Wednesday, August 31, 2005


She sat in front of me, her clear and innocent eyes taking me in, her face just inches from my own.

She is eight years old; more fashion critic than student most days. She comments on my hair, make-up, jewelry. I purchase earrings with her in mind: dangly sparkles of silver or gold accentuated with color and dancing below my earlobes. Last year when I had thyroid surgery she would ask about my scar, wondering if the angry red smiley face across my neck would disappear into obscurity beneath my necklace.

"Your surgery is getting better," she would comment as the months rolled by and it did, indeed, fade and grow less noticeable. Tact isn't a child's strong point, but in the middle of a little girl's honest observations, it's usually overlooked.

Yesterday as she sat at the desk in front of me, chin in hand, she played with my earring. We were inbetween groups so I allowed her to chit chat. "I like your earrings," she said, those brown eyes studying my face. I smiled and thanked her.....but wasn't prepared for what she said next when she noticed a small spot on my face:

"What's that on your face?" she asked. "I mean, I know what all those cracks are...."

I almost burst into laughter! I never thought of wrinkles as being cracks, but I can see that through a child's eye they must appear so.

I could be offended or feel insulted. But I wasn't. I have wrinkles...."cracks"....because I have lived life. I have felt the sunshine on my face, played outside, worried about those I love. And I've laughed. Smiles and laughter have always reached my eyes, making them crinkle around the corners in genuine joy. How lucky that I've had the kind of life that has made me feel, live and laugh so much!

When class was over, little hands went around my waist as she smiled up at me. And suddenly it didn't matter that I'm "cracked". "I love you," she said. And somehow - with these lines of imperfection - that makes things absolutely, perfect.

Monday, August 29, 2005

All Cats go to Heaven

His name was Mouse.

A gray kitten with a white dab over his nose, a bib and stockings to match, he skirted about like a fuzzy little rodent, darting in and out and looking at us with bright, inquisitive eyes. He was Meg's favorite and she would bring him inside, letting him dance between the pedestal of the dining room table and scamper across the slick kitchen floor. We laughed at how he would see himself in the mirror and arch his back, ears flat to his head and hissing like a bewitched cat on Halloween night.

Late this afternoon when we got home from school, I uprighted the trashcan that had been blown over in the wind during yesterday's fierce thunderstorm. I heard a faint cry and after looking around, opened the lid of the can again and saw little Simon, a baby from the newest litter, clawing frantically to get out. He was wet and shaking and plainly in need of water. In the bottom of the trashcan was Mouse.

He laid perfectly still...and I knew he was gone. Megan, who rarely cries, saw him before I could do anything and burst into tears, another one of her precious kitties lost to the perils of country life. We don't know what happened. Was he struck by some object during the strong winds last night, bitten by something or somehow drowned? "If only animals could talk we would know the story", I thought as I rubbed the surviving kitten, gave it water and placed it next to its Mama.

It's a fact of country living. If you have one cat, you have ten. And as sure as you have them, you're going to lose them. I'm not a big enough cat fan to house them all underneath our roof, but there are places they can go to get in from the weather. So why do I feel guilty? I guess because as a mother, as a woman I feel it is my place to protect: my children, my loved ones.........even a little kitty cat.

I buried him this evening, remembering the many times my own parents had had to dig graves for beloved pets. And whether you have two or twenty, each is special with its own personality and place in your heart.

Somewhere I hope that Mouse is entertaining the feline throngs with his antics as he scampers around on a cloud of catnip, arching his back and hissing like a bewitched cat on a Halloween night.....

Sunday, August 28, 2005


OK, Jules...

Ten Years Ago - In 1995 I was married and living in Salina in a very family-oriented, close neighborhood. I was a stay-at-home mom with a 6-yr-old and a 3-yr-old, babysitting a little girl who continues to be one of my daughter's closest friends. In the summer of that year my Mother-In-Law was diagnosed with Stage IV aggressive intestinal cancer. The following 5 months were filled with doctor appointments and chemotherapy sessions...and we watched helplessly as she slipped away. It was a very difficult and sad time and the months that followed were some of the darkest of my life.

Five Years Ago - By the year 2000 I had been a single mom for three years and was actually at a good place, personally. I had a very supportive and loving network of family and friends, the kids were doing wonderfully and my former husband and I had worked through the bitterness, coming to a point where we could get along and make decisions together. I was working at the University library doing Interlibrary Loans and had a flexible schedule that allowed me a lot of time to be with my children. I met the man I'm married to now in February of that year and I knew instantly that he was someone I could love and count on especially when a month after meeting, a bleeding lesion was found in the post temporal parietal region of my brain. Many extensive tests followed as well as a trip to Mayo Clinic and KU Med. With an inconclusive finding I was sent home to monitor any neurological changes....and so far, so good! James and I became engaged in October of that year and began preparations to blend our families, move to a new community and begin a new life.

