Monday, December 30, 2013

Thanks, Dad!

My Dad has thrown me and my blog a lifeline.

I've blogged through some difficult situations, hard times, sad times, good times... as well as deliriously happy times. But I have no point of reference for blogging through this kind of grief -- the sadness of losing my mom. It seems that it happened so fast. From last summer when we were clueless, to early fall when I viewed Mom's diagnosis through rose-colored glasses, to Thanksgiving Day when hospice became part of our family dynamic and shared the news that Mom could have as little as two weeks. In reality we enjoyed her company for about three weeks. Three wonderful, blessed, fantastic weeks to laugh and cry and to say 'I love you' over and over again, and to finally say 'goodbye'.

I'm not ready to write about it, but Dad did.

He needed to inform friends, share his grief, and honor our mom, his wife of 63 years. His words:

Dear All:  This is my poor attempt to notify one and all on my address book of the sadness of reporting our loss!  Gloria was the best thing that ever happened to me.................PERIOD.....................
Our seven children were a product of her immense "mothering" skills.  When I met her she was a good daughter, a good sister and a great friend to many "buddies"  (her favorite word for her friends) who became my buddies.  I was fortunate that, from the time we first dated, to our last day together, we never had a serious disagreement that couldn't be solved by a few words of concession and a smile!  She taught me how to care and she taught our children how to care!
We were most fortunate that we never held back from doing things, just because we couldn't afford them.  That included things as small as buying ice cream cones, going to picnics, taking an overnight getaway, to the more costly things like joining North Fork Country Club and building a house when a close friend made it possible.  These things shaped our life and - without a doubt - made "raising" the Bruce children a joyful adventure!!!!!!
Eventually, together, we enjoyed a modicum of success, with a family we were proud of and a comfortable lifestyle that enabled us to do things far beyond our expectations from the early days.  Gloria put up with my impatience and she steered me into a "lifetime" job that we could both be proud of.  If I seem to be using the word "proud" too often it is only because there is no other word that projects our satisfaction with "what we accomplished" together.
During the last few months our children, her family, my family and our friends couldn't have been better and more supportive.  I know Gloria felt the love and I will be grateful forever!  Gloria was the most beautiful person I ever knew..............PERIOD
With love to all:  Dad, Pop Pop, Dick  (or as Gloria sometimes like to call me) The Duke! 
My mom and dad, happy and healthy not so very long ago.
Gloria and the Duke

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Watching and Waiting...

And learning about patience.

Have patience, have patience, don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient too.
And, think of all the times when others have to wait on you.
Songs from The Music Machine, circa 1978, stick in my head like it was yesterday. Those were the years when I made a mission of teaching my children important life traits like patience, along with love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It was a lot to teach, a lot to try to demonstrate every day, in every way -- and I didn't always succeed, not with the teaching part or the demonstrating part. I had a theory that if you could just get the first and last down pat: love and self-control -- the rest would sort of fall into place.
Who's with me? (Lucky for us, diligence didn't make the list.)
That marvelous kids album came to my rescue and helped me clue my kids in on all nine marvelous character traits known as the fruit of the spirit: love,  joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Nothing is more important than love, which we know in our hearts, even if we don't know the Bible verses, is the greatest command. And if you skip from that to self-control and master it as well, then surely joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and goodness will work themselves out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Regardless, we played the songs over and over, sang along while working, playing, and swinging on swings. At night the "Peace" song was a favorite lullaby.
Peace, peace
I think I understand.
Peace, peace
is holding Jesus' hand.
They were songs for kids. Just for kids. But today they are songs for a grown up -- me. They run through my mind bringing me comfort...and peace. When my boys were little I sang those songs and rocked them. And rocked and rocked and rocked. I used to wonder why it took them so long to close their eyes and go to sleep. 
Now it's a grown up me replaying those old songs in my mind, singing them to Mom when no one is near enough to hear. Singing and watching and waiting -- patiently -- for her to pass into the presence of Jesus, wondering why it takes so long. 
And somehow everything gets mixed up. I think of my mom when I was young. I'm reminiscing about family life, times with my siblings. I call to mind special moments my kids had with their Oma and Pop Pop, my mom and dad, back when they were young grandparents. And then somehow it's my own grandparents I'm remembering and missing. It's all mixed up. All the stages of life with generations coming and going. And I know, like it or not, this is how it should be. This is in the right order, the kindest, best, natural order of life. Like it or not. All our days are numbered. And suddenly we're left with two paradoxical thoughts: Where did the time go? and Why does it take so long?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Wait -- I'm Not Ready for Advent

The first week of Advent is upon us. It's supposed to be a time of waiting, watching, and preparing our hearts for the much anticipated coming of Jesus. Apparently I skipped the watching and waiting part, and jumped ahead to the preparing part. Preparing physically, not spiritually: trees are up, house is decorated, stockings are hung -- the ones my mom made throughout the years as my family grew. I've got them all hung by my fireplace, even though it's just me and Tom here now.

