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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fun and Games - Randon style

My friend Kim got some unexpected (but very good) news recently, that she would be hired as a 5th grade teacher at one of our local schools. Hooray! Not only will she have a great job, but she will be making a difference in the lives of children. If any part of Kim rubs off on her students, what a blessing that will be!

But there was a problem. The news of Kim’s teaching position came only a few days before classes started. What’s a girl to do with plans for “Friday Fun Days” but no fun supplies? Kim mentioned she looked at board games at a local retailer. All so expensive. And isn’t that just like one of our beloved teachers? Reaching into her own pocket for classroom supplies our low-budget school systems just can’t provide in the current financial environment? Everybody stop right now and thank a teacher for all they do for love of our kids!

So what to do about Friday Fun Day for the 5th grade? Randon to the rescue. Again. Most of you reading this who knew my son Randon, also know he did everything in a big way. Or at least his mom did. Yeah, I tended to spoil him, indulging him in excessive amounts of the things he loved, mostly because there were so many things he couldn’t do or participate in. I would go so far as to say his three favorite things were books, movies and games. Oh my.

He had huge collections of these things. A few years ago, shortly after his passing, our family donated his book collection (including Hank the Cow Dog) to the Bennington School Library. We also donated his movie collection to the school. Now his books and movies are found in classrooms, day cares, homes, anywhere they can continue to be enjoyed by children in our community.  Yay Randon!

But so far, Randon’s game collection still filled shelves in our house and garage. Alas, they were collecting dust with no one to enjoy them. I suppose I could have carted them off to the Good Will store, but I always hoped I would run across someone who wanted them. Someone Randon knew, and who would enjoy having his things.  

So, and you’re way ahead of me by now, Randon’s game collection found its way into Kim’s 5th grade classroom as the focus of Friday Fun Days (or at least the rainy ones.) I would have to admit to a slight twinge of sadness as the games went off to their new home, but when one of Kim’s students proudly announced to his friends that he knew Randon from his church and was excited about having his games, that made it ALL worthwhile. That and the expression on the face of Kim’s son when we bestowed upon him the beloved Strolling Bowling game. Yep. Smiles all around!

Thank you Kim. Thanks 5th grade. Oh yeah. And thanks Randon. Your legacy loves on.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Proud Mom of Six (for a week)

     What do you think would happen if six young people came to your house for a week of 16 hour days, maybe more? What if they all wore the same shirts, usually looked hot and needed a lot of cold drinks? What if they got hungry several times a day and it was up to you to feed them? I know exactly what you would do – you would fall in love with them.
     I’ll be honest, the week of July 4th is difficult. It’s hot, exhausting and smelly. My home is overtaken by people coming to buy fireworks, some of them I know, but many of them I don’t. My garage is full of things that go bang, smoke and “emit showers of sparks.”  I am sleep deprived, stressed and way out of my comfort zone. But then there’s these kids’ unending energy, smiles that won’t quit and hearts of gold. They have one goal this week: Dedicate 24 hours a day to making Regnier Fireworks successful so that my pyro-crazed husband can put on a community fireworks display that folks will be talking about for weeks.
     This fireworks crew become MY kids for a week. They’re certainly here more than they’re at their own homes. I promise I’ll give them back to their families when the event is said and done, but for this week they’re mine. That’s the part of it I love. I love feeding them, fetching change, bandaging ouchies, and sharing my house.
     And, they have my utmost gratitude. The obvious reason I’m grateful to them is because we couldn’t do any of this without them, but it’s more than that. Lance, Chelsea, Leslie, Avery, Annie and Nolan, thanks for putting up with me trying to take your pictures all the time. Thanks for not grumping at me when I’m always forcing you to eat when you’re not hungry. Thanks for not minding reheated leftovers and cold sandwiches. Thanks for eating what I make for you without complaint even when you’d rather have something else. Thanks for working out in the heat while I sit inside because I’m such a wimp. Thanks for enduring the house full of stuff till we can’t hardly walk around in here. Thanks for all your ‘thank-yous,’ though truly, it is I that should be thanking you.
     Chelsea, thanks for sitting with me during my absolute worst moments when I didn’t know how to make the cash registers work. You turned the tears into laughter. I love you so much.
     Avery, thanks for your delightful sense of humor, always coming up with the perfect comment to bring a moment of levity to every difficult situation.
     Lance, thanks for being such a hard worker, volunteering for every cruddy job and for asking for the leftover bacon cheese bread. And you like lemonade Chex mix!
     Annie, you work so hard, endure the heat and do whatever we ask. You eat my deviled eggs, park your car with the KU tag in my yard with no apologies, and I really love the table decorations you made to decorate our stand.
     Leslie, you are a sweetheart. I love seeing you all bundled up in a hoodie and a blanket on these hot July mornings. Hearing you argue with Lance makes me laugh. How funny that you want ice cream instead of supper and who knew you loved Cheetos?
     Nolan, you know we could never do this without you. You’re the only one if the crew I get to ‘keep’ once the week is done. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be!
     Special shout out to Kasey and Laura. You got to be my kids for a day or two as well.
     All of you are treasures, and I am so blessed to have you all to help me make it through fireworks season! Same time, same place next year?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Worm Your Way into Someone's Puddle

