Monday, April 27, 2009


Club Mougins

CA and I are planning on going back to the South of France in December. We thought that our October trip to Kaua'i would preclude a European winter, but we think we can swing it. The wonderful arrangements we had at Club Mougins are available again this year, and DM & MK are planning to join us for a week or two. The villa is quite comfortable for 4 adults, and the little girls will be an added delight.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

BIRTHDAYS - Two sets of twins.

I have new great grands. A nephew and niece--Grant Allan and Charlotte Belle. Such sweet bundles of love born on 4/23/09. And, today is the 60th birthday of my childhood friends Kathleen Sue and Kristine Lou. Kathy lives near Phoenix, but sadly Kristy died too soon in the late 1980s.

Kristy struggled as a bipolar-rapid cycler, but she was a beautiful, intelligent, and gifted young woman. Even with all the traumas and dramas of being manic depressive, her death was still a surprise. It was Memorial Day weekend and she was attending a picnic in the backyard of a friend, sitting at a picnic table, passing the tomatoes down the line. When out of the blue--literally--a small plane crashed into the backyard and Kristy died instantly. She left a young son and small daughter. She was grieved by her twin and an older sister, along with her elderly parents. She had worn everyone out over the years with her ongoing high-strung, attention-getting behaviors, yet she was a beloved daughter, sister, mom, and friend. We still miss Kristy and pray that she has found peace and rest with her Heavenly Father.

Kathy struggled for years after an early divorce. They just grew apart--each one disappointed with the person the other had become. They did not mourn the loss of the marriage, but it was harder for Kathy to move on, as it is most times with young women who move straight from parent's home to a husband's. And, DP was controlling. He so much wanted Kathy to be independent and intelligent and educated, yet he also was drawn to her beauty and dependence. She was smothering under his strong hand, and made several aborted attempts to return to school or work full-time. In time, she did some testing and found that she had been coping with learning disabilities her entire life--she wasn't dumb! She was just as intelligent as her twin or me; she had been frustrated with the limitations imposed by undiagnosed difficulties. What relief! What release!

Still, after the divorce she did not triumph. I prayed that she would have a good friend who would walk along with her and guide and encourage her. I lived so far away and the myriad of phone calls were not sufficient to under-gird and help her move ahead. God sent such a friend. And, here's where I got mad! Kathy had been abusing prescription drugs for years--running from doctor to doctor and getting whatever she could to suppress and subdue the panic and depression. Years of addiction, undisclosed to me as I suffered through endless and lengthy phone calls of distress and confusion. I had not guessed.

This new friend allowed Kathy to move in if she remained drug-free, and encouraged her to put her fastidious personality to work cleaning houses to make the money she needed to survive. Much of her divorce settlement and money left to her by a cousin was consumed first by breast reduction and then enlargement because they took out too much! She was broke, but clean after a short stint in rehab.

During this time she was introduced by her pastor to a very handsome, divorced Air Force pilot. An answer to yet another prayer--that she would find someone to take care of her, as life on her own would never meet the deep needs of her personality and learned behaviors. They married within a year and settled into a loving marriage that now approaches 25 years.

Happy Birthday, KS! May all your dreams come true. I love you, my lifelong friend.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Again, as Jami Attenberg mentions in her novel The Kept Man, artists have to pretend that their parents are dead...

When I am with my sister JL we tend to ruminate over the past dysfunctions of our family--not in anger or accusation, but in order to understand and process. It turns out that there are stories we both don't remember, or didn't know to begin with. Some I think I should skip until after my dad passes away. I have forgiven him much and do not mean to harm him now.

There is the story of the affair... JL did not know this and was shocked all these years later with the details. I will leave those for later.

JL recounts a story of grandpa K cautioning her about marital choices when she was dating the dreaded Perry...

When BZ visits us on Friday at Indian Lake, we reach further into the family vault and go down many branches and share and remind each other of stories we don't remember. BZ is 10 years younger than me and almost 15 years younger than JL. She doesn't know even a fraction of our family stories, but we shared grandparents and there is a wealth of stories from that connection.

Uncle Gerald the pedophile--we believe sincerely that he abused each of his children and certainly some of his nephews and nieces. Grandpa protected his own, and none of his three girls ever showed signs of abuse. Gerald's children all struggled with the entire array of possible outcomes from abuse. Our dear, dear cousins--children of his youngest brother--probably were repeatedly abused. Yet, until the most recent years since Gerald's death, my dad would find it necessary to give each of us the current Gerald update...

