A Girl Looks at 80 (Fortunate by birth)

This morning my mother begins her last week in her 70s with an 80th birthday on Friday.  As she incredulously declared  on Saturday evening to me, “Can you believe this?!”

Daughter. Sister. Mom to seven girls. Grandma to fifteen.sisters   Great-grandma to two.  Friend to countless others.  Church member.  Sunday school teacher.  Alto in the choir. Writer.  Volunteer.  So many identities, none of which ever earned her a paycheck.    Ellen Raines Blose is worth celebrating this week.

Although there’s a party coming up, I thought I would celebrate her in words, focusing each day this week  on things she has taught and modeled over the years.   And although my late father had a hand in it all, he would agree that it was really Mom doing the bulk of the parenting.

Mom often reminded us that she and her nine siblings and all seven Blose girls had a leg up on others just by the luck of our birth.  It wasn’t just hard work or intelligence that afforded opportunities.   Most likely she learned this from her own parents who fed and cared for the less fortunate in their Keezletown community.  It was the Great Depression and people were out of work and hungry.   Not once did her mother or father question whether someone deserved their benevolence, but her parents modeled the very essence of grace and gratitude.

I recently told a friend who is a social worker that we took in foster babies years ago.    As  busy as my Mom was with a dairy farm and seven kids, she signed up to be a short term foster parent, often getting babies late at night.  I remember there was a dedicated drawer for foster baby clothes: tiny white sleeeping gowns and booties.  I recall the excitement of readying the bottles and crib for our little guest.  Those babies were Blose siblings for just a short time, but they were nurtured and cared for as if they were one of us.  They were children of God just as we were but didn’t have the good fortune of being born into a history of good decision making and stability as we had been.

This may seem brutally harsh,  but we were raised knowing that there would always be someone out there smarter, better looking, more athletic and richer than us, but there would also be many people less fortunate.   I was important and special, but in my Mom’s words: “You were not raised that the sun rose and set on your behind.”  As someone who studies society, I have noticed a trend (and it started when my kids were small) of way too much lavish attention shelled out on toddlers at  birthdays, huge  bouquets at  dance recitals, graduation balloons at preschool promotions and soccer trophies for doing nothing more than showing up.   Mom’s reality check provided us with emotional comfort when life didn’t quite measure up to our expectations.   There weren’t bouquets or trophies at the end of every hard day.   You had a meal,  a warm bath and a bed and this was more than others had.   Personally, it  allowed me to find gratitude even when my world felt like it was collapsing around me during Tony’s illness and death.  I couldn’t have discovered this without my Mom’s guidance.

Hey little brown eyed girl, happy birthday!







A Story Worth Telling

I use the Junior Great Book Series with my advanced learning students.  We use the series because the stories are complex and invite discussion and higher order, open-ended questioning.  For educators, it’s up high on Blooms Taxonomy, that chart that no one quite remembers the names of the levels, because they keep changing the names,but administrators love to bring it up all the time.  One story that the second graders read is called “Miss Maggie” by Cynthia Rylant.  Within the first page, the narrator, Nate, who is looking back on his life, says, “And what happened next is a story worth telling.”  The main character is sent by his grandparents (no mention of the parents so this is a great opportunity for students to make inferences)  to drop off food to Miss Maggie at her shack.  Suffice it to say, that there were many rumors about Miss Maggie, and her wrinkled face, dirty clothes, and tobacco spitting make Nate uncomfortable and embarrassed when his grandpa would give Miss Maggie a ride to town.  He hoped no one thought he was related to her.    But in the end, being kind and compassionate trumps  his preconceived fears.

Each time I read this story, I think about my Mom’s family:  country people, hard-working, kind, compassionate, bright, and full of joy.  I would relish hearing the stories that they often told.  It was the Great Depression, and there were lots of mouths to feed around their own table, but my grandparents saw to it that the neighbors who had less were ok.  There was always spare to share.  When a petition was passed around to keep a little girl who was racially mixed out of the school, my grandmother refused to sign it and told people what she thought of their petition.  Little moments like that stuck with my mother and her siblings.   Benevolence, speaking up for the downtrodden and Christian compassion were values passed down to the children.     Yesterday, we tearfully buried yet another of her siblings, my Uncle Jack Raines.   When the preacher said Uncle Jack had some stories worth telling, I smiled, thinking about this family and their stories.  The congregation then heard stories, not the familiar ones of my Mom’s family on the farm but ones that Uncle Jack created with his own children and grandchildren.   Ones of back-breaking work in a huge garden and bravely speaking up for Medgar Evans, a murdered Civil Rights leader, hundreds of miles away from VA.   Uncle Jack’s  children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have stories worth telling for generations to come.

