Category Archives: mother

Our Midnight

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Our Midnight.  Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life.  Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him.  He loved people.  He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”.  He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course.  He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet.  He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus.  He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights.  He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup.  He loved going out to “the farm”.  Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing  after all the waterfowl that lived in them.  But he hated thunderstorms.  Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside.  One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota.  The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening.  Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us.  We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse.  The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek.  I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!

Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11.  And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years.  It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age.  Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family.  He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004.  Puppy love with huge paws.  Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle.  In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever.  This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago.  Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight.  For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood.  One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition.  Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters.  Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why.  Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us.  Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night.  He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.

Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love.  Our Midnight.  We will always love you.

 

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Any Room At Your House?

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Tis the season of busyness and preparations for the holidays.  Presents bought and wrapped.  Baking.  A surprise visit and present from my son.  It is Dean and I’s heart to get these holiday greetings sent via postage mail long before Christmas week. Please know that you are in our hearts year round. Christmas joy has filled our home, peace with God and grace to all people despite any differences.  This snowy Christmas Eve is the slow-down to reflect on His Gift, Jesus, lessons from 2017 and what is hoped for 2018. The 4 Advent Sundays reminded us of this moment. Father Peter shared at Mass tonight the Christmas story, how there was no room for Joseph, Mother Mary, and the birth of baby Jesus.  A meager manger would be the chosen place of His birth. It was asked how many of us would say the same “no room at our house”? “What would you do if Joseph and Mary came knocking on your door tonight?  Do you have time to deal with this?  Can you make space in your house without resentment or casting judgment?  Would you empty the tool shed or a spot in the garage?  Would you charge high $$ to profit from this situation?  Or worst yet, steal their possessions, what little the guests have?  Scriptures tell us “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.”

“Family” would summarize our year of 2017.  As a reminder, Dean and I have 6 children, 5 in-law children, 6 grandchildren, 3 parents, 5 siblings and their families, and we cannot forget our dog, Midnight and cat, Celine, the 7 grand dogs, and 3 grand cats.  Dean and I began 2017 in Key West, Florida with his parents and siblings, an 80th birthday celebration for Dean’s mother.  Such a while ago, but lovely memories of the beach breezes, discovering new sites, and time with family.  We still have our greeting card boxes that niece Amelia made each of us.  After the hurricanes there, I suppose the scenery is quite different.  In a couple of days warmth awaits us in San Antonio, where we will meet up with Dean’s son, AJ, Nancy, Elise, and  Nancy’s family there.  Spiced rum eggnog, homemade chicken soup, Christmas carols, and having each other will keep us warm tonight …

In February my daughter, 33-year old Elisabeth was diagnosed with 2 types of breast cancer, stage 1 and stage 2. Elisabeth went through a strict regimen of chemo treatments, hair loss, zapped energy and strength. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. We are so very thankful to our Father as she has been given a cancer-free diagnosis in July.  Elisabeth is regaining her strength and hair while under hormone therapy and low-dose chemo.  Her husband, children, family, friends, and all the supportive, praying communities continue to surround her. Her bravery and fighter personality helped Elisabeth stay above.  I reached out for prayers by many women, visited church 1-block from my office to take part in many noontime prayer vigils, and Dean and I together continue to provide a quiet and calm home while she heals.

Refreshing spring brought us to the completion of our 2-room addition.  It took a whole year, but it is beautiful and has provided the much needed space to our home.  At this season of our lives we share our home with my daughter and her family.  More warmth with the woodwork, a set of barn doors matching the stained doors in the rest of the house as well as a high ceiling to heighten the spacious floor layout.  We use the 2 rooms as a family room/dining area and an extra bedroom that Elisabeth and Mark can rest their heads in. In May Dean and I spent almost a week in the Smoky Mountain region of our beautiful states.  Experienced the AirBnB hospitality for this vacation. We loved Gatlinburg, TN and Asheville, NC.  Antiques, the arts, and foodie places were our hangouts. Of course, a few walks in the woods. There was a sign warning us, and you know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Dean drove the Dragon’s Tail Highway with all its hairpin turns, not understanding what we were in for.  I was very close to losing lunch during that ride. We tried the glamper scene one night in the middle of nowhere land. And we stopped in Nashville for a night. Love the nightlife there with all the honky-tonks and country music.

Weekend trips to Lee’s Summit and Farmington keep us on the road at least once a month visiting with children, grandchildren, and Dean’s parents.  When we are home we read, write, catch a music venue or new foodie joint in St. Louis.  And there is always those weekend chores.  We garden and mow at the greenhouse site on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance 7 or 8 months out of the year. This year’s gardening included a voluntary cherry tomato plant that literally took over the whole vegetable bed from July until the October frost killed it.  We dubbed this plant as “Audrey” from the play/movie Little Shoppe of Horror. We made a delicious green tomato marmalade from the abundance of fruit left after the killing frost.  Our perennials are inside now, and our bird of paradise is about to bloom again under the plant lights in the garage.  Autumn brought Dean and I a steal-away weekend to Pella, Iowa.  We loved this Dutch town so much, we are planning a Mother’s Day weekend there with our mothers.

