Monday, December 28, 2015

Lessons from old people

Yes, that's right, I said "old people." I realize that's not politically correct but every single one of the people who come to mind when I use the term are well aware they are old, so the term may be shocking to you, but I'm pretty sure it isn't to them.

Anyway, I've always been fond of old people. I appreciate them. The first thing I did when I got my driver's license was drive to the nursing home in Arlington and pick up a volunteer application, after which I began visiting the home regularly. I've been interacting closely with old people ever since and have learned a lot of valuable lessons from them.

I'd like to share three of them with you.

1) Never underestimate the value of an encouraging word.

There was a lovely woman named Elaine with severe MS at the home in Arlington who had lost the use of her hands. As a result, she couldn't keep up her long-standing habit of writing cards and letters to friends and family on her own. That's where I came in.

Every week when I would visit, she would have a list of people she wanted to write notes to. In her quiet, tremulous voice, she would dictate words of encouragement to me and I would carefully write them down, address the envelope, and apply the stamp. Elaine's face would light up at the sight of the stack of cards ready to be mailed.

The notes were typically short but always heartfelt. Sometimes she ensured people she was praying for them, that she loved them, that they were special. Other times she thanked them profusely for some small gift they had sent. My weekly visits with Elaine taught me to encourage others whenever there's a chance. And to appreciate the use of my hands.

2) Practice hospitality

I've mentioned my dear friend Miss Esther before. Well, she has taught me a lot about hospitality. I used to open the door halfway when someone knocked, and peer at them half-suspicious and half-expectant, waiting to hear what it was they wanted. "Hurry up and speak your piece," I would think. "You're letting all the cold air in."

But that's not how Miss Esther rolls. When someone knocks on her door, she invites them in. It doesn't matter if she's in the middle of something or if she hardly knows the person or whatever. She holds that door open wide and welcomes them warmly. And once they're inside, she makes sure they're comfortable, she offers them refreshments, and she practices the lost art of making genuine conversation. I want to be like that.

3) Don't be so quick to burn your bridges

Sid and George were roommates. Two of the cutest old men you've ever seen, they shared a small room in a nursing home in Bellingham, and they spent their days playing cards and listening to music together. I loved visiting them because they told a lot of jokes and made me laugh.

One day I arrived at the home to find Sid sitting alone in his room, lost and forlorn and staring at the floor. When I pressed the issue, he said he and George had gotten into a fight about the volume of their music and George had requested a room change.

"I should've turned it down," Sid said. "I miss my friend."

I learned a lot about relationships that day. I learned that personal preferences aren't worth discarding people for, and that when you insist on getting your way you often get more than you bargained for. I don't know if Sid and George ever made up, but they were both very old and I hope they had the chance before one of them was gone. And if you are having a problem with another person, I hope you'll talk to them while there's still time to repair the bridge.

What have you learned from the wise, old people in your life? I'd love to hear about it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Comment from a stranger

For those of you who don't know, our daughter was born in Ghana and came home to be with us in 2014. Every parent is biased about the beauty and wonderfulness of their own children (and this especially holds true with daddies and daughters), but I think it's safe for me to say my daughter is beautiful.

But you don't have to take my word for it.

No, you don't have to take my word for it because everywhere I go with my daughter, complete strangers comment on her looks. And I mean everywhere. The grocery store, the Post Office, the school, restaurants. Even the street. We literally can't walk down the street without these comments.

"She's just pretty as a picture."

"Oh my gosh, she's the cutest thing I've ever seen."

"Look at that face. What a doll."

Even the scruffy, burly man with only five teeth in line behind me at Wal-Mart yesterday couldn't resist a comment: "&%*$ - she is bee-YOU-ti-ful!"

This has been going on since she came home and it's given me a lot to think about. At first, I was surprised because this kind of thing NEVER happened with my two boys. People never commented on their looks once they were past six months old, so I had never experienced this before. Then I started to wonder if the uniqueness to put it?...exoticness? of her features was the reason she got so much attention. There aren't many black faces in rural Montana, after all.

That probably has something to do with it.

