Two in the Shadows

The summer is waning. The light is different now on sunny days here in Southeastern Wisconsin Wisconsin. It has the feel of September, even if it’s still August.  The air has been cool and crisp. Absolutely lovely.

After dinner,, Tom and I  have gotten in the pattern this summer of taking walks. Our youngest, Emily, rides ahead on her scooter or bike, and we talk a bit while we stroll the neighborhood. The walks aren’t always long.   We have a short route and a longer route we take when so inclined.

I see us in our lengthening shadows, the two of us. I like holding Tom’s hand.  It’s a feeling of being safe and loved.  I tell Tom what’s going on in my world, and he tells me what’s on his mind. I save up small tidbits from the day to tell him about when he gets home. Nothing usually big, but something I know he’ll appreciate.  We don’t usually talk about anything political. Things are so vile in our country that it pollutes our time together to even discuss it.

Our home has a small porch.   We’ve made good use of it since moving here. It’s big enough for a couple of chairs, and we sit and watch the world go by after our walks.  The scene is peaceful. We don’t always need to chat. Companionable silence is a beautiful thing where we can hear the wind chimes in the Magnolia tree and watch the birds.

Soon the leaves will be turning colors, and the air will have a nip in it. I will miss our times on the porch. We recently replaced our love seat at home with a new one. It is exceedingly comfortable. When evenings “draw in” as they used to say, we will sit there for our chats with a log on the fire. The weather changes, but the need to reconnect  at the end of the day does not.

I can’t stand TV or even DVD movies. Tom and I have never been able to connect over that. My hearing troubles long ago shut down that kind of thing, even with good hearing aids.  Articulation gets lost. One thing this does is give us time to just talk and be together without the intrusion of media.  No distraction.

I know that marriage counselors have various strategies for couples  who have relationship troubles.   Many lose that feeling of connectedness with the various pressures exerted on families today, and they don’t even realize it is happening. Tom and I have raised (almost) six children together, and have been through many a difficult season in our lives Some years, it  has felt like it was raining crises. But one thing I highly recommend is just sitting and talking. Listening and being listened to in kindness.  Our loved ones all face battles, external and internal. Every one of us does. A lot of therapists would be put out of business if couples could learn the value of talking and listening, without judgment or impatience. It has a healing effect like  no other.

The country and world increasingly look like a violent insane asylum. Whatever comes, I know that those evening walks with Tom will always be embedded in my heart. Feeling his warm hand holding mine, seeing our shadows together, watching our little girl, her legs growing longer all the time, riding ahead on her scooter.

These times can’t be recovered. We pass this way, we spend each day only once. Every hour is precious.  Every walk.

 

 

 

 

 

House with the Yellow Door

20161117_100215Tom has a tradition of planting trees at our homes (we have lived in six in 21 years.) He also has had a tradition of painting our doors a warm red color. The red was inviting, I think.  At our house in South Carolina, he also painted the shutters to match. The shutters had been a dull gray color, and it was a perfect color change for curb appeal.

At our snug ranch house where we moved last year, Tom is getting around to various projects, including putting up shutters a few weeks ago (a good improvement) and painting the bland, white front door. We were going to use red again, but Tom unexpectedly showed me a yellow color on a paint card. Against the white-ish brick on the front of the house, it looked cheerful and bright. So we now have a yellow door.

Every time I pull up to the house, it makes me smile. Along with the field stone borders he put around the little pines he planted and the same border under the Magnolia tree, it makes for a neat front yard.

We have such nice neighbors here. Emily is dear friends with our nearest neighbors whose little granddaughter comes over to play, in addition to the family on the other block who are friendly and helpful. Then there is the lady across the street who comes over with her little dachshund she adopted. Each day she comes by after school for Emily (as she did in the summer), and they take the little dog for a walk. I think Emily is good company for the lady and the dog, once very shy,  is warming up.

