The Sisters Six

Big families are a blessing; but you have trouble getting them all together when they’re grown.

NOTE:  Very soon my sisters and I will be traveling from four different states for a reunion, something we’ve done almost annually since our mom’s death in 2004. This one, at our sister Carol’s home in Illinois, will be lower key than some of our destination trips (such as last year’s week in New Orleans). This is the thing–even if all we do is visit, eat, nap, play cards, laugh, and eat some more, it’s going to be important. You see, it’s OUR time as sisters just to be together–not to DO, but just to BE. 

These gatherings have become even more precious since losing our youngest sister Lisa very suddenly at age 54 four years ago today. “Baby Luv” was taken from us way too soon as far as we will always be concerned. We were blessed to have had seven reunions in a span of eight years with perfect “sister” attendance before Lisa left us, the final one in blistery Chicago (see above pic). Immeasurable memories were created among us that we do not take for granted.

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Lisa poses with a friendly frog in Sedona, AZ-2009

Below is a reprint of an article that Lisa, a gifted writer and poetic soul, wrote in 2009. It describes our experiences after the first five of these special sister gatherings, and sums up what we had learned thus far in the process. I’ve only added illustrations, as she expressed our sentiments far better than any of us. So on this anniversary of her home going, it’s only fitting that we hear Lisa’s “voice” once again. Enjoy her humorous take on “Dortha’s Daughters!” –TK

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DORTHA’S DAUGHTERS

It happened after our mother died.

I am the baby of six daughters born to Harold and Dortha Worthington, of Cairo, Illinois, a small town nestled between the convergence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  By 1972, the four eldest girls had rooted their lives in various cities across the country, and our Daddy-   Deacon, School Board Member, and City Utilities Director- went on to be with the Lord.  Mama moved Tara and me to Dallas, Texas, where she completed two years at Christ For the Nations Bible Institute, and received her License to Minister.   In the ensuing years, Tara- who will always be one year older!- and I have established our lives here in Texas.  Of our other four sisters- in order of birth- Donna lives in Florida, Carol in Illinois, Phyllis in New York, and Jan in Kentucky. We rarely saw each other- and almost never all at one time.  Big families are a blessing; but you have trouble getting them all together when they’re grown.

Of course, miles are not all that separate us.  A decade or so after the first four were born, the last two of us arrived, causing much excitement and, well, deserved adoration.  But ten years is a long time when you’re young, so Tara and I missed out on knowing and sharing childhood with our older sisters.  On occasion, one of us might say it was a blessing in itself; but usually that sister gets over her frustration pretty quickly.

Naturally, we all came together to mourn the death of our incredible mother, in 2004.  After our other sisters had gone home, Tara and I were once again together.  We will probably never agree on who had the brilliant notion to get all the sisters together to really visit and enjoy one another.  (It was me.)  Since we are now older and less tied-down, we decided we should never again wait for a death to dictate when we could gather as a family.

Emails shot across the country and back again.  We began to reminisce about our childhood, sharing memories of Mama and Daddy, then of one another.  Long forgotten feelings and impressions brought out much laughter and many tears.  Our children began requesting to be included in the mailing list, because the stories were so revealing, funny, and touching.  They learned things about us we can never live down- like a certain Floridian allowing Tara and me to “smoke” at a very tender age!  Cigarettes were involved, and so was smoke, but we only thought we were big.

In the fall of 2005, we took New York City by storm.  Well, the Big Apple is big enough that probably no one has missed the pieces we now carry in our hearts.  And from that awesome gathering began our Annual Sister Reunion.  Sounds like a good idea, right?

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New York 2005 Sisters’ Reunion–our very first! Don’t we all look young??

We have had a blast!  We come together laughing, with one unnamed sister (from Kentucky) usually sporting some gag designed to embarrass us all at the airport.  Old ladies don’t blush easily, though, and we all join in.

We’ve not only walked the streets of New York City- as Ladies, mind you!- but we’ve gone home to our roots in southern Illinois to visit family, become real Cowgirls by eating calf fries at the Fort Worth Stockyards (yes you did, Jan!)…

The aforementioned Calf Fries, a.k.a. “Chicken Fried Nuts” as one unnamed sister called them…

We went to Chicago to tie ourselves into yoga positions Mama would of never have approved, and even hit the Grand Canyon.

