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A Sight for Sore Eyes

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I stumbled out of the car and briskly walked towards the door. I was so relieved we arrived. A series of moments had taken place to get me to that door, and I think maybe the seed was planted by the TV show, The Gilmore Girls. Rory, the main character, always talked about how she wanted to backpack through Europe. As my daughter Katie and I watched the show, Katie often commented on how she would like to go to Europe someday.

I would say, “Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home.” Katie was often reminded about traveling to far away places when her classmates from grade school and high school travelled away on mission trips. “I didn’t even want to bring it up because I knew you and Dad would say no,” she told us. She was right about that.  After Katie went off to college, she hinted about travel abroad programs to Rome and Greece.

“Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home for that long,” I repeated over again and hoped that something would distract her and make her want to stay. Or I said, “How about you do a short trip, like your sister.” Laura traveled abroad for three long weeks when she was in college. But, Mom’s idea of keeping Katie close to home was not an option for the determined young lady. Katie informed us that she went to a travel abroad meeting at school. “I am going to go to Ireland,” she announced. “The director is awesome, and I think I would learn a lot.” A plan to go to Ireland was smart because of the Irish roots Katie inherited from her father.

It was funny how the orientation meeting for parents and students was on St. Patrick’s Day. I wore my shamrock scarf and my husband dressed in bright Irish green colors. Katie told us that we looked like we were going to a party. As we learned more about the trip, the better we felt.

Next thing we knew, Katie was packing her one suitcase and one carry on that would have to last her for a semester in Ireland. It was hard for me to imagine how such a fashionable young lady was going to manage with one suitcase. As she scattered all of her favorite clothes on the bedroom floor and resolved to eliminate the unnecessary items, I still marveled how her dream of traveling abroad wasn’t even going to be stifled by having to abandon about 90 percent of her wardrobe!

When Katie stood in line with her future travel companions to check on her suitcase at the airport, I realized that the hardest part of being a parent is the letting go. But letting go doesn’t mean that we couldn’t go visit! I never thought that I would be one who would travel abroad, but my husband and I set about making plans.

Soon we were on an airplane to Philadelphia and then on a flight to Dublin. We flew over the Atlantic Ocean at night and having had a very busy day, I longed to lie down, but there was nowhere to go. I thought about how beds were underrated. I snoozed a bit until I was woken up by bits of turbulence or fellow passengers who were coughing, snoring or emitting unusual odors.

Thankfully, the sky started to light up and we saw how different the clouds looked beneath us. They seemed more compact and fluffy! As we went through the cloud bank, and the patchwork quilt of greens and browns greeted us, we felt lucky to see a land that was unfamiliar.

We ate a quick breakfast of eggs, sausage and potatoes and wondered why the breakfast menu offered pudding. We didn’t order pudding, but later Katie told us that Irish pudding is pig’s blood mixed with some other stuff like grains and looks like sausage!

We found the Go Bus, got on board and traveled through the sleepy town of Dublin along the Liffey River. After we went through a long tunnel, we were able to enjoy the countryside. I said, “This is the longest I have ever traveled to see someone!”  We snoozed off and on, and in between we spotted cattle or sheep happily grazing amongst the many colors of green that are divided by stone walls.

When we arrived at the bus station in Galway three hours later, we were surprised that we had to pay 20 cents to go through the turnstile to get to the bathroom. It’s the first time I had to pay for such a visit. The words, “I like to live in America, everything free in America,” a song from West Side Story kept running through my head.

My husband called the rental car company and a very nice young lady came to get us to deliver us to our rental car. We carefully paid attention to how she drove on the right side of the car, but on the left side of the road. It was scary how the traffic came at us from what we thought was the wrong direction. The pedals on the floor are the same as in the US, but everything else was backwards. We could not find signs identifying the names of the streets. The driver pointed out that sometimes they are on the sides of buildings or stuck on stone structures!

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By the time we were in our rental car and ready to go, I prayed that we would make it safely to our destination. My husband drove, and I think I was glad it was not me.  It took a while, but we found our hotel which was quite crowded with people trying to check in. When we got to our room, we grabbed a few items from our suitcase to deliver to our daughter, went to reception to ask for directions and headed out.

