hugs

When people are having a bad day, or the worst possible day, people often don’t know what to do to help. And sometimes there is seemingly nothing that can be done to really help, but as most of us know, whether we realize it or not, there is always one thing that can help…a hug. Of course, there is a right time and a wrong time to give a hug, but once the emergency part of a situation is over, we are often left with overwhelming emotions, and they are often held in because we are trying not to do the one thing that we really need to do…cry.

Over the years during which I was a caregiver, and now with what I went through during my husband’s heart attack, I have had a number of situations where the ambulance had to be called. In the whirlwind that followed, I had to keep my composure and tell the medical personnel what happened, and any other pertinent information they needed. I could not let myself break down. I couldn’t cry…or scream, which is what I really wanted to do. I had to hold it together, because my parents, in-laws, and then my husband, needed me to hold it together. I was their voice. Then, as suddenly as the ambulance had arrived, they loaded up their patient, and headed out. I found myself standing there alone, feeling very small and very scared. Then, a firefighter, who had also been dispatched, men who thankfully knew me because my husband had been their mechanic, came up to me and hugged me and encouraged me. Yes, the tears flowed then. There was no longer a need, nor any possible way to hold them back. Those firefighters can’t possibly comprehend what that hug meant to the person who received it. Hugs allow the emotions to release. It is the much needed human contact, when I felt entirely alone.

I am blessed to have many good people in my life. People who understand how badly a hug is needed. People who understand the power of a hug. My boss, Jim Stengel and his wife, Julie; my co-worker, Carrie Beauchamp; my siblings and in-laws; a friend and client, Donna LePage; and then, unexpectedly, my boss’s sons, Anthony and Michael Stengel, all sensed that I could really use a hug, and the power of those hugs has continued to help me. Each hug meant more than the giver can ever imagine. Each hug was given when the giver didn’t know what else to do, and yet each did exactly the right thing!! They instinctively knew that hugs are always healing. That is just the power of a hug.

Whether we like it or not, all little boys, and girls too, grow up way too fast. My nephew, Riley Birky is no exception. As a little boy, Riley loved to give hugs…especially to his mama. My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg tells me that he is still the best hugger she knows. You know the kind…they squeeze you tightly and their love for you just flows out of them and into your heart. Funny thing about those good huggers is that they never seem to get tired of hugging those they love…not even during the awkward teenaged years, when many kids are embarrassed by their parents, because they just aren’t cool. It isn’t that their parents aren’t cool…at home. It’s just that when they are with their friends…well, parents can say stuff that is just not cool…like I love you, or something. Of course, you want them to love you, just please don’t say it in front of the guys. Nevertheless, Riley was a boy who loved his mama, and he didn’t mind letting her know it.

Younger siblings can be a different kind of problem They always want to hang around, and they can be so nerdy. A cool guy can’t have his kid brother hanging around…or can he. Riley loves playing with his little brother, Tucker. He doesn’t seem to mind if Tucker is acting goofy, because…well, that’s just Tucker, and that’s ok. Riley feels very blessed to have a little brother, and they spend time together as much as possible. As a little boy, there were four things Riley loved, his mama, his little brother, his big sister, Cassie, and his bear, Fluffy. Family, you never outgrow, but toys are a different thing. Still, some toys are extra special, and you tend to keep them for life. Fluffy was just such a toy. He was like a best friend, who never left your side. While Riley doesn’t still play with Fluffy, he does still have Fluffy and probably always will. Who knows, maybe someday Fluffy can be handed down to Riley’s own child.

Riley loves playing football, and really everything about football, which is very common for boys. Sports becomes their way of life pretty early on in life. With the schools offering the opportunity and all their friends playing, it is just the natural thing for kids to do. Riley doesn’t really care about the other sports much, and other than football, would rather ride his bicycle. Like most boys, I’m sure he can do a number of tricks on his bicycle…and if not, I’ll bet that at the very least, he can pop wheelies, because I think every boy tries that one. And last, but certainly not least…there is Lilly. Lilly is the family dog, and she absolutely loves Riley, and he absolutely loves her too. Whenever Riley is at home, Lilly is by his side. Riley has such a loving, gentle way with Lilly. Dogs can just tell when they are loved, and when they are loved, they love back, with their whole being. Lilly would do anything to protect Riley, and Riley would do the same. This dog truly is this man’s best friend. Today is Riley’s 17th birthday. The little boy is gone, and in his place stands a young man with a very bright future ahead of him. Happy birthday Riley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

imageKids follow a typical pattern in the things they do, but that in no way makes kids the same. Some kids are too busy with their own things to take much notice of the aunts and uncles around them, while others, like my grand niece, Audrianna Masterson, always make an effort to come and say hello, followed by a hug, of course. Anna, as she has been nicknamed, is a very gentle soul, with a loving spirit. Whenever I am around her, usually at least twice a week, she just warms my heart with her gentle, loving ways.

