the zoo Monday, but after that the week just kind of kerploofed. (It’s a word now, people, it’s perfect for the sort of imploding-while-disappointing sound I was imagining.) I had made just a few wee commitments for the week, but each of them somehow had other meetings appended to them, including meetings for and with my nieces that were really important and out of my control. Then mid-week my poor dad experienced a serious back injury that required a chaperone and multiple appointments, it rained most of the week so no one could play outside, and …… kerploof.

Lessons were learned though, and I record them here for your potential benefit, should you ever experience a disappointing kerploof of a holiday.

1. Huh, I’m raising relatively self-sufficient small people. Instead of adventures with mommy all week, my little men spent record amounts of time alone and in charge of themselves and each other. As the oldest is 13, this should be no big deal on paper, but we’re talking several big chunks of hours of time and three boys. And you know what, people? No blood was drawn, no disasters were had, lunches were prepared and consumed, and all was well.

2. Much less laundry is required when your family members spend most of the week in their jammies. This reduction in laundry was a small side benefit to the fact that the boys got dressed maybe twice between Monday and Friday……oh, look, here comes the guilt again……

3. Multiple Jammie Days??? My boys think that’s the Best. Thing. Ever. So instead of being disappointed at the lack of mommy outings, they were thrilled at the added responsibility of being on their own combined with the luxury of relatively unlimited electronics (truly not the norm in this house, honest) in their pj’s. By their accounting: SCORE.

A sleepover in the basement is the perfect end to a jammie day. Well, that and piles of Oreos.

A sleepover in the basement is the perfect end to a jammie day. Well, that and piles of Oreos.

4. Unlimited Electronics Buffet + Rainy Week Still = Squirrelly Boys. This is just basic physics, no changing that. Thank you Jesus for a sunny afternoon yesterday, or there might have been intra-familial fisticuffs.

5. I have discovered a basic, and to my knowledge, previously unnamed law of human behavior. Other people at the zoo cannot stop making up what are clearly dumb explanations for the animals’ behavior. The Corollary to this Law of Uncontrollably Fabricating Animal Behavior Explanations is the Inability to Control Mocking Others Ridiculous Explanations While Believing Your Own Understanding of Zoo Animal Behavior is Unquestionably Stellar.

6. Baby elephants are so cute, one cannot be blamed for compulsively taking what are clearly awful pictures of them….

Awww....look at the baby elephant. Well, she is cute, but there was all this glass in the way...

Awww….look at the baby elephant. If you can, through the glare, the glass, and her mother’s legs.

7. Much to my shame and dismay, I am not immune to Facebook-related jealousy. Having never really experienced it before, I was pretty confident I was above the capacity of Facebook to effect my perceptions of how fun our life is or is not. Until this week, when the pictures of Palm Desert, Hawaii and Mexico flooded my newsfeed while I went from meeting to appointment to meeting. I realized I am no better than any other Facebook user, capable of being consumed by feelings of envy and inadequacy.

A pathetic group selfie (us-ie?) of us at The Lego Movie.

A pathetic group selfie (us-ie?) of us at The Lego Movie.

I did not post that blurry mess to social media, didn’t feel it adequately competed with all of the beach/skiing/Italian spa/parasailing/rock-climbing on Mars photos. Sigh. (I am completely aware of the whiny nature of my seriously first-world problems. I am a brat. That fact just makes it all worse. More sighing.)

8. When given the chance, my boys rose to the occasion and to my expectations, whether it was helping injured grandpa walk his dog this week, managing on their own so long, or doing extra chores to help me out instead of getting to do extra adventures or fun treats. Our kids are often capable of so much more than we ask of them, and they are proud to do it.

9. This too shall pass, for everything there is a season, kids are resilient, and honestly I can’t remember ONE single spring break from my elementary or middle school years. My mom was GREAT, and I’m sure we did all kinds of super fun spring break things.  Wait, had spring break even been invented then? Anyhow, maybe in the scheme of things it won’t really matter…..

Maybe everything IS awesome….

Also, I’m pretty sure that song was composed by the folks who compose Vacation Bible School theme music. Anyone agree?

 

 

No, Don’t Go!

so sad....

so sad….

 

Driving through flurries,

Spring pink ruffle petals drift,

Snowing, blowing down.

I cry, “Not yet!”, was

just yesterday, Oregon

Winter, brutal wet cold.

We need your petal pink!

You sun-glowed mere hours ago

on eager tank-tops.

They fall away, and

uncharacteristically

I’m a sad poet.

