“When I’m 64…” – 2009 – Archive-Diving

Well, in 95 minutes, I will be.

Who woulda thunk it? How is it possible to feel every age I’ve ever been – but this one, least of all?

At some points, my 14 year old self is just inside my skin – especially when I feel naive, gullible, misled.

At other points, my feisty, unnecessarily self-confident 22 year old self pops up and surprises me with her strong opinions and readiness to express them.

There are even those rare moments when a tall-for-her-age 5 year old shows up, filled with joie-de-vivre whenever the sun is shining and the water is clear.

Sadly, the 64 year old shows up when I have to stand up after sitting a while, or climb stairs that are uneven, or try to read the really fine print. And yet…there is something to be said for age. Not much, but….something.

Perhaps the best thing is that every age I have ever been is still available to me at a moment’s notice, that what I’ve learned at each of those ages is usually pretty close to the surface when needed, that I know that the reservoirs of love, affection, commitment developed over a lifetime are deeper than I could have imagined at 5, 14, 22 or even 45.

I am deeply grateful that my partner of 43 years still chooses to love me, ‘when I’m 64.’

And overall, life has been good; through it all, God is good.

My restless, often rebellious nature can still trip me up from time to time, but one good thing about 64 is that I have learned to be just a little bit more patient with those parts of myself, sometimes even grateful for them.

Restlessness can lead to dissatisfaction with the status quo and a willingness to make changes when needed.

Even rebelliousness has its plusses, for asking questions about seemingly foregone conclusions can keep the fires of curiosity burning. And I never did believe it killed the cat!

Happy Birthday to me. I am glad I was born, I am grateful for my life, I hope it lasts a while longer.

31 Days in which I Am Saved by Beauty – Day 26

(read: GOOFY attempt at rhyme) 

There once was a girlie named Gracie,
who had the most beautiful facie.
She woke up with curly curls,
just right for this girly girl,
who loves everything glitzy and lacy.
The kids all sang “to you” at morning prayer,
her uniform left home for free-dress-wear.
She smiled in the morning light,
to mommy’s complete delight,
her grin unveiling the missing pair.

The party continued that night at six,
with grandparents added into the mix.
We dined with great flair, 
she looked SO debonair, 
while sister performed disappearing tricks.

Her dinner completed, she opted to open
the many fun things for which she’d been hopin’.
Some Lego and crafty things,
some money for fun and flings,
and a pink robe to keep her from mopin’.
Dolly’s new cradle, the evening’s most favorite,
led us to table where we all could savor it –
an ice cream cake, she picked it,
but all of us, we nicked it,
and declared it the best-of-all flavor-its.
Enough with the pathetic rhyming –
this big girl of ours is SEVEN,
and growing into such a kind and thoughtful person,
with a great sense of fun,
lots of firm friends,
and she is loving school, learning and piano lessons.
She is God’s gift to all of us —
And that grin is one of the beauties
of this or any other week!

We are so very glad you were born.

That Delicate Balance, Part Two

She really wanted him to play the piano.
Among the earliest guests to arrive
at the party,
she made her desires known
right away.
And of course, I am not surprised 
she felt that way.
She’s been teaching him piano for 14 years.
He was 4 when he started,
and we were gathered to celebrate
his 18th birthday,
and his graduation from high school.
The graduate with his family.

How many people do you know who stick
with anything for that long? 

“He’s been working on this one all year long,”

she said.
“I want to get him on tape,”
she said. 

But he resisted for quite a while.

As the sun began to set,
about sixty friends and family trickled
in the front door. 

The house looked lovely,

the yard, enchanting.
The chatter was friendly,
filled with laughter and warm reminiscence.
A slide show went round and round,
repeating on the big-screen television set,
featuring a lovely collection
of photos from day one until yesterday.
And it was there,
catching glimpses of the past,
that I felt the first sharpness,
the sudden movement of grief and loss
mixing its way right into the middle of 
celebration and joy. 

Our grandboy as a newborn,

held in the loving arms of his daddy.
His daddy who died almost four years ago. 

So much sadness for so long.

And so much joy and happiness, too.
All of it mixed up together in this journey we call life. 

