Sunday, May 30, 2010


My Grandma, Helen Michael Kocher Harris, passed away this morning at 10:05 Ohio time. She was 2 days past her 88th birthday. I did get to talk to her on the phone last night, though she couldn't talk back, and I am not sure that she could hear me. (Thanks to my brother Mike for calling and letting me do that.) My mom and my brother Steve had stayed with her all night last night. Her last hours were very peaceful.

As all of this was going on this morning, I was driving to church because I was singing in two services this morning. That was hard. So thankful for my friends Matt and Rachel who prayed with me. I discovered later that we were praying probably at the very moment she died. Since we have been learning about the Holy Spirit lately, Matt prayed very appropriately that the Spirit would draw her to Himself as she passed.

I will miss her very much.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I have mentioned in a couple of posts that Grandma Harris has been ill. I refrained from giving details because she didn't want anyone to know what was wrong. At this point, I think the time for that concern has passed.

Just over four weeks ago she went into the hospital due to pain from some age-related abdominal issues. While they were conducting an ultrasound for that, they discovered abnormal spots, so they did a CT scan. Diagnosis: stage four liver cancer. As I have since learned, the liver is almost never a primary site for cancer. It's usually a secondary site where the cancer spreads. Which basically means that this cancer has been doing its work for some time now.

Understandably, she opted not to undergo radiation or chemo at her age (today is her 88th birthday). Neither did she want any further testing to find out more specifics about the cancer. At first, the plan was to go into rehab, get strong enough for laproscopic surgery, have abdominal issues repaired and enjoy as good a quality of life as she could for whatever time she had left. She was transferred to a rehab facility, but she never got any stronger.

When we saw her last week, she had been in the rehab place for maybe 10 days, and she was pretty weak. I think the thing that surprised me the most was that she didn't have enough energy to have a real conversation, and that has never happened with her before. She has always been so sharp, mentally, and we have had good, deep conversation until very recently. I think that's what I was expecting to do when I saw her, and it was hard when she wasn't strong enough to talk in that way.

In the past week, she has failed quickly. Today, the doctors are saying that she has only a few days left. The hospice nurses have started providing care for her right there in the rehab place. It is good to know that someone is there with her around the clock.

So tonight I am grieving. It is hard being so far away while this is happening. Since I really wouldn't be able to communicate with her even if I were there, I am probably not going to try to get home before she dies. If she has some time when she can listen, I am going to try to call and talk to her this weekend, even if she can't talk back.

Last weekend when I said goodbye, I was hoping it wouldn't be for the last time, but I knew that it might. So I am glad I got to tell her that I love her ten thousand whales. That's what she always told me. I'm not even sure anymore how that started. But it's how we've ended dozensmaybe hundredsof phone calls over the years. I'm glad I got to say it one more time.


She has been an awfully good Grandma. We spent so much time at her house when we were little. She would always come and sleep in the guest room with us when we spent the night. I remember the blue tupperware box in her pantry that she kept stocked with goodies. I remember shrimp cocktail at Christmas and loading the cocktail sauce with horseradish until it reamed out your sinuses. Those were her words: "ream out your sinuses."

I have fond memories of walking with her to the Black Lane school playground, or to 7-11, where she would let us buy treats. I have very specific memories of the sound made by the metal-framed, yellow vinyl stroller as she pushed one of the little boys and I walked beside.

I loved dying Easter eggs with her each year. They weren't just any Easter eggs. They were elaborately decorated with clear wax, then dipped in their colors. She spent many hours perfecting the dot and stoke technique for the wax and I spent many hours trying to imitate it. That's something I can take from her and pass on to my family.

Because of her, I know about 10 phrases and bits and snatches of one nursery rhyme in Russian. Because of her, I (almost) always remember to put dates on photographs and keepsakes, because she would never let me hear the end of it if I didn't. Because of her, I love Jeopardy.

When I was in college, her house was right on the way to and from Taylor, so I would often stop off and see her on my way there and back. She always had a glass of iced tea for me. Her iced tea is like nobody else's.

My Prayer

My Grandma has always pushed herself really hard. Maybe it was because she was never quite good enough for her own mother when she was growing up. Now as she approaches the finish line of life, I have prayed and prayed that she will be able to cease striving and receive from the Lord his healing, his peace, his forgiveness, his rest. I think she knows God. She talks to him every day. But today I hope she will come to know him in his fullness, not seeing him as a displeased parent, but seeing him with arms wide open, ready to receive her.

