Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Time for New Beginnings

Late August, early September are popular times for new beginnings.  When Kevin and I first met and began dating, I was still in high school.  He later came to visit me at Hollins University or met me back at home in Richmond when I was on break. 

September is the start of a new school year, the month when Kevin and I tied the knot, and has been the season when we’ve started some new chapters in our careers.  One week after we got married, I started nannying for “my two little guys.”

September 2008 is when I first started working at RMS.

Last year, Kevin had taken a step he thought it was too late for.  He enrolled at ITT Tech and began studying for a degree in Drafting and Design Technology.

This Saturday was his last day working at Best Buy.

Queue drumroll, please.

Tomorrow is the start of another exciting adventure for Kevin.  It will be my husband’s first day as a Team Fishel employee.  The official job offer is the news we’ve been waiting for all summer.  He’s so excited I want to let him give our family and close friends the details in person before I share them here.

Suffice it to say he is seriously stoked to be starting his new work as a CAD-Operator at one of their Richmond office locations.

Please keep him and us in your prayers as we adjust to new things like having weekends off together and rediscover what holidays are like when no one in our household is working insane retail or extended nannying/childcare hours.  While you’re at it, you might pray for the many who will miss him a great deal.  Thanks.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why I Am So Ready for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to Be Over, Seinfeld's Best Bit on the Olympics, and the Top Ten Reasons I Will Never Be an Olympic Athlete

The TV’s on (Again?!): I Can’t and Won’t Compete with That!

There are few programs, shows, or reasons that I will concede to Kevin watching TV for hours on end whenever he feels like it, which truth be told, would be pretty much whenever he is home and not doing homework.  We have a two bedroom apartment, and the dining room table, our only couch, and main sitting area are in the one room where we have a big screen TV. It's the only TV we own.

I don’t mind the TV being on sometimes, but it drives me crazy when it’s on for hours on end.  I’m absolutely convinced that having the TV, computer, or gaming console on all the time are detrimental to real life conversations, interactions, and spending quality time with loved ones. What can you do if you would like a better relationship with the Lord, your spouse, your children, your friends?  Spend quality time with them unplugged.  

I have no doubt this frustration with the TV being on all the time came, in part, from when I was growing up and my dad would always watch whatever sports were on.  To me, having the TV on, especially when it was football, meant that I would not get my dad’s attention and would only be a hindrance to him seeing the game usually while drinking beer.  Being treated like an inconvenience or burden merely by being present in the room is confusing and painful for children (or anyone else for that matter).  That's one of the main reasons I didn't have the TV on when I was nannying for my two little guys, but there's also plenty of research that supports unplugging  is important for everyone.  Here's one of my favorite books addressing the topic.

Don’t get me wrong, Kevin and I do watch some TV together.  Last night, I considered it a major victory when I talked him into watching a movie about faith rather than turning on the Olympics for several hours.  We both really got a lot out of God’s Not Dead 2.  I was so inspired to draw closer to Christ and make prayer time a priority, I drove out the Abbey for Eucharistic Adoration last night.  It was wonderful spending quality time with Christ, always infinitely
more precious than gold medals.

I realized most of our time together at home recently has been with Kevin glued to the TV watching all sorts of different Olympic events.  I’ll get into watching occasionally, but more often than not, my main thought is: “I can’t compete with that!”  Of course, my swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, running, basketball, tennis, and soccer skills are such I could never compete with those who have made it to the Olympics, but I also feel that I can’t compete with the TV being on.

If someone really loves and cares about spending quality time with me, then they will be willing to turn the TV off so we can talk, share a meal, talk about our day, and perhaps even pray together.  Sure, we can enjoy watching some shows, catch a movie, or laugh at some hilarious Youtube videos, but sometimes we need to give other people our full attention and need others to give us theirs. Okay, I'm finished with my rant (for now).

Speaking of Youtube videos, this is Kevin and my favorite bit about the Olympics Seinfeld style:

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Will Never Be an Olympic Athlete: 

1. My body doesn’t adjust very well or very quickly to time changes. If the games were held in a place that was several hours or even a day ahead or behind Eastern Standard Time, it would not go well for any roommates, teammates, or travel companions who are scared of zombies. 

