Family, Inspiration, Love

Jessy & The Zombie Apocalypse

Our family, like many families, has been discussing the recent murders in Orlando and vigorously debating what could be or should be done to prevent such unimaginable tragedies. We talk about the particularly complicated nature of these events – xenophobia, homophobia, mental illness, public health and safety concerns, the inaction of our elected representatives, the anguish of the victims’ families, and more. And I am reminded of the zombie apocalypse.

moms hatsThis idea first emerged shortly after 9-11. Our children were much younger then, only 4 and 8, so we worked hard to shield them from much of the news coverage. My husband and I talked in hushed tones about what we’d do in the event of a widespread attack. Who would be closest to the children? Where could we go? Should we find each other first and then go? Or just determine a safe location to meet up later? How surreal it was to even discuss. Over time, the kids have joined the conversation about our plan, though we don’t refer to it directly. Instead, it has become, in our house, the “zombie apocalypse.” This allows us a bit of distance and some humor as we contemplate injustice and hatred in today’s world.

kids 2015Our children are now young adults, 19 and 23. We’re enjoying a moment in time when both happen to be living at home. They are delightful people – funny, thoughtful, and fiercely passionate about their opinions. Jake is heading toward his sophomore year in college. Jessy just finished her first school year as a teacher.

And so, in our conversations these days, the zombie apocalypse idea re-emerges. We’d all be in different locations, which makes it a bit trickier. I’d head out from my office downtown, pick up my mom who lives nearby and we’d all rendezvous at home. Then we’d grab groceries (non-perishables), the antique rifle (or is it a shotgun?), and head for the mountains. Sounds like a plan. “Nope,” says Jessy, “I can’t do that. I won’t leave my kids.” Her “kids” are the first grade students she teaches. She is steadfast. Sure, perhaps some parents would come get their kids, but if any were still at school, the only way she’d leave is if they came with us. We discuss how many of them we can fit in our smallish vehicles and determine perhaps two cars is the way to go.

People, we live in a world where my daughter won’t leave the children she teaches during a zombie apocalypse. There is plenty more to be said, but somehow, absurdly, this sums it up. How do we begin to make this a safe, loving community where we build each other up rather than tear each other down? Let’s promise not to leave each other during the zombie apocalypse. Let’s create the world we want to live in, together.


Family, Inspiration

Five Things I Really Appreciate About My Mom

Joy and her girls, Ruth Marie & Kathleen, at the Grand Canyon, July 2012.


Mother’s Day is a Hallmark holiday, and as such, I want to ignore it. I’d like to believe that I do a great job of letting my mom know how much she means to me all year long, so why would I observe this artificial “holiday” that merely lines the pockets of florists, card companies, and large retail establishments?

Nevertheless, today, as another Mother’s Day approached, I found myself perusing the hundreds of cards at my local large retail establishment. Finding the perfect sentiment, I balked at the $5.47 price tag and opted for an email card and this post instead.


Here are five things I really appreciate about my mom:

Grammy celebrating a recent birthday with 3 of her 5 very funny  grandchildren.
Grammy celebrating a recent birthday with 3 of her 5 very funny grandchildren.
  1. My mom has a great sense of humor. It’s important not to take yourself too seriously, and believe me, if Joy is your mom, you won’t. She has the ability to find humor in everyday life and has great appreciation for the absurd. When I was about 12, I dropped a ladder through the church ceiling (don’t ask), creating a large hole in the false ceiling just above the sanctuary balcony. . . on a Saturday. Needless to say, my preacher daddy was less than thrilled, and after a stern reprimand, sent me home to grab some tools. Breathless and in tears, I ran in and shared my story with Mother. Her response? She laughed (it really is quite funny in retrospect, though I didn’t get it at the time!). Another day I brought a stray cat home only to have it escape and terrorize the household. Daddy? He did a little yelling as he ran around trying to capture the poor feline. Mother? Giggles. When my sister Kathleen baptized herself with a big can of green Hawaiian punch? More giggles. Over the years, she’s gotten a huge kick out of her grandkids and their many endearing and often unintentionally funny sayings. Just this week, my mom and I had a good laugh over a “Jake-ism.” Even during the dark days of my dad’s final illness, we often found humor in otherwise grim situations. “Grammy” has taught our family to find the silly or funny in most every part of life. A good laugh brings healing and happiness and is just plain fun. Like my mom.

