The sunrise hurt and I needed to get closer. Spying a jeweled dragonfly, a living brooch, I crept the boardwalk into my globe.
Not a snow globe, but a sand globe, whirling with cawing seagulls and cliquish pelicans. A grey blur whizzed past my feet in the shallows and I stared into the viewmaster of the sea. I smelled memories in the air and felt the blanket of the heavy summer drape over my skin. I busily attempted nothing and actively saw everything.
My mind quietened and I motionlessly drew closer to my Creator.
Entering my office last week I noticed a circular mound of grass on the ground. Upon closer inspection, I eyed a spiral mass of dried flowers and feathers, a bird’s nest. Tiny beaks had laboriously sewn and molded a home for their young. Now it lie empty and abandoned. It was literally an empty nest. Mine, on the other hand, was anything but empty. It was the BULGING NEST!
What is the correct term for an empty nest that isn’t ever empty? Once children graduate high school and leave for college the common phrase is that you have an “empty nest.” Our daughter has flown the coop but our three sons keep flying right back. I think they take turns coming home to ensure their father never lacks a playmate. My husband weeps when they leave. He says I’d fuel the Greyhound goodbye if I could. It’s not that I don’t love my family, it’s just that I enjoy the peace, cleanliness, and not having to do incessant chores.
Our home might never be empty because we have the fun house on the water. Maybe it’s because my husband will cook nearly anything for them. Maybe it’s because I will wash their laundry. I don’t know. But this summer, for example, I’d drive home from work to find at least one son and his friends lifting weights in our garage while blaring base for our neighbors’ enjoyment. Or, a crew would be headed to or from the boat on the river. Weekends ensured many of their friends also spent the night. Couches spawned bodies on Saturday mornings. Some were expected while others just spontaneously arrived. For this reason, my husband started calling our house Motel 6. Yep, we’d leave the light on for you!
As much as I’d like less noise, privacy and a tidied home, I’ve been warned not to wish away all the flurry of activity. My older friends say I will one day miss it all. Borrowing a saying from my father in law, I counter, “it sure would be nice to miss” it. With fall semester beginning, my husband gets teary talking about our boys heading back to school. Me? I think I will be fine. I look forward to missing them.
Someone once said “parenting is only hard if you care.” I must have cared too much. If my angst wasn’t obvious on the outside, it was FULL THROTTLE on the inside. I fretted over every. single. detail. Circumstancially, we had four children under the age of two. Four were in diapers at ONE TIME. Sometimes things were insane (more like frequently to be completely honest). Ofcourse I got some help (with child care and the counseling sort). But despite the “circus of life” our family has lived, I am finally seeing a positive outcome- the fruits of our labor are sprouting!
We are still actively parenting, don’t be fooled I think our job is complete. But a recent family gathering shed light on how far we have come. Mind you, structured chaos was where we started but fine young men and a young lady were what I saw this weekend. Our daughter brought home her first “suitor” (male friend with serious potential) and the entire family was present. She actually WANTED us all there to meet this person. I was so shocked that I even questioned her decision. I was a little afraid we would embarass her with our Type A, boisterous behavior. Worse, I feared her father’s inquisition of this criminal, I mean boyfriend.
Turns out, by the time he left, I had the epiphany that all went pretty well overall and that if he got scared off, it wasn’t because we weren’t kind, open and accepting. Our family is super loud (check). Our family is upfront and open (what you see is what you get). Our family is accepting and warm (we don’t care your race or religion- in fact, the more different, the more interesting). Our family is there for each other (we might rip each other to shreds occasionally but we show up for one another). There are no secrets (no skeletons in our closets, we parade them).
At first I chided my husband to watch his mouth, excessive questioning, and tendency to put a plate on the ground for the dog to lick. I just knew that would send this guy packing. I couldn’t get rid of the 5 rescue animals either so just went with all of it. The first night was rough and my husband accused me of trying to create a diamond out of coal in my backside. (Go ahead and laugh, it’s probably partly true.) However, tensions and pretensions eased throughout the weekend and finally her friend was able to joke he was moving his flight up. I knew things were cool then.
