My Gifts to my Self

Birthdays. Holidays. They seem to highlight both what is great in our lives and what isn’t so great.

My birthday is always right around Thanksgiving. This year, it was 2 days later. Continue reading

One Perfect Day

After my last hospitalization – which ended only 2 months ago – I had so many plans for this summer. So, so many. We had planned to attend a Gala, a friend’s wedding, and have adventures at the beach.. I envisioned myself in the pool every day for relaxation and exercise, and enjoying my health.

But Cystic Fibrosis had different plans.

After getting out of the hospital, I felt what I thought was the usual “recovery” period after 2 weeks of IV antibiotics to fight lung infections. I thought, I”ll start feeling better. And I did. For a few weeks, I enjoyed going out with my husband to the movies, out to dinner, and a just running errands. The outings didn’t last too long – about 2-3 hours each – but it was more than I had been able to spend doing anything much.

However, I just wasn’t feeling as strong as I had hoped. We missed one event after another. I kept thinking, we still have the summer ahead. Then the weeks began to pile up behind us.

But then, God gave us an amazing gift.

Normally, my sisters, my mom, and I rotate hosting holidays. Over the past several years, I’ve either been sick or in the hospital and couldn’t pull off the amount of effort required to host a big meal. But a picnic seemed so much more doable – Ken would do the grilling, we had games and the swimming pool to entertain the kids, and everyone would bring something to contribute.

Nature tried to throw our plans askew.

First, the week before the weekend, we had a bad thunderstorm which blew over our grill. It was a total loss, so Ken had to get a new one. Thankfully, some manly help was available in the form of two of our nephews who seemed more than happy to help!!

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Ken and the boys unloading the new grill.

Then, the weather forecast changed from  sunny and warm to rainy and chilly. The day before, we decided to postpone from Saturday to Sunday. Of course, it barely rained on Saturday, but the temperatures never rose about the low 70s – hardly a pool day.

Then God smiled upon us.

Sunday morning, we woke up to blue skies and summer temperatures. I was excited to finally set up.

I had ordered groceries online – yay for Peapod! – which saved me time and energy, so the day of the party, all I had to do was prepare the corn on the cob and set up the food table. Ken took care of the heavy work – getting the lawn furniture up from the basement and putting out the lawn games.

Groceries. Setting up. Corn on the cob. So excited!

Groceries. Setting up. Corn on the cob. So excited!

The day turned out to be so much fun.

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Me and “the girls”.

I was so excited that the kids enjoyed themselves!!

Boys will be boys!

Boys will be boys!

The boys played lawn games, the girls chatted around the picnic table, and the kids enjoyed the pool.

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Clear water, blue skies, and hot sun make for a perfect pool day!

I was a proud auntie, sister, daughter and wife. It made me so happy to see everyone eat and play and enjoy themselves.

A great day!

A great day!

Even though I haven’t been able to do most of the things I had hoped to do this summer so far, this day was an accomplishment and a blessing.

The end of a perfect day. This one is frame-worthy!!

The end of a perfect day. This one is frame-worthy!!

I felt incredibly lucky to serve and entertain my family, and to have these memories carry me through the rough days. Even if I do nothing else exciting this summer, I will still have this day in my heart!!

Cats that Don’t Act like Cats

I often hear people who aren’t fond of cats say that cats are stuck up, stubborn and too independent. They compare cats to dogs and point out how dogs come to you when called, and that cats only interact when they want food.

Interestingly, people who swear they hate all cats tend to like mine, who often don’t “act like cats” or even act like animals at all!

“We are all alike on the inside” – Mark Twain

Indeed, our cats often act like you would expect a dog to behave.

  • They know their names, their nicknames, and the words for various wonderful things. They come when called.
  • They walk on leashes. What? Cats on a leash? Can’t be done! Or, can it? Both Milo and Molly walk on leashes. (And Milo likes the snow!)
Neither snow nor rain...Well, I don't know about rain, but Milo doesn't mind the snow!

Neither snow nor rain…Well, I don’t know about rain, but Milo doesn’t mind the snow!

Molly lost herself in a cloud of bright flowers.

Molly lost herself in a cloud of bright flowers.

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Feathers, Fur and Family

I love animals. I don’t think that there was ever a time in my life as a child or an adult that I didn’t share my home with at least one pet.

The Early Years

Collectively, our family menagerie included at anytime, dogs, a cat, parakeets, a cockatoo, and a number of hamsters.

A gorgeous Moluccan Cockatoo with a penchant for chewing wood and screaming in the middle of the night.

Our Moluccan Cockatoo who used to bow.

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Gold

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

Photo taken by Toni Marie Villines

Photo taken by Toni Marie Villines

I just wanted to share this poem with all of you. I think of it often when I’m facing loss. It forces me to focus on the joyous moments.

The most wonderful parts of life are often so brief, but they allow us to look back over times of suffering and give us something to hold onto. Nothing, not even death, can take those memories away. Love is what binds us. It is what keeps us going. It’s what drives us to live, and what stays with us when death separates us from our loved ones.  It’s what we will carry us to heaven, and what will keep us watching over those who still walk the earth.

Life is a gift. It’s often too short and over before we realize how precious it is.