Anna loves to read, and is spending much of this summer in a reading contest to see how many books she can read. So far she has won a t-shirt for her efforts, and she was so proud of it, that she had to make sure I saw it. Anna really loves learning in general. During the school year, when I see her, she like to sit with me and do her homework. Then she has imageme check it for her. I don’t really think it’s the homework help she is after, but rather the time she and I can spend together.

Don’t get me wrong, because Anna love to play too. She doesn’t care if the kids are older, like her cousins, Xander, Zach, and Isaac Spethman, or her brother Matthew Masterson, or her little cousin Aleesia Spethman, who is just three, and even her cousin, Shai Royce, who is twenty. She also likes hanging out with her big sister, Raelynn Masterson, when she has time for her that is. Raelynn is in middle school now, so that is a bit limited, nevertheless, Anna looks up to her big sister.

Anna may not be in the double digit age group yet, but she is coming into her own, nevertheless. I see her personality coming out more and more. Anna is not a drama queen or a princess. That just isn’t her style. She imageis a good girl who loves to help others, especially her parents. Anna is also a lot like her Great Aunt Caryn in that she is a deep thinker. She reasons things out in her own mind. She concentrates on the task at hand, or just on the thoughts running through her own head. Being a thinker and a concentrator can make people wonder about you. Some might think you are mad or that you are stand offish, when what you really are is deep in your own world of thoughts. Some people may not get that, but I get it, Anna, because you remind me of me…and I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. Maybe you will be a writer too, telling others about your own thoughts, memories, and family. Today is Anna’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

scan0204Have you ever noticed how completely uninhibited babies and toddlers are? If they like each other, they have no problem giving each other a friendly kiss. It doesn’t matter if they are boys or girls or one of each, but my favorite if when it is a boy and a girl, because they obviously have a little case of puppy love…or maybe it’s because babies tend to love most people. Whatever the reason, there is nothing as cute as two babies giving each other hugs and kisses.

Sometimes, I wonder why we can’t all feel the kind of love for other people that is so natural to babies. It doesn’t take very many years before we suddenly feel suspect of other people, or jealous, or just plain don’t like some people. I think that by the time Cheryl getting ready to kiss Carynwe enter kindergarten, we are already feeling a little less like sharing our friends with others, and so enters jealousy. Of course, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just the way life is. I suppose it would be strange if we were just able to love everyone, although it would also make for a very peaceful Earth too.

It makes me wish that those baby years could just go on forever. Not for me so much, but for my kids and grandkids. I know that wouldn’t work either, because if my kids were babies, they couldn’t have had my grandkids, but I really do miss those baby years for all of them. It is that age of innocence that makes babies so sweet and loving, and as we all know that age of innocence turns to the terrible teens before our very eyes, and almost over night. Once you have experienced the terrible teens with your own kids, you will truly know Lovin'Sissywhy I prefer the innocence of babies, and baby kisses, over the terrible teens, and all that goes with them.

While I love my children and grandchildren at every age of their lives, there is very little that can compare to the days of innocence and baby kisses. They are not caught up in the day to day stresses and issues of their teenage years, but are rather simply set on bringing happiness and love to all who cross their paths. So the next time you find yourself wishing your babies were grow up so they could do things for themselves, remember that these days are fleeting, and baby kisses quickly disappear…when you are not looking. Focus on those baby days for as long as you possibly can.

IMG_7590a11222111_10206362161311787_6823450642533786703_naBob and I, along with our granddaughter, Shai Royce have looked forward to our trip to Seattle, Washington to see her parents and brother for the three and a half months since they moved there. It has been a long and sad time for us here, and them there. Now that the trip is over, the sadness has come flooding back in again. The trip was lovely and we all had such a nice time. It was so good to be able to see where they live and tour the area. We talked and laughed, and just enjoyed each other’s company again. It felt a little bit like old times, except that we were in the wrong place for old times. So, it is like new times, instead of old times.

All week we tried not to think about just how fast the week was going. Nevertheless, it was going by fast. You can’t slow time down. It goes at the pace that it does, and it doesn’t care how you feel about it. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a week. And you have to sleep some of them too, unfortunately. That makes a short amount of time go even faster. And a week is such a short time anyway.

This trip was centered around Amy and her husband, Travis Royce renewing their vows for their twentieth anniversary too, so there was a group of people, and not just us. We had to share them, and what I really wanted to do was to have them all to ourselves. Nevertheless, share we must, so share we did. And I 11224462_10206348613293095_5952134185748889203_nunderstood it too, because we weren’t the only ones who had missed them. Still, we had a very nice time. It was just too short.

