Author Archive

A Blink of Sixty Years

I awakened this morning after a decent night’s sleep with a new energy I had not felt for quite some time. I love May: beautiful flowers, spring temperatures, baseball in full swing, and this first Saturday in May – the Kentucky Derby. I remembered, too, that May 4 is a significant date. I grabbed a copy of Helen’s Heritage on the bookshelf near my bed and thumbed through the pages. My hunch was correct. May 4 is the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, and today is the 60th anniversary of her passing.

This morning was crisp – temps only in the 40s, but a bright sun had risen and promised to warm up the day. I wonder if that’s the way it was the morning Grandma Rhoda Margaret (Mag) passed on. I know the day before she passed was beautiful and was the last day that she spoke. She saw yellow. She saw spring.

In less than a decade, I will be the age she was when she died, her youngest child has lived almost fifteen years longer than she, and sixty years have passed. How can this all be?

Such is the passage of time, of which we have no control. All we can do is live the best we can today.

I’ve written much about my maternal grandmother over the years in blogs and in both of my books, Reflections and Helen’s Heritage. Of course, she will be in my new book later this year, Someday I Will Write.

I don’t know why I remember so much about her. Goodness, I was only three years old when she died. But let the naysayers think what they will, let me not forget, and let no one take those good memories from me or keep me from writing about them.

Sometimes I wonder if she knows I remember. Does she know that I think about her and write about her? Would she smile?

Mammy – how beautiful you were when you were young.

Mag on the right, sister Lucy on the left

How beautiful you were in your later years. Look at you here with Daddy.

And how beautiful your baby is today.

Mammy, as you said, what a beautiful yellow!

What a beautiful day to be alive!

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Someday #5

What have I been doing? Listen here to update #5 on Someday I Will Write: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzG9h94RUWs

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Someday #4

In update #4 on my book Someday I Will Write, I read to you a story about a man I call the wisest of the wise.

Click here to connect to my YouTube channel and view the video.

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Someday #3

Are you an aspiring writer? Don’t have the time to write?

Neither did I, or so I thought.

Here’s an update video on my book Someday I Will Write.

Click here to connect to my YouTube channel and view the video.

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Someday #2

Happy New Year everyone! For the first day of 2019, here is an update video on my current book project, Someday I Will Write.

Click here to connect to my YouTube channel and view the new video.

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Someday #1

Book #3 will be out in 2019 (Someday I will Write, Someday when I have the Time). I’ve decided to make short videos to update my readers on the progress of the book – on my YouTube channel. You can watch the first short, three-minute video by clicking here.

Thanks for watching and, as always, …

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Yes, This Sweater

With attention focused on my book release in 2019, I came across a blog from six years ago that made me smile and prompted new thoughts.

Here’s Oh, That Sweater from November 2012.

Once upon a time while raising a household of boys and baseball, football, and wrestling were the only things that seemed to matter, I had a Christmas wish – a wish for a simple white turtleneck with a Chiefs arrowhead emblem on the collar.  You see, I had this red corduroy jumper that I frequently wore to work on Fridays before a Chiefs game.  I had a couple of white blouses that looked fine with it, but I really wanted that turtleneck to make it an official Chiefs outfit.  It wasn’t an expensive piece of clothing; but for some reason, whenever I was out shopping and would see the item for sale, the merchant never had my size.  And when the stock was depleted for the year, the item was not restocked.  I really felt it could be an inexpensive Christmas present for this devoted mother.  So I dropped hint after hint that all I really wanted for Christmas was a Chiefs turtleneck.  I wondered if my sons ever heard me.

I kept hoping for that turtleneck through all those winning playoff seasons.  Then one Christmas morning, I opened a rather large box to find a woven white varsity-type, over-sized Chiefs sweater.  I knew it must have cost much more than the little turtleneck so expressed my gratitude and found a red skirt and a pair of stirrup pants that I could wear with it.  (Yes, I said stirrup pants so you’re probably getting the picture about how long ago this might have been.) 