But it hasn't been easy to get my thoughts organized on this topic, because part of me chafes and cringes when people talk about my daughter's looks. Thoughts about women being objectified and beauty being idolized make me want to slap that burly Wal-Mart man in the face and sputter something ridiculous like, "Ex-cUUUse me? My daughter is not some...some...THING who exists merely for YOUR enjoyment you!" (P.S. I would (probably) never say this out loud)

Another part of me takes completely unwarranted pride in the comments, as if I had anything to do with her good looks. Haha. Hahahahahahahaha.

Which leads me to another way of looking at the situation. Rather than being either offended or inordinately pleased, I've started thinking about beauty in a whole different way. You see, when I heard that man at Wal-Mart start talking about my daughter and I turned around, I did not see an exploiter of women or pervert of some kind. No. Not at all. I saw a guy stuck in town running errands and waiting in a loooong slow line who had found something that made him smile. Something that brightened his day. And it was my daughter.

That's what true beauty is, isn't it? False beauty can be exploited, destroyed, even manipulated (Photoshop for example), but true beauty stands incorruptible against all odds and brings joy to our lives. That's why you can be "unattractive" in the eyes of the world and still be beautiful. That's why you can lose your "good looks" to age or disease or whatever and still be beautiful. My good friend Miss Esther is a shining example of that truth and so is my daughter, because when that man at Wal-Mart just had to comment about her, it wasn't really because of her gorgeous was because she brought him joy.

And that's beautiful.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

It's all about timing

There is a Christmas Cactus hanging by a window in the corner of my kitchen. For anyone who doesn't know, a Christmas Cactus is a houseplant that blooms around Christmastime. At least it's supposed to, under the right conditions.

I don't claim this plant completely as my own because I inherited it from the previous owner of my house. Dear old Mrs. Irey left behind several odds and ends when she moved out, including a portable bedside commode and fifteen jars of canned beets from 1987, but my favorite by far is the Christmas Cactus.

Anyway, as I sat at the table eating breakfast this morning, I noticed buds forming on my cactus. The buds start out tiny and white and then gradually become dark pink, and when they are about the size of my daughter's thumb, they bloom. I was pleased to see the buds because their namesake holiday is only two weeks away and if the buds are starting now, that means they will bloom at Christmas.

Right on time, just like they're supposed to. I love that.

If it weren't for other years, however, when my cactus did not bloom on schedule, I might not be able to appreciate the beauty of this perfect timing. One year it bloomed at Easter. One year it didn't bloom at all. And one year it bloomed twice but neither time was anywhere close to Christmas.

This causes me to reflect on my own life. My own "blooming schedule," if you will. When I gave my cactus the right conditions and expected it to bloom at a certain time and it didn't, I was disappointed. But there was nothing I could do. I can't make a flower bloom; that's God's job. So it is with life. We humans try to create the right conditions to achieve a desired result at a certain time, but it doesn't always happen the way we want.

So what should we do in those times? When my cactus doesn't bloom at Christmas, I sometimes glare at it and threaten to chuck it in the compost pile. "You've got two weeks to bloom if you know what's good for you," I might say. But if I were to throw it away, I would never know if it might've eventually bloomed at Easter. Or the next year. Or whenever. So even when it doesn't bloom, I keep watering it and keep hoping.

Similarly, in my life I've been questioning the timing of certain things. Things that will remain unspecified. I've been tempted to give up on them, rather than keep facing disappointment. But if I did, if I gave up, I would always wonder what blooms God might've eventually brought about if I hadn't. So I keep watering, keep hoping, and I trust that God will cause blooms to come whenever He decides.

Right on time, just like He planned. I love that.

"He has made everything beautiful in its own time." --Ecclesiastes 3:11

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Oh the Humanity!

Another mass shooting today. At least fourteen people killed. Is there anyplace safe anymore? How long before we can't go to the grocery store or the Post Office without looking over our shoulder, wondering if someone is going to start a shooting spree?

No matter what your stance on guns is, I think it's safe to say that things have gotten out of hand. I stand by the 2nd Amendment and don't think rounding up all the guns we can find and locking them away would solve anything. If someone really wants a gun, they'll find a way to get a gun. Or, to put it more broadly, if someone really wants to wreak havoc and destruction and ruin a bunch of people's lives, they'll find a way to do that.

