Tuesday, September 19, 2017


 Mama Kat

The job you dreamed you wanted when you grew up.

While other kids were playing things like Kick the Can and Cowboys and Indians, my imagination took me to some odd places.  I played things like Democratic National Convention and a dramatic play game called Uncle Fargo and Aunt Margo which was nothing more than a thinly disguised plan concocted by my friend Chris and me in an effort to fan the flames of romance between her sister and my brother. But perhaps my perennial favorite fantasy play was Missionary.  
Lining my dolls up side by side I would evaluate their needs.  Some would be desperate for clothing, others required medical attention and all were in need of a nutritious meal. Dinners were served on the set of Blue Willow doll china I received one Christmas. Any dolls who had been orphaned were paired with suitable doll families.  Once these immediate needs were seen to, the preaching began immediately followed by academic instruction.
As an adult my work style might be best described as serial monogamy.  I am passionate about the work I do.  I throw myself into it completely.  Single-mindedly,  I tend to give until I am used up.
I then retreat for a period; I rest and refocus. After some self-care and soul searching I stumble onto the next vocation that sparks my interest--vocations that would seem quite familiar to the little girl at play so long ago.  I work very hard in each chosen field for several years until I have once again used up my reserves.
Though I have never journeyed to far off lands to find work as I did in my imagination during childhood, my work has seen me travel through multiple careers. After college I taught both elementary school and pre-school children.  Following grad school I spent several years as a social worker working with families.  I moved on to the job of Director of Children's Programming at my church.  Currently, I am back in the school system serving as School Social Worker to middle school students.
Looking back I would have to say I've been playing Missionary for a good long while now.  It is hard to imagine that will ever change.

Thankful: The Language Arts Edition

On a road trip years ago we had ventured into unchartered (by us) territory.  I was behind the wheel; my husband was navigating.  Anticipating our exit, we were uncertain whether it would be on the left or the right ahead.  Scouring the map, my husband gave a command which I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly.  “The left?”, I asked as it drew ever nearer.  “Right, right, right”, he shouted as I changed lanes looking for a non-existent exit on ….ahem…the right.
Turns out it would have been more productive if he had shouted, correct, correct, correct when I asked if the exit was on the left.  Language is funny that way, it is only as helpful as our ability to use it well.
It has been a week of language used well, and for this I am truly thankful.

It was Youth Sunday at my church last Sunday.  Three of our high school seniors told their personal story about growing in their faith.  I was Director of Children’s Ministry for ten years and watched these kids grow up which was a joy in itself, but when they spoke about the experience, it affirmed years of my work.
They touched my heart with words of gratitude, words of promise, words of affirmation and words of love.  Not to mention their love of the word.
My son has me learning German online.  He hopes to study in Germany this fall and wants us to come and share some of the sights and experiences.  We are still in the planning stage and don’t know yet if it is all going to come together, but he set up an account for me at Duolingo.com so I can chat with the locals just in case.
I am thankful that the huge world is more manageable than it used to be to allow travel and the experience of other cultures.  I am thankful for the opportunities my kids have.  I am thankful they are eager to share their world with us.
I am thankful for the language of love which we celebrated with a very nice Valentine’s Day.  And for a new little person born on 2/12/14, my newest Great-niece, Charlotte Anne. And for Charlotte’s mom and dad, Laura and Nathan~may they enjoy parenthood.

#355 through 365 of my 1000 Gifts.
This classic thank you note was first written in 2014 and remains one of my favorites.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Farmhouse Style

Lately the world seems to be spinning out of control.  The constant barrage of bad news makes me want to escape to a time and place far removed from today.
Looking through photos inherited from my in-laws I found a shot of my husband's grandparents' place.  I know from family stories that this was a place of wonderful Independence Day celebrations and every day family dinners.  The family connection to this place ended years before I knew them, but I can't help but long for this old farmhouse just the same.
Though my longing has no basis in the reality of personal experience what I love about a farmhouse is incredibly clear in my mind.  A farmhouse is honest.  It is filled with quirky things, found objects and family heirlooms.  High end furnishings are nowhere to be found, farmers are too practical to sink their money into material things meant to impress.  A farmhouse isn't trendy.  Farmers aren't concerned with what others find appealing.  They know what they like, and it is often different than what the crowd likes.  It is comfortable, because farmers work hard and need a soft place to land at the end of the day.  It is welcoming, because neighbors may be few and far between, but they are there when you need them.  Uncomplicated, unpretentious.  Worn, but not worn out.  A farmhouse sees a lot of family traffic because it is a warm haven where people are happy to sit awhile.
Today, more than any other time in my life, I wish I had a farmhouse to retreat to.  I would settle into an overstuffed chair with a warm cup of tea and keep the troubles of the day at a safe distance if only for a while.

