Speechless

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Today was an exceptional day. I was speechless.

This is how the scene unfolded. Unlike our current situation, a new, normal, school year was approaching.  I joined other mothers bombarding the mall to nail as many clothing bargains as possible.

With my son and daughter in tow we foraged through clothing racks with fellow shoppers. The department was in disarray.  Pint size shoppers were clearly tired of standing in long lines just to go into the fitting room.

A loud voice arose above the crescendo around me.

“Why on earth are you have bringing another child into this world?”

The question was directed to me.  I was noticeably pregnant with our third child,

“You already have a son and daughter, there is no reason you should have a third child.”

I wonder what she would have to say if she learned that at one time, we talked of having four kids?

I was speechless. Those that know me can appreciate that.

What can you say to an obviously irate woman? She had taken it upon herself to confront me over something that was none of her business.  There was some talk of zero population growth in the news.  Apparently, this woman was of that mindset.

If she only knew.  Some women can get pregnant easily. Not I.  When I was a child playing outside I had an accident.  My self-entertainment was climbing on the trunk of dad’s car and sliding down.  Automobiles of the 50’s with the bumper guards weren’t good for that kind of play.

Had I been more alert to the harm they could inflict, I would have been mindful of where exactly I was sliding down.  But I wasn’t.  It wasn’t until I came in the house that I realized I was bleeding profusely. I can recall no pain, but marveled that mom had something on hand to address my issue.

Before the day was out I found myself in the doctor’s office getting stitches.  It has been my self-diagnosis that explains why I’ve had trouble getting pregnant.  All that to say, every one of our children took work and are treasured.

That happened many years ago, yet I’m still amazed at the encounter at the store.

My take-away from the experience is I can’t understand where people are coming from until I have walked in their shoes.  Maybe she would like more children but for whatever reason can’t.

Each of my children has been a learning and growing experience for me.  Without them I would have missed that.

They are no longer children, but the joy they continue to bring me is priceless.  I’m convinced our experiences are opportunities to become what the good Lord has in mind for our life.

Decisions, Decisions

 

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© jb katke

 

Have you ever had trouble making up your mind? This poor tree has red on the top and green at the bottom. It can’t decide whether to give in to dormancy or try to hang on to living.

I did a pint-size research on the hows and whys of leaves changing color. I learned it’s chlorophyll that gives them the green color we enjoy in the summer. The length of the night and cooler temperature cause biochemical processes, and thus, the colors change. Probably you already knew that.

To my way of thinking, then, people may have some tree-like tendencies. Have you ever run across a stubborn person? They are as unbending as the strongest tree trunk. I will say no more.

Just as the environment changes for trees, so does mine.

I won’t even go through the list. We all have one. There are seasons for everything and in the time span of one year I can feel I’ve have run the gamut on changes, emotional and otherwise. Particularly this year. Hang in there I tell myself, nothing on earth lasts forever. It just seems like it.

Cooler weather is here. The temperature never made it to the triple digits in my little world. Nonetheless, I’m glad we no longer need protection from the unrelenting sun. It’s even easier to breathe. Or is it, with these gosh darn masks? I repeat, nothing on earth lasts forever.

However triple digits of anger have hit too many of our cities. Never in my lifetime have I seen the hate rise within our fellow citizens. We have literally turned against ourselves. I cling to what is said in the Good Book, ‘This too will pass.’

There is a story making the Facebook circuit about the elderly, nearly blind, woman being moved into a nursing facility. An aide is describing the room as she guides her resident to her new home. Before even arriving there, the old lady states, “I love it!”

“How can you know you love it when we haven’t even got there yet?”

The old woman says, “Because I’ve decided to.”

I might not have that story verbatim, but you get the drift. These days, more than ever, it’s crucial what we set our minds (and hearts) on. The decision is ours.

This aforementioned tree will eventually succumb to winter dormancy. But it’s not over, there is life after (what looks like) death. Next summer it will come alive with new growth and be bigger and stronger than it was this past summer. It will be wiser too, realizing this whole thing is nothing more than a cycle of life.

Same thing goes for people.

