Monday, December 17, 2012

...out of darkness

This time of year is hard for me, and this year I seem to be noticing it even more. It is not just the hectic holiday energy wearing me down. It is more than that.  I think that all of the darkness we experience this time of year affects me on a visceral level. I really have a hard time when the days are so short that you leave the house in the dark in the morning, and come home in the dark in the evening.  I feel like life is obviously telling me to slow down. I remind myself that my ancestors would have sheltered together, huddled by fires, and probably slept away most of the winter. Instead in our modern world we keep moving at break neck speed regardless that the natural world is telling us to rest. 

Of course this year is especially hard because in addition to the physical darkness, there is unbelievable fact that we lost both of the amazing matriarchs of our family within a month of each other this year.  Though we knew Yia Yia Liz was sick, it is still incredibly hard to accept the fact that she is gone. We are so thankful for the time we had this fall to hold her close and tell her how much we loved her.  We were able to make and share some precious memories in the final days. I find comfort in knowing that she lived a long and beautiful life surrounded by the love of so many members of this community!

A portrait of our amazing Yia Yia Liz.

This is the thoughtful reminder from the beatitude of Matthew 5:4 that was there to greet each choir member (from all three choirs!) when they arrived to sing for Yia Yia's beautiful funeral.  So many people were there to share in the celebration of her life, but at the same time I know we are all mourning the loss of her physical presence in ours. Grief is a strange thing, and I am learning that it affects everyone in a different way.  Right now it seems like an additional layer to the blanket of darkness that is covering us.  I have to remind myself that although our experience this year with loss is extraordinary; the dark days of winter are not. In fact this time of year must be where the origins of hope began.  Though I understand the scientific explanation there is something truly astounding about the solstice that still fills me with wonder.  As the days grow shorter approaching the darkest of the year it seems inevitable that feelings of despondence creep in.  Yet, in the same way that the dark will fill the days of winter, it is also inevitable that slowly the light will return.  I find hope in knowing that the dark days of grief cannot last forever either.

All I have to do is look at my sweet boys to remind me that there is definitely hope in the darkness. Amazingly, when we woke up the morning of her funeral, Ruben decided to sit at the piano and sing us a song! It seemed the perfect way to celebrate Yia Yia Liz ~ with music in the air!  I see a future filled with music for both my boys, and I love knowing that her love of song was passed on to them in the time they got to share with her.

We are truly sad around here. Yet I would be remiss if I made you think we thought these feelings would last forever. Life is constantly changing - I know. Our emotions continue to ebb and flow. Sometimes the brightest moment will be cut with sadness because we wish one of our grandmothers was here to share it. At the same time we are enjoying all the beautiful memories that flood over us unexpectedly, and remind us to reflect on the light that these women were in our lives.  We will continue to follow the trajectory of our orbit - (as a family and as a planet) - and inevitably we will find that we have come out of darkness... into the light.

We are just trying to trust in the process and allow ourselves the time to heal and hope in the meantime!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


As I finish this post it is actually December 11th. When I look at the original post I see that I started it the beginning of November; over a month ago. Even then I never imagined that we were yet to experience even more sadness... but I will save that for later.  I will leave this entry post dated and publish it now because it is a snapshot of my feelings at the time. 
Honestly – it seems absolutely silly to sit and write words into cyberspace to try to express how I feel right now.  There is a sadness that has come over me that is indescribable.  It is strange how life sometimes feels it has been scripted… in the most amazing and uncanny way, like you might have been involved in it’s crafting. 

So when I have moments – like the one that made me reach for my camera to photograph my grandmother in July – as she stood waving goodbye – I like to believe that part of me knew – that this would be the last moment I saw her – that this would be the beautiful picture I would hold in my heart of her waving goodbye to my family.

I must stop myself now – because I cannot even begin to describe how much my heart hurts with this loss of this sweet special woman in our lives.  I know that there were decades of beautiful memories we were able to share… but I still wanted more. I guess I am selfish. But, I was not ready for this to be our new reality. So – I cannot continue this story of sadness and woe.

Instead I will tell you the story of a hat.  Well, two hats actually.  

It began a long time ago. (Maybe not ancient times – but back in 1976.) I was a year and three weeks old, and my Grandmother made me rabbit ears to wear for my first Halloween.  And so a tradition began.  My mother (who like my grandmother saves everything) kept my rabbit ears for me, until I had a baby of my own to wear them.  Miles was a rabbit for his first Halloween! (You can see all of this on our Halloween Rabbit Post from 2010.)