One Year Ago - 2004 marked our 3rd wedding anniversary and the second year of living in our new house. My youngest stepdaughter graduated from high school and headed to college - a transition that was more emotional than I'd expected. My daughter was promoted as Valedictorian from her 8th grade class into high school and my son started his first year in Junior High: Babies no more. I had a very unexpected and urgent hysterectomy with blood transfusion and a long recovery, followed by thyroid surgery 6 months later.

These time frames - 10, 5, 1 year ago...happen to fall during trying times in my life, but there really have been far more blessings than difficulties!

Yesterday - I was at the fair with my family, feeling content with life and at home just where I am.

Five favorite snacks - I basically love everything! Let's see.....Peanut Butter Twix (or anything chocolate), ice cream, popcorn, Chili chips, sunflower seeds.

Five songs I know all the words to - wow...I remember a lot of words. "Till We Meet Again", "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" (lots of musical numbers!), "Me and You", "Teddy Bear's Picnic" and "The Star Spangled Banner".

What I would do with $100 Million Dollars - Pay off our house, our household bills and all of my medical bills. Finish our basement and build a retaining wall so we don't have to worry about water anymore! Finish off the rest of our house (landscaping, porch, garage, shed) and move in some really big trees since our house was built in the middle of a field and all of our trees are VERY small. Buy a tractor for my husband. Finally get all of that dental work done. Take my family on a vacation. Get a vehicle that has less than 200,000 miles on it! Put in a walk-in Sonic or some type of eatery in town where families can meet and teens can gather after school. Help out my church. Do MANY anonymous things for family, friends and people who are truly deserving. (This is fun to think about....!)

Five Places I Would Run To - Galveston, Seattle (would love to see my brother's home), A cozy B&B somewhere in the NE in the autumn, Ireland and Paris.

Five Things I'd Never Wear - a bikini (been there...but those days are long gone!), a bungee cord (no way, no how!), a tattoo, a mumu, black fingernail polish.

Five Favorite TV Shows - According to Jim, What Not to Wear, Who Wants to be a Millionaire (good family activity!), Ambush Makeover and anything on HGTV.

Five Bad Habits - Eating junk food, being too hard on myself, staying up too late, having my clothes all folded neatly....but not putting them away, procrastinating.

Five Biggest Joys - My husband and children, music, sharing Thanksgiving...the Pumpkin Patch, Christmastime, special times...with my parents and siblings, a relaxing day with a close friend and the written word - books/writing.

Five favorite Toys - My cameras, the computer, my CD player, my art stuff and Hobby Lobby.

Water Tower

My husband climbed this as a teenager; it's much higher than the Ferris Wheel and definitely a more daunting thought. I'm really glad he made it back down........

At the Fair...

Another year at the Fair. Even though it's a small town event, the community seems to multiply ten-fold with the arrival of the carnival and the opening of events and exhibits. It is a time to relax and catch up with friends, old and new. It's a time to laugh, eat hot dogs drizzled with catsup and relish, see whose flowers...photograph....pumpkin and squash...take first prize. It's riding the Sizzler and listening to the band, it's little children at the pedal pull, face painting and the parade. It's good old-fashioned fun for young and old alike; stopping the hands of time for two days while everyone goes on hiatus from their daily life.

My husband and I took our annual ride on the Ferris Wheel, viewing the town from a metal nest perched high on silver spokes. We ate wonderful food and visited with people we only see at this time of year......only at the Fair.

We distributed BINGO cards underneath the water tower, boards running along haybales for seats, aprons tied around our waist, filled with dollar bills. All in good humor...smiles surrounding us in a square. No one taking the game or themselves very seriously, knowing that what is spent us usually more than what is taken away. But then, that's hardly the point.

Little ones ride the Merry-Go-Round and beg Mom and Dad for tickets. "Just one more ride!" Parents all in festive moods, enjoying the time with family and knowing it is the last "hurrah" before the reality of school sinks in and the busyness begins.

Laughing faces whiz by on the Tilt-O-Whirl and screams fill the air as the bullet takes a nose dive then spins wildly as it ascends to do it all over again. Teenagers grab one another's hands for a ride on the Ferris Wheel or gather in small groups to discuss the evening's plans. Groups of girls giggle, pretending they don't see the cute boys from the neighboring town. A new couple forms...another breaks up. It's all part of the Fair...

And suddenly....night draws its curtain, lights come on, music begins. A band plays country music and cowboys and their sweethearts -young and old - gather on the make-shift dance floor, spinning to the melody. Boots tapping, faces moist with perspiration in the August heat, smiles everywhere you look.

There is something so comforting, so cozy about sitting on a haybale underneath the stars, watching babies bouncing up and down to the music....and feeling safe and at home with both friends and strangers. There is nothing complicated or extravagant about our little town fair and some may wander into the community and be perplexed at our ability to make a whole lot out of so little. But the memories that we make each year amongst the carnival lights and strains of western harmony are poignant and lasting.

