Ebenezer Stones

When my babies were little, I tucked them up under my chin and sang hymns to them. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, a beloved favorite that reflects God’s faithfulness and the remembrances of His goodness in the life of a believer, is a family favorite. The hymn speaks of the Ebenezer stone which is a monument the believer raises to remember God’s faithfulness during a certain, specific time. Ebenezer stones are precious witnesses and treasures and reminders of God’s very present help in times of trouble, trial, and also during times of great joy and celebration.


A few weeks ago, I glanced across the dinner table to watch the candlelight catch the dimples in my oldest daughter’s face. I listened as she engaged in robust dialogue with her father in response to his own good-natured remarks. The contrast from just a year ago was striking, and my heart was glad. I read a note she wrote shortly after that in which she emphatically stated that her favorite subjects are math and French. And, for that, I almost cried. It feels too hard to try to encapsulate all that this means to me- (and really, to her) but I will just say that there have been many nights in the past years when her only remark at the dinner table might have been, “I don’t know” and two years ago, we had a professional tell us that she would gladly write a waiver to excuse her from ever having to take a foreign language (because she thought she wouldn’t be able to learn it),and that last year we had a math tutor at a co-op who so thoroughly rattled her confidence in her (very strong) math ability that she felt like a complete and total failure. And, at that time, I did cry, and I raged, and I felt so very frustrated- the way I think perhaps all parents feel who suffer with their exceptional child. My daughter’s broad smile, and winking dimples, and happy eyes are an Ebenezer stone for my heart; as is her 95% in a very thorough, rigorous French class that includes reading, writing, and speaking; and likewise, her 95% in Geometry- a class I felt so much trepidation for, and yet, here she is… sailing through smoothly. Everyone who knows her knows her personal work ethic. She puts her head down and gets it done. It can take hours, because for her, it is hard. And yet, I am also watching her writing, and her expression, and her understanding, and her ability in all subjects grow and expand. In some ways, it is the true physical realization of that adage: “she is coming out of her shell.” I am so delighted to see her bloom. And grateful. So grateful.


How do I encapsulate the beauty of another daughter’s mind? Her unique view of the world and creative perception? I sent this one out to the flowers that have been an unending source of joy to us since May on what I knew was one of their last days before succumbing to a freeze. I thought perhaps she could bring a few last blooms in to the house. I missed their true last day, and they had already been hit and begun to blacken though there were some valiant blooms remaining. She back in with empty arms and with a look of sorrow on her face and said, “I think it’s their last day. I just want to stay outside by them all day.” And in her expression, and in her voice, I knew her heart longed and sorrowed for the flowers. She is the one who named the very first perfect bloom: Princess. And, Princess, it was with its perfect tight coral petals and slender rough green stem.

Tonight, I glanced across rooms and found her tucked up with a book, a chapter book. Occasionally giving impassioned and outraged remarks to character antics, she was deep in and understanding every word. She impresses me. That image will be forever pressed upon my mind. Just one year ago, she could barely read three letter words known as consonant-vowel-consonant. Letters were just decorations to adorn a page in unique and unusual patterns and order. She couldn’t hear the difference between certain sounds and some, she couldn’t even pronounce. Today, she is reading a chapter book with ease. She easily manipulates sounds and she knows the alphabet; it is no longer a mystery. And, today, I continue to marvel at the gentle effectiveness of the special program designed for dyslexia I use to teach her Language Arts and am so grateful for it. Sometimes her language gets all tangled up, and she can’t articulate the impassioned thoughts and ideas that swirl in her mind and heart. Each day, patiently, and step-by-step, we work together. An intuitive, she understands with her heart. The explicit teaching brings understanding to the whole of her mind.


I finished the Comprehensive Record ( which is a g’normous portfolio for college applications) for my third senior. I feel the deep soul sigh even now. The relief.

Grateful that is done and so much about that document (and related paperwork) is an Ebenezer stone, too. And that portfolio is a lot of remembering, reflecting, documenting, and compiling with integrity, for the good of my student. Graduation means a lot to me; it means a lot to my student. It is its own Ebenezer stone.

Homeschooling is a long journey in faithfulness, and I am still learning so much, each week of every year. Even now.

There is a lot about the senior year that is hard for me. I have always felt that it is its own birthing. Birthing hurts. It is hard work. It is its own kind of glory both for the mother and the child. All the long years I labor over the education and formation of my child to the ultimate culmination of this launching moment. And I treasure this year as I build into the future with a precious young adult (my son will be eighteen in 20 days) who will be a beloved friend in the future, who is a beloved, wise, funny, friend now- who brings perspective, balance, and insight to my life. The future is bright.

This moment, I am taking a deep breath in the pause of a hard task, and a good one, complete.


I have other, unspoken Ebenezer stones that I cherish and hold to my heart and gaze upon them. I see the gold light glinting, even now. The memories are hallowed and set apart as holy. And, I remember. I remember, and I know that every deep heart cry to God matters.


Come, Thou Fount is all about God’s faithfulness. To know myself held in God’s faithfulness is a gift, but more than that, it is a transformative reality.

Can you call to mind an Ebenezer stone? How has God been faithful in your life? In your day? He is with you. He is with me. To let myself be led gently is priceless beyond measure, and to know myself loved and fully known is peace. To not be afraid of the hard or dismayed at the need to endure is a lesson I am still learning.

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Gluten Free Orange Cranberry Spice Muffins

These wonderful muffins are perfect for fall!

Preheat oven 350 degrees.