Cabin In The Woods

                                                                                            

My folks’ cabin in the woods was far from a Norman Rockwell painting.  It was their heaven on earth. I hated it.

Uncle Geo sold them land to build a cinder block cabin. It was outstanding in its field as it was 14 miles from civilization. The rustic one room dwelling, gave all new meaning to an open floor plan. Picture in your mind no privacy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The amenities could be counted on one finger. We had electricity.

My uncle walked around with a forked willow stick, known as dowsing. When the

Pumping water
© jb katke

branch turned down in his hands, there he declared underground water. Dad dug down making a well. Running water consisted of running down the little hill with bucket in hand.

Water was heated to meet our needs. I can still feel the spider running up my arm as I plunked an item in the dishwater, and shudder at the memory.

Bathing consisted of standup baths at the kitchen sink.   Repeat zero privacy.

Outhouse
© jb katke

 

Having no plumbing required an outhouse. Upon a visit, I observed a ribbon type thing swaying in the breeze from the door closing. Only it continued to sway well after the door shut. I cracked open the door enough to let light in to see it was a snake coiled around a grill rack. I can’t explain why there was a grill rack there. Needless to say, I my exit was swift.

 

Heat came by way of a fireplace and space heater. Fortunately, we didn’t make many trips to the cabin in cold weather.

To go took some planning. I suspect my folks kept the necessary supplies within easy reach if an opportunity should present itself. I understood where their hearts were year-round…

Both of my grandparents lived too close by. The many responsibilities in looking after the elderly fell heavily on my parents. They needed a break.

No way did  I willingly join my parents in their road trips north. Ever. In their eyes I was too young to be left home alone. As I grew, so did my resistance. It was just too primitive for me.

Compared to pioneer days, my folk’s cabin would have been considered sheer luxury.  Four walls, a roof and a door, who could ask for more? Me.

I amaze myself enduring circumstances that appeared so awful in my teenage mind. Life has taught me otherwise. This year has for sure, 2020 has helped me see things differently.

Sometimes I think the Lord supplies us with opportunities to .learn and grow in ways we would consider impossible. Yet here we are.

Island Life

Bois Blanc Island

This was to be a weekend for the memory books.

A ferry ride took us across the top of northern Michigan’s Lake Huron. Our destination was one of the islands, where our friends inherited vacation home was located. It was formerly Nan’s dad home, he was one of the few hardy residents that stayed during the rugged Michigan winters.

Our family was invited but it was my husband they wanted. He was the helping hand in a porch roof repair.

We were in for an interesting experience. The shower curtain bore the attached note:

‘If a shower you must take, don your suit and head for the lake.’

You see, there were these house rules like none other…:

  • Breakfast was served at 7am. Attendance mandatory. It was the only meal we shared together. The rest of the day we were free as a bird.
  • No one sleeps in the master bedroom. It was considered a shrine where dad once slept. Not out of endearment mind you, but a fearful respect for the tough father he once was. Our visiting required this rule to be broken this one time.
  • No watching television. Except for the adults to watch an hour of evening news. Young people were expected to make their own entertainment. The island offered activity in the form of a four-wheeler that they didn’t have at home. The entire island was considered their playground.
  • No milk allowed. Period. In a weekend visit we couldn’t drink it fast enough before it would spoil. (This was our youngest daughters’ favorite rule.)

The family was cautious not to run up burdensome utility bills. Nan and her sister were the inheritors. They ran a tight ship.

Our contentious daughter added to the ‘fun’ until she eventually let her hair down.  A bat latched onto the shoelace of their son, prompted her laughter as he hopped around on one foot trying to shake it off. Eventually she resigning to the fact that our time together required interaction, so she joined the others in a game.

All of us have looked upon on this memory with fondness. It has become an inside joke for the family. When any of us come up with an outlandish desire, we always declare, “…when I get my island….”

Quilt Of Shame

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Mother’s Day was around the corner.  Perfect timing.  My church was giving me the opportunity to conduct a quilt class for mothers and their daughters. Quilting is a passion of mine and I was getting to share it with others!

