Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The only thing better than drinking wine in your wedding dress with your BFF...

Yes, I'm still a huge Friends fan.  And yes, I still fantasize about whipping out my wedding dress on a random Friday night, sitting on the couch, and drinking wine with Shawna.  But, the odds of us 1. having a night alone to drink wine, and 2. fitting into our pre-baby 8-10 years ago dresses are, well.... let's just say we don't get much time alone.

But back to the only thing to do with your old wedding dress that's more fun than that....

Letting your little girls try it on!

Talk about excited kiddos!  I realized the other day that I'd never actually shown them my dress.  In fact, I hadn't opened it once since having it preserved in a box to be stored in my closet these past 10 years.  Since 20 year old Michael told me when we got married that we could renew our vows and do fun stuff like taking anniversary pictures in our wedding attire IF I could still fit into it (he said with a laugh and very little apparent faith), I couldn't help but break it out to test the theory.  You see, we have our first big milestone anniversary this summer and I'm plotting a pretty snazzy anniversary shoot, just to prove to 20 year old Michael it can be done. (side note - I'm shockingly close to getting it zipped!)

These two, on the other hand, had to be clipped and cinched in and still basically had to hold it up to stay on.  But they didn't care.  Give a girl a tiara and a giant sparkly dress and she is happy!  Annalyn kept saying that she felt like a princess and a "wedding girl" and didn't want to take it off.  She looked so pretty and grown up and I couldn't help but hope that she will want to wear my dress someday (not that I would blame her for wanting her own.  After all, I do have a backup daughter...)

Planning to have this one framed to give to her some day. 
Like when she's 35.

Emelina chose this special moment to try out all her funny faces.  She spanned just about every silly, happy expression she could muster.  She had a harder time holding it up and the clip I used wasn't holding as well for her since there was more fabric overlapping.  But she got to be "Cinderella" for awhile, too.  I just love how her personality is developing lately!

At some point, just fell over and was eaten by tulle.

Then came this precious, classic Emma face:

And this sweet baby:

I used some of the pictures to make a collage mug for Michael.  I intended to keep it for his birthday, but I was too excited to show him the pictures to not give it to him when it came.  All in all, it was a sweet little Friday afternoon experience and we all enjoyed a little walk down memory lane to the day when Mama got to dress like a princess and marry her prince.  Even if I have to share him with these little princesses.

To be continued...

in 30+ years...

when/if we let them out of their towers...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Dear Grandma, Goodbye

Friday 3/25/16

Dear Grandma,

I have been trying to figure out how to write a tribute to you, but I can't seem to get it right.  How can I describe in words what you mean to me and to all of us?  I am sure going to miss writing to you and receiving your beautifully written, perfectly conversational letters.  I keep re-reading them and every time it feels like you're right beside me telling me the stories.  You had such a gift with words.

You would've loved your funeral, Grandma.  Mom and Aunt Kathy did a great job planning it.  The flowers were bright, cheery, and smelled like Spring.  There were lots of pinks and purples and they really brought out the rose gold of the casket your kids unanimously picked.  The pastor did a wonderful job, too.  I can see why you liked her so much at South Haven.  She has a beautiful singing voice and I could just picture you singing along to the words of "Amazing Grace."  She wrote an acrostic using the word CHEER to tell your story, and it was very honest, sweet, and fitting.  I wish I could remember what all of the letters stood for.  I know the C had a few words: creative, clever, and caregiver.  The H was for honesty.  One of the E's was energetic.  But I can't seem to recall the rest.  It was so hard to hang on to her words when I was so desperately trying to hang on to you.  There were stories to go along with most of them and every single one painted a perfect picture of the woman we all knew and loved. 

After that, she opened it up for anyone that wanted to share a memory, and although I wanted to share a bit of my favorite letter from you, I just couldn't pull it together long enough to do it.  I shared it with some of the family later that weekend at Kathy's house and we all agreed - it felt like having you right there beside us.  I especially loved the story that your honorary sister/best friend, Deanne, shared about coming to see you and being scared when you and Randy took off running out the front door and down the road.  When she caught up to you in her car and asked what was wrong, you simply replied, "Oh, nothing, I's just racing Randy."  What I wouldn't give to see that!

That day was so cold outside compared to what it had been the week or two before, and when we went to the cemetery, it even snowed.  I like to think that you were up there chatting away with Mother Nature and she let you "press the buttons" to see how it all worked.  But maybe that's just the little piece of your creativity and imagination left in me.  My Annalyn sure has some of that in her. You wouldn't believe the stories and songs that little girls makes up.  I'll have to make a note to remind Mom to teach her your infamous purple plums song.

