The Strength of a Mother

Mother’s are extraordinary. Moms are really super heroes often disguised in food stained aprons, messy hair, and unshaven legs. Their energy and will to persevere comes from deep within the center of the earth. That same place where my boys once said I made chili.

Moms are resilient. A mom sometimes runs off little to no sleep. She thinks ahead of her family’s needs and plans accordingly. She teaches. She protects. She loves.

A mom is not always made of steel and her shield sometimes drops to the floor. Don’t be fooled though as it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a regrouping of sorts. She may cry a boatload of tears in the shower but then she dries herself off and exits as an even stronger woman. God was precise in His design.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter, Mattea, gave me one of best compliments of my life. This is in reference to my anxiety as her eldest sister, Denae, was admitted to the hospital to deliver her second child. Her first delivery, four years ago, was quite an ordeal with a lot of scary moments.

Mattea said, “Denae is a strong girl. She can do it. You raised pretty strong girls, Momma.

I did.

In fact, all three are exceptionally strong. Any one of them is so much stronger than I ever hoped to be.

My Denae was never afraid of this second attempt at child birth even with the memories of four years ago. No. My Denae has been confident. She’s been optimistic with a side of logical caution. At least she never led me on to any degree of reservation, fear, or anxiety. My Denae is a strong woman and an even stronger momma.

This second attempt at delivery was difficult yet not as traumatic as the first. It still required another emergency surgery. Luka was born last night. A big boy, almost nine pounds, and resembles his sister, Kota Bear. We are so in love. The amazing heart never fills of too much love. There’s always room for one more.

My Denae is the perfect image of a momma bear. She has that strength. Even at 5’3”, she is a mom you do not want to cross. (Maybe it’s the feisty Italian woman in her.) She is most certainly powered by love. A love that God designed from the very beginning and blessed womankind.

Praying for quick healing, comfort, and rest for my daughter. Her husband sent me this text last night: “Your baby girl did good.” Yes, she did. And I couldn’t be more proud of her. ♥️

Andi

Pokémon Go – AWAY!

I took my lunch at 1:00 as usual but I did not go to my usual spot today. I went to a different park. It’s the park where I ran my first 5k. It’s where my family shot fireworks for the community on the 4th of July. And it is the only park here with a pool. The pool is now closed. It actually closed when school started this year. What a short season. From my parking spot I can see the kiddie splash park, which is still open, but today no one was there.

I was relaxing, windows down, listening to my audio Bible study. A van pulls in a few places down from me. I see what appears to be a couple in their 30’s. They stay in the van with windows up. Both are looking down at their phones.

I continue listening to my Bible study when I see a girl walking toward me while looking down at her phone. She holds it tightly with both hands and close to her face. She stops near my passenger window and mumbles something.

“What?”

She mumbles again.

“What?”

Louder, she repeats, “Are you playing Pokémon Go?”

“No!”

She doesn’t flinch. She walks around the front of my car, barely glancing up as she continues on. She walks over to the van. The driver rolls down his window and they have a conversation. Apparently, they are playing this stupid thing too.

After a bit, the van leaves and slowly drives through the park. I didn’t pay attention to where the girl went. My only thought was oh, brother! people still do this?!

This girl walked through a park on a beautiful day and saw nothing. Granted, I know zero about this game but I feel she set herself up to be hurt or taken advantage of by not being fully aware of her surroundings.

When I left the park, I saw her down standing on a street corner with the phone in both hands and held even closer to her face. She just stood there.

I can barely imagine having free time at all, but if I had free time, to only spend it chasing something on my phone.

I told my daughter about this when I got home and she told me that people have died playing that game. She told me someone actually walked off a cliff to their death because the phone was in their face. I can’t even imagine this.

We certainly live in a warped reality anymore. Thanks to our advancement of technology to null and void the things of greatest importance.

*Being in nature but not a part of it.

*Not being present while in the company of others.

*Gaming over responsibility.

*Work ethics destroyed.

*The world is at our fingertips while our family becomes distant.

I miss the good, old days.

I thought Pokémon Go was a thing of the past. Maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part. I wish it would go away along with many other distractions we have in life.

I can’t help but feel that these distractions will cause us painful regret on our deathbed because they robbed us of time. Time we could have laughed more, hugged more, loved more. Along with all the treasures that give life quality and meaning. Regret is a horrible thing.

God didn’t intend for our minds to be so distracted. That is a tool of Satan. I encourage you this weekend to set aside distraction and be completely present in your life. Make good memories. Be kind and helpful. Connect with God. Hug someone you love, tightly.

Have a wonderful weekend. May you be filled to the brim with happiness and fulfillment. ♥️

Andi

What a Difference a Day Makes

I took the day off for an appointment. I could have just missed half a day but I never miss work and I need to start some self-care. I didn’t get paid but taking care of me has to be a priority. I haven’t been taking care of myself as you recall in recent posts.

I told myself I was going to do several things that used to make me happy. Well, I did. And I even had a very welcomed surprise at the end of my day.

Here’s how my day went.

First thing, I stayed in bed longer. Yeeehaaaa

I drank coffee while I did my Bible study and wrote. Then I posted on my blog. Writing always makes me happy. I received a wonderful comment on my post from a friend which made me even happier. She even invited me to visit her church. I post stuff and then wonder how they will be received.

I got ready for my appointment and enjoyed my music on my 40 minute drive. Nothing is close by here in the boonies.

I got a free car wash at my favorite car wash. Wooooohoooo!! My car was very dirty from having to take my daughter to work at the Barn on weekends. A bridge is being replaced so it’s six miles of gravel road! Dust gets in everywhere.

After the car wash, I went to GoodWill to look for fall decor for the work. Didn’t find anything but I had fun looking. I love looking for treasures.

Got home and took a wonderful nap after eating a healthy lunch.

Made a fall design for my personal office. Gosh, I miss making arrangements.

I messed with my plants which always makes me feel good.

Then I cleaned the inside of my car. You have no idea how much I love a clean car.

But….

While in the garage, my daughter heard Nyx cry. She looked up in time to see the neighbor’s dog running to his backyard. Nyx…oh my. Every strand of hair on her body was standing on end. She ran and hid. She wouldn’t even come to me.

I texted my neighbor. You might remember him from my post “Silent Revenge” and the one a long time ago about the Chicken Man. I probably didn’t need to start off my text using his words from his text concerning my lawn guy crossing into his yard, but I did. My bad. But, I’ll tell you that I did end my text on a good note. I told him I don’t want trouble between us and that I prefer we were friends. I said neighbors need each other.

He wrote back on a nice note and apologized. We conversed all through the evening. I apologized for my lawn boy getting in his yard. He was sorry about his dog getting into mine. We shared other things too that helped us to better understand each other. This was my great surprise of the day. 😊

Then I worked out. The little I could do was wonderful. I will get stronger. Baby steps. Ezekiel created a chart of things for us to accomplish daily. Slave driver.

So my day off was a good day. Could I use another day? Most certainly. But I’ll take what I can right now.

As for my post this morning about forgiving and letting go…concerning my neighbor…I let it go, as did he. If he were to come to me in the future and apologize for hanging the dead chicken off my porch and for telling the police I killed it, I most definitely will forgive him. But until then I am letting go. We made great strides tonight and I am grateful…and relieved. He even said he feels better after talking.

A good day in my book. I needed to share this with you before I went to bed.

Goodnight. ♥️

Andi

Forgiveness: Food for Thought

Ezekiel and I started a Bible study today on forgiveness. I have my own thoughts on this topic. I think there is a difference between “letting go” and “forgiving”. God forgives us when we ask for His forgiveness. Does He forgive us when we don’t ask? Why would He expect us to do something that He does not do Himself? If I am wrong in my thinking, I need to be shown.

Example: I do not forgive my ex mother-in-law or ex brother-in-law. But I have let them go and moved on. I realize that they have to live with their own sins as I have to live with mine. I choose to walk away from theirs.

Why would I forgive someone who is not sorry? Does God forgive me if I’m not sorry, remorseful, or repentant? Again, why would He expect me, a mere human, to do something that He does not do.

When Jesus was on the cross and He asked His Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do”, did God forgive them? No. Otherwise the Bible would have ended at the cross scene and it surely didn’t. Why?

Jesus paved the way, through His shed blood, to forgiveness. Sin is something that we need to recognize before we desire His mercy and forgiveness. We respond accordingly by repentance and asking for His forgiveness.

I am at peace with walking away and removing myself from the presence of those who have sinned against me, who continue to remain in that same sinful mindset, and have not acknowledged it. I am all forgiving when someone comes to me. The hardest person for me to forgive is myself. A work in progress.

