"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Reflecting Life With Lady

Tonight, I sit here alone. That is happening a little more often these days, as my son grows up. It’s quite a strange feeling; sometimes a lonely feeling, only rarely a feeling of relief. Tonight, to the east of me I see through my living room window, a big, bright, beautiful full moon, shining through a few remaining puffy, cumulus clouds. Through my dining room window, I can see the lights of Mount Spokane Ski Resort decorate the rim of the mountain as it is silhouetted against the western sky. Just before Matt left tonight to go meet friends for ice cream down town, he asked me to make peanut butter cookies for him; so the smell of burnt cookies lingers through the house (I burned the first batch, as is normal with me). Geraldo drones in the background. I don’t know why I have the TV on; I guess it’s because he is talking about the recent earth quake in Chile and I half-heartedly wanted to hear what was taking place. The other half of me just wants to sit in the dark, so I can best enjoy the awesome views that surround me, and type out my thoughts in silence. This night I’m feeling pretty lonely, accompanied only by that dull ache in ones heart which presents itself when one is missing something or someone they love.

All of this to say, I am really missing that little Arabian mare, that became such a big part of our lives the last 4 years. It would have been my turn to feed her tonight, as Matt left before her feeding time. I can’t think how many times I thought: I’m so glad we have you, Lady. Even feeding you is a joy. It gets me outside (in the cold) which I would not normally do and it gives me a chance to enjoy the spectacular area in which we live. It brings opportunity to enjoy the smell of the hay, and that inimitable horsey smell that I guess one doesn’t know about unless one has had a horse of their own.

I miss her soft contented munching of the grain which I always stopped to listen to as I petted her a bit before leaving her alone to enjoy her meal. I always listened because it brings such comfort to me. It’s the same thing I feel when I hear (or see for that matter) her take a long drink of water. What is that contentment that it brings? Why is it? I think it’s because one grows to love these animals so strongly through the care that they require. The sounds one hears from them, are the sounds that let one know that everything is ok. It is such a wonderful feeling to know the animal that you have been blessed with, is getting the care that they should have and that which they deserve.

There are so many reasons I miss her though. I still want to look for her in the pasture when I get up in the morning. When I come home from being away during the day, it hits me once again, that no - doggone it - she is not there. I miss her standing at the fence looking toward the house when we were a little late with her feeding. I will always remember how she would shake her head and snort just a bit to demonstrate for us that we have angered her with our tardiness. I didn’t ride her much; she was Matt’s horse and I know I can’t possibly have the bond with her that he had, but that is just another reason that I miss her so terribly. I know the ache that is in his heart from loosing her. There isn’t a mama alive that wants to see her child hurting….even if he is almost a man.

She had become such a part of our family, but more than that, she was a part of defining who we are. That sounds so dramatic, I know, but it is really so true. All Matt’s childhood, our goal had been to get acreage in the country so we could have a horse and be a part of that life that is just a little slower and laid back than city life might be. I will never forget the day we got her. How I watched her run that fence line, trying to adjust to her new surroundings away from the other horses and family she was used to. But as time went on, I watched her adjust and grow and learn. And I saw an amazing love and trust that developed between my boy and his horse. She would eventually do anything for him; and he for her. There is such an enormous presence missing in our everyday life. I know it doesn't change who we are, but right now, it feels like it does. She’s not going to be there, this summer when it’s time for Matt to begin one of the favorite activities our family enjoyed together. She’s not going to be there for the neighborhood trail drive, and she isn’t going to be there for the annual trail ride in the state park. We won't feel her nuzzles and Jake won't come and brag about how she is one of the best horses he shoes.

I know the pain is only for a little while. It isn’t like loosing a child. And it isn’t like the families that are hurting now in Chile and Haiti because of the great losses of life that occurred so drastically in those countries. It’s just our own little sorrow, that a friend reminded me is valid and important because it causes us to pause and think of the preciousness of life - all life - regardless of how small.

Ya just wanna know that you did things right…that you didn’t mess up, that you weren’t careless; that you really did respect every part of life that is such a wonderful gift from God - not to be taken for granted. That’s why soft munching, smooth slurping and peanut butter cookies (that don’t burn) are so very important.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wisdom of the Founders

I love the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. I love reading quotes from these men that we still find are so relevant for today. I've gathered many of these quotes in a notebook and from time to time, I like to pull it out and read these profound thoughts and statements over again. I thought I would share a few of them here today; they truly do inspire.

"We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!"

