Thankful Thursday July 3

I am thankful for

#Freedom #Soldiers @GracieKHarold 2014

#ThankfulThursdays @GracieKHarold 2014



Love, plain and simple. @GracieKHarold 2014


Same Purpose, Different Appearance. @GracieKHarold 2014

Same Purpose, Different Appearance. @GracieKHarold 2014

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“Golf is a good walk ruined.” – Mark Twain.  I loved repeating this quote once upon a time.  Now, however, it’s  obvious that I must recant publicly of that.  The reason? Today, James took me golfing. He set up the tee time; (which I knew ahead of time was different from TEA time), and we flirtaciously texted  each other throughout the day about our “date”…no kids, free golf, not a family member in sight, and an afternoon to golf.  James, being an avid golfer, was rather excited.  I was nervously excited; and very thankful that the man has a sense of humor, since I am well aware that athletic agility is not always my forte’.

This is as "golf-ish" as I get

This is as “golf-ish” as I get

First, I went to google and searched “hip golf outfits for modern women”.  I am not joking.  Why must they all wear spandex or skorts? I’m sorry, but it was humid today; what would ever possess me to wear extra  layers between my thighs?  I was also confused by the plethora of polo-styled shirts, again, it’s a question of sweat.

It was so humid that I made an executive decision and skipped most of my make-up, mostly because I don’t buy it to wipe it on the back of my hands…but today it would have melted in streaks; leaving me to look like a strange warrior of golf.   I decided to wear a nautical inspired tee shirt and a comfy skirt which I could freely exercise in.  (For the record, my tee shirt had an animal on the pocket…although I still am unsure about which animal it is…it’s definitely NOT a horse).

Second, I packed the golf clubs as James had directed.  I packed us each a sports drink, and I even changed into tennis shoes instead of sandals.  Away we went! We arrived, checked in for our tee time, and James walked me over to the first hole.

My first moment of confusion happened after James explained that I got to tee off between the front markers. (PS I just learned that they are the same color on every course; that’s thoughtful of the golf course designers to color-code!)  I thought that I had to hit off the top of the concrete part…mercifully I was stopped before that disaster! My first lesson in swinging a club while on a course commenced; and we were on our way.

We eventually found a comfortable rhythm which consisted of James reminding me “Remember, baby, it’s golf and not baseball….swing your arms like a pendulum between 2:00 and 10:00.”  I did pretty well, all in all…especially once I found my “golf song mantra”.  I kept singing, “England swing like a pendulum do, bobbies on bicycle two by two, WestminsterAbbey, the tower of Big Ben, the rosy red cheeks of the little children.”  (Roger Miller 1965). The cockney accent helped me remember to swing my arms properly like a proper British person; and the Big Ben part helped me remember the clock positions for my swing.

I was just starting to feel rather pleased with my progress when James grinned and said, “C’mon baby…hit that golfball!” I did…and somehow managed to chip it backwards photo 2 (2)between my legs.  I am NOT kidding.  I looked over to see James doubled over.  He gasped, “All-my-years, never-seen-that-one”. We laughed, and kept on.

One of the holes, I chipped it beautifully….into the mud bog.  Another hole, I drove it about 75 yards…across the two lane road next to the course.  My favorite, though, was the hole with the quaint little creek that  ran under a footbridge.  I didn’t land my ball in the water once; nope…I did it twice.  From the same spot.  See? I have MAD golfi-sh skills!

About this time, we were laughing and feeling rather romantic from all of the goofiness.  We had just mildly made out, and we looked up at the people on their golf cart a few holes behind us.  “Huh! That looks like my parents,” I said.  It was my parents.  Yup.

James quipped, “Well, I was going to sneak you out to the woods over there…but your parents are behind us!” What are the odds? Overall, it was a fun day just chitchatting and having fun frogging around without (mostly) any supervision.

Sometimes, as parents; we just need an escape from “normal life” and we just need to be a “normal” couple on a date. I can’t wait for the next tee time! photo 3 (1)


snowy sunset (2)“Exceptions”

By: Gracie K. Harold

Trigger Word Warning: snow, blended family, blizzard.

