Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to my sweet husband, and to all the Dad’s I know.  Thank you for being such a great partner on the journey of parenthood.  From the moment our babies were born, it’s been super obvious how much you love them, and how much they love you.  You’ve been an inspiration to them, as well as a teacher of how to live, how to laugh, how to dive in and fix things, build things, keep trying, live fearlessly, speak your mind, be a gentleman, be a kind, loving, and wonderful human being.

Thank you for being a wonderful husband.  Our children have (and in 8 months) will have successful marriages by hopefully following the example we have tried to set.  Thank you for being my rock, for tolerating my sewing habit :-), for having the good grace to take photos of my creations for this blog, even when I get giggly about modeling.  Thank you for having fun while modeling the shorts I made you, for making me laugh, for being my best friend and true love.

Thank you for knowing how important our faith is, for letting it be the foundation in our life and marriage.  Thank you for being the shining light of love that you are.

I love you,

D

 

A Little Help

My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter flew down for a visit this week, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent the day at the beach.  We walked the beach, built sand castles, played in the ocean, and were enjoying the wonderful day.

ocean play

A couple in their young thirties were walking past, and I complimented the gentleman on his cool track chair.  I like seeing people who are differently abled have the tools and technology to be able to enjoy something we take for granted, like enjoying a day at the beach.  He asked my husband and son if one of them would be willing to carry him into the water.  He explained that he would drive his chair closer to the water so it wouldn’t be so far, and his wife demonstrated the proper lifting technique.  Our son quickly stepped forward and helped his wife carry him into the ocean.

Everyone enjoyed playing in the water, and the gentleman tried to give me tips on mastering the boogie board.  “Start swimming before the wave gets to you so that you’re going the same speed as the wave.”  I did more bobbing like a cork than truly riding the waves, but it sure was fun!  I was truly impressed by his swimming skills because the waves were quite strong and breaking pretty hard.  Even when they washed over his head, he continued to swim with just the use of his arms.  His wife frequently walked up to shore to check on his sweet service dog.

When we took a little break, our son let the dog sniff his hand, gave him some pets and back scratches, and the dog backed into his legs for more pets and attention.  He obviously sensed that our son loves his own dogs and knows just how to give a proper back scratch and rub! 🙂  The couple spent an hour or two playing in the surf before our son helped carry him back to the track chair.

As a rather shy person, I was thinking about how hard it has to be to ask someone, a complete stranger, for help.  Especially asking them to do a more physically demanding and personal task like carrying you into the water.  How hard is it for you to ask for help?  Is it easier for you to help others than to ask for help yourself?  We all need a little help sometimes.

Life can feel challenging at times, and that is the perfect time to pray and ask God for help.  If you’re not used to prayer and talking to God, it can be awkward because you may feel like you don’t know what to say.  I think just having a conversation like you would with a friend is a great way to start.  Say what’s on your mind (it doesn’t have to be out loud, it can be a conversation in your heart).  God listens.

I am loving being able to spend time with my family, and build precious memories with my granddaughter.  I hope that you are enjoying some conversation with God and Jesus, are willing to ask for help, as well as to step forward and help.  We had a wonderful Palm Sunday, and look forward to Easter.  Enjoy this Holy Week in anticipation of the glory to come!
Lila shovels

 

What A Week!

From Illness To Gratefulness

I am finally recovering from a week of influenza and it feels so good to be upright!  I was literally down for the count for a week, laying in bed, slowly walking to the sofa or dining table, and back to bed.  I hate being sick, feeling dependent on others, and not having my normal energy and routine.

My husband was a champ!  He made me food, did the dishes and laundry, and took excellent care of me.  I told him how much I appreciated him taking care of me, and he said, “You’re always taking care of me and would do the same for me.  It’s not a big deal.”  While it’s true that it may not have been a big deal to him, it meant a great deal to me.  When you are naturally a caregiver, it’s interesting to see it from the other side.

When you are constantly taking care of others, of the household, of your children, etc., you can easily get irritated or feel a little bit resentful.  “Gah!  I just vacuumed and you’re tracking dirt everywhere!”  “Ugh!  Sweaty, gross gym clothes to wash and they are laying on top of my outfit in the laundry basket and getting it all stinky!”  And of course you’ll make eggs for breakfast when you’d much rather make banana pecan waffles topped with strawberries and blueberries because you know he’d prefer the protein.

