Skip to content

He’d like to be a Pepper too!

Every week, I call my college aged son.  I think it goes without saying, but I will say it anyways. I miss him. To play down how much I miss him, I always end the phone call with some snarky bit of wisdom akin to “Sawyer, just in case you didn’t know I have not changed my number.”  Otherwise, I might end the call in tears begging him to come home.  This of course, would be purely for my own benefit and definitely not his, because he is making a life for himself and establishing how he wants to be a powerful force for change in the world.  And while he is much like his paternal grandmother who isn’t much of telephone conversationalist, our chats are brief. Outside of that, when talking with him, I would say he errs on the side of understatement of how much good he has brought to the world so far.

Well, not his momma! I will gladly wear the hyperbole banner . . . because I can. I’m the mom!

There are things are social media that blow me away – like the Olympic moms’ commercials and other inspirational videos, but then there are the ones that make me shake my head. Usually they are in the “Are you sure you realized that you hit post?” category because I wonder what their mothers are thinking when and if they see it.

I know I was in that category last week, when I saw my sister-in-law liked a post on said college boy’s page.  What I read simply took my breath away.

In a really GOOD way.

My son, my version of the Boy Wonder, is vying for a full tuition prize through a contest with the Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corporation. In the competition, he has to describe how he would change the world.


First and foremost I don’t know what kind of future I can have other than one devoted to helping others. When I was a young kid I was severely injured and spent many months in the hospital. This experience has given me the drive to devote my life to using medicine to help improve the lives of others. Specifically by researching ways to combat AD. ~Sawyer S


I am sure my son was limited on space, but one can never discount his proclivity to understating the story.  So let me fill in the details.

In 2008, three of our four children were riding home on the school bus when the bus was hit.  In the aftermath of the crash, four children died (including our oldest son) and fourteen others were injured.  One of the seriously wounded was our Sawyer.  The crash left him with a head injury, bruised lungs, a lacerated spleen, a shattered left femur, a broken and dislocated right hip, and severe nerve damage.  That year alone he spent twelve weeks in and out of the hospital before he was well enough to attend the last five days of the school year . . . using a wheelchair because he was unable to walk for several years afterwards. He never complained and when they wouldn’t let him play football for the next 3 years, he took up guitar to keep himself busy.  He has endured more than most adults and is still a beacon of positivity.

Prior to the bus crash, we had been adopted, so to speak, by a sweet gentleman and grandpa in our church.  This gentleman designed and made elaborate woodworking creations.  When the Boy Scout Pinewood Derby rolled around, Sawyer asked Grandpa if he would help him and his dad with his car.  Let’s just say, I am not sure who was more proud of that winning car, Sawyer or Grandpa! When the bus crash happened, Grandpa was distraught over how he could help our family and asked his son and daughter-in-law to arrange to pay for the hotel room that we stayed in for the nine days we were there.  In the next year, Grandpa started to slowly fade away from us as Alzheimer’s disease – that cruel and wretched disease stole most, but definitely not all, of the amazingness of the man who loved us as his own. And in the final days, Sawyer never missed a chance to visit him.

So there is the AD piece, but let me tell you about my son.

When he says that he cannot imagine a life not devoted to serving others. This isn’t just lip service.  He means every word.  He hasn’t forgotten a single kindness extended to us or to him specifically since that awful day 8 years ago.  He has used every opportunity to give back and to serve as much as possible (even after having had over 30 surgical procedures since that awful day).  I know I’m his mom, but I would be following in his footsteps, if I didn’t use the word inspirational in the same breath as I use to speak his name. Some of my favorites of his kindnesses are inviting a special needs student to attend the prom with him and his date, writing letters and personally inviting every single responding unit to the bus crash (there were over 30) to attend his graduation, and taking time in the hall ways at school to high-five, hug, or “wrestle” around with elementary students. Once he enamored a whole passel of children at the community gardens so the parents could finish up harvesting.  There sat a big group of children mesmerized by the wonders of my Boy Wonder.