~~John Adams and John Hancock; April 18, 1775
“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

~~Patrick Henry; May 1765
“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

~~Patrick Henry
"When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, “just men who will rule in the fear of God.” The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded. If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine Commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the Laws. Intriguing men can never safely be trusted."

~~Noah Webster, 1833.
"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have."

~~Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

An Open Letter to Bristol Palin

Every politician gets bashed by the media to some degree. I sure wouldn't want my every move watched, scrutinized, and be put in that position. But the rude comments and attacks toward the Palin family are over the top and has led me to want to do something, (regardless of how small) to come to their defense. The post on Sarah Palin's Facebook page gave me opportunity to write to Bristol Palin on her mom's page. Among the thousands of other comments, it's doubtful it would ever be read by the Palin's. Neither will there be very many other people that read it, as those comments disappear quickly among the many, many messages for the Palin family. There won't be a lot of people who read it here, either, but it gives me some satisfaction in being able to post my thoughts somewhere.

In case you are unfamiliar with what took place, I have posted the comments of Sarah Palin and her daughter, Bristol, just before my letter.
Below Bristol's comments is my letter to Bristol.

Sarah Palin's Facebook Post
People are asking me to comment on yesterday’s Fox show that felt like another kick in the gut. Bristol was one who asked what I thought of the show that mocked her baby brother, Trig (and/or others with special needs), in an episode yesterday. Instead of answering, I asked her what she thought. Here is her conscientious reply, which is a much more restrained and gracious statement than I want to make about an issue that begs the question, “when is enough, enough?”:

“When you’re the son or daughter of a public figure, you have to develop thick skin. My siblings and I all have that, but insults directed at our youngest brother hurt too much for us to remain silent. People with special needs face challenges that many of us will never confront, and yet they are some of the kindest and most loving people you’ll ever meet. Their lives are difficult enough as it is, so why would anyone want to make their lives more difficult by mocking them? As a culture, shouldn’t we be more compassionate to innocent people – especially those who are less fortunate? Shouldn’t we be willing to say that some things just are not funny? Are there any limits to what some people will do or say in regards to my little brother or others in the special needs community? If the writers of a particularly pathetic cartoon show thought they were being clever in mocking my brother and my family yesterday, they failed. All they proved is that they’re heartless jerks. - Bristol Palin”

- Sarah Palin


An Open Letter to Bristol Palin

Dear Bristol,

Your letter defending your little brother is beautiful.

In my entire life I have never seen any family have to endure what you have had to endure in regard to media attacks.

This world has become a very, very ugly place in so many ways. That is why so much of America is drawn to your mom and your family. You are like the breath of fresh air that everyone seeks after leaving a very smelly room.

You are a normal family that loves God and country and your state. Your family represents life through your little brother Trig and your own choices; you represent the military through your brother Track. You represent hard work and success through your father. And your mom is someone who actually THINKS…and is a very, very smart lady. You all, just by your every day lives represent all that America once was and still should be; and really (underneath it all) still is. Isn’t that a sad and fearful thing that those are the exact reasons the liberal elite despise you so fiercely, that they will even attack an innocent child.

Your little brother Trig has already done more for mankind with his little life than most adults will ever do! Trig, without even trying, has been a shining light in a cave of darkness that has exposed to the whole world the very ugliest part of humanity. And by so doing, many want to support the Palin family and your causes. Many will run for answers to the Palin family and seek out other families that display the same attitudes and examples.

Your little brother is going to have an awesome life of giving and sharing and helping others to become aware. And as is the case for all mankind, when his life is over - many, many years later - he will hear those words that all believers want to hear. “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” How sad it is that those are words his attackers will never hear if they continue down the path they are obviously traveling.

You hang in there; and know there are clanging cymbals out there always wanting to make noise. They are the obvious ones, because they control the airwaves, but they are no where near the majority. What your mom, and you and Trig are doing is far greater; and that is - to show Americans who we truly are in the soft, but more effective voice of love. Keep talking…..

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Hug That Teaches

She was one of those people that you never forget, bringing moments to the day that stay with you for a lifetime.

She was my fourth grade teacher and she had a reputation. To a nine year old, it was a reputation that could be a little frightening. She was known as the strictest teacher in the eight year grade school that I attended. I heard stories about her from the moment I began first grade, it seemed. She was reported to be mean, she was reported to give difficult assignments, and "they" said she expected alot from her students in both academics and behavior. I was shy and introverted! How was I going to get along in Mrs. Hunter's class?

