Saturday, June 23, 2012

Shades of Lavender

Today I spent about an hour with my best friend.  We stopped at her house to give her kids some toys we had for them and while the kids played, she and I chatted in that comfortable way that close friends do, feet curled up on the chairs, oblivious to the noise, chatting about nothing in particular.  We left the living room, wandering toward my car and we talked about our gardens and she showed me her new greenhouse and what was growing in her front yard plot.  Nothing exciting.  Nothing blog worthy, right?  But what if you knew that just a month ago I thought I was going to lose my best friend.  She and her family were put in a tough position when her husband was laid off and she very nearly moved to Iowa.  We could still be friends, of course.  Cell phones, email and Facebook would have kept us connected.  Times like today, however, would have been a thing of the past.

In the past few months I have thought a lot about what our friendship means to me.  I have cried many tears.  I have been strong when she needed to lean on me.  I have crumpled when she looked away.  My husband told me "well, just find another best friend".  Men.  It doesn't work that way.  You just don't find a best friend.  They don't wear a sign that says "hey, over here!  I'm the one!"  They can't be bought at Walmart.  You can't even buy a recycled one at the thrift store.  Best friends happen over a period of time.  You meet.  You chat.  You tell a secret.  You cry a tear.  You share a hug.  You rant and rave.  And before you know it, BAM, you know she's the one!

Before my friend came along I hadn't had a best friend in the true sense of the word in a long time.  I have some girlfriends and I have a few relationships that have stood the test of time, one for my entire life and one since I was nine years old.  Those ladies mean the world to me, but life and circumstance don't allow us to connect very often.  With my best friend, we connect almost on a daily basis.  Our favorite time to chat is over coffee early in the morning, but you will find us sneaking in calls throughout the day and sharing texts and emails too.  We share our ups and our downs.  We share our dreams and our hopes. We share stories of our children and husbands and the trials and tribulations of homeschooling.  We share our lives.

So I could go on and on about all the things I get from my best friend, but I think you get the picture.  Losing her would have been heartbreaking and I know she would be irreplaceable.  I am thrilled beyond belief that she will be sticking around.  I love her and I love her children.  I love the times we manage to sneak away for cookie sundaes or tacos.  I love that she always, always has my back and I love that she loves me too.  She sees me for who I am....and she still loves me.  Best friends don't come around every day.  I sure am glad that mine came around when she did and I hope she stays around for many years to come.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sisters

My sisters, Kathy and Debbie, are much older than me.  When I was born I believe they were fifteen and seventeen, not unlike my own family.  When I was younger, my sister Kathy helped to raise me alongside her own daughters.  I always considered her a second mother and so it was until I was much older and we became friends.  My sister Debbie, however, was always my friend.  From my earliest memories spending time with her she treated me like her sister, someone who was a partner in the adventures of life.  This isn't to say one was better than the other, they were just very different relationships.

I can remember back to when I was about 10 or 11 and my sister Debbie had her first child, my nephew Jeff.  I remember my mother being adamant that I was too young to hold him and definitely too young to watch him, but my sister had all this confidence in me and trusted me to hold my nephew and even babysit, with my father there for support.  I loved being at her house!  We always made good things to eat, played with the kids and talked long into the night.  I learned alot about what it was like to raise a family and I formed strong opinions about what I wanted for my family when I was grown up.  After my niece was born and I was a teenager, being at my sister's was one of my favorite places to be.  She lived in Sykesville by then, a rural area about 40 minutes from my house, and it always felt special to be there.  My niece and nephew were adorable and we had a very close relationship.  I don't ever remember being there that I wasn't comfortable and having a good time.  I treasured my conversations with my sister and I felt so grown up and like what I said really mattered, something all teenagers wish for.

Fast forward many years....My niece and nephew are in their 30's.  My children, especially my daughteres, spent many nights at Aunt Debs over the years and it was always a special treat for them, as well.  Now they are in their 20's and going to Aunt Deb's is still something to look forward to.  My sister and I are both grandparents now and my seven year old son and her six year old granddaughter spent many days together playing and we took many trips with them, doing fun activities and enjoying our time together.  We don't get to see one another as much as we used to..  She is working almost full time and I am still busy raising my son and helping to raise my granddaughter.  Occasionally, however, like tonight, she and I carve out time together, going to the Cheesecake Factory and having dinner.  I still enjoy our conversations just as much and there is a mutual respect there that is bred from years of watching each other navigate life and come out stronger on the other side.  We talk about our children and their children, our husbands, our jobs and our personal lives.  We share good food, luscious cheesecake and a cup of coffee.  We linger a little too long and then take our conversation outside.  It's late and we are both tired, but we both resist ending the night, not knowing when our crazy schedules will allow us to do this again.  We hug goodbye and then stop and talk some more.  Finally parting ways I sigh, wondering why we don't do this more often.  We are both sporting gray hair, nicely dyed and talk of needing reading glasses to see the menu.  I feel our age catching up to us.  I worry that we will keep putting things off and our time to spend together will slip away.

Deb, I don't know if you read this blog, but if you do, I hope you know how much I love and admire you.  Thank you for always treating me like a friend and for sharing your life with me.  I am often told I am a good mother who is caring and creative.  I often tell the one who gives the compliment that I patterned my self after you.  You are an awesome mother and grandmother and you have always been the very best sister.  Let's get together more often and not wait so long.  Let's make every day count.  We are worth it!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Saying Goodbye to Someone Special

Today we went to a memorial service for our friend, mentor and coach, Mike Whittles.  He fought long and hard against pancreatic cancer for sixteen months, but lost his battle last Thursday.  Coach Whittles has been the head football coach for thirteen years at Archbishop Spalding.  Personally, he was my husband's friend and mentor and my son's coach.  He was a kind man who was dear to all of us and he will be missed.

