My Mother’s Day Epiphany

Forbear the depressing parts of this post and ultimately (hopefully) be encouraged. (For mothering hearts everywhere!)

Mother’s Day has long been one of my most dreaded holidays. As a child, all I ever wanted was to get married young and have lots of children (and write.) Beyond my control, was that my Prince Charming took his time building his own life, preparing to meet his damsel in distress. 

I sat through through countless Mother/Daughter banquets at our church with a lump in my throat and an ache in my heart. Would my time ever come? People casually reassured me that it would, patting my arm sympathetically and reminding me to pray. “It would happen in God’s timing,” they said. 

In truth, they were right. I met my future husband at 27, and married at 29. Married more than ten years and I still thank God every day I waited for the right one. 

Most of you know the story from here. Our first-born baby died before living a full day outside of my womb. In fact, it was Mother’s Day week 2007 we found out something was wrong, and although we did not know at the time that our baby’s diagnosis was fatal, that Mother/Daughter banquet overwhelmed me. 

By Mother’s Day 2008 I was pregnant with our son. People said, “Well now you’ll finally get to be a mother,” not understanding how that felt to the already mother of a dead baby. All I could think about that Mother/Daughter banquet was how I wanted to take my plate to the cemetery just outside the church basement walls and eat with my daughter on her grave. Instead, I sat quietly, pushing the tasteless food around on my plate, pretending to be interested in the laughter and conversation, silently willing the whole event to be over. 

Our son and two more daughters have filled my soul with copious amounts of joy and happiness, but I still find the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend to be one of my most difficult days. There have been times I’ve woken up on this Mother’s Day Saturday crying, unable to get out of bed. This morning I woke in a mood so foul our 5-year-old daughter told our son, “Don’t worry, mommy must be under a lot of stress.” 

I never expect it, I don’t plan for it. Most of the time it takes me a while to even figure out why I’m feeling this way.

It is the hardest thing in the world to explain how a bereaved person can be grateful AND grieving. “It’s been ten years,” some say, and I want to scream, “And I’ve missed her every ______ day!” “You have other children,” some say. And I want to ask, “Which of your children would you want to give up?” 

Even my husband said this morning, “I thought this would be a good Mother’s Day. The adoption is finalized,” referring to the eighteen-month adoption process of our youngest daughter. It IS good, it really is, but my heart still aches and our family still feels incomplete without Sadie here. Many people fill our lives in multiple ways, but no one person replaces the other. 

My husband ended up taking the two older children to work with him. I felt guilty because I was so out of sorts, guilty because I was missing time with them, guilty because this is not their fault! I was, however, relieved for time alone (with the baby) to process my thoughts and emotions. 

I decided to mindlessly sort through a box of random pictures I’d found. Staring back at me were children with smiling faces. Children from Zimbabwe, one without legs being pushed in a rusty wheelbarrow to receive rice and beans and prayers. Children from mountain villages in Mexico. Children and orphans in El Salvador, one where I’m holding a set on newborn twins we found contented in a hammock in the yard outside their family’s mountain hut. I recalled, but don’t have pictures of, the baby that had been born eleven days before my second trip to El Salvador and the mother waiting until I arrived so she could name her baby after me. There were smiling children and “earthquake orphans” in Haiti, clamoring for time in my lap. I thought of other women on these trips, some of whom I know still long for children of their own, and marveled at how well they love these children too. 

There were many pictures of children from my years of teaching preschool and working in a special education classroom. Children with wheelchairs and walkers, children laughing with elderly adults when I’d taken them on field trips to the nursing homes. There were Kids Clubs in inner cities, Sunday school children, nieces and nephews hiking, riding horses, enjoying campfires and sleepovers. 

I smiled through tears as the epiphany came. I’ve been a mother all along. 

All these years I’ve loved on children, taught them ABC’s and 123’s, have nurtured my mothering instincts. I still have stuffed bears, hand-drawn pictures, and Christmas tree ornaments from children who came through preschool. I stay in touch with many of their parents and watch with pride as they perform in musicals, play sports, and graduate high school. All these trips loving orphans and children in second and third world countries, all the time invested in nieces and nephews, all little ones of no relation who have called me “Mama Nina or Aunt Nina” throughout the years, have played a role in fulfilling my mothering destiny. 

