Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Tonight I began the transformation from autumn decor to the magic of Christmas. Since we had family here Sunday for Thanksgiving, I wanted to extend the beautiful fall season until after our celebration.

I love this time of year. Everything seems more beautiful, crisp, vibrant...and each day is filled with the loveliness of the season. It always goes too fast for me and I want time to slow down so I can savor the sights, smells and sounds sitting by the tree with only its lights filling the room.

I have two tapes that I cherish and look forward to hearing once November's turkey has been put away. The first is a recording made back in 1982. I was 21 that year and home from college. My brother was also home and playing the piano as my sister and I sang along. We didn't know that my mother was recording so played, laughed and sang uninhibited. My grandfather, who has l
ong passed, was talking in the background and you can feel the joy and love in the air. Listening to it takes me back those 23 years as if it were yesterday and I am once again in that living room, seated beside my brother and laughing with my family.

The second tape is one made by that same brother, some 15 years later. On it he plays many beloved carols and if I shut my eyes, I can believe he is in the next room, sharing his time and music. He is really far away, in Seattle, Washington, but for the moment he is here with me.

Christmas memories, Christmas treasures. As always, my past taps upon my shoulder as I get ready to celebrate a new year. I am blessed that my remembrance is of happy times and lovely people. May this season usher in new moments of joy and may our hearts be touched by its profound love.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Baby it's cold outside!

Old man winter interrupted autumn's extended stay with his bitter winds and falling mercury. Snow fell across our window pane this evening, but will leave us with just a trace. My days have been full and I look forward to having some time to write again. Just not tonight! I hope to catch up with everyone soon.


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Over the Meadow and Through the Woods

There is nothing like spending time with family, especially on Thanksgiving. It's always been my favorite holiday to gather together. There is nothing on the agenda except good food and memorable times spent talking, laughing and enjoying each other's company.

Thanksgiving was always celebrated at home, first as a young child on the farm with my paternal grandparents then throughout my adolescence and young adulthood; gathered at the large, round table in Mom and Dad's dining room. The atmosphere was always warm, cozy and inviting and there was almost always an extra guest at our table; a neighbor who had no place to go, an older widow in our community, or one of our many friends. Like every other day of the year, our home was open and welcoming. As each year passed, our family grew; weddings brought us new brothers and sisters, soon followed by little nieces, nephews, and my own children.

Now we, the next generation, are taking our turn to host this special celebration. This year my oldest sister invited everyone into her home; parents, siblings, children, in-laws, friends. After a wonderful meal a word search was passed around as we raced through to determine a winner, followed by a few rounds of BINGO. Dollar items were scattered on the table in the breakfast nook for the winners and we played until each child had had his or her turn in picking something out.

There were many laughs, new faces, and much joy as we shared this warm and special day. Cameras flashed everywhere as the moments were captured and family pictures were taken for Christmas cards. And though I'm always thankful for tangible proof that it was indeed, a glorious day, the true memories are those that I'll carry inside; treasured keepsakes of a day filled with love.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mom!

To the most beautiful woman I know....Happy Birthday, Mother. What would I have ever done without you?

(I am reposting something I wrote last summer, and though I know that is a blog "no-no", it only seems fitting to share it again today, on her special day. I Love you, Mom.)


In 1978 I had my "golden birthday"....17 on the 17th. My mother gave me a small book covered in gold leaf. Inside for every date there were quotes from Longfellow's works and a place to write names of loved ones who held birthdays on those days. The true gift was tucked inside: a letter from my mother.

It may not be quite legible here in this place; those lovely sentiments of sweetness and love given to me that day. But I know what it says and I cherish her words, both with that teenage girl heart of years ago and with the heart of the woman I am today. Besides...the letter really isn't the point. My mother is.

There were six children growing up in our home. I am the 5th, the baby girl. My mother spun our world with her genuine heart, her special songs, her kind and gentle spirit and her love for beauty. We had home-grown flowers, always....and paintings on the walls. Many of these she did herself in the midst of raising children and helping my father on the farm. She knit, sewed, baked, gardened, washed clothes in an old wringer machine, sang, gave, felt, loved. We were treated as individuals with our own talents and personalities and our dreams were inspired, encouraged and embraced.