My own family has its share of stories, many involving my Dad who died twelve years ago. Many involve farm life, vacations, and my favorite is one about a sister trying desperately not to slip on an icy driveway. Sorry, but that is as fresh in my mind as the day it happened thirty some years ago.   I pray my own children have stories of significance, not about stuff, but about our real life.  No one sits around saying,  “Remember when we bought that great couch on sale at Pottery Barn?  That was a good deal.”  But ones like, “Remember when we had rules that Delilah couldn’t get on the couch and then we threw it out the window because who gives a rip about the couch when you’ve got a dog who has brought us joy and thinks she’s a human?”   I have always believed that families must live intentionally, and I vowed five and half years ago that my children would have joy and new memories to make.  Never stop creating stories worth telling.   img_4125

Graceful Protection

All of the anger over the NFL players’ protesting the National Anthem brings to mind an incident that occurred probably twelve or thirteen years ago.  I was a middle school teacher and the sponsor of the Student Council.  Each week, our SCA officers would take turns to start the school day over the intercom.  They would start the pledge, call for a moment of silence and then read any pertinent announcements. That year, my President, was not allowed to stand or say the pledge.  It was against his religion to pledge allegiance to anything other than God.  He would start the pledge and then stay kneeled with his head bowed.  I was approached by our beloved school secretary about it.  She was upset by this.  Her son was in Afghanistan at the time, fighting for our country and needless to say, I could understand her offense.  “Is he being disrespectful?  Making noise?  Distracting others?”  “No.  He kneels and is quiet,” she said.  “I can’t say anything to him. This is his Constitutional right to choose NOT to stand. This is a Supreme Court issue.”  “I know,” she said.  And it’s my right to tell you that I don’t like it one bit.”  Yes.  It is.

Do I agree with the players for not standing?  No.  I’ve always been fairly strict with my own children in keeping quiet (I was always perturbed at high school games at the number of kids who talk and cut up) and respectful during the playing of the anthem.  But it is their Constitutional right to choose not to stand just as it is others’ rights to decry their actions.  It is our right to NOT purchase their football jersey or to wear the shoes they are getting millions of dollars to promote.  We absolutely don’t want to live in a country that doesn’t allow this freedom.

And that’s the beautiful paradox of this whole hoopla.  Those players’ right to not stand were paid for by the sacrifices of our soldiers since 1776. Those players remain protected by the very police they are protesting.   It reminds me of the grace that my pastor was speaking of just yesterday.  Although I’m sure you’d find some military and police who might turn their backs on these players, for the most part, the majority of our police and military would still stand in the face of danger and remain resolute in their commitment to serve and protect- Even these guys who drive cars that cost more than most houses.

Perhaps instead of becoming angry tonight during Monday night football,  whisper a prayer of gratitude for our beautiful country: one that offers freedom and grace, even to those you feel don’t deserve it.






Go Ahead and “Unfriend” me Now

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemoller

I read this quote when my sisters, Mom and I were in the Holocaust museum a few months ago.  It has been on my mind since yesterday, after another mass shooting has stirred my frustration with the new America.  I have started to see parallels with Nazi Germany and our own country as brains are washed and people convinced that a loud mouthed “leader” will deliver us from all of our problems.  I woke up to quotes on my facebook thread that I can’t ignore as a difference of opinions any longer.  I refuse to be silent.
One of the first quotes I read Sunday morning:  “Hmm. I bet the liberals will have a field day with this one..(gays and guns)”  Really? Maybe you better look down at your WWJD bracelet a little more closely if that is your first thought the morning after fifty people are slaughtered.