Our three sons were amazing. One even spoke so highly of his sister that I teared up. They all attended everything we wanted (doesn’t happen enough) and behaved very well. They were actually being respectful of their sister. None did what they joked about prior like wrestling him (they are triplet males, wrestling is their love language) or challenging him in weight lifting. Talking about making a mama proud!
My sister said we need to be on a reality show. I find our unscripted reality frequently hilarious. As someone once said, “You can’t make this stuff up.” But we have stayed together and we love each other, even when it has not been easy to do. The “Circus of Life” the Turners lived, live and will live is worth the ticket price. I’m in.
We use A LOT of words in our household. Some would add we use too many. This is probably true. Rare is the occasion when we don’t know how each other feels. You’d think we were first generation Italian just without all the good food. Occasionally, the word pollution can be too much, but it can also be really funny.
My young adult, triplet sons are merciless when it comes to ragging on each other. They are so quick witted with comebacks that I struggle not to laugh out loud at their lightening quick, verbal assaults. It seems no subject matter is off limits either. I might cringe on occasion, but I do have to admit that they are very creative in their put downs. Too bad there isn’t a paying summer job for their exceptional talent.
One such occasion was Mother’s Day about a year ago. Our family went to a steak house for dinner and was waiting to order when one brother looked across the table at the other and made an annoying comment about his haircut. Without any expression, the recepient of the comment deadpanned, “What? I can’t hear you through your perm.”
They can be merciless in poking fun at me too. Mom jokes are a team effort. “Type A++” is their description of me due to my incessant house cleaning. I also get compared to the You Tube video of the son dressed up as a mom yelling at everyone to, “Throw everything away! Make our house look like no one lives here!” Also, long ago two words became bad in our home: the “f” word (which was “fat”) and the “o” word (which was “old”). They may say a lot of things about me, but I don’t like to hear either when they tease me.
Our elderly chihuahua isn’t spared the heat either. She’s a 14 year old, 9 pound rescue. Her sight has deteriorated to the point she occassionaly walks into trees. She also has trouble hearing so one son renamed her “Helen Keller.” She doesn’t seem to care.
Recently, when inquiring what the triplets wanted for their birthday, I mentioned possibly getting all three ear pods. One son immediately countered, “First of all, it’s Air Pods, and secondly, I’d rather get a telescope and just steal their’s.”
The stranger’s name was Dexter. He was an older male, reserved, quiet and wary of others. I tried to be friendly but he seemed completely disinterested in any conversation. At one point he even turned his back towards me to get his point across. Finally, I relented and left him alone. Dexter was an attractive, tie-wearing yorkie with missing teeth.
His owner, on the other hand was very chatty. Like Dexter, he was an older gentleman that went everywhere with his tiny companion. I asked how he chose a yorkie and he said he didn’t, his wife had brought it home unannounced a long time ago. He went on to share she had died of cancer and now he and Dexter were as thick as thieves. He got teary after I told him she was better off than us. He said she had…
Staring at 4,000 year old ruins bent my mind into a new shape. I was literally walking through the Old Testament. Item one on my bucket list was checked off. I was finally in Israel and on a pilgrimage through the Holy Land.
It seemed the timing was perfect and I felt drawn there. Having declined an opportunity to go years prior, I decided I wasn’t letting this chance go. One of my sons wanted to go too so we signed up together. Classes were attended in preparation and 9 months of anticipation followed.
The first day we overlooked azure waters of the Mediterranean while sitting in a Roman amphitheater- otherwise known as the “Vomitorium.” Next door were palace ruins of the Roman Centurions. Pontious Pilate was one. Progressing inland from Israel’s coast, we traveled through time going back four millennia. The toppled remnants of ancient cities whispered their stories both sad and shocking. One site, Megiddo, was a layer cake of ancient city upon city that literally stacked on top of the other. The valley below was Armageddon and we wondered if all would one day end there?