Another Fair over......another summer gone. The carnival has packed up and has moved on to another place to bring light and sound and laughter into new hearts. And as it heads down the road and the town park returns to a quiet normal, the words of Henry Wadworth Longfellow ring in my ear:

And the night shall be fill'd with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fair Time

Tomorrow begins our little town fair: Exhibits and ribbons, craft booths and popcorn, BINGO under the water tower, carnival rides and cotton candy, church dinners and an ice cream social, tractor pulls and Ag Olympics. The early morning fair run, a parade, a band. Livestock and a BBQ. Live music in the park, children playing underneath the stars...

This picture was taken at last year's fair as Meg and Sarah spun in vertical circles in front of me. It was a time to laugh, relax, enjoy. For a small town, it's a big time.

So if I'm silent for a bit.... you'll know why. I'm serving ice cream, hanging photographs for judging and spending time with loved ones.

Please excuse me for a day or two. I have a Ferris Wheel to catch.....

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gentle Rain

"The rain is raining all around
It falls on field and tree....
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea"

I love the sound of rain gently falling on the roof top. There are plenty of days when it comes down in sheets, wind-swept horizontally across the sky. Sometimes this unleashing is adventurous: lightning brazenly throwing its electric bolts as its thundering partner echoes in fury.

But it is the quiet pattering that I enjoy; tear-drop splashes against my window pane.

Perhaps it's reminiscent of youthful days. My friends and I used to walk along the sidewalks of our small town, viewing the world through the transparent bubble of our umbrella. Rain-filled gutters trickled to an unknown sea somewhere under the streets and the roadways shone on a canvas of steel-gray. Shoes squished from meeting with puddles and drops trickled from tips of noses as coverings were cast aside and the rain, embraced.

I have walked in the rain and danced in the rain...
And many songs have been sung about rain:
Laughing in the rain,
Loving rainy nights....
Rainy days and Mondays,
Listening to its rhythm.....

A slow, steady rain means books read under cuddly blankets.
It's hot tea and coffee cake.
It's lying in bed, knowing you're off the hook for yardwork and free to be lazy, spending time in the arms of one you love.
It's board games and videos.
It's hushed voices and sharing.

It's simply a lovely sound, this gentle rain. Falling on the roof top, tapping out a beat... singing a soft melody to slow me down for the day.

Skunk Scared

It was a little darker than usual when I went walking tonight and out here in the country, that can be somewhat intimidating. I must admit that I become a bit unnerved once the sun dips below the horizon and dusk settles across the prairie. The cicadas start their serenade and a new breed of bird joins in. These are calming noises...welcome sounds. I see opossums hiding beneath trees, making their beds for the night and though they aren't the most becoming creatures, they're far from scary. So is it the coyotes who occasionally gather in groups and howl in lonely harmony, the bobcat who lurks in the thicket, waiting for its unsuspecting prey? Not really. I know that both shy away, more afraid of meeting me on this path than I of them. It's not the oogie boogie man...nor the tall Cottonwoods casting long, dark shadows over the creek bed that give me pause. What I fear most, walking along the edge of night is meeting a SKUNK.

Actually, a skunk in itself is really a cute little critter. One afternoon I saw four little babies at the side of the road on my drive home. I stopped the car, rolled down my window and watched as they moved as one, huddled together, their tails in the air. They were fascinating to watch, oblivious to me and intent on their destination. No, cuteness isn't the question, or the fear. It's their tell-tale............tell-TAIL stench!

A couple of years ago one camped out underneath the house of one of our teachers. The next day when she came to school, the pungent odor followed her; into the building, down the hallway and into the classroom. She hadn't even come into contact with the little guy but its trademark smell pursued her with a vengeance and accompanied her anyway. Imagine the impact of meeting face to face, or rather, face to.........

One evening just before twilight, I did encounter a skunk on my way back home. I yelled at my dog, G.T. who was determined to make acquaintance and took off at a dead run. Mishap thwarted. But I know he's out there lurking. He was near the other night while I was mowing and my husband has seen him scurrying to the ditches. Tonight I was out past my walking curfew.....tempting fate. A direct hit would mean isolation; pure and simple quarantine from life as I know it! It would be me and a tent, camping on five acres with only the companionship of a dog, eleven annoying cats, a thousand mosquito's and a wolf spider or two. Under the circumstances, even their company would be questionable!

I sidestepped the rascal this time. Please....take Peppy Le Pew.

Even in animation, there is no love lost here!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Count 'em

This morning after church I was visiting with a gentleman from our congregation. We stood just outside the church house, discussing some of our concerns: jobs, rising gasoline prices and financial woes.

"But you know", I said, "We have so many more blessings to be thankful for than negatives in our lives." He nodded and smiled in agreement for he has had his fair share of hardships and trials, yet continues to believe and have faith.