“Obama is an elitist, narcissist.  He can’t even say Radical Islamists.” That is your focus in the face of a tragedy such as this?  What the heck does it matter that he doesn’t use those words?  Shouldn’t we then call the lieutenant Governor of Texas a radical Christian extremist for his hateful words, condoning the mass murder, tweeting scripture that God should not be mocked, you reap what you sow.  Wow.  People who call me “friends” agree with that sentiment.  They are ok with God’s children in that nightclub dying because they think it’s God’s wrath for their homosexuality.  Sounds like “final solution” rhetoric  to me. Unfriend me.  Please.  We have nothing in common. I don’t want friends like you in my life.

No one but our military and police need  this type of gun.  And yes, evil exists but evil also comes under the disguise of an organization which should support stricter laws, responsible ownership, background checks and keeping terrorists from legally obtaining guns.   And yes.  Bad people will always find  a way to get a gun, but why are we making it easy for them?   And yes. Bad people may be able to take a machete and kill a few people or a bomb made from fertilizer and destroy lives, but being silent and doing nothing about guns is not ok.  It’s NOT FRICKING OK.

Little, innocent children’s  blood sprays the walls  at Sandy Hook. Multiple tiny bodies in Hello Kitty t-shirts in body bags. Nothing is done. Cell phones continually ringing in body bags at Virginia Tech.  Parents frantically trying to recall their kids’ college schedule, praying  and crying desperately that their son wasn’t in Norris Hall until the next day  Nothing is done.  A night out at the movies turns into a bloody nightmare. Nothing is done.   Over and over and over.  It’s not going to stop unless we decide that it’s enough.  And honestly, with the direction we are heading politically, no one seems to want  it to stop.

So unfriend me. Do it.  Now.  You won’t  see any side of this, you’ll scoff at my ignorance roll your eyes and what you will retaliate with, I refuse to politely see as a difference of opinions.  You are wrong to want and expect nothing better from our country and you are ignorant if you feel that we are heading in the right direction with a fascist as the next President.  Simply wrong.  I’m done with you as much as you are done with “elitist-liberals” like me.  I won’t miss your posts on what you had for lunch last week or those nice little inspirational scripture posts because you really don’t mean it.  You really don’t think that God loves everyone so stop pretending. You don’t think God loves gay people or dark people or Muslims or people who think the Earth is 4 1/2 billion years old instead of 15,000 years.   You miss the good old days of segregation and when women like me knew their place.  Again, look down at that WWJD bracelet and think about what is happening.  If not, unfriend me.  Do it.  Now.

Bring Me Your Hungry, Tired and Poor…

I am finishing my first year (27th of teaching!) as a Gifted Specialist.  I was hired last summer not because I have this special endorsement on my license, but because my principal wanted a seasoned classroom teacher in the position.  Seasoned?  I guess after this many years, I am seasoned but not quite done! There have been some lonely moments in this new position where I felt isolated from a team of teachers, but I have grown to love my new job.

A few weeks ago, I offered to teach enrichment lessons to entire classrooms, letting the teachers know that they didn’t need to do anything to prepare for the hour. Yesterday I went into second grade teacher Terri Wolfe’s class to do an AIMS activity that I had done long ago on candy counting, sorting, division and fractions.  If you have been a teacher in the 1980s and 1990s, you might remember AIMS materials.  They are engaging, challenging and very fun!  When I walk in classrooms at my school, kids get excited and usually mill around me.  It usually means that they are going to do a STEM activity or something out of the ordinary.  Yesterday was a little different.  Several were gathered at the door, peeking out, intently listening to Mrs. Wolfe talk to the Home School teacher as he introduced a new student to Mrs. Wolfe.   “We’ll get started soon, Mrs. L.  You know how it is.  Always new, exciting things happening even with a few days of school left.”  Mrs. Wolfe is retiring this year.  When you are an elementary teacher, retirement doesn’t mean that you put up your feet the last week of school.  I went ahead and started setting up.  Soon, Mrs. Wolfe walked into the room with her arms around this sweet brown-eyed girl.  “Class, Class.”  “Yes, Yes,” the children answered.  “Boys and girls, we are so happy to have Helen join our class, and we are going to make her feel welcome and help her get to know our school even if we only have three days of school left.”  She spoke in hushed tones to two girls, “Would you both sit near Helen and speak to her in Spanish when she needs help?”  They agreed.  My eyes filled with tears as 18 children smiled, welcomed this girl to our country and helped her with her Skittles math.

