Monday, July 20, 2015

The measure of a life

Teaching me to tie a tie. 1983

So. I lost my step-dad last Friday.

People who don't know me or our family well assume that means that my mom's husband, who was not my father, died and that while I'm sad, it's not--as someone said to me--my father that died.

No. It's not. It's far, far worse.

I know this, because 11 years ago my father, the man who was biologically responsible for my life, and with whom we lived for the first 16 years of that life, did die. And it was hard. It was hard for me to have to give up months of my life caring for someone who had hurt me--and my precious mother-- badly, repeatedly. It was hard for me to care about his eternal well-being, and the fact that that was was hard hurt me, too. But, I wasn't sad that he was gone. I was, to tell the truth, relieved. He could do nothing else to hurt me. He couldn't hurt my children, my brother, my nieces, or my cousins.

But this. This is a searing pain.

John Ronald Harris came into our lives sometime around my 18th birthday, give or take a few months. He was good to my mother and made her happy. He was nice to me and to my friends. As the months, and then years went by he became part of the fabric of our lives. He gave advice, whether I wanted it or not. He teased, but without the cruelty that I was used to.

There was no struggle for me to accept him in our lives. He had that relatively easy, because we all were love-starved. It took me longer to really trust him, but that did come after a few years. As I struggled through my early college years, he was there, supportive for my mother and I both, and treating me as though I was his child, even--when I was having problems--upset about someone messing with "one of his kids."

So when he and mom got married, just less than a year after Colin and I did, I was delighted. I was happy for my mom. I was happy for us. (At that point I didn't know his kids well, but they seemed nice enough.)

That was over 28 years ago. In those 28 years, he paid for the college education that my father was supposed to have helped with. He watched my three year old daughter when she had the chicken pox, so that I wouldn't miss class. He put up with having the kids and I in his house for weeks at a time during various moves. He gave advice, whether I wanted it or not.

And we all grew to love him. Tremendously.

He was generous. One of the most generous people I have ever known. We enjoyed wonderful vacations with my step-siblings that we could never have afforded if he hadn't helped to offset everyone's costs. He gave low interest loans for home down-payments. He was always helping someone out. Many years ago, he and my mom requested that in lieu of Christmas gifts for them we make charitable donations. That is how he was.

And with him we got a, big wonderful family. I got to know his mother well enough that I mourned her passing. I got older brothers and two sisters, and over the years they have brought a richness of in-laws and nephews. We got Godsons and all kinds of other interesting family connections. Most of all, we got a whole bunch of people to love. Brad, Susan, Curt and Brenda shared their father with us unstintingly, and for that I am forever grateful.
Most of the family at Patrick & Emma's wedding, May 30, 2015.

To my children, he was "Grandpa Ron" when they were little, changing to "Grandfather Dear" as they got older. It was an incredibly special relationship, and he always treated my children and my brother's girls exactly the same as he did his grandchildren-by-blood. One of the wonderful gifts God has given us in these last months was to have Wicked (explanation here) present at two of my sons' weddings in May.

Over the last several years he showed us all a wonderful example of courage and faith. As his body got weaker, he kept fighting, and kept living. Instead of getting crabby and bitter, as people so often do when they are wracked with pain and know that death is nearing, he got sweeter and more concerned about all of us. He was sure in his faith, and knew his eternal destination, as did all of us.

I will miss his presence. His bad jokes. The hard time he gave me when I would call on the phone. His many, many emails. And all of the advice, whether I wanted it or not.

I am thankful for the memories. I am thankful for all that he did for my mom, my brother, and for me. I am thankful that my kids had such an awesome grandpa, and that my husband had a father-in-law he could love and respect. I am thankful that he leaves our whole big, wonderful family with so many memories to cherish, that will bring much laughter--and some tears--in the years to come.


The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
So hard to earn so easily burned
In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect
(It's a measure of a life)

The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
The way you live, the gifts that you give
In the fullness of time,
It's the only return that you expect
The future disappears into memory
With only a moment between.
Forever dwells in that moment,
Hope is what remains to be seen.
The Garden-RUSH

Monday, June 08, 2015

Caught by surprise

So, last month this happened.
And this happened.
Those are my first and second sons, with their brides.

In the space of less than a month we went from a household of five on the weekends and four during the week (with a friend of the family often upping that to five) to a household of three on the weekends and two during the week.

Just four years ago we were a full-time family of six.

I am discovering some unexpected consequences.

Saturday I cooked one pound of spaghetti and one pound of ground chuck with sauce. We had leftovers. (Two pounds of pasta was long the standard around here.)

