My brother got engaged last night. That’s right. He asked his girlfriend of one year to marry him.

He is the last of the four siblings of our family to be married. One of my sisters is on her second (and much better) marriage.

And although this is his first marriage, I assure you that he is not rushing into marriage.

He will be 50 years old by the time of the wedding next summer.

My brother is just a unique guy. He needed to find the right person who could appreciate that.

To begin with, he is 6’7″ tall and just generally looks like a giant. He is currently working as an EMT, but has a MDiv. His previous jobs include disc jockey and Lutheran pastor,  He writes feature articles for his small town newspaper, and drives a school activity bus part time. He loves crossword puzzles, he acts in and directs plays for his community theater group. His sense of humor is quite dry.

He is one of the good guys in the world.

But he is my “little” brother, and from my perspective as his older sister, he’s a dork.

Think I’m exaggerating? I don’t think so…..

This is how he proposed:


From: e
To: c
Date: Sun, 5 Oct 2014 18:05:58 -0500




Yes, he sent her an email.

While they were sitting next to each other.

He proposed to her using a rebus in an email!

Then he announced their engagement to the family by forwarding the email to us, with the following explanation:

So this is the e-mail I sent to C today (while sitting next to her). Keeping in mind that the last image means “mi” on the scale (do, re, mi), see how you can do on the rest…..

She teaches music, thus the “mi”.

Remarkably, she agreed to marry him. Yes, a very nice, seemingly normal woman has agreed to marry my tall, dorky, 50 year-old baby brother.

As my sister has said many times, “There’s a lid for every pot.”

***In case it isn’t obvious from this post, I am absolutely thrilled for both of them. I even get a new niece and nephew out of the deal!!***

Posted by: chlost | September 25, 2014

Still learning to get over myself

When my son got married last month, he and his wife followed some long-time traditions. Her father walked her down the aisle. Our son did not see the wedding dress, and obviously her in the dress, until she walked down the aisle. They did not see each other the night before the wedding.

And they had a traditional “Father and Bride” dance as well as a “Mother and Groom” dance.

This created quite a bit of anxiety for me.

I don’t dance.

Well, let me clarify. I wish I could dance. I would love to be able to dance. But Merle doesn’t dance. And we don’t go to places where there is dancing.

Except weddings.

When we were married, friends taught us a few dances. We had the reception at a public ballroom, where a polka band was playing. So our friends taught us to polka.

Next month is our 35th wedding anniversary.

And we have not danced a polka since then. The few times that I have danced, it was with other guys, and my problem is that I tend to lead. The guys give up after a few minutes.

Now I have a knee replacement that somewhat limits jumping, twisting, and bouncing. I wasn’t sure I could dance even if I tried. Nothing fancy, anyway.

Last year when our daughter was married, she did not include the traditional dances of the Bride and Groom, because her husband does not dance. Merle and I watched the “kids” dance-very entertaining, but we did not dance.

When our other son was married, their infant daughter was there. I watched the baby while they had a chance to dance. It seemed like a fair trade.

But our oldest son loves to dance, and he is a great dancer. He learned after being in many, many theater productions. His wife enjoys dancing as well.

My son informed me a few weeks before the wedding that he and I would be dancing, alone, in front of their guests for the traditional mother and son dance. I panicked. He assured me that all I would have to do is slow dance back and forth with him for several minutes.

We practiced a couple of days before the wedding, while his Bride practiced her dance with her dad as well as with my son.

Both the Bride’s dad and my son danced with her like pros. They bounced, they twirled, they dipped. They were great.

Then my son danced with me. Back and forth, back and forth. In rhythm, at least!

Then my son told me the song he had chosen for our dance. I had never heard of it. “I Hope you Dance” by LeeAnn Womack. I listened to it on you tube several times just to get the sense of it. I loved the sentiment. But I was still panicking about dancing myself.

At the wedding dance, my son and I danced. He stuck to the back-and-forth slow dance for me.

People were watching. There were photos taken. I tried to focus on the dancing.

