From a MIL to all you DILs: Some Advice

During my child-raising years, I led a women’s weekly Bible Study. I was blessed to do so.

It was a large group of women and, as you can imagine, many came to me with prayer requests. To my astonishment, the primary request was, “Pray for my relationship with my mother-in-law.” When I inquired as to the problem, not surprisingly, the problem was always the mother-in-law. As much as I loved every woman in that group (and I did, with great devotion), I gotta say, most of the complaints were downright petty. I wondered who the problem really was.

My mil said this, she did so-n-so with the kids, I hate her food, she hates mine, the holidays, and on and on the grievances went.

As my mom used to say, “Don’t take offense where offense is not meant, and generally speaking, it is not meant.”

Touché. And love covers a multitude of sins, people.

My own mother-in-law was the epitome of the meek-and-mild-mannered sort, so if she wanted to strangle me, I never knew it. I can be blissfully clueless, which in family matters factors greatly to my advantage. As it happens I liked my mil. Beneath that quiet exterior was a funny, smart woman, so maybe I just didn’t get what the big deal was with my Bible study ladies.

Now, I have a dil of my own, and well, I haven’t exactly nailed the mil role yet, just like I didn’t nail the mother role before the car rolled away from the hospital and the baby seat was finally secured. I am learning, but what a learning curve. We’re sorting out our roles as we go. I’ve got a history with my kids that literally started in utero. I’m creating a history with my dil that started when she was 22.

I’m their mom, but I’m her mil. Heck, just the difference between a mid-Western girl and a Southern mil is well, big-hair-huge, but we’re making it. I’m proud of us.

Sadly, the only advice I was given when I became a mil was to wear beige and shut-up. Okay. Clearly, I am not so stupid as to wear white to the wedding, but here’s my response to that sage advice: Beige looks horrible on everyone, and telling someone to shut-up is the equivalent of silencing their voice in the family. Making them invisible. Translated, it means: unwanted and excluded. Try those shoes on and see how they feel. So, this is me not being invisible. Some thoughts for the dils.

  1. I went from being mom-in-charge to being mom-not-in-charge. That’s like 0-60-0. Try putting the brakes on that. It ain’t easy. And, yes, I know that letting go of my children is a process that should’be started around age 3, but it took me until age 18 to know that. Sorry. So, cut the mils some slack when they don’t shut-up, yet probably should.
  2. This one is from my dil: Let the mil spoil the grandchildren. In her words: “Kids should have happy memories with grandparents without parents butting in. We may not agree with it, but it is their time with the kids, and the kids will remember it.” (Yes, I’m allowed to spoil three adorable, little girls, and who doesn’t want to do that?)
  3. Have some empathy. When I met my dil I was going through a divorce. She met me at my worst, without knowledge of what my best looked like. While your mil may not be going through a divorce, she is quickly becoming an empty-nester, which is huge. I know you dils already know this because I know you’re amazed at how quickly the children are growing up, and you’re counting down the days until they’re gone.
  4. Your mil is going to get it wrong. Let her. Oh, give the woman a break. We all need room to mess up without fear of judgment. Don’t we? Some of what she does may be stupid, but you can choose to let it go. You haven’t met the the situation where you don’t have a choice. Choose to ignore some of her antics, be it martyrdom, passive aggressive comments, or just plain-old foot-in-the-mouth, and let the awkward go.
  5. And, yes, unfortunately, your mil wants the family at her house for Christmas. Find me a mil who doesn’t. She wants the Over-the-River-and-Through-the-Woods-to-Grandmother’s-House-We-G0 experience. For heaven’s sake, give it to her one Christmas, or two–it doesn’t have to be all of them. It will be a hassle, a long road trip with whiny kids, and you’ll want to kill yourself before its over, but your mil will be forever grateful, with a heart full of memories and gratitude that no road trip can measure.
  6. Ask her for advice. Seriously, do you think she got this far in life without gathering some wisdom along the way? You may even decide to take it.
  7. Do something with her minus the kids and husband. A little bonding never hurt.

