Old Blog Posts - I just can't lose them yet...

The Last Quilt

I have a quilt on my wall.  Memories of visiting my grandmother are wrapped up in colorful, old-fashioned quilts and comforters.  They are seasoned with the scent of fresh doughnuts and coffeecake, and flavored by the sounds of laughter and music, cousins and cows, roosters and hounds.  We were the city cousins, the part of the family that drove 700 miles from New Jersey to Indiana for summer vacations and Christmas holidays.  Grandma was a rock in the middle of a river of changing times, family, and places.  Everyone and everything swirled around her and her house in those early visiting years.  She took care of us all.

By the time I graduated from college, the visits to Grandma had become less frequent.  We lived farther away; the city cousins had moved to Phoenix.  Too far for single-week vacations; airline tickets were more than my family of six could afford.  We kept in touch.  We brought Grandma out to visit us.  She taught my sisters and me how to make doughnuts.  She had grown a little smaller, less confident.  She wasn't a city girl.

A year after I moved to Denver to start my first job after college, my mother called.  "Grandma has had an aneurism, she's in intensive care.  Can you come?"  I went.  We stayed in the hospital day and night for a week, hoping she would make it.  I drew pictures for her.  We took turns talking to the silent, shrunken woman with the tubes and machines.  She didn't look like my grandmother.  Her room was supposed to smell like doughnuts, not antiseptic soap.  It was too quiet.  When able, she talked about the farm, about the family; she talked about being buried in her best nightgown so she could comfortably meet her Maker.  She was released after two weeks.

Within a month, I was in Indiana at Grandma's house, to help care for her.  The rock in the river was beginning to tumble.  She taught me to crochet.  We spent lots of time together that winter, wrapped up in quilts and comforters.  I could see scraps of dresses she'd worn sewn into the traditional patterns.  She told me about those old times: stories of her life and her family.  I tried to make doughnuts.  Relatives visited and reminisced.  We had a family reunion and rented the biggest hall in town to hold all who came.  Grandma was a tiny, old woman with sunken cheeks, watery eyes, and a sad smile.

Five months passed and I had to leave.  Grandma was well enough to stay with my aunt.  I needed to get back to the city.  I wasn't ready to be Grandma's rock, and she'd been swirling around me for awhile.  She was so small, so dependent, so lost.

I saw Grandma twice more.  The first time I went back to Indiana for a visit.  Some of the old sparkle had returned.  She didn't have the stamina she'd had when I was young, but then, we were all getting older.  Eroded and tumbled, the rock seemed to have come to rest in a calmer place.  Family and activity drifted around her, and she was peaceful.

The last time I saw her was at her funeral.  She was dressed in her best pink nightgown, exactly as she'd always wished.  My grandma-rock had drifted to the shore and she was finally home.  I kissed her cheek and said goodbye.

I have a quilt on my wall.  It is the last one that my grandmother made.  I can see scraps of old dresses she'd worn, and I remember.


There are times when tragedy just doesn't cover it.  The headlines said, "12 Dead, 31 Injured in Ft Hood Tragedy".   A soldier walked into a busy complex on post and opened fire on soldiers.  He was shot and detained.  Two other suspects were apprehended and are being questioned..........

My daughter is safe.  Her bus never picked her up at her school because the news had already been released to transportation.  All of the right people made the right phone calls, and I was allowed to leave my school to pick her up at her school.

My husband is safe. I didn't know right away.  I did know it was a shooting that locked down the post...that stopped the buses...the reason I needed to pick up my daughter.  I prayed.  I didn't know where the shooting was.  My husband was overseeing ammo delivery/training on the range.  A good place for a shooting.  My heart was not beating in the right place or in the right rhythm as I grabbed my purse, my keys, and I checked my phone.

Text in the inbox.  It was Kevin.  He wrote that he was locked down - it was going to be a late night. The text reassured me.  I prayed - "Thank you," I whispered.

I arrived at my daughter's school.  She was waiting.  She smiled - "Thank-you for getting me, Mommy - I not go to Bronco - no bus - no more Ft Hood."

"Thank-you," I whispered again.  She doesn't know.

Until we turned on her favorite station..........Breaking news. There's been a horrific tragedy at Ft. Hood. Seven dead, 12 wounded...... I couldn't press the OFF button soon enough.  Hands to mouth, my daughter hung her head, "My father...."

