I Can Make A Great Pie Crust…

I just don’t.

I know. I know. That is blasphemy to some, including some in my extended family.

But that is my real life.

I love the holidays. I love that my kids’ favorite meals of the year are turkey and prime rib. I love a warm and decorated house and pounds of butter melted over everything. Several years ago I forced encouraged everyone to play games when we gathered. We’ve laughed through countless rounds of Apples to Apples, Cranium, Scattergories and poker.

However, real life and really great ideas can’t always occupy the same space.

In my little world, over the last decade, we have dealt with a daughter with special needs, a son at war in the desert a million miles away, two parents with Alzheimer’s, other family drama, the financial crash of 2008 and the daily mutiny of life. There is a lot.

And because we want to do this life we have with as much joy as possible, I had to let some things go.

Pie crust is one of those things.

Photo by saveur.com

Photo by saveur.com

Making it from scratch makes a big mess. Perhaps not for everyone, but for me there is flour everywhere. I rarely get to it in time to refrigerate it properly, so there is excessive ice water involved. It works, but it is not ideal.

Ironically I used apple pies to get my hubby to fall in love with me. I would go to church with him on Sundays, then stop at the store and get pie making ingredients. We’d have dinner and pie for dessert…with homemade crust.

As I have matured I realized that doesn’t illustrate my failure as a current-day pie maker, but the necessity of embracing seasons. This is not the season for homemade crust.

Letting go of such things truly allows this to be a season of gratitude. In that spirit, I am again linking up with Kelley at Mrs. Disciple.

I am grateful for prayer. Yesterday was Thanksgiving. My house was clean. I had all the shopping done early. The night before as I went to bed the pies were baked, the turkey stuffed, the mashed potatoes finished, the table set and the kitchen cleaned.

That is astounding for me…completely out of character.

But I have been praying for God to work on my laziness…to fashion and mold my character. I have asked dear friends to pray for me.

This Thanksgiving was a victory.

I want to keep in mind overcoming my laziness is not so that I can add more to my world; it is so I can do the things already in my world with greater excellence.

I am grateful for breathing room. We had a different gathering last night. A few faces who are always welcome, but rarely show filled in for others who are usually here, but not this year.

It provided breathing room.

Life is messy. Relationships are hard. Sometimes breathing room is valuable; restorative; invigorating.

I discovered that relational breathing room allowed for more energy to get things done. It shocked me…what an effect that had. It is causing me to look around and reevaluate.

I am grateful I am a terrible housekeeper. Obviously not always, because chaos depletes life. And, of course, I can’t and don’t let myself off the hook because God won’t let me.

But there are times when a family game of poker is more important than an empty sink.

When people have a long drive ahead of them after we gather, how will I choose to spend time with them? Doing dishes and sweeping floors or laughing and talking?

I don’t even struggle with this.

As our guests were leaving one said, “I feel so bad leaving you with all those dishes.”

“I am the kind of person who can totally sleep with a dirty kitchen,” I confessed.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Here’s the reality I often remind myself of: “There are benefits and drawbacks to all things.” All things. Clean people often miss out on moments. Messy people have to deal with the piles in the morning. I am trying to find a balance for the everyday, but yesterday I was glad to be able to easily let it go.

I am grateful for the ability to cook. I love when the smell of turkey and stuffing fills my home. I love watching my youngest devour mashed potatoes. I love how much my middle daughter looks forward to pumpkin chiffon pie.

Why don’t I gather more people around my table more often?

I am figuring that out.

But when I do, I really enjoy the smells and sights and flavors of good food.

It is not too much work for me, as it can be for others. I enjoy it.

Part of the reason I enjoy it is I am comfortable with store bought pie crust.

I am grateful for my family. Aching, stretching, beautiful gratitude fills me. I am happy to be married, and to have the marriage work for us. We are flawed. In many ways we have low expectations which leaves room for wonder.

We know the areas of our lives that need work…we are working on those places. We are so much less likely to get rattled today than we were years ago. In many corners the hard edges have been knocked off, not by the battles and disappointments but by surviving them.

I am so happy to be a mom. Sometimes I wish I were a better one, but mostly I realize that there is no such thing as perfection in parenting.  Each of my three kids, different as they are from one another, is a precious gift from a God who loves me.

Back when I gathered on Tuesday nights to study the Bible with friends, we would begin by making gratitude lists. Gratitude is imperative in my life…Yesterday and everyday.



My Demented Oreo

My Demented Oreo

I am part of what is called the sandwich generation, tucked between nurturing and growing my children and caring for aging parents. Because I am naturally soft in the middle, it makes sense to me that if I have to be a sandwich, I should be a cookie one.

So I have decided to be an Oreo.

Just over a year ago my father in law passed away from Alzheimer’s. The last few years of his life were a roller coaster. There were hospital stays and care facilities; anger and emptiness. The journey of Alzheimer’s is learning to grieve the living.

Although my father in law died first of Alzheimer’s, many years before he began to show signs my mother in law’s memory was disappearing.

My husband and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary this fall, and for over 15 years of that my mother in law has been fading. Her mother had dementia, and she resigned herself to the same fate. She has never been responsible for caring for my kids. My girls have never gone to grandma’s for the weekend.

She is still one of my favorite people in the world.

I call my mother in law Winnie the Pooh. She has a heart of gold but a head full of fluff. She is never cranky, always happy. (I called my Father in Law Eyeore, because he was quite the opposite.)

While some in our family have understandably struggled with the reality of both Grandma and Grandpa radically mentally impaired, my youngest–our precious little peanut–knows no different and loves her world. She loved her grandpa.



She loves her grandma.


This week was Grandparents Day at my daughter’s school and I knew Ryan would love to have Grandma there. Her school is 20 minutes away, and the memory care facility where my mother in law lives is 40 minutes past that. That meant quite a bit of driving.

