The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Earlier today I shared the decorations and props that provided the marvelous backdrop for this year’s Family Halloween Party. (Check out The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I.) My sister Debbie, niece Ashley and her husband Jon amazed us all, once again, with décor that supported the 2018 theme carnevil.

The majority of the guests that arrived supported the theme as well, appearing in costumes as clowns, oddities, circus performers and presiding over us all, a ringmaster.

This post features the costumes of The Barnes Circus. Have a look!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Picking Costumes

We all know a year in advance, what the party’s theme is going to be. That allows ample time to make decisions about costumes and props. My family likes to be creative so we spend very little money dressing up, preferring to visit thrift stores, use what we already have, and make what we need. That’s part of the fun of coming up with a costume.

As each person chooses a character, he or she notifies Ashley or Debbie. They compile a list and keep everyone updated, so that we don’t have duplicate characters. I knew immediately what I wanted to be this year. In keeping with a circus or carnival theme, I chose to arrive as a fortune teller. My decision was made primarily because I had just bought a long bohemian style multicolor skirt, with tassels, that seemed perfect. Little did I know, when I chose my character last year, that it would have a strong influence on me, on the way to the Family Halloween Party.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesThe Ticket Taker and Greeter, Ethan Barnes.

Carnevil Costumes

It’s fun to tour the transformed house, when we arrive at the party, and it’s fun as well to see everyone in their costumes.

Meet the characters.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesOur very own Greatest Showman (and party planner), Ringmaster Ashley Barnes.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesMaster of Magic, but apparently not of sawing his assistant in two, The Great Laurent…Jon Barnes. I don’t say enough about this extraordinary young man. He creates many of the bigger props, adds lights and the mechanical elements, and serves as cook and bartender as well. He’s an all around good guy…husband, dad, son-in-law, and family member to the rest of us.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesThe Three Legged Man, Kaleb Barnes. Kaleb was inspired by the film, The Greatest Showman.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesInspired by American Horror Story, Debbie appeared as the character Mordrake, the man with two faces. Her costume creeped me out the most. Watching that face on the back of her head move as she turned or shifted was eerie!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesScott as the Menacing Clown and Nicole as the Contortionist. She is always so clever with her costumes. She appears contorted atop a table.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes The Snake Charmer, Pat, AKA Mom. She’s always creative with her costumes, coming up with great outfits without spending much, if anything, to create the look.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesLion Tamer, Linda, posing with Scott, Nicole, Lola, as Minnie Mouse, and Weston, who ditched his costume immediately.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesKnife Thrower Extraordinaire-ish, Nate, with his unlucky Assistant, Adriel, posing with The Tattoo Lady, Elissa.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesGreg as The Bearded Lady. Greg was a huge hit, gathering lots of laughs. Trying to do his make-up, I got so tickled that I couldn’t find his mouth to add lipstick. Kaleb offered help…’I think his mouth is where his mustache meets his beard.’ Side note: the gloves and all the jewelry belonged to Greg’s mom. She would have loved seeing this Bearded Lady!

I apologize for not getting photos of all the other guests that attended the party last night! Normally I get a pic of each attendee. I stepped into my character in a much deeper way than I originally intended to, which kept me busy having fun all evening.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Madame Cynvia

Earlier this year, after deciding on my character and costume, I decided it would be fun to learn to read oracle cards, and give actually readings at the party. I’m an intuitive…with the ability to sense and interact with Spirit. I thought reading cards would come naturally to me, and I was right, it did.

However, what began as a party activity quickly became so much more. From the right deck “choosing” me, to online classes appearing in my email inbox at precisely the right time, to learning the cards, it has all been an intriguing journey that has taught me new things and taught me more about my unique, quirky self.