2. If you see me running, then you can be fairly certain that I’m either chasing someone or someone is chasing me.  If I am moving at high speeds, I’m most likely trying to intercept a child who is about to get hurt doing something dangerous.  Basically, the only performance time I care about is how quickly I can move to prevent an incident requiring EMTs.    

3. I’m not disciplined about exercising.  By this I mean, I’ve never had a gym membership, don’t work-out regularly, and often count chasing kids at school and dancing with them as my daily exercise.

4. If I finish doing anything that leaves me gasping for air and someone with a camera and microphone gets in my face to ask me the same stupid questions they ask everyone else, I’d be far too tempted to given some snarky sarcastic answer or stick out my tongue, roll my eyes, and walk away. 

5. I have put on a bathing suit and gone swimming only once this calendar year even though Kevin and I spent two weeks at his family’s cottage on the lake.  Swimming is not my thing, and it’s been probably seven years since I have even attempted to do a cartwheel.

6. I can’t currently call to mind any time in my life that I would have been comfortable enough with my physical appearance that I’d be okay with billions of people around the world seeing me in a bathing suit or leotard. Yikes!    

7. My personality and memory are such that I already have plenty of embarrassing footage of my screw-ups and failures in life on instant recall.  I certainly don’t need to have them digitally recorded, intimately analyzed, and obsessively replayed from now until the end of time.

8. I’d be much more interested in exploring the beautiful places and taking photos than sitting inside a stadium in a city, country, or continent I’ve never visited before.

9. I’m kind of an introvert and love to read, so a pair of noise-cancelling headphones wouldn’t be enough to help me get in the zone.  I’d need a quiet little room all to myself where I could stretch out and read a book, have some silent prayer time, and journal without cameras, commentators, reporters, or spectators.

10. Kevin and I have too much fun doing our own commentary while watching the Olympics on TV.  I strongly believe that other people would be highly amused by our assessments of what is happening in certain events and/or that they would be entertained if they actually listened closely to the announcers.  A few phrases uttered at the Potter residence recently:
“She lowered the bar!”
“I don’t feel very confident in this guy.  He doesn’t even have shoes that match.”
“In some cases, white men don’t jump high enough.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Three Men Who Have Affected My Faith and Life More than I May Ever Realize This Side of Heaven: My Dad, My Uncle, and My Godfather

Rich, Bob, Dave, and Jim Niermeyer at our wedding reception.
 I went to Mass at the Pastoral Center today in honor of my dad, who died seven years ago this morning; my uncle Dave Niermeyer, who passed away last month on July 24th which is my mom’s birthday, and my Godfather Richard Vivacqua (aka Stitch), who’s birthday is today, but who went to be with the Lord December 8, 2015. 

Interestingly enough, my dad’s oldest brother, Robert J. Niermeyer, passed away in 2008 on August 22, the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, and my dad James Niermeyer’s funeral was held on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2009.  My dad and his brothers have had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother.  My Godfather did also, so it struck me as significant when he passed away this past December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as well as the beginning of the Year of Mercy.
This photo I took at St. Mark’s Church in Rochester during our vacation this summer is how I like to imagine Mary welcoming her sons: my dad, Dave, and Stitch into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wednesday after Mass then lunch with my mom, I went over to St. Michael Church where our family and friends gathered for my dad’s funeral. I prayed, took a few photos, and wrote by the columbarium where Dad's remains have been interred. 

A light breeze jostled the flowers.  I sat on a marble bench in the shade, looking over the fountain in the center of the courtyard.  I went there knowing that my dad isn’t merely contained in a small repository of ashes, but that he’s in and around me. I’m grateful for the blessing of faith, the promise of mercy, and the possibility of spending all of eternity with God, enveloped in unconditional love, perfect peace, and unadulterated joy.

I reflected on what a gift it was that I had been in a position and time in my life that I could do some of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy for my father during his final years.  Decades of feeling totally inept at taking away or even alleviating his pain in body, mind, or spirit, was softened by being able to get him groceries, bring in his mail, take him to doctor appointments, bring him the Eucharist, and assure him of God’s love. 