Later in the day, I worked with some fourth graders on Little Bits.  Google that name.  They are the most innovative science material that I have worked with in a long time.  It is way too simplistic to just say they are circuits that snap together.  When the second rotation of students came, Mrs. Van, the fourth grade teacher, wanted the ELL students to have an opportunity to do the activities.   I watched as the English-speaking students automatically chose to pair up with the ELL students.  I have a feeling Mrs. Van has modeled that this is what we do at school, but it still amazed me.  There were no complaints of “always having to work with him” or “I want to be with my friend” as I’ve often heard students say over the years.  It was  genuine and it was a beautiful nonverbal statement of love and kindness.  I watched with interest a boy from Somalia, Muhammad, work with the Little Bits.  I am sure that this little boy has spent almost his entire life in a refugee camp so to see these things magnetically connect, light up, make sound, and spin motors must have been a magical experience for him.  To say he was engaged was an understatement.  He was really doing his own thing and not following directions, but I learned a long time ago that sometimes it’s best to let kids go and not stifle their curiosity.  It was when I showed the students how to use Lego structures with the Little Bits, that Muhammad found his niche. His face broke out in a huge grin, and he went to work on the Legos, creating amazing structures.  I think it’s safe to speculate that he didn’t have Legos in the refugee camp.  All of the children love when the Legos come out, but this was something fresh and new, and it was like all of us were experiencing the magical bricks for the first time through Muhammed.

What a gift it was to my soul yesterday to experience the graciousness of wonderful teachers and little boys and girls offering kindness, acceptance and hope to others.  God bless the children and the teachers of this country.

Driving Down Keezletown Road

I’ve been itching to write this since 8:00 this morning, but that teaching job that (sort of) pays the bills claimed my day.  If you are a writer, when you have something that strikes you, it’s a splinter in the foot.  You don’t rest until you’ve dug it out.

I have quite a lovely commute to work.  I take Keezletown Road.  I think it’s still called that but I’m not sure because what I call Keezletown Road, Jack calls by some number.  When he says it, I have to ask, “What’s that road?”   It’s ironic that this is the road that took the Blose girls to elementary school every day.   A curvy, hilly road and if the bus driver was in a happy mood he’d take the hills a little faster, and I’d literally fly in the air, laughing joyfully.  I don’t think my feet touched the floor of the bus until sixth grade.

Usually on my commute, if no one is coming, I glance over to the left at my childhood home, now way up high on the hill.   Ten years ago, my Mom moved that house up that hill.  Honestly.  Moved it over a mile through some fields and up to the top of a big hill where the milking herd used to lounge in the spring sun or find cool shade in the dog days of summer. The view from the top is stunning.   Today, I started thinking about my Dad.  Gone now twelve years, he wasn’t given the opportunity to sit on the new deck and take in that view.  I soon felt my eyes stinging with tears.   I started thinking about a younger Billy Blose, before he was a husband or a father, chasing in cows to the milk barn.   Even as a teenager, he wanted to live on that hill.  I wonder if he took the time to visualize what  his life  would be like before he had to get on with his chores.    I’m sure there were countless times as a young farmer that he would stop by the edge of the wood on the four-wheeler, and look at the Peak, dreaming of waking up to that view.   I remembered him then as my older Dad, happily taking our future minister, John Leggett, to the top of the hill to show him where he planned to move the house.  John was looking for a home in the area, and the story is that he said, “Yes.  I think this spot will suit Alayne and I just fine.”

