Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Happy Fall, y'all:)

I am one of those crazy people that loves all things pumpkin! I love pumpkin coffee, pumpkin coffee creamer, pumpkin pie, etc.... I LOVE the taste of all things pumpkin. I love, love, love crisp weather, too, but not too crisp. I enjoy being outside when it is just warm, and not sweltering, when there is a cool breeze, but not hot wind. The allergies here (here, being Virginia, apparently the worst place to live if you have allergies- and if you never had allergies, you will have them in this region of the world. Eventually.) are unavoidable, so I can't air out my house the way I'd love to, but we make the best of it- you know, with Zyrtec or something of that nature (I can only air out the house when it is below freezing, or the first few days of early spring, before the first blooms show up- all five of us have wicked allergies).  I digress...

Back to this season: pumpkins, apples, harvest time... It is really a fantastic time of year!  We are so lucky to live in a place where the leaves change colors so vibrantly. I love to see God in creation. This year, for some strange reason- probably because I'm just getting older, and weirder, I see God in nature. And it is awesome. The ocean, the mountains - Virginia has both- are places that God is so big, and I am small but significant. So, look for splendor in everything!

Virginia is great for fall festivals, too.  We have totally taken advantage of living here by going to fall festivals, craft fairs, mountain drives, picnics, and pumpkin patch places. We've never been to any of the Apple groves, but I understand those to be pretty spectacular, too!  So, my point in writing about all of this is to illustrate how awesome it is here, and how many varieties of activities there are to take advantage of. And a lot of them are free- which is nice, because if you have kids, you probably have a budget.  Like allergies, the high cost of things around the Northern Virginia region is unavoidable.

The other reason for talking about how awesome Fall is, and how wonderful this area is, has to do with plain 'ol optimism.  This week, with the rain (does Virginia have a monsoon season I was unaware of?), with the shorter days, it's easy to start feeling a little down.  This family, all of us- even the dog- have seasonal affective disorder (unofficially diagnosed).  When it is overcast, rainy, cloudy, etc. for any length of time, we start to go in hibernation mode.  I don't like to hibernate until February, simply because I don't like the cold.  So, when I noticed that my family was starting to mope around, I started to look up the activities going on around the area (on fredparent, of course:)).  I'm thinking we are going to stock up on some vitamin D, and update our rain jackets, and go out anyway. I lived in Germany as a kid, and if we waited around for the sun to do things, we would have never done anything (in Stuttgart, anyway, it rained a lot).  So, what keeps us inside, now? I know the answer is technology, but I'm really trying to fight that battle right now, and get us up and out, simply because it's healthy.  Plus, there really are a lot of cool things and goings-on to take advantage of around here!

So, happy Fall! Happy pumpkin-spice everything time! Enjoy where you live, with whom you live, and get out there and just do it.  It's Fall y'all, and it's a happy time to be in Virginia.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Nobody ever wants to really dwell on it, or talk about it.  We shield our children from it to the best of our abilities.  We explain it away, and we put it on the "back burner" and we wait.

All of us have experienced loss- every human, actually starts life with a loss: loss of warmth, loss of darkness, loss of our umbilical cord... Really, as much as we try to shield our precious little ones from loss, to have life, there has to be a loss.

And this great mystery of life, of all that we have, of all that we get to experience, endings remain sad.  Usually, anyway, endings are hard.

I grew up moving every three years.  I think my mom and dad did a pretty good job helping me and my brother walk through "good-byes", and "see you laters".  This was way before the Internet, and long distance calls actually cost a lot of money (yes, we did have TV, and Atari game systems were, and still are pretty cool).  Today, the world is a lot smaller, and with FaceTime, and email, it's actually pretty easy to keep in touch in real time. But, back in "ancient times" we wrote letters, and had to wait for a reply. It was hard to leave friends, and sometimes family every three years. These were losses.

These moves and losses were especially hard to deal with when I was a teenager. I'm not sure I realized how difficult it was to experience this type of loss until I was older, no longer in the military, but the friend saying good-bye. I was suddenly the one not moving. I felt left behind.  I literally had a mental health worthy depression in my mid-thirties when my best friend moved to the west coast.  We're talking not-wanting-to-get-out-of-bed depression. It was a tough year. I wonder now if that was just a culmination of all the good-byes I've ever said or experienced finally breaking the surface of the carefully calm good-byes over my entire life.  Did I really ever  deal with good-bye? Maybe I just was always "fine" because I was really just not dealing with the emotion of it all. I don't know. I've been friends with the (now) seven families that have moved in and out of the house across the street.  It's a bit of a running joke on our street, that I've been friends with all of them. They've all moved. I've been left behind.  I know now to deal with these losses as they happen.  Depressions are serious. I'd like to avoid them in the future. Like I said, that was a tough year.

Parents have to deal with all sorts of losses, though, every day.  We may not think of them so seriously:  the first tooth, the first roll over, the first sleep-through-the-night, the first crawl, walk, etc.  They are all losses, natural and sometimes happy, of the various stages of your baby's life. It happens daily. Your little one is getting older, and more independent.  Does your family have a pet? You'll be dealing with a loss eventually.  Moves, best friends, grandparents and great grandparents... Saying those kind of good byes are especially precious. I recommend you give them special attention, especially if you have an especially sensitive child (I need to follow my own advice, here).

There are all kinds of books to help illustrate and define death and dying- for kids, and for parents.  In fact, a lot of the books that are for children are just as good for the adults that are reading them to their children. I cling to my faith, so, I recommend books that deal with death according to your faith; they can be especially helpful.

We experienced a very unusual, and unfortunately sudden death of a family member this summer. We were quite stunned, actually, and while it seems like we are all OK, I think we will be dealing with this on many different levels in the weeks to come.  My grandmother is 91, and lives with my mom and dad.  My uncle, her baby, the youngest, died unexpectedly.  She has dementia, most likely Alzheimer's, so it has to be re-explained, re-lived through, almost daily. My mom is exhausted. My grandma is mostly sad. My dad is trying to keep it together.  This is a hard, difficult, crazy, weird type of loss.  It was not expected (I keep saying that, because he was 58, and not sick). It's unclear exactly what happened.  There has not been a lot of closure. Even the memorial service, while lovely, was so quickly put together, and accomplished, that it seems... surreal, maybe. My uncle was struggling with a lot of different issues, some so private that as they come to light we are all feeling somewhat responsible, in a way, for not knowing the pain he was in. Wondering... What if?  What if we knew? If only? Could we have helped?

As I write this on the anniversary of 9-11, the over-riding thought I have is this:  I didn't tell him I loved him.  I didn't share my faith with him. I didn't call to check in with him. I just didn't... And I should have.  So... Remember your loved ones. Pray for your friends and family. Pray often.