Tag Archives: family

Diablo and His Ladies


For Christmas, I got a new coop for our chickens. We’ve had the same group for a while now…Diablo, the rooster, and six hens. We all love the eggs we get from them and are now incredibly spoiled to the flavor of fresh eggs. I got the wild hair to bring the chickens closer to the house and mentioned it to Bill. Voila! I was given this beauty on Christmas Eve.

I think the chickens love it. If the amount of poop in the coop is any indication of love, then they are head over heels in love with it. It has become (mostly) my job to feed them daily and gather the eggs. The thing is, I’ve had to become a little braver with this new chore.

 Just like with my dogs, as soon as the chickens hear me approaching with food, they get flustered. Wings started flapping, squawking commences, and by the time I open the top of the cage, they are ready to rumble.

Maybe their instincts tell them to get ready to fly. Maybe they sense that it is their moment to escape. Maybe they just want to scare the crap out of me.

So…when I open the lid, they begin to fly. At first, I backed away and squealed. Now, I’ve figured them out. They only fly up just a little…maybe a few feet, and then they settle back down. Only one has dared escape, and as soon as she hit the ground, she was trying to get back into the pen with the others.

But she didn’t fly back into the pen.

No, I had to pick her up. Pick Her Up with my bare hands! That was a first for me. And I lived through the ordeal just fine.

(A few close family members and friends were awed that I was able to catch the bird and put her back in the pen. I may have awed myself.)



The Little Old Man


There once was this little old man, his body frail and hunched and confined to a wheelchair. He no longer spoke, only listened. His body no longer cooperated, but his eyes still sparkled from time to time. His body had not always been this way. He’d once been tall and lean, spry and brilliant. Time had played the dirtiest of tricks on him, forcing him into a life he would have never chosen for himself.

The little old man often visited nursing homes, slipping in and out according to his health that week or month. No one paid him much attention as he inched down the hall in his wheelchair. There was very little eye contact between he and the others…only a few could read his thoughts when no words were spoken. He crept along, his feet slowly pulling him towards his goal. And then, when he was sure no one was looking, because no one bothered him much anyway, he would reach up and pull the fire alarm.

On more than one occasion, his shaky fingers reached for the shiny red handle. On more than one occasion, he succeeded. Even though his body no longer worked, even though he couldn’t speak his feelings or needs or wants, and even though most thought he was no longer able to make and then carry out a plan, this man knew better. His mind still looked for the mischievous, and only he knew for a very long time that he was the reason for the scrambling of workers. Inside he chuckled, knowing that he’d still been able to stir the pot of life in his own way. It wasn’t meanness that made him stir…perhaps only a wish to be more than an old man in a chair.


That’s a true story about a man I knew. A man who hadn’t always been old. I think young people look at the elderly and think it’ll never happen to them, but those of us who have lived a little longer, know that it’s only a matter of time before we follow in their footsteps.

This story affected me deeply. It sounds like a tale about an impish person…but really it’s so much more. It’s a person still trying to live his life in his own way. Instead of giving up, he found a means, even when every odd was against him. He found a way to still live, make decisions and be in charge of his situation if only for a moment. It’s a tale about the mind, of how it can work even when the body shuts down. It’s a story about enduring until the end. It’s a tale about finding the joy in life even when life is at its worst.

This man’s spirit and mischievousness have been passed down through the blood lines. Two others have inherited every bit of his charm and spunk and wittiness. Ask me how I know…I know because I knew the little old man in the wheelchair. I know the nephew and great-nephew who inherited his fire. I knew this man, and his name was Bill.


‘The Little Old Man’ was written from my mind’s eye…I wasn’t there when any of this happened. It was how I saw the story unfold. Still, I know this for sure…the old can become new again. I’m sure Bill’s having fun sailing on the waters of Heaven.





Mackinac Island Girls Trip 


Sparkling blue water surrounded our tiny, plastic boats.  We bobbed on the waves while pockets of teal twinkled from the lake floor.  The sun was warm, a gentle wind blew.  It was a perfect snatch of time.

Anthony, our competent and utterly patient kayak guide, stayed close to me. I consistently brought up the rear in our group, and he made sure I was never left behind. During our conversations, he asked me why I kept returning to Mackinac Island…he wanted to know what brought me back to a place I live 746 miles from. I tried to explain…it was the calmness, the silence, the cleanliness of the cool air.  I told him I was just sort of drawn to it…that it stirs my soul like no other place I’ve ever known. Anthony grinned a knowing grin as he nodded and told me he understood those stirrings.

Arch Rock in the background.

I was lucky enough to get to visit my special place this summer with my sister and daughter. I introduced sis to an automobile free, lilac filled place with lots of bikes, horses and fudge (we especially loved that part). Daughter has been there before and already loves it like I do.  We biked, we ate and then ate some more.  We picnicked on the beach and we shopped.  We gawked at massive summer homes and took in the panoramic views.  But mostly, we were just together.

