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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflections after Christmas

This is the first day after Christmas family togetherness, December 30, 2014. The last family members left yesterday morning (the 29th). We don’t have Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day around our house. We have Thanksgiving and Christmas WEEK. Not that I’m complaining—never—but I will admit I adapt very well and very quickly to the sounds of silence. This morning I luxuriated in the opportunity to stay in bed until 9:30, and then indulged in two mega cups of coffee. Now I sit in my favorite writing chair and see the limp stockings, the unlit children’s Christmas tree, a ripped open box, and the wads of tissue paper in Christmas bags…and, as always, I wonder how I could have improved our time together.
Once again, I examine my mothering habits. Did I seem relaxed while the family was here? Did I show love impartiality to the grandchildren? Did we have enough “intentional time” when we tried to focus on the real meaning of Christmas? If habits and patterns are more “caught than taught,” did we demonstrate the ones we want to see repeated? Were the emotional needs of each family member met?
            As our family matures, it becomes more complex. At least it seems that way to me. Perhaps the presence of two still-single sons makes me much more sensitive to everyone’s emotional needs. I find it hard to give myself completely to the grandchildren because in some weird way I feel that the single boys still need the comfort and love from me until they find their life’s mate, and I can’t satisfy it the way I can for the little children. I find myself trying to figure out how to do the equivalent thing of snuggling on the couch and reading a book to sons who are adult men who, until they find wives, need the emotional closeness that a mother provides. It makes me sad to feel inadequate at being able to meet their needs.
            I finally realize why it’s sad when I began to take down the tree. It’s like another opportunity to get it right has passed and I failed. Like our big opportunity to share deep connection with one another came and we let it slip through our fingers.
            It’s times like these that remind me a mother never retires. At least I can’t. No matter how much I love my daughters-in-law and our grandchildren, I still feel like a mother hen when our boys are here. I still want to gather them under my own wings, just to make sure they’re safe and loved and happy.
In many ways, Christmas is hard to me. Hard because it’s the opportunity for everybody to feel the presence of the Divine Love that delineates the season, yet so few people are aware of it. Hard because the flurry of activity makes it go by so fast. Hard because I never feel that I’ve done enough to fill everyone’s emotional tank. I feel guilty because we have so much and we don’t share enough with those who don’t. Guilty because I never got out the cards and messages I wanted to send to the many endearing friends we’re blessed with.

As wonderful as it is, Christmas has become a time of emotional overload. So I deal with it the same way every year. I incrementally pack up and put away the evidences of Christmas season—strip the tree, store the nativity set, fold the stockings. I try not to dwell on the closing of the season. It’s hard to burn the tags that say “From So-and-so to So-and-so” because I know that by finding them again next year will bring back sweet memories…but one Christmas of memories is enough at the time.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Time for Tea

This year I hosted the inaugural Granddaughter Tea at the Strange house. I think I’ve now established a new tradition.

For the past 44 years, I’ve dealt successfully (I think) with newborn, toddler, pre-adolescent, teen, college-age, and adult males. Now five adorable new challenges are in my life— granddaughters!
To be honest, I have to admit I haven’t been comfortable with how to manage them. It’s true. Girls are different from boys!

This year, I believe I found at least one thing that works: a GRANDDAUGHTER TEA! What this means is, I get everything I see that shines, has flowers, smells good, looks pretty, and tastes sweet and let the little girls enjoy it. I polished my silver; I pulled out blue and white dessert plates and cups; I found teapots and arranged flowers in them; I used crocheted doilies under the serving dishes; I lit the candles; I played melodious CDs. I sent an E-vite to the other grandmothers and a few close friends, and we had a party!

The little girls were darlings. They sat at the dining room table like miniature princesses. Some wore the paper crowns they had decorated with fake jewels, while others sported the hats they had covered with flowers and other embellishments. Of course I had to wear one as well. They sipped hot spiced punch, ate the delicacies, including the cherry tomatoes and the cucumber slices, and sat at the dining table making polite conversation.