The incredible thing about oracle cards is that it’s all about energy…and story. I let the person being read handle the deck of cards, shuffling and mixing them up, until they feel ready to randomly pull out a specific number of cards. Then I tell the story of the cards that were selected. It’s truly amazing how beautiful and accurate the stories are. I’m grateful for the whole experience, and the eight month journey that brought me to last night. I appreciate all those who pulled up a chair and sat with me…and shared their lives with me.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

Group Photos & Extra Pics

Here are a few additional photos, depicting what a fun time we had.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesKaleb tossed his mustache. He said it kept getting in his mouth!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesMore of the attendees!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesFamily group shot.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesSisters pic. We missed our brother and sister-in-law last night! The Halloween Party is when we take our annual sibling photo.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesAnd then Debbie turned around. Creepy!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesMom and her girls.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesRoy arrived as a “member of the circus audience”! Greg’s hand mirror was his best friend all evening.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II CostumesAn extra foot makes a good pillow when it gets late.

The Family Halloween Party 2018 is in the books…and the blogs. I deeply appreciate my family for the time, money and effort that they put into this event.

The decorations will stay up until Halloween…and then the work begins afresh for Debbie, Ashley, Jon and the boys as they pack away a carnival. I know my family though. They will enjoy the rest of the holiday season…and their minds are busy conjuring up ideas for next year. By next spring they will be in creation mode again.

The Family Halloween Party for 2019 has a Classic Monsters theme. I’m already planning my costume…

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II Costumes

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Last night was the Family Halloween Party…and yes capital letters are appropriate. This huge event is hosted by the oh so talented trio of my sister Debbie, my niece Ashley and her husband Jon. Those who don’t have fun with this October holiday may not understand the anticipation that my family has for this annual celebration. We do Halloween BIG. And the Oklahoma branch of the family goes even BIGGER. I’m talking about a total transformation of their house, not just a few pumpkins, candles and spooky creatures scattered about.

The theme this year was a carnevil one (darker twist on a carnival) and the Barnes House became the Barnes Circus, complete with red and white striped tenting, carnival food and games, and a freaky side show. The guests were encouraged to arrive in character.

Blog post Part I shares the highlights of the amazing décor. Later today Part II will feature costumes.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Welcome to the Barnes Carnevil Circus

Debbie, Ashley and Jon, and their sons Ethan and Kaleb, begin the creation process for their annual party in early spring. They have themes already planned through 2020, and a great deal of thought and creativity and hard work goes into the finished project.

Most of the props and decorations are hand made. Debbie and Ashley scout out thrift stores and clearance sales in big box stores to obtain the materials for their creations. And then those ordinary objects undergo remarkable changes. It’s repurposing, at an extremely high level!

Driving through the neighborhood yesterday, I saw a handful of houses modestly decorated for Halloween. Then, turning onto my family’s street, I see their house. It’s a car stopper for sure, with carnival music playing and lots of canned lighting placed for when darkness falls.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IOoops! The cannon misfired….

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IWalking into the circus, posters adorn the wall. Our faces were cleverly added. There’s Greg as Greer, The Bearded Lady!

Come One, Come All

Inside the house, the transformation was startling! Debbie, Ashley and Jon recreate with meticulous details and an eye for authenticity. Hours and hours and HOURS of work bring their theme to life.

Come with me for a tour.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IRed and white tenting covered every wall and ceiling of the main floor living areas. Watch out for the carnevil clowns! They were everywhere.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IAnother unfortunate mishap! The Great Laurent needs more practice.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IReal cotton candy and bags of popcorn on the walls, for the taking. And a buffet being laid out that included typical carnival food and veggie options. (Thanks guys!)

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Twisty’s Bar, for the over 21 crowd. Twisty is a character from American Horror Story.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IMadame Cynvia’s corner. Meet her in the next blog post.

To the Fun House Room

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IHall of funhouse mirrors…all hand made.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IWelcome! This room, that normally serves as a guest bedroom, had been completely emptied of furniture. Glow in the dark décor and props created a fun room indeed!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IDo you feel like you are being watched?

