Monday, April 28, 2008

A Post of Happy Thoughts

While we were back in my hometown for a very sad reason, Lia still managed to enjoy the extended weekend with her cousins. She braved the somewhat chilly Pennsylvania air to take a dip in Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Jim's pool. It is heated, but had not yet reached the optimum, hot springs-like temperatures we all love. The cold did not slow Lia down in the least. She leaped in without a backward glance and we actually had a hard time getting her little, teeth chattering self out!

Not everyone was as adventurous as Lia. (My mom, Daphne, Annemarie, Aunt Carolyn):

I found this fabulous Candlewick cake stand at my favorite antique shop. I can't wait to use it!

Today, I received a delivery from some of my co-workers of this lovely fruit basket. I truly work with the most wonderful, thoughtful people. The students whose lives they touch everyday are surely blessed and I consider myself very lucky to call them all friend.

Finally, I used this rainy Monday afternoon to bake cookies with Lia. She is thoroughly enamored with all of the letters that spell her name (thank goodness there are only three!), but she is especially fond of the "L". I found this L shaped cookie cutter awhile ago, but had not shown it to Lia yet. She was so excited about her "L" cookies! (*disclaimer: I know you are not supposed to eat raw cookie dough. We threw a little caution to the wind and decided to lick the beaters. We have survived to tell about it and I felt safe in posting this picture! If you look closely you can see the lipstick Lia insisted on putting on when she saw me putting some on.)
After we iced the cookies, I asked her what two colors she would like for the "criss-crosses" and she chose yellow and blue. As I finished the decorating, I realized she had unknowingly chosen the colors of the Swedish flag. I think my Swedish Grandma, who also happens to have had an "L" name would have been very pleased.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Thank you...

Thank you so much for the comments of condolence and e-mails of support following the passing of my grandmother. I was so touched. Your words truly were a bright light in my darkest hour. I was indeed lucky to have my grandmother here with me on earth for so many years. I will miss her dearly, but I look forward to the glorious day I will be reunited with her.


Monday, April 21, 2008

In Loving Memory

Lenore Carlson Henninger
October 15, 1915 ~ April 21, 2008

Recently I received an e-mail from a friend in which I was asked to "sum her up" in one word. I found this task extremely difficult. We are, by nature, complicated and multi-faceted, and to describe a person with one word is to exclude so many more. I found myself recalling this e-mail these past few weeks as my grandmother struggled valiantly, honorably, against her final foe and I wondered what "one word" might "sum up" a person so grand and a life so well lived. It came to me in an instant. Love. I cannot think of another person who so exemplifies love as my grandmother did. Who loves life as much as she did. Who gives love as easily and unselfishly as she did. Who is as loved as she will always be. Love, pure and simple.

From the outside looking in, my grandmother did not have the easiest of lives. By all accounts, she enjoyed a happy childhood (perhaps with the small exception of the time she became sick from eating too many blueberries, thus causing an aversion to the fruit that followed her to the end of her life). She was the fifth and youngest surviving child of Swedish immigrants and my great aunt enjoyed lovingly teasing her from time to time about the fact that she was spoiled as the baby. However, tragedy befell the family with the death of her brother, Clarence when my grandmother was only 14. Over the next two years, she watched her mother fight, first heartache at the tragic loss of her son and then cancer. She lost her mother at the tender age of 16. My grandmother recalled being excused from high school every Friday in order to do the laundry for her father and brothers. One could not mistake the resolute pride in her voice as she spoke about "doing what had to be done" and helping her family in this way.

Upon graduation, my grandmother met the love of her life, my grandfather, when she caught the eye (and the fancy!) of the young piano player at a dance club called the Rose Garden. Theirs truly was a match made in heaven. In addition to identical birthdays, they shared the same plucky, happy go lucky spirit. I never witnessed a cross word between them. Their marriage spanned well over 50 years and produced two daughters and a lifetime of happy memories.

I am one of five incredibly blessed people to call her Grandma. She was the type of grandma that fairy tales and happily ever after stories are made of. Hers was the house I chose when childish notions of "running away" from home occurred. After she would obligingly come to pick me (and my packed bag) up, I knew I would always find a sympathetic ear and a good snack around her kitchen table. She had the gift of making all seem right in the world again. And she always had orange circus peanuts and a cookie jar full of (store bought, vanilla sandwich) cookies to eat. That kitchen table was the center of my grandma's home and the place my heart still yearns for in times of trouble. She never missed a band performance, school play or sporting event that her grandchildren were involved in. When my family's home was struck with lightening and required major re-building, my grandparents took us in for almost a year. My grandma did most of the cooking and also took care of the three children during the long hours my parents spent working and overseeing renovations to our home. While we were definitely a bit cramped in space, I remember that time as a very happy one. My grandmother always let me crawl in bed with her after my grandfather would leave for work. It was the safest place on earth.

