Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell 2008

It was our last sunset of the year. We saw it as we drove the back roads just south of home; God's brush dipped from a warm palette and spread across a watercolor sky.

It was a good year, 2008. And it was a challenging year. We celebrated many joys and we faced some trials. But when push came to shove, we emerged through it all and are thankful to be healthy and whole.

New Year's Eve has always been a time of melancholy for me. When my sister and I were teenagers we would watch Dick Clark in New York City and ponder all of the things that would 'never be' again. I would always wonder - with more trepidation than excitement - what the new year ahead would hold. I've never anticipated or welcomed change. Perhaps, coming from a people and a place that has always been safe and loving, I never wanted that comfort to end. Looking ahead into the dawn of a new year, I could never be sure that my wonderful little world would remain as it was.

But here we are; on the cusp of 2009....and those feelings still remain. Maybe, no matter how old one gets, the need for the familiar never changes. Or at least, it's that way for me.

Tonight, as the sunset faded into darkness, the stars came out in a clear and brilliant display. One could see for miles, and our little house tucked way back on country roads suddenly seemed in the midst of lights from every neighboring farm and nearby town. Everything was brighter in the crisp, pre-New Year night, and it was difficult to see anything but optimism and hope in its beauty.

May your 2009 be joyous and whole and may your blessings be many in the new year ahead!Click here to enjoy more SkyWatch.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Well for Wishing

It was just after noon when we settled down for our daily chapter of Little House on the Prairie; little girls with pixie faces on either side of me, arms intertwined with mine and bright eyes studying my face as I read.

The Ingalls family, too, had just settled on the Kansas prairie, building a log cabin and stretching their wagon’s billowy canvas across the top for a temporary roof. Ma wished for a clothesline, Pa for a well.

“Do you girls know what a well is?” I asked.
“Oh yes!” came a ready reply. “It’s something that you throw money into to make a wish.”

“Well, yes,” I nodded. “People do that sometimes. But do you know what’s at the bottom of the well?”

An eager hand shot up on the other side of me as she smiled widely, “Wishes!”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Birthday!

My husband's birthday comes on the heels of Christmas. While we are finishing up the leftovers, picking tree needles off the carpet and contemplating taking down all the decorations, he is celebrating another year of life. Those whose birthdays fall in the aftermath of Christmas cheer tend to get overlooked as their special day slips in among the holidays.

So today a post, in honor of his birthday. To my James on his 48th....I Love You!

Happy Birthday!!!!!!!!!!!

What Makes a Mother Happy

I'm always after my kids for a picture. They can tell you themselves how many times I've said, "You guys! Quit goofing around and be serious so I can have a nice picture of you together!"

For Christmas they had a friend take not one, but several "nice pictures together." And at the same time, they threw in a couple of silly ones for good measure, because of course...that's who they are.

And honestly......
I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In Favor of the Kitties

In all the flurry of Christmas activity and searching for the perfect presents, we sometimes forget that the most basic joys of everyday life not only suffice but often exceed that very goal.

A little boy is surrounded by trucks and puzzles, fancy wrappings and pretty much anything he could possibly desire from the toy store. But what he found the most delight in, what brought the most smiles and squeals of excitement were our furry little kittens. There were so many moments I could have captured with the camera, but instead I watched as he laid his cheek against their soft heads and carried them around, usually two at a time.

In the New Year ahead, remember the joys in your own backyard and learn to find contentment there. Realize that you aren't "settling" for less than what you deserve but rather, truly appreciating the treasures that you already have.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a very joyous and blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


When I was in kindergarten in 1967, my teacher, Mrs. Bartel, gave us each a Christmas ornament. It was nothing fancy: a small felt snowman cut with pinking shears and stitched with love. For years he hung on our family Christmas tree - the first ornament I had that was exclusively mine.