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Up, Up, Up the Stairs

Upstairs the carnevil circus theme continued.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IThis hypnotic disc that Jon made actually spun.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IMore scary clowns lurking upstairs.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part ICarnival style games were set up in the family room. The kids had a blast up here, winning prizes.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IEven the bathrooms get a makeover, set up to look like circus performers’ dressing rooms.

The Side Show

The office to the left of the entryway showcases the creativity of my family. The space became a side show room, full of oddities from around the world. Take a peek inside.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part ILighted cases displayed curiosities. Remember that the majority of props are hand crafted.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IAshley, who is a graphic artist, creates each sign and poster.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IAmazing attention to detail.

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

 

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part IA Scottish Fairy!

Family Fun

What a fun night we all had, at the Barnes Carnevil Circus. Family members mingled with the Barnes’ and Debbie’s friends and co-workers. The atmosphere was lively, and laughter filled the “big tent”.

The Family Halloween Party is one of the year’s highlights for me and a highly anticipated event. Although we all know the theme beforehand, we don’t get to see the finished project until we show up for the party. Ethan and Kaleb have become experts at giving tours to arriving guests. I so appreciate the generosity and creativity of my sister and her family. And I heartily applaud their hard work.

Watch for The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part II later today, for a look at the characters that attended the party. You won’t be disappointed!

The Barnes Carnevil Circus Part I

Oliver’s Birthday Experience

In the middle of the Yaya and Grandchild Christmas shopping trips, I hit “pause” today for a birthday dinner and shopping experience. Grandson Oliver celebrates his 10th birthday Monday. He will get to go Christmas shopping for his family next Wednesday. We spent the day together on this gorgeous Saturday, focusing on him rather than others.

This grandchild waits very patiently for his birthday excursion at the end of the year. He knows his turn is coming. And he doesn’t mind that his birthday and Christmas are exactly one week apart. A birthday is a birthday, after all. No combined celebrations for him.

As with my other grandkids, Oliver got to choose where he ate his birthday meal and where and how he wanted to spend the birthday money I gave him. We had such a fun day together.

Where the other grandchildren have chosen to spend their money of things that they wanted, or in my oldest grandson’s case, things he needed, Oliver continued down a different path that he initially embarked on last year.

Oliver prefers to do things, rather than purchase things. He chooses to experience fun and create memories over buying more stuff. He selected the mall as his destination, and his birthday celebration began in earnest.

With his birthday cash, he bought a small amount of candy at the mall sweet shop, and an inexpensive remote control helicopter. The rest of his afternoon was spent being an active participant in his own celebration.

Oliver experienced the Spider Jump, a favorite activity for him, where he bounds high into the air and flips forwards and backwards. He tried out the newly set up Virtual Reality pods, selecting a dinosaur park to explore. This boy talked me into joining him. Although the experience was interesting, we both felt it could have been better.

We spent the bulk of our time together at TILT, the arcade located at the mall. Oliver loaded a card there with cash, which he could then easily scan at the various games he played. He joined other kids a couple of times in the laser tag area, drove race cars, went on dangerous virtual missions requiring skill with weapons and beat me several times at air hockey.

I tagged along, cheering him on, watching him play, listening to his lively chatter. This is what I love about these one on one times with the kids, seeing them shine as their unique selves and hearing what’s on their minds.

These was incredibly cool, a mission impossible style crawl across a room full of laser beams. Oliver selected the hardest level…and in 74 seconds was slapping the check point button on the opposite wall, all without breaking a single beam.

We concluded Oliver’s birthday experience at his restaurant of choice, Cracker Barrel. There he enjoyed a hearty breakfast for dinner and a decadent piece of chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. As we dined, we talked.

Oliver is a great conversationalist. He always asks me about my work and what I am currently enjoying in my journey. He asks great questions, like this one that he posed tonight: Yaya, what has been your favorite age? And he followed up with a Tell me why… when I answered.

I love watching this boy as he shifts into a young man. Oliver is thoughtful, polite to the people assisting him, and very curious about the world and the way things work. I am fascinated with his desire to experience his birthday by doing rather than buying items, and I look forward to seeing where this trend of his goes. It is wonderful to see Oliver, younger brother to Joey, older brother to Aubrey, becoming more and more his own person, sure about who he is and what he wants to do.