The very moment I turned to walk towards my car, the church bells began playing a new song. Its title: "Count Your Blessings".

Now that's what I call divine affirmation...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Little Reminder

Mornings are not my time of day. I'm never ready when the alarm goes off and envy the people who can jump right up with a smile on their face.

The other morning I was in the bathroom, getting ready for work when I noticed a small leaf on the floor. This was rather odd since I hadn't been outside yet and the leaf didn't match any of the small trees in our yard.

I picked it up and smiled: it was shaped like a heart.

Sometimes I get caught up in the frenzy of "back to school" and the busyness of the early hours. I don't stop to appreciate all the love in my life and how lost I would be without it. How lovely then, that when I least expected it I was reminded in a way that was subtle, natural....profound. Thank you. I needed that...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Twilight walk

I was going to walk towards the north tonight as I usually do, but saw a raccoon family scampering off to the south and decided to follow them. I should have known better. Our dog, G.T., saw them too and tore off, dust kicking up at his heels. They scattered in two different directions and he lost them in the deep ditches of the road.

I was glad that we went this way. The sunset looked different on the tips of tall grass and wispy, cotton candy clouds floated low to the ground. It is a path that draws the eyes upward at the beauty above us...and it was indeed a night for loveliness.

Everything looks pretty in the light just before dusk. Like candlelight, it casts a glow over the most ordinary objects, giving them a rose-tinged elegance. The sky itself turns the most exquisite blue before succumbing to hues of pinks and oranges.

We reached the creek where cat tails grew wild and were taller than any crops purposely planted in surrounding fields. The hot, August wind blew through their dry leaves and bowed their fuzzy brown tops as I walked amongst them.

G.T. took a bath in the water, standing patiently as I took everything in. I could hear the traffic on the highway a mile away and saw the big, full moon beginning to peek out from the eastern horizon. A small stream of water from recent rains wound through the creekbed, offering a respite for the dry fields and pastures.

We turned back, heading towards home. The moon rose higher, glowing brighter across the milo and hanging like a lantern to usher in the evening. The sounds of night stirred in the twilight and as we passed a small locust tree, I spied one of the tiny raccoons hanging in terror on the uppermost branches. As if it could understand, I spoke softly, assuring the bright-eyed little creature that we were moving on and its mother would soon be back to retrieve it. I wished for my good camera, but took a picture in my mind to share with the children once I got back.

Like a childhood slideshow upon the living room screen, the night had pulled its shade behind the shadows of home, the yard light just flickering on. I saw my daughter's room light glowing and pictured everyone inside, winding down for the day. Before long, the days will start getting shorter and I will miss my twilight walks.

I'm closing the curtain on this day and looking forward, towards tomorrow. Goodnight everyone...


Fifteen years ago with her great grandfather. I've always wondered what each was thinking...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Inevitable

The one thing that stays constant in this life is that things are always changing. Including us.

I never had to worry about my weight when I was younger. I was an active, energetic little girl who rode bikes, played in the creek and unknowingly burnt off calories like a wildfire sweeping across the prairie. As I grew into a teenager and young adult, though I was aware that I could put on weight and feigned caution, I really had no inkling of what it was like to truly "watch" what I ate. Dress patterns were bought in small sizes and jeans slipped on easily over slim hips.
Counting calories and fat grams never entered my mind. I was free to eat what I wanted and did so, never dreaming that there would be a time when I couldn't consume as much pizza, bread and ice cream that I desired. Baggy pants and loose tops were worn, not to conceal, but because they were stylish and the "in" during my college years.

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I put on 35 lbs (much to my doctor's dismay). My face was full, my legs....swollen. And I remember thinking to myself, "I will NEVER be fat." Though there was a reason for my weight gain, I vowed I would never allow myself to reach that size again without the help of a baby inside of me! Within two months after my daughter's birth, I was back to my "normal" weight.

After my son was born, it was a little more difficult (and I was a little bit older). After seeing myself in a vacation photograph, I decided I needed to lose that last 10 pounds and got back to a comfortable, though slightly different-looking, body weight.

And then I turned 40.

I had heard the stories about how a woman's metabolism changes and slows down during her 40's but felt I had a handle on the whole weight thing. And then I got sick. After having a radical, total hysterectomy I initially lost weight. Six months later I had a partial thyroidectomy and since then, everything has run amuck! Though tests indicate my thyroid is functioning normally, in 6 months I went up two dress sizes....and my self-image plummeted.

Once I didn't mind having my picture taken and though a "head shot" is still acceptable, I shy away when a camera is aimed in my direction. I don't recognize the woman in the photograph and though change is inevitable, this is one I really don't like to accept.

The point of this post is not to mourn the former "me". I'm writing it in a sisterhood with all of the women out there who battle with the same thing: my own sisters who are struggling as I am; my friend who once took diet pills and now has a damaged heart; a woman I know who is beautiful to me, but feels she has to lose weight to please another....all the women who wage this war everyday, trying to look the way we are presented to the world on glossy magazine covers and big screen movies.