By contrast, the political scene has never been uglier in our country. Social media is filled with the carnage. I read the news and try to digest what is going on and end up depressed and discouraged. Whichever way the election would have gone, this was a guaranteed scenario with great anger on one side or the other. In spite of victory laps from political conservatives, I remain convinced this nation is in terrible peril. There are no political answers in this divided country, ultimately. I believe that more than ever. The answer is spiritual, but nobody is interested in that subject at present.  They await miracles from the new political messiah. We will see.

My news about our cheery yellow door isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but I thought of it as a metaphor in these dark times. As I have said before, life is really lived in the micro sphere of every day things and people. If Hillary Clinton had won and not Donald Trump, we would still get up every morning and do the little things that make up our lives. The little dachshund would still live across the street with her humans, Emily would still be found talking to the neighbors and making new friends all the time, and I would still spend my days making a home for my family as best I can.

I have learned that to be happy, we have to make a choice to be that way. There is a great deal of evil in the world, more now than ever.  We have all had wounds and hurt from that evil in our lives, some more than others. The losses evil people can cause are undeniable. Among so-called Christians, I am sorry to say that indifference, coldness and brutality are no less prevalent. Those perpetrating it and those who watch silently as enablers seem to go from strength to strength while their victims long for things to be made right. But, having said that, happiness and cheerfulness is still a choice. This is the only life we have, the one God gave us. I believe God does see the injustice and the evil, and in His time, He will vindicate, He will deal with those who have so disregarded His commands to love. Meanwhile, we are called to live in the light.

So don’t hesitate to “paint your door yellow.” Or to put it another way, smile just because, be thankful for what you have, and do a little happy dance, if nothing else, in defiance of the joy killers who seem to so populate the earth these days. I do that. I am home alone a great deal. I put on music sometimes when I am down. My kitchen has a big slippery, laminate  floor, and Em and I do our own dances in our socks until we laugh ourselves silly. Last night, we listened to Sleigh Ride and several other Christmas songs (I know, I know, it isn’t Thanksgiving yet.)  Whatever you do, don’t give in to the darkness. God is the author of joy, not despair. God is in His heaven still. By looking up and not around us, we can remember that best.

Quote of the Day

“You see, beloved, the Christian life is not one lived for self, but is lived in Christ and for others, most especially within the family. For many this seems too ordinary and mundane, not exciting or fun. But in truth it is the good life, the abundant life, the life that is received from Christ and shared in our vocations with those closest to us. And even though it is invisible to the world, even though it seems as though you could be, or should be something more extraordinary, even though it is difficult and time consuming and seemingly makes little difference, such a life is a great life! Amen!” — Rev. Tony Sikora

(My mother, Freda, and Emmy yesterday.)

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He Gathered the Pieces

Twenty-one years ago, I was getting ready to marry Tom (on the 30th!) . Our lives have taken many twists and turns with six children, many joys and some big losses. The simplest way to express what my husband has meant to me is found in these words below. For some reason I will never understand, Tom valued my “scattered pieces”, and he picked them up, more than once, and glued them back together. I owe the man my life.  I carry a photo of Tom in my wallet and every time I buy groceries or need ID, I see his face, and I am thankful for him. Every day that goes by, I see God’s kindness to me in providing this man, who loved me when other people in my life that I loved  just walked away. Thank you, Tom, for loving the broken pieces like Jesus.

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All the Precious Little Things

Thunder woke Emily and me up in the wee hours. Knowing how scared Emily gets of storms, I went in to lie by her for a little while. It was one of those sweet Mama and daughter times, when you remember how quickly time flies and how dear these passing moments are.  One of those times when you can just be in silence together and understand. I felt her small arm creep around me when there was another crash of thunder, and I remembered how very comforting it is to have someone you love nearby in a storm.

With Mother’s Day recently passed, I wanted to elaborate on a comment I made today on Facebook about mothers. There is a terrible assumption in Western culture that you must, necessarily, pass through a phase where you despise your mother as a teen daughter. If you don’t have screaming matches, constant battles and open warfare, you probably aren’t normal.

Our culture plays up generational differences in entertainment and advertising, repeating the lie that our mothers always have to embarrass us, always have to be viewed as stupid,  that mothers are the enemy of fun and coolness, and that teen girls must revolt against the oppression and over-protection. What a tragic and false line of thinking.