4 Eggs

1/3 Cup Maple Syrup

1/3 Cup Orange Juice

2 tsp Orange Zest (optional)

1/4 Cup Oil

1 1/2 tsp Vanilla

2 Cups Blanched Almond Flour

1/3 Cup Arrowroot Flour

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/4 tsp Sea Salt

1 tsp Cinnamon

1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice

2/3 Cup Dried Cranberries


Mix Dry Ingredients thoroughly.

Mix Wet Separately from dry.

Combine all ingredients, gently.

Fill 12 Muffin Cups and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.


The Things They Say

It is the end of a long day. Little girls have been assigned to “room-time”- time when they must play alone for 30 minutes, totally away from each other. Just prior, I gave a somewhat rousing speech when oldest daughter staunchly refused to give on what seemed a small issue (to me) toward her youngest sister.

Littlest girl has been sent to her (shared) bedroom, where oldest daughter reigns supreme as Queen day in and day out.

I am in the kitchen, desperately cobbling a cup of tea together and then headed to the table for more schoolwork with that very daughter.

Suddenly, out of the falling darkness filling the evening kitchen, I hear:

“I feel like we are Jo and Amy and any minute something bad is going to happen!” This pronouncement is boldly proclaimed through the downstairs.

I pause, tea cup in hand.

{I realize after the remark} Daughter has just returned from her bedroom to the downstairs; apparently she observed small sister amongst the tokens and treasures of the room and was compelled to make her pronouncement.

“Jo and Amy? From Little Women?” I query.

“Yes!” said daughter pronounces.

“Who is Jo and who is Amy?” I ask, just trying to get the analogy straight in my head {exactly WHICH sisters is she talking about??).

“I’m Jo; Norah’s Amy!” she states emphatically, with a bit of a harried look about her and a certain look in her eye.

Of course.

Is Norah really getting into her treasure as Amy did to Jo? I ponder for a nanosecond and then!

I shriek and clutch my tea cup to my chest.

Yes, indeed, I did.

Because my daughter {my oldest! daughter} has just made a literary analogy- the perfect literary analogy!!!

And it must go down in the annals of our family history. Never to be forgotten.

More than anything- the moment reigns supreme

in my heart.

My mind.

Utterly, unequivocally delighted.

My little women.

A literary home makes a literary culture, and that is an endless gift and treasure forever.

The Things They Say.

Endless Gifts June into July 2020 # 111-150

I seem to have lost my kept draft where I jotted grace gifts bit by bit- and so now, I must begin again. So fitting for lessons I am personally learning. To begin again.

111. talks with Todd where I unearth some of the deep and find myself free and steady

112. Morning Pages and {sometimes} Evening Pages, and despite my endless questioning, I do see the progress, the purpose, and most of all, the way I’m held together while I pull so much apart.

113. The virtual Black Barn through Paper and String and kindreds and gardens and books and poetry and prayer and beauty found there.

114. David Austin roses, and how I can’t wait to cup my very own; there is joy in the anticipation as I feast on the beauty found elsewhere

115. The {upgraded and brand new} monitor now successfully working on the erg. I will soon venture for my first row; it does feel like a voyage. I am nervous; how many meters am I actually rowing? Oh well. On, on. {since I wrote this, I have rowed thousands of meters (and kept a record of them) and been drenched in sweat; the monitor pushes us  forward!}

116. Work with my darlings around the property; plantings, and mulch, and weeding, and trimming, and even washing. I do enjoy watching their interactions.

117. Two new needed beds for children, set up and settled

118. The Misfit box full of so much goodness: cilantro! cherry tomatoes, kale, squash, cauliflower, lemons, the best apples they ever tasted, and more.

119. hot, sweet coffee, foamy and good

120. the music teachers who keep showing up amidst technology blips and the sometimes strange time warp of these days

121. my son involved with his school’s (which was my school’s) IV- and all that actually means for me down in my soul. Chapter Camp{ish}.

122. They way they are still able to connect with their college people, and the friendships they build

123. Friendship for my rising high school senior that is good and true

124. The go ahead for foreign langauge and French classes, and we both sigh relief; and I see her almost hidden happiness. She can do this.

125. The way they chortle their wonder when they find peonies on Minecraft

126. We lost Todd’s grandfather. Todd made it safely to PA and back in a day, to be a presence, and honor the man who held such a huge role in his life for so many years. He refused any of the rest of us going, and I know there might be plans for a Memorial Mass at some unknown point in the future. The lack of closure brings tears to my eyes. I think about Easter and how we heard his voice as joined the Zoom call with Grammy via phone. How lovely it is to hear his signature laugh and jokes still in my head. Death is an abyss I do not understand, and this has always been true for me.

127. Black 8 1/2 by 11 Journals and little 5 by 8 inch ones, too

128. An SAT date on the calendar {again}

129. Six of my people, finished with their 2019/2020 school year (mostly)

130. Fresh squeezed lemonade on ice, while on the porch, with the Maryland sky; and all the spring greening and the breeze wafting through; the air sweet, the neighborhood, quiet.

131. Their faces over the porch rail, and the head scarves for my little girls, so darling! Most of all their friendship and quick conversation and sweet plans for summer. We cannot wait.

132. The slow way I am learning to be free; but free, I will be.

133. The clean, clean kitchen and my hands still wrinkled and tight from being deep in hot water and soap

134. The peonies, Shasta daisy, coreopsis, carnations. zinnias, vincas, pepper plants, and {future} roses that make up my at-home cultivation. Somehow, calling out the names one by one endears each living treasure to my heart even more. And I remember her. I remember dear Sharon who spoke each plant’s name as though it was a dear and kindred friend. Her gardens were (and are) magical. The columbine, forever pressed upon my mind. One day, I will have columbine, too.