I read something a long time ago that is now so pertinent. It was written by a gentleman who had shared it with his young daughter when she was feeling a little over confident in her looks:

"When you are 16, you cannot take credit when someone says you are beautiful. Your beauty is the product of youth and good genes. But when you are 60...and someone tells you you are beautiful, then you will know that it is truly of your own doing. They see what is on the inside...the beauty that you have made".

When I look at other women, I don't judge them by their size. I look at the capacity of their heart. I trust that others are doing the same for me. Since I have now crossed the threshold into middle age, the health ramifications of extra weight come into play and it is on this I have chosen to focus. But I will no longer beat myself up because my body has changed along with the rest of me. My concentration will lie on continuing my "inside" journey; working towards my best potential as a wife, mother, woman. Put away the airbrush. Keep your collagen. In 2005...this is me. And I like who that is...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Slowing Down

I rarely drive the speed limit. The orange finger of my speedometer usually rests a good 5 mph below the limit. In a fast-paced world, I refuse to rush.

We were driving down our gravel road, headed south and towards home. Meg was in the passenger seat with treats we had bought at the convenience store three miles away. We were nearly there and my mind was occupied with other thoughts besides the road. As I approached the intersection, a car went zooming by, racing east without so much as a glance....a pause. I slammed on my brakes, heart racing as I realized how close we had come to colliding; 3 more seconds and we would have been in the midst of disaster.

I sat there a moment, heart pounding and looked at my daughter. How could I have been so careless, so absent-minded? Here beside me was one of the most precious things in my life...and I could have lost her in an instant of thoughtlessness. Even though I had the right of way, I should have slowed down, should have looked. Because in traffic, even rural traffic, people don't always do what they're supposed to do.

Since that day, if I find myself speeding up, I slow things down. I remember that moment and let my vehicle find that comfortable place below the limit. There is nothing that is so important that it requires me to rush, to put myself and others in jeopardy.

Yesterday at the rainy intersection of two Kansas highways, a car hydro-planed and hit another, killing two people: a teacher from Oklahoma, and a husband and father of two babies. I was on that very highway, in that very place, just 30 minutes earlier. I don't know if that accident could have been prevented, but as I pray for those families and give thanks for our own safety, I'm reminded of the importance of paying heed on the roadway...and slowing things down.

So go ahead. Pass me if you wish. I'll bide my time driving below the limit. I'm taking the scenic route.......and I'll see you when I get there.

The Melody of My Life

The other evening when we were gathered at my sister's house, the subject turned to a certain cassette tape made by my mother. On it she had recorded some of the songs she had sung to us as children as well as melodies written long before we were born: "Over There", "Pennies from Heaven" and her favorite, "Beyond the Blue Horizon". We found the tape and listened to it on the way back to my parents' house, the car filling with the soft, sweet voice of Mother. I found myself singing along quietly as I remembered both hearing them and sharing them with my own children.

My favorite part is when Mom is singing "When You Wore a Tulip" and my dad begins humming in the background. He then chimes in with the melody while Mother harmonizes and their voices blend well as the tune is carried. At one point they get tickled and you can hear the laughter rising in their voices. It made me laugh along, a joy bubbling up inside of me at the thought of them sitting at the kitchen table, singing into a tape recorder and enjoying the moment.

Twenty-three years have passed since that tape was made; a typical day back in 1982 when I was a young woman in college, my whole life before me. I think about all the years that have passed, seemingly in the blink of an eye. Much has been gained, some has been lost. But I'm thankful that along with the sweet blessings of that fragile cassette tape, I can still hear first hand, the beauty of their song...

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A sign....literally!

I saw this sign while I was in Sedan, KS today. Couldn't resist...

Happy Birthday, Dad

My Dad was born on August 14, 1927. Today is his 78th birthday. Amongst those who will help him celebrate are six of us "children" and twelve grandchildren.

Sometimes one can write volumes, yet say very little. So I will keep this simple:

You are an amazing man, Dad. To know you is to be acquainted with a man of great integrity and strength, a man who finds humor in life but never at the expense of another. A man of faith and wisdom and loyalty...who has stood beside our mother and all of us through 56 years of change and wonder, struggle and joy. It is an honor to be your daughter, with a heritage and history that makes me proud. Thank you for all the intangible gifts that have made my life sing. I Love You, Dad....

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Moon Girl

"Oh look at the moon;
A shining up there ,
Oh darlin' it looks like a lamp in the air...
Last week it was small;
And shaped like a bow,
But now it is big
And it's round like an "O"..."

When my daughter was very tiny she fell in love with the moon. She would sit beside me in the porch swing at night, fresh from her bath in her nightgown, hair in damp ringlets against her cheek and we would sing the "Moon" song as well as others: "Harvest Moon", and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon". We would take her out into the yard so she could see it; sometimes merely a sliver of white, easily jumped by the famous cow and other times a perfect ball of orange, glowing like a Jack-O-Lantern on a crisp October night.