Jeremy_Libby wedding 242

After a few minutes, the DJ announced that all mothers and sons should come out to dance together.

People started to filter out onto the dance floor. My nearly 50 year-old brother danced with my 84 year-old mother. The Bride’s mother danced with her son. The Bride’s father danced with his 90+ year-old mother. The Bride’s sister, the matron of honor, danced with her son, the ring bearer. My youngest son joined us, and I danced with both of my sons-at the same time!

Jeremy+Libby_Pauls photos 244

As I looked around, I realized—-it was not about me.

And I danced.

Posted by: chlost | September 23, 2014

Cough! Sniffle! Honk! Sigh…….

Today is the first day of fall. Or autumn, if you prefer.

For me, it is the first day of a miserable cold.

For the past several years, this seems to be the pattern for me. Summer ends. Cold season begins. If I remember correctly, it has happened this way for the past 2-3 years.  Maybe it is psychological.

In any event, I have been feeling pretty awful. I have sick time built up, and nothing on my calendar for the day, so I stayed at home. I never got out of my pajamas today.

It felt wonderful for a while to be so slothful. But then my Midwestern values must have kicked in. Despite my physical ailments, my brain told me I needed to get dressed for at least a portion of the day.

So at 7:30 pm, I put on some jeans and a tee shirt. Now I am dressed and I feel a bit better. In fact, even my cold feels less severe.  I am still coughing and my head is stuffy, but I have a bit more energy and don’t feel so foggy.

My mother used to tell me that if you faked being sick just to be able to stay at home, the karma of the universe would promptly make you sick. I have never felt right about staying at home if I am not really sick.

So I suppose I have to go in to work tomorrow.




Here I am sitting in a soft comfy chair with my  laptop on my lap. The cursor blinks at me, off, on, off again, asking which letter is coming next. My fingers are moving slowly on the keyboard tonight.

The remains of a mixed drink sits on the table to my left, with a crumb-covered plate from a snack sitting next to it. My feet are propped up on the ottoman in front of me. My eyes ache and my eyelids feel heavy.

The little dog is lying next to my feet. This fur-covered bundle of energy has not moved for nearly an hour now.

Merle is upstairs, watching a mindless movie. He also has not moved for nearly an hour.

The entire house seems to be letting out a deep breath; relaxing, settling in for a quiet night.

For the whirlwind that is three little girls has now subsided.

They are gone.


How did we do it? Merle and I raised three children. We ran from activity to school, to games. Our kids were always busy, putting on plays, building forts, riding bicycles, playing sports. Merle and I both worked full time at jobs that were not easy. We had no spare time. We were always moving.

And yet I don’t ever remember feeling quite like this.

One weekend with our three grandchildren, and we are exhausted.

We were awakened by giggles and  little noses at 6:30 a.m.  each morning that they were here.

Oh, but we had fun!

The baby calves had to be examined:


Snapping turtle hatchlings became prized pets:







There were trees to be climbed:


And there was a swing which needed to fly:



There was work to be done with Bop…..down at the river where the bugs were nasty:


….and in the yard:



….and of course he needed help with the cooking:


We visited a heritage farm and helped the docents with farm chores as they were done in the 1850s (and fully enjoyed the kittens):



We also learned how to “stump” each other at the game “20 questions”, as well as new songs to sing in the car. We watched movies, played video games, and loved up the dog.

At the end of the weekend, the three-year-old finally fell asleep in the car on the way home. The older two were still going strong.

Merle and I barely stayed awake as we drove home after dropping them off with their parents tonight.

And this is what we have been reduced to……all three of us (dog included), now sitting here in a quiet, still a bit of a messy house, recovering.

Oh, we will all sleep well tonight.

We will sleep late, and we will miss those three girls in the morning.

Posted by: chlost | September 16, 2014

My “Our Town” Life

I’ve lived and/or worked in the same small town for the past 25 years. For 11 of those years, I lived and worked in the same town. We moved about 15 miles away, but I’ve continue to work in the same town since then.  We raised our kids there.

It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a birthday. It is not one ending in a zero, but it will be next time around.

