Dear Everyone,

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

Way back at the beginning God said “Let’s make human beings in our image.” And then He did.

You have never met someone that was not lovingly created by the artistic, omnipotent, wise, all knowing, merciful, providential God.

If we are to exist in this world but not of this world then we should treat people in a way radically different than the world treats them. We should treat them the way that the Father treats us. Our relationships and interactions should abound with mercy and grace.

Sometimes the world is bad at love but good at hate.

The Living God is perfect love. You, Christian, can be good at love.

Don’t just love your family- love everyone. Love the waitress and the barista, love the cashier and the lawn guy, love the poor and the rich, love your boss and your neighbor, love your enemies. Love them all- the whole world.

We won’t be able to do the work of reconciliation that Christ calls us to if we don’t understand that every person we meet is of infinite worth and importance to the Lord. He has remembered them just as he has remembered you. So now you remember.

Go out into the world and remember the imago dei. Remember it for the life of the world.

Yours,

Sydney

This letter was part of a class project based on the movie “For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.” The movie stars Evan Koons and is based on the book “For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy” by Alexander Schmemann. Throughout the movie, Evan writes letters to the church. He reminds them that their purpose is “for the life of the world.” This letter is a letter in the style of Evan’s letters. I encourage you to read the book and/or watch the movie.



Atlanta

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

We had a really fun trip to the beach planned for Memorial Day Weekend but then a tropical storm rolled in, so we had to change our game plan. Instead, we headed to Atlanta for the weekend.

Atlanta is only a few hours from where we are in Alabama, so we left on Saturday morning and met up with some friends at The World of Coca Cola, a museum documenting the history of Coke, for the afternoon. The museum was fun, but I’m not sure it’s a must-see. Nathan and I thought the best parts were the vintage Christmas adds with Santa and the tasting room. The tasting room has over 100 different coke products from around the world.

Sunday saw us at the Georgia Aquarium.

The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world and is incredibly busy on the weekends. With that in mind, here are some of my tips for the best experience:

Buy your parking pass online. You get a discount and it ensures that you will have a parking spot in the garage connected to the aquarium.

Prioritize the beluga whale exhibit, the Dolphin Coast show, the whale shark tank, and the Southern sea otters.  These are popular exhibits, but it is worth it to wait a little while to get a close-up look. My favorite part of the trip was seeing the beluga whales. I don’t have any pictures from the exhibit because I was actually a little overwhelmed by them. They are graceful and beautiful and the Georgia Aquarium is one of a select few aquariums that have belugas.

Check out the gift shop. It was stocked with more than cheap stuffed animals and plastic fish replicas. They had a really nice selection of t-shirts, mugs, and art prints. We left with a blown glass beluga whale Christmas Tree ornament.

After the aquarium, Nathan and I ended our trip at a pub in Decatur Square (The Square Pub) that is owned by some UNM alumni. They have a green chile cheeseburger on the menu that really hit the spot after living for months in a place with no good Mexican food options.



Papa

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

 

 

In December, two weeks after my Mimi passed, my Papa left this earth to join her. In the span of just a few weeks, they were both here and then they were both gone.

My sweet Papa.

He was an adventurer. He traveled West as a young man and spent most of his life under the Arizona sun. He and my Mimi logged thousands of miles on road trips. When they got home from their trips, my Papa would trace the roads they had taken on the map behind him in the picture at the top of the post. I think my deep love of road trips comes from him. I took many a road trip with Mimi and Papa. I’d sit in the back seat as we drove down desert roads listening to news radio. There was always a stash of Baskin Robbins ice cream hard candy and Mentos in the car, and a special car trashcan to place the wrappers in.

He loved cereal. To this day, I think of him every time I sit down to a bowl of cereal. He like to mix his all together- a little bit of shredded wheat mixed with cheerios and perhaps some grape nuts. Papa ate all the cereals you’d expect an old person to like. This love of mixed up cereals was passed to me during the weeks I would spend with them during the summers.

Papa had gleaming white hair and smelled like laundry detergent and sawdust. He gave the very best hugs.