As Grandma and I were walking out the door of her home to pile in the car I asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

No. She did not.

By the time we reached the first stoplight two blocks away, she asked me half a dozen times who I was. The conversation usually goes like this…

          Me: I am a married to one of your sons. Who are your sons?

          MIL: Let’s see. (Starting to count on her fingers…) Bernie, Carl, Everett.

On occasion she’ll add someone else to the list, her husband or son in law.

         Me: Now which one would have been smart enough to marry me?

She laughs at that every. single. time.

          Me: I am married to your son Carl. Usually if you say it together, you can remember my name. Carl and _______________…

          MIL: Robin.

It is an interesting conversation. Or not. But it is my life.

For the whole drive we chat about the scenery and philosophy; family and the past. It is often the same conversation on repeat. I believe the fact that she is my mother in law and not my mom makes it easier for me to enjoy her as she is. There is not as much loss to bear.

We get the walker out and toddle to the group meeting.

I get Grandma a snack she can eat with her hands. She lost the ability to effectively use silverware a while ago, but she loves a sweet treat.

Then we headed to the classroom.



Ryan was so happy. Daddy had to come along for the fun.

San Luis Classical Academy, my daughter’s school, is a beautiful part of this season of life. Ryan is on campus two days a week and homeschooled three days a week. I am hauntingly optimistic we will make tremendous progress this year.

Ryan did her “recitation” of Wynken, Blynken and Nod.





When your child can’t talk, you must improvise and prioritize. I decided that for this recitation, being comfortable in front of the class was the goal.


Look at that face. Today was a winner.

After recitations were art projects and show and tell times with Grandma.




Keep in mind that at the very moment my these pictures were taken my Mother In Law had absolutely no idea where she was or who she was talking to. None.





My daughter who can’t talk and my Mother in Law who can’t remember have a relationship that looks like this. And they both mean it with all their hearts.

I love this part of the Message version of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes:

A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer.

This is my life right now…a crazy, mixed up jumble of lamenting and crying while also laughing and cheering.

It is my demented Oreo of a life, and while I may not have chosen it, I do–in fact–love it.




When Tomorrow You Knew Would Be Better Longs For Yesterday You Wish You’d Appreciated

When Tomorrow You Knew Would Be Better Longs For Yesterday You Wish You’d Appreciated

I can not count the number of times I have looked at an old picture of me and wished I still looked like that, weighed that number, was that size. But if I were to face the entire ugly truth, I would admit that I felt discontented with me then. As that picture was taken, I was having the “I’m fat” chat in my head.

Perhaps I am the only one.

My body image is not the only place I struggle with this. We’ve hosted many last day of school parties at our house. The kids swim, hubby bbqs and a good time is had by all. Last year I remember sitting at the gathering, listening to the splashing and laughter, and daydreaming about finishing our landscaping.  My hubby was having the best year ever in business and there was hope of having extra money. (It was hard work to remember what that might be like…)

Yesterday I dreamt of a water feature and a flagstone area with a fire pit. I envisioned colorful flowers (on a timed drip system so they would survive) and a walking path through  fruit trees that we could pick fresh fruit from. I had hopes for a raised vegetable garden that the girls and I could plant together. In my mind we would make a leap to a healthier way of life designed to more easily have people gather.

I wouldn’t have to apologize that we still had not yet finished landscaping…in spite of our best intentions.

Ahhhh….such great ideas.

Little did I know at the time that my hubby was planning a surprise trip to Disneyworld for the family.





There goes the extra money.

And…that doggone el nino did not come through like I hoped. The draught painfully continues and we are on a well. That means when the water runs out of the tank nothing comes out of the faucet until the pump refills the tank.

Imagine sixteen people staying at our house for my father in law’s memorial service last fall, most of whom really wanted to shower before heading to the church.

Selfish, I know.

And when the showers were turned on there was…nothing.

The sound of air filled the room.

There was not even a drip.

Do you know how quickly dishes for 16 extra people pile up when there is no water to wash them? (That is a wonderfully legitimate excuse for not doing dishes.)

The yesterdays that I should have appreciated looked like this:





And the today I knew would be better looks like this:






Here’s the deal: Basing my happiness on a tomorrow I can not control is a recipe for failure every time. Everyone knows we are in a draught. I can either move on with what I have or lament that which I have no command over. The weather is a great example of something I have no influence on. I need to decide, do I want to show off my yard or connect with people? 

My Hubby’s business is not having a great year so far this year. This means that what is, is what I must deal with. If someone thinks less of me because my yard now crunches when they walk on it, that relationship would find an end anyway. And whether I like it or not, Jesus wants my pride to crunch under the weight of His sandals. He walked the earth so I could learn what really matters and live it out. The Word became flesh…

Not easy.

Over pastrami sandwiches or chef salads at a local restaurant each Tuesday Night, my Bible Study friends and I have been talking a lot about Romans 1:18-27. It is powerfully relevant to battles that rage in our culture and it offers us the chance to dig deep into application and discussion. Tucked in the middle, verse 21, is the pivot point where things begin to move in the wrong direction: “For even though they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…” 

The pivot point of my life rests there as well. How much of my life do I waste by not giving thanks? Do I realize that a lack of gratitude means I am not honoring Him as God?

The only way my todays will be what I long for, whether my tomorrows are better or not, is to marinade my thoughts in gratitude. The aroma of thankfulness can be what fills my senses if I will just. pay. attention.

It is my desire to thank Him for everything; to see Him around me; to obey Him purposefully, and the only way that will bring me joy is to do it now. Seeing the joy in hindsight is a waste of a life.

May His joy fill my life to overflowing…today, regardless of what may come tomorrow.