Happiest of birthdays, Oliver. I appreciate who you are, and who you are becoming. Thank you for spending time with me, sharing your thoughts and your heart and your unique perspectives. I love you!

First Thanksgiving

I have a pictorial post to share, of the first Thanksgiving. Not the one back in 1621, but the first one within my family this year. Because my son will work on Thanksgiving Day, and children will be with their other parents, Nate and Megan hosted an early celebration at their home today, when everyone could be present.

Members from Megan’s family and ours came together in a big, happy group to kick off this week that focuses on gratitude.

Lots of cooks in the kitchen…and one hopeful pug. Nate and Megan provided turkey and the fixings, and everyone else contributed side dishes, desserts, plastic ware and whatever else was needed. I brought plant food based options.

I love that Megan’s sign decor identifies what’s going on in several pics. There is a large KITCHEN sign in the photo above.

Adriel, Nate and Dayan. Our family has two Nates!

The very appropriate sign behind Nate says, Thank you for the food before us, the family and friends beside us, and the love between us.

Football crowd! Kansas City was playing.

The sign in this pic says it well. Eat. There was more food atop the adjacent counter.

Greg gave me a “What are you doing?” look just as I took the photo! He’s standing with child one and child two, also known as Elissa and Nate.

After our shared meal, it was outside into the sunshine, and slightly chilly air, for an annual tradition…the family kickball match.

Team One takes the field.

I caught a pic of the ball after it was kicked.

Team Two preparing to kick. Aubrey gets a bit of coaching from Megan.

Not all of us play…because someone needs to yell and cheer from the sidelines!

Although my family sometimes cringes or scatters, these photo opportunities are precious to me. All five of my grandkids were present. From the left, Joey, Aubrey, Jonathan, Oliver, and Dayan. I love these kids so much!

And the adult kids. I am grateful for each one, and I love and appreciate them. Back row…Josh, Elissa, Adriel. Front row…Megan, Nate, and Nate.

Family photo. What a beautiful group of people.

Big group family photo. What a wonderful blended family.

It was a fun day and it set the tone for the week. The love of family truly is one of life’s greatest blessings. When I list the things I am thankful for, family is always at the top.

Thursday will be Thanksgiving Two. It will be a more quiet day, with food and conversation and games. And it will be full of gratitude as well. May I be especially mindful this week, of all of my blessings, and pause each day to express my thanks.

Birthday Dinner & Shopping with Aubrey

This evening it was Aubrey’s turn to be treated to a birthday dinner and a shopping trip. She will be nine years old on Halloween day. I began this tradition several years ago, of taking each of my five grandchildren out for a special evening to celebrate their birth. It has become a wonderful time of sharing and listening and being together, one that the kids anticipate and that I do as well.

Aubrey selected Chicken Mary’s, in Pittsburg Kansas, as her dinner destination. Normally these outings just include the grandchild and me. Because of my knee slipping out of place yesterday, Greg volunteered to join us and drive. Aubrey was delighted.

I’ve never seen this child eat as much as she did at our early dinner. Chicken Mary’s was a good choice for her, with their home style meals and plenty of food. I was able to enjoy a salad with the chicken on the side, so that Aubrey could take it home for her lunch tomorrow.

Back in Joplin, Greg dropped Aubrey and me off at the mall for the birthday shopping, promising to pick us up when we were finished. This is the part of the celebration that the kids most look forward to. I give them a specific amount to spend, and they can use the cash to purchase what they want or they can save it. They typically spend most of it, and that is perfectly fine.

I can tell my granddaughter is getting older. This is the first time she has chosen the mall for her birthday shopping trip, rather than the toy store. She wanted girl stuff…jewelry, a billfold, a unicorn, small items for her school backpack. And an experienced shopper she is. I loved watching her examine items she was interested in, looking for the wow factor, weighing the cost of the item against the gratification. She kept up an amusing chatter the whole time.

