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bedside table

I don’t get birthday cards every year from my husband, despite my pouting (and sometimes anger).  And, I don’t always receive anniversary cards.  However, there is one thing that has remained consistent in our courtship following into our marriage…an Easter card.   They are cute, borderline corny with sayings like, “I am like scambled eggs when I am with you.”

Tim started giving me an Easter card the first year we dated.  I have all the Easter cards in our ‘memory box’ to prove it.  He missed only one Easter, and that was while he was deployed to Iraq. I figured there weren’t a whole lot of Easter card options in the desert!

Anyway, he picked Easter to be his holiday.  I have to give him credit…he never forgets.  So, as it sits on my bedside table still after a month, I am grateful for his unique tradition.  Time to file it away.

Hard to believe I have been home for one year.  I’ve been home, for as long as I was gone.

I think of Iraq, often, almost everyday.

It may sound odd, but Iraq had a very positive effect on me.  Looking through the lens of an American in a war-torn land, only made me more grateful for what my family means to me, what America means, and what opportunities lie in front of our children.

I wrote frequently in combat.  However, this is the first time I’ve posted a topic, since returning.

I remember coming back and immediately noticing the unbelievable gas prices that had changed dramatically in a year, as well as hearing of a declining market.

We may be in one of the worst economic conditions ever, but it’s absolutely wonderful to be home with my family, in such a great nation, where all of our children – know peace.


little package

There are moments that stick with people that they will never forget and never regret.

Here is one of mine.  My grandfather turning to me in the hospital at his bedside, reaching for my hand, and then looking deep into my eyes.  Not just the regular-old eye contact.  I mean the kind where time kind of stands still.  He said with as much voice as he could muster, “I love you so much.  You are tender and sweet.  I have lived such a blessed life.  I am a lucky man.” 

Now those are words I have carefully packaged up to keep forever for if I make it to 92, surely I will have lived a fulfilled life.  I hope that I will be as blessed as my grandfather has been with loving people at my side acting on behalf of my best interests.  I hope that someday I will be able to gently glide into my next life with a sense of peace.  I am hoping this for him.  

There isn’t a single moment of extra time lately.  Seriously, none.  We have made daily pilgrimmages to the hospital since Monday, September 29th to care for my grandfather.  But the “little package” he gave me I will forever be grateful for…he is so worth it.

However, difficult it is, I have realized, months after my aunt’s death, that something truly positive has come from her passing. 

The relationship with my grandfather has always been close, however his move has made the relationships we all share with him much deeper.  Given he is in the twilight of his life at 92 years old, I am cherishing the days I have remaining.  I would never have had the opportunity to visit with him on a daily basis if Nine were still alive.  

My brother, Nate, and I gave our Grandpa the book below in 1997.  There is an inscription on the inside cover to prove it.  We always heckled him for not filling it out.  I figured there was no better time than while he was in the hospital and rehab.  So I have made it part of my visit.  We have tried to complete several pages each visit.  He is sharp as a tac…remembers details I find fascinating.   

I encourage everyone who still thankfully has a grandparent alive to document their lives.  Ask them questions.  Request stories about their childhood.  Make them recollect their first job, how they fell in love, what they got in trouble for as kids, what their biggest regret is.  You will probably find your grandparent is much more interesting than you thought.

Today, the twins and I stopped in for a quick visit.  You should have seen my grandfather’s face light up.  He was thrilled to see my toe heads walk in with their sassy attitudes and high-fives.  He was just leaving for physical therapy so we walked him to the ‘gym.’  As you can imagine at a rehab facility, the place was packed with nothing but gray hairs…desperately trying to regain some strength and independence in an effort to return to whatever their normal life happens to be.

As we walked in the dreary room, heads turned AND then something magical happened.  The mouths on the faces of the elderly turned up.  Huge grins.  I had no idea that these two little girls would bring such sunshine into the room.  It was as if the room got whiter.  It even seemed to me that their steps got peppier, their rotations got stronger, and their conversation louder.  Campbell, who goes nowhere without her stuffed polar bear, even handed it to several ladies.  It was the sweetest gesture, and she had no idea its impact.  Kindness combined with the innocence of children can go such a very long way, even enhancing therapy!  I am blessed.

So…don’t forget your grandparents and don’t disregard the elderly!

newly found best friends

There is nothing like family, however dysfunctional it may be at times. And boy, we can layout a host of dysfunction in the Rowe Family. Regardless, I was graced with two perfect visits this past weekend that left me energized and euphoric…my cousin, Betsy, and my Uncle Tom.

Shortly after Nine died, my uncle said to me, “Well, it looks like you are my new best friend.” I soon moved to the #3 spot on his speed dial. We now chat about random, silly and frivolous things on a daily basis. I suppose this is one of those ‘good things’ that has evolved from her death.