My grandmother rejoiced with the addition of each of her 6 great-grandchildren. She kept a picture of each of them on a shelf that she could see as she ate her meals. She enjoyed hearing about each of them and relished the time she spent with them. Just last week as I visited with her, I told her again of our plans to adopt our second daughter from China. Although communication with her was difficult, she smiled when I talked of our adoption and I know she was so happy.

In addition to her family (and all of our extended activities), my grandmother was active in many church activities and a member of the Fireman's Ladies Auxiliary. For a time she enjoyed participating on a bowling team. She had the easy ability to laugh at herself and the absurd situations life throws our way at times. She often told me that I needed to "keep my head up and a smile on my face." Simple words with profound meaning that I have come to rely on more and more with each passing year.

Today I lost one of the most special people in my life. I am relieved to know her suffering here on earth has ended. I am comforted by the fact that at this very moment she is in the loving embrace of her family and my grandfather and countless friends who have been waiting for her.

Surely angels dance tonight in heaven ~ for my dearest loss is their most precious gain.

Rest in peace, Gram. Rest in peace.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cousin Fun!

We spent a lovely weekend visiting my family. Lia was beyond thrilled to have a sleepover with her cousin Annemarie. Her older cousins are extremely patient and accommodating of Lia (and her incessant need for "dress up"!) which is such a nice thing to see. Jim and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to let Lia's cousin, Renee, babysit so we could enjoy a wonderful meal at the County Club with my brother, my sister, their spouses and our parents. I was even able to resist the urge to reach over and cut Jim's food at dinner! :-)

On Sunday we had the opportunity for some fun time with cousins Abby and Olivia. There were many games of Hide and Seek (or some version thereof), Popsicles, pear "picnics" on Nana's living room floor (not with real pears by the way...they were from a centerpiece. Unfortunately little Livi didn't get the memo and took a big bite from one...she may never eat another pear again!), and many hugs and kisses all around.

Finally, we were able to fit in a quick visit to see Jim's mom and dad and enjoy a pizza party as well. Our trips are always a whirlwind...packed with every minute of fun we can manage!

On a different note, I was talking to my sister about my desire to begin making some changes and decorating our new house. I am a bit overwhelmed about tackling the whole thing. She loaned me these books which have beautiful pictures and ideas:

I have a lot of work to do, but hmmmm.....maybe someday my house will resemble a few of these pictures:

I'll let you know how it all works out! :-)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spring has Sprung!

In the words of our friend Lindy Li (and Little Bill :-)):

Spring is here
Spring is here
It's the best time of the year!

In my very first version of a Thankful Thursday post, I would just like to say that we are VERY thankful for (somewhat) warmer weather. It looks like spring will be making an appearance after all! Every morning this week we have awakened to see new flowers blooming in our yard. The colors are magnificent! Lia and Jim planted some vegetable plants under a grow light in our basement a few weeks ago and those are coming up nicely as well. We are all excited to move them to our outdoor garden and spend the summer in tomato heaven!! I am glad Lia is such a good veggie eater. As you can see from the collage, her new favorite treat is PINK MARSHMALLOWS. She is infatuated with the mere thought of their sugary goodness. Luckily for us, she is good about eating her "healthy food" first...and after all, what's life without the occasional pink marshmallow??

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Here Comes the Sun

Yesterday afternoon we closed on the sale of our condo. The couple that bought it were so excited. I did have to cover my ears at one point when they mentioned that they would be turning my beloved nursery, my favorite room in all the land...Lia's first room, INTO A YANKEES ROOM for their three year old son. Ouch. :-)

We are so happy to have just one residence to concentrate on now! Our first project...Lia's BIG GIRL ROOM!! She is very insistent about a princess theme. We are still in early negotiations and I think she will be pleased with what I have planned! Let the fun begin...and the sun start shining!

Thank you all for your kind comments regarding our tough week. I appreciate all of the prayers, concern and good wishes. It is a huge comfort to know that you are all lifting up my grandmother and my friend.