Our daughter’s new husband,

strong and kind and good –
such a gift to all of us,
a gift we are grateful for,
right down to our toes. 

But another milestone has come and gone.

And Mark was not here to celebrate with us.
That will never change.
And I imagine, we will always feel
that stab of recognition at such times,
that moment of searing sorrow. 

It was only a moment.

And soon, the joyful banter
gained volume in corners, at tables,
in the yard, in the house.

And then, cutting through the conversation,
I heard the strains of Chopin.
Familiar music to my ears,
music I heard in my own home, growing up.
Ballade Number One,*
technically difficult,
achingly beautiful. 

So I gently led my mother into the living room,

to listen as Luke played this glorious piece.
She sat in a chair placed right in front of the piano.
My father’s piano,
the one he played for years and years. 

And I stood behind her, 

my hand on her shoulder. 

And together, we heard a miracle. 

The piano literally sang to us.
Of love and loss,
of hope and discouragement,
of hard work – hours and hours of hard work.
My dad’s,
our own. 

The tears rolled down my cheeks as I

missed my dad,
as I missed Mark,
as I celebrated Luke,
as I thanked God for Karl,
as I thanked God for all of it.

Learning to play Chopin takes practice.

Practice, practice, practice. 

And learning to hold the tensions,

the mysteries of this life –
to hold them together,
to let them resonate with one another,
to acknowledge the pain and loss,
and to celebrate the gift and joy –
sometimes in the very same instant –
this takes practice, too. 

Life is hard.

Life is glorious.
Life is overwhelmingly difficult.
Life is radiantly free.
Life is …

It’s a dance with ever-changing tempo;

it’s a song with shifting harmonies;
it’s a tapestry,
a rich oil painting,
filled with color and with shadow. 

Thankfully, we don’t have to navigate 
the dance floor on our own; 
we don’t have to struggle to sing all the parts. 

We are given the gift of one another. 

And we are given the gift of Presence.

Loving, gracious Presence.
God – Father, Son and Spirit;
Creator-Redeemer-Counselor –
invites us into the ongoing dance of the Trinity,
the intricately, achingly beautiful song of the universe. 

In this life, we cannot yet see the edge of the dance floor,

nor can we hear the resolution of all the chords.
we can know the One who does.  

Thanks be to God.

And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:27-28, The New Living Translation

*At the bottom of this post you will find a link to Vladimir Horowitz playing this piece. Horowitz was a hero to my dad – a genius on the piano, especially playing Chopin.
This is an older video of a live performance, but you will get a view of the
technical virtuosity needed to play this music. 
I was so moved that I did not think to shift my little Canon camera over to video
to record even a little bit of Luke playing!
Thanks so much, Luke, for those transcendent 10 minutes.

Joining with those same friends with this second part on balance…no buttons this time.
Michelle, Jennifer, Jennifer and Emily. And this time with Laura Boggess, too.

A Little Tea, A Little Laughter: a Photo Essay

Never let it be said that I don’t occasionally enjoy
a little fantasy.
Pretending to be a ‘lady,’ perhaps – a west coast, 21st century upstairs resident of Downton Abbey? 
Why yes, don’t mind if I do…for a little while.
 There is this glorious old hotel in my town, a Spanish colonial revival masterpiece that spreads out quietly across the street from the beach where I like to visit. 
Most of the time, I go there for the beach itself – to sit or to walk, to meditate on the wonders of God’s creative genius.
Generally, I pay little heed to the old Biltmore because I’m always looking the other direction, across the small stretch of sand that is Butterfly Beach, staring out across the Santa Barbara channel. I admire the waves, the extensive beds of kelp, the Channel Islands – if they’re visible – the angle of the light as it bounces off the water. I am always searching for dolphins or pelicans, 
even whales some seasons of the year.
But every once in a while, I stick my small camera in a pocket and stroll across the street, just to pick up a little atmosphere, to wander and wonder about who built this place, who stays here, how many weddings there have been on these grounds. 
It’s lush with old bricks and old greenery, service personnel moving efficiently and silently across the pathways connecting its many outbuildings and cottages.
The place fairly reeks of elegance, of old money, of careful attention to the smallest architectural detail, of thoughtful planning and hushed voices and class.
Class – that indefinable something, that vibe which whispers, 
“We know what we’re doing, we do it very, very well, and you’re welcome to be here as long as you behave.”
Even the luggage carts are discreetly tucked away.
The view is lovely – not spectacular 
(that might not be classy, after all) 
but truly lovely.
And there is a brick pathway that leads directly from the hotel to a specially built staircase leading down to the sand.