I’m his mom.  I can boast.  But remember I started with he’s not perfect, he doesn’t always call his mother, and I am not sure that elementary teachers enjoyed seeing him in the halls due to the melee that often ensued.

But now you see a piece of his heart and his love for serving others.

Then there is the aptness of the corporation sponsoring this contest.  About a week after the funeral services for our other son, we were trapped in a fog of grief, medical treatments, and generally being overwhelmed.  Add to this the nerve damage that Sawyer endured, we had a young man who writhed in excruciating pain 24 hours a day. Exhausted was the understatement of the century.  Thankfully, we live among amazing friends and neighbors who kept a vigilant watch over how to best help us.  One such evening, a neighbor popped over to check in on us.  She asked numerous times if there was anything she could do – right then – to help us.  What I lack in the trivialization department, I more than make up for in “I can do it myself” pride.  Several times, I assured her that we were fine.  As she got to the door, stepping into her winter boots and parka, she implored one last time, and just as I was about to stop her, my – at the time – little guy spoke up.

I could sure use a Dr. Pepper. 

As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

And Dr. Pepper he had! I should probably apologize to the truck driver because I think she perhaps hijacked a delivery truck. It was a moment that I have never forgotten.  Of all the things, he could have asked for to bring comfort, it was a Dr. Pepper.


I am including this picture – just in case he has forgotten what I look like. I am the one in sunglasses.

But in all seriousness, even on his moving back to college day, he proudly wore the shirt from the night he danced all night to support two little boys who require extensive medical care and he hates dancing.

This sweet boy of mine needs your help.  Please go to the link below and vote for him and ask your friends and neighbors and Boy Wonders to vote too. Help him to shine his light and use his potential to truly find a cure for the disease that took away one adopted grandpa so that no one else has to endure that pain.  And like the commercial from my youth used to say, I am pretty sure my son would love to “be a Pepper too!”






Just don’t.

Like millions of other Minnesotans and Midwesterners, I spent much of my weekend in tears and when I wasn’t crying, I spent the rest of my time on my knees praying for the family of Jacob Wetterling.  Much like other moments in history, I remember exactly where I was when I learned of his disappearance.  I was a college junior in North Dakota, eating supper with my family.  We prayed then and we pray now for his family. At the time, my sister was just a month shy of her seventh birthday. Around that time a little girl went missing from our neighborhood.  Unlike Jacob’s story, hers had a happy ending.  She, at three years old, decided to ride her tricycle to the Dairy Queen about 8 blocks away.  I stayed behind with the neighborhood kids while the adults formed a search party.  Long before the advent of the cellular era, word finally came back that she was found.  After all the kids had gone to their respective homes, I held my baby sister really tight and made her promise she would never, never, NOT EVER, do something like that.  In her naivete, she responded with I don’t even know how to get to the Dairy Queen. Through my tears, I laughed, but the reality was the carefree days of letting your children play and run about the neighborhood were gone.

Because of the actions of one, the innocence of a child, a family, and an entire region were stolen.  We sang along to the Jacob’s Hope song, we looked at every child’s face hoping he would be Jacob, but mostly we cried and we prayed.  Jacob’s story and his beautiful full-of-life face were burned into our collective psyche.

It would be many years before I would be married and have a son of my own, and through all this time, I have admired the quiet, displayed strength of Jacob’s mom, Patty.  I would shake my head and wonder how she goes on each and every day with such a gigantic hole in her heart.  To me, and I am certain to countless other moms she was the pillar of strength, of which I am equally certain she never wanted to have that label.

Every time a new “break in the case” would occur, I would pray for peace and for answers, knowing both had to be in short supply for the Wetterling family.  At some point in time, Patty’s face to me became as personally iconic as Jacob’s.  She was the face of every mom’s worst nightmare and selfishly, I thanked God that I wasn’t her because I never wanted to walk in her shoes.