I generally don’t complain about the inconveniences (OK, other than the tracking in dirt!), because caring means that you are doing these things out of love.  And really, it’s not hard to do any of it, and it really isn’t a sacrifice.  It’s just the way it works for your family.  Everybody has to do their part to make their family life work.  Maybe your family dynamic is different, and you’re the main breadwinner, and someone else has more time for the household.  Or maybe you are responsible for everything yourself.  Everybody has to participate in making life work.

But working joyfully, and cheerfully giving, that decision is up to you.  I can tell you that life is happier, you are happier when you move through life with a happy heart.  Is life always easy?  Do things always go perfectly according to your plans?  Of course not!  We all have worries and concerns.  Maybe you are struggling financially, maybe someone you love and care for is sick, or injured, or dying.  Maybe you just feel like life is beating you down.  We have all been there.  Everyone has struggles.  How we face those struggles is the question.

Do you think that you have to carry the burden alone?  On the surface, it may appear to you that you do.  But you don’t.  There is always someone you can talk to, someone who will listen, someone who will lighten the load.

Talk to God, talk to Jesus.  Surrender your heart, look, and listen for the little spark of joy.  There is beauty and happiness everywhere.  What are you grateful for?  What can you do for others?  What small look, gentle touch, gesture of friendship or love can you give?  Because that is the secret.  Opening your heart to God, praying and listening for His voice.  Giving of ourselves, rather than just focusing on what we “deserve”, what I think the world “owes” me.  Be grateful to the one who gives us all the opportunity for everlasting life.

And don’t forget to say thank you to the people God has placed in your life.  The ones who take the time to care for, or be kind to you.  Pet the cute kitty who snuggled you while you were sick.  Hug the loving husband who kept you fed when you didn’t have the strength to make your own meal.  And talk to God, open your heart, feed your soul.  Be grateful for whatever crazy, wonderful life you have.

So Many Things

How Much Is Too Much?

I spent last week helping my Mom try to prepare to sell her house.  My Uncle is helping her by fixing things, cleaning out the garage, etc.  But they are both in their 70’s, so they needed more help.  My brother flew down, and we spent the week hard at work.  We got the exterior of the house caulked and painted.  We took load after load, after load, up to donate to Goodwill.  We filled the trash can and recycling bin, along with the trash cans and recycling bins of nearly every neighbor on her street.  Neighbors commented on how nice the house looks with a fresh coat of paint, cleared out garage, and maintained lawn irrigation system.

We spent an entire day clearing out closets and spare bedrooms, carrying unwanted items downstairs.  Now that the obvious junk is gone, Mom is left to sorting through all the things.  My brother and I tried to help her as much as we could.  “Do you want this, need this, have anywhere to put this if you keep it?”  If the answer was no, then we donated or trashed it.  But there were so many boxes and bins of “I want to look through that to see if there’s anything in there I want.”  Old paperback books and magazines, VHS tapes, knick knacks, etc., some of which had just been boxed up and  brought over to her house when my grandparents had to sell their home and either go into assisted living or move up to Michigan to live with Mom so that she could take care of them.  So much stuff!

And I get it, I really do.  We attach memories and meaning to things, because we loved the people that they belonged to.  But we cannot keep everything a person we loved ever owned or gave us.  There’s just no room in our houses or lives for so many things.  Too much stuff is just clutter, and leads to anxiety just having to look at all of it sitting there in our space.

After Dad died, Mom told all of us that we could go through Dad’s things and take any mementoes we wanted.  I chose his old slide rule (for those of you under 50 years old, with a calculator on your phone, it was a tool to help you do calculations back in the days before calculators, but long after an abacus!), an old Timex watch and retractable keychain I remember him wearing during my childhood, and a pair of funny pajama pants he wore all the time during the last months of his life.  Everything fits in a little 12″ x 12″ box.  Mom kept asking if there was anything else I wanted, but I have the memories of the things we did, the time we spent together, the quiet conversations, of the person he was, and I don’t want any more things.  I would like more time with him, but that will have to wait until I see him in heaven.