     I drove home tired, grumpy and craving time alone. If I hurried I could have an hour to relax before it was time to prepare lunch. All I wanted was a cold drink and my recliner. I parked the car in the garage, grabbed my stuff and headed for the house.
     We’d had rain the day before, enough rain to make wet puddles on our cement. I stepped around one such puddle on our garage floor. I glanced at a very long and quite plump earthworm stretched out in that puddle. Too bad, I thought to myself as I hurried on. That would have made a great fish worm. But I haven’t fished since I was a kid.
     I closed the back door of the house behind me and unloaded my things onto the kitchen table. That’s when I heard it. That still small voice inside my conscience that I don’t dare ignore. “Go pick up the worm and put it in the dirt.”
     “No,” I argued back. “I’m tired and I don’t care about a silly old worm.”
     “Go pick up the worm and put it in the dirt.”
     Did I mention I didn’t dare ignore this voice giving me such unreasonable commands? A slightly used napkin lay on the table. Convenient. I sighed, picked up the napkin and returned to the garage. Somewhere in between the time I used to bait my own fishhook at Grandpa’s creek and this morning, I apparently lost my ability to not shudder in disgust at the thought of handling a worm. I gingerly picked up the big worm with the napkin, rescuing it from the puddle of water. I carried it outside the garage door and deposited it in the dirt.
     “There. How’s that?” I was still carrying on an internal conversation with the voice, but it didn’t answer me. I shrugged, went back inside and threw away the napkin, washing any trace of worm goo off my hands. Now, about that recliner.
     “Go see if it crawled away.”
     “What? Why would I do that?”
     “Go see if it crawled away.”
     “This is totally crazy,” I muttered to myself as I went back outside and found the place I had put the worm. It was still there. Why hadn’t it crawled in a hole or something? Maybe it was dead. Yeah. I’d probably rescued a dead worm. Nice.
     Then it started to squirm. First a little, then a lot. Then I noticed something. I was pretty uncomfortable standing there in the direct sunlight with all that humidity hanging in the air. Now, I admit I’m a heat wimp. My ‘miserably hot’ is most people’s ‘comfortable,’ but I also figured that worm was probably in the same discomfort as me. After all, it’d just come out of a nice cool puddle of water into the direct sunlight. Sheesh. If I was going to rescue the little guy, the least I could have done was put him in some shade.
     But as I watched, the worm wiggled some more and finally began to make its way across the ground. Why had I thought it would just sort of burrow down into the soil right where I put it? But it knew better than me. It knew it had to get out of the sunlight before it got too dry. A dried out worm is not any better off than a worm stranded in a puddle of water.
     It crawled until it came to a piece of tree bark lying on the ground. I almost lifted up the bark to get it out of the poor guy’s way.
     “Leave it there.”
     “Oh. Okay.” I didn’t have to be told twice this time. I left it there. The worm crawled under the bark until its head was sticking out on one side and its tail (do worms have tails?) poked out on the other. Then, the strangest thing happened. That big fat worm wiggled and squirmed until it was able to fit its entire length under that little piece of bark. It didn’t stick out anywhere. Big as that worm was and small as that piece of bark was, it had to have practically tied itself in knots to get all of it underneath the bark. But it knew what it had to do. And it did it.
      After watching a few more minutes and seeing nothing of the worm, I went back inside. I found my recliner and my diet soda, but I couldn’t quit thinking about that worm. Was there a reason for my encounter with that ugly brown squiggly thing? I believe there was. I thought I was helping the worm. But no, the worm was helping me. He was teaching me a lesson I very much needed to learn just then.
     What lesson can a worm teach a person? How about the fact that we all need a little understanding sometimes. Someone to show us just a bit of compassion. Being too tired, too grumpy or too wrapped up in my selfish wants is no reason not to reach out to others. Who knows what a kind word, perhaps even a smile could mean to someone who just wants to know someone cares?  
     Mr. or Mrs. Worm (truthfully, I don’t even know if worms come in boy and girl varieties) knew just how to take care of itself. It only needed a little help to get started and then it was on its way. Maybe someone I passed by this morning in my hurry to get home needed something from me and I missed it. Maybe all I had to do was smile. Or pick someone up from a puddle of their own grumpies. Did I just leave them to swim against the current? Or evaporate in the sun?
     When I checked later (yes, I admit I did check), the piece of bark had nothing beneath it but an almost imperceptible hole in the damp soil. But my worm friend didn’t return to its home without teaching me a valuable lesson first. Be on the lookout. Not all 911 calls come with whistles and sirens. The loudest shouts for help might just be the ones that make no noise at all.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Conference Conundrum

