Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sweet Dreams

The wind howls outside the window...
The computer hums a serenade...
The clock ticks in perfect syncopation...
A soft squeak from a chair of leather...
In the distance, the traffic flows by on the highway...
My son sighs in deep slumber...
The keys tap a rhythmic sing-song pattern...
Somewhere a plane flies overhead...

The sounds of night time are all around me, calling me to go to sleep.
I have a list a mile long of undone things and unsaid words and worries left to make all right. But today I've done the best I can, it's time to put the day to rest.
Tomorrow we'll all start again, but now it's time to say, "Good Night."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Louise's Luncheonette

The diner is open....and the costumes are finished - yippee!

I'm such a procrastinator, but with the end of spring break (sniff, sniff) and the play less than two weeks away, I finally sat down today and spent some time with my sewing machine. Now it's down to minutes with an iron.

The setting is a 1950's diner and there will be a lot of fun music from that era, a Ricky Nelson-style rock star and lots of poodle skirts and pony tails. With 6:30 a.m. practices before school, I think everyone is getting closer to being performance-ready!

Shoo Bop A Boo Bop, She Bop Do Dop!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Go Fly A Kite

My son and his friend are out flying a kite. They have taken a small piece of colorful plastic and turned it into something beautiful, setting it assail on a sea of air. It swoops and soars, dipping low on the horizon then suddenly zooms skyward, blending with the clouds as if part of its natural canvas.

It's amazing how something so simple can be so beautiful. And how giving wing and flight to such simplicity can make one's heart sing.

Put away your wallet; step back from the television; the laundry and dishes will surely wait. Set course, get your ticket, climb aboard, set sail. Go fly a kite.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Being Lazy

It is 10:30 on a Wednesday morning...and I am still in my robe. Though it's spring break, I've been working 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the past couple of days doing floors at the school, and I decided to be a bum this morning and sleep in. The last few weeks have been exhausting and harried..... and I feel like I'm always on my way to somewhere else.

Life has a way of rushing us along its path; our calendars filled to the brim, always on the move. I try to observe along the way and take breaks for small moments that can add beauty and solace to each day. I've found that if we don't make those times for ourselves, no one else will schedule them for us.

Today while you're looking both ways before you run across the street, notice the flowers on the corner, the sweet little girl in her father's arms, the feel of the sunshine on your back, the smells from the bakery, the smile on another's face. While you're living this life, don't forget to stop every once in awhile and really enjoy it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thanking his thoughtfulness

A package arrived yesterday from a small college in Nebraska. Inside lay two sets of CD's; two thoughtful gifts from one lovely benefactor.

I wrote earlier of a gentleman, the Chair of this college's music department, who honored my request, taking it to a higher level and giving both my friend and I a collection of beautiful, a cappella choral music.

The gray-shadowed light was beginning to filter in through the school's doorway this morning when I took my friend aside and handed her a small, lavender bag. She read the card, smiled and gave me a hug for the sentiments I had shared, then reached for what lay between the tissue paper. It took just a moment for her to realize what they were and her face lit up with both surprise and pleasure. I told her the story of this wonderful man I had talked with who turned out to be, her choir director from nearly 20 years ago. She held the discs close as her smile grew wider and hugged me once more, saying, "This is the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me."

We all have the ability to make someone's day. I made a phone call and in return, was given the beautiful gift of thoughtfulness and inspiration from a man who is no longer a stranger, but a kindred spirit. He understood both my heart and my friend's longing for the sweet music of her youth. With one simple thought, and one grand gesture he reached out to embrace us both with a Christ-like grace. How beautiful for us all.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NY, NY...and home again

I want to go to New York. I want to circle the air above the Statue of Liberty and see what my ancestors first experienced on their voyage across the Atlantic. I want to have my picture taken in Times Square and ride the elevators in Macy's. I want to see "Phantom" on Broadway and sit on the veranda of a Jazz club, listening to the brass while surrounded by a thousand twinkling lights. I want to ride in a limo, a carriage, a taxi.....and talk to the people who are driving each one. I want to climb to the greatest heights and look out at the nightime skyline and across the harbor where the lady gracefully sheds her light on our weary spirits. I want to eat at a sidewalk cafe, browse through the stores and buy flowers from a corner vendor. I want to watch the people in suits and designer sunglasses as they rush madly about, wondering if they realize what is really important; studying their faces and looking for the soul behind the eyes that look past me. I want to visit museums and ride a subway and dance among the flowers on a garden rooftop. For just a moment I want to become one of the crowd, blending into the masses, tapping into another part of who I am.