But the 2nd Amendment talks about more than just "the right to keep and bear arms." Everyone quotes that little tidbit but can anyone quote the entire amendment? It says: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

I'd like to call your attention to the words "well regulated." Our Founding Fathers believed having a militia (at its core, the word militia simply refers to civilians who are armed, as opposed to people who are armed as a profession, such as soldiers or police officers) was necessary for our country's security and freedom but felt compelled to use the words "well regulated" to describe such a militia.

So how do we interpret "well regulated"? How do we know when we've met the requirements of "well regulated" when it comes to gun laws? I have no idea. But I think it's past time our country stopped limiting its discussion of this issue to "the right to keep and bear arms" and started expanding it to include the entire 2nd Amendment. Many people think this is a Republican vs. Democrat issue. Or a civilized city dweller vs. rural redneck issue. But it's not. It's a HUMAN issue.

As long as human beings are killing each other for sport (Hunger Games, anyone?), we need to be able to discuss it as a human issue. I'm tired of finger pointing. I'm tired of inflammatory rhetoric. There's a whole lot of gray between the black and white of "everyone must own a gun, no restrictions" and "no guns ever, anywhere." I'd like to see our country's leaders put more effort into finding solutions somewhere in that gray area.

And one more thing. If this is a HUMAN issue, we would all do well to remember our humanity. We're all people. We all have hopes and dreams and people we love. We're all frail and weak, strong and courageous at the same time. But when someone disconnects from humanity, I think maybe that's when killing others (or even just hearing about them being killed) suddenly doesn't seem like that big of deal.

Don't ever think it's no big deal.

Exodus 20:13: "You shall not murder."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Scientific terms

I currently homeschool my kids. I do so for a variety of reasons, none of which have anything to do with hating public school, as some people assume.

Anyway, this year we have an excellent science book called Science in the Ancient World. It's awesome. Each chapter has an experiment that goes with it and we're learning stuff about people like Galileo and Aristotle. Stuff I never knew much about before.

Today our lesson was about a man named Erastothenes, who lived around the time of Aristarchus, the guy who first theorized that the earth was NOT in fact the center of the universe. No one believed him at the time, but that's beside the point. Aristarchus knew the truth, darn it all, and was finally vindicated in his beliefs over 1500 years later when heliocentrism became the norm. But again, that's beside the point. We're talking about Erastothenes.

Erastothenes was the first person to calculate the circumference of the Earth. How he did it is an amazing story involving the sun, shadows, and geometry, but anyway he did it. So in school this morning we discussed at length how he did it, what a sphere is, what angles are, what circumference means and that sort of stuff.

I was feeling pretty proud of teaching my kids about something as cool as Erastothenes and the circumference of the Earth. I felt like maybe I'm good at this homeschooling thing after all. How many six year olds know about these things, right? Surely this information will somehow enrich their lives for years to come. Right?

It didn't take long for my bubble to burst. My husband came home briefly for lunch and saw what we had been studying and asked the boys about it.

"Who is Erastothenes?" he asked. My heart grinned in anticipation of the display of knowledge I just knew was coming.

"Ummm...." one son said. "Well......"

I turned my attention to the other son. He would save the day, I thought. He would demonstrate right then and there that all my efforts had not been in vain.

He cleared his throat and confidently gave his response. "Erastothenes is the guy who circumcised the Earth."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


So I guess it's been awhile since I posted. Things like the new siding (and new windows, doors, and trim) project at our house, three kids passing around a stomach bug with ALL that entails, and trying to rescue my house from the crushing weight that was October have not left me much time for reflection. Or story-telling. And I do love a good story.

But then I got an email this morning reminding me that November is National Adoption Month.

There are few things I love to talk about more than adoption. Since February 2011, when we started our own adoption process, I've read and heard and learned so much about adoption I could go on for days. During the time we were waiting for permission to travel to pick up our daughter, it was almost all I could think about. But there are already millions of websites and articles out there about all that and I don't need to add another one. And I don't plan to turn my blog into a personal soapbox about adoption. (collective "phew!" from all readers, I know)

Instead I want to share a video that summarizes our 3 1/2 year adoption process. Videos are more exciting than articles, right? And if you're not interested, just don't click the link.

Some of you saw this video a couple years ago but it says what I want to say better than I could with my words.


