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Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Much Sooner Than I Did

Just pick up the pencil

Lower expectations

Be flexible

It’s perfectly ok to celebrate Christmas on a day other than the 25th

I sit, Starbucks Hong Kong coffee mug in hand, as the sun streams through the window and warms my chilled body. I guess I can say I have been there, even though it was just a brief layover, flying from China to Indonesia. After all, I do have the mug to prove it.

As I ponder what to write, a myriad of ideas dart every direction in my head and smash into each other, leaving me with nothing but disjointed, unorganized thoughts. I know I need to work on my book, but today just isn’t the day. Then, when I am about to slam the computer shut, it comes. Still not completely clear, but at least a few uncluttered notions:

Get it down on paper while it’s fresh on your mind.

 Future generations may want to read it.

Just write one sentence, then another, then another…

Keep reminding self: Many sentences make a story!

Christmas 2019

Just a few days before Christmas 2019, I had only one question, “Didn’t we just have Thanksgiving?” On this year it fell on the 28th (the latest possible date it can be.)   Both my husband’s and my birthdays are in December and our anniversary on January 1st. With Christmas on the heels of Thanksgiving this year all of these special dates seemed to literally bump into each other. Thanksgiving definitely got the short end of the stick, with Christmas festivities and decorations merrily hijacking it. Even I, who has always believed it to be just plain wrong to commence with holiday decorations before Thanksgiving, succumbed. Yes, I caved in to the pressure of putting up the tree days before the turkey was carved!

Our 25th of December morning began with just the two of us and no presents under the tree to open. That was okay because we had already gifted each other with a future “event” (attendance at the Colson Center’s Wilberforce weekend in Arlington, Virginia) which had been on my bucket list for several years.

Our day included an afternoon trip to the airport in Austin to pick up our Chicago kids. How could we make the day special for three teens, one three-nager and their parents? With no restaurants open, we knew we had better come up with a plan for feeding two 6’ 4” boys (uh, I mean, young adults, as they constantly remind me), a petite fourteen-year-old girl who eats as much as her brothers (where does she put it?!) and a three-year-old who is always hungry. A bottle of water and a granola bar was not going to suffice.

So, hubby and I spent our Christmas morning in the kitchen making a picnic fit for a king (or queen), perfect for a tailgate party.

As predicted, the kids got off the plane starving. No way could we have made the long drive home from the airport without some pretty hangry peoples. A little side note: Hunger to teenagers translates into, “If I don’t get food I’m going to die!”

The dazzling Johnson City Christmas lights turned out to be the perfect setting for our Christmas meal. These Chicago-land people, used to their heavy parkas and gloves by now, jumped out of the van to a pleasant surprise–their feet landed on soft green stuff instead of crunchy white stuff. They could hardly believe our pleasant Texas Hill Country evening. Everyone grabbed a bag or cooler and headed for the one picnic table that just happened to be right in front of the courthouse.

Our table, set with green and red paper holiday plates and candles to light the table as it got darker, looked beautiful. The main entrée of Texas Crock-pot pulled pork, along with buns, chips, salsa and hummus got everyone’s attention. And what would a Christmas day/eve dinner be without 2019’s ever-popular charcuterie board filled with an assortment of cheeses, crackers, Texas Longhorn summer sausage, chips, olives, nuts, and fruit?!  Hot chocolate and cookies satisfied our sweet tooth and topped off the food selection for our tailgate party on a table.

As the sun slowly dipped behind the horizon, the lights on the courthouse and quaint little houses on the streets surrounding it brightly glistened against the dark sky. The entire area transformed into a twinkling fairyland that could have easily passed for a portrait by the famous artist, Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light.”

The kids chased each other on the lawn and the adults reveled in the soft quiet of the night by the brightly lit sign outlined by tiny lights that spelled out in fancy cursive letters, Hill Country Style. It was truly a Hill Country Style evening I will not soon forget.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to lower expectations and be flexible when family gathers in large groups for extended periods of time. I wouldn’t have chosen Christmas Day to make a run to the airport, thus necessitating our family celebration to be scheduled later in the week. But, it happened this year, and we still managed to make some memories. I can just hear the kids-young adults-in 2030, saying, “Yeah, remember that year we had a tailgate party on Christmas day and we didn’t have to eat turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce?!”