And then I'll come home to my wheatfields and meadows where wildflowers bloom with reckless abandon. I'll ride in a pick-up truck with worn-out shocks and drive down dusty roads. I'll sit in the audience as my children perform in a little school play and pick flowers for the table from my own backyard. I'll eat at the small cafe up on the hill and generously tip the waitress who gives me a tired smile and keeps my coffee cup filled. I'll have my picture taken as I play with the dog or shoot baskets with my son, climb to the top of the bluffs and watch as the sun sets low on the prairie. I'll talk to those who have descended from the pioneers; people who bravely came out west to build what we now call home. I'll look into eyes that meet mine and find light, love, contentment.

Someday I'm going to New York....and it's going to be fabulous!
Though I'll be completely out of my element, I'll relish the chance to step outside of my box, experience new things and make lasting memories.

And then I'll step back into the box,
explore different things, have treasured moments.
I'll come back home again....and it's going to be wonderful!

Knitting 101

One night when my son was playing Jr. High basketball, I took my yarn and knitting needles so I could knit between games. I was in the stands, concentrating on the project in my lap when a little boy from my class came to sit beside me. He is a beautiful 10-year-old with fabulous charm and wit. His translucent blue eyes watched me carefully. "Hey, can you teach me how to do that?"
I looked at him, this enthusiastic ball of energy and smiled. Because there is a story behind this little guy.
He was born with hydrocephalus and has had many surgeries to place and work on a shunt which drains the fluid from his brain. Due to these circumstances and having missed so much school, he is in our class for learning disabled students. When I came here four years ago, I immediately fell in love with his charisma and perpetual grin; a ornery, happy-go-lucky child who is never afraid to tackle a project and put himself completely in the moment.
"Of course I can," I said. "I'll tell you what. Tomorrow I'll bring some larger needles and some yarn to the game and we can learn right here."
A heart-stopping smile. "Okay!" he said. We had a date.
The next night, true to form, there he was. His eyes found me in the crowd immediately as he worked his way up the bleachers and plopped down beside me. "I'm ready to learn!"

Teaching an exuberant little boy how to knit is difficult enough...but I had forgotten he was left-handed. He watched as I cast on a few stitches and began the knit stitch, then became impatient to try himself. He is definitely a participant in life and doesn't have a moment to waste on watching it pass him by. Needles flashed awkwardly and stitches were dropped. I watched as a usually patient little boy grew in frustration, beginning again and again as he breathed, "This is really hard!"
Then suddenly...he had it. The light came on, enthusiasm peaked....and he was off. He excitedly took his new found skill to share with others and I watched as he used his own technique to make the yarn grow and expand into something of his own making. He asked for help a few times and I would get him back on track, but I was amazed at how he proceeded with confidence and determination.

"I can't" are not words in his vocabulary. He is open to learning new things and is always ready with willingness and an undaunted spirit. A little boy who learns differently than most in this world teaches me often the power and loveliness of "I think I can!"

(August 2, 2005)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

It's been sew long

I've had to step out of my writing mode for a few days to catch up on other aspects of my life. I'm a terrible procrastinator and have put off some serious sewing that has needed to be done for awhile now. My daughter is in a 1950's theme musical and will be playing the part of the Luncheonette owner. I had to make three of these dresses (shown here in various stages of construction!) and a couple of poodle skirts. Aprons and caps are still on the drawing table...

These 'little' projects always end up taking more time than I initially think...and it's been a crazy weekend of playing catch up.

Many thoughts are swirling around in my head, and I promise I'll be back with something worth reading before too long. But for now, it's back to the machine...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Julie

I never remember a time without my sister. We were companions from the beginning; those early days a collage of so many different memories. We were little girls in flannel jammies, pedal pushers, matching dresses and shiny pony tails. Wherever one of us was, you were sure to find the other; two colorful peas in a pod, twins born in separate years: siblings, sisters, friends.

Alike in many ways, yet so different in others.
Julie: standing patiently while Mom braided her long wavy tresses.
Lori: yowling as a comb went through her short strands of straight, fine hair.
Julie: wearing her delicate bracelets with care, then tucking them safely away. (She has them to this day.)
Lori: losing little gold squares, one by one that dangled from her Ten Commandments bracelet as she climbed trees, scattering them like little messages across the farmyard.
Julie: quick to anger - quick to forgive.
Lori: a pot, simmering on the back burner for hours in silence...and taking her time reducing the heat.