So much of the external elements of my dad’s life got stripped away.  No status symbols left. Near the end of his life, he had a weak body, a troubled mind, a broken spirit, an average car, and a one bedroom apartment, but the essence of who he was, part of which contained his desire to care for and provide for other people, stayed with him to the very end.   

I’m fairly certain my dad would have wanted me to grow beyond where he did, that he’d want all of his loved ones to develop an acceptance that we are God’s Beloved children. 

Did my dad love people the best way he knew how?  I believe much of the time he did.  His love was never perfect, unconditional, or without limits, but it was there even during the many years when I refused to let any of it in.  To watch a brief video (under 15 minutes) in which I talk about how God turned my NEVER going to have a loving relationship with my dad into something much better, click here.

Today, I considered going to the grotto to light three of the candles that are supposed to remain lit for seven days, but I slipped into the chapel instead.  I’d completely forgotten that there is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Wednesdays. I sat in the second to last row.  I prayed for dad, and I thought about how he died only 16 days after his 54th birthday.  (Yes, it’s rather sobering that Kevin just turned 53.)  We never know how long we have left. 

After praying for the loved ones who have gone before me, I again offered the Lord my mind, body, and spirit to use however He wishes.  It's still a kind of scary prayer for me to pray considering the of suffering I've witnessed and/or experienced. However, I know letting go of my pride and agenda are the best way to serve the Lord and love others.  

I take comfort in praying the Hail Mary for my dad, Dave, and Stitch knowing that they have prayed many such prayers for me and our family.  It is true that Our Blessed Mother watches over us now, and "[prays] for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Another Pillar of the Niermeyer Family Has Gone to Be with the Lord: The Life and Legacy of David A. Niermeyer

Another pillar of the Niermeyer family has passed from this life into the next.  On July 24, 2016, my dad’s brother David A. Niermeyer died unexpectedly early in the morning.  Days later, I’m struggling to wrap my head around the news. 

The Memorial Mass was held Saturday, August 6, 2016, at Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal, New York.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it up there for it, but I’m absolutely certain the church was filled to overflowing with family and friends.
Ann and Jim (my parents) Rich, Linda, me, Kevin, Florence, Dave,
Patty & Bob (my dad's brothers and their wives)

The last time my dad and his three brothers were on this earth together was at our wedding September 4, 2004.  (The top left and bottom right photos in the above collage were taken then.) The final visit we had with both Dave and Florence together with their three children took place in August 2009 on the occasion of my father’s funeral.  (The photo on the top right of my collage above is of their family that weekend.)  The last time my mom, sisters, and I were with their whole family was for Aunt Florence’s funeral back in October of 2010.       

Here's a recent photo of Dave
with is mother-in-law Ruth Meyer.
I can’t fathom the loss and grief his children Annie, Eric, and Dave and their families must be experiencing right now.  Ruth Meyer, their maternal grandmother, only just passed away 14 days before their father’s unexpected death.  She was 98, and she’d lived a full life.     

The world doesn’t seem right without Uncle Dave in it.  A measure of safety and security have been yanked off, exposing the tender wound beneath the bandage.  My dad passed away seven years ago this week, but as long as Uncle Dave was alive, I felt certain there remained a protector/advocate for my mom, sisters, and me from the Niermeyer clan. Dave always looked out for my dad and our family, made sure to keep in touch, and expressed concern and love for all of us. 

Rich, Jim (my dad), Dave, and Bob Niermeyer, the fab four.
Since my dad was fifteen years younger than his brothers, and Pa (their father) passed away within a few years of my dad becoming a parent, Dave and his brothers were in many ways more like father figures to my dad than just brothers or one of his peers.  Uncle Dave influenced my dad a great deal.  Dad worked hard, played hard, and gave generously, in part, because he watched his three older brothers do the same.  

Pa passed away around the time my sister Mary was born, and my maternal grandfather died within the next decade, so my dad’s older brothers were the men we looked up to, spent time with, and saw my dad strive to imitate.     

