Keeping it real and Keeping it positive.

When a Dream becomes a Reality….

I remember the moment it came to me…’this is the place and these are the people with whom I want to grow old’….well maybe I didn’t use PERFECT grammar, but you get the idea.

It was a couple of years ago and we were in Florida to see the kids. We surprised the grandsons with our presence and that meant we all were together. We all met up in St Petersburg, Fl at the home of our dear friends, Patti and Larry Webster.  Our other wonderful Florida friends, Tom and Jenn Keller and Rachael were also there when Jonathan and Jme and the boys came in. Later that weekend we were playing cards…it’s what we do when we are all together…and it came to me as clear as anything has ever been confirmed in my heart and mind…this is the place and these are the people we need to grow old with. These are the people we have known for many decades. These are the people who we trust to care for our children whether they are young or young adults. These are the people who have walked through deep waters with us, laughed with us, cried with us, and always, always prayed for and with us.

Barry always wanted to retire to Florida. Me…not so much. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Northern Virginia. I love the pace….the craziness…the culture. I love the diversity and the opportunities and yes, even the TRAFFIC. I love everything about it. I have lived there longer than any other place in our very mobile lives. I have ROOTS there. I have amazing friends, a great job, lots to do. Barry loves it as well…but he never really thought of it as a place to ‘grow old together’. So we kept the conversation open. We weren’t ready to fully retire…not even close…well at least not ME! I started a new career in my early 60’s and love being a Realtor. I’ve had lots of ‘careers’ in my 42 plus years of marriage and didn’t feel ready to be a retired person. Barry was in a different place. He had worked every day of his life since the age of 17 when he signed in at West Point. He was tired…ready…excited to start this next phase of our lives. So our timeline was not at the same place. When that happens we wait. We wait until we are on the same page and we always, get there eventually.

Let me take you back a few decades. In 1987 we moved to Florida. Barry was stationed at CENTCOM, before anyone had ever heard about it. A little known General named Norman Schwarzkopt was the commander. We rented a house in St Petersburg Beach. Why live in Florida and not be near water, was our rationale. I got a job subbing at Northside Christian School and from that very, very temporary job God opened doors and I was hired full-time. Not long after that I was challenged to see if we could start a Middle School. Because budgets drive decisions and there was no budget for this ‘great idea’, I offered to do it for no additional pay than I was making as a teacher. That decision and moving forward connected our family with the Keller family as Tom also had a heart for Middle Schoolers and together we followed God’s leading to develop Northside Christian Middle School. Then Jennifer came to NCS as a High School Math teacher. Our families were pretty much inseparable. We spent weekends together with our two families. We became the best of friends. We then moved to Fort Stewart..the Kellers helped us move in. They cooked for Barry’s promotion party. Then Desert Storm happened. Our son was in middle school then and was not adjusting well to a new school and having his father gone. He wanted to return to Florida. Of course that wasn’t possible for me to move the family back to Florida while Barry was deployed. I remember calling the Kellers in tears asking for prayer. They didn’t even hesitate and said..bring him here. He can stay with us and finish the semester. You need to know at that time they lived in a very small house and had three kids of their own, but this is who they are. Humble, giving, servicing people. Jonathan lived with them for several months and then decided to come back home. The Kellers visited us while Barry was gone….were there when he returned from the war and always, always were there for me to talk, laugh, cry and pray. They were the people in our will who we would have left our children with if we had died while are children were minors.

Then fast forward to 1997 and we found out we were returning to Florida from Belgium. Now our kids were in college. We built a home in Tampa and I returned to work at Northside Christian. This time I was the Director of the Preschool and Tom was the Middle School Principal and Jennifer taught Math in the High School. Then the Headmaster was called to a new job in another state and I was approached to be the Interim Head of School. NOT exactly what I had on my agenda for the next two years, but God orchestrated the circumstances for me to take the job. I had three principals working for me. Tony in the Elementary, Tom in the Middle School and Larry in the High School and thus began our friendship with the Websters. Patti had been teaching at the school for many years by then, and I knew her casually, but now our families were brought together through my new job and that of Larry’s. We all gathered regularly for cards and Trivia Pursuit. Rachael graduated from College and moved to Fl and joined in. Jonathan met Jamie and they became engaged. It was a good time…UNTIL…the school had a very serious personnel crisis and I learned what it meant to be in the job where the ‘buck stops’ and have to take on the burden of the leadership seat. During those most difficult months the Kellers and Websters and Hornings and the Willeys grew closer than I could ever have imagined outside of my military families going through a wartime situation. It was without a doubt the most difficult period in my professional life. Had it not been for the prayers of many and the unwavering support of these great friends and my family I would not likely have made it.

By the time we moved away and came to Northern Virginia in 1999 the Kellers and the Websters and the Willeys were connected for life. Our daughter lived with both families as she transitioned after our moving to VA. Joy Webster moved here and lived with us for awhile. Our families shared holidays and many trips back and forth to DC for them and FL for us.

So when I finally realized that retirement was something I could see myself doing it didn’t take long to know that being back with these amazing people was the right place to be. AND we have the added BLESSING of being near our children and grandchildren who all life in Florida.

In the past few months we found the house we wanted to buy and found out we actually could buy it and not have to sell our VA house right away. We were able to have our daughter move in to the house and take care of it until we move down summer of 2018.