This girl loves her fake fashion glasses!

What an almost nine year old girl’s shopping basket contains.

Aubrey settled on Claire’s Boutique, and struck gold here. A big sale meant her birthday cash went further. We visited several other stores in the mall, but this one drew her back. The young female clerk did an amazing job of assisting Aubrey, and every other customer who walked into the shop, with genuine warmth and obvious joy. She and Aubrey connected well over their discussion of animals.

This child, who is rapidly approaching her teens, has a big heart and such profound insights. In her I see echoes of myself, and Aubrey likes to discuss all the ways we are alike. In her I see a boldness and a fearlessness that has taken me years to cultivate. In me she sees a woman who tries new things and makes her dreams come true. She believes anything is possible, and that she can become whatever she wants to become. I agree with her.

At the girls’ clothing store, Justice, Aubrey discovered a writing table set up, with the question posted, What makes your family special? She carefully wrote her answer on the star shaped note and stuck it to the display.

LOVE she wrote. Love makes her family special. Love fills Aubrey’s heart and overflows to touch her family members and her friends and even the kind clerk she just met at Claire’s. Love is woven into her very soul. Aubrey receives it, accepts it and just as easily offers it to others.

Happy birthday, a few days early, sweet child. I appreciate the love that you so freely bestow upon me. Someday I hope you can understand how much healing you have brought into my heart and soul, just by being you. I love you!

Mom’s Big Year

I haven’t shared many birthday posts this year. Last year I did celebratory posts for every member of my family, both immediate and extended, on their actual birthdays. I’ve given the tradition a bit of a rest this year.

Today is my mom’s birthday. And rather than sharing what her name means or how she has influenced my life, as I have done in the past, I want to express how proud I am of my mom, for making some big changes in her life.

Mom has had some health challenges the last few years. Nothing was life threatening, however a host of ailments has greatly affected how she felt and necessitated several surgeries. Some might simply accept that as we get older, our health naturally declines. While this can appear to be true, my mom decided to shift that belief and take responsibility for her health.

Exactly a year ago, I accompanied my mom on all of her doctors’ appointments. I had recently switched to a plant based diet, taking charge of my own health and desiring to heal from chronic pain. Seeing my improvements, Mom was interested in embracing a plant based lifestyle as well. During that week of doctor visits, I got their hearty approvals for her to eliminate meat, eggs, dairy and gluten from her diet and consume instead fruits, vegetables, brown rice, gluten free oats, nuts and legumes.

Because here was the incentive…we were planning a trip. In twelve months my sisters, niece, mom and I intended to visit Ireland, Scotland and England. Mom and I both wanted to enjoy that trip in good health.

Six months later, when she returned for check ups, Mom was excited to learn that her health was indeed shifting. Inflammation was greatly reduced. Other health conditions had improved. Her doctors were impressed and encouraged her to continue with a plant based lifestyle. Even though she ended up having to have a knee replacement at that time, due to breaking a bone in that joint, she recovered remarkably well.

Her surgeon approved travel…and our dream trip became a reality.

I am so incredibly proud of my mom. We spent 12 days traveling. During that time we walked, a lot. We climbed stairs, toured landmarks and castles, and spent hours in planes, trains, automobiles and buses. We hopped on and off the London Tube. Did we slow our pace a bit? Yes. But only because she had knee surgery, just six months ago. Did we ever leave her behind at a hotel? Not once.

Mom and I are continuing in our plant based lifestyle. It is too important to my health, and to hers, to ever go back to the way we used to eat. I am thrilled. Mom inspires me every day, and now she is showing me how to live life to the fullest, as a “senior”.

Mom and Walter at dinner tonight.

During our recent trip, I often thought how precious it was to see Ireland, Scotland and England with my family, and especially with my mom. Travel has been an important part of her life, and her desire to explore the world has been passed on to me.