I felt cramped as we drove along because the streets are quite narrow and don’t have shoulders. It always felt like we were going to hit the curb, and I hated that I felt like a driving instructor as I had to remind myself and my husband to stay on the left side of the road. The travel book that I read before we left said that driving in Ireland is stressful; I wished that the author would have elaborated that point a little more because I missed seeing how beautiful the sky and mountains were and the pretty bay that we passed by because I was worried about everything! When we saw the sign we were looking for, we scooted over into the driveway, got honked at, passed by a parking lot, and found the cottage with a big sigh of relief.

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We rehearsed the procedures of putting the car in park. I got out and knocked on the door. We arrived at the time we predicted. When Katie greeted us, I thought to myself, “You are really a sight for sore eyes.” We hugged and I knew that all that it took to get to that door was going to be worth it. Not only to visit with our daughter but to be in such a beautiful place.

The journey to that door helped us discover that our children’s dreams can be and often are contagious!

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

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I Belong to You

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I felt a little awkward wearing a bright red t-shirt that day even though everyone else in the family was wearing one.  When we walked up to the front to greet the rest of the family, we sort of made a ruckus.  A lady in a pew behind us reminded us that people were trying to pray.  We simmered down and were good even though we were excited.  We waited for this day for a long time and were happy that it finally arrived.

Towards the end of Mass, the priest approached the front pew where we were sitting and announced to the congregation that someone was celebrating their 100th birthday.  Grandma stood, turned slightly and waved, as Father introduced her.  Father asked us to sing Happy Birthday.  Grandma smiled, and the rest of us couldn’t help but smile right along with her as we were very proud of her accomplishment.

After Mass was over, we went to the family reunion.  Groups of people trickled in.  Some brought Polish food.  The first presentation was poppy-seed bread.  A cousin made six loaves the day before.  Then the polka kielbasa made an appearance followed by Aunt Mary’s homemade sausage.  I had no idea what the ingredients were, but it tasted fabulous.  The beet and horseradish condiment tasted great with the different sausages.  Then the cabbage rolls were ready to eat!  I got a lot of exercise going back and forth, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from getting full.  As if that wasn’t enough, a caterer set very large rolls, pasta dishes, salad and more desserts on the tables.

As people visited with each other and made a point to see Grandma, I thought about how Grandma had been such a great companion to me and the kids when I was a stay-at-home mom with three small children.  We tried to visit with her at least once a week.  She went to the park with us to help me push the kids in the swings.  Other times we visited the library to get books for the kids and Grandma got some too.  Visiting the mall was fun especially when Grandma announced that the kids could pick out one special toy.  Just as a grandma should, she always made sure that we had cookies or some kind of treat to bring home with us when we parted ways.

The day I married my husband, I was blessed with two Grandmas.  They both treated me like I belonged to them.  That made me happy because I never got to meet my biological Grandmas because they passed away before I was born.  I didn’t know what I was missing until those two wonderful ladies warmly welcomed me into the family.

As the party started to wind down, I sat down next to Grandma.  I like the way she always holds my hand when we first talk to each other.

“Hi, Grandma,” I said.

“Hi Mary Ann.”

“Are you having a good time?” I asked her.

“I’m overwhelmed by all the people.  It’s so nice how they all came to talk to me.  I just wish that my husband could have been here to see everyone.  He would have really liked this.  Sometimes it was a little hard to figure out who belongs to who.”

“Well, I belong to you!” I said.

“That’s right,” she agreed.

A while ago, I asked Grandma what her secret was and how she got to live to be the age she was then.  She said, “Don’t eat the same foods every day.  Be sure to eat something different.”  But I know it’s more than food.  It’s her attitude.  Once she told me, “When I feel down, I ask myself, why?  I don’t have a reason to be.”  Last Christmas, Grandma remembered it was my first Christmas without my Mom, and she said, “I know it’s hard, but you just have to look forward to all the fun things that are coming your way.”

One of my favorite things that Grandma said when someone told her that she spoiled her grandkids was, “If I don’t spoil them, who will?”

If a person can get spoiled by their Grandma’s love, then that makes me rotten!!!

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A Splendid Time!

1009914_10201539903926297_351803285_n[1]Laura & Michael

As I tried to balance my plate in one hand while eating morsels of tasty treats, I wondered if it was starting to rain. I thought I was doing a good job of keeping eye contact with the person who was talking, when it seemed like a little raindrop passed by and missed my plate. I politely nodded and listened as the conversation went on. I waited for another drop to fall. When I didn’t hear, feel or see one, I thought it must have been my imagination. Plus, I could not picture rain falling on such a decent day in August. The sky had been beautifully bright and blue with hardly a wisp of a cloud the entire day.

