GOING HOME  By Lori A Alicea

Love…peace…and joy.

Three beautiful sentiments written into a greeting card.

Three captivating emotions of a well scripted movie.

While sentiments are ribbons which wrap around our hearts in a Valentine bow, emotions aren’t the final approval of our (love, peace and joy), as emotions change on a moment’s notice with the direction of the wind.

Love…peace…and joy are our choice.

We choose to love when the forecast is nothing but bad attitudes.

We choose peace when waters around us are anything but calm.

We choose joy on a rainy day of tears.

We choose to remember that (love, peace and joy) are attributes of God, so when we choose to love, when we choose peace, when we choose joy, we are looking into the face of God.

I didn’t realize I’d have to choose one fall Saturday afternoon, a greeting card day where the weather was crisp and perfect for sweaters and apple picking.

A backdrop of trees in full bloom of nature’s glory and framed around a lake of tranquility, a silent movie re-playing in my memory of Saturdays here at this same lake with my parents and siblings, and now all grown up as grandparents making new ones with grandchildren around a fishing pole and their love for each other.

Unfortunately for us, the fish weren’t biting as they must have eaten a late lunch.

So, we packed up our tackle boxes and left for an old fishing spot from years ago, a pond nestled in the center of an old neighborhood Papa and Gaga used to live, a pond where Papa first taught his small grandchildren to fish.

Worried we’d be cited for trespassing at a community we didn’t live at anymore, we cast our rods anyway in pursuit of scaly trophies and began recording again our Saturday memories.

The new fishing spot didn’t disappoint three eager children who wanted to catch and take home a string of fish.

 

As Papa and our grandchildren were catching fish, God was catching my attention in this picture I took of my grandson, my mother’s house down the road in full view; one street over from where we used to live.  A place I’ve longed to return to and a mother I’ve been missing terribly with her first anniversary in heaven coming up on the calendar in just two short days.

USE fishing 5

It was surprising that Ayva, our six year old and on her own recalled this neighborhood, even though she was a toddler wearing her first pair of glasses during our three year stay as residents.

Ayva shouted gleefully as we entered the park, “Gaga, remember we used to ride our bicycles to grandma’s house.”

Ayva was right.

Early on many Saturday mornings a parade of pajama wearers rode their bicycles first to grandma’s house for a short while before continuing their parade to the park.

True joy was captured in many of our bicycle riding memories in a neighborhood where we lived one street over from grandma.

Such were the fishing memories too.

Ayva and Aubrey didn’t have the fishing and bicycle memories the older grandchildren had when we lived at Lot 311 as they were much to young to enjoy.

It saddens a Papa and Gaga to see with their own eyes the passage of time in pictures taken so long ago, yet feels like yesterday; a place we long so desperately for too.

Packing up our tackle boxes for the second time that day, we rode our bicycles to grandmas house before leaving, even if seated in car seats instead.

Stopping at Lot 232 a few days before my mother’s one year anniversary in heaven was an unplanned surprise by God.

I had plans to visit the cemetery; God had me going home.

Stopped by the shell of a place we once called home, takes me back to a crowded place of love, peace and joy, where seated around tables set up in every room of a single-wide trailer were family members enjoying each other and a feast at mother’s house.

Inside and outside of Lot 232, the undeniable joy of guests welcoming each other, a parking lot full of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins gathering together albeit virtual or in person and around the centerpiece of home, our mother.

But now, one year later after mother bid us good-by for heaven, the home which gathered us under one roof is now a family tree which has branched out into new traditions of their own homes.

The senior table is surrounded by empty chairs now and the joyful laughter once heard and piped into the neighborhood through the surround sound of the walls is eerily silent.

And from her car seat our six year old Ayva sadly noted, “Gaga, I don’t see the bicycles.”

“Yes Ayva, I don’t see bicycles either.”

Two days before my mother’s one year anniversary,
I still choose to see the love of my mother’s house and memories she gave us, even though Lot 232 is empty.

I still choose to feel the peace from God whom mother introduced us to, even though the waves of my heart is calmed one ripple at a time.

I still choose joy though I weep for the neighbor I once lived close enough to ride my bike to.

Because when I choose love, peace and joy, I’m choosing God.

Leaving the park that day, the kids spilled the beans of Papa’s secret; a trip to the ice cream place.

Ayva asked me so innocently, “Gaga, what are you having?”

I replied just as innocently, “Sweet girl, whatever you are having.”

Instead of going to the cemetery to remember my mother’s one year anniversary, I went home instead, even if it meant visiting an old neighborhood.

