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Too Soon to Say Good-bye

Chad on his Harley motorcycle

Chad on his Harley motorcycle

These past six weeks have been difficult ones for my family.  On September 16th, my thirty-six year old nephew died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, plunging our family into sadness like we’ve never known before.

Chad leaves behind his parents, a nine-year-old daughter, a six-year-old son, a sister, two nieces, and a lot of other family members and friends who will never stop missing him.  Our family has experienced loss before, but this time, it’s different.  And it’s different because Chad was what we all consider to be too young to die.  It was just too soon to say good-bye.

I know that life doesn’t come with guarantees, and young people die everyday.  Just the same, I fully expected Chad to be around at least another thirty-six years.  I wanted thirty-six more years of his goofy grins, his funny stories, his presence in our lives and at our family functions.
Chad with his mom and his kids

We all expected Chad to be here to enjoy hunting season with his father and his son, to take one more beach vacation with the whole family in tow, to teach his kids to drive, to help his sister choose his parents’ nursing home, and to walk his daughter down the aisle.  And so we grieve.  We grieve for missed opportunities.  We cry for all those things that might have been, but now will never be.

Our only comfort is in knowing that it is God in his sovereign wisdom who numbers our days. It is God who gave us thirty-six years to know Chad and to love him.  Why only thirty-six years?  I don’t know.  But I know the One who knows the reason why, and I trust Him.

These past six weeks have been dark ones, especially for Chad’s immediate family.  I don’t exactly know what it must be like to pick up the pieces of your life after the death of your son, your brother, or your daddy.  It’s heartbreaking to see their pain and to know that my own pain is just a shadow of theirs.

I’d like to tell Chad that I was proud of him.  He was a hard worker, a great guy, an awesome dad!  It’s too soon to say good-bye, so I’ll just say, “See you later!”Good-bye Chad

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Springtime in the Country

Nothing says springtime in the country like green grass, blossoming trees, and the fragrant smell of …… an open septic tank.

We live in a beautiful rural area, and sometimes people are envious of our location.  We love our country home, but I thought I should clear up any misconceptions that country life is all sunshine and flowers.

Here at Grandma’s house, we recently received a letter from our local township office informing us that it is time for an inspection of our septic system.  We are required to pay a $75 inspection fee every five years for the privilege of having our  septic system checked out by an expert septic system inspector (talk about a dream job!).

Had it been five years already since Grandpa uncovered our massive septic tank?  Time flies when you’re busy flushing!

As soon as we mailed off our $75 fee, Grandpa commenced digging.  It was hard work, but thanks to Grandpa’s ingenious use of logs five years ago to displace some of the earth, it didn’t take as long as it did last time.

Finally, it was time for the inspector to inspect.  We knew this because he called us yesterday at 6:36 AM to confirm his appointment.   He arrived at our house in the afternoon with his assistant who is pictured below.

While his assistant waited in the truck, the inspector jumped right in and started inspecting.

 

If you’ve never had the joy of standing outside on a warm, sunny day staring down into a septic tank, then you haven’t experienced country life to the fullest!  The verdict is that our septic system looks good, at least as good as a septic system can look.   We passed the inspection!

Whew!  That’s over for another five years.

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of country life.  In spite of our septic system, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

City life or country life, what’s your preference? 

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A Biker’s Lesson on Friendship

My experience with motorcycles and the people who love to ride them has been, for the most part, limited to what I’d observed by vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland, during Bike Week.  And I wasn’t there with a bike.  I was just another vacationer surrounded by the motorcycles, their riders, and the noise.  I was not especially impressed.

A couple of years ago, my nephew Chad was going through a rough patch in his life.  He found himself with time on his hands and an ache in his heart.  He made a decision to get himself a Harley and enjoy the sunshine on his shoulders and the wind in his face.  Even then, I was indifferent to the whole motorcycle culture.  All I knew was that Chad really enjoyed his time on the road and his time with his friends.

When the worst scenario imaginable played out last September–Chad’s motorcycle accident and his passing as a result of injuries sustained in that accident–I learned a whole lot more than I ever expected to know about bikers and the ties that bind them to each other.  Chad’s friends showed up during the hours following the accident and during those early days of grief to express their love to our family.