Our guide was unusual in that she comprised the last remnant of Christians living in the Holy Land. Less than two percent are left in all of Israel, including Palestine. She shared that when she asked her mom why they stayed when others moved away, her mother said, “We have to stay. Otherwise there will be no more living stones in the Holy Land.” That saying inked itself on my heart. I realized as a Christian, I also am called to be a living stone- wherever that may be.
The landscape of Israel was glorious as wildflowers in brilliant yellow, red and lavender peeked between ancient stones. The lush, green valley of “milk and honey” was blooming with fruit and olive trees. I could easily understand why it was the “Promised Land.” Israel was achingly beautiful.
Our sacred site visits included history and geopolitical lessons that increased our understanding of the past and present. Scripture readings added to the spiritual significance of each location. The Bible suddenly became three dimensional. Stories were no longer fable-like but tangibly real. All of a sudden I wanted everyone I knew with me. Instead, I did the next best thing and posted pictures each day on Facebook.
Our schedule was extremely tight allowing for little rest. It did not matter, however, because as our guide said, we were pilgrims, not vacationers. Rain was a mere inconvenience and didn’t stop the day’s schedule. Danger was never a concern — the most dangerous thing about Israel was walking while looking down at your phone. You were sure to trip or fall over something if not paying attention. No, I was not once scared and yes, I will go back, God willing.
My “aha” moment occurred while in Jerusalem. I was down in the Sacred Pit where Jesus was thrown after being wrongly convicted. He was beaten, deserted by all His friends, and thrust into a pitch-black, cavelike prison. He must have fallen 20 or more feet against the cold, hard stone. All of a sudden His pain, suffering and loneliness hit me. HE KNOWS, I realized. HE FELT EXACTLY HOW WE DO BUT WORSE…I began to cry and couldn’t stop. (I am not a cryer, for the record.) Recognizing He felt every imaginable human suffering and knowingly went through it all gave me gratitude beyond measure. It was comforting to know that even though He experienced extreme, human suffering, He loved us enough to die on the cross. He became the ultimate sacrifice and sin was defeated. There was nothing left to fear, I realized! My heart nearly exploded with gratitude.
Once we reached Golgotha, tears dried as I knew the triumphant outcome. Jesus wasn’t in the tomb, nor would He ever be. He arose and ascended to be with His (and our) Father. The stone, skull facade of Golgotha peered at me but I didn’t feel dread. I had received the hope-filled message. I needed to bring Israel with me and become a Living Stone.
Eyeing a monarch butterfly flutter about colorful blooms is a majestic sight. The butterfly is a symbol of our Creator’s handiwork and His mysterious attention to detail. Their humble origin, as a tiny, hidden egg is forgotten as they morph from unsightly caterpillar into one of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Their life cycle also draws a parallel to parenting. Parenting involves A LOT of the following: resources, patience, and restraint. Those are also vital for the survival and maturation of a butterfly. Once the life cycle is complete, the adult monarch launches off to find its own way in the world exactly like our children.
Being a parent to four young adults, I have had my share of struggles. I was once told that being a parent was only difficult if you cared. Maybe at times I overly cared. It’s the marathon race you never finish. The paycheck you never cash in. The prize you (at times) wish to return. If Michaelangelo painted “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” I am living it out in human form. Can I get an amen?
The butterfly’s life cycle, like parenting, goes through stages. Its first stage, the egg, is our children during the elementary years. It is easy to define and execute your role as parent and you have relative control over the life of your child. By the second stage, or the caterpillar phase, your child gets heavily involved in sports or activities. You provide all the resources and assistance available to give your child as much opportunity as possible. By the pupae or “chrysalis” phase, your child is an adolescent or young adult being influenced moreso by peers and developing their own ideas. This is where things get tricky for parents. How much to intervene? When to and how? How much advice do I give/ withold/ force? Do I respect my children’s privacy or invade like a Nordic Viking? This is the crucial phase when helping can actually hinder. Just as a chrysalis must be left alone so it can work its wings to push the pupae open and gain strength, our young adults need room to work their “wings” to gain strength. Sadly, helping a chrysalis open cripples their ability to fly. Watching an adolescent struggle is physically painful for a parent, however, not intervening may be the best parenting we can provide.