WHAT! Doesn't dad have a memory. What is he thinking? Why would any one of my siblings want to hear one word about him? We avoided abuse, but Gerald certainly tried. This is a very distinct evidence of God's protection and sufficiency.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Thanks, Layla of The Lettered Cottage blog. I love the quote you included at the bottom of your most recent post:

I like to see a home like this, a home connected with people's thoughts and work; things they love.
Dewitt Bodeen
1908 - 1988

Home is where the heart is--a place of comfort and nourishment. If your soul cries out for beauty, comfort, humor, nature; then surround yourself and your loved ones with things that feed your soul. Your home will become a place people are drawn to and hesitate to leave. Your children will approach retuning home as they would going on a vacation.

While it is true that you can't take it with you, if you are nurtured and your heart and emotions are filled in the atmosphere of your home you will have so much more to give to others. And, just being in a place of beauty and respite is so scriptural--from the 23rd Psalm:

He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake.

RUMINATING - Sometimes it is healthy.

So, for some reason I was ruminating on events from 10 years ago and more. I worked for a leading environmental services company for 16 years in the 1980s and 90s--in an administrative position assisting a high-level executive. The job ended with a hostile takeover of the company, but my boss for 15 years of the time was fired (for no reason other than a criminally minded new President who was fired in short-order himself) a year before the company actually was sucked-up by a raider.

My ruminations were on the boss I had during the 16th year--great packaging, but a combination of smoke and mirrors. He was Irish with a lilt of an accent, handsome in a fresh-out-of-the-bandbox sort of way, He was also mean, unscrupulous, arrogant, narcissistic, and demeaning. One morning he ranted at me because he didn't like the way I said good morning to him. He walked in, said, "Good morning," and I said, "Hello." Truly. That was it. He told me he was sick of my attitude, etc. I ended up meeting with HR (who already had his number) and the HR person begged me to not quit but to stick it out and get the severance package that was sure to come. In the end, with no prodding by me, the founder and Chairman of the company called this guy in and told him to lay off and that I was a valued employee and he required him to be more respectful of me. I got no apology, but there was no repeat performance.

It was an undeclared truce. I did not respect him, but I had always been respectful. It's funny what a person can read into a communication--totally flavored by their own paradigm.

I was foisted on him--no one wants the old guy's assistant who surely comes with loyalties and baggage. But, that wasn't how I started out. I wanted a fresh and successful start with him. I got my hair done the weekend before he started, I bought some very high-end business casual new outfits, and I bought him a lovely flower arrangement which was waiting for him on top of his bookcase. Just to be clear, that bookcase was directly across from his desk chair--in perfect view every minute he was in his office. He never acknowledged it, though there was a card with a kind sentiment, and I eventually threw it out when I got tired of not being thanked. It was my $35, not the company's.

He required me to buy his 2% milk to have available fresh in the frig in our private coffee area. My former boss was extremely self-sufficient. This guy was not. But, the weirdest thing was that every time he poured milk into his coffee (maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) he would spill milk on the carpet and then grind it in with his shoe... No kidding. He was a pig. When I met his wife at a company function a couple of weeks after he started and told her he did that, she said that he was messy at home, too. She said she literally followed him up the stairs every morning wiping the coffee spills from his trail.

One thing I loved--he got his hair styled, not cut, and he got highlights! His stylist called one day to say she couldn't do the highlights that day because of a personal conflict... That was perfect! I was tempted to write the message out in-full, but resisted... He had slate grey hair with silver highlights. He was stunning, really quite striking. But, beauty is as beauty does and he was a heel.

The Chairman fully regretted the decision to hire this guy. They basically ignored him--shunned him--and only dragged him out to appear in front of the investment banker-types when they came in for the sales presentation while we were marketing the company--"To enhance shareholder value."

My last day there, it was disgusting. This Irish guy was on the phone with the fired President who hired him and they were gloating about their Golden Parachutes and how they had made out like bandits. Really, the laughter was evil.
When I met a bit later with the HR guy for my severance announcement and termination, I told the guy, "I'm going to be the easiest person you've had to talk to." He presented the package, which was EXTREMELY generous, I signed the paperwork and went back to my desk to finalize the packing-up. The Irish guy was on the phone, so abruptly I decided to leave without saying good-bye. Most of my friends in the executive area had already left the premises, except for the one or two who would continue with the new company.