 Michigan is to snow and cold as the desert is to sand and sunshine. Some of my earliest memories involve this reality.  My younger brother was born in one of the worst blizzards in Michigan history.  I distinctly remember staying at my aunt’s house, and how she pulled my cousins and me on a sled.  She bundled us up, led us up the narrow pathway of their freshly-shoveled driveway; and placed the sled up on the snowbank.  The remarkable thing was that we were up higher than her head (she’s 5’7”), and we were looking down onto the tops of mailboxes and the roofs of cars.  She led us up and down their street, and we received a front row seat to all of the neighbors’ snow removal efforts.  It was like a cartoon; watching people throw the snow up over their heads as it arced over onto the ever-growing snow hills.

My birthday always falls close to Easter, and I distinctly remember the eve of my fourth birthday.  For weeks, when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday, I would answer, “snow.”  Up to this point, Michigan had experienced a rather mild spring; which explains why my mom and dad kept shaking their heads at each other incredulously; unsure how to answer my request.  Finally, my mom said, “Honey, you can pray about it; but you need to remember that it’s springtime in Michigan…the snow may be gone for now.”  So, I dutifully prayed before bedtime, asking God to “Please, please make it snow on my birthday.”  I awoke early the next morning, ran to my window, and looked out on a pristine blanket of snow shining in the first light of the sunrise.

I ran out of my room yelling, “It snowed! It snowed!  God gave me a birthday present!”  My poor dad!  He had to leave for work, and I remember him saying, “You’re the one who asked for this, huh?” as he winked at me and put on his snow clothes.  I spent quite some time making snow angels and sledding and playing contentedly in the snow that day.

For a few years until the current season, our winters have been unusually mild.  Last year in particular was extremely atypical.  One of our boys refers to it as “The year of the green Christmas…instead of the White Christmas”.    I was in a local store this last month, and a man began discussing how much he enjoyed riding his bicycle.  I expressed that my family and I enjoy the hobby; and also told him that I had seen a few diehard bicyclists out in the subzero temperatures. I giggled a little bit as I mentioned that I didn’t dare try to ride until I was positive all of the ice was gone; since I am rather accident-prone as it is.   He proceeded to tell me that they actually make wide snow tires now for bikes.  This launched him into a mini-tirade about his frustrations about not being able to ride his bike in the wintertime.  “Last year I was out every single week on my bicycle.  Now, I don’t think I’ve had it out once since November.  This is absolutely ridiculous!  I can’t believe the weather we are having!”

He left, and I was incredulous that he was so upset about the weather when he knows full well that he resides in MICHIGAN!  It’s not like winter weather is an anomaly in the lakeshore region; yet here he was complaining about the cold and snow.  James and I were discussing it later when it struck me what had happened. “Oh! He expects the exception to be the new normal.  The warm weather we experienced was the exception, and not the everyday common experience.”  James just looked at me and raised an eyebrow.

I blushed a bit, grinned, and said, “I know, love; I get it.  You and I tend to mentally reside in the past of our former relationships, and then we react out of those as if they were our new “normal”.  Instead, though, we need to realize that our past was the exception. This is a new thing. THIS is our new “normal”.  The old stuff that happened to us is not happening to us now.”

We’ve both been striving in the last few weeks to “live in the new normal”, and to move on from the exceptions.  We’ve decided to learn from the pain of our past, hope for our new future together, and live in the moment of our new relationship.

I love being at home in the new normal…no more “across the street from normal”; instead, I’m moving in.  It feels like home.

It is home.


repairs photo


By: Gracie K. Harold

Trigger Word Warning: cold drinks, $#*!, expletive.

I have very vivid memories of home improvement projects throughout my childhood. One of my favorite photos shows me at age 2 holding a hammer and beaming proudly as my father builds me a toy box. I was always that girl…you know, the one who could check her own oil, change her blinker bulb, and of course, unclog a toilet!

Growing up in our clan meant that if there was a deck to be built, uncles and aunts and cousins were sure to be on hand with their tools, cold drinks and a crockpot full of barbeque.  Over the years, though, our projects did not always go according to plan.  The home that I grew up in had a half wall, complete with wooden spindles. That wall lasted maybe 2 years tops after we moved in.

First, the spindles were removed.  Then, my parents decided to remove the half wall and open up the doorway.  Since they reasoned that this would be a “simple” project, only one uncle was called over to help.  The men started first thing in the morning that fateful Saturday.  My brother and I stood at a respectful distance as my father began to saw through the half wall.  The electric buzz resonated melodically through the air for the first few seconds, until the unmistakable zing of metal on saw blade was heard.  My father jerked the saw out of the wall, and a hasty demolition of the drywall ensued (by hand).