The only downside to our trip was when my car, Brown Betty, bit the dust in Indianapolis (all of my cars are named Betty with the corresponding color word)…and she bit it hard. There were no injuries so all is well. A sweet girl asked, “Did it ruin your trip?” The answer was a resounding no. Yes, it was a scary moment but it will not erase the fun we had.  I’ll not let it mar the special memories we made together. I’m blessed to have spent time with two women who mean the world to me. We shared a special time, one I know we’ll never forget. Bumps in the road only make me realize (even more) how blessed I am to have them in my life each and every day.

The Grand Hotel porch

Our bikes

Mommy – Daughter

The Grand Hotel – the day started off cold but by early afternoon we were changing into shorts.

Since there are no cars on the island, bikes are used for lots of things. This one belonged to a home repair crew.

Everywhere you looked, flowers bloomed.  Still springtime there, irises stood tall, tulips had just begun to fade away, and peony blossoms were seconds away from bursting open.  The wildflowers lining the roads were incredible…every flower, no matter the color, was incredible. 




Family – that beautiful, complex six letter word. It can be something you’re born into, an entity you marry into, or even people you find in your life along the way.  Family is an encompassing word – it holds so much love, so much loyalty, and even at times, pain.  It can bring out the very best in you, make you feel nurtured and loved and wanted. Family can make you whole.  

Days like Thursday remind me that one of God’s greatest blessings is the kinship He gave us with others. Simply being together can ease the sting of loneliness and soften the blow of loss.  Even when nerves rattle and personalities grind, in the end there’s still a connection, a longing for fellowship. I’m so very grateful for my family…the ones who have nurtured me all my life, the ones who swallowed me into their mix without hesitation, and the ones I’ve gathered into my heart over the years.

The Dog Branch Clan


The children put out a thankful bucket. There were so many great responses!!


One of our animal family members on a beautiful November day.


Easter 2014


What a weekend…what a blessing.  This weekend has been busy but so very good.  It was a weekend full of family, Wicked (the play and it was awesome), and Easter.  There has been more food than any one person should ever eat (and I’m already feeling guilty for stuffing myself), a daughter home from college, and my sister’s birthday.

I was blessed with a baby sister when I was two-and-a-half.  Even though we look like polar opposites, we’re really two peas in a pod.  We favor in ways only blood relations can favor – moods, quirks, mannerisms.  We are so much alike even though we look like night and day.  We celebrated my sister’s birthday today, and during the celebrations, I couldn’t help but think of the life we’ve shared.  Life wasn’t always easy for us growing up, and it has had its share of ups and downs as adults, but still….no matter what, absolutely no matter how bad or good things are or have been, we’ve always had each other.

Thing 1 and Thing 2.  We're actually the same height, too.  I think I had on heels that night.

Thing 1 and Thing 2. We’re actually the same height, too. I think I had on heels that night.

I am thankful for many things on this beautiful Easter Sunday, and my sister is one of them.  I’m so very thankful for all my family.  They make each day of life easier, more colorful, cherished, and filled.  I am blessed indeed.

The family...

The family…Easter 2014.


Unconditional Love


What is unconditional love?  Have you ever experienced it?

I once thought I knew what unconditional love was.  Life seemed full of it, abounding in each direction I turned.  Children were everywhere and I loved them all.  Friends encircled me…work friends, church friends, social friends…friends I’d had all of my adult life.  Family grew thick and strong, shoots of it stabilizing  my life.  I was like a farmer smiling at his crop just before the harvest…so very sure that nothing could ever destroy what I’d worked so hard for.

Then life came knocking.  The brutal, ugly side of life that no one likes to acknowledge.  The side that will kick you in the teeth and leave you on the ground.  And unconditional love ceased to exist.  Like a wave receding from the shore, most of what I had considered stable and sure was swept out to sea.  In an instant, it was simply gone.

What was left was a very ragged, harried version of myself.  A depressed and lonely creature that fought every day not to become bitter.  Even sad, I knew I didn’t want to be that person.  Even sad, it took every ounce of strength I had left in me to rise above what life pummeled me with.

The result was a lesson…a huge lesson in what unconditional love truly is.  And now I know the true meaning of it.

Unconditional love simply means loving with your whole being, no strings attached.  Not many can do this…it requires way too much work and giving of your own self.  Not many can let go of what society says and love anyway.  Loving that way demands that you love even when things are wrong and hard.  It demands that you give even when you may despise the quality of another person’s life.  Love dictates that you keep on opening yourself to another even when you want to give up.

But you never give up.  That’s the unconditional part.  You keep praying and you keep loving the unlovable and you keep believing that someday things will be better.

I am so blessed to have survived and made it to the other side of the teeth-kicking.  My teeth have even healed enough for me to smile and mean it.  The numbers may be few but I have been blessed with unconditional loves.  People who love no matter what.  Nothing is a greater gift…not anything.

Those people…mostly family because isn’t that where unconditional love grows the strongest?…stick.  We stick together and we push forward.  Little blessings come along.  Little blessings like our dog who appeared at my very lowest time.  I’ll never doubt that God plopped her into my lap when He knew I needed her most.  And blessings like sisters, the blood and non-blood kind, that listen to you cry and keep coming back for more.  Mostly, blessings like a husband and children that love you even after living with you…that’s the truest form.