Well, I sat back quietly and tried to go unnoticed; but I watched. I watched her start the day with The Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer, and then a Bible reading. This was 1963, and so that was not so very unusual. But it wasn't until much later I realized this was an act of civil disobedience. Prayer was removed from public schools in June of 1963. Later it made sense as I remembered the day I overheard her say, "I'm going to do it anyway." I saw my first example of civil disobedience, but displayed in a very respectful way. We continued to pray.

Each day I watched as she told us to lay our heads on our desks after lunch, so we might rest and listen as she read to us out of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books. She stood at the head of the class with a Kleenex in the same hand as the book she was reading, making her way chapter after chapter, book after book throughout the school year. Always in the same manner, she brought those wholesome and beautiful stories from the 1800's to life.

I watched as she snapped at the class clown and I felt a twinge of sympathy for him. I watched when she became disgusted at someone staring out the large window, instead of paying attention to her lesson.

I watched one day, as the principle came to the door, and she stepped briefly out into the hall. When she came back into the room, the distress on her face was very evident. "Class," she said sadly with a break in her voice, "there has been a tragedy in Dallas; our President and the Governor of Texas have been shot." Her compassion and concern was evident.

I continued to watch. On one occasion, a big smile came to her face as she called me to the door at the end of the day. "Jan, there is someone here to pick you up." There in the door way stood my uncle in his U.S. Navy dress blues. I felt special and important that he was there for me and I could see Mrs. Hunter was impressed. I knew the next day I had read her attitude correctly, when she asked me. "Who was that handsome young man that picked you up yesterday?" Boy, that was a different era, wasn't it? That kind of trust certainly wouldn't happen today; allowing a stranger to pick up a child from the classroom. I could not have been more proud to tell her it was my uncle.

One cold, rainy day, my classmates and I bundled up to go outside for recess. On this day, most of us were huddled under the eves on the sidewalk. I was standing with a friend, when I saw her coming. Oh oh; it was her turn for recess duty. She walked up to me and I will never know what in the world possessed her, but she bent down and gave me the biggest hug. I don't remember exactly what she said, but it was something about looking cold and needing to warm up. I was caught quite off guard, but I couldn't have been happier. My teacher hugged me! And not just any teacher, but Mrs. Hunter! It was one of those hugs that you know are real and sincere. The only kind I want to receive. The kind of hug that warms and stays with you and hugs you again and again.

Now, as I look back, the hug she gave me that day was representative of all that she stood for....every lesson I would learn from her, every moral that would stay with me. It was every memory that would envelope me with warmth as I grew with greater understanding of all that she taught me and would cling to for the rest of my life, as I realized who this teacher really was.

She was strict, she was caring with qualities that were rare, and she was an important part of my life.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Poems That Stir the Heart

Things That Never Die
by Charles Dickens
The pure, the bright, the beautiful
That stirred our hearts in youth,
The impulses to wordless prayer,
The streams of love and truth,
The longing after something lost,
The spirit's yearning cry,
The striving after better hopes-
These things can never die.

The timid hand stretched forth to aid
A brother in his need;
A kindly word in grief's dark hour
That proves a friend indeed;
The plea for mercy softly breathed,
When justice threatens high,
The sorrow of a contrite heart-
These things shall never die.

Let nothing pass, for every hand
Must find some work to do,
Lose not a chance to waken love-
Be firm and just and true.
So shall a light that cannot fade
Beam on thee from on high,
And angel voices say to thee-
"These things shall never die."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Reflections ~ The Better Win

When my son was young he didn't participate in a lot of the popular contact sports that most youngsters do. He had become involved in speed-skating at an early age; and with 2 hour skating practices 4 days a week, there was just no time for anything else. Because of this time commitment, he was not able to become very proficient at sports like baseball and basketball.

Even before I had kids, I had been a fan of Dr. James Dobson: Christian counselor and author; founder of the organization Focus on the Family. I believed Dr. Dobson when he said that kids should have something they can excel in, something they can do to gain practical self-esteem. That thought just seemed to make a lot of sense to me, so I was looking for something in which Matt could participate.

Skating seemed to fit well with Matt. He loved it, he was good at it, and I didn't have to sit outside in inclement weather at ballparks. Plus, it seemed like a good group of kids, that took their sport seriously. All positive reasons, I thought, to allow him to become involved. I didn't intend for him to become quite as involved as he did, however. We had no Olympic aspirations in mind....Still, once involved, he had to decide to become a part of the team and attend all practices; or he really would be just wasting his time, as well as possibly becoming a stumbling block for the rest of the team. He went for it. We were never really sorry he did. It gave him something to be proud of - as I had hoped - and it gave him a means to be good at something that not every one was. There was one group of kids with whom he associated, that for some reason he had become the easy target. He was always the brunt of their jokes, and they pretty much made sure he knew they were always better than him. This was an equalizer in my mind. They couldn't pick on him here. He "owned" this sport.

