A Drive with Just Charlie

Growing up living in Wisconsin, many of my summer vacation memories revolved around trips to West Virginia and Ohio to visit with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a bevy of cousins. I loved listening to my cousins (who spoke with a bit of a Southern drawl compared to my distinctly Midwestern dialect). I loved to hear their back and forth banter and all the family stories that unfolded. As much as I loved it, I recognized that my cousins had something I didn’t really have: first-hand stories to tell of times they had spent together with our grandparents.

Now that I have six kiddos who call me Grandma, I’m happy they live close enough for them to each have at least a story or two to tell about time they’ve spent together with me. My grandson Charlie has a few fresh stories to add to his collection because he took a little road-trip with me last summer. But, let me tell you a story about him first. I told this one on Facebook about eight years ago:

Charlie – age 4 1/2 showing off the birdhouse he helped paint

Conversation with my 4-year-old grandson, Charlie:

Charlie: Grandma, you smell.

Me: Ummm…do I smell bad, or smell good?

Charlie: You smell like my grandma!

Seeing that one come up as a Facebook memory made me wax all nostalgic and drove me to look through some of my older Facebook photos. Such joy this kiddo has brought to his grandma’s heart.

Charlie is now 13 and more of a young man than a boy. After last summer’s trip to Ohio, he now knows that his grandma sometimes snores and that she has a way of making the on-board navigation system say, “Make a legal U-turn at the next intersection” quite a lot.

With a short window of time for our trip, it was a lot of driving, snacking in the car on the way here or there, staying overnight in hotels without the greatest breakfasts (due to a world still reeling from Covid), listening to audiobooks, trying to figure out how to get motel televisions to play the shows WE wanted to watch, and such. Once we made it to Wintersville, Ohio it was a lot of meeting relatives he didn’t know he had (and that I haven’t seen in years), eating, driving, eating, and hanging out with (mostly) older folks who spoke with an unfamiliar twang.

The purpose of my last minute trip to Ohio was to attend the memorial service for a beloved uncle who went Home to heaven back in 2020. With Covid restrictions for large gatherings lifting, we could finally gather as a family to both mourn our loss and celebrate his homegoing. There is just something special about knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that you will see your loved one again in heaven. ‘Til we meet on heaven’s shore, Uncle Bobby.

Our trip to Ohio was over a long holiday weekend sandwiched between days I had to work. So, other than hotel pools along the way there and back, this wasn’t a trip filled with fun stops and great amusement. But it was certainly filled with family – it was so good to be together.

My family loved Charlie, as I knew they would — he’s an easy kid to love. And I love that Charlie had the privilege of meeting both my Aunt Linda and my Uncle Jim, my dad’s youngest sister and oldest brother. I am grateful that Charlie had the opportunity to hear what a godly influence and man of Christian character his great-great Uncle Bobby was as his children and grandchildren shared their stories about his life and legacy. Charlie got amply loved on by my cousins and second-cousins and even got to taste my Aunt Linda’s cooking.

One of my favorite candid photos from this trip is of my Uncle Jim chatting with Charlie (below). This warmed my heart more than you can possibly imagine. Uncle Jim reminds me so much of my dad–right down to the well appointed pocket protector. I loved hearing Uncle Jim tell Charlie some of the same stories of yesteryear that I had heard, and I my heart warmed as I watched him share a life lesson or two with Charlie and anyone else willing to listen.

My heart is a little sad today knowing my Uncle Jim joined the heavenly throng this morning and that I will not get to see him again on this side of Glory. Though my heart is heavy knowing the sorrow that his children and grandchildren are feeling right now, the sting of death is mingled with the confident joy of knowing my Uncle Jim is with his Lord and Savior. If there is a receiving line in heaven, I’m sure my Aunt Robbie was at the front of the line to see her beloved Jimmy again. Uncle Jim just celebrated his 97th birthday here on earth, so I’m sure there were a lot of loved ones who got there before him and were lined up to greet him, but I can well imagine that my dad was elbowing his way to the front of the line to be among the first to greet his brother when he showed up this morning. Jim was not only my dad’s older brother, but he was also someone who faithfully prayed that his little brother Jerry would come to know the Lord. I will forever be grateful for Uncle Jim’s faithful witness and God’s answer to his prayers.

Happy Birthday to George!

Not too many Saturdays ago, we were blessed to gather and celebrate this boy’s 9th trip around the sun. George is our youngest grandchild and I’m still trying to take in the fact that he’s nine.