I selected a sampler style project that would be an introduction to the many facets of the craft.  With a creative seed planted, I was hoping other women would join me in making quilts for those in need.  This could be the start of something big.  I was going to shine.

It was a learning experience alright.  For me.  Organization was required. Relaying directions in a way novice quilters and young girls could understood was important. Supposedly, I was to be the knowledgeable teacher.  It was going fairly well.  Until the end was in sight and it was time to bind the edges of the wall-hanging.

One mother/daughter team was getting in the groove and were ahead of the group.

There is just no easy way to say this. 

I ruined their project. I cut her binding too short.  If only the ground would open for me to fall in and disappear!

Needless to say, no one jumped to join in my little mission for the needy.  I was more than embarrassed, I was humbled.  Which I greatly deserved.

With all my fluff and greatness, I never asked the Lord to bless this opportunity.  How arrogant can one get?

Since my public tragedy my friends smile with patient endurance as I rattle off on my current quilt endeavor.  But I’ve learned not to be so full of myself.  A friend aptly clarifies quilting,

“You buy several yards of fabrics, cut them into pieces, and then sew them all back together again.” Yes, she gets it.

Eventually, two women did join me in quilt-making for those in need.  We met once a month.  But due to all of us employed, getting a quilt completed proved to be a challenge.  I discussed this dilemma with the Lord many a time.  My prayer was answered via a garage sale.

A neighbor came by purchasing my fabric. She shared that several ladies in her church do a similar ministry to an organization my church is also affiliated with.  She graciously invited our group to join them.  More hands to the task! At first I was encouraged, but eventually turned my mission over to them.

These events took place over many years.  Not because God was slow to respond or that he was punishing me for promoting self.

I’m certain it has more to do with dedication to what God wants, not what I’m willing to do for God.  He has his plans which far surpass what I can imagine.

If my intentions are genuine, then my life needs to walk in step with Him.

Balloon Daze

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Hot air balloons drift through my mind. Three of them floated over our home recently.

The thought of being carried by the wind, and the birds eye view, entice me. Maybe it’s the sheer size of them, or being so colorful. Whatever it is, I love them.

Whenever I see one anymore it reminds me of the time I pierced my sons’ eardrums. Poor Jamie. Several years ago we were chatting on the telephone. Having a cordless phone gave me the freedom to walk around the house.

I casually strolled into the office and opened the window blinds.

(Humor me. Hold both your hands close to your face, but not touching. Can’t see too much can you?)

When I opened those blinds all I could see were massive stripes.

“Oh my gosh!”

A hot air balloon landed in our front yard. It was a bit of a miracle because of the two large oak trees on both sides of the house. The balloon filled the entire gap.

If I hadn’t opened those blinds I would have missed the whole scene. And Jamie might have his full hearing today!

Blinds shield too much sun and offer privacy at night. Blinders on horses keep them from being distracted.

But what about the blinders we wear on a regular basis that keep us from seeing reality, the big picture? We may have less compassion for others and potentially lose an opportunity to make a difference in life.

If Edison hadn’t acknowledged the need for light, we would still be in the dark after sunset. If a person hadn’t wanted to cross a body of water, rafts and boats wouldn’t have come to be. Pioneers felt there must be a better way to travel, hence trains. You get the idea.

Need I even mention counselors and therapists to aid in both mental and physical capacities? Churches offer hope in hard times, plant seeds of trust and strengthen all the time. IF we approach them with an open heart.

Ugghhh…sounds too much like welcoming change! It is, for the better.

 

 

 

The Perfect Husband

Dave sunning 3[2898]                                                                © jb katke

Can you define the perfect husband?

When my girls were teenagers they could sum it up in a single word. Rich.

My definition of the perfect husband has changed through the years. I didn’t think about it when I got married. My list came into existence when our first child was born. I should have married a pediatrician. He could have answered my endless questions and known just what to do in child raising.

Fathers Day is approaching, so I focus on Dave, the father of my children. As the years stacked up I was glad to have married a man that can fix anything. Anything. But then I got to wishing he would stop with the constructive criticism. I found he wasn’t so handy at emotional issues.