Assuming I make it.

But this birthday brought out some reminiscing in me. For some reason, I have been thinking about all of the places I’ve lived, the people I’ve known, the jobs that I’ve had.

And no, I won’t bore you with that whole list.

But I realized how much I enjoy working in the town that I do-and how nice it is to live in a small town.

Here is an example of a rather routine day for me:

-Stop at a drive-in coffee spot…..the person ahead of me has paid for my order. I then pay for the person behind me.

-Arrive at the courthouse for court hearings…. the bailiffs greet me by name….”Good morning! welcome back!”

-Stop at the drugstore for prescriptions…..the clerk pulls out my stuff without even asking-she knows my name. We chat a few minutes while she rings up the order.

-During my lunch hour, I stop at the bank drive through. The clerk says hello to me by name as I send in the tube with my deposit slip. If I were to have my dog with me, they send out a dog biscuit for him. He is like Pavlov’s dog now, and starts to drool as we pull up to the kiosk.

-Lunch is often a take-away from a small restaurant within walking distance of my office. At the deli, the Asian restaurant or the other deli, they know me, and often just ask if I want the usual. Yes, I am a woman of habit.

-At some point mid-afternoon, I will often walk to the coffee/bookstore for an afternoon caffeine injection. There, they also know me, the barista knows what coffee drink I prefer, the owner and I discuss books.

-I am constantly running into people I know, in nearly any place I go. It is a joke of the office…..if I haven’t run into someone who greets me, my office mates are disappointed.

Of course, if I lived and worked in any other place this long, I am sure it would be the same. And I am sure that many other people enjoy living in  similar town.

There are a few downsides, of course. Every so often I run into clients whom I really would rather not see, and who would rather not see me. And sometimes people see me and I don’t even realize it. I often hear comments such as “I saw you going into the post office yesterday.” That makes me a little uncomfortable at times.

Overall, though, I love it. It has been a great place to live and work. In a few years, I will be retiring. The plan would be to move to a smaller house, likely close to or in the city.

Maybe someone will even notice that I’m not around town any more.

Or not.

Either way it’s ok. I’ve enjoyed it.

Fall slammed into us this week. High temperatures near 50f and lows in the mid-30f.
It is nearly mid-September. Why does this always catch me by surprise?

I love the fall season, but I hate it because winter is not far behind.

This year in particular-it has been a very short, cool summer.

So, I am trying to schedule things that I can look forward to while I wait out another winter.

****I’m planning a trip to Texas with the girlfriends again this year. Last year it was warmer than here, but we weren’t able to enjoy hot days at the beach. I am hoping that will be different this year.

****We are planning an anniversary trip (35 years!!!) in mid-October. Merle and I haven’t figured out yet where to go, but we have at least scheduled the time off at work. It will be a car trip, which we both enjoy. We may just point the car in some direction and go, then turn around half-way through the week. I’ve always wanted to do that. Merle, not so much-he’s a planner.

****We will be visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Philadelphia in the spring. We’d planned to visit them in October, but it didn’t work for them, as they both are traveling for work most of the month. We won’t see them over the holidays, so we have to get there in the spring.

****Over the holidays, it may just be Merle, me and my mom. As noted, our Philadelphia branch won’t be here, we anticipate that the grandkids will be with their other grandma, and the newlyweds will have a hard time figuring out new traditions. So Merle and I have begun to consider taking some time for ourselves around the holidays. Maybe we’ll visit my sister in Chicago, as her kids are all starting to find their own holiday activities as well!

My goal is to be busy this fall and winter. I want to make some blankets/throws for the Linus organization. I am trying to find some classes to enroll in….not even sure what I’d take.

Any suggestions to keep me busy are welcome!

There has to be a way to make winter pass by as quickly as summer does. There just has to be.


Posted by: chlost | September 7, 2014

Blogging and weddings, ain’t life grand?

Finally! My laptop has returned from the repair shop.

Nearly one month, $300, and a trip to Colorado later, it came back all shiny and new looking.

