Getting Merried

In June, our daughter and her love will be
Merried! We attendants will merry them as they
Promise to
Merry each other
‘Til death does them part.

As busy as I’ve been, working toward the merry day,
It wasn’t real to me until my friends
Gave a tea and
Made it so –

Sabbath afternoon, when mind and body
Long only for green pastures and still waters,
My church sisters,
In high heels,
Decorated and celebrated my daughter’s
With me. For us.

I’ve been to teas and showers, and the
Stuff on the tables is fascinating
In the abstract.
Oh, what a beautiful painting by Anna.

But these things, this painting,
This towel, were for my daughter
(six-weeks-old in her pink onesie, surely)
In her St. Elmo home.
With her husband. Her husband.

It’s very different.

The groom’s grandmother Mary,
While carrying a table, asked
‘Could I be part of the second load going home?’
Adding even more muscle and sacrifice.

There is nothing fragile about tea-givers;
They are giving life
More than I ever understood
Until my own child was the merried one.

My friends. They make me merry.  ~

Tea-givers                                                             A guest of honor

Lovely touches



Milk Chocolate

Rest my head on the knee
Of the One I kneel before,

Say Lord, look at that ‘fridge,
A collage of invitations –
Weddings, teas, baby showers –
Pastel hint of life’s
Naked, raw, and fervent moments,
Bloody shouts and the heart’s vows.

Jennifer called today and said
Martha died.
Oh. Remember her laughter at the
Candy-making parties?

Then again, the Lunsfords are in
Getting Jake, their
Covenant child!
A five year faith-wait.

But it’s also Sean’s
Cross-the-Jordan anniversary.

And then some sweet friends who
Love Jesus share chips and salsa with us and
Ache over their
Church because they had
Invested, Lord, invested, in that
Little flock of sheep, who
Rode them hard
And hurt them.
Now they are peeking over
At Grace! And, oh, they need healing.

And tonight we sang happy birthday to
My little Mama.

This life, Lord, this life,
Is a bittersweet tale where the
Sweet carries the bitter and the bitter
Tempers the sweet, and the end is as
Perfect as milk chocolate on the tongue.

Caroline and Jake, January 14, 2017

How I Love Him!


One day
Long ago
On a one-lane
Wooden bridge over
Railroad tracks,
Near McGriff Tire,
We sat in our
Plymouth Voyager,
White with wood panels.

Will was a baby and when the
Train came underneath us
And the world tottered with the
Roar and fumes and horn blast,
He screamed the terror of the
Instead of unbuckling him, I crouched
Over him and he clutched me in a
Grip and buried his face
(How I love him!) in my
His breath condensed on my blue
Shirt into a big wet spill.
And he hung on.

When I do that to
My Heavenly Father,
Who is also the God of this whole Universe,
He always answers with
Than I asked for.

How I love Him!

To Honk Or Not To Honk: A Parenting Victory

Looking back over the years, as I am doing right now from a newly empty nest, I had one intuitive parenting victory that I want to share with you who still have your kids at home so that down the road you too can rejoice and not kick yourself:

I did not honk my horn at my children. 

I get that some people are honkers; for them an aggressive laying on the horn is just a great communication tool, and they’d be surprised anyone thought any deeper about it. But for the rest of us . . .

Sunday morning. The girls were off to college, only the boy was at home, and because his bones grew an inch a month, or so it seemed, he slept like the dead. And even deader on Sundays. He seemed to understand it was the day of Sabbath rest.

He didn’t really ‘wake up’ as much as slowly surface, like a log released from a river bottom. All that rapid bone growth required hot abundant protein in the morning – like eggs and cheese and bacon. But he only had time to grab a granola bar along with his tie, belt, socks, and shoes, all to be put on in the car.

Six feet, three inches plus his hair, folded in half, and accessorizing in a Fiat.  I rode to church with Mr. Bean.

I assume he grabbed the granola bar; I never saw him do so because I was always sitting in the car by that time waiting, and that is the point of my story. I like to get to church early, especially if I am teaching a Sunday school class. I talk to a lot of people on Sundays, and my nerves just need my ducks in a row.

Anyway, I waited, chomping at the bit, and every Sunday I had to make a choice while sitting in the Fiat. To honk or not to honk, that was the question. He was inside feeling no sense of urgency whatsoever, and my legs were both cramped from holding down the clutch and the brake in first gear, ready to go. And I waited, and the back door never opened. Whether t’was nobler in mind to wait it out or honk the heck out of the horn, aye, there’s the rub.