I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but all I really wanted was the white turtleneck with the arrowhead on the collar.  As I recall, I wore the sweater a couple of times and then was so disappointed when the Chiefs let Rich Gannon slip away to the dreaded Oakland Raiders that I announced at work I would not wear the sweater again until they acquired an adequate quarterback that could lead us to the Super Bowl (which, by the way, Rich did the next season with the Raiders).  So while the Chiefs’ management team stood by their man, I stood on my word too.  I did allow one of the guys in our office to wear the sweater for a United Way fundraiser office parade since he dressed up as the cheerleader and I dressed up as the player.  It was a fun day, and Kansas City fans loved their Chiefs.

Eventually, the Chiefs did acquire another quarterback, Trent Green, who led us to many victories; and I proudly wore my sweater.  Since his retirement, we’ve been through quarterbacks, running backs, coaches, etc., and have now accepted our losing ways.  Long gone are those glory days.  I guess the winning years need to be passed around the various cities and teams, but I hope the winning wind blows Kansas City’s way soon or even the die-hard fans may not stick around.   A joke surfaced around the various social media in Kansas City on Halloween entitled: Worst Halloween Treat Ever.  Two costumed-up kids were leaving a house after trick or treating with one looking down in his bag of goodies saying:

Aw, man … I got Chiefs tickets.

I have never thought much of fair-weathered fans, but I fear I have become one.  The decade-old sweater is neatly folded in my armoire, perhaps awaiting another day.  I might stop and tan on my way home from work rather than rushing home to watch the Chiefs on Monday Night Football.  The Chiefs have moved on, and so have I after all these years.

So if my adult sons happen to read this, just know that a Chiefs turtleneck is no longer on my Christmas wish list.  Gourmet coffee, decadent chocolate, or a simple hug with dinner will do.  My red corduroy jumper no longer hangs in my closet, so that white turtleneck just doesn’t seem to matter.

And as I say … life continues on.

Well, this is definitely another day. A new man (boy to me) is in town, and some t-shirts identify him as “Mahomie.” He’s brought such excitement to our city and, surrounded by some other key players, a new hope. Maybe, just maybe, the Chiefs will win a playoff game this year. Maybe that curse is finally gone. In fact, I went out on a limb a few weeks ago and prophesied that the Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl!

So, yes, I’ve dawned the twenty-year-old sweater once again, and I’m definitely not stopping to tan on my way home to watch the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football tonight.

And one more thing, if my adult sons are reading this, I’ll take that white turtleneck with the arrowhead on the collar for Christmas this year.

GO CHIEFS!

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New Book – 2019

I confess that I have not written many blogs this year. I looked at the first one I wrote on the first day of the new year. I identified two things that I wanted to accomplish in 2018. Neither are fulfilled. However, there is hope, just a bit deferred. (Oh, how true it is that we should always precede everything with “God willing.”  We know not what each day, month, and year holds.)

  • Although not on the timeline I had hoped, I have on my calendar to have my new author photo shoot this fall.

AND

  • Although not far enough on the path to complete my next book this year, 2019 is a sure thing (God willing of course 🙂 ). 

The link below will direct you to a short video I made as part of my new timeline for completing and releasing the promised book. Thanks for staying tuned for more updates on #Someday!

New Book 2019

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Just an Ordinary Day in June

I believe the year was 1999. It was the season of life where everything surrounded youth baseball – competitive, sometimes intense, but always a lot of fun as I juggled three boys in this sport. It was championship Sunday for my middle son in Omaha, Nebraska, three hours away from our home in Kansas City. We had been there since Thursday and thoroughly expected to play in the finals on Sunday, probably three games, being the top-rated team. But as we prepared early that morning to go to the field, my gut told me to pack up everything for the trip home rather than returning to the hotel between games to checkout and loadup. I don’t know if it was intuition or just a desire to get back to Kansas City. My youngest son was the bat boy for the team so was always with us, but I had missed my oldest son’s birthday who stayed back to play in his own local tournament. I had a divided heart those few days.

I’m not sure why the boys played so poorly. It was an early-morning game – 7:00 a.m. and these ten-year-olds were known to play better in the evening than early mornings. The heat could have been a factor too – near 90 degrees as the the first game of the day began. Summer had set in early that year. When the last out was made, I rushed my two boys off the field and hit the road in our brown Suburban we came to call the “Subdivision” as the other parents headed back to the hotel to pack. We would be home by noon on that sunny Sunday for a belated birthday celebration with their brother. This was one time I didn’t mind losing a ballgame.