Tom is twelve years younger than my father so I somehow feel as if he and I have grown up together. He is one of my favorite people…always humorous and gentle. And as a father of two girls, he ‘gets’ women. While the purpose of his travel to Indy was to visit his father, we had plenty of time to further our new best friend status.

My time with Betsy and Drew was even more special. As Nine’s eldest daughter, I hadn’t had any private time with her since her mother’s death. We spent hours talking…sometimes crying, sometimes laughing. I have the deepest respect for Betsy. She is an extraordinary woman. She is amazing with children. She has always had a quiet strength. And, she seriously has the warmest, widest smile of anyone I know. I clearly have no understanding the depth of her pain but remains one of my best friends.

You can tell by the pictures below, that there were some other newly found best friends made. Drew will either be permanently scarred by my devilish twins or will never forget sharing a naked bath and watching his naked cousins jumping on the trampoline. The girls couldn’t get enough of “BABY DREW”!

And for all of those out there wondering if the twins EVER have clothes on…they do but they really like their birthday suits too.  I figure while I am potty training why waste the laundry detergent!

i love indiana

So if you have been around me at all lately, you typically can hear me explain in a Hoosier-like accent, “I love Indiana.” In fact, I am quite certain my early morning running buddies are growing tired of it. But really, I never would have imagined making this exclamation when I entered this territory in 1989 to start school at Ball State University. I, like many, thought it would be just an endless expanse of flat cornfields.

I grew up just outside of Chicago…with the cultural world at my fingertips. I learned to take mass transportation at a young age. I attended the Lyric Opera of Chicago on a regular basis…even was a member of the Children’s Chorus for four seasons. I dined at fabulous restaurants. For field trips, we toured the famous Art Institute of Chicago and Field Museum. I was raised in a village similar to Zionsville…many of the homes were historical, some streets were still paved with brick, and the landscapes of homes were breathtaking.

But we were never a mile away from pure, natural beauty. The kind of green that only bean fields can produce, the color of amber that Benjamin Moore would love to replicate of the changing color of corn as the Autumn sets in. The acres of white or black split rail fences that keep the horses corralled for my kids to gawk at as we drive by. The endless blue horizon. The gentle morning fog that just hovers over the horse farm next to us as we run by in the morning.

While I respect and appreciate my upbringing, and sometimes long for some of my favorite, old restaurants, I would not change my residency. On a whim I took my three youngest children to the apple orchard yesterday. It took us maybe ten minutes to get there because I stopped along the way to snap the images below. In fact, every time the kids saw something ‘pretty’ they yelled for me to STOP!

A few weeks ago, Tim and I had more fun than we remember in a long time. We biked with several neighbors on the Monon Trail (an old railroad track turned into pedestrian/bike path that goes for over 60 miles) from North of Indianapolis to Broad Ripple for dinner and cocktails (cocktails being the key word here). Even though we knew it would close before we could make our return, we were up for an adventure (an illegal adventure at that). We came equipped with headlamps and I belly laughed the entire eleven miles home.

It is no secret at this point that we have built a ‘clan’ in Indianapolis. Tim and I were the first. Soon after came my brother, Nate, and his wife, Helena. Then our parents a year apart. Two of my best friends descended on us last year. And, the latest addition is my 92-year old grandfather. I suppose loving Indiana doesn’t just mean loving the landscape. Loving Indiana has more to do with having everyone I love here.

I love Indiana.

lowest denominator

I have been thinking about this idea for awhile. If we were all judged on our worst qualities, we would be a land of very bad people. Unfortunately, sometimes our best qualities are easily overlooked. If I was factored down to my worst, here is the type of person I would be described as:

– Tiffany can be impatient. And typically with that impatience comes a temper.

– She can be insensitive not necessarily considering the ‘big picture’ before considering all the facts.

– She has to have multiple fires burning at once…ADD, perhaps? Don’t know but she is busy.

– Tiffany let’s her kids pee in the bushes, run naked, and rarely wear shoes.

– She has to write everything down to remember it. Early dementia, perhaps? Don’t know but Tim finds it annoying that he has to repeat himself.

– She rolls her eyes and doesn’t hide her disinterest.

– Tiffany asks too many questions. Intrusive, perhaps?

Shortly after Nine died (in fact the day of) someone said to me, “Surely there will be good to come of her passing.”  It isn’t quite the comment I wanted to hear at the time.  I tried not taking offense to the offerer of this advice because I thought I might agree once some time had passed.

I find myself once again choosing to believe in the goodness of people.  In fact, I wrote a lot about this topic while Tim was deployed to Iraq.  My point is…if we were always taken for our worst qualities then everyone would always expect the worst.  While we all have traits that make us despicable at times, I am trying specifically to keep focus on the positive qualities.


Along with quite a bit of speaking from the heart this is what I said…

Nine (our loving nickname for Caroline) was in a single word the matriarch of this family. She was the rock to which we clung. Most of us talked to her on a daily basis, often multiple times throughout the day. And her house was like ours, the place we all came home.