Taking my fantasy life into reality for a little while last Saturday afternoon, I had the rare treat of going inside this grand place.
I had a special birthday gift, you see. 
High Tea at the Biltmore Hotel, hosted by my daughter-in-law and my 6-year-old granddaughter. 
Can you imagine?  
High tea. 
Arriving at the Biltmore is quietly dramatic. 
Parking valets whisk your car to places unknown, 
the heavily-vined porte-cochere invites you into the cool, naturally lit archway entrance. 
Flanking either side of the front door are statuary 
and entire bins of orchids. 
A small, silent fountain slips water down the side of a  glistening urn.

The lobby is large, with high ceilings, expensive carpets, more orchids and a variety of lighting fixtures. To the right and down the steps is the wood-paneled lounge and bar, with a 15 foot window framing the ocean view.
Once upon a time, High Tea was served in that lounge.
Now it has moved to the restaurant, a sweeping space of beauty and calm.

There is something strangely soothing about such a space.
A je ne sais quoi  spirit of welcome,
of invitation.
It has that affect on all kinds and ages of people.
Yet despite the beauties of the room,
which truly did elicit sighs of contentment and appreciation,
I have to say that my favorite view of the entire afternoon was this one:
Gracie, across the table, looking so grown up.
Pink bows right down to her toes,
she loved every minute of this experience.
And what’s not to love?
Beautiful china place settings, linen placemats and napkins,
delicious food, beautifully presented.
(Well…Gracie was not at all sure about these sandwiches. But the tea and the second course? Oh, yeah. She was into that!)
Each of us had our own teapot, with a hand-wrapped silk bag containing the tea flavor of our choice inside. I went for straight mint, they went for chocolate mint flavored black tea. All of us were deeply satisfied with our choices.
Two lumps, please.
Milk? Why, yes, please. I’d be delighted.
And drink it down she did – complete with elevated pinkie finger. I do declare, I believe she was the most scrumptious thing on the menu that afternoon!
And this is the second course.
And the third.
And the fourth.
A plethora of deliciousness, three of each item, all prepared strictly according to the number of reservations made.
There are NO drop-ins for High Tea.
And in one of the most extreme instances of overkill in recent memory, this was the special additional goodie tray for the birthday girl…which was moi.
Surely the largest dipped strawberry on the planet,
 plus truffles hand crafted by the chef.
Gracie thoroughly enjoyed carefully scraping off the dark chocolate birthday greeting as we packed most of the treats to take home.
It was a very full day, in every way I can think of.
I have written before about how blessed I am in my daughter-in-law. She has been a gift in my life from the moment I first met her, almost 20 years ago.
And the three of us had a lovely time of making small dreams come true for a little while on Saturday afternoon.
Downton Abbey?
Well, maybe not quite.
But for this California Nana, it was close enough.
Thanks, Rachel and Grace – I had a grand time.
This is not a particularly ‘spiritual’ post, at least in the way most people on the internet define spiritual. However, for me it was an experience rich in blessing, in love and in joy. And all of those things are among God’s richest gifts to us. 
 So, I will list this at Michelle’s Hear It on Sunday at her Graceful blogsite 
and at Jennifer’s Soli Deo Gloria sisterhood over at Finding Heaven. 
I’ll also join in with Laura’s Playdate at The Wellspring 
and with L.L. at Seedlings in Stone.
The new blogger format makes transferring buttons nearly impossible for me to do and I am sorry not to be able to include them with my posts. 
I used to be able to open another window in my editor and copy them from earlier posts. 
I can no longer do that. So I’ll keep trying to figure it out. 
In the meantime, I encourage you check out these fine blogs I enjoy linking with 
whenever I can.

