I Go To Extremes…

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The past 9 days of our journey have been incredibly busy, full of history and learning and experiences and tons of fun.

They have also been full of extremes.

We saw buggies in Amish country, and rode the subway in New York.

We ate lobster on a beach in Maine, and pretzels off of a food cart in Central Park.

We saw Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.

We looked at Babe Ruth’s bat and paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso.

We drove through the woods of Pennsylvania and across the Brooklyn Bridge.

We visited Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts and Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue.

And we took in the stunning views of Vermont and the lights of Times Square.

Through it all we walked and talked and saw friends and family.

And we truly enjoyed being together.

One of the highlights of the trip for me occurred at about 1:00 AM after our final day in New York City.

We had just come back from a taxi ride that none of us will ever forget. (I will spare you the details, but heed this warning: If your kids are prone to getting carsick, DO NOT take them in a taxi. Trust me.)

We had finally gotten back to our tent, everyone was gathered around our bed, and the kids began to talk. They shared their favorite things they saw, asked questions, and laughed at funny memories.

As I listened to them, I realized that those are my favorite moments of this trip. When I get to see my kids learning and growing, right in front of me. I see their minds working, see them processing things, and see them teaching and learning from each other.

And it is truly incredible.

In just a little over two weeks our trip will be over. Davey will start teaching, and we will get to know our new community. The kids will start school and sports, and we will settle into our new routine.

Until then, though, we will continue to enjoy our journey. We will be seeing more friends and family, visiting historic sites, and eventually ending up in my favorite place in the entire world: Ocean Beach, California.

The best part, though, is that I know the kidlets will continue to talk, and laugh, and learn, and grow.

And I also know that it won’t stop once we’re done traveling.

And I love that.

See you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pink Stuff Salad

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When I was growing up there was a staple that we had at every fancy meal: Pink Stuff Salad. It was a combination of cottage cheese, cool whip, pineapple, and Jello powder. Sometimes it was strawberry flavor, sometimes raspberry. Sometimes we got adventurous and used lime flavor, which, of course, changed everything and made it Green Stuff Salad.

The only problem with this salad was that no one liked it.

I mean, sure, we all took tiny helpings to be polite, and we choked it down as quickly as we could. But it was not tasty.

At all.

Finally at one Thanksgiving we had The Talk with my mom.

“No one likes the Pink (or Green) Stuff Salad.”

She took the news quite well, and never again have we had that stuff on our table.

Well, a few days ago I wondered if this Journey was the kidlets’ Pink Stuff Salad. Was this something that Davey and I love, but they just don’t enjoy? Were they going to look back on this summer as something annoying that they had to endure, or do they love it too?

I got my answer in three very unique places: Just outside of Winnemucca, NV, just outside of Lincoln, NE, and just inside the Pennsylvania state line.

In Nevada the kidlets were talking about whether or not they wanted a teleporter to just get to where we were going. The answer was a resounding no.

“Then we’d miss The Journey,” The Girl said. “The Journey is a big part of the fun.”

Sweet.

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In Nebraska, Davey and I were trying to decide whether or not to stop at a hotel or drive through the night. The kidlets just listened to our conversation, not saying anything. We finally realized that in order to get where we wanted to get, we needed to just press through. Once the kidlets heard our decision, they all responded in the exact same way.

“Yes! We love driving through the night!”

Awesome.

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Finally, we crossed into Pennsylvania just as it was getting dark outside. I looked and saw a firefly, and I got so excited.

I love fireflies.

I pointed it out to the kidlets, who were watching a movie at the time. They decided to turn off the movie so they could watch the bugs outside.

For the next hour they stared out their windows, excitedly pointing out every time they saw a flash of light.

So I am so happy to know that they love this just as much as we do.

No Pink Stuff Salad here.

Speaking of this…

Since my last post we have travelled an additional 2900 miles, bringing our total 6700. We have also spent 60 more hours in the car, bringing that total to 125.

We saw more great friends, camped in ridiculous wind, and visited our nation’s Capitol.