I have a mothering heart. I was a mother long before I ever had children of my own. Mothering is coded into my DNA. At the very core of my identity, I am and always have been, a mother. Tonight at our annual Mother/Daughter banquet I will celebrate my life of mothering in a new and fresh way. 

If you are the mother whose dreams of having your own children have yet to be realized, I encourage and celebrate you. If your only children are those you hold in your heart instead of your arms, I ache for you and I celebrate you. If you are the Mothering Sunday school or secular school teacher and you return home to a child-less house, I’m amazed by you and I celebrate you. If you have children in heaven and here, I embrace and celebrate you. If you are mothering your own brood, and loving them well, I applaud and celebrate you. If you are the widowed mother or the single mother, I have no words for my admiration of you and I celebrate you. If you are the mother whose given your child up for adoption because you loved them that much, I admire and celebrate you. To those who work on behalf of children everywhere, in the medical field, school systems, volunteer programs, social services, adoptions agencies, orphanages, for all the mothering hearts out there loving children in any capacity, I celebrate YOU this Mother’s Day! 

Screen free week activities and insightsĀ 

From Monday morning to last evening, Friday, our family participated in a mostly screen free week; no TV, iPad, video games, etc, with the exception of what my husband and I had to use for work. While we monitor our children’s screen time to what we feel like is a fair amount, we still felt like going screen free for a week would be a good experiment. 

I couldn’t wait until the end of the week to share with you our warm glowing stories of family domestication perfection. While some of that most definitely occurred, I realized quickly that screen time can also diffuse sibling rivalry. I found myself diffusing them instead, which of course is part of mom’s job description. šŸ™‚

I didn’t take many pictures because I didn’t want my phone in my own hand while reminding the children we were “screen free.” 

Some of our activities this week included newspaper reading, story telling contests that included real-life accounts from mine and Lee’s childhood and hilarious home-spun tales from the littles. Most of the stories were told in our basement with only oil lamps and candles to set the aura. 

We shared multiple kitchen adventures which included two “hit” nights where all five of us absolutely loved the meals! Both were simple and inexpensive. The one was using pancetta I’d bought at Aldi’s (a wonderful discount grocery store) tossed with cooked whole wheat spaghetti, peas, and a cream sauce with half and half and stone ground mustard. 

The second was this copycat Panera Bread broccoli cheese soup. The only things I did differently was decrease the amount of butter significantly and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. We literally devoured this soup!

I’ve been allowing the two older children to help with supervised peeling and chopping, mixing and stirring. Through this, our 5-year-old daughter found that she loves cooked beets! If I would have just put them in her plate and told her to try them, she would have wrinkles her nose. 

The children also made chocolate-dipped goodies all on their own. 

A lot of sugar here, I recognize that, but with limited sweets overall we still allow them to enjoy these treats occasionally. 

Between our two school-aged children, they were recognized in their school for Character Counts, Kids for Kindness, and ten stars on their “caught being good” fish! We don’t always get it right, but those moments sure do encourage us! 

We played instruments and learned new songs and chords on the guitar, mandolin, and ukulele. They drew lots of pictures and folded multiple paper airplanes. We practiced running for our annual Sadie Rose 5K this weekend. 

Unfortunately I’m dealing with some serious heel pain and this run put me out of commission for an entire evening. I went to bed to read about 7:30 and stayed there until 6 the next morning. I don’t know the last time that had happened!

We had delightful clouds for picture imagination. 

Our son took this picture of Papaw’s dog leaping through the air. šŸ™‚

Overall, it was definitely a good decision for our family and something we will do more often perhaps by day or weekend. It’s good to be back in touch, though, too. 

Have a great weekend!

Screen Free Week

Dear Friends, just so you know what’s going on, my family and I are participating in “screen free” week starting tomorrow, May 1- Sunday May 7. I will be online for very limited times in relationship to my work, but I won’t be scrolling through news feeds and will probably miss a lot. Should you need or want to reach me, please do so via email or Facebook messenger and I will respond when I can, or use the old-fashioned method of calling. 