I’m not sure it was even 9:00 a.m. when we were soon on the rural stretch of Interstate 29 just south of Omaha/Council Bluffs, nothing but rows of corn and soybeans between the scattered exits. The boys were playing with their Game Boys in the back of the Subdivision and didn’t notice when we abruptly lost speed. I had the cruise control set and thought it had malfunctioned so pressed on the gas pedal, but nothing happened. We were simply coasting, and fortunately we were right at an exit. We got about halfway down the ramp. It was like steering an army tank, but I managed to get off to the side. The vehicle was only two years old, but I soon learned there was absolutely no power – no lights, no air, no power brakes, no power steering, nothing registered on the dash panel. Furthermore, we were locked in with power windows. I panicked for a few seconds thinking we might suffocate but then realized I could manually unlock the driver’s door. Whew!

From the back of the dead Subdivision, “Why did we stop here?”

“Something’s wrong with the vehicle,” I answered as I picked up the heavy eight-inch (then coveted, now antiquated) cell phone. I called home in hopes of getting some advice about what to do. My 14-year-old answered the phone but said his dad was at work.

There’s no way we could sit inside that brown beast very long. I jumped out and opened the hood just when two older men in a pickup turned off the outer road and headed our direction. They said they were going fishing but wanted to help if they could. One of the men came to the conclusion it must be an alternator problem. They talked between themselves, almost as though I wasn’t present, trying to determine how best to help me … “nothing’s open around here on Sundays … no hotels nearby either … whom can we call … don’t want to call that guy, he’ll take advantage of her.”

Then they turned to me and said there was a local man at the Bartlett exit I had just passed a few miles ago who operated a small repair garage out of his home.  Maybe he would help a stranded mom with two young sons on this hot Sunday. He had a tow truck too.

The two men left to call from one of their homes and returned with the good news. The self-made mechanic was on his way. They waited until the scraggly, gray-haired bearded man arrived in a rusty old pickup with an attached trailer bed. “Ma’am, you and the boys are going to have to ride with me in my pickup back to my place so I can look at your vehicle and see if I can help you. Hopefully I can get you back and running today. If not, there are no hotels nearby, so I’ll do the best I can.”

He hooked the Subdivision to his trailer and asked me and the boys to hop in his pickup cab. I thanked the two fishermen for their assistance as all four of us piled in the single bench seat, both boys sandwiched between us. I thought quickly. If I had to stay stranded for the night in rural Iowa, that was fine; but I needed my boys to be taken care of. I remembered that the other team parents had gone back to the hotel. So as we headed back north on the outer road, I called up the coach of the team telling him where I was, what had happened, and asked if he could stop off at the Bartlett exit and take my boys home. Of course he could.

Whew! At least someone knew where we were. And I made sure the scruffy old man heard every word I said making eye contact with him as I detailed the precise location. He reassured me that everything would be fine and confirmed my directions to the coach. He must have sensed my uneasiness.

We heard a pop from one of the tires on his trailer as we pulled into his place – a large corner parcel of land with an oversized stand-alone building – his garage – and his mobile home several feet away. There were lots of trees scattered on his property with a beautiful weeping willow shading the front-porch deck of the mobile home. Railroad tracks were nearby – just across the partially paved and gravel road.

The boys played some catch and chased each other around the yard while the man inspected the Subdivision. It did not take him long to determine the problem was, indeed, the alternator. But he said he would have to drive to Council Bluffs and hoped the parts store would have one in stock. He said he would be gone at least an hour, maybe two, and asked if I would mind sitting on his front porch as he pointed to a round high-top table with two barstools. He offered us ice tea. I grabbed a book out of the Subdivision and sat at the table while the boys continued to play, at least for several minutes. Then they were bored and wanted to get home to their video games and the remainder of their Sunday afternoon. I pointed out all of the different things to do in the country, the sights and sounds, when about that time we were rocked by the sound of a freight train coming through. That definitely got their attention, and it wasn’t much longer before Coach John pulled up with his family in his mini subdivision. The boys were thrilled and crawled in the back with his boys, and without even a “see ya later Mom,” were headed to their comfort land. I think I heard: “Thank God.”