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We walked along the Vietnam Memorial, slowly looking over the seemingly endless list of names.

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“That’s so sad,” Jar said.

“So many people,” The Girl added.

We stood on the spot where Martin Luther King delivered a speech about his dream. We looked out over the same sights he did, and wondered about what he’d say today.

We read the Gettysburg address, etched on the wall of the Lincoln Memorial. We talked about division. And turmoil. And hope.

We read the signs of the protestors outside of the White House and Supreme Court, and we talked about freedom. Freedom to speak out, and freedom to stay silent.

We walked the steps of the Supreme Court, and we talked about decisions that impact the lives of people everywhere.

 

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And today we rest.

Once again we are settled in a campground, and as I write the kids are reading, journaling, and playing with the little trinkets they’ve picked up along the way.

Tomorrow we head out again. We will make a few stops along the way, but our destination is Cooperstown, New York.

We will spend two whole days exploring a town that is devoted to baseball.

Those will be great days.

Until then, we will continue to rest.

Oh, and eat soft shell crab and Philly cheesesteaks, because what’s a Journey without food?

See you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hit it!”

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We ended the Northern California part of our journey in the best possible way: water skiing on Lake Tahoe.

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Davey grew up skiing on the lake, and 21 years ago he taught me to ski there. Now it was time for the kidlets to learn.

Although the boys gave a valiant effort, and loved rocking the wetsuits, it was The Girl who was the most determined to make it happen.

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And I loved watching her determination.

The persistence, the strong will, the absolute refusal to quit.

It isn’t an easy skill to learn, and it isn’t an easy place to learn, either. The water is so cold, and that feeling of floating there in the enormous lake, shivering, as the boat circles around to once again pass you the rope is not exactly a fun feeling.

But I knew by the look in her eyes that she would not quit.

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And then finally the time came. She was ready.

Her sweet little voice yelled out, “Hit it!”

Davey took off, and she popped up. For two whole seconds, she was skiing.

We all cheered and yelled.

I was so proud of her and happy for her. Not because it was the best ski run ever, and not because I have visions of her being a professional water athlete.

But because she saw what it was like to stick it out, even when it isn’t exactly fun anymore, and have it pay off.

She saw that grit and guts are very, very good things to have. It’s a lesson I hope she  never forgets.

Ever.

As we went back to get her, all three of her brothers were smiling and happy for her, and as we reviewed the highlights of the day, watching their sister get up definitely made the cut.

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I love this more than they will ever know.

All of our time wasn’t spent on the water. We also visited the Bay Area and Sacramento, taking in all of the sights. Sea Lions, Cable Cars, Boats, and Bridges filled our days.

Throughout this Northern California time we ate great food, drank great coffee, and reconnected with more friends and family. We also met up with wonderful people who had been in our youth group years ago, and got in quality time with two girls who think nothing of spending hours talking with the kidlets and their stuffed animals.

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All in all, it was awesome.

We are three weeks into the journey. 3900 miles, 65 hours in the car.

And now we head east.

See you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Not About Baseball

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About 30 years ago Davey and his dad walked into Candlestick Park for the first time. They had just moved up to the Bay Area, and they were there to take in a San Francisco Giants game.

Will Clark, Robby Thompson, and Matt Williams were all on the field, and Davey was hooked.

About 30 years before that, my father-in-law, Scott, had walked into a stadium with his father to see the New York Giants play.

Willie Mays was on the field, and Scott was hooked.

Two nights ago, Davey and I walked into AT&T Park with all four of our children. We were there to see the three-time World Champion San Francisco Giants play.

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Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Crawford were on the field, and although the kidlets were already hooked, they now love it even more.

As we sat there and ate garlic fries, yelled along with the bleacher chants, and danced to Steve Perry, I couldn’t help but think about the history of this team and our family.

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Davey and I went to games together before we had kids. We went when I was pregnant, and when J was an infant in a backpack. When the older boys were 5 and 8, they collected cans and did odd jobs to earn money to go to a game and buy souvenirs.