Today's service was a testimony to the great man he was.  The memorial was held in the gym at the school and each football player and coach wore an angel holding a football to honor Coach Whittles.  The current players gathered in the chapel as the crowds began to fill in.  When we were all seated there were several rows for family and personal friends, a row for coaches and rows and rows of football players, starting with those who played this past season.  I knew that Coach Whittles had a great impact on alot of people, but today I realized just how far reaching and deep down in the soul his caring nature went.  We heard lots of stories, each one bringing to light a little more of the man he was...funny, kind, witty, family oriented, loving...and a man with a deep sense of God and faith that He would see him through.  He was never without a smile, a kind word and a great bear hug.

Most touching was his daughter, the mother of Coach's grandson and carrying his soon to be born granddaughter,  as she stood before us with a bright smile and told us how her father raised her and her brothers.  She told of a man who was devoted to his wife and his children, to his sister and his parents.  I think that everyone's heart was breaking for her, obviously Daddy's little girl, but you had to admire her strength, wavering only slightly, when giving what must be the hardest speech of her life. She got that strength from her father and he taught her well.

What impressed me the most, however, were the players.  As I have noted before, prep school boys are incredibly polite and well mannered, but prep school football players are even a step above that.  They are self disciplined, devoted to one another and ever ready to give of themselves to others.  They were asked to stand, toward the end of the ceremony, and the players from the 2011 season were asked to gather up front, each in their black personal Spalding jersey that were a special treat for them this past season.  And then the players from the past few recent seasons were asked to join them.  This made for a large group.  And then, the most amazing of all, the speaker asked for all the boys and men who had ever played for Coach Whittles to stand and join the group.  There must have been close to 100 of them, young men of all shapes and sizes, who stood and made their way to the center aisle.  Together, they knelt, one last time, together as Cavaliers, to say the Lord's Prayer, as they did before each and every game.  Their deep voices resonated throughout the room and each of them reached out, touching a brother, remembering their Coach.  Tears welled up in many eyes, but they were strong.  They rose together, put their hands in the air and finished it off with 1, 2, 3, Champs!, what Coach had taught each and every one of them to be.  How can anyone who has touched that many young men so deeply be anything but wonderful?

Coach Whittles, I believe in heaven and I believe you are there. I want to thank you for the man you were and for the inspiration you were to my husband and son.  I want to let you know that you taught not only our sons, but their parents, as well, how to live life to the fullest and how to make every day count.  Thank you for being a fighter.  Thank you for never giving up.  I know that the young men who had the privilege to play under your wing and close to your heart will be better men for knowing you.  I am very glad that my son was one of them.  Rest in peace now, Mike.  Watch over your boys as they begin their lives away from high school.  Reach out a hand to steady them when they fall and to guide them when they go astray.  Be an angel on their shoulder always.  With you in their corner, we parents can rest a little easier.  May God hold you close and grant you eternal peace.....and if there is a football team in heaven, don't forget two a days start in eight weeks :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Fun

So it's been a few weeks since I have written on my blog and I have missed it!  It's a stress reliever for me and a way to journal and look back at what we have accomplished as a family.

Last week we left on Tuesday morning to go on our first ParkQuest and then on to a camping trip at Jellystone Park in Hagerstown.  The ParkQuest was in Gathland State Park, which I had never heard of before.  It was a bit out of the way and I probably wouldn't have ever had the pleasure of exploring it without our quests, but it was gorgeous and well kept and we had a blast doing the quest and finding answers to questions about George Alfred Townsend, his wife and his life on those grounds.  There was a bonus quest hike that we enjoyed, as well, and the boys got along and were silly and I enjoyed every minute spent with them.  To get our passport signed we had to go to South Mountain Creamery where we, of course, bought freshly made ice cream cones to enjoy on our ride to Hagerstown.

We got lost a bit, but found our way to the campground about 3:00.  It was pretty chilly, about 65 degrees, but Dakota begged and pleaded to get in the water at the pool and on the waterslides after we unpacked the popup and so we did.  The water was heated slightly and he and Brian David were the only ones in there.  The lifeguards had on hoodies and sweatpants and my two crazy boys were swimming!  That night we had a campfire for fun AND to keep warm, but the overnight in the popup was frigid! and there was alot of huddling up being done.

Wednesday morning dawned clear and warmer.  Our campsite was directly across from the mini golf and Koda must have played 20 games and talked the rest of us into playing a few rounds, as well.  Around lunch time we headed to the waterslides.  The sun was out and the day was gorgeous.  Koda played in the water for about 45 minutes and then got out and said he was freezing.  No amount of sun, dry clothing or hugs would warm him up and he started to cry.  We took him back to the camper and he got on a sweatshirt, got under the covers and went to sleep.  Any time Koda naps in mid day is TROUBLE.  He woke up an hour later glassy eyed, red cheeked and burning up.  I gave him tylenol, but the poor kid laid around watching movies on my computer for most of the rest of the day.  He kept his fever all night and so, in the morning, we packed up and headed home.  He was disappointed, but the campground was nice enough to give us a credit on our site so we can come back again this summer.  He stayed in his room in pjs for the rest of the day and Friday morning I took him to the doctor who said his throat was covered in blisters and he had Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.  Great.  Back home we went to rest up for the weekend.  A friend dropped by and said her son, who was here for the big graduation bash on Saturday, woke up with it Sunday...so there was our source.  I kept him in all weekend and by Monday he was out and ready to conquer the world, playing with the neighbors, swimming in their pool and being a healthy little boy again.  Thank goodness!