I'm doing everything at a frantic pace. Or at least when I'm not walking in circles, talking on the phone, checking in with family in Florida -- I'm working with a sense of urgency. In the past couple of weeks since I've been back from Florida, Tom and I have celebrated Thanksgiving with Adam and Alicia, visited with Aaron, Amy and our dear, sweet, handsome, extremely bright, absolutely delightful grandsons, and hosted a small hunting party on the first day of deer, which happens to be a very important date in these here parts.
Only Steve (far left) got a deer on Monday, but I heard Aaron (far right) got one today.

Pastor Brian and Jesse got skunked too. The guys who didn't have doe tags saw -- you guessed it -- all the doe.
This week I rushed around preparing our house for Christmas... 

Inside tree done. Outside icicle lights hung.

Dining room decorated. Outside tree up and lit.
Was that just one week ago we attended the State College CMA church with our son, his wife, and kids? Last Sunday Aaron began his sermon suggesting that before we rush headlong into the Christmas season we ought to take time to reflect on the thanksgiving season. Beyond Thanksgiving was a welcome and much needed message, one I intended to mull over, take to heart, and practice. But alas, life got in the way. I forgot to get quiet and get with God. I forgot to begin Advent.

All is not lost, I can go back and listen again. Perhaps you'd like to listen-in as well: Beyond Thanksgiving, by Aaron Henning, Dec. 1, 2013 at the State College CMA church. (You may choose audio or video.)

On the re-listen, I'm ready for Advent. I will heed the reminder to express gratitude as a daily habit. I can come into God's presence with thanksgiving any time, all the time. And in that, I think it's wise to put aside my activities and responsibilities and go be with the part of my family who I need to be with most particularly at this time.

So off I go with the well wishes and support of my husband, who is a gem, heading back to Florida to have a little more time with Mom, Dad, and siblings. I'll be watching and waiting, anticipating the Lord coming to us, even as my mom goes to Him. Or watching in delight as He gives us more time together. Either way, we'll bask in His presence, and I'll offer my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Heaven: It Must Be Very Good

Sadness over hard times.
Serious disappointment.

Grief is all of the above, and sometimes it comes upon us as we prepare for loss.

I'm preparing. We're preparing. Our dad is preparing. He's handling the brunt of this difficult and sad time with such tenderness and strength. Dad is our champion and he is Mother's knight in shining armor. He's by her side, helping her through, keeping a promise he made 63 years ago.

Through the years Dad and Mom have shown us kids how wedding vows are kept. They've demonstrated how to honor, love, and cherish in sickness and in health. We're watching, and they are living it out. They're living out the difficult last part of the vow. Until death do us part. The part starry-eyed young people don't even imagine will be part of their future.  But that's the reality folks. Everyone has their turn. No matter how long or short your marriage -- in most cases -- one of you will pass on before the other. And though we all have some trepidation about crossing over, it's the spouse left behind that has the more difficult position. But, as my Dad said to me just the other day, "Everyone goes through this, and it's just our turn."

What do you say to offer comfort at a time like this? I don't know the right words. I'm left wondering how can I help? What can I say or do? What do I even know?

What Do I Know? by Sara Groves

And with that I'm thanking my son, Aaron, for sharing this song with me. Such a comfort I found this song to be. Perhaps it will bless you as well.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Giving Thanks for Family

Tom and I spent Thanksgiving day with our son Adam and his Alicia, her parents and her brother as well. Adam and Alicia's house is very warm and welcoming and easily big enough for all of us! The turkey and ham dinner was a splendid group effort, and although the main burden still fell to the was a fabulous dinner and a lighter load for everyone because we all contributed.