P.S. Yes, I know it's weird to see me with long hair in the video. And no, I don't ever plan to do that again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bad dreams

I hate the feeling of regret.

Coming up on two years ago, I had a bad dream about an old friend. I spent several days worrying about this person before I finally googled their name, thinking I might be able to find an email address or some way to get in touch with them. I wanted to make sure they were okay. I wanted to tell them I was thinking of them.

The very first result Google gave me was a link to this person's obituary. They had been speeding around a sharp curve in the dark of night and died instantly when their car failed to make the turn and hit a tree. It had happened only a few weeks earlier.

It took me a long time to get over that.

Last night I had another bad dream. It was terrible actually. In my dream, another old friend from my high school days was strung out on drugs and tried to kill me. This person was someone with whom I used to be close, someone I loved, but I had lost touch with them when I moved away from my hometown.

You can understand why I checked Google immediately when I woke up this morning. As far as I can tell, my friend is still alive. After my initial relief, however, the regrets came pouring in. Why didn't I keep in touch? Why wasn't I a better friend? Why can't I protect and take care of and save the whole entire world? Why, why, why?


This leads me to the message I'm trying to internalize today. Actually, there are two messages, and they are directed at myself, but maybe some of you can relate so I will share them with you all as well:
1) You are not in control of the world. God is.
2) Don't think you'll get another chance. Sometimes you don't.

It's kind of a downer of a message but maybe that's appropriate for a cold, dreary day like today. And maybe it's to be expected after a long night of bad dreams. But I don't want to keep looking back and having to wonder: Why? Or worse: What if? Do you?

If you have someone in your life you've been meaning to reach out to or something you've been meaning to say or do - don't put it off any longer. Don't keep waiting for the perfect opportunity. Because there's nothing worse than regret.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mom of the year

This story is about ice cream. In order to fully appreciate the story, we might have to go back to the beginning.

My dad was a tall, lanky Dutchman with a hard-working attitude and appetite to match. His family of tall, lanky Dutchmen was rough around the edges and maintained a tenuous (at best) relationship with civilized people.

My mother and her parents, on the other hand, were diminutive people who had a sitting room and ate ice cream in tiny little bowls with all the manners required of polite society.

In 1980, when my mom and dad were dating (how that came about is a different story), he would drive 30 minutes to her house to see her after working all day on the farm. From what I've been told the 30 minutes were like seconds in his mind because of his great love for her. But that's beside the point; this is about ice cream.

My mother's parents would dutifully serve my dad a little dish of ice cream as they visited courteously and he would accept it with the utmost graciousness, eating it in two bites. Then my mom and dad got married.

Did I mention my dad's farm sold its milk to Darigold? Well, my parents got married and Darigold products soon filled their home. Milk, of course, but also sour cream, butter, cream. Now that the vows had been recited and the deal had been sealed, my mom got to see a different side of my dad. A side that scoffed good-naturedly at tiny dishes and could eat a whole carton of ice cream in one sitting.

And so it was that I grew up learning the ways of the ice cream lover. I took to the habit with natural skill and can, to this day, also eat a whole carton of ice cream in one sitting...almost. Now, our budget doesn't allow for frivolous dairy purchases, nor can our waistlines accommodate it, but we do tend to stock our freezer with a decent variety of ice cream. My favorite is anything with lots and lots of chocolate in it.

So that brings us to a parenting moment that might not win me any Mother of the Year Awards, but it is one that I have no doubt my dad would understand, if he were here today.

After dinner, I occasionally let my kids have a cup of ice cream from my stash. However, there'd been a carton of ice cream in my freezer for awhile that I was having trouble finishing off. In fact, it had been mocking me. I rarely meet an ice cream flavor I don't like but I just wasn't a fan of this one (it will remain unnamed because I don't have the heart to call out a dairy product that has done nothing wrong). So, my kids had done a good job eating their dinner and I had an idea.

The fact that it was close to bedtime did not deter me, nor did the fact that the kids had dentist appointments coming up. I took out the unwanted ice cream, which was freezer-burned almost beyond recognition, and scooped them out big, heaping bowls. I mean, I piled it on. This carton was not going back in my freezer.

My kids were delighted and didn't even question why I wasn't having any myself. Not being ice cream connoisseurs, they didn't notice the weird flavor or the freezer burn and I let them enjoy their moment. Then I happily threw the carton in the garbage and got the kids ready for bed. Can anyone guess what happened next?