The children and I practiced an electronics-free evening last night. We lit oil lamps and had a story-telling contest. They couldn’t wait to do it again. 

I hope many of you will also participate in some way or another and that we all enjoy our families, our friendships, and our solitude in a new way. 

See you on the other side. 

Happy Adoption Day

It is with unspeakable joy that we officially introduce our daughter, Korana (CORE-ahna) Sky Harlow.

We are not naive to the sorrow that brought her to us, and we are especially mindful of our own sorrow that opened our hearts to receive her as our own. Our first-born daughter, Sadie Rose, would be 10 this year. She died less than twenty-four hours after she was born. Korana and her birth family have had their own sadness that is not ours to tell, but Korana has truly come “By Way of Sorrow.” (Song references and words used by permission of the writer, Julie Miller.)

The nights joy slept for us have finally awakened to days of laughter. The healing addition of two more rockstar biological children, a non-profit in our daughter’s memory, and this sweet babe complete our family. 

We are eternally grateful to all who supported us on this incredible journey of preparation to become foster parents, caring for us upon her arrival, and walking with us on the uncertain road of fostering through the social services system. Thank you for those who prayed for us as our own hearts were torn between genuinely believing for a fully restored birth family and the unimaginable reality that until now she wasn’t ours to keep.

Many times I fell to my knees, unable on my own to support, pray, and accept all the twists and turns of this journey. Many times I re-lived the hours after Sadie’s birth as life and loss hung in the balance. Many times I could hardly catch my breath as fear and hope tangoed in my heart. Many times I surrendered it all to God. Many times I took it back, scared to hold on, terrified to release.

Much more about this journey in my forthcoming book, “By Way of Sorrow – a story of life, death, adoption, and hope.”

With genuine compassion for all who are part of this story, her story, our story, we celebrate our “gotcha day,” April 24, 2017.

Below is a seven minute video summarizing the past eighteen months. The first accompaniment song is “By Way of Sorrow,” written by Julie Miller and recorded by the Wailin Jennys. The second song is “Happy Adoption Day,” written and performed by John McCutcheon.



The Scent of Grief

Liquid gold, drinking in the aroma of Gain laundry detergent, regular scent
Inhaling deeply the month of June, sterile hospitals, funeral homes, and her, still covered with the fluid of my womb

Whispers of family and friends on soft summer breezes, gathered fully together for the first time in years, to mourn our lost love
Eyes averted, conversation avoided, but inhabiting one space
Tears and laughter juxtaposed
Could it be? Heart healing in our greatest pain?
Cleansing communication, only love remains
Empty bassinet, unfinished nursery
Tears washing grief from our eyes
Hearts united in the sacred dance of grief and joy
Her scent now faded from her soft white blanket
But not from the laundry that hangs on the line  

Grieving and healing together, as individuals

Often there are people around us who are also impacted by the source of our grief. Certainly our family and friends grieved in their own way for the death of our daughter. Looking back, I can see more clearly how each of them expressed their grief and love in their unique ways. I am so grateful for everyone who has walked this road with us.

I flung myself to the floor, weeping, alone for the first time since Sadie died

The doorbell rang, our neighbor an awkward witness to my uninhibited grief

She brought a beautiful hanging basket and said, ā€œIā€™m so sorryā€

Family cleaned, weeded flower beds, and snapped buckets of green beans and shucked copious amounts of corn on the cob to feed those gathered

Their presence comforted me

Daddy went grocery shopping

I still have the green bottle of Gain laundry detergent, empty now, but a reminder of their coming together and of my sweet Sadie Rose

Not all of them came together for the happiest day of my life, but they did for the saddest

That laundry detergent bottle reminds me so

Two sisters with small infants shied away at first, but upon my request brought their babies for me to hold

They cried survivorā€™s guilt tears as I held their little ones and wept for my Sadie

They didnā€™t want to know the pain of empty arms, but they also didnā€™t understand why they were so blessed

I marveled at the perfection of their tiny infants and knew Sadie was perfect in her own little way

My niece, then 12 years old, brought a red balloon and asked us to write notes to Sadie

We released it in our backyard, our younger nieces and nephews intrigued by the tears but delighted by the floating red heart carried away into the sunset

