Monday, January 31, 2011

The TC Graduation Week-end, Part I

Those of you who have been with me since I began blogging in June, 2006, have followed the saga of Kevin and his fight for his life against drug addiction. My first blogging buddy was Diane at Partners in Prayer for Our Prodigals. We bonded immediately over our prodigals. Kristen introduced us. Diane held a big blogging party to welcome Kevin home from his time at Teen Challenge. He and I had written about our journey together, and we were excited to have him home and on with his life.

Kevin went back to school to complete his degree - this time with a social work major - the very department where I worked. It was fun to have him around, and he did well in school. We thought he was doing really well in every way, but he was hiding the truth from everyone. He and Angie went to Africa for a Christmas - he missed two weeks of school, which had been pre-arranged with the faculty. But when he got back, he dropped out and headed downhill rapidly.

Kevin called one of his friends from his previous time with TC - Chris told him to get on a plane and get out to Maine, where he was now working on staff. It took a couple more weeks for it all to come together, but in March, almost two years ago now, he flew to Portland, Maine, to the newly opened program in Winthrop outside of Augusta. This past week-end Chris and his wife, Joy (who has been a great mentor and friend to Angie from long distance) were able to be with us for the ceremony.

We were so blessed by one of Kevin's friends who successfully graduated last year and has been doing well. He was so determined that all 3 of us would be there for Kev's big day that he financed the transportation part of this trip - amazing gift to us! Last Friday at dark o'clock (3:30 am), we headed for the airport with a bit of trepidation, based on the consistently stormy weather that has been on the East Coast this winter. We had a stop in Baltimore and the news was that it was snowing there. We had very little time to switch planes, so it was a bit nerve-wracking. The reality was a light snow in Baltimore with our departure gate right next to our arrival gate. We even had time to grab a quick lunch to take on the plane with us. (We dodged the weather bullet in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, and Denver - thank you, Lord!)

We had been nervous about the tight squeeze to get to Brockton by 5:00. The arrival in Boston was flawless, our only checked suitcase was the first one down the carousel, the shuttle to Enterprise was right there, and the customer service Enterprise gave us was unbelievable - we were on our way in no time flat. Kev had met us there and was at the baggage area just as we walked down the concourse. It took him and Angie longer to get out of the airport parking garage than it did us to get the car and get on the way. But amazingly, we were at our meeting spot within two minutes of each other. We had time to get to our hotel and changed and to the TC facility in Brockton, Massachusetts by the 4:30 meeting with Pastor Steve, the director.

Pastor Steve wanted to have a chance to visit with Kev and Angie together before the rest of the graduates arrived. He had prayer with them as the others were arriving.

Those students who were going through Commencement (which means they have finished the 15 month program - the ceremony we missed last July for Kev) and the ones who were graduating (meaning they finished an additional 6 month internship) met together for some words of admonition and directions.

They have one of these graduation ceremonies every month on the last Friday evening. It is a worship service as well as a ceremony. The first hour was spent in music and prayer for the many prayer requests that come in to the various centers up and down New England. It was a blessed time (though I have to admit I did doze off at times, since I'd been up for 13 hours already).

The praise and worship time was inspiring and fun - this song in particular spoke to me and said how I was feeling.

Then - the big moment arrived. The graduates and commencees came down the aisle to the traditional strains of "Pomp and Circumstance," accompanied by lots of clapping, whistling, and cheering.

Each of them was awarded his/her diploma --

Each of the five graduates gave a personal testimony of his journey - in 3 minutes. I would have loved to hear a lot more, but it was great to see our son up there, glowing with the love of the Lord, and happiness that he finished something for the first time in his life. He gave a thumbs up to all of those friends in the crowd who were really cheering him on.

I loved hearing his words, and I hope to share the video when I can figure out how to do that technology!

The final prayer together just ended things perfectly.

Next time - our very short time as tourists.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Twins and Grandma Dawn

It’s been a beautiful day in the neighborhood and we’ve been very busy. We dropped Mommy off at work and headed down to the gym. I love going to the gym for three reasons:

  1. It helps me keep the weight off that I lost last year.
  2. It gives me a chance for some “me” time as I read on the machines.
  3. It gives the girlies a chance to play with other kids and different toys.