Before we came back home, we stopped by your house one last time, since I'm assuming it will be sold by the time we come back again.  It's hard to imagine someone else living in it after all these years.  Everyone laughed when I told them I took a rock from the backyard, but I knew you'd approve.  I have no way of knowing, but I'd like to think it's one of the rocks you carried on your lap on the back of the motorcycle on your way back from one of your travels.  Either way, it's pretty, it's pink, and it was yours.  That makes it a treasure in my book!  Plus it reminds me of all the walks we took around Colon collecting all the prettiest purdiest rocks along the gravel roads.  I bet there are some beautiful roads for you and Grandpa to walk along up in Heaven.  I know how happy he must be to have you with him again. 

We will always miss you guys, but we rejoice knowing that God is always right beside you, and us, and that you are together again.  Nobody wanted to see you hurting and unable to breathe.  What a relief it must have been for you to take your last painful, labored breath here on Earth, and have it followed by your first deep, cleansing breath in Heaven.  I love you so much, Grandma, and I hope I can live to be someone you'll be proud to watch over everyday.

Love you forever and ever,


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Always Right Beside You

Although I've never had the luxury of living down the road from my grandma, or even a couple hours down a highway like my kids do, I've built and maintained a pretty special relationship with my mother's mother.  She's the one who taught me that no baking session is complete without a host of brightly colored aprons and no recipe worth knowing is worth writing down.  Let's be honest, most of Grandma's recipes are a dash and a pinch and a splash and a taste... and completely impossible to reproduce exactly.  That's why we love them.

Beyond our shared love of cooking, Grandma also shared with me her love of writing, photographing, and sharing memories.  My grandpa built her a special bookcase just to hold all of her photo albums with pictures from their travels.  My guess is that she would've loved blogging!

Around the time I got married, I started a box to keep all of the handwritten letters my grandma's sent me.  I am so glad that I did (and wish I'd started sooner).  I love reading and rereading those letters, written in Grandma's perfect handwriting.  I especially appreciate all the little newspaper clippings, recipes, etc. that she sent to let me know she was thinking of me.  Of all the gifts, her words are what I value the most and will miss more than anything. 

With this in mind, I searched Etsy for the perfect way to honor that gift.  I'd seen several different types of jewelry made from loved ones' handwriting and started sifting through the letters I'd collected for the perfect word or phrase.  I had several good options, but unlike many people who make these to honor deceased loved ones, I realized that I could just ask her.  I didn't tell her what it was for, just asked her if she would write down the one word, phrase, or thought that she would have me carry with me always.  Being known for her windy story telling, I knew one word would never be enough, but the advice was heartfelt and perfect.

Once I had the message, I decided which words I wanted to use:  always right beside you.  I thought this perfectly captured the message of Grandma's words.  Always - not just when we need Him most, not sometimes, ALWAYS.  Right beside you - not watching over, or there for you, but RIGHT BESIDE YOU like a friend, a companion, a parent, a guide.  As always, Grandma's words were perfect.  For me, the bracelet has a double meaning - Grandma's original message, but also that she (and her words) are always right beside me.  It's her words, in her handwriting, right there on my wrist every time I look down and need to see them. 

The Etsy shop that I chose for the bracelet was Caitlin Minimalist.  I liked that she gave the ability to have more than one line of wording, it was slightly curved, and had an attractive chain (I really like the little feather charm on the clasp, too).  She was great to work with, shipped quickly, and the handwriting was a pretty perfect match.  I made two others for my mom and sister and all three came out almost identical.  So far, I've been wearing my bracelet almost daily for about a month and haven't had any issues.  I wear it more to work than at home since we've been doing some house projects and I was a little concerned about breaking it.
The past year has been a tough one for Grandma, as she's battled worsening pulmonary fibrosis. It has been incredibly hard to watch, knowing how uncomfortable she is. It's been especially hard not being able to go see her lately since my vacation is set way in advance and I don't always get the weeks I request. Our words and letters and pictures have been all we've had to stay connected. I am forever grateful that my Aunt Kathy drove her out to our new house last year right after we moved in. I got to show her our house, our town, and walk her around our property (taking lots of pictures, of course). That memory, along with so many others, is and will always be just where I need it - right beside me.