Over the past month, I’ve learned that I can do almost anything I’d do on the laptop, I can do on the smartphone. Writing a blog post was the exception. Commenting on other people’s blog posts was difficult, too. But I tried here and there.

Now I feel a bit renewed in my energy and inspiration for blogging. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Since the last time I was here, we’ve had some big events around here. I know that there have been big events in the world as well, but other people cover those events much better than I could hope to do, so I will stick with the more local, personal events to report here.

My oldest son was married.

That’s pretty big news in my world.

It was a gorgeous day. The bride was beautiful. Our son was handsome. The granddaughters were adorable as flower girls. Our daughter’s singing was beautiful, as was she. Our youngest son as best man was great-he gave a very good toast.

And I felt a little sad.

Don’t get me wrong. I was very happy. They are a very happy couple. I like her a lot. She is very good for him, and he is happy.

But this time it is as though we not only have an empty nest now, but that empty nest has been whacked right on out of the tree. It feels as though the nest that was our lives is now sitting upside down on the ground beneath our family tree, just waiting to be stomped on by some passerby.

When our kids left home and went off to college one by one, we were still involved in their lives. We had them home at holidays, we moved them from dorm to apartment, and even into their own home. We heard about their job searches, their graduate school plans, their dating stories, at least as much as they were willing to share. They were on their own, but they were still a part of our family

As odd as it sounds, we were still their next of kin on their medical emergency card.

One by one, they have married.  We have watched as each of them has found a partner, and we have seen them grow and commit to spend their lives with those partners.

Now, it is their spouses who are listed as next of kin in case of an emergency, not us.

As it should be.

But I am having some trouble with this. This is truly a new stage of life. It is different from when they went off to college or moved out of the house.

Now they are someone else’s family. And Merle and I are superfluous in a way that I had not considered previously. I have to figure out how to manage this newest way of life. It is going to take some adjustment. I have to find some new things to do to keep myself busy.  If this is what retirement will be like, it needs to be filled with other activities and people. Working on it.

The second thing is related to the first, but makes it just a bit harder for me.

Our family has always been close, but we are not the loud, laughing, actively together type of family. We are the sit back with a few drinks, dinner, and talk about life, the world, and our thoughts about those things kind of family. Maybe most families aren’t like that. Certainly our children’s in-laws are not.

Our newly married son’s in laws are very much the type of people who always have a house full of friends and family, with lots of golfing, country club, and party activities. Their grandchildren live nearby, and they are often there. Both of our daughter-in-law’s parents are retired, and they have always been very social. And they love our son.

Our son has been heartily welcomed into their family. He and his wife will be involved with them much more than they will with us. I know that my feelings are of jealousy and feeling sorry for myself, but I am already feeling as though they have taken our son into their family, leaving ours behind.

Yeah, I know…….stupid. But the feeling is there. I just have to figure out how to get past that.

On the positive side, we have had a few happy texts and photos from Hawaii, where they are honeymooning, and we have been given reason to believe that more grandchildren may be something we can expect.

Long story short….We now have two Elizabeths in our family. Our daughter’s name is Elizabeth, and she did not change her last name after marriage. Our newest daughter-in-law’s name is Elizabeth, although she uses a nickname, she did change her last name to ours when she married.

Ain’t life interesting????

Posted by: chlost | August 21, 2014

Damn Cancer

My laptop is currently in the computer hospital, I have had little opportunity to blog, just a comment here and there on other’s sites. I have been reading them, but writing a post is way too challenging. Right now, I have a few minutes at the PC.

On Monday, I received an email telling me that my friend’s husband is in his “end days”. It was just over a month ago that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He will be dying soon, almost exactly one year from the date of my friend’s dad’s death. Yet she is remarkably strong. I am not sure where that is coming from, but I do expect that she will eventually crash. I can only hope that there is someone there to catch her when the crash comes. She is not one to ask for help.

In the days since I learned of his imminent death, my mind has been filled with a list of people who have touched the circle of my life who have died from cancer. The list is longer than I had realized. I feel fortunate in that there are no children on that list. But each of those on my list of cancer losses still had much life to live when the disease took them.