The evening we closed on the house of course we had the Kellers and the Websters over as our first guests….and with our daughter and Realtor we had a toast to celebrate our DREAM becoming a REALITY. And for those few short days we ate together, laughed together and even had our wonderful daughter-in-law and two amazing grandsons come over for a day…and the boys were the first ones in the pool.

UnknownNow we’re back in Virginia and we have no regrets…no sadness….no ‘missing Florida’…for in good time we will be back, but for now we will capture all the moments we have left here with many fabulous friends, great jobs and the adventure God has for us….as we look ‘backward and forward’ and continue to life ‘In The Dash’…..




I have a friend. Her name is Jeanne. When she really loves and agrees with a Facebook post she simply types WORD. It serves to remind me always of the power of WORDS.

When I was little we used to say…’Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’. How wrong was that little rhyme? Words DO HURT…they hurt deeply.

For many years I held a grudge against someone who had used words that hurt me deeply when I was a young college student. Words that took me literally decades to finally forgive. When I approached this person to ask for forgiveness for allowing all those years to be hindered by my holding on to the words he had spoken…he didn’t even remember saying them. WORDS can HURT. WORDS MATTER. We need to be careful with our words…I know I do.

In the Bible I love the book of James. Philippians is my all time favorite epistle, but I love James too, because it’s so practical. James has a lot to say about WORDS and I’ll let you decide if you want to read it, but in one part he says this…”with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father , and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing.” Ancient words, yet so true today.

As most of you know I live right outside DC and needless to say we have been the focus of the world’s attention these past few days. My Facebook feed has been filled with WORDS..many of which have been unkind, nasty, biased, critical, maybe not written by my FB friends, but reposted or written in comment sections….I can go on and on. I’m not innocent in any way in all of this. I’ve used WORDS in the safety of my home to share my personal feelings on many things and people…nothing to be proud of for sure.

Years ago Barry was a General’s Aide. His boss was in the middle of a widely publicized controversy. Nothing about his boss’ morals or personal behavior, but a scandal involving those under him. He took a ‘beating’ in the NY Times and the local papers. Can’t even imagine if there had been social media back then. One day I was at their quarters their 10 year old son came home from school. He came in, slammed the door, threw down his school books and screamed out.. ”They don’t know my dad”. He had seen a headline in the local paper that was very cruel as it referenced his father. Those words cut deep in to the soul of this child. I will never forget that experience.

I have a little box. In it are notes and cards I’ve received over the years that used words to encourage me. Words to lift me up. Words that healed me when I felt very broken. Words of love. I call it my ‘Sunshine Box’. It gives me perspective.

Since having a business/life coach I’ve had to choose a WORD for the year. Last year my word was ‘HEALTHY’…I pretty much blew that one, so I decided this year I’d pick a work that I thought wouldn’t be as challenging for me…something that I felt pretty sure I could ‘do’ if you will. So I picked the word POSITIVITY. By most people’s standards I’m a pretty positive person. People often see me that way, so I thought it would be a good 2017 word. Not too challenging…life is busy you know.  Because it’s my WORD, I even ordered a bracelet that has my WORD on it…as a constant reminder. The bracelet was here on the 17th when I returned from Florida. I put it on the 18th and you can likely guess the ‘rest of the story’. There I was dealing with all the emotions and thoughts surrounding January 20-21 and staring back at me was my word bracelet screaming…POSITIVITY to me.

It’s hard to be positive.It’s hard sometimes to find positive words. It’s hard to look for good in others. It’s hard to not take sides and look for the good in ‘my side’ and the bad in ‘the other side’. One time I was accused of being ‘a bit shallow’ because I named a speech I gave ‘The Positives of Being an Army Wife’…when the reporter doing an interview with me asked if I wasn’t aware that there were many serious problems out there is the Army. I replied to him that I was certainly more aware than he was, given I was part of the Army community, but went on to share that there were already enough voices for the negative and I was choosing to shed light on the positives. He got really quiet…..

To me being positive doesn’t mean I am stupid or ignore problems. It simply means that I will try to show grace. It means that I will be intentional in looking for the good in a person or a situation, like I would want someone to do to me. I will fail and fail miserably, but I will shake it off, ask forgiveness if appropriate and try again. To me it beats the alternative…and besides there’s that BRACELET looking up at me with that WORD on it..at least for 2017!!!



Blogging Again……

It’s been almost 5 years since I blogged. In 2012 I started this blog called “Looking Back and Forth”. Tonight my intent was to start a new Blog called ‘In the Dash’. Great title, right? I have always loved the message that what really matters is what we do ‘in the dash’. If you look at a tombstone you see the birth date and the death date, separated with a DASH. It’s what’s ‘in the dash’ that matters. What did we do with our years of life…be they long or short. So that seemed like a perfect blog title…but then THIS happened. I couldn’t figure out how to end this blog and start a new one.

I came to my original blog site…Looking Back and Forth and started reading what I had written. Interestingly I discovered that the messages shared were exactly what I hoped to accomplish with ‘In the Dash’. I wanted a place to share in more depth than on my Facebook. I wanted something positive, inspiring, honest, helpful, encouraging. I wanted a place to share stories..simple, every day stories. So I’ve decided to just pick up where I left off and keep this title…Looking Back and Forth….because I’m still IN THE DASH, after all.

I hope you’ll join me as I share. Come on this journey with me. Sometimes I’ll write too much. Sometimes, it will be very, very personal, and other times it will be my observations about someone I know or have met.