Redemption is real. Times like these make me hunger for it more than usual. I long for the time when our Father makes all things new. And whole. My grandma has a chance to experience that sooner rather than later. May it be so.


One of the cool things about living in Colorado Springs is that every year on the Wednesday before Memorial Day, the U.S. Air Force Academy holds its graduation exercises. When the master of ceremonies pronounces the cadets graduated, they throw their caps in the air. If all goes as planned, at that moment, six F16s rocket over the mountains and swoop down over the stadium. Pretty impressive.

They then proceed to put on a 45 minute air show that's visible from the whole north end of town. As my friend Julie said: "Ah, AF Graduation! The time of year when the Thunderbirds come out and productivity in Briargate goes down the toilet." She's right. The show usually starts a bit after noon, so everyone takes a long lunch and watches.

This year Lorien joined me for the show. The first plane flew right over our heads as we were walking out of the apartment to go watch. It was LOUD. Like, shake-your-sternum loud. She wasn't sure what she thought of it, but since I was holding her close, she decided not to cry. (That was almost as impressive as the air show itself.) She was pretty nonplussed by the rest of the exhibition, but I enjoyed it as always. I love taking pictures of it, even if I end up with hundreds of images that look virtually identical to the previous year's shots. :)

Flying in formation

For a good part of the show, four of the planes stick together
and the other two do solo stunts

My little buddy

My view from behind the stroller.
These little feet are about the cutest things I've ever seen.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ten Month Portraits and Update

Lorien turned ten months old on May 19th. In the past few weeks she has gotten really good at waving and clapping and she is starting to blow kisses.

She still can't crawl forwards, but she is starting to pull herself up if she is sitting on someone's lap (can't pull up all the way from the floor yet).

She has so many "words" and it is so much fun to listen to her jabber.

She has successfully dropped her late night feeding, so now she goes to bed around 7:30 p.m. and consistently sleeps until 7 a.m. (Yahooo!)

We've noticed that her fine motor skills are really developing as well, as evidenced by the tiny little pieces of whatever that she somehow finds in the carpet and transfers quickly to her mouth.

Cousin Pictures

On an outlet mall shopping trip back at the beginning of April, I found cute matching dresses for Lorien and her cousin Kinsey. (Oshkosh is great because they have matching stuff in a large range of sizes, so I was able to find a 12-mo. dress and a size 6 dress that match.) So, of course, I had to take pictures of the cousins in their matching outfits. We found a coordinating shirt for Tyler so he could get in on the action.

Midwest Trip, Part 3

So here's what all those Buckeyes were for:
cupcakes for Tyler's 10th birthday!

I also made this cake to go with them

And we took them to a Beam party at Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom's house.

All of the girl cousins

Grandma Beam with my cousin Dan and his girlfriend Mikki,
who were visiting from Florida

Grandma Beam: "I'm glad we have a big family. I pray for you all every day. I used to pray for you by name, but now there are too many of you, and I fall asleep before I finish."

Midwest Trip, Part 2

Weeks before we flew to Ohio, we conspired with Josh's Aunt Marti to bring Grandma Keffer from Greenville, Ill., to Indianapolis so that we could see her. We drove out there for a day and hung out with Grandma and the Miles clan. Josh's cousin Alyssa has a little boy named Tyler who is a month younger than Lorien. I think Grandma really enjoyed watching the two little ones at play that afternoon.

So fun to play with somebody else's toys!

Grandma with two of her three "greats"

These two are a bit more of a handful than the last time Grandma held both of them at the same time.

Keffer, Miles and Beard families

Midwest Trip, Part 1

Last week we traveled to Ohio and Indiana to visit family. The trip was planned and the tickets purchased a few months ago, before we had any idea that Grandma Harris would be ill and in the rehab facility. Because of that, this didn't end up being a super relaxing trip, but it was so good to be there and spend some time with her. Lorien really brightened her day on several occasions.

One very nice thing about traveling east is that Lorien stayed on Colorado time. Therefore, she would stay up and visit with everyone in the evening, go to bed around 9:30 p.m., and sleep until 9 a.m.!

Here are some pictures of our adventures on this trip:

Visiting the cows on Grandpa and Grandma's farm


My niece and nephew, Kinsey and Tyler

For the past few years, Josh has been working with a non-profit called From Mists of Time to capture on video interviews with WWII veterans. At my mom's suggestion, he interviewed my Great Uncle Mike, who served in Europe during the war. Here is the whole bunch of us, with Uncle Mike fourth from the right.