He was a very talented woodworker. He built me a dollhouse when I was a little girl and then he made me candle holders, salt and pepper shakers, and napkin holders when I got married. His woodworking has carried me through every life stage. Sitting in his wood shop and watching him work was an intensely calming pastime. He was steady and smooth as he turned wood on his lathe or sanded his projects to a soft gleam. It was incredible to watch him make something beautiful out of a hunk of wood.

I always believed that there was nothing that Papa couldn’t fix. He was always out in his yard or in his garage tinkering and fixing and beautifying. He took such good care of his house and his yard and his family. He also took care of their little town. I remember many a walk with Papa through the Bowie cemetery as he made note of weeds to be pulled and things to be fixed and tidied up.

I’ll never forget his quick wit and comedic timing that always took me by surprise. He could play a game of Shanghai or dominoes with skill and good humor as he beat everyone before we even knew what was happening.

He took me to my first basketball game. I was pretty sure that I didn’t care for basketball, but Papa told me how exciting basketball was to watch in person. He was right. It’s one of my favorite memories.

Papa and I would watch basketball, and the news, and westerns together in the living room. I don’t remember much of what was happening on the TV, but I do remember spending that time with him as we escaped inside from the afternoon sun.

Soft spoken, with kind eyes and a gentle face, Papa was the sort that was quiet but strong. He never seemed old to me. He was always full of life and energy; as though he didn’t take any of it for granted.

The way he looked at my Mimi would bring tears to my eyes, especially once I got married and I was better able to understand the undertaking that marriage is. It was such a beautiful love that they shared.

There is so much to say about him and how much I loved him. He was my friend and my mentor; a strong and steady companion.

It’s been hard to process their passing because they really never seemed old to me; they always seemed to stay the same age. They were truly an example of how to grow old with grace and full of life.

On the night that Papa passed away, there was a meteor shower. Nathan and I went out to one of the lakes on Post and found a dark patch of beach to lay a blanket on. We stared up at the meteors shooting across the sky and Nathan leaned over to me and said “I think this is for them. These beautiful shooting stars for Mimi and Papa as they are reunited.” I can’t imagine anything more fitting.

My Mimi and Papa created a beautiful legacy. They loved each other for a long time. My Papa was a good father, husband, and grandfather.

He and my Mimi had five children and oodles of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My whole family, all the children and spouses and new babies, are all because of Mimi and Papa.

I miss them both so terribly.



O Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

 

Our one and only Christmas tree is all of three and a half feet tall. We bought it right before Christmas the first year we were married. It was on sale and the cheapest tree at Home Depot. We were poor as dirt, but we so badly wanted a tree of our own. Something beautiful and festive to hold our meager assortment of ornaments. Nathan said that colored lights were the only way to go, so those also went in the cart.

I grew up with a fake tree and Nathan grew up with a real one. A real one was neither in the budget nor a possibility space-wise in our tiny apartment. So this miniature faux tree was the best option. That first year, we covered our coffee table with a tablecloth that my Mom had sent us and set the tree on top. We used a plaid blanket as a tree skirt. We arranged the Nativity, also a gift, around the base. Our coffee table did double duty as our dining table, so we ate meals out of our laps that whole December.

The second and third year we were married we had moved into a slightly bigger apartment, but we still had no room for a large tree and we didn’t really think about getting a new one anyway. We used the same tablecloth but covered our bar cart with it instead. We had acquired a few more ornaments; my parents have a collection of ornaments collected from their travels and we had begun that same habit. The plaid blanket remained. We also strung Christmas lights around our sliding door and our kitchen counter (those ultimately stayed all year), and they joined the soft light of our jolly tree. Nothing seemed more romantic or in the spirit of the season than turning all the lights off and cuddling up on the couch under the glow of our little tree.

Now, as we embark on our fourth married Christmas, we live in an actual house with so much more room than our college apartments that it feels absolutely palatial. We certainly have room for a bigger tree, and so many of them were on sale after Thanksgiving that it would have made sense to buy a larger, taller, more impressive tree. But I just couldn’t.

