A Warm Piece of Toast…

Years ago while in Japan, a dear friend and I had babies within weeks of one another.   Both were little girls.  We would talk daily on the phone and we loved our talks.

One day, mid morning ,the phone rang,  I answered in tears.  It was my friend Cindy, the one who had a baby girl weeks after we had ours.   Hearing my tears, she promptly asked what was going on.  Through my tears I told her that all I really wanted was a warm piece of toast, and I hadn’t had one in weeks and I was just about to take a bite of a warm piece of toast when the phone rang.  Hiding her laughter, she told me to hang up, have my toast and call when I was done.

I know I have a weird relationship with my toast.  I just love to eat it when it is warm out of the toaster, the butter melted and the topping of choice (mostly peanut butter for me) is soft and warm also.

For the past couple of weeks I have been trying to get hold of Cindy.  Her health has not been good and I have just needed to hear her voice.  To hear her laughter and know in my heart that she is okay.    She is a friend who is  one of those that we can go months and years without talking and when we hear one another’s voice it is just a continuation of where we left off.   The last time we talked we promised that we would talk more often, like we used to in Japan.  That was at least three years ago.   So, no, we did not keep our promise to one another.

This morning I had texted her husband and tried once to call and left a voice mail.  After that I made hubby some toast and then made myself a piece.  Again, it was warm, butter melted and peanut butter gooey.  It was a great piece of toast.  Since I had been thinking of Cindy, I thought of that conversation so long ago and laughed to myself.

Then the phone rang.  I answered and we had a great visit on the phone.  As typical of when I talk with her, tears streamed down my face.  Tears of happiness in hearing her voice, tears of sorrow that we do not live closer to one another, tears of memories that cover so many years and the knowledge that I need to cherish each conversation, each echo of laughter.

Once more we hung up promising each other that we would talk more often.  I am hoping to hold up my end of the deal this time.   As I walked back into the living room to continue my day, I looked at the end table.  There on my plate was a cold, hard piece of toast.  I smiled to myself as I ate it.  How times have changed for me, a cold piece of toast tastes so much better after a warm conversation.

Proverbs 25:25 says, “Like a cool drink of water when you’re worn out and weary is a letter from a long-lost friend.”     This wasn’t a letter, but even better, a conversation.

Thank you my friend for blessing my day.  You are loved.

Thanks for stopping by, Cathi (DAF)

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In Her Own Words…

I have often talked about and shared my niece’s blog.  Today she posted a rewrite of her autobiography.  I hope you will take the time to read her words.  They will encourage you and lift you up.  Please stop by her blog to share your thoughts on her words.   I am so very proud to be her aunt.

via In my own words

Thoughts on Her Birthday…

 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,

Psalm 23:3a  (New Living Translation)

I have had my blog since 2013.  In the five years writing, I have only written about this woman twice on her birthday.  I just checked to make certain.

I was eleven when she died. Some years her birthday warrants just a short glimpse of a memory.  Other years I am affected by her birthday.

In light of what I have been writing lately, I knew that I would eventually write about her, and since today would have been a celebration of her, why not today?

As the years go on memories of my Mom ebb and flow.  Sometimes there is a clarity to the memories like looking through a window pane. Time seems to be non-existent, like she could be sitting right beside me.  Other times the memories are like an old faded letter.  The edges are worn and the ink is fading.  Time has begun to erase the sharp edges and the clarity of what you are grasping for.

In reality, how many of us truly remember everything from when we were eleven and before?  That is an age of being a child.  A place where things like cancer and death should not exist.  A place where there should not be a bed set up in what was a playroom before. There should not be memories of a table filled with prescription bottles and get well cards.  A child should not know what a bed pan is or how to empty it.  But, this child, along with her sisters knew that.  It was our reality. It was what part of our childhood consisted of for six months.

While thinking of writing this post I wondered what lessons I had gleaned from my Mom.  She taught us the basics, how to eat, wash, take care of ourselves, iron, do some laundry.  We learned by mistakes how to cook, clean, iron things other than handkerchiefs, how to get groceries, how to be strong, independent women.  We learned to take things in stride.  We had learned the hard lessons already,  people get sick and people die and you learn to stand up, dust yourself off and move in a forward direction.

I spent many years in differing situations wondering what my Mom would do, what she would think, what she would say.  I still do that occasionally.  The truth is, I don’t know.  For the woman who I knew and love was young.  I was young.  The truths she would have imparted to me would be the truths you tell a child.  Truths that are not totally complete, for as a child how can you grasp a full concept of things?

