Thursday, March 31, 2011

Death of a Dream

Basketball season is over, for the high schoolers, anyway. The high school state tournaments are on television each year, and this is about the first year that I didn't watch a single game, boys or girls. There was a time when basketball dominated our lives. More than one year we had kids on five different teams. I especially remember the year Sarah, our youngest, was not in school yet, so I guess she was about 4 years old. We headed for the first game of the season, and as we pulled up to the high school gymnasium she looked at the building and said, "Oh, I remember this place. I smell suckers."
Then, during that game she looked at me and said, "I'm tired of this." Oh, my. We had to buy lots of suckers before that long season was over.

But those were good times. Our little gradeschool had a long history of winning girls' basketball tournaments among the other parocial schools in our area. Those girls were good. That doesn't mean that the boys lost all the time, but they did not dominate year after year as the girls did. Two of our daughters, Paula and Anna, went on to play as point guards in both high school and in college.

Sports were a big part of our family's life. The parocial school the kids attended only had about 80 kids in all eight grades, and was out in the country. The school's two ball fields were right in our back yard. I thought it would be great if we got really good at softball as a family  (there were ten of us, after all). I was sure we could get good enough to have a fabulous team that could take on anyone. Paul and the children were good athletes, and I loved the game.

Unfortunately, most of our children were either indifferent to softball or disliked the game. Stephen, in particular, hated softball. But, when you are in seventh or eighth grade in a small school you are expected to play no matter what. If you don't play they might have to dig all the way down to the fourth grade for your replacement.

One year they had one of those scoliosis screenings at school, and a preliminary check led the volunteers to feel that Steve should have a professional look him over. As we were driving to the doctor's office the next week I thought I should prepare him for the worst.

 "I don't know what this means, Steve." I explained. "If this is really a case of scoliosis I want you to realize that you might have to wear a brace."

Thirteen year old Stephen looked at me with a total lack of concern and said, "Just make sure I have it by softball."

So much for the "Dream Team".


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So Exciting!

I was talking with a friend after church on Sunday about our impatience for spring to arrive. Everything about this winter has been harsh. Freezing cold temperatures still have a deadlock on March, with scant hope for warm weather coming anytime soon. My friend  has three children, one in grade school and two in high school, and they are so impatient for winter to end. We were commenting on how excited they were for the season to change.

I remember that excitement. Back when the world was new (to me), each season brought it's own energy. I loved spring. Everything was bursting with new life, including me. I once saw cows let out of the neighbors' barn after having been pent up all winter. They did just as the Bible says. They literally lept into the air with joy. "And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." Malachi 4:2. I will never forget the sight of those huge animals with all four hooves off the ground. Now that was a celebration!

I loved summer. Freedom!! I loved, bonfires, football. I tolerated winter, but still, Christmas, snowforts, sledding...those things were exciting, too. I remember those fun times both as a child and again when my children were growing up.

My anticipation these days seems muted. My blood still stirs with the arrival of a new season, but when I look at my children's and grandchildren's eyes I see a sparkle that once had been in mine as well. I have to remind myself that the new season is still just that to the young. It is new .... and exciting. I have run the cycle so many times now that unless I force myself to pay attention, I can easily miss the transition. I can miss the joy.

Two of my sisters used to live nearby.  They both moved about twenty years ago, and I still miss having them around. I especially miss them when the seasons change. So, what used to be pure anticipation, now has a tinge of loss. I have become less enamered of this world as I draw closer to the next, but I am not sure that is the right way to approach this wonderful gift of life. For now, God wants me here so I should participate to the fullest until the day I die.

      A "Younger" Me

As of today I am really, really looking forward to spring. I've decided not to let the excitement pass me by so easily this year. I think I'll tap into my memory bank and make sure that this spring I see everything through "young eyes".


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Lifelong Habit

I read. I love books, and have since I was a child. I remember almost crying when I finally finished my first "chapter" book. I had fallen in love with the family I was reading about, and was heartbroken to learn that our relationship ended with the last chapter in the book. That, however, did not stop me from falling in love all over again with the characters in the next book, or the next.

We had a Carnegie library in our town. It was housed in a wonderful building. It was gray stone with pillers, and you had to climb at least ten steps to get inside. This library building was funded by a 1902 grant of $20,000 from Andrew Carnegie with the stiplulation that the land be donated.  It was a virtual wonderland. I loved the dusty smell of the crowded book shelves, and the waxy fragrance eminating from the massive wooden tables and chairs.

I especially remember hot summer afternoons when my sisters and I would bike to the library and hang around for hours, just happy to be amid such treasure. I devoured the Nancy Drew series and any other mystery that caught my eye. Every page brought new adventure. I marveled at the stories of brave people who fought in the underground in occupied countries during World War II.  My imagination soared at the weird and unpredictable tales of science fiction.  The myriad books of my childhood showed me that the world was vast, and exciting, and, through those printed pages, I found myself  right in the middle of the action.

The library even had a mobile unit that visited our park in the summertime. One girl from my school read at least a book a day in that park. She was 10 or 11 years old at the time. I can still see her sitting on the ground with her back to a tree perusing the book of the day. Big books, not picture books.

I have books in every room of my house. If you are a reader, you know what I mean. I still visit the library at least twice a week. In fact, just yesterday I saw a flyer on my library's door stating that the library will be closed this Thursday for some reason or another. I had to tamp down feelings of panic.

