Birthday Firsts

I celebrated my birthday in August. Perhaps celebrated is a bit over the top. I tolerated…no, that’s not quite right either. I glided through my birthday. It wasn’t a milestoner or hugely significant in any other way, except that it was my first birthday without my mama.

Someone once told me that your mother’s face is the first face you love. So how could I not think of Mama on my birthday? Looking back on my last birthday, I specifically remember that my mama did not completely remember. We talked a bit about it but she didn’t respond in the same way she would have in the past; wanting to take me out to breakfast or bake me a cake or tell me how young I am. I really miss that. 

Last year on my birthday, Mama was beginning to fade. At one point during the day I have a memory of feeling slightly hurt by her lack of zeal, but that was her disease, not her. Her mind was beginning the journey of closing doors, but I couldn’t see that, or more accurately, didn’t want to see that. 

There are many examples of this denial in myself as well as in my siblings, but that is a subject for another day. 

On this hot day of August 21, 2019, I will cry some tears and I will bite my lip a couple of times when others speak of my birthday. I will smile and mean it. My heart is full, and grateful for a mama whose face I loved first and who also first loved mine.


On this day, 35 years ago, a beautiful baby girl was born. She was ‘knitted together in her mother’s womb and fearfully and wonderfully made’. I am certain that the song of her heart would include more verses from this 139th chapter of Psalm, which state: 

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me. Your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.    

The name Lindsey is derived from Old English meaning the linden tree. I have written previously about that name being so right for our Lindsey. She is a lovely slender tree that moves and bends in the gentle breeze yet has the strength of deep roots to withstand mighty winds.

I fully believe that she was created to marry my son, Andrew. And he for her. 

On this birthday she is celebrating across the ocean in a little French town named Colmar. It is in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. Colmar is nestled among vineyards and is known for its amazing cuisine, charming accommodations, and bakeries full of croissants and pain au chocolat. Someone once described the town as “so pretty that it doesn’t feel real. Cobblestone streets run next to canals lined with half-timbered houses in shades of rose, sky blue, lemon, peppermint, and apricot.”  

In communication with Lindsey and Andrew today, they said they expected Belle to be singing in one of the windows. It is picturesque perfect. 

Happy Birthday to our dear Lindsey. What a gift you are. 

90 Years

Today we celebrated Mama’s 90th birthday. We began the day early. We planted magenta flowers in her yard, cut back rose bushes, put up a screened canopy over her deck, mulched her flowerbeds, and power-washed her white fences.

We prepared a lovely lunch and hung a HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner. We had a beautiful buttercream frosted cake with raspberry layers. We brought in helium balloons with colored ribbons. We wore party hats and sang and took photos and hugged and kissed. 

Today we celebrated 90 years of a life. But we celebrated so much more than that one life. We celebrated a family that amounts to over 75 lives and counting, from that one life. 

We do not know how many more birthdays we will celebrate with Mama. This may have been the last or we may celebrate 10 more. 

This is true, however, for every one of us, whether we are 90 or 60 or 30 or 10. 

So we celebrate with Mama, as we celebrate all that came from her and all other lives that we touch. A celebration for one we love is a celebration of life for every one of us.

From one small spark comes a flame and from that flame, a fire that burns throughout time. 

Happy Birthday to you, dear Mama, our past, our present and our future. 

By Pure Design

On this day, 36 years ago, this dear one was bought into the world. He had flawless skin. His face looked like creamy velvet. He had sweet cupid’s bow lips. And a bit of a furrowed brow. I think Christopher may have been born with the knowledge that he would have to try to improve the world with good design. Sigh.

After staring at his lovely face, I noticed his hands and fingers. His nails and nail beds looked like his daddy’s. They were perfectly shaped and his fingers looked strong. These fingers would one day learn to play his beloved Martin guitar with strength and gentleness; the best way.

Christopher was a bit of a mischievous child. He was always trying to figure things out. For a short time we lived in an apartment that had a trash compactor. That was somewhat high-tech in the mid-80s. I used to take my wedding rings off while I did the dishes. One evening I couldn’t find them. I came to discover that Christopher had put them into the compactor to see if it could crush something as hard as gold. 

Another time I found Christopher tossing various things into the toilet; toys, brushes, combs, whatever was lying around, to see if it would flush these items efficiently. 

He loved Matchbox cars. For a while, he went though a phase of carrying around just three or four select cars in a Little Playmate cooler. This was quite clunky for a three year-old to tote and of course, more cars would have fit in there. He was obviously very selective about what he wanted. They must have been BMWs. 

He would also spend hours lining them up perfectly, as if they were in a parking lot. Sometimes he did this while crouched on the floor, his eyes level with the seat of a chair. I think he was configuring how many would fit before they began to fall off the edge. 

It is no surprise that Christopher grew up to be an excellent designer. 