As a teenager, I remember being in a restroom with other girls in front of the mirror, applying their make-up and chatting. One of the girls called her mother a “bitch.” It stunned me, and the reason it stunned me was that I loved my mom. It wasn’t that there were never any misunderstandings. It wasn’t that I was some perfect daughter. (I regret not getting my head out of the clouds and helping her more with housework and things I could have done to lift her load. As a mother of grown children, I think of Mom’s labors and sacrifices more every day.)   But the thought of hating her as a teenager? Not within the realm of possibility. It made me sick hearing it.

I realize girls and moms can have opposite personalities, situations differ, and our culture has changed. But it is a moral sickness to assume that daughters have to hate their moms in the teen years to be normal.  Instilling respect, compassion, empathy in our daughters is something we have to work at. It will not come passively, because the culture disciples and indoctrinates in a very systematic way.

One way that I work to achieve empathy and compassion is to remind our youngest, the only one still at home, that I do need help. Children who are waited on and not asked to do their part within the home become the entitled brats we see who fail to launch. I want her to see people with lenses that show the burdens others carry in this life, and to adjust her own demands in light of those things.  That is a check to selfishness, and a call to usefulness and kindness. Our children need this desperately in our age of entitlement.

There are no guarantees that our children will not go through a stage of selfishness and dislike for mothers (or fathers.) But don’t assume it’is necessary, and working on a strong relationship of trust and love will help mitigate the toxic assumptions this world promotes.

As a P.S., one of my favorite memories is of my mom french braiding my long hair in high school. I never did manage to do it myself. She would get up early sometimes, even when tired, to do it for me.  Bless you, Mom, for all those precious, little things.  ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Mealtimes: More Than One Kind of Food

Tom and I would never pretend we have done everything right as parents of our six children. One thing I do believe has helped our kids has been family dinner each night. Despite Tom sometimes being gone for music work evenings, we lived close enough to downtown that he was always able to come home after his daytime job and have dinner with us. It was the norm.

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Our funny family 2009

Some of our best memories are from dinner together. With 5 lively kids at the time, it wasn’t a Ward and June Cleaver type dinner atmosphere either. We had lots of laughs and sometimes, serious conversations over meals. Emmy is the only one home now to sit at our table, but the tradition continues. Our children will always have memories of those times when, whatever else happened during the day, we were together, a whole family sitting down to eat and talk.

I saw an article today posted by Gary Bauer. Here’s a quote:

“One study of adolescents found that living in an economically secure home with both biological parents accounted for some, but not all, of the benefits that are typically chalked up to family meals. I’ve come to suspect that regular meals serve as an easily measured proxy for one of the longest-standing and sturdiest determinants of adolescent well-being: authoritative parenting…”

When we as parents are there, and the children are there, we are sending the strong message that we are not just individual units, sleeping under the safe roof like a motel. We are a family, linked together by love, and headed by parents with concern for the well-being of each member. It’s emotional security, and the need for that doesn’t end when children hit adolescence. In my own opinion, that’s when it is needed more than ever.  Family mealtimes provide more than food for the stomach. It is food for the heart, mind and soul when you gather in love.

Here’s the article from the New York Times blog.

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Schlueter Family circa 2009

Easter Blessings from Our Family

Jesus Christ is risen! Have a blessed day. Jesus conquered sin, death and hell. Hatred, strife and sin may look like it’s winning in the short term, but it was defeated at the cross. We can either live in that victory or embrace the darkness in our lives. We choose life and light in our Savior.

Emily and also grandchildren, Peter, Max and baby Gianna.

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A Beautiful Morning

SunriseIt’s 6:15am  and having been awake for an hour already, I shuffle back to the bedroom to make the bed. Tom is somewhere zooming down the interstate to work already. It looks like sunshine today according to the forecast.

I pull up the bedding on one side and make my way to the other side. Suddenly,  the comforter is thrown back, startling me. A small, rosy face appears and a girly laugh rings out.