Is a dream deferred a dream denied?   Is it a tragedy when we don’t get what we want? Yes. I’m afraid it is a side effect of being human.   Someone once asked me why he didn’t move the house up on the hills years ago.  Well, there were seven girls to feed and clothe, big wheels, dollhouses, roller skates, tennis shoes, basketball shoes, high heeled shoes to go with prom dresses, cows, trips in a motor home across the country,  cars,  lots of dogs, a pinball machine, a tree house, Disney World, college, weddings, grandbabies, and trips with the grandkids.  My third favorite Beatle said,  “Life’s what happens while you’re making plans.”   But I’m going to suggest that there’s nothing wrong with making “plans.”  They keep us motivated when we get beat down.  They give us energy when we really don’t want to get out of bed.  Plans keep us inspired.  They are often a flashlight in the dark and a welcome distraction when reality is cruddy.    I don’t think Dad would have traded that view for the hollering at basketball games, walks down the aisle, jumps off the mantel with his grandkids,  or any single moment with my Mom.   I’m pretty sure he already knew what it looked like, anyway.


My Favorite Day of the Week (or Why I Teach Yoga)

This isn’t really a Christmas post or maybe it is in some way as you may get the message of the season hidden in the words.  I know it’s been processing in my mind for awhile now.

This is the day I get to teach yoga at my church, Massanutten Presbyterian.  This is the little white church where I was baptized and where I was rocked in the nursery. Where Mrs. Sutton taught me the words to “Jesus Loves Me” and made me feel my nickel for the Sunday School offering was precious in the eyes of God.  This is the church where my sisters and I would start hinting to Dad (usually around 11:30 when we knew he was getting hungry) to go to Bonanza afterwards. This is the church where my piano teacher, Mrs. Newman, invited me to play a piano piece to open up Sunday school one morning. This is the brick church where my mom took Cathy and me to the kitchen to give us a well deserved swat on our behinds because we kept fighting during the Christmas cantata practice. (Honestly, sitting through cantata practice taught me a lot of patience).  This is the church that sometimes disagreed about issues like taking the step to build a new sanctuary, the wording of what it means to be a Christian and now gay marriage.    Some left.  Some stayed.  Many will continue to leave, but many more will seek the acceptance of this community of faith.  This is the church where all are welcome to partake of  communion because of God’s grace.  This is the church where my children learned Bible stories (and questioned many on the ride home) and what it means to have a foundation of faith. This is the church where I was invited to become part of a committee years ago to find a new pastor who continues to be a blessing through his wisdom, patience and gentle words. This is the church where the kids and I sat beside my Dad for the last time before the meningitis took his life less than two weeks later.  This is where his family and about 1,000 other friends honored his life the day before Easter.   This is the church that let me go to follow my husband and helped me find another church family in Franklin, TN.  This is the church that prayed for my family and where I had to painfully walk the aisle as a young widow with my children on each arm. This is the church that opened its arms to receive my family once again this past summer.

Now, once a week, I get to teach yoga here.   I don’t do it to make money,  brand my yoga teaching style or to compete with another  yoga teacher or studio. It’s free.  I do it not out of duty, but in return for what they have given to me.  My favorite moment of the night comes when I get to give restorative touch at the end of the practice during savasanna.   My 77 year old mother is last in the line.   I save some extra time just for her.  Initially, she would strain to lift her neck to help me as I cradled her head.  Wow there is so much of who she is right there  as she must have thought there had to be something else to do and refused to surrender to receive the gift of my touch without helping me.  This moment is never lost on me as I press on her shoulders encouraging her to empty her lungs and all the burdens she carries.  I rub essential oils through her silver hair, and press my thumbs along her forehead, down her temples, and along her ears, never forgetting the pain she went through as she learned to find a new normal without her life partner.  What an honor to give this touch to my mother who has given completely of herself to her family and church family for all these years. So simple yet so powerful.   All the yoga speak that I have heard by teachers over the years, the meditation, the beautiful idea of ahimsa (non harm) and memorization of the sanskrit words for the yoga poses (asanas) mean absolutely nothing if your intentions are self-serving and you aren’t living the words you speak.  I’m not your yoga teacher if you are seeking someone who has received multiple training experiences from world renowned yoga teachers across the world, memorized the sutras or even know much of the history of yoga.  I’m not a yoga guru nor will I ever be famous for the words I say in class.  I won’t become rich from teaching yoga nor would I even be able to support myself and my kids on what I make from yoga.  I teach yoga so that I can cradle my Mom’s head and rub lavender oil on her temples.  That’s it.