When her fascination for this illuminating wonder continued, I went to the store and purchased some yellow cotton material. From it I fashioned a crescent moon with bright eyes and a crooked smile. "Mooney" went everywhere - from her crib to the swings, vacations and restaurants. No matter where we went, Mooney went too. She would take him outside on clear moonlit nights and show him to his counterpart, nestled just above the trees. It was an enchanting and precious love affair.

Over the years we added Mama and Baby moon, and the trio went from crib to twin bed with the arrival of our own new baby. Eventually, her love for the moon was replaced by the adventures shared with her little brother and the similarly colored orange cat named Oliver. Story books such as "Goodnight Moon" and "Moon Boy" were shelved and the brilliant orb seemed to shut out his light and fade from her heart.

Several months ago we were going through some boxes in storage when she came across her moon family. "Look!" she cried, holding them up and wiping the dust from the worn fabric. "I've been wondering about these." She laid them gently in the seat of the car and when we got home, took them to her room where they once again shine. A bit faded now, stuffing pushing through little tears in the material and embroidery thread missing in places, they hold residence in a stranger's room; a teenage girl with different things and new dreams. Looking at them brings back so many memories, and those nights on the front porch resonate through my mind as I remember the little girl who had not only the world, but also......the moon.

Trying to catch up...

I've been away for a couple of days, visiting family and just returned home. Instead of taking an hour to get here, several detours stretched it out into five: Stopping to pick a tape up from my niece, being trapped in the middle of a heavy downpour, meeting up with my husband and going with him as we traveled to pull his co-worker out of the mud (he was on back country roads surveying storm damage), finding the owner for a lost black lab named "Fred", stopping by Mac Don's for cookies and shakes and finding the cattle that had gotten out - in the midst of rain and darkness - along the highway heading home.

Tapping my ruby red slippers together, breathing a tired sigh and turning in. Goodnight, everyone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

No Words Needed

Dedicated to the one I Love...

Sometimes one is so close to us that we have to be reminded to see them; to remember the things that drew them to our heart in the first place.
I met my husband, James, while I was a single mother. He had lost his first wife in an automobile accident and was parenting on his own as well. I felt at home with him from the start: a friendship that quickly caught fire and lit my world with its constant flame. Sometimes in the whirlwind that is often our life, we forget to stop and remember those early days and the love that brought us to where we now stand.
Astrologically speaking, we are probably ill-suited. I am the harmony-loving Libra who is creative and sensitive, romantic and tuned into the emotional. He is the analytical Capricorn who speaks his mind, is incredibly intelligent and devoted to his work. And sometimes when our opposing personas chafe and frustrate…when I long for flowers and candlelight, I stop myself and think about all the wonderful things that make him the man who captures - and holds - my heart.

How could I forget how he sat with me during my first MRI….how he accompanied me to Mayo Clinic after only knowing one another a month. That late night flight to Minnesota, the hours sitting in the waiting room, the emotions, the unknown.
And when my truck broke down on the interstate….how he drove 100 miles to come rescue me; the relief on his face when he saw me safe…the relief on mine to know he made me so…
How he accepted my children as part of who I was, loving and laughing with them…being our rock.
How he keeps his cool when I lose mine….and his patience with me when most would blow their top. How he takes it in stride when I goof up, back the car into a pole, bounce a check or mess up the mower. How he listens when I read him things I know he has no interest in…and how he surprises me with chocolate and vanilla Diet Coke! How he lets me be independent, yet, lets me lean. How he never falters when my body goes up or down a size, loving me, regardless. How he helps with the Math that perplexes me and fixes everything we lay before him. How he’s stayed beside me through an ice storm, flooding in the basement, two surgeries, loss of work, 20+ cats, 2 dogs, an old Chevy car and all the changes that life has thrown our way.

So in the craziness of our days, when I feel distant...because I am too close…..may I step back. And in doing so, see the truth of the blessing I have...and I hold.

Ode to "Back to School" for the Teacher/Mom

Six thirty playing. Drag to the shower....helps wake me up.
Hair dryer and make-up, toast and juice. Darn! These pants are much too tight...
Packing lunches. "Have your homework?" Book bags, notebooks, signed slips, coat.
"Have a good day, Honey." Kiss at the door... Out we dash, no flats? Let's go!
Six miles, slow down. In the school, 8:00 a.m.

Ringing bells, morning greetings. Cheery faces.... a new day.
Little hands inside of mine. Goofy smiles, melt my heart.
Modes and means, what's the average? Time tables. Try again.
Cross your t's and dot your i's. Recess time...hands to yourself.
After lunchtime sticky shirts, stories read to, pencils, pens....
I think your library book is due, don't forget your P.E. shoes.
What a lovely picture, sweetheart. You like Art? Yeah, me too.
Final bell...out you go. Here's your homework, see you soon.