"I have enough books to last through Thursday." I reassure myself. "There are other libraries that are open  that day in case of an 'emergency'," I reason. "I think it will be okay." I state bravely.

Paul used to tease that all was well for me at the end of the day as long as I had access to the three "B's". I usually rewarded myself with a beer in the evening (after the kids were in bed for the night). Add to that a book and a bed  (making three indespensible "B's"), and I was a happy camper.

Thank you, Mr. Carnegie. Your generosity blessed my life.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Uff Da

I just came back from my first ever workout with a trainer. I get two free sessions via my membership at Lifetime Fitness. I really prefer to swim. Probably because I know how to do that. Propel yourself through the water from one end of the pool to the other for long enough, and that is a workout.

I'm not a big fan of any kind of exercise classes, so organized workouts weren't an option for me. But, all that wonderful exercise equipment did nothing for me either since I had no idea where to begin.  So, I went ahead and scheduled a session with Meredith for today and one for two weeks from today.

Right at the start I expressed a desire to avoid running. I don't even want to do much on the treadmill. I have no arthritis in my joints and feel it would be foolish to rock that boat with repetative pounding at my age. So she put me on the stationary bike, went to  some weight lifting routines and squats, went back to the bike, more weights and lunges, some crunches on the ball, and back to the bike once more.

Now that was a workout. I am exhausted. It makes me think of the story of the guy who was told to exercise or he would die in two years. He did what they said and lived another 5 years, but three of those years were composed mainly of exercise.

So, is this really time well spent? The prevailing thought says yes, but how many other seemingly helpful ideas have we bought into? Not long ago both eggs and butter were considered diet no-no's. Now someone has (re) discovered they are good for you. (What? Natural foods that God gave to man from the beginning of time are good for the human body? Who would have thought?) What about poodle skirts and beehive hair-dos and zubaz? Someone once thought they were a great idea, too, but do you still see them around?

Most of the things I did today in the name of good health were not natural. Who lies on their back with heavy things that they bring together to the center of their body? Who pedals furiously to stay in one place? Who leans back on a giant ball and strains to reach the ceiling? Who thought this stuff up, anyway? Have we been sold another lie?

The real question is, how do I get out of session two?


Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Golden State

Well, it is semi-official, I guess. Paul told me today he wants to take that trip to California that we have been talking about off and on. It caught me by surprise, since he has not had too much stamina lately. He says just plan it, and he will come along for the ride. (Most of our trips follow this pattern, anyway.)

I am actually quite pleased. I thought that perhaps our traveling days were over, so I am really looking forward to this trip. We drive, which sounds as though it would be harder than flying, but since we travel with a very loose schedule it is less stressful than one would think. Our car runs smoothly, and I like to drive (backroads are my specialty). For Paul it is  like traveling in his recliner, so if he isn't feeling well, nothing is required of him except to just sit there, and he can usually do that.

On the way out we'll stop to see my sister, Mary and my 95-year-old mother in Columbia, MO. Then, I want to see the Grand Canyon.  We have come close so many times on  trips to AZ (Apache Junction area) but never stopped, so that is in the plan. We have two sons in CA and can easily stay at Marcus' two bedroom condo in Burbank or Matt and Jenni's canyon home. Plus we have "points" to use through our vacation club, and can veg out in Las Vegas for a couple of days at one of our resorts on our way home.

And then there is the writers' workshop through the Women's Leadership Institute at Concordia Seward, NE on May 23rd through the 27th. We will catch that on our way home, and even stay in the dorm right next to the dining hall to make it easy for Paul. Nebraska is my home state, that campus is dear to my heart, and a writers workshop? A dream trip for sure.

California, here we come! I may be a little behind schedule though. Having grown up with the Beach Boys,  I  always wished I could be a California girl.

I may still be female, but that girl thing? Not so much.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Long Awaited One

My husband and I have been reading scripture together for the past few years. His vision is not good, so basically I read to him. We are on our fourth trip through the Bible, and we have gotten into the habit of reading Haley's Bible Commentary right along with the scripture. I cannot say that we are faithful at reading every day, but every day that we read we read five chapters of the Bible, and the accompaning notes from Haley's commentary.

Today we read Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament. (Okay, we only read  four chapters today.) There are about 24 or so pages in the commentary that sum up the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah, and some notes regarding the 400 or so years between the Old and New Testaments, but, once we have worked our way through those pages we get to begin the New Testament.

Everytime we get to this point it gives us a small sense of what the people of Jesus' day must have felt. Since it takes us a long, long time to work our way through all the books of the Old Testament, we have a little glimmer of how thrilling it is, when we finally get to Matthew, to find that, Jesus, the promised Messiah, has come at last. The hymn writer caught this excitement very well in the verses below:

Let the earth now praise the Lord.
Who hath truly kept His word
And the sinners' Help and Friend
Now at last to us doth send.
What the fathers most desired, What the prophets' heart inspired,
What they longed for many a year,
Stands fulfilled in glory here.

Abrams promised great Reward,
Zion's Helper, Jacob's Lord, --
Him of twofold race behold, --
Truly came, as long foretold.

Christmas in March this time around.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Better now

Well, I went back to the beauty school and the instructor brought the student over to show her how to finish the haircut. I think the student did not know that there was a third step with this cut. It had absolutely no layers, but the instructor did a great job on my hair. I'm happy, they're happy, and I am no longer afraid to leave the house without a hair covering.