We sat around her grave on a beautiful Saturday afternoon

Nieces and nephews laid stuffed toys on her tiny white casket

We sang Jesus loves me

My father-in-law coughed and rubbed his eyes, grief had snuck up on his stoic composed form

My husband looked off into the distance, always far away, I wondered if he would ever come back

But he did, he would come back for a while to find me

Crumpled in a heap on the shower floor or staring out the window into the night

We fluctuated back and forth, being strong while the other was weak and vice versa

Another sister came after her farm chores

We dunked chocolate-dipped biscotti into our coffee until our stomachs hurt, mostly silent, with occasional bursts of detail accompanied by grunts and nods

Together we grieved, as individuals

Together we remember and heal

Best ever doughnut recipe with secret ingredientĀ 

We had an unfortunate failure of a snow here overnight. What was forecasted as 4-8 inches in our area barely squeaked out 2 in our yard. As is tradition here for snow days, and sunny days, and cloudy days, and just about any combination of days you can imagine, I turned it into a baking day. On my Facebook post I wrote, “When weather disappoints or delights, just bake.”

My mom uses the best homemade doughnut recipe ever. We have made them frequently for Sadie Rose fundraisers, often making as many as 1,000 at a time. When you mix, roll, fry, glaze all by hand, that takes a tremendous amount of team work! 

For the first time ever, I made one batch all by myself. 134 doughnuts, to be exact! I mixed, rolled, fried, glazed, every blessed one. But the real delight was delivering them to unsuspecting neighbors, surprising the maintenance guys who had been out in their snow plows all night, stopping the mail truck in the street, and running some out to the UPS delivery man who looked a little worried when I yelled, “Wait up! I’ve got something for you,” and our 100-pound Anatolian/Chocolate lab mix was at the door barking like he was going to eat the poor guy. He was happy it was doughnuts I handed him, instead of unleashing a barking dog. 

Here’s the big scary boy. šŸ˜

Our 8-year-old son learned the same lesson I did when I was about his age. Too many of mom’s homemade doughnuts on an empty stomach doesn’t sit well. šŸ¤¢šŸ˜·

Several people asked me for the recipe so I will include it here. Several things first though, usually I encourage people to try new things in their baking endeavors, but honestly, I’ve been baking since I was a little girl and this was one of the hardest things I’ve done on my own. Try to get at least one other adult to help with the process. Also, if you are not familiar with yeast dough, this is not a recipe to start with. 

Something else to consider; there is absolutely no redeeming value to the nutrition quality of the pastries. Not one. If you are a clean-eating purist these are not for you. For having them only once or twice a year, I don’t worry too much about it, but these certainly wouldn’t be on the healthy incentives poster. 

This recipe is not original to my mom, but she is well-known in our small community for turning out the best doughnuts around. She made these for Country Village Bakeshop for a number of years. The mashed potatoes are the secret key ingredient and the spices and flavorings all marry with them to make the most moist, spongy, dreamy, delights you could ever imagine. Many have asked our family if we would start a doughnut shop, but we’ve never felt that to be our calling. 

All that being said. Here’s the recipe in one of my Mennonite family cookbooks. I’d love to know if you try these and how they turn out for you! 

In this book, they are titled “Doughnuts  II” and submitted by Janet Showalter. I will list the ingredients in steps so be sure to read and prepare well before starting the recipe. I will add pictures of the steps at the bottom of this post. This recipe will make anywhere from 120-135 doughnuts so cutting it in half or even fourths is a good idea if you don’t have plans to share. šŸ™‚ Also, I personally don’t think they keep well. These are absolutely at their very best the day they are made. 


5 Tablespoons dry yeast (not instant)

1&1/2 cup warm water

1 Tablespoon sugar

Step 1: Mix these three ingredients together  in a very large mixing bowl. The yeast will rise quickly while you prepare the following steps and you can use the same bowl you will combine the rest of the ingredients in. 