My occupation as the employee wellness coordinator of St. Louis County is the work God called me to this season of my life.  We had our Billion Steps Challenge using Fitbits and a web portal called One Community.  With two 8-week walking challenges this spring and summer, we cleared the 1 billion steps goal and went well over 2 billion steps amongst 2800 participating employees and spouses.  I have been asked to speak along with a panel at the St. Louis area American Heart Association’s Wellness Forum in February discussing employer wellness budgets on a shoestring.  Personally, my biometric numbers were improved substantially with the walking challenges, and my primary care physician is thrilled.  The walking culture continues through winter.  Dean, Midnight, and I still take an evening constitutional almost every night.  At 20 degree temps, I declined tonight. Hives or worse a visit to the emergency room would not be good.  Dean’s occupation with the National Archives keeps him going, and work he was called to as well.  He loves the hunt for military records especially for his family and friends.

Our youngest granddaughter, Elise has captured her Grandpa Dean’s heart.  I think he counts the days until he can see her again.  This Father’s Day was a wonderful gathering of Dean’s children and their families with us at our home. The red children’s swing in our sweet gum tree remind us of that special weekend.  We had a Gall Family Thanksgiving  at Rainer and Erica’s newly bought house in St. Louis City, and a birthday gathering for Dean the following day at a local bakery cafe. Another day that weekend we celebrated my oldest grandchild, Hannah’s 16th birthday.  Church every Sunday and occasional birthday celebrations and plays keeps us in touch with my mother and family. While celebrations and victories punctuate our year, so does illness and death. Dean’s extended family lost a cousin recently. Cancer, this wicked stuff.  Keep Mike’s wife, Terri and 2 daughters in your prayers please.  Another extended family member is undergoing treatments ; please say a prayer for Marion, our son-in-law’s father.  My oldest daughter, Rachel has multiple medical conditions, her conditions declining, which cause severe pain.   In 2018 I plan to take more time off from work each month to help Rachel with the kids and house.  Please bathe Rachel in your prayers.

What room do you have in your heart, home, and life for the least of these My brothers?  What has God prepared you for this very night, or the 365 days in 2018?  Blessings to you this eve of Jesus Christ’s birth.  As the carols sing … “Christ was born to save!  Christ was born to save!”… “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world!

Summer Connects

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In a world with ever changing values and technology, some things remain the same. Kinship, old mountain towns, and summer lakes. Most of the time you can depend on all three.  Family is family. Most of us are connected if not by blood, in some other fashion to each other no more than 3 times removed. We connected to Joe, owner of this small town bar & grill and a new eatery called the Galloping Goose Cafe while in Rico, Colorado.  He is a visionary for this town.  Not sure if I could go back 4 decades, but the brief week we had in the old mountain town cabin took Dean and I to the simplicity of our childhood years.  And we loved it.  In search for WiFi a couple of times to get connected to our urban civilization to post photos and reserve a hotel room for our travels back home, other than that we lived without any electronics and screens.  Dean and I resorted to reading, writing, napping, cooking, bird watching, photography, and walks.  We return to our full-time employment with government entities that overwhelm with procedures, projects, policies, and politics.  Cannot escape it in the evening with the political conventions being aired. So here is to wonderful July 2016 memories with family in the old mountain town and near the summer lake.  I will keep reading, writing, … making more memories and connections.

A Few Good Men

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I have been missing a few good men and women who left the earth in past 2 years. My father, my best buddy, my favorite uncle, my grandfather, my aunt, and my cousin. My father would have been 79 years old today. As the Employee Wellness Coordinator for my employer, I attended a forum discussing onology care for patients this afternoon. After three oncology experts and a HR professional presented their perspectives, a woman shared her experience in caring for your husband who died of brain cancer. Very emotional for me. Much what this woman shared related to my mother’s story if she would speak about it. I have kept to myself as well for reasons I cannot write about at this time. Such to God’s plans for my day, I ran into one of my cousins, the grandson of my favorite uncle who passed a year ago. This cousin was the IT/sound man for the oncology forum I attended. My guess there were a few tears shed in that conference room today. He, too lost his grandmother (my aunt) to cancer. And last week I met with American Cancer Society folks in regards to the local Relay For Life event held in May. They are soliciting support and a possible team to form. They struck a chord with me last week, but not quite like the woman sharing her story today. Just cannot get away from cancer, as it is prevelant in our aging population at work as well as with my kin folk. I will write later about the Relay For Life event held at Soldier’s Memorial in St. Louis. My Dean & I will form our own team if my employer does not. This is just one way to honor my father. This day, the anniversary of your birth day, Dad I reflect on you and the things you found joy in … earth, plants, fish, birds, dogs, and of course Mom. You are loved and missed today!