It is a good thing, too, because my daughters are having a joint birhday party tomorrow night, and I really wanted to go, but did not want to embarrass them! I really hated that "Prince Valient"  look!.

Now, if I can just lose a little weight. I am swimming again, and I have been watching my carbs. But anyone one who is trying to undo what they did to themselves by eating too much or by not paying attention to the foods they were putting into their mouths, knows that this is not easily reversed. At least I have lost most of my "winter" weight.

The crazy thing is that I have not always been so concerned about my appearance. God blessed me with adequate good looks, so I did not suffer unduly with selfconsciousness, even as a teen. In addition, my husband, the only one I normally would want to please with my looks, is visually impaired, so he says I always look pretty good to him. (There is nothing wrong with his memory.)

Caring so much about that rotten haircut forces me to face a narcissim I did not know I possessed. Isn't it interesting what we learn about ourselves in the most unexpected ways? Have I taken God's gifts for granted?  Do I think I deserve to look attractive?

I was humbled by a bad hair cut. But even more humbled to realize how quickly vainity takes us hostage, and feeds our discontent.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bad Hair Day

I've been getting my hair done at a local beauty school, and thus far it has worked out well. The instructors are there to smooth over any mistakes made by the students, and the price is about half or less what it would cost to go to a salon. The only drawback I have seen is that it takes more time. Until yesterday, that is.

Yesterday I came home with a bad haircut. Not horrible, I guess, but certainly not pleasing. I think it makes me look dumb. (If you are old enough to remember the Sunday comics, think "Prince Valiant"). Fortunately this will only cause about a week's worth of agony. (And one can always use a little humbling. Perhaps it will lead to a richer Lenten experience.)  Anyway, in a week or two it will have grown out enough to be able to do something with it. Did I mention it is a short haircut, so at the moment there is little to work with to change the look?

Some years ago I was telling a friend of mine that I had gotten my hair cut at a local franchise, and that it was okay, but the girl did a terrible job on my bangs (part of the problem this time, too.) The next time I saw my friend she told me that she had called the salon and told them about the bang cutting thing, and that they had assured her that they would schedule someone to come in and review bang cutting with the hairdressers.

I looked at her in complete shock. SHE called the hair place to complain about MY haircut. I found that very unsettleing. If I had felt that strongly about it I would have called them myself. The girl who cut my hair was the daughter of a friend of mine, and I surely did not want to cause any trouble. Did she give them my name? Could I ever show up there again without being looked at as a trouble maker?

"Gracia," I asked, "why would you call a solon to complain about something that did not happen to you?"

She looked at me in complete shock (do you see a pattern here? We two must be easily shocked.), and said, "You do know we own that salon, don't you?"

Since I really have no idea who owns that beauty school, I guess I"ll play it safe this time and just complain about my hair here on my blog.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cousins, A Precious Treasure

One of the things I remember about being around cousins was the sheer pleasure of being in one another’s company. Maybe there was fighting, but I don’t remember any. Why was the connection so strong? What is it about feeling so at home with your own kin? We saw our cousins, even the closest in proximity maybe three or four times a year, but they were dearer to us than our closest friends; kids we saw three or four times a week.

Blood is thicker than water, so the saying goes, and I have found that to be true. I had older cousins that I was a little afraid of. Growing up with four sisters, and no brothers, meant that large male persons of any kind were a little intimidating. But I both feared and adored those big boy cousins simultaneously. The younger kids seemed cute, not bothersome at all; unlike my friends' little brothers and sisters. And the ones my age, give a year or two on either side? They were pure gold.

Swimming in the summer, riding bikes and playing ball in the spring and fall, watching our mothers and fathers play cards with the snow swirling outside the windows; the activity didn’t matter. We were exactly where we wanted to be. We were loved, we loved in return, and all was well with our world.

Thank you, God, for cousins.

God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6a

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Rest of the Story

Today we have a guest writer who is here to give a follow-up report of yesterday's lost dog story.

Lost Dog is Found.
by Marilyn Fritze Vogel on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 11;21 am
YOU WON"T BELIEVE THIS!!!!! When we got home from Denver on Sunday evening, we let Sugar out of her kennel as usual. We flopped in front of the TV and Sugar kept bugging us with her toys to play and we kept ignoring her. She had gone out her dog door as usual and neither of us paid much attention. When it was time to go to bed, I called her to kennel her as usual. She didn't come, I couldn't find her....I went downstairs and called her.....looked in the bedrooms down there.....she didn't come....I looked outside and the back gate was open. I had watched Gavin and Jenna on their bikes in front for awhile before we left for Denver...they had taken their bikes back to the shed to put them away and left the gate open. I didn't even think to check the gate. We figured Sugar had escaped through the open gate.

Jim drove all over town until about 2 in the morning. Yesterday he spent most of the day driving all over town looking and I drove around as well. We talked to lots of people walking dogs, neighbors, etc. No one had seen her. This morning I put an ad in the paper and Bethany had offered to make up flyers to post around the town. Amy had given me websites for lost pets, Kathy kept texting for support, all were praying,,,even Facebook friends were praying. Of course Jim and I were praying too and I was determined not to lose hope(which I do easily). I kept telling God that I wanted to have the faith that the woman who touched his robe had and just kept repeating how mighty and powerful and able he was to give Sugar back to us and to keep her safe. (We have foxes in our neighborhood). Jim shared that he heard about a dog returned to it's owners 4 years after it was lost....random story on the radio while he was driving around...Jim has the gift of faith and also intersession. I was encouraged by his assurance and wanted to believe it that strongly too.