"...is fine."  I assured her.  I told her I had just spoken to him.  I tried calling him right there on the road. He answered.  He spoke with her - she smiled. "He's ok, my father is not dead..."

Tragedy.  Which tragedy?  Soldiers who were alive and are now dead - shot on the post they called home?  Soldiers wounded as they readied to deploy?  The families of the dead?  The children of the wounded?  The soldiers who are just now waking up in dangerous places on foreign soil - serving to keep Americans and their families safe - thinking - depending on - their family's safety at home?  My daughter who thought her father was dead - even for a moment??  The children who are locked down at their schools?  The parents who are frantic for their children?  The man who must have felt such hopelessness in his own life, that his only answer was to take other lives??

Or will the actual tragedy come later - when the next horrific news story replaces this one.  When more 'live video footage' is shown during prime time - further numbing our children to violence - further distancing them from reality?

I sometimes forget that we live in a fallen world and that God is sovereign.  Not in my time, but in His. Not my will be done,  but His.  For Him, I choose Joy. 

I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. 

Isaiah 60:17-18


My daughter, Sierra, has Downs Syndrome. This is simply a statement. She, like all children, is very special to me. I, like all parents, have done the best I can to raise her. Most of our experiences are similar to other families with children. She has the same needs for love and community as other children. She learns differently - and she has developed somewhat differently - along a somewhat slower, more spaced out timeline rather than an entirely alternate track. The reason I'm explaining this is because her sometimes extra needs have, at times, allowed us to share in non-typical experiences. The following description of Holly comes from an appointment my daughter had for early childhood development in Wyoming. The picture I chose to represent Holly, was actually labelled "Lily". I hope she and her family don't mind - she reminds me so much of that day - 16 years ago…

The first time I saw Holly, she was singing.

"The eensie, weensie PIEduh..."

Her mouth was glued to a bright yellow ball of a microphone. She held the short, black tube in a two-handed death grip, little fingers laced across one side, thumbs stretching around the other. She sat swinging her legs in a kindergarten-sized chair, a tiny dynamo in black stretch pants. Even her ruffled socks appeared to dance.

She sang slowly and deliberately with a heavy accent on the /P/ in the sixth syllable. No apparent rhythm. No apparent tune. Just Holly, the microphone, and that uniquely rendered first line. She started again.

"The eensie, weensie PIEduh..."

And stopped. Again. Her elfin features were fragile with determination. Her eyes, like smooth, black buttons turned slightly toward her nose. She concentrated intently on the microphone giving her a cross-eyed appearance. Her freckled nose, half covered by the foam ball, had a doll-like quality with a flat bridge and turned-up tip. Raggedy-Ann round circles, stood out on her cheeks. Her hair, a deep, deep brown, was pulled up and back, away from her Wyoming-winter pale face and secured with a frilly-lacy doodad that only a grandmother would buy. Some of the baby-fine strands had escaped and were gaily waving around her face with each movement of her head.

The swinging legs, replete with enthusiasm and energy, contrasted starkly with the face and upper body, creating a study in focused concentration. The total picture was like watching a hurricane build on the weather channel. The eye of this particular hurricane was that magic microphone into which Holly again sang.

"The eensie, weensie PIEduh..."

The portable karaoke machine threw Holly's voice around the suite of classrooms. Sitting beside her, singing along as she had for the last five starts, Holly's teacher attempted to encourage her to try the next line of the song.

This time, the dynamo stopped moving. Visibly unwinding, Hurricane Holly pulled her eyes from the bright yellow ball and looked up at the source of irritating interruption. She untangled her grip from the microphone and imperiously held up her hand, palm out, Queen-of-England style. Focusing her attention on the woman next to her, Holly smiled sweetly and said "Sah-wee."

She kept her hand up for another couple of seconds, making sure her teacher understood that she had forgiven her interference. Then, tilting her chin, she screwed her hands back onto the precious microphone, pulling it tightly to her chest.

Once again, her legs started swinging.

Her ruffles started dancing.

Her hair started waving.

And with an ever-so-slight smile and an added sparkle in her eyes, she glued her mouth back to the yellow globe.

"The eensie-weensie PIEduh..."