Last Saturday, July 25, 2015, they did it again! They held the First Annual Chad Miller Memorial Ride–a benefit ride organized by bikers and friends who knew and loved Chad.  The purpose of the ride was to honor Chad’s memory and to raise money for Chad’s two children.  The money raised will be a blessing, but I believe the bigger blessing was the show of support from Chad’s fellow bikers to his family.  These men and women showed our family and community that when the chips are down, it’s good to have some bikers by your side.

The day of the ride dawned bright and clear, and just before noon, all heads bowed, and my sister–Chad’s mother–prayed.  She asked God for safety and blessings in the name of Jesus for the bikers who gathered to ride their more than 100 motorcycles on a thirty mile course in memory of Chad. 

At noon, the bikers were off!  My sister and my niece gave the sign, and they left the parking lot in a cloud of dust and an ear-blasting roar of their engines.  The last biker out of the lot was riding Chad’s Harley which the new owner had restored to its original beauty. 

 

It was an emotional ride for Chad’s friends who visited a few of his favorite places.  The course even included a solemn ride past the accident site.  Those of us who weren’t participating in the actual ride were waiting at a local park.  Approximately two hours after the ride began, the bikers began to roll in.

Saturday was a beautiful day for honoring and remembering Chad.  The camaraderie of the bikers, their love for Chad, and their genuine concern for his family were truly heart-warming.  Chad’s family members were overwhelmed by the generosity of those who attended.  They shared old memories and made new memories.  They laughed and cried.  It was quite a day!

One of the women who helped with the event jokingly asked me if I ever expected to be attending a bikers’ party.  No, as a matter of fact, I never did, but I was glad for the opportunity to attend this one.  This time, surrounded by bikes and bikers, dust and noise, I was very impressed!

To those who participated and to those who will never forget what a great guy Chad was, I say, “Thank you…. and ride on!”

 

 

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Coffee Talk

My husband Jack and I have a morning routine that includes spending the first part of most days having coffee together in the living room.  I make the coffee–organic Fair Trade with a splash of half & half and some French vanilla creamer–while Jack checks the morning paper online.  We convene in the living room, he in his easy chair and me in my wooden rocking chair beside him.  This is my favorite time of the day.

We both value this early morning hour before the telephone starts ringing, before the sewing room beckons, before the grass is dry enough to mow or the wood box needs filling.  These are moments to be treasured, to be cherished. Sometimes we are tempted to use this time for more “productive” pursuits, but we both look forward to this quiet start to our day and refuse to let other things interfere.

This hour that we spend together each morning has done more to bind our hearts and lives together than a hundred marriage seminars or weekend getaways.  This is a time for us to laugh, to discuss finances, to update our calendars, to make plans, and to dream dreams.  By spending time together without the distraction of TV, computers, or phones, we can simply enjoy each other’s company.  And good coffee, too, of course.

I’ve shared marriage advice here on my blog before.  Today, I’m going to pass on another bit of marital counseling, and that is to make time for your own “coffee hour” with  your spouse.

Communication is believed by many to be the most important aspect of a successful relationship, yet time alone together for a husband and wife to talk to each other is one of the things that seems to get crowded out first when life gets hectic.

Not everyone can set aside an hour each morning for quality time with a spouse.  After nearly thirty-five years of happy marriage, Jack and I are blessed to be at home together most days with fewer distractions than many couples. Work schedules, children, and a hundred other things might make early mornings hectic at your house.  But it’s not the time of day that makes meaningful communication possible.  It’s not even the coffee that is of paramount importance.  The important thing is to make spending time with your spouse a priority.  It just might end up being your favorite part of the day, too!

How do you or how would you like to begin to make time each day to nurture the relationships in your life? 

 

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Rodent Removal Is Man’s Work

At our house, we don’t have hard fast rules about division of duties.  Jack sometimes washes dishes and hangs out laundry, and I sometimes shovel snow and take out the trash.  We both, however, have our lines that we refuse to cross.  Jack doesn’t cook, and I don’t remove dead squirrels from the living room floor.
Our dog Mocha has a lot of stuffed toys that we’ve bought for her at yard sales.  Her toys are often scattered on the living room floor.  I suppose that’s why I didn’t notice the dead squirrel lying on our living room rug until 11:00 last night.


That’s a mistake anyone could make, right?  I’ll admit, I was pretty freaked out last night when I discovered this.  The idea that a dead squirrel had quite possibly been sharing our living space for an evening was making me more than a little uncomfortable.