The one thing I always remember is her telling me that Psalm 23 was her favorite Bible verse.  Of course, it may have been for that moment it was her favorite, but, I hold that psalm close to me as being her favorite.  I chose this verse today because of her.  Also, this verse reminds me of Whose guiding hand has been ever-present in my life.  He has guided me when I didn’t have a Mom to verbally tell me not to do things.  Did I always listen?  No, just like I would not have listened to my Mom always.

The point is, though, that we are given one mother.  She brings us in to the world.  She nourishes us, holds us, loves us and teaches us as much as she can.  As a mother myself, I know mothers are not perfect creatures.  We tire.  We get discouraged. We sometimes focus on the wrong things.  We don’t always listen with an open mind.  We don’t always agree with what is going on.  But, underneath all of it, at the very core of our hearts, that bond between mother and child is permanently knit into our being.  It is a cord that cannot be severed.  It is our lifeblood.  It is our heartbeat.  It is that voice deep within us that echoes throughout us.

That cord was broken so many years ago, but the song of love still exists for me.  Happy Birthday Mom.  You are still missed.

The Comfort of a Worn Quilt…

Psalm 91:4 New Living Translation (NLT)

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

 

This verse in Psalms reminds me of sitting under an old soft quilt.  You know those quilts made up of many squares from different pieces of cloth.  Each cloth has a story of its own and a different “feel” to it.  Some are more worn than others and some silky, some with a faded texture, some more vibrant in color and some that are just worn from time.  Each square is sewn together with threads of love, prayer and hope.

You sit under this quilt for comfort, warmth and security.  This quilt has been used to wipe your tears and your nose.  It is a well-loved quilt.  You cannot describe this quilt because it encompasses too many thoughts and emotions. There are too many stories that, like the squares that are sewn together, each has a history.

Bruce is married to my forever friend.  I was there when they first met (classic story for another time), I went on their first date (double date to a Billy Graham movie), interrupted their first kiss (oops!!), he was in our wedding and we were in theirs.  He is our oldest daughter’s  Godfather.

He is not a brother, not a friend; he is like an old worn quilt.  Our lives (the four of us) are sewn together with threads of faith, love, hope, disappointment, fear, trust, laughter, memories.

Spending time with Bruce reminds me of my quiet times with my Lord.  I can sit and talk, honestly and openly.  I can sit and say nothing at all.  There is no judgment.  No condemnation.  Just a peace.

Lord, help me to run to the shelter of Your wings.  There I can be safe.  There I can learn from You.  Cover me in Your perfect peace.   Amen.

Thank you for visiting today,  Cathi (DAF)

My Brother…

1 Corinthians 10:24 New Living Translation (NLT)

24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

I never had a brother.  I always wanted one.  Growing up with my sisters was wonderful and I cherish them, but, I saw my cousins who were, or had brothers and I envied them.  There is just something about having a brother.  I actually wanted a big brother.  That was just not possible.

Not possible, until we went to Japan.  When we first went to Japan we moved into a small apartment on the “economy”, which meant we moved into a Japanese neighborhood and lived like they did.   We were put on a waiting list for government housing, which is an American style home.  (Well, American as what the Occupation housing was like).

Several months after arriving in Japan we were contacted that we had worked our way through the housing list.  We drove from our little place in Kikoba, Hayama to Yokohama, Japan.  There we met up with two other couples, one a little older than us and the other, a couple our age with their baby girl in a little carrier.   There were three couples and three homes.  There was a ranking order and so we knew that when the older couple said which house they wanted, it was theirs.   We ended up with the houses we all wanted, so there was no strife in the decisions.

We moved in and a few months later while I was grocery shopping I ran into the couple with the baby.  They invited hubby and I to dinner that night and thus began a life long friendship.

But, this post is not just about them, it is about my desire for a brother.  The Lord heard my cry for one and He provided a brother for me in this young man.  After we all left Japan, they moved to San Diego and eventually we were there also.

It was during our time in San Diego that Mike truly became my big brother.  With hubby deployed so often, Mike stepped in and did the heavy stuff around our home.  Without asking, he was there faithfully to mow our lawn, build fences, move dirt, anything I might need.    His family is our family, we love each other and they are Aunt and Uncle and cousins to my girls and we are that to their girls.

Michael is not just a brother in a sense of taking care of things for me, he is the one I can argue with and disagree with.  He will challenge me when I am wrong, he will correct me.  He has words that are encouraging and words that make me spit out drinks from my nose in laughter.  As they say now, he truly is my brother from another mother.  I cherish his presence in my life.

