Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ Category

Do you have a household task that you are grateful for?

Those are the words on today’s 30-days of gratitude chart. I have a very easy answer.


I hate to clean.

I’ve listened to my friends talk about the stress relief of cleaning their homes top to bottom, the relaxation they receive from dusting knick knacks, vacuuming miles of carpet, scrubbing toilets, or taking a toothbrush to their shower grout. Not me.

The only stress relief I receive from cleaning is when I don’t have to do it. Which never happens so yes…I have a lot of anxiety…mostly about household tasks.

I grew up with a mother who wasn’t too concerned about keeping an immaculate house. If she told us to clean the house, we asked, “who’s coming over?” because that was really the only timCleaning_and_Babies_poeme we worried about it. Now don’t get me wrong – we didn’t live in a hovel.  The house wasn’t an episode from Hoarders (until recently, and that’s a whole other blog). My mom’s mantra was “you’ll always have a house to clean, so spend time with your kids while you have them.” Great philosophy.  I guess I inherited that gene.
I still adhere to the philosophy I bought into when I had young children: “If you want to see my house, call ahead. If you want to see me, come on over.”

I clean as much as necessary. I vacuum, dust, sweep and mop floors, scrub the tub and toilet, and occasionally, declutter my closets. But I don’t enjoy it. Ever.

If I had one household task that I had to say I was grateful for – it would be washing dishes…by hand. We’ve never had an automatic dishwasher so I’ve washed a lot of plates and glasses in the last 30 years. I started using this time to think about stuff. Nothing like a sink full of dirty dishes to get the creative juices flowing. (insert laughter). But truthfully, since no one wanted to do the dishes, I was never bothered with “Mom, can I…? or “Mom, would you…? Made for a perfect quiet time.

I came to appreciate the blessing of running water when Cedar Rapids flooded in 2008, therefore I don’t complain that I HAVE to wash dishes. I GET to wash dishes. I have clean water to drink, wash dishes, make tea, boil potatoes, whatever. So I guess I am grateful for the household task of washing dishes…though it is near the bottom of my list of things I’d like to be doing on a sunny afternoon.

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I’ve loved my teachers since I started kindergarten way back in the olden days. I can remember each one very vividly, which should scare some of us. Teachers are such a huge influence in the lives of our kids – mostly for good, occasionally one or two not so good. For the most part I have great memories of good teachers who loved their students and were dedicated to their calling of training up the next leaders of our society.


First day of school, some unknown year, standing in the middle of the road


In first grade, my original teacher broke her leg right before the school year began so we had Mrs. Highland as our substitute teacher for over half the year. I loved Mrs. Highland. And she obviously loved her students. Because I started my “school life” with her, she became the next most important female in my life (after my mom). I’m so grateful I had that positive reinforcement in my young life. Because I could read before I got to first grade and often finished assignments before others, Mrs. Highland asked if I would like to help some of the other students occasionally. I guess I did okay, because she told my mom that “Kris should become a teacher.” I was six – not really thinking about my life’s calling at that time in my life. I think back then I wanted to grow up to be a waitress.

But Mrs. Highland was attuned to her students so well that she saw talents and giftings in her little group of six-year-olds…way before others were even looking. She encouraged us to try harder and go beyond our assignment. When we were concentrating on learning 2 + 2, she was seeing future city leaders and attorneys. While we sounded out our Dick and Jane Readers, she was envisioning teachers and doctors and priests. She gave us resources that pushed our little six-year-old minds to dream big, to see ourselves for the valuable human beings we were…even in first grade.



The youngest class picture I could locate. I’m top row, second from the right.

My home town is a small village in northern Illinois with a small school of kindergarten through high school encompassed in one building. As first graders, we often saw and interacted with high school students so we had opportunity to dream about being like the “big kids.” Mrs. Highland already saw us as “big kids” and beyond.


I missed Mrs. Highland for many years after I left first grade, though I was able to see her often. She was always the kindest and most encouraging woman, even when I finally reached “big kid” status. And I’ll never forget her “prophecy” over me – I didn’t become an officially trained and certified school teacher, but I’ve been teaching my whole life…tutoring other students in high school and college, home schooling my own two children, teaching women’s classes and now privately tutoring elementary, high school and adult students.

Mrs. Highland saw something in me when I was six years old. She looked for the gifts each of her students possessed, even if those talents weren’t finely tuned or sophisticated. I want to be able to do that with my kids…all of them. Each student I tutor becomes one of my kids. Each one is special and unique in their own gifts and talents. Some are naturally outgoing and loaded with personality. Others are quieter, shy in the presence of me as a stranger. But I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Highland, and how much she encouraged me to reach farther, that nothing is impossible, no matter how old you are.

When I grow up, I want to be just like Mrs. Highland.

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“What technology are you grateful for?”