Not too long after that we moved away from the West Coast. Although we caught the Giants on the road a few times, we had not been back to AT&T Park.

Until now.

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The kidlets had once again done special chores to earn money for souvenirs, and we made sure to enjoy every moment of the night.

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The Giants didn’t win. But that’s okay. Because that night wasn’t about baseball.

It was about family. And connections. And history and tradition.

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It was about dancing and yelling and cheering.

And it was about being together, sharing something we love.

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Go Giants!

See you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Scoop of Vanilla with a Little Bit of Caramel

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“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”
― Jamie Tworkowski

My dear cousin introduced me to this quote during one of our stops on our journey. And I love it.

I absolutely love it.

Because this portion of our trip has been all about the people.

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We saw friends and family, friends who are family, and family who are friends. We saw a bunch of people, and not enough people. We talked and laughed, listened and cried.

We asked the tough questions and heard the tough answers, told happy stories and sad stories. We listened and learned, knew and were known.

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One of my favorite times was when we went to visit my grandmother. She lives in an assisted-living facility and, to be honest, I was a bit nervous about what it would be like. What I saw made me so happy. When we first got there we ran into a large group of people who were also on their way to visit her, and she welcomed us all with a huge smile.

She took us all around, introduced us to her friends, and proudly showed us the garden she helped plant.

She wanted to take us to lunch at the little Bistro, but after nearly nine decades her feet just aren’t as nimble as they used to be. The solution was for her to cruise along in her wheelchair, greeting everyone as she rolled along.

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She knew them and they knew her. I teased her about being so popular and she just giggled.

During our meal, her twin sister came to chat for a while and a few other friends stopped by to say hello.

My favorite part of the visit happened at the end of the meal. The server came to see if we wanted dessert, and she looked at my grandma and said, “I know what you want. A scoop of vanilla with a little bit of caramel.”

My grandma just smiled, and later said it was the perfect little treat.

There are several residents in the facility, covering the full spectrum of physical and cognitive abilities. From independent living to advanced Alzheimer’s care, the residents are treated with dignity and respect, to the point of knowing their favorite dessert.

It was tough to say goodbye, as it always is, but I also felt so relieved knowing she is happy. She was about to go and listen to her favorite accordion player, and she was looking forward to doing some art in the coming week.

And I know that when she wants something sweet, she will get her scoop of vanilla with a little bit of caramel.

For this next part of our journey, we are home. Not home home, because that won’t come until the end of July, but Northern California home.

This is where we met, fell in love, and got engaged. It is where we had our first career jobs, learned how to live as husband and wife, and where all four of the kidlets were born. The sights, sounds, and smells are comfortingly familiar, and there are memories around every corner.

As much as we like to wander and explore and seek adventure, sometimes it’s nice to just come home for a bit.

So here we are.

See you soon.

 

 

Lesson from the Littles

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In this first week of our journey, I sure have learned a lot from the two youngest kids. We call them The Littles. Now, I know that 4th and 5th graders aren’t normally considered little, but in this family, they are. The older two are The Boys and the younger two are The Littles. That’s just how it is.

We spent three wonderful days camping in Flagstaff, AZ. Those days were full of dirt, relaxing, campfires, and outdoor living. You know, all of the things that make life just a little bit better.

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One of the days that we were there we went and explored the Grand Canyon. It was beautiful and incredible and breathtaking and all of the adjectives you would expect when you go and see one of the Natural Wonders of the World. We stood and looked and pondered the wonder of it all and our insignificance and our significance and all of the Thoughts You Think at the Grand Canyon.

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Well, all of us except Jar. Jar was more interested in the people. As we walked through the parking lot, he read all of the license plates. He wondered about the families, where they came from, and where they were going. He listened to the accents he heard, watched the different customs taking place, and wanted to know more about the lives of the people he saw. He was fascinated by everyone around us, noticing the little things that we all ignored.

As we pushed past the people to stare and watch and think, he saw the people and wanted to know their story.

I want to be more like my son.

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When the camping was over, we came back down to the Greater Phoenix Area. The Girl had some softball to play and we had some cheering to do.