Food for thought today. ♥️

Andi

I Gave Up

I was lying in bed this morning, thinking. I’ve been trying to figure out me and what’s changed over the past couple of years. Mostly, the last year and a half. Three words came to my mind: I gave up.

I was pondering the questions of why am I feeling so bad, mentally and physically? What has changed between 2019 and today? I was energetic. I was in decent physical shape. I cared.

Granted, much has changed in our world during these past two years and none of it has been conducive to good healthy minds and bodies. I will put most of the blame on that. We went through something horrible that not even our parents have experienced in their lifetime. It was something out of a science fiction book. A terribly horrific movie that we were forced to lived. We were beaten down mentally, separated from each other, divided, and confined.

I will admit that during those first two weeks of confinement to slow the spread, I enjoyed the quietness of the outdoors, the beauty of the sky, and time with my girls. But the reality is this: we shouldn’t have to be forced into a lockdown to recognize what is of greatest importance in our lives. I learned a great lesson from those two weeks. Treasure what is in front of you.

At that time I worked in long term health care and 2020 was a difficult year to say the least. Although, I love and miss the residents, I had to leave. I was forced out actually because of the differences between my beliefs and management’s mandates and what I believed to be cruel and unusual separation between the residents and their family and friends in their time of most need. I no longer felt part of the solution. I was part of the bigger problem that I was unable to fix. For my own conscience’s sake, I had to leave even though I felt guilt in doing so. I still do two years later.

I was then without a job for 2 1/2 months. I supported my daughter and myself by means of my savings. I had tried from May to October to get unemployment because my hours were greatly cut but the unemployment office said that I made too much money. $250 was, in their eyes, too much. While my ex-sister-in-law was given $1,000 a week for months in unemployment (which was more than what she made when working), I brought home less than $250 in earned money. How did anything in 2020 make sense?

Even though I made it through that year the stress of these issues broke my spirit. In December 2020, I settled for a job that I did not want. And I’m still there.

I took the desk job in a windowless office. From 8-5, I sit in front of three monitors in a high stress customer service job. I’ve gained weight. My mind is exhausted. It’s drained my spirit. I no longer enjoy much of anything. I’m so depleted at the end of the day that I can’t function at home. There’s no working out. No walking. No energy. No purpose. No desire. Everything I loved to do in life and everything that gave me joy is just gone. It even separated me from my family and those I love.

I have given up.

The compilation of the last two years can be summarized as a big ball of cancer. And it’s not just me that it’s consumed. It’s all of us, worldwide, in one way or another. The untimely death of people we love has also been devastating blows to the heart. But since I now recognize where I am, it’s time to pull myself up and out of this ball of cancer. I cannot allow this destructive state of mind to steal another day of my life.

As you recall from my recent post, my youngest son came back home. I won’t go into the circumstances surrounding his move home as it’s not my story to tell the world, but I will tell you about the growth in his spirit. The conversations we have are enlightening to me and I am learning much from my child who has gone through so much. I truly believe he could be an inspirational speaker.

I had him read a book when he first moved here. It’s called Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. It’s an amazing story of the human mind and the will to live under the cruelest of all conditions, in a concentration camp. This deepened his belief in how powerful the mind is and how its power can overcome weakness and tragedy in whatever our current circumstance.

All of this, his insight on all that he’s lived through and overcome, the lessons from the book, and our deep conversations have been inspiring to me. I think the combination of these things have brought me to full realization of my life this morning.

I had given up.

I told my son my thoughts. He was greatly pleased that I am able to acknowledge the current state of my existence, or nonexistence, which is probably a more accurate description of my life.

I got out of bed feeling more energized than I have in a very long time. I plan to beat this mindset and find myself once again. An even better me.

Today is another day one for me. I have plans to do things that used to always bring me great joy. It’s also the time of year where I feel my best. Autumn is a drug to me. It’s energizing, inspiring, refreshing. I will work off its energy and along with this new mindset, I will separate myself from the cancer. Now is the time to heal and repair the damage to my mind and body. I used to love taking care of myself and I will again.

Tomorrow I go back to my desk job. It’s going to be tough. But hopefully the things I do today will help me with tomorrow. And hopefully, I will never again fall back into the same trap of feeling worthless and empty as I have over the last couple of years.

Don’t ever let others (or a job) confine you, or more importantly, redefine you.

And don’t forget the place from where we are slowly exiting. Learn from the last couple of years so we don’t fall into the same trap again.

Do you remember the arrows on the floors in stores to steer you correctly down aisles? Can you actually believe we complied with that? Do you recall the circles on the floor that told you where to stand? Don’t forget these, please. We were compliant little lab rats and most definitely laughed at by those in higher places. I picture those people on the ceilings watching us move through the stores through the mazes they created. I can still hear their laughter. We were being humiliated and didn’t even realize it. And sadly, our spirit was broken throughout this whole ordeal. It is quite disturbing to know that this was/is intentional. You have the right to disagree. But following arrows and standing on dots do not stop the spread of disease. So humiliating.

Don’t let others steal your spirit. You have value. Don’t give up. Giving up was never in God’s design. Surrendering to His will is, but not to the unrighteous will of others. ♥️

Andi

Photos: St. Joe, MI, June 2017

The Guitar

Ezekiel and I had a discussion a couple of nights ago about how to make dreams come true. He said, “You need to break a dream into goals because you’ll never get to the top of the stairs without steps.” That makes sense. I told him I created a quote and had it specially made to attach to my office wall.

Determination behind the dream is key.

If only I would heed my own words!

I’ve written before about how my dad made things happen. He didn’t just dream things. He set goals and made dreams reality. Me…I’m stuck on the fluffy, cottony cloud of dreams. A safe place, I suppose, But in reality it’s a sad, frustrating place to live.

My dad had a dream to play the guitar so he bought one and taught himself to play. He later bought a banjo and played in a band in the ‘60’s. He wore black pants, a red and white striped jacket, and a hat. I know I have colored pictures somewhere but all I came across was this black and white photo. Dad is second from the left. In his later years, Dad and his wife played ukuleles with a group of friends.

When I was in high school Dad let me use his guitar so I could learn to play at school. My favorite song to play was Stairway to Heaven. I loved that guitar and spent many Saturday and Sunday afternoons sitting on my bunk bed just plunking away.

Once we moved from that high school to another state, where guitar class was not offered, the guitar was put away.

All throughout my life I’ve thought about that guitar and how much I’d love to play it again. But Dad had it with him a thousand miles away. I was busy with children and homeschooling so guitar playing thoughts were put on the back burner.

A close friend of mine gave me a guitar for Christmas a few years ago. I’ve gotten it out and tried to play but I would get frustrated with myself. I forgotten most everything. So the guitar was put away.

My dad passed in March of 2021. As his wife sorted through his things she’d ask us kids what we would like to have of his. The guitar came to me as no one else had an interest in it. I picked up the guitar a couple of months ago when I traveled to North Carolina.

I recently got the guitar out. Bittersweet feelings rushed over me. Dad put this guitar in its case and I took it out. The little compartment within the case housed a pitch pipe, picks, and guitar strings. It was quite an emotional moment. But my old friend has finally returned to me. It’s been 45 years since I last held it. Now it’s time to consider bringing our music back to life.

I don’t need to be a stellar guitar player. I have a couple of songs I’d like to learn and then I will be happy. Ventura Highway (America) and Harvest Moon (Neil Young).

Last year, I was on the phone with a elderly customer. He was quite talkative and somehow the topic of music came up. He plays the guitar and offered to teach me once I told him my story. I think I will give him a call.

The guitar is another connection between me and my dad. One of the beautiful connections. ♥️

Andi

God is Funny

As some of you may recall, I have the yard from hell. It has caused me much grief and has aged me about 8 years. At least.

I dropped 12 ash trees two years ago. My yard has never recovered. The damage from the trees falling and from removing them has greatly damaged my yard. I love my Husqvarna but it’s not powerful enough to mow my large ditch.

The ditch and weeds are out of control. I have been paying one guy to mow my ditch and another to weed eat. Last fall. I paid a guy $1,000 to help me. He did a few things for me. Then he said he’d be back this spring. Spring came, and in April, I messaged him. He said he’d be coming out as soon as the weather breaks. It is now September 10th. I think the weather has broken. Yep, $1,000. Gone. He’s the brother of one of my friends. That makes it even more frustrating…and unbelievable.

Being a single woman is difficult. Being a gullible single woman is even worse. I want to believe and trust everyone.

Men think and work differently than women. They are a compliment to women if you really think about it. A man wouldn’t hesitate to figure out a plan for my yard and make it happen. Even in mowing a yard. How do they mow in such beautiful straight lines? My yard looks like a complex maze. I know the neighborhood men must cringe whenever they hear me start up my mower. Men know how things work mechanically too. Like in how to take care of a Husqvarna. They know what to listen for and they’re not afraid to get on the ground and look under things. They just know stuff. Women know important stuff too. Just different stuff.