As soon as the ranks were in their respective beds and the lights were off, I went back to the freezer for my own ice cream. Something more to my liking. Double Triple Chocolate with Fudge Swirls and Peanut Butter Cups or something like that. I didn't bother with a bowl, I just took the carton and a spoon and sat down on the couch.

As often happens, one of the boys came back upstairs a little while later to go the bathroom.

"You're eating ice cream without us?" he asked, half asleep but awake enough to be incredulous.

I took another huge bite of chocolate goodness right in his fact and snickered. "You already had yours."

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

World domination

My two boys are lucky enough to have two good friends living across the street from them. The four boys have always liked playing together but recently their friendship has taken on a new dimension.

Now that they can read and write (sort of), they are able to make plans with each other through written communication. First there were maps detailing good hiding places and ideal locations from which to attack bad guys. Then there were descriptions of what the boys would do together when they grew up, such as "make a movie called Lego Movie Creature Attack."

Then I discovered a little book, made of computer paper stapled together. The title of the book was "Battel Plans" and it pitted the two older boys against the two younger ones. Thankfully, one of the "rools of battel" found inside was "use wepens carefelee." The book also made it clear that after a battle, both sides would shake hands and say "good battel."

Anyway, my second son was fascinated with this idea of making plans and apparently wanted to create some sort of response to the battle manifesto of the older boys. So yesterday I found him at the table with three or four sheets of paper spread out. He was making drawings of some kind but it was hard to tell what exactly they were about. His scheme for total world domination, I assumed. But I was too curious to settle for a guess.

"What are you doing, buddy?" I asked.

"Making plans," he said, without even looking up.

"Plans for what?" I asked. "For fortifying your strongholds?"

"No," he said, with disgust and disdain at my cluelessness. His pencil continued moving swiftly across his paper as he reluctantly told me what he was up to. "I'm building my umpire."

Now, I'm pretty sure he meant "empire," but either way I'm proud of him for thinking big and using his imagination. There's no limit to what you can do, buddy. Never forget that.

Monday, October 12, 2015


There's an adage that goes: "Having a place to go is a home. Having someone to love is a family. Having both is a blessing."

Another one says: "No matter how poor a man is, if he has family he is rich."

These sayings are on my mind today because tomorrow will be our first day of foster care training. Four training sessions are required to begin the process of becoming a licensed foster family.

Family is an interesting thing, isn't it? We love them, we hate them, we ignore them, we take them for granted. We avoid them, we help them, we depend on them. We can't live without them. When I turned 18 and moved away from my family, they were still my family. Nothing beats that.

But what if you didn't have a family? What if, through no fault of your own, you were alone in the world? Some people choose this, certainly. They walk away from their families on purpose. But others, such as foster kids, have no choice. The choice was made for them when their parents violated the basic rules of humanity by failing to care for them and the powers that be were forced to remove them from their homes.

What about those kids? Suddenly they have no home, no family, and the world is a big, scary place. What will happen to them? Ideally, their parents will get their act together and get them back. But that doesn't always happen. And even if it does, what if it takes a while? What happens in between?

Those are some of the questions that compelled us to sign up for the foster care training sessions. We love and appreciate family, and I don't just mean flesh and blood. Family is much more than that. So we thought maybe a kid who's been separated from her family might find it a little easier to bear if she knew she had another family waiting to support her. To be there for the in between.

We want to be that family. How about you? Which makes me think of another saying: "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." Thank goodness for that.

Check out to learn more about foster care in America and even see pictures of kids in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted because their parents have given up all their rights. Please check it out and consider what you can do to help. Because where would we be without family?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Memories of saying goodbye

It was pretty nice as far as nursing homes go. Maybe the nicest I'd ever seen. But I hated it.

Walking down the hall to Room 117, I gripped my children's hands and dragged them along behind me. They weren't any happier than me to be there but they knew enough to be quiet. They knew enough to be scared.

The door was closed so I knocked lightly.

"Come in," I heard. I sighed a heavy sigh. Here goes nothing.

"Hi grandma," I said to the petite, frail woman with white hair sitting on the bed. Please let her remember me.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Katie!" Phew.