In the days when many women roll their eyes at their mother's comments, dread maternal visits and fear "sounding like their mother", I feel fortunate, lucky, blessed to spend time with a woman who at 78, is the youngest - and most beautiful - woman I know. I am honored to be my mother's daughter.

I've had my moments over the years, made my share of mistakes....and I'm not sure that today I deserve those lovely words of 1978...nor her compliments now. But a mother's love is unconditional. It isn't about whether we've let them down or made them proud. There's no way to earn it and many times we probably don't deserve it. But when it comes from a woman of grace, a woman of God...there are no restrictions, no prerequisites. With a mother such as mine, it just is.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you all a very safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. May you truly celebrate all of the wonderful blessings in your life!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Two Blessings

I learned that I was going to have my first baby around Thanksgiving time back in 1988. In July of 1989, a beautiful auburn-haired angel came into my life....and I was never the same again. Not quite three years later, her younger brother joined her; a happy, precious little boy who stole my heart.

I feel blessed every day to have such sweet and wonderful children, but during this special time of the year set aside to ponder all the good things in our lives, I am truly made aware of how incredibly lucky I am.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Color My World

Yesterday at school I was coloring a picture of a turkey for a game we'll be playing with our students next week. The children love it when I draw or color, and always ask for their own pictures to take home. As a result, I incorporate art into my lessons as much as I can. It is a window for children, an opportunity; not just for learning, but for experiencing beauty as well.

I grew up in a home where art
was expressed and appreciated. My dad would bring home old blueprint paper for us to draw on, its purple-faced lines and words turned over to reveal a perfect and unblemished sheet of pure white. It was the best gift he could have given us. My sister and I would spend hours making our "Calico and Numpy" cat books, and Mom would write in the dialogue since we were too young to write. I can't remember a time when I didn't have a pencil, crayon, or marker in hand to create in the world of imagination.

Often we would look up to find my mother sketching us at our play. "Don't do me, Mom!" we'd cry, though secretly we couldn't wait to see how it turned out. Her favorite remark - if we'd comment on its lack of resemblance - would be, "I'm not a camera, kids!" And how blessed we were that she wasn't.

I truly don't know how she did it. There were six of us kids and a husband to take care of, clean up after, cook and wash for and still she made time to make beautiful things. We would often find her at the kitchen table with acrylics, brush and canvas, creating something new to color our world. We would lean on little elbows, watching the picture come to life with dabs of burnt umber, denim blue and harvest gold. Finished products decorated our walls with warmth and personality, and sometimes one was given to a special aunt or close friend. To us all, they were great masterpieces.

Coloring books were a treasure around our house. We would flop on our tummies with a new book, open it up to the most detailed and lovely page and mark it with a big "M". We wanted the best to go to Mother, and we would pass the time with a box of crayons until she could lie on the floor beside us and bring our selection to life. I have vivid images of brightly colored daffodils and azure skies where she would add her own birds and fluffy clouds; an ordinary black and white page transformed into a brilliant wonder. We would try to imitate her technique, but could never quite master it.

We are all grown up now with children of our own, yet color and art are still a big part of each of our lives. We have planted the rich seed given to us at birth and watched it grow through the years. It has bloomed in many various ways in our homes and gardens, and made the view much more interesting and beautiful.

So when a child asks for a drawing or a picture to color, I give it willingly. Perhaps he or she will be the next Monet or DeVinci, and at the very least, they'll have a chance to color their own world, like my Mother did for me.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rear View

I have always been an observer; sitting quietly and looking through doorways that have been left open. One can learn a lot by standing back and letting the world teach through quiet observation. Like watching my parents alone on the beach; the morning sun reflecting off the water, absorbed in one another while shell-seeking. Or seeing the children as they witness the ocean for the first time, little hands held tightly together, pants rolled up in anticipation of incoming waves. There are barefooted finds amongst misty spray, and they are completely oblivious to my presence as they fill pockets with new treasures. I like to watch and listen; active fingers and scrunched toes, busy in animated conversation.

I see my son's father, hands clasped in his lap as they absorb firelight and roasted marshmallows; a little boy enamored with Dad and the magic of nature. I watch in silence as my brother shares a beautiful waterfall with my mother, ever protecting her as they stand on a rocky ledge

I hold my breath as my daughter and her friends step gingerly across the flow of water, knowing I have to let her go; to allow her wings to experience life, while trusting in her wisdom and her goodness.