As Halloween approached this year I told my mother that I planned for Ruben to take his turn with the rabbit ears. Then I wondered aloud what Miles should be?  Without hesitating my mother answered, "He can be the carrot!" So the plan was hatched. Made perfect by an all orange ensemble I found on sale, and a hunting cap my mom picked up. All we needed were the embellishments to make the foliage of the carrot top. Who better to complete this task than the original maker of the bunny hat herself?  GG was the perfect person for the job!  Since my mom had a trip planned to Texas before Halloween we knew our plan would work! I was so excited that I began telling Miles that he was going to be a carrot for Halloween - and luckily he thought this was a great idea!!  

My mother went to see GG because she had a routine surgery planned, and my mom wanted to be there to help her recuperate. In typical fashion - not a moment of the trip was to be wasted. SO my mother had GG working on the carrot hat immediately upon her arrival.   

It hurts too much to tell the rest, but unfortunately her sweet spirit was not able to handle the operation. We spent a couple of days hoping and praying she would recover, and that is what I was doing the afternoon of October 24th when I received the call from my mother. 

As I hung up I heard the sound of the mail truck on our street. Something told me to go outside and check the mail. There it was. A package for Miles that contained the last thing her precious hands ever crafted - after a lifetime of making beautiful things - and it arrived like a gift from beyond at the exact moment I knew she was gone.

I immediately looked up to the sky and said, "Thank you GG." 
I felt in my heart she could hear me.

When Miles woke up he was ecstatic! He was so proud to put on his new carrot hat - and he squealed with delight.  Yet he knew something was wrong because I was so sad, and he just hugged me and held me as I cried. (It is astounding to watch your toddler accept and understand true huge emotions in the most thoughtful and caring ways!  It made me realize for a moment that these raw feelings are so recognizable to him because true emotion is all he knows. I am so thankful for his kind heart and hugs, they helped carry me through the experience of the entire week.)

When Ruben woke up we took the rabbit hat up, along with the carrot hat, and tried on their Halloween costumes together. As the light spilled in and warmed the room I knew that GG would have loved this moment - brothers - laughing and smiling - enjoying the two hats she made - thirty six years apart - and being enjoyed by another generation.

(2009) GG with Miles - the first great grand child - creating a family of four generations! 

(2011) GG with Ruben - another baby boy to love.

We traveled to Texas to say our goodbyes to our sweet GG.  I am so thankful that she has an identical twin, because it almost felt like I got to hug her one last time when I hugged Auntie Joyce. We were able to take the boys to visit AJ on Halloween. GG would have adored seeing Miles and Ruben all dressed up, and it felt special to be able to share it with her twin and her dear friends.

Our rabbit!

Then we paraded them through the airport on our way home on Halloween in complete rabbit and carrot garb. We got some funny looks, but I loved seeing how adorable they were in their hats! It is their happiness and their laughter that will bring me through this sadness, I know.  For now it seems hard to imagine that I will not look into her sweet eyes again, and truthfully I miss her terribly.

All I can do now is continue her legacy by teaching my boys about the amazing woman who loved them dearly for the short time she was able. Her love will continue to shine through all those who knew her, and we will carry her in our hearts forever!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Life Lessons

At the risk of sounding like a broken record... October has flown by.  We have had some really special times with family though, and we are busy making memories with these two amazing boys.  Miles helped me set up the tripod for a fall family photo. I love this picture I snapped as he helped adjust the lens.

Here we are, "We're all together!"

Then we went for a little hike around our property.
That ended with a roll in the hickory leaves that just dropped from our tree last week.

Ruben was very focused as he examined the leaves, and he adored the sound of them crunching under him as he crawled.  He has abandoned his walrus crawl and moves like a big boy on hands and knees now... I kind of miss my little sea mammal - he is growing so fast!!

He also has three teeth on the bottom to meet the four on top.  He has begun pointing and waving and interacting with people.  He also loves music like his brother and his Papa!  He will dance to any tunes you play, all styles of music too!

Suddenly big brother Miles is an "almost" three year old, and he just seems to be such a boy not a baby anymore.  I think we have all grown leaps and bounds in this last year, but he especially seems so grown up.  He loves to play hide and go seek now... though he usually hides in his same favorite spot. 

We started the month with a pilgrimage to Robinette's for the traditional "apple picture."  Here is Mile's first fall picture there on the left (2010), and Ruben's on the right. 