Even with all her things in there, her room looked foreign and unfamiliar. I had sworn I'd never let one of my own family members end up in a place like this. My husband and I had even had plans drawn up to remodel our house, complete with a handicap bathroom, so my grandma could come live with us. But when Alzheimer's begins its cruel work in earnest, everything changes.

Grandma sang the "Teddy Bear's Picnic" song to the kids and we visited. Then we left Room 117 and walked around the inside of the building, my grandma's slow shuffle appearing painful because of her hunched back. My kids stared at old women shouting at houseplants and old men sobbing in wheelchairs. I couldn't believe it had come to this.

At first my grandma spoke with a measure of normalcy about her disdain for "this place," her distaste for the food, and her disbelief that grandpa would leave her here. As if he had a choice. Then, before my eyes, she transported herself to a different time, years ago, and found herself on a boat. She could no longer see what I saw or know what I knew. Curse you, Alzheimer's. Curse you to the depths.

I was emotionally exhausted by the time my grandma found her way back to the present, and my kids can only take so much, so I told my grandma it was time.

"We've gotta get going, grandma," I said.

I knew she would be disappointed but nothing could prepare me for the look of desolation that passed over her face. Her eyes seemed to ask a hundred questions at once: How could you leave me here? Where am I? What's going to happen to me? Who are you? But she didn't say any of those things.

"You'll come back and visit again, won't you?" she asked instead.

I answered, but as soon as the word "yes" left my mouth, I knew in my heart it wasn't true. I knew that even if I had the chance to drive the six hours to visit her again, she wouldn't be here. She would be lost forever in the murky, gray fifth dimension of Alzheimer's disease and I would never talk to her again. This was really goodbye. I knew it as clearly as I knew the sun was shining outside.

I leaned down to give her a gentle hug, hating myself for being so anxious to get out of a place she'd never get to leave. My eyes were misty but I forced a smile. My words stuck in my throat but I forced them out. "Goodbye, grandma. I love you."

"Goodbye dear," she said. Then she sat down in a chair and peered down the hallway at another world, folding her hands neatly in her lap. "I'll just wait here for the train."

Monday, October 5, 2015


I'm spitting in the face of one of my biggest fears here by sharing with you all a song I wrote. It kind of feels like standing outside on an icy January day with no pants on.

My song is called October, and it's about change, which is appropriate for this time of year. The leaves are turning colors, the air is turning colder, and the days are getting shorter.

Change is a part of life. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. Sometimes a change that didn't seem good at first was necessary to get you where you needed to go. Sometimes letting go of one thing allowed something new and better to take its place.

But even when everything looks like it's fading away...dying even...we know that in the spring new life will come.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


It was time for the Powner family children to have their annual well-child check-ups. Actually, it was somewhat PAST time, but hey...we get in when we get in. I scheduled all three kids at the same time so we could get it over with.

My boys were old pros. Standing on the scale to be weighed? Having your heart-rate checked? No problem. Following the light with your eyes? Sitting still for the ear examination? Easy peasy.

My daughter, however, was not quite as familiar with such bizarre rituals. What on earth are we doing here? her face seemed to say. These people are crazy.

After carefully watching her big brothers go through the motions, she bravely stepped up to take her turn, not understanding why but accepting that she must.

"Me too?" she said. I nodded and gently prodded her forward.

The usual procedures were performed on her without a hitch. Well, technically there was one small hitch. If you know her, you can understand why her hair presented a bit of an obstacle to getting measured against the wall. But other than that, things progressed nicely.

Then the LPN, Mary Beth Adams (one of the most wonderful people on the face of the earth) came in with a nurse practitioner student who was doing a "ride along" if you will. This student was very pretty and had the cutest little mini-basketball-shaped baby bump I'd ever seen.

My daughter stared at this student's adorable little bulging belly with curiosity and suspicion. I guess she hadn't seen many pregnant women up close before. I could see Little Miss Sassy Pants's mind racing at 100 miles per hour as she tried to process this unusual sight. I could see she had a burning question in her mind.

Finally, she couldn't contain herself any longer. She just had to know.

She pointed her finger at the pretty student and demanded: "You got an apple in there?"

