Nana and Donny Go to School

Visiting my grandbabies in Japan allowed me to spend a morning at nursery school with my grandson, Donny.  Mama Emma arranged it so I could see what his day was like.

Here in Texas, we have tornado drills but in Japan, they do earthquake drills.  It was impressive to watch these teachers grab a go-to bag with little helmets and packs.  After putting the helmets on everyone each teacher then strapped a carrier to her back and placed a child in it.  Then they held another child in front as they huddled on the floor.  All of this took just a few moments to complete – it was a marvel to witness.

Outdoor time was a walk through town to a park nearby.  Again, it was remarkable to watch the teachers maneuver the children and keep them safe.  Each child had an orange cap placed on their head for easy identification and for the ‘walk’ they rode in what looked like a big laundry basket on wheels.

Playtime at the park was pure joy and filled with laughter, squeals, sand, bugs, and a snack. Although, not necessarily in that order.

When it was time for lunch I was invited to sit with Donny and share a taste of each dish the children were also having. Everything from the salmon to the soup and the green tea was delicious.

A delightful day getting to share ‘school’ with my grandson.  It was a great bonding experience and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the local Japanese did things their way.

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Visiting the Tokyo Tots

Anyone who has been fortunate enough to join the grandparents club knows the amazing joy of loving (and spoiling) the offspring of our offspring.

I’m so lucky that 7 of my 9 grandchildren live 2 miles away. I get to see them regularly and I’m very thankful for that.

My other 2 grandchildren live 6,469 miles away in Tokyo, Japan.   I don’t get to see them as often. However, I’m very thankful for the technology that allows me to video chat with them regularly.

I’m also thankful I’ve gotten to see them twice in the last 6 months.

In December, our son, Joshua, brought his expectant wife, Emma, his son, Donny and Emma’s parents, Takei and Kazue, to Texas for a visit.

We enjoyed their visit so much and had tons of fun spending Christmas with them and showing off some of the wonders of the Lone Star State.

When Joshua and Emma’s new son arrived in April we knew we wanted to meet Baby Alan sooner rather than later so my husband, Ronald, and I made the trek across the Pacific to spend time with them.

Alan is so adorable and that furrowed brow?  I’m totally owning it as he definitely gets that from me, his Nana.

Big brother, Donny, is just as handsome and at an ideal age for discovering new things every day.

For this trip my main objective was to give – and get – as many cuddles and kisses as two little boys would allow.  Luckily, they are still very young and weren’t opposed to Nana constantly loving on them.

It.Was.Wonderful

Snuggles, hugs, first baby coos, new baby giggles, toddler babbling and a lot of laughter from everyone made for a great vacation and visit.  It’s not easy being far away – I love them and miss them so much – but the life they have created is sweet and I cannot deny they are where they should be.

Matthew 19:5 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’

 

 

A Day In Palo Duro Canyon

If I told you our recent outing to Palo Duro Canyon resulted in scraped knees, a sprained ankle, an attack of wind and sand, car trouble and temps in the 100’s you might be left with the impression it wasn’t a very good day.  But, take my word for it, it was.  Surrounding those mishaps was time spent together hiking, exploring, eating,  watching wildlife and a great musical.

When we arrived, our first stop, before going down into the canyon, was at the scenic overlook.  Rugged, simple, beautiful – that seems an apt description of the view.  Everyone enjoyed the scenery, the visitor center/gift shop and even took this first opportunity to meander down some paths and explore some old ruins.