I also thought that this trip might be Mom’s last overseas adventure. And if it is, we have absolutely no regrets. However, my sisters and I are already talking about taking another girls’ trip together in 2019. And guess who wants to go with us?

Happy birthday Mom. I love you. I am so grateful for you and your desire to be the best version of yourself, at every age. Long may you have new adventures. And yes, you are always welcome to travel with us!

Becoming Elissa…

Today my older daughter celebrated a birthday. This is my fourth year of blogging and although I wished Elissa a Happy Birthday through text, Facebook and in person, I wasn't going to do a birthday blog post this year, since I've done several in the years past.

So this is not a birthday post. This is a post about Elissa, that happens to be on her birthday.

As I left the house this morning to go show property, my thoughts were on my daughter, my firstborn. Memories flipped through my consciousness, like a movie of her life. She's always had a will and mind of her own, even as an infant. She hated to sleep, preferring instead to look around and study everything. Her petite size led people to believe she was younger than her actual age. They were shocked when she piped up in her high voice and spoke of things way beyond her years. She was, and still is, an old soul.

I have learned so much from Elissa. She taught me about being a mother and loving unconditionally. Because her personality is very different from mine, she expanded my perspectives, shattered old beliefs, and challenged me to grow. Elissa loves horses. Watching her as a teen, as she worked with yearlings, helped me to see that raising children was less about control and discipline and more about seeing the gifts a child is born with and creating an encouraging and supportive environment to develop in.

As my daughter entered adulthood, life presented both blessings and challenges, as it does for all of us. My bright, artistic, strong, empathic daughter feels the pains and griefs of the world keenly. She is a very real person in a very false society, to paraphrase a treasured children's story. My regret, as her mom, is that years ago, I didn't know how to listen deeply enough to the story Elissa was trying to tell me, through her words and her silences, her actions and her own pain.

She continued to grow and strive and seek. I learned to hear with different ears and a bigger perspective. I learned it was okay to struggle to find your place in the world. Elissa's survival skills turned into thriving and then peace and an acceptance of her own courageous heart. She is still learning how to offer out of that heart. I am proud to be a witness to her life.

Elissa has a good man who journeys with her and each of them brought a son into their blended family. My child has raised a child. And in watching my daughter be a parent, I have seen grace and deep love and openness and sacrifice. Next week my daughter will escort her son to a university several hours away, and drive home without him. Her tender tears and strong determination to launch him successfully onto his own path touches my own heart deeply.

Recently my 18 year grandson made public that he is bisexual. I am so proud of him for his openness and his desire to live authentically as the person he is. Elissa has raised her son to speak his mind and offer his heart. He is fearless. He is the future. As the time draws near for Dayan to leave for college, Elissa got a couple of tattoos, one on each of her forearms. One is the Italian phrase cogli l'attimo…pick up this moment…hold this moment. The other is a series of dots, rainbow dots, in honor of her son. She said if Dayan could be brave enough to live his story transparently, she could be courageous enough to wear the rainbow on her arm, for him. What love.

As I neared my destination this morning, I considered what tattoo I would get, in honor of my daughter and her story. I am not going to get an actual tattoo, not at this time, but I asked aloud, in the empty car, What symbol would be perfect for Elissa? Immediately the Velveteen Rabbit came to mind. Elissa loves this story of the stuffed rabbit who becomes real through the love of his boy. The rabbit becomes a bit tattered with the joys and pains of life and love. But he becomes Real. Authentic. He Becomes. He is. And he learns once you become Real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.

Elissa has become Real. My love, her dad's love, her sister's and her brother's, her whole family's love, her husband's and stepson's love…all have contributed to her becoming. Like the Rabbit's boy and his fierce love, her boy's love, that full of trust, unconditional, straight from a child's heart kind of love, opened a space around her and within her, so that she could become Real…so she could become fully Elissa.

