Reflections

I was there when you arrived HOME from Ethiopia after a long two day journey with your Mom and Dad.  You must have been tired, but you didn’t cry.  You carefully looked us all over – your  new family – from the safety of Mommy’s arms.  Those dark eyes danced and then you smiled, revealing dimples that stole my heart.  Two years later and I am indeed your Grandmommy!  Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!

For my grandson’s third birthday, I chose the Hallmark Curious George recordable book and the Curious George plush character that talks when you press the toe (loudly).  I also recorded the story in my voice.  My daughter says he plays the storybook all the time.  I watched on iPad FaceTime as he opened them and played the book.  For just a moment, there was a look of confusion as to how I could accomplish being in two places at once, but then he picked the book up and hugged it to his chest.   I will be there for a visit in a few short weeks and I can’t wait!

The view from our front porch never ceases to amaze me.  I am reminded, once again, of God’s tender mercies.  They are, indeed, new every morning.  I really wish I could become an “early bird” instead of a “night owl”.  The mornings that I am up early, I am captivated by the scene from the front porch.  It is different every single day.  Some mornings, there is an exquisite pink and blue sky.  Other mornings, the gold blazes from above.  I stand there and worship the Almighty God who created such beauty…

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3: 21-23

I had only been in Oregon for two months when I captured the sunrise below…

This little pottery bluebird makes me happy.  He sits in a safe place on the buffet and I see him everyday.  He reminds me of a happy memory.

It was August 2009 and I had flown home to the South for a three week visit.  This was a year before my sister Gerry was diagnosed with ALS.  She was still up and about even though her osteoporosis presented challenges.  She still happily presided over her kitchen where she created magic.

One day during my visit, Gerry, my niece Cindy, and I drove over to Merigold, Mississippi.  If you’re reading this post from the South, then you already know where we were headed:  McCarty’s Pottery.  Although, McCarty’s is world famous now.  We had a delicious lunch at their tea room and then browsed the gallery of wonderful pottery.  I would like to have purchased several items but knew I would have to take them back on the plane with me.  My sister bought two adorable little bluebirds – one for Cindy and one for me.  It is one of my treasures.

I decided he looked a little lonely one day and I ordered this handcarved little bluejay by Jim Shore to keep him company.  They make a fine pair.  I fancy the little bluebird is happy too.

For more about McCarty’s Pottery in the Delta of Mississippi, just google it!

A box came down from the attic today that I knew held some treasures.  There were letters from my older son and my daughter when they were away at college.  There were letters I had written to my parents after we moved to Kentucky.  There was a card to my older son at college written by my third grade son telling his older brother that he “didn’t like being an only child” and that he missed him.  The tears were falling, of course, as I continued to sort through these priceless treasures…

Then I spotted the envelope written in Mama’s hand.  On the front it read “Dianne McGregor.  Lock of hair from September 28, 1957”.  55 years?!  I took the envelope outside into the sunlight and carefully pulled out the lock of hair and the small 55 year old rubber band.   (For a moment, I felt just like Bruce Willis when he meets himself as a child in the Disney movie, “The Kid”.) 

I know now why my youngest has beautiful strawberry blonde hair  (besides the fact his two grandmothers did as well).  I held the proof in my hands.  My hair was clearly blonde.  Strawberry blonde.

A year or so ago, I tried having my hair a darker brown.  It didn’t feel right.  It didn’t feel like me.  Someone asked me, “what makes you think you’re a blonde?”  Besides my coloring and my memory?  I just knew.

So, today, I held the 55 year old lock of hair in my hands.  It is the exact same color hair as several of my granddaughters.  I was eleven years old on September 28th, 1957…the same age as one of my granddaughters.

I love the study of genetics.  The link from one generation to the next.  The circle of life…

We were enjoying a classic Christmas movie in front of the fireplace when there was a knock at the front door.  We live in the country on the side of a small mountain in the Callahans with no close neighbors, so we wondered who was out on such a cold, dark night.  We turned the front porch light on to find the FedEx delivery man with a package in his hands.  It was addressed to me.  I thanked him and he left us to drive on up to our neighbors house with a delivery for them.

The package was from Country Curtains (one of my favorite places) and I couldn’t wait to open it.  It was a gift from my precious sister Eunice.  I carefully unpacked it and found the adorable rosebud vases that I had loved so at her house.  Five little glass cylinders on a black wire pedestal.  Hers had been filled with the beautiful red “double knockout roses” from her garden.  I couldn’t wait to see them filled with roses here…but, obviously, I would have to wait.