During this time in Matt's life, another group he was involved with had monthly skating sessions at the local roller-skating rink. This was a great bunch of kids and they were his peers. Each month they had races for separate age groups and it wasn't long before everyone realized Matt was going to win in his age group. Granted, he had speed skates and he had hours and hours of training; and maybe I shouldn't have let Matt skate in these races, as most of the other kids were primarily just once or twice a month skaters. But he enjoyed it, and he had worked hard at being good at something, and I thought this was his time to shine. Nothing wrong with that, I thought, after getting "beat up" (figuratively not literally) in other areas. Everyone else got to do what they were good at and no one held back.

I always made sure, I was there to watch Matt in his race, and cheer him on. I wanted him to know I was supportive of his endeavors. In my excitement over Matt's abilities which gave him an "equalizer", there was something very important that I had missed. As I was always cheering Matt on, I failed to realize that Matt's cousin, - my nephew, Isaac -was also skating in these races. I will never forget it when I finally saw him. He wasn't the last one across the line, by any means; but all of a sudden there he was. Skating his hardest, with a big smile on his face; and coming across that finish line with in-line skates that only had two wheels each - one on the front of each skate and one at the back. For maximum effectiveness, each skate should have 4-5 wheels. I watched him a bit, feeling pretty darn guilty that I hadn't cheered him on. And then...what did he do when he finished? He skated over to Matt, gave him a high-five and told him good job. Pretty amazing, I'd say. There were other kids there that wouldn't participate in the race because they believed they couldn't win, so why bother.

But then there was Isaac! Skating just for the race, the participation, the fun....and just maybe because there is ALWAYS a chance to win. That's a winning attitude! That's the challenge, that's the sport of it! Neither does one have to be first to be a winner. He was trying against the odds, with poor equipment, and with a smile on his face. He didn't need attention and he didn't need to win. He simply tried. Matt and I talked about that later and Matt told me, "I know, Mom; he always skates the races, and he always tells me good job."

Isaac is gone now; taken from us at a much too early age. There are many things I remember about Isaac, but when I think about defining who he was, this example from his life stands out prominently in my mind. Without a doubt, Isaac's actions were the better win and this example defines exactly who he was. Clearly, that is something for us all to aspire.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Hero

It was four years ago this month, that my hero died. He was 81 years old at his passing and to me (and many, many others) he was the funniest man in the world. He brought laughter into the homes of Americans for decades! His name was Don Knotts, and my favorite character that he created was Barney Fife with - of course - The Andy Griffith Show. This show aired from 1960 - 1968 which were the very same years I attended grade school. My love for Barney, however, went well beyond that time. I don't think there was ever a time in my life that was without Don Knotts. In high school, when all the other girls had photographs of the Beatles, the Monkees and Elvis Presley hanging in their rooms, I had photos of Barney. Even all these years later, I'm still watching Barney, laughing at his antics and every once in a while, hurting for his heart.

There were many reasons Don Knotts was my hero, though, other than because he made America laugh. One, during World War II he joined the army and became an entertainer to the troops. That       qualifies him a hero just in itself, in my mind. Further, after he
began  his long acting career, he always made movies and                
television shows that the whole family could enjoy.

But probably the biggest reason Mr. Knotts reached hero status for me was because he was a genius in creating a character that one could relate to and with whom we could identify. Didn't we all know a "Barney"? I sure did. Weren't there some aspects of Barney's personality where we could ( if we were honest) see ourselves? I sure can. Before it was all over, didn't you just want to be Andy, so you could watch out for your best friend, take care of him, and make the bumbling goof-ball "the hero" just because he always tried so doggone hard? I sure did. And maybe that was the best thing about Barney....he brought out the best in all of us. The part that wants to help another human being just because they need it.

Anyway, I cried the day Don Knotts died. I usually always feel a little sad when we lose one of the great actors or actresses of our time, but rarely does it move me to tears. After all, I didn't really know them. But Mr. Knotts was different; he let us into his life enough that we all felt like we knew him. He created a character, that just wasn't on the tv screen or big screen; he created a character that belonged to us - a family member, a friend, someone who demonstrated for us the very best part of life.

"Don Knotts gave us the best character, the most clearly drawn, most perfect American,
most perfect human ever."
~~Billy Bob Thornton

I kept the above photo on the mirror in my bedroom when I was a kid. Though stained, weathered, and wrinkled, I still have it...a memento of a simpler, easier time.