**If you are in the Harrisonburg area and you want to open your mind and body to the experience of yoga, please join us every Wednesday at 5:30 (with the exception of the first Wednesday of the month) for free yoga.   Even if you can’t touch your toes, you can join us. 🙂 We accept a donation to our backpack ministry to bring weekend meals to children in poverty in the community.


The Paradox of Gratitude

I visited several classrooms this week and plan to visit a few more on Monday to do a poetry lesson.  I read the students a book that I found in Jack’s library about the secret of being thankful.  In the book the secret is revealed that the more gratitude  one feels, the happier the heart will be.  I told the students, even the first graders, that the particular day that was set aside for giving thanks was established during one of our darkest times in history.  In his infinite wisdom, Abraham Lincoln realized that to practice gratitude in times of trouble is to see a faint candle in a pitch black room.  I showed them my poems about the things I felt grateful for:  a bulldog who brought joy back into a sad home and a poem about my seventy-seven year old mother who still rocks her yoga, cares for her great-grandson and listens to her grown daughters cry.

I wasn’t prepared for what happened next in one classroom.  I noticed a little girl talking to a boy in Spanish and then watched as he put his head on the desk and started crying.  “What’s wrong?”  “He can’t write in English and he is sad because he doesn’t know his mom and dad.  They left him.”   Sigh.  Gulp.  Oh crap.  “Well, who takes care of you?” I asked.  She said some words to him in Spanish and he answered.  I said, “Well, those aunts sound pretty amazing.  Do they make sure you have food in your belly, clothes and a home?” She translated. He started smiling.  “Si.”   “I think you do have something to write about then.”  I noticed a soccer ball on his shirt and pointed to it. “Do you like to play soccer?”  “Si.”   “Well, let’s write a poem about soccer.” And I proceeded (with a lot of assistance from the little girl) to help this boy write  gratitude poems to his relatives and to a soccer ball.   His face lit up as I read them.

It happened again and again in the other rooms.  One little girl, “My  Dad’s in jail but he makes me laugh when I see him.  Can I write one about him?”  Then there was the little boy who got stuck on his poem about his Dad because a couple years ago his father was killed in front of him.   I gave him a  little assurance that although my father is dead too, I can still write him a poem, and he was soon on his way to creating a one sentence poem to his murdered father.  Despite some of their dire circumstances, every child was able to write several poems. This gratitude thing is almost a paradox.

I’ve been teaching in a bubble for about ten years.   And I’ll be the first to admit that I liked that my own children went to school in the Brentwood Bubble (my Tennessee friends will understand that term).   But I will admit that God had been nudging me for awhile.  I felt almost guilty from time to time when I knew that less than ten miles to the north of my school in Brentwood, there was a group of kids that maybe needed me more.  Be careful with your whispers to God.  He may just give you what your heart is seeking.

Our world seems to be falling apart.  Or is it really?   Can you think of another time in the history of our world where things seemed forlorn? Christian persecution, The Crusades, The Inquisition, The Black Death, our own Civil War and Civil Wars across the globe, the Holocaust,World Wars, and now terrorists who have no respect for human life.  There have been hundreds of tyrannical kings and dictators: Attila the Hun, Ivan the Terrible, Mao Zedong, Hitler, Stalin, Amin, Pol Pot, Hussain, al-Assad, Kim Jong, and the list goes on and on as history has repeated itself.  What pulled people together in times of persecution, death and tragedy?  Hope.  Resilience.  But it didn’t come without the help of someone. Even in the midst of our fears of this crazy world, we must remember to answer that call.   I saw a glimmer of that in the eyes of the students whose despair was empowered into hope as they were able to find gratitude.

I’m going to set aside the problems of the world this week, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it.  I’m going to shop with my daughter who is coming home for the first time since August.  I’m going to drink wine, make lots of food and overindulge.  I’m going to play games with my family and laugh until my sides hurt.   I’m going to light a candle of hope in a dark, dark world that needs to find its way.