When he was in grade school he would come home seeming tired or disheartened. When I asked about his day he would tell me that other kids were always asking him to draw them a truck or a car or a baseball player…he was tired of freelancing.

Later, in high school, I nearly got into a shouting match with a teacher who did not believe Christopher had completed the art assignment himself. He could not believe that Christopher was capable of such excellent work at a young age.

Outside of his talents and accomplished skills, Christopher has a beautiful heart. He has a kind heart. He is even-tempered and brings a sense of peace to diffuse situations that could get fiery in a moment.

He has a heart for justice. I see that in all three of my boys. They want to right the wrong. I love that.

Christopher has great interest in bringing our city to truth about things that have not always been brought into that light. He has been and will continue to be involved in understanding racial injustice and finding solutions.

And he loves. He loves with his whole being. If you are in his circle of friends, you are blessed indeed. He treasures meaningful relationships.

This day, 36 years ago, a sweet and bright beacon was placed into my arms. He has been helping to point the way since then and his compass is always leading him toward an adventurous journey of teaching and learning and teaching and learning.

Happy Birthday to my warm and beautiful middle son. You are deeply loved by all. 

Presidents’ Day

Today we celebrate Presidents’ Day. For many of us that means a day off of work/school, a day of receiving no bills in the mail and the unavailability of in-person banking.

Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of February. The day honors all presidents of the United States. The day specifically honors the birthday of our first president, George Washington. Truth be told, his birthday is February 22, but since that doesn’t always coincide with a three-day weekend, we honor him just a bit early. Sorry, George. We love you and all, but we need a long weekend.

On this Presidents’ Day, I encourage all of us to give our president a break. Can you imagine doing that job? First, I would be constantly scrutinized for wearing yoga pants, sneakers and a baseball cap way too often. I would want to do my own laundry. I would want to take a run on Pennsylvania Avenue by myself. I would tell most reporters and annoying people to get a freakin’ life.

Every president is terrorized. Barrack Obama was criticized for playing too much golf and going on too many vacations and partying too much with Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Yeah, I though so, too. But again, the stress of that job most likely requires great distraction.

President Trump tweets too much and sometimes talks too much. However, he, like all past presidents, is a human, full of frailty and weakness and brokenness. Grace, grace, grace and a little prayer wouldn’t hurt, either.

But back to the birthday boy. The famous claim that George Washington sported a set of wooden teeth is little more than a myth. However, dental issues plagued him for most of his adult life. He began losing teeth as early as his twenties and was eventually forced to wear several sets of unsightly and painful dentures.

Washington’s many false choppers were made out of varying combinations of rare hippopotamus ivory, human teeth, gold wire springs and brass screws. Though his dentures were fashioned by some of the best dentists of the late 18th century, they still left him disfigured and often in pain.

Keeping his teeth looking as white and natural as possible was a constant chore. He often shipped them off to his dentist to keep them in working order. The teeth would easily turn brown and their occasional unsightly appearance may have first started the rumor that they were made from wood.

Worse still, the dentures caused jaw discomfort (I can imagine!) and forced the President’s lips to, as he once wrote “bulge” in an unnatural fashion. This facial disfigurement is somewhat apparent in artist Gilbert Stuart’s famous unfinished painting of George Washington from 1796 – the same portrait that appears on the one dollar bill.

So, today when you pull money from your pocket or purse to pay for your Starbuck’s venti decaf double espresso macchiato with whipped cream, and you see ol’ George’s face on the dollar bill, give him a little grace, too. He was doing his best to smile with his not-wooden teeth.

Loving Lincoln

Yesterday was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. I have a soft spot in my heart for him. I think there are several reasons.

First, a bit of history. Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin on the Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. His mother, Nancy Lincoln, died of milk sickness in 1818, leaving his sister, eleven-year-old Sarah, in charge of a household that included her father, nine-year-old Abraham and a nineteen-year-old orphaned second cousin.

About a year later, Abraham’s father married Sally Bush Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, with three children of her own. “Here’s the story of a lovely lady…”. I couldn’t help it. It is not noted in research, but I can well imagine the relief and help this was to poor sister Sarah. Abraham became very close to his stepmother, whom he referred to as “Mother”.

As a youth, Lincoln disliked the hard labor associated with the frontier life. Neighbors and family members often dubbed him ‘lazy’ for all his scribbling, writing, ciphering and poetry. He also loved to read.

Lincoln was largely self-taught. His formal schooling from itinerant teachers was intermittent, yet it gave him a lifelong interest in learning.

As he grew into his teens, Lincoln took responsibility for his chores and became adept at using an axe. He was tall and strong and athletic and participated in various wrestling and other competitive matches.

As years continued, Lincoln taught himself law, passing the bar exam in 1836. For the next few years he worked in the newly named capital of Springfield, Illinois, earning the reputation as “Honest Abe”.