Fill My House

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New Harmony “The well of Providence is deep. It’s the buckets we bring to it that are small”~ quoting Mary Webb. How rich is the life that shares love, how huge is the house that shares love. This is what I experience when I visit my daughters and their families. Nothing buys this life. Only love fills it. Sharing hearts, moments, gifts, talents with each other and those neighbors they are surrounded with. Once again our small home houses a daughter and her family while they recuperate and gain financial independence again.

Dean and I were able to get away for a couple of days, visited the utopian town of New Harmony, Indiana. 200 years ago German immigrants from Pennsylvania founded this town. Today, this golf cart community has an appeal and simplicity that I can understand why it is a R & R destination for some. The roofless chapel, wooded landscape, flower gardens, quiet streets, and history to admire. Midnight, our dog loved the little lake we discovered. Swimming and lapping the cool water. This swan shared her home with us for a couple of hours. So glad she did. Co-existence … “The well of Providence is deep …” New Harmony Swan

All My Children

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All Saints ChurchAll My Children … Isn’t that the name of a daytime drama? If you had not heard yet, there has been daytime and nighttime drama in St. Louis, Missouri area this past 8 days. A community is at unrest due to the fatal shooting of an 18-year black man by a white police officer in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson. Protests turned to riots have lead major destruction in St. Louis County. Upheaval with law enforcement, prosecutors, government officials locally up to federally, and racial activists have made Ferguson known globally. I work for St. Louis County Government housed in the police headquarters building working in the benefits and retirement office. The sounds of security dogs, helicopters circling, and target-shooting bullets are foreign to everyday Clayton, Missouri which is the county seat of St. Louis County. This week I heard it all. And I felt and heard the turmoil of several civil and police employees. I administer the employee assistance services, make sure counselors are there for any one of them … all my children.
It was the longest week I had worked. On Friday, my husband picked me up from my office building, our usual car-pooling routine. We drove out of St. Louis County homeward bound. Home sweet home. We decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat. Old Town St. Peters American Legion Hall, our destination. Americana at its best. Long-hairs and farmers celebrate in unison the weekend with a beer in one hand and a fried chicken wing in the other. All I could hear was happy conversation and laughter. Beer mugs clanging like cymbals. Music. Songs of joy. The most comforting sounds I heard all week. And despite it all, the Ferguson Farmers’ Market continued on Saturday and parishioners congregated and prayed in their churches on Sunday. Foundational truths do not change. Food and faith still remain the foundation of what man and woman needs. With today’s sermon I was reminded of the Biblical story of the Cannaanite woman that others would have ignored, but Jesus paid attention to this mother’s persistant request for her daughter. With faith I pray … Oh God hear my cry for all my children, youngest to the oldest, black, white, simple-minded, disabled, rich, poor. But if not for the grace of God, any one of us are unworthy. But God You give us each the gift of Jesus Christ. Accept and receive His forgiveness, so that you in turn can show the same towards others. So be it.

Where Does One Begin?

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Sandra Witthaus Rau Where does one begin to understand the timing of one’s life in this world? This complexity of life and death, and there are many, seems to be a mystery. I cannot comprehend with my mind, and my heart wrenches that my cousin, Sandra Witthaus Rau was taken from us on June 3. But with faith in my loving God, the Father, I pray for comfort and peace for Sandra’s son, daughter, brother, grandson, and so many family and friends. Sandra wrote poems and expressed words of wisdom beyond her years, shared with those God placed in her life. An old soul yet her laughter and zeal was contagious, and kept her young. A year ago I asked on this Word Press blog “Is The Grass Greener?”, and Sandra shared such timely advice and with grace. And it is true, Sandra, “The grass is always greener where you water it – With Love, Laughter, Family and Friends”. The last bit of wisdom left on Sandra’s FB account on May 23:
~Slow down sometimes~
Life often gets out of control. We live in busy times and as much as we try to take a step back and live in the moment often that’s just not possible. Before we know it a week has passed. A month. Maybe even a year or two.
People tell us to stop and smell the roses but instead all we see is the work that has to be done to make those roses grow. The digging and planting. The weeding and watering. Everywhere we turn we run into duties and responsibilities, tasks and chores. All those things that need to get done to make our world turn.
Is that the life we envisioned when people used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Weren’t we going to be ballerinas, astronauts and magicians? But that’s life. It has a tendency to do the unplanned. It does it without regard or consideration for our feelings or objections. It throws us in at the deep end with no life ring in sight and says swim.
Maybe we just need to embrace the unpredictability with open arms rather than constantly fight it. And more importantly, we need to see those roses for what they really are. A chance to breathe. An opportunity to live life at its fullest. A real blessing. Because after all, there are only so many roses left for each one of us.