I painted the laundry room, cooked meals and cleaned up the kitchen, and started painting the door frames.  But Mom is basically down to what is to her, the hard part.  Sorting through the stuff and deciding what she wants to keep.  My brother and I can’t help her with that, because as we joked, we’d just order a 30 yard dumpster and clear it all out so that she can sell the house and not have to worry about it any more!  Once she gets to the point of actually packing things up, I’ll be able to help again.  I can cook, clean, carry, pack, and paint.  But I can’t sort through her memories and decide what has meaning to her.

How much stuff do we all carry around in life?  Whether physical things, or worries and regrets.  We can sort through the physical stuff, and get rid of the things that clutter our space.  It’s even easier to sort through the worries and regrets, because we do not have to carry that burden alone.  God has an ever listening ear, and wants us to share our problems and burdens.  Talk and pray with Him, and lighten your load.  Ask His forgiveness for any wrong you’ve done, and that weight can be lifted from your shoulders and soul.  Open your heart, and let Him in.  That’s the kind of peace and calm we really need in our lives!

It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s easier than standing outside The Home Depot and choosing what color to paint the house!  Let go of the things, and welcome God into your life.

 

A Thankful Heart

What Are You Thankful For?

On this day of giving thanks, it’s not uncommon to reflect on what you are thankful for.  Some families have the tradition of everyone at the dinner table taking turns sharing something that they appreciate.  I am very grateful for the people and experiences in my life.  Even when everything is not exactly how you wish it could be, life is still so wonderful!

For instance, this is the first Thanksgiving that we won’t have either of our children at the dinner table with us.  For the last seven years or so, we have spent Thanksgiving in Tennessee with our daughter and son-in-law and his Mom (and Dad, until his passing).  This year, with the drive being a bit too long to be practical, and flights not working out with Dan’s work schedule, our plans changed.  Our son and his fiancée are out of town for a well-deserved weekend vacation.  So I am grateful that we took them and my Mom (who was visiting us) out to dinner last weekend.

I am thankful that our niece and her family are hosting an extended family Thanksgiving at their home today.  Dan will enjoy the crazy brother bonding time that he doesn’t get to have often enough.  We will be spending time with people we love.  There will be laughter and giggles, food and fun, silliness and seriousness, selfies and photos galore.  We’ll all end up tired, (and perhaps a bit frazzled!) from the noise and inevitable chaos.  But our bellies and hearts will be full after spending time together.

So what else am I thankful for?  I am so grateful for my faith!  Christ has sustained me and my family, and my life is so good because of it.  I think it’s obvious that my family is super important to me!  My husband is my rock, my true love and my best friend.

Dan & I 11-20-18

We have wonderful children (including their significant others) and a granddaughter who brings joy and light into our hearts.  I am also appreciative of every beautiful sunrise and sunset that I am blessed to see in this wonderful, sunny paradise where I live.  The roar and crash of the waves, the gentle breeze, and the soft sand under my toes as I walk near the ocean bring me peace and joy.

sunset 11-20-18

I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful Happy Thanksgiving!  Take a minute to reflect and please let me know what you are thankful for.

 

Grandma For A Year

There’s nothing like being a Grandma!

There is nothing like being a Grandma.  I’ve always heard people say that and wondered what they meant by it.  I love being a Mom.  We were blessed with great kids who are truly wonderful people that we always enjoy being around and spending time with.  So of course I would love being a Grandma, as it’s our baby’s baby.

Dan and I were fortunate to be at a stage in our lives that allowed us to be close by at the crucial time.  We had sold our house in Michigan, and hadn’t yet found a new home in Florida.  So we rented an apartment for three months that was about 12 minutes away from our daughter and son-in-law’s home.  We were able to help with some last minute baby preparations, and to be there with Jennifer through 3 days of labor.  The excitement of our granddaughter’s birth was topped off when I finally got to hold her in my arms.  Her warmth, her smell, her soft baby skin, still covered in birth fluids.  My heart was overflowing with love.  first time holding Lila

I made breakfasts and dinners, and cleaned and did laundry, and waited impatiently for my share of baby snuggles.  Baby Lila wormed her way deeper and deeper into my heart.  The daily visits ended when we moved back to Florida.  But I am so grateful that we had the opportunity for that early bonding time.

We fly up for visits every month to six weeks or so, and Lila is always happy to see us.  We’ve watched her mature and grow, and seen the milestones and developing talents in person, in photos, and via Facetime.  It cracks me up how she tries to reach out through the phone or iPad to touch us.  The first year has flown by.