Fall always feels like a time to "circle the wagons" to me.  Pull up the harvest, begin to gather indoors, spend more time baking, and taking stock of the growing season that just passed.  This Fall is not any different really, but the growing did not take place in the garden this year.  Instead our heads and hearts have shifted and changed with the new perspective brought on by many of the changes - planned and unplanned - that have taken place in our lives this year.

It seems like this season will not end without another major shift occurring in our lives.  As I write this my heart is heavy with the realization that our beloved GG has become gravely ill.

Right now it feels like October is telling us to slow down, take stock of the beautiful memories we have been blessed to form in this life, and give thanks for the beautiful matriarchs that grace our family.  As I reflect I have been flooded with all the wonderful memories that my grandmother and I have shared. I know it is only selfish that I wish she could stay here with us longer.  Instead I know it is time for her to go to where she belongs. Heaven is about to gain the most beautiful angel with crystal blue eyes and a southern accent... who adores cookies and snowmen! 

I always thought she was the truest sense of a "snow bird" because of the fact that she would fly to Michigan towards the snow, instead of away from it, every winter.   Now I am going to picture her rolling the white fluffy clouds into fields full of snowmen... while singing Christmas hymns.

Right now I pray for her peace and for her comfort.  I hope she feels the glow of all the love surrounding her right now as we elevate her life and her light to the next level.  We love you GG.  We will forever hold your smile in our hearts.

Monday, October 8, 2012

September's gone too...

I feel like September ended before it even had time to begin.  I don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but this month literally felt like it had plagues of biblical proportions.  We had our own versions of fire, locusts, and we ended the month with a flood... in the form of a major water pipe breaking.  But, I digress.   Let me start at the beginning before I go to then end.

There were many more dandelion hunting expeditions as fall fell upon us here in Michigan!  What a beautiful fall it has been, filled with blue skies, colorful trees, and visits from lots of animals to our new home!  We have a 'rafter' of turkeys (my new word for the month) that has been visiting us recently.  Miles loves to count all thirteen of them.  There used to be sixteen, and when he got to fifteen he would call it "five teen."

Not only have I been trying to teach him that for some reason fifteen follows fourteen, not "five teen" like you might think, but I have also tried to come up with an explanation for where the other three turkeys in our rafter have gone.  Sounds like the start to a good children's book doesn't it :-)

Miles loves to eat meals from his "big boy" trays that were hand-me-downs from Leo and Ava.  On this particular morning I even got him to try arugula because it was neatly arranged as part of his colorful lunch tray.

We knew Ruben was feeling better when he started giving "Rolly Cart Rides" to his big brother again.  Miles likes to stand on the back and Ruben literally pulls both their weight across the floor.  They laugh hysterically the whole time; my favorite background noise when I work in the kitchen!

Miles has also taken to rocking Ruben, an exercise that must certainly be chaperoned because they get a little rowdy!  I can only imagine what kind of wrestling matches are in my future!

Big news this month was that Ruben sat up front in the grocery cart with his brother for the first time!  They had a blast banging on the horn and telling me to "go go go!" through the store.  I learned quickly that you must steer this thing down the center of the aisle... much to the dismay of other shoppers, or little hands can reach everything on the shelves!

Ruben suddenly seems more than ready to give up his walrus crawl and start exploring another level of the world. He has begun to pull himself in earnest up onto anything and everything available.  He is also already wearing Miles' twelve-month footie pajamas.

I have managed a few hikes despite all the "plague" drama of the month.  Work and home have been especially busy, but I try to remind myself to take time to get outdoors no matter what!  Miles loves walking/ biking the trails. I have been able to carry Ruben in the backpack leaving hands free to collect rocks and pine cones with my toddler... I am in heaven!

In other big news Ruben's been getting tons of teeth - he has four on top and (almost) three on the bottom now.  This has changed his eating habits immensely!  He want to feed himself often now and he eats little chunks of food rather than having everything pureed.  He still loves a good bottle after his morning nap and before bedtime, but when he is not sipping his milk he is eying what is on everyone else's plate!  As sad as I am that my baby is growing so fast, I am looking forward to the time I can cook ONE meal for all of us to sit down to eat together!

One of the best things about September was that we had a beautiful visit from Aunt Jessica!!  Here she is sharing in the wonders of the walking stick that Miles captured on our back porch.  Our time was precious but all too short - only because weeks wouldn't be enough to enjoy all the time we wish we could share with her. 