So in my loneliness as a single woman, I have prayed for a companion. Someone who can love and appreciate who I am…even if I’m not packaged as beautifully as in my younger years.

I have prayed that God would send to me a man to be my best friend and confidant. One who helps with the decision making and holds me on hard days.

And I have prayed for a man who will help me with my yard. I prayed for all of the above.

Now I don’t pretend to know the inner workings of the mind of God. I send things up to Him and He handles them accordingly. Yes, I prayed for a man to help me with my yard. And He answered.

God is funny.

God sent me a man. He sent me my son.

My youngest son had no choice but to move back home a month ago. Life isn’t always fair. And it surely wasn’t to him. So guess who’s been taking care of my yard?

I can sit here on my front porch swing and try to understand God’s reasoning, but that will get me no where fast. God is good and He is perfect. He knows what’s best. My son is here in a safe place. I am able to provide that. He’s taking care of my yard too. At least the areas where he is able to. That’s a blessing. But as for my other prayer requests, well…I guess I will keep praying. At least I know that God hears me.

I shared with my son the prayers I’ve been praying. We definitely get a good laugh out of it.

God doesn’t always answer exactly how we expect. And that’s ok. He’s not a genie in a lamp who grants wishes. He’s all knowing and all loving. Never stop praying because He never stops listening. ♥️

Andi

Praising God

Psalm 71:8
My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day.

My Christianity has taken me on journey through hills and valleys and unpaved, tumultuous pathways. I have seen the best and the worst in Christians and in church organizations. I have felt both safe and unsafe by things taught from the pulpit.

I’ve left congregations because of things taught as law but of which are truly a matter of conscious. I’ve seen where traditions have become rules simply because ideals were passed down through the generations of family within a congregation. Being an outsider is sometimes a blessing.

From the pew, I have been presented with distorted biblical concepts but also given lessons which connect-the-dots and guide me to a better understanding of God with greater love, admiration, and appreciation for Him. I praise God and the Holy Spirit for helping me discern between distortion and truth.

1 Samuel 2:2
There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

In this season of my life, sadly, I am without a church family. I miss it in many ways but I do not miss the conflict.

Currently, I enjoy the studies and devotions found on YouVersion. This morning I chose a three-day devotional which I completed in one sitting. It is titled “Called Outside Your Comfort Zone”.

The second part of the devotion was about not allowing Satan to steal your praise toward God. It was something I needed to hear.

Praising God should always be first and foremost in our heart and on the tip of our tongue. He has blessed us in innumerable ways. Some blessings we can see but probably most are behind the scenes.

Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.

In this life we certainly have more distractions than ever before. Satan keeps us busy and we are readily willing to comply.

I read a quote this morning by Jon Kabet-Zinn:

Even before smart phones and the internet, we had many ways to distract ourselves. Now that’s compounded by a factor of trillions.

With distractions comes an unwillingness to praise God. Maybe it’s just an oversight and neglect. We are spent from all that has consumed our time and our thoughts throughout any given day. Satan will use whatever he can to diminish our time and desire for worship and praise.

This devotional reminded me that we do not have to be in the best spirit to praise Him. We do not have to be happy in order to give Him thanks. We can praise God through tears of sadness, loneliness, and pain. We can praise God when we are weak, depleted, vulnerable, and even when angry. We can praise God in the chaos of life.

Isaiah 25:1
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

Praising God for who He is should not be conditional on how we feel or what we are going through. Even through our brokenness, God sees our heart and loves us.

Praising God strengthens us. It is our connection, our lifeline, between our soul and our Creator. Don’t allow distraction to break your worship and praise. ♥️

Andi

Signs of Change

I went to my usual napping place at lunchtime. A beautiful day after a couple of stormy nights. My parking spot in the park is in a shady nook of the circle drive which is covered by a canopy of heavy leafy branches on the edge of the thick woods.

I open my windows, lay my seat back…and listen. And I feel.

I feel a part of the breeze and of all the sounds. Even the earthy smell of the damp forest floor gives me peace. I watch the birds fly above me and for a moment I wish I had beautiful, powerful wings. I feel a part of it all.

I choose not to talk anyone. No texting or phone calls. I sometimes eat but not often. I sleep for only about 10 minutes. Fifteen, at the most. The majority of time is spent emptying my head and refilling it with dreams, thoughts of romance, and reminiscing of days long gone. I’m still a young schoolgirl at heart. Nature inspires me and I most definitely feel closer to God.

The girls from work think it’s funny that I do this everyday. That I can actually sleep and not set an alarm. But this is my quiet place to unwind and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Today, though, I could barely sleep. There was something new, but familiar in the air. It heightened my senses to another level. As in the anticipation of seeing a loved friend who has been away for a lengthy period time.

Change was in the air.

It is Autumn. My favorite season is just around the corner. Autumn holds many emotions for me. Happiness, joy in holidays and family gatherings, cozy nights, fresh crisp days, bonfires, romance…but pain, as well, in the loss of my best friend and our shared love for all that I have mentioned.

Still…this is the only change I truly love and look forward to. The people in my life know I’m not so good with change otherwise.

There are other signs of change appearing in my life presently. I’m hesitant to accept them with open arms. Fear of the unknown, I suppose. Only time will tell. But today…today my heart was light and happy.

These signs of change couldn’t have come at a better time. ♥️

Andi

Through Our Heart Line

My dad’s mother’s family is from Naples, Italy. I do not remember my grandmother as she passed away when I was about three years old. Sadly, my dad lost both parents about seven days apart, in separate hospitals, and both from heart disease. As I grew up, I thought Grandma looked like Judy Garland. Sometimes I imagined they were one and the same. That’s the fantasy of a young girl’s mind.

My grandmother wrote a lot of poetry. I always felt I inherited my love for writing from her. She was a very strict Catholic so much of her writing centered around that. After my dad passed last year, her writings came to me. What a treasure.

When I was visiting my father in Italy, he and I went to a little off-the-beaten-path cafe to eat. It was tucked away in a home that was converted into a diner. Every piece of furnishing was probably from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. While the food was delicious and the cafe beautifully preserved in time, my father and I had a falling out of sorts. It was an attack on my heart and one of the worst altercations between us, ever. And while I won’t go into detail, it was a reminder of the power behind words. You don’t need to be a writer to understand that power. You need only to be its recipient.

My trip was in June of 2012. It wasn’t until October 31st of that year when my father called me. He said he was sorry for what he said all those months ago in that cafe. I never knew until that call that he even realized what he had said. And although I don’t believe he fully understood though the deep crushing pain he caused me, he apologized and that had to be enough. Then he sent me something he had written. I had zero idea until then that he even wrote.

This is the one and only writing I have of his. Maybe Dad wasn’t like me in that I have to keep everything I write. I guess writing is carried through the generations through our bloodline. Or, maybe it’s through our heart line.

The pictures attached are the walkway up to my dad’s home. In the picture below, the second doorway on the left is/was the tailor’s shop. I do not know the date Dad wrote this. I only have the date he sent it to me. I hope you enjoy this writing as much as I do.

The Tailor of Casoli (CH) Italy

He sits by the door as there are no lights, no electricity or water for that matter. Scraps of material hang on the wall with faded pictures and newspaper clippings of the past. Bits of cloth scatter the wooden floor. Dust clings to the underside of his sewing machine and all along the thin belt that drives his foot operated apparatus. Next to the cluttered table, on the floor to his right is a green canister that contains bottled gas to operate the iron for pressing clothes.

His sewing machine is as close to the glass door as possible so he can see to work. When practical, the door is left open. He can only work on the days of full light so he arrives early and stays as long as the day allows. The hot late summer days are more productive. The winters are cold and short. When dark clouds come, he closes the shop.He glances up when he sees me pass by the doorway on my way down the 150 stairs or to the Gran Cafe del Borgo in the piazza del Populo or to the main piazza further down the 223 stairs from my home. “Buon Giorno”, he says. “Buon Giorno”, I repeat. Sometimes I visit with him and try to understand his Italian. Sometimes I actually can, a little anyway. Today we actually had a little conversation.

Renato is 75 years old and has been a tailor since his learning days as a child. I know very little about him except that he lives in Fara San Martino, the little town famous for De Cecco pasta, a few short miles from here. Other than his birthday, December 30th, I know nothing else. He is a friendly man. I would like to know more.

~ Dennis G. S.

♥️

For the most part, my dad and I lived on opposite ends of life’s spectrum. Hence, our strained relationship. But the similarities we did share are treasures to me. Our love of music, flea markets, the sea, Italy, fishing, holidays, family gatherings, and writing. Those are what keep me close to him…those special things shared…through our heart line. ♥️

Andi

Yellow Jacket Twist

I love how nature teaches us things. Like…

Patience. There’s no rushing nature. Seasons come and go on the schedule that God set.

