Monday, July 30, 2007

Close Comfort

This is a poignant photograph capturing a memory of my childhood; a childhood that sometimes seems so distant that it's more like a wonderful storybook that I read long ago, and other times so vivid I can still see, smell, feel all the things that were happening in the moment.

Here my four siblings and I are snuggled together in my parents' bed (and no, we didn't really sleep that way)! I love all the white: the five of us in our cozy pajamas and wrapped in white chenille. My oldest sister must have been about 10 in this picture...and I was the baby. My little brother would come along three years later.

Forty-five years have passed since this photograph from 1962, but in my mind's eye we are still young and vibrant with our lives before us, secure in the comfort of one another and dreams for the future in our pocket.

Friday, July 27, 2007

18 today...

My Beautiful Daughter,

I like to think of you as "Mine", but you truly are your own person....and what a beautiful young lady you have become!

I can't begin to tell you how very dear you are to me and how proud I am to be your mother. You have been such a joy to me, such a blessing with your sweet and gentle ways. Not only are you lovely on the outside, but your spirit is lovely as well. You are strong in your values and what you believe, and you shine from the inside out. How could anyone not love you?

I remember well these first steps you took and how excited you were in your accomplishment. Soon you will be stepping away from me and entering a new and wonderful chapter of your life. I know that you will take that step with grace, just as you have done everything else in your life.

Never forget how special you are, nor the important place you hold in our family and in our hearts. You are one of the greatest gifts I have been given, and I cherish each day that we get to share.

May this year be filled with love and joy for you, and may the happiness that you bring to those who love you be returned tenfold to you this day. Always know that I'm here, and that I love you so very much. Happy Birthday!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

On Golden Pond

I love evenings like these where the western horizon is bathed in soft pastels and the world becomes a smooth silhouette.

Twilight has always been my favorite time of day. As a young girl I would call my mother to the window to see the magic transpiring as daytime turned to dusk.

Last night was no exception. After a busy day we spent time at our neighbor's pond and watched as enchantment filled the air. Hues of pinks, oranges, purples, blues mixed among wispy white and spilled out over the water. The kids fished among falling rays and stilled reflection, catching and releasing little crappie and bass.

With the cicadas familiar serenade came a peaceful contentment of feeling grounded, centered, lovely, at home. There's no better way to punctuate the day than among people you love on an evening gilded in gold.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thoughts and Prayers

Beneath the Conoco sign of a local gas station is a marquee that reads:

"Thoughts and prayers for the Campbell's"

The Campbell family suffered a great loss this week when their older son was killed in a horrible accident, leaving his brother to live the rest of his days as an only child...and his parents with the unanswerable question of "Why?"

There was an outpouring of sympathy; friends and family gathered at the home with food, prayers and love. The church was overflowing with a community who suffers alongside of them.

When my mother-in-law died of cancer, there was much solace from friends and neighbors who grieved with us. It was not just our loss, but a loss for the entire community. And so it is for every small town. We are not just mail carriers, salesmen, firefighters, teachers. We know each other and share history, some good and some not so good. But when someone in the community leaves this world for the next, it is with shared sorrow and heartfelt condolences because it isn't just 'someone else', but a neighbor, friend, brother, sister.

May the thoughts we have for this family bring them comfort, and may our prayers for their peace be answered.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Seattle Sent

My nephew flew to Kansas from Seattle the end of June to spend a month here while my brother and his wife toured Europe, performing with their church. Though he spent the majority of his time at my sister's house, we were fortunate to have him here with us for a couple of days.

Living so far away, he rarely has a chance to see his cousins. But as is true with people who are close at heart, he lost no time in getting reacquainted and blending in with his Kansas connections.

It was fun to watch the kids as they laughed and made up for all the lost time, filling in the empty spaces with new memories that will last a lifetime.

Tomorrow we will see him off at the airport and watch as he steps away from us once again. Perhaps the next time we see him he'll be taller with a young man's voice and point of view.

It will be interesting to see who he becomes. But whoever that is we will always embrace him as one of of our own and remember the little boy that used to be.

"Be not dismayed at Good-bye's. A farewell is necessary before we can meet again."

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Everyone needs some time to themselves, and I've written before about the differences between being lonely...and being alone.

When I am struggling with something in my life, frustrated or in pain, I often go off by myself to think things through. There is solace in being alone; a strength that comes through solitude that can be found at no other time. The distractions of life are put at bay, and peaceful resolution is found in the stillness of time spent with oneself and the gentle voice of God.

It is true that 'no man is an island'. But like my son, sitting in the quietness of his own company, it is fitting and wise to row out and visit once in awhile.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Opening the Cupboard

Every Sunday of my growing up years, we ate our noon meal - or dinner - from these plates. Named "Autumn Gold", they display a buttery border, rimmed in gold with shocks of wheat in the center. They are a remnant from my childhood; a lovely reminder of our days on the farm and all those Sunday meals around the old oak table. Though those family dishes were given to my sister, my dear mother-in-law found exact duplicates at a flea market. I was thrilled, stacked them neatly, and carefully put them away in the buffet.