Home to laundry. Make some cookies...what's for supper? Almost done...
Geometry homework, let me see it. Been awhile, it's Greek to me...
When's your paper due? Better get started... Deadline's coming, don't be late.
Sweep the floor, tomorrow's trashday, Wash the dishes...feed the cats.
All sports meeting, I'll be there.... Is my uniform clean? Game's at seven...
Twirling flags, I forgot that part. No one noticed, don't worry, dear...
Sign-up sheet. A new commitment. Help me, watch me, listen, look.....
I need five dollars, Mom. What for? FFA dues? In my purse...
Help with costumes? Of course I will...
Can you bring a cake? Mark me down...
Birthdays next week, I'll make cards...
The fair is coming, you're down for Bingo,
Church supper first, please bring two pies...
Dance on Friday, mind your curfew. Thanks for being such great kids...
I'm sorry your friend wasn't so nice... I'm proud, though, of your good, kind heart...
Check my email...write some more.
Your day went well, dear? Glad to hear it...mine was fine, too. Nice you asked.

Done with homework? Time for bed now...
Fold the clothes, hugs all around.
It's late now, darling..... School tomorrow.
Goodnight, Sweet Dreams, Love You, God Bless.......

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Missing Bev...

One of the best gifts we can be given in life is a true friend. I have been fortunate and blessed through the years to have many, but one of the dearest and most wonderful is my friend, Bev.

We met while working at the same university. She was in the Advancement Office and I was across campus, in the library. We hit it off immediately, though different backgrounds, personalities and 12 years separated us. Luckily for us both, none of these things have anything to do with a friendship.

I once read a verse that said: "A true friend is one who comes in when the whole world has gone out", and that definitely describes some of the moments when she has been beside me; sitting by my hospital bed and talking me through the hours following an arteriogram, listening to me vent and cry....checking on me when she knew I was alone. Her love and loyalty has brought me through some difficult times and carried me when I couldn't walk on my own.

And the joy.....! We have sat in our favorite restaurant many times, talking late into the night, not realizing that everyone around us was leaving. With Bev, things are brighter, more in "technicolor". She brings out a part of me that I love and miss when she's not around. No one else has ever made me laugh so much, so often or so hard about the silliest things. With the twinkle in her eye and her sharp wit, she can get me to smile in a moment- and keep it there - regardless of where we are or what we're doing. We have spent so much time together that it is nothing unusual to open my door and find my outfit mirrored in hers or thoughts expressed in same words at the same time. Everyone should have a friend like that. Everyone needs a "Bev".

Four years ago she sang at my wedding...and stood beside me as I nervously began a new journey in my life. And a few months ago she, too, remarried and started another chapter in hers. The mile that once stood between our two houses has stretched into nearly 200....and I miss her terribly. We write letters and talk on the phone, but it isn't the same as spending "person" time together; talking, sharing, laughing.

God knew all those years ago I needed a true friend. He placed Bev in my pathway as a compass to guide me over the brambles of life, back into the sunshine. I'm so thankful to walk beside her still and thank Him for this wonderful treasure. Miss you, Ethel.....

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Signal

"Don't forget to signal!" We'd call to my mother as she left our room and headed downstairs each night.

Outside of the low south window of our bedroom we could see the yard light, glowing in the darkness and illuminating the farm. It was a constant beacon of comfort in the midst of a shadowed country night. After baths and stories, my mother would kiss us softly on the cheek and leave our room as we called after her to "signal".

As she descended the stairway she would say, "I'll see you in my dreams". Many times we would ask her what she would be wearing and she would describe a favorite dress from her limited wardrobe. And then, leaning up in our beds we would watch and wait until the yard light flickered on and off: once, twice...three times. And snuggling deep beneath the covers we would contently drift off to sleep in the comfort of Mother's goodnight message: "I - Love - You".

Closed on Sunday

Sundays used to mean freshly pressed dresses with matching purses....white, buckled shoes and Sunday School. We'd come home to a large dinner, all eight of us around the round, oak table, then to Wichita to visit my grandma and grandpa. We'd all line up on their couch and sit quietly...not speaking unless spoken to, until we were given permission to "run and play". We'd creep up attic stairs, sit on front porch steps to watch the traffic on Harry Street or play with toys now considered precious antiques.

We'd drive home along deserted city streets where families frolicked together or worked in their yards. Closed garage doors kept everyone home and quiet evenings were filled with "Walt Disney" and "Bonanza" while having popcorn and Grape Crush.

There were no Quik Trips, no Wal-Marts. Like a twenty-first century Christmas Day, Sundays were closed. We planned around it, not even thinking twice. It was a day for worship, a day for family. It was the seventh day of rest to recharge, reflect, relax.

