Archive for the 'Intentional Family Life' Category

Take Your Marriage Outdoors this Summer*

Last week, on a whim, I texted my husband and invited him to go to the Chicago Botanic Garden for one of their summer weekly live music concerts.  I gathered up what we would have had for dinner at home and off we went.

Never one just to do something once, I announced we were going to find something fun to do outside every week.  I know if I plan it, he will come so I am scouring online for fun things to do these #99daysofsummer.

So many options but here are some themes to get you started:

Try something NEW like a neighborhood festival, concert venue or Farmer’s Market you haven’t visited before.  We have big plans for the solar eclipse on August 21, definitely a new thing! Research shows sharing fresh experiences is good for marriages.

Return to something OLD you enjoyed in the early years of your relationship.  We have been riding bikes together since college days and still love to hit the trail together even though he is a much faster biker. Last week we rode our bikes to the 4th of July parade which was just as fun as the parade.

Do something OFTEN like eat dinner outside.  You don’t have to have a back yard, a local park will do just fine.  Think of all those movie couples who eat out of deli-bags on Central Park benches.  It’s fun to discover a new-to-you restaurant with tables outside.

Get out-of-town at least ONCE.  Road trips across the country or across a couple of hours will re-shape perspective on just about everything.  We took our first one to Yellowstone in the 70’s for our honeymoon and haven’t stopped.

What’s on your list?

Sunset at CBGChicago Botanic Garden at Sunset

Hope for the best,


*Modified from a previous post


Farewell My Husband’s Mother

A lovely but unassuming woman, my beloved mother-in-law, Geri, was the most saint-like person I have ever known. She would be so embarrassed to hear me say that and quickly deny but it was true 😊 I think her nine children would agree, I know the one I live with does.

To the envy of all my girlfriends, she always greeted me with something along the lines of how great I looked and later on, how adorable my kids were. Both were not always true. Yet I don’t recall a negative comment about anyone and certainly no unasked-for advice offered. I can only hope to come somewhat close to that standard with my in-law kids.

Even when her memory and eventually her conversational voice left her, she would pop out a smile or a look in her eyes that conveyed, “I’m still in here and I love you.” And I’m sure she still prayed for each of her over fifty descendants across multiple generations. Praying isn’t disrupted by memory loss.

I could tell 100 stories but her last day was quite significant.

On that day in December, the meteorological darkest day of the year, we sat vigil with her with along with other family members. One by one the staff of her facility came to say goodbye. Each one took time to tell us how much they enjoyed taking care of her and how kind she was.

The startling part of this is that none of them had never known her “well” and most of them had never heard her speak. In a way that can only be explained in spiritual terms, Geri had connected with them on a heart level and reached in and touched their lives. Quite consistent with the how she lived.

Beautiful younger Geri

We sat and watched, amazed but not surprised.. On the last day of her life, she finished the tutorial on how to live and how to love that started the first time I met her some 46 years ago.

Geri’s favorite times were the occasions when all her children were together so it seemed fitting to wait until the whole clan could gather to say a final goodbye. With such a far-flung gang, that took some planning.

This Saturday is the day.

Stories told and tears shed will fill the moments but knowing this crowd, lots of love and laughing will spill over all day as well. This family knows how to throw a party.

We’ll end the memorial at the tiny Czech country cemetery History of the cemetery where Geri’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, husband are also laid to rest. Indeed a holy place.

Family Cemetery

Raise your glass to Geri and join those of us who knew and loved her in celebrating a woman who extraordinarily shaped us all.

Hope for the best,





7 Questions to Ask Yourself this Mother’s Day*

1386612_mom_and_kidIt’s lovely when your kids present you with homemade cards and breakfast in bed on Mother’s day.  But before you clean up the mess they made in the kitchen, take some time away from the kids and the clutter. Take a bath, go for a walk, or relax in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea, and allow yourself to reflect on this life-altering adventure of being a mom.

The days can so easily blend one into the next.  We seldom take a good look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.  Here are some questions to ask yourself during a peaceful time away from the rest of the family.