Goodbye, cruel blooms, alas.

Goodbye, cruel blooms, alas.

 

 

 

Barley Love and Life in Maliva

Is it weird to be a fan of barley? Is it more weird to post about barley and unintelligible song lyrics at the same time?

This is not and never will be a food blog, but holy cow! I have to tell y’all about this salad, Hearty Barley and Cauliflower Salad, a recipe from Real Simple magazine. I made it last night and polished it off this afternoon for an early Friday dinner after sending two of the menfolk off on a weekend Scout camping trip. (On a side note, when you finish dinner at 4:45 Friday afternoon, the evening stretches out in front of you like a glorious mini-weekend in itself. The old folks in line at Denny’s might just be on to something.)

Anyhoo, this salad is SO GOOD. The inclusion of salami raised its family sample rate, and it was surprisingly well-received across the board. I used the fancy manchego cheese, substituted spinach instead of radicchio so I didn’t have to make an extra trip to the store, and added pine nuts – brilliant. But for me, it’s all about the barley. So chewy and substantial and yummy. I am a new and enthusiastic fan of barley.

Hearty Barley and Cauliflower Salad With Manchego and Salami

credit to Real Simple magazine, Hearty Barley and Cauliflower Salad With Manchego and Salami

Wait, too much barley excitement for you? I can slow down……

OK,  just one more thing before I leave you overwhelmed with the PARTY that is me on a Friday night. You know those songs that contain lyrics you just cannot understand, so you are left to make up your own? Well, my kids and I love to listen to this song by the Christian band Unspoken, called “Lift My Life Up.” Beautiful song, cool vocals, great lyrics, respect.* 

HOWEVER, even though we KNOW the lyrics are in part “I lift my life up, my life up…” it totally sounds like “I live my life in Maliva.” Makes us laugh every time. Every. Time.

I live my life in Maliva. Ha!

Wonder if they like barley in Maliva?

What about you? Any fabulous new dinner finds, or hysterically misunderstood song lyrics you’d like to share with the class?

*(Hey, hey you! Don’t you go running off or rolling your eyes just because I referenced Christian music. The genre is WAY better than it used to be, and is now often nearly indistinguishable in quality and style from other pop and alternative music forms. Don’t believe me? Check out groups like alt-folk-rock-ish Rend Collective or the pop-y Francesca Battistelli. Even if you aren’t a Christian, misunderstood lyrics are cross-faith funny!)

Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

Misadventures in Chia: Crunchy Little Balls

I’ll admit, introducing a new dessert by saying “Here’s a yummy pudding with crunchy little balls in it” to four boys  was a strategic error. A HUGE strategic error from which there is no recovery or return. I don’t mean to offend any readers with delicate sensibilities, but if you don’t immediately know what I’m talking about, then you definitely do not have an 8-year-old, 10-year-old, 13-year-old or 44-year-old little boy at home. That’s all I’m saying. ‘Cause “crunchy little balls” will last them ALL NIGHT LONG. It’s the verbal gift from mom that just keeps on giving.

But it was my first attempt to cook with or serve trendy new ingredient (buh-bye kale, so 2013!) chia seeds to my clan. I made this chocolate chia pudding recipe, and knowing that some family members (HELLO HUSBAND) are particularly tentative about new textures/flavors/dishes/shirts-I-gift-for-Christmas I was trying to make it sound FUN. And chia combined with liquid makes these tiny gelatinous balls that are like mini-tapioca or the boba in bubble tea, but with a little crunch to them.

For what it’s worth, I liked the pudding. The texture is weird but cool, and it was very chocolatey.

photo credit to Robynowitz at allrecipes.com

The fam, not so much. Three out of four did NOT like it, and I’m pretty sure the 8-year-old was just being nice to me. My middle “blessing” actually said “Mom,with this dish you have ruined the concept of pudding. Ruined it.” So dramatic…can’t imagine where he gets it.

So, clearly, I’ll be forcing them to eat the HUGE bag of chia seeds I got at Costco yesterday as often as I can, in as many ways as I can imagine. I’m quite looking forward to it. {cue evil laugh}

(What’s that you say, perhaps I should have purchased a slightly smaller bag for my first foray into chia cuisine, to be more reasonable, rational, moderate? Really? Have you met me?)

If I can’t convert them, I can always just grow a new clay family. Maybe this guy.

chia guy

I wonder if the seeds are cheaper this way from Amazon?

PS – Kale, I’m just kidding. We actually all love you, you’re not going anywhere.

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