135. Working in the sunlit kitchen alongside Nathanael, making platters of veggies and salad; while he washes dishes, and we enjoy the companionship of music we both love.

136. a drive with Todd to pickup Walmart groceries (possibly our new normal) and good conversation

137. a cozy desk set-up with beloved books, candles, journals, Bible time resources, my own chair, and more. Every day grateful for its beautiful, inviting space.

138. Tall, slim golden candles on twin birthday cakes sprinkled with gold stars and bedecked with my very own first attempt at home-made marshmallow fondant. Roses and stars (and hearts).

139. Time in the grass at eventide to watch them catch fireflies, and she catches a wee one and holds it gently. How far she’s come.

140. Summer Mummers and a swim afternoon at Courtney’s: my mind filled with beautiful images and joy.

141.  a little desk set-up for my girl, giving her space where she could see no space and she has her own flowers and computer setup and a rapidly growing collection of darling knitted creations.

142. a sudden jolting awareness of an injury that requires extreme measures to heal (no dancing for weeks, physical therapy); it is a gift because it is a pause. It is a gift because it is protective. It is a gift because it allows me to dig deeper into the quiet, still depths I need and crave and am driven toward so desperately.

143. All the pizazz Asher brings to whatever he does: a watermelon carved expertly and “presented” appealingly on platters for small sisters’ birthday dinner- only the latest. He can jazz up anything, I do believe. And, O! how I love it.

144. The way the struggle to count gifts reveals my lack of Presence in my life; my lack of attention and calls me back to that place where I can see once more.

145. Callouses on both hands, and we sit side-by-side and compare our “rower hands.” We callous in different places, and he says: “It’s just how it is; if you row, you get callouses.” Matter-of-fact and accepting and he even wears gloves. I run my finger over the hard roughness, tracing the somewhat tender outline. Somehow, I have one on my thumb. Well, I’m glad I don’t need silky smooth palms. I’ve got three good ones on one hand and four on the other. And they mean I’m showing up. I’m showing up, and I’m not stopping, even when it’s hard, even when I have to fight for it, even when I don’t want to, and even when, as others have shared with me, it feels awful- because sometimes, it really does.

146. Picture book challenge, and I try hard to gather my little girls every day as we endeavor to read every picture book in our house. And, — it is my favorite time of day. Flopped on the bed, ensconced by pillows and wee, small silky heads. And I get to share my favorites, and they get to find their favorites, and I act on something that is deeply important to my heart. So far, they treasure Miss Fannie’s Hat and, so do I. So, do I.

147. I give up my beloved desk for a week, and when I am back at it, with my candle lit, and music soaring forth, I breathe a little deeper. Grateful for this space.

148. A birthday trip for my girl and the way friends wrapped us round with beauty, comraderie, brave faces behind masks. A magical table under the arms of trees with truly the most delicious lunch I could ever imagine. Chipotle, potato waffles, lilies, and fans to ward off the hot sun. Her playlist and our car talks. I love inviting my teens to share their music with me. It is a window into the heart and such a way to build relationship. I have always known music’s power. Step-by-step, I learn them this way, too.

149. Several (!) walks around a North Wales neighborhood, WITHOUT a brace, WITHOUT having to stop, WITHOUT my back cramping. It was like a miracle; it is forever an Endless Gift. Remember, and keep getting on that rowing machine- even when it’s hard; even when it feels awful; even when I have to fight for the time. It works. I told a son I don’t row because I like it; I row for life.

150. Endless Gifts in pictures: June into July 2020:

The Father Daughter dance that didn’t happen, but the great picture memory forever; birthday with Lanie; twins birthday; we love to find hearts in the world- chip heart; fabulous birthday cake for my parents; Joshua’s Lembas bread; Abi’s sweet desk setup; Abi at PT for the first time; Zinnias and Nathanael; Micah and the wee girls getting ready for MaryLu’s visit; small girls who took the photo with the ray of shining light; my arms full: God fills arms with babies, with beauty, with love, with life, with zinnias!!!; twins’ birthday cakes; heart pancake; young man strolls in in my 1992 track and field shirt, and it becomes him; Maryland sky;  June Mummers bonfire; bracelet heart; Abi and I, girl trip 2020.


The days slip away; I struggle to attend. I fight battles in my mind. I fight sorrow in my heart. I traverse an ocean of fear and uncertainty. I try to be brave. I try to navigate with whatever adept skill I can summon.

I count gifts, and I’m grateful.

I say to my children: who do I love? who do I love? and shyly, sweetly, bashfully at times, they say: me, me, me. Yes, darlings, you. You forever. And you, and you, and you.

{and you}

When I can’t find my way, when I am gone under: under criticism, disapproval, misunderstanding, harsh judging, under anxiety, abandon, apathy, and hurt: the Way finds me. It is good to be found and to know myself, in the candle-lit, quiet time where I am free.









Notes from Quarantine #7


It’s been a long while since I have written here, and it is no accident that this post states #7 when #6 can’t be found. Notes from Quarantine #6 rests in my drafts where it will stay for now.

Today, I wrote to a friend. It was the first time I have written personally in, what I recognized, has been a really long time. And, with a sudden unveiling, I realized how utterly fatigued I am with the long enduring uncertainty of the pandemic.


I am fatigued. Today, I missed two virtual appointments. The appointments were lessons for different children. Teachers are often changing schedules; I can’t keep up. One I re-scheduled on the spot; the other, an hour or so later (utterly forgotten until I was contacted). I set loud reminders on my phone that blare at me to help me remember. It helps.