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The six of us at the Grand Canyon, 2009.

The echoes of laughter can still be heard, as we remember a shrimp dish that smelled so bad, a husband dubbed it “Dirty Panty Pasta,” the elderly lady with an unfortunate physical extremity hanging out during BINGO, “Freddy,” a fond nickname, the Ugliest Feet Contest, and the Great Artichoke Dance. Items like Bubba Teeth, gingerbread men, and toy tiaras now have a beloved history among us.

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Kentucky “Old Home” Reunion, 2006–Bubba Teeth Portrait

It sounds cruel to laugh while a “prince-ass” from New York is experiencing a broken wrist and heat exhaustion at the same time, but you should have been there!  Our laughter and love got us through the crisis, and her good humor made it a joke the remainder of the trip…well, we’re still laughing, actually!

After five of these annual pilgrimages- no husbands allowed, please- I have made these three observations:

#1 – We didn’t really know each other.

Whether we lived hundreds of miles away, or in the same state, we hadn’t been around one another enough to really know each other.  It takes more than blood kinship to accomplish a close relationship.  We started out being very cautious, polite, and sensitive.  Proper, you could say…But the first time one of my older sisters dropped a humorous personal reference, I literally choked myself, laughing so hard.  It was very bonding, really- this kind of intimacy.

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Lisa clowns around during our Pink Jeep Sedona tour–2009

 

#2 – We’re growing to know each other.

My biggest surprise is that I have been so surprised by my sisters.  In case you should happen upon them, they are:   The Loving Protector, the Funniest Woman in the World, a Sassy Classy Diplomat, a creative Wonder Woman, and The Fountain of Youth.  And this only scrapes the surface of who my sisters are today.  They create, cook, teach, and care for others in ways I can only admire.  I am speechless when I witness the depth of love and fondness they lavish among our band, sometimes when I least expect it.   I have delighted in finding we share faith and politics, warding off countless differences of opinion.  And, I have found Mama’s hands.  The very hands that held me as a child, hung laundry, cooked my meals, and caressed my own kids, live in northern Illinois.

#3 – We’re an example for others.

Perhaps the fact that we’re constantly laughing and enjoying each other makes people assume we’re old friends.  The universal response to our admission that we’re all sisters traveling together is, “Really?”  Many confess that they could never get their sister/s to go on such a trip because they don’t get along well enough.  We encourage them to try.

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One of our favorite pics together–struggling to squat in 30 MPH winds to take a bluebonnet photo–Texas Reunion, 2007

Not all childhood recollections can be good.  Some wounded memories kick in automatically, because a child’s anguish has the capability to produce hurt for a lifetime.  Our being together gives us the opportunity to see these flaws, ask forgiveness, and be healed.  We are becoming Old Friends.

Now, each trip provides us with new experiences, enmeshes us more deeply with the lives of one another, and reminds us that We Six all share in the rich heritage of being “Dortha’s Daughters.”

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Best Sisters in the World watches–2010

 

–Lisa Worthington Dutton (first published in “Vibrant” Magazine, Fall 2009 issue)

 

 

Piles Equal Progress

Onward and outward goes our bathroom/bedroom/closet reno begun three months ago.  Improvement has been made even as we braved delays, like three late winter Texas ice/snow storms within two weeks. Good times.

We’ve hired plumbers, electricians, sheetrockers, and one superhuman tile guy named Danny.  I say superhuman because he calms the OCD geometric perfectionist in me through his artistic brilliance, i.e. the tiles are level and straight. Hey, the fear of crooked tile lines can keep me awake nights. Don’t judge.

As always, my skilled husband has contributed much of the carpentry work during the course of this huge project. Me? Well, I’ve done some painting and prep work–and SOMEBODY has to be the photographer and design consultant.  He, on the other hand, is a proverbial Jack of All Trades, and I admire the tenaciousness he displays as a way of showing his love for me. Red Green may have duct tape, but my sweetie has caulk, caulk baby 🙂

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Whilst I look forward to the completion of this whole affair with GREAT anticipation, adjustments, albeit temporary, have been required to, uh, accommodate our goals.  The most obvious is the massive contents of said bathroom, bedroom, and closet have had to take up residence in and around our family, dining, and living areas. No jewelry parties for me, thank you. There’s no place to SIT.