Apparently, the home builders had been possessed when they ran the water pipes from the upstairs bathroom down to the basement.  Instead of simply utilizing a straight line; they had installed a pair of 45˚ angled pipes, snaking right into the half wall before angling down to the basement.  So, my father, uncle and mother set to work hand demolishing the rest of the wall.  A plan was drawn up; and the work commenced.

Obviously, the water was turned off for most of the day while they re-routed the pipes.  Late that afternoon, the adults were celebrating their accomplishments when I went upstairs to use the bathroom.  I expected the bathroom to be very cold as it was wintertime.  I walked in, opened the toilet lid, and was greeted with a cloud of steam.  I attempted to wash my hands, but discovered only cold water in the sink.  Realization dawned, and I hurried downstairs to my parents.

“Guess what?” I asked with the triumph of one who has an important announcement. “There’s HOT water in the toilet and COLD water in the sink!”  The adults fell silent as their celebration stopped. “Gracie, that’s not funny.”  “It’s true! I opened the toilet lid and steam came out!”  I heard the pounding of my dad’s footsteps up the stairs, followed by a muttered, “Aww…$#*!”

The wall was torn back apart, the pipes were uncrossed; the wall was deemed to be “good enough” for now; and the sun was long set when I decided to get one more snack before heading to bed.  My father, in his fatigue; had left the power drill plugged into the freshly moved electrical outlet.  I opened the fridge at the same moment that my brother noticed the power drill unattended.

“Hey, Jay, look!   The refrigerator light won’t turn on!” At that moment, he had picked up the drill like a tool aficionado and pulled the trigger.  The drill bit spun, and the fridge light came on. We looked at each other and started giggling. He let go of the trigger, and the fridge went black again.  We were outright laughing as my mom turned the corner into the kitchen and asked what was so funny.  We demonstrated our discovery, and she exclaimed, “Oh, no! Oh, $#*!” My Father took one look at our new trick and silently went downstairs.

We sat there, stupidly running the drill in order to keep the fridge running.  Dad returned with a cardboard box and electrical tape. He removed the drill bit, taped the trigger down so it would stay on all night; and placed the drill into the box.  I don’t remember which one of us snickered first, but I do remember the stomachache from all the laughter.  I know we slept the blessed sleep of the exhausted that night.

The next day, my uncle dutifully returned, the wires were uncrossed and the wall was refinished.  The doorway was enlarged; and we had gained yet another funny story to share about our adventure as a family.  We wore our home improvement mishap as if it were a badge of honor.

Recently, when James and my brother-in-law set out to teach me how to change the brake pads on our car; I remembered the hot water in the toilet and I shared it as a means of encouragement. I have quite a knack for pep talks, huh?

We actually did quite well. Granted, we had to drive out a ways to gather all of the tools that we had forgotten; but I decided that helped us get into the brake-changing mindset.  Really, there was only one comic mishap that occurred when my brother-in-law was loosening the lug nuts with the 4way. Apparently when we bought the tires, they were put on with a LOT of torque! Well, he leaned into the 4way; put all of his weight into it…and promptly snapped it in two pieces!  He stood there wide-eyed in astonishment, opening and closing his mouth…completely speechless.

I tried to suppress my giggles, but I couldn’t. James was working on the other tire until he heard my laughter and noticed that his usually talkative brother had absolutely nothing to say.  He saw the newly renovated 4way, and we all chuckled.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon. We worked hard, but we had all had a good time simply enjoying one another’s company.  It means so much to me that James respects me enough to gently teach me how to participate in the projects that he takes on. In our marriage, we have been intentionally focusing on establishing the “we” first.

Since we each brought three into the marriage, this means that we have six little people who all think that they should be the first priority in our lives.  The last months have consisted of us gently yet firmly teaching and showing the children that the following are our priorities: 1st, our faith and love for God. 2nd, we the parents are a team; and we will function in unity and love. 3rd, we love our children so much that we will teach them that their choices have consequences. 4th, we want to love others around us as we have been loved.

Adjustments aren’t always easy and repairs don’t always go as planned.  We have hit some snags along the way, and we have our moments when we lose our cool, and maybe even *gasp* we’ve muttered an expletive or two…or five.  (Not in a way that demeans each other or attacks each other or insults, but as a means of describing a crappy situation.)  Overall, my hope is that someday, we can giggle together over our mishaps and eventually wear them as a “badge of honor”.