As I was writing my friend, I revealed how long everything is taking me. It is taking me days to reply to emails, to make appointments, to make decisions. Everything is complicated, and showing up on a screen is sometimes hard, too.  I dread it. I don’t want to see the doctor through my computer camera; I don’t want to have to sign the COVID-19 release form for the dentist certifying the appointment is essential. It’s not. I don’t want to take the bunny to the vet or figure out physical therapy for my daughter during COVID-19. I am wearied of virtual music lessons. I can’t attend church.  We have all become masters of camera angle, zoom backgrounds, and interacting on devices. This is my reality in 2020


And today, it is July 14th, which- in 2020- is actually the day before the tax deadline. So that means I have been experiencing a “second” tax season for a few weeks. Todd was quick to minimize it- saying that this year’s tax season was not “bad” around April 15th. No, it wasn’t- but it was still overtime and every weekend and all kinds of uncertainty with new and changing legislation and business loans. It was intense phone calls and uncertainty. It was long and drawn out and here we are again. Tomorrow, D-day. Lord, bring us through.


The children feel it. One commented that he wasn’t the only one to have a tax season birthday this year. And, it was true. He voiced what I had been feeling but hadn’t spoken to anyone. We celebrate wholeheartedly anyway. Just like always. And every year, as everyone grows, it does get easier.


In Maryland, so far, {mostly} we are holding steady. This means we are and have been opening up cautiously and until today, really, I don’t think there was much of an increase of cases.  As I wrote to my friend, I was sharing all the things we are doing as far as pandemic protocol, and I realized how strange it was to write it out, how “normal” it felt, and how much is a part of our routine(s). Shoes at the door, showers, masks, Germ-X, wipes, and more.


I watch carefully around the country; I watch carefully, the world. I put my phone aside; I stop checking news. I huddle in close to write, read, pray, and row.  We all take Vitamin D. I try to get out to the garden; the zinnias are blooming. They bring daily joy. I buy more needed face masks- two we were given have already been worn out with all the wash and wear. I strip clorox wipes into halves, into thirds, as I use them, to make the container last.


Sometime back in March or April, I spoke to another dear friend on the phone. She told me her household was just taking it one day at a time. They were getting through day by day. Her words instantly settled me and brought a calm. She didn’t have to figure out childcare for a month from now or how she would manage her full-time job at home for weeks on end. She just had to live the day at hand, and so she did.


And so do I, and it is a monumental comfort when things feel impossibly unsettled and vague (college move-in dates, fall semester, community college class for a senior, the SAT {will it happen, will it be safe? what happens if it doesn’t for my homeschooled senior who has no standardized test score?}, college admission season, children’s activities, and so much more with no clear answers.) I don’t know when my sons will move-in to college, or even if they actually will, but I can wake up and attend to tomorrow- and there is peace in that reality, for sure.


2020. Tax season in July. An unpredictable pandemic. Day by day, even though I have a long delay, I do manage to mostly get the things done.

How are things for you?



Notes from Quarantine #5

Week of May 18th- 24th.

We are no longer shelter at home, but are now safer at home.



Fields of buttercups at our local park


May 19th, 2020- Our oldest son went back to work full-time at the local grocery store. It was a venture into new territory, and I struggled with many aspects of this path. I admit to being somewhat comforted when he came home and told of all the coworkers he knows from different spheres of his life when he was in high school (former co-op and christian school team-mates, etc). Lots of young people working there right now. Thus far, all is well.  I also felt relieved when I learned they are checking temperatures daily, have plastic shields put up, and of course, everyone is masking. It is a different world at this time.  We (our family) seem to have a solid protocol established for handling everything.

A few of our other older children/young adults settled into their summer job which is childcare for family.

May 20, 2020- I social distanced (– note this was the first time I had seen any person not my own immediate family “in the flesh” since my brother stood on my porch with masks in his hands) on the deck with one of my dearest friends and got sunburnt to a crisp- after which I then shed like a snake for days, to my great disturbance. We talked non-stop for two and a half hours. I just soaked her in. My friend, in the flesh. I think about when I can see her again, and I wonder what value I bring to her life. She brings so much to mine. Our children basically stood or sat in a social distanced circle for those hours and visted, too. They were heckled a bit, just a bit, by Todd who came out wielding some kind of yard stick to measure social distance. We have all been alone for too long!! That same day, Asher took his last AP exam online. He is almost done with what has felt like(perhaps, with what has been) the longest spring semester ever. Almost done.


May 21,2020. I had a bonafide quarantine meltdown.

I think it was the perfect storm of everything comprising together to render me a ball of circumstantial distress. I had a mighty (weeks long) battle to get a routine prescription refilled, aggravated by quarantine confusion.

I rallied; I made {angry} phone calls; I made decisions.

I let some people in to the hard and the ugly- Always a good first step for me.  By the next day, the prescription was at my door. Thank goodness.  The melt-down day was a very bad day.

Over these same days, the rowing machine was broken apart all over my bedroom floor- and getting fixed, and I faced the reality that it might not be usable for a week. Then, I decided to just have Asher just put it back with the parts we had. It worked.  By Thursday, I was back on the machine. I realized how truly mechanical Asher is- especially when later in the week, he also helped Todd fix the lawn mower. We had hours of good conversation while he was working painstakingly on the erg, too. So, there’s that.

My week was so off, I only attended one music lesson out of the 7 I “should” have. Thankful for the big kids who stood in for my place for those other lessons. Grateful.

May 22: Todd’s wonderful 94 year old grandfather died after an undetermined illness. PopPop John was married to Grammy Helen for 73 years; my mind falters at the numbers. We walk the journey of this loss during the pandemic, and the way it is shaping memorials, visits, and saying goodbye. It is a yawning chasm made more so by uncertainty.