The next day, the macho logger tree farmer walked in with beautiful pink rosebuds from a local florist…a nice surprise.  I had washed and dried the glass cylinders and they were ready.  I placed them in the kitchen window where I could see them all the time with an “angel” on either side of them.

Thank you, my dear Sis!  I will enjoy them and think of you…

 

Above:  When I was home in the South in October, I fell in love with my sister Eunice’s beautiful roses and adorable rosebud vases.  She has an amazing “green thumb” and a gorgeous “double knockout rose bush” which was loaded with these exquisite red roses. 

Photo below:  my niece Sharon and my sister Eunice.  Sadly, there are just the two of us sisters now as our sister Gerry is spending her first Christmas in Heaven with our parents and our sister Dot.  Oh, how we miss them all.

Do you remember the first time you saw your newborn baby’s face after nine long months of waiting?  I do.  I remember all three of their precious faces.  I remember checking tiny little eyelashes and soft fine eyebrows.  I counted baby fingers and toes.  I marveled at their exquisite noses and tiny little ears.  The amazing faces I’d waited so many months to see stared back at me in wonder.

I can only imagine what Mary thought when she gazed into the face of her newborn son.  I wonder if, in her heart of hearts, she truly knew that she had just given birth to the long awaited Messiah.  There in a stable on a bed of fresh straw, the Son of God had been born.  An angel had appeared to Mary months before to tell her that she had found favor with God and was to bear a child.  You remember the story.  The angel had said  “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his  father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”   Of course, Mary knew that she was a virgin and questioned how this could be.  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  (Luke 1: 26-38)

I’m sure Mary did just what you and I did as a parent.  She talked soft baby talk to him.  She listened to him coo.  She soothed his cries.  She made him laugh.  She cared for him one day at the time and watched him grow.  No doubt, as she cradled her newborn son in her arms and watched him sleeping peacefully, she remembered the angel’s words.  Do you think – for just a moment – Mary had any idea tht she was holding the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in her arms?  Clearly, the angel had told her that His kingdom would never end.  If I had to guess, Mary was thinking her son’s destiny held something much greater than a wooden cross…but the cross was why Jesus was born.

Almighty God could have chosen any other amazing way to redeem this sinful world, but God Himself came, to you and to me, as a perfect baby.  If you’ve not read the story in a while, find a comfortable chair by the window or in front of the fireplace…pick up your New Testament and just start reading.  You’ll be amazed all over again.  This sweet baby Jesus grew up and went to the cross to pay a debt that I owed – that you owe.  He died for each of us.  (Read John 3:16) Thank God that He didn’t stay in the grave!  He’s alive and is coming again!  Keep reading…that amazing story is in there too.

At this Christmas season as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, I pray for each of you.  I pray that you are well and surrounded by family and friends (unless you’re like me this year and many miles from them).  I pray God’s richest blessings for each of you…

The macho logger tree farmer sat at his desk yesterday afternoon and hammered out his handwritten Christmas letter in less than an hour.  It was one-page, pleasant and to the point.  I edited a couple of grammatical issues and typed it for him.  He addressed the envelopes to his family and put them in the mail this morning.  Amazing.

There’s a blank computer screen in front of me with “Christmas 2011” at the top.  I stare at it but the words don’t come.  The last multiple-page-with-photos Christmas letter I sent was dated 2003.  Eight years?  Life presented too many twists and turns during that span of time.  Each year that rolled faithfully around, I committed to write “the Christmas letter”.  To be honest, I’ve received emails asking me if I’ve removed the sender from my letter list?  No, I wouldn’t do that.  I just didn’t write one.  So now, the stark white screen stares back at me and I am resolute.

So, I think about this past year and take some mental notes…

2011 brought great joy.  My youngest child and his precious wife had their first-born…a beautiful baby girl named Maggie.  I loved her before I met her.  The second I held her and her big blue eyes met mine, there was a bond formed that will last a lifetime…hers and mine.  We will play hide-and-seek and bake cookies when she is old enough.  I will read her lots of stories and sew cute little dresses.  For now, I will hold her, love her and talk baby talk every chance I get…

 

2011 brought deep sadness and grief.  My sister Gerry lost her courageous battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and went home to be with the Lord on October 13, 2011.  I rejoice that she is in Heaven and I will see her again.  I know, in time, the tears will stop…just not yet.  I miss her more than words can say.

2011 provided the opportunity to check one of my heart’s desires off the proverbial “bucket list”: Alaskan Cruise.  Cruising through the Inside Passage, the scenery took my breath away on more than one occasion.  As the ship meandered closely to a cove of ancient glaciers, I was thrilled by the sight of the blue ice and knew that, literally, I was seeing the tips of the iceberg.  When we traveled by vintage train up to the Yukon in a parlor car with a pot-bellied stove, I was seeing history and incredible beauty.  I treasured the views for I knew I might not see them again.