I follow behind my mom and sister after a blissful day in the pumpkin patch and though am not privy to their words, am always close to their hearts.

Life is filled with wonderful moments. But it doesn't always have to be interactive. Sometimes it's all right to be outside of the box, peeking inside at the quiet lessons being taught. There is much to be gained by watching, listening, pondering, reflecting. And it's important to know that it's not all about us; that others can take the stage and sing, while we proudly and joyfully look on.

Words are not always necessary, and observation from a step back can enlighten and enchant us. As beautiful as one's face can be, the flow and syncopation of their grace in movement can delight and linger, saying much without saying a word.

Don't be afraid to stand still for a moment. The view can be amazing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What Used To Be...

I remember this night. It was clear and crisp; a Christmas Eve night nearly twenty years ago.

It was our tradition, my mother, sister and me, to walk around our little town on the night before Christmas, taking in the beautiful lights and softly singing carols. I had stopped for a moment to look up at the starlit sky when my sister snapped this photograph.

I was a young woman then, filled with dreams and hopes, and my heart was still wide open to love, opportunity and the future that lay ahead. All I had known to that point was the security of a close family, dear and faithful friends and a cup brimming with blessings. I trusted the world, believing in its goodness, and my faith in the kindness of humanity was strong. I followed the Golden Rule, marking my journey along a sun-lit, lovely path.

But life is not always easy. We learn that somewhere in the midst of adulthood. The path twists and turns, sometimes going uphill in a tiring direction, sometimes rolling downhill and out of control. Dreams are lost and pieces are broken. And shadows sometimes shroud the sun.

I look at her, that woman back then, and miss what used to be. The youthful innocence is gone now and life has aged her tender heart. Opportunities have come and gone, dreams have changed. Yet, much remains. I still count my blessings, I still feel great joy. And the secret, I've found, through the twists and the turns, is not biding my time waiting for life to happen, but in grasping it tightly right nowwhile it's here.

I remember the girl who used to be. She grew and she changed but somewhere, somehow..... still....she is here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A glorious farewell

It was the last of our beautiful days; a prolonged Autumn that boldly flaunted its lovely leaves and warm breezes long after its introduction.

I loved the performance: golden Cottonwoods and brilliant blue skies, lingering temperatures that belied the calendar, shirt sleeves and sunshine. What a thrilling encore you gave us!

When tomorrow dawns, old man winter will be blowing his gusty breath against my windowpane. The beloved leaves of gold will skirt along the road before coming to rest in the ditches and the frost will steal the last brilliant petals from the flowerbeds.

But before the new season comes briskly marching in, I stop to savor the lingering shadows, the twilight wisps of amber, the rows of pink upon pumpkin...and applaud as the curtain falls upon this glorious autumn evening.

Same Like Same

Like granddaughter.

I see so much of my mother in my daughter. How incredibly wonderful that is!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Young at Heart

My mom is 78 years old, yet she is one of the youngest people I know. The little girl inside of her still loves paperdolls and tea parties and remembers how to laugh and play. She surrounds herself with lovely things and loving people and always carries optimism and joy inside her pocket. What an extraordinary example she is to us all.... and how very much we all love her.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day here in our small town is more than just a passing thought. It is a day dedicated to remembrance, patriotism, gratitude, thankfulness. Outside of our classroom hangs a paper chain flag, symbols of the branches of our military services, and a roll of all the veteran's known within our families and community.

All classroom activities stop and the town stands still as we congregate in the gymnasium to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the armed forces during both peace and war time. We stand and sing, "God Bless America", "Battle Hymn of the Republic", and "America the Beautiful", grateful that we are still allowed to express our love for both country and God. And it continues: The Pledge of Allegiance; "The Star Spangled Banner"; poems read by high school students; voices of young children raised high with pride as they sing and sign about the great country we live in; name after name upon a screen as haunting music fills the room; proud men and women seated at the front, rising slowly, but speaking with conviction about the days they spent aboard ships, in fox holes, airborne, far away from home and family, yet...following their heart.