“Surprised you, didn’t I?”

It’s Emmy, my early bird, up already on this Monday school morning. She’s all warm and sweet in her pink penguin nightgown, hair in frowzled disarray.

Our early rising buys us time to  play a bit. We discuss and experiment to find out which toe is most ticklish, which, of course, leads to lots of giggling. Em then talks about her bike and how excited she is to practice after school, so she can ride with her daddy on the bike trail near our house.

Emmy retrieves her navy school tights from the drawer to get dressed and laments the discovery of a small hole in one foot. “It’ll do for today, but who knows what it’ll look like tonight,” she says, rolling her eyes dramatically. For some reason, that makes us both laugh.

Face washed and her hair affixed with a bright pink clip,  we go to see about breakfast. She has recently discovered the delicacy of toast sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, so I assure her that is on the menu.

An egg goes into the pan, a jumbo one, and she comments on the enormous hen that must have laid the egg. She eats a banana and drinks orange juice from a pink straw. Then the much anticipated cinnamon toast.

“This is very RICH,” she says, licking the sweetness from her lips.

She tells me they are learning a song in choir called, “Whistle a Happy Tune” and sings a few snatches for me. She says that she isn’t sure when they’re singing it but promises to tell me when they let her know.

She asks if she could have spaghetti and meatballs in a thermos today instead of a sandwich. I remember we have a can of such and agree that it sounds like a good Monday lunch. Preparations are made.

On this third day of spring, I note that the sun is already coming through my kitchen windows that face to the east.   There’s a feeling of hope in the air. Thanks to my new hearing aids, I hear the birds twittering in the towering pine out the window. They feel it, too.

We head out the door, and it is determined that Em has too much to carry into school by herself today, so I promise to come in with her to carry her heavy backpack. For some reason, this makes her very happy.

We are the first to arrive as we often are.  Both of us are early birds today. Inside the classroom, she shows me her desk which has been moved, I am told. I admire it all and help her get her things hung up.

Finally, I tell her good-bye and start for the door, but she runs and throws her arms around me. My little girl and late in life project, my unexpected blessing and head lifter.  As I leave, one of her friends comes down the hall all smiles. I feel a rush of gratitude for the little Christian school she attends and the excellent people who make the environment such a positive place to learn.

The chilly, fresh air hits my face as I make my way back to the car.

What a beautiful morning, I think. A beautiful, lovely morning.

And I am thankful to God for it.

 

 

 

 

He Came Running

Emmy took a tumble down the stairs yesterday. She was more scared than hurt. But she cried for a while.

“Why did you come running so fast, Daddy?” she asked.

“To see if you were hurt,” he answered.

At six, Emmy is getting big. But her dad picked her up from the bottom of the stairs, and she sat on his lap for a while.

She is blessed with this dad of hers. Many don’t have a dad to come running. Some dads don’t care, and the worst willingly inflict pain on their kids.

Watching Tom with the kids is a study in how much fathers can mean in the lives of their children.  Will is 19, but calls frequently to talk with his dad. I can hear them in conversation, laughing, talking about everything going on, big and small, sports, politics, music, plans. Will has many friends, but his best male friend is his dad. He doesn’t have to say it, I see it in how the two relate, especially since Will has reached young adulthood.

Dads don’t realize what a powerful thing it is to be there,  just taking a call or making a call. It’s only a conversation. Nothing much. But those times color the entire life of the child they take time for.   These fathers give a lifelong blessing to their kids. What a gift — to know they were wanted by their father. To know that whatever else happens in their lives, they had a dad who loved them.

That when they were hurt, he came running.

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So Much…

So much bleakness, so much bad news, so much fear in our times. but there is so much good also, right in front of us, miracles that remind us of God’s goodness. Our children and grandchildren bring joy and love to our lives. Little Gianna, our youngest grandchild, is growing and filling out. We are looking forward to having a family  get together tonight, just because. Just because we enjoy talking and being with them, just because they are what really matters in life, just because we love them all. That’s what family is supposed to be. A little refuge of love in a dark world.

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