Sitting there alone, I read several chapters in my book and found the breeze and shade somewhat relaxing. There was nothing I could do but rest and wait. Life had paused, my sons were safe, and I was fine. Whew!

The old man returned in good time, replaced the alternator, and had me ready to go in less than two hours. I was amazed when he said I could write him a check. The bill was less than $150. I apologized for the flat tire on his trailer and was very grateful that there would be a late-afternoon birthday celebration in Kansas City.

You know what I learned that day? He was not a scruffy old man. He was a kind, gentle man, a real gentleman. I had to trust strangers that day, something I never forgot. I don’t know if my sons learned anything on that ordinary day in June, but I did. I was thankful for the two men who first stopped to help. I hope they caught some fish that day. As for the gentleman mechanic, while I paid him for his service, I never felt like that was quite enough.

Two years later, we were back in Omaha again for several days at another baseball tournament. As I checked out of the hotel, I picked up some of their famous chocolate chip cookies. The boys and I headed south down Interstate 29 on another ordinary Sunday in June just like two years earlier. This time I intentionally exited at Bartlett, Iowa.

Déjà vu.  From the back of the Subdivision, “Why are we stopping here?”

“There is something I have to do. It will just take a minute.”

The windows were open in the mobile home and I heard a game on the televsion as I stepped onto the deck porch shaded by the weeping willow tree. I knocked on the door and waited for the bearded old man to answer. I handed him the gift sack of cookies as I reminded him who I was and what he had done two years earlier. He stepped out onto the porch grinning ear to ear and said, “Is it still running for ya?”

“But of course, see for yourself. And I thank you again.”

And on just an ordinary day in June twenty years later, I’m still talking about two fishermen and a gentleman mechanic. Maybe it wasn’t so ordinary afterall.

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Another House, Another Home

It was important to me to arrive before dark. I pulled into the driveway around 5:00 p.m. on a mild but breezy day in early February. I glanced at the “For Sale” sign in the yard and pulled my scarf a little tighter around my neck as I walked down the sloping drive to the backyard. The chain-link gate was open wide inviting me in.

It was hard to imagine that almost thirty-five years had passed since I saw the house for the very first time after dark on that October evening – that a lifetime had gone by – raising a family and growing older.

I prayed for the new family that would come and restore the house …

~ that a spirit of unity would encompass every inch of the inside and the outside,

~ that the plank on the step of the lower deck would be nailed down,

~ that the football laying on top of the pool cover would sail through the air,

~ that the cover would be removed and sparkling blue water would swirl in the pool,

~ that someone would warm up for baseball games at the back fence,

~ that a ball would once again roll around the rim of the hoop on the garage and fall through for a score,

~ that there would be tinkering sounds in the garage,

~ that hot dogs and burgers would sizzle on the grill,

~ that a spunky young pup would dart back and forth between the fence on the property lines not knowing his predecessor rests below,

~ that little feet would chase fireflies as the sun went down,

~ that a cord of wood would be stacked at the back door ready to warm the inside with a cozy fire, both upstairs and downstairs,

… and, oh, so much more.

I looked toward the barren woods at the back of the yard beyond the fence and remembered the beautiful green tree line in summertime, the Redbuds in springtime, and the rustling of many leaves in autumn that covered the grounds. There is so much that only I could tell someone about this house – like why the drive is gated, why there is a door underneath the deck, why the garage is detached, why that was changed, when that was installed. But none of those things really matter anymore. It will be a home where someone else will have their own whys and whens.

I turned to walk back to the driveway and stopped at the side door of the garage. It was cracked open. The frame was worn. I could not bring myself to push the door open and walk inside. Instead, I strolled up the driveway to my car.

I doubt that anyone noticed my visit to the empty dwelling as I said goodbye, again, for the last time. I didn’t peek inside the house either.

I would never have guessed thirty-five years ago that this is the way I would bid farewell. I don’t know what happened here the last few years, but I know what can happen in the years to come.

Family, come hither. This house is ready to say, Welcome Home.

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