What could be more appropriate on a trip to Ohio than making Buckeyes?

Josh may be a Notre Dame fan, but he's gotta admit that OSU has better desserts made in its honor. :)

Tyler on the go-cart

This thing has been around since I was little. It'll rattle your brains a bit, but it's awfully fun to drive.

Josh played barber for my brother Steve, who had an 11 p.m. whim to give himself a mohawk, then buzz his whole head.

We got to visit with my friend Lori and her daughter Elli. Lori and I have been friends since high school. She still lives in Xenia and we try to get together every time I visit there. Because this trip was a little crazy, we ended up visiting while we cleaned the kitchen and ate leftovers for lunch. You know you have a good friend when you find one who accepts and appreciates that kind of hospitality.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cautious Elation

I think we have a house!

Today we got a message from our realtor, which was a forwarded message from the seller's realtor saying that the bank WILL move forward with our short sale offer. We are supposed to get an approval letter next week and then close on the house in about four weeks.

We can't believe it!

And until we have that approval letter in hand, we don't want to be too confident, but it looks like this is really going to go through. We are so excited and so thankful!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blue Bayou

My dear grandma (mom's mom) has been in the hospital and now is in a rehab facility. She would prefer that I not detail her ailments here, but suffice it to say that I have been thinking about her constantly for the past few weeks. I've been praying that she would truly know the deep love and comfort of God in this time. (Let's just say that she's where I get a good deal of my independence, so sometimes it's hard for her to receive.)

It's probably a combination of my thoughts about her and the ways that I'm interacting with Lorien right now, but strangely, I have found myself singing all of the songs that Grandma used to sing to my brothers and me when we were little:

My Favorite Things (from The Sound of Music)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Michael Row the Boat Ashore

Michael, row the boat ashore. Hallelujah.
Michael, row the boat ashore. Hallelujah.

I Love You

I love you a bushel and a peck
A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck
A hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap
A barrel and a heap and a' talking in my sleep
About you

Blue Bayou (Linda Ronstadt)

I'm going back someday, come what may, to Blue Bayou
Where the folks are fine and the world is mine on Blue Bayou
Where those fishing boats with their sails afloat... If I could only see
That familiar sunrise through sleepy eyes, how happy I'd be

Delta Dawn (Helen Reddy)

Delta Dawn, what's that flower you've got on?
Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?
And did I hear you say he was meeting you here today
To take you to his mansion in the sky?

OK, so those last 2 aren't exactly traditional children's songs. Kind of funny, I guess, but those are the songs of my childhood, and reminders of the love and attention I got all the time from my grandma.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism has been one of the biggest catalysts for growth in my life. Yes, I admit that when someone shares a thoughtful critique, my initial reaction is often defensive. But I have worked really hard to stuff that reaction so that I can give the suggestion some respectful consideration. As a result, I've learned some really important things.


While constructive criticism is good, it is hard to take in large doses. I probably should have recognized that before I asked for feedback from 2500 people. :)

Last week and this week, I have been reading through hundreds of survey responses from Focus Leadership Institute alumni. Some of them give feedback on the general goals of the alumni office (which = me), and many more of them give feedback on the alumni reunion we have planned for this summer. And they are very helpful. In fact, I have already started implementing some of the suggestions I have received. But, as constructive criticism is intended to do, they highlight all of the gaps in my understanding of my audience, all of my communication failures, all of the places where my actions fail to live up to my intentions.

So right now, I am a bit heavy-hearted. And very weary.

I am super excited about the dreams I have for FLI alumni. I will be thrilled if I can accomplish even a fraction of the vision I have. (And someday soon I should write a post about that.) But right now, I need to go to bed. And I need to think twice next time I get a whim to ask for criticism from that many people at once.

Mother's Day

Spring in Colorado is always an elusive thing, and this year is no exception. It has felt like it will just never get warm. But last week, everything suddenly started blooming. It made for a gorgeous Mother's Day.

To celebrate, we took Josh's mom and dad out to eat at Tako Japanese restaurant. Yum! Josh (and Lorien) got me a little frappuccino maker too. Double yum!

Signs of Spring

Me and my girl!


Thoughts on my first Mother's Day: Before I had a daughter, people would say you can't understand how much you can possibly love a little person until you have kids of your own. My strongest sentiment this Mother's Day is that they are so right. I love my baby girl so much that it hurts.