Uncle Dave with grandson.
When I was in high school, we had to write an essay about someone we admired.  I wrote about Uncle Dave, comparing him to a knight in shining armor: brave, generous, chivalrous, bold, relentless, driven to help other people, fiercely loyal, eager to save and welcome into their family a very young damsel in distress (the daughter they adopted from Korea).  Uncle Dave had so much determination and such a strong will, tempered by a devout Catholic faith and a love big enough for family members, friends, children, and young people from all over the world. 

Uncle Dave being goofy
at our rehearsal dinner.
True to the Niermeyer name, he had a great sense of humor and was known as a bit of a troublemaker.  Uncle Dave would go to outrageous lengths to make others laugh.  His stories, his antics, and cleverness made him rather notorious in certain circles.  I’m genuinely surprised they let anyone else in the Niermeyer family on campus at St. John Fisher College after some of the stunts he and his brothers pulled while students there.

Uncle Dave and Aunt Florence were always welcoming people into their lives, into their home, and into their hearts.  Their hospitality and compassion for others knew no bounds.   Dave didn’t do things halfway.  He threw himself into his work, his family, his faith, and his numerous philanthropic undertakings.  He had a soft spot for those who were suffering, particularly children, and worked hard to provide many with the most basic needs: food, shelter, clean water, love, education, and hope for the future.   

Rich, Florence, Dave, Patty, Linda, Jim (my dad), Theresa,
Bob, me, Kevin at our fabulously informal rehearsal dinner.
My uncle and his three brothers could be every bit as exasperating as they were endearing.  My dad had trouble maintaining his composure when he talked about some of the pranks, practical jokes, and ingenious schemes Bob, Rich, and Dave carried out.  The four Niermeyer brothers have always had a penchant for the mischievous, an appreciation for the ridiculous, and a relentlessness that had them running circles around their competition, sometimes quite literally. 

Not too long ago, my cousin Dave and his wife Lizanne met us for dinner in Richmond on their way south for a family vacation.  Dave is every bit as goofy, endearing, incorrigible, charming, and full of himself as his father.  We spent much of the meal laughing hysterically.

Uncle Dave and me.
Growing up, we spent a good chunk of time with Uncle Dave, Aunt Florence, Dave, Eric, and Annelisa at their house in Binghamton.  I remember attending a really nice catered dinner party my uncle hosted in 1992 in honor of their 25th wedding anniversary.  One memorable aspect of the evening was when Uncle Dave dressed up as a Viking (Florence is Norwegian.) 

That same year, Dave and Florence made their first trip to Kenya for a safari as part of their quarter-century marriage celebration.  During their 17 days there, they met up with a man from near their hometown in the United States who was doing missionary work in Nairobi with people in the slums.  Peter Daino showed them the horrible living conditions and circumstances of the poor in that area, and it changed the course of their lives.  They returned home deeply moved and inspired to do something significant to make a difference.  That trip was the impetus for them creating Boystown at Ruai, a residential school program for Kenyan street children.  To read more about the project and impact they’ve had, click here.  

Dave with daughter Annie and grandchildren
Will, Claire, and Garrett.
Feisty, stubborn, just like his mom, who we called Nana, Dave wasn’t interested in following the rules.  In fact, he took great pleasure in breaking many of them with a flourish.  I’m not sure how accurate the story is, but my dad once told me that his brother was only in second grade when he came home smelling like liquor and smoke.  His mom asked what he’d been up to, and he told her he’d been drinking some alcohol and smoked a cigar at his friend’s house.  I wouldn’t be too shocked to have it confirmed that this actually happened.    

Dave with my sister Theresa.

Some remember my uncle Dave for his success in business, devout faith, for the finesse with which he made the most of going bald at a fairly young age, for the trouble he had hearing, his deathly allergy to peanuts, his penchant for alcohol and love of ice cream, his knack for numbers, his bone-crushing hugs, misty eyes, and/or his passion for helping people.  

I remember all of these things about him and so many more.  One essay, article, or obituary isn’t enough to capture the magnitude of this man’s life or anyone’s life, really.  I will write more as I continue to process his life and the impact he’s had on me, our family, and on our world.  
Claire, Will, Lucas, Alex, and Garrett.