The handful of veterans who still live among us are honored with a lunch at the school and are seated amidst colorful red, white and blue posters made by the art class as stories are shared and memories go back. Then as morning flows into afternoon, class by class we board school buses that take us out to the beautiful little cemetery on the eastern edge of town.

A stone memorial rests beneath a brilliant, billowing U.S. flag and the warm weather belies the November date. Students from the American History class are scattered throughout the cemetery, portraying veterans who rest there. Their clothing depicts the era of long ago; a naval uniform worn by the great granddaughter of an officer of World War II, Army greens with stripes and ties, and even a lone soldier and his horse from the Civil War. They speak of love of country, love of home, love of family. Pictures of young faces stare up from brown photographs; faces of sacrifice, faces of freedom.

It was humbling, out there on the waving prairie, to stand amongst true heroes from our past. And though it was a day lost in the classroom, it was truly a day of education. Hopefully it was a moment these children will take with them and remember.

May each of us treat our world - and each other - in such a way that we are worthy of these extraordinary people's selfless sacrifice and may we never forget. For like Jesus himself, these brave soldiers did indeed give their own that we could live.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


When I was 17 years old, I donated blood for the very first time. A group of us from our high school went together holding hands and holding our breath as we tried to expect the unexpected. A small girl then, I barely met the weight requirements for donation and had a difficult time with light-headedness. A fellow classmate actually passed out. It wasn't the most wonderful experience, certainly not one conducive to repeating. But repeat it I did.

All through college, lying on rubbery lawn-type chairs in the chilly student union; at the Presbyterian Church in the town where I used to live, at the hospitals where I worked, and later, in my own church. Sometimes it didn't phase me, but most of the time it took a day or two to fully feel like myself again.

Nineteen ninety-nine was the last time I donated. Until today. In the six years inbetween I struggled with anemia and was turned away by the nurses; for my own health as much as for the recipient's.

Nearly two years ago I, myself, received two blood transfusions: one before and the second following surgery. I immediately felt new life coursing through my veins as the old, worn-out me was replaced with vibrance and energy. I saw things from the other side of the hospital bed and it reaffirmed the importance of this life-altering - sometimes life-saving - gift.

Sometimes it's easy to let the opportunity pass. We feel given out. It seems as if one more person asks something of us we will disintegrate into a million little pieces, overwhelmed, fatigued, worn-out. But today, when my day started off with a major set-back, giving to someone else was exactly the right thing to get my focus back on track.

So whether it's a pint of blood, or simply a smile....give. You have no idea the extraordinary gift it may turn out to be.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I Oughta Be Painting....

Our annual church "fall festival" is coming up and that means lots of good food and an auction held to raise money for the church. Last year I painted these paver stones to be sold to the highest bidder and was asked to do it again this year. Well, I haven't even started, and it's this Saturday.


I'm also supposed to be drawing the cover and inserts for our church cookbook...but I can't get motivated. Too many things and too little time to do them. I need another "me". Any volunteers?!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


"One of these days I'm going in there to have a look." I have thought that so often when passing by this antique store, never knowing when - or even if - it was open. My mother, assuring me that it was indeed open, asked me if I'd like to go this afternoon. I decided right then that it was the perfect day for browsing through treasures.

I have always loved antiques and the shops where they are housed; beautiful, delicate china plates and tea cups set upon old, oak cabinets; sturdy, faded toys I'm beginning to recognize from my childhood; clusters of rings and brooches with secret stories from the past; haunting black and white photographs of smileless faces; enchanting, scripted postcards with heartwarming originality. When I enter such a place, the hands of time spin backwards, and somewhere some hidden pendulum is silently stopped.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this place bright and welcoming; beautiful, classical music playing softly in the background, light filtering through the windows, things displayed in parlor fashion in little nooks, and cider simmering in a silver pot atop an antique table.

My mother followed the clerk into a book-filled room as they searched through dusty covers for a familiar title. I found myself at the bottom of a narrow staircase, looking up into newspaper images of Ike and old war uniforms which were hung carefully against the railing. I slowly ascended the wooden stairs and found myself in a different era.

I felt as if I had turned the corner into my grandmother's attic. Beautiful, linen dresses with crocheted inlay were displayed against lace, their bodices sheer, delicate, lovely. Hats of all shapes and sizes were perched on stands like graceful, feathered birds in all the colors of the rainbow. Hat boxes from Houston and Chicago laid on closet shelves as if their owners would be needing the contents that very evening for some festive celebration.