This isn’t a message about being careful what you wish for, but I now know what that prayer of thanks looks like on the countenances of other people.  While my story and Patty’s are not at all similar, I know the deep grief of losing a son in tragic circumstances, and I know grief is never comparable.  I know what it is like to be today’s news story, and I know what it is like to have news media camped out on my lawn and at the hospital where my other son was fighting to live. I know what it is like to lose friends because they just can’t stand to think that their children might die too and I know the pain of someone asking “Aren’t you over that yet?”. And I know all the wrong things people say when they are trying to comfort grieving people.

I know the days where if someone told me I was so strong one more time, I was going to punch them because what they don’t see (and probably what we don’t see of Patty’s life) are the days where tears are all I have to offer the world. There are plenty of days where getting out of bed seems like an insurmountable task. But like what I hope for Patty, there are the days I can physically feel the prayers and well wishes sent our way, and I go on.

With a huge hole in my heart and with scars of pain that sear deeply, I go on. We go on.

I am sure Patty saw our news story of four children dying in a school bus crash and thought about us too.  She just strikes me as that kind of mom and dynamo in this world.  And even though, she and I have never met and quite possibly never will, when I was crying or praying this weekend, I had a burning desire to want to protect her from all the things I know are coming her way.  While I cannot do that, nor would I want to disrupt their private grieving, I can do one thing.

That one thing is to be the antithesis to Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.  My message today is all about don’t.  As the news broke about the possible discovery of sweet Jacob, social media and news media went bonkers. And with each posting and reposting, my heart broke for Jacob, for Patty, for his brother and his friend, for his dad Jerry, for his sisters, and for all the rest of his family.  In my own quiet momma corner of the world, I wanted everyone to just stop saying one word. Closure. Don’t.  Just don’t.

The word was used often after the trial and the conviction of the woman in our story, but let me tell you there was absolutely not one ounce, not even a scintilla of closure.  My son has been gone for 8 ½ years now and I am NEVER going to have closure. Neither are my husband or our kids or families.  Patty and Jerry won’t either.

We will all go on, but this side of heaven, we won’t find this elusive closure.

Just don’t say it. Don’t post it. Just don’t.  The Wetterlings have endured more than what most people could and they have done so with grace, going on to fight to save and protect all of our children.  Let’s not diminish their courage and fortitude with the word closure.

We can close on a house.  We can close the door, literally and figuratively. We close on business deals. But we don’t ever CLOSE on our children.  The love a mother has for children is a love so deep that it doesn’t have an ending.  Ever. Period. Amen.

Closure – Stop saying it. Refrain from posting it. Don’t think it. Don’t utter it. Do not even breathe it around grieving people. Remove it from the vernacular. Don’t. Just don’t.

I know I am not the only one who has cried and prayed for the Wetterlings this weekend.  I also know I am not the only one who has bristled at the flagrant use of that awful word.  I believe a small educational lesson can go a long way to help all grieving people, and I am simply sorry it has to be for Jacob.

Yet, his mother has taught us so much about grace and dignity and hope.  So, even though I will most likely never meet her, I had to smile when I saw her message for us all as her words echoed the message I gave shortly after the bus crash.  I shared a statement that was read on my behalf about the amazingness known as my son, Reed, and asked everyone to go home and hug their children.

As much as I desire for people to “don’t say the word closure”, we can all DO something.  Patty’s message to all of us is something we can and should do for the Wetterlings, but mostly to honor the boy we have all grown to love.


Photo from KSMSP Fox 9 News

And as for me and my house, we are going to hug the mess out of our kids and believe in the good in the world.





Is Sunday School going extinct?

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have. ~ Margaret Mead

There’s one in every crowd or in this case, committee.  Leave it to a science teacher who never graduated out of the preschool days of asking why to be the one in this case. I fervently believe and espouse in the college courses where I inspire future science teachers, one of the reasons we have to market science courses to high school learners is because we urged our youngest learners to stop asking so many questions when they were in preschool.  Preschoolers make the best scientists because they still have the it factor, and it meaning a healthy dose of curiosity.