All Of Me
Sandra, you are terribly missed. And I know you are with Grandma, cousin Billy, your Mother, your Father, and your Uncle Marty now. For this I rest my mind and find peace. I love you, Sandra!

A Showcase Bromeliad

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Our three bromeliads made it through the long winter in the comforts of our back bedroom, the “plant room”. At different times this room has been a bedroom for all three of my kids as well as grandkids and their parents while in transition. The room has a wonderfully big picture window with a window seat. Many plants were perched on the window seat and shelving for sunlight and shelter from winter’s cold air. The bromeliad, a tropical plant hates cold air as much as I do. We have had humid, summer-like air the past couple of weeks so outdoors our tropical plants went. The tropical have brighten up vivid green. One bromeliad is a showcase with bright fuchsia in the center “cup” or “tank”. It now sets atop a huge upside down terra cotta pot displayed underneath our white dogwood tree. “Whirly birds” I call them or silver maple seed pods have fallen like rain this spring, and the bromeliads have caught a few. I swept up a bucketful of whirly birds yesterday from the front walkway and back patio, enough to start a maple tree farm! We do not want to sprout maple seedlings inside the bromeliads. The bromeliad does not like to be sopping wet, but that “cup” needs to hold water at all times to keep the plant healthy and attractive. Our other two bromeliads are not quite as brightly colored, and even seem a bit neglected with lack of water and humidity over the winter. They must have needed more water than the other as each have a couple of babies growing from it. We will carefully remove the babies later this summer and plant them in their own pots after their mothers have some time in our Missouri humidity. They are already looking refreshed with the rains. I can see why the agriculture world refers to a plant farm as a nursery. The constant care of some plants is like caring for babies. Isn’t she beautiful?!
Bromeliad

Whirl Wind Day

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Frozen Leaves
“Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are whirling fast.”

~ Sara Coleridge

Veterans Day means another day off for the government worker. In the past, Dean and I have used this day for a long weekend trip, catch up on doctors’ appointments, and/or chores around the house or greenhouse. This year the whirl wind day encompassed doctors’ appointments for all three of us. The cold air literally blew in while we traveled 1 hour north for our labrador’s annual veterinary exam. We visited my father’s cementary site. Old flowers withered and brown, and I forgot to bring a sprig or two of colorful leaves and mums, Dad’s favorite flower. Not sure the wind would have allowed them to stay. The whirl winds brought the last of the leaves down, and a stark-gray filled this November afternoon. It followed us back to St. Charles County, Missouri.
My youngest daughter is in the hospital once again with major back issues. We make our way over to their apartment to watch after the two grandkids when they arrive home from school while our son-in-law stays with my daughter at the hospital. A congenial disorder she found out a few days ago, same as her older sister. My heart aches. A mother despises the pain her child is in no matter how old the child is. A sense of comfort envelopes me as I spend time with Libby and Brendan. The grace of God is evident in this family. We gathered under fleece throws while watching a Disney classic. The wind whipped about outside the patio window, frozen leaves nestled in the corner of the deck. Their three cats take turns for a gander as the howls come and go all evening. Spits of snow tell us winter will follow this whirl wind day. Good-bye autumn, my achey joints are not ready for winter yet.

Aging With Grace

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My home church of All Saints in St. Peters, Missouri celebrates its 190th year as a parish. A homecoming day with donkey rides, an inflatable jump house, BBQ dinner, and a concert with rising country star Candy Coburn and her band brought the parishioners and locals together Saturday evening. After dinner my mother and I strolled the church grounds. Zinnias, marigolds, and geraniums sown in our greenhouse now bloom with vigor. In contrast to this lush plant life, across from the flower beds is the cemetery. Cedars and shade trees of old shelter a bed of familiar family names engraved on stone in the 200-year old burial site. Mother and I talk about some of those people from our younger years, who now rest in the presence of our Lord.
While at Sunday Mass, we sang the Servant Song by Richard Gillard. My reflections went to what God has called me to do, just one of His many servants. And so many before me did the same.
Brother, let me be your servant.
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I might have the grace
To let you be my servant, too.
We are pilgrims on a journey.
We are brothers on the road.
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping.
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.
When we sing to God in heaven,
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony.

In His Presence forever whether able to serve or not due to aging or circumstances. Live in the grace He freely gives you, and I will do the same.