Monday, September 4, 2017

TToT: The Labor Day Edition

I talk a lot about how my work doesn’t define me, that I don’t see it as a big part of who I am.  Still,  as Labor Day comes this year I am thankful for my work for many reasons…

I am thankful for a work schedule that is tied to the seasons, including an allowance for a break in the summer.

I am thankful to work in a place that bent the rules to allow me to work part-time.

And that further trusts my judgement enough to determine when those hours can be best served week to week to help the kids.

I am thankful for co-workers who make me laugh every day
and who never fail to tell me I am appreciated.

I am thankful for the kids who continually touch my heart and help me grow a little more wise.

I am thankful for a job so varied it never grows stale,

which offers me the reminder not to take life too seriously.

I am thankful for a paycheck that allows me to contribute to my family’s well being.

Middle school story of the week:  I am working with a boy who has been struggling with hormonal issues and accompanying bodily responses.  His issue would be helped greatly if he would keep his hands on his desk at all times.  After one particularly stern talking to about behavior that should only happen in private, I escorted him back to class.  We entered the classroom as discretely as possible and each slipped into a seat.  I settled in before realizing that we had arrived in the middle of the teacher’s lecture on Homo Erectus.
Life in a Middle School.  I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.

Items #705 through 714 of my list of One Thousand Gifts

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Leaving Cedar Street

I climbed over my big brother onto the pickup seat next to my dad.  This was it, the last load.  When we left this time we would not be coming back.
The family had lived in other homes.  My siblings told lively stories about the Pearson house though I had no memory of it.  This was the only home I had known, the house on Cedar Street. I loved this house.
I hadn't wanted to get in the truck.  Hadn't wanted to leave. But when you are four no one asks your opinion.  You just have to go along.
As dad starts the truck I swing around backwards and climb up on my knees.   I ball my hands into angry fists and rest my chin on them with my elbows propped on the back of the seat. I never want to forget this place that I love.  I will keep it in my sights for as long as I possibly can memorizing every detail of it.
The engine sputters and we pull away.  One block on Cedar then a right on West Street. Not a long time to keep it in my sights.  It doesn't matter much anyway.  It is hard to see through clouds of tears.

Childhood Neighborhood
This is my earliest memory.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Small Town Kansas

I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
That's probably where they'll bury me

Small Town by John Mellencamp    

Maple Hill, KS
We have been all over small town Kansas this week, trekking from the Northeast to the Southwest corners of the state.  Several of my siblings met at the grave site of our brother in a remote part of the state--a place too few of us have visited in the twenty-five years since we lost him. That gathering served as a wonderful reminder of the importance of family, the gift of sibling love, and the kind of small town town that shaped us in our formative years.  Rather than attempt to put into words all that I am feeling thankful for, I will let these Kansas images speak for me.

Maple Hill, KS

Ulysses, KS

Ulysses, KS

Maple Hill, KS

Burdett, KS

Ellinwood, KS

Ellsworth, KS

Ellinwood, KS

Ellinwood, KS


Friday, August 4, 2017


My sister and I recently spent a week peeling wall paper in my daughter's new house.  We worked in the large entry hall taking down three layers of paper before discovering a white layer that we first assumed was plaster.  Unfortunately, it was a layer of enamel paint which covered four more layers of paper in a gooey mess once we steamed it.   
The house was built in 1931 which means the room likely received a make-over every decade.  With this in mind, it became fun to spot the ways tastes changed over time and to imagine the room cloaked in each paper.  The 1960s and 70s choices were awkward--white paint with cherry borders top and bottom followed by a barn wood look, but all the others had a certain beauty all their own.
What if we could strip away decades from our lives?  What would each layer reveal about the person we once were?  My 1960s and 70s layers would likely as awkward as the ones in the house, but I believe there might be a layer or two that possessed some beauty as well.  Beauty born both of challenges faced along with the happiness and blessings that have filled my life.   My hope would be that each layer would meld seamlessly with the next, the effect of the whole leaving a pleasant impression on my surroundings.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.  Thoreau