And the memories:
-Playing Barbies for hours inside the low window of our bedroom.
-Listening to Eddy Arnold, Ricky Nelson and Richard Chamberlain on our record player; pretending we were the cast of "The Monkies" and "Gilligan's Island".
-Lying back on the uppermost branches of our big evergreen trees, swaying with the breeze and enjoying the bird's eye view.
-Building snowforts in the winter, bread sacks wrapped around our feet inside our rubber boots, and in the summertime, making clubhouses deep inside the currant bushes that lined the ditches across the road.
-Riding in the back of the grain truck on the hydraulic lift at the elevator during deep harvest.
-Giggling at the supper table, at church, during my brother's recitals.
-Putting my cold feet against her warm ones in our big double bed.
-Our matching dresses, made by Mother, which we named: Our "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" pattern, our cherry dresses with the white pleated skirts and big red sashes, the cowboy vests and skirts, the cute bright-colored jumpers, the red scratchy Christmas dresses. And the colors; she in pink, me in blue.
-Mother reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to us in bed at night, long after we could read ourselves, just to have that time together.
-Lying in the sun on lazy, summer afternoons.
-Listening to America's Top 40 with Kasey Kasem, and trying to stay up to catch the late movie before the T.V. turned to snow and the Star Spangled Banner was played.
-Spending hours on the front porch with our friends during the long summer days, in the evenings, during a thunderstorm...
-Trick-or-Treating on the farm when we were little, then when we were older, dressing up just to be silly.
-Walking around town with Mom on Christmas Eve night, singing carols.
-Being more than sisters during the last 43 years: Being friends.
As our childhood and youth disappeared into adulthood, our paths came to a fork and veered off in different directions. We went to college, began jobs, got married and started families. We slipped in and out of sibling consciousness during those years of joys and trials in our lives, eventually coming back to the sisterhood that is so familiar and holds us close.

Life has touched us in different ways...but we are still the same; our names forever linked by our beginning and the years we've shared. My sister has been a lighthouse in my life that has brought me through stormy waters, waiting on a calm shore; an anchor who has held me on solid ground. Sharing our lives, our family, our experiences has made me a stronger, better person.

God knew I needed someone to hold my hand through childhood, to boost me through adolescence and help me grow up. He placed my hand in Julie's and gave us a gift.

My sister, my friend. My past, my present. A future together. A treasure, forever.

(Sept. 25, 2005)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Kindness of a Stranger

My friend, Shelly will be celebrating her birthday soon. We met three years ago at the school where we both work and had an instant connection. She is one of the few people here that "gets me" on so many different levels. One of those is our love of music.

Growing up in separate small Kansas communities, we both enjoyed being part of our school choirs and fostered an appreciation for music, both in and outside of our academic setting.

I have recently been listening to old tapes from my church choir, and Shelly expressed how she would love to have a recording of some of her college performances from the late 1980's. So yesterday I called the small college she attended and was connected to the Professor of their music department. I explained what I was looking for and why, and he listened with interest. He said it was definitely worth a try and promised to search through the archives and see what he could find.

This afternoon I received an email from this gentleman who unfortunately, couldn't locate any of the tapes. But because he was touched by this gesture for my friend, he wants to send us both a set of choral CD's, as a gift.

It is a small thing. It is a big thing. This gift of music will soon be on its way, and I am moved by the kindness of a stranger. The fact that this man stopped in the midst of his busy day to honor a request from someone he does not know is a tribute to his character. I suspect I am not the first recipient of his generosity and goodness. And though these notes will not be of my initial request, the music of his spirit rings perfectly to the tune of thoughtfulness.

What a beautiful melody.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Necessary Words

Remember Truman, the gentleman I wrote to last year who passed away before he could read my card? His brother, Ralph, a lovely man in his late 80's, is equally wonderful.... and this time I'm not going to delay my words until it's too late.

Dear Ralph,

So often we take people for granted. We assume they know our thoughts and feel our appreciation. We seldom stop to say, "You are valued", "Thanks so much", "I'm grateful for all you do".

I look out my window at school and see you pushing a mower around the yard, even though the temperatures rise with every passing moment. When I drive through town I watch as you work around the neighborhood. At church, games and activities, there you are, always ready to support and help. Yet, I know that for everything I see, there are countless of unseen acts of kindness where you are at the helm. I see the respect in the eyes of others when they speak to you and of you, and I realize that I am privy to greatness in action.

It is the quiet, gentle people that speak the loudest to me; those who expect no fanfare, but quietly do good because it is in their very nautre.

You are such a person; one who not only brightens the corner where you are, but lights the entire room. You touch lives with your kindness and grace and speak volumes with your caring heart. It would be difficult to find a man with more class and true concern for his neighbors, and I am honored to share this community with you. Actions do speak louder than words and yours are a living scripture of God's message to love one another.

I think these things each time I see you, but loving thoughts are useless unless they are shared. And for every thought I have expressed I know there are many who echo it.