Best Friends Forever

"Mandy! Stop DOing that!" I shout over the slam-slam-slamming of the kitchen door. I swear, my little sister Mandy lives and breathes in a place called Thumpy Bumpy World. She's always banging something, or yelling something, or running trippingly through the house doing what? Oh year! Falling over something. Loudly. Noisily. BANGILY!! Wouldn't my fifth-grade teacher be proud of me for making that adverb! But it's true. I never have a quiet moment when Mandy's around. Which brings me to my point. Yes - through all this daze-y haze-y noise, I think I have a point.

Look at Keirstin all sprawled out on the floor with the papers and books scattered. SHE's not bothered. She's doing just fine. She doesn't have to have a point because her legs are swinging in time to whatever tunes she has in her i-pod. Kierstin is my best friend. We're always hanging out together. Mischievous Mandy isn't bothering Kierstin - she's already halfway through her composition and that's my point!

Homework. Schoolwork. Tests!! How am I supposed to think straight enough to actually prepare for a test or get an assignment done? I can't think to Big Band and Blues like Kierstin, and I certainly can't think to the sounds of Musical Mandy (not!). I can barely think a complete thought through all of my sister's shenanigans, let alone, put more than one coherent thought together. As my teacher says ...a word is separate meaning, a sentence is a complete thought, and a paragraph is a series of thought that make up a complete idea. I'll bet she doesn't have the world's loudest little sister barreling through her bedroom!

Yet here I sit. I'm brain-dead exhausted and I can't think through all of Mandy's racket, and I have five- to-seven-paragraph-composition due tomorrow. Write about what makes a good friend. Hah! I'll start having good friends after I grow up. I'll start having good friends when I move out of here - away from the noise, out of school and these dumb assignments. Zip! Zack!! Gone! That's when I'll know what makes a good friend.

"Kimmie, Kimmie," Oh what is it now - I'm thinking. Mandy's voice is cooing right behind me. "Kimmie, ooki yut I founded..." I look up from my empty paper and she's standing in front of me all sunshine smiles and dimples, What is she holding - my eyes stray to a brown ...UGH It's a dead mouse! She's holding it up by its tail! I guess it must be the look on my face - or the fact that I'm shooting out of my chair like a circus lady out of a cannon. Keirstin is giggling. I flash her an I-Don't-Think-It's-Funny Frown. Now Mandy's giggling. Great. A regular giggle fest - you know how it goes. One person starts and before you know it - everyone is out of control and no one knows why, That's the way it is with Mandy and Kierstin (the dead mouse isn't giggling because it's - you know - dead). That's when I start. First a little squeaky hiccough sound. Then a run of staccato hee-haws. Then I feel the rumble of a full-out belly laugh deep inside. It will not be stopped.

Well, long story short - Have you ever had moment in your life where one second nothing seems right and the very next moment EVERYTHING'S ok? That's the way I feel. Keirstin doubled over laughing so hard her ear buds are lopsided. Mandy dancing around like a ballerina doing the dead-mouse giggle. I just can't help myself.

What makes a good friend? Someone to share moments like this with. Someone who doesn't care that your mouth is frozen open and the most unusual gurgling sounds are coming out - along with spit and who knows what else because you're laughing so hard you feel like you're going to rip. You can't plan for these moments; you don't know they're coming. You have to put up the the world's loudest little sister to get to them, and who knows how much dead mouse dandruff in your room - But the laughter - the shared giggle, out-of-control laughter is worth it. What makes a good friend? That's easy. Someone you build memories with. Like this. The End (and that's seven paragraphs just in case you're counting...)

Make Believe

The hill is dirt, leftover from the construction of a small church and parking lot.  It sits like a lump of artist's modeling clay at the back edge of the church lot, bordered on three sides by a small oak woods. It stands about ten feet high and thirty feet around, a dome of dirt, hard and crusty.

Tan dirt breaks off into palm-sized chunks that crumble into dust when rubbed together.  It is a fine brown dust; not thick-red, Georgia-clay dust, nor rich-black Illinois-farmland dust. This is strictly New Jersey-suburban dirt.

The girls are absorbed in their work.  They're building tunnels along the top of the hill.  The tunnels are narrow trenches shored up by scavenged boards and covered over with scraps of plywood and plasterboard.