The ocean tides work along with the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. What does this teach us? I don’t know. I just find it interesting.

Animals often make better parents than some humans do. We can learn a lot from them.

The migration of the monarch is unique and impressive and should inspire us to do more than what we think we are capable of doing.

Nature can also teach us fun things too. Like how to dance.

Last year we learned the Cicada Dance. I wrote a post about that experience in June of 2021. Those 17 year cicadas came up out of the ground and really created a show for us. Or should I say, we put on a show for them. Cicadas would land on you just to watch your unique dance moves.

Well on Saturday I learned the Yellow Jacket Twist. And actually, Nyx learned it too. Whoever said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? I mean…dances.

I know I’m not the first to do the Yellow Jacket Twist. I’m quite sure of that. It’s the first time for me though.

I was pulling weeds in the backyard when I disturbed an underground nest of yellow jackets. It took but a second for the angry wasps to find their way to me and Nyx.

Instantly, I felt their wrath. My arms began stinging badly. I had a hole in my jeans at the knee and they found their way into my pants. Stinging pain to my right leg. You could hear Nyx’s teeth as she tried to bite them out of the air. Thankfully, she was not stung.

I ran screaming with arms above my head moving swiftly in circular motions and batting at the air. My legs zig zagged me throughout a good half acre of my yard, twisting and twerking as I ran. (Well, maybe not twerking. Maybe more like convulsing.) And my loyal girl, Nyx, never left my side.

We ran through the backyard and then along the bean field behind the shed. We continued on through the side yard around the fire pit. We stopped once as I tried to get the wasps out of my pants and to free wasps caught in this wild hair. Stopping, though, only caused more pain so we ran some more.

We headed to the front of the house thinking we lost them. The screen door was locked. I began banging on the door! I saw a yellow jacket fly by my head. I was about in tears when someone finally let us in. Nyx and I ran inside only to find that two wasps followed us. One landed on my son’s shirt and he was able to kill it. The other was a little harder to catch, but we finally did.

I did some research and learned that yellow jackets are highly intelligent. No kidding. Then I researched how to get rid of them. I waited until midnight. I laid an old towel on the ground over the opening to the nest. I secured the towel with rocks and bricks. Then I poured a five gallon bucket of water mixed with laundry detergent and borax over the towel. Some of those babies were still able to get out and one chased me back into the house. I got him with wasp spray.

Two days later, I have yet to remove the towel. There are still clumps of detergent and borax laying on it. But I no longer see any sign of yellow jackets. I guess the survivors left for a quieter, less soapy piece of earth. Tonight as I sit outside, Nyx stands like a statue watching the area just daring them to come back.

I welted up pretty good on Saturday. Stinging, burning, and itching all at the same time. Today I’m just itchy.

So that, my friends, is the Yellow Jacket Twist. I’m sure the neighbor’s security camera caught my dance. Hopefully, they have no reason to review their footage of that day. 😬

Nature has a way of teaching us a lot of things. Sometimes those lessons come in the form of a dance. I can hardly wait for the dance of 2023.

Not. ♥️

Andi

Photos: beelinepestcontroldenver.com; my cicada pic; southernliving.com

Those Who Are With Us

2 Kings 6:16

In today’s world, we are forced to choose sides. Every matter of life seems to be divided right down the middle: right vs wrong, good vs evil, choice vs control, and of course, the CDC vs science. (Insert laugh track)

There seems to be no middle ground and both sides feel the other is attacking. Everyone is defensive. Everyone is stressed and working on their last nerve.

With God, there is a right and wrong, and clearly we are in a battle. A spiritual battle that bleeds into a physical battle of sorts. Standing up for righteousness is no easy task. It’s scary and today it’s even risky.

But God reassures us that when we are on His side we have everything to gain and nothing to lose. In our humanness, all we see is what we might lose and that is not something we get very excited about. So fear holds us back.

The scripture today gives us strength and reassurance that those who truly love God are never alone in any battle.

2 Kings 6:16
He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Take heart that you are not alone.

Trust in Him to lead, provide, and protect what is His.

Be faithful.

Love God. ♥️

Andi

Emotions

Is there shame in expressing sadness, heartache, or pain,
To look through the sun and only see rain,
Is it absurd of me to feel such emotions,
Must I drink from the well of those feel good potions?

My feelings are genuine and very real to me,
Please don’t condemn because you can’t see,
That the positive and negative, together compose,
The very essence of people, with their highs and their lows.

Perpetual happiness is wrong to expect,
When a heart is so broken; emotions reflect,
As God in the beginning blessed all of mankind,
With many emotions, at His will He designed.

So cherish and marvel at this wonderful gift,
Knowing life isn’t always joyful and bliss,
While lifting a sad soul to a happier place,
Know variety of emotion is worth the embrace.

By Andi
January 25, 2013

Photo: mine. Point Betsie, Lighthouse, MI

The Only One

I was scrubbing my bathroom sink with my long-time friend, Bar Keepers Friend, to get the orange tint off from around the drain. I wondered, Really? Does anyone else have to do this? Am I the only one who has to scrub their sink?

When I was a young girl my mom would wash our hair at the kitchen sink. She’d use the sprayer to get my hair wet and then lather it up with shampoo. I remember how embarrassed I was that my mom did this. Not that my mom was washing my hair, but that no one else washed their hair. I was the only one. I was sure of it.

One day this spring I needed to mow my yard. Between the eight trees that were dropped and those darn moles, my yard is a lumpy, bumpy mess. My mower didn’t cut even. The blades dug into the ground too and once it actually shaved off the grass into a neatly rolled piece of sod. While I’m trying to pull wet, muddy gunk out from under the deck I’m wondering…am I the only one?

Tonight didn’t end well for me at work. Customer service took its toll when I had to hang up on an irate customer. Then on my way home I was almost rear ended by a woman who didn’t see I was stopped at a red light and she slammed on her brakes. She blew her horn at me as if I was the one who did something wrong. I looked to see if I could turn on red. Yep. I looked and it was clear so I turned right. That woman turned too and almost rear ended me again, still blaring her horn. I was embarrassed even though I did nothing wrong. Am I the only one?

To ice this cake of humiliation, just before I made it home, I hit two very large, beautiful butterflies who were flying side by side enjoying a cooler evening. My heart hurt.

My parents died. My Chelle died. I’ve lost so many others whom I loved. I’m still mourning the losses.

Am I the only one?

Am I really the only one who has to do miserable chores, who gets embarrassed, and who suffers?

No. And living with that tunnel vision is a pretty sorrowful way to live.

Everyone cleans their sink and even the toilet. Everyone brushes their teeth and even washes their hair. Everyone has a car that breaks down or a furnace that quits working. Everyone has a loved one who passes away. We have a tendency to think that while we are doing something we do not want to do or going through something painful that everyone else is living the dream. Untouched. Unscathed. And we despise that idea. The idea that others are free.

I wonder if Jesus ever thought, Am I the only one? Probably many times during His ministry here upon the earth. Maybe He felt He was the only one when His disciples slept as He wept for them in prayer.

We all have problems. Some have more, some less, but we all struggle in this life. The only real difference is that my problems are mine and yours are yours. So that which is in your procession can seem bigger than life and make you question, Am I the only one?

Truth is…no, you are not. Nor am I.

Just because we don’t see what goes on in other’s lives, doesn’t mean they are free from the burdens of this life.

Don’t let the thought bury you. I know it’s hard to do at times because I feel this often. It’s hard not to get caught up in self-pity. I have this tendency to feel that life is moving on without me while I scour the rust out of my sink.

Even though we are very different, we are probably more alike than we realize. I hope that if you are feeling despair you realize now that you are not alone. And also that the grass is never greener elsewhere than it is in your own backyard. No one lives quite as carefree as you may think.

I am not the only one.
And neither are you. ♥️

Andi

Photos: all mine 🙂

Italy

Ten years ago I was with my father at his home in Casoli, Italy. When he asked me to visit him there I readily said yes. Casoli is in the Province of Chieti in the region of Abruzzo.

My dad fell in love with Italy as it is part of our heritage. His mother’s family was from Naples and we have family from Sicily as well. What made him decide to actually buy a home there, I do not know exactly. But I’m glad he did.

Flying to Italy was no easy task for me as the thought of flying over water was terrifying. Thankfully, the flight was overnight. I tried not to think of the depth of darkness below me. I flew into Rome in the morning hours where Dad was waiting for me. We then drove about three hours to the east coast through the most beautiful Italian countryside.

For two and a half weeks I called Casoli my home. The village is very very old but so gorgeous. Window boxes of flowers and narrow, cobblestone streets welcomed me to this quaint little village.