Bob and I have often taken just one week of vacation at a time, and thereby had two weeks of vacation at separate times, but with our daughter and family living so far away, I can certainly understand why my parents always wanted to take at least two weeks to go visit when they had daughters who lived far away. Maybe if we had taken two weeks, it wouldn’t have felt like it went by so fast, but then again, probably not. In reality, it doesn’t matter how much time you have, because it will just never be long enough.

During the week we were with Amy, and her family, it was easy to distance ourselves from the time that was coming so quickly, when we would have to leave them…at least most of the time anyway. We did all the things that tourists would do, as if this was just another carefree trip with no impending separation, but inside I knew that in just a matter of days, we would all be feeling the rush of sadness once again.

When the last day arrived, we went to breakfast, still able to pretend that it was a day like any other day, but all too quickly that time passed too, and the easy conversation of the meal at the restaurant turned into the quiet reflection of the sadness we all dreaded. In the end, the words simply stuck in our throats behind the tears we were trying so hard to hold back. Of course, we failed miserably, and the tears ran silently down our IMG_7087IMG_7536cheeks. We hugged each other, once and then again and again, but finally we had to leave. The ride to the airport was very quiet. We simply couldn’t speak. I thought about how Amy must be feeling, and the story Shai had shared with me about her first day at work. She set the pictures of her family on the shelf in her cubicle, and with a rush of emotion thought about the fact that she could not hug her daughter. I knew she would be feeling the same way again. We had hugged each other over and over and spent as much time together as we possibly could, but in the end, it is just never enough.

With boys, hugs and kissed usually stop in their toddler years…at least what we all know as PDA’s (public displays of affection). They are learning to be a man after all, and men don’t show emotion right?? I used to think that it was mostly boys whose dads were worried about them being wimps that caused their sons to act this way. Of course, this thought came from a woman who had 4 sisters and no brothers, and then 2 daughters and no sons. I know better now that I have 3 grandsons and only one granddaughter. Boys instinctively know that they have to be tough, and just like girls who are learning to be nurturing by playing with their dolls, boys learn toughness by pushing back their emotions…and the first thing to go is those good old PDA’s. I mean, “A guy could get beat up” right!!

The good news is that those things will come back into play when they get to the point where they actually like girls again, which must happen after the girls get over their case of the cooties, or the boys get vaccinated from them anyway, because as we all know cooties are the worst germ out there!! So as women, we either need to vaccinate our little boys against cooties…try convincing them that the shot is a good idea…or wait the whole thing out and plan on missing those kisses and hugs until we lose the cooties.

Sometimes, however, something a little boy does is so sweet and thoughtful, and it takes you so by surprise, that you can’t get it out of your mind. It’s almost as if they forget themselves for a moment and just let the emotions flow out of them. Last night I was having dinner at my mom’s house with Mom, my sister Cheryl, and her kids, Rob and his wife Dustie and their kids, Christina, Raelynn and her friend, Matthew, and Audrianna. I was sitting in the chair that was right in front of the door as you walked into the house. As they arrived, the girls all came in and said hello to me, as did their parents. But, when Matthew came in, he walked straight up to me and gave me a big hug!! Now, I am his great aunt, and I know he loves me, but most of the time when I see him, I either have to expect that there will be no kiss or hug coming, or I might get one after the wrestling match it takes to get him down long enough to steal one. Not so last night. That sweet little boy came right up to me and hugged me. I almost cried. It was a precious moment. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that he will continue to do that, because he is only 6 years old, but it was such a loving and thoughtful gesture, that I think I can let the times when he doesn’t do it slide, because he is after all…only 6 years old.

As we travel this road called life, we all have moments when we need a hug. Sometimes it is because we are hurt, whether physically or emotionally, and we are looking for someone to comfort us in that bad time. Those are the hugs that none of us will get through life without needing at some point, unfortunately, but they are not really the kind of hugs that we can honestly say we enjoy. They are simply necessary.

The kind of hugs that we all enjoy, are the ones that say, “I love you so much!!” Those hugs are so special, and we need them more than any other kind. We all need to know that we have family and friends who love us…no matter what. The first time we feel that love is often from parents or grandparents, and it is the kind of love that shapes our lives forever. Those hugs are so important, and children who do not receive them can be irreversibly warped by that omission. I am so thankful that my family has never been one to withhold hugs. It has shaped the kind of person I am, and my ability to give and receive love from those around me.

Of course, the greatest kind of hug is the kind that comes from the joy of celebration or reunion. The hug you get when you see someone that you haven’t seen in a while. Visiting your grandmother who lives miles away. Love knows no distance barrier. When we would go to Montana to visit Bob’s grandmother every year, the reunions were so sweet. Grandma was such a loving person, and Bob loved her dearly. He wanted his kids to know her, as well as they knew their other grandmothers who lived closer. And they did. Grandma loved her kids and grandkids so much that the miles made no difference…love traveled across the miles to light upon those who were far away from her.

