Journey 271: Happy Birthday Greg

Today is Greg’s birthday, and we had this day’s journey planned out. We both cleared the day, work wise, and intended to drive to Arkansas, or Springfield, or perhaps even Tulsa, to spend the day doing whatever he wanted to do. There was sure to be a stop at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore…and a steak dinner at a good restaurant, or whatever type of celebratory meal he wanted. It was his special day….and I wanted to gift him with a day of fun. That’s the way it was supposed to go. The reality was, Greg became afflicted with a severe toothache over the weekend. The pain changed all his plans for Saturday and Sunday, and ultimately, changed today’s as well. He has an appointment at the dentist office in the morning, however today, rather than a road trip and fun, Greg’s birthday became one of resting and taking meds to relieve his throbbing jaw.

Gregs bd

One thing that Greg and I both have learned in recent years is to go with the flow. It wasn’t the day that I had planned, but it became the day that was meant to be. How do I know? It is the day we were given. Greg’s body was alerting him to an issue that needs to be taken care of. He listened. Rather than get frustrated by the turn of events, he made an appointment and settled in to let the meds do their work, which made him sleep most of the day. When he stirred this afternoon, I got him a meatloaf dinner from Cracker Barrel, instead of steak, and holding to a tradition that began with daughter Elissa, I got him a birthday treat. He opted for a Frosty Twist, from Wendy’s. Apparently, his tooth isn’t sensitive to cold, at least!

Gregs bd Elissa wedding

And as I have done with the other family birthdays this year, I’ve thought about Greg and his journey this past year. I’m recognizing a pattern here. Every year is significant. Every year has its joys and challenges and its opportunities for growth. That has certainly been true for this man as well. Since his last birthday, Greg has been present for two of his children as they married their sweethearts: Elissa married Josh last November and Nathanael and Megan wed in May. In December he was there as his youngest, Adriel, walked across the stage at Crowder College, to receive her nursing diploma. He stood before her, both of them with tears in their eyes, as I pinned the nurse’s pin to her white scrub top.

Gregs bd Nates wedding

Gregs bd Adriels graduation

Greg is a caring and compassionate dad, very present in the lives of his kids and grandkids. Although often preferring to be the quiet person in the back of the room, his presence is strong and the children look to their dad when they need that strength. When he speaks, they listen, not because they fear him, but because they love and respect him and find value in what he shares. He gives of himself to his family, so he’s there when repairs need to be made, and rooms painted, when grandson Dayan needs practice driving or there are grandchildren performing, receiving awards or playing sports.

Gregs bd Dayan drives

Greg extended that compassion and love to his dad, in the final months of his earthly journey. He had dreaded the loss of his aging father, the last member of his original family. And yet, when the time came, Greg stepped up in ways that he never would have imagined, caring for his dad, spending precious time with him, holding him when he was in pain and confused. He walked with his father until he couldn’t walk with him any farther, offering that quiet strength, and released him to go on, into eternity, when that time came. Greg spoke at his dad’s memorial service, something he never thought he could do, and the words were a beautiful tribute to a remarkable man, a father who surely heard those words and felt so proud of his son.

Gregs bd Dads service

Two years ago, while on a trip together in Eureka Springs, AR, Greg stopped to look at a motorcycle for sale, parked near the highway. As we drove away, leaving that particular bike behind, we discussed Greg’s desire for a motorcycle. He had one years ago, when I first met him. The past few years, he has talked about owning one again. As we drove, he shared what he wanted in a bike…the size, the build, the price….and what owning and riding a bike would mean to him. And then, he let go of the outcome, released his wish and stayed open to what would arrive. This past summer, making a spur of the moment phone call to a local motorcycle shop, Greg found his bike. It was exactly what he had described, two summers ago in AR, right down to the price.

Gregs bd motorcycle and Aubrey

It takes courage, I think, to climb back onto a motorcycle, after 40 years of not owning one. However, gathering that courage, and spurred on by the desire to ride, Greg began to bike again. For him, there is great freedom in hopping on his bike and taking off, no real destination in mind, just him and the bike and an open road. His joy is evident and those trips are fun, and good for his soul. And that is really what life is about….courage and freedom, and living from the heart’s desire….and not being in a hurry to reach a destination but finding joy in the journey. Happy birthday, Greg. When you feel better, we will go celebrate. Happy travels, as you head down the road on your bike, the wind behind you and endless possibilities before you. May joy accompany you.

Gregs bd Texas Roadhouse

Journey 268: Mom’s Birthday

Today is my mom’s birthday. Neither of my sisters could be in Joplin to celebrate, so we have plans for gathering together next weekend to take Mom to dinner and get much laughter and visiting in. However, after completing my day, I was free to stop by for a chat and to deliver a fun little gift. 

I’ve fallen in love with the art of coloring. With my colored pencils and a coloring book for adults open before me, I can lose myself for a few minutes…or many minutes…in this simple activity. My mom is so very creative. She has modeled living out of her artistic side all of my life. I used to anticipate coming home from school in the afternoons, and discovering what project my mom had been working on that day. From reupholstering furniture, to painting silhouettes on the bathroom walls, to sewing tiny wardrobes for my Barbie dolls, my mom was always finding outlets for expressing her creativity. 