I read in a devo this morning in "Streams in the Desert" about not giving up and being good at "waiting" for God to answer.You all know how good I am at waiting!!!!

Early this morning when I was making coffee, I was sure I faintly heard a dog whining. I went outside and looked, then decided it was the refrigerater which makes all kinds of interesting sounds. I had just put an ad in the newspaper online with a reward for finding Sugar. Then Jim got up and went outside...he said he thought he heard a dog whining. That seemed strange to me that both of us heard that so I thought maybe she had gotten trapped somewhere. I opened the closet doors in the garage and decided to check downstairs again....hadn't been down there since Sunday night. I opened a bedroom door and there she was. Wow, what a praise. We had prayed that God wold keep her safe...boy did He!

Needless to say, we are so thankful and happy and I feel dumb in that I must have actually locked her in there when I looked for her Sunday night. BUT through it all, God taught me to trust....for longer than I tend to. A valuable lesson. I was also convicted about the fact that I spent hours praying for my lost dog and realize I do not spend hours praying for lost people in my life. Thank you Lord for these lessons And thank you for our little dog.

Must go...have a big mess to clean in the basement bedroom!! :)

So there you have it. Sugar was not lost. She is merely owned by some (dog) losers.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Dog Gone (It)

Our friends, Jim and Marilyn are looking for their dog. The little rascal scooted out the door yesterday and has not been seen or heard from since. How is it that these creatures are able to bind themselves so readily to our hearts? They quickly become members of the family, and nothing seems right until they are safely home once again.

We had two dogs as children. The first was a Scotty, named "Inky". She was hit by a Jewel Tea truck and killed while we were in school across the street. I always believed I heard her yelp that day as I sat at my desk in the first grade classroom.

The second was a wiener dog (a dachshound) named "Lady". This one was high strung as purebreds are wont to be, and  thus was crabby at times. My sister, Martha, carries a scar on her face where the dog bit her on one of those crabby days. (That gash even required stitches, as I recall.) The member of the family that Lady loved the most was, of course, my father, and he tolerated her at best. My parents, not animal lovers in particular, got the dog for the five of us girls. 

My younger sisters bonded with the dog more than I did. I'm more like my parents in that respect. Animals do not move me in any particular emotional way. In fact, once, when my same aged cousin (we were about 10 years old at the time) was visiting us, our canary escaped. Fully three days later we spotted her yellow feathers in the neighbor's tree. The whole gang of us kids went screaming down the hill in the backyard, excited to find the bird alive and well. The bird, of couse, panicked, flew into the side of the neighbor's house, bounced off the siding and landed on the sidewalk right in front of my cousin, Ruth, whose next step unfathomably landed on the bird, smushing it underfoot, and drilling the poor thing right into the pavement. Ruth burst into uncontrolable tears at the horror of the whole thing, and will never forgive me for my immediate reaction. Falling to the ground in a hysterical fit of laughter, unmindful of her suffering, I rolled around on the ground and laughed until my sides ached. Tragic? Yes. Did I cry later? Probably. But at that moment it was the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life. Starting with the pack of us, excited, full of hope, and ending with Ruth's tennis-shoed foot smearing that bird into oblivian. What were the odds?

Anyway, back to dogs. There is a little boy on talk shows right now who has written a book called, "Heaven is For Real," describing his time in heaven. Perhaps you have seen his story. (One of the things he reported was that the people in heaven were mostly all at a young adult age. He says he met his great grandfather in heaven, but didn't  recognize pictures of him until he was shown a picture of that grandpa as a young adult.) This boy also reported seeing lots of animals in heaven. I found that very interesting. I had never heard that said before.

I remember when our dog died one of my sisters asked my father if our beloved dog would go to heaven. My father answered, "If you need Lady to be in heaven in order to find perfect happiness, than Lady will be in heaven."

We are praying that Jim and Marilyn find that precious pooch, but if not maybe she will find heaven.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Staying Awake While Others Sleep

I've been working the night shift lately. I work at a nursing home as a staff nurse, and find that I can still manage the night shift pretty well. The day shift and pm shift exhaust me. Nights, not so much. I used to work nights on a regular basis, but finally got to the point where I just wanted to sleep while it was dark! . As my sister, Paula (also a nurse), says, "Nursing is a young girls' game."

Nevertheless, about an hour or so ago I agreed to work tonight for a colleague. I prefer the last minute turn around. Keeping my options open has been the name of my game for years. I'll work as long as it does not interfere with my social life. As of 4 pm this afternoon there were no special engagements, or fun events that called out to me, so, "Sure, Ill work for you," was my ready reply.

It doesn't hurt that I worked last night and slept most of today, either. As a result I am well rested (and a night owl to boot), and happy to have a job where I can be "on-call."

Nor does it hurt to find a way to make a few bucks to go toward those aformentioned car repairs!

And, yes, we went to church on Saturday evening.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Not Again!

We need a new wheel bearing on our car. The left front tire has that nerve wracking jitter to it. If you have ever had it happen to your car you will know the exact feeling I mean. It is a scary wobble that increases with speed, and, on my car at least, is most noticible when I steer to the left.