Monday, September 28, 2015


Yesterday, during the worship service at MBC, a man I know and respect shared a story about his late mother, Loretta. The story he shared touched my heart and brought to mind other memories of her. That is when I knew what I wanted to write about today.


by Katie Powner

I didn't know her when her skin was smooth as satin
When her arms still held strength for every chore
I would've loved her then
but in the winter of her life
I don't know if I could've loved her more

The sparkle in her eye was more than mischief
and the smile on her face more than a tease
They were the steadfast joy
of living for her Savior
Whom she found sweeter than an August breeze

She showed me what "through thick and thin" should look like
She taught me purity and peace until
Her form was but a shell, a weakened vessel
then she kept on teaching faith and patience still

"Praise the Lord," she said. "Praise the Lord!"
Even as the light was fading from her eyes
Even as her voice was shrinking to a whisper
She said, "The lights of glory soon are mine."
She said, "Not my will, O Lord, but Thine."

I miss you, Loretta. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Something bigger

You know that feeling when everything you need to do starts weighing on you, squeezing your heart and gnawing at your guts? And you don't know how you'll ever meet all those expectations? I call this feeling hyperinternilating, which is a mash-up of "internally hyperventilating." Which is what it feels like.

This morning I woke up hyperinternilating. An ugly mound of things loomed over me like a tsunami and I cowered in its shadow, certain it would crash down on me at any moment and I would drown.

The big blob was made up of a variety of things, including but not limited to: things I thought I needed to get done, conflict in my own spirit over choices I'd made, anxiety over external circumstances, a handful of relationship difficulties, and just parenting in general. Also some (a lot of) self-doubt, four impending deadlines, and a large, painful sore on my forehead caused by I-shudder-to-think-what-kind-of-creature biting me during the night. It was a big blob.

Luckily, I discovered the antidote to hyperinternilating several years ago and was able to administer it right away. Actually, I had to administer it several times throughout the day in large doses. For me, the only antidote to this uncomfortable condition is prayer.

Why does prayer help me when I'm hyperinternilating? It's all about size. The only thing BIGGER than the tsunami I thought would drown me is God. And prayer helps me remember the BIGGER picture, which apparently is not all about me. It's about something else. Something BIGGER.

So the next time you find yourself hyperinternilating, try some prayer. It's free, you can't overdose, and it works every time.

Monday, September 21, 2015

On the bleachers

My daughter and I walked into the gym on Saturday afternoon, our eyes adjusting to the artificial light. The volleyball game was already in full swing so we scurried into our usual corner and climbed the bleachers to the very top row to watch.

A man well on in years sat on that same row, several scoots away. In a white t-shirt and outback hat, he watched with interest as we took our seats. I didn't know him.

It wasn't five minutes before he scooted over to us with a big smile on his face.

"Where on earth did that beautiful young lady come from?" he asked. "She is just pretty as a picture."

I gave him an answer and assured him that I was well aware of how adorable my daughter is and he scooted back to his place, carefully moving his legs around the garbage can strategically placed in the aisle of the bleachers. Less than five minutes later, he was back.

"She's just got to be the cutest girl I've ever seen," he said. "By the way, which one of the players is your daughter?"

He was old enough and eccentric enough that I wasn't insulted, even though I'm not nearly old enough to have a daughter in high school, am I? I'm only 32, by golly! Anyway, he narrowly avoided the garbage can and again scooted back to his place, but as you can probably guess he started back toward me in no time.

In his eagerness to ask me yet another question, he forgot to be careful around the garbage can this time. As he scooted closer, his orthopedic-shoed feet swung right into the can and knocked it loose. With a sharp, knocking sound it tipped and fell down the bleachers one step at a time...thump, thump, thump, all the way to the gym floor. We watched it happen but were both powerless to stop it.

"Oh," the man said, concern and surprise covering his face in equal amounts. "Looks like I kicked the bucket."

Friday, September 18, 2015


I'm glad to see the sun back out today. The last few dreary days have been a little uncomfortable. I mean, who wears sunglasses when it's cloudy? When it's raining?

I put my shades back on this morning with a sigh of relief. Finally, I can cover half my face again with tinted lenses and oversized frames so no one can see the bags under my eyes. No one can see what I really mean when they ask, "How's it going?" and I say, "Good."

