{ Life Lurches }

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Life Lurches

After traveling on level lands,

Like a train —

Life lurches.

Precarious and perpetual

Pressing through unknown tunnels

Hairpin turns and

Unexpected crossings.

Now the Conductor

Guides and glides into familiar flatness

So I roll along, resting

Awaiting the next corner.

 


 

photo ~ Antoine Beauvillain

lurch: make an abrupt, unsteady, uncontrolled movement or series of movements; stagger.

edited and reposted from August 2017

{ Frumpy in France }

My son is traveling overseas for the first time, and I prayed that it would be a glorious, life-changing trip for him.

Surrounded by church friends and armed with a confident, likable personality, I doubt he will be homesick and I hope he will have a grand experience. 

This morning’s happy bon voyage caused me to remember my first overseas experience, only 36 years ago….

June 1983

When I left my Midwest suburb, I thought I looked totally acceptable — even cool — in my preppy boat shoes, wide-striped rainbow polo and Kelly green chinos. My hair was freshly home-permed into a bushy, easy-care halo around my pudgy face. 

topsidersOur French teacher, Madame Fansler-Wald, headed up the trip to France, starting in Paris with a one week family stay. A series of pre-trip planning sessions told us what to pack and what to leave home: “Don’t pack too much! Leave lots of room for souvenirs.”

At that season of my life, I thought so little of makeup that I decided I would lighten my luggage by leaving makeup at home — all 3 ounces of it. 

When it was time to leave, my whole family could stand at the gate and wave goodbye, because this was the innocent, trusting 1980’s.  

Au revoir! See you in 3 weeks!

My hollow carry-on and I landed in Paris and each student was shuffled off for one week with their Parisian host family. 

Pascale DuClosel was my teen counterpart in the host family — she was short, dark and aloof. She sported a fashionable, cropped hairdo and wore mini skirts and high-heeled pumps. She lived in a stylish flat with her mother and father, who were also aloof but pleasant, and spoke less English than Pascale. 

That first night — and every night —  I sat alone in the sparse European guest bedroom and drew out my Bible.  Trying to ward off homesickness, I read big chunks of the comforting Psalms; they have been my best friend ever since.

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For breakfast we bought fresh, long loaves of French bread and ate them slathered with real butter and exquisitely lumpy marmalade. 

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Pascale showed me her neighborhood and some days we sat at the sidewalk cafe with her friends. It didn’t take long to soak in the fashionable, French atmosphere, and I recall the moment I saw my frumpy reflection in a shop window and looked down at my sensible shoes. 

Suddenly, I felt like a farm hand that had parachuted into an elegant, sophisticated party.

And, I must have missed the unit where Madame talked about French greeting customs.  Pascale’s friend Stephen said goodbye to me one afternoon with a typical double side-cheek air kiss; I cringe when I remember how I innocently turned my face at the wrong time, getting an unintended smack on the lips from Stephen and a scornful look from Pascale.

I was relieved when the host week was over, and we gathered as a group again. The rest of the trip was like a magical dream, visiting giant castles along the Loire River, touring Monet’s charming pink cottage and day-tripping into Switzerland to eat ice cream at sunset.

Before leaving France, I bought those souvenirs that were supposed to fill up my empty luggage. They included:  makeup, a light blue denim mini skirt, and one pair of pink and white leather pumps.

 

{ I’m Meant for Little Things }

I find myself wallowing in the memory of a handful of recent conversations about motherhood, watching children fly away, and stepping reluctantly into “The Afternoon of Life.”

(That’s a book, given to me by my daughter. I groaned when I saw it, but it’s actually just right for me…and funny, too.)

So, just now I scrawled out a poem — with sappy tears streaming down my face– and my 20-year old son comes in, unaware of my poignant tears, to get something from this room.

“Don’t mind me,” I say. “I’m just writing poetry that makes me cry.”

“Your OWN poetry is making you cry?”

“Yes. I’ll read it to you when I’m done.” 

(Maybe. If you’re lucky.)

I’m Meant for Little Things

Big things? No, I’m meant for little things — 

I’m the tapper of  a traveling stream of a thousand text messages and heart emojis, a hundred “are you almost homes?” and “luv yous”

I’m the tiny-Lego-helmet-finder and the “Where’s my Wallet?” wizard 

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m the finger-mender of the glove that gets lost a day later at the hockey rink

An empty cupboard magician, a juggler of leftovers, and a make-do artist

I’m the queen of laundry

(my royal eyes have seen that same pair of underwear a hundred times)

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m the hopefully-wise-advice-giver

The occasional hugger and everyday love-giver

The rambling-dream-listener —

A tea-maker, sick-fixer, peacemaker

And everyone’s personal spelling coach.

 

Big things? No, little things —

 

I’m piecing together my

slowly-growing-love-mosaic out of

lots of little things

While praying someday

they will all see the Big Picture.

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Photo:  Roman Kraft

{ My Birthday Wrap-Up }

 

The girls and I got up early and snuck out to Ruby’s Roost,  a sweet little bakery with all the charm of a European sidewalk cafe. It’s run by an energetic family; I wonder how the mom / baker can be so model-skinny, even though she gets up before dawn and makes the most decadent pecan sweet rolls ever.

pecan stickies

We captured a quick photo; it was drizzling before the downpour:

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My husband and I ran out to a new local co-op for a smoothie…then I grabbed my free birthday drink at Caribou Coffee. 

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Flowers from my dear husband, who has joined me now for 30 birthdays ❤️

The best thing about my birthday this year was that it fell on a Saturday, and all of our working young adults were home…a rare day to cherish!

In the afternoon, we held Family Debates #1.

This new game was inspired by a raucously loud discussion 

 last week in the back of the van.

Everyone had a chance to debate a topic with a partner, and my husband and I picked a winner.

The one-minute debate topics included:

Which is more fun, snowboarding or longboarding? 

Which store is better, Aldi or Trader Joe’s?

Which is better, camping or watching sports? 

Which one is more fun, downhill skiing or swimming?

Which is better, almond milk or cow’s milk? 

(These topics are hotly debated at various times and with varying intensity throughout the year…)

Edible prizes were doled out to the winners.

And, everyone got a bonus prize at the end, just for participating, even though my husband thought that was a wimpy move…

…but, it was MY birthday.

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Thank you, God, for another year to live and love and serve my family!

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. — Psalm 90:12

 

 

{ About August }

In the life of an aging year, August is the cheerful-going-gray-stage. Decay is in the air and birds are empty-nesters. August’s garden is full of hearty thorns that cannot be rooted out easily — and she is too tired to try.

June works hard to stay attractive, but August knows better. She’s seen the storms and wind and hail and hungry insects. She shrugs and makes do. She’s got beauty: the below-skin-deep and low-maintenance kind. It’s easy-care and comfortably hospitable; visitors pop on by for a nibble, then fly to new homes.

August weeds are reckless vines, unruly thistledown and flyaway milkweed. Her ready-to-drop flowers are barely holding on to dried, patchy blooms.

August grooms herself casually — if at all — and without a mirror.

She lays back, tanned and wrinkled, as she watches summer’s finale with a satisfied, tired smile.

 

{ Graduation Open House }

jello

Rain delayed.

Volleyball played.

Pasta prolific.

Helpers terrific.

Talkers lingered.

Cake samplers fingered.

Colorful jello.

Balloons golden yellow.

No more papers

No more books

Lots of teacher’s

Happy looks

My son

Got it done

By God’s grace

Now? Finish the race.

~~~

© Lisa M. Luciano 2019

 

{ Bacon, Books, & Body Fat }

It’s been over a month since I have logged in, but I haven’t been idle. This is what I have been up to:

  • My husband got home from out-of-state and he came back eating Keto. The man I married 29 years ago thought eating bacon was scandalous — but now he embraces bacon as a legitimate thing, and I don’t have to hide eating it anymore!

Life is change…and this is a good change.bacon-1238243__340

  • I read several books this winter:
  1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  2. A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller
  3. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
  5. Killing the SS: The Hunt for the Worst War Criminals in History by Bill O-Reilly
  6. The Persian Gamble by Joel C. Rosenberg
  7. Still Life by Louise Penny

 

This was the best ever year for field trips. We attended two homeschool ski days; joined a free program at the Paint Factory; visited the Amazon Fulfillment Center; toured the St. Cloud Hospital; saw the Sea Life Aquarium on homeschool week; jumped at a Trampoline Park and went to the fish fry after the last day of pick-up hockey at the local ice rink.

 

 

Did we finish our history or math books? Nope.

However, I consider this year fruitful in other ways, because…

  1. We got to see the underbellies of sharks, real sea turtles and God’s creativity with jellyfish — and write about it.
  2. My youngest boys got to ski for the first time.
  3. My three teenagers got to experience the joy of group painting, and brought home their masterpieces. (The one who most reluctantly attended was the same one who proudly set his finished canvas next to his desk at home.)
  4. We saw how robotics works in a hospital operating room AND how robotics works in an Amazon warehouse.

 

  • On the creative side, I’m dabbling in tote bags again, thanks to a request from a friend’s daughter.  The tote bags I create make use of old wool sweaters, discarded men’s dress shirts, and empty burlap bags. After years of sewing with zipper avoidance, I’m officially not afraid of zippers anymore. 

 

 

 

  • Lastly, my husband and I took a preventative health test from Life Line. It’s a mobile set-up that moves you through simple tests like blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and then uses ultrasound to check for artery blockage.

But, here’s the interesting scenario: My husband, who:

  • works out almost every day
  • carries minimal spare body fat
  • can let a chocolate bar sit unopened in his closet for 5 months

…got only fair blood test scores. It was surprising.

I tried to feel bad for him.

But, all the while I was pleasantly surprised at my own excellent scores, since I:

  • have been virtually sedentary all winter long (except for the field trips I mentioned)
  • have oodles of spare body fat
  • can’t let a chocolate bar sit unopened for 5 minutes

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I tried to console him. I did some online research on his behalf and it might have something to do with sleep…

Speaking of sleep, I just found the word for my kind of nap: Nappuccino. A nappuccino is when you want to take a 20-minute power nap but not go longer than that. So, you drink a cup of coffee right before your nap and then the caffeine wakes you up just when you should wake up.

I didn’t know it was a *thing*…but turns out it is 🙂

  1. https://www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/the-nappuccino-is-a-wellness-trend-i-can-get-behind
  2. http://dreamstudies.org/2012/06/08/4-steps-to-reaganing-all-day-long-the-power-of-the-nappuccino/
  3. https://1079ishot.com/nappucino-coffee-nap/

 

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{ Polar Vortex, Wind Chill & Lots of Real Good Sauce}

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“Deadly polar vortex blasts Midwest with record-breaking cold, forecasters warn to ‘minimize talking’ outdoors… This is way colder than your typical cold front. The polar vortex has shifted, sending an incredible combo of very low temps and wind chills to the Upper Midwest…” — quote from news headlines today

Last night our washing machine didn’t work — the water had frozen inside the pipes.

We thawed them, but to keep the water flowing well, I planned to:

  • Get up at midnight and do some laundry.
  • Get up once more during the night and do more laundry.

The second nocturnal laundry phase found the water frozen-in-the-pipes again. But I was already wide awake at 3:30 a.m. So I took a hot, cozy shower, made a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the backdrop of a quiet house in which to complete a project.

During the frigid, early morning hours, I snapped this photo of the thermometer outside our window.

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Like a true Minnesotan, I will quantify the minus 20 degrees and add: “It was really twice as cold when you add the wind chill factor.”

Out of our four working young adults, none went to work today. This was due to cancellations and cars not starting. It was great to have them home.

Out of necessity (always, it seems, out of necessity) I concocted a hurry-up-and-make-dinner recipe. After tasting, my son said:

“See? This is how I like chicken! Not dry and with lots of real good sauce.

(I will take that as a compliment, and not read into it.)

Today, it was e x t r e m e l y. cold outside.

But I am thankful that it’s warm and happy indoors.

Quick Tandoori Chicken with Lots of Real Good Sauce

4 -6 chicken breasts, cut the way you like them or leave them whole

2 cups full fat plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

olive oil

  1. Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a 13 x 9 glass pan.
  2. Place chicken pieces in the pan.
  3. Mix spices with the yogurt in a separate bowl.
  4. Spread yogurt evenly over chicken pieces.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for approximately 35 minutes, or until chicken is done.
  6. Serve with Basmati rice.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Weather map: https://www.foxnews.com/us/deadly-polar-vortex-blasts-midwest-with-record-breaking-cold-forecasters-warn-to-minimize-talking-outdoors

{ 7 Questions }

I received a list of thoughtful questions from a dear one.

Answering these questions might be an excellent end-of-year exercise to rouse my sluggish brain cells out of their post-Christmas sugar stupor!

So…here goes.

(If you also would like some brain exercise, feel free to answer one of the questions ~ post your answer in the comment area below!)

Happy 2019.

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  1. If the last year could be summed up in one word, what would it be? Doors. Doors are pathways to growth, discovery and change. There were subtle but real changes in our family; new job opportunities, new friendships, and new “life tributaries” that occurred in our growing young adult children.   They are blossoming into their own persons.  This is hard sometimes for a mother.  I must bite my tongue when older children don’t automatically mimic our parental ideals. God is molding them uniquely; they have brains, prayers and dreams of their own.
  2. What are two or three major themes that kept occurring? Change. Reality. Release.
  3. What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of? Small internal victories, like: Holding my tongue at the exact right time. Deciding to wait and listen before reacting. Asking another question instead of responding emotionally.  Ignoring a perceived offense rather than retaliate with a sarcastic / witty comeback. Choosing faith instead of worry.  (These might seem like itsy bitsy successes hardly worthy of mentioning, and they might have only happened once or twice in all of the 365 days of 2018. But to me, they seemed to be larger accomplishments than completing an Ironman triathlon….)
  4. What do I feel I should have been acknowledged for, but wasn’t? Hmmm….I will think about this one…or maybe I shouldn’t dig around to find something?
  5. What disappointments or regrets did I experience this year? Spending time doing unimportant, useless, time-wasting things.
  6. What was missing from my year as I look back? Nothing that I can think of. 
  7. What were some major life lessons I learned this year? Time passes faster than I think it can or want it to.  

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Photo credit:Josh Riemer

Questions adapted from Lore Wilbert ~  http://www.sayable.net/about/ 

{ Closed Doors and Open Windows }

Life is a series of closed doors and open windows. And open doors and closed windows.
Then, there are doors that you thought were open that shut abruptly in your face.

On the other hand, doors you thought were locked can be surprisingly easy to kick open.
And occasionally, a tightly closed window will fall open, unhinged, enrapturing your soul.


Why write this?
In a desire to avoid a traditional Christmas letter, I still want to look over the year thoughtfully and learn the lessons I’ve been given. That’s what you do when you are fifty-plus. You learn that it’s worthwhile to spend 30 minutes reflecting, so that you can avoid months of making the same mistakes.

Or to be more honest, if I don’t write it down, I will forget.

January 2018 began with some confusion and a closed door. It brought the opportunity for us, as imperfect parents, to seek wisdom from the Wisdom Giver and use it to give sage advice. It’s a humbling tightrope to tiptoe upon, but asking, seeking, knocking and walking in faith will always get you to the destination God has for you.

When a door slams, the breeze it creates can heal and cause growth.

June brought another graduation, which means pasta and purple-frosted sheet cake. I leafed through old photos, amazed at how God closes precious doors at the same time He offers those looming, open windows. They lead to who-knows-where and it’s a little scary. But He is holding our hand as we slide our way through them.
Summer 2018 days were traditional and new at the same time:

  • Swimming lessons in a different pool.
  • Beach trips to new local shores.
  • New project ideas at the same old county fair.

The garden was stingy with tomatoes, but generous in zinnias, bees and butterflies.

Then came a wide open window, a chance to see an old friend after many years. That meeting was unexpected & sweet.
Summer ushered us gently into fall, so we basked in apple-bounty and we crafted on a shoestring. New doors opened for my husband and his job shook up our schedule, but it also gifted us with new stories and opportunities.
In November we celebrated Turkey Bowl #19. My husband is almost 60 and runs around a football field with such agility that his fellow amateur athletes think he’s 35. I will continue to thank God for my husband’s good health, even as I get out the Tiger Balm and Epsom salts.
And shortly after we hosted new friends for Thanksgiving, I looked at my kitchen with fresh eyes:

We have lived here for 20 years. It’s time to give this place a face lift.

  • I am shutting the proverbial door on those faded chicken curtains and poultry art in general.
  • I am ready to toss threadbare towels and lose that bright yellow bathroom.

(These are the types of Home Decorating Mission Statements that I hope will propel me through 2019.)
So, paint chips have been secured, walls stripped bare of rooster paraphernalia and Pinterest has been feverishly scanned. I hope next year’s recap will include some home decor success stories.

Still in 2018, we have a son who is following an idea, a dream, a possibility. It’s progressing; it’s full of many little steps. And if — after all the steps — this son finds a closed door, it will be okay. The hallway he walked down has been worth it.

Sometimes a closed door gives you the oomph to scale a ladder and pry open a window, where you find something better.

And sometimes, you just pivot, re-trace your steps, turn the corner and look for another inviting door to try.

Oh, I forgot the books.

Books and audiobooks (new & old favorites) inspired and entertained us in 2018:

In 2018, we saw new babies born and sick marriages die. People entered our lives and our church, and people exited. A dear family moved miles away and started a new chapter and we are happy for their open window…but it looks a little like a closed door on our side.

And still in 2018, our peers became in-laws and grandparents and we were reminded that we are all getting older. This happens slowly–and never in our hearts — but always in the mirror.
Well, I’ll end here for now — unless I God opens a window in my brain and reminds me of something important I forgot.
© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo credits:

white infinity doors:Filip Kominik

colored locker doors:moren hsu

blue windows:Paul Fleury