The birthday boy sat at one end of the table with Wayne and I seated to either side. As he chatted with us over our lunch of his mom’s homemade chicken pot pie, we both looked at one another in astonishment as to how much this boy knew and how well he communicated. When did the little boy disappear, and how did this more mature and articulate boy sneak up on us?

Most years the grandkids in my daughter’s family ask me to bake their birthday cake. This year George wanted cupcakes. More specifically, he wanted Pokémon cupcakes. I don’t know much about this gaming trend, so Beth sent me some Pinterest photos of what he had in mind. I had fun with it and came up with these.

I always look forward to seeing each grandchild’s reaction when they first see their birthday cake. Our all-smiles birthday boy wrapped me in an excited hug and told me his birthday cupcakes were perfect. (Grandma was all smiles too.)

I know that there may come a day when my grandkids no longer ask me to bake them a cake. Perhaps there may even come a day when this grandma can no longer bake them a cake. For now, we will just keep on celebrating each birthday milestone God grants us, and I’ll keep on doing my best to make their birthday cake wishes come true.

Henry in the Middle

A little heartwarming story about a boy I love named Henry.

God filled my grandma cup with three incredibly sweet granddaughters – Violet, Mia, and Noelle. Life was filled with tea parties, princesses and fairies, Barbie dolls, and glitter adorned fairy wings and princess dresses. Then God took my decidedly glittery pink and purple cup of joy and filled it to overflowing by adding three grandsons – Charlie, Henry, and George. My grand-girl fun was by no means over, but my toy arsenal now included marble-eating plastic dinosaurs, toy cars and trucks, and lots of dirt and bugs.

Continue reading “Henry in the Middle”

Hand a (Grand)Kid a Camera

Having grown up a few states away from my own grandparents, I vividly recall those long “summer vacation” trips from Wisconsin to Ohio and West Virginia…and back. Three sweaty siblings elbowing each other in the backseat of our sedan in the years before our family car had air-conditioning. I loved seeing my grandparents, but the trip, not so much. Memories of that once a year trip make me feel particularly blessed to have our daughter Beth and her family living about ten minutes away from us and able to stop by often.

Continue reading “Hand a (Grand)Kid a Camera”

Grandma’s Wonky Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is a little wonky-looking. A bit oddly shaped, no matter how I fluff it, stubbornly refusing to stand up straight in the rotating base. It has a bit of a wobbly jewelry-box ballerina pirouette going on as it twirls round and round slightly askew. But I love how my wonky tree sparkles as it does its little lopsided twirly dance.

Continue reading “Grandma’s Wonky Christmas Tree”

Seed Gathering

I love hearing the little ‘ping’ when my granddaughters send me a text. I received one from Mia last week asking me to identify this plant that she noticed growing at her church. She remembered seeing them growing between the cracks of my flagstone path when she was a little girl and she had always enjoyed them. Of course, I recognized them as portulaca (moss rose) and told her I have a few little bits of it growing in my garden this year.

Mia’s photo taken at Wildwood Church in East Moline, IL

I plant moss roses every now and again and am always delighted when a plant throws seed and new moss roses come up willy-nilly somewhere else the following year.

The loveliest ‘flowers’ in my garden of life, my grand-girls (l to r) Noelle, Violet and Mia

Mia’s question spawned a curiosity within me about seed gathering, so I decided to look up a video demonstrating how to collect the seed from some of my moss roses so that I can plant some of my favorite colors more purposefully in areas where I’d like them to grow next year. There are plenty of YouTube videos on the subject of gathering seed from portulaca, but I appreciated this one .

I enjoy growing petunias in my pots. They’re just so pretty – especially the purple ones. I decided to watch a few more videos on how to gather petunia seeds so that I could perhaps save a little money by growing my own next year. I discovered it’s very similar process as the one used for portulaca seed gathering. After watching this particularly helpful video, I decided head out to my front porch and check my favorite petunias to see if there were any seeds to gather.

I was so excited to find the little seed pods mentioned in the video, so picked a few and tried harvesting them myself.

See the little black specks that look like dirt? Those are the itty-bitty seeds!!

I used this little strainer from my kitchen drawer to sift and separate the seeds from the little pods. Next, I slipped the harvest of seeds into a white paper envelope and then labeled the envelope with what kind of seed was within (knowing full well I would forget by next spring). Before sealing the envelope, I slipped the plant tag from this year’s plant into the envelope too. I am looking forward to planting my seeds next spring and really hope they will germinate. If they do, I’ll be sure to post some pictures!