Michael has taught me many things.  His life reflects his determination to be available for others.  He looks for the good in others, he brings it out in people.  He strives to expose in people things they do not see themselves.  He has done this for me.  I have grudgingly listened to him and mentally fought what he has said to me, eventually realizing he was right all along, thus giving me a firmer foundation.

Sometimes the desires of our hearts are not what we thought they were.  As a child, I saw an older brother as a mere protector, someone to guard against bullies, or to wrestle with, or to just hang out with.  The brother I received could be all of that, but, he is a voice that will beckon me to better things.  He will show by example consistency in his family.  He can be annoying in disagreements, and he will just smile when I realize he was right.    But, even though I do not see him much now, I know that he is a phone call away and if it is possible he would be at our side as soon as humanly possible.

Our Lord places us in families, those we are born with and those that just ‘happen’ to come to us.  My family was blessed to be placed together with theirs.  I am grateful for my brother.

Lord, thank you for Michael.  Thank You for the lessons You have taught me through him.  Help me to follow his example of You.  Those examples of seeing people as You see them, being consistent in my life.  Let my life be a reflection of You this day.

Thank you for stopping by…  Cathi (DAF)

Implementing an Idea…

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to write.  I have always loved the idea of putting thoughts together to somehow have an impact on another’s life.  I don’t know if I have ever succeeded in doing so, but, as you know, it has not stopped me.

As we were leaving Japan to return to living in the states, I had an idea for a book.  Obviously, that has not happened.    The book was to be a devotional of the lessons I had learned from the people in my life.  I have tried a few times to start it and each time, I reread what I had written and either tore it up (before computers) and threw it away, or, I have hit the delete button and it disappeared.

After my last post, I realized that lately I have had a theme in several of my posts that talk about people in my life and what they have meant to me.  I have suggested that you tell those you love, or who are in your life how important they are to you.    As I finished my last post, it occurred to me that this might be the time for me to at least blog about the lessons and truths I have learned along the way with those precious people who have been in my life.  So, I am going to begin sharing some things from people who have been placed in my life.  This will be my (hopefully) gift to those close to me.

So, my blog will be my observations, lessons, and love I have gathered along the way.  Life is fleeting, and I want to take the time to share my love.  That is, of course, unless something really exciting happens and I have to write about that!

Thanks for stopping by today, I appreciate your visit.  Cathi (DAF)

Navy Family…

Military families are a unique group of people.  Separated from biological families, they have to make and become part of a new family with each duty station.  Their children have very little access to their real cousins, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents.  So, in the absence of having blood relations around, family units are formed and the bond is as strong as it would be if you had grown up in your hometown.

As is common in some families, though, there are times where there is little communication and days of not talking can turn into weeks, months and eventually years.  You think of them, you pray for them, but life continues and soon you realize that you have lost touch with them.  Their names are no longer on your Christmas card list, and their birthdays are no longer marked on the calendar.  You have the memories of them, you smile to yourself as you remember the duty station and the things you had in common, but, for the most part, you smile and once more tuck the memories away in the file in your heart labeled (for me) Norfolk, Yokosuka, Nagai, Bangor, Winter Harbor, San Diego.

And then…   your text notification goes off at 2:00 a.m..  My first thought was to ignore it.  My second thought, it may be one of the girls and you panic trying to figure out what happened and if the grand-babies are okay.  The third thought is, ‘Put on your glasses dummy and see who it was” .  So, at 2:05 a.m., I fumble for my glasses, and stumble into the bathroom, turn on the light and bleary-eyed read the text.  It was urgent sounding.  Prayer needed.  No name, just a phone number.    My next thought was, “poor thing.  must be a wrong number since there was no name attached to the text.”   I pray for this person and then the area code sinks into my brain.  I recognize the area code, I used to have this area code.  By now I am mentally awake.  I scroll down and realize it is a different number than the Maine numbers I have.  I pray a bit harder.

I get back to sleep after feeling like I had prayed enough.   It was a group text and honestly, I think people get up way too early on Sundays.  My notifications started to go off at 5:30 a.m..   One after another.  I finally put my phone under my pillow so it wasn’t so annoying, after all, I had my alarm set for 7 a.m.  and I didn’t want to over sleep!

In a nutshell, all of the texts and commotion through the night was for a ‘family’ member from Winter Harbor.  She is ill, and in the hospital.  She was one that had been lost for me.  It was her number that showed up on my phone.  Today I talked with her for the first time in I can’t remember how long.  We laughed and shared memories and prayed together.  It brought a smile to my face.