 2011  I became a “goat herder” and the proud owner of six adorable full-blood Boer goats.  I’ve also had to fight the same predators in these Callahan Mountains that the pioneer women fought.  A cougar killed three of my goats – half of my herd.  The macho logger tree farmer came to the rescue and built a cougar-proof enclosure and “sleeping shed” for the goats at night.  Hopefully, we can now rebuild our herd.

 2011  We added to the farm:  a 6 acre pasture, an orchard, a greenhouse, a barn, a fenced in raised-bed garden and a secure nighttime area for the goats with a new sleeping shed for them!

 2011  We’ve enjoyed traveling this year (some together and a few by myself) – three times to Seattle for visits with Jim’s daughter and her family, once to Iowa to visit my daughter and her family, once to Kentucky to visit my older son and his family, once to Chicago to meet my precious Maggie and visit my son and his wife and twice to the South.  Sadly, the last trip South was for my dear sister Gerry’s homegoing service.  I will be forever thankful for the visit I had with my sister Gerry in June…making memories.  In September, we met my daughter and her family at Yosemite National Park where we rented a house in the park and had a wonderful time together.  During the first long weekend of November, we flew to Boston for a visit with Jim’s younger daughter and her husband.  We toured the historical downtown and I saw Boston for the first time.  This sounds like a lot of traveling, but the truth is:  the months between seeing my grandchildren pile up much too quickly and it is much too long between visits.  I miss my children and grandchildren so much!

Hmmm….now, all is have to do is transfer these ideas to the blank white screen, insert a few more family photos, print them off, address all the envelopes, stamp them and mail them!  Thanks for listening.  Maybe I can write this Christmas letter after all…

The painting above by portrait artist, Gaye Frances Willard, is one of my favorites. Every knee shall indeed bow to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ! May you have a blessed Christmas!

Treasured card created by one of my granddaughters when she was about four or five.  They were living in the Andes Mountains of Peru at the time where my son was a missionary doctor and the girls were learning to think in Spanish!

My younger son called me on “Tango” over the weekend (it’s like Skype) so that I could “see and hear” my beautiful two and a half month old granddaughter.  Maggie makes my heart sing!  Maggie is healthy and happy.  Maggie is beautiful!  Thankfully, her Dad has a wonderful promotion that allows her Mom to be a “stay-at-home-mom” with Maggie.  True, it meant leaving their beloved Chicago for Dallas, but they are blooming there.  We are so blessed and I am thankful.

If you were around me very long and asked me about my family, first I would happily fill you in on all the details about them.  I’m blessed with three amazing children – two sons and one daughter and nine incredible grandchildren.  THEN, I would probably whine a bit…well, okay, I might even tear up and whine a lot…when I told you that they’re scattered – many miles from me and from each other.  (My younger son keeps reminding me that I gave them “roots and wings”).  With my children scattered and family in the South, it means that I fly frequently; but with many months between visits, it isn’t enough.  Not nearly enough.  But I am thankful.  I am so thankful for healthy, happy children and grandchildren…every single one of them.  I am thankful for all of my family and friends in the South. 

Each morning,  I pour myself a cup of coffee and take in the view of the foothills of the Cascades across the valley while I enjoy it.  Every single morning is new and different.  Some mornings, there is a bank of fog so deep that I can barely see the first line of Doug fir on this 58-acre conifer tree farm.  Then, the fog settles in between the hills in the valley below and it looks like a big lake.  Some mornings, the sun is shining so brightly that it seems I can see forever.  I am thankful for the farm and my polar opposite, my macho logger tree farmer husband.  I am thankful for the livestock that goes along with having this farm:  two kittens, eleven chickens and three sweet Boer goats. 

 

To be honest, this Thanksgiving is a difficult one.  This has been a season of great loss and sadness.  I am working at being thankful.  I want to be thankful that my Father God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, protected my sister by taking her home to Heaven when He did.  As a nurse, I’ve seen what the end stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) looks like.  I thank God she didn’t have to go through that.  I’m trying hard to imagine life on this earth without her in it.  It isn’t easy.  The tears come and then I remember – I will see her again.  Four sisters…two now in Heaven…but we will all see each other again.  I am thankfulI am thankful for our parents and the sweet, rich heritage they gave my sisters and me.


These are two of my favorite photos of my sister.  In the photo above, we were boating on Grenada Lake.  I must have said “hey, Sis!”.  She glanced around and I snapped the photo with my little Kodak Instamatic.  It was August 1961.  She was 31 and I was almost 16.  She was beautiful even when she was boating!  The photo below was taken in the late eighties at Mama’s 4th of July birthday party at my sister Dot’s house.  Gerry was about 58 in this photo.

I wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving  filled with the joy of making memories!

I had been to an appointment in town and was in the far left lane pulling out on to Stewart Parkway when I saw her.  She was across the street, standing on the corner in front of McDonald’s, holding a cardboard sign which read “between a rock and a hard place – anything will help”.  From across three lanes of traffic, it seemed our eyes met and then the green arrow signaled it was time for me to turn left.  I drove the short distance to where I should have turned right to head home, then made the decision to turn around. Perhaps, I should say the Holy Spirit kept nudging me and made that decision for me…  

I pulled into the parking lot of McDonald’s and walked over to greet her.  I told her my name was Dianne and she introduced herself as Ginger.  Dressed in an old camoflauge coat with a sock cap pulled over her head, she looked older up close.  Maybe she was actually younger than she looked and life had taken it’s toll.  The smile she returned to me revealed teeth that were crooked and in need of care.  My heart went out to her.

I asked her if she would like to go into McDonald’s and have some lunch with me.  She said yes at first, and then kept looking to her right beyond the parking lot.  When I asked her if she was there alone, she shook her head no.  I asked if there were children with her.  I definitely did not want to leave hungry children waiting in a car.  Again, she shook her head no.  She finally admitted she was there with her boyfriend.  The red flag went up but I still asked her if she thought he would like to go with us.  I would happily feed both of them.  She replied that she would ask and walked beyond my sight to where he was waiting.  She returned a few minutes later alone, and then I saw him walking on the sidewalk to the corner with the sign she had been holding up before.  She then said that someone had already bought them some food and she was okay.  I asked her if she was sure and she nodded in reply.  I wondered if that were true or if she was hungry.

I wondered at this point what the story really was.  I spent ten  years of my long nursing career as a psych RN and can recognize the signs of a troubled soul.  She teared up when I commented that she seemed to be in a hard spot right now and asked her to tell me about it.  Her story was a sad one.  She said she was homeless and needed a job.  They both did.  She looked down and admitted that she wasn’t skilled at anything.  She had a history of cutting herself as a teenager and had been hospitalized years ago for it.  She denied drug use on either of their parts.  Over the years in a clinical setting, I’ve heard it all.  My gut reaction was that she was telling the truth.  She didn’t physically appear to be on drugs and for that I was glad.

The weather is getting colder here and the rainy season has started.  I asked her where she was staying.  She replied in a tent in the nearby woods.  When I asked if she had family she could stay with in this area, she again teared up and shook her head no.

Between a rock and a hard place is a tough spot to be.  I’ve been there…so have you.  Granted, most of us have never been homeless or gone truly hungry.  There was so little I could do for this young woman.  I gave her twenty dollars and she smiled and thanked me.  I told her that I would pray for her and encouraged her not to lose hope…

This sweet little skunk above, my firstborn grandchild, will be fourteen years old in January.  As his younger sisters and his baby brother planned their Halloween costumes for their Mom to create this year, he announced that he’s now “too old” to go “trick or treating”.  Granted, he is now taller than his Dad who is 6′ and much taller than his Grandmom.  Still…I’m not quite ready for my firstborn grandchild to give up the fun things of childhood just yet.

Thirteen years ago, my daughter (artistic and totally creative since she could first hold a pencil) made this adorable skunk costume for him.  The skunk costume has now made the rounds through each of the children and my little two year old grandson is wearing it this year!  Each year, my daughter has sewn and created other adorable costumes for each of the children (or found some great Disney buys at neat garage sales).

There are times like this when I realize that, seemingly next week, my firstborn grandchild will be getting a learner’s permit and the next thing you know he’ll be headed off to college.  Then, one after the other, all my grandchildren will follow along.  Slow down, hands of time!

Obviously, he wore shoes when it came time to go “trick or treating” but here he was trying on one of his next Halloween costumes. He loved Tigger!

 

Photo below:  here he is about 5 years ago wearing an original design by my daughter:  a PERIGRINE  FALCON!  Amazing costume…

 

 

My baby girl who will probably enjoying dressing up for Halloween when she’s my age! Come to think of it, I was one of the seven dwarfs just a few years ago! I think I was Grumpy…

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My Southern Heart...the Stories blog is about my life growing up in the South in the fifties and sixties. It was an amazing time...a time of falling in love, getting married, having a family. A time of history in the making, political unrest, rock and roll. Come along on my life's journey. It's a chronological story, so be sure to start at the beginning. It will make a whole lot more sense that way. Check out: My Southern Heart...the Stories