My Prayer: Lord, please grant Dave's soul a peaceful repose. Be with Annie, Eric, Dave, Chuck, Melanie, Lizanne, Garrett, Will, Claire, Lucas, Alex, Tiffany, Scott, Ashley, Aarika, Nathan, and Sarah as well as all of their children and grandchildren, and the many who are mourning the loss of this man. 

A great man doesn’t seem sufficient to describe David A. Niermeyer, but remarkable and amazing seem too trite.  He certainly left a legacy, made his mark on the world, and touched the lives of a number of people.  His most beautiful and lasting gifts to this world are most definitely the love he gave to his family. They are by far his greatest blessing to this world, and he knew that very well.

To read Dave's obituary, click here.  If you would like to help continue Dave's legacy, donations can be made to The Niermeyer Foundation, 224 Meeker Rd., Vestal, NY, 13850.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Fun, Easy Art Activity for Kids: Use Photos for a Nature Hunt

I took this photo on campus where I work.  I love how the
yellow and purple petals resemble butterflies.
As anyone who knows me or has checked out my blog knows, I love taking photos of flowers and nature!

One school year, I came up with a fun activity we could do that would incorporate some of the photos I had taken around campus.  I had twelve to fourteen printed out and put them in a little 4 x 6 plastic photo album.

I divided the kids into two groups and led them each on a nature hunt.  I'd show them a photo I had recently taken of plants on campus either indoors or outside.  All of the photos I used I shot or cropped so that there wasn't too much space around them.  I wanted to see if the kids recognized the plants and remembered where on campus they could be found.  Both groups did really well.  It only took them a moment or two of looking at the photo before they knew what area of the school it was in, and they were off and running.

Since the only time I have a green thumb is when I've been working with a green marker or green paint, I didn't know the names of all of the flowers we were seeking.  The kids didn't seem to mind, and when I saw one of my friends who is a master gardener I asked her, so I'll include names when I do the activity, again.

Another cool variation of this activity is to take photos of the same plants at different times of the year, then have kids see if they can identify the plant as well as what season the photo was taken. You could do a nature hunt using photos of a familiar spot taken in the spring and see if you can pick out those same plants come winter.

To check out another fun outdoor project we've done that the kids thoroughly enjoyed, see this post I wrote Nature Fun for Kids: Create the Box, then Think Outside of It.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Food, Laughter, and Music: A Few Amusing Memories from Our Vacation at the Lake with Kevin’s Family

This photo was taken a few years back. Unfortunately, I didn't
get one of all of us together this trip.
On the last Friday we were in Rochester, we went out for a fish fry at the Long Pond Family Restaurant with Kevin’s sisters and their husbands.  Most meals with his family tend to be quite entertaining, and this outing kept to that trend. 

One brother-in-law and I both reached for the salt and pepper shakers at the same time.

“Ladies first,” he insisted, motioning for me to go ahead.

“Thanks,” I said. 
Kevin and his three sisters sitting lakeside July 2016.

“See, chauvinism isn’t dead,” he added.

“You mean chivalry?” I asked with a chuckle.

“I knew it was something that started with a “ch.” 

After the meal, we all went to see the Living Memorial wall at the town hall where Kevin’s youngest sister had gotten their father’s name and her husband’s inscribed since both served in the military and had been residents of the town of Greece for at least ten years.  

I took a few photos of the memorial, making sure to capture the engraving for Harry D. Potter (Kevin’s father) in one of them.    

The same brother-in-law who allowed me to use the condiments before he did at the restaurant spotted a huge insect on the ground near the fountain at the center of the memorial.  He inspected it up close for a moment.  “Did that bug die serving its country?” he asked. 

In case you were wondering, this particular brother-in-law is married to Kevin’s sister who asked why there were boobs on the front door on his birthday.  To get the full story behind that one, click here.

I couldn’t resist showing Kevin’s sisters a few of our favorite videos from Youtube.  The first one I pulled up, ironically enough, was "Word Crimes" by Weird Al Yankovic.  In the event that I am to teach an English, Creative Writing, Copy Editing and/or Proofreading course, this will be our theme song.     