Our comfy king size bed (and dressers) are in the middle of it all, sharing living room space with the faux fire place and my state thimble collection. Here we have slept for over two months, watching winter turn to spring and heating switch to air conditioning. To get to my clothes, I must navigate through tools, newly painted walls, and a thick curtain of plastic draped to protect my wardrobe inside the closet–which is now inside the bathroom.  And at night, a flashlight is a must because the electricity is off until the tile work is finished. What an adventure.

Imagine if you will possessions, tools, and supplies stacked 3-4 feet high amongst our furniture, creating massive piles of STUFF. The situation isn’t pretty…take my word for it.  Some of these towers hover high over the paths we have carved to the kitchen, hall bath, and large screen TV in the family room.  Ah, my TV–my escape– where I can still relax in my recliner after work, play Words with Friends, and try to ignore what’s surrounding me.  Hubby and I even reached a happy TV medium, bonding over a shared TV/DVR, but that’s a topic for another blog…TAG: Marital Compromise.

Between expensive contractors and tiring weekends of work, it’s easy to get discouraged and weary of the whole mess.  Through it all, however, we have discovered these piles are both revealing and purposeful. Sure, some of it is temporary and necessary to the renovation. But a whole bunch of it isn’t–at all. Since living with these PILES under our armpits, we have reached the following life changing conclusions:

1. We have lots of stuff.

2. We don’t need all this stuff.

3. We don’t want this stuff returned to our spiffy new spots.

4. We shall get rid of this stuff.

“The process is part of the plan,” says our pastor. How true this is, both in life as in renovation. God uses the light of circumstances to reveal the negative and cumbersome things hidden in our hearts, just as we now see all the unneeded stuff taking up space in our home. Recognizing the unnecessary that weighs us down is the first step in finding freedom from it. The next step is choosing to let it go, and not shove it back into the dark from where it came. And that is where the process begins. Yes, we are all “God’s workmanship”–but we are “a work in progress” until the day He takes us home.

So to create a positive spin on this renovation process, I’ll adjust my perspective, look beyond the obvious, and tell you what I see…

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Here’s a pile of bricks I stacked in our side yard….but I see an old 12 foot corner bathroom chimney painstakingly removed to make way for our new toilet.

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Somewhere behind this pile is our living room piano–but I can just envision myself using these new faucets and vanity lights in our new bathroom.

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Nope, can’t sit on our office couch, and can barely make it to my desktop computer– but that new wood bedroom floor will look fab!

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No sleeping in the bedroom now–but our new bathroom floors and shower will look beautiful with these tiles.

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And last but not least, here’s a heap of trash covering up half of my already postage stamp-sized front lawn. An eyesore perhaps, but I see the evidence of sheet rocked, dry walled, and textured areas ready to paint.

Yep, I see the progress in those piles, don’t you?  And I can’t wait to show you the finished project!

Sawdust in My Scentsy Pot, or It’s Better to Say “Oh Well” than “Oh H….”

My husband and I have recently embarked on “Phase 8 (or is it 9?)” of The Plan to remodel our century old home we moved into 23 years ago.   Over these two plus decades of finished projects, our most important one in This Old House was raising three children and launching them  into adulthood– and back into the DFW Metroplex from whence they came.  Although,  if time were frozen on our block by, say,  an erupting volcano, future archeologists would find plenty of relics of said adult children amongst the ashes of cardboard boxes and Rubbermaid containers.  But that’s another blog….

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Super Hubby the Masterful Handyman

Blessed beyond measure with a DIY man who can do just about anything, The Plan is simple–when there is money and time, we remodel.  Due to life’s most glorious distractions (i.e. weddings, graduations, grandchildren) we’ve had little extra of either for five years (see above for “launching children into adulthood”).  The time has finally come, however, to turn our attentions back to Phase 9 (or is it 10?) of The Plan.

We are now pouring over how-to books, picking up Lowe’s and Home Depot samples, scouring Amazon.com for the right parts, and pinning more pins to Pinterest than we’ll EVER use.  Religiously we tune into DIY/HGTV network shows for pastoral advice and inspiration from the likes of Nicole Curtis, Vanilla Ice (really? Vanilla ICE? who’d a thought?) and the new DIY darlings of the Waco, Texas-based program Fixer Upper (funny, but I frequently wonder “WWCJGD”–What Would Chip and Joanna Gaines Do?).