I remember pre-microwaves, pre-Internet, pre-home computers, and pre-flat screen TVs. I remember when you had to watch your favorite TV show the first time, because there was no guarantee it would ever be on again. We did have reruns, but no way to know when a particular show would re-air. I remember when social media consisted of picking up the party line and listening to your neighbor’s conversations. I remember when I got to use one of the four electric typewriters in my Typing class in high school for one quarter. Otherwise, we were stuck with the manual ones. I remember being so excited when my uncle had a console color television delivered to our house for Christmas one year. Color TV! Oh yeah, we were so cool. I remember when my parents had their kitchen remodeled and it included a flat cook top and double oven. I remember when we got a really long cord on our home phone so I could sit in the living room and talk to my friends. I remember when my brothers would call on the holidays and we would pass around the long-corded handset to each family member in attendance.  I remember taking a dime (and later, a quarter) to my high school basketball games so I could use the pay phone to call my mom to come get me. If I forgot the quarter, I just called “collect.” Do they even offer collect calls anymore? Do they even have pay phones?


Not proud that I held that phone throughout the whole wedding reception. Taking pictures was my excuse.

Technology has improved our lives dramatically…and yet, complicated them as well. No longer do we gather around one phone handset to talk to family members. We each stare at our own phones, texting our holiday greetings in words and not voices. When I was growing up, my dad and I talked about movies and actors and who starred in which TV series and when.  Now we wouldn’t need to debate those things – we have the IMDb app to prove our opinion.


Of course, I could go on and on. Most of you can remember what life was like prior to the expansion of  technology in the last 50 years. In many ways, I miss the simplicity of life then, but I don’t think I’d turn in my iPhone to go back. I enjoy being able to connect with my friends and far away family on Facebook or to talk/text my kids in far away places at any time (without calling “collect” – I don’t think they’d accept). I enjoy watching my niece dance on live Instagram. I like checking in with my husband multiple times of the day, just to say “Love You” with a little heart emoji.

I certainly don’t want to lose the ease of keyboarding on a laptop from a coffee shop, blogging my thoughts about technology, or life, or gratitude. I like Amazon and Google and dictionary.com.  I need my flash drives because my memory isn’t what it used to be. I’m attached to my e-reader and touchscreen laptop. Though I receive too many, I enjoy reading my emails and shopping online.

So I guess it comes down to balance. Keeping perspective about the old ways and adapting to new ways. The expansion of ways to “know” things has expanded beyond our ability to keep up. If you read all day, you wouldn’t be able to digest the amount of words being written just on the msn home page alone.

Technology will never replace sitting down around the kitchen table for a meal with my family. Cyber hugs will never be as satisfying as real ones. Maybe we should determine to put down our technology once in awhile, and connect the old fashioned way – face to face, not FaceTime. Mano y mano, not selfies. Rants around the water cooler, not anonymously on Twitter. Coffee in a real cup  listening with actual ears, to flesh-and-blood people in need of real connection.

I challenge you to leave your phone at home the next time you go out with friends. Who’s going to call you anyway? You can check the game scores later. Technology is here to stay, but you still control how much it controls you.

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I hope Augusta National Inc. doesn’t come after me. The title of today’s blog is a trademark they filed in 2014, after veteran sportscaster Jim Nantz coined the phrase almost 30 years ago. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just walk away right now. Save yourself a few minutes of your day. Tradition, in the McGarvey household, is spelled S-P-O-R-T-S.

We love almost every sport although we have had a few discussions (i.e. arguments, debates) about what constitutes a “sport.” I think we’ve gone both ways on horse racing, non-Olympic year curling and rhythmic gymnastics (Olympic sport or not). We most closely follow  the Big Four (baseball, basketball, football and golf) though we make exceptions for the Daytona 500, the Triple Crown and the Indianapolis 500.

The McGarveys could not care less about robins and groundhogs…in our house, the signal of Spring’s arrival is March Madness, the Final Four, baseball’s Opening Day and The Masters. Ah!  I can smell the magnolias already.

Our tradition starts with an email from David informing us of our March Madness brackets. We started filling out individual brackets when the boys were pretty young. I would photocopy the big one printed in the Monday USA Today, the morning after the announcement. When it came to picking winners, age made no difference…Sean always, always, always correctly picked one of the underdogs, but overall it usually came down to Don or David. Now, of course, we’re all high-tech with on-line brackets on various websites. Doesn’t matter to me – I still get killed in the second round.

Televised basketball games run non-stop from that opening Thursday morning through Sunday evening…and then start up again the following weekend, until there are only four teams remaining and my living room spells like a locker room, dirty socks and all. I loved it.

Each year, the men’s championship basketball game is played on a Monday night, followed by the start of The Masters (“a tradition unlike any other”) on Thursday. David used to take off from work the four days of The Masters. He almost cried when his friend scheduled his wedding on Masters Saturday. (Really? Who does that?)