Dad’s home is located at the very top of the mountain next to the Castello Masciantonio, a Renaissance castle. It is now a museum and Catholic Church. From my dad’s terrace, on a clear day you can see the Adriatic Sea about 15 miles away. Behind the castle is the snow-capped Majella mountain which I’ve heard, provides water to the village.

My bedroom window had only black metal bars. No glass or screen. There were wooden shutters to keep out the rain, snow, and cold. We were up high where the swallows flew. On my first afternoon there, I unpacked my belongings and then sat at the window.

I looked out over the roofs and cobblestone streets in the village below me. I could see hills and valleys lined with olive groves in the distance. Then I heard music. Beautiful music. A man was singing a most beautiful Italian song. Even though I believe it was a CD that someone was playing somewhere down below, it was so touching that I could have sat there forever, just listening. It filled the cobblestone alleys and wafted up to my window. It was peaceful, soothing, and ever-so romantic.

The village was clean and adorned with colorful flowers everywhere. The aroma of coffee, breads, and pizza filled the streets and alleys.

I visited a green house and found a florist as I walked around the village. That was interesting because at the time I worked for a florist.

In the evenings I observed small groups of daddies pushing strollers throughout the village. I found that to be a great indication of their dedication to family life. I was also intrigued by the old, unique doors that were everywhere. I have quite a picture collection of Italian doors.

Italians love to celebrate. And boy, they seem to find every reason to. I was able to observe a couple of fun events while there. The flower festival is quite a big deal. Everyone pitches in to lay flowers and colored sand in unique designs down the middle of the street from the Catholic church in the castle to the Catholic church at the bottom of the village. They start early in the morning and work all day to create this masterpiece. The “finale” is when the priest walks through the flowered path down to the church at the bottom. Many festivals are related to Catholicism but they all are immersed in color, such as with flowers and bright, colorful clothing.

I became friends with several of my father’s friends. Enio was my favorite. He has since passed away. He lived in Canada for a time in his life so I could communicate with him fairly well.

He took me on a tour through his ancient family wood shop. There he showed me a work bench that his family has used for 300 years. They made caskets, and I can’t remember what all else, but they eventually also owned the only hearse company in the village as well. Enio was such a pleasant man. I had always hoped to see him again. It just goes to show you that every minute counts in this life. I wish I had another minute with him. He became like family to me.

Of course, every town, city, and village has a unique person who stands out from the rest. Casoli has Melvis. I am not sure of his Italian name, but he combined it with Elvis. And that’s who he portrays.

From shoemakers, to bread bakers, to market owners, to jewelers, Casoli has just about everything. And most businesses close at noon only to reopen at 4:00 to complete the workday.

My dad and I drove to Pesaro on the Adriatic Sea one sunny day. It was a remarkable day. Even with my fear of water, I’d love to take a boat on a journey across the sea to Croatia and back again.

Throughout the cities and villages we visited were remnants of ancient life, left alone, and modern life built up in and around those structures. We saw the architectural beauty of old Catholic Churches with their ancient artifacts. Flowers of all kinds brightened every street. It was a lot to take in and I tried to absorb it all.

This was an adventure I shared with my dad. It wasn’t always easy being with there with him as we struggled with our relationship even there, but the adventure in Casoli was a once-in-a-lifetime dream. I definitely felt I experienced Italy being in a small village compared to a large touristy city…like Rome.

When it was nearing time to fly back to the states we spent my last three days in Rome. I can honestly say I did not like Rome on the first day. Dad’s wife took me to historical places (which is basically everywhere you look) and I began to love the city.

A highlight was seeing the Trevi Fountain, making wishes, and throwing coins back over me into the pool of water. Wishes and coins that were prepared in advance with the help of my adopted brother, Bruce. I kept them in a little draw-string bag. He helped to make this moment of wishes…magical.

And then there was Coliseum which brought tears to my eyes for all the Christian lives that ended there.

I’d like to believe there’s a possibility that this world will heal and it will become welcoming once again. I’d love to explore more of Italy.

Thanks for sharing a few of my memories of Italy and the time I had with my dad. So grateful he invited me to go. ♥️

Andi

Silent Revenge

Holding grudges. Have you ever thought of the ramifications of holding a grudge? Is it really harmless giving someone the silent treatment and ignoring them for a period of time? What’s the point? What do you expect to get from it?

When you think about it…holding a grudge is silent revenge. And it is most certainly not harmless. Silence speaks volumes. It is a dagger to the heart. 💔

Revenge is when you have this strong desire to get back at someone. Holding a grudge is exactly that. Receiving the silent treatment, the squinty stares, and being shamed and/or excluded is painful. And the grudge holder absolutely knows this. That’s why they do this.

An example is my neighbor. He is holding a grudge against me. He is an angry young man who feels quite privileged in this life. I dealt with him a couple of years ago. He moved from the city to the country. He bought chickens, a rabbit, and two dogs. Since we live in a rural area he thought we neighbors would welcome his animals to roam freely through our yards. That was not how we felt. But it was wonderful to him to be living the country dream where everything roams freely. Right?!

His dogs were not taught boundaries as mine were. Mine were even used to going to his place because we were close with the neighbors that lived there prior. But it took only a short time to teach our dogs the boundary was no longer to be crossed.

My new neighbor had two dogs. One was an expensive $15,000 dog. A pretty smart dog too – if only he had a better, more compassionate owner. His dogs would come to my yard and attack my dogs. Numerous times this happened.

His chickens would roam my yard. My dogs would become stupid as they got caught up in the chase and forgot all boundaries. Not fair to my dogs. Their black and white rabbit ran loose too and lived in my yard which drove my dogs insane, as you can only imagine. That cute little bunny dug three trenches under my shed. Not so cute.

I approached this man numerous times to keep his animals home but to no avail. The police and animal control were called out many times. The man was mad at me because his little boy saw the police in the driveway talking to his daddy frequently. Not my fault. But he tried to make it my fault.

Long story short, he hung a dead chicken off my back porch. He told the police he did it. Nothing ever became of it. But he told some fantastical lies to the police. It was a threat to me. That’s how I viewed it. He’s a cruel man and I feel sorry for his wife and little ones.

The animal problem ended for the most part about three years ago after our last meeting with animal control. The girls and I are forgiving and we wave hi to him but he will turn his head away and ignore us. He is holding a grudge.

He knows that by doing so, it inflicts some kind of pain. Even if it’s just a little pain, he finds his revenge and enjoyment in that.

Holding grudges is unhealthy, mentally and physically. It takes a lot of energy to stay focused on meanness. You may think you have the upper hand in the relationship, and maybe you do to an extent. But is it really worth it? Life. Is. Short.

Now after these last couple of years of no communication, my neighbor sent me a mean text last night about my lawn guy crossing the line into his yard. Still holding onto that grudge, I see.

In my opinion this man has not endured enough hardship in his life for him to truly appreciate life and to distinguish what is really important and what is not. I know this. Because I was in that place once.

I might contact the guy who did the land survey a couple of years ago and show this young man that he is actually claiming my yard as his. I’m pretty sure he’s on my property.

Christians should never hold grudges. Either fix the issue or let it go. Knowing you are intentionally hurting someone by holding a grudge is wrong. Holding a grudge is the total opposite love. I have been on both sides of a grudge. It’s not pretty on either end.

Not sure what to do with my neighbor. I will think about this some more. Choose your battles wisely; what is important, and what is not.

Grudges are cruel.

Forgive. Let go. Move on. Love. ♥️

Andi

Photo credits: all found online

My Colorful Friend

I woke up this morning to a text that my son, Ezekiel, sent to me. It was beautifully written to say the least. I’d love to share it all here but it was written to someone in particular and that I must respect. My children are all blessed with the gift of writing and I couldn’t be more pleased. To be able to describe life and living or even story-telling in such detail is truly remarkable.

His words caused me to reflect on the friendships throughout my lifetime.

Friends come and go all through our lives. Some stay forever. Some leave this earth long before you were finished friendshipping. But all are a part of your story; a sentence, a chapter, or a permanent fixture in your book of life, and you are a part of theirs.

A thought from my 500th post works well here too.

When lives intertwine, there’s really no undoing that…ever.

A portion of Ezekiel’s text:

Every stage of life is a chapter in our personal book, written by our creator. So many adventures, experiences, laughs, and friendships. There are also times of challenge and struggle. But all can have a happy ending if we choose to follow Christ and learn from the dark times.

Characters in our pages come and go, though some remain in our story till the very end.

I don’t know the ending of my story nor do I know who will be there when the last sentence is written.

I have several beautiful friends in my life currently. I have been blessed with a few forever friends too. When a friend of mine, who was 30 years older than me, was near death, I realized how precious it was to be a part of his last chapter. We’d only know each other for about five years or so, but I was ever so grateful to know him late in life than earlier where maybe we would have parted ways for one reason or another.