As soon as I realized that this squirrel was not, in fact, a toy, I knew it had to be removed from our home.  And I knew just the man to do it.

While Jack was scrambling for a plastic Walmart bag and an empty Velveeta cheese box with which he would scoop and toss that poor dead squirrel, I contemplated why it is that HE has to do the dirty work while I stand at a distance and photograph the event.  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Jack didn’t want to turn his attention from the Cubs and Cardinals to Rodent Removal, but he did it because he’s THE MAN.

This sounds and is incredibly sexist, I know.  But I don’t care.  Rodent removal is man’s work, and last night even more than most nights, I was grateful to have a man in the house.

We still don’t know if this squirrel wandered in our doggie door of its own accord and keeled over in our living room when it heard John Kruk singing, or if Mocha killed it and carried it inside.  We do know that Mocha has never killed a squirrel before.  We don’t know why Mocha didn’t tear it apart, or why she was asleep in bed while the squirrel was lying in repose on our living room rug.

We do know that from now on, the doggie door will be closed at night.  From now on, we will be monitoring the movements of our mighty hunter.  Even the man of this house is ready to draw the line at rodent removal!
Mocha, the mighty hunter

What would you do if you found a dead squirrel on your living room floor? 

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Good-bye, Summer. Hello, Stink Bugs!

On September 21st, we said good-bye to summer.  Summer isn’t my favorite season, but I will miss the longer evenings and the fresh tomatoes.  And the absence of stink bugs.
stink bug

If you aren’t familiar with stink bugs, then send me your address.  We might want to move in with you.

These adult odiferous insects are out in full force here trying to find a place to winter over.  That would be fine except that large numbers of them want to winter over with us, and we aren’t having them!

I’ve learned a lot about brown marmorated stink bugs recently.  For instance, these bugs were accidentally introduced into the United States in the late 1990s.  I’m skeptical about the accidental part of this.  I’m pretty sure this was a calculated attack to sidetrack Americans from issues of national importance by forcing us to spend huge quantities of time trying to expel these nasty creatures from our homes.

The first stink bug ever discovered in the United States was discovered right here in my home state of Pennsylvania in the city of Allentown.  Allentown, once made famous by Billy Joel is now famous also for the stink bug debut in America.

brown marmorated stink bug

The stink bug you see pictured here was just yesterday strolling along on our bedroom carpet.  His strolling days are over now.

Our bedroom is in the back of our house, and during sunny Autumn afternoons the back of our house is pleasantly warm.  Stink bugs love pleasantly warm places.  They congregate on the pleasantly warm siding on the back of our house, and they squeeze their stinky bodies into our bedroom using who knows what openings to let themselves in.  Removal of the bugs before bedtime is imperative because neither of us likes the idea of them dropping on us while we sleep, and our dog Mocha has a bug phobia stemming from “the great yellow jacket incident of 2010”.

Jack and I both have our own method for eliminating the bugs from our home.  Jack squishes them in a tissue (releasing gruesome amounts of their pungent stinkiness) while I prefer to capture them in a tissue and run to the back door where I shake them free on the porch.  His method seems more successful than mine so I’ve been willing to allow him to handle most of the “removals”.

A friend of mine sent me a link to stink bugs with a photo showing a couple shoveling stink bugs from their porch.  After seeing that, I realize that I should not complain.  But I do anyway.
window air conditioner

The best offense in the war against stink bugs is to plug up any holes or cracks that allow access to your home.  Just last week we removed our window air conditioner in our bedroom because we could tell that the stink bugs were using the AC unit as a gateway to the great indoors.  Our great indoors!  Yesterday we added a screen to the window as an extra layer of protection.  The stink bug population is dwindling, and I hope they have given up on using our address as their winter home.

Autumn is my favorite season, and I’m not going to let a bug or even hundreds of bugs keep me from enjoying it!  Before we know it, I will be saying hello to winter and good-bye to stink bugs.

What “bugs” you where you live?  

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My Dad and the Things He Used to Say

My dad

Just after Mother’s Day, I posted about things my mother taught me, and so, on this Father’s Day, it seems only fair to dedicate a blog post to my dad.

Dad taught me a lot of things, too, and I remember many of them in the form of little sayings that he repeated so many times that I’d never be able to forget them even if I wanted to.  In fact, my siblings and I find ourselves repeating these “dad-isms” to each other and to our family members on a regular basis.