Our tree is the size that many people buy when they want to have a second (or third) tree to set up on a counter or in an entryway or some such thing. It isn’t the size that people use as their one and only holder of ornaments and shelterer of shiny presents. But I love this tree. I set it up by myself this year. Nathan is away for training, and I couldn’t wait to make the house feel like the holidays. I wanted Nathan to come home to a home that felt warm and festive.

As I took it out of the box, fluffed it’s branches, strung the lights, and gingerly hung each ornament, I realized that it might be a few more Christmases before I’m ready to “upgrade” our tree. This humble tree reminds me of the humble beginnings of our marriage- of our little family. Each ornament holds a sweet memory of an adventure shared together or the thoughtful and generous love of someone close to us. The lights are the same ones that have lit our living room with holiday warmth each year. The Nativity nestled beneath it is the first one we were ever given.

This year, our tree sits on the big plastic tub that holds our seasonal decorations. I covered it with the plaid blanket and used a red dish towel as a tree skirt. It’s just a fake tree that we bought for less than 20 dollars, but looking at it makes me feel known and loved and warm and welcome.

Someday its branches will sag under the weight of more ornaments than it was designed to hold. Perhaps its synthetic needles will begin to get fuzzy around the edges. But this tree and I are in it for the long haul. There will likely be a Christmas when it feels right to bring home a taller, more robust tree, but even in that year our first little tree will still have a place in our home.

Sure a bigger tree would be more impressive, and it wouldn’t have to sit on top of a plastic bin, but this tree is beautiful and it is impressive because of what it means to us.  I can’t imagine anything else.



Of Sweet Potato Casserole

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

 

This year, I was lucky enough to have two Thanksgivings.The first was a friendsgiving the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Nathan and his entire BOLC class were gone for training on actual Thanksgiving, so we all got together to feast on turkey and sides and punch with more than a little “holiday spirit” in it. It was amazing. Then, on actual Thanksgiving, I spent the day with the other wives of guys in Nathan’s class as well as Danielle’s mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law and her two sweet kids. It was also amazing. I’m beyond thankful for the community we’ve found here.

 



Taking Stock December 2017

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Making: fruit bakes and better food choices. Try this recipe and feel free to use any fruit you want!  
Cooking: sweet potatoes, on repeat since Thanksgiving
Drinking: a green smoothie every night
Reading: a book about the yoga sutras
Looking: out my window and realizing that it feels surreal that I live in a house in a neighborhood. A big change from our college apartments.
Playing: podcasts all day long
Wasting: a bag of steam in the microwave veggies that just weren’t good.
Crafting: a blanket. I learned to crochet!
Wishing: Nathan was home. He’s only away for a three week training, but the time is just dragging by.
Enjoying: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime.
Waiting: for the dishwasher to finish
Liking: pictures of Christmas decorations. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
Wondering: whether I’ll ever master present wrapping. This year’s Christmas presents suggest maybe not…
Loving: my sweet cats. I’m endlessly thankful for them every single day. 
Hoping: that December drags on and on. I love this season.
Marveling: at how wonderful it has been to live on post. I never realized how much I’d like our time here while Nathan is active duty.
Needing: Nathan’s big warm body back in bed at night. It is getting cold and he is my substitute for a heated blanket.
Smelling: pumpkin cake candle. I’ve finally used up my Fall candle and it is time for the Christmas scents.
Wearing: leggings- if possible, my style has become even more casual since moving here.
Following: less accounts. I’m trying to de-clutter my social media feeds.
Noticing: the ways that all the little things add up.
Knowing: that the best is both right now and still to come.
Thinking: that twinkle lights are the best decor.
Opening: the mailbox. Tis the season for amazon packages and Christmas cards!
Giggling: in the grocery store. Doing errands with friends is much better than accomplishing them alone.
Feeling: less stressed than I have in years.



Mimi

Monday, November 27th, 2017

My Mimi died right before Thanksgiving. I haven’t really wanted to talk about it; I didn’t tell any friends, I didn’t post on social media. I told my cat as I cried into her fur. Grief is a funny thing. I simply don’t seem able to talk about it yet, but I have written quite a lot. It seems easier.