Then an hour ago, another unidentified phone number showed up on my phone.  I answered and figured it was a sales call.  It was not.  It was someone else that I had lost touch with.  She was part of that family in Winter Harbor.  I recognized her voice, as with family, you do not have to identify yourself when calling.  You know the voice.  Your heart recognizes the voice.  We visited for a short time and the call ended.

In hanging up from that call, I realized that our adopted families are just like our biological families.  We know we are there.  We can call, or choose not to.  We can message, text, write a letter, share a post, or we can decide not to.  But, when there is an event, or an emergency,  family comes together.  We may not be as close as we once were, and we may no longer see eye to eye on everything, but, we will come together to pray, to support, to hold one another up.

I am grateful for my adopted families.  My life has been shaped and formed through knowing them.  My mind and heart are filled with memories shared with them.  When I think of them, I am transported to the housing area that had a perfect view of Mt. Fuji, rice paddies, and yakitori stands.  Or, I am immediately put on the rock-bound coast of Maine, with the sea smell and lobster traps.  Images and smells and sounds of my life.  Littered with snippets of people who have encouraged me, challenged me, supported me and laughed with me.  So, to my siblings that have been on my mind and heart today, Mike, Cindy, Debbie, Dick, Maggie, Jackie, Bob, Susie, Vance, Ruthie, Neil, Rosalee, and so many more, thank you for making me me.  My life has been so blessed by you all.  I love you.  And, to my nieces and nephews,  Janna, Wendy, Cathy, Beth, Dawn, Paige, Kelly, Kevin,  and Aimee, I love you.  You are missed and your young lives made me smile in so many ways, thank you for the blessing of being you.    (Disclaimer: I failed to mention another Vance, who started as an adopted part of family, but became family, as did his mom, dad and sister and he became Little Man’s daddy)

Thanks for dropping by today and for reading my stroll down memory lane.  Cathi (DAF)

Heroes…

A few years ago we watched a movie that made a huge impact on me.  I actually think of it often and am still moved by it.  The movie was “Taking Chance”, starring Kevin Bacon.  It is about a fallen soldier being taken home and the military officer who accompanied him.  I cried through the entire movie, I really wanted to just sit and sob, but retained my composure and just let the tears fall.

All too often in recent years, we have seen videos of our military personnel who are being loaded onto aircraft.  We see the honor guard and the spouses and family standing soberly by the casket.   It is heart wrenching to say the least.  But, it truly is what these heroes deserve.

A couple of nights ago, a gentleman from our church passed away.  I confess, I did not know him well.  I knew him to see him and I loved when he would stand to pray.  His prayers were bold, and strong and elegant.  His prayers would make my heart soar.   Hubby, though, did know this man.  He had visited him frequently the past month as his health was declining.  So, the other night when we received a call that he had passed, hubby went to the hospital to be with the family.

I got a text from him an hour or so later and he said that he would be staying with this man until he was taken to the morgue.  I didn’t think much of it, it just sounds like something my husband would do.    He came home later that night and I could tell the passing of this man had touched my husband’s heart.   We knew he was now out of pain and was peaceful.  Hubby said there was almost a smile on his face in death, and we both agreed that he most likely saw the glory of heaven in his last moments and that is enough to make anyone smile.

As I started to drift off to sleep that night, it occurred to me what my husband had done that evening.  He had said when he came in that his feet were a bit tired from standing and I didn’t connect the dots until I was trying to go to sleep.   He was standing watch for his friend, who not only was his friend, but, a brother in arms.  This man who died was a combat veteran who had served in the Air Force for 20 years.  He served in Viet Nam and the military when it wasn’t fashionable to do so.  He served his country when most people ridiculed our military.  He never received  accolades given for his service like they are given today.  No one stopped him on the street to thank him for his service.  He quietly did his duty.  He was a hero.

And, my husband, who recognized this hero stood watch beside him.  To the staff at the hospital, he was a cancer patient who had most likely lived a full life.  He was older and he lost his battle to cancer.   Hubby, though, knew the rest of the story.  He knew he was a veteran.  They had shared stories of their time in the service, they bonded as only brothers in arms can.

So, at the end of his life, he received the honor he deserved.  He was not left alone.  He had a brother standing guard, watching and making certain he was taken care of.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and ages.  I am proud I have my own hero.  A man who respects the tenants and traditions of the military.  A man who will honor the heroes that have served and gone on before him.