When Jennifer started planning Lila’s first birthday party, I was hoping that Lila would be able to wear the dress Jennifer wore on her first birthday.  Unfortunately, there is a stain on the front of the dress that I don’t think will come out after 30 years!  Since I like to sew, I knew I could make her something pretty to wear instead.

Jennifer chose a “She’s a wild ONE” jungle theme for the party and I instantly knew what fabric I was going to use.  I had ordered the palm print leaf matte nylon/spandex from Phee Fabrics intending to make a dress for myself.  But I hadn’t decided on the perfect pattern yet, so the fabric was stashed and waiting for me.  I thought it would be fun to make something for all three of us to wear on the special occasion.  I also thought that I had three yards of fabric stashed, but in reality only had two.  Yikes!

That ruled out the possibility of making dresses for all three of us, so Lila got a birthday dress, and the two of us got tanks.  I have made my daughter tank tops before, and have three different patterns cut out in her size.  Her favorite seems to be the Patterns for Pirates Essential Tank, so I chose that for her.  Its flattering, simple, yet shapely design is also great for layering, so I knew she would be able to wear it year round.  I debated between the Essential Tank and the Made for Mermaids Women’s Mya pattern for myself.  I decided on the Women’s Mya since it’s a bit roomier, I knew it would be a busy day, and there would be snacks and cake involved!

The birthday girl’s dress needed to be flowy and pretty and work with a knit fabric.  Jennifer and I both liked the Ellie and Mac Be Dreamy dress, but I had a few concerns.  Since Lila is a busy baby and a beginning walker, a floor length dress was out of the question.  The high-low hemline is cute, but still not practical for a one year old.  So it had to become a knee length dress.  This would be an easier fix if they lived close by and I could compare the pattern to her and her other dresses to judge the fit.  But she doesn’t, so I had to work off measurements. “No longer than seventeen inches” was the answer I received to “How long from her shoulder to hemline?”  So I overlapped my pattern pieces by the seam allowance, measured down from the shoulder, added a hem allowance and drew my new hemline.

Now to fit all these pieces onto only two yards of fabric!  I always take my time with pattern layout and cutting.  Everything needs to be perfectly on grain, and I hate wasting fabric.  Talk about your fussy cutting!  Fortunately, the palm leaf fabric is a true 60″ wide, so I was able to cut all the pieces facing (what I considered) upright on the fabric.  Since the leaves go in all different directions, it isn’t an obvious directional fabric and I could have made life easier by flipping things to fit, but that’s not how I roll!

The tank tops and dress sewed up easily, if slowly, since I just use a basic Brother sewing machine.  I like to finish my neck and arm band seams with my machine’s overcast stitch, followed by topstitching to get a clean, professional look.  (Someday I’ll get that fancy Babylock serger/coverstitch on my daydream wishlist!) 😉

The full circle flutter sleeves on the Be Dreamy dress were my other concern.  They needed to be light and fluttery, and preferably out of a solid, since the underside of the fabric shows.  Jennifer didn’t want to mix in a color with the palm leaf print, so that nixed the circular knit and tricot I had on hand.  My solution was white powernet.  I always use it to add support to the bras and workout tops I make, but it’s a versatile fabric.  I’ve added powernet side panels to workout capris, and have an idea percolating for a top with powernet insets.  Since it doesn’t fray, careful cutting with my rotary cutter was all the finish the fluttery sleeves needed.  I carefully tacked on some organza ribbon rose trim around the bottom of the bodice and along the hem and the birthday dress was complete!

Let the “She’s a wild ONE!” party begin!

plate napkinparty foodhostessG G Lila cakebirthday cupcakecupcake bite

There is indeed nothing like being a Grandma!  Lila fills my heart with joy and is a spectacular gift from God.  Her big blue eyes with mile long lashes, her laughs and saucy little grin, her backward waves, and heart-stopping desire to walk up and down the stairs, the way she practically runs while pushing her walker, and her undeniably fun personality all combine into one beautiful bundle of wonder that has completely stolen this Grandma’s heart.

Happy 1st birthday Lila!  I love you! Grandma Lila

 

 

What Draws You Closer?