This may not be the most eloquent thing I ever write, but I just want to share about her. I want to celebrate her- who she was and who she was to me.

 

We talked on the phone many times a week throughout my entire freshman year of college. I was so homesick, and Mimi always knew how to comfort me. Sometimes she would just listen to me cry. It was such a gift to have gone to college within driving distance of them. Nathan and I would often go and visit for the weekend, and Mimi would feed us and we would be loved on by her and Papa, and my homesickness would be quelled. She had such a motherly way about her. I suppose that is what happens when you raise five children.

My whole life, whenever I spent time with Mimi and Papa, she would rub my back and talk with me as I fell asleep. Her wrinkled hands, covered in rings and topped off with perfectly manicured nails, were the agents of immense comfort and love.

When I had to start taking anti-anxiety medication and was so nervous and overwrought with the decision, she sat in bed with me and rubbed my back telling me that it was okay to need some extra help for a little while. She was right and, while I’m no longer on the medication, it was a savior to me and I may never have started it had she not encouraged me to accept the opportunity to get better.

She was the first person I remember telling me as a little person that God had a plan for my life and that I needn’t worry about the things I had no control over because He already knew the outcome.

 

I spent countless hours in her tiny kitchen helping her cook, watching her consult her very old Betty Crocker cookbook, and eating the mountains of food she would always make when we would visit. I would spend time with her and Papa during the summers when I was younger and all of my favorites, fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, would make an appearance the first few days I was there. Mimi believed in feeding people well.

After I got married, she made me an apron for every season and holiday. They hang in my kitchen as beautiful reminders of her and of the many meals we ate together.

 

She taught me how to play dominoes and solitaire and to write in cursive. She showed me the importance of handwritten letters and cards- I have boxes stashed in my closet of the things she has written to me. Her years of being a teacher permeated our every interaction. She was always teaching me something. Most importantly, she taught me about love. She taught me about the incredible love of grandparents and of family.

 

I remember the way she smelled, like warm desert dirt and Estee Lauder hand cream. A year ago, she sent me a jar of that hand cream. She scooped some from her jar into an old, ornately decorated Avon jar. Mimi always had the perfect box or jar or container hanging around. The jar sits next to my bathroom sink, and I smooth it over my hands before bed and hold them up to my nose whenever I am feeling lonely.

Last night, I held the jar up to my nose and inhaled deeply and just missed her.

 

In Mimi’s arms, in her house in Bowie, in her sewing room, in her garden there was no anxiety or fear; the outside world didn’t reach in. There was just love and warmth and bright Arizona sunshine. I don’t remember a time in the last six years that I didn’t cry as I drove away from their house and from them.

 

Though I know that my future children will have wonderful grandparents, it pains me to know that they will never get to meet my Mimi. I wasn’t prepared for how much it would grieve me that she would never get to hold my babies.

My Dad always tells me that part of our eternal life is the way we are remembered and talked about by those that knew us and loved us. It brings me peace to know that my children will hear of my Mimi and will know of the love she gave to me and the love she would have had for them.

 

I wasn’t prepared for losing her. I knew it was coming. I knew when her cancer was discovered and was spreading rapidly that I would not have her on this earth forever. Yet, love and grief seem to defy logic. Everyone dies, but my heart and my brain simply could not create a picture of my world without her. She was in pain at the end, and the thought of her hurting was perhaps more painful than the thought of losing her. I am glad she is no longer in pain and that she is at peace.

 

I could write pages and pages about my Mimi, about what she meant to me, about who she was, about the 23 years of memories I shared with her.

Elizabeth Eyrich, Mimi, was warm and smart and loving and an incredible grandmother. I miss her so terribly. My heart aches, but it is also so thankful for the time I had with her. I wouldn’t have been who I am without her.

 

 



On Memorial Day

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Every year, Memorial Day comes to pass, and I never quite know what to say.

By the grace of God, all of my loved ones in the military have always come home.