This is The Girl’s first year playing fast pitch softball. She played baseball for five years before this and knows the fundamentals, but this was her first time with the bows and the cheers and all the softballness. She loved it. She is still a bit confused about the bow, but she loves softball.

Her team went undefeated for the regular season, and the pitcher was incredible. I’m talking several no-hitters, way beyond the rest of the league incredible. Strike after strike after strike. It sure was impressive.

The Girl plays 3rd base and shortstop, and I never got tired of watching her out there. Every single pitch of every single inning, she was ready. She would hop into position, glove down, eager to make a play. Now, 19 times out of 20 there was no play to be made, but she didn’t care. She was ready.

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She received no attention, no glory, and most of the time there was no external reward for her actions. But that didn’t stop her. Every pitch, every inning, every game. Doing her job to the best of her abilities, no matter what.

I want to be more like my daughter.

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So now we are off again, ready to see what we see and learn what we learn. Oh, and also enjoy the company of our kids, who are pretty awesome people.

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See you much later, Arizona.

Nevada, Oregon, and Washington… we’re coming for ya.

See you soon.

 

 

 

 

Living in the Journey

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“I’m just a young boy, living in the journey…”

Those are the lyrics to a song my youngest son wrote. One time I asked him what the song meant, and his response was simple.

“Well, Mom. It means that I’m just a young boy. And I’m living in the journey.”

Awesome.

I love it.

Living in the journey. And I get to live there with him.

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This summer our family is living in an extended journey. My husband is a teacher, so he has the next two months off. He’s also switching schools and districts, which means we are moving as well. We had two options: Move in to our new neighborhood in June and spend the summer in the Valley of the Sun (uh….), or throw our stuff in storage and travel the country.

We’re traveling.

Duh.

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For the next 60 days we are traveling all over the Lower 48. West Coast, East Coast, Northwest, the South… you name it, we’ll be there. Seeing friends and family, exploring new places, visiting our favorite spots. Camping, hotels, couches… we’re doing this.

And I’m going to chronicle it all here. Because that’s what I do.

So… before we get started, I’d like to introduce you to the characters in this journey.

“J”

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J is Jeremy. He is 15 and just finished his Freshman year of high school. He likes reading, music, and all things baseball.

“The Kid”

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The Kid is Micah. He is 12 and just finished 6th grade. He loves building, creating, and all things baseball.

“The Girl”

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The Girl is Alexis. She is 10 and just finished 4th grade. It is because of her that we get to explore all of the National Parks for free! She loves drawing, writing, and all things baseball and softball.

“Jar”

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Jar is Elijah. He is eight and just finished 3rd grade. He loves camping, swimming, and all things baseball.

“Davey and Jane”

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We are Davey and Jane. We love our family, traveling, and all things baseball and softball.

“Marvin”

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Marvin is Dr. Leo Marvin, our 7-month old lab-mix. We were told he was lab/golden retriever. We see the lab… He loves playing, sleeping, and all things chewing.

“Goliath”

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Goliath is our new tent. We figured that since we would be spending at least 2/3 of the next 60 nights in a tent, we might as well get a good one. It fits 14 people. We are a family of six, so this is a very good thing.

And here we go.

Just a family, living in the journey. Maybe you’ll join us!

See you soon!

It’s Not Okay

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Youth SportsI am a baseball mom. Well, to be a bit more precise, I am a baseball, softball, soccer, cheer, football, and basketball mom. But out of all of those, baseball is our family sport. From the beginning of February through the end of October, seven days a week, we are doing something related to baseball. Major Leagues, Minor Leagues, College Ball, Little League… we love it all.

But with all of my time watching my kids play, I have realized that there is a problem with youth sports. A very, very big problem. Now, the first thing that someone says when you dare to criticize youth sports is some variation of, “Well if you think you can do better then you can get out there and coach.”

Okay. Challenge accepted. I am a coach. My husband is a coach. Over the course of the last ten years we have coached a total of 51 seasons, from Kindergarteners to high schoolers, in six different sports.