Top of the Canyon looking down
Old dwelling just waiting to be explored
Leslie and Ben hiking

The sun was hot but soon, cloud cover moved in and provided a welcome respite.   With the clouds came a few rumbles of thunder and we searched the sky to see which way things were moving but, weren’t overly concerned since it seemed to be moving away from us.  We had been there for 15-20 minutes when I took the grandbaby, Colette, and stood on the path to admire the view.  Suddenly and without warning,  a gust of wind whipped the hat right off of her head.  It landed just over the side and got caught on a small branch but, between juggling her and the ‘big’ camera I wasn’t sure how to retrieve it.  That predicament was short-lived and ended up being the least of my problems because just a few seconds later the wind became ferocious and big, fat drops of rain began to pelt us.  Trying to run – into the wind – we were assaulted with grains of sand while getting drenched.  Trying to shield the baby and the camera from the rain and sand I finally made it back to the car where, luckily, the door was unlocked. Meanwhile, in haste to seek shelter five-year-old Gianna fell and skinned up both of her knees. Two minutes and two band-aids later all was calm again, and the brief storm both Mother Nature and Gianna unleashed had passed. The camera and Colette – baffled by the commotion and Nana’s antics – were fine.

As the saying goes here in the Lone Star State, “If you don’t like the weather wait 5 minutes and it will change.”

Just like that, the sun came back out and we decided it was time to move on.   We gave the teenagers, Patrick and Ben, a moment to alert their peeps that, once in the canyon, there would be little to no cell service.  The anticipation anxiety of being cut off from social media required some deep breathing on their part but after a moment they too recovered and we began to make our way down.

At the bottom, it was HOT – about 111 degrees  – with very little shade.  Meandering the two-lane road we kept the a/c in the car on full blast while we took in all of the rugged beauty. Undaunted by the heat, we got out and braved the high temperatures to hike, play and explore.  And, drink lots of water.

Our first stop was to look at some rustic cabins that we hadn’t seen on previous trips.  We marveled at the Cow Camp Cabins and the man who, in the distance and in the oppressive heat, sat with his easel painting.

Rustic cabins with bunk-beds, a/c, and a fireplace but no running water.
Can you see the speck sitting on top of the hill?

Unfortunately, Ben stepped off the side of the asphalt wrong and twisted his foot. Immediately, it swelled up but since we had coolers filled with ice and drinks we were able to get a nice cold-pack on it quickly.  It was sore and swollen for the rest of that afternoon and evening, but the park hosts provided us with an ace bandage and that, along with ibuprofen and ice, kept the discomfort to a minimum.

Moving on we discovered a cave in the side of the hill so all of us (except Ben and Granny) jumped out to explore it.  The pictures tell the story better than I can.

Let’s check out that cave!
Grandpa helping Therese
Almost there
Success
What a view

Following that fun, albeit hot and steamy hike we stumbled across a surprise snow-cone stand.  Without a second thought, we overpaid for the luxury of cold, refreshing flavored ice and enjoyed it in the only spot of shade around.

Days like this make me feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth and I’m very thankful to God for the opportunity to have these adventures. I love my family and I love spending time with them.  Even though we were missing several members we had fun with those who could be there.  $$-wise we didn’t spend a whole lot of money but the memories we made – priceless.

I hope this summer you find fun, too.  Even when things don’t go absolutely perfectly.

Carpe Diem!

To all the father’s out there – have a very Happy Day!  And may God bless you and your families.

TEXAS and Calvin in the Park

Recently, several members of our family took a day trip to Palo Duro Canyon just outside of Amarillo and Canyon, Texas.  We hiked and played and had the best time despite high heat and several mishaps along the way. Since childhood, this has been one of my favorite places to visit.

 

Part of the plan for the day was to see the musical production of TEXAS.  The Pioneer Amphitheater, nestled in the heart of the park, is a family favorite and a visit to Palo Duro Canyon is always more complete when we eat barbecue and see the show.

As we enjoyed our meal a few clouds along with some nice breezes moved in and felt great.  After an afternoon of hiking and playing the adults were happy to sit and enjoy a cold beverage while the kids continued to climb the hills.