Instant mashed potatoes

2 cups crisco

6 eggs

Step 2: Prepare instant mashed potatoes by using 3 cups water. Heat in microwave or on stove until hot. Add 2 cups instant potato flakes. Stir until well blended. Add the crisco and stir until melted and well blended. Add the eggs and stir well. 
2 cups sugar

3 cups water (yes, this is additional from the yeast water above)

4&1/2 teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons nutmeg

1 Tablespoon lemon flavoring

1&1/2 Tablespoon vanilla flavoring

Step 3: Combine the yeast mixture from step one and the mashed potato mixture from step 2. Be sure your mixing bowl is very large! Add the sugar, additional water, nutmeg, and flavorings and stir well. 

21 cups flour

Step 4: Add half of the flour and beat with a hand mixer as long as possible or mix well with hands. Continue to add flour and knead well until dough is smooth and elastic. 

Step 5: Cover and let rise for 1&1/2 hours. 

Step 6: At this point, pour a gallon of canola oil into a very deep electric skillet and turn on high to heat oil for frying. 

Step 7: Punch down dough and tear off a manageably-sized piece to roll out. Roll dough about 3/8 inch thick. 

Step 8: I’m making this it’s own step because it is so vital! Once you’ve rolled the dough, pick up the edges and let it relax back into place. Otherwise your doughnuts will be stretched out and oddly shaped. 

Step 9: Cut out the doughnuts and let rise for 1/2 hour. 

Pay close attention to how you arrange the cut doughnuts on your surface to rise again. You will want to start frying the first ones you cut and move through to the last so they al have adequate time to rise. 

Step 10: Make glaze by placing 2 pounds of confectioners sugar in a bowl. It is best to have a bowl that a wooden spoon can rest across the top. Add just enough water to the sugar to melt and make into a semi-thick glaze. Add your choice of flavoring, lemon, vanilla, or maple. Then add 2-3 Tablespoons corn syrup. Stir well and set aside until time to glaze. (I had to make this twice today for one batch of doughnuts so be sure to have 4 pounds of confectioners sugar on hand!) 

Step 11: Test one doughnut in the grease first, to make sure it is the right temperature. If not hot enough, the doughnut will soak up too much grease. If too hot, the outsides will brown before the inside is done. Each skillet is different, but I had mine between high and sear the whole time to maintain the right temp. 

Also! When you place the doughnut in the grease, drop it in the skillet with the puffy side down. The side that was against the table while rising should be up to start the frying process. This will allow the other side to puff up too. 

Step 12: Fry until golden brown on both sides, flipping with a narrow fork. 

Step 13:  Place fried doughnuts in a metal colander. 

Step 14: Immediately take doughnuts one at a time from the colander and drop into glaze. Cover well all over and place on the handle of the wooden spoon across the glazing bowl. Repeat with as many doughnuts as fits on the handle and leave until the glaze stops dripping. Place onto a cookie sheet. 

Repeat the frying and glazing until finished. 


Ingredients gathered and ready. 

Dough rising well above the top of the bowl.

I gave the kids each a piece of dough to play with. 

All rolled out. 

Don’t fill the skillet too full so the doughnuts have room to puff out in the skillet. 

Wow. This feels huge. Sharing this is as personal as some of the most intimate and tender details of my heart; a piece of my childhood. 

Of self care days, cherry cake and the “dangers”of teaching your children to bake

Looking forward to this day has gotten me through two weeks of non-stop busy. My days have been full speed from early morning until late evening with appointments and phone conversations; some expected and some unexpected and unplanned, but necessary. This self-care day where I am home with nothing on the agenda except time with family, catch-up cleaning, and cathartic baking and writing gave me an anticipated point of rest.

I felt somewhat guilty for turning down multiple community events happening today with people and causes important to us. I wanted to go, to support, to help, but by the time this morning arrived it was clear I was totally depleted and taking a day to recharge had to be top priority. 

I’ve been teaching our 5- year-old daughter to cook. The “danger” of that is she wants to make so many treats. The good part is she is learning life skills and it is a great bonding time for us. She has actually created a few recipes totally on her own like Monday when she made “Monkey salad” with sliced banana, kiwi, and grapes, and marinated in fresh-squeezed orange juice. That was the first time I let her use a cutting knife to cut the banana without me holding the handle with her. She chose all the ingredients and was super proud of her accomplishments. I was proud of her too, and the fruit salad was delicious! Tuesday she baked a dessert with flour, buttermilk, honey, dried cranberries and chocolate chips. It tasted very much like a scone. Again, she and I were both proud of her creativity. 