The other must-see hilarious videos that are parodies of some older rock songs star comedian Tim Hawkins.  Here’s one of the ones we consider priceless: 

We appreciate people who are interested in keeping the FUN in dysfunctional.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Never a Dull Moment: Even on Vacation We Experienced Technical Difficulties

I took this photo on what my family calls "the garden walk."
The Memory Card in the Camera 

After five days without being on the computer at all, I uploaded pictures I'd taken into my laptop, but when I popped the SD card back out, a very tiny piece of plastic came off.  No amount of turning things off/on, rebooting, or other finessing helped; the thing wouldn’t work anymore.  The thought of being in Rochester, the original Kodak country, and unable to take photos with an actual camera distressed us both greatly.  

I'd looked at the small clear box we had on the shelf at home with extra memory cards inside, but I didn’t end up bringing it because I thought we’d just need the one since we could upload the photos each evening onto the laptop. Wrong again.    

Kevin ordered a new memory card on sale at Best Buy that can hold over 6000 photos, then we went to pick it up at the local store.  The SD card was hermetically sealed, so I couldn’t get it open with my bare hands.  Kevin didn’t have his pocket-knife with him and wasn’t much more successful than I was, so eventually, he took the thing back inside and asked to use their scissors. 

Like You Blend!

There are two blenders at the cottage, but one of them leaks. I assumed it was the one on top of the refrigerator, not the one out on the counter.  Whoops.  I found out I guessed wrong when a pool of Almondmilk spilled out the sides of the base onto the counter.  Apparently, the heavy-duty blender that was easily accessible is the one that leaks.  I know these things happen.  

In recent months, we bought a new version of our Oster blender, because the old one started leaking.  In the end, we’re grateful at least one of them works so I can continue making super-healthy smoothies every day. 

Gathering at the Water Cooler 

The men set about getting the water cooler to work.-epic fail.
None of us could figure how to get more than about an ounce of water out of the thing at a time.  Kevin, being the technical figure-it-out guy he is even looked up the owner’s manual online.  Not even that enlightened us.  

One Sunday, my husband’s sisters and I couldn’t stop laughing when Kevin and his two brothers-in-law gathered around the water cooler to try and get it to work properly.  The results were wet spots on the floor, water leaking out of the base of the unit, and Kevin pretending to drink directly from the jug.  

Later that same evening, we pulled out the old Brita pitcher and filter we found in the back of the cabinet since we were going through so many individual water bottles, it was ridiculous.  Our water woes were suddenly solved. 

Kevin’s Dexcom 4 Debacle
This thing has been a marriage and
life-saver when it works properly.

His continuous glucose monitor stopped working at exactly 1:18am on July 18, 2016, when he went to the bathroom and inadvertently dropped it right into the toilet (before having used it).  He didn’t have a meter for several days, though he spent two whole mornings on the phone with our insurance company, the company that makes the meters, the one that ships them, and his doctor’s office.  He got everything straightened out, paid for overnight shipping, but they didn’t come the next day or the one after that.

While waiting for the new unit, Kevin tried to dry out the one that had gone into the toilet.  He attempted a blow dryer, put it in the window of the cottage for several days.  After a week, he was able to power the thing up and charge it.  Now he has gotten in the habit of caring his new monitor in a plastic bag in his pocket.  So far, he's made it a week without any major diabetic emergencies, electronic and otherwise.  

Forget Fire and Brimstone: The Air Conditioning's Not Working

There are some amazing stained-glass
windows in the churches in Rochester.
One of the traditions Kevin and I started some years back is going to daily Mass at Holy Cross when we go to Rochester, New York. We don't make it there every day, but we usually go several times each week.  

For most of our time there this trip, the AC wasn't working in the sanctuary.  I couldn't help but think that it would be a rather fitting place to give a fire and brimstone, don't-end-up-in-hell-for-all-eternity sort of sermon considering how hot it gets in there. Fortunately, the priests there are more of the God is love, mercy, and compassion sort of homilists.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kevin's Recent Birthday Celebration at the Cottage

Kevin had the same response to the birthday  decorations
I put up while he was out running errands as he did back in the nineties,
a huge smile and a chuckle.

