Saturday, May 27, 2017

Memories of Friends

In the past month I have attended funerals for two men who were the type of people phrases like "pillar of the community" and "salt of the earth" were created to describe.  There are so many reasons I am thankful to have known men like these.  They taught me much...

A moral compass and abiding faith are the best means for keeping a life on track.

People will remember if you have treated them kindly.

Your word is your bond.

Truly big people have no need to make others feel small.

Marriage is a lifetime commitment.

Parenthood is both a great responsibility and greater joy.

Neither fame nor wealth are the true measure of a man.

Understated wit is far more funny than the crude, in-your-face banter that often passes as humor.

Quiet souls run deep.

A noteworthy person feels no need to be noticed.

We can change the world quietly, starting in our own little sphere of influence by living a life others aspire to emulate.  

Rest in peace, Vern and Tim.  You have earned it.


Monday, May 8, 2017

May Daze

I chose this photo I took earlier this week for its peaceful feel---the opposite of my current life.

Ten Things I am Thankful for Despite Feeling Dazed:

Next weekend my three adult kids graduate from three separate programs in three different states.  And I work in a school on top of that.  May for those of us in the world of education is never an easy time.  This year is less easy...but more blessed.

When she was four, our eldest announced she would grow up to be a Dancing Dentist.  She has certainly danced her way through the better part of three decades.  Saturday the dental part kicks in.  Her hometown is rolling out the red carpet to welcome her home; and the dentists she will work for are doing all within their power to ease her transition from student to full-fledged dentist.

Le Professeur, our middle child, will earn her Masters in French and Francophone Studies at UNC.  She loves Chapel Hill, and her students love her.  She recently shared a letter one of her students had written to nominate her for a teaching award at the school.  She has what it takes to be the kind of teacher who will change lives.

My son attends my alma mater...also his dad's alma mater.  We both loved K-State when we were there, and it has only gotten better through the years.  My son has completely blossomed and has taken advantage of the multitude of opportunities that have been offered.  It has been a joy to watch.

Somehow despite the ceremonies being only hours apart, we believe we have a plan that will get us to a portion of all three graduations.  We are strapping on our track shoes and are ready to hit the road.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Ten Things of Thankful: Grown Up Edition

The daughter known on these pages as The Dentist is nearing the end of her course of study.  A local dental practice awaits her arrival.  Later this week she will take possession of a charming old-world home not far from us.  
When she was four years old and completely consumed by ballet classes, she announced as a matter of fact that when she grew up she would be a dancing dentist.  Apparently, she had inherited a touch of her father's practicality which led her to understand that she would prefer to live on a dentist's salary rather than a dancer's.  To this day the dégagés continue, now finally dentistry will be part of her days as well.
The European inspired house she is buying belonged to an elderly couple, and has suffered benign neglect at their hands in recent years.  Their lack of care was enough to bring the price substantially lower, but not so much that the place could qualify as a money-pit.  It is filled with charm, and still provides a blank slate for her to express her style when her income eventually grows compatible with her taste. 
A fun perk of parenting young adults is the opportunity to relive some of the highlights of your own life.  I remember so clearly the excitement of finishing our studies and launching the careers we had worked so hard to pursue.  First jobs, first homes...the realization of dreams.  It has been a joy to have favorite memories resurface.  There is nothing like life rewarding your hard work  with all that you had hoped for...unless it is getting to watch life reward your children in the very same way.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tulip Time & Thanks

The past couple weeks has been Tulip Time in Topeka.  The gardens in our old neighborhood at Ward-Meade Park have been filled with color.  Walking the paths puts a person in such a positive frame of mind it's the perfect place to make a list of things for which I am thankful.

The gift of sight and the riot of colors in the garden.  
The rain that has softened the dry, inhospitable ground of a month ago.

The final quarter of the school year and the push towards the summer break.
The joy of anticipation as I begin to fill the calendar with events coming up this summer.
Good news...a dental position for my daughter, and a separate thankful that the position is in Topeka and she will soon be home.  In other good news...acceptance to a summer study program at Oxford for my son.  

There is so much goodness in my life right now, it required an explosion of color to convey how thankful I feel.  


Friday, April 14, 2017

Bunny Prints

A Throw Back from April 2013 when I wrote about an Easter memory for Mama Kat's Workshop.

