Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Getting Ready to Go

As I write this it is 3:30 in the morning. I’ve been awake for about an hour and a half. I have a lot on my mind. Besides work, my mom’s affairs, publishing my novel, among other things, I am of course most excited about leaving for Kenya in 36 hours. I have so much to do before then, mostly packing and remembering what to pack. I’ve been there enough times that you would think I had this down to an exact science. Instead, however, the contents of my head remain as scattered as ever.

I know that most people don’t understand why I keep going back, why whenever my feet hit the sidewalk outside of the Nairobi airport, I feel like I have returned home. I’ve taken another quick look through my pictures and none of them do that feeling justice. You just have to be there and not only see the sites, but smell the smells and hear the sounds. Feel that dry breeze on your face or that dry hand in yours.

One of my goals this trip is to actually take a picture which captures those feelings. In the meantime, here are some totally random photos from previous trips. I tried to find ones which I maybe haven’t posted before.

Also, I wrote my Sunday blogs to post as scheduled, but I don’t know if I will have internet access to post them to Facebook and my other social media. So please try to return to this blog on your own the next two Sunday mornings. Thanks and God bless you all while I am gone. I'll have lots more pictures and stories to share when I return. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Parable of the Sower and the Seeds

Here’s another famous parable.

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13 New International Version)

 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

(If you’ve ever seen the 1973 movie “Godspell” or the play, you may remember that this is the song which follows the telling of this parable. I wish I could have found a video of the parable itself. It’s pretty cute. I suggest you find the movie and watch the whole thing if you never have. It just dawned on me that maybe I should do a blog series where I share the songs from “Godspell”.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

What do these pictures have in common?

It’s time to dredge up some horrible pictures from my past. There are many more floating around my house and someday I’ll share them as well.

First up is one of those warm late summer days when we made homemade root beer with Dad. Not the best picture of Dad, but at least his back is to us. The little one is my niece Paula. She had to wonder what in the world we were doing. And my sister Pat was being her typical goof-ball self. 
 Here we are demonstrating our sheer grace and talent. Every winter, Dad would flood the garden so we could have our own small ice skating rink. I would be the one wearing the vintage snowmobile suit with my arms in the air.
 And here’s a demonstration of Pat’s horsemanship skills, aboard our cousin’s horse Shawn. Need I point out my groovy knee-high socks. 
 Your last chuckle for the day. Ready for my seventh-grade Christmas choir concert. Mom, of course, whipped up this dress during the week before. And for those of you who continue to comment that my hair is currently getting so long and you’ve never seen me in long hair before, now you know why. 
Looking at these photos, I seem to have had a penchant for the color red. (Made you look back at the pictures, didn't I?) 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

That one pink striped jacket

I’ve been sorting through old family pictures and getting a kick out of it. Man, what dorks we were! But hey, it was the sixties and seventies, so everyone was in the same boat.

I’ve barely made a dent in the boxes of pictures from my mom or even the dozen or so photo albums I’ve had stashed at my house for years. I do have other things to do, so I will have to give this project a rest for a while, at least until I am back from Kenya the middle of April.

In the meantime, though, here’s a taste of where I get my wanderlust from. 
 My sister Pat and I with Mom in the back of the pickup camper. From the date on this photo, 1967, my guess it was taken somewhere along the way to Niagara Falls.
 Again, 1967, so perhaps the same trip.
 Pat and I at the motel we parked at in Orange Texas in December of 1967.
 Coming out of our relative's beach house at Virginia Beach in 1968.
 The date on this one was 1969, the summer we went out west. I always suspected I knew where this was at (I was seven years old! How did I know anything?) I looked it up on Google.maps, and I think I could be right. I think it's Peaceful Valley Campground in Le Sueur, MN.
 Still June of 1969 and still somewhere out west. I'm not sure why we bounced back and forth between color and black and white film, but I am pretty sure it's the same trip, if only for the fact that I never seem to have changed my clothes.
 One of the geysers at Yellowstone.
 Hot springs at Yellowstone. And still the same clothes, but at least it  looks like Pat changed her pants.
Let's move ahead a few years and get us in some new clothes. Here I am with Pat at Wall Drug, in South Dakota, in 1971.