Our favorite players don’t need last names (Zach, Jordan, Jason, Tiger) and we root for them as if they are our neighbors and best friends. We were all together watching when Tiger’s miraculous chip went in on the 16th hole in 2005 – and two years later, when our city’s favorite golfer claimed the green jacket – and then two years ago, when a kid the same age as our boys took home his first major championship by 4 strokes.  Just a few of our favorite memories.

This year…oh boy!…this year, baseball’s Opening Night game is the Sunday prior to the men’s basketball championship. AND, it’s the Cubs versus the Cardinals in St. Louis. Seriously – in our house, it can’t get any better.

To be honest, the hardest part of my empty nest thing is the loss of this bonding around our favorite sports. Our tradition took a hit when Sean went away to Ames for school. Last year, David was living in his new apartment and our living room was much neater (the couch cushions actually stayed on the couch all weekend) and no one ate any snacks or drank any Dr. Pepper. Even my boys notice and try to help me. Last fall, Sean and I watched a post-season Cubs game on bar stools at a bowling alley in Ames. David made it a point of coming home for Game 7 of the World Series so he could be with me when my team won (and wasn’t that a nail-biter!?) Not sure what I’ll do this year – may need to Skype in Sean when my Cardinal-loving men start trashing my Cubbies. Except, this year, I can give it back. #WorldSeriesChamps

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“Please, sweet baby. Just go to sleep.” The poor mama was almost in tears. So many late nights trying to get her young son to sleep. She knew that once he settled down, he would be fine, but he was stubborn and just would not fall to sleep without her presence. Their apartment was too small to allow him to “cry it out” which was the suggestion almost everyone gave the new parents.

“He’ll stop soon enough. Let him cry.” Well, he must not have listened to their advice because he could cry, and cry, and cry, without wearing down at all. Conscious of their thin walls, and trying to be good neighbors, they could not allow the noise to go on very long. So far, her only solution was taking him out of his crib and resting with him on the spare double bed in the baby’s room.

“Please, sweetie. Just sleep.” Her pleas met deaf ears. His eyes stayed bright and alert. The baby giggled and cooed as his mama snuggled with him on top of the handmade quilt.

“Lord, help me. I don’t know what to do.” She had prayed every day (and night) for a solution. She knew God cared about every facet of her life, even the amount of sleep she got, so she knew He would give her guidance in this area too.

Finally, when she thought the only solution was sleeping in that double bed every night, she had a sudden thought.

“Sing.” Sing?

“Lord, I’m not a very good singer. I don’t know very many lullabies.”

But that still, small voice kept whispering, “sing.”

Wracking her brain, she tried to think of pop tunes, or lullabies or even hymns to sing to her brown-eyed baby boy, but she came up empty. Except for one little tune with simple lyrics.

“He won’t care what I sound like. He’s just a baby. He won’t even remember.”

So she started to sing…

“O Lord, You’re beautiful.

Your face is all I seek.

For when Your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

I wanna take Your Word and shine it all around,

But first help me just to live it, Lord.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown,

For my reward is giving glory to You.”

Over and over, she sang the lyrics to this simple chorus, until it was no longer just a lullaby to her baby, but a song of worship from her heart. She didn’t just sing the song, she prayed the song. That little baby didn’t miraculously fall asleep the minute his mama started singing, but he watched her and he listened to her and his little spirit eventually grew quiet. Each night, she sang to her little guy until one night, she didn’t have to. He fell asleep on his own, without her off-key voice and simple songs. Sleep, blessed sleep.

David_Mom_asleepLooking back on those nights, I don’t remember my scratchy eyes (and voice). I don’t remember the sense of helplessness or even hopelessness. I don’t remember feeling like a stupid new parent. I remember the peace that came over my little boy, the intimate times of worship in that small bedroom, the quiet presence of the Holy Spirit as I sang that simple, but powerful, song to my firstborn. I didn’t realize it then but God answered my prayers. Not just the one asking for David to fall asleep, but the one embedded in the song. Because God’s eyes weren’t just on me, His eyes were on my child. And what He planted in my little boy – a love of music, a desire to worship and a boldness to give glory to God wherever he goes – started in that little apartment in the middle of the dark nights when he refused to sleep until his mom sang the lyrics to that Keith Green chorus, over and over.

I’m grateful for that little song. I cry every time my beautiful daughter-in-law sings those words while her husband, my little stubborn brown-eyed firstborn son, accompanies her on guitar or piano. It’s still the cry of my heart. Not so my baby will fall asleep, but so my soul awakens to the grace and glory of God.

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It’s the day after Fathers Day. My Facebook newsfeed was overwhelmed with tributes to dads literally around the globe. I love Fathers Day. I love celebrating the lives of influential men. Because I had a wonderful dad, I want others to experience the unconditional love of a heavenly Father. I am blessed to have so many examples of exceptional dads and it’s never too late to honor them.