I drew the Velveteen Rabbit for Elissa, with his scruffy fur and his soulful eyes and his hint of a smile, on his way to becoming Real. I inked him in and colored him with my pencils. He reminds me of Elissa's courage and her great mind and greater heart. He reminds me of her love for her sons and her husband and her family. And the Velveteen Rabbit reminds me of Elissa's love for me.

"When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with but REALLY loves you, you become Real." The Velveteen Rabbit

Elissa, my child, my firstborn, the one whose birth on this date years ago made me a mom, has helped me to become Real too. My love overflows.

Happy Birthday Aunt June

This afternoon, members on the Lauderdale side of my family gathered to celebrate my Aunt June. She recently turned 82 years old. For the past five years, today’s party has been a joint celebration for Aunt June and her older brother, Rex, who both had July birthdays. Sadly, my uncle passed away earlier this year, making this afternoon’s gathering more poignant and even more precious. 

Happy Birthday Aunt June
My aunt is, in fact, the last surviving sibling in her family that at one time included my father and her twin sister, Jean. They were the six Lauderdales, children of my grandparents Dennis and Grace. One sister died in a tragic accident, as a toddler. I don’t think the family ever quite recovered from little Margaret’s death. My grandmother could not speak of her youngest child and my uncle always referred to her as “poor little feller”. My father was deeply impacted by the loss of his baby sister and carried a misplaced sense of guilt over her death his entire life. 

There was no sadness in my aunt today however, as we loved on her and sang happy birthday. This kind and sweet woman lives very much in the present moment. With age, her recent memories have begun to slip away or get tangled in her mind. And yet her spirit remains bright and pure, like a child’s. She is gracious and grateful, responding to affection with sweet hugs and kisses. 

Happy Birthday Aunt June
Happy Birthday Aunt June
I appreciate her children, my cousins Pam and Alan, continuing what has become a treasured family tradition. We decided years ago, as we gathered at another family member’s funeral to say goodbye, that we needed to honor the living while they yet lived. 

I am so glad that we put actions with that intention. Saying goodbye to Uncle Rex a few months ago, there were no regrets, no we should haves. I hope we have Aunt June here with us for many more years, to love and honor and celebrate. She is our beautiful Lauderdale matriarch. Her very presence inspires me to seize each moment and live it fully. 

Happy birthday, dear one. I love you! 

Happy Birthday Aunt June

Family Celebrations

What a fun afternoon, as family members gathered in Oklahoma to celebrate two birthdays and an early Mother’s Day. Surprised today, was my brother Bryan, whose actual birthday is Tuesday. He was suspicious when he arrived at his mom’s house, and found too many cars parked around it. And genuinely surprised, I think, to find his sisters, sons, mother-in-law and other family waiting for him on the back patio. He arrived kind of quietly, so we almost muffed up the shout of “Happy birthday!” 

Family Celebrations

Also surprised today was my sister Debbie, whose birthday is tomorrow. She thought she was attending a surprise party for our brother. My stepmom prepared birthday cakes for Bryan and Debbie and we all brought celebratory cards for both. 

Family Celebrations
And, because tomorrow is also Mother’s Day, we honored my stepmom, Jerri. She received her own stack of cards and loving hugs. 

Family Celebrations

It was an all out party. Steve grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and Jerri made her famous crockpot beans. Bryan’s wife Christel brought yummy hummus and I supplied organic non GMO tortilla chips and plant based dishes…potato and herb salad and colorful chopped salad. I passed on the burgers and hotdogs. And while everyone else enjoyed chocolate cake and ice cream, I had a delicious bowl of fresh chopped fruit. 

Family Celebrations
Family Celebrations
I appreciated that Jerri gathered us all together. There was much laughter and an easy flow of conversation. The four younger kids present had a big yard to run and play in and the covered patio offered protection from the sun while allowing the breeze to cool us. 

We chatted about life and summer plans, sang happy birthday, told stories and loved on each other. My family does many things well, and near the top of the list is celebrating each other. 