My husband popped in on our conversation, and asked, “Was that a squirrel?” He got hit on the head with something. The four of us looked up, but since it was getting dark, we couldn’t see any animal hiding in the very tall oak tree. When we looked down, we saw evidence of acorn shells scattered about.

“Oh, that’s not a good sign,” we heard a lady say. “If the squirrels are acting so crazy about acorns already that means it’s going to be a cold winter.” Somehow the talk of winter made us scatter and mingle. I wandered over to the table and tried to decide if I wanted more shrimp cocktail, veggies & dip, meatballs, cheese & crackers, a wrap, or my favorite:  a delicious bit of roast beef piled on toast and topped with a tad of horseradish. I took my favorite, and while I chewed, I stared at the cupcake tree stand. Since the cupcakes were chocolate, I knew I had to have one. The frosting looked like it was some sort of marshmallow that had been whipped into a bouffant.  It reminded me of a hairstyle from the 60s. I plopped one on my plate and it didn’t last long there!

There were high tables neatly arranged about the yard with smatterings of other conversational areas. Each table was decorated with colorful bouquets of flowers that the hostess arranged in a most attractive fashion. I headed toward the table with the comfy chairs and umbrella just in case the squirrels decided to bomb us again.

Laura was holding Michael’s little nephew. I got up close, looked at his little nose, peaked under the blanket and saw his tiny feet. His left hand was bunched up into a fist and rested on the bottom of his chin as if he was in some sort of deep thinking process. I wondered what little babies dream about.

“Do you want to hold him?” Laura asked me. I hadn’t held a baby for years. When people ask me if I want to hold a baby, I almost always say no because sometimes it makes me nervous.  But that day was different. I said yes mostly because that little baby and I are going to be connected with and be a part of the same family.  Plus, he is one cute baby who didn’t make me feel fidgety!

As I sat with the little one and patiently waited for him to open his eyes, I looked around the yard.  Even though a lot of us were meeting each other for the first time, the conversations felt like we had known each other for years.

When Michael asked for our blessing to marry our daughter, I knew it would be the start of new  beginnings for us. For me it means getting to be the Mother-of-the-Bride, plus I am looking forward to being a Mother-in-Law!  Even though Michael has seemed like a member of our family for quite some time now, it will be great when we get to officially welcome him to our family next year when Michael and Laura tie the knot.

Before this event, I didn’t even know that engagement parties existed.  An engagement party is a nice way to start off all the events that come with planning a wedding and a good way to meet each others immediate families.  I’m so glad I had such a splendid time at my first engagement party!

What a great favor God does to those He places in the company of good people! ~ St. Teresa of Avila

The Adventurous Ones!

Katie & Me on a Bench Somewhere in Rocky Mountain National Park
When we visited Estes Park, Colorado a few years ago, Dad, Laura and Matt decided to be adventurous and go on the gondola ride.  Since Katie and I are not ones for rides, we decided to go explore the shops instead.  After we saw the rest of the family off, Katie and I headed down the path and we talked and talked while we walked and walked.  We chattered enthusiastically because we were secretly happy that we didn’t have to go on that ride, and we told each other all about it.

There was not much activity going on where we started on our way.  We walked by many houses that were along a dirt road.  One other lone walker was right ahead of us, and we slowed down because we didn’t want to pass him up.  Suddenly we both realized that we didn’t know where we were going.  We thought that we were heading towards the quaint shops, but it turned out that we took a wrong turn at the very beginning.  Even though we had driven through the town many times before, I knew we had been on this road.  It would have been better if we would have taken a right instead of a left, just like Dad told us.

I was disappointed in myself that we went the wrong way.  Not only did I feel like a bad Mom who wasn’t paying attention, I knew that we would hear about our getting lost from the adventurous ones later on.  It was yet another confirmation to me that I was not born with an internal compass.  This idea is difficult for those who do have internal compasses to understand.  They cannot fathom that people like me do not automatically know the direction by where the sun is sitting in the sky or that we do not have some connection with gravitational forces like they must.

Panic started to set in a little.  First, if I knew that we were going to be going on such a long walk, I would have worn tennis shoes instead of flip-flops because my feet were starting to hurt.  Second, if I knew we were going to get lost, I would have paid more attention to where we were going in the first place.