Midweek Meanderings: a Photo Essay

The 5-point (meaning I pivoted 5 times to get the whole thing), 240 degree view from our back terrace this week. Sigh.

The rain last night was lovely, clearing the air, greening the hillside,
encouraging a warming fire in the fireplace. 
This morning, all the clouds are piled up to the south,
slowly making their way to our real home,
and the homes of our children.
 These shots taken on my afternoon circular walks around the driveway. Once, this was a grand central CA home. Now it is an amazing view with a very run-down house. It makes me sad to see homes neglected, but we are grateful for what there is in this spectacular vacation space, hanging over the bluffs with the hills just behind. And there’s lots of room to spread out, which is a good thing with so.many.of.us.

We’ve been together since last Friday,
spread out in a large, hacienda-style rented home.
A place in need of some major TLC – 
but with a killer view of the Pacific coast.
Birds flourish here.
And so do children.
The 2-year-old runs headlong down the hill toward the bluff,  causing gasps on all sides.
But someone bigger is always nearby 
to step between her and the abyss.
May it always be so!
Eastertide is a season for celebration and for gratitude,
for remembering who we are as the people of God.
And here, on this rugged shore,
with a 17-year-old asking good, hard questions,
two 13-year-0lds sharing a kayak adventure,
a 10-year-old giggling his way through a great game of ping-pong and two 6-year-olds alternately 
adoring and infuriating one another,
we are celebrating.
And we are grateful.
Even the 21-year-old was here for the weekend,
before heading back to school and responsibilities,
four hours south of this gathering place.
Our adult children are good and interesting people.
Their spouses are kind and good-natured.
All of them are attentive parents and generous housemates.
We observed Easter at a church unknown to any of us and followed with a feast, just as the Christian church has done for centuries. We are also celebrating the 70th birthday of Poppy, 
our loved and lovable patriarch, the acceptance into his 1st choice college for the 17-year-old and a good private high school scholarship for one of the 13-year-olds.
After so many years of struggle and loss,
it is good to gather in gratitude.
We even took a family photo … the first ever … 
to round out the weekend just past.
The photographer is working on the touch-ups
and we will soon have a lasting memento of this time spent together, 
possibly by week’s end.

 The hunters and the hiders – not sure who enjoys the Easter Egg Hunt the most.
Though she loves the idea of hunting and hiding, Lilly does not quite fully grasp the concept. Generally, if she hides, she guides the hunter until she’s found. :>)
In the meantime,
we soak in the beauty around us,
explore the small towns that circle round the sea,
while some play tennis,
and others a little b-ball.
One daughter and her husband paid for two days of heating the pool on the property and about half the crowd
jumped in and enjoyed getting wet and tired.
We’ve had an egg hunt or two,
enjoyed delicious home-cooked meals,
even traveled to a local ice-cream maker’s
“All You Can Eat” Tuesday celebration.
In a beat-up side room, there is a pool table and ping-pong,
and someone contributed a 2000 piece puzzle to pour over.
Settlers of Catan has made an appearance and Bananagrams, too, 
so no one seems bored. 
Many naps are taken in this house, 
signaling the welcome arrival of true relaxation
and energizing Sabbath rest.
We all point and shout, 
thanking God for sightings of otters,
sea lions, an occasional dolphin – 
even a whale, far out in the bay.
Avila Beach, just north of where we are.
A creekside restaurant for lunch in San Luis Obispo
Through it all, we thank God for the richness of family life,
the push and pull of living in the same space,
sharing the work and the fun,
watching the children grow in wisdom and in stature.
Friday, we return to reality.
Or at least to our usual list of responsibilities and commitments. 
Sometimes, though, I do believe that experiences like this week are the true reality,
life as it was originally designed to be lived.
Maybe everything else is mere illusion,
the structure that has been overlaid on human life
in the wake of Eden.
So, we’ll take these windows of grace.
And we’ll savor them, thank God for them,
take lots of pictures 
and build reservoirs of stories to share 
as the years progress.
And once in a while,
I’ll write about it here.
Because I really do believe that
this is the truest part of me.
At least, until Friday.