Observing my own child struggle, manage difficulties only later to realize success is the sweetest of parenting victories. Too bad for the mama monarch- she doesn’t get that satisfaction. She’s gone as soon as she lays the egg.
The title of this comes from a story an author shared about herself in a Bible Study. She was mortified at her young child’s response to an elderly neighbor. The child reflected her concern for another while the mom did not. The mom wasn’t being mean, she just was in a hurry. What trait did she lack her daughter acted on? It was integrity. Why was it integrity and not hospitality? Because the daughter knew they needed to be somewhere and still cared enough about the relationship to explain.
Integrity is defined as being honest and having strong moral principles. I laughingly shared with someone recently about how years ago I read the simple statement, “You can tell a lot about someone by what they do with their shopping cart.” To this day, I cannot leave a cart somewhere random. A silly little statement has stuck with me. Am I acting ridiculous? Maybe, but I like to think I am doing the right thing. Why does it even matter to me? Because I believe a higher power is watching.
When I was married only a few years I decided to put a symbol on my car. It was the Christian sign of the fish. My husband asked me to please take it off. When I asked him why he said, “Because what if I get road rage? Then I’ll be a bad Christian example.” It’s funny he said that but he was spot on honest. Embarassingly, I often feel like the dog in the pic above if I get cut off in traffic or someone drives extra slow in the left lane. It’s human of me, but still something I have to keep in check. I don’t want to respond to that person’s behavior and get ugly. It’s so much more satisfying to end up right behind them at a red light and watch as they strain to appear busy and not notice me directly behind them. Just kidding! (Not really.)
Most people have no idea they are being rude and careless when they serve just themselves and ignore others. I’m not talking about the buffet line either. I’m talking about in all things. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s whenever we focus 100% on our wants/needs and ignore everyone else’s. Ironically, the outcome is usually not positive or rewarding anyway.
The news is chock full of people that have sold all their integrity for power and money. I recently read about a very wealthy, powerful man reduced to begging for leniency from a judge. He was no longer wealthy due to owing paybacks and certainly no longer on a power trip. But sadly, his integrity was already long gone. He was reaping what he sowed. What did that leave him to ponder in the dark at 3 a.m.? I’d prefer modest means, zero notoriety and personal peace myself.
The family name used to be a quick detection of someone’s character. Now, it’s a whole lot harder to figure someone’s true colors (or integrity.) I have always believed that my word needed to mean something. The Bible tells us that we should “let our no be no and our yes be yes.” I am assuming that’s because we shouldn’t need additional adjectives to prove our point if we are truly being honest. I also care about my reputation. I don’t care about it so people will like me, however. I’d rather be honest and hated than dishonest and loved. That way I can stand myself and tolerate my own existence.
Someone doesn’t have to look a certain way or be part of a certain pedigree or social class to have integrity. Some privileged people have the least. It’s either in you or it’s not. It can be taught but it’s within someone to choose it or not. I’d rather spend all my time with a person of integrity than someone without. You come away without all the questioning. It’s so much more rewarding and easier too.
The world offers prestige, fame and honor. It celebrates youth, success, pedigree and money. Somewhere along the way, all that has lost its luster for me. I’d rather just hang out with the authentically unique, the older, the wiser and the decidedly honest. I especially love a combo of any or all of these. These relationships are much more meaningful. I get to see a whole lot more integrity too. Who knows, maybe some of theirs will rub off on me.
Easter is coming soon after Lenten season and celebration of our risen Savior will be at last. It also brings with it plenty of interesting family memories. We have accrued a few that will surely be passed down through the family annals.
The tradition of dying real, hard boiled eggs is a mystery to me. I’ve never escaped the ritual nor come away with anything but discolored fingertips every Easter morning. However, it’s a tradition and the Turners don’t ask questions, we just do. On one Easter eve many years ago, my husband hid all the colored eggs INSIDE our house. There were almost three dozen and I was a bit upset to find dye on way more than the eggs. Plus, someone needs to REMEMBER where they were hidden, right? A belated found egg could result in an unwelcome stench. The following year I begged, pleaded, and nearly cried to have them hidden outside in the childrens’ play-yard instead. Their dad reluctantly agreed and all were hidden safely outside the night before. Unforeseen circumstances had it that a raccoon must have been watching and grinning nearby because on Easter morning, only two eggs could be found and many shells laid scattered. No one sided with mama after that so all future eggs were hidden back INSIDE our house once again.