I can’t promise to have one entry a week, or whatever ‘great’ bloggers do. For me it will be more …when the spirit moves me. Most of my entries, like this one, will be written late at night when things are quiet and I ponder, pray and think.

This won’t be political or overtly religious…although both tops are important to me…well my faith is very important to me…politics just makes me have a headache! It won’t be a Real Estate blog, even though I dearly love my new career, but often it may be me reflecting on why I love what I do. Sometimes, at my age, I’ll give advice. And all the time….you can ignore it.

I just want you to come along on this journey with me and I look BACK and FORTH…reflect and dream, if you will.




1 Comment »

A son is BORN!!! 35 and counting!

When our daughter, and first born, was 10 months old we decided she should have a sibling. I had had a ‘text book’ pregnancy and delivery with Rachael and she was a very easy baby. She slept for long periods during her early months and she was happy and content. I wondered why my peers with babies seemed so tired and stressed. This was EASY. Let’s DO IT AGAIN!

The ‘magic’ worked and I was pregnant again for #2! Even in my early months of pregnancy I was being ‘humbled’. This baby was NOT like the first. I didn’t feel fabulous every day, and I was getting ENORMOUS!! We moved during my first trimester with Rachael from NC to NY….no bid deal! Now I’m 6 months pregnant with #2…looking like I can deliver any day now..and we move to GA..this time in a small station wagon with a 18 month old, two cats, my teenage brother and a very GRUMPY ME!

Baby #2 was due around the 6th of July, but by late June I was ready to deliver this baby myself. The doctor said the inside of my ribcage was no doubt bruised from the kicking and moving about. We didn’t know the gender of the baby, even with an ultrasound, but given the difference in pregnancies I was sure this was a BOY!! We knew I wasn’t having twins, but we also knew this was going to be a BIG baby! Rachael was born on Veteran’s Day, so on July 4th I decided we were going to HAVE THIS BABY. The fact I wasn’t in labor was not relevant! I made Barry take me to the hospital at Fort Benning and I told them that I wanted a 4th of July baby!!! ( yes, pregnancy CAN impact your sound mind!) After convincing me I was NOT in labor and that I really should go home….I did.

July 8th became the BIG DAY! Our doctor was a personal friend, a bachelor, in our home Bible Study group and his name was BUTCH!!! That alone should have made me nervous! I won’t dwell on the details of my labor and delivery, but just let’s say I didn’t win ‘ Most Congeniality’ that day. Butch and Barry tolerated me and after what seemed like YEARS..out HE came. My bouncing baby boy! All 9pounds 15.5 ounces…so with a margin of error we just say 10 pounds! Up to that moment,I can honestly tell you, given my pregnancy, I wasn’t sure we would be friends…that baby and I..but the minute I laid eyes on him I was a smitten for life!

Jonathan David Willey won our hearts immediately. We could tell early on that he was going to be more challenging to raise than his sister, but we also knew that no two kids are alike and for that we have always been grateful. They BOTH are pure joy in our lives.

Rachael couldn’t say his name at her young age, so she had heard ‘brother’ so much  she began to call him BOBO…a 2 year old version of brother. It stuck…and BOBO he was! It suited him fine as he was our family clown. A blog post doesn’t allow for enough space to tell all of the stories, and many of you reading this have heard them WAY TOO MANY times, but just know he made us laugh out loud with his sharp wit and sense of humor. That is a gift for sure!

We moved when he was just turning five months old. We were in transition ( Army speak for Barry was in a school and we were not with him) for a few more months and then in March of 1978 we moved our little family to Panama. For Jonathan’s first three years he never wore a coat, knew what a mango and a iguana were, but had no idea about North American animals. He understood both English and Spanish and he and his sister, both blue eyes blondes were always being touched and stared at in a culture where this was not often seen. To say he wasn’t a ‘challenging’ toddler would just be a LIE. We had a family expression that say…If he sees his third birthday he’ll grow up to be a FINE adult…and that is exactly what happened!

We noticed very early in Jonathan’s life that we would have to keep him challenged and offer lots of opportunities for him to ‘create’. As he grew into elementary school age he started, what we call, his PHASES. He had his baseball phase, his bowling phase, his tennis phase and on and on. With each phase he had to have ALL the STUFF that went along with it…the right equipment, the right clothes, the right lessons….he knew what he wanted and yes, he usually got it!

I don’t exactly remember the age when we started to see his artistic giftedness, but it was obvious to all. He could put pen to paper and draw anything he saw. I know he was VERY good at this by the time he was ten years old. During Desert Storm we were linked with a photojournalist who was covering our family at Fort Stewart during the deployment. Jonathan was in 8th grade and he talked her into teaching him how to use her camera and he actually shot some of the pictures that were published in Newsweek.

Like his sister he was in ten different schools before graduating High School and off he went to college. During his college years he met the love of his life and we could not have been happier with is choice for a life partner. We dearly love our Jamie!

Jumping to the present, today he turns 35..as his wife put on her Facebook..he’s half way to 70! Good point! I want to share some thing that I have learned from my son. Yes, parents teach their children, for sure, but we also learn so much FROM them and this is true with both of our kids, but today we focus on the Birthday Boy!