Maybe, just maybe, it’s perfectly acceptable to occasionally dispense with the year-to-year same old traditions and try something new. And maybe it’s okay to just do it once!

So, What Are We Going To Do Today?

Grandchildren bring joy into my life-a kind of joy I can’t really explain. I just know that when they are around, I feel energized and happy.

As empty-nesters, this Nana and Pop live in a home that is at times, deafeningly quiet. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the peace that the quietness generates, but when those grandkids come bounding through the door, their youthful spirits bring  a contagious enthusiasm for life. My tranquil world is temporarily interrupted, but, somehow, I don’t mind at all.

I have come to expect what the first words out of their mouths will be:

“Nana, what are we doing today?”

To which I answer:

“I haven’t really thought too much about it yet.”

These days, kid’s summers are filled with a lot of “going and doing”- usually in the form of some sort of “screens” or going somewhere “cool” to eat or attending camps (football, golf, soccer, robotics, music….)

My old enemy, doubt, begins to nag at me again.

“How do I compete with all of that stuff?”

Electronics are forbidden (with parent’s blessings) at the grandparent’s house, with the exception of an occasional quick game of Hangman (educational, of course) on Nana’s ipad.

Plagued by doubt again, I wonder:

“What in the world were we thinking when we banned devices?”

The 100 degree day isn’t exactly conducive to outdoor play. So, off to the library we go.

I feel the Spirit’s leading today as I immediately spot an old familiar movie from the hundreds of DVDs crammed onto the crowded shelves. “Sounder,” a 2003 release-an uplifting story of one boy’s faith, strength and dogged determination. San Diego Union Tribune hailed it as “Simple, Yet Enormously Grand.” Yes, this is the one!

The boys, having discovered the Star Wars books, are busy leafing through their pages. Across the aisle from where they squat, I spy the craft book section.

 “Hmm…how do I choose one that will retain the interest of both a ten and eleven-year-old who hold very different interests?”

I pick up a few books, but quickly return them to the shelf. Then a book entitled “Recycled Science”  catches my eye. I eagerly pick it up and read the front cover:

“Bring out your science genius with soda bottles, Pringles cans, and more unexpected stuff.”

As the boys scan the book, their eyes begin to dance as they discover a few fun projects that pique their interest. Looking at the list of supplies for three of the projects, I realize I have everything but tongue depressors and chip cans.

      “HEB, here we come!”

I never cease to be amazed. How could getting to have their own can of chips be so exciting? And for the special price of $1.25 per can! I’m sure these chips are full of good nutrition. Right! But hey, we are the grandparents, after all! We even find a bag of tongue depressors in the craft section for $2.50.

Back home, the boys are anxious to watch the movie. They are immediately drawn in, captivated by the story for one and a half hours.

Next on the agenda is to make a solar hot dog cooker  and ice cream maker using the now empty chips cans and a cork launcher requiring a clothes pin, tongue depressors, wine bottle corks, glue gun, and a rubber band. The projects, very simple, keep them busy for quite some time.

Following lunch, it’s reading time. If you have grandsons, you must have on hand a copy of “The Action Bible,” illustrated by Sergio Cariello. Its pages read like a graphic comic book. Most visits after they leave I find this book laying open in the middle of the floor, a good indicator that it has been read.

      “One day down, two more to go!”

The dreaded question pops up again as I tuck them in for the night.

      “Nana, what are we going to do tomorrow?”

Fumbling for words, I reply:

“Uh… oh… well…It’s a surprise!”

Oh boy! I guess I have the rest of the evening to figure out what the surprise will be!

The next morning I utter a little prayer of thanks for kids who are now of the age to actually want to sleep past eight o’clock.