1.  “You can always get more, but you can’t put it back.”  

This one was most often spoken at meal times and could pertain to anything from ketchup to a serving of my mom’s homemade pot pie.  My parents were children during the Great Depression, and they both remembered times when their families struggled to get by.  Because of that, Dad taught us to be careful to avoid waste.   We were always encouraged to clean our plates, and it was never acceptable to take more than we could use.

To this day, I guard against careless waste.  While I’m not a fan of forcing someone to clean his or her plate, I am a fan of teaching children to limit what they put on their plates.  I have uttered these words many times to my own grandchildren and nieces and nephews, “You can always get more, but you can’t put it back.”

2.  “I wonder what the poor people are doing.” 

This particular quip was for those times we were enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures.  We might be sitting around a campfire, taking a walk on the lane, or eating ice cream at the dining room table.  Dad would say this to remind us that we were rich, not because we had lots of money, but because the simple pleasures of life are riches for which we should be thankful.  

3.  “Twenty years from now you won’t remember that.”

I probably heard this line more than any of my siblings.  By the time I was born, my parents, who had already been raising kids for seventeen years seemed to be getting a little weary of their parenting gig.   So when I was whining or bawling about some injustice I’d suffered, Dad would trot out this line to help me gain a little perspective.  

Dad in his striped pajamas

My dad was one-of-a-kind.   If I’d had the opportunity to say just one thing to him on Father’s Day this year, it would have been  this:

“Thanks, Dad.  Thanks for the lessons and for the memories.”  

 

What’s one thing that you would thank your dad for today? 

 

 

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Our Redneck Garden

“You might be a redneck if …..
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….. you plant a garden around your new septic tank cover.”

We passed our septic tank inspection earlier this month, and our neighbor kindly helped Jack adapt our septic tank with risers and this green lid that you see in the picture above.   With a few hours work and $269 worth of supplies, the guys fixed it so that we should never have to dig up the septic tank again!

The project left us with this rectangle of grass-free fertile soil smack in the middle of our front yard that was begging to become a flower garden.  Years ago, when I thought I wanted to learn how to garden, I borrowed tons of library books from our library.  These gardening experts warned against making a garden around an eyesore in your yard.

According to those authors, nobody should plot a flower garden around a telephone pole, a large painted tractor tire, or a septic tank cover.  Okay, so maybe the books didn’t actually mention septic tank covers, but the authors probably assumed all their readers would know that a septic tank cover does not warrant a floral frame.

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Who cares what those professional gardeners say?  Not us!  We’re Pennsylvania rednecks and when we get a new septic tank cover, we want the whole world to stand up and take notice!  There’s nothing like eighteen petunia plants in shades of red, white, and blue to say, “We’ve got a new septic tank cover, and we’re proud of it!”

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Critters can be a problem in rural Pennsylvania, so after planting our garden, we saw that a fence was a must.  We did not want any animals digging up or nibbling on our petunias and tomatoes.  Tomatoes?  Yes, we did plant our two tomato plants in the middle of our front yard this year.  Over the septic tank.  Beside our petunias.  What can I say?  This is the best soil on any part of our property thanks to Jack’s working in of all of the contents of our compost bin.

Now that our garden was planted, it was time to protect it with a redneck fence.

Jack found some plastic chicken “wire” in the shed then supplemented our fencing supplies by wrangling two pieces of wire fencing out from behind the shed.  The fencing didn’t match but since this fence is just temporary, we decided to go with it.

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Just so you know, I was not just standing around taking pictures of the work as I have been known to do in the past. This year, I actually helped with the planting of the garden and with this fence.

After the plants have grown a bit and are hardy enough to fend off the rabbits and the dogs, we will remove the fence and enjoy the beauty of our petunia bed unhindered by wire and plastic.  But for now, the fence is the best way to secure our investment.

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Now we can kick back on the front porch and enjoy the beauty of our garden AND our new septic tank cover.  I have a feeling it’s going to be a great summer for rednecks!

What are you planting in your gardens this summer?

 

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Three Things My Mother Taught Me

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After reading lots of moving tributes to mothers yesterday on Facebook, I was thinking of my own mother and how grateful I am for all that she taught me.  My mother was a wise woman who raised six children who love her and love each other.  She’s gone now, but her life lessons live on.