     Two consecutive weeks, two three day conferences. I traveled to Pittsburg, Kansas April 9 for Called to Write, my first writer’s conference ever. Then on April 15 I went to Wichita for KASBO (Kansas Assn of School Business Officials). That is a lot of being away from home and socializing/networking for this girl who would be perfectly happy to stay in her cave and be a hermit every day. But I did have a good time at both conferences and learned so much.
     I was totally enthralled at Called to Write. Never before have I been in a setting where authors I have read and loved led sessions on the thing I am so completely and utterly passionate about – writing. And in a room full of other people with the same passion. Just a little slice of paradise, Cindy definition.
      KASBO was a wealth of information for my job as Clerk of the Board for USD 240. So much change happening, so many new developments. So much I need to know and so many opportunities to find out how much I don’t know! So many people to help me wade through it.
     So now I am back home with plans to stay here for awhile. My blue bags full of important information, notes, new contacts and even some little conference freebies are here to remind me of all I’ve learned. But as I gaze at them and memories float through my mind, I wonder. How could two such similar experiences leave me with such totally different feelings?
     One has me scared spitless, but eager to take the risks and dive in head first. I can’t wait to get wet! The other has me already in water over my head, but I feel like I might be able to swim well enough to dog paddle to the other side. Going for that dry towel on the beach.
     Anybody care to guess which is which?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Valentine Party

  I have posted this before but in honor of my favorite holiday, here it is again. Enjoy!

The Valentine Party

I had been planning it for weeks
Everything was set
The ladies in our church group
Would have the grandest party yet

I made my way to the front of the church
Perfectly coiffed and dressed
Announced our little party
And invited all ladies to be our guest

Next Monday night at 7:00 pm
We'll meet at my house and dine
And bring a card for our contest
"Who has the sweetest Valentine?"

I took my seat and began to dream
Yes, I tuned the preacher out
My party would be the best ever
There simply was no doubt

And so, on Monday next
Everything was in its place
Frannie had hosted last month
I couldn't wait to see her face!

The floor was swept, the sink all scrubbed
Not a trace of dust remained
I had skipped church the day before
But look at all I'd gained

Lacy Valentines and shiny hearts
Bedecked the house in red and white
My best china set the table
Just for this special night

The candles lit, flowers arranged
The dinner smelled divine
The caterer was quite expensive
But this was my night to shine

The guests began arriving
I greeted them at the door
Everyone who was "Anyone"
I could not ask for more

Then just as we sat down to eat
The doorbell rang again
Now who is that - all are here
My patience was wearing thin

I hurried to open the door and see
Who had dared interrupt my dinner
My mouth dropped open in horror
For at my doorstep stood Mary Penner

Mary came to church sometimes
Whenever she could get a ride
Her clothes were always old and worn
Did the woman have no pride?