Mom always enjoyed coloring with my sisters and me when we were young. She continued that practice with her grandchildren and now keeps a stack of coloring books and a box of crayons in the living for her great grandchildren. A couple of days ago I enjoyed perusing coloring books for adults at the craft store, Michael’s, in search of a book for Mom. I find a delightful one…it has to be good, it has the word whimsical in the title…and picked up a box of 50 Crayola Colored Pencils. 

It’s not an expensive gift. But what fun to surprise Mom with her own pencils and coloring book. She seemed genuinely pleased! There’s no right or wrong way to color, no time constraints, no judgment. There is just the joy of laying color onto the page, whatever color or combination of colors draws you, and your own spark of creativity. I trust Mom will enjoy. 

I so appreciate my mom and her birthday is a good day to make sure she knows that. No other person has shaped and guided me as much as she has. Her strength and high energy continue to inspire me. Her sense of humor still gives me the giggles….and gives her the giggles too. My mom can rarely complete the telling of a joke because she gets so tickled, which makes her family laugh even harder. She has, and will ever be, my greatest champion, my encourager, my person to bounce ideas off of. And she is ever growing, trying out new experiences, finding fun ways to do something routine. She has a great, shining soul, and a heart that loves her family and supports them, surrounds them, with prayers, light and good thoughts. 

Happy birthday Mom. I am grateful for you. Thank you for believing in me and for walking with me in this journey called life. You are my traveling companion, my friend, my mother. I love you! 


Journey 260: Happy Birthday Adriel

Today my youngest child, daughter Adriel, celebrates another year. She worked last night and so got to sleep a little bit today. I had the opportunity to see her and her fiancé Nate for a short time this evening, to wish her a very Happy Birthday and give her dessert to take home. A new tradition was born last month, when my older daughter Elissa celebrated her birthday. Her dad and I asked what special birthday sweet she would enjoy and we took her chosen dessert to her. Today, I asked Adriel the same question, and not surprisingly, she asked for the same thing…a double doozie chocolate chip cookie from Great American Cookie Company. Because Nate and Adriel were out for dinner, they stopped by my house on the way by, to collect the cookies and visit for a few minutes. As it was with Elissa, it is difficult to believe another year has flown by. Didn’t we just celebrate a milestone birthday for Adriel? And like her sister and brother, it has been quite the journey for her this past year.

Adriel birthday cookie

Adriel has accomplished so much since her last birthday and experienced several major life changes too. After diligently pursuing her goal of graduating from nursing school, she walked across the stage last December, at Crowder College, to receive her diploma. Her dad and I had the honor of pinning on her nurse’s pin, during the ceremony. The tears carried more emotions than just joy. What a tough road this was, and yet this young woman never gave up on her dream, and overcame challenges that would have caused many to quit or at the least, withdraw for a time. I am so proud of her. A couple of months later she passed her board exams on the first try, becoming a RN, attaining the role she first envisioned when she was 14 years old.

Adriel nursing school

Not all of Adriel’s paths were pleasant ones last year, but she lived her life with grace and dignity and held on to her sense of humor and sense of purpose as well. She said good-bye to some people who had journeyed with her for a time, and not without sadness. I trust she will, as I have so often done, look back someday and see and appreciate the gifts that all have brought into her life, and see how she grew through those times. She sold a house that meant a great deal to her, sorted out who she is and where she is heading, and then resolutely turned her face toward a future that is bright with promise. JOURNEY has been a good word for Adriel this year as well, as she has seen the landscapes around her changing, and yet bravely traveled onward and upward.

And there were happy celebrations as well, one of the most significant being her engagement to her sweet Nate. It is good to have traveling companions, and Adriel and Nate journey well together. They have many areas of common interests and they love to seek out adventures. On their days off, I might hear that they are walking trails with their assortment of furry babies, or floating the river with friends or siblings, or visiting a wildlife preserve. Adriel has a close-knit group of friends, her Life Club as they refer to themselves, who are all wonderful traveling companions as well. They encourage and support each other, and have great evenings of fun.

Adriel and Nate

Foremost among those who closely walk with Adriel are her brother, Nathanael, and sister, Elissa. I am so thrilled with the relationship that my adult children have with each other, how supportive they are, and how competitive they can be, in a fun way. Little sister Adriel has always sought to keep up with her older brother and sister, and I think we can all agree that she has, and continues to. This past year, Adriel cheered on both siblings as they married, present for them in more ways than merely attending the ceremonies, a smiling face in the crowd that let both of them know how happy she was for them.

Adriel and her siblings

I trust this next year will go more smoothly for this bright girl, although there are sure to be surprises, delightful ones I hope, and unexpected turns in the path. With her creativity, strength and determination, there’s not anything that Adriel can’t handle or work her way through…she’s proven that. Let your light shine brightly, beautiful child of mine, as you continue to make your way in the world, offering from your kind and compassionate heart. We are all here, walking with you, cheering you on, and today and everyday, celebrating you. Happy birthday, Adriel. I love you so much!