I’d like to share just three of the many things I learned from my mother:

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1.  Housework isn’t all that important. 

With six kids, Mom certainly did her share of housework, but it was not her top priority.  Our home was clean enough to be safe and messy enough to be comfortable.   I remember Mom telling me that the older she got, the less she cared about housework.  I decided to adopt that philosophy before I got old, and I can now look back over my thirty-two years of married life and agree with Mom.  Housework isn’t really all that important.  My personal goal is to have a home that is reasonably clean and comfortable for all who enter, just like Mom’s house was.

2.  Hobbies are a not a waste of time. 

My mom enjoyed her hobbies, and as I was thinking about this, I realized that she and I share a lot of the same interests.  My mom was the first seamstress I ever knew, and she taught me how to combine fabrics and prints in fun combinations.  Her purpose was to save money and use up every scrap of fabric, but it was fun all the same.

Mom, like me, never liked to just sit down to watch TV.  She always liked to keep her hands busy crocheting or working a jigsaw puzzle while she was enjoying a TV show.  Mom loved to read, too, and mysteries were her favorite genre.

I, too, enjoy my hobbies:  reading, sewing, crocheting, smocking, jigsaw puzzling, and scrapbooking.  I know my mom was seldom bored and neither am I.

3.  Don’t meddle in other people’s affairs without an invitation to do so. 

Jack and I, along with two of my sibling and their families live within walking distance to Mom’s house.  Mom never used her close proximity as a means to meddle in our lives or to offer unsolicited advice.

I make every effort to follow her example in this regard, though not always with success.  Looking back, I wonder if it was difficult for Mom to watch me make some mistakes without jumping in to share her words of wisdom.  She was wise enough to know that sometimes making a mistake is the best way to learn a lesson.

Mom’s way of staying connected to her adult children was a model for all of us.  She maintained her relationship with us not by force but by friendship.

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Yesterday on Mother’s Day, I thought of Mom, but not with sadness.  I thought of her with a heart filled with love and gratitude for who she is and all she means to me.

What valuable lesson have you learned from your mother? 

 

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Foster Care to Adoption: A Journey Completed

 

100_2110-cropMeet Jase.  He is twenty months old, and he is the newest member of our family.  When Jase was just a few days old, he was placed in foster care with my nephew Matt and his wife Jo who were hoping to adopt a child to raise together.  Jase was not their first foster child, so they knew there was no guarantee that that this child they lavished with love would someday join their family.

Last Friday, I attended Jase’s adoption hearing.  It was a day to finally lay to rest the fear that one day they might have to say good-bye.

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Here’s Jase with the judge who signed his adoption decree and his whole family:  his parents Matt and Joanna, his brothers Travis and Tanner, and his sister Kali.

It was obvious yesterday that they all love Jase and are happy to have him for their very own now.

I asked Jo to share with me the hardest part of the process.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that the most difficult thing for all of them was knowing that in loving Jase as their son and brother they could be setting themselves up for the biggest heartbreak of their lives if he were to be sent back to his birth parents or to another foster home.

The kids also shared what this experience has meant to them:

Travis, Jase’s oldest brother, said that he feels great knowing that their family helped someone else.  He feels good about himself when he brings a smile to Jase and to the other kids they’ve helped.  As a young man, Travis has already learned something that some of us never learn, and that is that joy comes to us when we give to others.

Tanner says he was not so sure about having a baby join their family when Jase was a newborn.  Seeing the comfort that Jase received from their family helped Tanner to realize that they were definitely doing the right thing.  When Jase got a little older, Tanner liked to hold him, and now when Jase laughs and smiles, that makes Tanner feel as if he’s done something special.  He can’t imagine Jase not being a part of their family!

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I love this picture of Jase with his big sister, Kali, who originally had her heart set on having a baby sister.  That all changed as soon as Jase arrived at their house, and she realized that she just wanted him.  Kali was so excited when she heard the news that the adoption was going to be finalized.  She has been so afraid that Jase would be taken from them.  No worries now, Kali!  You’re stuck with each other!

Jase’s story is not a typical one.  Joanna says, “We were told Jase is one in a million.  It’s very rare for newborn babies to be adopted by their foster parents.”

Jase is one in a million.  This family is a perfect fit for him because they’re a one in a million kind of family.

I’ll leave you with one last picture of the family getting ready to go home with their son and brother.

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Don’t you just love a happy ending?