That's it for tonight. Come back on Friday for pictures of the rest of the family.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Prodigal Son

This year, for the Sundays in Lent, I have been sharing various parables. I’m sure you have all heard this story somewhere along the line. 

The Parable of the Lost Son, Luke 15 (NIV)

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” 

Have you been lost? But more importantly, have you been found? 

Friday, March 17, 2017


First, let me wish you all a safe and happy St Patrick’s Day. There’s no Irish in my blood, I am 100% bull-headed Kraut. I believe Germans are reportedly competitive as well, which is where this story comes from.

When I was a kid, we played a lot of card games. Cribbage with Dad and sometimes with Mom or Aunt Min and Uncle Fritz. Kings in the Corner and Crazy Eight. Rummy. A couple varieties of solitaire, whether we were alone or someone was watching over our shoulder.

However the card game which stole the show, hands down (pun intended), was Spoons.

Here’s a link explaining how it’s played. I don’t remember eliminating people from the game; that just wouldn’t be any fun. Coz the more the merrier.

I think I broke my finger once fighting over a spoon. Ok, maybe it was just jammed. But I know I have a scar on my arm from playing spoons at lunch at school one day. A spoon flew under the table and I naturally dove under it to retrieve the spoon before anyone else and in my haste ran my arm along the jagged edge of the underside of a chair.

Which reminds me, my initial memories of the game are playing around the kitchen table with Mom, Dad, Pat and a friend or two. But we also played it during lunch hour at school. I carried this little deck of cards with me for those occasions. It took extra skill to play the fast-paced game with such small cards.

But it was the games at home with the family which formed legends. Scratches and claw marks on our hands and fingers as we fought over that one remaining spoon. The time someone in their excitement over grabbing a spoon flew to their feet, hitting the kitchen light and cracking it.

Mom loved to tell of the time my friend Kathy, who was quiet and reserved, was playing the game with us on a camping trip. When she finally got four of a kind, she uncharacteristically jumped up with that spoon in her hand, excited about her victory.

Good times. Put those phones down, kids, and play a real game. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Chip's Slip

 Welcome to another edition of Merriment March. This story maybe isn’t as funny as it is just plain gross. But those stories make us laugh too, right?

One day in the late 1970s, my sister Pat, some of her friends and I were in another town, looking for a place to eat. We stopped in at the Chip’s burger joint downtown.

Chip's was originally a Southern chain with headquarters in Rocky Mount, NC, with approximately 150 locations at one time. When Chip's filed for bankruptcy in the mid-1960s, the company sold its franchising rights to a company in Wisconsin. Currently I see only three stands still open in this state. 

The one we entered that day is long gone.

On that particular day, we were standing in line, waiting to order and could see into the kitchen where a worker was flipping burgers on the grill. With an errant slip of his wrist, a burger slid to the floor. He picked it up and tossed it in the trash.

That happens, right?

Next thing you know, someone wearing what looks like a manager’s uniform walks up to the kid at the grill. His body language did not demonstrate that he was praising the kid. Next thing you know, the kid reaches into the garbage, retrieves the burger and sets it back on the grill, all under the now approving eye of the manager.

The heat from the grill will kill anything, right?

We all looked at each other, then turned and exited the building without so much as a word. In defense of the Chips brand, I’ve been to the one in Merrill a few times since and thought the food was great. I try to not watch what goes on in the kitchen. It's also been a very long time since I've eaten a hamburger out anywhere. 
I was reminded of this story when I received this great ornament at a Christmas gift exchange. 
How many others have a story about Chip's burgers? 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Parable of a Grand Banquet

For several years, I’ve wanted to write about the Parables of Jesus. They are such beautiful stories which Jesus used to illustrate a point. Besides just sharing these parables here, I also had always hoped to examine them and bring them into a modern light. Unfortunately, my schedule from now until after Easter isn’t going to allow me to do that. I hate to be a slacker, but for now I am simply going to share some of my favorites with you.