Our first home shrank after purchase. We moved in as a family of three but grew to five. Even completely rebuilding the upstairs, it still left us wanting more space. But it definitely improved the salability of the home. I was truly grateful for his skill.

We shared several lean years when he did much of our automotive maintenance. He knew how to do a lot, then I found out he didn’t like it too much. Shoot, we couldn’t afford all our car repairs! So I was glad he was at least willing to tackle some.

His career was in machine maintenance at a check printing company. So many of the plants were closing that it made moving away from the only home we knew necessary. Both of our hearts ached at the division it created in our family. But he faced the hardship in order to continue providing for us.

He retired at a young age which required further employment. By now his skills had become well known to friends. It led to his starting a home business in remodeling. He was a man in demand. I was so proud to his expertise until he was a little too busy to make what I deemed necessary for our home!

When friends found themselves out of work, Dave offered for them to join him, making it a win/win for all. My man has a good heart. After several surgeries, he needed a helping hand. Friends stepped up, even though construction was out of their wheelhouse, and came to his aid. He knows how to make and keep good friends.

Our life together has not always been perfect. But I have come to the point of realization Dave is perfect for me. He balances me as no other can. He is a man full of wisdom and I appreciate being able to bounce thoughts off him. Sometimes he wonders where I come up with stuff, but its all good, we keep each other on our toes.

Dave has supported me while I looked for myself. That’s what women of the 70’s did. They felt the need to be someone more than wife and mother. Deep inside, we know we are made for a unique purpose. Many left home, but I stayed and kept looking in the cracks and crevices until I found me.

The thing is we more than like each other, we love each other. Staying together just made sense.  But I’ve saved the best for last. He recognized his need for Jesus and together we have included him in our marriage. Our life together has never been so good!

Mothers Day

Asbury out the front door neighbors © jb katke

Allow me to share this interaction with my mom from many years ago.

Mom: “This Sunday is Mothers Day.”

Me: “Again, we just had one last year! When are we going to have a kids day?”

Unfortunately when I was young I thought and talked like a child. I was kinda stupid too. Think about it. When we were young how many of us worried about the house payment, clean clothes, or the next meal? I didn’t know how good I had it.

I would like to turn this Mothers Day around. Instead of focusing on moms, I’d like to give our attention to the people that made us moms. It’s easy to overlook the people that made us who we are. Our children.

I’ve learned a great deal from my kids.

Such as:

After I vacuumed my four year old entered the house from playing outdoors. “Oh, you vacuumed.”                                                                                                                                  Lesson learned: Make your house-cleaning so apparent even the youngest member of the family takes notice.

Despite parental efforts, we could count on our contentious one to do the opposite of our intentions for her well-being.                                                                                                               Lesson learned: Patience, perseverance, and prayers actually work!

Seizing the moment. If that means doing cartwheels down an otherwise busy street in the middle of the night; calling attention of the police, so be it.                                                   Lesson learned: Express your joy in unexpected opportunities.                                                 (BTW this little caper brought your sister unspeakable joy!)

There’s more.

These children of mine grew up. (Sometimes I had serious doubts) My children are no longer children. They have married and fled the nest.

Now I have their spouse whom I also consider my children. They’re the best kind because I didn’t have to give birth or raise them.

Likewise I’ve learned from them too:

Sometimes life isn’t fair and gives ailments that hinder the life they dreamed of living.       Lesson learned: Compassion. Many of us didn’t choose the life we live.

Teen choices are not always the smartest.                                                                              Lesson learned: We carry on and with Jesus’ help see how he changes things for good.

Reality messes with our plans, hopes and even assumptions of how life plays out.               Lesson learned: Always have a plan B. Maybe even a C or D wouldn’t hurt. It takes a while to figure things out.

Kids, it’s called parent-raising.

As you reflect on your childhood years there’s bound to be some bad memories. Keep in mind knowledge isn’t part of the birthing experience. I recall my mother telling me the first time she held a baby was after giving birth to my brother.

If anything, it’s when we have children that we realize how much we don’t know. It’s an ongoing process, too many times a trial by error thing. On the job training, parent-raising at its best.