On another Easter occasion, we had a parent’s nightmare. The family dog, Fluffy, was big, fat and named after the three headed Rottweiler off Harry Potter. He was loving and tolerant of childrens’ antics but a demon when it came to small rodents or cats. So, luck would have it that bright and early on Easter morning, Fluffy had just so happened to chase, catch, and kill a bunny RIGHT OUTSIDE our home. Neither us parents noticed until too late and the boys saw the evidence. One then cried, “Fluffy ate the Easter Bunny!!!” It was a gruesome sight and difficult to explain it wasn’t THE Easter Bunny but just happened to be a rabbit he caught. Those four young, sad, quizzical faces will be imprinted in our minds forever.
Easter morning pictures were somehow mandatory and I want to cold cock whoever said it had to be done. I’d force dress up the boys and our daughter would dutifully don her new Easter outfit. Then I’d attempt to stage a photo before we left for church. This was a necessity because it also became a tradition for our sons to roll down the green knoll outside the church in a pile each Sunday.
Somehow, we got through all the traditions and now we just attempt at dying eggs as there are less takers. I try to avoid the “duty of dye” and have relaxed all my Easter expectations. A little dye, unmatched outfits and the dreaded family pic are all in the past. Now I just wish to have all four home on Easter. A colorful jewel-toned egg would even be a welcome site peeking out behind a pillow.
I often refer to my children’s’ father as the Pied Piper. He’s the Huck Finn type and proved it when he relocated our family outside city limits to the river. He said this way we’d avoid HOA violations because we weren’t “neighborhood people.”
Our new home was actually an old fishing cabin on a sandy creek. It had been added onto multiple times and I’d swear there wasn’t one square angle in the house. Gold speck counter tops, a blue toilet and matching cast iron tub weren’t exactly swoon worthy. I also noticed Elvis -era red linoleum in corners, painted paneling and SEVEN sliding glass doors. It wasn’t my dream house by any stretch. The property, however, was beautiful and offered a sandy bank along a creek for the children to explore, swim and play. He’d always wanted to live by the water and assured me that the children would benefit. Longer rides to town, a fixer upper, and multiple safety fences had me thinking otherwise. Somehow he convinced me we’d one day fix it up and we made the move.
Adventures were weekly conquests and the children ate them up. An example was the “wave pool.” Their dad put layers of visqueen in the back of his truck and filled it with water. Then he put all the kids in the back and drove them up and down our bumpy, dirt road to simulate waves. We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies but the kids got a wave pool, by gosh.
Another method of his childcare containment was the boat. It became our playpen during winter. We’d bundle the kids up and put life jackets on and go on long boat rides. This was nearly every Saturday. This kept them contained and happy (as long as nobody pushed anybody off their seat.)
One of their favorite water activities was the slip and slide. This was created by 50 yards of visqueen and a quart of Dawn dish liquid. My husband would lay the plastic sheeting down a sloping hill and run water to it with an extension hose. Our kids, their friends and a few parents would run, dive, and howl with laughter flying down the hill. Occasionally, he’d add hay bales to avoid people sliding into trees. This ritual became a yearly event.
Trips to “the chards” were another pastime. Unique to our creek were clay potters a century ago. That left pottery shards and jugs discarded along banks and submerged under water. My husband would pile kids in the canoe and paddle them way up the creek. He’d tell them he’d give $50 to whoever found an intact jug. LOTS of pottery pieces, or shards, have been discovered over the years and maybe two full jugs. Those are some of his prized possessions proudly displayed in our home today.
River life has been great raising our brood. Lots of fun memories and yes, we did eventually remodel. I don’t miss the blue toilet and got rid of every sliding glass door. Elvis no longer reigns in decor either.