May 23, 2020. Micah moved out of his dorm, finally. He made the trip with Todd, and they had to follow multiple protocols and restrictions and directions to get it done. I could see the peace and relief and closure resting on him when he finally returned with the rest of his life that he had left when he left for Spring Break. A dear friend of his was also moving out of her housing in the time block after him. She shared that it almost felt like the apocalypse: rooms left just as they were as if people would be back any minute, only they wouldn’t, while other rooms were completely emptied and cleared out- standing in the doorway clad in a mask while campus appeared abandoned (so empty of people). Such an interesting and strange time. Her description touched me and brought me sorrow, too. Micah reflected about how confident they all were that they would be back when they initially left. But, of course, they wouldn’t. And then they couldn’t get their things for an extended period of time due to Pennsylvania’s guidelines with the shutdown. There is relief to truly bring spring semester 2020 to a close.


Quarantine hair!!

That same Saturday, I also visited with a neighbor on my porch for hours, too. We sat social distanced apart and talked about doctors and medicine and COVID and dance and homeschool and so much more.  Our daughters visited in the yard.

I find myself awkward as I try to navigate what is acceptable and what is not; when to wear a mask and when not; and so on.  It is difficult to know, except of course, when shopping in the grocery store or any kind of store for that matter.


On Sunday, we worked in the garden. I had a peony dream in my heart, especially once I truly learned the plants can be grown in large pots. My dream compelled me to take what is one of my yearly traditions: shopping for flowers in May. I wasn’t sure if it would happen this year; I usually go with Nathanael. But, go we did, masks and all. It was the first time I had driven a car since March. True story. I came home with three peony plants and potting soil.


Todd, Micah, Jonah, and Josh rebuilt our garden plot to get ready for zinnias; Nathanael made chili with Abi’s assistance; Asher helped fix the mower and mow the grass; I potted peonies and wrangled with one of my garden pots. It was a good, full day, and the reward of the work is sweet.

output (5)

Abi took an outside dance class in a parking lot on Sunday, too- her first one. The dancers were spaced six feet apart (or more) on yoga mats.

I speak to my sister on the phone on Sunday, and I share how I feel like I can’t commit to anything for next year, almost anything at all. She feels the same. We had to pull out of a major comittment for Abi by not signing next year’s contract; I know it was the right decision and I feel so much peace, but it still falls around us strangely like a scarf that doesn’t belong.


Pippin explores the outside-world!

On Monday (today- Memorial Day), we took a short family walk at a nearby park.  We didn’t walk the designated way on the trail because we started at a part where the tiny little sign was not visible. We had no idea. It all seemed okay, though. There were not many people there at all. No one wore masks. I could only walk half the loop because of my knee. It stinks, but I decided we will continue to make these trips to the parks around here over the summer and I will just do the shorter walk while everyone else can go longer. The spectre of surgery looms over me.


Perhaps it is true that life is picking up again in new and different ways. Nothing feels normal and everything is different as we stretch out into these new spaces and wonder how it will ultimately shape itself. The virus looms; its ultimate impact and wave of crisis unknown. What will be?



Notes from Quarantine #4

May 6, 2020. Public schools here officially closed for the rest of the year; college communications indicating uncertainty continue to prevail. Small communications about restrictions lifting were given today: in a couple days we will be able to walk at outdoor nature centers and parks again. One can’t help wonder if it is all too soon? Or not? or what will actually go down in the next three to six months.

I find myself torn between a wild desire to go to the lake and an equally severe inclination to remain home long after others have ventured out and about.img_20200504_125031766

This week my college students essentially finish the most unusual semester of our lives. One son’s items still remain locked in his dorm room with tentative schedule to retrieve at the end of the month, but perhaps not. It feeds the uncertainty as does so much else.


We spend time outdoors in our backyard; we do not mask in our own yard unlike our neighbor across the street. He is black and his mask is a quiet testimony to the recognition of the fatality and severity of the virus; Covid has had a much more severe impact on blacks in our state than others. My heart hurts.

Last weekend, the Blue Angels flew over Baltimore in a tribute to the frontline workers and essential employees who work so tirelessly and risk their lives. I show my children videos of their formations. We watch them fly.  I show my children videos of all the people gathered by in masks. They are healthcare workers in the hospital parking lots and other people. I talk about it and point it out. Wearing masks is normal; it is going to be okay.

My little one plays in the backyard one day with her handmade mask by her very own Auntie about her face. She looks out at the world with serious, large blue eyes over the top edge of a festive flower-filled cloth face mask. Then the mask is hanging about her neck, then propped next to her on the swing. She lasts fifteen minutes, and her mask has slid off into the mud and off into the wash it goes.  She doesn’t ask again to wear it outside in our backyard.


I feel like I can’t breathe behind mine. I have always been sensitive to anything covering my nose and mouth. It is hard to breathe. Todd goes out to deliver something to UPS. He can’t enter without a mask. We know it to be so, but there is something about seeing all the signs on the public places. Perhaps it makes it all the more real? At the very least, there can be no “squeaking by” the mandate or questioning its reality. (I find relief in these measures.) He rushes in and rushes out and, of his own reports, gets in the car, pulls off the mask, and gasps for air. How do the healthcare workers manage?


I talk to a music teacher; she indicates that online lessons will continue at least through the first month or so of the fall season. She reflects on the close nature of teaching children; children who can be silent or mildly ill carriers of Covid and the risks that inherently entails. I ponder music lessons.

We receive information for the dance teacher. Everything full steam ahead come August. I feel choked. How can I commit to that?