As it always is, the show was terrific.  The lone cowboy riding across the top of the canyon with the Texas flag was poignant.  The music, dancing, and singing were superb.  The fabricated lightning and gunshots made us all jump – even though we knew they were coming – and the finale with the dancing water and lights was amazing. After the show ended the actors were gracious and patient while they chatted with the audience and posed for many pictures.  Eight-year-old Claire was excited to get a photo with some of the main characters, especially  Calvin Armstrong and Elsie McClean who were two of the leads.

Calvin and Elsie

After we loaded up the cars and began the drive out of the canyon I exclaimed, “This was a great day!”  Hubby Ronald, looking in the rearview mirror, mentioned that our son-in-law, Leslie, kept turning his headlights off – presumably to try and see the stars. As we neared the top, and a good cell signal, his phone began to ring and our daughter, Krista, told us their car was acting up and they were losing power.

Limping they made it to the entrance where we were all able to pull over without blocking all the traffic behind us.  Popping the hood it looked like it was either the battery or alternator.  Hubby Ronald is always super prepared, the handiest person I know and incredible to have around in an emergency like this.  We would be back on the road in no time….no problem! Except this time, with all the tools somehow the jumper cables were missed.

Uh Oh.

The traffic coming out of the canyon had slowed to a trickle but we began to wave our arms in hopes someone would take pity.  Several people offered to stop but no one had the jumper cables we needed until a young man came along.  He rolled down his window and told us he could definitely help.

As Ronald and Leslie got busy we began to chat with this nice young man.

“Did you see the show?”

“Um, actually I’m in the show”

“Oh, really?  Do you have a part or do you work behind the scenes?”

“Oh, I have a part. I play Cal – Calvin Armstrong”

Um, what?

Remember Cal?  One of the leads?

Mouth opened and foot inserted.

The good news – he had taken so many pictures with fans that he didn’t recognize us, either.

Phew.

The car started and, giving Sean (that’s his real name :)) many thanks before saying our goodbyes we finally made it back to the house around 12:30 in the morning.  Pretty much dropping dead-weight and deeply-asleep kids into their beds the logical thing would have been for the rest of us to follow.  Instead, we ended up in the kitchen where we laughed until we cried and rehashed the events of a spectacular family day.

Car trouble resulted in us being saved by the star of the show.

Go figure.

p.s. – it was the alternator but a couple of hours under the hood and Ronald and Leslie got it all fixed.  And, in the end, it was….no problem.

Well, maybe I should say…it wasn’t a big problem.

Coming up next  – a day of hiking, hot temps, and more mishaps.

 

 

 

 

Graduations and Good Times

 

To say our life has been a whirlwind of activity the last several weeks is an understatement.  I’ve long said that May is the new December between sacraments, graduations and end-of-school-year events.  This May was no different as we celebrated two separate sacraments – First Eucharist for our granddaughter and Holy Orders for two fellow parishioners/friends, a college graduation for our niece and a high school graduation for our son, Patrick.  Throw in several end-of-school/senior concerts and meals and our calendar was pretty packed.

Each event brought together family, friends, lots of food and many toasts for the happy occasions.

So many good times!

My biggest highlight was the high school graduation  of our son, Patrick.  Just like every other parent I know I am very proud of all that he accomplished and the bright future he has ahead of him.

The Graduate

The Graduate with family

His whole senior year brought ample time for reflection and a big ole’ mixed bag of emotions but, now that it’s officially ‘done’ I need to stop for just a moment and take-it-all-in.  After all, the older I get the truer it seems to be that life happens in the blink of an eye.  It feels like yesterday that I was despairing over getting him potty trained and then all of a sudden he was finished with classes and final exams.

But, for something that seemed to pass so quickly we accomplished an awful lot of living.  There were vacations both near and far, girlfriends and breakups, new friends and old friends, births, deaths, emotional distress, torn ligaments, band, sports and driving to name a very few.  Goodness….so much of life experienced and, yet, I also know he has only touched the tip of the iceberg.