Even after I cut up five or six of the rattiest towels, all of my bath towels do not fit on their shelf in the linen closet. Fewer people equals fewer showers equals fewer towels hanging or in the laundry at any given time.

We don't have room for all of the glasses in the cupboard when they're all clean. See towels, above.

I was a mother of four-at-home--and my husband was mostly around--for over 15 years. I have lived with my three teen and young adult sons during the weeks, adding my husband on the weekends, for the last four years. I don't know how to cook for two or three people. I don't know how to manage a small household. The last time we were a household of three was almost 25 years ago.

This is going to take some getting used to.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Family and thankfulness

 I have a pretty big, pretty crazy family.

For the first 22 years of my life, I only had one brother.
Little brother Todd, with mom.

Then my mother remarried and I suddenly gained two step-sisters and two step-brothers. And with them over the years have come their spouses, children, childrens' spouses, spouses' children, grandchildren, spouses' grandchildren. . . .  It has made the very small family that I grew up in into a big, happy, rather chaotic and noisy thing.

Of course, really the family I grew up in wasn't that small. I had grandparents, lots of aunts and uncles, and cousins that increased in number as I got older. And, happily for me, although we have sustained some losses, most of the family remains.
At my cousin Liz's wedding

Then there is the family that I married into. They have been my family, too, for almost 30 years.
Part of the Casey family


And what I am finding it that as our family grows, my definition of family expands, too. Technically, I suppose Bethany's sister-in-law and niece aren't my family, but it sure feels like they are. And although in our culture the parents of the women that my sons are preparing to marry would not be considered family, I think we'll claim them.

And then there are the wonderful friends, who feel like family.

So today, the day after the appointed day of thanksgiving, I am extremely thankful, as I try to always be, for God's good gift of family.

Krissy, Lori, Jacqui, & Beth


Monday, November 03, 2014

Don't mind me

I'm working on a project and need to get these photos onto Pinterest. The quickest way is to put them here.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Big happenings

I haven't posted for a while, but not because nothing has been happening. Quite the contrary, the last five months have been quite eventful.

My middle son became engaged to a fine young woman, whose family we have known for over ten years. And there was much rejoicing.

I had a long visit from the daughter and grandkids, and then spent over a week with them in Tucson.

The baby son started college.

And on that very same day, my husband had a heart attack. It could have been really, really bad, but thanks to fast action by him and by the doctors who cared for him, he is doing very well.

Most recently, my oldest son became engaged to a fine young woman, whose family we have known for over ten years. (She is, literally, the girl next door.) There was, again, much rejoicing.

I spent my summer having fun. I enjoyed my family, my friends, and my pool. We had almost constant house guests.  But in the back of my mind the whole time was the nagging thought, "Fall is coming. What are you going to be doing?" No more kids to homeschool or drive from one place to another. So I decided that it was time to move forward with a business that I had been researching and thinking about for six or seven years.

I started taking some steps. I researched the availability of my chosen business name, reserved it with the Secretary of State, and purchased a couple of domain names. I started talking about a website and making lots of lists. I was planning to launch my business in early October, but I decided while I was in Tucson to put it off by about a month so that I could try to get my house and life under control after our busy summer.

Then the heart attack.

I didn't realize until last week how badly that messed with my head. It really sent me into a tailspin. I decided that there was just NO WAY that I could start a business. Messy house. Medical bills. Too much to do. I spent most of two months cleaning, cooking, and doing laundry. I have never in my life spent so much time in my house or in my kitchen. And at the end of two months, I'm not much beyond where I started. It's still in worse shape than it's ever been. I've been trying to convince myself that by staying home I can keep a nicer house and economize in lots of little ways.

Except for one problem: That's not me.

I have always thrived when I am busy. Really busy. With lots of places to go and people to talk to. My house stays cleaner when I have two hours a week to clean it than when I have twenty. (Plus, if I make enough money, I can pay someone else to do it and then two of us will be happy!)

And yes, there are medical bills. And tuition. And rent and a mortgage and car repairs. And, oh, by the way, two weddings next summer. So, maybe I should think about making some money.

All of the sudden last week, I came out of the fog that I had been walking around in. I knew that it was time to get busy and move forward with my business. We need the money. I need the outlet. Our current financial situation is making the start-up very much of a shoe-string endeavor. I am spending money on nothing that isn't absolutely vital to starting and running the business.

My biggest still-extant issues are getting a website up and running and securing insurance.Both have to happen before I can start earning, so they are a priority.