Mostly, I think about what it is like when it is all taken away because in some ways online activities are just a placeholder and a substitute. What do I find when the dust settles? I find myself; I find space; I find emptiness I am not quick to fill. I find we are {somewhat} okay in this place. I decide I will not bend as much next year. I shore up the boundary lines; I need to make some decisions.

Days at home are long and short at the same time. I find I have clutter mounting up everywhere. I turn my attention inward when I have time or freedom; I feed the landscape of my inner mind and life. I have to, I must, force myself to turn my focus outward. There is tending to be done. I am grateful for the days on end of nowhere to go in the evenings. I am. But all the at-home living is also a whole lot of work, and I feel weighed down. It overwhelms me, and I feel inert. I hate that feeling. Deep breath and forward step: that’s the way out of this.

We’ve been home more than seven weeks. It is time to dye my hair again- the very first thing I did on the first Monday we were mandated home and every out-of-the-home activity was cancelled. I dyed my hair with glee and happiness, feeling the expanse of free time fall around me. However, the time hasn’t really been free. Not at all. It has been take up with other tasks, new and different- and other pursuits- and other schedules. A few have seen the Zoom schedule chart posted on our refrigerater. Some days, it feels like it is all too much. It does, and I know that is a wretched thing to say- but I trust I am not the only one to feel so. So there you have it. Now, I face down the reality that this hair needs attention again, and we are still sheltering with an unknown landscape ever before us.  Note: I must also clean my room! The task that has not gotten done although it was one of the first things I thought I would do. I haven’t tended toward cleaning; I have tended toward inner pursuits: reading/writing, and I have been building up my knee and leg and working to increase my mobility. – In good news, those efforts are working.

This is the second weekend in May, 2020.  There is a freeze warning, and it has been in the 40s today. The wind bites. The sun shines. The unusual days continue to unspool one by one. Tomorrow, Mother’s Day. At home.

Zoom calls, Sunshine, cold wind, hard talks, good talks, candlelight, feasting, resting, reading.

Mother’s Day 2020.








Endless Gifts #87-110


87. On a day I felt so low, I cried. Everything feels hard;  my children rallied round me and dished out all the advice I give to them: get exercise, go outside in the sun, rest in your bed. In the end, scones were made, a lovely surprise tea table laid- and just the beauty in that lavender and blue table lifted my spirit; that and a good laugh with Todd and some rich conversation

88.a talk with my girl where I share life truths and take some time to {hopefully} impart God’s love and the agency we have in Him

89.sharing a soda on ice with Jonah as we ate lunch together, and then the way he brought a bit of chocolate to the study time he shared next to me

90.the lilac bloom pressed against my nose

91.Nathanael insisting I pause to see the goldfinch in the tree, and together we observe and consider: male, female, teen-ager bird? The gold lights up in the branches. I almost missed it.  Grateful for him, and missing time for conversation and music and fellowship. Soon. Classes almost over.  Little bundle of gold caught in the barely green branches. The mulberry tree is always the last to green and the first to lose its leaves. It is barely green on the cusp of May.

92.He is wearing his Lehigh Orchestra shirt on the last {virtual} Orchestra meeting of Spring 2020; the virtual banquet and final time to gather. I notice. My heart leans a little. He shows me all their faces on the Zoom screens. Solidarity. I blink back some tears.

93.The Song of the Sea on Netflix. How I love this movie and so do my children. The soundtrack alone fills my heart.

94.the fifteen minute Wingfeather Saga animated clip (we love this, too)

95.Sitting with Asher and observing all the birds fluttering through our yard and a couple different occassions. What a delight these small ones are with their quick eyes and swift heads, their winged flight and bright flash of color.

96.Morning pages and Evening pages and writing as a process and a life; a rushing river I {actually} can hold as my own

97.My college boys facing down their final exams and their final papers and their jubilant joy rising; it is grind time, it is crunch time, it is almost over time.

98.Getting a little peak into one of mine; his interesting thoughtful mind; his intricate ponderings. I think how I almost could have missed the depth of his thoughts. So glad I didn’t; so glad to engage just a bit with this thoughtful thinker. He is camouflaged by a bit of fun and an easy ability to illicit a laugh- but really, I should have known, deep down there is a rich and complex depth that is so worth knowing.

99.a late night talk with one darling, and mind meets mind over creative process and writing and life

100.days of slow and long that cause a fundamental shift in thinking and living

101.peace garnered from finally going through the most important bits from the large quarantine mail pile and checking off bills paid

102.preparing for two more quarantine birthdays- and big ones,too- 12 and 16. Sweet 16. I lean close to this girl.



103.a box of “seconds” organic veggies delivered to my door  and I make a great, great tray of everything chopped and roasted; Todd and I bliss out completely on jasmine rice and these amazing veggies. They last two days in our house. Everyone gobbles; we put the remainder on our lunch.


104.a lovely acknowledgment for Micah as a writer along with encouraging affirmation from a professor on the final paper of the year; all the hard work was so worth it; in the end, he prevailed with excellence; and best of all, he was seen in the strength of who he really is, a creative writer. I blink back tears.

105.new jobs waiting for oldest son at school in the fall in the writing center and in the library: grateful

106.His joy and optimism in his birthday; he loved everything; he loved every minute; he loved the phone calls (extrovert); he loved his meal; how I love him.

107.Perfect platter of fruit; special cinnamon rolls; scrambled eggs for my girl’s sixteenth birthday; a birthday photo shoot; I love everything about it.