So I have earned the right to say something.

But you know what? I don’t need to have earned the right to say something. And my speaking out isn’t a right – it’s a necessity. Because the problem with youth sports is that young people are being mistreated. And it’s not okay.

I’m not talking about the constant practicing. Although at times it gets a bit excessive, I understand the need to practice. I firmly believe in encouraging kids to strive for excellence, and excellence does not come without a lot of hard work.

I’m also not talking about kids being over-committed. If your kid wants to be involved in ten different activities at a time, and you want to pay for and take them to all of those activities, then go for it. Work that out with your family.

What I am talking about is that in the arena of youth sports it seems to have become accepted that adults will yell and scream at children. Belittling them. Humiliating them. Often times swearing at them.

The very same actions that if we saw it happening on the street, we would stop and intervene. Yet when it happens on the field, or the diamond, or the court, we all sit by and let it continue.

This is not okay.

My oldest son is an umpire and this season he has received a lot of verbal abuse. I understand that in professional baseball the manager yelling at the ump and getting tossed from the game is just something that happens. And you know what? Fine. Two adults throwing a fit and yelling at each other while millions of people watch? It’s a baseball thing. But when it is in the context of youth sports, where the umpire is a high school or middle school student, the dynamic has to change. We cannot simply accept it as normal that a 40-year-old man is going to shout insults at a child.

It is not okay.

All three of my sons play baseball and my daughter plays softball. I have seen countless coaches yelling at their players. Not helpful instruction, not even constructive criticism, simply out of control yelling and screaming. I have seen coaches throw things, slam things, and stomp around, raging at their kids.

I even overhead one coach yelling at his players in the dugout, “This is not a game in here!”

Uh… Coach? It is a game. And those boys you just yelled at? They’re 9 and 10 years old. Almost everything is a game for them. And that’s how it should be.

I realize that I have the option of not having my kids involved in youth sports. My son doesn’t have to umpire, and we can find other ways for them to get exercise and be a part of a team. But I have also seen the benefits that come from playing. Not only the physical benefits, but other benefits as well. I love the responsibility that they learn. I like seeing them helping teach the younger players, cheering for their siblings, and the confidence that comes with mastering a new skill. I like the fact that my oldest son is learning how to stand his ground, and realizing that he can take charge of an incredibly intense situation. These are valuable things to know.

Every day we have conversations about the things that they have seen at the ballpark, the good and the bad. And they are learning from everything. But far too often what they are learning from the adults is what not to do and how not to treat people.

And that’s not okay.

So what do we do? Do we just accept that it’s part of the culture? Do we just roll our eyes, vent on Facebook, and occasionally throw passive-aggressive remarks towards the coach?

Yes. I have done that.

But that’s not okay either.

And so I am speaking out. And speaking up. And I will continue to speak out and speak up. Because even if I remove my four children from this environment, that leaves 996 other kids in this league who are being subjected to verbal abuse.

And it’s not okay.

So what can we do? What can you do?

Speak up.

Speak with your coach and make it clear that you will not allow your child, or any other child, to be mistreated. Request a meeting with the director of your league and let him or her know that you are concerned about the fact that kids are being humiliated.

Because it is possible to coach kids without belittling them. It is possible to help them learn and excel, without making them miserable in the process.

I’ve seen it.

Last season my son’s team was undefeated the entire season, including the championship game. And his coach never once yelled and screamed at the players. He was passionate and he was intense, but he never bullied the children.

There are several organizations that have been created to help coaches learn how to coach without the abuse. Contact these groups and have someone work with your league.

Don’t just sit by and watch it happen. Do something.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I am not someone who thinks that everyone should get a trophy and that there should never be losers. I am fiercely competitive, and I believe that games are played to be won. I also believe that part of coaching is teaching kids how to win and lose with dignity.

I don’t tell my kids, “Good swing,” when they are chopping wood, and I don’t just shrug it off when a softly hit grounder rolls through their legs. We work on it, and I expect them to do better the next time.

