Monday, August 12, 2019

The Meadowlark

The following was written in response to a RemembeRED writing prompt asking for a piece about a memory of a smell or sound.   

I was glad to be done with my shift at the drive-in.  It was too hot for carrying out meals to people in cars parked on sizzling pavement.  I hurried home and changed into shorts and a little cotton top, threw on my flip flops and jumped back in my car.
My boyfriend had gone fishing with his friends earlier in the day.  No one answered the phone at his house so I assumed they must still be out at Trexler’s Pond. I headed North out of town singing to the radio, windows rolled down trying to work up a breeze.
I turned into the field at Trexler’s farm, driving slowly across the dirt roadway that led to the gate that separated one high dirt trail from the rest of the pond. I was in no hurry so I turned the car off and walked to the top of a crest.  Looking down towards the pond I didn’t see the guys so I went to open the gate planning to move on to the far side of the pond.  I had been at the pond so many times, first fishing with my dad and brother-in-law and more recently hanging out with friends.
I absolutely loved this pond.  It was about the most peaceful place I had known just far enough out in the country to offer seclusion.  The only sound was the occasional call of a meadowlark.  That call had come to represent peace and relaxation to me.  It must have been too hot for even the meadowlark on this day.  The sun was beating down and the air was very still- a rare thing for Western Kansas.
I used both hands to maneuver the latch on the gate.  It required some negotiation but I managed.  I turned towards my car and ran smack into  a man who had been standing far too close behind me.  Where had he come from?  Hadn’t I just been thinking how quiet this place was?  Yet, here he was and he had arrived in a car which was parked directly behind mine, blocking it.
Knowing that I must not panic, I began talking as though it were perfectly natural for him to be here, for him to approach me so stealthily and to be standing so close that I could smell him in the heat.  As I talked, I wracked my memory.  He looked vaguely familiar, but I did not know him.  I moved slowly towards my car walking backwards so that I would not lose sight of him for even a second.  It hit me then-the drive in.  He had been in several times.  I had heard talk of drugs and problems with the law.
As I moved, he moved with me never uttering a sound, never responding to a direct question. Even if I got to the car how could I get in while keeping him out, let alone get it started, turned around and past his vehicle.  It was then that the back of my thigh hit the front corner of the car.  Time for action.  I half turned and desperately attempted to run to my door.
He was on me instantly, pinning me to the hood of my car.  His face hovered inches from mine, and our eyes locked.  I am sure when he looked into my eyes he saw terror;  when I looked in his I saw darkness.  There was a blackness in those eyes, thickly opaque. There was no way to look deeply into them; it was as though he stopped at the surface. I remember thinking that what I was seeing was pure evil, and in that instant my thinking shifted.  The planning and scheming ceased and I began to pray.  I prayed not to feel pain.  I prayed for the people I love.  I prayed for my soul; I prayed for his.
Suddenly, there it was, the call of the meadowlark clear and pure.  It startled me.  It broke the silence, and distracted me momentarily.  I must have looked towards the sound because I remember turning back and finding that this man was backing away from me.  Still wordless, he walked back to his car staggering slightly.  I watched as he got in and drove away.
I don’t know how long I stood frozen in place before I slowly got into my car.  I turned the key in the engine and began to cry.
written in April 2011

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.