Of course, after the fellows at the shop looked at the car they informed us that we needed new shocks as well. We were beginning to suspect that, so it was not a total "shock". Still, the decision to repair an older car is a tough one. We like our car. We put out well over $5,000 early last year to rebuild the transmission, then another $1,000 for a new radiator, and now this. So, do we protect the investment we have already made and spend another $1500, hoping to eek out another year or two on the old buggy, or do we finally throw in the towel and surrender to the inevitable decay that is the way of all the world?

I told my husband, Paul, that I wasn't so sure I had been making wise decisions lately. Since his illness, much of the day to day stuff has fallen on me. I don't have trouble accepting the responsibility, but I sometimes  make snap decisions, and after a little reflection, find that I could have thought things through a little more fully.  He tends to let me do whatever I think best since he does not have a lot of energy, and certainly not enough energy to argue his point (an often necessary exercise when sharing a decision with me). I cannot say that he ever criticizes my decisions either. But this time I abdicated all my "druthers" and put it in his hands.  I told him, "You make the call."

The car is in the shop being fixed, and I am perfectly happy, not only that the car is getting fixed, but that I did not have to make the decision.

Anyway, remember that old saying about how an old car can nickel and dime you to death? Nickel and dime???

I wish!!


Friday, March 18, 2011

Ups and Downs

Have you ever found yourself filled with confidence one day and a complete basket case the next? I can't say I have wild swings that way, but I am often amazed that I can exchange those states at all. I suspect I am speaking the language of women here. Emotional swings seem to be found more in our make-up than in that of our male counterparts'.

Neverthe less, I'm still surprised when I find myself full of self-doubt and something else that I would not exactly label self-loathing, but perhaps something close to that.  It involves disappointing myself. I want to do better, be better. Maybe it is frustration at my weaknesses. Perhaps it is a realistic acknowledgement of my sinful state. Maybe it is a selfish self-pity, a "poor me" whine. I'm not sure.

I have been blessed (I think) with a healthy self-esteem. It really has to do with a healthy "Christ-esteem". Knowing  that I am loved by God, no matter what, just as I am (in Christ) solves a lot of the angst for me. Also, I am not particularly concerned about what others think about be. I learned long ago that I am a mere blip on the screen of other people's lives. Comparing oneself with others is often at the root of a lot of people's poor self-image. Still, the way we learn to understand our world requires a certain amount of "measuring up" so to speak, so maybe that is inevitable.

Fighting jealous feelings is not one of my big concerns, perhaps because I have always understood that if I want what someone else has it is a complete package, ie. if I want their blessings I have to take on their problems as well. I don't get to simply pluck out the good parts of other people's lives and blithly add them to my own. I have to give up my good things in order to have theirs. I have way too many things I am not willing to give up in my life to trade for another's. Also, I know how to deal with my problems, I for sure don't want theirs!

I think there is a book out there called Emotional Intelligence. I suppose I could read it, and learn something that would give me better understanding of this sometines irrational state.

 I could, but I don't FEEL like it.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

From Joy to Annoy(ing)

I just stood on my patio in bare feet, soaking up the sun and feeling as though I am on vacation in another state. Just days ago the wind chill here had to have been at 4 or 5 degrees. I mean, it was cold. Now it is fifty degrees, and in Minnesota that is verging on shorts and flipflop weather.  I can see sunroofs  open on many cars, and I have the patio door open as well. Fresh air. What a novelty.

I'm just sitting here breathing in that fresh air and thinking about how much I enjoyed the music last night at the Fine Line Music Cafe in downtown Minneapolis.  The Erin Bode Band from St Louis was in town. Erin is a good friend of my daughter, Anna. They were looking for another band to fill out the night, so Carl Torgerson, a local musician with whom my daughters, Paula and Anna, sing back up vocals got the booking. I know Erin,too. She is a great blues/jazz singer, and I never tire of hearing my own children perform. As you well know, a night on the town is especially fun when you have a personal connection with the performers.

As I'm sitting here I realize, once again, that it is the small things in life that give the most joy. Good conversation, a note from a friend that I haven't heard from in a while, looking forward to an upcoming event, a cup of good coffee. These are things that cost little but reward much.

In a word, I feel happy.

Now I get to ruin the remainder of the day doing income taxes.



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ah, The Old Swimming Pool

I just came back from swimming, and as I was doing my laps I was musing on all the fun we had at the pool, as children. Summers are hot in Nebraska, and every self-respecting town had an outdoor pool. Ours was quite large. We had one three meter and two one meter diving boards in the deep end. I was a diver, so I spent many an afternoon climbing over and over to the top of that three meter board. I would stand up there and survey my little domain and feel content. If the sun was shining and the pool was open, all was right with my world.

We used to play goofy tricks on the other kids, too. My sisters were always thinking up crazy stunts. One of our favorites was having me lie on the bottom of the pool (where it was about three feet deep) and one of my younger sisters would stand on me and then ask the swimmers in the area if they would look under water and see what she was standing on (looking bewildered, as though she did not know it was me). I could hold my breath pretty long, so the other children would get quite agitated trying to explain to Mary or Martha that there was a person under there. When I couldn't hold my breath any longer, I would come up, and look sternly at whichever sister was in on the prank and say, "Cut it out, kid." and calmly swim off. We thought we were hilarious.

Another favorite was to start a conversation with a nine or ten year old boy and act as though we knew him. "We had so much fun at your house yesterday, Larry. Lets play kick ball again next time," or some variation on that theme. The reason it was so effective in confusing them was that we only did it to kids that had their name scrawled on their goggles or flippers, and so we could always use their real name.

