Journey 276: Celebrating Mom

My mom’s birthday was September 25. I got to see her that day and drop a gift by. See Journey 268 Today my sisters, two nieces, a nephew and four of my mother’s great-grandchildren joined me in celebrating my mom in the way she most enjoys…hanging out together, chatting, and feasting…with a couple of shopping trips thrown in for good measure. 


Mom chose one of her favorite restaurants for her birthday dinner, Golden Corral. We have some family jokes around eating at this popular buffet-style restaurant, but honestly, everyone can eat their favorite foods here, whether that’s pizza, ham, a salad or chocolate dipped strawberries. As always, the best part of dining together is the merry flow of conversation around the table. I was graced to sit between two handsome young men, my great-nephews Ethan and Kaleb. 

After lunch, Ethan and Papa Walter returned home while the rest of us visited the Spirit Halloween store just down the street. My niece Ashley and her husband Jon and my sister Debbie throw a huge Halloween party every year. It’s amazing and fun for the family, and time consuming for them, but something they enjoy. They are always on the look out for props for decor. October, fittingly enough, is also Ashley’s birthday month. She scored an early birthday present today from her mom when she found this animated three headed dog. Kaleb, who is nonplussed by all the ghosts, zombies and ghouls, made me laughed as he cheerfully linked arms with this fellow, pictured below.   

 We made another stop on the way back to mom’s, so other family members could stock up on curcumin. We all have aches and pains and the many other ailments that this supplement combats makes it well worth trying out. We are considering it our own group study. 


Back at mom’s we spent the rest of the afternoon together. The kids roamed the backyard, playing with Scotty the border collie. Jon, who is an absolute sweetheart, rocked little Lola to sleep. Ethan created Doctor Who themed video games on his iPad while we discussed that awesome show. I love the conversations that the adults have, on every subject imaginable. And I love the conversations that I have with the children in the family, whether they are two years old or ten. I not only value their input and perspective, and appreciate their intelligence and cleverness, I get the opportunity to share with them as I listen to what’s going on in their worlds. 

Ethan, who is ten years old, and a 5th grader this year, is an incredibly bright boy, a whiz at math and science, tender hearted toward his friends and family, and not afraid to share with me today that he has been teased because of his intelligence and giftedness. This fellow Whovian has been called weird. How happy I was to share my own weirdness with him and encourage him to rejoice in his uniqueness. The whole family chimed in, relating their own stories. As his dad quipped, “Who wants to be normal?” I don’t! My family is full of the extraordinary, the poets, the artists, the writers, the misfits. We happen to like our family the way it is. 

 It was, with such unique souls gathered together, an extraordinary day indeed, presided over by my mother. I am grateful for her, and her gracious and creative heart and soul that shines so brightly, illuminating the path so that we all can follow. And I am grateful for my family, those who gathered today and those who couldn’t join us, each and every one a bright and beautiful soul, unique….and yes, weird…in their own quirky and delightful ways. I wouldn’t have us be anything else. 

Journey 192: Happy Birthday Uncle Rex and Aunt June

What a special day as family gathered at my uncle’s farm in Oklahoma. Carrying in food and drinks and delicious desserts, we met to celebrate the birthdays of my Uncle Rex, who is about to turn 82, and my Aunt June, who just had her 80th. These precious people are brother and sister, and the siblings of my sweet dad, who passed five years ago. 

My family has experienced a lot of loss in recent years, which is all the more reason to join together when we can, party for any reason. Case in point: my Aunt Jeannie, who is June’s twin sister, was unable to join us today, due to her health. We were mindful of her absence and send her love and peace. 

We are a boisterous bunch when we gather, and I appreciate Uncle Rex and his wife, Aunt Mary, opening their home to all of us. Their son Mike was present, with his sweetheart Jeanette. From further west in Oklahoma came Aunt June with her sons, Alan and Denny, my sister Debbie and her daughter Ashley, son-in-law Jon and grandsons Ethan and Kaleb. Roy, who will always be part of our family, arrived from Tulsa as well. 

The Missouri bunch included my sister Linda with her granddaughter London, my mom, and myself. I love my family, and the way we connect and accept each other. My mom and my dad divorced when I was nine, and yet Mom was welcomed heartily today by my father’s family. That means a lot to me. 

My uncle reminds me so much of my dad. It bathes my heart with father-love, being in his presence. He is such a good-natured, good-hearted man. He laughs easily, and tears up just as easily, unafraid to show emotion. He told me this afternoon, as I kissed him goodbye, that these family celebrations are so good for him, so special. That’s all the reason that I need to continue. 

My aunt is a sweet and gentle woman whose face and eyes light up when her family is near. I feel very tender toward her, very protective. Her husband, my Uncle Dale, passed away recently. They journeyed long and well together. She told me today, as I stood with my arm around her shoulders, that she misses her husband, thinks of him every day, still talks to him. My heart aches for her loss. I am so grateful that she could join us today. 

What an amazing afternoon of feasting and visiting, laughing and telling stories. Some of us even participated in the rescue  of small fish that had been washed out of their pond by heavy rains. That is a trait that strongly defines my family members: we care about animals and all life. 

I hope and pray for many more of these family gatherings, where love can be expressed among the living. I cherish this time. My desire is to have no regrets later, no if onlys, no I should haves. Only joy. 


Day 233: Celebrate Elissa’s Birthday

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My daughter, Elissa, had a birthday while I was away in Scotland. I got to wish her a happy birthday via Facebook and text. However, I missed getting to see her and have our traditional birthday dinner. Tonight 13 family members gathered at Rib Crib, in Joplin, to celebrate Elissa!