After reading Zeke’s text, I thought of my new friend. I’ve only known Angie for a year and a half. She has a few nicknames, such as Miss Liberty and Sprinkles. But she is what I’d describe as my colorful friend. She beautiful, smart, and so witty. Her verbiage is the more colorful than the rainbow, but never vulgar or distasteful. I’m not sure how she manages to pull that off but she does.

Miss Liberty

Another one of her talents is that she can make me laugh hours later over a comment that was made at work, or through a text message, or a funny meme, or a TikTok video shared of a woman out on her beautiful deck all decorated with pumpkins and fall decor…in July! All I can say to that woman is…run! My Angie is not through with summer yet. My colorful friend.

I have many friends in my life who all mean something special to me. One hides in my shadows but always knows when I need him and I absolutely adore him. He’s my rock. I have longtime friends. We don’t see each often but the love remains strong. I have both male and female lifelong friends who never go away and who still manage to be written in almost every chapter of my life. I am blessed.

To all my friends: the ones I’ve had practically since my life began, to the ones I’ve loved deeply but parted ways for one reason or another, to the ones who are fairly new in my life, I leave you with this thought from Ezekiel’s text. It couldn’t be more fitting.

My heart tells me you aren’t just a secondary character. You’re not just a beautiful soul that blessed me for a short time and will vanish behind the turning pages.

And I will add:

If I’ve given you a piece of my heart along life’s way, you will never vanish from my story. Thank you for your beautiful addition to my life.

Have a blessed weekend. ♥️

Andi

Oh, and as a difficult as it may be, please refrain from any type of fall decor until at least September…please. Or my colorful friend might just hunt you down. 🍁🎃🍂

She looks harmless enough, right?! Just don’t cut into her summertime fun. 🍹☀️⛱……🎃☠️🤬

500 Posts

Tonight after I published my last post, I was notified that it was my 500th post. A huge milestone. Never have I dreamed I could write so much.

The strange thing though is that I don’t feel I’ve even started. This mind of mine is deep and intense. I feel everything and with great passion. Even with all that, I still feel I am lacking. Lacking personal fulfillment. I haven’t written enough. I haven’t explored, wandered, or adventured enough. I haven’t remembered enough. I haven’t loved or given of myself enough.

So I guess I will continue writing until such a time when I either feel fulfilled or when I simply can no longer put my thoughts and words together.

A milestone. 500 posts. 501 with this one.

If you don’t appreciate my posts, I thank you kindly for at least trying to hear me out. For those of you who have remained with me for all these 500 posts, I thank you with the deepest of gratitude. ♥️

Andi

PS I have thought of a title for a book I’d like to write. A title is a good start, don’t you think? Now to find the time….

Photo credit: tommccallum.com

Life Condensed to a Single, Plastic Tote

I am cleaning and reorganizing my basement. In order to accomplish this I have to get rid of things. Sort, toss, donate, organize and store. This is particularly difficult when it comes to sorting through things that once belonged to loved ones. Those loved ones being Mom, Dad, and Chelle.

Besides the remarkable amount of pictures I have from each of them, I have trinkets, greeting cards, personal belongings, gifts, etc…

How do you pitch anything? Isn’t that like erasing them? I’m crushed with that thought.

I needed to think about how to address this huge task before me. I sat in the basement contemplating just what to do. There’s just so much stuff. This task seemed like an impossibility. I don’t want to lose them.

I began with Mom’s things. I looked through her huge totes of clothing, pictures, books, ID cards and badges from various places of employment, calendars noted with all her work hours and appointments, coffee mugs, things that belonged to her mother and grandmother, bibles, and writings – which include her endless handwritten lists, notes, reminders, quotes, and journals with all her many thoughts. (I knew right off I’d need to keep those.)

my beautiful young mom

I asked myself…when I die, what would happen to each of these things? Would my children cherish them as I do? Probably not. Would they be tossed out without a second thought? Probably. But some things are still usable yet what good are they if left in a tote? Because my mom was the last to use it? And if I used it, I would erase everything meaningful about it? She, along with Chelle and my dad, would say…use it!

So I kept things out that I can use and donated what I know I won’t. For instance, I’m using my mom’s comb. I found it in an old purse of hers. I’ll use her note cards and stamps, although I will need to add a lot of extra postage. I wear her jewelry and cover with her blanket at night.

I did get rid of some hard things, like personalized sweatshirts that I made for her. They will never be worn again. They once served a purpose and she loved them. That will have to be enough. I just can’t store them only for my kids to dispose of later. I’m trying to make things easier for them for when my time comes.

This process has taken me a few weeks to do. Now their treasures, their lives, are condensed to one container each. I look at these and can’t help to feel sadness. Decades of life and living condensed to a single, plastic tote.

Maybe I just feel too damn much…

~ Chelle ~
a beautiful life condensed to a single, plastic tote

I guess what’s most important are the memories. And, for me, pictures are just that. When I look at a picture, I can remember. I remember particulars surrounding that moment. I remember how I felt. I feel the emotion. I feel the day. Pictures are probably the most valuable of all material things to me, along with thoughtful writings written by these special people.

Dad and my oldest child, Nathan

Death is a part of life. I get it. But it’s painful. And it’s hard. And it’s most unenjoyable. I don’t want to forget and that’s a fear of mine.

When lives intertwine, there’s really no undoing that…ever.

I miss my mom. I miss my dad. I miss Chelle. I miss Taylor. I miss all those who’ve touched my heart deeply and then had to leave.

So tonight I’m going to enjoy my bourbon barrel blackberry wine as I relax on my front porch swing. The past weeks have stirred up many emotions. I’ll reflect on memories tonight as the sorting, donating, tossing, organizing, and storing are now complete.

My front porch swing is a little lonely tonight. Wishing any one of my loved ones was sitting beside me. ♥️

Andi

Turn Around

I never quite know when, or how, a topic to post will come about. It might be something I hear in passing, a special moment with a family or friends, a memory, a news report, a scripture verse, or an overwhelming feeling.

Today was no different. It hit me quite suddenly. I was sitting at my desk in my office. Day five of this workweek. I was not feeling well from something (or many things) that I ate last night. I was tired and feeling a little down. I felt distant from myself. It was a long week of customer service. After staring at my three work screens for hours, I turned around.

Each of us has our own office and can personalize it in our own way. I love my office, except for it being windowless. I painted two walls a warm gold and hung meaningful canvases and other frames and pictures. A black shelf holds items that add to the definition of who I am.

So when I turned around, I found myself. I felt happy in that moment as I sat there studying my treasures, memories, the puzzle pieces of my life. It brought me back to reality.

Sometimes we need to turn away from things that distract us. Things that lead us away from who we are and into dark, unfamiliar places where we tend to get lost.

Turn around every once in awhile so you don’t leave behind that which is of greater importance in this life…you. ♥️

Andi

Mall Days

Friday nights are reserved as date night with my youngest daughter. I decided to take her to the outdoor mall we used to go to often. Once-upon-a-time, the kids and I spent a lot of time there, especially at Barnes and Noble.

We began our night at JC Penney’s. I spent a boatload of money in Penney’s throughout my years. My mom was a Penney’s girl too. Penney’s had the best selections and I was always happily surprised when I got to the checkout counter with the extra discounts I received. With six kids, discounts and quality of clothing kept me coming back.

As I walked through Penney’s last night, I was greatly disheartened. It resembled more of a garage sale than the Penney’s I recall. Racks of mismatched clothing. Clothing and hangers on the floor. I actually kicked hangers off the walkway as I saw it to be a potential hazard where someone could get hurt. Some fitting rooms were closed and barricaded by mounds of clothing. The fitting rooms that were open were littered with clothing, hangers, and tags just strewn everywhere. No employee anywhere in sight. Then I needed to use the restroom. Filthy. I felt I needed a shower and/ or tetanus shot when I exited. Probably both.

I left Penney’s with a heavy heart.

I want my old Penney’s back. A place where sales people were readily available. Well lighted and bright. Clothing neatly displayed. Clean fitting rooms and sparkling restrooms.

We walked outside throughout the mall and noticed many empty stores. We tried to remember what used to be in each empty space. Sadly, Rocket Fizz is gone. Barnes and Noble was still there thankfully. Still it was somewhat changed from the last time we were there. But change is a must sometimes. I get it. I just don’t do well with it. The smell of coffee and books though was familiar and so welcomed.

As we headed back to the car, I noticed that even the landscaping wasn’t as kept up as it once was. I wondered…was it due to lack of money or lack of employees?

