Ups & Downs, Ins & Outs – Riding the Coaster

Remember the old movie, “Parenthood?”
A recurrent theme in that story of growing up
was the comparison of life to a roller coaster —
and our need to follow the ups and downs,
the ins and outs,
to tolerate occasional queasiness and to
look for joy and beauty along the way.

I’m feeling those dips and swoops a lot lately,
often more than a little bit queasy from it all.
And I’m trying hard to look for the joy,
the small beauties that show up, if I have the eyes to see.

On my evening walk last Friday,
I almost missed this glory.
 The fading sunlight was hitting our neighbor’s blossoming tree at
exactly the right angle to make us gasp with delight.
Such a lovely, serendipitous moment of beauty as the weekend began.

 And these three sentinels glistened against the sky as I made my rounds,

 The next morning, I drove south to meet these three sentinels —
my mom on the left (91), her ‘baby’ sister in the middle (on her 89th birthday),
their brother on the right (90).

These three have been the heart of our family for over a decade now,
the last remaining members of the older generation.
Their mother died in 1997 at age 101, her sister eight years later at 102.
I doubt very much that these three will live that long;
all are showing signs of wear and tear, the ravages of age.
I lunched with my cousins while our parents shouted at one another
in a private dining room at my uncle’s assisted living residence.
They’re wearing ‘hearing aids’ constructed out of water bottles
and offered as a fun gift by my cousin’s kids.

It is hard to watch this process — my mom is the only one with dementia,
but the other two are dealing with much more serious physical issues than Mom is,
so who knows how long they’ll be with us?

When I got back home, 4/5ths of our middle daughter’s family
was here, ready to relax and enjoy the holiday weekend.
It’s been a while since we’ve spent extended time with these dear ones,
and we were so grateful for their presence,
for their happy and sometimes boisterous reminder of youth
and life and promise
as we deal with our aging moms.

We opted to skip church on Sunday (gasp!) and went out to breakfast instead.
Then we drove to the butterfly preserve north of our home.

 It was a gorgeous day, mid 60’s and sunny.
The trail meanders through eucalyptus groves and out onto
the bluffs just north of the UCSB campus — gloriously beautiful.

 The deep hanging clusters of monarch butterflies were not to be found this day,
perhaps because of the unseasonably warm weather.

What butterflies there were flitted all through the grove,
enjoying the sunlight.
They are such stunning creatures, these monarchs.
Brilliant orange and black,
making the long migration between Mexico and Canada every single year,
stopping all along the California coast to rest and re-group.

We followed the trail all the way out to the bluffs,
stripping jackets as we walked and gawking at the endless view
of water, sand, islands.

It is a good walk, with enough ups and downs to make it interesting
and even a tiny bit challenging in the full sun.
Kind of like life, I guess.

Turning away from the water yields a mountain view,
beautiful in its own right.
This stretch of coast is one of the last and longest undeveloped
expanses in our state and we love it.

We are blessed in our children and in our grandchildren,
and they are blessed in each other.
Even though we’ve ridden some pretty steep and scary curves together,
I’d say the ride has definitely been worth it.

It’s good to be reminded of that sweet and powerful truth
when the queasiness sets in, don’t you think?

Once Lyla helps me straighten out some formatting grinches, I’ll join this with Michelle, Jen, Laura and Ann:


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  1. Happy birthday! I am so glad you are at SDG this week. I feel much like I am on a roller coaster myself. I’m off to have a day of rest today (I hope), but I wanted to tell you a few things:

    1. Your mother is stunning.
    2. I wish I could walk to the beach.
    3. Your words all ways make me feel better. I love your shepherding.

    • Rescued it, Jen – thanks for the FB heads’ up. And thanks for these so kind words. Yes, my mom is still lovely and somehow that makes losing the inside of her even harder somehow. I wish you could walk to the beach, too. It is one of God’s greatest gifts to us at this stage in our lives.

  2. When I see love on the page like this, it just gives me such a feeling of peace. Thank you for that, Diana. Lovely.

  3. You’re welcome, Laura – thank you for stopping by. Always so happy to see your beautiful face in this space.

  4. diana–echoing Jen above–your mother is stunning, and how how I miss the beach! That stretch of Santa Barbara is so beautiful.

    I think it’s the beauty and outdoors and creation that speaks to our souls just when we need it. Thank you for sharing this slice of your life and taking us on the ‘coaster with you.

  5. Oh, so lovely, sentinels and beaches and stretches of sand and peace. I’m in no mood for roller coasters myself today – thanks for letting us stop awhile –

  6. What a blessing to have so many different generations together…lovely family and that beach…oh, my…I want to walk along it…blessings, Diana 🙂

  7. I love your walks, Diana. And your mom? She is a beauty.

    {love the movie “Parenthood,” too. We first saw it before we had kids. Then just a couple of years ago we saw it again, now that we have two boys – wow, it was a lot more impactful the second time around! I cried through like the whole thing!}

    • Oh yeah, that movie makes a whole lot more sense if you’ve got kids or if you are involved with kids at some level. I think I might like to see that one again. I probably have it in my cupboard full of VHS tapes. Only problem is, I no longer own a machine that plays those things. Sigh. There’s a good cupboard to clear out, eh??

  8. Thanks, dearest Diana, for walking the path just a little ahead of me … you give me hope for my own roller coaster rides.


  9. OH that butterfly place sounds heavenly. We have one in Niagara Falls area (Canada) and I spent a few hours there a few years ago. Now I must go back.
    Beautiful gifts.

    • Thanks so much for coming by, Janis. There were not as many butterflies as usual this year, but it was so warm that I have a hunch they were out and about at midday, which is when we were there.

  10. What a heartwarming photo-essay. And you wrapped it all up with such a great clincher of a conclusion. Indeed, Diana, we’ve experienced some steep and scary curves, but the ride has definitely been worth it. Seeing God work, becoming more mature in him, discovering more of his character–these are just a few of the benefits!