Tonight we had such a sweet moment. Ever since she started sleeping well at night, we have had a routine of her going to bed first and me getting her up to feed her before I go to bed. She barely wakes up, but she gets her belly all the way full, and then we all get a better night's sleep. We have kept that routine longer than I really meant to, and now it is probably time to stop doing that late night feeding. So we have been backing it up each week until it is just barely an hour after her bedtime feeding. That's kinda silly, so I think it's time to drop it completely. If all goes well, I plan to drop it tomorrow night. Which means that tonight was the last night for it.

I cried.

That time has been so sweet. She always goes right back to sleep on my shoulder after I feed her. Josh comes in and kisses her goodnight. Then I just sit and rock her for a few minutes and soak in her sweetness.

I know it will mean a better night's sleep for her if I don't interrupt her, but I will miss that time together. So thankful to be Lorien's mommy.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What a Week!

Last week was one of those weeks where you take a deep breath at the beginning and don't exhale until the end. Between last Saturday (4/24) and this Sunday (5/2)...

Josh's sister Christy and her husband Nathan flew in for a long weekend. Christy got food poisoning at the airport on the way to CO, and ended up in the emergency room at 2 a.m. the first night they were here. Because she is 19 weeks pregnant, they ended up admitting her for another day and overnight so they could monitor her and the baby. So...last Saturday, we visited Christy in the hospital. They had put her in the same room we were in after Lorien was born. I told Lorien I was awfully glad she's as big as she is now, instead of how big she was last time we were in that room. (Both Christy and baby are fine now, and we are thankful!)

Sunday we went to church in the morning and met with our small group in the evening. Our small group consists of eight adults and nine children, with one more on the way. Needless to say, we have a lot of chaos to go with a little bit of Bible study. But it is so good to being doing this crazy time of life together, and I am so thankful for these friends.

Monday we spent a bit more time working at Bob and Lois's (Josh's parents) house, because they are trying to get it ready to go on the market. I am slowly working on re-tiling their fireplace. At the rate I'm going, it will take about a month for me to finish it!

Also on Monday, we were supposed to finally get an answer from the bank on our short sale. but we didn't. Instead, we were told that the seller's agent has convinced the bank to have another appraisal done. Since it is an FHA rule about the appraisal that is preventing the bank from accepting our offer, we figure this is a good thing for us. But it means that we're waiting again. And even if that obstacle is removed, we're not sure that they will accept our offer.

Tuesday was a sad and happy day. Sad because Bob and Lois had to put down their dear old Black Lab/Golden retriever, Buddy. He was almost 12 years old and his back legs just didn't work anymore. He had also gone about three days without eating anything, so it was just time. So hard, though!

Lorien and Buddy on Saturday. If you look closely, you can see the fireplace I've been working on in the background.

In better news, we also celebrated the graduation of the Spring 2010 FLI class. And we had a fabulous Mexican dinner at Amanda's Fonda, courtesy of Christy and Nathan. Uncle Richard was also here to help out on the house, so that was a fun family gathering.

Sarah and Lizzie, two of my sweet girls from this semester.

Stones of remembrance from the Spring 2010 class.

Wednesday, I woke up with a sore throat. Yippee. Ironically, I also had an audition for the music team at church that day. And I had my last meeting with our Young Adults team as the church elder representing that area. (I've been moved to a new area for the next year.)

Thursday... I can hardly remember Thursday. It happened, I guess.

Fridaywhew! Couldn't believe when we finally made it to Friday. Friday is one of my work from home days, and I took a few hours off so that I could catch up on life a little bit. Got the grocery shopping done. Did some more work on Bob and Lois's fireplace. Hung out with Lorien.

Saturday morning I knocked out my monthly writing assignment for David C. Cook publishers. That night we had dinner with my cousin Dan. He and his family are moving to Colorado Springs, and he was in town to start his new job. He'll be headed back to Florida soon to get his wife and two boys and bring them back at the end of May. It's going to be fun to have cousins here in town.

And Sunday was church again. Between Easter and Pentecost, our pastoral team is preaching a series on the Holy Spirit. Pretty gutsy for a bunch of Presbyterians. It has been so good! After a baby-gear shopping trip (Lorien needed a new carseat and booster seat for the dinner table), my wonderful husband took his girls out to dinner so that I wouldn't have to cook. Boy did I need that!

I wouldn't normally write a whole post just to list a bunch of stuff that we've been busy with, but I feel like this packed-full week touches on a lot of stuff that's important in our lives right now, so I thought I would share.

Maybe this coming week will be a little less nuts. One can hope, right?