I shared my thoughts with Mattea. I mentioned that Penney’s, and malls in general, took a big hit once Amazon and online shopping became popular. Covid was designed to create another huge dent in life and living (my opinion). And now with our economy tanking and people becoming increasingly more cautious with their spending, and surprisingly, there are many who don’t want to work, so it’s no wonder we have messy fitting rooms, disgusting bathrooms, and empty buildings.

I want to go back. I really want to go back.

Back to the fun mall days of shopping or just to walk around. Maybe grabbing coffee to go with a Cinnabon, or an Orange Julius with a Hot Sam’s pretzel with mustard. Back to Christmas displays complete with Santa and candy canes, and Easter bunny photo shoots. Back to more carefree days, like the time spent with my sister and friends at the Lakehurst Mall in Waukegan, IL, in the mid ‘70’s. Even back just 12 years ago with my kids.

Maybe all malls are not in such decline as this one. But in my world, mall shopping is quickly becoming unfun. This town is 45 minutes east of my home. The other mall where we shopped in the ‘90’s is 45 minutes west of here and is even in greater decline.

I woke up this morning still feeling a little sad. Things we take for granted are never quite noticed until they are vanishing or gone. Quite like our freedoms of today. I, for one, am feeling the squeeze of the tightening belt around our livelihood and I’m not happy about it. I, too, took things for granted.

I’m thankful that I was able to experience those good ole mall days which blessed me with many good memories and warm fuzzy feelings. I only hope that we can turn things around and head in a better direction. That way we can share moments like these with our grandchildren.

Change for the better I can handle. It’s this downward spiral of change that I cannot. We need to do better. As a country we need to do better.

I still believe good things are possible. It’s going to take a lot of work, but all things are possible through God. ♥️

Matthew 19:36
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Andi

Photos: online photos of Lakehurst Mall, Waukegan, IL, 1971-2001

What if…

Always thinking. That’s me.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what ifs? Mostly this thought has been centered around losing people in my life. I guess this has been on my mind since my ex-father-in-law passed and was buried today. He was a good man and loved by everyone.

Melvin was patriotic. A veteran of the Korean War. He loved our country and our flag. He was a fisherman. A transporter of Amish folk. A family man. He was Meek. Kind. Gentle.

I remember the day when my in-laws’ house burned. My husband and I got there as soon as we could. We could see the white smoke a long distance away. The fire department was there spraying the huge flames. I was big pregnant with my first child, but that didn’t prevent my father-in-law from collapsing in my arms, sobbing. He was a big man. Not overweight, but tall and strong. I held onto him tightly and surprisingly, I was able to support his weight. It’s a cherished moment I will never forget. That was 40 years ago this year.

I tried to think back to our last conversation and sadly, I do not recall it. That got me to thinking a little bit more.

Choose any person in your life and think about them for a moment. What if that person passed away suddenly tomorrow? Would you be left with any regrets? Would you be left with things unsaid? If yes, fix it. Did they know how you felt about them? If no, fix it. Now think of another person and ask these same questions. And then keep on moving to the next person and the next.

We do not have a single guarantee that we will live to old age like my ex-father-in-law who would have been 93 this month. We don’t know what a day holds or what the next phone call will bring.

The bible talks about being prepared. Being prepared for a home in Heaven. But I think it’s good to be prepared for the unexpected. Certainly we cannot be prepared for every scenario but we can maybe be better at relationships. When I pass, I don’t want a single person in my life to wonder how I felt about them.

If a what if happens in your life, I hope you are left with no regrets. Oh, and try not to leave regrets either. Leave smiles.

Goodnight, Melvin. ♥️

Andi

Woe to Those…

As I rejoice in the reversal of Roe vs Wade, I see that many others have resorted to violence and destruction once again. Those who mandated vaccinations now scream “my body, my choice”. Those who who have divided our world between the vaxxed and the unvaxxed, and often restrict the unvaccinated from receiving life saving health care continue to bellow “my choice” while striping others of their’s.

I agree with them on one point only. My body, my choice. Only there’s one thing of great importance here. A baby is in their body, but not their body. I was pregnant six times. I can verify this…those six little bodies were separate from mine.

In the past days I have read horrid, disgusting banners and signs. I have seen women who’ve painted their body parts with “blood” while carrying “bloody” baby dolls. They resemble something from a horror movie. I guess that’s their objective. I hear people scream vile things to those who respect humans in all stages of life. And there have been violent physical attacks against pro-lifers and threats made against our Supreme Court justices.

I saw a picture of neatly stacked bricks strategically placed as in the summer of 2021. Bricks used to break windows and bones. I hear elected officials scream words of insurrection. These women claim to speak for me. They absolutely do not.

Isiah 5:20
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

When will these acts be condemned and prosecuted?

I have noticed that the drag queen scene has readily become popular for parents to take their littles for entertainment. I watched a video of a queen on an outdoor stage dancing in a short skirt for the littles. During his flamboyant dance he backed away from the edge of the stage. He got down to a squat, spread his legs, and moved his sparkly boa so the children could see his genitalia.

What a wicked wicked man.

Why is this no longer considered pedophilia? It was just like a week ago. What are these parents thinking? And why are they not charged with sexual crimes against children and child abuse? This perversion should anger every one of us. I am.

Romans 8:9b
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

The Spirit of Christ is seen in neither of these situations. And yes, I judged these situations to be evil because God has told us what is good and what is evil. And if we never judged to a certain extent we would not send missionaries to places we have judged to be godless.

Woe to those…

Roman’s 1:32 states that even if we do not participate in evil situations such as these, but approve of those who do such things, we are as guilty as they are. God’s words, not mine.

These are situations where I will not agree to disagree. You may disagree with me, but ultimately that’s between you and God.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ♥️

Andi

Fear vs Courage

“If you are not afraid, why would you need courage?”

That quote was in my devotional this morning. Today I learned something about fear. As I am a fearful person and the weight of the known, and unknown, weigh heavy on my heart, I discovered something of great importance.

It is written numerous times throughout the Bible do not be afraid and fear not. We are also told to be courageous.

“If you are not afraid, why would you need courage?”

This is what I learned:

Since God does not contradict himself, I will surmise that he means “not to succumb to fear”.

If we need courage, fear is probably present to some extent.

Here on earth, as we are confronted with trials and tribulations, the enemies of God’s righteousness, and of the great unknowns, we fear in order to be courageous. Fear is fuel to reach higher ground.

Note: Fearing God is different. We cannot stand up to or confront God. Fear is respect, love, and reverence to him. Fear is knowing he has all power in heaven and on earth, and he has all power on judgment. There is no courageous stance against God Almighty.

Fear is not always a bad thing. It is truly a bad thing when we succumb to it and become it’s slave.

I hope this this thought inspires you today. I hope it gives you courage to reach higher ground and conquer the hard things in life. We have been told all our life not to fear. I’m saying to go ahead and fear to some degree. Just don’t allow it to become your master.

Have a SONshiny weekend. ♥️

Andi

Photo: taken in Florida on one of our many trips

My Brain is Tired

Customer service.

Why does every job lead me here?

Every job I’ve ever had has been in customer service. Well, except when I worked in the activities department of a long term health care facility.

Am I just getting old and tired and impatient, or is everything messed up and every one in a constant state of confusion and anger?

In a sue-happy world, businesses are having to protect themselves more fully, which means less leniency for the consumer, like in my business of insurance. Inflation is effecting every business and therefore, every life. Insurance is not exempt.

Dealing with phone call after phone call, 8-5, five days a week, from those who are upset is becoming just too much. They blame me for what the insurance carriers require and/or cover. Or, rather…don’t cover. Renewal premiums are skyrocketing in many instances. Many want demands met NOW. They yell at me because they can’t yell at the insurance carrier. I am exhausted like no other time in my life. Even when raising six kids have I never experienced such mental fatigue as I do now. I come home so exhausted that I accomplish nothing and I have many tasks that require attention.

Then there’s the news. It’s everywhere. You need to be informed but how much is too much? It’s all so disturbing.

There has to be more to life than this.

My brain is tired and my heart is weary.

I’m asking God to send help to me in my personal life and direction for another avenue of employment. I’ve been told I am good at customer service, but I certainly no longer enjoy it. The world has changed. Or, maybe it’s just me.

I’m not trying to be a downer really. But if you feel these things too, just know you are not alone. That’s what I’ve said along with this blog. It’s about making connections and letting others they are not alone during trying times.

I’ll be going to bed soon. I might get up early to see the planets that have aligned in the eastern sky. And, thankfully, tomorrow is Friday. Hopefully, a good ending to a rather rough work week. ♥️

Andi

The Best Date

A few years back I went out with a man whom I’ll call Jay. Jay and I had gone out a few times and I guess I wasn’t ready for dating, or we weren’t right, or whatever. So he went out with someone else. He jumped into that relationship with both feet right into the deep end.