I’ll sign this one on with Michelle at “Graceful,” Jen at “Finding Heaven,” Ann at “A Holy Experience,” Em at “Canvas Child,” Laura at “The Wellspring,” Laura at “Seedlings in Stone,” and Jennifer at “Getting Down with Jesus.” I encourage you all to check out these fine blogs – but I am having increasing difficulty getting buttons to show up in the new blogger format. If anyone has any shortcuts for this tedious job, I’d love to hear them.


Burnished Through the Years

What can I say to help you see the man I know? 

That he is funny and smart and loving? 

Yes, that’s all true. 

That he is opinionated and sometimes volatile, gestures wildly while watching sporting events and has been known to yell at the screen (and also at passing drivers when they cut him off)? 

Yes, that’s all true, too. 

But how do I find words to describe how tender he can be? How deeply he adores his children and grandchildren – and me, too? 

How do I tell you how goofy he can be? Wearing silly hats and too-small-butterfly-wings just to make a 2-year-old giggle?

How can I describe his thoughtful wondering about the future, his careful allocation of resources so that we and our kids and our church and our missionary friends and the worthy people and projects that God sends our way can all be tended to, with love and care? 

How can I possibly describe to you what a privilege it has been for me to mother his children, fold his laundry (most of the time!), admire his handiwork in the yard and at the kitchen sink and to see how kind he is, how very, very kind?

Is there any way to put into words how grateful I am to God for each and every day – even the horrible, terrible, very-bad ones – we’ve had together? Is there any way for me to describe to you the inexpressible joy it gives me to wish him a happy birthday this week? This marks number 49 that I’ve shared with him, 47 of those as his wife. 

And this one? 

Well, this one is number 70. 

He has survived pleurisy, a kidney stone that had to be surgically removed, a major blood clot in his lung and prostate cancer. And he plays tennis – singles tennis! – once or twice a week with our son. 

And there is no way that any one of you would ever guess his age without my putting it out here in black and white for you to marvel at. 

No, there is just no way to tell you. There are no words. 

Well.. maybe just one: 


He is a gift to this world, a gift to our family and most especially a gift to me. Easily the best earthly one I’ve ever been given. 

And I thank God for this gift every day that I breathe.
Joining Lisa-Jo for the first time in several weeks. (This daily devotional posting has been so much fun for me – but wow! It’s tough sledding trying to add anything to that.) This, however, was one I just could not pass up. Join the ever-increasing crew over there and check out what others are saying in 5 minutes flat. I will gladly admit that this one took a few extra minutes.

Time Marches On…

Yesterday, my ‘baby’ turned 35. I truly don’t know how this is possible. At some moments, it does seem like yesterday that we discovered a third baby was on the way. This was not a planned pregnancy – it was a total surprise. We had two charming daughters – just under 4 and just under 2 years of age, so we decided to wait until grandparenthood to enjoy the company of boys. Dick was becoming increasingly unhappy at the bank where he then worked and we had recently purchased our first home in Altadena CA. Another baby was the last thing on our minds at that point.

But guess what? God has wonderful ways of surprising us, keeping us on our toes and reminding us that – whether we like to admit it or not – we are not in charge here. After 2 girls, we assumed this would be another just like the first two. When the doctor lifted him up, facing away from me (he was, from the very beginning, not one to arrive at anything in the expected or usual way), I could tell from his backside that this kid definitely did not match the other two! As our two and a half year old crowed into the telephone when we called her at Dick’s folks’ home that night: “Mommy had a brudder!” Yes, indeed, Mommy had a brother.

Eric brought so many good things to our family – a great smile, a sunny disposition, an ability to dismantle his port-a-crib at about 9 months of age, and a wonderful language all his own. Our visit to a speech therapist at the age of 4 provided the first clue that God had given this little boy an extra helping of thinking power. He grew up to study philosophy and medicine, married a woman even smarter than he is and now has a beautiful 19 month old baby girl. Although the sunny disposition has given way to a somewhat more measured and mature mellowness, Eric continues to bring wonderful gifts to our family circle. I am so very glad he was born and that God surprised us with such a grand gift.