Love can also grow between two people who share a special event, as was the case between my daughter, Corrie and her great grandmother, who she shared a birthday with. They had a closeness that lasted a lifetime and beyond. They shared birthday parties, and reveled in the fact that they shared that special day. Every time they saw each other, it was clear that their bond was forever. Even after grandma passed away in July of 1990, Corrie still feels her memory deeply…especially on her birthday. Sometimes that can be painful, yet bittersweet, because the memories of her love for her grandma, are still so strong.

Every grandma has a love for her grandchildren that goes so deep that it can’t be explained. I have been so blessed by my grandchildren, and I love getting hugs from each and every one. Grandchildren are the continuing blessing that starts with parenthood. The love you give to your own children sets the stage for the love that will come through your grandchildren. What a wonderful continuing saga.

Hugs have been more the commonplace event in our family. What a blessing that has always been. To know that no matter what mistakes you make, in the end, after whatever punishment, there will follow a hug, because love doesn’t depend on whether or not you were perfect. What an awesome way to grow up!! And oh, it was an awesome way. Unconditional love. That’s what I hope I have passed on to my children and grandchildren, and what I hope they too, will pass on to their children and grandchildren…because everybody needs a hug.

One of the first ways we learn of love is the hug. As babies, that closeness to people is something we crave…especially our mom, dad, and grandparents. It makes us feel secure. I remember when my girls were little, and holding them, especially for the first time. The love I felt for my daughters was incredible. It was such a awe inspiring experience. To know that this little person was mine…to nurture and care for…to train and encourage…to love and cherish…well, there is really no way to accurately explain that feeling.

Becoming a grandmother brought back that feeling…or as close to it as it is possible to be. Being there for the births of my grandchildren…seeing them for the very first time…well, I found myself holding my breath in anticipation of their arrival. Their births brought about feelings that I will never forget. An incredible feeling of love and amazement. Holding my grandchildren and cuddling them, feeling incredibly blessed with the new life that was given to us, almost brought tears to my eyes.

There is no greater feeling that the addition of a new life given. Each one is a miracle in itself. It is hard not to be…almost surprised by it. I will always remember and cherish the births of my grandchildren, which I was so privileged to see. How do you thank your child for the wonderful gift of a grandchild…even more, how do you ever thank God for it? There is, of course no possible way. All you can do is enjoy the wonderful blessing that you have received. I know that I’m probably rambling along, but sometimes the feelings are so strong that it is impossible to get them straight in my head.

I have been blessed by grandchildren who love spending time with me. They stay the night and invite me to their sporting events. My granddaughter works with me and my grandsons come and mow our lawn. They text me and call me just to talk. We are friends on Facebook and good friends in general. What more could a grandma ask for. And the good news is that my girls are my good friends in all of the same ways as the grandkids…well, except for spending the night, Ha Ha Ha!!

If someone were to say to me, “What would you want, if you could have anything?” I would struggle for an answer, because there would be nothing to wish for…other than maybe more time to spend with those I love…my wonderful family!!

Every grandma will tell you that every moment with your grandchildren is a special one. From the first time you hold them after they are born, you just never get over how wonderful they are. They delight your heart with their antics and their humor, and even when they are being a little naughty, their charm will make it almost impossible to be mad at them.

Why is it so different with grandchildren than it was with your own kids. You knew you had to discipline your kids, and you knew you should with your grandchildren, but they are just so darned cute, and after all, it is their parents responsibility to discipline them…isn’t it? So, you spoil them and shower them with love, and their parents hope you don’t do more harm than good, but it just seems like you feel differently about kids behavior as you get older. The little things just don’t bother you as much.

What you notice instead is just how much you can love that little tiny person and just how easily they can wrap you around their little finger. It is a place you will live for the rest of your life. They will always have the ability sweet talk you, and make you feel like they didn’t. And while you know it is going on, you just don’t seem to mind. You simply don’t have it in you to be as hard on them as you felt you must with your own kids. And sometimes they are just so sweet that your favorite Grandma picture doesn’t even include Grandma, it was just a grandma moment.

So, you treasure each moment, each smile, each laugh, knowing that all too soon they will Shai and GrandmaJoshbe grown up. It is with mixed emotions that you face that reality, because you realize that before you know it, they will be grown and their little kid days will be gone. But then you also realize that when they are grown up, they will marry and before you know it they will have children of their own, and the cycle will start all over, with new little grandbabies to love and hug, and to share those grandma moments with. And you realize how very blessed you are.

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