As he leaves behind the high school life and prepares to step into the world of college – and all it brings – I will pray he continues to make good choices while  choosing to love and respect all those he meets along the way.    I will also pray that God will protect him in his stupidity because it wouldn’t be a complete life without mistakes, blunders and his share of what-was-I-thinking choices.  And, when those harder life-times happen, I hope he remembers that failure is most often just a step to better.  Finding the courage to face the difficulty and move forward – with whatever the circumstance is – makes the better that much sweeter.

However, if he forgets and begins to despair in the hard times – I trust he will remember that I am always just a phone call and/or text away.

Graduations and sacraments, family and friends – so many really good things to be thankful for.

Romans 12:9-12

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.

Smile – It’s Your Birthday

jar-dressed-funny
Joshua – 10 years old 

For the parents out there – have you ever said to one of your children, “I hope you have a child just like you”?  And, if you did say it, was it because they were being about as perfect as perfect could be?  Or… not? Maybe it was said in one of those completely exasperating moments.  I don’t actually recall if I’ve said that to my children. Chances are, at the very least, I said it to my son, Joshua.

Joshua is all grown up now and he and his wife just had their second son but, when he was a child he was always precocious and inquisitive.  His curiosity kept me on my toes and is now legendary when we reminisce about antics from his younger days.

When Baby Alan arrived a few days ago he had the small but distinct honor of arriving on his great-great-grandmothers birthday.  She would have been 118.  As I was thinking about my grandmother…and her birthday…and Alan’s birth/birthday…and Alan’s daddy (Joshua) my mind then drifted to my grandmother’s funeral.

I didn’t say my thoughts made any sense.

But, they did make me smile.

We were having a visitation for my grandmother at the funeral home.  She looked peaceful and pretty in her casket.  As it usually is the top half of the casket was open and we could see my grandma from the waist up.

Joshua, fairly young at the time – and always curious – climbed onto the side of the casket to get a better view.  As he looked at her he decided he needed to see the rest of her and pushed the satin drape aside to get a better look.

Pretty much in the coffin at that point, he yelled, “HEY! She doesn’t have any shoes on! She’s barefoot!  What’s she supposed to do when she gets to Heaven?  Why does Grandma get to go barefoot and I have to keep my shoes on??”

Inquisitive, enquiring, questioning, probing minds wanted to know.

Oh Joshua, how I love you.

 

Baby Alan, with every joyful ounce of a Nana’s love… You hit the jackpot with your daddy.  I hope you grow up to be just like him.

 

 

 

 

The Hope Amid the Darkness

When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.                 Corrie Ten Boom

Holy Saturday.

Jesus has been crucified and buried.

His followers are bewildered and afraid.

Darkness prevailed.

Looking back over the past month I have struggled with my own bewilderment and darkness as I’ve attempted to come to grips with the death of the 16-year-old soccer teammate of my son, Ben.

It began on March 8th.

That morning I received a text from my other son, Patrick, “something’s happened at Jesuit”

Me, “what do you mean?  is the school on lockdown? Are there alarms going off? Are there emergency vehicles? Why do you think something has happened?” (It had only been three weeks since the school shootings had happened in Florida – I was feeling a little nervous.)

Son, “I’m not sure but they announced a freshman and sophomore meeting and changed the class schedule for the day.”

A moment later, “a sophomore died.  It was a car crash.  Guy Delaney, he played JV soccer.  Ben probably knows him.”

And, with that news, the day and the ones that followed went dark.

My heart was shattered for Guy, his family, his teammates, friends and, the staff at Jesuit who now had to help the students and each other navigate a second student death this school year.

My heart was also broken for Ben who was devastated and confused and had no idea how to handle the amount of grief he felt. I was overwhelmed, and surprised, by my own sorrow and the anguish I felt for Guy’s family.

Darkness settled in and I struggled through the ensuing days. I tried to choose joy when I woke in the morning and I tried to be thankful for the many blessings each day brings.  I tried.