First, though the title says five dads, in actuality, I am grouping a few. And the order isn’t really relevant either. These guys are amazing and would make any list of top dads.

I am so thankful for this guy. He has raised (along with his wonderful wife) four beautiful children, including my “new” daughter-in-law.


Ric Lumbard & daughter Tristen

My son is blessed and so, I am blessed as well. I know this girl was raised to love God and to love others. Her dad modelled what it means to be a godly husband and father. She was raised knowing about commitment, faithfulness and prayer – all essentials for a successful marriage. Thanks, Ric, for being a great dad!





Three of the greatest blessings of my life are my brothers-in-law, two of whom are fathers. Even though two are Cardinal fans, and the other one roots for the Packers, they are all wonderful guys, who have raised great kids and love their family well.

I love my brothers. At my son’s recent wedding they all showed up and absolutely made my day. They love me, love their wives & kids, love their nieces & nephews, and enjoy being together. We have more fun together now than we ever had as kids!

My boys didn’t have grandparents who lived close by so they were blessed with many men who stepped in as surrogate grandparents. One of them was Ron Dunmire. He treated my boys as though they were his own grandkids, loving them, taking them out to play golf, or eat, or even on vacation. We miss this guy so much. He was an exceptional friend and heaven is richer on this Fathers Day.


My daddy loved his girls. He’s been gone for 13 years but I miss him very much. There are days I think, “boy, Dad would have loved this,” or “Dad, I wish you could see your grandkids now.” He wasn’t perfect but I never doubted his love. I credit my dad for my work ethic, loyalty to my employer, and most especially, my sense of direction.


Finally, my favorite dad is the father of my kids.

Don has modeled what it means to be a godly man everyday for his boys. He never apologized for loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. He has always been an example of how to love your wife, how to lead your home, how to live for Christ. He is his own worst critic and yet he teaches and lives out the Word of God every day. My kids could not have had a better earthly father…one who consistently points to and relies on his Heavenly Father.My only regret? He’s a Cardinals fan. But it does add a certain spice to our marriage…

Thanks Dads – for all you do, for all you are, and for all you mean to your families!
P.S. – Did anyone actually count? I posted about six dads. Too funny to change it now 🙂



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Cedar Rapids, Iowa – my current home town. I’ve lived here for almost 27 years and worked downtown for the last eight.


Overhead view of Cedar River at flood stage, June, 2008

In 2008, our downtown was devastated by “the great flood” and it has taken a tremendous amount of vision, finances and hard work to rebuild. But I’m very proud of this little city and all it has accomplished in the last 8 years.

There are new buildings, new businesses and a new mindset – rebranding themselves into a destination spot, not just a place to live and work. I’ve enjoyed watching the changes, as I walk around over my lunch hour. NewBo, Czech Village, Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood and the downtown area itself have all been transformed. The city’s latest project is Overalls All Over – celebrating native son and celebrated artist Grant Wood’s 125th birthday. He lived in Cedar Rapids almost his whole life and created beautiful paintings in a style later known as Regionalism, where an artist paints what he/she lives with, in or around.

Probably Grant Wood’s most famous painting was “American Gothic,” created in 1930.Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project A cultural icon, it is displayed at the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood drew a picture of a small farm cottage near Eldon, Iowa, and placed in front of it the likenesses of his sister and a Cedar Rapids dentist (no, not a farmer). Trivia note: They never really stood in front of that house or even together.

The Overalls All Over project includes 25 life-sized statues of the American Gothic likeness and they are displayed all over Cedar Rapids (as well as one in front of the famous home in Eldon, Iowa).

Since I walk all over Cedar Rapids every weekday, I took a few snapshots of the various statues. Some are fun and quirky, others impressive and creative. I’m looking forward to finding a few more in the weeks ahead as the project continues until September.





On the Coe College campus, depicting local TV station, KCRG TV9

One of my favorites (so far) – in front of Czech & Slovak Museum, currently housing an Andy Warhol display

In front of Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust on 1st Avenue, NE

The CR Museum of Art has a permanent Grant Wood display

Couldn’t help myself. Had to get a picture with the “Go” statue. Go-go boots on her and “Do Not Pass Go” guy from Monopoly. This one is in front of the NewBo City Market.

Near Mercy Medical Center on 4th Avenue SE

Outside the Gazette Building across from Greene Square and CR Museum of Art on 5th Street SE

The man is a selfie of Grant Wood, standing outside his studio on 2nd Ave SE

Outside the new Iowa Brewing Company restaurant on 3rd St SE


The guardians of the Cedar Rapids Public Library


Take a fun few hours and visit our little city. Restaurants are great. Easy walking or biking trails can take you everywhere. And, we have overalls all over.


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