Front Porch Swing

Legs crossed
One foot planted
Firmly on the floor
Securely guiding me
Back and forth
A gentle rocking
Not the flying
To the sky
Back and forth
Of childhood
No-this is
The swaying
Of contemplation
A vantage point
For the familiar-
Scenes now fuzzy
Thanks to frayed lines
On well-worn
Window screens-
Yet, beauty remains
Holding power to
Release a rush of
Memories even
As clarity fades-
New-found gratitude
Blurs my restlessness
With each image seen
With each motion felt
With each moment spent
On the front porch swing

Coming & Going

This Labor Day weekend, I am looking forward to an extra day of rest following the two first weeks of school. I need to relax and take care of myself. Part of that care includes time with family.

That is one of my first thoughts when it comes to holidays-who is coming and who is going.

This time, Gart and I are staying put. Though not always the case, a welcomed choice this weekend. Even after our recent extended time here, we need to be home. Sleep in our own bed, sit outside in our own backyard…welcoming the ones who are coming.

On this Saturday morning, the house is quiet. Our youngest, the last one at home, is at a friend’s. Our daughter, who recently moved out, is traveling. Our oldest and his wife will be here this afternoon.

Witnessing my kids at this age causes me to reflect on my own younger days. Days when I was the one always coming and going. Days when my Mom and Dad were the ones staying put.

It’s a funny thing, seeing myself through my parents’ eyes. Waiting patiently to hear about a friend, that recent trip, or to actually be together in person.

These are the moments that remind of the beauty of life-moments of growth and understanding. Realizing what a privilege it is to be the one staying put. To be the one watching and waiting, experiencing all the comings and goings from my front door.

Home to Home

I left home at the mature age of seventeen and, except for one summer, never came back. My mom often reminds me. 😉

Before college, I had lived in the same house my entire life. I attended the same school, first grade through senior year, and was surrounded by extended family.

And even though I needed to find my own path, the place where I grew up would always be home.

A recent visit with my parents caused me to think about the word home. Especially the idea that home has little to do with the actual place.

As I pulled up in the driveway, my dad was waiting under the carport. Mom came right out as if she’d been listening inside for my car. Soon, we were talking about everything from the kids to work, politics, church. And, of course, the pandemic and quarantine.

They’re so cute. ❤

As an adult, I enjoy this time alone with my parents. Being there by myself means my only role at that moment is a daughter. Even if this visit brought some adult daughter anxiety.

Due to the current pandemic, I had to be very careful about where I stopped on the four-and-a-half-hour drive from our house to theirs. My parents are over seventy, Mom a breast cancer survivor and Dad with diabetes and kidney disease. Their health is currently good, and I couldn’t bear the thought of exposing them to this virus.

My anxiety quickly faded as Dad asked, “How’s my little girl?” Mom said more than once, “I’m so glad you came.” At face value, simple phrases. Yet, they wrapped me in the love and security I experienced growing up.

When going to visit my parents, I say I am going home. And when it’s time to leave, I use the same phrase. I guess both are true. Home is about the people not the places.

I may have to leave tiny pieces of my heart behind when leaving one, but I know they will be refilled upon arrival at the other. Not the same, but new, and whole.

A sweet paradox, traveling from one home to another. ❤

Green Green Grass of Home by Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr.

The old home town looks the same
As I step down from the train
And there to meet me is my Mama and Papa…
It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home


Welcomed Guest

Computer screen
A dozen windows
Energetic teacher
Excited students
Smile and wave
Learning together
Finding their way
In this new normal
Students engaged
Sharing projects
Listening intently
A read-a-loud
Started before
Quarantine
Now continued
...during
In this new
Familiar
Yet, unfamiliar
Space
Older siblings
Quietly sneak 
In the background
Hoping to be seen
Younger siblings
Sit in laps
Soaking up
Extra attention
And me?
Grateful to witness
The energy of
A dedicated teacher
Grateful to see
Smiling faces
Hear familiar voices
To say, “I miss you.”
Grateful to be
A face in one
Of those windows-
A welcomed guest

Cues

Cue-a signal (such as a word, phrase, or bit of stage business) to a performer to begin a specific speech or action.

When I think of the word cue, it is usually about music. As a pianist, I’m very good at giving and receiving cues. For example, I might follow a singer’s breathing or lead them into an entrance with tempo/musical changes. The cues help us stay together, resulting in beautiful music.

This week, I’ve been forced to listen to a different kind of cue. It actually took several days for me to even recognize that it was a cue. 

If only it had been a musical cue. 

But no, this was an emotional cue manifesting in a physical symptom.

The first time it appeared was around 5:00 p.m. I had planned to cook dinner-homemade meatballs, roasted veggies, and pasta. 

All the ingredients were ready.  

Suddenly, I began to feel a little nauseous. “Hmmm, that’s weird,” I thought. I immediately began to worry about getting sick. But I hadn’t been anywhere, and it was not likely. I almost changed dinner plans to take-out.

But then, I decided to push through. We needed a home-cooked meal. It would surely make us all feel better. So, I cooked. It was yummy. I even baked cookies. When the cookies were done, I realized the nausea was gone.