These girls are creatures of habit. They like things to be the same way every time. Their routine when we leave the gym never varies -- first they do a a bit of exercising on the ab crunching device – they are quite put out when someone else is using “their” equipment.

Once we finally get out the door, they have to play a game of “Ring Around the Bike Rack.”

On to the car seat routine --

The smiling face disappeared from Emma for some reason ---

Home again, home again, riggedy jig. Snack time – a baggie with some Honey Nut Cheerios.

I think they have developed hollow legs – now some cinnamon toast.

Off to a bit of relaxation with a movie – love laying on new pillow pals – the cow and the bear.

Playing with Minnie Mouse “laptops” while wearing Minnie Mouse outfits --

A bit of playing – in the doll bed made by Grandpa for their mommy years ago.

Off to Wal-Mart for lunch and a bit of shopping with gift cards from their new dentist and birthday money.

Off to the thrift store to drop off a huge bag of stuffed animals Grandma cleaned out of the toy bin – toys that hadn’t been seen for months or years seem superfluous in Grandma’s opinion.

Oops – they saw toys they still wanted!! They rescued them.

Mommy is off work at her new job at H0bby L0bby.

They were excited to go home – and Grandma was ready for some time alone.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Creativity on a Meager Budget

When we were kids we had to be creative in our gift giving because of lack of funds. I remember one year when Vicki and I were in junior high, when somehow we had a means of some income. We walked to town, in a much more innocent era, every Saturday to put a dollar down on the layaway of a quilted robe for Mom. We were so proud when she opened it on Christmas Eve. I wish I could find the picture, but I know she wouldn't appreciate my publishing it because she had pincurls in her hair that night.

When we did have money we had fun buying gifts. When we didn't, we improvised. I have such a clear picture in my mind of the Mother's Day Eve when Vicki and I realized we had done nothing to prepare for the next day. It was too late to buy anything, even a card, even if we'd had any cash on hand. We came up with the idea of writing her a letter. We spent the evening in our bedroom memorializing memories of her as our mom. I remember laughing so hard as we wrote, thinking that Mom would laugh just as much.

Now as mothers, we understand, but that Mother's Day we were shocked by the reaction of tears instead of laughter. I wouldn't be surprised if she still has that letter somewhere in her precious memories stash. I'd love to read it at this stage of my life.

Another time I remember well was the summer I was 18, between sophomore and junior year of college, I believe. Another time of poverty in the lives of the Swanson kids. We needed to do something for our parents' 20th anniversary that August. It was Sunday after church and while we were still dressed up, we decided to go to the basement and take a picture for them. Our brother, Barry, was editor of the high school paper that year and also the photographer. He had his own little dark room down there and was able to process and print pictures. He set the camera on the tripod with the timer and we waited for the flash, and waited, and waited, feeling sillier by the second. Thus the incredibly wide, cheesy grins - we were laughing so hard I'm surprised they didn't come down to see what was going on.

I imagine we did some sort of "show" for them as well, but the photograph lives on.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Vivid Memory

I lived in Heber Springs, Arkansas from first grade through the middle of fifth, when we moved back to Minnesota, as far north as possible. My dad was the pastor of a very small church. He was bi-vocational, which is a fancy word for working like crazy on any job he could find to support his growing family of 4 children. The church was too small to pay a regular salary.

Dad could fix anything, and he set up a fix-it shop in our house. I think I've shared before that we didn't have a television set in those early days of the invention. Dad repaired quite a few sets for people lucky enough to have one, and we would always try to get him to keep it over the week-end before he called them that it was repaired, so we could watch Saturday cartoons.

Heber Springs was a small Mayberry-like town in those days. It was a great place for kids to grow up, and I have fond memories of those five years. One of those strong memories involves Tumbling Shoals Bridge over the Little Red River. The approach to the bridge was a winding country road and at the approach, you could see the far end before the near one. We would go out there to swim in the old muddy river on those incredibly hot, humid days. The other memory of this bridge is that it was rather rickety and scary to drive on.

In 1959, a huge project began which would change the face of Heber Springs. Greers Ferry Dam would bring about this change. The dam’s primary function was to be flood control, but it also would serve as a hydroelectric power plant. The dam was named after the little ferry that used to cross the Little Red River. Greers Ferry Lake, created as a result of the dam, is a popular recreational destination. Tumbling Shoals Bridge disappeared under the new lake.