Unfortunately there are times when I get caught up in the Sunday madness and make a trip into town. But how I long for the days when the sidewalks rolled up on a Saturday night and were kept in quiet seclusion until the dawn of Monday.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

My Hands

We were at the mall today, shopping for various items when a young gentleman in one of the shops called out to me. He was holding a bottle of hand lotion, "from Israel", he said; lotion that would make my hands soft, my nails strong. He asked to see them, and it was then that I politely declined and turned away.

I was embarrassed to show him. I do not have pretty hands. I may have once, but what I see now would hardly grace the glossy-paged ads for hand care items. I have never had a manicure, never sat in plush chairs with trays of lovely, shiny polishes before me. I fear there is little hope for them, these working hands of mine.

They have seen the sun from hours on the mower. A size 6 that once fit loosely is now quite snug as pregnancies and surgeries, hard work and a touch of arthritis have changed them from the delicate hands of my youth to the beginnings of middle age. They have been smashed and cut, jammed and burnt. There have been blisters and calluses for they have dug in the dirt, washed hundreds of dishes, carried heavy loads. They have held hammers and screw drivers, drawn pictures and sewn clothes. Little hands have held them tightly and big hands have kept them warm. Runny noses and tears have been wiped and healed, letters of love and good-bye, written and sealed. They have held books and flowers, taken photographs and steered bicycles. Thrown balls with children and rice at weddings. They have clenched in pain and clapped with joy. They have worn rings and gloves, scrubbed and scraped. They've brushed painted canvases and little girl's hair; molded clay, played the piano, knitted scarves and clasped in prayer.

They will never be pretty, these hands of mine. But how they have served me through these years. There will never be compliments, aesthetically speaking; no lotion will ever change that. So thank you, but no thank you. These are working hands. And I wouldn't have it any other way...

Friday, August 05, 2005

In Memory of a Treasure, Sarah

A Death Has Occurred
by Paul Irion

A death has occurred and everything is changed.

We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again,

that yesterday is over,

that relationships once rich have ended.

But there is another way to look upon this truth.

If life now went on the same,

without the presence of the one who has died,

We could only conclude that the life we remember

made no contribution, filled no space, meant nothing.

The fact that this person left behind a place that cannot be filled

is a high tribute to this individual.

Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost.

But never after the loss of a treasure.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Today I learned that two young lives have been taken from this earth: a six-month-old baby girl who was ill from the moment of her birth....and a beautiful young woman who had just begun living her life. Neither makes any sense to me and I cannot help but wonder "why"? It makes me hold my own children just a little bit closer.....

My message tonight is brief.
Say, "I Love you."
Cherish every moment.
Hug often.
Love everyday.
Be kind.
Show compassion.
Make memories.

Monday, August 01, 2005

More of what I love

Wet clothes flapping on a clothesline, old autograph books from my past...
The smell of fresh baked bread, and eating it with lots of butter!
Laughing so hard that you cannot chocolate on a cold winter's day.
Finding something you love on sale,
Hard wood floors...
Home-made pie. What kind? Yes!
Walking barefoot through soft, fine sand.
Old attics full of memories....
Knowing I have made someone's day
Pretty yarn in all kinds of colors and textures...
Writing long, hand-written letters
Receiving long, hand-written letters...
Funky colored pens and notebooks
Finding that perfect parking space...
Escalators...and chance encounters
Flying in an open cock-pit plane.... watching clouds and their beautiful patterns
Singing in the church cantata
Finding money in the pocket of an old coat....... the smell of rain...
The anticipation of waiting for someone at the airport....waiting for that moment of eyes meeting...
Browsing through an antique store with a free afternoon
Rope swings with slotted board seats, hanging from big, old trees
Tomatoes eaten right off the vine, warm from the sunshine...
A fuzzy robe and slippers after a hot bath on a cold night
Finding a good book......... and "just one more chapter..."
Hot tamales and pop at the movies
The craft aisles at Wal-Mart....and all of Hobby Lobby!
Coasting downhill on a bike, the wind in my hair...
Sunflowers in August and good "hair" days!
My dog, G.T. and taking walks together
The smell of hay on a summer day
Folding warm clothes from the dryer in winter time
Indian Summer....and old-fashioned cowboys.....
Laughing at old family slides from a 1960's projector
No-bake cookies....
Caroling on Christmas Eve...and kerosene lamps...
Having - and enjoying - some alone time...
Believing that chivalry is not dead...and watching it in action.
Reconnecting with an old friend.....and the hours of endless talk that follows....
I've always loved this picture, taken many years ago when my teenagers were babies. Though they are still close, I don't often get to see the hugs and bursts of affection that they showed one another when they were small and unaffected by what was "cool".

A hug is so powerful....and it can say much. "I Love You." "You were missed." "Hello"...and "Goodbye." "I'm so sorry." "I'm here for you...." And sometimes it can say with a gesture, what we cannot articulate.

Who do you need to hug today?