I’ll share my heart with you here. The older I get the more invisible I feel. Recently, at work, my boss was talking to me and he said, “We’ve just aged out of the work force, we need these younger people.” I felt so defeated. I still need to work, but if my contribution isn’t needed anymore, then what? Unfortunately, being a mil, the same message is given, wear beige and shut-up. You’re no longer needed. It feels as though a giant eraser is slowly and silently removing my presence here. As I watch my children create families of their own, I am proud of them, but I wonder where I fit into that picture, or if I do. Is it really my job to wear beige and shut-up? All of this is so very new to me, and I imagine your mil too. And, it comes at a time when everything is changing, not just children marrying. Widowhood or divorced. Empty-nester. The work force slowly pushing you out. Calculating how long you can live based on how much money you have in retirement (yes, there is an actual calculation for that). Wondering what would happen if you ran out of money before years. Aging and health scares. Dying parents, dear friends or siblings. The eraser just keeps removing. In the midst of that, squeals of grandchildren happy to see you is pretty awesome. Being welcomed to their home by their mom is just as awesome.

A final thought: If Endora from Bewitched, or the chick from The Good Wife, Jackie Florrick, is your mil, then ignore all the above and plot away. But, aside from the downright crazy mils (and that is a thing), most mils actually do like their dils. My dil is a better mother than I ever was. She’s a strong, beautiful, independent woman that keeps the grandchildren connected to family, and loves my son. I am on her side. I want her marriage to succeed, and her family to prosper, no matter who cooks pot roast what way, or eats vegan. I’d bet my last dollar your mil would say the same. Maybe, she just wants to feel included and sometimes needed. Whatever the issue, consider flying the white flag of truce and letting go of projections and stereotypes. Remember karma is also a thing, and one day you’ll be her.

Okay, lecture over. Next one will be for the mils on playing nice with the dils. How’s that? Look for great thoughts from my dil to be included.

(Header picture: My favorite wedding day of picture of dil, son and granddaughter.)

Rest, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Get Some Rest (And some Takeout)

Lately, when I wake up, before I even open my eyes, my mind forms the words, “Lord, send back-up. I’m pooped.”

He hasn’t.

I’m still waiting.

Today, I got a little aggravated. It isn’t every day that I openly acknowledge running out of steam. It isn’t every day that I cop to being too exhausted to run the world, or my itty-bitty portion of it. I rarely admit to being overwhelmed or unable. I know, silly me. But, since I did cop to it, I figured God would send in the troops. I imagined him proud and waving off his angels to aid me, saying, “Yes, go. She’s finally learned a new word: Help.”

Well, I did learn a new word. So where the heck is the help? Are the angels delayed as they were with Daniel? (Daniel 10:12) Fighting off the kings of Persia? Is Persia still a country?

I started looking around. Maybe I was missing something. You know, one of those cryptic things right in front of you that you never see or saw. There was nothing, and here I need someone to write garden notes, clean out the grill, dig out the old boards around the now-gone cherry tree so the stump grinder can get in there, detail my car, and go buy some groceries–or better yet–cook. It’s been weeks since I had an actual meal. Cereal and microwave popcorn only get you so far. And, I’m way past the 3 weeks Daniel had to wait.

Come on. One angel that can clean or garden or cook? It can be a runty angel. It doesn’t need to be the warrior angels, Gabriel or Michael. Although, let’s face it, they’re probably getting up there in years by now.

I needed insight into why no extra hands were being provided, so I did my daily Bible Study with the intention of getting to the bottom of it. I was in Mark, chapter 6, when I read verse 31.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he [Jesus] said to them [his disciples], “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Jesus’ disciples were overworked, overwhelmed and likely way over all the people that came seeking Jesus. People who didn’t need a specimen tree in their new landscape, but a miracle for a sick and dying child. Loved ones pleading for loved ones, calling to Jesus for a healing touch. In the midst of that enormous need, Jesus pulled his disciples away to eat and rest.

It explained the missing troops. God wasn’t sending troops. He wanted me to pull away, rest and eat. So okay, but, I literally don’t know how to stop working.

There’s a reason for that. I’m not a workaholic. I have trust issues.

I work hourly. That translates to: If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. That’s a tough pill to swallow for a girl that used to have a benefits package, and a vacation didn’t equal less income. Makes for a sweeter vacay. But, I’m not generally a griper. I’m more of a pragmatist. My reasoning is simple. Since I don’t get paid to take time off, I don’t take time off.  Not even Sundays. My friend, Julia, said, “Sounds like a trust issue to me.”

What does does that even mean? Trust issue about what?

Okay, breaking down Mark 6:31 is easy. We can translate this one literally.