1. I’ve learned to grab all that life has to offer and do it with passion and excitement.

2. I’ve learned to keep learning new things.

3. I’ve learned to see the humor in life’s situations.

4. I’ve learned to teach yourself if no one else wants to.

5. I’ve learned to always look for Plan B…there may very well be a better way to do something!

6. I’ve learned to go after your dreams, even if you have setbacks, don’t give up.

Jonathan is now a husband and father. He loves the Lord and his family with the same kind of passion that he has always done life. Through the magic of technology I get to watch him ‘do life’. I get to see him interact with his family and that brings me a special kind of JOY and PRIDE. I love that he’s a pretty balanced version of each of his parents,and at the same time his own person. He has my energy level and extroverted side. He has his father’s patience and fathering skills. It’s so fun to watch all of that come together to create this wonderful man that is my son!

So today, Son, as you turn 35, remember that you are loved JUST AS MUCH as you were when you came bouncing in to this world, and I am so very, very proud to be your mom! May God grant us ALL many, many more years of JONATHAN!!!!


1 Comment »

Sisters are a Treasure!

Today is my sister’s birthday. I’m late with a card and a gift, but wanted to write a post about my very special sister. She came into my life when I was a few months shy of FIVE. I was for sure the princess of the family by then, being an only child for almost five whole years. What was I to do with ‘competition’. We lived out in the ‘country’ in a rural area of London, Ontario, Canada. Our fraternal grandmother lived literally on the other side of the driveway! Now I had to share my parents AND my grandparents with this new little sister. It didn’t take long for me to see that she was a ‘force to be reckoned with’ and quite the little dynamo. She had all kinds of spunk and energy and once I realized she was here to stay we became great pals. The age difference made for some obvious challenges as there isn’t too much you can do together in those growing up years with a sister quite so much younger.

We moved from London to Montreal when I was seven and Jan was two. Learning to talk and moving to a French neighborhood made for interesting words coming out of her mouth. I’m told I was the only one who could understand her for likely a year of her life! I was finally getting the gist of being a big sister. I protected her and always wanted to be sure she was okay.

As we grew older, as often happens, we seemed to grow apart. I was a teenager and she was the ‘bothersome’ little sister who always wanted to hang around. By the we added a baby brother to the mix. He came along when I had just turned THIRTEEN.

Life brought us many challenges as kids, but we hung together and we hung tough. Then I left for the USA and college at 17, never to live back at home again. That left Jan in the role of ‘oldest sibling’ during some pretty challenging times for our family….but she was the strongest person I knew. She managed to keep it together, keep our family in one piece and never lose hope. She had to grow up way too fast, but in doing so she developed such strong character and amazing strength. I stood in awe.

We found as we got older that we grew closer together again. The age difference didn’t seem to mean anything and we just enjoyed being together, even though the times that we actually were together we often short and with long spaces between.

We both married and both became moms and this just served to bring us even closer. I was moving around with my Army husband and Jan stayed planted firmly in the Toronto area..always the one to provide stability for our brother and our parents. When our mom developed Altzheimers Jan then became the emotional support for both our dad and our brother. She was the one it seemed everyone leaned on…and in some small way I hope I was able to be the one SHE leaned on.

Our brother had a serious medical emergency that changed his life and again, Jan was there leading the charge to be sure he got and still gets, the best care possible. Then our mom passed away and our not too long afterwards our father was unable to live alone. You guessed it…he moved in with Jan and Rome!

All the while she was working full time as a High School teacher and then as a Vice Principal, raising two great kids and keeping the home fires burning on ALL FOUR BURNERS for sure!

Then our father died suddenly and that was such a sad time for all of us, but for Jan it was almost unbearable as she and daddy were so very close…but in her usual fashion she powered through and kept on keeping on.

Then SHE had a serious medical set back with not one but two very life altering spinal surgeries on her neck, resulting in the loss of her ability to drive and the loss of her job..and on so many levels the loss of so much of her life. No more hours at the gym, something she so loved. No more planning the dances for her students and running back and forth daily to see our brother. Now her life was pretty limited to being home and the transportation that others could provide. For most of us this alone would be enough to put us into a deep depression and leave us pretty angry at God and at life..but not MY SISTER. Sure, she, like the rest of us, has her moments, but she is a woman who never gives us, never loses faith and never let’s you see her sweat and she always looks amazing!

On so many levels she’s my hero! I could wallow in guilt for not being there for her during some serious times with our family and she could make me feel like I should wallow in guilt…but not MY SISTER..she always is the one to say THANK YOU…to encourage ME and to carry on. She’s strong and resilient and a woman of unbelievable strength and character. She’s a faithful, loving wife and the best mom around. Our kids adore their Auntie Jan as does everyone who meets her.

She may think her years of ‘making a difference’ are over, but far from it. Every day that she breaths air she makes a difference in MY LIFE and that of her family and her friends. She is loved by all!

I’m so proud that she is my sister. I’m so proud that she is my friend. I hope she has the best birthday EVER and many, many, many more!!!

Love you Sis!!!!

Leave a comment »

Three Generations of Fathers

Today is Father’s Day. I wanted to share a bit about three important fathers in my life…my dad, my husband and my son. Three generations yet in so many ways so very similar.