    My mom with her mom, the original family hostess.
    My mom with her mom, the original family hostess.
  2. My mom is a wonderful hostess. When you look up “hospitality” in the dictionary, I believe there is a picture of my mother just next to it. She gets it honestly, a legacy from her mother whose baked Alaska is still discussed in revered tones at family gatherings. She hosts many a gathering, frets over all the details, and always produces a fabulous event. Whether a bridge gathering, a family birthday, Christmas dinner, or a party for her “Single Sisters,” her hospitality exemplifies my mother’s innate kindness, warmth, and helpfulness. Many of us also head to her place when we need a sympathetic ear and a soft shoulder on which to cry. We are fortunate to be the frequent recipients of her friendly, comforting hospitality.
  3. My mom is tough and resilient. I’ve always known my mom as a working mom. When my sister and I were younger, she worked nights and weekends to be more present during our waking hours. As we got older, she began a career in nursing administration, working long hours and coming home to another whole shift of managing our household. She has long been a consummate multi-tasker, keeping copious lists and calendars to ensure everyone was where they needed to be when they needed to be there. She meticulously planned our vacations and our meals, getting really creative with salmon and mac and cheese in between paychecks. When my dad got sick and required nearly total care, my mom refused to allow him to languish in a long-term care facility. She brought him home and ensured his last months and years were ones of quality. She managed the health care bureaucracy, his care, his diet and his comfort with a tenacity that blew all of us away. We stand in awe of her amazing ability to get things done, no matter what.
  4. My mom is generous. What’s that parable about the woman who gave what little she had to God? My mom’s heart is huge, which translates to a generosity that outshines even those more affluent than she. She gives of her treasure, yes, but also, in equal measure, her time and her talent. Whether helping assisted living residents play bridge, guiding seniors in making insurance decisions, praying for others, caring for grandchildren (during the elementary years especially), providing financing for the odd family need, underwriting the trip of a lifetime, or doling out sage wisdom and advice, everything she offers comes from the heart. She lives her love!

    My mom and dad, Joy & Hal, on their wedding day, September 14, 1963.
    My mom and dad, Joy & Hal, on their wedding day, September 14, 1963.
  5. My mom is full of joie de vivre . . . the joy of living. How appropriate that my mom’s given name is Joy! No matter how tough or lonely life can get, my mom finds that nugget of goodness or life lesson and comes out of even her hardest moments with a renewed appreciation for the life she has. Her genuine enjoyment of her loved ones and friends, her great canine companion Buddy, her books and games, and her lovely home are infectious. Her great love for her family, her passion for justice, and her deep and abiding faith are inspiring.  My mom’s energy, dedication, and joy are truly a joy to us, her biggest fans.

Joy, Mother, Grammy – we love you! Because you’re in our lives, life is richer and better, and we are absolutely certain that every day is a “Joy-full” Mother’s Day!!

Family, Inspiration, Love

Blessed to Miss You Terribly

daddy2Thursday will be my father’s 77th birthday. Last Tuesday was the 2nd anniversary of his death.

This morning as I sat in church, my thoughts inevitably turned to my father, a Moravian pastor. He had 70+ years of good health, then 4 and a half years of ill health prior to his death. At the time of his life-altering aortic dissection and stroke, he was playing golf, mowing his yard, and teaching his 10-year-old grandson basketball. Of course, we expected him to live forever. He was a kind, calming influence with a dry wit and balanced approach to life’s challenges. His childhood was undeservedly difficult, but he persevered, served God and others, married wisely, and made good choices. Still, at the time of his death he was a shadow of himself, unable to do nearly everything that brought him satisfaction or joy. Why?

Why? It’s a question I’ve never expected to answer but continue to ask. Please don’t tell me it’s God’s plan. I cannot believe in a God who would cause something so tragic to befall this faithful servant. Every day, our family – my mom, my sister, myself, our husbands, our children – every day, we suffer his loss. We feel his absence keenly and we grieve. We miss him terribly.

We know we were blessed to have had him in our lives . . . to have benefited from his unconditional love, his quiet wisdom, his supportive presence, his back pats and shaking shoulders, his uplifting humor, his gentle manner. I think of people estranged from loved ones, or those who knew only an abusive or absent father. I realize it is a gift to miss my beloved daddy.


And he’s among us still. Echoes of my father resonate in the sure strides of his grandson Jake on the lacrosse field, in the corny puns of his colleague John, in the lush green of the 18th hole, in Andy Griffith’s southern drawl, in our pastor Stuart as he serves communion in his crisp, white surplice. We sense Granddaddy’s approval when celebrating the achievements of his wonderfully talented grandchildren, and of course, when the Braves or Panthers win.

My dad would “knock a hickey on my head” if I left you with the impression that I blame God for life simply happening. With us every step of this difficult journey is the very God my father served with such devotion. God gave us strength to carry on through the darkest days and nights. God showed up in the form of caring friends and thoughtful volunteers. God still provides inspiration and solace through scripture and prayer. And it’s God who links us to these precious echoes of my father each and every day.

So, yes, God, I get it. And Daddy, please know how blessed we are to miss you terribly.

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