Every year I get him out along with all of the lovely things I have collected over the years. His smile is faded now through all the handling of the past forty-one years. But he is a sweet reminder of a simpler time, when a kindergarten teacher could still kiss you on the cheek each day, and a child could marvel in a handmade gift of felt and love.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Capturing the Cardinal

A couple of weeks ago I was walking down to our commons area to take a picture of one of my students for a class project. Our maintenance man called me over to the window where this little female cardinal was resting on the sidewalk, just outside the door. Under any other circumstances I wouldn't have had my camera with me, so felt fortunate to capture these photographs. She must have been enjoying the sunshine because she didn't stir at all.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Calico Encouragement

This afternoon I went downstairs to work on costumes for a friend who is directing the nativity play at her church.

Our new little kitty watched me as I disappeared below, and waited patiently for an invitation. I carried her down and let her play in new territory as she discovered the Christmas tree, climbed on the couch and played with the toys she found.

A social little creature, she soon learned that I had turned my attention to the sewing machine and she wasn't getting the attention she loves.

Jumping first into my lap, she crept up my arm and onto my shoulder where she watched me work. She was quite content to listen to the hum of the machine and watch the needle work its magic on the fabric. After awhile I called upstairs to my husband to come take a photo before she became bored and hopped down.

I did finish the costumes, and though there is no mention of a kitty cat in the nativity scene, I wouldn't be surprised if a hair or two of calico made an appearance on a shepherd's robe tomorrow night!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

For me, Christmas isn't the day so much as all of the events leading up to the 25th. It's the magic of the Christmas tree, making gifts for family and friends, holiday baking and gathering with those we love to share happy moments that will last forever.

There is more to come in the days ahead as we both work and play to make this year special. But for tonight, this is a glimpse of Christmas so far....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Meant To Meet

There are people that come into our lives and it's obvious that we are meant to meet. In our case, it wasn't just one person but a family; four very special people whom I believe were placed directly in our path.

When we moved here seven years ago we came into an unknown. Though my husband had grown up in this community, the rest of us stumbled in our acquaintances and felt lost for friendships.

My son was just entering the fourth grade and had a set of twins in his class, a boy and a girl. My husband knew their dad; a kind man who, as a young teenager, bought my husband (a 6-year-old boy at the time) a new toy truck after his family lost their home in a fire. Their mother was the kindergarten teacher at the school where I had just gotten a job. It was her first year there as well.

As time went on our families began spending time together, developing a strong friendship. Our boys played basketball together and our daughters, though two years apart, shared common values and goals and through the years, became very close.
While sharing stories and life experiences, we found that Jim and Cathy have the same wedding anniversary as James and I - July 14th. Cathy and I then learned that both of our parents had been married in the same church in Wichita, KS, though in different years. Talking with my dad, we found that he had known her grandfather back in the 1940's. The world suddenly became very small as our friendship continued to grow.

I love this family. We all do. I can't imagine what our lives would have been like these past few years without them. They are the face of goodness and friendship, and have filled our hearts to overflowing.

As the Christmas season comes into full swing and I look around at my many gifts, I see a family who has touched our world and made it better, brighter and fuller.

Merry Christmas, our dear friends. We love you so much and count you each as a true blessing!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sky Watch Friday - December Sunset

The winter sky (or pre-winter sky) is different than anything else. Unlike the subtle pastels of spring, the lazy hues of summer or the fiery reds and oranges of autumn, the winter sky lays above the horizon like a bejeweled canopy. With everything else resting around it, the sky bursts into life with brilliance and color, resisting hibernation, unlike the rest of the world.

Above me a flock of geese soar in syncopated flight; some serving as the kite's tail in their spring-like pursuit. I hear their excited honks as they seek a Christmas in balmy weather, dismissing me to my winter wonderland.
It's almost surreal, the colors of the sky. My mother used to say, about a certain type of sunset, "If you were to paint that, no one would believe it's real."

But it is real. An early Christmas gift. And just outside my own back door.

Enjoy SKYWATCH from around the world.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

It isn't Christmas Until...

It isn't Christmas until... We put up the live Christmas tree (this isn't it).
It isn't Christmas until... We bake sugar cookies using my grandma's recipe.
It isn't Christmas until... I hear Bing Crosby sing "White Christmas".
It isn't Christmas until... I listen to the tape of my brother playing the piano.
It isn't Christmas until... It snows at least once. Flurries count.
It isn't Christmas until... We unpack all the ornaments from Christmas past.
It isn't Christmas until... I start sending - and receiving - greetings in the mail.
It isn't Christmas until... We attend services at church.
It isn't Christmas until... We watch "Holiday Inn" and "It's a Wonderful Life".
It isn't Christmas until... I battle the malls at least once.
It isn't Christmas until... I mention my pants are getting a bit tighter!
It isn't Christmas until... I make some kind of home made gift.
It isn't Christmas until... We take our annual family photo.
It isn't Christmas until... We write about it at school.
It isn't Christmas until... I buy one of those boxes of chocolate covered cherries.
It isn't Christmas until... We remember the reason we celebrate in the first place.

I better get busy.....because Christmas is coming!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

SkyWatch Friday

This was the most interesting sky. It looked like lava had escaped from the clouds and spilled out over the horizon. The sunset is never the same here. No wonder twilight is my favorite time of day.

See the view from above at SkyWatch.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Farewell, November

These skies seem fitting for the month of November with their golden hues and restful russets. The brilliance of deep autumn hesitates ever so slightly as it hovers on the horizon, checks its bags then quietly slips into a deep slumber. It will be replaced with icy blues and white as Jack dips his brush into a frosty palette, painting our morning windows with his intricate designs.

I will miss the evenings where twilight lingers on my doorstep and beckons me with her radiance. Yet there is respite and insight, a new season...a new day. And beyond Fall's gold curtain on the edge of the morrow, there's always new hope.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

Thanksgiving 2008 is in the books now; remnants of pumpkin pie and turkey left in tins and platters, and both hearts and stomachs filled to the brim.

We spent the day at my sister's house celebrating with family and friends, taking our traditional family photos and sharing laughs with those close at heart.

I look around me at the people I call family - the true blessings I've been given - an
d I'm humbled at what I have. Though I don't have a perfect life, it's close. I see a wealth in smiles on young faces and new babies to love; in those I have just met....and those I have loved forever.

In the late afternoon we spent time at my mom and dad's house, coming down from the busyness and slowing to a state of peaceful contentment. When I'm there I can wrap myself in a cloak of memories and feel safe in the presence of the two people I admire and respect more than anyone else I know.

It is this coming "home" that makes me feel grounded. It fills me up so I can come back to conquer the dragons that await here - the dragons that seem much smaller once I return.

I am thankful for the riches I hold everyday when I open my eyes to this world: my husband and children who, in all their imperfections, love me in all of mine. And I'm grateful that with all of our little idiosyncrasies, we match perfectly.

And though this Thanksgiving is indeed, now history, it's a new chapter in a book I will go to again and again, read often and glean much from what has been written.

I am truly blessed.

Monday, November 24, 2008


This is the face of loyalty. Our blue healer/border collie mix named G.T. He truly is a one-of-a-kind animal who is our protector and guard dog, but who also loves baby kitties and melts at the human touch. A couple of weeks ago I watched as one of our cats chased a tiny mouse across the back yard. G.T. actually barked at the cat, trying to get it to let go of its prey.

With a soft heart, piercing blue eyes and a gentle spirit he's been a part of our lives for 7 years now. We are almost even in age, he and I....... yet I find by watching him, there's still so much I can learn.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sky to Sky

These two photos are of the same windmills at a different angle and at a different time of day.

I have always been fascinated with the beauty of nature, particularly the sky. From the brilliance of a blue October to the thick white film of humid August, its variances between are continual like a child's colorful kaleidoscope.

I'm looking forward to the beauty that awaits...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grease Is The Word

Since the beginning of the school year, a large part of my time has been taken up with preparing for our musical, "Grease". Each year it seems that there is more to do to get ready for this annual production and many hours (and dollars) were spent on set design, costumes and even building "Greased Lightning", the infamous car driven by Kenickie.

It was my son's first time to perform and he had a big role, including a solo he did with style. I was proud not only of how well he did, but also of how he handled the compliments afterwards with his wonderful smile and classy manners. The best thing of all? His best friend was there for the final performance: his red-haired, college-aged sister.

It was a long road on the way to this success with glitches along the way including the loss of two actors a week before the show. But all the worry was for naught as they put on four stellar performances. We were small in number but great in talent and determination which made for an outstanding show.
We may be a small dot on the Kansas map, but Broadway ain't got nothin' on us!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ushering In November - Skywatch

There's something sweet about this picture. Maybe it's the fact that these two don't get to see one another much these days. Maybe it's the enduring and endearing friendship that they share. Or perhaps it is the innocence of youth, the hope for a new day and the dreams that lie for them both over tomorrow's horizon.

For more on Skywatch click here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Feeling Peace

Tonight my husband took me out for a belated birthday dinner. Before we went to eat, he indulged my creative spirit by stopping at Hobby Lobby where I perused the aisles to my heart's content. I like shopping at this time of year; when rows of shelves are lined with oranges and browns, russets and reds.

The Christmas decorations are also up. Some people hate the appearance of greenery before the Jack-O-Lanterns and goblins disappear, but I love it. While everyone else was absorbed with candy corns and smiling pumpkins, I walked up and down the rows of Christmas trinkets, alone with my thoughts and plans.

With my husband busy at the hobby trains, I took my time looking through the hundreds of glass ornaments hanging on four rows of the store. As is tradition, I selected one for my daughter and son that detailed where they are at this point in their lives. They both have a box filled to the brim with ornaments from each year so that when they have their own homes and their own trees, they'll already have memories to hang on their boughs.

It was enchanting, walking around undisturbed with the entire section to myself and beautiful music playing in the background. It takes so little to make me happy.
This was a night that I felt great peace.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


He's in the 5th grade now, a tow-headed boy I've known for some time. But when you're eleven and on the brink of adolescence, it's not so cool to talk to teachers and grown-ups in the hallways anymore. I've watched him become more detached over the years in this growing up process; his innocence and openness gradually slipping away. And it's been a little sad.

But yesterday when I greeted him in the hallway, expecting the usual mumbled reply, he stopped and looked at me saying, "Remember the scribble game?"

Do I. Carol Dochow and I started it back in 1971 in our fourth grade classroom. When we had finished with our school work, we would play it at our desks. The first person would make a scribble mark on a piece of paper then pass it to the other. That person would then look at the scribble from every angle and add to it to create a picture. When I was older and had kids of my own, I taught them how to play to keep them occupied when we were waiting at restaurants or at the doctor's office. Even my husband and I played it a few years back when we had to wait several hours at the Mayo Clinic

In recent years I used it to entertain young children roaming around while I was taking money at ballgames. They would sit on stools at the large table with me and we'd pass the paper back and forth. It was fun watching them take on the 'scribble'. This boy in the hallway was one of those kids who used to find fascination in a simple mark he could transform into art.

I told him that yes, I remembered, and that it would be fun for him to show his little brother how to play the game while they were waiting on someone.

"I want to play it with you." he said.

It's amazing just how little children truly need. In a world where technology reigns and we are bombarded with all that is electronic, a young boy still remembers - and is drawn to - a magical world of paper and pen where he can see the world any way he chooses, and be the master of his own creation.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


I love this time of year when sunflowers dot the landscape like brown-faced angels embraced in golden halos.

To our east there are three fields filled with them, asking for a sitting to capture their loveliness.

I made it out three separate times to capture photos, though just have pictures from the first so far. The window of opportunity is only open a few weeks before they begin to hang their weary heads and the fields turn brown.

It is a once a year chance to capture their natural beauty in its pageantry and each year, I am newly thrilled.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Acting Up

My daughter took this picture of her brother a couple of weeks ago when he came to visit her and a friend of theirs at the college dorms. It's hard to believe that in another two years, he too will be on his own.

He is a young man born from two different worlds: the athletic world of his father where sports took front row in a theater of all boys, and the artistic world of his mother (that would be me!) where music, art and literature were the focus of sisters and brothers.

Since the sixth grade, my son has played basketball, acclimating slowly to the game with his ever-growing and changing body, and emerging at 6'2" with great talent, appreciation and love for the game. But sometimes when one's passion becomes a requirement, it's easy to lose the spark that originally ignited....and the fire burns out.

This year he has opted to change his course and will be trading his Nikes for a leather jacket in our school's production of "Grease". He will step away from an expected role to try something new instead, and once his departure from the game of basketball 'hits the press', I'm sure he'll be faced with many questions.

It takes courage to digress from an assumed position and go out on that proverbial limb, suspended over unnetted space as you try out new wings. I'm proud of his stance and his willingness to tap into an uncharted part of who he is and can be. May he find what truly inspires him in this life and a happy balance that makes it all work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

'70s things I miss

I loved the '70s. There was just something about that era which spoke of innocence and simplicity, of good common neighborliness and keeping things in perspective. It was moment paused before the technological years when people had time to talk face to face across back yard fences and kids knelt beside lazy creeks fishing out tadpoles, built tree houses and made forts in the currant bushes. Here are just a few of the things I miss from that charming and endearing time...

- Autograph books with colored pages for signatures and verses from friends and crushes
- The Carol Burnett Show
- Gunny sack swings hung from old elm trees
- Ben Franklin, Woolworths and TG&Y
- Crank ice cream freezers that were interactive and included the whole family
- PDQ that was mixed with cold milk for a delicious chocolate drink
- Full service filling stations with 'regular' gasoline and polite and knowledgeable attendants
- Carbon copies, their cool wet feel and the way they smelled right off the press
- Let's Make a Deal with Monty Hall
- My mother's drawings in sketch pads
- Rotary phones
- 5 cent cones from Dairy Queen on Saturday mornings
- Family slide shows on the big screen projector...or on the living room wall!
- Vinyl records
- Hand-written letters in the mail box on pretty stationery
- The soda fountain at Wilson Drugs
- Colored tin cups and cold well water
- Metal ice cube trays
- Bicycles with fenders on the tires and baskets on the front
- Flannel shirts and baseball jerseys
- A slower-paced life
- Discipline allowed at school and teachers being allowed to teach
- No drive-by need for "No guns allowed" signs in schools and restaurants
- Respect and responsibility for one's actions
- Movies that still allowed us to use our imaginations
- A simpler journey

Everyone remembers things differently, but for me, at that time in my life it was the ideal; rich in my memory, rich in my heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Just Thinking...

I'm having trouble getting my groove back. Life is throwing little changes every which way...and I've never been good at changes!

Though the nest isn't empty here at home, my daughter's absence is definitely felt from the banter with her brother in the morning to the sound of her petite frame on the stairway at night. I miss her. A lot.

Last weekend she saw one of her classmates off on his own journey as he joins the Navy and heads off to see the world. While his high school friends now gather in student unions and attend ballgames, he'll be studying to become a nuclear engineer. A little boy no more. And the world keeps spinning 'round...

I remember when my daughter was just a few weeks old, I would push her in the stroller around our neighborhood. Having quit my job to stay at home full time and being somewhat isolated from my fellow adults, I felt a bit trapped, wondering how life would ever be 'normal' again. And it wasn't. At least not in the same way. What I didn't know then was that it would become a new, different kind of 'normal', and that every day would be an incredible adventure filled with challenges, joy and love.

Now when I look at my daughter, I see a road towards growth and independence before her...and another new 'normal' emerging for us both. It may be awhile before we get it completely figured out, but in the midst of all the complexities, questions. and moments of missing lies the invisible tie that always keeps us close at heart.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A piece of history

These are my grandparents, Charles and Verna Osburn. When I was at Mom and Dad's house this afternoon, I saw this photograph of my grandfather for the first time and was mesmerized by a face that I never knew. He passed away in August of 1964, when I was not yet three. Though my grandmother lived for 22 more years, the sweet face in this picture is somewhat foreign as I only remember her smile after a home surgery to remove a cyst left part of her face paralyzed. I am thankful to have these keepsakes.

I find that as I get older, the past becomes more important. Because of those who walked before me, I am here. Without their journey and without their paths crossing, merging, blending - history would be forever changed.

Today I pause and feel blessed for family: who I come from, who walks beside me... and who is yet to be.