And maybe you can pick up some nuggets of wisdom from the words of Christ. 

The Parable of a Grand Banquet, Luke 14 (New Century Version)

15 One of those at the table with Jesus heard these things and said to him, “Blessed are the people who will share in the meal in God’s kingdom.”

16 Jesus said to him, “A man gave a big banquet and invited many people. 17 When it was time to eat, the man sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come. Everything is ready.’

18 “But all the guests made excuses. The first one said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go look at it. Please excuse me.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen; I must go and try them. Please excuse me.’ 20 A third person said, ‘I just got married; I can’t come.’ 21 So the servant returned and told his master what had happened. Then the master became angry and said, ‘Go at once into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 Later the servant said to him, ‘Master, I did what you commanded, but we still have room.’ 23 The master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes, and urge the people there to come so my house will be full. 24 I tell you, none of those whom I invited first will eat with me.’”

Would you go to the banquet if you were invited? 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kitty Down the Well, or in the Pit

I’ve been going back over previous blog posts, old family pictures and family stories that I have typed up, hunting for a good story to share. One that I may have not shared before or if I have, maybe I can expound on it. I came up empty, so pulled a new one out of the memory tank. 

I don’t know why, but this is the first story to come to my mind.

Because my dad worked on our vehicles on a regular basis (like a lot of dads did back in the day, before they made cars and trucks with so much complicated stuff under the hood), when he built the new garage, he put a pit in it. Just like going to Jiffy Lube today, he could drive Mom’s car or his truck into the garage, over the pit, and change the oil without laying on the ground. This thing was well-built, dug five and a half feet into the ground with cement blocks lining the sides.

As kids, occasionally, we’d play in it, though my claustrophobia never made it a popular place. I already shared one such story here.

On one particular summer afternoon, we were playing the usual game where my sister Pat was in charge and I had been arrested for some minor offense. I would need to be held in the pit. I started down the wooden ladder, wondering once again how I was so hard up for friends that Pat was my BFF, when I looked behind me to the cement bottom. A black and white kitten curled there.

Only it wasn’t a kitten. I scrambled up the ladder as fast as I could, colliding with Pat.

“Get back down there,” she commanded.

“Do you see what’s there already?”

She looked. “Huh. Go figure.”

Skunks and other wildlife occasionally fell into the pit, perhaps on the hunt for left behind treats. Dad would lower a long plank into the hole and we would wait in the house or somewhere else out of the way for the errant animal to climb out on its own.

Luckily, we never stepped on any of those critters. But wasn’t that a fun time to be a kid? 
This is the only picture of our garage that I could lay eyes on in a jiffy.
 I think I may have shared it before, but it's worth seeing again.
Aren't we beauties? 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Laughter - the best medicine

 It seems I have only been sharing stories of sadness lately. I apologize for that. When thinking about my mom, I picture her laughing more than crying, so I should be paying tribute to her in laughter rather than in tears. I’ve been racking my brain for a good story. Here’s the first one that’s come to mind.

My mom, my daughter and I went to Virginia for spring break in 2008. Val was a senior in high school and wanted to go somewhere fun. Mom had relatives in Virginia who she hadn’t seen in a long time. It seemed like a good place to go, and after visiting the relatives and doing a little tourist stuff, we could chill out at Virginia Beach.

 Well, we certainly did chill out. I knew it wouldn’t be balmy in March, but I thought it would be at least tolerable along the Atlantic coast. It was so ridiculously cold and windy. I can’t believe Val worn flip-flops the day we visited Jamestown.  
 So we were just coming out of one of these buildings, the wind buffeted us a little bit, and Mom started laughing hysterically. She couldn’t get a grip, she just kept cackling.

“Mom, what happened?” both Val and I asked, though we were laughing by then just as hard, for no good reason other than that laughter is contagious.