And then there was the hot afternoon when we were at the side of the pool making little black balls from the soft tar between the pavement and throwing them surruptiously at one of the boys we knew that had a lisp. We wanted to hear him object and were rewarded with a phrase that became a family classic: "Thumoneths Thwowing Taw Ballths"

Childish, I know, but we WERE children.


Business as Usual....for Me

Having a bit of an addictive personality myself, I cannot imagine what it must be like for people in Japan who are like me or even more so. No coffee in the morning? What do you mean there is no coffee? We are out of toothpaste? No dental floss? No heat?

I am trying to live today on purpose, ie. paying attention to all the things I take for granted.

The library is closed? Oh, dear. No mail? No internet? No phone? No contact with loved ones? No air to breathe safely? One set of clothing? No medicine? No pets? NO FOOD?

Thank you Lord, for the blessedness of having a routine day; for the right to make choices about so many of the "taken for granted" things in life. Forgive me for the casualness with which I move through the bounty you have granted me this day.

Through the great disaster in another land I have seen how feeble is the illusion that I have control over my life, or, even worse,  that I somehow have a "right" to these blessings. Make me ever mindful of Your provision that I might I cherish each day of normality.

Be with those whose lives have so changed and return them to a place of blessing and peace.

In Jesus name,



Monday, March 14, 2011

So Sad

Since my degree is in Health Education, I used to teach grief classes, and help with the grief group at our local hospital. Many times I wondered how effective it was for me to be leading a group of people who had come together with a common experience, when I, myself, had not actually "walked in their shoes". My life has had its ups and downs, but, for the most part, I have not had to deal with the same kinds of losses that the folks I worked with were experiencing.

What I found was that people who are bent with grief have little to offer others bent with grief. That is why the death of a child, for example, is so hard on marriages. The spouse that you have always looked to for help and support is as devastated as are you. Children who have lost a parent need the surviving parent to step up their game at the very time in which that parent is barely in the game at all. It turns out that these people needed me more than I knew. They needed someone "whole" on whom to lean.

Knowing that makes me feel very sad for the people of Japan who have been most directly affected by the diasters that continue to unfold in that land. How can one's dear neighbors rally around at the time of your loss when they are stricken as well?  How do you give emotional and physical support when you yourself are in need of these things? How does a poor man pay another poor man's debt? There is comfort in banding with others who understand what you are going through, but they are not the folks you can lean on.

So, if you have ever wondered whether or not you can help in a time of loss, I am here to tell you that you might be someone's only hope. Don't hesitate. One of the greatest things you can do is listen. Grievers need to tell the story again and again. The story never changes. It is the very finality of loss that creates the deepest pain, so don't get impatient when the story is the same old story.

Ultimately, though, God is the Rock and Fortress that we cling to in times of devastation.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

In light of this, think how vital it is to introduce Jesus, the Savior of the world to people. Then, when the bad times come, the Rock of Ages is there, strong and able to save.

You can lean on a Rock.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Time Trials

Something weird happens to one's perception of time as one gets older. Time seems to move more quickly, for one thing. Wasn't it only yesterday that we were entering the 21st century?  Who could even believe it?  That was 11 years ago, and as far as I am concerned those 11 years have passed in a flash.

But for me the weirdness about time is more personal than that. Up until now there have been so many demands on my time that I rarely got to even think about what I would do if I had a day completely to myself. Responsibilities related to raising children and working a job drove my waking hours. Many times there were far more tasks than hours in the day.

Some people like being  busy. They deliberately keep their schedules packed with things to do and places to go.  I have always coveted whole days in which I need do nothing but think and read and maybe swim; whole days where I would not be required to produce anything tangible to show for my efforts, so to speak.

Now that those days have arrived I seem more rushed than when I was rushing around. These days, though, it is more mental than physical. It is an "I'm beginning to run out of hours" type of rushed. I can be two thirds of a way through a book, and if it  is not holding my interest as I think it should, I set the book down and could care less how the story ends. I don't have time for mediocre books.

 I find myself looking in the back of my crossword puzzle book for answers that I would have stubbornly worked out for myself at a younger age. I taught my children that working jigsaw puzzles while looking at the cover, was the "cheaters way" or at least the "lazy man's way". Now they get mad at me because I am always peeking at the cover. "Come on folks, we need to get this thing done!" is my new mantra.

When I am busy doing something, even something purely recreational, I  have this need to cram in as much as I can, and at the same time I want to enjoy large periods of doing nothing productive at all.

Do I feel that I am running out time? Perhaps I have begun to face my own mortality. Or maybe finding the right perspective on time is a lifelong problem that we struggle with at every age. After all, we were not created for time.

We were created for eternity.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Change Your Clocks

Daylight savings time starts tomorrow. I'm glad my sister, Martha, is not here to orchestrate things for us. Some years ago we were in a motel in the Washington DC area in the Fall , because my niece, Emily, was running in the Marine marathon. In fact, the next day, the day of the marathon, was the Sunday that we were to turn our clocks back one hour. Martha was determined that we would get an extra hour of sleep, but did not want to miss the start of the race.

"Remember to set your clocks back tonight," she told us numerous times during the day, and again as we turned in. She even called her husband, Paul, back in Baltimore, to make sure he did it right.

Taking her reminder to heart, and wanting to be well rested for the race, we did as she said. We then set the alarm for 6 am, and went to sleep.

The next morning, we heard a knock on our door. It was Martha. "Are you up?" she whispered loudly through the door."It's 6 am."