  • First, find a quiet place. My bedroom fits the bill.
  • Second, get away from the hoards needing something from you NOW. Turn the phone/IPad/computer off.
  • Third, maybe get some food, an actual meal. Take out!
  • Fourth, hang out with Jesus. He really can restore a weary soul.
  • Fifth, no work. Just rest. Seriously, do something creative or get some sleep.

But, what about the missing paycheck and the to-do list? What about those people who needed Jesus to give life to the dying, cure the lame, restore sight, and stop bleeding?  What about, what about, what about? Also, in Matthew 6:

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

These are Jesus’ words. He wants me to know that my heavenly father knows my needs, and he has the benefits package. And, there’s the trust thing. I want to trust him with my plan (extra troops and back-up or unlimited sick and vacation days (SAS anyone?)), not his plan (go to a quiet place, eat and rest in the midst of the chaos of life). But, since no troops have arrived, and Persia is now Iran, which could really hold up some angels, my options are to have a nervous breakdown, or get some rest, and trust God to provide.

I’m going for the rest.

Phones are off. Computer is going off. Chinese take-out boxes are on the nightstand. And, hopefully, clients needing it all done now are resting, too.

 

 

BB Barns Garden Center, Garden Tour, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Edible Gardening from BB Barns Garden Center

“Who doesn’t love homegrown tomatoes?” asks Letha Hinman, BB Barns Garden Center’s annual, veggie and herb buyer. One could also ask, after a visit to Letha’s garden, who doesn’t like rhubarb, shiitake mushrooms, hops, squash, fruits, raspberries, and more?

This blog kicks off BB Barns Garden Center’s Garden Tours for the month of August. Four brave employees volunteered to give you a peek into their gardens, so look for a new blog each week (A Native’s Garden, What Can You Plant on a Bank, Edibles and Ornamentals: From Barney Bryant) . Letha’s garden is first because, as she said, “Who doesn’t love homegrown anything?” And veggies are always a good place to start, especially if you are a beginner, because what’s more rewarding than eating what you grow?

A little background on Letha (for those who always wondered about our engaging annual buyer). Letha grew up in Minnesota on a rural dairy and poultry farm. When she wasn’t helping with farm chores, she was baking. Not much has changed. She’s still gardening and cooking. But, after marrying Naval officer, Mike Hinman, her food palette expanded to include foods from around the world as she and Mike lived the military life. Now, fish and lamb (discovered in Iceland) are a family favorite, and papaya and mango (from their time in Hawaii) are added to her table’s fare. BB Barns’ customers benefit from her vast gardening knowledge, but we co-workers have the privilege of benefiting from her culinary skills. Now, you can too. Read on for a great recipe provided by Letha. This one originates from her roots, Rhubarb Meringue Pie.  If you’re game, when you see Letha, ask her about her shiitake mushroom recipe. She might share that too.

Every good garden starts with a place to store tools and some bees. Welcome to Letha and Mike’s garden. Click on the pictures for additional information.

Letha’s garden contains the standard fare, spicy jalapeños, squash, and tomatoes of several varieties. (Click on each picture to find out what’s growing.) Her good fortune is a large space to spread out and grow everything from corn to onions, but Letha assures us small spaces produce large amounts too, even container gardens can feed a small family.

And while every garden has it’s standard fare (What’s a summer without cucs and squash?), Letha’s garden goes a step further. Husband Mike didn’t agree to share his brewing recipe with us, but his hops make for a very pretty picture. Climbing up a cage where the family tosses the rocks from the garden, the hops shine in the sunshine, hiding the rocks and showing that food can sometimes be functional and tasty.

BB Barns Garden Center, Garden Tours,  Hops, Transplanted and Still Blooming, Cinthia Milner

Hops for Mike’s brewing hobby.

Letha’s love of new ideas keeps the annual department hopping (no pun intended), and last year she tried something very new. shiitake mushrooms inoculated on old logs. Normally, she gets a spring and fall crop, but this year, bonus, when we were taking pictures we discovered a summer crop!

Letha has traveled to places many of us only dream of, but her roots are Minnesota. The perennial rhubarb has a spot in her garden, and below the picture is a recipe shared from her years of baking. Give it a try, and, make a note now, so you won’t forget: It’s time to plant fall crops. Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, lettuces, brocoli, all go in the ground now. Check out the new plants Letha just brought in, and yes, even beginners can start now.

