Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Best of Folks

It was our Georgia turn for Thanksgiving this year. We decided to break up the drive and stay in Memphis a night both there and back. If you track it with me, that means driving through Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina to get where we were going. Isn't that wonderful? I mean is there a better region of America to re-connect with than the whole entire south?? Farmhouses galore, rolling hills with SEE ROCK CITY painted all over their barns, random mammoth fireworks stations, the most beautiful lakes and rivers, and a Chick-fil-a at every exit. If that isn't enough, almost every state has a group of the most wonderful people you or I will ever meet (my apologies Louisiana - I don't know any of you yet). Case in point, it was quite purposeful that we steered to Memphis. After living there 10 years it's hard not to get close to people - especially ones as loving and wise as these families we were fortunate to do life with.
When we all started together, Josh was just a little guy and Greg and I were leading a new small group at our church. What a blessing these folks came along. We went through a lot together, living out Acts 2:42-47. We served the community, studied God's word, prayed achingly, ate barbecued ribs, baby-showered a LOT, played hard, and even wept together at the funeral of one of our own. Many of us have gone on to new places but I am happy to say that each of these couples are now leading small groups of their own. Woot woot and glory to God!
This is sweet Amy, one of my bestest and dearest friends. We go back before the small group started. We stayed at their house while we were there and here's one reason why I love her. When we walked into her guest room, all 4 walls were covered in pictures of us together!! Wish I had a picture of THAT - it was awesome! One of the pictures was of me holding their newborn Ainsley Elizabeth, my precious little namesake. Look how she has grown, that little cutie patootie. Love her and her big sis!
Even with long spans between visits, it's amazing how the bond unified in the Spirit can make the years seamless. It's been true of every point along the way of the Banks Adventure. And that's a lot of southern highways. :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Power of a Chipped Bowl

Joshua and I made lasagna the other day. Not the 80's covered-dish version of ground beef, cottage cheese and Ragu that you used to give to your poor neighbor in need, but the real dish from generations ago. My grandparents lived in Chicago for a few years when they were a young couple and my Grandma was blessed with the recipe from her Italian neighbor. Since then, and as long as my memory goes back, it's been the "special meal" in our family. The one that's served on Christmas Eve and when folks come to visit. My Dad was the visitor last weekend so I started banging and clanging in the kitchen, preparing for the "special meal". As he does every once in awhile, Josh came in and asked if he could help. I always love those moments with him so I was happy to have his company. We got out all the ingredients and opened my recipe book and I began to talk him through each step. He loves our crazy family stories so I shared with him the history of the recipe and how I love when Grammy (my mother) comes to town so we can make it together, functioning side-by-side like an old doctor and nurse who've done the same surgery for years. I laughed as I shared how my culinary career began and ended at 5 years old when I baked cookies with my Mom and burned myself on the oven rack. Seriously, I never helped Mom in the kitchen again - and she never made me. That's something I've often pondered. "Then how did you learn to cook like you do?" Josh wondered. I shook my head and felt sorry for Greg all over again. That poor guy. His young wife practically needed a recipe to boil water. For the generations before me it was a given that 3 home-prepared meals would be on the table every day. Then, it seemed, the tradition might be lost with me. I explained that with a lot of patience from Dad, and a LOT of trial and error on my part, over the years I slowly started to get the hang of it. Then something occurred to me. The recipe we were reading from was written in my grandmother's own handwriting just for me. She had compiled a whole book full of recipes from different members of our family. The chipped bowls we were mixing in that I never had the heart to replace were gifts from my Mom. Pans I had first burned things in were from my Aunts. Bless my soul, they had all conspired at my wedding 18 years ago that I would, indeed, be a good cook. Better put, they believed in me. That realization almost made me add a salty tear to the cheese mix. What an impact we have in our homes in the power of generational traditions! The acts I witnessed all my life, the subtle words of instruction and encouragement, the gifts I took for granted ended up being the tools to equip me for the fellowship at the table in my own home. And here I was, passing it on to my son… I thank God for traditions and the people that believe in you along the way. With our own children, we ought to follow the wisdom of Deuteronomy 6, talking about and exemplifying the ways of The Lord -- telling the truth, being selfless and kind to others, working hard, keeping our thoughts pure -- in little ways all day long. A simple meal cooked together, laughing and telling family stories, can foster a bond of love. Or even be a dish to share with your poor neighbor in need. The creative ways in which we purpose to build and equip our kids could become the little traditions they might cherish and keep as their own. And one day when they are grown with their own children, hopefully they too will drop a tear of thankfulness into their "special meal".

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gisela True and Prozac Too

January 12, 2013. Unbeknownst to me, a litter of puppies is born on the other side of Arkansas. About a month later I'm minding my own business in Target buying toilet paper, etc. when I get a call from Greg that we need a new puppy and there's a good one available in a few weeks. ??? We hadn't been talking about a puppy AT ALL. But you see, this is what happens when you go to Target alone. Your son and husband decide that our life has been incomplete, buddy-less, and a little bit lacking in home security. To clench the deal, the breeder will give us $200 off her price because we seem like good people. "So she's free?" I ask. Ha ha... As you can see, my heart is not made of stone. One look at Gisela True (we call her Zella) and I caved, of course. I have often wondered since, however, if my brain is made of stone. This adorable puppy has turned into the 14-year-old daughter we'll never have. Highly emotional, mood-swinging, hairy, silly, impulsive, sass-mouthed, borderline eating disordered, apple of her daddy's eye. I threatened to donate her to the police department her first whole year of life. They would have put her in juvie. We bought her with the consideration of breeding her (her parents are prize-winners from Germany) but I'm concerned it would threaten our already precarious status with Germany as an ally. Zella doesn't exactly support the image of the folks who boast of Einstein and history's greatest composers. Nevertheless, even with all her quirks, she's one of the family now. For all her insufferableness she really is crazy about Joshua and provides us with a lot of entertainment. And Joshua is crazy for her right back. Every time I ask, "Why in the world did we get this dog?!?", he says, "Because I love her". Point made.