Reluctantly, we rolled out of bed to get dressed, surprised to see that our clock read 5 am.

"Are you sure?" we asked sleepily.

"I'm positive," was her firm reply.

We began dressing, and before long we had another rap on the door. It was Martha. She had made sure that the hotel alerted her with a wake-up call, and had gotten up and dressed immediately after they rang, but when she finally looked at the clock she realized what had happened.

 Exasperated, she called the front desk and asked, "Do you know that you are waking everyone in this hotel up an hour early? Did you set your clocks back last night?"

She said there was a long pause and then and then a very nervous, "Oh, my."

We think she hounded the wrong people.

Now, remember. It is not Fall, so you have to put your clocks ahead, not back. Spring ahead, Fall back. (This story is making me a little confused.)

Maybe I do need Martha.



I have been immobilized by the TV coverage of the earthquake and sumani  in Japan. Many of the images are now seared into my mind, like those pictures I saw of the sunami that hit Thailand and Indonesia some years ago (the final estimate of casualties in that one was 300,000 ), or the ones I carry of the twin towers coming down in New York, or the sight of all the floodwaters and damage of Katrina.

I find it alarming that when I watch that giant wave come ashore, and then see pictures of the devastation left behind, that there are almost no people in the pictures. Where are the people?

In the Christchurch earthquake people were everywhere, rushing for cover, huddling together, hugging, pulling one another to safety. In New York they raced ahead of the cloud of dust and debris. In Katrina they gathered on bridges and roof tops. Am I missing something?

Where are the people?


Thursday, March 10, 2011


"In 1996, Congress adopted the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Pub. L. 104-199, 100 Stat. 2419 (Sept. 21, 1996). Congress passed DOMA because of a decades-long assault on marriage, and particularly in response to a Hawaii court decision that suggested there is a right to same-sex “marriage” in the Hawaii Constitution. The legislative history reflects a congressional concern about the effect that legalizing same-sex “marriage” in Hawaii would have on other states, federal laws, the institution of marriage, traditional notions of morality, and state sovereignty."

I copied this paragraph from another website. President Obama's decision to ignore this law has been weighing on my mind lately.

I have always contended that the original sin in the Garden of Eden is easily defined. Adam and Eve said, quite simply, "Listen God, you can't tell us what to do." That is pretty much what all sin boils down to....a rebellious heart toward God.

So it is no surprise that when a law is passed in a country that wants to preserve its Judeo-Christian beliefs there are going to be folks who raise their fists to heaven in defiance; folks who have a better idea; folks who dislike the law and take themselves to be the authority over themselves.

But, when the  President of the United States, who has sworn on the very Word of God to uphold the laws of the land, is the one to raise that fist, it is a shameful time in our country's history.

"Why do You get to make the rules? Listen, God you can't tell ME what to do!!" Sound familiar? You've said it yourself as have I...many times.

Still, men and women of courage and faith stand firm upon the Word of God on which DOMA is founded. 

There is good reason for that law:

"We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29)

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

Today is when I finally realized how depraved our society has become. It hit me when I read the following headline:

9 Money Moves for Lent, one paragragh of which assured us, "Even die-hard atheists use Ash Wednesday (today) to take the initiative and give up an indulgence as an experiment in doing without. Think of it as New Year’s Resolutions (Lite). Instead of giving up Starbucks for a year, you can give up Starbucks for 40 days and know that if you turn into a helpless narcoleptic you can always go back to your lattes in April."

Contrast that with this story: Some years ago we were working with a Real Estate Agent and our grandson, Nicholas, was at our house for some reason. The agent gaily told him of a new website of children's games that her kids had found and offered to show him where to find it on the computer.

"No thanks, " this third grader who was (and still is) crazy about computer games answered politely. "I gave up computer games for Lent." (And he did.)

I remember as a child going to Lenten services during the noon hour. Services were held at noon because the local factory would give its workers an extra half hour off at lunchtime during Lent so that the employees could attend services if they liked. Most stores closed over the noon hour for the same reason. The two big churches in town were the Lutheran church and the Catholic church, and as I remember, those services were always full.

We schoolchildren would walk across the street that separated our parochial school from the church, and  would file into the front pews. I remember the hymns sounding quite beautiful and eerily sad (it was Lent you will remember) with the adult voices from the back providing a solid base beneath the soaring soprano of the children. (Did this in some way contribute to the idea of the Klemp Family Singers? Perhaps.)

There is no reason that we, as Christians, cannot continue to honor and hold dear this time of reflection on the death  of our Lord, and the great sacrifice that brought us life and salvation. In fact we are getting ready to go to Lenten services as I write. But don't expect any cooperation or understanding from your formerly Christian nation.

That's sad.


Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Sisterhood

Our son Matthew moved his family  from Minneapolis to CA in December, so now none of our five sons lives nearby. Strangely enough, all three of our daughters are still in the area. I thought the boys would find wives and bring them here, and the girls would marry guys who took them off to live somewhere else.

I'm not sure where I got that idea. Probably from my own experience. All my sisters live in different states, and only my sister, Liz, lives in the state of Nebraska (but not the same town) in which we grew up

Anyway, I like having the girls nearby. And it has been a real treat for them to have their sisters here as well. They can trade babysitting time, and we get to see one another often at birthdays, and Halloween, and other special occasions. Sometimes we  plan a girls' day if it gets too long between celebrations. I usually hang out with one or another of them most Thrusdays in garage sale season, and the grandkids bring us together with their events as well.