Other firsts included Ruben learning to drink from a sippy cup.  Not his favorite thing, but he did not like the bottle at first either, so we will keep trying.

Both boys had their monthly photo taken while enjoying a pancake breakfast, one ritual that seems unfailing as everything else around us seems to be in chaos.

Ruben joined the pancake feast this month and has his first taste of blueberry buttermilk pancakes!

Here are my beautiful boys with Aunti Ei on one of our many trips to visit Yia Yia Liz recently.  Miles adores the cookies she shares with him when we visit.  In fact, one night when we returned home and were getting ready for bed he asked me for another cookie.  I explained that it was bedtime, and there were no cookies at our house anyway, so he was out of luck.  He was not happy and he replied with, "No Mama!! You need to call Yia Yia Liz - she will let me have a cookie!"  So true!  She always has the best cookies, and she always says yes.  Such a perfect Yia Yia memory that is obviously ingrained in his mind.

Ruben has also made yet another giant leap to being a big boy. On the last day of September I found him standing in his crib.  Miles immediately asked if he could join him!  I love this photo of the two of them just looking at each other in amazement.  Strange to realize that Ruben is so close to experiencing his world from the vertical perspective.  Miles kind of looks astounded too.  His "Baby Ruben" is growing fast, and what a first year he has lived through!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Where did August go?

Where did August go? In all honesty I must wonder where September has gone as well - full disclosure - as I type this post about August it is actually the last day of September.  

As we settled in to our beautiful new home we found that in addition to the most wonderful place to live and grow, we also have the most amazing new neighbors!
One of the best things is that our new neighbors keep chickens, and so my seven year search for a reliable good source for eggs since I moved back from New Mexico seems to have finally come to an end.

We spent many mornings and afternoons walking the fields and forests nearby during the month of August.  My solace right now is found by watching the clouds pass or the hawks stalk the songbirds that are grazing amongst the drying wildflowers.

Miles adores the "trick" that "Aunt Ann" taught him and has stripped half the Sassafras trees on the trail to toddler height as he picks the leaves to chew on the stems. 

Here is a picture of Ruben helping me and Michael identify the trees in our new backyard.  We still have lots of work to do - but we are dreaming big dreams about sustainable gardens, greenhouses, solar powered sheds, rain barrels, perennial gardens, and maybe some chickens and bees of our own one day!

Right now the only birds we keep are the pie birds that sit in our pies.  I have managed to make one or two this summer, but the canning, preserving, and baking have all basically been shelved in order to focus on making baby food with the little time I have.

I have found that my new garden already contains some of the most beautiful roses ~ something I am going to need to learn to care for as I have not had much success in the past, but I look forward to learning more.

Ruben spent much of the month with a cold/sinus/viral infection - in that order.  Here he is with the gooey eyes that we were sure were pink eye - but the Dr. was unconvinced.  Either way we he had a tough time of it in August - and we were truly exhausted by the end of it.

When he was feeling better he got a lesson on the drums in the new studio!  So nice to have a place to be creative in our new home.  Each day we are more and more thankful for this beautiful place we have found to live!
Ru started enjoying meals at the table with us in the high chair.  No more bouncy, or Bumbo seat for this big boy!  My baby is growing so fast, and this first year of his life has been an unbelievable one.  
Miles ate his weight in cantaloupe from the farmer's market in the month of August.  It was his preferred snack when he was not hunting for "dandelion flowers to blow on."

We did a lot of dandelion hunting!!  He would squeal with glee when he saw one across the yard and then do this funny high step run / skip over to pick it!

We did manage a few family walks - especially in the evenings. It was a great way to wear out our very active toddler before bedtime.

Ruben will sleep just about anytime, except for the middle of the night.  We have been struggling with night waking, and I just have to remind myself it won't last forever. (Something I did not have the luxury of knowing from experience when Miles was a baby.) Regardless though, we are all tired around our house.  All except for Miles - he manages to sleep through the two a.m. screaming...lucky him.)
This has truly been a glorious summer, no matter the fact that there never seems to be enough time.  One thing that has forced us to slow down and hug life just a little bit tighter is the fact that our dear Yia Yia Liz has become very ill.  Right now there are not words to express all that I want to say... I won't even try.  I know we are all just thankful right now 
to have the time and the opportunity to shower her with love.

Such a bright and beautiful light she is in the lives of so many!