But, I know people that cannot say the same.

It is unbearable to think of the pain that must accompany learning that your loved one is gone; knowing that your last goodbye was really the last.

Year after year, my various social media platforms are flooded with photos and status updates thanking and remembering those that lost their lives in the pursuit of freedom and peace. Year after year, I am wrecked by the bravery of our service members and the strength of their loved ones.

In my journeying on the internet, I came across a speech by Ronald Reagan. While he gave this speech on Veteran’s Day, there is one section that addresses those service members that made the ultimate sacrifice. It is that section that I will share.

“Sometime back I received in the name of our country the bodies of four Marines who had died while on active duty. I said then that there is a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman, for we’re never quite good enough to them-not really; we can’t be, because what they gave us is beyond our powers to repay. And so, when a serviceman dies, it’s a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.

It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives — the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember.

There’s always someone who is remembering for us. No matter what time of year it is or what time of day, there are always people who come to this cemetery, leave a flag or a flower or a little rock on a headstone. And they stop and bow their heads and communicate what they wished to communicate. They say, “Hello, Johnny,” or “Hello, Bob. We still think of you. You’re still with us. We never got over you, and we pray for you still, and we’ll see you again. We’ll all meet again.” In a way, they represent us, these relatives and friends, and they speak for us as they walk among the headstones and remember. It’s not so hard to summon memory, but it’s hard to recapture meaning.” Ronald Reagan, http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/speakers/1985remarks.asp

So many of our military men and women give up more than their lives when they leave their last breath on the battlefield. They give up the lives they were building before they left and the lives they would continue after they came back.

Is there a right way to remember? Is there the perfect thing to say to the spouse or child of a fallen warrior? Is there a proper way to feel as a bystander; as someone who hasn’t served and doesn’t really know?

Sometimes anger seems appropriate; “How many more of our country’s sons and daughters must be sacrificed on the altar of war and conflict?”

Sometimes overt patriotism seems like the best response; “They died defending the greatest country in the world. They made the ultimate sacrifice so we could all be free. American heroes, all of them!”

Perhaps gratitude or melancholy or anguish.

Maybe acknowledgement that, just like all death, it is okay to not really know what to say or how to act.

Definitely grace as we stumble over the difference between Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. Grace as we don’t know what to say. Grace as we inevitably say the wrong thing or the weird thing.

There is really no way for anybody to “make up for” the loss of a loved one. There is no way for most of us to understand what it is to embark on a mission or deployment and be willing to give our absolute all. It is difficult to comprehend the bravery or courage or patriotism it takes to sign up to do a job that might ask for one’s life in exchange.

Memorial Day seems particularly hard, at least for me, because all we can do is remember. All we can do is hurt with those that hurt. All we can do is pray for less conflict.

And it just doesn’t seem like enough.

 



Five Years Ago…

Monday, September 14th, 2015

The first picture we ever took together.

Five years ago, Nathan asked me to be his girl while we were standing outside his car in the Eat n’ Park parking lot. We had eaten pie and talked about who knows what, and then we wandered outside-neither of us wanting to leave just yet. It was still cold in Sewickley. We were both in sweatpants, and I leaned in close to him so that I could capture his warmth. And then it happened. In just those few seconds, I went from “single” to “not single” for the last time in my life. Sixteen year old me definitely didn’t anticipate that this guy with his shaggy hair made crunchy by sweat from football practice would end up my husband.

I remember our first few months of dating so fondly. We used to text each other in the middle of classes and make plans to meet up at our lockers (under the guise of going to the bathroom, of course). We would sneak kisses and hurry back to class feeling so satisfied by our covert lip-locking. Those first few months that you date someone are filled with smiling stupidly at each other and finding any excuse to see one another. Every time Nathan would brush his hand against my arm or kiss my forehead, my whole body would be filled with butterflies.

Perhaps our first years of dating were fueled by raging teenage hormones and a generally naive view of the world, but I am so glad that we got our start within the walls of Quaker Valley High and the protective bubble of Sewickley. We got to grow into adulthood