It was the anniversary of my Dad’s death earlier this week.  Every Autumn I remember back to that year and to all the beauty and love, sadness and dignity, loss and growth our family went through.  Dad knew he was dying, he had grown weaker and more tired, and took several naps a day.  I remember my Mom, siblings, Aunt and I taking him to his cardiologist’s office to have his implantable cardiac defibrillator turned off.  They have to do this when a person is actively dying, or the defibrillator would keep shocking and shocking trying to get the heart into rhythm when it stops.  His doctor talked with him, asked him questions, and asked us if we had any questions.  It has to be a sobering moment for a doctor to know that there is nothing more that they can do for their patient.  The handshakes, hugs, and kind words from him and the staff as they said goodbye to a patient they knew they would never see again spoke volumes about the seriousness of the situation, and their fondness for Dad.

That last couple of months our family came together as we hadn’t been since childhood.  Us kids took turns spending days and evenings with Mom so that there was always someone there to help.  We bathed him, encouraged him to eat a few bites of food, refilled his water cup, helped him roll over and try to get comfortable.  By the end we were all basically living there.  I did loads of laundry every day, we took turns cooking a meal or going to pick something up.  We were so grateful when kind neighbors and friends would drop off food or snacks.  My youngest sister and I had longer drives to our day jobs, while my middle sister and brother were walking distance to their evening and weekend jobs.  Our varying schedules helped with ensuring that there was always someone there.

While Dad slept I would frequently sit quietly in a chair just to be with him.  We’d have conversations about whatever was on his mind.  His faith was strong.  He knew he was going to heaven.  Dying wasn’t what bothered him, it was the “collateral damage” that concerned him.  Knowing that everything would change, worrying about Mom and what would happen to her.

I remember conversations with Mom as we laid in bed with Dad.  About how we can’t see the big picture.  God has the big picture and knows that everything is going to turn out all right.   It’s like a tapestry and we see this little, teeny, tiny corner of the picture and don’t know or understand how it’s all connected to everything else, and keeps going on.

The opportunity for closeness and increased faith when someone is dying is a gift.  Was it hard?  Oh yeah.  It was exhausting and stressful.  I spent the last month living out of a paper grocery sack of clothes that I would stop by my house and exchange on my way home from work when I couldn’t stand wearing the same outfits over and over again for another week.  Like my sister, I burned through every sick, personal and vacation day to go to appointments for Dad and to be there for Mom.

By that last week we were all walking zombies from the lack of sleep and the stress.  The slightest sound from Dad and we would hop out of bed, or leap up from a chair, bound over a laundry basket like a gazelle running to see what he needed.  Since I had no more time off, I went to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday wearing my usual business attire.  Yet I bundled up in a zip front hoodie over my dress while at my desk, huddled in it like a hug.  When I got to my parents home after work, the hospice nurse who visited daily and the CNA who visited twice a week were in the bedroom talking.  As soon as I heard Dad’s breathing, I knew we were at the end.

It’s called the death rattle, and once you’ve heard it, you know what it means.  I hugged Mary, our nurse, and thanked her for being there for us, knowing that we would probably never see her again.  I don’t know if Mom fully grasped it yet, but I know my sisters did.  We spent the evening together and all went to bed, and Mom got in the shower.  Although it was very late, and I was exhausted, I felt the need to climb out of the guestroom bed I was sharing with my sister and go talk to Dad.  I laid my head on his chest, told him that I loved him, and that we would take care of Mom. Mom heard me in there and asked from the shower if everything was ok.  I told her it was, then continued my conversation with Dad.  I told him that it was ok to let go, that we would be alright.

Dad went to heaven to be with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, a place he had already glimpsed when he was slipping out of consciousness and proclaimed “So beautiful, all the colors and light, it’s just so beautiful!”

Oh, how I miss him!  He was so fun, and funny, so smart and handy, a grounding force in our lives.  I wish he could be here to enjoy our expanding family.  The grandchildren, weddings, and great-grandchildren that have added more love to our family, with two more weddings planned within the next year.  He would have enjoyed the babies and children, and having more people to love.

Death can shake your faith, or it can help it grow stronger.  God increased my faith, changing me in ways both  simple and profound.  I am much more focused on the things that are important in life, I am at peace.  I feel joy and calmness, and going to Mass makes me happy, gives me the foundation in life that I need.  “Thank you Jesus” is a common enough refrain because I do realize how very blessed I am.  I pray that when you encounter troubles, that you find the love and joy that your heart seeks, that your faith is increased.  Will you open your heart to Him?