He later met and married Mary Todd, the daughter of a wealthy slave-holding family in Lexington, Kentucky.

There is far too much to tell between this time and the date of his first inauguration as President of the United States. I encourage you to read his whole story.

On the personal side, Lincoln was an affectionate, though absent husband and father of four sons. Two of their sons died at young ages, probably of tuberculosis. Abraham and Mary were considered to be very lax in the disciplining of their children, though they loved them dearly.

Even prior to the deaths of his two sons, Lincoln suffered from “melancholy”, a condition which now is referred to as clinical depression.

Like his heroes, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, Lincoln opposed the spread of slavery to the territories, and had a grand vision of expanding United States, with a focus on commerce and cities, rather than agriculture.

In his second inaugural address in 1865, Lincoln addressed the need to reconstruct the South and rebuild the Union: “With malice toward none; with charity for all.”

That is such a great line.

We all know how his story ends. On the night of April 14, 1865, the actor and Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, slipped into the president’s box at the Ford Theatre and shot him point-blank in the back of the head. Lincoln was carried to a boarding house across the street from the theater, but he never regained consciousness and died in the early morning hours of April 15.

I see Abraham Lincoln as extremely self-motivated, mentally focused in spite of his depression, kind and gentle, yet extremely bold and courageous. I think what I love most about Lincoln is his humanness. I love his pushing through all of his tough days to reach his goal. I like his writers heart and his love of poetry and even his blues.

My boys and I visited Washington D.C. two summers ago. It was my first time there. I loved that visit. We saw many things in a short amount of time. I had the opportunity to tour Ford’s Theatre, as well as the boarding house across the street, where Lincoln was laid across the bed. It was all very moving.

My very favorite place was the Lincoln Memorial. It is beautiful and massive. It deserves reverence. It feels like a holy place. I actually shed a few tears.

I’m not exactly sure how to wind up this blog. It is solely meant to make you think about Abraham Lincoln, The Great Emancipator. For me, that is probably one of my biggest admirations of him; he loved freedom. He wanted it for all and for all time.

Freedom is one of the sweetest words we know or speak. In Lincoln’s case, and for many others, it often comes at a great price. Let us not forget.

So Happy Belated Birthday to you, Mr. Lincoln. May you be experiencing the truly greatest freedom of all.


A Birthday

Today is the birthday of my brother, Stephen. He was two years older than me. Steve passed away in July, 2000, after being hit while crossing a busy highway, on a shortcut home.

Steve was sweet and kind and quiet and had great dimples in each cheek. He had a good heart; always ready to help a family member or friend. He had a gentle spirit.

For many years, Mama and I would take flowers to a spot near the highway where someone had placed a white wooden cross. That was always difficult. We stopped doing that a few years ago, in part because it was dangerous to park at the side of the highway, but also because it was too hard on Mama.

We now only go to his grave on Memorial Day weekend and place flowers there. We did not do that this year on Memorial Day. Mama doesn’t mention it anymore. I am going to assume that the dementia has softened and dulled that part of her memory. It is easier to believe that. Mostly the dementia is cruel but occasionally the dementia is kind.

It has been over 17 years since his death. Most of the time, I go on day to day without too much thought of him. But today I will think of you, my brother. I will pray God’s great grace and mercy upon us all and ask Him to please give you a special warm smile on this, your day.

Thanksgiving Baby

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to this one. This one born to a young naïveté. I did not know how to be a mother. I was not worthy to receive this gift. I was no more than a child myself. But what a gift he was. And I received it with open arms and an open heart. My heart has been full for 40 years.

Having Andrew was nearly like playing house with a live baby doll. He was such a delight, from the very start. Always curious and alert and questioning. From a tender age, he seemed to have an understanding of life. Or at least a driving desire to understand it.

Teachers would often tell me that Andrew seemed to be disengaged in school, to be a dreamer. I fully believe that he was already contemplative about how best to impact the world.

When Andrew was in 5th or 6th grade he told that he did not have time for school. He had far bigger things to do. How true that would be.

Andrew has always had a heart for justice and a passion for change. He once nearly had a fight with a father at the bus stop because this father was allowing his son to make fun of another child. I, of course, gently stepped in. But a part of me so wanted Andrew to punch him in the nose. Andrew the Crusader.

What a man he has become, though by some miracle of God, he was born a man. Another mystery of life.

He lives a disciplined life. He passionately seeks the Lord and the Lord’s hand is upon his head. He passionately seeks truth and he finds it. He passionately seeks love and he found it.

He earns credibility and respect. He honors deep friendships. He merits the admiration and adoration of those blessed to be in his light.

I trust Andrew with all things. I trust all three of my son-gifts. I trust their opinions and thoughts and knowledge and experience. I trust their eyes and their ears and their spirits.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to this one. My first born. My heart. My friend.