A favorite breakfast of the grands at our house is ABC, 123 waffles (my mom found the coolest waffle iron at a garage sale that has letters on one side and numbers on the other.) This morning, a bit of a surprise math lesson, as Pop shouts:

“Look, I only have a 7 left. What kind of a number is that?”

This sparks a spirited mini-math question and answer session on prime numbers.

Before the worst heat of the day sets in, with football in tow, we drive to a nearby park. This is the ball of choice for today, since one of the boys has just begun playing on a football team.

We make a quick stop at the Sweets Shop for a treat to take along to the park. Feeling generous this morning, we allow each boy to have their own huge piece of ‘moist and succulent’ chocolate cake.

      “Drool… drool….!”

Only requirement will be a Pop & Nana tax, which they readily agree to.

At the park we choose an out-of-the-way table under a nice shaded gazebo. The boys quickly snap open the boxes and wolf down their special snack. Then they take the ball and disappear. I, writing journal in hand, sit dreamily, far away from the screaming kids, and breathe in the quiet. Then, I see two moms with their eight little “ducklings” following in a perfect row behind them walking my way. Surely, they are just taking a little hike around the park and my perfect little place is not their final destination. Wrong! They all squash onto two benches of the adjoining table.

      “Mommy, is this going to be a snack or lunch?

      ”How long will we be at this park?”

      “I need to go potty!”    

      “Do I have to share with Sofia again? I want my own drink!”

The incessant chatter shatters my train of thought.

The boys, drenched in sweat, return to the table with a new friend. He loves football! Of course, he does! As they awkwardly straddle the bench, their conversation goes something like this:

      “How about that JJ Watts?”

      “Which team is your favorite, the Texans or the Patriots?”

      “If I were to choose I’d say the Texans.”

      “Did you hear about Rob Gronkowski?”

      “Is he in?”

      “Yep, but the Browns still suck. They have a decent running back and a somewhat good defense.”

Then they’re off again to practice their game.

One of the moms and four of the little ducklings take off toward the slides. The wind gusts and blows my drink can off the table in the direction of the remaining mom. This sparks an interesting conversation about her life as a missionary wife in Venezuela. I sense she is a little down and try my best to share a few encouraging words with her.

The moms and their “melting down” little ducklings decide it is time to go.

Now I know why I brought my journal. I would have never remembered all those sports figure’s names and teams!

Once again, I sit alone in peace and despite the pandemonium of the last thirty minutes, a calm washes over my spirit.

Life is good!

Grandchildren are a joy and blessing!

And, nope, I have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow!



In early January, our long-dreamed-of family vacation to Hawaii finally became a reality (just 1- 1/2 years before our first grandkids graduate high school and scatter to the four winds). The plan was for all of our grandkids and their parents to go, but…

erin-selah-sarahGod’s plans to surprise the lonard-kids-christmas-pictureLonards with a pregnancy prevented their making this trip. We dearly missed them, but our 13th grandchild, Sarah Elizabeth–our little miracle baby–has already blessed our lives beyond measure.

We also celebrated Greg’s parents’ 65th wedding anniversary in Hawaii. Wow!

garden2Greg built our first garden at our Texas house in March. It’s critter-proof because we don’t want to share our organic produce with the deer!

mom-bd-lunchCelebrating Mom’s 82nd birthday at a luncheon in Kerrville.



choppedsummer-kidsJune was glorious with all the kids and grandkids coming for a visit. One of our favorite activities when together is doing a “Chopped” (the tv cooking show) session. The kids paired off and came up with some tasty creations, all on their own.

nana-hudson-castgreg-hudson-readingWe had the joy of spending Thanksgiving in Bogotá, Colombia with the Turk family. We supervised home school of the older four kids for a few days while the youngest (Hudson-4 years old) underwent surgery to fix his dislocated hips. His full body cast adds extra challenges. We are all praying he will now be able to walk.

des-mom-dadA huge blessing in our family occurred this year when, following years of prayer, we reconnected with our daughter, Deserea. God is good!


As we reflect back on 2016 we feel blessed and thankful for you, our family and friends.

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased. Luke 2:14