The afternoon lighting and warm essence of autumn edged the lace curtains in gold and the room felt hushed as if in quiet remembering. I could have stayed up there the rest of the afternoon, trying on the hats and running my hands along the aged fabric and intricate lacework. It's times like these that make me wonder if I am of another generation and perhaps, born too late.

We get so busy with our lives that we don't always take the time for precious moments like these. And that's a shame.

I'm glad that on this lovely day, I stopped long enough to not just smell the roses, but to pick some for my memory's keeping. How comforting it will be to return to the warmth of this day in the midst of the winter that lies ahead. And how wonderful, knowing its reflection will remain when spring's caress gently comes again.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Time for bed everyone. Goodnight!

Time With a Friend

Today my friend, Shelly, and I went on a long overdue outing. We did some early Christmas shopping then she took me to Chili's for a late birthday lunch.

We were ecstatic to find that the dollar shop had everything marked down to 60 cents (it takes so little to amuse!) and I loved looking at all the pretty new yarn at the craft stores.

At Hobby Lobby we discovered all kinds of cute snowmen that we're absolutely positive we can make ourselves. Of course, I had to snap a photo so we could remember what one of them looked like (is that permissible?!)

Being with her was just what the doctor ordered. It's been a very long and exhausting week and I really needed some time with someone who "gets me". We talked and laughed and recharged our batteries. It felt good just to be "me" for a little while.

I think I may even be ready for Monday...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Lopi

With the onset of autumn comes that chill in the air; too warm for a coat, yet too cool for shirt sleeves. Finding the morning a bit brisk today, I went to my closet and came across my Lopi.

Lopi wool comes from a long-haired sheep in Iceland, but my Lopi sweater came from my mother. Back in the late 1970's her knitting needles worked continuously on patterned sweaters with roomy hoods and flowered pockets.

My next door neighbor and good friend, Angie, fell in love with my Lopi and soon became the recipient of her own as Mom usually knit in quantities, never wanting to leave anyone out.

Being a sweater-jacket and fitting loose on the body, it wasn't worn for style as much as for warmth. It allowed us to sit outside on chilly days, leisurely reading in the porch swing or sitting on the front steps. Though somewhat scratchy at first, our bodies would soon acclimate to its texture and dissolve into warmth amidst its comforting embrace.

My mother's hands have made so many beautiful things for us throughout the years, and thankfully I've had sense enough to hold onto most of them. They are a constant reminder of her love for art, and her love for us.

I could travel the world over and probably find stylish designs made of rich yarns and fabrics with fancy price tags. But I'd rather wrap myself up in memories with a warmth that transcends the body and touches the heart. Everyone should feel that kind of love. Everyone should have a "Lopi".


The Cottonwood tree is the essence of Kansas; the John Hancock of its declaration. Its branches arch over roadways and split into jagged V's that line the sky in dark silhouette. The leaves, in contrast to sturdy bark, are delicate; rounded triangles that rustle together in whispered syncopation.

Our state tree, the Cottonwood stands strong, triumphant, majestic through the pull of each season; the harsh, cold winters of ice and snow, springtime's fury of storms, and summer's penetrating heat and galing winds. And during Autumn, it changes so quickly and subtly into its golden dressings that the ordinary suddenly turns into the spectacular.

So it is with our people. We may seem
ordinary, laid-back, plain. The glamour of the more appealing and visual grabs the fickle attention of a world on a fast-moving track.

But we endure with strength and resilience; bending with the wind, adjusting to the harsh sun, soaking up the rain. We fork in different directions and grow to different heights. And though each brings new perspectives and patterns to the palette of our lives, we come together through joy and despair to make a statement.

As autumn finally marches in, I look up. I notice the beauty and the strength that I so often take for granted. I'm thankful for the place that I stand and the people by my side. And though my corner of the world is just a very small part of a very large square, I am in awe at its magnificence.

So as leaves change color and the sky burst into cobalt blue, I tuck a quilt of comfort around me; content in my place, happy in my heritage and trusting that winter's arrival will be merely a slow introduction to new growth, new beginnings and new blooms.