As I mentioned in my previous post, decorating the door for Kevin's birthday has been an ongoing tradition for our family.  I made sure to pack some streamers and balloons for this trip.  It just so happened that the two colors of streamers and balloons I had at home are also Minion colors, which are perfect for my husband.

Never in a million years did I expect to be married to Kevin and celebrating his birthday with him at the cottage 19 years after we'd first met right at his very spot.  Wow! The story of our friendship, courtship, and marriage still blows my mind!   

After being away for two years, we were both especially looking forward to the traditional family gathering for dinner on Sunday evening.  It worked out beautifully that it happened to be on his actual birthday.  They cooked steaks out on the grill, had shrimp, potatoes, a pasta salad, fresh vegetables and I made a big veggie tray and a fruit salad.  The food was delicious, as is usually the case.  

During my first dinner with Kevin's family, the topics of conversation were entertaining.

"The girls are peeing in the yard, and they don't even cover it up anymore," his sister said.

I was momentarily shocked until I remembered that she and her husband have two sons, so she must have been talking about their female felines.  

Another one of his sisters mentioned having had a breast reduction.  

Many, many years later at the same location, his youngest sister sees the decorations I've put up on the door for Kevin's birthday in a different light.  "Why are there boobs on the door?" were the first words out of her mouth.
My innocent birthday decorations.

Later my family-friendly decorations had some additional color added to them by his youngest sister's husband.  Before the night was over, in addition to the red dots he put in the middle of the balloons, someone had put a small black circle around them.

Their scandalous additions to them.

Leave it to Kevin's youngest sister and brother-in-law to create scandal and laughter from innocent party decorations.  And that's the story of what has come to be called "the birthday boobs."  

I was thinking of keeping the birthday decorations up through next week since my mom's birthday and my dad's are back-to-back later this week.  Instead, Kevin and I saw to it that the streamers and balloons were taken down in record time.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Desperately Needed Vacation in Rochester, Fun Flashbacks, and Many Memories

Two years ago August, Kevin and I drove back from Rochester after an enjoyable stay at his family's cottage on the lake.  The very next day, Kevin was laid off from his job, along with everyone else who had been on his team.

Due to a number of reasons, mostly related to finances, we weren't able to make our usual annual trip up to Rochester last year.  Actually, it wasn't until the last minute we knew for sure that we could come up this July, but we made it.

My prayer on our drive up here: Lord, You alone know how desperately Kevin and I need some rest, relaxation, and fun. Please help us enjoy our time off of work and be open to all the blessings you wish to bestow upon us to renew us in body, mind, and spirit. Amen.

Visiting Rochester has always been nostalgic for me.  It’s one of the few, really the only, place where my family and I have come just about every summer since I was in utero.  

“I’ve got a story for every street,” Kevin told me while we were driving through his hometown.
“So start talking,” I said.  

Several evenings we have gone back to the pier at Charlotte Beach, now called Ontario Park where Kevin and I spent countless hours talking, getting to know each other better, watching sunsets, taking photos, and falling in love. The big concrete block towards the end of the pier is where we'd hop up and sit to watch sunsets, boats coming into and out of the marina, and people passing by.  That one spot holds so many memories for us!

Favorite Flashbacks of Fun

Kevin back in the 90s standing outside the cottage with
the birthday decorations we put up while he was at work.
This is one of my favorite posts about the first couple of years we rented half of the cottage Kevin’s Birthday Flashbacks 1997-1998.  

Soon after my mom, sisters, and I first met Kevin and his father, the real Harry Potter, we found out some birthday decorations and hilarious gag gifts were in order. 

It's still hard to believe that 19 years ago Kevin and I first met at his family's cottage on the lake! How can it have been that long ago?! We've experienced so many memories, challenges, joys, and so much laughter since then.

