Wednesday, January 2, 2019


Rather than resolutions, for several years I participated in the movement that espoused choosing a single word to encapsulate my goals for the coming year.  It has been a while since I have mustered that kind of focus, but this is a year when I feel the need to hone in on what matters to me intently.

Reading Michelle Obama's Becoming this morning, I was struck by a passage she wrote about observing her husband early in their relationship.  He was working with a group of church women in Chicago urging them to band together in their efforts to make positive change.

He was there to convince them that our stories connected us to one another, and through those connections it was possible to harness discontent and convert it to something useful.  Even they, he said--a tiny group inside a small church, in what felt like a forgoteten neighborhood-- could build real political power.

In these words, I found my word.  Build.

The past few years in America and too many other places have been about tearing down.  Tearing down the norms of society and government. Tearing down the illusions of tolerance I thought existed in our country.  Tearing down civil discourse. Tearing down alliances.  Tearing down neighbors and people who don't look, live, or pray just as we do.  An influx of violence and addiction devastatingly tear at the fabric of family.  As a society we lack the patience to fix things and rely too consistently on wiping away altogether what is only in need of repair.

It occurs to me my life is about building.  My professional work is about restoration of lives.  My personal hobbies are about restoration of architecture, community, and beauty.  I long to see things, people made whole.  My motivation is to repair, restore, to build.

This year I resolve to build: my faith, relationships, healthy habits, community, and yes, political power.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

TToT: Thankful for Reading

Another year is coming to an end, and I have much to be thankful for.  One of the things that brings joy to my life is my abitilty to read.
I am thankful for my parents who personally modeled reading regularly, for my mom who read to me all the time, for my teachers who helped me crack the code so that I could read the written word for myself.

I am thankful for Goodreads where I can track the books I read each year, interact with other people who love an author or book as much as I do, and discover books I would never know about otherwise.

I am thankful for authors who can captivate me with their stories or even just the way they turn a single phrase. I am thankful they transport me to other places and times where I am encouraged to dream or blessed to escape the daily news.

I am thankful for the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library which is absolutely top shelf...pun intended.

My Ten Favorite Books This Year
The Bell Jar
The Nightingale
Fareinheit 451
The Girl Before
Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine
I'd Rather Be Reading
Fed Up
The Woman Next Door

Ten Things of Thankful

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Give Me a Break :TToT

We are just back from Oklahoma City where we attended the wedding of a young man we have known for most of his life.  It was a relaxing weekend in a city that holds special memories for us.  Sometimes you don't realize you need to get away until you've had a chance to do it. I think the moral of the story is if you wait to take a break until you know for sure you need one,  you're likely way overdue.

The happy couple
Good friends
Good food
Amazing architecture in a city that prides itself on its colorful and unique neighborhoods
Commonplace Bookstore
Pleasant weather
Safe travel
A chance to unwind

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Stop the Glorification of Busy

As a college senior I worked two part-time jobs in addition to student teaching.  Hearing fellow students complain about the stress of student teachng without the added workload of the other jobs, I admit I felt superior. When my kids were small I took pride in juggling work, home and volunteer duties.  I wore the bags under my eyes from sleep lost in order to allow more work hours into each day like dark, puffy badges of honor.
Busyness becomes a god we sacrifice far too much to.  Our health, our families, our friendships and our peace of mind all suffer when we continually push ourselves beyond what is reasonable.  We develop tunnel vision looking only towards our goal and missing the blessings that surround us every day.
There is danger in the pride that comes from living life as though we can do it all on our own.  One day we look up and realize that is exactly how we are doing life–alone.
We will be much happier when we slow down,  doing one task at a time and giving it our full attention.  We will find more satisfaction in the work. Then to be truly happy, once that task is finished we should put it away and turn our attention–our full attention–to the people in our lives.

Mama Kat prompt: What were you writing about a year ago?  Something I still need to remind myself!

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Rich Tapestry

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.  --Maya Angelou

A new mural covers the wall of a building across the street from the National Park's Brown v Topeka Board of Education site.  We were given the opportunity to help underwrite the mural project and to paint on it some as well.  The day we painted was memorable for me.  As I worked, my family painted alongside me on the right, and some of my students painted with me on the left.  I have worked with many students through my years in the Topeka Public Schools.  We chose TPS for our own kids' education.  USD 501 does not have a perfect history, but it does have the distinction of being the place where America attempted to right a wrong for a little girl named Linda Brown and all other children who would follow.  Children deserve safe, welcoming, and adequately funded schools in which to learn.  It is a priveledge to do my part to help see they get that in Topeka.

A Supreme Court ruling  that stuck down Separate but Equal
The opportunity to work along with others--some I know and love, some who simply share the understanding of the importance of the Brown v Board decision
A tapestry of colors 
My family.  My students.
Beautiful weather that lures you outside
Cooperation that leads to a finished project
Love and support from the people in my life
Stories--whether the lifestory of a person I know, a book that captures my imagination, family tales that I have heard a million times.  Stories give life meaning.

Monday, August 27, 2018

A New Day

He wakes again before the first real light, slipping away in that part of the day that still registers only in black and white.  Experiences and interactions have yet to color this day for good or ill.  It is still merely potential, and it beckons him from our bed.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Making Do

Several years ago I came across these vintage promotional items on the internet.  The button is from WWI, and the booklet came out during the Second World War.  Materials and goods were scarce during wartime, and people drastically altered their lifestyles as a matter of patriotism.  It is easy to romanticize those days, but the sacrifices people made were real.

Times aren’t nearly so bad for me in present day Topeka, KS; still, these images speak to me.  Around the time I stumbled across the images above, we started to go through old photographs to cull pictures for the many “memory board” activities that preceded my son’s high school graduation.  My kids began to point out how many of their childhood photos showed me in clothing I still wear today.  They give me a hard time about the twenty-year-old items in my wardrobe, but it doesn’t bother me.  I don’t care much about fashion as long as I look presentable; and if I am home painting or gardening even presentable becomes negotiable.  Thumbing through those photos, an idea for belt tightening hit me.  While the kids were all three in college or dental school,  I followed the philosophy behind the WWI button:  I am making my old clothes do.

I was able to do this because:
I have always believed in buying quality.  So, what is in my closet is well constructed from reliable, natural fabrics.

I do not follow trends.  I choose things that have simple lines and classic design which keeps them from becoming dated too easily.
I personally don’t place a high value on fashion.  Some people express themselves in what they wear which would make this choice harder.  I express myself in art, writing and decorating my home.  For me clothes are pretty much just functional.

I hate to shop.

For the past five years I have been embracing this lifestyle.  It fits well in my overall life-simplifying plan. I play little games with myself to keep it light-hearted, choosing one garment at a time to wear to death.  As I write this I am wearing the current target, a blue striped Ralph Lauren shirt circa 1991.  The cotton is worn, soft and comfortable, the collar and cuffs gently frayed at their edges.  Its like an old friend I will miss when it is gone…   just as I will eventually miss the peach shirt that steps into replace it or the lavender that will replace the peach.

I wonder about the sense of gratitude I now feel for the literal shirt on my back. With each garment that passes to the rag bag, I feel a sense of satisfaction that it has served its purpose well. Would I even notice my old favorites slipping away, if I had not made the commitment to be conscious about fully using what I have before buying more?  I suspect not.  Five years ago I thought I was making a sacrifice, but instead I find myself content and more aware of simple everyday blessings.  In the end, making do has been no sacrifice at all.