My sunglasses protect me from giving too much away. They protect me when someone is passing by whom I don't have the strength to converse with and I pretend I didn't see them. They'll never know for sure. My eyes were hidden, after all.

Disbelief, amusement, concern, lack of concern, irritation, desperation. These can all be disguised by a good pair of sunglasses. Yes indeed, I'm glad to see the sun! Cloudy days are just too darn honest.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Looking back

Today we completed the (sort of) final step in our daughter's adoption: the Montana state "re"-adoption and legal name change. The hearing went off without a hitch this afternoon and we hurried home for naptime.

At home afterwards, I pondered life before Little Miss Sassy Pants came along. Most of the time it seems like she's always been here. Can't imagine life without her you know. But I found myself thinking back to when having only two children seemed like more than I could ever survive. Now we have three and hey, no sweat, right?

But there was a time when I was riding the river of Motherhood in a leaking raft, taking on water fast. I wrote a poem during that time about my family that I thought I'd share today in honor of how far we've come.

An Afternoon At Home
by Katie Powner

the baby wakes up way too soon and she
wonders why he didn't sleep for long
his older brother's jumping on the bed
he never even fell asleep at all

the baby screams with fervor but the clock
says clearly it's not time to nurse him yet
his brother wants a snack
but when she pulls the raisins out
he whines, "what can I have instead?"

she takes her oldest boy to the bathroom
wishing he'd work harder on his aim
then takes the baby to the changing table
and her wish for him ends up being the same

there's spit up on her shoulder, spit up on her shoe
and it's time to try to put dinner together
everything takes longer
with a baby on your hip
she tries to put him down but he won't let her

she ignores the phone when it calls to her
no one would hear her over all the noise
on the verge of tears
she sings a desperate song
hoping it will calm her little boys

finally she gets something in the oven
and gets her oldest to look at a book a while
her baby coos content
as she plops on the couch to nurse
then daddy walks in the door with a big smile

'what a pleasant little life she leads,' he thinks
as he gives hugs and sloppy kisses all around
I guess he'll never know
that ten minutes ago
the whole world was about to topple down

I like to think those kinds of days are behind me but...who am I kidding? The chaos might look different now but it's still chaos. And I love it.

Can anyone relate?

Monday, September 14, 2015

On a Monday evening

An elderly man lives near me who no doubt cut an impressive figure in his day. He has since shrunken to the size of his ever diminishing function. Which is small. But when I see him driving around town, with a restricted license prohibiting highway driving, he still seems larger than life to me.

In a long-sleeved flannel shirt and jeans whether it's 9 degrees or 90, he peers with sharp, blue eyes from under an ancient ball cap, giving careful consideration to each house, each lawn, each child he passes. His gray truck rumbles slowly down the alley, rifle mounted on the rack in his cab, and I catch a glimpse of his weathered skin and smile at the white stubble on his face.

When I bring him a small plate of zucchini muffins or half a dozen eggs, he unfailingly shows me his seashell collection. Alternating between telling me the far-fetched yet undoubtedly true story behind each shell and cursing at his loudly blaring TV, his frail voice wobbles like a newborn foal. I stare at the sepia photo on the wall of a strapping young man in uniform, ready to save the world. As a member of The Greatest Generation, I guess you could say he did.

He makes me wonder about life, and time, and age. At ninety-some years old, will I be all alone? Will my world be shrunken down to the size of the TV in my front room and a restricted license? Will my life...matter?

Maybe I'm not asking the right questions. My second son was less than two weeks old when I heard a gentle knock on my door. There he was, my diminutive, old neighbor, with a soft, blue blanket in his hands.

"It's fer the baby," he said, the creak in his voice similar to the one in my hardwood floor. "I made it."

I was touched down to my very soul. "Thank you," I responded, with a certain amount of reverence. He looked down at his feet, embarrassed.

"Hell, it ain't nuthin'," he said.

Then he shuffled away, the bow in his legs undisguised by his blue jeans. I'll never forget that. And I'm still pondering what exactly I could or should learn from such a man. From someone with eyes keen enough to spot an interesting shell on a Philippine beach and a young woman across the alley whose enormous belly was suddenly replaced by a baby boy. Will I be ninety-some years old before I know?

It was my son's favorite blanket.