The biggest lesson in unconditional love has been my relationship with God.  At my lowest, I was never alone.  The years have taught me to rely less on the love and approval of others and more on the relationship between us.  As that grows stronger, so does my love for my family.  God is teaching me day by day to never give up…that there is always light after the dark.  Never give up on dreams, on children, on marriage.  Never quit loving and giving.  Never stop believing in yourself.  Never think that life can’t get better because it can.  And it has.

That is unconditional love.

Happy Thanksgiving!


It’s an early Thanksgiving Eve as I sit here with my dog in my lap and a hot cup of coffee.  I’m in a warm home, my beautiful daughter is coming home from college in the morning, my guys are off and running, staying busy with work and hunting, and I feel thankful.  Thankful for the small conveniences in life and the large ones…I would not have made a happy pioneer wife.  Thankful for family…even slightly dysfunctional we’re awesome when we’re together.  Thankful for those who love me when I deserve it and especially when I don’t.  Thankful for the sweet children I teach at work…once again, we’re slightly dysfunctional apart but when we come together, we’re pretty spectacular.  Thankful for new babies coming into the world and the cherished memories I have of everyone who has left our world but is waiting for us on the other side.  Thankful for friends…people who see you at your best and worst and still call you friend.  Thankful for God…where would I be without Him?

Tomorrow the house will be full of family…around 45 of them.  There will be food and laughter and not enough seats for everyone.  It will be loud and chaotic.  It will be everything that makes Thanksgiving my favorite holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hunter's art work - 1999

Hunter’s art work – 1999

Trey's Native American - 2002

Trey’s Native American – 2002

I Beg Your Pardon…


I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden…”

This song keeps slipping through my mind…the few verses that I know.  It’s the Lynn Anderson version – the one from the seventies, the one from my childhood.  “I beg your pardon,” this voice says to me.  I never promised you a life full of roses…or a life of ease…or a life with no pain.  I never promised you that life would be simple in any way.

It’s been my anthem the last few weeks.  Work is kicking my butt, and when I start to pout about it, this voice whispers in my ear.  She says in her best southern drawl, “Hush now, honey.  It’s just a thing.”

It’s all just a thing.  Things happen nearly every single day.  Meetings happen, stress happens, a six-year-old pooping in their pants happens (we made it four weeks before the first accident at school – hopefully that’s our quota for the semester).  My issue is dealing with the effects of it all.

“Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes…,” she whispers again.  Life is going to get wet and messy and slippery.  So what do I do?  How do I handle it without it handling me?  Because most days I feel like I’ve been man-handled enough to go to bed with a couple of black eyes.

She sings, “When you take, you gotta give, so live and let live.  Or let go…”  And so I let it go.  I breathe.  I pray.  I focus on things getting better.  It’s extremely hard, but really, what choice do any of us have?  We move forward or we wither away.  I’m not quite ready for the withering yet.

I have to believe there’s a reason for all we struggle through.  Whether it be work, family, or the countless things beyond our control, these hardships are here to help us grow.  Maybe we only grow if we’re stretched a bit.  Maybe we’re pulled and prodded and reshaped to make us better.





What is it about family that makes life so very wonderful and so very hard all at the same time?  The bond between family members is so thick and strong, and it is irreversibly attached to your heart whether you choose for it to be or not.

Someone once said to me, “Everyone wants to be loved whether they act like it or not.”  And surely that applies to the family unit.  Everyone wants to belong in the family whether they admit it or not.

Here’s the thing –  family is hard.  So crazy, freakin’ hard.

I think it’s because you love so much, and when you love that much and you’re around people so often, it becomes overwhelming.  Let me just tell you, raising children is overwhelming, but raising teenagers, well…it’s just overwhelming on speed.

To love another person that much is to open yourself to the possibility of hurting just as much.  And kids…they hurt.  Not all the time, but sometimes they do.

Still, days pass, people grow, and I see changes.  I see our family continue forward.  I see my teenagers change, and all I can do is pray hard every day that they survive these tumultuous, terribly wacky years they’re living in.

My husband and I are partners…like a wrestling team.  We tag in and tag out.  We attack our family…some days he’s in control, other days I am.  Some days we’re able to high-five with a win, and other days…well, we go to bed bruised and beaten.

But no matter how wonderful or rough the day, in the end we’re a family.  We’re here to help one another, guide each other along this crazy road called life.  We’ve got each other’s back when the rest of the world chooses to hurt or ignore or shun.  It really is simply amazing.

Life might be quieter living alone…and neater…but where would I be without my family?


I Love You, Too



I love you, too.  For never giving up on me, for helping me to see my worth.  I love you, too.

For the moments when I’m lost, when nothing is clear.  When things are gray and dense and muddled… and somehow you pull me through…I love you, too.

During the scary times…those moments when fear wants to swallow me whole but you don’t let me drown.  During the happy times…when I’m flying almost too high to breathe.  During every moment of every day…

For making me smile… For the warmth you simply bring into my heart by being near…

Friendship and family and your grace…

For all those things and so many more, I love you, too.

Thank you for loving me first.