Flapping Around Through Life

I gave my kiss goodbye, walked away toward an empty nest and my mind is flooded with visions of the day that I left the hospital as a new mom. My stomach was in knots, and I couldn’t believe they were actually letting me take ownership of this human.   I had heard experienced moms say things like, “Oh, that’s a hungry cry. That cry means she’s tired.  That sounds like he needs his diaper changed.” “That cry means that it’s going to rain!” WHAT? How the heck did they know baby language? I was clueless and convinced that this child wouldn’t survive my limited knowledge. I’m experiencing those same feelings as I dropped off my Lauren for college, but this time it was more of a letting go panic.  I did what I have decided to call cram-parenting on the drive down to Birmingham.   I have to admit that it was a little easier when my son went to college two years ago. Maybe it was mistakes that I had made in college or situations that could have been disastrous, but I talked and she listened. I’ll spare you the details of our talks but it covered the gamut from parties, traveling with a group, walking to your car at night, talking out issues with her roommate and even tornado safety!

It was the last little bit of our drive that I will remember best of all. With an hour to go, we played a little game: you had to pick the best song from every CD in the car and play it. It was fun reliving the Hannah Montana and Jesse McCartney years. She still knew every word. We got to one of her Dad’s CDs and we both had our moment. Our conversation the night before at our last dinner out and her emotional state hearing her Dad’s voice out of the car stereo made me realize the new grief and pain that had seeped back into my little girl’s conscious mind. For their high school years, my kids buried themselves in the busyness of school. Studying and focusing on grades, college prep and their extracurriculars provided a safe haven. When it was necessary, situational grief arose. I call it that because there are snippets of grief that still arise based on a situation. It was best for my family not to allow it to flood all at once. I still have grief that comes up from my Dad’s passing eleven years ago, triggered by big family moments such as a wedding or something as simple as seeing a farmer milking a cow at the county fair. My children have learned that this is a life long pebble in the shoe. Sometimes it settles into a comfortable zone, but every now and then something kicks it out to an irritating, unsettling spot. When you feel it, you deal with it. When you don’t, you don’t let it pervade your life. It’s survival.

At our dinner out the previous night, she teared up talking about pulling pictures off of her Dad’s computer to put onto her new laptop. She found a video that he had saved of his last birthday. She had made him cupcakes complete with chocolate molded music notes and even an edible CD. It made her cry and when she skyped her boyfriend that night, he tried to make it better. She explained. “I kept telling him not to try to make it better. It’s ok to cry and be sad now and then.” Yep. That’s the key. That’s also the key to surviving homesickness and separation anxiety. Let it come up when it needs to, but don’t allow it to rule your life. Don’t allow it to rob your joy. Don’t allow it to derail your plans.

Here’s an overused sentimental quote: “There are two gifts we should give our kids, one is roots and the other is wings.” I don’t know about you but before I had grown kids, I always visualized this beautiful eagle gliding through the sky when I read this quote, but my experience is that they really don’t soar away. They kind of flap around a lot, going up and down, bumping into trees, falling to the ground, getting up a foot and then falling again. And we look down from our empty nest watching them with a detached discomfort. Detached because if we try to fix their problems, they will forever bump into trees and not exercise their muscles to fly on their own. Discomfort because every instinct in our bodies screams to help them.

I’ll need to follow my own advice as I face this empty nest. I have plenty of distractions and I’m frankly flapping around a bit: a new job with new challenges (God help me be patient with teaching little kids), a new home with Jack, unpacking and finding a new yoga studio home. I am careful not to check in too much with Lauren. I am afraid it would take away her power, and this isn’t all about me and how I’m feeling. I want her to remember that she’s got this. She has everything she needs inside of her to deal with the separation, the challenges and rigors of college life and to fix her own problems. I’ll keep the pebble of grief and loneliness tucked between my gold toe ring and my big toe and when it gets uncomfortable, I’ll deal with it.


Bowl of Cherries

I had my morning coffee and Daily Show fix and then went to the fridge to see what I could eat for breakfast.  Yum: A bowl of cherries.   It’s funny how an early summer fruit  can trigger so many memories, all good.