All together, I’d say it was a totally successful event. It’s not what I have done for the past four decades, but it’s a new chapter…and it’s wonderful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I’ve waited 70 years to write this.

That’s right: today I’m officially 70 years old!

I think most of us get nostalgic on our birthday, especially when it heralds another decade. One of my classmates from high school sent out a group message a few months ago stating that this was our big year. Several responses ensued, but my favorite one said, “I didn’t know 70 would be this much fun!” That’s the attitude I like.

I might have caught this attitude from my mom and dad, but I’ve always thought young. My parents always associated with younger people. Just as they did, we have dear and treasured friends who are in our same season of life, and we love and appreciate them. But more often we keep company with younger ones. That’s partly because our contemporaries are doing the same thing. Our sons and their wives are our favorite companions, and their friends become our friends. We’re just thankful we can relate to them and vice versa.

Several years ago I came across an article on aging in a newspaper. At the time, it didn’t occur to me to document the newspaper source, but I did save the article. I remember making a mental note to myself that when I “became of age,” it summarized the attitudes I wanted to have. I’m going to share what was written in the article, the title of which is “Learned Lady Tells How to Grow Old Gracefully.” Here goes.

  • When you are young, find out what qualities in old people are admired by the young. Remember them.
  • Never praise the good old days. Live in the present.
  • Learn early in life how to be well-balanced emotionally, how to control anger. Oldsters who aren’t upset by unpleasant events, who can deal with crisis wisely, are sought out by young people as sources of advice and strength.
  • Keep alive intellectually. This means not only reading and other cultural activities but maintaining a lively interest in all things going on around you.
  • Maintain strict adherence to principles of personal hygiene. Neat personal appearance and good table manners make oldsters attractive to the younger generation.
  • Lay a groundwork early in life. You can’t be a pleasant old man or woman unless you cultivate these qualities long before you grow old. They don’t come naturally with age.
The last point probably encapsulates the entire message. Grumpy old people were probably grumpy young people at one time. (Wink!)

Well, this post must end at this point. I have to shop for a new outfit (not for me…for Hubby!) to wear for our dinner date tomorrow night with the family—all our sons and wives— and our two-night stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown Atlanta. And I must get my nails done, right?
Altogether, it’s going to be a wonderful, precious, memorable time with my all-time faves!

So, the question still begs to be answered. Is seventy the new fifty? By the end of this year, I might be qualified to answer that!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Life in Print

Drumroll. Hold breath. Exhale. I’ve done it. I’ve produced a book!

    After talking about it for (literally) about ten years, I became intentional and spend four and a half years going through journals and selecting excerpts that might hold a reader’s attention, adding my present-day comments, and setting about finding a way to get it in print. It was O.J.T. (on the job training) for sure!
    I learned more than I ever thought I needed to know in the process. And an expensive process it was. first the original company I signed with and paid a sizable chunk of money to folded, as in bankruptcy. Yes, that was a setback to say the least. But I didn’t give up. I prayed for renewed sense of purpose and guidance in what to do about it, and the Holy Spirit led me to reassuring scriptures such as these.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the lord with all your heart and lead not on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

Psalm 32:8

The Lord says: I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

Psalm 37:7

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.

Now that the book is available it can be ordered from most book sellers. You can get it herehere, or here.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Re-TIRED Mother

This is Mother’s Day, 2014.

I’m home alone for now, not one of our five sons anywhere in sight. But don’t be too quick to condemn them. They have given me the greatest gift any children could give a parent. They are living out the scripture that expresses the deepest and most gratifying need of my heart, Psalm 133:1-2:

                          How pleasant, how wonderful it is for brothers to dwell together in unity….It is like                  the dew of Mt. Hermon that falls on the mountains of Jerusalem.