  1. What do I enjoy most about being a mom?  Can you remember a time with the kids when everyone was having a good time, and you felt content and competent?  How did you feel in your heart then? How can you get that feeling more often?
  1. What do I want my kids to remember about their childhood?  Maybe it’s the times you laugh together, the games you play, or the bedtime prayers you say together.  It could be the spontaneous events or your family rituals.  How can you make sure to have these moments as your children grow older?
  1. What do my kids really need from me in this stage of their lives?  Do you need to listen more and talk less? Be more available? Relax some rules?  Spend more time one-on –one? What worked in one stage may need to be adjusted for the next.  What are your children’s evolving needs?
  1. Am I taking good care of myself?  Mothers are very good at avoiding this question.  After you’ve met the needs of your kids, partner, home, work, and other commitments, there is little time and energy left for yourself.  But it’s important to make the time to do something just for you.  When you take care of yourself, you have more time to give to others.
  1. Am I satisfied with the balance of my family, work and personal time? The perfect balance isn’t equal time-it’s a sense that you are living according to your priorities.  This, too, changes over time.  Like a see-saw it is always in motion but shouldn’t crash down to one side or the other.
  1. Which friends would I like to spend more time with?  What new people would I like to get to know? Take time to invest in relationships outside your immediate family and in your community.
  1. What else is my heart saying to me? Can you see all the things you doing right as a mother? Are you recognizing how much your kids love you? Are you able to take a step back and realize how wonderful it is to be a mom?

Consider sharing your reflections with your husband or a close friend.  Or write them down in a journal so you can come back to them later.  The process of reflection renews and restores us-something most moms really need.

Me and My Mom

Hope for the best,


  • Perennial post.

The Sunday Drive

Does anyone remember Sunday drives?

Back in my kid-hood, everyone knew that Sundays were not for chores but for church and for big dinners with extended family followed by “Sunday drives.”

My brothers and I have fond memories of driving to such exciting activities such as watching cows get milked at the local country dairy. They always gave the “viewers” little bottles of chocolate milk, very enticing.

Other drives included visiting the closest state park, Siloam Springs, or even driving to our local dam. That took about five minutes so we usually added ice cream to that Sunday outing.  Once a year we would pack up my mom’s fried chicken and coleslaw and meet all the other relatives and their picnic baskets in historic Nauvoo, Illinois, about an hour’s drive from home.

I never noticed when we stopped doing them, maybe my parents never did.

Last Sunday, I piled my 90 year old mom and her walker into her blue Buick and told her we were taking a Sunday drive before I had to catch to train home.  Plan A had fallen through and I was making up Plan B on the spot. You know how that goes.

I drove out of her assisted living facility where she has been since her stroke last summer heading no place in particular. Only on a Sunday drive can you get away with that.

Little Illinois town

It doesn’t take long to get out to the country from Quincy. The day was sunny and warm and I just kept driving. We passed through about four little towns and noticed signs for about a half a dozen others. Not much was going on anywhere. At one intersection, we passed a sign to West Point and it wasn’t talking about the military academy.

“Aunt Sadie is buried there” my mom informed me. A great-aunt I never met and knew little about but in this season of family story-telling, I longed to drive down that road and find that graveyard. I didn’t.

She dozed most of the way back from nowhere in particular, just a Sunday drive.

I didn’t want the drive to end and still had a little time. “Do you want to get some ice cream, mom?” I asked. She nodded so we headed there next and mostly just enjoyed the treat without much conversation.

Coming to take me home.

I was back on the train within the hour but the memory of the Sunday drive is still so strong. Nostalgia, slo-mo pace, the beauty of the day, but mostly my mom sitting next to me, frail but present.

Next time maybe I’ll pick up some fried chicken to bring along.

Hope for the best,


Beauties and the Beast

My film companions through the past 25 years!

Let me just say I have never been a cartoon fan. Back in my girlhood, every movie opened with at least one animated short film and I wasn’t crazy about any of them. Ditto with my long Mommy-hood season, I managed to see a couple of feature animated films with my four kids but I squirmed more than they did.

Until Beauty and the Beast. I really don’t remember if we ever saw it in the theater. Probably not as the kids were quite happy to watch a rare movie on the VCR in that crazy time of life. I could dig deep in my journals and find out when it hit our home screen but I’m sure it was in 1992, twenty-five years ago.

From the first time I watched it, sitting on the my living floor with the crowd, I loved this movie. No other animated film caught my heart like this one. (I haven’t seen Frozen yet.) Over the years, when one of them wanted to watch it, I would pop in for any or all of it, especially at the end when the Beast transformed back to a prince. I usually cried through that part.

The first appetizer for the new Beauty and the Beast movie came last May right after Mother’s Day. My youngest daughter send her sister and me a trailer (I still call them previews.)

It looked so tantalizing and we put it on our calendars for “whenever it comes out.” It finally did.