With my own father I learned so much about receiving and finishing strong. From my dad I received LIFE. If there was nothing else in the world to thank him for it would be enough…he gave me LIFE. But there is more. Many of my growing up years my relationship with my father wasn’t always great. There were some difficult years, but even in the midst of those I could always count on the fact that my dad loved me unconditionally. As he fought his won demons, he never once wavered in his love for his children. As I grew up and left home and then married myself and had Imagechildren I watched my dad transform his life. I saw in him the character and perseverance that is rarely seen in people  and I gained a whole new ‘adult’ respect and love for my dad. To our two children he was always ‘Grandpa Bill’…he wasn’t just Grandpa. I watched him swell with pride as he spoke about his three kids and his four grandchildren. I watched him care for my mom and his wife of over 50 years when she was stricken with Alzheimers. He never once gave up hope and always believed she still knew him, right up until the end of her life. It was hard to watch my dad have to deal with physical problems as he aged, but even then he maintained his unquenchable positive attitude and infectious smile. It was so difficult to lose him and to know he would no longer be here on earth cheering us on and forwarding all those email jokes…but Daddy, we know you are STILL cheering us on and someday we can laugh together again. We miss you. Thank you for FINISHING STRONG!!

Then there’s my Barry. With Barry I am able to participate in parenting, but always looking to him for ‘how to do it right’. From the moment in the delivery rooms when he ‘caught’ each of our children as they entered this world, until this very day there is no one who does


 FATHERING better. I really could write a book about what I learned from watching Barry father our children. There was nothing he wouldn’t do from changing diapers to wiping tears to dancing the twist! He would rather spend time with his family than anything else on earth and it shows. He has kept a file folder, yes ‘old school’ paper folder,with special things from both of our kids, and even today he printed their Father’s Day Facebook posts. As a military dad who had to be gone a lot during our kids growing up years, I know it did NOT take anything away from the quality of his parenting. He would be so tired his eyelids would close on their own, and yet he was always attending to their needs, answering their questions, reading them stories or just BEING with them…and with me too. Both of our kids adore their father and he is for sure their hero…because he loves them totally and he shows and tells them this all the time. Now he gets to love on our wonderful daughter-in-law and Grandfather in the same way to David and Mikey. Each day I love this man more and participating with him in parenting is one of my greatest joys.

And now I have the total JOY of watching my son be a FATHER. Thanks to the miracle of technology I really DO get to see him parent and then when we are able to be together it’s even a greater joy. There was never any doubt that if God blessed Jonathan with a wife and a family he would be a great husband and father. He’s honest, caring, FUN,hard working and oh so giving. Like HIS dad he participates in all aspects of the boys lives, from diaper changing to bathing to just playing on the floor.He even let’s his creative juices flow and designs and bakes their birthday cakes every year. He gives them not only his unconditional love but his full attention. He lives before these little guys as a father who loves the Lord and loves their mom and loves them and what more could we ask? There is something unexplainable about watching your son be a parent. It brings me so much JOY. 


So to these three generations of fathers, thank you. Thank you for loving ME unconditionally, thank you for loving your children unconditionally and thank you for the example you are to others. I am a daughter, wife and mother and now grandmother….. MOST BLESSED!!!


The Highest Calling…to be a MOM

It’s been a long time since I put my fingers to the keyboard to write a post on my blog. Life seems to always get in the way of my ‘good intentions’ but as I sit here and the clock strikes midnight and begins Mother’s Day 2012 I find I am filled with many emotions and a need to write.

Like EVERYONE in the world I had a mother. She passed from this earth several years ago, but for 58 years  she was here with me and cheering me on. Her life wasn’t always easy.  She and my father had been engaged for five years and dated for many years prior to that. To this day I am so grateful to my mom, and my dad, for their decision to marry  and bring me into the world.

My mom adored her children. I was an only child for almost 5 years and then my sweet sister, Janet was born. When I was 13 and in the 8th grade my brother David was born. I can remember as a young teen thinking…OH MY GOODNESS…now I know how this happens, how embarrassing that my mom is pregnant…I thought she was TOO OLD…at all of 38! Life had many hard years for my mom yet she never gave up. She always hung on to hope and love and she always, always believed in her kids and her marriage. We started to notice some ‘signs’ in mom when she was about the age I am now. She seemed ‘different’ and not quite her self. Soon we realized she had Alzheimer’s. It progressed quickly to the later stages, but given her age and otherwise good health we ‘lost’ her to us long before her heart stopped. It was a painful experience to spend her last ten days on this earth watching her go from us, but we know that now she is WHOLE and looking down on us and I so hope she is proud of what she sees.

When I became a mom on November 11th, 1975 I could hardly contain my joy. Rachael Elizabeth came into this world a month later than we thought she would and so the anticipation was BEYOND great to have her in our arms. She has always brought us so much joy as we’ve watched her grow from birth to adulthood. As a great Army daughter she proudly moved around the world with her nomadic family, went to 10 different schools before graduating High School and always managed to maintain that unquenchable Willey Family sense of adventure. Every report card started by saying how SWEET Rachael is. Sometimes she expressed a wish to have a teacher find a NEW word to describe her, but to know her was to know that truly she had such a kind heart and caring way that sweet was not just a simple word pulled out of the book of appropriate adjectives, but it REALLY does define her character, but beyond sweet she is deep and passionate and caring and always, always raising the bar on herself. Now SHE nurtures young children as they navigate their way through life’s complications and she does it with that same sense of adventure and energy and passion that has always defined her! I could not be more proud to be her MOM.

July 8, 1977 we welcomed our BIG BABY BOY into this world…entering the world at 10 pounds and ready to conquer it all! Jonathan David rarely stopped moving from hour one. His zest for life, passion to learn and creative spirit caught everyone’s attention at an early age. He kept us on our toes as we tried to keep up, and he always, always made us laugh! He loved to learn, to create and to enjoy life moment by moment and like his big sister that passion has not  gone away, but only grown. He now is a loving husband and devoted father and a professional who continues to learn and create and grow. He, like his sister, is a mother’s dream child.