108.Waking up to lovely texts, pictures, and images with well-wishes for Mother’s Day

109.the way he shared this song with me alongside a gentle: Happy Mother’s Day… and then I listen all the way through to each and every word and blink back tears. How I love him! The lyrics are included on the bottom of the Youtube post:

110.I read this post on Friday, by Ann Voskamp, that came to me quietly in my inbox, two days before Mother’s Day- speaking life and truth to me.


Endless Gifts




Endless Gifts #59 – #86

Breathe. Begin counting. Write it down. Cup the days.

59. The first step is always to begin. Begin again, and again, and again.


60. A custom hot cocoa made by a rapidly growing big small son, crafted just for me

61. The moment when I realize that the “little voice,” the “insistent thought that wouldn’t leave,” “the direction” to hop on the rower to rehabilitate my knee (and possibly my life) is actually and truly a real, a very real thing. In some ways, it was an awakening.

{actually hop is not exactly what I do, I realize, as I read this over- it is more like gingerly place myself and position the sore knee(s)}

62.And the difference is… I commit. Thinking on that long and hard… the commit. And how sometimes, no matter how much I want to, I can’t- and sometimes, no matter how much I don’t want to, I do. Is it timing? Is it Grace? Is it Will? In some ways, it is. But I know when there is no going back. 

63. Rowing to recital video clips (rowing in general) ( the music, a silver lining to a broken monitor with no replacement in sight because of coronavirus.) {Can I just say it again? The erg. Truly, an endless gift (during a pandemic)}


64. years of Opus recitals, and I remember again why it is all worth it

65. orange ginger mint tea, hot and steaming, again, again, again

66. the building of a life-giving morning routine; I read, I research, I take a small step; I journal, I row, I tidy (a bit); I struggle with myself- and then I realize it is a big thing, and it takes time. One small layer at a time. Do not despise the day of small things.

67. days to sleep with nowhere to go

68. the sweep of the fan on the heat of my skin

69. the reading life, how I love it

70. the way a rough little poem sprung out from the dark, literally

71. working from home

72. the first blooms on the lilac from my grandmother’s plant, and the promise of their grace on the poetry party table

73. a poetry party in which we all participated and all the poems shared from an original work to funny to valiant to serene to dramatic to serious (but I forgot the lilacs… so will have to bring them in for something else!)- and in which I learn a day later, that there were actually *two* original works performed at the party; there is more than one parent poet in this family. 🙂

74. pick-a-party diversions

75. the peaceful hush falling over the house during the rainy afternoon when the children are happy because they’ve participated in something meaningful and so they play in harmony

76. A DUO call with my mom; I watch her face across my screen. There is one moment where I see her: I see myself, I see my sister. We are in the turn of her face, the glint of her eye, we are in the crispness in her laugh as she and I share a moment of solidarity in COVID frustration. Confessions of less than perfect moments where we admit we have been found to talk aloud to phones and screens, to tvs, and computers “shouting” an opinion or a dissenting view in the face of all the pandemic unknowns, shifting news, and so on.  It just bubbles up and out, and in that, we laugh together, indignant and commiserating. We are not alone. Even more, we are in comraderie and in relationship. The realness of the moment captures me. Her brown eyes sparkle, her face- animated. I imprint her face on my mind, her laugh, her animated expression. I miss her.

77. a morning I wake up full of every negative thought racing through my head like a river and… in the bathroom, literally stopped short by a counter melody singing out to me:

 78. “I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation; I will put my trust in You alone, and I will not be shaken.” The words don’t turn me around, but I keep them close. I keep them through the day. I listen again, and again. I listen while I row. I listen while I type. I think about that great Love and what it means, and what it is…

79. On a day, I admit a struggle- a day I reach out and let the lowness be known, and am answered swiftly with prayer and Scripture and solidarity and grace and comfort and hope

80. On the same low day, there is a knock at the door; there is a doorbell ring. We all freeze. We aren’t expecting anyone. Anyone at all. There is my brother on the doorstep. Masked and all. And in his hand, masks for us. I can’t stop looking at his face, listening to his voice. All week, I had been thinking about how I was feeling desperate to see faces and had pondered standing at the edge of his driveway to call to him on his front stoop. Especially when  I saw photos of my PA family social distancing while “visiting.” And there he was. In the flesh. We talk. We talk awhile. We can’t stop talking. We both talk about said PA family and how we felt seeing those photos and stories. Same. I don’t think I will EVER take in-person visits for granted again. There is something about the physical presence of a person, their warmth, their life, the look on their face, the lift in their voice.

(note, I miss you all- you know who you are)

81. And what is the lesson for me, on my low, low day- with my hair in disarray and my wreck around clothes? I ponder. There is a lesson, and I am thinking hard on it

82. my darlings, who need me, and in whom is so much rich treasure and joy


83. these days with all my children at home and they way each view the world from their own unique perspective- what they bring to my life; what they bring to us all! I watch the photo slideshow on the big screen (years of our family, a minute a time) and my heart hurts- the way it is often wont to do. How much changes and so very fast? I gasp. What is a family, I wonder? And these children who take so much of us, our very life, to grow up and outward and on. I see the face of the man who has changed along with me, along with all these rapidly growing children, over all these years, and suddenly I see us, a family. He and I. My hand in his.

84. The way I find myself lost, only to be found in Him. Blurry vision comes into focus, and I am grateful!

85. art lessons with Nana; these are a gift

86. This song:






Pick a Party: Stay-At-Home diversions: Notes from Quarantine #3

The days are getting a little bit thin here at times; no where to go from each other and days on end of enduring. Overall, every single person is still going strong with school and work and lessons- so, it is not really that we are at loose ends…

But, some days have been hard; it is easy to feel low. I forgot what day of the week it was earlier this week; Todd got VPN back after a couple weeks of trouble, and announced it to me suddenly and out of the blue when I peeked in at him in the home office. I stared off vaguely into space; he looked wild-eyed and alert. What are we coming to, we wondered. The random blurting made us laugh.