What about you? Have you had success in harvesting seeds? Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to see your ideas and tips in the comments below.

Happy gardening, my friends!

Simple Blessings: Attending a Grandchild’s Concert

The simple blessing of being able to attend my sweet granddaughter’s symphonic band concert on Wednesday night was not lost on me. My husband and I could both go to the concert. Together. We didn’t have to take turns going to these special events anymore. We didn’t have to hire a caregiver or ask a friend or family member to come spend a few hours with my mom. We could just go.

As we waited for the concert to begin, I looked down our row of seats in the high school auditorium and was caught up in a beautiful moment of realizing I was sitting here with my daughter and her family. I could sit next to grandson Charlie and give his back a scratch while we waited for the concert to begin. I could ask him during the concert what his favorite instrument was – percussion, if you’re wondering too. During the concert, I watched Henry, seated at the end of our row, totally taking in the music. I remember comparing Henry’s silhouette with that of his mother seated next to him – how fun to notice the similarities in their facial features. It made me smile. Even sitting next to wiggly George and helping him cover his ears during the loud or “scary” parts of the music was a special blessing to my grandma-heart.

Our flautist. (Such a strange word.) How fun to see Violet seated next to Izzy, her friend since kindergarten.

Of course, I relished watching Violet play her flute. When did she grow up to be such a poised and beautiful young lady? The obvious enjoyment she had in making music with her friends just thrilled my heart. The music was amazing – I could not believe this band had been practicing together for only two months.

Being able to attend this concert was a grace gift – a hidden blessing of having my sweet mom in memory care. My heart was reminded that I need not regret our decision to place mom in assisted living memory care earlier this year – it was an act of love – for her, for me, and for my family.

Forty-three and Counting

We met through the mail when I was 15 and he was 21. He was in the Navy and I was in high school. Just before my 17th birthday we decided we wanted to get married, then got officially engaged on my 18th birthday, and married the next summer on my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary – July 3, 1976.

July 3, 1976

We’ve now been blessed with forty-three years of marriage and two children, Matthew and Elisabeth. We’ve seen God provide godly spouses for each of them. Icing on the cake…before long, the Lord blessed us with grandchildren: three grandgirls and three grandboys.

We’ve also been blessed to put down roots in only a handful of places: one apartment and three houses we have called “home.” I remember back in 1977 we discovered a little gem on 49th Street that would only cost us $10 more per month than we were paying in rent for our little furnished apartment. It wasn’t very big, but it was ours and perfect for our little family of three (soon to be four). God provided then, and He still provides for us now.

Over the years we’ve owned our fair share of pets (thankfully, not all at the same time) : one guinea pig, one cockatiel named ‘Jingles’, two gerbils named ‘Digger and Aaron’ (apparently NOT brothers, as evidenced by their very large family), one hamster named ‘Houdini’ (he actually did disappear and we’re really not sure where he went), two “free” dogs (Dusty and Hooch), and one porch kitty who adopted us three summers ago.

On this day, our 43rd wedding anniversary, I could think of no other person on earth who is as perfect for me as this man. May the Lord bless us with more years to walk together in love, as Christ loved us.

Ephesians 5:2:”And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”.
Life is Good!

Alzheimer’s through a Great-Granddaughter’s Eyes

Let me introduce you to Violet. This granddaughter has held my heart for 15 years now and I am quite certain she has a special place for me in her heart too. Any time we spend together is special.

Not only does she love me well, but she also has a special softness in her heart for her memory impaired great-grandmother. Violet goes out of her way to be a bright spot in my mother’s day as often as she is able. Most recently she wrote a few letters to her and asked me to slip them in her purse every now and then so she had something new to read. On other occasions she will come with me to visit her GGma.

Violet and I share in common a love for writing. I love reading what she writes and especially love finding her thoughtful notes sprinkled liberally throughout my house. On a recent visit, Violet picked up a pencil and a notepad and poured out some thoughts on paper about Alzheimer’s. I asked for permission to share them on Barefoot Lily Lady.

Alzheimer’s
By Violet Cynthia Schultz

Family becomes strangers
‘Home’ becomes lost
Books become confusing
Memories become a maze.
Guests become intruders
Flowers become weeds
Shouts become whispers
Old stories are forgotten
making them new again.

Yet the smile of a stranger
can still brighten up the day
Help from a friend becomes a blessing
when you’re lost.
The old photo album
jogs memories new and old.
The surprise intruders
become a highlight of the day.
The countless weeds
spark the old passion of gardening
And the whisper of a voice ensures
comfort, rest, and security.

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