July 10th, 1999 I became a Mother-in-law or as I prefer to call it a Mother-in-Love and our Jamie entered our lives when she married Jonathan. Jme has also brought so much life into our world. Her thoughtful ways,kind heart and passion for helping others has taught us much. She loves our son and for that we can ask nothing more. She is the most amazing mother to David and Michael. I marvel as I watch her patiently engage these two very active and curious little boys and never does she give them anything but her best. She sets the bar high for the rest of us when it comes to being a mother! I’m so proud she’s part of our family!

I know I’ve not been the best mom in the world..I guess most of we mom’s feel that way. It’s a never ending challenge to figure out how to do it right, but with God’s help, the support of a wonderful husband and the desire to do our best we carry on.

For those of you reading this who are beginning this journey of motherhood it really IS true that it goes way too fast and then they are out of the house and on their own. Just put one foot in front of the other, trust God to help you made good choices along the way and more than anything else LOVE your kids unconditionally and ALWAYS ALWAYS tell them you do…no matter how old they get.

For those of you who may not have given birth to your own kids this can be a difficult day, perhaps, but as a person who also has many ‘surrogate’ children and as someone who also had some great surrogate mom’s along the way you can still make a HUGE difference in the lives of kids who enter your world whether they are your nieces and nephews or cousins or just YOUR surrogate kids….it matters.

As I get older I find that it’s the little things that matter. The texts, emails, video chats and phone calls that make my day. It’s the visits and hugs and smiles from my kids that bring me so much joy. It’s watching my daughter with her students who clearly LOVE her and my son with his boys that make me swell with pride.

I wear lots of ‘hats’ and have been called lots of ‘names’, but when I’m called…MOM, MOTHER, MAMA and now Grandma…nothing in the WORLD can top that.

Happy Mother’s Day and to my dear mom….can’t wait to see you again…….



Raspberries, Lilacs and Grandma Fishback

In my attempt to be healthier and eat right I bought a container of raspberries. I do love those little red berries, even though they get embedded in-between your teeth and seem to never come out! When I put the first one in my mouth, for some reason my memory flashed back to my Grandma Fishback. For a few days now I keep thinking about her and the tremendous impact she has had on my life.

When I was born we lived in the ‘country’. Hard to believe that this city girl actually grew up in the country, but it’s true! My parents were engaged for five years because my Grandma Fishback ( dad’s mom ) insisted that they have a house built before they marry. Times were tough in the 40’s and so this took a lot of saving and waiting. To make it ‘easier’ for them, Grandma provided a plot of land for this ‘yet-to-be-built’ house. The land was right beside HER house! Finally the house was built. They married and not too long after that I came along.

My Grandma Fishback was my hero in so many ways. She was born at the turn of the century. Her ancestors had immigrated to Canada before it was a country. She married my Grandfather after WW I and they lived on a farm very near where I was born. Life was hard for her. My grandfather was a good man, but had alcohol had taken over his life on many levels and that resulted in a lot of pain for Grandma as she worked on the farm and raised two sons. When my dad was 14 my Grandfather was hit by a drunk driver as he was riding his bicycle along a country road not far from their farm. Grandma used to tell us that she heard sirens and stopped to say a prayer for the people involved, later to find out it was her husband.

She now was left with a farm and two teenage sons. She sold the farm and began her teaching career. My father and uncle both quit school and went to work full time at one of the factories in town to help support ‘Ma’ as they called her. She found some land and built a tiny little house with a root cellar and a pump by the sink to bring in water.

In 1949 when I was born she still lived in that house. She lived there until she died in the mid 70’s. I loved that little house. I can close my eyes today and see every single room just the way it was. I can see the bed in her bedroom that we shared when I would sleep over. I can see all the boxes under the bed of gifts that her students had given her and she would eventually ‘regift’…many to me! I can smell her baking and cooking and flowers picked from her garden sitting on the table. I can remember looking out front and seeing the lilacs blooming. I always remember the lilacs and to this day they are my favorite spring flower.

Grandma could do everything. I was sure of it! She was a teacher by profession and taught in a one room schoolhouse until she retired in the 60’s. She taught all eight grades and at her retirement former students came from near and far to honor her. She was MY first grade teacher. I still have the bell she used to call us in from recess. It is a treasure!

Grandma would take classes at ‘night school’ to learn things. She loved to learn new things. She sewed all the clothes she wore and many that I wore too. She made tooled leather purses and learned to draw and paint. She played the piano and raised chickens, ducks and geese. She alway had a cat! Grandma loved to fish! She would come with our family on vacations to the lake and we would all go fishing. I clearly remember her in her Wellington boots standing on the dock and fishing for hours. Fish and bowling…she loved them both. What a woman!!!

She was never lacking in giving ‘wise counsel’. Things your grandmother tells you seems to stick with you, doesn’t it? Living through the Great Depression shaped her generation and thrifty she was! She would tell me, ” Barbara Jeanne, you have too many clothes. You only need three dresses. One on your body, one in the wash and one in your closet incase you spill something on the one on your body’. To this day I feel her stare when she looks in my ‘overstuffed’ closet! She made me earn things. When I wanted to learn how to sew she taught me, but she made me ‘buy’ the Singer portable sewing machine that she was replacing with a newer model. I valued that lesson to this day…and that sewing machine.