Look at the people who are in our life and be amazed! They are just who we need to learn lifes greatest lessons.

What we all have in common is sacrifice and love. Too late I learned there is a how-to book available. The good book says the greatest of these is love. That’s where sacrifice stems from. Our words and actions prove where our heart is.

God and Jesus, man how they sacrificed…and loved! The to die for kind of love. I hope you feel it.

Ready To Go

SparrowHope is in the air. The excitement is building.

People are daring to talk of what they will do when our lockdown is lifted. For many, going back to work is priority #1. They are ready to go.

Summer is coming though. Will people be able to afford vacations this year? Will any of us feel free as a bird again?

It brings to mind another kind of excitement our family experienced many years ago. We had purchased a used camper trailer but the concept was new to us. While we never camped before we were ready to go.

The trip started off with a bang. Literally. On his way home from work the evening before take-off, my husband Dave had a car accident. Fortunately it was minor and we were determined not to let that dampen our spirits.

We were headed to northern Michigan. The day was sunny and clear, so the windows were down to enjoy the mild weather wafting in.

Our spirits were high for this new adventure, until our daughter, Cindy let out a blood-curdling scream. It was unavoidable and we hit a sparrow with our rear view mirror. The poor thing was stopped cold mid-flight. Because we were still in motion, it entered the car through the back window and landed smack on Cindy’s lap.

Surprisingly, it only stunned the bird. We stopped and Dave placed it on the shoulder of the road to collect its equilibrium. That little guy had a story to tell its family in recounting the events of his day!

We arrived at our destination, Indian River for a week of relaxation. It is a beautiful campsite and we had a wonderful time…except for the nights.

I was very pregnant with our third child, who made her presence known whenever I laid still. Dave and I were sleeping on what campers call a queen-size bunk. If only it were. He got a taste of what pregnancy feels like as our little one kicked both of us through the night.

If memory serves me right that is the same time I went through withdrawal of iced tea. Loved it then, love it still. But at the time I felt like a human trampoline. This could not continue.

Kind of the same thoughts we have today concerning this COVID-19 lockdown. It just cannot go on. And it won’t.

Yes, 2020 is one for the memory books. Our Creator is well aware of what’s going on in our life. In fact, he even knew about that little sparrow. He wrote in his book.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart of the will of your father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31 NIV Bible

I don’t know about you, but I have a whole lot more hair to count these days. Grasp hope, it’s there for our taking. Soon the hair shops will be open again.

A Thought

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Before it’s too late, I’ve got this idea to bounce off you.

The news is talking about a gradual return to work. A cautious step must be taken because we are still in the midst of the Great Coronavirus Lockdown.

But my thought is this: What if we made a time capsule type of thing with how this experience impacted our lives? I don’t have a time capsule and you might not either. But we could probably find a shoe box or anything with a lid.

The obvious could be a job loss. Or maybe if you are in the medical field or shipping industry, you are working nonstop. Write it down!

Keep track of the changes your life has taken in recent weeks. Cooking three meals a day, finding grocery shelves empty. The frantic hunt for toilet paper.

What about the Zoom app? Did you learn how to get on it to stay in touch with family or friends? How about suddenly having to stay six feet apart from others?

Maybe it was visiting your elderly parent through a window because they were quarantined. Or worse yet, a family members death. Alone.

The birthdays that came and went with no celebration. Weddings and funerals continue to be on hold.

School that was closed ahead of schedule forcing parents to suddenly become teachers so their kids don’t fall academically behind. Not to mention the graduating seniors that had to do without a ceremony.

To one degree or another we all have been impacted. Tell how you had no income but somehow got by. Document it, otherwise the future generation may not believe it.

Sacrifices never come easy. Particularly when we had to celebrate the greatest sacrifice of all privately at home. I’m referring to Jesus’ death on the cross for all the stuff we have done wrong. He loved mankind enough to willfully die, knowing that a better life was in store for us.

So maybe when all this is behind us, our lives will be better. We’ve renewed the act of being neighborly and became sensitive to the needs of others. Businesses have stepped up to provide what the medical field was lacking.

This is America. This is love in action. This needs to be recorded, don’t you think?