Letha's rhubarb. Many assume because we're zone 7a, we can't grow it here, but we can. Rhubarb is definitely a cold weather lover, and so Letha's home place of MN even has rhubarb festivals, but we're right on the border of growing it. One hour down the road in Greenville and this perennial vegetable with its beautiful red stalks wouldn't make it.

Letha’s rhubarb. Many assume because we’re zone 7a, we can’t grow it here, but we can. Rhubarb is definitely a cold weather lover, and so Letha’s home place of MN even has rhubarb festivals, but we’re right on the border of growing it. One hour down the road in Greenville and this perennial vegetable with its beautiful red stalks wouldn’t make it.

From Garden to Table, Letha’s Rhubarb Meringue Pie:

Prepare one pie crust

  • Mix together 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar (some brown sugar can be used)
  • 1/4 cup minute tapioca
  • 6 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup of milk or cream
  • Let mixture set for 10 minutes. Then fill crust with mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 400° degrees until set.

For meringue beat 4 to 6 eggs whites with 3/4 tsp cream of tarter on high until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Spread atop baked pie while still hot, starting with edges of crust making sure no gaps appear between crust and meringue. Then fill in center. Return to 350° for 15 minutes or until peaks of meringue are golden brown.

Thanks Letha and Mike for sharing your garden!

Preparing for Death and Climbing Mt. Everest

 

Call me morbid, but I have realized recently that death is imminent. One of my sisters made the comment that, if statistics are correct, then one of the four of us will die within the next ten years. While I hope stats are wrong, the possibility is a very real one. I don’t relish it.

And yet, I call myself a Christian.

Why bring that up? I guess I thought being a Christian meant I’d be completely prepared for death, maybe even looking forward to it since I’m a big fan of Jesus. But, if being honest is a virtue, then me being virtuous is me saying, I am so not ready for that. I’m not ready for one of my sisters to die. I’m not ready to die.

When the kids were little, I’d often pray, “Just until they’re both 18, then I can die, Lord.” Now, I want to see my granddaughters get married. My deadline for death shifts bit-by-bit each year as new loved ones come along (the grand-girls) and new memories are made. How does one let go of life when there is so much of it?

That’s the question, isn’t it? How does one let go of life?

By having faith that more life is beyond this one than is imaginable.

After Jesus is resurrected, he is talking with Peter while walking on the beach. He tells Peter that when Peter is old he will go where he does not want to go. Jesus says it to Peter as follows in John 21:18-19:

18 I’m telling you the very truth now: When you were young you dressed yourself and went wherever you wished, but when you get old you’ll have to stretch out your hands while someone else dresses you and takes you where you don’t want to go.”19 He said this to hint at the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. And then he commanded, “Follow me.”

Many believe Jesus was referring to the fact that Peter would die a death of crucifixion. (He and his wife, upside down no less.) That makes sense and I cannot fathom such a horrific death, but verse 18 is one that runs through my head lately. As I witness parents of friends experience this very thing–once young and independent, now old and dependent. They rely on children to be understanding and helpful–to dress them, feed them, drive them, and yes, even take them where they may not want to go.

Growing old gracefully is a new thought indeed. Am I up for the challenge?

Some refuse to accept growing old and so they’re out climbing Mt. Everest. Forgive me for this, but boring. Once you get to the top, you have the chore of coming down. And, while it would seem that would be easy part, it actually isn’t. Climbing down a mountain can be as challenging as climbing up one.

And, climbing down feels like the challenge now.

Yes, I still have mountains ahead with plenty of adventures and excitement left, but I also have the responsibility of preparing for death. Read that sentence again.

I have the responsibility of preparing for death.

How will I do that? By remembering, and believing in the most clear and definitive way that more life awaits me there than ever could here. And by there, I do mean heaven.

Yes, this preparation feels like climbing down a mountain to me. Like I’m being led to where I do not want to go.

But, if Scripture is correct, (and I believe it is), then I am not climbing down but going up. Stephen, the first Christian martyr looked up and saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, as they were stoning him.  Jesus ascended when he left this earth. Elijah went up in a fiery chariot to heaven. The tower of Babel was built up to reach the heavens. On the last day we will rise up to meet Jesus as he descends down. All of this feels so surreal and unreal as I prepare myself mentally for the death I will most certainly have.

In this journey ahead, I may feel like I am climbing down the mountain as the years click by, but I am actually climbing up, bit-by-bit, not to Mt. Everest, but to heaven. And, once I am there, I thankfully do not have the chore of coming back down.