Grandma loved to travel. She would save her money and go on bus trips. Her biggest one was a bus trip across Canada and the US from Ontario to the West Coast. She kept a journal, took lots of pictures on her ‘Brownie’ camera and sketched what she saw. We still have that suitcase full of her memories from that trip. Another treasure for sure.

Grandmother was our greatest cheerleader! She always believed in us..and she told us so. She was so proud of our small accomplishments and you could feel the pride in her voice when she told you. I was the first grandchild to go to college. She was so proud! She would write to me all the time and always was so eager to hear my stories of college life. When I graduated she decided to have her own adventure and ride the Greyhound Bus from London, Ontario to Johnson City, TN. She wanted to come early and just have some time with me by herself before the rest of the family arrived. It was such a thrill for her to be part of the historic event for her family, and the fact I was going to be a teacher like my Grandma made her even more proud! 

Sadly, not long after that she was diagnosed with cancer. It was the worst kind of cancer that left her in horrible pain and not much hope of recovery. She was too ill to come to my wedding in 1974. One of the greatest sadnesses of my life was the fact my husband and my grandmother never met! The night before our wedding my dad arranged with the hospital for us to have a phone conversation with Grandma. Was talked and laughed and I listed to her ‘wise counsel’..but then she asked to speak to Barry. To this day I don’t know what she said but tears ran down his cheeks. Part of me thinks she threatened him within an inch of his life if he ever made me sad…:-).

September 1974 I was speaking at a Women’s Retreat in Atlanta Georgia. We were stationed at Fort Bragg and I was invited to speak at this retreat. The Pastor’s wife of the church in Atlanta had been my Pastor’s wife in Toronto and was like a  second mom to me. Joining me at that retreat was my best friend since 7th grade. Both Doris and Lezlee knew and loved my Grandma Fishback. Right before I was ready to speak Barry called to let us know that Grandma had passed away. That was one of the hardest talks I have ever given. As God would have it I was with two of my closest friends when I got the news and because they both knew Grandma we could cry and share memories together. It helped.

My father insisted that I NOT come home for the funeral. He said Grandmother wanted me to remember her well and healthy and active. Part of me still has some guilt for not being there, but most of me rejoices in the memories I have of my very special Grandmother LIVING!

When I was 7 we moved away from that first house that sat beside my Grandma. We would return often to visit and spend holidays. I could never get the picture out of my memory of backing out of the driveway and Grandma standing on her little porch waving. She would just stand there waving until we were out of sight. No doubt tears on her round cheeks!

Now I’m a Grandma. I’m so glad to have had the example of both of my Grandma’s to follow. I now totally understand that feeling of ‘standing on the porch and waving good bye’. I only hope I can be half the Grandmother to my grandsons that Grandma Fishback was to me.

I miss you Grandma and I hope in Heaven we can smell Lilacs and eat Raspberries together again!


KINDNESS…it matters

For several days now I’ve been pondering on what to write as my next post on this blog. I really want to keep it positive and encouraging and yet honest. Over and over again the issue of KINDNESS has come up in my mind. Sadly it has come up because of observing LACK of KINDNESS.

I find as I lean into my 6th decade of life that there are fewer and fewer things that really upset me. I’m MUCH more laid back than I was in my 40’s and little things don’t bother me as much. I don’t make EVERYTHING an issue and I really do try to pick my battles, but I do have a very low tolerance for UNKIND.

Someone posted one of those ‘posters’ on their Facebook that said , ‘Being Kind is more important that being RIGHT’ I thought about that a while before I reposted. Isn’t it important to be RIGHT? I want to be right, don’t I? But then as I considered that statement the words from the Bible came to my memory…’Speak the truth in love’. Hmmmm that pretty much summed it up for me and I reposted the words. Being KIND and being RIGHT don’t have to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Not to focus on the UNKIND things out there, but living here in a political town during an election season can sure bring out the worst in people. I’ll confess, I’m not very political. I believe in exercising my right to vote and I do. I read and consider and think and decide and then I vote. But I see no point in being MEAN about it. There is just so much meanness for meanness sake or for a sound bite, perhaps! I wonder if what people put on Facebook or comment in blogs they would actually SAY to that person face to face? I wonder……

Then this whole mess with Rush L. and his comments. Regardless of what we think about politics or policies I see no reason to be rude and unkind.

Years ago Barry was an aide to a wonderful Brigadier General. We were newly married and so this was the first time I’d even MET someone at that rank. The General and his wife were fabulous, kind and caring people. They had at the time 2 of their sons living at home. During this time the General had made a decision that was unpopular and the local newspapers as well as the media had a field day with it. They printed all manner of UNKINDNESS about this man. I was at their home one day when their young son in the 6th grade come home. He had apparently seen some of the press or someone had commented and he ran into the house, literally screaming…’They don’t know MY DAD’ and ran upstairs crying. I will never forget that moment and can’t help but think about the children of so many of our leaders in the public eye who have to hear, day in and day out mean comments about their parents.

I know over the years I’ve said many unkind things to and about people. I really regret that and want to do better. I want to be remembered as someone who is KIND. I want to leave a mark on people’s lives by my kindness. I want to surround myself with kind people.