The first time that I heard the word cancer was when there were whispers about my best friend’s mom. The adults tried to keep the information from the kids. We were just 13 years old when Sue’s mom Dorothy was diagnosed with breast cancer. We knew it was bad. I don’t think I truly recognized that she would die. There were very few treatment options back in the late 1960’s. I remember that she went far away from home for some experimental treatments. She was ill for a long time. My family moved away near the end of her life. My mom returned to help out with her care at the very end. Some 40 years later, my friend Sue still mourns her mom’s death.

Over the years there have been many others passing through my life whom I have lost to cancer. My mother-in-law Marjorie-the sweetest woman you can imagine-her cancer returned nearly 30 years after it had originally been vanquished. We were lucky enough to have a celebration of her 75th birthday while she was in remission. She died just a few months later.

My stepmother, Anne, died of lung cancer just a few months after her diagnosis. She was not able to even start her chemo treatments. She was my father’s third wife. His true soul mate. He was never the same. They were married only 5 years before her death.

My husband’s Aunt Grace, a “maiden aunt” who had spent the best years of her life caring for her mother, had just seemed to be coming into her own. She lived in a hoarder home, and it had just been cleaned out a year or so before her death. The doctors had not been able to identify her illness over many months. They finally did an exploratory surgery and found that her colon cancer was so advanced that there was nothing to be done. They didn’t even use stitches to close her incision. She died just a few days later.

My friend Jan had a brain tumor. Technically, it was not called cancer, but the tumor grew and grew. The surgeons removed as much of it as they could, but the tumor returned. The tumor took away her judgment and control. Her actions were like a two-year old child. When she died in a nursing home just before her 50th birthday, she weighed over 500 pounds after eating any and all candy she could find.

My husband’s family has been particularly hard hit by this disease. His mom and aunt, as noted above, his uncle Clint, his aunt Pat, his cousin’s husband Bill, and his sister-in-law’s father Bill all died of cancer, each of a different variety.

My former office mate, Harold died of cancer as well. His son had just graduated from law school. Harold asked me several months before his death, “Do you think my boy will be okay working as a lawyer in this town?”. Yes, he did just fine, Harold. His son is now a judge.

Harold’s secretary, Arlene, also died of lung cancer. Again, she died fairly shortly after her diagnosis. I don’t remember for sure, but I think she had only a few chemo treatments before she was so weak that they had to stop.

My former secretary’s husband, Paul also died very quickly after his diagnosis. They had divorced several months earlier. She decided to remarry him before his death. It was a bittersweet wedding. Everyone knew that he was dying. It was more of a practical matter than romantic. It provided her with more financial stability after his death than it would have been had they been divorced at his death.

One of the local judges was also a victim. He was not particularly well-liked by most of the attorneys in the area. But he didn’t deserve to die like that-it was a particularly virulent cancer which ended his life within the year after his diagnosis. He never returned to work.

A social worker for the county was able to return to work, at least for a short while. I remember her long, thick, wild hair. She was of Italian heritage, with the stereotypical fiery, hot personality. She was a great social worker, who fought for her clients. She also handled some of the toughest jobs-that of mediation for separating parents fighting over the custody of their children. Somehow, she helped them reach resolution in almost all of her cases.

And now, Larry. My friend’s husband is soon to be added to my list. Even though they have been married for 36 years, I have really never known him well. They have 5 adult children. She parented on her own for most of their marriage. He never really found a job that fit him. He had his own businesses, several of which closed down. She stuck by him through it all. She went back to college and graduated at age 50, and she became the primary income. When he could not work due to dementia, she was the sole wage earner. She sold their home close to her work and moved him back to the lake home he loved. Now he is dying in that home. It will likely be today, maybe tomorrow.

Cancer sucks.






Posted by: chlost | July 14, 2014

When you find out what those vows really mean

Life certainly can bring ups and downs.