Dad had been trained as an electrician when he was in the Navy, and he was blessed to get a job on this project, using this skill. I don't remember how long he worked there, but we moved to Minnesota before the project was completed.

When I was a junior in high school (in Nebraska by that time), we heard that the dam was now completed and that the dedication ceremony was to be held in October of that year, 1963. We decided to take an adventurous trip back down there for the big event. I never was a fan of the Kennedys, but it was a huge deal that President Kennedy was going to be the speaker for the dedication.

We all got to miss school for a few days and we headed south from Omaha. I think we drove all night and at one point, close to Kansas City, we stopped to get Mom a cup of coffee so she could drive for awhile while Dad slept. Dad woke up an hour or so later, only to discover that she had turned wrong and was headed back north and we were on our way back home. We had to decide then whether to keep going back home or to turn around and finish the objective of the trip.

We decided to keep going to Arkansas. When we arrived at the site, we were standing on a bridge, looking down at the scene - when we realized we had just missed the speech and, unbelievably, were looking down at the motorcade with John and Jackie in a convertible with his hair blowing in the breeze and hers held down by her signature pill box hat.

I remember saying (though my brother insists he was the one who did) that anyone could shoot him from where we stood. I still get chills when I realize that one month later, that is exactly what happened.

I found this picture on the internet - it is actually from Dallas, but portrays very much what we saw that day. I read an article today that said he wanted it that way and insisted on riding in convertibles, not even allowing secret service men to ride on the running boards, so that he could be more accessible to the crowds. The article said that this trip to Arkansas was his last public appearance before the Dallas trip.

It's one of those defining moments that we all have. I was sharing it with someone this week-end when we got on the subject of having both lived in Arkansas. I thought I'd share it with you.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


So here it is the 12th of January already - Yikes! My brain is frozen with the crazy weather we're having (good excuse anyway, eh?) and I can't seem to think of much to share. Not to mention that my laptop is really being obstinate and I can't have it on my lap - it blips off the minute I move it. I know it needs another new power cord. The other problem is that the battery doesn't keep a charge and a new one is outrageously expensive. I want a new one so badly, one that is lightweight and is really portable. But that's not in the budget.

I haven't written anything about Christmas. It was very low key this year (well, except when the girls' other grandparents showed up a week later with tons of stuff for them - a year's worth of attention in an hour - Feisty calls her Grandma Santa).

The girls will be going home a week from Sunday. I'm sure I'll still have them a lot, but hopefully not every morning and night any more. I am really weary of the morning get-ready-for-school routine and the evening get-ready-for-school-the-next-day and get-ready-for-bed routine. I don't get why I have to say the same things every day - you'd think it would become habitual, wouldn't you??

I want to acknowledge the wonderfulness of blog friends once again. Kevin loves those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey's kiss in the middle of each cookie. I have sent them by mail before, but it so costly to mail something that heavy. So I enlisted the help of our dear friend, Groovy - I asked her if she'd mind making a batch for Kev and the guys and delivering them to him - about 20 miles from her house. She was glad to oblige this mamma and wouldn't even accept any reimbursement for ingredients or gas. What a blessing to me AND to Kev and his mates.

As long as we're on the subject of Kevin, I'll tell you that we're very excited to get to go back out that way for his final graduation. The ceremony on January 28 and we'll just make a quick trip to Boston for the week-end. Sema will go with us and he'll come back with us for a month. Please pray for them as they seek God's guidance for their future. They want to be in the center of His will.

Kev received some interesting Christmas gifts this year - this one was presented to him by a young man at one of the churches where they were sharing and ministering. He's a real "Mainer" now!

He calls this the Flannel Gang - he's on the far right.

We saw one of these last summer on someone and DC thought it was hilarious, so we sent Kev one, since he's always worried about his receding hair line.

Speaking of gifts, the girls received way more than they needed, which is lots of fun. They got many art supplies. And their big surprise was on the patio after everything else was cleaned up --

That was a beautiful day, though the girls wanted a white Christmas - they got their wish a few days later and enjoyed it to the fullest. They loved helping Grandpa clear the driveway and had to improvise with their equipment.

Remember how scared the girls were when Callie came to stay with us? What a difference time and close proximity makes! They actually cried when she went home last Saturday night.


2011 is rushing along! I will try to post about my word for the year soon - before the year is half over!