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Meet Our Design Consultant Team
Unfortunately, even in the midst of all our planning and good intentions, we also are finding ourselves spatting.

After almost 28 years of marriage we don’t see eye to eye on everything.    Shocking, I know. We have disagreed on a myriad of remodeling related things: materials, colors, floor plans, and, gasp, MONEY–when, where, and how much to use.  And as unbelievable as it may seem, we even have different priorities in the implementation of  The Plan. But knowing all this would happen,  God gave us what we thought was a PERFECT two-step coping mechanism to practice when we encounter “suck it up buttercup” moments along the renovation trail.

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What’s left of our tub connections….

STEP 1:  Phil. 4:6-7 in The Message says “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it…everything (will come) together for good…” So I tell Hubby:  “let’s just picture our worries being shaped into  prayers when we run into a DIY hiccup.”  Let’s give it to Him to receive an answer. Simple. After all, “everything coming together for good” is great remodeling concept, right?

STEP 2:  In her book New Day, New You Joyce Meyer stated “Whenever I find myself in a situation I can’t do anything about, I have found that a good way to cast my care upon the Lord is simply to say, ‘Oh, well.‘”  What a concept! So adding that to our coping tool box, I say to Hubby, “Ok, when we run into an unexpected problem with the house let’s just look at each other and say “Oh, well“–not as an expression of frustration, but as an expression of surrendering that problem to the Lord.

To sum up, it’s better to say “Oh well” instead of “Oh, h…..”  You catch my drift.

EUREKA…that’s it!  DYI harmony! I had immediate visions of us writing a best seller and hitting the lecture and interview circuit to give couples hope that their marriage, too, could survive a remodel –all in just two easy steps!

But then the rubber met the road and the paintbrush hit the paint.

It started with sawdust.  Hubby hurried home after work one day last week to install the Nine Foot Post– a task vital to our continued master bath remodel.  Then he called to tell me about his accomplishment and– oh by the way– “some stuff on the oriental rug.” I arrived home to behold the Nine Foot Post–and stumbled upon sawdust. Lots of smelly, oily sawdust.

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The Nine Foot Post…and Hole in Our Wall

It was everywhere, lightly coating over 300 square feet of my prime sit-in-my-recliner-and-watch-HGTV living space! It was on my furniture, dining room table, living room piano, and iPhone charger! Confident that Nicole and Vanilla Ice would NEVER approve, I questioned Hubby as to the source of the mess (like I didn’t know).  He told me he had to make a “few cuts ” and that it would be “ok.” Say what?  I was now inconvenienced with a SAWDUST clean up even in my Scentsy Pot! Never mind that he worked hard installing that post,  or that I should be grateful he had the money-saving skill to complete it by himself.  That didn’t matter.  I said the “Two Step Program” was near perfect, not me.

This is where I should have placed a pic of my sawdust filled Scentsy Pot but I didn’t take one…

So over the next three days I successfully dealt with the remainder of that ghastly stuff.  Hubby kept DIY-ing.  I kept complaining.

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Hubby continuing his DIY-ing under the plywood.

My efforts culminated with a 30 minute vacuuming frenzy replete with sweaty sawdust on my brow. As I finished,  I exhaustedly turned to my approaching husband and shoved the vacuum towards him to put away. He obviously knew how hard I had worked to clean up that mess.   And now, with what I was sure would be words of apologetic affirmation, he looked at me with a grin and said:

“Oh, well.”

Oh no he didn’t…! I was floored like laminate. Hubby had trumped my fretful ingratitude with Part Two of our Two Part Program. Drat!

In that sawdust moment my perspective began to change. I had been so consumed with the MESS I had forgotten it was a MEANS– to our intended end. Suddenly the sledge hammer leaning against the sofa and the power tools in my bathroom no longer irritated me. We had Phase 10 (or is it 11?) of The Plan to implement, hubby and me, and we were in this together. WWCJGD? They would check their attitude.

After a few more silent seconds of contemplation, all I could do was shake my head in agreement and reply, “Yes, you are right. At least the house is clean.  ‘Oh well’ indeed.”

That’s ok.  Joyce Meyer says his turn is coming 🙂

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