Archive for the 'Intentional Family Life' Category

Happy St Nicholas Day: Are your Shoes Out?*

st-nicks-shoes

Neither are mine but when my husband was a child, his heroic mom of 9 children managed to fill each one’s shoes with a special treat the morning of Dec 6 so St Nick could make his first run-through.

Did you know Nick was a real-life bishop who had a reputation for secret gift-giving?  He liked to put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, especially the poor.

Some Christmas customs, like celebrating St Nick’s Day survive for generations, others drop off or transform into new traditions.  As a self-proclaimed traditionalist, I think we need both!

This year I am trying three new things:

1)     Small poinsettias in each room.  They are cheap and colorful and don’t need unpacking and are easily tossed after the holiday or when you get tired of them in February.

 

 

2)     Attaching a photo of the recipient instead of a gift tag. I have a huge supply of never used photos and it’s easy to cut out just one person to use as a tag.  Older photos are even more fun!

2012 Christmas Tags

3)     Do you send out holiday newsletters?  I stashed a copy of each of our past letters into a file and decided to put them into a red binder for display.  Office supply stores sell packages of letter size sheet protectors already punched with three holes.  Fun to look back over our highlights each year.

How about you?  Trying anything new?

Hope for the best,

Tish

*adapted from 12/6/12

 

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Mimi Musings

The Oldest

I’m thinking about my grandmas a lot these days. Grandma Schwartz and Grandma Wiewel. No cutesy names for these women, I don’t think the thought ever crossed their minds to be called anything else. ..not like me and most of my girlfriends.

Their birthdays are both this month, one today in fact, but I know it’s more than that.

Mostly I’m very aware that my beloved Grandma Wiewel died the December I was eleven. My oldest grandchild is now eleven. I’m suddenly seeing me from her eyes and wonder how deep the imprint is going. More than wonder, I pray all the time for wisdom to impart what has been sewn in me to pass on to them.

The Youngest

All of us have/had a grandmother, two of them in fact, even if we never knew them. Most of us will be one as well. Unlike motherhood which often takes us by surprise, lots of time is provided to prepare a nest in our hearts for the new generation of little ones to land. Make it soft, cozy and very secure.

The seven year old

More than the snippets of conversation or the fun outings, I remember how these strong women made me feel. Welcome, wanted, loved, safe. Many things I often didn’t feel on the playground. They never raised their voice at me or made me feel less than anything.

Painting at my kitchen table.

So today I’ve painted and baked with one and will pick up another one from school for tea soon. With seven in town and two a train ride away, it does take some juggling of the calendar to make it happen and still get a work week in.

I go on a train to see this one.

What drives me is the thought that someday, not too far away, their array of options of whom to spend time with will be very vast. I hope to stay on the list!

Sometimes Papa comes along.

So I’m in it to win it, this role I will own the rest of my life. Can you help me out? If you are a grandmother, tell me your best tip. If you remember your grandmother, tell me what you loved the most.

Hope for the best,

Tish (or as I am known to nine, Mimi)

PS More Mimi musings:Grandma You Left me Too Soon, Pray it Again: My Grammas’s Rosary, Freeze These Moments!,Dates on Our Hearts

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,

Tish

*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,

Tish

 

 

 

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,

Tish

  • 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,

Tish

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.

Tish



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