In my mind's eye, I see this plain dirt hill as a fortress, a pirate ship, a fairy castle.  There are meeting rooms and secret passageways, crawlspaces and hiding places.  There is a bicycle ramp up the front and walk-the-plank board in the back.  There's a jumping-off rock, a shark-infested moat, a king's throne and an eight-foot slide.

The faint sound of traffic becomes the roar of the sea.  The rustling of leaves -- fairies and leprechauns whispering in secret languages.  Cars crunching noisily through the gravel lot are transformed into mythical beasts with magical powers.  The gravel itself has been sifted and sorted, mined for its quartz treasure.  Precious bits of frosty stone are smashed into gritty fairy dust.  Look closely.  Tiny trails of whitish powder mark the magic places on the hill.<

Scraps of cloth tied to knobby sticks are thrust as pennants into the hardened ground.  One of the girls, the one with dark brown hair, wipes her hand across her forehead leaving a light trail of dust on her tanned brow.  She looks up from her handiwork with a smile.  She stands with brown hands on eight-year-old hips.  This is her Camelot.

This is my Camelot, because she is me.  My memories of the hill are hopelessly entangled with imaginary worlds and make-believe places.  After twenty-seven years, they still bring a smile.

Thoughts on Balance...

I have a new addiction – Craig’s List. Oh-my-goodness – whatever you want to buy, whatever you want to sell, whatever type of person you want to meet up with, whatever topic you want to communicate about… Anything. Everything. It’s available on Craig’s List. Locally. Find your state. Find your area. Start exploring.

The other morning I happened to be looking in the Antiques section of my local listings and saw a 1967 copy of Playboy – only partially opened (whatever that is), listed at $1500. Wow. Not so really memorable until you hear the rest of the story. I flipped over to the Books section and lo and behold, someone was selling a front-page copy of some old New York newspaper headlining the assassination of President Lincoln. Yup, it was a copy from the day after … and guess what? It was listed for $1600. Hmmmm….ok. So hold your hands in front of you, palms up and alternately raise them up and down. Balance? vintage Playboy – historic headlines…girly pictures – the death of a President….

What in the world?? I once read about a study done on value. In a nutshell it went something like this – One group got $20 to spend on some kind of service which was actually priced below $20 – they didn’t spend all their money….a second group got $20 to spend on the same service, but for them it cost $20 – it took all their money. When asked about the quality of the service – the first group had several criticisms; the 2nd group raved. Conclusion? The perceived quality of the service was tied to its cost. The 2nd group raved about the same service because it cost more….

So…current events. What about our healthcare system? I once taught a water aerobics class at a Sports Medicine Center. The ‘students’ were a mixed group of fitness club members and insurance patients. The general public took the class for $10/hr. The insurance patients’ insurance companies paid closer to $80/hr. For the same class. The only difference was that I kept a logbook for the insurance patients – I tracked their progress after each class. Same class, same exercise, same facility…Perceived value or real value? (Well, I have to admit – I did give a quality class…)

I guess it isn’t really surprising that in a society where equal value is placed on old magazines and old newspapers (see the similarities?), we get a little confused about the true cost of medical services. Isn’t it time we put our heads together – get off of our political fences – and figure this health care issue out? So the benefits outweigh the costs?


  1. I found your blog this AM quite by accident. We had sung "The God of Angel Armies" at our church last Sunday, and the words to the chorus have been running through my mind ever since! I wanted to send them to a friend (and his wife) who is going through deep waters with his health at this time. So, I landed on your blog which came up in my search. I was SO BLESSED by your comments shared about "The God of Angel Armies...." I even included a link to your blog site on the CaringBridge post a note page. I do hope that was OK!
    At any rate, I just want to thank God for the gifts he has given you, and the blessing it has been to read some
    of your blog entries. May God continue to use you and your writings for His glory, and the blessing of others!

    1. Thank YOU! I am humbled and grateful to our God of Angel Armies that he can use this small voice to his glory. Yes, please share - and may God continue to use you to encourage others - as you have me. Janet


I know we probably haven't met in person, but I believe that the sharing of our ideas and thoughts, sometimes our hearts and souls, makes us more than strangers. I would like to say friends. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to my little space - I appreciate you.