But the darkness and grief were powerful.

I didn’t question God or why it happened.  I know free will dictated the choice made by the driver who caused the crash.  And, I believe strongly that, even as Jesus welcomed Guy into His kingdom, he also cried for the loss felt so strongly by so many.

My head knew these things but I couldn’t seem to convince my heart that everything was going to be okay.

As funerals often do, it began the process of closure for those outside his immediate family.  Guy’s parents invited the soccer players to honor him by wearing their jerseys, processing in and placing a white rose on his casket.  The service was filled to capacity and the tributes remembering Guy helped everyone laugh through the tears.

And, a sliver of light broke through.

Two weeks after his passing, and playing their first soccer game since the funeral, the JV soccer team was praying before things got underway.  It was a cloudy sky but as the team huddled together a ray of sunshine broke through and shone on the players.  It was an incredibly powerful moment.

(photo cred to Rob Kelton)

The grace of God and our faith tells us this was Guy.

The sliver of light became a bright sunbeam.

The hope amid the darkness.

As Ben and I continued to talk about Guy, and the hardness of losing someone, the days slowly became brighter.  One morning, Ben shared with me that Guy had come to him in a dream during the night.  In the dream, Guy told him he was okay, Ben was able to tell him goodbye and they hugged. Ben felt the hug and he felt the love.  “It was so real”, he said.

Guy is in the arms of Jesus.  And, in a few hours, we will commemorate Jesus’ victory over death.

Bad things happen but, God is good.  Today, he has wrapped his loving arms around Guy’s family and all those who love him and continue to struggle with their grief.

And, long ago, on that Holy Saturday when his followers were baffled and afraid God knew the bigger plan would triumph.

The light is coming.  Hope is on the horizon.  Jesus will rise.  His followers and those of us who believe understand that even amidst all the confusion, grief, and darkness God’s love will prevail.

Thanks be to God.

Guy’s own profound words, written in a memory book and shared by his father, Neil, at the funeral:

“Work hard, be patient, say your prayers and the rest will follow.”

warning:  Love wins.

I did another post right after Guy died when the team played their first game without him.  If you are interested you can read that blog here.

Sunrise & Sunset – Texas Style

I never tire of watching the sun rise or set and, I never tire of photographing it, either.  There are way too many beautiful ones I’ve taken pictures of to limit this post to just one.  Although I did manage to keep it to ‘just’ five.

Spectacular Texas…

On-the-go-picture of the sunset: driving north on HWY 287 to Amarillo

Allen, Texas: sunset at the grocery store

Sunrise on Lake Lewisville at the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House

A heron at sunrise also at Montserrat

Sitting on the dock watching a spider and the sunrise

 

Meandering with Lucy

Maybe it is the time change, but my 14-year-old Westie, Lucy, woke up this afternoon and was feeling feisty.  Lucy, who is mostly deaf and partly blind and spends most of her days sleeping wanted to play so – taking advantage of a pretty afternoon and the extended daylight – we went for a walk.

Cool temperatures, budding trees, blooming grape hyacinths, and one of those amazing sunsets turned a quick walk into an opportunity to meander.

These moments are always good.  And appreciated.

The Wonder of Playing Through the Pain

Our Jesuit community lost a student on Wednesday.  A beloved 15-year-old sophomore, who also played JV soccer, Guy was tragically killed in a horrific car crash.  This is the second death this school year that the students, staff and, families have dealt with.

It is a lot.

It is a wonder that, despite the loss and the pain, Guy’s teammates were able to bolster their courage and play tonight.

During the game I snapped a picture of my son, Ben, playing goalie.  Ben is also a sophomore and like everyone has been deeply affected by Guy’s death.  But like the rest of his teammates, he played for Guy.

The sun was setting and in the distance part of the Dallas skyline was visible. It was beautiful and made for an easier moment in a day filled with hard ones.