I am not one for sophomoric humor (despite living with boys where  I get a HEALTHY exposure), but I have never graduated out of that preschool sense of awe and wonder regarding God’s creation and definitely not now, nor anytime – ever –  quit asking questions of how the world works. This questioning (while not the Spanish inquisition) can, at times, exasperate those around me.

I am a thinker and a dreamer, spending much time reflecting (and as I like to call it ruminating) over thoughts.  If I were to describe myself, I would tell you that God made me a BIG IDEAS kind of girl.  When in his word He tells us to take delight in Him and He will give us the desires of our hearts, I take that to heart (and I am not trying to be pun-ny). I DREAM big and have ceaseless fascinations.

Currently I am serving an advisory role in my church’s Christian Education committee and we, too, are experiencing what countless other churches are – a decline in Sunday school enrollment.  Our church conducted a survey asking all kinds of questions about people’s thoughts about Sunday school and small groups as those serve a similar function in our church.  The results provided some useful data for this science education teacher’s mind, but there was one nagging question that my ruminations could not let go and was the one question we didn’t ask.

And like that, I became a one woman crusader on a quest to uncover answers.  How can I make an informed decision to go forward if I don’t know why people are making the decision not to attend?  So what would any wannabe social scientist and anthropologist do in the modern world? Yep, you guessed it! She uses social media to poll her friends.  About now, Margaret Mead might be rolling over in her grave.

I didn’t mean this as a quantitative analysis, but rather as a snapshot of today.  I was blown away by the responses I received, but more so by the raw honesty from not only my community but from others in communities far away as well.  Some of the answers moved me to tears and reminded me that we can never as a church community forget that just because the doors of the church are open that not everyone feels welcome.

Here is a snippet of the responses thus far: (SS = Sunday School and SG = small group)

We are slow starters. Don’t always make it to church.

My child says he learns more at AWANA and it is much more fun than SS.

My kids learn more at AWANA and dread SS.

Live too far out to come back into town for SG.

2 hours is a long time to sit for little ones on Sunday morning.

School/sports activities.

Too much on the plate/agenda.

Live too far out.  SS offering would have to be something really good for me to come.

Cannot hear well and miss out on the conversations in the SS class.

Doesn’t read well and is terrified to be called on to read in the SS class.

Don’t know the Bible well enough to attend with others who know more.

Not making SS a priority.

Hates that sports occur on Sundays but feel that child would not be able to play if they didn’t participate.

SS is boring. (Adults & kids responed)

Very difficult choice for sports families.

Sunday morning is the only time my family can sit down together and interact.

If parents don’t make it a priority, it will never be for the kids.

Do not see the value in SS because it is rare to find devoted teachers rather ones going through the motions.

Just plain worn out after a tough work week.

Feel guilty just dropping off kids for SS (and not staying). Easier for all to stay home.

Kids went up until jr high and then dreaded SS so much I quit fighting them on it.

Changes in SS approaches didn’t work for us.

Treats are always good! But that only works for so long.

Wed night education is great, but for high schoolers it is tough to sit another hour after sitting in school all day.

Don’t know anyone there. SS is clique-y.

Disappointment in the offerings for studies in SS.

Feel awful when we miss a few weeks and are behind on the study.

I am all for transparency and try to model it in every leadership role I have including home, work, volunteering, and church family.  The last answer in the ones above is mine. We are a sports family and sometimes we have to miss because of a sporting event where my children are playing.  I get overwhelmed when I get behind in anything and even though I don’t believe Jesus would care, I don’t like feeling overwhelmed when I walk in.  Growing up, Sunday School was one of my most favorite places in the world to be.  We were at the church about every time the door was opened.  In fact on a recent trip to tour the South of my childhood, I went to visit all my old churches. Those old buildings were like beacons calling me home.  What I wonder now is if the Sunday School of my childhood is not relevant to my world today,  then what do we do? How does the church of today stay relevant while trying to reach people where they are and still offer education?