Many years ago after my paternal grandmother passed away, my grandfather gave each of us something that was dear to her. I received this beautiful set of Noritake China. Called "Serena", it has an intricate pattern of vines and ribbons that wind around delicate posies reminiscent of my grandmother's garden. They are a reminder of her love for beautiful things and of time spent among her flowers. I carefully unwrapped the old newspaper from around them and set them aside so they wouldn't be broken.

When my husband and I were married, my oldest brother was unable to attend our wedding. After the ceremony, we received a package from overseas. Inside was a hand-blown lemonade pitcher and matching glasses. Six fragile straws were wrapped in tissue that fit within small openings of each glass. I was delighted and charmed...and promptly put them in the glass cupboard so they could be seen, but not touched.

Then one day I realized that though beautiful, antique, and original I wouldn't truly get enjoyment from these lovely things unless they were used and shared. I remember reading a list written by Erma Bombeck about things she regretted in her life and one of them was this: "I wish I would have burned the beautiful candle sculpted like a rose instead of letting it melt in storage."

Life is like that, too. We can bury ourselves in the cupboard, collecting dust and melting away because we're afraid we may be broken. But that wasn't God's intention. In all that we do, there is risk: risk that we may fall or fail, risk that we may hurt, stumble, cry. But for every moment of frustration and pain, there are equal counterparts of delight and joy. It is a step at a time, a constant journey that when shared with others makes it lighter, more meaningful, more loving.

Though sorrow and hardships come to us all, it is the giving and sharing of ourselves that takes away the bitterness....and leaves something sweet and lasting in its place.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Post 4th

One of the things I love most about children is their positive outlook. I never remember a 4th of July like this year's: torrential rain that fell like wet gray sheets from an angry sky. It looked like our traditional family gathering was going to take place inside. Fireworks would be nonexistent.

But after the initial downpour and amid the sprinkles, the kids gathered in an exhilarated group to wade through the new stream that had formed
in the yard, finding a new Independence celebration!

And as luck would have it, the heavy rain
dissipated enough for us to have our firework show afterall. Donning rain jackets and blankets, we sat among the lightning bugs and "ooed and ahhed" as each rocket burst into color. Laughs were shared beneath the spattering of rain drops and cameras posed in the air as we tried to get just the right shot.

Morning Glories were lit as we formed a circle and sang "God Bless America", and we were thankful to once again come together to celebrate our glorious nation, our freedom and the family that we are so thankful to be part of.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

July 4th

To Uncle Sam, the Red, White and Blue...and little boys in striped overalls.

Happy Independence Day - Let Freedom Ring!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Canadian Adventures

Two weeks ago, my son experienced his first visit to Canada on an extensive fishing trip with his dad. It was a time of firsts: first time out of the country, first time in an airplane, first time away from home for such an extended period of time.

It was strange and difficult being out of touch with him for so long while they explored the backwoods, but I knew it would be a time of learning and growth and that I needed to let him go.

He came back with stories and adventures he never would have had if he'd stayed in Kansas, and I knew that the time spent with his father was more valuable than anything else.

He is an easy-going boy who rarely gets either mad or excited.

"How was your first plane ride?"

"OK, I guess."

"Wasn't it cool to
ride in the cockpit with the pilot?"

"It was all right..."

I think that as time goes on, he will glean much more from those days on the lake and recall it fondly, even if - at 15 - it doesn't seem like a big deal.

But for now, he's riding the fence on whether he liked it or not.

His dad had high hopes, because it wasn't just a trip, it's a family thing. It started back in the 70's when my son's grandfather took his three boys into the Canadian wilderness to fish. They all fell in love with the beautiful lakes and scenery, the wildlife and the quantity - and size - of the Northern Pike and Walleye they were able to snag. As the years went by, the trips continued; always a father/sons excursion or a vacation just for the 'guys'.

Then in 1988, a year before we started our family, I was invited along. Our good friends, also newly married, accompanied us on the long drive up to Ontario. We flew into Maynard Lake Lodge where we spent a week jigging in the fingers of the beautiful blue lake. It was an experience I'll never forget; a time in my life when things were simple
and easy, and worries were confined to where to pull up for shore lunch. We laughed over make-shift rain gear made from trash bags, community showers and some of the interesting characters we met at the lodge where we stayed. We experienced biting flies, harsh sunburns and hard bunk beds, and though for me, once was enough, it was a one-time adventure I'll always cherish.

Our son may or may not go back next year and either way, in his words, "It's OK". He is cut - just enough - out of the same cloth as his mother that he tends to look elsewhere for things that bring him joy. But regardless, he'll still have these memories of his 15th summer: the sun on his face, a view from the air, and cobalt blue in his back pocket.