Papa and Gaga and three great grandchildren of moms celebrated her life over a cup of vanilla ice cream and sprinkles.

Choose love.
Choose peace.
Choose joy.

Even choose sprinkles.

Because when you do,

You choose God.

LOT 232  By Lori A Alicea

Hard to believe six months have already passed us by.

During this short season the landscape of our life has been painfully pruned back by the gardener, fertilized and re-seeded for new and beautiful growth; but yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Time does not discriminate and show favor to the weary, the broken, and those resisting the shears of the gardener’s pruning.

But life goes on as it should.

There’s wonder and beauty to be unwrapped and unveiled to those willing to continue their passage through the steep hills and rough terrain of change.

Remembering there are no shortcuts or detours, just one-way signs of “going thru” that difficult process of mining the heartache to discover those diamonds of new beginnings.

Lot 232 remains just as I remember.

LOT 232 SIGN

The furniture hasn’t moved nor any picture or book out of place since I cleaned it last.

coffee table

Contagious laughter of small children still echoes from the walls that captured their innocence seated around the table, each eating the spoils from the scavenger hunts of their grandmother’s cupboards.

moms table

The smells of the kitchen still retain their aromatic flavor and the recipes and memories remain that once framed the holiday dinner portraits at moms; the legacy gift I cherish most from her.

salt and pepper shakers

 Evident from the unwrinkled comforter, mother’s bed hasn’t been slept in; although the soft music she used to play continuously from the small radio on her nightstand can be slightly heard if I lean in ever so closely.

moms room

Lot 232 hasn’t changed a bit in my heart, but of all the details I wish I could change, it would be that my key to Lot 232 still opened the front door to my mother’s life.

So much has changed these last six months and yet, that most sacred ground and scenery of our heart has remained untouched, unchanged.

Daughters are little girls who never outgrow the need to share those heart gushes with her mother.

Grandchildren need those rocking chair moments with their grandmother too.

grandma in chair

The merry-go-round of living keeps spinning and changing, and how I desperately want off this ride.

But life must go on as it should;
Walking in the peace,
The calm and
Serenity of God’s love;

A journey that allows the Father to carry our troubles while carrying us when we need Him to.

Going on” mandates the “letting go” of what our heart strings desperately cling to. It’s giving to God what has been His from the beginning.

There’s no looking back in the rear view mirror when your life is moving forward.

We must allow God to pack our suitcase of memories; a loving tour guide who encourages traveling light, not weighted down from the cares of what “used to be”.

I sure love you mom.

I love mom

I keep your beautiful smile in my heart of remembrances.

face of our holidays

Your prayers for the three generations you petitioned God for were not in vain.

moms prayers

Your prayers have taught us to place our hope in God.

hope

And accept the things we cannot change.

Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can and
Wisdom to know the difference.

I drove by Lot 232 just the other day; an address one street over from when we used to be neighbors.  Seems like yesterday we were sharing an early morning cup of coffee together on your porch.

They say you can take the neighbor out of the neighborhood, but never the neighborhood from the neighbor.

We’ll always be neighbor’s mom.

Addresses may change.
But keys to the front door of our memories will never need a locksmith.

Thank you God for Lot 232.

I have no doubt my mother didn’t need a change of address in heaven.

I’ll know exactly where to find her.
LOT 232 SIGN

NO PLACE LIKE HOME By Lori A Alicea

“What did you want to be when you were a kid?”

A great question asked of me the other day by a twelve year old desiring to study astrophysics or something close reserved for the genius club when he grew up.

His inquisitive young mind intrigued me and drew me back into my childhood when I too dreamed of my “grown up” self.

I began with “back in the old days” referring to a TV series titled The Walton’s airing in the 1970’s, a century this “youngin” wasn’t even born in.  The Walton family depicted in the depression era whose home was built in rural Virginia overlooking Walton’s Mountain, featured an aspiring novelist named John Boy, whose life and ambitions to author books stirred that gift already in me to write.

mountains
Each episode ended at night in front of a darkened house while the family slept, panning to an open window whose curtains slightly danced to the evening breeze.
Walton House John Boy's light on in window
John Boy still awake at his dimly lit desk penning in his journal, entries narrated and accompanied by the music of Virginia’s mountains, for which I hung onto every word.

John boy writing

The answer to this twelve year old’s question,
“What did you want to be when you were a kid?”

I replied to his question, “I longed to be an author like John Boy Walton.”