Mom finally got it together and took a few deep breaths. In the cold, all of our noses had been running. As we stepped out of that building, the wind caught Mom’s nasal drainage and carried her snot off like a kite in the wind.

I guess you had to be there. But just so you know, at times, Mom had a wicked sense of humor. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Today is the first Sunday in Lent. The next six weeks are a time for Christians to reflect on the life of Christ as He journeyed to the cross. I like to write around a central theme during Lent, but it snuck up on me this year, so I am scrabbling today.

For several years, I’ve wanted to write about the Parables of Jesus. They are such beautiful stories which Jesus used to illustrate a point. Besides just sharing these parables here, I also had always hoped to examine them and bring them into a modern light. Unfortunately, my schedule the next six weeks isn’t going to allow me to do that. I hate to be a slacker, but for now I am simply going to share some of my favorites with you.

 Enjoy. Oh, and my pictures might not have much to do with the story; I just picked out some of my prettiest flower scenes from over the years. 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10 (New Century Version Bible)

25 Then an expert on the law stood up to test Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to get life forever?”

26 Jesus said, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”

27 The man answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. Also love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

28 Jesus said to him, “Your answer is right. Do this and you will live.”

29 But the man, wanting to show the importance of his question, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus answered, “As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, some robbers attacked him. They tore off his clothes, beat him, and left him lying there, almost dead. 31 It happened that a priest was going down that road. When he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. 32 Next, a Levite came there, and after he went over and looked at the man, he walked by on the other side of the road. 33 Then a Samaritan traveling down the road came to where the hurt man was. When he saw the man, he felt very sorry for him. 34 The Samaritan went to him, poured olive oil and wine on his wounds, and bandaged them. Then he put the hurt man on his own donkey and took him to an inn where he cared for him. 35 The next day, the Samaritan brought out two coins, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of this man. If you spend more money on him, I will pay it back to you when I come again.’”

36 Then Jesus said, “Which one of these three men do you think was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the robbers?”

37 The expert on the law answered, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Are you the good Samaritan? 

Friday, March 3, 2017


 A week ago this past Monday was my mom’s funeral. The next day we emptied out her apartment. A week ago today I went back into her apartment, cleaned it head to toe and turned over the keys to the caretaker.

I also disconnected her phone. After doing so, I naturally had to call back to her number from my cell phone to see what would happen. “The number you have reached has been disconnected.” I guess that’s the message I expected to hear, but I still didn’t like it.

By noon, I had everything out of Mom’s apartment except for the vacuum and a few cleaning supplies. I got to her door, propelling the vacuum back and forth, back and forth. Back and forth. Back. And. Forth.

“You are going to wear out that carpet,” the voice in my head told me. “It is clean enough.”

Back and forth.

“Chris,” there was that voice again. “You need to leave now.”

Back and forth.

“Get a grip. It’s just her apartment.”

Back and forth.

“Chris . . . “

All right already. I turned off the vacuum, unplugged it, rolled up the cord, took it out into the hallway, and pulled the locked door shut behind me. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I’ve never been a fan of the amaryllis. My idea of a flowering plant is a plant that has both flowers which bloom periodically and leafy foliage which it maintains year-round. The only amaryllis plants I’ve seen grow tall stalks, break out in flowers after a couple weeks and then wilt and die.

I found it humorous that the websites I found which talked about the amaryllis claim that it is easy to care for. The directions sounded rather convoluted to me. And the payback seems to be little.

My mom, however, loved the amaryllis and seemed to get one frequently for Christmas. She thrived on the anticipation of watching it grow on a daily basis, waiting for the flowers to bloom. And then it was over.

Granted the flowers are beautiful, but I’m always left asking, what now? But maybe that’s part of the beauty. That it was fleeting. That it would be there one day and gone the next. 

Hard for me to believe that it was only a few weeks ago, when I spent an entire weekend at Mom’s, that her amaryllis went from this...
 to this ...
 to this in only a day.
Two days later, it was gone. And so was Mom. 
Maybe that was all part of the plan.