I was driving down the road toward Naperville--it was actually the night of my last class of my last course before finishing my degree and graduating, and CA's soccer team was participating in the state tournament in Naperville that day, too. I wasn't more than a mile or so down the road when I thought, "Mariellle, you're better than this. That was a tacky way to leave--you should go back and say goodbye." Then I thought about it for a quarter second more and decided no one always gets it right, and this time I would just let the chips fall. I never looked back.

Working at S-K was a great run--great people and a great business. I put two kids through college and built up a retirement account. I had been suffering from what I liked to call ennui for a few years--which is what got me back to college. The run was over, and except for the last year I got to work for the most intelligent man I have ever met. He was kind and quietly charming--shy at first, but he totally blossomed over the years. I know he used to eavesdrop on the conversations between the executive assistants. Rather than being annoyed at our conversations and closing his door, I think he loved the gossip and perspective. I have always known that respecting my boss is paramount, and I always respected him.

Friday, April 17, 2009


About 1960. From left: GJ, PM, Mom, NC, JL, PL, me, Dad

In a few weeks my family will reunite for a celebration. My next oldest sister, by just 13 months, is coming to visit from Seattle. We haven't seen her for more than 1-1/2 years, although we talk almost weekly.

There are 6 siblings--5 older sisters and a brother. My mother died over 10 years ago, but dad is stoically 87 years old and counting... His hearing has declined, but his health is good.

Anyway, families are by nature dysfunctional and ours toed that line! I carry and have shed lots of baggage from those growing-up years, but being a part of a large family is a huge part of the tapestry of who I am. God made me and guides my life, so this is what he dealt me. By almost any measure, it hasn't been a bad deal. Scars? Yes! Baggage? Lighter each year! But, the overwhelming definition I attribute to my growing up years is: sufficiency. God is sufficient, and has filled the bags of my life full to overflowing with blessings.

And, as Sue Miller so very eloquently puts it in her novel For Love: Everyone has a story. It's what you do after that counts.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Not every day is eagerly anticipated. I sometimes go through down times--where my energy and enthusiasm are sucked away by dangerous ruminations. Most of the time I am blessed with a definitely cup-half-full outlook, but there are a few periods of time each year... So, even before I open my eyes in the morning I have learned to touch base with God. Verses I've memorized and leaned on over the years cycle through my awareness.

For I know the plans I have for you. Plans for welfare and not for calamity. Plans to give you a future and a hope.

For God has not promised a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.

Faithful is He who has promised, who also will bring it to pass.

Faithful is He who began a good work in you and will also bring it to pass.

Paul's promise to the Philippians (of which I am one by marriage!) So this is my prayer, that they would overflow with love for others while continuing to grow in their own spiritual knowledge and insight. (This is the prayer that I have prayed for each member of my family for many years, and God is so, so faithful...)

These and many more... What a joyous way to face each new day.

And, I have learned that when I do not want to get up in the morning--lazy or tired or facing tasks I dread--it helps to first open my eyes, become acclimated to the room, and then my Calvinistic upbringing kicks in and I am ready for action. Well, maybe not action but at least the first tentative steps.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Our Small Group on an evening when we were absent, as was one other couple.

I don't think I've ever written about our Small Group. We have been together for 15 years--originally formed at the behest of the mega church as a way to experience community and grow in faith. This group is our church. Literally, these days.

It took almost 5 years for us to really gel--we have always been social and friendly and supportive, even open with each other. But, when the first of us lost a parent and then a brother under tragic circumstances--that was when we realized that what we have as a group is special and God-honoring.

There have been lots of weddings, funerals, births, birthdays, celebrations, outings, and gab and food fests since those early days. We get together about twice a month on Sunday nights for a few hours. We talk and eat, eat and talk; discuss and pray--all in an atmosphere of love and laughter.

Not all of us attend the mega church anymore, but we are and will continue to be bonded in Christ's love for us. We are a community. There are 16 of us--started out with 12 and no one has ever moved away or left. We treasure those we've added over the years.

Being part of a Small Group is one of the best things in life. I remember years ago longing for somewhere and someone besides CA to have intense and deep conversations--meaningful words and thoughts. A place where discussion and debate would be mixed with truth and accountability--flavored always with love and faith and trust.

Thanks, God!