I had four sisters (no brothers) and I work in nursing which, up until a few years ago, was dominated mostly by female caregivers. It is comfortable being among people who speak your language as it were. (aka Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus).

When my sister, Liz, turned fifty her husband, Tony, who loves to give parties, asked what kind of party she wanted. She told him she wanted to invite all her female relatives. (She has four daughters, no sons). It was a hoot. I brought two daughters and a daughter-in-law from Minnesota. My sister, Paula, flew in from North Carolina with  her daughter and granddaughter.  Martha couldn't come, but sent her daughter from Baltimore, and my mother and sister, Mary, came from MO. Anyway, Liz's girls, and some other female friends also came piling in, and Tony and his guy friends waited on us the whole weekend. It was awesome.

Hearing from and/or getting together with any of the "gals" I have been friends with throughout my lifetime is still a thrill.

So here's to all the women who have peopled and enriched my life. As we say in Minnesota, "I love you guys."


Monday, March 07, 2011

Something's Missing

Some years ago we moved from south and west of Minneapolis to north and a little east of St Paul, MN. We found that no one in St Paul knew anyone in Minneapolis, nor were they interested. When the I35W bridge collapsed the sentiment on this side of the river was, "Oh, that's so sad for them". In reality it was no big deal over here, because people from St Paul rarely go to Minneapolis, so a downed bridge was not even an inconvienience.

I wonder if those of you who have moved to a new city  after you are a bit up in years (as we say) have experienced the same sense of strangeness as have we. We lived in Carver County for nearly 30 years. My husband was in a visible profession in the community, our large family was pretty well known since we performed as a singing group. We knew people throughout the county due to the fact that our children attended a Lutheran High School that attracted students from a large area. Almost anywhere we went we either knew someone or someone knew who we were..

Now we move rather anonomously through our lives. We can go to the crowded Cub Food store, or the Applebees (or the Post Office, for that matter), each of which are less than a half mile from our home, and see no one we know.

Since there is little that connects us to our "old" life I even have a new name. On the other side of the river I am Kathy, on this side Katherine. My husband is increasingly "house bound". Going out is an effort, so even if we had stayed put he would not see many of the people we knew in our old location. I am by nature a solitary soul, so the isolation is not a big problem for me, but I do find some difficulty in remembering who I am ("was?" ) It is as though we started over in more ways than one.

Who would have thought that by moving we would become victims of identity theft?

Sunday, March 06, 2011


I just realized the other day that four of my children own two houses each. Marcus has a condo in California and one in MN that he is trying to sell. Stephen took a call from St. Joseph, Mo to Rockford, IL four years ago. He has not been able to sell the property in St. Joe in all that time. (He has been fortunate to have renters much of that time to alleviate the stress). Anna and Jeff still own their first house, but are using it as a successful rental property. (In otherwords, they own it on purpose.) And Sarah and Brian bought a new house in December, so they still have the first house, but, pending unforseen complicatons, they just found a buyer! They will close in April, so that is good news.

Whoever thought that owning property could be a liability? Paul's mom died recently and she still owns a home in WI. That should have been a good thing (and it still is) but it is also an unknown equation for the estate.

Anyway, I found it rather humorous that we are such a "landed" family. (Our other four children also own homes, plus we own (along with the friendly neighborhood bank, of course.) a townhouse.

Not counting Paul's mom's house that makes 13 properties!! This from a family that never owned a house while the kids were growing up because we lived in parsonages for all of Paul's years in the ministry. Where the resources for this plethera of properties came from I cannot tell you.

In our family we call it "God's math".


Saturday, March 05, 2011

High Hopes

I just spoke with my son, Peter, who lives in Omaha. He told me that his son, Zachary (my oldest grandson), is looking at going to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. A lofty goal, indeed. I knew that it has been a longtime dream of Zach's to be a pilot. The Air Force Academy dream was new to me.

I do have a cousin, Tom, who attended the Academy in its second or third year of existence, and in a quick exchange of emails with him he gave us his phone number, and offered to give Pete and Zach a little advice on how to go about things. He says the competition is fierce, and I believe it.

Still, I like the pursuit of lofty goals. Try, fail, and adjust. That's the only way to succeed in life, so trying and failing would still a big step forward. And, as I used to tell the kids when they auditioned for TV commercials and movies, "100% of those who never audition do not get the job."

When Marcus had his first audition at age ten the sign on the agent's door read, "Expect a miracle".

So, we did. Marcus was in three movies, and Anna has been in at least three, not to mention the plays, the commercials, and the music videos that they and the other kids have done as well.

So, "Expect a miracle", Zach.

God is good.


Friday, March 04, 2011

More to the Story

 Marilyn Vogel actually said she missed my blog. I guess all I needed was that  little encouragement to return to observing the stuff of life because here we go again.

 I just switched from being a member at the YMCA to being a member at Lifetime Fitness. I justify the extra expense in two ways. First, I am pretty sure I am allergic to chlorine, and the "Y" uses chlorine, but Lifetime Fitness uses saline to disinfect it's pool. Second, the "Y" is 5 miles farther from our home, so there is a small (getting larger by the day) savings in gas money.

Anyway, it seems to be working. I have been swimming twice now without triggering massive sneezing fits and fully clogged sinuses.

Or maybe swimming in saline is simply availing oneself of a giant netty pot.