Preaching to myself, I would say, “Just be patient. Honking is rude and dehumanizing. Civilized people get out, go in, and say mildly, ‘Are you coming?’” But once buckled in to the AC’d car, I wasn’t getting back out, civilized or no, so I would decide I had every good reason to honk and reach my hand to do it, and then decide not to, and Civilized and Uncivilized would war for awhile before the back door would finally slam and he would appear, grinning and at peace with the world. And I was always glad I hadn’t honked.

But I was never so glad I hadn’t honked as I was the first Sunday he was off to college and I walked out the door, got in the car, backed out, and drove to church. Oh the sad, sad, convenience of it all. Oh, the untethered, unwanted earliness. Woohoo, I didn’t have to wait! Boohoo, I wished I had to wait! And as I mourned freely all the way to church I comforted myself knowing that I had not honked my horn at him. At least I had that.

DSCN6081 DSCN6078


A Mom In Transition

P.S. (One week later – wearing huge photo-booth party glasses and popping a confetti cannon) Empty nest is fun!!  “Limbo, limbo, limbo, cha-cha, limbo . . .”

P.P.S. I read a recent good article urging us to be careful writing about our children.  I used care with this and meant to spotlight my retrospective relief rather than the college boy’s foibles.  Some context was necessary.

There Is A Rose In Spanish Harlem (Me!)

We have always said that the day we take our youngest child to college we will not come right home that first night. Awash in nostalgia, we would wipe our tears, turn north to New York City, and drown our sorrows in exotic cuisine and art exhibits and parks and architecture and layers of history until we find that we are perfectly fine and content being Siegenthaler, party of 2, once again.

Well, two things about that.

In His goodness, the Lord ordained that our nest won’t be empty after all. My niece Erica is going to live with us for a while and work and study here.  And we are most glad. We weren’t really ready for empty nest anyway.  And, second, my new business dictates that I be home for a class early the next morning after I make Will’s dorm bed in Belz Hall and leave him under his own recognizance.

So, as Robert Burns said, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, and the NYC transition plan seemed to be ganging agley.

But by God’s grace it is going to happen, just a little early – today! Hooray for an early-August lull before the school year starts.  And for an Airbnb “third floor walk-up. Will that be a problem?”  Not at all, I scoff from my one-level rancher. And hooray that our lair is in Spanish Harlem on a street called Tito Puente. Allow me to romanticize it.  And for the Manhattos Indians and the early Dutch settlers and every homeless, tempest-toss’d immigrant yearning to breathe free! Right now, my children are really glad they aren’t going with us.  I’m unbearable when it comes to the grand human story.

Our plans include the following, quite out of order:

*Walking our feet to bloody nubs
*A walk over the Brooklyn Bridge and a tenement-appreciation moment; that chapter of NY history slays me
*Biking through Central Park
*Dining in Queens with Ben and Kim Kaufmann, true food connoisseurs
*Amateur Night At The Apollo in Harlem – you’re jealous over this one, aren’t you?
*Freedom Tower and the Memorial Pools of the World Trade Center
*The Museum of the City of New York
*MoMA- photography exhibit
*Shopping at Century 21; Andrew for sunglasses and me for a new school bag (CCS co-workers, I finally threw out the tattered pink polka-dot one with no rubber left on the wheels)
*Browsing some antique shops and finding a little piece of the city to take home
*The Highline – thanks to Will Hogue for this pearl!
*Columbia University, St. John the Divine, Riverside Church and its tall tower and view
*Greenwich Village literary hotspots and Washington Square
*Abyssinian Baptist, Harlem YMCA, The Cotton Club
*Pizza in Staten Island with the Baldinis – Hey, y’all!  DeNino’s for “The Garbage Can”?
*Book stores, ethnic food, and coffee better than we can make at home which is saying something
*Subway and bus lines
*People-watching, picture-taking, blogging it all in
*Post cards from the bodega
*Another week of Andrew’s beard growth for the general amusement of Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church
*Time to talk and laugh and read and think and sleep a little
*Return quenched with cool urban cultures and glad to be back in time to take Will to college and to welcome Erica to our favorite little town

In short, a leisurely, knockabout week.  🙂
And if you don’t think we can accomplish all this, 
then you don’t know Andrew.