I can’t tell you the last time I watched TV on a Saturday morning, but this morning the girl climbed in my lap and we watched “The Great British Baking Show.” We caught the part where they were baking “Mary’s cherry cake.” Our daughter loves cherries and immediately decided this was our baking project for the day. 

I had to run to the store for maraschino cherries and self-rising flour, but I had everything else. We made a deal that we had to clean several rooms before we baked the cake. 

We took breaks to appreciate classic music like The Oak Ridge Boys, Elvira. 

During our lunch break, the children made their own pizzas with pitas, sauce, and cheese.   

We had an afternoon rest time, too. At one point I had “ambient nature sounds” that sounded like rain on the speaker. The boy came in asking if it was “frying” sounds. I’m sure he was hoping for bacon. 

We eventually got around to baking the cake. I’m a basic country American cook. I use measuring cups, Tablespoons, teaspoons, occasional liquid ounces, and a dry spaghetti noodle to test for doneness. 

The Britain recipe was in grams and dry ounces and I failed math. My Betty Crocker and local Esther Shank cookbooks failed to offer solutions to my dilemma. 

After repeated conversion attempts online, I decided if the recipe called for 6 ounces of sugar, I would measure out 6 ounces. (The online sites always gave me conversions for liquid ounces.) If anyone has a better method for conversion, please please post it in the comments here. 

The cake, however, came together very nicely. 

It was a little crumbly, but so delightful that our son kept thanking Great Britain as he promptly (and quite improperly) inhaled two pieces of cake with a glass of milk. 

Try as I might, I cannot get the link to copy into this post, so I’ve copied and pasted the recipe here. I always want to give proper credit when I can, so you can also find the recipe by typing “British baking show Mary’s cherry cake” into your web browser. That’s long, but it’s how I found it. 

Cherry Cake 


200g (7oz) red glace cherries

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

175g (6oz) softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

175g (6oz) caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated

50g (1Ā¾oz) ground almonds

3 large eggs

For the decoration:

175g (6oz) icing sugar

1 lemon, juice only

15g (Ā½oz) flaked almonds, toasted

5 red glace cherries (quartered)


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 23cm/9in bundt tin or savarin mould with butter.

Cut the cherries into quarters. Set aside five of the quartered cherries for the decoration later. Put the rest of the quartered cherries in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper and toss in two tablespoons of the flour.

Measure all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and beat well for two minutes to mix thoroughly. Lightly fold in the cherries. Turn into the prepared tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen, golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar together with the lemon juice to a thick paste. Drizzle over the cooled cake using the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the toasted almonds and reserved cherries.

Here is a link to the recipe on Pinterest. 

Hopefully the link works if you want to see the original recipe. 

I need to move along now. I have six baskets of laundry to fold and put away. I’m so thankful for this day at home and will continue enjoying these seemingly small ordinary moments as holy time, paying attention to God’s presence in and through it all. 

Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Glimpses of the indomitable women that shaped my life

From day one, my life has been blessed with multiple indomitable women. In honor of Honoring Women Day, here’s a brief post about the virtuosic women that have shaped my life. With mom’s stoic Old Order Mennonite family and daddy’s colorful Russian/Hungarian family, I’ve had quite a conglomeration of influences, all of them prodigious!

First and foremost, my mom.

mom 1mom 2mom 5mom

This woman birthed seven children in nine years and three months. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she found herself a single mother and the sole provider for our family.

She literally worked her fingers to the bone, milking cows, tending chickens, butchering animals, working in a bake shop, caring for yet more children, and still running our household.

She lives most of our childhood with a crushed spirit and a broken heart, but her tenacity to provide and care for her brood never wavered. She is a women of quiet yet profound faith. She never allowed us to speak ill of our dad for not being there, even when she had every right to complain herself. She was and is quiet, meek, gentle, soft-spoken, and timid, but hear me when I say she is a force to be reckoned with when her mind is set and when the concerns of her children and family are involved.

Mom, it would take a book to begin telling you all you mean to me, but I pray my heart and life speak as loudly as anything I might say of the legacy you have instilled in me. I love you!