Elissa is my firstborn, the child who made me a mommy. When I was still a child, all I wanted to be, when I grew up, was a mom. I used to sit and daydream, in one of my solitary places, about the children I would someday have. Three years into my marriage and one miscarriage later, I began to wonder if that dream would go unfulfilled. I spent a year reading about the gift of children, preparing for the role that I still hoped to embrace. I was given a Divine promise, that I would become a “joyful mother of children”. I believed! Shortly afterward, I found out I was pregnant. When Elissa Dawn was born and placed in my arms, I thought my heart would burst, so great was my joy.

This beautiful girl, intelligent, creative and witty, has taught me so much, about parenting and about life. Fiercely independent, since her toddler days, she has never ceased to amaze me with her ability to learn and grow, adapt and create. She was my perfectionist child and in her I saw myself and my own need for perfection. We both learned to let mistakes be okay. Everyone in my family is artistic and most of us draw or create by looking at a picture and copying what we see. Elissa is gifted with the ability to draw and create from her imagination. She is an amazing cartoonist and illustrator, creating the book covers for all three of my mom’s published children’s books.

My daughter’s passion has always been horses. She loves most animals and has the ability to connect with them easily and deeply. But her great love is reserved for the mighty horse. During her teen years she spent many hours each week at the stable where she took riding lessons and boarded her horses. Elissa was happiest when she was mucking out stalls or seated in the saddle atop a magnificent mare or gelding. I spent many hours watching her compete all over the Midwest or simply care for and train horses at the stable.

One of the greatest aha moments that I had as a mom came as I stood leaning on a fence, observing Elissa as she worked with yearlings in an indoor arena. “Watch this one,” she called out to me, “he’s naturally gaited. He will make a great show horse.” I noted the high stepping little colt as he ran around in a huge circle. “And this one is a jumper.” She laughed as another young horse ran toward the end of the arena and sailed over the gate. Elissa carefully studied each horse and then worked with them, in accordance with their gifting and natural abilities. Standing there listening to my wise daughter, I suddenly had clarity on a scripture that many use rearing children. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” The interpretation usually given is to discipline a child in order to modify behavior so that he will grow up decently. Watching Elissa, a new meaning came to me. Perhaps I was instructed to observe my children, note their gifts and encourage them, “train” them, “in the way they should go” meaning to guide them to follow their hearts and use their God given abilities and desires. It wasn’t about correcting, it was about allowing, and working with, not against. My parenting style shifted that day and my sweet daughter, happily in her element, with hay clinging to her shirt and jeans, was to thank for that shift. I am forever grateful.

My girl is a mom herself now, an amazing one, with a wonderful son. Elissa has spent most of her adult life working as a legal assistant and spent a year working for me as my assistant. She currently has an awesome job with a progressive and innovative company in downtown Joplin where her attention to detail and her ability to learn quickly allows her to shine. And she’s recently begun to ride again, engaging her passion for all things equestrian. Her dream is to someday own and operate a horse training and boarding facility. I have no doubts that she will accomplish all that she wants to do. Happy birthday, precious daughter. May joy, beauty and happiness continue to surround you!

Day 184: Lake Dabinawa

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It’s a holiday week. Many people head out of town, to play, to celebrate the 4th of July, to gather with family. In a little community tucked around Lake Dabinawa, just north of Lawrence, KS, a group of people joined together to do all of the above. Mark, Linda, Pam and Tim are Greg’s cousins. Bringing most of the members of their families with them, they’ve traveled from four different states to be here for this annual event. This year, Greg and I joined in the fun. For my first, I am enjoying the beauty of Lake Dabinawa and being with the Moore Clan for the 4th.

I have not seen most of Greg’s cousins for years. As teenagers, though, we spent many summer days together, playing in the creek, picking strawberries, and sharing family meals, when the cousins and their parents, Uncle Bill and Aunt Maxine, would visit Grandma and Grandpa Moore in the tiny town of Noel, MO. Fun loving and close knit, this family was always a joy to be around. Greg and I were dating at the time, yet to me, they were my cousins too.

We all grew into adulthood, married, had children of our own. We lost Grandma Moore first and then Grandpa. The cousins scattered to different cities, different states. Sadly, Greg’s mother and brother passed as did Uncle Bill and Aunt Maxine. Our children grew up. Life shifted and we all journeyed on. The last time I saw most of the cousins was at their dad’s funeral.

With Facebook, however, connections have reformed, pictures  are posted and shared, and although still scattered, it has been much easier to stay in touch. I met up with Pam recently in NW Arkansas and met her husband Jay. And I was thrilled to be invited to the lake house to join the whole family for their gathering.

The lake is small but gorgeous and peaceful. The house has plenty of space for this sprawling family. It has been good to meet Tim’s wife, Lisa and their daughters. The lake house belongs to Tim and Lisa and they have been marvelous hosts, freely sharing their home and providing ample amounts of delicious food. Mark and his wife Kristy made the long trip from Colorado with two of their young adult children. Pam and her daughter and grandson came from Arkansas. And Linda arrived from Illinois with three of her six children.

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Although we are all older, the gathering reminds me of our youth. We’ve laughed and played games and shared a meal together. As we lingered around the table after dinner, enjoying cool breezes on the screened in porch, the story telling began. What fun to hear the cousins tell humorous stories on each other. The siblings, although separated by miles and busy lives, are still a close knit family and it shows. Greg and I added a few tales of our own. We all remembered the grandparents and the parents who are with us now in memory and spirit.

It is hard to believe that we are now the parents and grandparents in the group and there is a new youthful generation making its mark on the world. We all have children and grandchildren to be proud of and much to be grateful for. Not the least of which, are the enduring relationships among this joyful clan. I look forward to future gatherings.

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