After about seventeen emails, we finally found a date that worked for the three of us, last Thursday night, the evening before the official release. I may or may not have sent them an evite about it. (They are used to, shall we say, my occasional exuberance.) The day felt like Christmas Eve to me, I couldn’t wait to get there.

We bought our tickets ahead of time for the 3 D version and I arrived at the theater 90 minutes before the film started. I’m learning to make lots of room for events important to me. Crowding them squishes out some of the delight.

I had fun engaging with the other B & B devotees until the girls arrived. They scooted into the seats I carefully reserved and from the first note of the fabulous score to the last, I sat spellbound. Tears slipped out at several points and flowed at the end. Like I said, I love this movie.

I haven’t quite figured out my fascination, not that I need to, but I do wonder. Maybe I have felt like both Belle and the Beast at different points in my life. The powerful transformation scene at the end also seems like a foretaste of heaven when all creation is restored.

Or maybe it was watching it with my daughters. The first time they were little girls, enthralled with the idea of fairy tales. Later as teenagers, watching it together fuzzed the lines that sometimes separated us. Now we are all grown-ups and each have our own tales of wandering in forests and dancing at balls. Sitting between them last Thursday felt strong and solid and full of joy.

Next season, I’ll watch it with my granddaughters, we’re all the same age while the film is rolling.

The critics can say what they want, I give it a zillion stars.

The “Tale as old as Time” worked it’s magic again.

Hope for the best.


Freeze these Moments!


With the oldest at a Christmas play.

My daughter texted that she was on the way over so, instead of finishing five more things, I stood at the window to watch. Not a common practice but this time I wanted to freeze the moment.

Just like a thousand other times, a van pulled up and in that ordinary moment I experienced a gush of grace to realize how precious and fleeting this season of life is. This silver van holds two grandchildren, the other red one transports five of them. There is one more in a distant state. Piling out of the car, they always run into the house eager for fun (except the littlest one that still needs someone to carry.)

Excitement abounds because so far, we are still the hot stuff in town. They count on and receive lots of hugs, stories read, no-complaint food and for the older ones, a big box of Legos in the basement. Not quite like my beloved grandpa who offered me a “soda” as I walked in the door and a half-dollar when I walked out but you get the idea.

Just like with our own four, these days seem like they will never end. But I know now from wistful experience, these early years have an expiration date. Shows up way too quickly. At some point, the older ones might have “other offers” for a Friday night or Saturday morning and one day no one will need a parent to drive them over.

So, until then, I plan to notice, savor, put my phone down, and enjoy this second chance to imprint precious souls in little bodies.

My friends tell me grandchildren are a lot of fun when they are older too and I’m confident we find new fun ways to connect for that long season. I’m not thinking about that much now though so it doesn’t distract me from the moments of today.

The oldest drew me this picture a year or two back which lives forever on the fridge: “We think of you all the time Mimi!”


Ditto my darlings.

Hope for the best,


What Did You Get For Christmas Last Year?*

Wrapped giftsQuick!  Do you remember three things you got for Christmas last year?  I didn’t think so.  At least not without a few minutes to think about it.

Good to remember today with 11 days to go while I am keeping a nervous eye on how many days of free shipping I have left at Amazon.  Kind of crazy…all the energy, not to mention $$, put into finding THE great gift only to have it not remembered for long.

Sure, I remember a handful, and always the baby dolls from my childhood that smelled so good.  One of my children usually gives me a gift that elicits tears of joy.  They call it the “crying gift.”  I definitely remember the powerful elixir of love, affection and being “known” that imprints long after the exact gift fades.

Fortunately, we decided years ago to give our kids no more than three gifts each, based on the Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh model.  Stocking stuffers don’t count and neither does the small joke gift but limiting the number limits the “gift-anxiety” syndrome of running back to the store for just one more thing.  Probably soon forgotten also.

Perhaps it is not the gift per se but the moment the gift brings that keeps us on the hunt for just the right thing.   The moment that’s right before the opening that holds all the promise & possibility.  Intangibles for sure, but a gift also be the harbinger of matters of the heart.

So I carry on with my lists and forays to various websites still hoping for a WOW.

Will the perfect gift be remembered? Maybe not but the love that wrapped it up won’t be forgotten.

Hope for the Best,


PS Giveaway raffle  for  my new book, “Getaway with God,” with a Vera Bradley travel bag ends Friday: Enter here.

*perennial post

%d bloggers like this: