{ 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

 

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{ 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

{ DIY & Dubious Thanksgiving }

Our Thanksgiving was a little different this year.

zbysiu-rodak-689514-unsplash

My sister and family were spending the holiday with her in-laws. My brother and family live in San Diego now.  My single cousin Clee, who usually spends holidays with us, was with her brother’s family.

So, our guest list would simply be: my mother and her friend, Marlene. Marlene is a dear widow who is legally blind.  She is a classy dresser who wears red-rimmed cat-eye glasses.

In addition to the sparse guest list, we threw another curve ball when we told the children,

“This is a Do-It-Yourself Thanksgiving.  You can all plan one dish, buy the ingredients and prepare it yourself.”

Then, our oldest daughter mentioned that a Facebook acquaintance was in the area for Thanksgiving weekend: Nathan, a seminary grad student from Sri Lanka.

When my daughter asked if he could join us for Thanksgiving dinner, some of the other children seemed dubious…even shocked.

I regret to admit they said things like:

  • We don’t even know him.
  • He could be a weirdo.
  • Why would we invite someone we’ve never met?

So much for the Christian spirit of hospitality.

In the end, we all had a marvelous time:

  • Marlene and mom were excellent company and formidable game-players. We learned new things about both of them.
  • Everyone stepped up with the DIY dishes; we had abundant leftovers, as usual.
  • Nathan was friendly, intelligent and a definite non-weirdo. (If he’s writing a blog, I wonder what his prediction and assessment of us would be?)

So, I am thankful for uncertain opportunities, new friends, and rich experiences that help us grow!

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.  I wonder how you spent it?

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. ~ 1 Peter 4:8-9

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credit:  Zbysiu Rodak

{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.

 

{Extreme Sports & Me }

The children pooled funds to give my husband a birthday gift certificate.

They knew he would like an exciting adventure, and ziplining at the Kerfoot Canopy Tour is that kind of experience.

The course features 15 consecutive ziplines through beautiful wooded areas.

Screenshot_20180726-110719_2 (1)

Zipping down cables that are 175 feet high over treetops is something I would love to watch my husband accomplish.

  • I would sit with a cup of coffee on a cozy sofa as he popped in the DVD.
  • I would point and smile in amazed admiration.
  • I would applaud his agility and bravery.

I suggested that our oldest son might like to redeem the zipline certificate with him.  Or maybe one of our daughters? Then, I volunteered that we could all drive down together on Father’s Day and watch him conquer the zipline course.

I’m not sure what happened, but yesterday, I found myself strapped into ziplining gear, helmet on head.

The guides announced that we should all use the porta-potty, because it was the last bathroom stop for the next 2.5 hours.

No available restrooms may have been the scariest threat of the whole day.

Screenshot_20180726-145907_2
This is a shot of us wearing our zipline gear, minus the gloves.

Our guides drove the ATV up the bumpy hill.

“This IS scary.” I teased my husband as we slowed down, reaching GROUND SCHOOL.

Here we learned how to leave our Y-straps alone, attach our trolleys and brake with our gloved hands.

Technically, we were ready.

After completing our first set of ziplines, we tiptoed up a triple spiral staircase to the KONG zipline.  It is 900 feet long and the highest zipline in the course (175 feet above ground.)

One group member opted out and headed back.

I, too, was assaulted by typical zipline fears at this point.

At least I think these are typical…isn’t it normal to be thinking:

  • What if my trolley mechanism fails?
  • What if my harness breaks?
  • What if the cable snaps?
  • What if I fall and am speared by one of those picturesque pine trees?
  • What will my obituary say?

I placated those annoying fears…and none of that happened.

My husband seemed to have the time of his life — getting a little crazy with his no-handed cannonballs.

Me?  I followed the rules.

It was a memorable day with my fun-loving, thrill-welcoming husband.

(But I was glad to get back on the ground –where the bathrooms were.)

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Word of the Day: https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2018/07/27/placate/

 

 

 

 

{ Betsy & Laura}

When I tiptoe into

Betsy’s Deep Valley home

Or Laura Ingalls’ dugout

There’s magic

And melancholy.

 

Long-Ago and Right-Now

Mix inside my heart

like oil and water

 

I seek

proof,

connection,

and solace

 

These treasures are surprises,

As miraculous

as discovering

artifacts in Betsy’s cellar

or a forgotten

slate pencil lodged

Within the banks of Plum Creek.

 

I grasp ghosts

Snugly trapped in time —

Forever bound in

Favorite books

 

I see Betsy and Laura —

They are as close as the Big Hill

And the ripples of Plum Creek —

But as far away as the moon.

 

 

 

© Lisa M. Luciano

IMG_20180711_114049
Today we visited the childhood home of Maud Hart Lovelace, who wrote the Betsy-Tacy book series.  Mankato Minnesota — July 2018

Inspired by the Betsy-Tacy tour and because I also felt this when visiting Walnut Grove years ago (even though I was dressed in calico and a sunbonnet.)

Does anyone else feel a bit of magic and melancholy when visiting the historic place of a favorite person? Comments welcome 🙂

Word Prompt of the Day:  SOLACE