This past weekend, we attended Merle’s nephew’s wedding. He is a great kid. They have been together for the past seven years, as they began dating when he was 20 and she was 17. The biggest memory of the wedding day will definitely be that he had to wear his dad’s pants. The khaki slacks that he had planned to wear for a relatively casual wedding suit split across his bottom in a way that defied any attempt at repair. So he wore his dad’s slacks and dad wore a pair he’d worn the day before. No one would have known, but the family had some good laughs over it all.

I am always curious to see what the wedding couple uses for their vows. This couple was married in the Catholic Church. As I expected, they used the traditional “ good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, ’till death do us part”. They are young. They have no idea exactly what that means. Young couples have no idea as to how good the good times may be, or how bad the bad times will be. And they certainly are not thinking about sickness and health as they stand up there in the fancy wedding clothes with all of their friends and family all around them.

If they did, no one would get married.

While we were there, I got a voice mail message from a friend- telling me that our third friend’s husband was just diagnosed with lung cancer and is expected to live only a few months. No one saw that one coming. He has dementia and really has no idea of what that means. He had a lung x-ray last January which showed nothing. He went in to the doctor on Thursday for a cough, had an x-ray and there was a fist-sized tumor in his lung which had collapsed a section of the lung.

No wonder he was coughing.

My friend and her family are in shock. She and her husband have five adult children. They have struggled with the dementia. My friend is the only one he seems to know on a regular basis. Sometimes he recognizes their children, other times he does not. And now this.

This news is a bit hard to take in. My friend has been stretched to the limit in trying to meet her husband’s needs, those of her children and grandchildren, and dealt with the death of her own father just this past year. She works full time. She commutes a long distance in order to allow her husband to remain in their familiar home. She is a person who has energy that just radiates from her. Yet she has admitted to us that she cries with frustration, anger and sadness when she is alone.

Of course she does.

I imagine that there would be mixed feelings about this diagnosis. Perhaps a bit of relief that her husband will not suffer with the end term of dementia. With some guilt for feeling some relief. Maybe in the back of her mind some relief that she will not have to deal with his end term dementia condition. And guilt over that feeling.

And, of course, grief, sadness and anger over his impending death at the age of 60. Just at the time when many of our friends are planning a retirement together, she will be a widow.

In the meantime, I am hoping to be able to lend a hand in whatever way possible, even if just to pass the tissues to her.

One weekend….celebrating the beginning of a life together for two young people and learning of the end of a life together for two others.

I’d really prefer a little more time in between the ups and downs of life.

Posted by: chlost | July 9, 2014

Booking It

Suddenly, I am reading again.
For several months-perhaps a year-I had not been reading anything. This is very unusual for me. I have always been a voracious reader, and almost always was in the middle of reading a book-sometimes more than one. But over these past months I didn’t seem to be able to concentrate long enough to read a book. I would fall asleep, or just lose interest. It got to the point that I just wasn’t interested in trying any more.

While we were traveling to Virginia and back, I started reading again. No particular reason, although it did help pass the time during a very long road trip.

The last book I finished was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It is nearly 800 pages long. The main character is a young man who is looking back at his very chaotic, dysfunctional life. Except of course, it isn’t dysfunctional to him….it is just the norm.

I represent many teenagers in my job. Intellectually I know that their lives are very different from my life, and even the life of my children. But this book made me realize how the system is seen as the enemy by many kids who are struggling in a bad situation. It is very well written, and won a Pulitzer.

I also read Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. I usually like her books. This one is clearly divided into two parts…Before and After. Her characters’ attempts to deal with grief in very different ways was fascinating and eye-opening. I am still dealing with the grief of a sibling’s death. I could see myself in at least on of the characters.

I’m loving the Kindle that I use on my phone. I have lots of down time, and this lets me pick up a story anywhere, even for a short time. I still prefer books, but I see the advantages to the electronics in some situations. They are also cheaper!

My next goal is to get my library card updated and use the library’s free downloads for books that I may want to read but not necessarily purchase. I see book lists and think that I would like to read many of those books, but don’t need to buy most of them.

My return to reading feels as though I have filled a hole in my life.


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