At least I hope that was the case. You would never know Alicia had surgery less than two weeks ago She seems to be getting along just fine without a gallbladder, but we (Adam, her mother and I) kept encouraging her not to overdo. Our degree of success amounted to this: when it was time for clean up we talked her into sitting on the couch. She dutifully sat. For two minutes, maybe three.
I have to say, I can't remember having such a pleasant time working together in the kitchen, from prep to clean up...a good time was had by all.
Over dinner we each took time to share something we are particularly thankful for. Family topped the list over and over again -- time with, support of, grateful for. We each shared from our hearts and from our own experiences, our two families with individual but similar circumstances this year. There were tears (it's okay, the potatoes needed salt anyway) and lumps in throats (better than in the gravy) and rather than asking, "Please pass the pepper," it was, "Please pass the Kleenex." Good grief. Seriously, it was a good time of grieving and being thankful, and then -- even -- can you believe?, laughing together. I had almost forgotten how my Adam's eyes sparkle when they leak, and how adorable he looks when he laughs through tears. 
Now I'm sounding melodramatic, and all I meant to say was, we had a wonderful time and very thankful Thanksgiving day. I hope you did too. Love, Betsy

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lucky Me...

The month of Thanksgiving continues. People post what they are most thankful for each day. I'm cognizant of amazing blessings and only hope I don't overlook the smallest ones. But I don't often enough take time to voice my thanks, except maybe in prayer. Perhaps these pictures give voice to what has blessed me most this month...time with Mom and Dad.

Nadine and I had a great week in Florida or as my Dad likes to call it, Paradise... Lucky us.

Mom giving directions
Something was pretty funny...but I don't remember what.
Last morning...the sun's coming up and we're heading out.

The favorite nurse (in yellow) doubled as cook, cleaner, yard worker, and all around good friend.
The pleasant patient (in stripes) up early. Up, but not quite at 'em!
Saying goodbye over a cup of coffee

at dark thirty.
I'm very grateful for a wonderful time with Mom and Dad... Lucky me!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

So Much for Balmy...

To survive in these here parts you better love the change of seasons. And the change back, and the change ahead, and the change again, and... Case in point, that balmy weather in early November, of which I spoke in my previous post was followed by this:

I took this picture the morning I left home for a week in Florida. While I was gone the snow melted and Tom finished clearing the last of the fallen leaves from the lawn. He took advantage of fair weather preparing for winter -- not a day too soon. I returned to typically chilly fall weather. Then it got colder, and rained, and the wind blew, bringing in a winter storm, which dumped a foot of snow on us. I'm wishing I could go back to Florida. It's especially nice to leave for warm climes when you're leaving snow behind.

While down south with my friend, Nadine, we enjoyed temps in the 70's and 80's. We sat out on the lanai in our jammies and watched the sunrise in the mornings. In the evenings while we were getting dinner ready, Mom and Dad made sure the sun got itself set good and proper. They occupied their rockers and took in the peaceful, beautiful is their daily habit. What a nice routine, don't you think?

Nadine and I had the after-dark shift in the rockers, or the hot tub, or out walking -- some nights all three. Sitting, soaking, or walking, we marveled at the full moon, the lead up to it, and the couple of days after, and the warm weather. Simply gorgeous. Even the cloudy nights were stunning.

"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy." Psalm 65:8

I have no night time pictures, but here are some photos of the flowers, shrubs, trees, yard, and the showy visitors we enjoyed.

Gorgeous birds, these Sand Hill Cranes, absolutely gorgeous.

Aha! Here's the real attraction.

A bird feeder. And I am a bird, am I not?

Because you are nice enough to feed me, I'll let you take my picture close up.
I took these pictures last week a thousand miles south of here. Today, at home, we're shoveling snow. Such extremes!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bonus Days

Good night dahlia bulbs. Sleep the winter away.
Today was downright balmy here in northwestern PA. For November 6th that's a bonus. This is not typical weather. I took advantage of the warm weather and pulled the dahlia bulbs this afternoon. A hard frost last week did them in. Oh my, they look bad after a frost -- black and droopy, ugh. Dahlias come out in the fall easier than they go in in the spring. I just grab a handful of stems and gently tug until the ball of dirt and bulbs begins to rise up. Then I shake off the dirt and snip the stems, letting the bulbs fall into a bucket. The buckets full of bulbs will go to the basement until April or May. One year I made the mistake of putting lids on the buckets. All winter long my bulbs were busy turning into dahlia soup -- and it stunk to high heaven when the lids came off. That spring I got to buy all new dahlias.  (I thought I was protecting the bulbs from mice. Why? Don't ask me. I'd never noticed mice ravaging my dahlia bulbs before, but I got it in my head, and, well, I learned the hard way. Better to share if the mice are so inclined, which they aren't, than to lose it all.

Tom is putting the final touches on closing the pool. He's taking advantage of the warm weather too. I've actually been swimming a few days a week at Recreation Complex in Meadville. It involves a little investment of time (25 minutes each way) and a little investment of money for gas, and a small entrance fee which covers the lifeguard, hot water if I shower after, and the use of a pool that is kept up beautifully and comfortably warm. It's a great deal.