But you all wanted to know what I am going to be doing, right? I am starting a personal and business concierge service, Boulevard Concierge Services, LLC. I will be providing services like errand running, personal shopping, relocation/moving assistance, and event planning, just to name a few. I plan to focus marketing at first to real estate agents, families of senior citizens, and busy professionals. I will do anything that someone wants to pay me to do that is not illegal, unethical, or immoral.

And I am really excited about it. I have SO MANY ideas about services that I could provide. And concierge is not just a service for the wealthy. In fact, I think that my main customer base will be middle to upper middle class women with families, for whom an hour of extra time is a very valuable thing. You hate shopping? I love it and am good at it, and I'll do it for you. You can't leave work to wait for Dish Network for four hours? I'll wait. And while I'm there I'll make homemade mac and cheese and address your Christmas cards. Need a Christmas present for Grandma who doesn't need another scarf or any more chocolates? How about a couple of hours of errand running or of organizing all that stuff that needs to go to Goodwill?

Basically, I am going to get paid for helping people, which, when it comes right down to it, is one of my favorite things to do.

I think that I am going to enjoy the networking and marketing almost as much as the work. And I know it will be a lot of work. And that it won't all be fun. And I know that the money crunch won't ease immediately. But I believe it will ease, because I know that I am going to be successful with this business. I am going to make my customers wonder how they ever lived without me.




Monday, June 02, 2014

New day

This morning has a strangely first-day-of-school, New-Year's-Day feel for me.

All of my kids have graduated from high school. Yes, this is normal and expected, but when you've homeschooled for 18 years, it's a big mental adjustment. I've just lost a big chunk of my identity. Of course, I've known this was coming and have been mentally preparing for a long time. And although the boys still live here, they need very little from me.

I've thought about taking on a second job. I considered just finding a full-time job, but I think that  leaving my job at church would probably be the change that would tip me over the edge. And in the end, no job that I would find would allow me the flexibility to run off and be grandma whenever I want.

So I've made a few decisions.

I'm going to spend some time during the rest of this year catching up with friends and family that I just haven't had much chance to connect with over the last several very busy years.

I'm going to get back to consistently walking, taking my vitamins, and eating better; all things that have gone by the wayside as I've dealt with my eye issue, the back pain from the accident last fall, and the stress that has been almost eating me up.

I am reviving my business, which has been languishing for about ten years. It's been sitting there waiting for me to be ready again.. More about that later.

I'm going to spend some time enjoying my sons while they are still here.

And I am going to soak up every bit of sun, pool time, fresh produce, etc., that summer has to give.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Still adjusting

I love to entertain. I love to have a couple of friends over for a glass of wine, several couples for a nice dinner, whole families for a weekend, or big shindigs for whatever occasion I can drum up.



I'm not Martha Stewart. All those cool party ideas on Pinterest are merely aspirational for me. When we invite friends over to hang out at the pool or the fire pit we throw together a plate of cheese and crackers or bowls of chips and salsa and a roll out a cooler full of beer. Even my big parties aren't much on decor or presentation.

But I enjoy them. Colin enjoys them. Our friends must enjoy them, unless they just feel compelled to show up out of politeness. We always have tasty food and plenty of it. And although it's work, it's also--in a weird way--kind of effortless.

Except for this time.

We have a graduation party this weekend. This is our fourth and final graduation party. Our oldest son has graduated from college. Our youngest son has finished his homeschool studies. And their cousin has also graduated from high school. It's outside-party season, which is my favorite.

This should be a breeze.

But it just isn't clicking. I've flip-flopped on my menu 87,000 times. I can't seem to get my mind wrapped around what needs to be accomplished. And then, suddenly, this weekend, I figured out what my problem is.

I don't have my Beppy.

This is the first major party that I've thrown without the help and input of my daughter. I try to bounce menu ideas off of my sons, and they stare blankly. I think about favorites that I would like to make, but realize that I can't do that much last minute prep alone. I dread Saturday morning with a crew of three--very helpful--males for last-minute party prep, and not another female in sight. (Because, you know, there are some things that we just KNOW need to be done.) She has been my right hand in  party-throwing since the first birthday party that we had for one of her brothers, probably around 1995.

 I may never manage to serve olive cheese balls again. It's another in a long string of adjustments to  my oldest child/only daughter/cooking-shopping-scrapping buddy abandoning me growing up and having a life of her own.

Oh, I'll survive. The party is slowly coming together, but things won't be quite as good as they would have been. No one else may even notice. (Please God!) But I'll know.