Monday, November 27, 2017

Dear Josephine

Dear Josephine,

Today is your birthday!!! YAY!!

You have been keeping us updated by counting down each day this month as your big eleventh birthday approached.

Your birthday present list has been sitting beside my computer since early September (with asterisks next to the items you wanted to "consult" me on!).

You have prepped and planned for a fun birthday party with friends and willingly celebrated your day on Thanksgiving with family.

You enjoyed Mexican food, complete with a serenade and ice cream on the face, and have already tuned and taught yourself two chords on your new ukulele.

Life is good today for sure, and it is so fun to watch you grow and flourish right now.

Eleven opens a door to a new time. You're about halfway through your last year of elementary school. You're starting to make choices on activities, take on leadership roles, and be helpful even more so at home. You're at a space in your life when possibilities seem endless, growing up looks like fun, and being a kid is still awesome.

However, eleven also ushers in a tricky time. You're approaching middle school. While I know that you will be fine, you will have to deal with some hard stuff. Friends are going to come and go. Choices about activities will need to be made. Independence is something you crave, yet can't quite comprehend. You may feel lost at times. You may feel sad. You may feel upset. You may not...who knows? That's what's fun and also kind of scary about getting bigger.

Here's the good news: Your dad and I are sitting here, watching you. We love you so much and are here to help you figure things out. However, this is time in our parenting that is still somewhat new to us. You are a completely different eleven year old than your sister, and so we're trying to figure this out, too.

Let's do this together, okay? Let's give each other space and grace and encouragement. We want to guide you like we did when you were learning to ride a bike. Remember that? You might not because now, you fly across the gravel driveway now. Just a few years ago, we were the ones to steady you,  guiding you with our hands on your back to help you right your way. You may have forgotten that, but I still see that little girl on a pink princess bike every so often. Keep that determination, but know that your dad and I will always help you right your way when you feel lost.

Josie, I am certain that big things will come for you as you get bigger. I know that your spunk and your spirit and your talents will lead you down a road that I can't even imagine. You are feisty and fearless and might give your old dad a run for his money, but in the end, you will always be our dearest Josie.

Tonight, I'll tuck you in as a new eleven year old. My eyes well up with tears thinking of that first night you were born. You were so tiny, dark haired and already opinionated. I couldn't even imagine that night what you would be like as you grew up. Now that you are, I can't believe how amazing you are.

Thanks for keeping our lives interesting and busy, Josie. We are right here, always watching, always ready to guide you. We love you and are so, so excited to see where the next eleven years take you...because these first have flown by.

Happy birthday, my Sweet Jos.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, sky, closeup and outdoor

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing

Image may contain: 1 person, horse

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing

Friday, November 17, 2017


When I was a kid, I loved November. Thanksgiving was a great holiday for a kid like me who enjoys wearing sweaters and eating pie. When I was in college, I loved November. We came home to the Cranberry Classic basketball tournament, sporting our newly minted Greek letters or school colors. There was just enough break for us to catch a breather before finals.

As an adult and a farm family, November has become a little harder. Harvest *should* be done. The weather is getting colder, so chores are less fun. The nights start at 4:30, and if you're a mom of toddlers, going to bed at 5:30 makes for a hard next day.

Four years ago, November took a whole other meaning. We lost Joe's mom to cancer November 20th. Josie's birthday is just a week after, and while we are still celebratory and together around that time, November is still hard.

Yesterday, in true November form, we received the news that we lost one of our friends, Jay.
In November.
From cancer.

November, you're relentless. Cancer, you stink.

I just saw Jay about a month or so ago, maybe longer. I was having a lunch meeting at a little restaurant off the interstate, and in he walked, plopping right next to me, introducing himself to my colleagues. After my meeting ended, I went over and sat with him, joking with him about how he was eating pie before his lunch. "You gotta live, Miss Emily."

Yep. You do.

Jay was one of those guys who made Joe and me laugh about everything and anything. When we first had Josie, we were attending a mutual friend's wedding. I was holding our newborn, standing and chatting with Jay while Joe was off talking somewhere else. Another one of Jay's friends (did he have millions of friends or what?) came up and Jay said, just as casually as he could, "Have you met my wife, Emily?"

We laughed so hard that day, and every time I saw him or he saw Joe, he would ask, "How's my wife?"

He was a talented and smart and funny and witty and complex guy. But he was sick. When I saw him last, we spoke of Joe's health and when I asked him how he was, "I'm okay today!" was his cheerful answer.

I believed him.

I just don't get this world we live in. I don't understand God's plan when it includes taking people like Jay out of the world at such a young age. Jay had already lost his mom at an even younger age, and now his dad has to go through this? This is what brings me to tears today. The unfairness of it all.

Friends, I am here to tell you that I'm done with November. Today I'm sad and tired of trying to explain why my iPhone knows where I am at all times and can get me an Uber, a Starbucks, and everything on Amazon, and yet we keep losing friends and family to this crappy disease.

November, you're relentless.

However, I am too. I will keep telling stories about Grammy to my kids who never met her to keep those memories alive. I will hold fast to the last hug I gave to Jay and will chuckle every time I think of him and his funny references and stories. Joe and I rarely say the correct city name for Davenport, Iowa. Thanks to Jay, it's Couch to us.

Rest in peace, Jay. This Thanksgiving, I'll eat pie first in your honor.