I’m married to the KINDEST person on earth, or he is in my opinion. Barry rarely if ever says unkind things about people, even in the privacy of our home and our personal conversations. He always, always looks for the best in others and affirms that to them. When he was a young LT and had his first leadership job I noticed that he had these 3×5 cards on a ring. One for his of the men in his platoon. I asked him once that they were. He told me that on one side in pen he had all their contact information and their positive attributes. On the other side in pencil he had areas where they needed improvement. I asked why it was in pencil. He replied so that he could ERASE those areas once they improved! He always was looking for the best in others and he still does. I want to be like that!

I know what it’s like to be treated unkindly. It stings and hurts and doesn’t easily go away. I read somewhere that it takes 11 positive comments to equal one negative comment. I don’t know if that is scientific, but I do know that we tend to remember the ONE negative comment more than the ONE positive comment.

The real power of kindness comes when it’s shown to someone who may not seem to deserve it. I know I have been the recipient of that kind of kindness and it has had a great impact on my life.

In a world where being edgy and critical and unkind seems to get you attention I hope I can stand firm and in a small way bring KINDNESS into my sphere of influence. I would encourage you to join me. Kindness is powerful and can really make a difference in someone’s life. I’d love to hear your stories of someone showing YOU kindness. 


Lots of Coffee and Lots of Conversation.

Today was a great day. I spent the day, literally all of it, with one of my dearest friends, Deborah. Deborah and I met in the 80’s at Fort Bragg. We were friends, but with our busy lives of raising young children, working full-time and keeping up with Army life we didn’t have much time to hang out, but right away we knew that we would be friends.

We both left Fort Bragg and lost touch. Oh those days before email and Facebook! We both moved a lot in the next few years. We went to Norfolk and then Tampa and after 3 and a half years we found out we were going to Hinesville, GA!!! I wasn’t a happy camper as I love CITIES and by anyone’s description Hinesville wasn’t a CITY and even the name wasn’t appealing. I was sure that I knew no one at Fort Stewart, GA. Shoot, I’d never even heard of Fort Stewart, GA!. I went kicking and screaming and am sure I left claw marks on the Florida State Line as we crossed into GA! We moved into our rental house and Barry started his new job. I went exploring. Not much to explore, but I went anyway and discovered a cute little gift/frame shop so thought I’d check it out. I walked in and there was my friend Deborah!!! I am sure I screamed and scared her to death. We had found each other again and this time a ‘real’ friendship developed.

A few months after we arrived at Fort Stewart our lives changed as our Division left for Desert Shield which was to become Desert Storm. All of us, except a very few very senior folks on post were post Vietnam and so this was the first time we had experienced a long deployment. Barry had been to Grenada in 1983 along with a few others, but that was not a long deployment.

During the 8 plus months our Division’s soldiers were gone Deborah and I spent time or at the very least talked on the phone pretty much every day. We both were night owls and often would begin a phone conversation after 11 PM and end hours later. We talked about anything and everything and just always connected. She was my best friend. She was always there for me, always wise and always trustworthy. I could tell her my deepest secrets and knew they were safe. She defined a true friend.

Deborah is the one who called me from a meeting to let me know she just found out Barry was on a plane returning from the Desert. Her words went something like this at 11PM when she called…’Barbara, Barry’s on a plane and will land in several hours. Get that house cleaned.” To which I replied..’Get over here and help me’. Which she did!!!

Not long after Barry returned our time at Stewart ended and we moved on to Fort Bliss for BN Command. In a time with no cell phone, internet or email and the mobility of our military lives we lost touch a bit, but it didn’t matter. I knew Deborah was my life long friend.

Eight years later Barry and I moved to DC from Tampa and guess what? My friend Deborah was here in DC. It was as if we had never been apart. Right away she was there for me…showing me the ropes, introducing me to new friends and once again I was so happy to be back with my dear friend Deborah!

Our lives cross here in DC for just a few months and she and her family moved to Fort Benning and we stayed in DC. Now at least there was email and we were able to stay connected more than before. We were able to see each other a few times between her move to Benning and today, but it has only been a few times.

Last week Deborah Facebook messaged me and said she was coming to DC for a week to hang out with her daughter and hoped we could spend some time together. I was SO EXCITED. I insisted we spend a whole day together so we could catch up. Today was that day! We talked and talked and talked. We share deep, Deborah and I. There are no topics off-limits because we are ‘safe’ with each other. No judgement, no criticism, just real, honest friendship.

It’s hard to explain how much today meant to me. I have many friends and each one makes me a better person. I learn from each one and hope I give something back, but Deborah is special. I can’t really explain it, it just IS!

As I look back I remember the years we have been friends….almost 30 to be exact. We’ve share many experiences together. Some made us laugh and some made us cry, but all made us better. As I look back I know that God put Deborah in my life to make me a better person and to teach me things I needed to learn and give me insights I needed to have.

As I look forward I know that Deborah will always be a part of who I am. She and I will always be there for each other regardless of the fact she lives in Florida and I live in VA.

As I look forward I commit to make time to talk to Deborah more on the phone and to make sure we keep current in each other’s lives.

I realized today, again, now much I value friendship. How the love of a faithful friend is of the highest value. I realized how two people, like Deborah and I, who grew up in very different worlds can find so much common ground and be so much alike on so many levels.

I am so grateful for today. I’m so grateful that it was spent drinking lots of coffee and talking non stop about things that matter. I am most blessed! Thank you, Deborah, for being my Forever Friend! The only regret I have is that I didn’t take a picture today!


%d bloggers like this: