It's my life and I love it...most of the time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Have you ever wondered if God exists?

I have many friends. There are believers. There are followers. There are those that do not believe at all. There are those that don’t know what to believe.

I have spent plenty of time contemplating this subject over the years. At times I have questioned. At times my belief has come easy. Today’s blog is not intended to force my views upon anyone. With permission, I want to relay a story that recently happened in our extended family. I will let you come to your own conclusions. I do want to extend an invitation to anyone that may read this. If you have questions about what I share today, I will gladly talk to you. Please ask.

The Friday before Labor Day, our step-brother had some welcomed visitors. His second oldest daughter had come to help him with a project. She brought her two oldest along. They love to play at their pawpaw’s.

As they worked, the oldest child came through the garage. They realized they did not hear number two son. Our step-brother offered to go look. His daughter soon heard his cries to God. As she came running, she saw that her dad had pulled her son from the swimming pool.  

The details of what happened next are secondary to the outcome. Suffice it to say that our step-brother was able to resuscitate his young grandson from a lifeless form. The family believes with all of their heart, that God was with them. He kept our step-brother calm, and able to think clearly, as he worked diligently to breathe life into the small body that lay there.

After an overnight stay in the hospital, that small boy left able to talk, and laugh, and smile. He undoubtedly touched many lives during his time there. He went from unresponsive to communication and stimulation, to hugging nurses by morning and figuring out he could get out of bed if he said he had to go the bathroom. This was not at all what the hosptial staff expected after the initial assessment.

For me, here is where the story causes my heart, and brain, and soul to pause and reflect even more. As they left the hospital the next morning, that precious little boy told his mom, “Jesus come.” She asked him, “Who came?” He said, “Jesus.” She asked again, “Who came?” He said, “Jesus!” They asked him, “Did you see Jesus?” And as small children do, he covered his eyes and didn’t answer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sometimes the women is from Mars and the man is from Venus.

I was lucky enough to get to see The Help…twice. The first time, my husband took me for my birthday. Now, this is not the typical type of movie choice for him. But he realized a few years ago, that if I could go see his kind of movie all the time, he could sit through one of mine. Don’t tell anyone, but he even likes them sometimes!

I gladly went to this movie with my husband, and appreciated that he would do that for me. I found myself, however, thinking “he is hating this” or “uggg, I wonder what he thought about that”. It was a bit distracting. In all fairness to Roger, some of my distraction could also have come from reading the book first. I kept noticing those things that just aren’t possible to include when writing a screenplay based on a novel.
Which brings me to my second viewing. A group of girlfriends wanted to go see it after work one day. I didn’t really want to spend another $7 for a matinee, but finally decided to just go. I did want to spend time with my friends. I’m so glad I did. From a movie perspective, it was an entirely different experience.  Rather than worry about what my friends were thinking of the movie, I could just sit and enjoy their laughter and empathize with their tears.

As we left the theater, walking down the long, hall to the exit, I expressed how glad I was that I had come. It was just different seeing it with women, and that they understood how the movie made me feel.  The conversation quickly turned to husbands. We discussed how they think, and they never think “this” way, but just presume we will take care of things. And we all chimed in “because we’re the help!”

While this is all well and good, and true at times, I have no doubt that God made us this way for a purpose. I’m just not always sure of what that purpose is. He made us different because he knew it would take two types to raise a family. Perhaps he made it so we wouldn’t easily have to understand each other because good things come when we work at it. It is work to grow a marriage and get to a point where we truly understand each other.

I know in our marriage, we often find that we are not atypical. Roger was often more compassionate when a child was hurt, while I was the “suck it up” one. Yet, I was more understanding when they were small, and he relates much better with them as teenagers and young adults. Along the way we have finally learned to know where each other is on a matter and how to work together as parents.

It is easy to fall into a trap of generalizations. We can’t focus so much on what society says. It is always fruitful to look at what the word of God says and focus on those tenets. The bible shares considerable expertise on relationships. All we have to do is open the book up, and take it all in.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I recently spent almost an entire week, almost entirely unplugged from the world. After writing that, it sounds a little ridiculous. I started today’s blog thinking how unplugged I was during our girls trip this summer. As I typed it out, I realized that while I felt completely unplugged, I still used some modern technology.

I chose not to have access to a computer. Granted, the dial-up at my parent’s house didn’t make that too difficult, I could have used one at one of the hotels. And I heard a rumor that if I sat in my car, parked strategically at various locations in my parent’s town, I could have connected wirelessly with my laptop.  I had one texting conversation with my daughter who found a new job.  I had one conversation with my husband, one with my doctor’s office, and a brief one with my dad using my cell phone. And we watched a little TV in the evening, while recuperating from the heat of sightseeing. In today’s world, that could very well be classified as unplugged.

Thirty years ago, we didn’t have any idea of what being plugged in would mean or how it would affect our world. Like many things, we forget how good that really was for us, and choose to ignore what unplugged did for us. We were more active, our children did not have constant contact with peers to tell them they don’t “have to put up with that” when there is a problem with their parents, and we used our brains differently.

I do not pretend that I am not plugged in way too much. And a trip with little plugged in time only presented my need to unplug more often. I enjoyed talking, I enjoyed reading, and I enjoyed listening. I do believe technology provides tools that help modern society. Anyone who has ever been stranded in an untraveled area appreciates a cell phone. But it is up to us to gauge our usage. Rather than just existing with these devices, we must be aware of them in our lives. We must be in tune with how much we rely on them to entertain ourselves, as a communication tool so we don’t have to speak with someone, or to occupy our time in a vegetative state rather than face our problems. It is up to us to not lose touch and to show our children it can be a good thing to not let them rule our lives.

On another recent trip to Colorado, I enjoyed interacting with our friends two young daughters. They are doing an excellent job of keeping technology in check by not having public or cable television in their home. They do watch appropriate DVD’s in a limited quantity, as well as have a Wii they play on with limits. Our friends are teaching their daughters, as well as their son, how to find other meaningful activities to occupy their time, while controlling their plugged in time. Hopefully they will grow up knowing how to gauge it for themselves by these examples. For now they are growing creative minds, because they entertain themselves, rather than be entertained by technology. They make up shows and perform them, just as they did on our trip. We were entertained several evenings by one of their productions, and were even engaged by them to participate.

These are memories we will all treasure for years to come, not the movie we watched on DVD one evening after a tiring day of sightseeing. Memories we will hold in our minds, all because we were unplugged.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Small Town, America

There is something to be said for small town life. Many will argue that the city offers too much to pass up, but I would argue small town living offers too much to just dismiss it. I tried in vain to interest Roger in looking at homes in small towns rather than Wichita. But he grew up here, and could not imagine living anywhere different. Approximately 49th in the nation for population size, at just over 380,000, Wichita may not be the largest city in our country, but it does have something to offer.

I, on the other hand, had the privilege to grow up in a small town; Mulvane, Kansas. I would say Mulvane is and was pretty typical of small towns. At a population of almost 6,000 currently, and another 3,000 in the rural areas surrounding it, it had a lot to offer. This is up from about 4500 in town when I lived there. I probably didn’t appreciate it then, but I most certainly do now.

As I drove through many small towns during my travels this summer, I couldn’t help but remember all of the positives of growing up “small town”. There is a camaraderie that accompanies living in a small town that cannot be explained to a city dweller.  Everyone knows almost everyone. There is a different vibe to living in a small town, it tends to be a little more laid back and relaxed. There isn’t as much hustle and bustle. No matter where you live, you can walk to the pool in the summer.

I absolutely love going to the “You might be from Mulvane, Kansas if…” group page on Facebook. There are generations of adults who have grown up or lived in Mulvane since the 1940’s. Everyone shares the same stories; recently they have revolved around school with the beginning of the new school year. One day when I was reading on the site was especially fun. A discussion had been started about one of the local eateries. And someone posted about my mom working there and how she had taught the women how to make milk shakes. My mom is famous!  It’s great to read all of the things we have in common even if we are decades apart in age. We all have a fondness for the color green and wildcats. Everyone knows where the Witches path is.  And we all miss eating Charlies at the Dairy King.

And where else but a small town does the entire school system shut down for a day, only days after school has begun, for a city wide celebration? I’m jealous of my school yard friends that still live in “my” small town. They are walking downtown this weekend to celebrate all things Old Settlers. Many of them will be stopping by the Lion’s Club Booth to enjoy some old fashioned Charlies!  Someone eat one for me!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Music - Melodies of Our Heart

I recently found myself driving three hours home with only Cameron in the car. Being the teenager he is, he chose to sleep. I had time to reflect on many things during that drive. At one point, I pulled over to type some notes on Blog ideas into the notepad in my cell phone. My mind was running rampant with all I had experienced during my week away from home.

One thing I enjoyed was listening to the music I like. I have loaded an inexpensive MP3 player with over 600 songs. I am thankful for being able to transfer CD’s and records to this marvelous piece of modern technology. The vast majority of the songs are from my teen years as well as my early 20’s. They all evoke different feelings and memories. I love listening to the songs from those years, they remind me of spring Friday nights, riding in the car with the windows down, hair blowing, and laughing with friends.

There are also the songs such as “God Bless the USA”, by Lee Greenwood, or Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” or “Angry American” (also recognized as “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue”). Of course there are others, and I’m sure they are not all country songs. But there is nothing like a patriotic song to get your blood running.

Then there are those that remind me of old boyfriends, I’m sure you have some of those songs yourself. It’s not that I want to think of them, but I truly liked those songs and like to listen to them now. I love Debbie Gibson’s” Lost in Your Eyes”, it is just a byproduct that I remember the boy I was dating. I can’t help it that it played on the radio constantly during that time. Don’t worry, it doesn’t bother Roger. I would tell you why, but then I would have to kill you because Roger would be mortified if I shared that detail with you.

I love being able to hear some of those more obscure songs that Roger shakes his head at when they come on. At the top of that list is Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman”. You’ve probably never heard it. If this tells you anything, I watched her perform it on Saturday Night Live, April 19, 1986. I wish I could say my memory was that good, but I googled it. Wikipedia defines her music as experimental, and I would agree. I don’t know why I like it so much, but I do!

At the opposite end of the spectrum is what you might refer to as church songs. There is nothing like listening to them on your way to church as you prepare to worship God. Or turning to them when you are frustrated, or angry, or need comfort. “Awesome God” is one of my favorites to pull up.

Classics are not all that you will find on my MP3. Sidenote: As Bowling for Soup so eloquently puts it, when did hair bands become classic rock? I am really enjoying some of today’s music and have downloaded many of them as well (does anyone buy CD’s anymore). I really enjoy Adele, specifically “Rolling in the Deep” and Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”. 

My eclectic taste continues to grow and I try to give everything a shot. You never know what will evoke emotions. Music is one thing we can all agree on, no matter our sex, level of education, or political affiliation. Music evokes emotions in all of us. It can bring us to life, it can make us sad, or it can comfort us. I hope to always have music in my life.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Just One More Day

Almost thirteen years ago, my mother-in-law passed away after a battle with cancer. It was about this time of year that she asked the women to come and meet with her and hospice. This included her daughters and daughters-in-law. We were all included because we all loved her, she loved us, and she knew it would take all of us to get through this time. One of the things we discussed was a schedule we would follow. We would take turns coming to the house to help her.

Over the next two months, we would all care for her. We were also there to take care of my father-in-law, and support him. We talked to her, even when she didn’t make sense any longer. We loved her no matter what. We adjusted our lives to there. We came at 1:00 in the morning when needed.  I personally thought I would be there for the end. I had a need to be there for the end. Even though I was “only” a daughter-in-law, she loved me and treated me like a daughter.

And then the day came. And I wasn’t there. Because we all thought it wouldn’t be today. It broke my heart to get the call that day. I was at my children’s school volunteering. Because I never thought it would be that day. How I wished I had one more day to be there.

Because of that experience, I have tried to live the past 13 years taking advantage of every opportunity to be with the people that I care about. As my grandparents aged, I especially focused on them. I made sure that I brought the kids to see them during spring breaks. I made a tradition of leaving my scrapbook weekend retreats early to go spend the afternoon with them. I had them all to myself. We would visit about the kids, look at the work I had done, and I would bring them a treat. I cherish the memories of those visits.

I find myself realizing how much I miss knowing, that at any time, I can jump in the car and go see my Grandma. She is not there anymore to go to for comfort, to make happy, or just to reminisce with her about her life. Today as I drove home, I also realized how much easier the wishing we had one more day was, because I had chosen not to live as if there would be one more day.  I am so glad I lived the just one more days while they were happening, rather than waiting.

Recently, I found myself feeling even more that I needed to be as diligent about visiting my parents. They moved 600 miles away 8 years ago, and I try to keep the connection with my children and them partly through visiting each summer. After an especially busy year completing my degree, topped with the emotional stress of losing my grandmother, and only having one child to travel with this summer, I had decided that I was not going to go anywhere this summer. By mid-June, that idea had changed. Among other things, I could not bear the idea of disappointing my parents. I especially wanted to do something special with my mom. It only seemed natural to include my aunt, who had become a part of the annual trek to Minnesota. I chose to not lose one more day.

Just as I didn’t live with a we’ll have one more day attitude this summer, I will continue to seek out those moments that can be today, not put off for tomorrow. I don’t want to ever have to wish I had one more day.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Reflections of a "Girls Trip"

(Written 7/21/2011, just after our trip.)

I find myself at my parents for a down day, before having to make the 10 hour drive back home. I have just completed a girl trip with my mom and aunt to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. This would be a trip to test me, as I planned it to not be planned. The only thing set in stone was when we would leave and where we would stay the first two evenings. Everything else was completely up to happenstance; in other words, totally against my nature.
I was a little anxious as I left town. Would we all get along, would I have enough patience, would I be able to go with the flow? I am thankful that last month I had a bit of a trial run. We were on vacation with family friends the Lambs, and they planned everything. I had no control (or it felt that way), and had not researched anything. With the exception of two small melt downs, it went well. I was now ready to take on two 60+ year old family members. This is not the first time I have travelled with my aunt. I don’t believe I have travelled with my mom since the summer before my senior year.
Day one found us leaving bright and not terribly early, around 8:00. One of the things I reiterated several times was that we were on no time schedule, and could stop anytime and anywhere we felt like. This trip was all about my mom, with second place to my aunt. After missing a turn, we used the GPS to find our way, and before we knew it (not really, it is about a 4-5 hour drive) we arrived in Duluth, Minnesota. I had selected a nice hotel, right on the banks of Lake Superior complete with boardwalk. It was so interesting to watch the boats come in, and the bridge rise to let the tall ships in. As we watched the sun set over the water, we could hear the stringed quartet playing at the hotel next to us. It was such a relaxing evening.

The next day we continued our journey up the North Shore of Lake Superior. We chose the scenic drive, which included a lot of trees and glimpses of the lake. As we approached Two Harbors, we were ready to enjoy some of the local sights. We quickly found an old depot next to the harbor. Down the way, we arrived at the lakes oldest working lighthouse. It was especially interesting to watch the ship that had docked early that morning to take on a cargo of ore pellets. As the weather was unusually humid, we were ready to get back in the air conditioned car and head towards our destination for the day.

With a few stops along the way to take in waterfalls and marinas, we arrived in Grand Marais, a mere 40 minutes from the Canadian border. I loved this small village! After a nice lunch at A Sisters Place, we checked into our hotel directly across from the harbor and checked out the shopping. We strolled the streets absorbing the sounds and smells of the shore. Included in these sounds were dozens of sea gulls – which drove my aunt nuts! I loved listening to them. As the sun set, the temperature fell to just right for sitting and enjoying the water.

The following morning brought an extremely enjoyable breakfast. I was intrigued by the “Shore Potatoes” that were on the menu to accompany my Krab (sic) Cake Eggs Benedict. I couldn’t help laughing when they arrived and discovered this specialty of the house is what we often refer to as “Funeral Potatoes” or “Church Potatoes”.  It should be no surprise that they were very good. I felt a bit like I was having dinner, but the poached egg reminded me that it was indeed breakfast. Over breakfast we discussed whether we would continue the drive to the shore on the Wisconsin side, or just continue our stay in the area. Now don’t be shocked, but I willingly went along with the idea we would see if there were any vacancies along the way and try to stay in the area another night. As we passed by a resort just outside of Two Harbors, we saw a vacancy sign, made a call, and before we knew it we had a place for the night. In fact, it ended up being the nicest facility during the trip, for the least amount of money! We were so glad that we stayed in the area. We enjoyed eating at Betty’s Pies (Yes, fabulous pie) – twice! We did resist having pie for breakfast during the second visit, even as others around us did. We also enjoyed some more shopping downtown. And the haze lifted long enough to go back to Split Rock Lighthouse to get some beautiful shots.

Lest you think the entire trip was about sleeping, shopping, and food, (and it pretty much was) we also enjoyed talking about anything and everything. But what’s talked about on a girl trip, stays on a girl trip. ;-)
This brings us to our last day, the trip home. No one wanted to go back, and we did toss around staying gone another day. However, I did want to make sure I spent some time with my dad before we had to head back to Kansas. We did have one more objective to reach. Actually I did, my aunt and mom just went along with it. It is extremely hard for me to be so close to a state and not make a stop there to mark it off my map. So on the way home, we searched for somewhere to stop in Wisconsin. We found some waterfalls in a Wisconsin State Park, and made one last stop before heading back to moms. Now I can cross it off! It had killed me to be so close to Canada and not be able to go. This wasn’t quite the same as going to another country, but it helped ease the pain.

The drive back across the mid-section of Minnesota is not the most exciting (sorry Minnesota), but soon enough we were back in Hendricks, Minnesota. Our adventure was over. We did do a little more shopping the next day in downtown Hendricks, went to a flower show, and attended a pie social; but none of that compared to the beautiful sights we saw, nor the company we shared. I wonder where the next Girls Trip will be. No matter where we go, or who else joins us, I’m sure it will be fabulous fun.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Unlike most people, my year revolves around the school year, not the calendar year. I don’t plan things from January through December. I plan from August to July. I find myself coming very quickly upon the end of the year. This year it seems to have gone quicker than most. Having only 7 weeks off for the summer this year has made it seem even shorter.

I’m not complaining. While I don’t get paid for the majority of those 7 weeks, I realize I am lucky to be able to have that time off. I have the flexibility of working when I want during those weeks, and have been able to streamline things to a point where I now only have to work about 4 hours a week on average.

As the summer comes to a close, I find myself remembering many wonderful summers over the years. As a child every summer held a trip to the farm, all by myself.  A few years, I caught the bus in downtown Wichita and rode it to Pratt, where grandma would pick me up. Never in a million years could you do that now! One summer, I think it was the one after 4th grade, my friend Allison got to come with me. We had a great time riding the lawn mower all over the yard. We made street signs and placed them strategically in the large farm yard. A week may have been a little long, as I also remember some fussing as well.

One of the best summers I recall, was several years ago when the children were small. We bought a trial membership at one of the private pools. Several of the kid’s friends, as well as mine also belonged. We went swimming almost every afternoon. Sometimes Roger would join us after work. I would bring dinner and we would spend the evening swimming.

Now I find that summers will be changing again. This year only one of our kids went on vacation with us. Next week I will spend several days with just my mom and aunt, traveling along the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

My summers may be evolving, but they still evoke the same feelings they did when I was a child. I think the senses come alive with the heat of a hot summer day, the smell of a cool swimming pool, or the taste of rich, homemade ice cream. The excitement of summer will never go away.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Life on the Road

My plans for the summer included staying home, staying home, and staying home. About mid-February, those plans started their tumble. I was busy getting ready for our family vacation over Spring Break, when our friends asked us to go to Colorado with them this summer.

Several years ago, I followed in my grandparents footsteps, and invited these same friends to go to the Grand Canyon with us. It had meant a lot to me to share in my grandparents adventures with their friends through pictures and videos. I wanted to create those same memories for my family.

On top of our friends being so excited about the prospect, my husband had been wanting to get back to Colorado for several years. One look at Roger's face, and I knew we had to go. Needless to say, we just finished a week in Colorado. Four adults. Four children, ages 4, 8, 11, and 16. We had a great time! Short hikes, long hikes, sitting by the lake, picnics in National Parks- and daily shows by two beautiful little girls to keep us entertained. Just the memories I want to create!

In June, I also spent some time in Kansas City with 8 teenagers, including my youngest son and two of his best friends. They had just completed a 2 week Inter Distance Learning Chinese class through the Confucius Institute. The course ended with a trip to KC for some interaction with other students from two states that had taken the course as well. I went along as a sponsor, and was privileged to meet some of the Chinese teachers, in the states for a period to work with the program. They were so wonderful to meet. It was great fun seeing how much the teens had learned.

With three weeks of summer left for me, I find myself preparing for one last trip. This time Cameron and I are headed to Minnesota Saturday. I will be taking my aunt, where we will leave Cameron with my dad for four days and travel the North Shore, and into Wisconsin and Michigan.

While I had not planned on travelling this summer, I look forward to one last trip before returning to work. Most importantly, I am looking forward to making a few more memories to store in my minds eye.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remembering Grandma

What a week we just had! Last Thursday, May 19, my grandma passed away. This came just as we were getting ready for 3 graduations over the weekend - but that is another blog. Today I want to share with you my grandma. I was privileged to give the Eulogy followed by more words about growing up with grandma from my cousin Tammie. No need to invent the wheel, these are the words I wrote and presented to a full room of family and friends that gathered to remember Grandma.

Good morning. I’m Lori Rankin, the oldest Granddaughter of Vivian Smith, the daughter of Gloria. The family would like to thank you for joining us as we remember our wife, mom, grandma, and great-grandma – and hopefully hear some new stories or even things you never knew about Vivian along the way. As you all know Grandma lived a full, long life. There is a lot to share – so settle in, this may take awhile.

Vivian Vernice Adams was born November 30, 1924 to Harold and Josie Adams. She is a descendant of some of Pratt Counties Early Settlers, the Williams, Baumgartners, McFarlands, and Adams, who began arriving as early as 1884 .

Vivian lived her entire life in Pratt County. She grew up North of Cullison in the Sand Hills.

In addition to her immediate family, Vivian is survived by the favorite Uncle, Ivan Adams, aged 99.

Vivian was preceded in death by her three beloved brothers. Morris was accidentally killed in 1942, shortly before graduation his senior year. Tommy was killed after the war in 1948. He was stationed in North Carolina where he was in a training exercise when the plane he was piloting crashed. Most recently, her brother Larry passed away in 2004. She had the most time with Larry, and enjoyed traveling to see him and his wife Melba on trips to Arizona where they had retired.

Vivian attended Cullison Schools 1-12th, the same schools her mother, aunts and uncles had attended, and later her own children.

She had fond memories of going to picnics and school activities at the Turkey Creek YMCA Camp. She loved playing at the Hughes home, a neighbor family down the road. There she met their cousin, Avola and enjoyed playing with her as well. A short time ago she became neighbors of Avola at Parkwood and was able to spend some time reminiscing.

She played the clarinet in band, was a member of the Girls Athletic Association, Salutatorian, and SR class vice president to Anfred’s Class president.

After high school, she went to school in Missouri, returning to Pratt and working at the Peoples Bank.

While she and Anfred were HS classmates, they were not sweet hearts. Anfred says he didn’t realize she existed until about 3 weeks before they graduated. After they began dating, Vivian didn’t think Anfred would ever kiss her. Anfred reckons he surely must have, finally. I should also tell you, as we were preparing for today, Grandpa heard some of us whispering and giggling and warned we better not share too much. I might be in trouble later.

Grandma wrote in Grandpa’s 1943 yearbook, “Anfred, It’s been nice to know you these four years in high school. Keep on smiling and you will get out of all your troubles.” Two years later she became a war bride when she married Grandpa during a leave from the Navy. He was actually to have come home sooner, but did not show up. There was a period of time when no one knew why he wasn’t there. They finally heard word that he had Scarlett Fever. After he had recuperated, he was able to come home and finally marry Vivian.

Vivian joined Anfred in California where he was stationed in the Navy. She attended the commissioning of the US McCafferty, a destroyer escort ship that Anfred served on.

During that time, Anfred’s brother and sister-in-law were in California as well. Virginia Smith once shared with me that when Anfred went overseas in the Navy, Vivian was pregnant and rode back to Kansas with her and Marvin. It was so Hot, and Vivian was so miserable on that trip. They had to make stops to go into stores to cool off. She said they realized then what a strong, loving person Vivian was.

Grandma attended the Wellsford church from 1948-1965. She told me one time that when she was pregnant with Uncle Morris, she fell in the hall of the church one day, and did the splits. What a sight that must have been. After 1965, she and Anfred were active members of the Free Methodist church in Pratt.

Grandma shared with us that in hindsight, her happiest years were when her kids were small. She liked to tell stories about her children. Uncle Morris did not like school. In fact, he would run crying from the bus when it came to pick him up. The bus would wait while she went to find him. She talked often of trying to get Aunt Jan to wear a dress, not an easy task. And she taught my mom many things about cooking and cleaning, as mom preferred to help inside the house.

Grandma was a farm wife, which meant she was a worker. She fed harvest crews and helped wherever needed. One time Anfred got a truck stuck in the trench silo. While trying to get it out, he got a 2nd truck stuck, eventually getting a tractor stuck, too. Finally, Vivian had to go with him late at night after the ground had frozen to help drive as they pulled everything out with a combine.

Aunt Jan shared a story of being on the farm where there wasn’t a basement to go to in bad weather. Instead you went to the cellar. Not only was the cellar a shelter against the weather, but it stored the many canned foods that were put up each summer, along with a variety of spiders and snakes. One particular evening, Vivian found herself trapped in the cellar with her children, and Anfred nowhere near home. When it was all clear, no matter how hard they tried, they could not get that cellar door open. They were resigned to having to wait for Anfred to get home and help them. Finally, they were able to force the cellar door open, escaping back into the house.

Grandma was a great housewife. She made their clothes. She gardened, canning green beans and tomatoes. For a time she churned her own butter. She was a great cook, although my mom, Gloria remembers the time grandma tried making cottage cheese and it was awful! One of the best things was being in the kitchen when she was baking. Grandma didn’t just make your average homemade bread. She made truly homemade bread, from getting the wheat out of the grainery and grinding it, to kneading and baking it. And there was always homemade Sandhill Plum Jelly to top it off. Not everything was homemade, as Allen found out. Allen asked Grandma to please share her Cream Corn recipe with his mom, he loved that cream corn. It took awhile, but she finally confessed her cream corn recipe involved a can and a can opener.

I know that Grandma liked to have a good time. This was evident in all of the old 8mm film that had been taken over the years. She would climb up into the attic and pull down the projector and let us watch all of the old movies of family events and vacations (not to mention Hopalong Cassidy). In those films, you got to know family and family friends that enjoyed her company. There were camping trips to Colorado with Delpha and Glen Clarkson and their children. There were family gatherings with parents, grandparents, children, aunts and uncles. The funnest to watch were our parents when they were little playing on the homemade merry-go-round with their cousins Delpha, Donita, Carol, Marlee, and Cathy. I think that must have been before Cousin Mark was big enough to play.

Grandma was also adventurous, and spent time traveling all over America and into foreign countries with Grandpa. In 1979, she accompanied Grandpa and his brother, Lawrence, to Washington DC during the Tractorcade. Uncle Lawrence drove the tractor, Vivian and Anfred followed with an RV as members of the American Agriculture Movement. She also went with Grandpa on 3 mission trips to Honduras, Mexico City, and Arizona where they helped build a school and visited Mission Stations to check on the activities of the missionaries the church was supporting. She even put her sewing skills to good use making drapes once. She also cut fabric squares for missions in Africa. The other night some of us decided that only God knew just how many squares she has cut over the years.

They continued their adventures in retirement, making numerous trips out west and to the Northwest to see their brothers. Lawrence, Uncle Lloyd, and Aunt Dorine went along to visit Uncle Marvin and Aunt Virginia in Washington one year. And Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Dorine, along with the Leeks, ventured to Arizona visiting Uncle Larry and Aunt Melba along the way. Just as in their younger years, they had a grand time being with their friends and family.

Even though Grandma was a child of the depression, she was not afraid to embrace the new world that grew around her. If you wanted to watch a video at Grandma’s you didn’t ask Grandpa, you went to Grandma for instructions on how to work their VCR and later their DVD player. She kept their accounts balanced with the help of spreadsheets on the computer. She embraced the internet, enjoying keeping in touch with her family through email initially, and with her own Facebook Account in her later years.

Grandma also enjoyed crafts. My cousin Tammie refers to her as a Folk Artist, and I agree. She was talented in many areas and loved to create. Among many things, she painted, and cross stitched, but is probably most famous for her wheat weaving expertise. She would go out to the field and harvest her own wheat straw every June. Grandpa always teased her that she took the best wheat, leaving him with the leftovers. She was asked to consult on a wheat weaving craft book that was written by another Kansas Wheat Weaver. She was interviewed for the Pratt Tribune in June of 1986 for an article on wheat weaving. But most importantly, she patiently shared her talents with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, teaching them how to wheat weave. I can still smell the wheat straw as it soaked up water from the trays she placed them into, making them pliable. And I can feel the cool water as it dripped down the stalks onto my bear feet as I sat in a chair, weaving a candle stick or a wreath. I think we all loved going to Greensburg with Grandma and taking a new supply of treasures to the Big Well to be sold in the gift shop. Teresa loved to go in the craft room off the kitchen at the farm. She remembers that Grandma would let us make anything. And she would. Kristy expressed it best when she said she taught us to not be afraid to try things. Once Kristy reupholstered a rocking chair and Grandma helped advise her when needed, as Grandma had reupholstered several pieces of furniture over the years.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention perhaps the most cherished craft that Grandma gave us. Over the years, she made Christmas stockings for every child, grandchild, and almost every great grandchild, as well as their spouses. They are a family treasure.

Many of the stories from today were shared with me as I made a scrapbook for Grandma and Grandpa one long ago Christmas. Many family and friends contributed stories to share. I think Tammie and Teresa best summed it up for all of the grandchildren when they shared “I do not think we could have a better set of Grandparents. We always knew we were important.” I would go on to say, each of us knew we were the favorite Grandchild, and that is how it should be.

Grandma lived a long, productive, happy life. There were few regrets. She did express that she was reluctant to leave and would not see all of her great grandchildren grow up. Tammie shared with me that right after grandma died, she thought to herself, “a part of me is gone.” That is also what is so great about having a grandma like we did. We have a part of her that will always be in us. This part of her that lives on in each of us is the legacy that she leaves for her great-grandchildren.

I would like to close with a special memory that each of her grandchildren shared with her. You couldn’t go to Grandma’s when you were little and not have her read a book to you at bed time. I won’t make you all sit through the entire book, but will share with you the final page of the story most often read.

So off to the palace went Cinderella in the King’s own coach, with the happy Grand duke by her side. The Prince was delighted to see her again. And so was his father the King. So was everyone. For this sweet, and beautiful girl won the hearts of all who met her. Soon she was Princess of the land. And she and her husband, the charming Prince, rode to their palace in a golden coach to live Happily Ever After!

The End.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Great cuddling weather...

I sit here this morning, gazing out of our picture window in the family room. The world is white and calm. It reminds me of many childhood memories, playing in the snow. Who am I kidding; I slept until almost 9:00, and stayed in bed for 2 ½ hours reading a great book my boss loaned me. I only finally set it aside as guilt began to overcome me – I knew I had laundry that could be done, and should really take care of feeding my children.

I waited impatiently last night for the call to come. Gone are the days of anxiously waiting for our schools name to come across the bottom of the screen, or listening for the name to be read on the radio. We are in a new age of technology. Today, someone at the school sets up an auto dialer to contact all of the staff and families from our district. As the T.V. has continuous coverage of the “storm of the decade”, I wait anxiously for the telephone to ring. Early in the day, a local university has already called classes for the day. McConnell Air Force Base has already called for a 2 hour delay the next day. Ten O’clock approaches, schools are falling left and right. Mulvane, Goddard, Derby…and then the papa of all schools. The school that sets the bar for school closings. It could be argued successfully in a debate that they never call of school. And there it is; Wichita schools closed, February 1. Nothing from our beloved Maize. Uggghhh.

I find myself consoling my kid’s friends on Facebook. “They’re just making sure this storm really comes in.” Am I convincing them, or myself? One of Cameron’s friends implores me to use my influence to get school cancelled. Of course it was followed by a ha ha, knowing people in the office have no pull. I went to bed convincing myself that they wouldn’t make us go to school the next day. But just enough doubt was there, poisoning my thoughts about an otherwise competent administration. Would they really make us go to school? Were they concerned because we have parent teacher conferences later this week and the kids are already scheduled to be out of school Thursday and Friday?

A few short hours later I found myself wide awake, listening to the howling wind. I began to speculate just where the wind chill must be at by now. I kept glancing at the clock, 5:00, 5:15, 5:30 – no call. (Now you know why I was impatiently waiting for the call to come the night before. Who wants to be awake at 5 in the morning waiting for the no school call to come!? It is much handier when it comes the night before and all of the alarm clocks can be turned off!) I find myself drifting off. 5:53 – and I am jolted awake by Dancing Queen blaring in my ear. There it is - the coveted call – SNOW DAY!!! The district has come through. As sweet thoughts of gratefulness fill my head, my husband simply says, “you suck”. A few minutes later, he crawls out of bed to start his day. I roll over, pull the dog close to snuggle, and pull the warm blankets up to my chin.

SNOW DAY!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Traditions and Other Life Experiences

This week my family said good-bye to a very special women in our lives. To me, she was Aunt Dorine - maker of hugemongous popcorn balls and a most gracious women who always had a smile for you and a kind word. She would have been 93 years old this year, and was approaching her 70th wedding anniversary. She was the wife of one of my favorite people, my Uncle Lloyd. They farmed not far from my grandparents. When I visited during harvest, the majority of my time was spent attached to my grandmother. I do recall stopping by one of Uncle Lloyd's fields to see how things were going, and finding Aunt Dorine in the field in the heat of summer. I will never forget the image of her in shorts and cowboy boots! This amused me greatly. Maybe because I could never imagine my own grandmother dressed for the field like this. But mostly because this was in such contrast to how Aunt Dorine looked the rest of the year when I would have the chance to visit her. I believe she was not only  gracious, but confident, smart, and practical.

After the funeral, we made our way to the cemetary to lay her to rest. As we traveled to the small cemetary in a nearby tiny, country town, it reminded of the last time I traveled Highway 54 to this same cemetary. That time, we were saying goodbye to my beloved Great-Grandmother Josie. As we made our way East out of Greensburg, we traveled along Highway 54 just as we traveled West along the same highway for Aunt Dorine. In Kansas, there is a tradition of pulling over to allow funeral processions to pass. Even on this major highway through Western Kansas, people pulled over. I don't really know how this began. Perhaps it was for safety, in some states I believe it is a law, but in others you don't see this at all. I think it is a sign of respect. It meant so much to see even the busy truck drivers pull their 18-wheelers over as we passed, many removing their hats. My grandmother deserved that. As did Aunt Dorine.

I witnessed the same thing all these years later on Friday. I can safely say that not everyone stopped, however. I hope that this is not a sign that this will be another simple show of respect that goes by the wayside because we are all so consumed with our own lives and how busy we are. I hope we never allow ourselves to be so consumed that we can't take a few minutes for this simple show of compassion.

I was also blessed to see my Uncle Lloyd the last two days. I have to be honest and say this was hard on many levels. Just as my grandparents are forever in their 40's in my mind, so is Uncle Lloyd (we won't go into how old I am now!). I can recall many a time growing up experiencing his honeriness first hand. Sometimes it was teasing, sometimes he would grab my knee and squeeze to set me gigling. Needless to say, Uncle Lloyd is not in his 40's anymore, in fact he will soon turn 95. Age has caught up with him, as his mind has slipped and now his body is weakening. He doesn't remember many things any longer, including who I am. As I sat next to him in the nursing home today, though, I saw a glimpse of who he has always been as he winked at me. And as he squeezed my hand - hard! This is the man he will always be to me.

This weekend is yet another reminder to not let opportunities pass. Although the days weren't always easy, I cherish being able to see my uncle and to say good-bye to a most special aunt. I am greatful that I was able to spend time with my grandparents, and other family members.

Make memories that will last a lifetime. They are much more important than a mopped floor, or a folded basket of socks.