Meanwhile, we still kept in touch. He was telling me how great she was, how happy he was, etc. I told him several times to just be careful. As fast as that relationship ignited, all I could think about was that he was going to get hurt. And he did. I had tried to warn him. It happened just too fast.

After that relationship collapsed, he and I met to go to for a walk at the falls. He needed a friend and I had no reason not to be one. Call it a date or whatever you’d like.

We went down to the lower falls and took a walk on a wooded pathway that led us to a pond and a picnic bench. So we sat there, just the two of us, gazing into the stillness, watching bugs flit to the surface of the water. It was beautiful.

Jay opened up and began talking to me about his whirlwind relationship. I listened. This man was greatly humbled. He didn’t yield the warnings, the red flags, the advice from a friend…and he’d been hurt. Badly. This giant of a man spoke softly and meekly. He shared with me because he trusted me and felt safe with me. And he knew I wouldn’t ridicule him in any way. We talked about many other things as well, but the humbleness never left him all that afternoon.

If this was a date, it was one of the best dates I’ve ever had.

Jay and I are still friends. We were texting this evening and I asked him his thoughts about God. This is when I recalled our talk by the pond and it made me realize something. It made me think of how we jump into situations feet first, right into the deep end. How we think to ourselves…now this is the life! We don’t heed warnings or think about God. At least not as much as we should. And then, I think about how we ultimately get hurt.

But if our heart is right…we will find our way down a simple wooded path that leads to a still pond and an empty picnic table. Only the table isn’t really empty. Jesus is waiting there. He’s been ever-so patiently waiting for us to come back and sit beside Him. He wants us to bare our soul and humbly speak to Him without reservation.

This, I believe, is the best date…ever.

When I think of Jesus sitting on a throne, I don’t think He’d be disappointed that I choose to envision Him sitting at a picnic table in the middle of a woods surrounded by all that He created. I think He just might approve of that.

The best date will always be time spent with Jesus. ♥️

Andi

Fathers

When we discuss children often we refer to the mother as the main person of interest in their lives. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I am perhaps what many would consider old fashioned in my view of the structure of the family. That’s okay. I don’t mind. Because I believe in God’s perfect design. And if that makes me old fashioned, so be it. God’s word, God’s design, will never be outdated in His eyes. You see, He doesn’t change to fit the changing times or for our will. We are to confirm to His way. But the we tend to pull away from His goodness, His safety, His perfection, His will. That just won’t end well.

Fathers should be the rock of the family. The leader, the security, a good provider, the strength…yet loving, caring, patient, and compassionate. A lot is expected of a man.

(I am not downplaying the role of a woman in the family. God blessed her quite uniquely. The strength she carries is almost beyond comprehension. God is mindful of her needs and gives her a place of glory in His design.)

But today we celebrate fathers.

I am blessed to know several good fathers. Men that aren’t afraid to show love. Men who listen. Men who strive to be ever present in their children’s lives. Men who can say I’m sorry. Men who love God.

I like appreciate the men in my life. I enjoy watching them interact with their children. It makes me happy. I’m sure it’s quite pleasing to God as well.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. To men who are biological fathers and to those who have taken on a fatherly role in a child’s life. Thank you for your contribution to healthier, happier children and homes, and ultimately, a better society. ♥️

Andi

Love you, Daddy. ♥️

Under the Tuscan Sun

I’m currently in the process of writing a post about my journey to Italy in June of 2012. Hopefully soon, I will be ready to share it with you. Tonight I watched Under the Tuscan Sun. I believe it is one of my favorites.

I love Italy. I love the language. I love the people. I love that it is a part of my heritage. And I love how it connects me with my father. As big as our differences were we shared many of the same loves. Italy was one of them.

Diane Lane stars in the movie as a recently divorced writer (hmmm…sound like anyone you know?) who is given a trip, a gift from friends, to tour Tuscany. While there, she buys a villa. Like me, she falls in love with the people, the language, and the spirit of Italy. But she also falls in love with a beautiful Italian man. Sadly, he breaks her heart.

There was a line in the movie that says something like, Love makes people do stupid things. That kind of hit home with me.

My history is that of doing stupid things when in love. Actually, I am talented enough to do stupid things when out of love as well.

I hope to travel to Italy another day. There’s so much I haven’t explored. Ha! Maybe I’ll buy a villa. And maybe I’ll fall in love and do stupid things in another country.

I do hope to share some of my 2012 Italian adventure with you soon. Most likely it will be a two-parter as it’s getting rather lengthy. Plus, I have so many pictures I want to share!

Until then…have a beautiful weekend. ♥️

Andi

Photos: Under the Italian sky, in the region of Abruzzo, June 2012 (Casoli is the peak right above my head. It’s where I temporarily called home.)

Wishin’ for Fishin’

This time of year sends my heart back to Minnesota with my family. The summer vacations there were fun for us three kids.

We’d pack up our station wagon in anticipation of the long drive to our grandparents’ house. Sometimes we’d pull our pop-up camper. This was long before the seatbelt laws and we’d have our spaces picked out in the back of the station wagon. We would take whatever dogs we had at the time. Once we even took Petunia, my guinea pig.

Grandma and Grandpa’s house was once a garage. It was small but cozy. It actually had a basement which was damp and always smelled like dill pickles as all the canning jars were stored under the stairs. There were two small make-shift bedrooms and a small bathroom. I slept on a very creaky old bed with a very beaten up mattress. There were lots of old things down there. I loved that old basement.

In front of Grandma’s house which was once a garage.

Once there, we kids wasted no time walking to Thomas’ general store at the end of Grandma’s street, up on the hill, to load up on candy. When we were still young, mom would walk with us downtown. Woolworth’s was our favorite stop. It was a great store with lots of souvenirs and a little bit of everything. Aunt Millie worked the soda fountain. We sat at old fashioned stools at the counter and if I remember correctly, you could order fountain drinks, sandwiches, and fries. I loved that place! We never left without spending money that we saved throughout the year.

When we were older we’d walk downtown on our own. We’d look for discarded cardboard boxes. When we each found a nice sized box, we’d take them back to Grandma’s. From Grandma’s front step you could see Indian Hill across the highway. The story was that the hill was a mound, a ancient burial ground for Indians. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I doubt it but it was pretty interesting to a young kid.

We’d take our boxes to the top of that hill. We’d unfold them to make them lie flat. Then we’d sit on them and fly down the side of that hill, laughing all the way down.

When I think of our trips there, I first think of our fishing trips. Dad would take us kids fishing one at a time. We’d get up really early when it was still quite chilly. Sweatshirts were worn in the morning and then we’d be burning up by afternoon. The lakes up there are filled with such a variety of fish. Sunfish, blue hill, walleye, northern pike, trout, bass, etc. Dad would spend lots of time fishing with Uncle Victor too. From my trip to North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, I brought home five rods and reels of my dad’s. Oh, and his tackle box.

Me, with a small catch…

We ate fish everyday while there during our three weeks or so. Fish for breakfast was amazing. Fried fish, fried eggs, fried potatoes, toast, juice, cereal. It was a feast!

My brother and his catch of the day

This time of year, I am always wishin’ for fishin’. Every year my mind travels back to those youthful, carefree summer days in Minnesota with my family.

When we were older, in Grandma’s kitchen…

Cherish everyday with family and friends. Make great memories together. Don’t take anything for granted. Those days do not last forever, but the memories will. ♥️

Andi

Dakota Chez

Matthew 19:14
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.

My oldest daughter is pregnant with her second child. A precious boy! We are so excited. He is my second grandson. My granddaughter, Dakota Chez (pronounced “shay”), is named after a baby raccoon I once had. Her other grandma once had a dog named Chez. I think it’s a beautiful combination. Kota is a bright, happy three year old with a heart as big as the moon.

Proverbs 27:6
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.

My daughter sent this text to me last night. It made me think of the perfection, the innocence, the purity of a child. A blessing from the Lord.

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Kota comes up to me while I’m rocking in my chair, sits on my lap, and asks “Does your tummy hurt?”

“Nope. I feel good.”

“You feel good? Is my baby brother awake?”

She lifts my shirt and places her hands on my belly.

“No, I think he’s asleep right now.”

“Oh, he’s asleep? I feel him kicking me, Mommy!”

She laughs and asks me where his butt is, where his arms are, and where his head is. I point it all out to her and then she lays her head on my belly and whispers, “I love you.”

Kota looks back up at me and asks, “Do you think he loves me? I won’t ever leave him.”

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My heart rejoices at the love Dakota has for her unborn brother. Her mother cried. I certainly did too.

Matthew 18:3
Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I am grateful for God’s design. The beauty of a young family. The miracle of pregnancy and childbirth. The preciousness of wee ones, tiny boys and girls. ♥️

Andi