I took a Coronabingo Challenge: I “bingoed” two whole rows and some additional squares. Sadly, cleaning was NOT one of those.

This week I also stayed up almost all night reading a book. An act I do not intend to give way to again. I rued the day. It was partly a combination of very good, page-turner book and partly my driven OCD where I just needed to finish the book. I didn’t finish it. It was over four hundred pages. I almost did. I am not proud of this escapade. But I note it here for posterity and the journal of these unusual days. In some ways, for me, it was a true COVID-19 experience. I do love the Kindle App on my phone.  I stumbled through the next day (obviously), confessed to sundry and all, went to bed normally the next night, and woke up the next day feeling much better.

Overall, I think this week laid me low a bit; I think it did some others, too.

In our house, tax season just “ended” — note: strangest ending we’ve ever had- and not really ended yet- perhaps, just a pause? Who can say. Yet, the days are beginning to take a different shape.

One hard thing for me, that marks this Covid_19 season, is my knee. Actually, both knees. I have an injured left knee, and I have fallen twice on it during this shelter at home season. Both times, on wet floor while wearing my sneakers. Both times, where my foot just skidded out from under me, and I couldn’t stop the slide. Both times because of coronavirus cleaning procedures. The most recent time was this past week, and it was a doozy. Plus, I have very painful arthritis that “acts up” in both knees. My injured knee is much worse right now, and I am icing it while employing heat for the dreaded arthritis. It stinks, and I think it is definitely making me sad.

In other news, among the many children and adults sheltering here: some of us are, sometimes, fractious. Actually, as I reflect, that might be too generous a word. We are all feeling a bit of interpersonal strain right now. It is a good time to remind myself to love well and generously; be extra patient and kind; watch for the one who is struggling and/or hurting.

Friday, the irritability factor was rising, and I, ever so much NOT a doer, and instead a dreamer, was at a full stop; the seeping paralysis was  weighing me down. I struggled to engage. As the unhappy discontent began to swirl more and more rapidly,  I begain brainstorming out loud. How could I create a “friend party” at home? We didn’t really land on anything. I am not sure how to maximize Zoom.  But then I thought: we could make a list of at-home parties and choose. Pick- a- Party was born!  Together, we brainstormed ideas and  made our list. Some of these ideas came directly from my little girls with no help from me! I snipped them and folded them, placed them in a hat, and decided to have a child pick out of a hat. We will pick two a week until Quarantine ends OR begin the list again.

These simple ideas have brought a lot of excitement, joy, and diversion to our home and family.

Friday, we had a Chalk Pastel Art Party, and tomorrow afternoon we will have a Poetry Party. Word has it we will have a personal recitation of an original work titled “A Lament of Physics.” I can’t wait!

General notes: Tidy up the party area and decorate a bit (wildflowers from the yard; a pretty platter; make lemonade).

*Some of these party ideas are more suitable for young children (i.e. my 7 and 8  year old daughters; others are suitable for all (including my college-age children).


Party Ideas:

Chalk Art Party

Set up art supplies. Gather at the craft table and choose projects 1-3 projects (we did two) from chalkpastel.com. Afterward, hang them up in the family room. Enjoy a pretty snack platter and lemonade. Discuss the art. Have everyone pick their favorite piece from their own work. Parent picks their favorite piece for each child.

Dress-Up Party

Set up party reception snacks. Everyone picks a character and creates a costume from whatever can be found around the house. Come to the party dressed up; guess the characters; enjoy snacks.

Game and Snack Party

Set out snacks all along the counter and create game stations

our list: Mario Kart; Minecraft; Arms; Mario Odyssey; Forbidden Island; Labrynth; Rocket League; Boggle; Barton card games

Rotate through game stations. Enjoy snacks!

Holiday Party

Pick a Holiday or Season: Valentine’s Day, Harvest, Winter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Easter, Spring, Summer

Prepare matching holiday snacks and drinks and crafts (hearts, pumpkins, snowflakes, sparkler art, etc); Gather holiday storybooks.

Enjoy seasonal food, crafts, and stories.

Music Concert Party

Prepare the concert room. Set out cookies and lemonade. Everyone dress up; everyone bring a piece to play on their instrument for joy for all; low-key and fun; anything is allowed but all available are invited to participate.

Pamper Princess Party

Set up “pedicures”; paint toe nails, brush/do hair and makeup; use hand lotion.

listen to soothing music

Picnic Party

Set out a large blanket in the backyard or a large room in the house (if raining/bad weather). Bring snacks, little sandwiches, drinks, and stories. Hang out together at the picnic, enjoy the company and change of scenery.

Poetry Party

Set out cookies and lemonade. Tidy up family room and set out flowers from the yard to create a nice atmosphere. Everyone brings 1-3 pieces of favorite poetry to share with the group (does not have to be memorized). Enjoy the recitation and then the reception!

Popcorn and Movie Party

Put a big blanket on Mom’s bed. Bring a big bowl of popcorn and setup a favorite movie. Hang out and enjoy!

Relax Party

Everyone chooses their favorite snack or drink; everyone heads to the family room to relax with a movie, book, game, etc.

Tea-Time Party

Mom gathers favorite illustrated poetry books. Children set out their tea set and snacks. Play soothing or classical music. Enjoy a refined tea time!


Maybe you can think of some party ideas to change it up at home a bit? We all need a diversion from time to time. 

I’d love to hear them,