Her hair wasn't the latest style
She talked a little different
Once I had said hello to her
But that was as far as it went

"Can I help you?" I questioned
As she stood there at my door
I looked down my nose at her
And the mismatched outfit she wore

I prayed that she would turn and leave
But my hopes were only fleeting
Her crooked teeth showed in a grin
"Is this the church ladies meeting?

Our group was rather exclusive
But of course she didn't know
I was thinking to myself
"How dare she spoil my show!"

I invited her in and took her coat
Introduced her around the table
I tried to hide my resentment
As well as I was able

Her table manners were lacking
And my anger didn't waver
They all complimented the food
But to me it had no flavor

But as the servers cleared the table
My black mood was lifting a bit
Time now for the Valentine contest
And I was sure that I would win it

I had hunted for it long and hard
Antique stores I searched were many
It was hundred-year-old Victorian
And I had paid a pretty penny

Round the table, each guest in turn
Shared the card that she had brought
Frannie's had come from a student
In the classroom where she taught

Janet had a decorated cake
That spelled out "You're the One"
Carol's card said "I love Grandma"
Handmade by her little grandson

Chocolates, roses, balloons and cards
One by one they shared
Each one special to their hearts
Evidence that someone cared

They oohed and aahed over mine
And how much I must have spent
But I could see it wasn't as sweet
As the ones that love had sent

I swallowed my disappointment
But then became even more vexed
When I looked around our circle
And saw that Mary's turn was next

She seemed almost embarrassed
And looked a bit dejected
She said, "I guess this meeting
Is not quite what I expected.

When I heard about a ladies group
I suppose I thought we might
Have a little Bible study
And so all I brought tonight

Was my old well-worn Bible
Hoping that what I heard
Would feed my hungry heart a bit
With morsels from His Word

But I reckon that my Bible here
Is the best Valentine I ever got
It's all about how He loves me
How my freedom from sin was bought."

She looked around at all of us
And we stared back at her
No one moved or said a word
But of one thing I was sure

Guilty fingers gripped my heart
I knew how wrong I'd been
My shaky voice said, "I believe
That Mary's card should win."

One by one each lady spoke up
"Mary" was the vote of every guest
We all knew without a doubt
That her Valentine was the best

We had all been so caught up
In our little social game
We had lost sight of our purpose
And we hung our heads in shame

Then Susan said, "I'll host next month
Everyone invite a buddy
Mary, we would all be honored
If you would lead our Bible study."

Mary grinned and nodded
Each guest hugged her as they passed
I waited until all were gone
Then spoke to her at last

"I've been so very wrong," I said
Tears ran unhindered down my face
"It's all right, my friend," she answered
"God never runs out of grace."

Friday, January 16, 2015


Anybody suffer from insomnia? It’s kind of a new thing for me developed over the past few years. I can lay awake for hours before falling asleep. Annoying and makes for a hard morning. I’ve tried lots of remedies but the only thing that really works is Tylenol PM. Problem is, it only starts working once morning has arrived.
Yesterday I saw something about a 4 – 7 – 8 breathing technique. It is used to calm anxious nerves or help a person fall asleep. I had zero confidence that this thing would work, but it didn’t stop me from trying it. It’s a three step process that works like this:

  1.  Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
  2.  Hold the breath for 7 seconds
  3.  Release the air through your mouth for 8 seconds