In reading one of the translations of that verse, I found a commentary that says the Greek word for brothers refers to  “children of the same parents.” So although it certainly can apply to members of Christ’s church, it primarily refers to blood brothers. What a thrilling, challenging discovery that was for me. Having unity among our sons is the most comforting, fulfilling state of existence imaginable to me as a mother. It’s also the most difficult to achieve.

Over the years of childrearing, I came to realize that when I was in the midst of conflict, I shut down. Tension increases in my body, and my ability to think clearly becomes muddled. When I studied the temperament types, in material I found in the writings of Dr. Tim LaHaye and his wife Beverly, I realized part of this inability results from my phlegmatic nature. It helps to understand it, but knowing this doesn’t fix the problem. Conflict simply disarmes me. I fretted and stewed over this for a number of years, wondering how to bring it to pass in our family of six (five sons and a dad) highly competitive, opinionated, boisterous males. Conflict and disunity seemed to be the norm for every day.

As with everything else that’s good and ordained by God, I concluded that He would have to accomplish it. First, I had to make sure my unity with Him was established. I looked up “Mt. Hermon” on line and found out it is the highest point of the mountain range controlled by Israel. It is the “dew,” or the rains that fall on this mountain peak that run down and form the Jordan River, which brings refreshment to the whole area of Jerusalem. Spending time in the presence of the Lord is like experiencing the refreshing dew that falls on the mountain. God’s refreshing Spirit falls on us, and we likewise become the “river of living water” to the plains below. But if we never retreat to the mountain and spend time in His presence, we can’t bring refreshment to those below. So, as most things I want to see manifested in others, it had to begin in me.

Next, the boys had to see unity between their dad and me. I had to get rid of subtle—and sometimes not so subtle—attitudes and irritations in my own thinking toward the man God blessed me with to be the head of our family. The boys saw it in us. They’re very perceptive. When it wasn’t there, they knew it.

The climax to this process of dwelling together in unity came as a surprise to me. I saw it happen when the boys read the manuscript I’ve written about our family. I believe God showed us all at the same time that one of His purposes in our family is that we demonstrate to the world the truth that a family can maintain unity, despite differences and clashes in personalities and temperaments. Reading the manuscript for the boys was the same thing I experienced as I was writing it. A backwards journey of our lives. As we retraced some steps, and relived some experiences, we all began to see how God has been weaving a big plan for us as a family. We are compelled to respond to the bugle call to unity. Reading the manuscript awakened a sense of openness and vulnerability among the brothers that was beginning to wane. Their busy lives and entrepreneurial tendencies was driving them apart, but the Lord used this time to draw them back together.

This is the gift I’ve been receiving for the past year. As each of my men wrote his own “Curtain Call” at the end of my story, the Holy Spirit used it to remind them that we were put together in a human family by God’s design for a greater purpose. Over the past several months, I’ve seen our sons reunite in beautiful ways. They’ve been more supportive of each other’s endeavors. They’ve formed business relationships. They’ve had meaningful conversations. And, yes, they worked through conflicts with more respect for one another.

Is this a happy Mother’s Day? Absolutely. Because I’m a happy mother. I’m seeing our family respond to the call that God had for us from the beginning.

P.S. Even after sweet phone calls and loving message from them all, I found out before the day was over that I have a gift certificate waiting for me at my favorite bike shop! They’re so wonderful to me.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Boys Do When They Grow Up

So perhaps you are wondering…what has become of your sons now that they are grown men? Let me think how to answer that. Hmmm…

When they were growing up, they were feisty, pugilistic at times, competitive, unpredictable, spontaneous, creative, and fun.

Now they are grown men and they are…feisty, less pugilistic, competitive, unpredictable, spontaneous, creative, and fun!

Today I’m going to talk about the oldest one. First, I’ll attempt to describe what he does for work. When people ask me, he told me to say he has a company that offers the ultimate supercar driving experience in a high performance vehicle on a privately owned, state-of-the-art track. This thrill-of-a-lifetime driving opportunity is available to individuals as well as for corporate events.