Shield’s IGA  was a block and a half from my house as a kid.  Junior ran the store employing not only his own kids but a bunch of the locals as well.  At least three of my older brothers held jobs there in high school.
A special display of large chocolate bunnies caught my eye one spring.  Solid chocolate with a real ribbon at the neck, they watched me with their sugar-dot eyes standing on the front of the cart as Mom pushed by the display.  My mouth watered thinking about the chocolatey goodness of the bunnies, but their sheer size told me they were out of our price range.  I didn’t bother mentioning them to my mother.
The car had barely come to a stop as we returned home from Easter services that year before my younger brother and I were rolling out of the backseat on a mission to find our baskets.  Our house had no lawn, rather patches of mud alternated with patches of grass and dandelions.  It was around one of the muddy patches that we found the most amazing tracks.
We inspected them closely and were convinced they were bunny tracks.  There was only one small trail of the special tracks, but it was enough to lead us to two of the large chocolate bunnies I had been dreaming of.
Bill was the brother working as a carry-out at the IGA that year.  We grabbed our bunnies and ran straight to him hoping he might be able to shed some light on the mysterious tracks in the yard or how the special chocolate bunnies had come to be ours.  He laughed and assured us he knew nothing about our Easter treats.  Eventually, we gave up our interrogation and turned our attention to bites of chocolate bunny ears.  It was hard to stay focused on the mystery with that sweet taste on my tongue, but somehow I suspected Brother Bill knew the Easter Bunny a lot better than he was willing to let on.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Formerly Mighty Oak

For the past three weeks Thursdays have come and gone with me hardly noticing.  This has meant I haven't been part of Mama Kat's Writers Workshop for a while.  It happened again this week, but I am slipping in late using as my excuse the prompt Yesterday I forgot to... 

For the past eighty-six years two pin oak trees have stood sentinel in front of my house.  By the time I arrived on the scene the trees towered over the house giving it the curb appeal that originally caught my eye.
Someone had the foresight all those years ago to plant two oaks on the front lawn of each house on the street.  I will never know if there was a wise city planner at work or if the homeowners banded together thinking of the canopy of green that would greet them each time they turned onto our street upon returning home.  What I am certain of is that someone thought of those of us who were yet to come.  Someone put in the labor and expense required to plant the saplings that grew to line my street for many years--years they themselves would not be around to see.
For two decades the care of these behemoths has fallen to us.  We have faithfully cut away the dead and dying branches.  My husband doses the oaks with iron suppositories every spring.  Time marches on and predictably the trees are showing signs of age just as an arborist once told us they would.  We believe we can baby one of the trees through a few more seasons, but things don't look as promising for the other oak.
Despite a recent trimming of all visible signs of death or decay, we spotted three more branches this afternoon that are clearly dead.  A pile of wood chips lies at the base of the tree.  Lift the chips into your hand and they crumble at your touch.  These brittle pieces of wood apparently come from within the tree, making us wonder what might be happening where the bark keeps us from seeing.  
We stood a long time looking up at the branches and then circling the base of the tree in silence, neither of us wanting to say what we both know to be true.  We need to take the tree down before gravity does it for us.  
I can't imagine the hole that will be left when the grand tree is felled, but I know that it will not be permanent.  We made a pact standing under the meandering branches.  Once someone we never knew planted an oak tree that has provided us shade and beauty. Now it is our turn.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Imperfect Perfection

Inspired by Challenge

The women in my family are currently sharing the book Mistakes I Made at Work by Jessica Bacal.  It includes essays capturing interviews with twenty-five professional women who have accomplished much across a wide variety of fields.  My favorite section of the book is "Learning Resilience", and my favorite essay in this section is the interview with author and film-maker  Ruth Ozeki.  Each interview concludes with tips; Ozeki's second tip spoke to my heart:

The act of bringing anything into the world, of taking an idea and making it real means bringing it from the state of absolute perfection in your mind into a state of relative imperfection in reality.  Every novel or painting is like this: perfect in the maker's mind, but imperfectly realized.  You can look at this as a mistake or simply as an opportunity to engage--because it's through the making of mistakes that we are able to live creative lives.  

The parenting equivalent of the point Ozeki makes is the understanding that we learn more through our mistakes than we do from experiences that seem to go flawlessly.  Truth be told, we humans are rarely flawless at all, but times we come closest are when we are performing tasks or using skills we have already mastered.  Real growth does not occur here. Learning and stretching lie in the untested.  Handmade commands a higher price than machine made because there is beauty and interest in the imperfect, and there are so few among us willing to go the distance to create a thing of beauty or to risk sharing it with the world.  Don't be discouraged when things don't go exactly as you envisioned they would; your vision is limited by your imagination.  Take a risk and trust.  What may at first appear imperfect as it is unfolding, may evolve into the very plan God envisioned for you.  The plan that takes you beyond your wildest dreams.