The same thing happened the next day, at the same time. Curious. 

“I wonder if this is stress?” I asked myself. This time, my daughter and I took a short walk around the neighborhood. Guess what? Nausea once again disappeared.

That night, I told my husband what had happened. I also expressed that I thought it was a reaction to stress over all the changes occurring right now. He agreed. 

Somehow, just sharing how I was feeling helped.

As I thought about this more, it made sense. I may be putting on a good front, staying calm, and saying I’m not worried. But truthfully, these are unsettling times and they are affecting my emotions. This little cue was trying to get my attention. Trying to tell me it’s ok to not be ok.

The time of day also made sense. Each time I noticed this feeling, it was around 5-5:30 p.m. This is the time of day we would normally be getting home from work. Everyone would be sharing about their day, talking about what went well and what didn’t. Talking about students and what we were planning the next days, weeks, etc.  

That has all changed. We are together most of the day at home. Not knowing when we will go back to work. Worrying about our friends and family. Worrying about our students. All things that are out of our control.  

No wonder my physical cue was nausea.

The most important thing about cues? They require a response. How could I respond to this one? Well, I’ve found a few things to be helpful.   

  1. Take a walk
  2. Tell someone how I’m feeling
  3. Cook
  4. Play piano

This experience also made me think of our kiddos. How do they react to stress? What is often their first complaint? “My stomach hurts.” I guess some things never change. 😉   

Take care of yourselves, friends. Listen to your body and pay attention to your emotions. Don’t be afraid to say how you’re feeling.  ❤ 

Jumbled Thoughts

These are interesting times. So many questions. News stories concerning illness reported all over the world and right here at home. Despite the great distances, the stories connect us all, as if we all lived next door to one another.

I try to limit my news intake, choosing often to read instead of watching the news. However, I found myself watching more the past few days. And last night, I believe this choice had a negative impact.

I woke up several times during the night. None of the dreams I had made any sense. I could not even describe them. All I could think was, “Why are my thoughts so jumbled?”

And that’s when I realized-too much news. Even though I remain calm on the outside, I feel restless. Changes are coming. And that underlying knowledge, infused with so much information, caused my brain to overload.

I did watch the morning newscast today. But then I chose to turn everything off and do something productive. My bedroom is now clean. Laundry is folded and put away. I even vacuumed the floor, cleaned the bathroom, and took a nap.

No, my activity did not take away the stress of the unknown, but it did help me take care of myself. It provided a distraction as well as positive results. Results that gave me a feeling of accomplishment.

The evening news could not be avoided. School closings until April 6 were announced. As a teacher, that brings a whole new set of concerns. But we are all in this together and that brings comfort.

Hoping for a better night’s sleep tonight. Clean sheets should help. 🙂

And just maybe, my thoughts will be less jumbled and my dreams memorable.

An Old Toy Box

Today was moving day. My family expected me to be crying at some point. It wouldn’t be unusual. Even my oldest son, Robert, called to check on me this morning.

While I drove to the new house with Rachel and Ryan to unload cars, Gart stayed back with the movers. Soon he sent a text, a picture of the empty house. I felt a little sad, but no tears.

Once everything was unloaded at the new house, we made one more trip back to the old house. Now I was standing in the middle of the emptiness. Rachel commented, ”It hasn’t looked like this since we moved in.” That was 16 years ago. The kids were 8, 6, and 3.

I remember them running around inside the house. I remember worrying about Ryan falling down the stairs. I think about how proud I am of the young adults they’ve become. Still, there were no tears.

We backed out of the driveway. Gart and Ryan in the truck, Rachel and I following in my car. Something caught my eye-the old toy box my dad built when Robert was a kid. It’s a little bench seat with a lid which lifts for storage.

This wooden box has been through many moves, sat in many rooms, and served many purposes. Today, it caused my tears. ”Of all things,” I thought to myself, ”Robert’s old toy box.”

I suppose it makes sense. We are preparing for that empty nest. This move represents a culmination of changes for our family. The kids are all grown up. They don’t need that space to run and play anymore. They are too big to sit on that seat or play with the toys it once held. And that is a good thing.

I love our new house. I look forward to making memories here with our grown-up children. Maybe one day, there will be other little ones sitting on that seat. No hurry. The memories we carry will soon fill the empty spaces while leaving room for new ones.

This house will soon feel like home because of the people who live here and the people who will visit. In the meantime, I will look back with fondness and forward with hope. And maybe I will find a special spot for that old toy box. 😉

Carry Them With Me

My daughter, Rachel, and I made a trip to Hobby Lobby yesterday. Her goal was to purchase frames for her newly acquired teaching certificate and college diploma! They are now ready to be proudly displayed.

I was also shopping for something to display. A storage box or pretty container for storing letters. Not just any old letters. Letters which were written by my husband, Gart.

We have moved many times over the last twenty-six years. Somehow, I managed to keep up with the letters. They have occupied several different boxes and resided on a variety of closet shelves. As we prepare to move from our current home after fifteen years, I decided they need a more prominent location.