I think my description of his work is more realistic: he has a company that provides absurdly expensive super cars for thrill seekers to drive at terrifying speeds on a twisted road. And since Burt is the driving instructor, he gets to ride with the inexperienced drivers. Comforting thought.

Let me describe a video he has posted on his Facebook page. (Hint to mothers: unless you’re prepared to handle the disclosures you’re about to read, don’t ever stalk your child on FB!)

The video shows a young woman in the car with the driver. (He isn’t seen, but now you know who it is.) She has on a crash helmet—that fact alone should tell us something—and her head is plastered again the seat from the impact of the g-forces, her long blond hair billowing in the breeze windstorm, hands splayed dramatically across her heart. Her lines are easy to remember: “Oh my gah! Oh my gah! Oh my gah! This is awesome, this is awesome, this is awesome! OK, OK, OK, I don’t want to die! This is awesome, this is awesome, this is awesome…”  You get the picture.

I ignore the window that shows the speedometer of the vehicle my son is driving. I’m sure it’s broken, anyway. No car goes that fast. Right?

I did laugh out loud when the dialogue between them is heard over the roar of the engine and the whine of the car rounding a curve:
She: “So do you drive this car around all the time?”
Burt: “No. It’s my first time!”

Maybe his penchant for fast, high-performance cars is a backlash for our making him drive a super conservative, slow-moving, well-used black Camry when he was in high school. That’s when I learned it’s important to let our child have a little bit of input into what he drove, especially when he already had to suffer the indignity of hauling his four little brothers to school and seeing the little ones safely off to the elementary building.  I still wonder how they all fit into that car. Burt said one time that they looked like clowns at the circus when the impossible number of clowns jump out of a Volkswagen. That word picture did give me a little perspective on things.

Burt has come a long way since those days. He is a most delightful son (as they all are), and a man of character and integrity. However…there are days that I have flashbacks to his boyhood and I wonder, not how he will turn out when he grows up, but rather, will he grow up? The following video explains.


That’s my boy.

P.S. He’s the same one I wrote about in the post below. :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Age for Spanking

In talking to young moms, I continuously find the question coming up concerning the age at which a child should be spanked. How young? How old?  I’ll pass along two experiences I had as a mom struggling to maintain discipline in our household of boys. This is taken directly from one of the many journals I kept as the boys were growing up.

June 23, 1983
Dear Journal,
Today I had a showdown with our 13-year-old. It must be boredom from school being out, but seems the boys have annoyed one another worse than ever! The main one is the oldest, who insists on harassing the younger brothers. Finally today I couldn’t stand it another minute. I waited until Burt Sr. came home for lunch, not because I wanted him to punish him, but I wanted our son to know his dad was backing me up, and also because I was so exasperated I thought I might hurt him! (Although I wasn’t sure I could; he’s 6’ tall and outweighs me!)
Anyway, when Burt Sr. came in, I asked him to follow me to the bedroom where I told our son to wait. I made our big boy pull down his outside pants, lean over the bed, and I spanked him as hard as I could on his bottom. It has been ten years or so since I actually used corporal punishment with him, but this time his behavior was so juvenile, it was appropriate.

The spanking our 13-year-old got worked. A few weeks later I was leaving his room and I saw a note he had posted on his message board. It said: Remember: Be nice to brothers.  (Note: it was his last spanking.)
As with everything, I learned on the first child. It’s a miracle he turned out well. It was liberating to discover I could expect obedience from even a young toddler. One day as I attempted to change one of our squirmy little boys, he repeatedly flipped over and crawled away with amazing speed. I found myself on the floor crawling after him, grabbing his foot and dragging him back, only to have the process repeated. After several attempts, I realized how ridiculous it was for me, a grownup woman, to be on my hands and knees, trying to catch a stubborn little boy. Several good pops on his bare bottom let him know he had to lie still for a diaper change.
The secret to any successful discipline is to make sure the child knows who’s in charge…and it’s not him.

Our Family 2015

Our Family 2015