A friend of mine who is a swimmer and lives way over on the left coast posted a while back that she appreciates driving to a facility where someone else keeps the pool ready for her to swim most any time she wants. I snobbishly thought, oh no, it's much better to have your own pool. Ah-hem, I stand corrected. This is better, someone else taking care of the pool. Best of all I can swim year round. But I'm sure, come summer time, I'll be ready to enjoy and keep care of my own swimming pool, and host my friends right here. Until then, the Rec Complex is great. And swimming on any late fall or winter day is indeed a bonus!

Good night swimming pool. Sleep tight all winter long.
Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and rainy. Thursday, possible snow. Typical November weather.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Month of Thanksgiving

I've never done well with posting a thankful thought every single day. I'm sure I have a thankful thought or two every day, and even though I don't take time to write my moments of gratitude down I'm glad others do. Hearing what someone else is grateful for always warms my heart. I have a friend that I see once or twice a week and she always has something happy to share. "You won't believe what the Lord did... (this morning, or yesterday, or this week)," she'll gush. Sometimes it's something big, other times it's so small I'd have missed it if it had happened to me. I'd have chalked it up to coincidence. Not this gal, she sees God's hand in everything.

Man, I want to be like that. I love being with people who are upbeat -- happy much more often than they are sad -- see silver linings and don't miss tiny blessings, always finding something good in surroundings, circumstances, and the souls they encounter day in and day out. Yes, I want to be like that. So, to those of you who purposefully and faithfully post what you are grateful for every day during the month of November, the month of Thanksgiving, thanks! I appreciate it, and I appreciate you, and I guess that's something I'll be thankful for each and every day...your grateful posts.

As for me, I couldn't be more grateful for anything in the month of November than the gift of having been blessed (40 years ago, now!) with my first baby boy. I'm grateful for him, who he has become, all that he has brought to our lives. Tom and I love him like no other, not counting his 3 brothers. All four we love equally -- but this isn't their month. Today, this month, it's all about Nathan. First born son to us, first born grandson to my parents, first born nephew to my brothers and sisters. So very special to all of us.
Baby Nathan and Oma
(That's the name a grandma gets when her first born grandchild says Mmm-ma.)
Adam and Nathan

Aaron, Amy, Nathan

David and Nathan in San Francisco

Happy Birthday to Nathan!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month)

What??? Again? Yes, it's November again and for me and my writing group that means Nanowrimo. I went to the Nano site and updated my information. They've given me badges for important things like filling out my profile, creating my novel, getting myself some writing buddies, and donating money to the cause.

Donate_earned Profile_earned Novel_earned Buddy_earned
Is it just me, or does the red one look like a couple of  Eggo waffles popping out of a toaster? I know, I know, you don't often see single slot toasters, but still. I'm tickled to have such a lovely line up of colorful badges. Now the hard work begins. I'll need to write nearly 2000 words a day, give or take 300 and allowing for a day off here and there, namely Thanksgiving Day.

Without my writing group -- of which I am the senior most member -- I don't think I'd have the motivation to make a commitment to Nano this year. They are leading me with their enthusiasm and exuberance! I don't want to be left in the dust (there's that teensy weensy competitive streak I've got) and I surely don't want to disappoint. 

I've technically been a Nano winner two years in a row, but I've not done anything toward editing the two books I've written. This year will be different. That's my promise to myself.

So the count down begins... 26 hours, give or take a few minutes. And then, buckle up it might be a bumpy ride. Here we go.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Indoor/Outdoor Campers!

If you weren't at our house this weekend, you missed a lot of fun!

I'm pretty sure it was too cold to be camping this past weekend, but hey, with the right equipment and a toasty campfire (and a warm house with indoor facilities nearby), it can be done! These people were undaunted.

There was some cookin' out and snackin' out...
Some cookin' and lots of eating in...
Playing outside

Playing inside...

We even had a birthday party... a jewelry cake with 5 candles...
And here's the newest person, cute as a button. Youngest baby is a title he won't hold next year. There will be two more little ones added to the mix!
And finally, my most favorite picture of all. The footie pajama boys. Count 'em. Seven, 2 and under,1 just 3/12. The 3 older children (5, 6, and 8) weren't keen on getting in the photo, but they were good helpers with all of these little ones all weekend long. 
Getting ready...waiting patiently...just need 4 more kids and we can start snapping.

If you get some footie pajamas you can be in the picture too!