Thanks for stopping by today.  Cathi (DAF)

Just Thinking…

Each year at this time I begin to remember and think of what I was doing and where I was.  Each year I add another number to the count of the years.  Each year I wonder where the time has gone.  Tomorrow is my oldest daughter’s birthday.  I don’t mind my own birthday, but, hers gets to me yearly.

Yes, I have two daughters, but until recently the only birthday that bothered me was my oldest daughter’s birthday.  Now, that her sister has made it to her mid-thirties, I begin to feel older in September also.

I can remember talking to my Dad on my birthday.  He would ask, “How old are you now?”  I always thought that was a bizarre question, I  mean, how could you not remember how old your child was?  I am beginning to think it was self-preservation that he asked that question.  I think he was most likely hoping I would give a lower number, which I never did, because, as I mentioned previously, my birthday never seems to really bother me. So, I would proudly announce my age and his response is one that I have become very familiar with, “How did you get to be that old and I really don’t think I am old enough to have a daughter your age.”   I guess with age comes wisdom.  I feel that same way.

Today as I was going through my Facebook page, I started to read the responses on a friend’s post.  As usual there was a secondary conversation that was between my friend and a friend of hers that I do not know.  The conversation went like this, (friend 1) “How is your Mom?”   (friend I don’t know) “She is good.  64 now and healthy.”

I swallowed hard.  This comment made it sound like at 64 the woman should be in a home for the infirm and aged.  This, on top of my oldest approaching what could be a milestone year as she hits a big year next year (sorry Sweetie), made me start to look for my walker, a cane or my bed pan.  Or all three of them.

It truly is amazing that I have my facilities to actually write this out and think coherently.  Age, in wine, cheese and Sean Connery it is a wonderful and delightful thing, each year making it better than before.

So, I will continue to think on this.  This business with age, and numbers and gray hair and arthritic hands.  This business of growing older.

I close with this quote I found.  
Never use the passing years as an excuse for old age. ~Robert Brault

Thanks for stopping by today.  I appreciate your visit.  Oh, and to my dear daughter, Thank you for the years of laughter and tears and worry and joy.  May #%* be the best year yet for you!  Cathi (DAF)

 

 

Looking Back…

In November, I had great plans for writing about our Thanksgiving visit with Little Man and his folks.  I took pictures and I may still use them and write about them, but, somehow, time flew by and nothing was written.

I had a wonderful holiday season.  I was so busy making memories that I did not take time to write about them.  I would not change a thing.  Sometimes it is so much more important to live in the moment and catalog each giggle, each smile, each sigh in your heart than to think of how to express those deep feelings with words.

We spent Thanksgiving with Little Man, like I mentioned.  We stayed with some dear friends and we celebrated Hubby’s birthday all in the same week.  It was a week filled with hugs, kisses, old movies, mini golf, lots of food and the comfort of being with friends who are family and family .  It couldn’t have been better.

We drove home from Thanksgiving and I dove into decorating.  I took my time and I have to say that this year’s decorations were surprisingly beautiful.  My ideas of what I would like to see actually worked!  I was amazed.

We had a couple of parties at the house and the house echoed with laughter and conversations and of course, there was plenty of food.

Christmas saw Little Man and his family here.  From the greeting with my obnoxious ugly Christmas sweater (which Little Man loved) to the tearful parting and good-bye the day after Christmas, our home and hearts were filled to the brim.  Laughter rang out and there was music and old movies and new movies, legos, games, puzzles and old stories filling our home.  These all outshined the decorations.  When your home is filled with loved ones they are the perfect decoration and make the gifts and ribbons and bows pale in comparison.

Shortly after Christmas, Hubby and I traveled to Florida to see Little Miss and her folks.  We spent ten glorious days with them.  Again, the time spent with them was time that we will cherish.  Seeing Little Miss be herself, complete with singing, dancing around, playing with her dolls and her legos, made our hearts glad.  She is full of life and she reminds us how fun it is to be three…  we laughed for ten days straight.

Looking back on this holiday season fills me with such a peace.  I was hugged and kissed by two of the most important people in my life.  Their obvious love for hubby and I melt our hearts.  Being hugged by sometimes sticky hands is the absolute best feeling in the world.  I was spoiled this year with gifts, but the two gifts I cherish most are my grandchildren.  Their smiles, their laughter, their stories, they are the things that make anytime special.

So, Happy New Year!  I hope 2018 holds the best for you all.  My year ended and started in the best possible way,  I look forward to the coming months.

Thanks for stopping by, Cathi (DAF)