Remembering I was conversing with Einstein’s distant relative, I made a feeble attempt to paint myself somewhat smart with my former career as a software developer for steel mills and gas companies and a second limited career as a paralegal in my grown up life.

Not that anyone needs to defend their careers, or dreams and desires of their younger self, I found myself doing so with a twelve year old soon-to-be scientist, already successful in his robotic endeavors.

Our conversation ended as quickly as it started, with him joining a game of tag with his cousins.

This lad reminded me our dreams can be evident early in life.  We’re born with a map pointing to our destiny, detailed and revealed by God with us taking “one step at a time”.

God is a big God.
God is a generous God who gives us multiple dreams.

Growing up, my love for home in the country celebrating the old-fashioned ways of the Walton’s, cooking, canning and sewing from scratch delighted me from a very young age, teaching myself the trades of the kitchen.  Homemade bread dough rises in a covered bowl on my kitchen counter, while cookies bake in the oven.  Breakfast biscuits are rolled out and smothered with a fresh batch of summer jam immediately after hot and golden brown.  Creations wait their turn on the sewing machine.  Scented candles permeate a country-coziness to welcome guests and that handsome husband of mine returning home from work.

A picture painted from the heart of this housewife,
“There’s no place like home.”

As much as I longed to be an author, I coveted wearing the apron of a housewife and stay-at-home mom as well.

Unfortunately my true career dreams came years after chasing what the world viewed as success, leaving my children and heart behind at the babysitter while pursuing the almighty dollar.

Did I achieve success as a computer programmer analyst?  The corporate ladder would agree but came with a steep price tag of lost time and memories never to be recouped with my children.

I wanted to be the one home making their breakfast and kissing their bruised knees.  I wanted to be the one standing outside when the school bus came before and after class with my precious cargo.  I didn’t want to be too tired and cranky during homework time.  I wanted a clean house with beds made and dishes washed.

I just wanted to be home because truly,
There’s no place like home.”

Once quoted from our Ladies Minister, Pastor Sue Zbell
“You can have it all, just not all at the same time.”

Thankfully I left the corporate ladder being able to enjoy the many years that still remained with my children living at home.

The best decision I ever made.

 Proverbs 31 describes my heart for the home…

…. She delights in the work of her hands.  Proverbs 31:13

… She watches over the ways of her household.  Proverbs 31:27

God affirms and reminds those “keepers of home”….

She will be praised throughout eternity.  Proverbs 31:30

So go ahead and give her the credit that is due,
for she has become a radiant woman,
and all her loving works of righteousness deserve to be admired
at the gateways of every city!  Proverbs 31:31

Our kids have long since left the nest of their home, creating a corner of heaven for their own sweet families for which Papa and Gaga are so proud.

I made a second attempt at another career when the children married, but realized the first day on the job…

“There’s no place like home.”

I’m back home again still savoring the job description of stay at home mom, albeit a grandmother now to ten grandchildren who need me and ask all the time to visit their Gaga and Papa.

Will I return to work one day?

I have to remind myself and daughters who have also chosen careers at home, we do work.  Our pay lasts beyond a weekly check cashed at the bank, whose dividends compound in the lives of our children and grandchildren and beyond.

Interestingly during this year of wanting more in my life, I dusted off that childhood dream and began this million mile walk of becoming an author with the first step penning encouragement entries in my journal called a “blog”.

John boy writing

While I write as a lasting legacy for my children and grandchildren, I get the privilege and overwhelming joy of taking you faithful readers with me during this journey, hopefully encouraging and inspiring your lives and dreams along the way.

My heart will always be that lighthouse illuminating the way home.

Home is where you lay your head at night.
Home is your safe place.
Home is a place of refuge.
Home is where your framed picture hangs on the wall.
Home has your name on the mailbox.
Home has its memories baked into the walls.
Home misses you when you turn the page and leave for the next chapter in life.

May my words I type capture this love of mine for home.

May my children and grandchildren treasure their legacy of words I have written especially for them.

May they read between the sentences and paragraphs that their greatest wealth in life is family and each other.

As an author inspired by a fictional character named John Boy who valued and wrote about family as I do, may my words continue to flow until the last page titled
“The End”.

May my children and grandchildren experience God’s truth that you don’t have to look any farther than your own back yard for fame and fortune.

May our prayers be full of gratitude for those that God has blessed us with to share our lives.

The light has been left on in the window in case you need to find your way back home.

The world can’t offer what home has to give.
You’re safe and sound in the four walls of your address.

Keep that framed picture close to your heart,
“There’s no place like home.”