Monday, September 22, 2014

One Year

Fall is here! It is in theory at least (this is Texas). This time last year our life was in upheaval while we were buying and selling homes in different states and living in a small apartment. We moved into our new home at the end of October so I did not bother to decorate for the season. I almost didn't bother to put up a Christmas tree a month later (moving is hard!). I am happy to say that we have survived our first year and it just feels good to be back in a place of contentment. We have survived many obstacles along the way and victory takes on many forms. For me, one of those trophies of God's grace in my life is having a heart of joy. Though I've shed many tears, He has kept my heart afloat and given me strength to help my family, as the move has been especially hard on Greg and Joshua. Recently, we decided to take turns asking each other what our favorite day, breakfast, dream car, vacation spot, etc. was. It was such a fun, spontaneous thing to do and we later realized that that day was our favorite since moving here. A bit of a surmounting. Rounding the bend of "One Year" is a good place to be and I am so thankful that we have all grown in many sweet ways. In celebration of the spiritual season we have arrived to, I want my favorite yearly season to decorate our home. One thing I love so much is putting together a lovely tablescape! In Arkansas, I was able to use fall-colored cuttings from the trees, flowers, and bushes from our yard pretty early in the season. Since I don't want to wait until November to bring the outdoors in, I settled for faux this year. I also love to put subtle touches of the season (no tacky witches, skeletons, or spider webs!) here and there around the house and - the best! - top it all off with the wonderful scent of mulling spices. Oh, heaven… Speaking of heaven, I am acutely aware of how significant and fleeting the time is with my family. Even in the hardest times, there is such value in stepping out and looking in at what God is doing. As we sat down with our delivery pizza Saturday night, watching the Razorbacks creme Northern Illinois, cheering and being silly together, I thanked the Lord in my heart for His blessings. Made even sweeter with the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg in the background...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer's Last Hurrah

School starts next week. For many parents, thats music to their ears. Me? I get a little sad. I love the lazy mornings of coffee and devotions with Joshua followed by whatever. He's getting to the age of great reasoning which sharpens my own thoughts and beliefs immensely. I held him in my arms and had this as one of my goals for him. It's been 13 years of hard work to get to it! I can't be blamed for enjoying the fruit, right? So quite spontaneously, we decided to take a long weekend trip to Galveston -- our closest beach. It was wonderful.
Greg and Josh took a beach run each morning then let the waves slap them around. There are a hundred "family fun" things to do on the other end of the island but, no matter where we go, it's always been our thrill to see what God put there to enjoy. And half the fun is searching for it. Digging in the sand we found a host of crabs, every shade and shape of bivalve shells, as well as pieces of critters you wish you'd find whole. Keeps you digging. There's also the non-native wash ups. Tom Hanks found Wilson. We found shoes, cups, shovels, and OU paraphernalia. For shame, Sooner fans!
We walked all over the fantastically preserved and richly historical town. It's kind of fascinating -- full of quirky shops and restaurants as well as some distinctly Texas-flavored antebellum homes not destroyed in the famously notorious 1900 hurricane. That kind of exploration works up an appetite and we satisfied it to seafood perfection! Forks were flying in each others' plates. Love that fresh fish. One thing kind of funny... While eating at a marina one evening, a kid jumped in the water to untangle his net and deeply sliced his foot on some coral. Greg to the rescue! He wrapped his foot and held pressure while talking to him about football to keep him from passing out until help arrived. Not so funny, really, but this is probably the 5th time he's done something like that in our married life. Not me the nurse, but Greg! He's the 'gooder' Samaritan.
Because Galveston is a pretty skinny island, we were able to soak in gorgeous sun rises AND sets. One evening we went out to where the huge ships come into the Houston harbor and I caught this picture of my two favorites. They're so handsome...
Last of all, I dare to post this picture. I love, love, love that C3PO had to come to the beach with us. He just sat on the nightstand the whole time but he did have to come. I'm glad. While we're fast losing the little child I cherished, a nugget of him comes along with the young man I'm so proud of.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Talking to Houston

Do you remember the scene in the movie 'Apollo 13' when the manned capsule is re-entering the atmosphere and they temporarily lose communication with the ground? It's a great analogy a good mentor once gave to me as a way to view the teenage-raising years (more on that later) but it's also a good way to describe the last three missing years on this blog. What started as the beginning of the end of our PC also turned into the beginning of the end of blogging. I regret that. For myself, I regret that. Looking back over past posts, I realize there were many moments in our family I would have otherwise forgotten had they not been photo journalized, and they were all the little things that make the whole big sundae of life. How tragic they would have been as forgotten! So, of the last 3 years, we've taken lots of pictures (thankfully) and lived another scoopful, but I haven't written a word. Not one word. And that is tragic... potentially. No more time to rue, I'm armed with my Mac, fresh in inspiration, and ready to pick up the best I can with where we left off. So much. God give me keen memory! Here's to three years and counting...

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm so sorry. I don't know what's wrong with my pictures. I will keep trying and hopefully will have some new stuff soon. So much life and so little knowledge of technology!