Johnny Clamps

Happiness Is . . .

~ Thinking you are done forever with making boxed lunches, then realizing on day one of summer that not only are you now making them for the recent-grad-turned-summer-construction-worker, but the lunches must be bigger (think meatloaf), and must be poised at the back door by 6:15 am because work starts early in the Alabama summer, and finally that the lunch must be in a manly cooler that has been banged up and seen its day. The Wonder Woman lunch box he used with pride through high school will not do on the work site, no, not at all. For those of you thinking, hey, he is 18, he can make his own lunch, I can only respond with laughter. I’ve been saying that for years and then when I see what he throws into a limp Walmart sack and calls lunch, I just. can’t. do. it. And for all your big talk, you know you can’t either.

~ Johnny clamps. The same new-minted construction worker reported after his first day on the job that he went with a site-boss to a supply site and the boss told him to look for the johnny clamps! Rather than ask the needed question – what is a johnny clamp? is it big or small? will it be labelled ‘johnny clamp’? – he moved forward with a look of determined where-the-heck-are-those-johnny-clamps? and took cues from the other guy’s manner of searching. Someone found them, I guess.

~ Three weeks with my Little Mama who is an unflagging cheerleader and fan for all her children and grandchildren. She sees the good and tells you. She rises early to read her Bible and devotional book, pen in hand underlining particularly moving phrases or thoughts. I smile though because, no joke, the whole book is underlined. 🙂

~ A smiling picture of the out-of-the-country daughter with the caption, “Just had Baba Ganoush that CHANGED MY LIFE.”

~ The first shower after the water is turned back on in your house. It started, as these things often do, with Andrew checking the mail. Perusing the power bill he grew grave and meditative. Comparing last year’s numbers for March and April, as the bill conveniently does, with this year’s, there was a clear, inexplicable uptick. The game was on. Bill in hand, he visited the power company and a clerk’s offhand comment lead him to determine that the hemorrhage, if you will, was with the old water heater. In head lamp and knee pads, he crawled under the house, confirmed his hypothesis, and proceeded to reroute the pipes in another mysterious direction to the smell of that purple sealant.
Declaring success, he turned the water back on with a flourish; the newly fitted pipe burst forth from the wall and Niagara visited our laundry room. It needed mopping anyway. I was able to look on the sunny side because this was just the first explosion. There were two more to come, as the clock ticked, mom’s flight time crept nearer and nearer, and no showers had been had by all. Suddenly, all you can think of is a shower and a glass of water. Blessedly, local plumber John Dunn, yes, just like that John Donne, came calmly to the rescue. We easily made the flight, showered and fresh. My five foot tall mother, smiling and pulling her rolling backpack through the Shuttlesworth Airport doors, made the whole flood in the laundry room and drought in the bathrooms something to remember and laugh about.

~ Barre class with Rachel Eidson. If football players can push themselves, so can I.

~ A husband’s birthday. A friend told him this morning that he was ‘playing on the back 9’ now. Well.

These things are happiness today.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118:24


Two-Baby Sunday

I held two babies on a recent Sunday.

They were both under three months old – tiny, exquisite, perfect.

One was all things brown. He was velvet, melted chocolate, hot cocoa. His eyes were coffee no cream and bottomless. One thick inch of soft curled hair capped his head, and his expression was classic opinionated-old-man-at-the-barbershop. He took in the cacophony of women at a baby shower, never squirming or protesting, while his attentive mother allowed him to be passed around over a slate floor, too gracious to shriek like her hormones urged her to. I rocked him in my arms and wondered if he was thinking, “I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you just look different somehow from my Mama.”

The other baby was milk white, fine flax hair stood straight up, her eyes like jewels. Her young father and tender mother were both still riding the overwhelming awe of it and were weak with love. She wiggled in my arms and made the little irresistible noises that mute all other sound and shelve all other worries. What can I do for you, Baby? What do you need?

No surprise to my own children, I held each baby and marveled that any sane person could believe there is no God. And not just a God, but one who smiles and enjoys Himself. He knit both babies in their mothers’ wombs, and He delighted in the curls and the flax and the cream and the cocoa.

Explain it how you will: there is a God, and He is the happiest Artist.

13342995_10105187075446072_2812244504874604707_n                         13321742_10157640398430377_5455030399159899871_n

“Your way, O God, is holy.  What God is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders.”
Psalm 77: 13,14