So Ralph, please know that you are valued and appreciated, and that so many are grateful for all that you do. Your life is a blessing and testament, and an example for the rest of us to follow.
How rich we all are to share this journey with you.


(August 2006 - post date)

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Truman was a quiet, elderly man who often sat beside me at church. He was a lifelong resident of our community, except for the six years he spent in the Navy right after high school. He cared about everything and everyone and was such a dear spirit.

I remember visiting him in the hospital a few years back, holding his hand and talking softly about all that was going on at home.... and sneaking up to the doorway of his little apartment in town with a May Day basket, hoping he would understand the sentiments and tradition behind its contents. He was the kind of man we all respected, strived to be like, loved.

A couple of weeks ago I spoke with his brother, Ralph, who told me that Truman was beginning to slip away. The Parkinson's Disease had taken over and his recent home had been the Hospice Care Center. His 87th birthday was approaching and his children had requested a card shower for him. Though I had known about it for a few days, it was awhile before I took the time to pen him this letter:

Dear Truman,

This card may arrive late with its birthday wishes, but please know that they are sincere and heartfelt.
Though I haven't expressed it in words, I have thought of you so often over these past few months. Your presence is missed in church and around the community, by many.

If someone were to ask me, "Who is the hub that turns the wheel of our town?" I would answer, "Truman". You were one of the first faces that became familiar to me after we moved to this community; a face, I soon learned, that belonged to a very gracious and caring man.

I grew accustomed to seeing you on the pew next to me: a quiet presence with a great soul. You spoke more to our hearts through your gentle ways than many can express through loud proclamations. And your message of grace and kindness was clear. You have truly been an example of how God wants us to treat each other.

Several years ago I saw a black and white photograph of a town parade with a strong, young man leading it. Years flew by and things changed, but the leadership of a man named Truman remained constant.

How wise your mother must have been when she gave you your name, for you are indeed a ' True Man' - the essence of what God intended for us all.

Happy Birthday, Truman! With Love and Blessings....

My words were too late. On February 22, Truman turned 87 years old.....and then gracefully slipped into his new life. My unopened card came back in the mail where it sits on the kitchen countertop as a reminder that I hesitated too long. It will be awhile before I forgive myself for sitting on my words.

The Saturday before his passing, I wrote about cleaning at the school and how a certain song, "Make Me Have the Mind of Christ" had spoken so strongly to my heart. As I sat at Truman's service exactly one week later, the minister left us with a Bible verse that described how this man lived his life. It was Philippians 2:1-11: The Mind of Christ.

He didn't read them on this earth, but perhaps somehow Truman felt my words..... and let me know through God, that he had heard me afterall.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Out of the mouths of babes

One Sunday afternoon after dinner, my children and I were driving to the local mall. My son, then about 5 years old, was riding in the backseat with his sister and they were involved in busy, animated chatter. His energy had carried over from church that morning and as the stoplight blinked to red I turned in the driver's seat.

"You know, buddy, I was a little disappointed in your behavior at church this morning. You weren't acting very grown-up."

"But Mommy," he said, his big brown eyes turning towards mine and his voice filled with innocence and reasoning. "That's because I'm not a grown-up."

Touche, Mommy. Touche.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hats off to the Cat

"We looked!
Then we saw him step in on the mat!
We looked! And we saw him! The Cat in the Hat!"

Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka "Dr. Seuss", was born on this day back in 1904. The master of rhymes and nonsense, he could take the ordinary and transform it into the most magical and whimsical characters and circumstances. He was a true artist; an imaginative child disguised as a grown-up who twisted our tongues, made us laugh and encouraged us to cheer for the underdog.

For as far back as I can remember, I loved reading Horton Hears A Who, Go Dog Go, Green Eggs and Ham, Ten Apples Up On Top, and of course, The Cat in the Hat. Many are the memories of sitting in comfy chairs, one leg draped over its arm in complete absorbtion as I read these charming tales.

When my children were little we lived in a community where March 2nd was spent in celebration of this beloved author. At school, green eggs and ham were served for lunch and the entire day was devoted to reading and illustration, an activity Seuss himself would have reveled in.

Today, I donned my "Cat in the Hat" T-shirt and brought bookmarks to school which I'd made for the students.......but the rhyming genius lay silent in most classrooms where this day passed by unnoticed. And yet, his legacy is larger than just one moment. Each day new little hands take up his books as they too, discover the world of whimsy which he painted so vividly.

Mr. Geisel passed from this earth on September 24, 1991 but what a wonderful treasure he left us! I can imagine his corner in Heaven filled with books and laughter as he once again recites his tales to a willing, listening and loving crowd.

"And he put them away,
Then he said, 'That is that.'
And then he was gone
With a tip of his hat."