Our feet got grungier and grittier, but we finally came to a spot where we could turn.  About the time we tried to connect with the rest of the family was about the time when we thought we were on our way to the shops.  We dialed numbers that kept on ringing.  When we didn’t get an answer, we decided to enjoy the scenery on the way and discovered that the quaint shops were not where we thought they were.

After many lost phone connections and directions of ways to go from the adventurous ones, we found our way to the Super America Gas Station where we met up with the rest of the family.  That’s where Katie and I got a Coke and called it a day.

There were more days left to discover the cute shops, but that day it turned out that we made an adventure of our own.  Even though we got lost, we saw lots of sights that we would not have seen if we thought we knew our way!

Cute Shop!
We were glad to make it back to the cabin ~ this wasn’t the cabin we stayed in though!
When we were all together again, we stayed that way, and explored Rocky Mountain National Park as one happy family!
We made sure we stayed together on hikes.
I made sure I wore my tennis shoes!
We were glad to see beautiful streams!

We drove up high into the mountains!
Luckily, we only saw one wild animal!
Don’t let people drive you crazy when you know it’s in walking distance. 
~Author Unknown

Every Time a Train Whistle Blows

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One day Daddy brought me to the railroad yard where he worked. The train tracks seemed too high for me to go over, so Dad held me tight and carried me across. When we got to the train, I looked down along its path and saw all the cars hooked together. Dad pointed to the caboose and then climbed up into the engine while he kept me in tow. It was dark inside, but being up so high, I was able to see the tracks that we just crossed and the building that Dad said was the station. Dad looked at me and smiled and said, “Pull that string.” He pointed to a cord that hung down from the ceiling. I shook my head “no” as I looked into his big blue eyes. Dad didn’t ask me to pull it again. He just pulled it himself. That’s when I knew what needed to be done to make the whistle blow. The sound of the whistle was so loud, but it didn’t scare me because Dad held me tight.

Ever since then, I wished I would have been brave enough to make that whistle blow. Sometimes I felt like I was a little afraid of Dad because I didn’t see him very much when I was small because he worked nights. Every now and then, I would see him in the early morning just when he got home from work. I didn’t blame him for my being a little afraid because I knew that it was his schedule to work, come home and eat, and go to bed. It was what Dad had to do to take care of his family.

If I got up early enough, I was lucky to see my Dad. I hid behind the kitchen door and peaked at him through the crack. I held myself very still while holding onto my white baby blanket. The bright morning sun hurt my eyes as its light crept through the window. I watched Dad’s back, and listened to his spoon hit the bowl of cereal with a sort of steady rhythm as he held the newspaper in front of him. His engineer hat usually sat on the counter right next to him.

Suddenly, he belted out a tune that took me out of my trance and had me pulling my thumb out of my mouth:

Peak-a-Boo, I See You,
Hiding Behind the Door!

He sang it over and over in a melody he made up until I got brave enough to come out from behind the door. When I got close enough, Dad pulled me into his lap and I felt more comfort there than I did from my security blanket and my wet thumb put together. That nice warm hug made all my being afraid go away.

It always shocked me when he sang that song because I couldn’t figure out how he knew I was hiding behind the door. Now every time I hear a train whistle blow, I think of you Dad!

Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever. ~Author Unknown

Loved Ones Present

Loved ones present and close by my side
Smiling, singing and going in stride

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Help decorate, bake, share some spiced tea
Straightening rooms, just being with me

Setting nice plates, polished utensils
Finding those things, making it special

Gathering ‘round old fashioned table
Eat and enjoy much as we’re able

Laughing at jokes that others don’t get
Talking of days together well spent

Presents opened, wrappings cleared away
Bows and cute bags we’ll use a new day

Little needles prickled our socked feet
Thanks little tree you looked really neat

Time passes by Christmas Day’s gone
Quickly more days are waiting to dawn

Thinking back at the fun times we had
Hoping our gifts made everyone glad

Realizing now our blessings will be
Loved ones present, our special family

Trick or Treat Chorus

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Doorbell keeps ringing,
Children are singing,
Trick or Treat chorus,
Sure not to bore us.

Costumes are scary,
Makes us feel wary,
Kids do not care much,
What looks upset us.

They like sweet candy,
Makes them feel dandy,
Getting the most sweets,
Is quite a fun feat.

Once they get back home,
To rest and not roam,
Plop down their treasure,
Count up and measure.

Daytimes pass quickly,
Children feel sickly,
If Mom denies some,
She is no more fun.

Kids get so busy,
Causes a tizzy,
Forgetting the fuss,
The rest is for us!