So I’m not saying we need to be soft.

What I am saying is that we need to make sure that the adults who are leading and shaping and influencing children are doing so in a way that is not abusive. It is not too much to ask.

In fact, why would we accept anything else?

So do something.

See you soon.

 

 

 

 

Noble Characters – Baba

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Proverbs 31:19: In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

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Everywhere I look in my house I see evidence of my grandmother’s handiwork. Whether it is in the paintings hanging on the wall, the sweater I passed down to my daughter, or the countless “GG Blankets” my kids use, her artwork abounds.

Having raised seven children, “Baba” knew how to make anything and everything. She could sew clothes, knit sweaters, and crochet the most incredible blankets. She was constantly working on new projects, and I don’t think there is anyone in our HUGE family that does not have one of her trademark fleece blankets. I found out a few years ago that she is terribly allergic to fleece, and would spend days sick in bed after making the blankets. I told her that she shouldn’t do it anymore, that everyone would understand, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

Baba is not a warm and fuzzy grandmother. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she loves us all dearly and makes sure that we know it. But the mushy sentimental stuff is not her thing – that was my Papa! He would cry at anything. We all knew, though, that if we moved Baba to tears we had said something truly profound.

Because of her no-nonsense outlook, she has always chosen to express her love in ways that were practical and useful. She would make the blankets, of course, but she would also help make sure that kids had shoes and that school supplies were available. She wanted to know that we all had cooking utensils, blenders, and clocks, and she also freely gave ice cream dollars, because every once in a while you just need ice cream.

My Baba – Pearl Pack – is a woman of noble character, and I am honored to be her granddaughter. She has devoted her life to serving others: her husband, her children, her grand and great-grand children, friends, church members, and anyone else she would meet. She knows how to love, and she knows how to express her love.

She is a work of art.

See you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Noble Characters – Kathy, Melissa, and Gina

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I am going to jump around in the Proverbs passage today because I absolutely had to write about these three lovely ladies in one post. You see, when we were in college, I had the privilege of being their RA, and we had a lot of fun.

Gina, Melissa, and Kathy

A whole lot of fun.

All three of them were in my wedding, and I have always considered it an honor to be their friend.

The verse that makes me think of Kathy and Melissa is Proverbs 31:18:

She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

 Kathy and Melissa are both wives and mothers, and they both work as nurses.

I am a huge fan of nurses. Through my four C-sections, my dad’s many surgeries, and my mom’s heart surgery, I have seen firsthand just how important nurses are, and how much they truly impact recovery.

I have also seen that their job is unbelievably difficult, requiring so much strength, patience, grace, and wisdom.

They work ridiculously long shifts, many times through the night, serving people who most times can give absolutely nothing in return.

This is the career that Kathy and Melissa have chosen.

And I am not surprised.

As long as I have known both of those ladies – Kathy since college and Melissa much longer – I have known them to be kind, caring, loving, and gracious.

I have also known them to work through the night, doing whatever needs to be done.

I admire these two more than they will ever know.

The verse that makes me think of Gina is Proverbs 31:22:

She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

Now, on the surface this makes sense, considering the fact that Gina is an incredible interior designer, and she also has an absolutely adorable personal fashion sense.

But the reasons this verse makes me think of Gina are far deeper than that.

Gina brings color to her world. Whether through her humor or her adventurous spirit, she brightens up life, not only for her husband and kids, but for everyone who knows her.

She also passionately fights for those who are cast out and scorned. She rallies people together to love and serve the least of these, demonstrating with her life the importance of being a voice for the voiceless.

Gina shows her children how to love without prejudice or discrimination.

She makes this world better, in both the temporal and eternal things, and I can’t believe I get to call her my friend.

Kathy, Melissa, and Gina are women of noble character. They inspired me so many years ago, and they still inspire me today.

In one sense I feel proud of all that they have accomplished, like I have watched “my girls” grow up. But in another way I look up to them, and strive to be the type of person that they are.

Either way, I am so thankful that we were put on a hall together, all those years ago.

 

See you soon!