Rachel and I walked down the aisle of decorative boxes. There were many shapes, styles, and colors. One immediately caught her eye. “Ooh look. This is cute! It looks like a mini-suitcase.” After exploring several others, I returned to Rachel’s pick. Perfect!

Once home, I carefully transferred Gart’s letters to their new home. I couldn’t walk away without reading several. Sweet memories.

Some were typed, carefully folded, and placed in envelopes. Others hand-written on notebook paper and folded in half. Each marked with his unmistakable signature. 😉

The messages were just as varied as the paper on which they were written. Notes from when we dated, the rest scattered throughout our twenty-six-year marriage.

I miss you. I love you. I’m sorry.

The new box is proudly displayed on my dresser. As I glanced at it this morning, my first thought was, “How perfect! My collection of love letters carefully placed in their very own suitcase.”

I will always carry the sentiments expressed by the words in my heart. And the papers on which the words were written? I will continue to carry them with me, in their very own suitcase, wherever this life leads. ❤

Kitchen Drawers

Getting a house you’ve lived in for fifteen years ready to sell is quite an undertaking. We spent much of this weekend working on small projects. Cleaning out closets, replacing light fixtures and bulbs, packing up books. Each endeavor seemed small on its own, but when added together, felt like a big accomplishment.

The kitchen pantry and drawers were in great need of some TLC. My daughter, Rachel, helped with the pantry. We removed everything from each shelf, threw away anything out-of-date, wiped down the surfaces, and put back what items remained. It looks so much better!

Next were the kitchen drawers. I had started to clean them out on several occasions. But every time I opened one and looked in, I felt overwhelmed. Today I would tackle one drawer. The main silverware drawer. Surely, I could manage just this one drawer.

I placed the contents of the drawer on the kitchen counter. Looking down, I noticed the paper lining at the bottom. Oh my. Was this the same paper that was there when we moved in? I’m afraid so. I had initially planned to replace it, but life happens.

As I stared at the paper, white with little blue and pink flowers, old and outdated, there was no question what had to happen. It had to be ripped out, every last sticky piece. And believe me, it was sticky. Once the paper was removed and the drawer bottom cleaned, I lined the drawer with some new, updated material.

What a difference! Not only did I manage to clean out this one drawer, but I also cleaned out all the other kitchen drawers!

A small treasure from today’s work! 🙂

I know this sounds like a minor task. It does not provide the selling power of say, new countertops or tile. But as I looked at the old paper, debating whether or not to tear it out, I remembered what it was like to move into a new house. Especially when I was a young wife and mom. I wanted everything to be just right but did not have the time or energy for even a small project such as this.

When we moved in, the task of tearing out that paper would have sent me over the edge. Granted, it was probably in better shape than it is now. So, I chose to leave it and give it a good scrubbing. It is nice to know the next person who lives here won’t have to make that choice.

I have no idea who will buy our home. I hope it is a young family like we were when we moved in. Kids running around upstairs, having their own space to play and grow. A family enjoying the openness of this house, the light from the large windows, the park at the end of our street. A mom who appreciates a simple gesture. A gesture such as the removal of the sticky paper from the bottom of the kitchen drawers.

Going Home

Growing up, giving directions to my house was always interesting.  It went something like this…”Drive past the Natural Steps sign and Moreland’s Grocery Store, go around a sharp curve, over a hill, then you’ll see a straight stretch of road.  Right at the end of the straight stretch, turn left onto Mahar Road.”  Mahar is my mom’s maiden name, hence the name of the road.

My husband likes to tell people that I grew up in a commune, but that is not the case. The quarter of a mile road,  lined with trees on both sides, dead ends into a wide-open valley.  My grandparent’s house was in the center, surrounded by several homes belonging to my aunts, uncles, and my parents.  Huge oaks, towering pines, and grassy fields provided plenty of room for kids to run and play.

That’s where I spent my childhood-riding bikes, digging in the dirt, playing kickball and basketball with my cousins.  And since my mom had six sisters and two brothers, there were always cousins around.  They say I made them listen to me practice piano and violin…well, maybe a few times.  But most of the time, we were outside.  Distinct memories include singing at the top of my lungs while riding bicycles, trying to fool my uncle with mud pies, and playing “King of the Mountain” on Grandma’s front porch.

Almost thirty-three years have passed since I lived on Mahar Road.  Even while typing I think surely that can’t be correct! Oh, but it is…despite the years gone by and having a family of my own, I still refer to this special place as home.  I’m thankful to have grown up there-carefree, no worries about safety, room to let our imaginations run wild.

Of course, things have changed since I was a child.  My grandparents are no longer living, cousins are all grown and many, just like me, have moved away.  That doesn’t matter.  Simply driving the route that leads to home causes any anxiety to melt away.  My brain slows down, my body relaxes, and while there I truly rest.  Sometimes I even feel like a kid again.

Thinking about my childhood reminds me that home is so much more than a house.  It’s the people, the places, the memories.  And sometimes…you just need to go home.