A Cherished Summer Tradition: Sunday Evening Family Dinners at the Cottage

Long before Kevin and I met, it had been his family's tradition to gather on Sunday afternoon/evening at the cottage during the summer for a family dinner.  Traditionally, they would cook some meat out on the grill.  Everyone would bring a dish to add to the potluck.  Friends and family would stop in to visit.  It was usually one big party.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Who Is My Neighbor? She’s Fallen and She Can’t Get Up: My Take on the Good Samaritan Gospel

Purple is my neighbor's favorite color.
She'd like this coloring sheet I did.
A young woman across the hall heard her shouting and called 911.  The neighbor next door to her came to see if we had a spare key to her place.  We don’t, but I went down anyway to find out what was going on and see if she was okay. 

Kevin and I had just come back home from a family dinner a few days before Christmas, so we hadn’t heard the screams, scratching, or pounding coming from the apartment below us. 

When I arrived on the scene, the police had come in a window of her second-floor apartment and were just letting the medics in the front door to assess the situation.  It turns out she had fallen in the kitchen, couldn’t get up, or make it to the phone, so she dragged herself to the front door and did her best to create a cacophony in hopes that someone would hear her.

Mission accomplished.  The EMTs helped her up.  She didn’t think anything was broken and neither did the medics, so they offered to help her get to her bedroom.  That sounded kind of crazy to me.  Here is a woman in her sixties who has very minimal use of one whole side of her body due to a stroke she had in her late teens.  She’s just had a serious fall and it took a while for her to get help.  She lives alone.  Putting her in bed and leaving her there seemed ridiculous, but she and the medics were leaning towards that course of action. 

“I really think you should go to the hospital,” I told her. 

She wasn’t so sure that would be necessary. 

I insisted that she go and have tests done to make sure nothing was broken.  She considered it.  I told her I was going upstairs to get my keys, phone, and purse, and that I would be right back to accompany her to the hospital. 

That was one time when I had the presence of mind to go against what everyone else was suggesting, and it was a good thing I did.  A couple hours later, we found out that she had indeed broken her hip and required emergency surgery.  I’m not sure exactly what would have happened had they put her in bed that night and left, but I’m grateful we didn’t find out.

I wasn’t the perfect neighbor in the following months, but I tried to be there for her.  I brought her clothes, mail, and books to read when she moved into the rehabilitation center.    The two family members who live in town are both older than she is and not exactly in the best of health, so it was a while before one of them was able to go see her.  I knew she would have liked for me or someone to visit her every day, but I just didn’t have the energy.  I was still working full-time and only had an extra day or two off for the holidays.  I felt guilty I wasn’t there more often, but I assured myself that the time I was spending picking up her bedroom, kitchen, and getting her apartment straightened up also counted as helping her. 

I felt really overwhelmed by the thought of her returning to her apartment to live alone.  She’d been having trouble for a while as it was.  In recent years, she’d already fallen and broken her knee as well as her collarbone.  Now that she’d broken her hip, I feared they would release her sooner than would be wise for someone who lives alone on the second floor of an apartment building in which the elevator is frequently in need of repair. 

I contacted her niece who lives in another state and expressed my concerns about her living arrangements.  I had to face the realization that she may very well go back to living on her own even if that wasn’t the safest arrangement.  I finally understood I needed to try and talk her into finding an assisted living place, pass along the information to her family and caseworker, the people at her church, and leave it all in God’s hands. 

Fortunately, through His grace, our neighbor now has an assistant come in and help her two or three times a week, so she is able to live on her own.  She is doing significantly better than she had been even before this injury.      

An interesting aspect of all of this is that my husband is actually the model neighbor.  I even wrote a post a couple years ago about his good deeds called Like a Good Neighbor My Husband Is There.  Kevin is consistently a wonderful neighbor to everyone in our building.  Once in a while, I follow his lead in word and deed.

Questions for Reflection: Who in your midst is suffering?  What is God calling you to do about it? 

My Prayer: Lord, please open our hearts and minds to the love and compassion You have for each one of us, so that when we see suffering, we are willing to offer companionship, mercy, and encouragement to those in need.  Give us the courage to do the right thing, especially when it would be easy enough to ignore the hurting person before us at home, at work, at school, at church, or in our community. Amen.
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