Adriel and Frances

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. 


Journey 139: Dayan Turns 16

Dayans 16 at Red Hot and Blue

What a special evening, as family members gathered to celebrate Dayan, my eldest grandson, who turned 16 today! Dayan chose the restaurant Red, Hot & Blue for a tradition in our family…The Birthday Dinner Out. His mom Elissa, step-dad Josh, step-brother Jonathan, Aunt Adriel, Nate Pugh, Great-Aunt Linda, Mimi Pat, Papa Greg and me all joined him in the feasting and festivities. We missed Great-Papa Walter and Nate, Megan and their three kids, who couldn’t join us this evening.

Dayans 16 dinner party

We chatted as we ate, telling stories and sharing accomplishments of the day and the week. Jonathan, who is fascinated by the current moustache trend, and can’t wait to grow one, entertained us with a new card game that I found for him today. Called the Best ‘Staches Ever, the object of the game is to look at a moustache silhouette and guess the owner. There are clues printed on the backs of the cards. It was fun and we laughed every time Jonathan held the ‘stache up to his own upper lip.

Dayans 16 Jonathan

This was a milestone birthday for Dayan. I would have loved to surprise him with a new car. Gratefully, Josh is providing one for Dayan to drive. Instead, Dayan was surprised by the gift his mom and step-dad gave him…an Alienware System…which is a computer console hybrid. Yeah, I didn’t know what that was either! Dayan did though. Elissa cleverly hid a folded up piece of paper in a small box containing a Mine Craft figurine. As he unfolded the paper and realized what was printed on it, his face lit up. We all laughed as he hugged his mom, and kissed her cheek…over and over. Dayan’s home computer crashed recently, and although he has a laptop for school, he has missed playing his computer games. He was so thrilled with this amazing gift. It will arrive at his house Thursday.

Dayans 16 with Elissa

After consulting with Elissa, Greg and I gave him an external hard drive with a DVD component so he can connect it to his new system, and continue to play his older disc games. And we supplied him with a Steam gift card, for downloading, or maybe it is accessing, games directly. This Yaya is working to keep up with all this new technology! I just know Dayan was happy with these gifts. He also received a nice amount of cash from Mimi, Adriel, and his Nana Debi and Papa Mike, Josh’s sweet parents.

Dayans 16 with Jonathan

This has been an amazing year of growth for Dayan. He literally grew taller. He has also been practicing driving, and will get his driver’s license soon. He tried out for and secured the only tuba spot in the Wind Ensemble, made it into the District Honor’s Band, received an award for his short story, Numbers on a Wall. He excelled academically, receiving top grades in his classes, and earned a place on the Varsity Academic Bowl Team. He took early college entrance exams and his email has been flooded with offers from colleges across the US. He welcomed a step-father and step-brother into his home, escorting his beautiful mother down the aisle last November and standing at her side during the wedding ceremony.

Dayans 16 with his mom

I looked back through my blog posts, and realized how many adventures he accompanied me on since his birthday last year. We saw plays, musicals and movies together. Dayan introduced me to Dr. Who and taught me tech tips. We played the GPS scavenger hunt game called Geocaching, created Mail Art, made fudge at Christmas, created a fun geography related game, walked together during the Memorial Walk of Silence and sat in the audience during the dedication of the Butterfly Memorial Park. I watched Dayan march in football games and parades with the band, perform during concerts and competitions, receive awards, dress up as Steve at Jonathan’s birthday party, and Dr. Who at the huge family Halloween party, drive my car. He taught me to play Mine Craft, or at least, he tried to! He’s gracious with my failures.

I am beyond grateful that I get to be Dayan’s Yaya. This young man has one of the most amazing hearts I have ever encountered. He loves his family and his friends. He’s intelligent, talented, determined, open to new opportunities and trying new things, unafraid of the unknown future. He travels through life with easy grace and his warm, beautiful smile, his old soul shining out through his wise brown eyes. This past year I’ve seen Dayan become clear on what he wants to do in life, what gifts to offer to the world. His keen mind and love of geography and politics will serve him well as a political analyst for the government, possibly the CIA. He’s researched schools and knows exactly what it will take to reach his goal. And his creativity will have outlets in his music, his drawing and his writing. I was honored to have him as a guest blogger last week.

Dayans 16

I know it is natural for a grandmother to be proud of her grandchild, and I most certainly am. And I would want to know Dayan even if I wasn’t his Yaya. He accepts me as I am. I can be my best self, which is sometimes my goofiest self, with Dayan. We laugh and share and dream and put actions behind our intentions, bringing them into reality. He teaches me about seeing the best in others, about going after what I want, about living from my heart. He offers his love without condition, his thoughts without fear, his trust without expectations. I am so excited to see where his path leads him, and I have no doubt he will follow it with determination…and joy. I am honored to walk beside him, literally now, and from a distance later, as he reaches adulthood and moves onward and upward in his education and his life. Happy, HAPPY number 16 Dayan. I love you with all my heart.

Dayans 16 with Yaya