Aunt Lois, mom’s sister, played a tremendous role in my musicality and appreciation of music and singing. Although she was not permitted to have instruments or “worldly” music, I spent hours with her metronome, pitchpipes, tuning forks, and vast supply of hymnals. Aunt Lois taught me how to feel music in your soul. She was also a woman of great faith and conviction which she exemplified by the manner of her living. She died when I was a young teenager. I still miss her.

All mom’s sisters played their own unique role; Aunt Edie let me dress up in “fancy” clothes.


She still sings like a song bird and her talent as a professional seamstress is second to none. (That’s a skill I never mastered, but have great admiration for.) Aunt Ruth, mom’s twin, has always been a quiet loving presence. Aunt Mim always sees the silver lining, is a prolific writer, and gifted photographer. Aunt Mary Etta, for as long as I knew her, endured tremendous physical suffering and yet praised God anyway. I didn’t know Aunt Mabel as well, she lived in Missouri and I seldom got to see her, but she came to help our family when mom was laid up after being hit by a car while riding bicycle.

Two of my great aunts, Mary and Wilda Beery, and their mother, grandmother Mary Beery, instilled in me a love of memorizing and reciting Scripture and poetry.

Switching gears now, Aunt Nellie, one of my dad’s sisters, could make a sailor blush with some of her language, but she was one of the most caring persons I’ve ever known. I seldom saw her without curlers in her hair and a Coke and cigarette in her hands. She often held a fly swatter too, and her grandkids would say, “no beaty a$$, Nan, no beaty a$$.” Aunt Nellie worked in the coal mines. Ā Her rosary in her casket was made of Mardi Gra beads and a miniature Coke bottle. She left bags of “beads” for us, and my favorite colorful crocheted afghan for me.

I’m pretty sure Aunt Ethel has an Energizer Bunny inside. She has endured many physical complications from a horrible car accident years ago, yet at nearly 78 years old, she still works and cares for others. She lives a good four hours from us and we’ve never arrived at her house without an entire feast prepared. And we ARE expected to eat, even if we arrive late at night. I recall arriving around two am when we were children (car trouble) and she had baked ham, macaroni salad, and all kinds of other goodies prepared for us and was vacuuming her living room.

Aunt Tresa was full of life and laughter. She wore red lipstick and red heels. She kissed my brothers and made them cry. (Not really, she just loved how embarrassed they got with a bright red lip print on their little cheeks.)

Nearly all of my aunts lived out of the area, but they have all left their imprint in my life.

My mother-in-law, Sandy, has spent her life invested in children, teaching them to read. She has traveled the world, and is independent, stoic, composed, intelligent, a master gardener, and a life-long learner and reader.


My sisters and sisters-in-law have also inspired me in many ways.


This brief post is only a glimpse of these tremendous women, and there are many others who have shaped my life in various forms. If I can leave even a portion of the legacy of faith, tenacity, and meekness that these woman have instilled in me, my life will have been worth it.

On this day of honoring women, today I salute my grandmothers, my mom and mother-in-law, my aunts, my great grandmother and great aunts, and my sisters and sisters-in-law. I am who I am because of each of you! I love you!

The gift of routineĀ 

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in awhile. I have a great recipe post in the works, but in the meantime, I’ve been ruminating on the gift of routine. 

We recently added another youngster to our home through foster care. (That would explain my lack of posts because we’ve been getting to know one another.) 

Sometimes as adults we feel stuck in a routine rut. We get up, we go to work, we come home, we navigate evening activities on the schedule, and so on, and for the most part it can feel pretty mundane. For children who’ve never had that consistency, routine can be one of the greatest blessings we can give them. 

All children (and most adults if we’re honest) want to be reassured that life has routine and rhythm. We want to know that when we go out for the day (or night if we’re working night shift) that our humans are going to meet us back home at the end of the day. We want to know that when we leave home, we will return after whatever work or activity we are attending is over. We have a familiar places we frequent, places we pass daily, patterns, routines, that make up the big picture of our lives. 

While breaking out from routine can be healthy and necessary from time-to-time, never discount the security these rhythms give us, especially our children. 

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