Marilynn Esther Benedix Gage (1922 – 2013)

This past week has been hard on my family. We had to say goodbye to an incredible woman, my grandmother.

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It started last Tuesday, when she was admitted to the hospital for what they originally thought to be a UTI. Things quickly turned for the worse, and by Wednesday evening she was gone. Just like that.

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Half of my grandmother (it’s the only older photo I have) with my parents. Yes, my parents are hotties.

Less than a week later, the funeral was done, and we were getting back to life as usual.

Life goes on. A sentiment at once promising and heartbreaking.

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December 2012, reading to Natalie, 11 months old.

She’d been declining in health for the last 2 years, waffling between her home in Maine, my mother’s home here in Massachusetts, and finally, a rest home in Worcester for her final year. There she was visited daily by her daughters, grandchildren, and great grandchild. I am eternally grateful that she was so present in Natalie’s life, the brief amount of time that was in the grand scheme of things.

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From June 2012, when Natalie (6 months) and I took care of her in Maine for 3 weeks.

She was the only grandmother I knew. My father’s mother died before I was born. Some may feel sorry for themselves, and I wish I could have known my other grandma, but I never felt deprived or lacking in only knowing Grandma Gage. As a matter of fact, I considered myself luckier than most. Now I have the extremely difficult task of keeping her memory alive so that Natalie will know who this loving, elegant lady was. When the opportunity arose to speak at her funeral, I jumped at the chance. Not only so I could tell others how blessed I was to have had her as my grandma, but also to create a record for myself and Natalie in the years to come, while the emotions were fresh.

Briana speakingI prayed for the right words, and here they are:

“Hi, my name is Briana, and I am a ‘Gage Girl’. For those unfamiliar with the term, it was lovingly coined by the men who have joined our family through marriage. What defines a ‘Gage Girl’? Well, we are notoriously running a little behind schedule, we are all beneath the average height for a normal adult woman (some more so than others), we like tea with our cream and sugar, and we bounce our feet in unison when sitting on the couch like a troop of vertically-challenged Rockettes. Grandpa would be proud. [side bar: Grandpa had a soft spot for the Rockettes.] But growing up a ‘Gage Girl’ meant so much more than that. After all, these men married us for a reason. We were brought up by the best, whether directly or indirectly.”

mom_janet“As a new mom, you question every choice you make in raising your child. I wish Grandma had written a book, because she has built a legacy that I only dream of rivaling when my days here are over. But in a way, she did. She kept notebooks of quotes and thoughts that appealed to her or made her giggle. In rifling through one of them, I came across this:

Mom: prays, laughs, gives hope, believes, cares, blesses, supports, comforts and encourages.”

Natalie_cuddle” Grandma did all of those things. Her faith was rock solid, and it shone through her service to her church, family and friends, her quiet grace, and her thoughtfully crafted prayers over home-cooked meals. Her smile lit up a room, and she’d sit quietly for a half hour only to chime in with a witty joke or funny anecdote from her youth. Laughter fills our family gatherings. People were drawn to her because she cared so much for others. Everyone was important. To be a Gage meant knowing you were unconditionally loved. She was proud of each and every one of us, and she showed it. Whether she was announcing our visits in church, remembering the little things in one of her many handwritten notes to us, or wanting to know the latest in our acting, music, gymnastics, writing, schoolwork, family and careers. We’ve all had our trials, our bumpy moments, but she was always there to love us. It didn’t matter if you were her child, grandchild, great grandchild, spouse, steprelative, just a date, or the person she met at the post office…you were FAMILY.”

salute“As I grew older, Grandma and I found more ways to relate: our enjoyment of recreating history (though she admitted she and the other ladies at the Revolutionary War camps would seek refuge overnight at the hotel), our love for mystery novels, or most recently, over war stories from being a new mom. I see now that so much of who I am, who we are, is founded by her. How she raised her children and therefore how her children raised us.”

present“Proverbs 13:22 says ‘a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children’. Well, we are all vastly wealthy thanks to this good woman. Thank you, Grandma. Because of you, your inheritance will continue to bless many generations to come.”

Now excuse me while I go use up a box of Kleenex.

Contentment Challenge

It’s October…how did we get here already?