Sounds easy, right? Well not so much. I had to practice it several times before I got it right. I kept wanting to breathe in the same time I was breathing out. Well anyway, I finally mastered it. Some of the people that commented on this on the internet article I read, insisted they were asleep before that first 8 second breathe-out was complete. I was skeptical but hopeful.
Did it work? No, I didn’t fall asleep. Yes, it was very relaxing. So relaxing I could almost tolerate the snoring going on beside me. Finally, I got tired of all the counting. Maybe it’s the same principle as counting sheep. A person just gets so bored with the repetitive counting they finally go to sleep. Except not me. As usual my mind was going in dozens of different directions, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything but counting and what part of the breathing I was supposed to be doing. So, I quit counting. And guess what – I missed it! Yep, I wanted to do it some more. The shallow breaths I take in normal breathing couldn’t compare with the relaxation of the 3 step process, counting and all. And that thing with the snoring – well – that benefit couldn’t be ignored. I think I’ll do it again tonight.
So you try it. Let me know it works for you. And if you’ve got a tried and true method for battling insomnia, leave a comment and tell me about it.
If nothing else, this little exercise in futility gave me a great idea for a short story. Going to write it tomorrow after a “good night’s sleep.” If you’d like to see that story make its way to a blog post, comment and tell me so. Enough encouragement and I might be persuaded. . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nutcracker Dilemma

When my oldest son was very young I bought a Captain Kangaroo Christmas video for him. Little did I know what I was starting. In the movie, Captain Kangaroo reads some children’s Christmas stories complete with illustrations and one of those stories was “The Nutcracker.” For some reason I can’t identify, Ty became immediately and undeniably enthralled with nutcrackers. When asked what he wanted Santa to bring him, his list consisted of a nutcracker. That was it.

Unlike nowadays when Christmas nutcrackers adorn department store shelves in abundance, nutcrackers were not a common commodity back then.  As a last resort we went to a specialty (that means high-priced) kitchen store and bought him a nutcracker for $25. A fortune back then, especially for a little boy who I ‘m thinking must have been about four. I worried that he thought the nutcracker would come to life like in the story, but I needn’t have. The nutcracker was a huge hit as a Christmas gift and my little sweetie learned how to crack a peanut shell in his mouth. Thus began the ritual.

After that, the nutcrackers became a tradition. Every year I looked for new and different varieties to add to the nutcracker brigade. Of course nutcrackers became very popular about that time and we had them all. Candleholders, Wizard of Oz, Kansas State, you name it. Whatever Ty was interested in at the time had a nutcracker to go with it and Mom couldn’t resist the sparkle in his eyes when he opened the new one.  Ones. Yes, they began to come in multiples. Sets. Collections. We had miniatures and giants, tree ornaments and door guards.  Finally we had to set up an oblong table in our living room to accommodate the nutcracker collection.

In subsequent years nutcrackers not only filled every square inch of the table, but overflowed to other surfaces such as coffee table, cedar chest, end tables and any card table we could find. Even the space underneath the tables became inundated with nutcrackers. And here I must confess. It began to grow a little tiresome. It took me hours every Christmas season to unpack them all and I won’t even go into the eons it required to wrap them each in tissue paper and box them away when Christmas was over. But for my darling child, I did it faithfully.

Right up until he graduated from high school. And then he dropped the big bomb. “Mom, I don’t really want any more nutcrackers.” Oh. Well how long had he been feeling this way and not said anything? Awhile I guess, though I never got him to admit it. And what of the army of nutcrackers I had bought on an after-Christmas sale last year, now put away as a special gift for Christmas morning?

As it turns out, those nutcrackers never came back out of the box. To this day I have stacks of cardboard boxes in the garage and in storage sheds filled with the infamous nutcracker gallery. No one has opened them in years. What to do with them?

Someone thought I should sell them as a set. Surely all of them together would fetch a hefty price. If you could find someone that wanted a rather hefty collection. Someone else thought I should insure them. Really? How does one go about insuring a nutcracker collection? I know. I can give them to Ty since they are his and he has his own place now. Nope. He’s not touching them. And his wife has tactfully expressed her lack of desire to inherit them as well. They are now mine forever.

Truth is, I kind of like knowing I have them – as long as I don’t have to find them and get them all out every year. Anyway how could I rid myself of such memorabilia?  The image of my little Ty holding his first nutcracker is seared into my memory. It made his Christmas all those years ago and to this mama’s heart, worth every bit of money, pain and agony that went into the nutcracker-collecting era.

And perhaps one day I’ll have a grandchild.  Maybe that grandchild will like Captain Kangaroo and I can dig out the old video. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll say something like, ”Grandma, I wish I had a nutcracker.” Problem solved and I will be the coolest Grandma ever. (As long as you don’t ask the parents of that very fortunate grandchild.)