Family Celebrations
Family Celebrations
These are precious times, as we create joy filled memories. The hours spent together are made more poignant by the keenly felt absence of my father, who passed away seven years ago. I still hear the echo of his voice, and his infectious laughter, in this place, the house he shared with my stepmother. I know he was with us in Spirit this afternoon, celebrating Bryan and Debbie. And I know he must feel proud of his wife who walked so valiantly with him through his illness, and now lives life to the fullest, for both of them. 

Family Celebrations
As so often happens, after a fun day of being with each other, we vowed to get together again soon…for another celebration, or just because. 

Happy birthday Bryan. I love you brother and I am proud of the amazing man you have become. I look forward to many more adventures together, including a shared trip to Scotland! Let’s plan that journey soon. 

Happy birthday Debbie. I love you sister and appreciate your creativity and your compassionate heart. We have shared many adventures, with more just on the horizon. Thank you for walking with me. 

Happy Mother’s Day Jerri. I love you, my second mom, and I am grateful to have you in my life. Thank you for your gracious hospitality today and for your courageous and generous heart. 

I am so blessed with the beautiful souls that I call family.   

Family Celebrations

Being Weston

Today my great-nephew Weston turned four years old! There will be a family gathering at a Joplin bounce house later this month, with cake and gifts. However, I chose to celebrate this little charmer today. 

Happy Birthday Weston
I started looking up family members’ names during the April birthdays last year. Weston is the last person in my family to have the meaning of his name included in a celebratory post. As a four year old, he wouldn’t be happy about being last in anything! I’m glad he’s too young to realize that he completes this series of posts. 

“Weston, you follow the divine law of love. Charming and magnetic, intuitive and spiritual, you are a people person and enjoy gatherings and celebrations. You will have an eventful and exciting life. Learning new information comes easily for you and you remember what you’ve learned. You have great persistence and do not give up easily on anyone or anything. 

In life you are most content when you are with your family and loved ones. You have a great sense of responsibility and duty and want to provide for those you care about. You are comforting, appreciative and affectionate. To be treated fairly and in turn be fair with others is important to you. Because of your loving nature, you will find great happiness and satisfaction.”

Happy Birthday Weston


The first truth that stood out to me, reading those words about Weston, is that love is at the center of his life. This bright eyed, curly haired boy is so loved. And he so loves others. He has wonderfully supportive and encouraging parents, my nephew Scott and his wife Nicole. And he has an adoring little sister, Lola. His grandmother is my sister Linda. He calls her Gigi and he knows she loves him to Jupiter and back and that she would do anything for him. 

In fact, this boy has a large extended family around him…grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins…who cherish him and walk alongside him, committed to helping Weston learn and grow and have fun. He may not fully realize the depths of the love that surrounds him. But he thrives in that environment. 

Happy Birthday Weston
Happy Birthday Weston
All of this love allows this handsome child to do the things that he does best: Have fun. Figure things out by trying things out. Learn. Grow. Be Weston. 

Being Weston is the most important task he has. I’ve watched Weston this past year, as he moved from being a toddler to being a kid. He likes lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners and power tools and blow dryers…in short, anything that moves and makes noise while it moves. He likes to help, whether it’s in the kitchen or vacuuming the floor for Gigi or helping his papa remodel a bathroom. 

Happy Birthday Weston
Happy Birthday Weston
Weston is very smart, articulating well his ideas and desires. He reasons things out and thinks things through. He is persistent. Just ask his parents or his Gigi. Persistence is a powerful quality to carry though life. Weston has a strong sense of responsibility and the desire to care for others. He wants to make sure everyone is treated fairly. And being four, it is extremely crucial that he feels that same fairness extended toward him. 

Weston exudes charm. And he can be polite even when he is asking you to leave. When his mother told him he couldn’t vacuum at Gigi’s anymore until after I left, he immediately came to me and with a serious look in his big brown eyes, said with great sincerity, “Good bye Yaya”. 

He is affectionate and loves to cuddle. He is learning and growing. He is discovering the world and how he impacts it. He is being Weston. And what an amazing Weston he is. 

Happy Birthday Weston