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Oh right. First Sean was a two-headed cow and tuberculosis (From Orchids to Octopi), then we were Iago and Desdemona (Othello), then we were Mollie Ralston and Sgt. Trotter (The Mousetrap), now I’m Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Steel Magnolias).

I love theater, always have, always will. It’s how Sean and I met, and a passion we share. And this has been an incredible year for roles. But it never seems to fail that I allow a show to bring discord into my home. I’m gone 3 nights a week. My home falls into disarray. We eat like crap. I feel like I’m always kissing my daughter good-bye as I head out the door. Natalie now mimics me, purse over her shoulder, waving bye and blowing me a kiss. I ask her where she’s going, and she says she doesn’t know. Now, as a daycare provider, I’m with her all day, it’s not like I’m an absentee mother. But for some reason this strikes a chord somewhere in me. Looks like I’m the one with separation anxiety issues, not the toddler. We’ve been constantly on the go, so much that it feels weird and I get antsy if we don’t have anywhere to be. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to just BE.

So I’m calling a time out.

Ok, maybe not a time out…a sabbatical?

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Something has to change. I read about a Contentment Challenge first on photographer Nancy Ray‘s blog, then on my friend Lara Casey‘s, and I thought ‘maybe this is what I need’. But I decided that, instead of throwing myself into it immediately, I’d pray about it. Ask God if this is what he meant for me, if this is what I truly needed. I prayed for 2 weeks, and the pull never left my heart. Then, sitting in our friends’ apartment last Friday for our first Financial Peace University class, Dave Ramsey talked about how people forget about true contentment.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  (Phil 4:12-13)

Ding Ding.

My life is over run with STUFF. Clutter. Both physical and mental. Natalie’s incredibly impressionable, and I want to provide the best environment for her as possible, because this is her foundation.

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The Contentment Challenge : October, November & December 2013

We will give up shopping for clothes, accessories, household decor, and “stuff” for 3 months, to focus our hearts and minds on the root of true contentment. We will actively pursue fulfilling activities that will replace our addiction to material things.

The Guidelines:

• For the next 10 days, your homework is the following: prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months. (This is not a last minute shopping spree! This is one final trip to the store for items you will need, and the opportunity for you to say your goodbyes to Target.)

• Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time. There are so many great options at your local library. I will be choosing Love Does by Bob Goff and Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge

• Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a new dress or piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so. The point is not to be rude, but to learn more of ourselves and the Lord. Personally, I have a gift card to Ruche from my birthday that I am savoring  and will be utilizing at some point, but it will be for an item that is needed to .

• Necessities are okay! If you drop and break your phone, please go get a new one! If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. (“I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”) My exceptions to the challenge include a few extras for Natalie’s birthday (maybe some balloons to surprise her in the morning) and a Christmas tree.

• You must actively pursue something – anything – that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it. I will be focusing on creating, simplifying and creating memories. Gifts for Christmas, planning my garden for 2014, purging our home and having a yard sale.

So, who’s with me?

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Just a Thursday

Warning: Girl in love here. If you can’t handle the love, emergency exits lie in the back button to your upper left and the X to your upper right. You’ve been warned.

Last night was one of those nights that sometimes slips through the cracks of your memory. It was a regular old Thursday, nothing was planned, and we were sitting in our respective corners of the couch, our feet stretched in the middle, competing for space. The TV was on, and we were watching our prime time lineup of sitcoms.

We were happy. We weren’t stressing about the future or analyzing things from the past. We were just existing in that moment, on that couch, laughing with each other, at the jokes from the TV, or while watching our strange cat burrow his way under a towel on the floor. We held hands, we kissed, and we even revived that old hand slap game from when we were kids on the bus. You know, the one where their hands are on yours and you try to get them to pull away with psych out flinches? Yeah, we totally brought that back (and I won).

It was one of those nights where he’d say something random, or laugh at his own joke that wasn’t really all that funny, and I’d hear the voice in the back of my mind say “that’s why you love him, that’s why you married him.” He’s my best friend, first and foremost.

Last night was one of those moments in between. In between the shows, the work schedule, and the bigger events in life that tend to shove the smaller ones out of your memory. But this is where our marriage just is. Just the two of us (well, and our two furboys), just the living room couch, just love.