I remember we had a sour cherry tree between the house and the dairy barn.  I would eat cherries off the tree until my stomach ached.  Once I remember my Aunt Nancy and some of her children coming out to help pick cherries.  Hank or Johnny climbed high up in that tree, and I ran to the wash-house and hid my eyes because I thought they might fall. We picked buckets and buckets of sour cherries from that tree for freezing or canning.   That night we had a cherry cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Thinking about that warm dessert covered with melting ice cream took me to summer days living on a farm and waking to the potential of a great day.  Maybe we’d have to help pull weeds in the front junipers or maybe help pick green beans in the garden. We’d complain under our breath and usually I’d throw a worm on my sister Cathy which sent her into a tizzy.  We’d string the beans in front of the tv, bidding on Price is Right showcases, and wondering if our farm-girl bodies covered with chigger bites from the hay and scabbed knees would ever come close to comparing with the glitz and glamour of Bob Barker’s Price-is-Right Models.  I’m happy to say the Blose girls have done just fine without the silicone and thigh lifts, thank you.  There were trips to the swimming pool daily and a quarter would usually get me a Zero bar, my favorite.  Mom would literally just drop us all off.  She had raised us to respect the rules and respect others so there wouldn’t be a phone call to her that we were misbehaving.  It never happened.  I’d inevitably get pool toe early in the swimming season until I had gone barefoot across the barn driveway long enough to build up a good callous.  Sometimes my Dad would announce after dinner, “Let’s go to the pool!”   Any time that Dad took us for an evening swim meant that we were going to be pulled under, hoisted up into the air 20 feet and we’d watch him proudly doing his flips off the board or dive.  This was summer living at the Blose house.

Summer cherries also bring me to vacations.  The anticipation of vacation was almost as good as the vacation itself.   People reading this may think that this is the wackiest, hokiest vacation ever but we would drive to wherever the National Holstein (those of the black and white Ben and Jerry’s cows for my city friends) Convention was held for the year.  There were trips to Louisville, Denver, Anaheim, Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlantic City, and of course, Nashville.  For long trips we flew, but for other trips we drove.  It started out in a big station wagon with Cathy and I having the view from that weird rear seat, looking at the vehicles behind us.  So dangerous but all of us survived.   After Anne came along (number 7 girl) my parents invested in a motor home.  We called it The Barth because that was the name of the brand.  The day before the trip, mom would head to the grocery store and inevitably would come back with a 5 pound bag of dark red cherries.  We’d try to sneak into them but she would say, “Stay out. They are for the trip tomorrow!”  Think about what that one statement taught us:  anticipation of a family trip and practicing patience for good things to come…not immediate satisfaction.  Mom would do everything to get ready for the trip, but that assured that my hard-working Daddy would be well rested and in a great mood for the trip.   And then all of the things that I’d anticipated and expected over the past year would commence:  The cherries would be broken out of the fridge before we got on Interstate 81.  We’d rotate 8 tracks of John Denver, Barry Manilow and Olivia Newton John, the soundtrack from the musical Shenandoah (oh…talk about patience…8 tracks…kids today would die).  Barbara would be asleep within the hour.  At some point, someone would fight about space or getting kicked in the head.  Mom might remind us how lucky we were to even be taking a trip so figure it out.  Dad would make friends with strangers at restaurants and gas stations. We would all feign interest as we drove away and he filled us all in on their life story as if he were hosting a Biography special.  The trips would be filled with learning, meeting new friends, and flirting with farm boys from other states.  Sounds great, right?  You bet your sweet behind it was great.

When I suddenly became a single parent, every instinct in my body screamed, “Show your kids that we remain a family. Show your kids joy.  Teach your kids patience.  Let them see that some things never change.  Let them laugh and not feel guilty about having fun.  Let them argue with one another and encourage them to fix it themselves.  Remind them they are lucky.  Everyone has a story worth sharing so shut up and listen.”

My stomach aches not just from the half a bowl of cherries I just consumed, but because so much has changed.  My Dad has been gone eleven years now.  There are no longer family trips in motor homes.  No trips to museums or pulling over to read a random road marker.  None of us really want to know the life story of the waitress who brings us our pancakes.   It wouldn’t be a good idea to flirt with random guys either.  But so much remains:  Barbara does still go to sleep the earliest!   The most important part of all is that when we get together for holidays, weddings or even through our private Blose Family Facebook page (no you can’t join), the joy remains.  The laughter remains.  We tell stories not with regret or sadness but with gratitude.  The foundation of what my mother and father created through vacations and day-to-day common sense values will never crumble.  Thank you bowl of cherries for triggering such good memories this morning.