Friday, July 20, 2012

On Hair, Herons, Hot Air, Homes and Hope

If you haven't yet read Dana's story, please do!  Stay tuned for Terri's story, coming shortly.

Mr. Wonderful and I celebrated our 21st anniversary on Friday, June 29.  Panicked preparations began for me on Thursday when I realized my hair was not up to celebratory standards.  I originally planned to go gracefully gray in my middle age and mentioned this fact to my best buddy from my college years.   This friend is as accepting and tolerant as they come.  As an attorney, she's trained to see and anticipate all sides of an argument.  "Gracefully gray?  What does that mean?  That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," she non-judgmentally barked when I announced my intentions.  "Gracefully gray is an oxymoron."  I blame her for my every six week regimen of trying to fool the world into thinking I am not a woman in my mid-40s.

By Thursday, it became apparent the ruse would not hold.  My husband might figure out that his bride is no longer 23.  The lady who does my hair comes to my home (I know, how lucky am I?) and she squeezes me in during times when she's not helping her husband run a non-profit charity, when she's not directing the elementary program at a church, when she's not planning a summer camp for a few hundred or a carnival for 800 and when she's not home educating her own three children.  I explained the dire nature of my follicular folly.  She immediately agreed her other obligations paled in comparison.  That same evening, she restored my youth in mocha hues, preventing a Portrait of Dorian Gray anniversary reveal.  

We love our kids and love that we have a large family.  On our anniversary, we couldn't wait to get as far away from them as possible.  Our oldest is nearly 17 and we felt that we could safely leave them for one overnight.  Mr. Wonderful searched far and wide within a 45 minute radius of home.  He picked The Herrington Inn in Geneva (IL...maybe another season of life might bring that other Geneva into the realm of the possible).  Good choice from a good man.  We arrived to a beautiful room--four poster king size bed, corner fireplace operated by flip switch, waiting chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate mousse with a personalized congratulatory note from the innkeeper--and a balcony overlooking the Fox River.  I settled in on the balcony, watching the island directly across from us.  Mr. Wonderful doesn't do nothing well, but he alighted fidgetedly beside me.  For the next hour, we chatted and watched the great blue heron on the island.  This heron must be used to visitors; he paid us no mind as he preened and flapped and spread his wings to warm?  dry?  in the sun.  The heron briefly shared the island with an egret and many cute ducks dabbled in the waters.  There was not a goose in sight, making the scene perfect to my way of thinking (I hate geese).  Even watching what my Southern born and raised hubby termed a "varmint," and what I hope was a genteel muskrat and not just a big, fat rat swim across the river instilled a bucolic charm, in so far as varmints can be charming.  On your anniversary, on a balcony two stories above, when the varmint is swimming away from you, all things are possible.

Over a delicious dinner of skate wing (me) and prime rib (him), I listened to my guy talk about hope.  The specific topic was something entirely different, but hope formed the core.  There is determined positive outlook, a gritted choice we make on how to view things and then there is hope, which bubbles up from another place entirely.  Long seasons in life can be filled with that determined will in choosing one's viewpoint and there is a certain maturity that comes with that disciplined practice.  But nothing refreshes a soul like hope.

We concluded our anniversary getaway with an hour long morning walk along the Fox River and a stop in the All Chocolate Kitchen.  The shop is part chocolate and spun sugar art gallery, part bakery, all stupendous.  We arrived home anxious to see the kids again and with, I thought, the best part of the weekend behind us.

Not so.

The Midwest, at least this part of it, possesses a startlingly nasty summer habit of getting light in the middle of the night.  I never encountered anything like this anywhere on the East Coast, but if you wake up anytime after 4:30 am in Chicagoland in June, it will be getting light.  Sunday morning, I woke up early to hear my oldest easing out the door.  He wasn't on tech at church that weekend, but some tech folks were going early to make sure all was set for our church's first weekend in our new permanent home.  He planned on riding his bike rather than wake us (how did I get such a great kid?), but since I was up, I offered him a ride.  We walked out of the house to see three huge hot air balloons almost directly over our home and another two in the distance.  I felt a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Mr. Wonderful took off with the two youngest kids in the van, forming his own unofficial chase crew.  Not only did they chase down three landings, but were rewarded with balloon trading cards and candy from the pilots.  I opted for a jog, following the balloons along the river trail near our home.  Crickets, birds and the whoosh of the propane burner from the balloon above formed the only early morning sounds.  The river next to me suddenly exploded and a startled heron--significantly less adapted to people than his Herrington Inn cousin--took off before me.  
That was possibly a more spectacular flight than even the enormous colorful blobs above.  I returned home, convinced that my day had seen its most satisfying moments.

Not so.

My family gathered, all of us nearly filling an entire row at church, to celebrate our first service in our building.  I hadn't expected it to feel as monumental as it did.  God's church is not a building, of course, but it does feel deeply satisfying to have a home base.  The worship that day felt sincere, filled with joy and thanksgiving.  My hubby and teens no longer have to get up at 5:30 am every Sunday to set up in the middle school our church called home for more than a year and a half.  With our new building, we can host more outreach and ministry events during the week.  Our building sits next to the YMCA, where scores of moms of preschoolers flock to work out during the week, and just shy of the local high school.  The school likes to tout its Grammy award winning music program, but beneath the glitter we live in a district with seven heroin overdoses in the past year amongst the student body.  My community looks like one that has its act together, but it is often just that, an act, a Stepford play where people hide their real selves, their problems and dare I say it?  their sin.  It's a place that needs hope rather than gritted self-determination.  And in that rather nondescript brick office building cum church, we sang and celebrated the Author of Hope.

It doesn't get any better than that.


  1. Oh, Holly! You made me laugh and you made me cry... from your hair, to herons to hot air to hope to your church home and your choice of words. You are such a fabulous writer. It made me stop and think what that day will be like for us when our church is finally in a "home." So happy for you!

    PS. I can't post a comment using my new blog address. We must get together so I can help you adjust that setting. :)

    1. Oh, I have a whole LIST of things that I need help/explanation/exorcism for on my computer. I need an intervention!

  2. The day after reading this I was complimented for my platinum highlights. :) I'm sticking with that.

    Happy Anniversary, sounds like you had a memorable and precious weekend of celebrating.