I will forever be grateful that I didn’t listen to anyone that told me I was crazy for packing up four kids under eight for an Insane Road Trip to the East Coast because it gave me the opportunity to have three glorious days with certainly my favorite aunt but more importantly one of my closest confidants and best friends.

Within 48 hours of our departure, Nine was gone.

But during our visit, I learned something new about Nine. If you have ever been to her home you know it is packed full of a lot of junk. She has so many trinkets and chotcke items around her house, I never asked her about the prism in her window. But on this visit, she told me that every time she sees a rainbow cast from the prism to the kitchen floor she feels as if her mother is with her…a quick visit, so to speak. A drop in to say hello through a colorful rainbow.

After the devastating news of her death had sunk in, after we had retold stories about her, discussed the countless generous things she had done for us, and I reflected on the conversations leading up to her death…I felt a strong need to find something that would make her live on.

I do not want this woman who was colorful and brass and eccentric and caring and flamboyant and spiritual and enormously kind and giving to just fade away from our lives. She was an incredibly storyteller so I urge everyone here to keep her stories alive.

Keep the moments you shared and the conversations that you had alive by retelling them over and over again. Think of all the off-the-wall things she used to do. The bold statements. The crazy outfits. The kindest gestures. The loud whistle. The strong voice.

I especially encourage you to tell these stories to her daughters. My best friend lost her mother at an early age. She took great offense that people never wanted to talk about her mother after her death.

Telling your stories may be painful at first. It certainly may be awkward but it will also be just what Nine would have done.

I have several prisms for individuals that I want you to place in a special window in your home. So that everyday when the light hits it ‘just so’ you will feel an overwhelming sense that Caroline is with you.

To you Wally…who had the single most extraordinary and traditional wife I know.

To Betsy and Suzy…a mother that all should be measured against.

To Grandpa…the daughter that was loyal beyond words.

To Lorraine…a daughter-in-law who seemed a part of your family from the beginning.

To Gordon, David, and Tom…your sister and your rock and most important your best friend.

To Nate and to me…a reminder that we had one heck of an aunt.

To Cathy, Cindy, Gloria, and Sue…a best friend that will forever remain in your heart.

Simply put, Nine is irreplaceable. Some have said it is now my duty to take on her role. If I could fill just the big toe of her shoe, it would be remarkable.

I will miss her but I will forever be grateful that she was a part of my life.

a sound so sweet

I never would have guessed that the swoosh-swoosh-swoosh noise of my washing machine would be a sound so sweet.  But after nearly six weeks without a working washing machine, there could be nothing better.

On June 3rd, our house got a direct hit from lightning (the second time in five years…I hope the third time is NOT the charm).  It zapped everything from our telephone system to water softener.  It zapped appliances and computer equipment.  It zapped our garage door opener, air conditioner, electrical outlets, televisions, irrigation system, etc. The list goes on endlessly.  We are obviously still very much in recovery mode.

I typically dread my daily chore of laundry.  I have four kids and two adults that accumulate a considerable amount of wash.  So…we have been practicing more conservation techniques as a result.  Pool towels just get rained on and dry out.  Pajamas are worn multiple nights.  Security blankies are just plain dirty at this point…one even has tire marks on it…I cannot even recall from what.  Thank goodness we are not in the midst of a season of layers and warm clothing with t-shirts and shorts being the daily uniform.  At least I can now blame my children running around without clothes on my conservation strategy.

All humor aside, I would like to sincerely thank the following people for managing the Stoner Six wash over the past few weeks:   Mom, Tiffany Dunbar, Stacy Meyer, Amie Cramer, Susan Hyten, Judy Pugh, and Cathy Rood.  Sorry it it smelled!

simple thanks

I was inspired by three distinct declarations of thanks over the past 24 hours.

The first came from my dearest friend, Stacy.  Among the most lively and interesting book club meetings, she expressed her gratitude for not our friendship but the pull that it had to finally incent her to make a life decision…moving to Indianapolis.  It was a thanks I certainly didn’t need or expect.  I am profoundly proud of my uber-independent, successful, and passionate friend.  I am confident she made the best decision of her life.

The next thanks came late at night from my husband who is once again miles away with the military.  He
simply said, “Thanks for taking such great care of our kids.”  I appreciated it because mothers don’t get thanked enough and it was very thoughtful of him to recognize my ‘role’.  At the same time, it occurred to me that I could be a lot better mother than I am.  I could stop trying to juggle too many balls at once.  I could learn how to say no when the requests take away from my family.  I could play more ring-around-the rosey and duck-duck-goose.  I could spend the time reading “just one more book” as requested each night.

Finally, after a late-night trip to the ER with our oldest son, Briggs, he said to me, “Thanks for taking care of my when I am sick.”  Now this is the thanks that melted my heart.  I will hang on to this one for awhile.  It was simple and raw and perfect.

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