While my methods were not, at all, scientific, my heart is in a place that truly wants to make a difference.  Now that I have scratched the surface of why we aren’t gathering together, my next step will be to find out what people want out of a church (which to me means family) without “diluting the gospel”.  No matter what that looks like, I will continue to go out to love and serve others.

I think that is what Jesus would have wanted all along.


One of the churches of my childhood.  Britt David Baptist in Columbus, GA. 

Please join the conversation by answering the question: If your church has Sunday School (or small group) AND you don’t attend, what is your reason for not participating? Feel free to reply here or to message me at if you don’t want others to see your thoughts. Your thoughts will really help me to help others.

Olympic sized memories

It may take a while before I settle back into the normal rhythms of life on the heels of the two weeks spent watching the Rio Olympics.  Every day found me tuned to the television to cheer on the American delegation and if they weren’t participating, to root for the underdog. I have been glued to Olympic viewing size Nadia Comaneci wowed the world in gymnastics by scoring a perfect 10 and in the same year but during the winter games when Dorothy Hammill spun magic on a sheet of ice.  I have watched every Olympic competition since those days of my childhood.

I have seen them all.  Mary Lou Retton, Shaun White, Flo Jo, the Miracle on Ice team, Greg Louganis, Mia Hamm, Serena Williams, Kerry Walsh Jennings, and Michael Phelps to name a few.  I have cried tears of joy watching the triumphs and tears of sadness over devastating losses.  Mouth agape at the records being shattered and at Olympians defending their titles from previous games, I have soaked in everything that a television viewer can while watching the coverage from afar.

But of all the Olympic moments I have seen, the one that will forever hold its special place in my heart is the Summer Games of 2004.  This was the summer that a rite of passage was passed from mother to son and it is one etched deep in the memories of my soul.


Reed was nine years old and ready to start staying up a little bit later. Watching the games return to their roots in Athens created the perfect atmosphere to introduce to my son my secret passion for Olympic viewing.  After the other kiddos were fast asleep, tucked into bed much earlier, he would come and nestle in next to me while we cheered on the American team. It was during these games that we discovered more than just I could feel the little girl God was knitting together in my womb. Simultaneously glued to the T.V., Reed would lay with one hand on my belly to feel his baby sister kick away, swimming in her own in utero version of the games and the other hand would be busily cheering on his team.

Reed was a bigger fan than I could have ever imagined.  The son of a soldier, he defined what it was to be a patriotic fan of your home country.  The thing about Reed’s viewing was that he forgot he was in a tiny bedroom in southwestern Minnesota and he would cheer and yell and wipe away a tear or two as if he was in the Greek coliseums and arenas and natatoriums. Our pillows would shield his eyes if he felt the excitement was too overwhelming and at times a full out face plant into the mattress was the only way to calm his nerves or effervescent enthusiasm.

Wrapped up in a favorite quilt we would stay up way past his bedtime.  While his siblings had been out for hours, for one summer the delectable taste of growing up and having new freedoms was tantalizing.

Reed’s fanom knew know bounds, and after watching Michael Phelps commanding performance he convinced me to help him create a costume honoring his favorite Olympian.  That Halloween, we did and Reed was so proud to emulate the athlete that wowed his imagination and stirred his heart. The crazy thing is that Reed was a super fan long before the repeat performances in Beijing, London and most recently Rio.


Perhaps like many things in life, Reed knew that Phelps was destined for greatness long before anyone else.  Sure Michael has had his ups and downs in life (Who hasn’t?), but I have to believe that Reed would have loved him anyway.  Unlike the way many Christians view the world, Reed’s way of seeing people was through a lens of viewing them as perfectly human in need of Jesus.  Stumble and fall, no judgment would have come from him, rather a love would have emanated saying “pick yourself up and learn from this”.  Knowing that is exactly what Michael Phelps did following the London games would have caused my redheaded wonder to beam with pride. To him, that would be the definition of greatness – someone who overcame a challenge and tackled it head on.  Of course, a little help from the man above didn’t hurt at all.

So while the rest of the world joined me in watching the Olympics, I don’t think anyone viewed the same way I did.  Wrapped up in a quilt, I carried the memories of a boy who died in 2008 months before the Beijing games  began.  Watching Michael Phelps wrap up an amazing career in perhaps his final Olympic performance, I envisioned that same little guy jumping up and down on the bed hooting and hollering for his favorite athlete one last time. The games became more than the greatest athletic competition in the world, they were a beloved trip down memory lane.

While my efforts didn’t earn any gold medals, I still believe they would have made Reed proud.

Rainy days and Mondays

Recently I have been busy, overwhelmed, and frankly at times, worn out. Amazing things have been happening, and accompanying those have been some moments that have shaken my foundation. While at times I may need a reminder, I know that my foundation is laid on God’s solid ground which has and will always anchor me through the storms of life.

Despite my best efforts, the clock hands continued to turn and so too flipped the pages of the daily calendar leading up to yesterday – which happened to be a Monday. Blech. In my mind, I wanted to pretend that the day wasn’t coming. Mondays are sometimes bad enough, but this Monday was the worst of them all as it was the day we would be taking the Boy Wonder back to college. Much like the unexpected Friday e-mail that sentenced me to my bed weeping, the arrival of this Monday had me not wanting to leave the bed. If I just lay here this day will come and go and we can go right back on living our lives with our guy home.

But then I saw the excitement and joy and anticipation in his eyes, and I put on a happy face and kept on keeping on even though my heart wanted to hold on tight. And while my spirit was sad for me, for us, my soul knew he was going in exactly the right direction on the path God has laid out for him to truly shine a light in this world, desperately in need of some illumination.

I know this with every fiber of my being, but it was confirmed while we played the game known as “Let’s change passengers with our college boy every 30 miles; so, we can all have one-on-one time with him”. He, of course, while willing to play along, knew nothing of this plan. When I had the coveted co-pilot seat in his sporty little car, I asked him about his goals and dreams for the year. This seemed like a better plan than sobbing and pleading with him not to go. His answer helped soothe my worried momma heart. Adding to his goals of continuing to be involved on campus and being the best student he can, he dreams of adding more leadership opportunities and hopes to start a new campus club. Whoa! Socks blown off! I often look to heaven and marvel that we had a hand in the shaping of this amazing young man.

I am a better person because of him and his brother and sisters. These tiny moments, even while hiding tears behind sunglasses, are the glimpses showing me how blessed we truly are. No matter how tight I want to hold on to our past, he, with God’s help, needs to create his future.

When my heart is breaking, there are always friends that receive my distressed Bat Signal, and they respond with rapidity unparalleled by any caped crusader. A perfectly timed text saying to hug my kiddo and tell him “how proud he makes us all” and a personalized card saying to keep shining because that is what the world will see in our son changes everything. I am left smiling through my tears, counting my blessings. Who would guess both of those could happen on a Monday?

There are many days when laid out grief is all I have to offer, and then there are the moments in life when someone has to offer the bit of humor to fill the awkward silence. I prefer the latter and it seems I have developed and (if I can brag for a moment) perfected this technique over time.

Growing up, I don’t think I would have ever considered myself funny. It just wasn’t in my repertoire. I loved to laugh, but creating laughter wasn’t my strongest subject. In school, I was never the class clown, being more concerned with trying to learn everything about everything. I know the apples don’t fall far. I am certain in all my growing up days my parents would have considered my brother the humorous one.

But, like my son – who has always been hilarious – I went to college chasing my dreams and along the way somehow developed that sense of comedic timing where a snarky comment, a light-hearted sarcastic retort, or an aptly-placed witty comment could save the day.  Although not my superhero power, this skill has helped me on more than one occasion to change my outlook on something. All my besties share this knack, and it is the glue that bonds us together as a tribe of mommas doing the best we know how to do.

So while my boy goes off to college, I can always take solace in the fact that technologies have improved so that we can stay in contact much more easily. If that doesn’t work, I always have pictures for blackmail memories.

To all the returning college students: Be your best. Shine your light. Call your mother. Make good choices. Find your adventure. Be brave and take chances. Make a few mistakes and learn from them. Be resilient. READ THE SYLLABUS. Find your own tribe of weirdos and embrace them. Be kind and gentle. Give back to others. Don’t forget to study. Remember why God gave you knees. Read a book just for fun (trust me you have way more time than you think you do). Have fun and my most favorite of all-time: Be Particular.

And for our guy – Ride like the Wind!






What Would Nannie Do?

When you spend a week at the “cabinet” (my four year old nephew’s word for cabin)  without television with your parents and siblings and their families, you have plenty of time for conversation.  One of the topics that comes up every time we are all together is a task that I have struggled to complete.  Have you done anything with your inheritance? Now before anyone suddenly decides to become my new best friend, let me do a little explaining.  My “inheritance” is a whole life insurance policy that my grandparents, Nannie and Granddaddy, bought when all of us kids were little.  If I were to pass away today, my family would have a thousand dollars to spend towards my funeral. If I wanted to be buried in a soup kettle, that might cover it. There is a buy-out option, which the last time I checked was considerably less.

Since we have worked hard to adequately insure ourselves, my best option would be to take the pay-out.  I professed that I hadn’t made up my mind and was waffling between several options for what to do if I took the cash option.

But then there was the other conversation that took place at the cabinet. This one bittersweet in nature, as caring for elderly parents is a difficult challenge. Both my Nannie and Granddaddy have gone on home to heaven as well as my Papa, leaving only Mama left of my grandparents.  Mama’s house is in dire need of some repairs, but she adamantly refuses to let us do any work to fix it, always comparing the days she has left on earth to the cost/benefit analysis of spending her money to make the repairs.  Even when we have offered to make the repairs at no cost to her, she refuses.

great depresion

Farm Security Administration: Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. (Circa February 1936). Picture for the FDR, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

I wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye during the Great Depression, but all of my days I have lived with the after effects.  My grandmothers are the perfect dichotomy of those ripples from that era in our nation’s history.  Mama has chosen to save every last penny she has, just in case.  She never wanted to live like that again, choosing to do without now, while saving for the day that she might need it later.  Nannie on the other hand lived by the philosophy “smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em”.  My maternal grandmother’s take on life was to enjoy the good days while you’ve got them and not worry or plan for tomorrow.

The irony of the situation is the one time she chose to plan for tomorrow is what has me in a quandary.  My grandmother, a shrewd businesswoman with only an 8th grade education, was a whiz at numbers, but somehow never mastered spending within your means.  If she saw something that made her smile, she bought it and LOTS of it.

When it comes to grandmothers and genetics, I definitely take after both of them.  My love of crafting, hospitality, and good ol’ Southern comfort food can be attributed to both.  My love of bling definitely originates with Nannie as does my love of animals, but my money sense falls in step with my Mama’s pragmatism.

So even though my letter from the insurance company arrived over two years ago, it sits collecting dust.  My dilemma haunts me every time I come across that letter.  Do I spend the money on something practical like paying for tuition for the doctorate I am pursuing?  Or do I honor the grandmother who gave it to me and ask WWND – What Would Nannie Do?

For a while now, I have had my eye on this nugget ice counter appliance which is the first of its kind.  Some may raise their eyebrows at that purchase, but if you have ever seen me order a beverage at a fast food drive-thru you would understand.  Can I please get a sweet tea with extra, extra, EXTRA ice?  And trust me, if my straw doesn’t hit a cube on the way in, I am righteously indignant.  Ice machine may sound frivolous to some, but to me, it sounds divine – simply divine. And then I remember that my kitchen, while beautifully remodeled still has limited counter space. Ugh!

And then there is the home fitness surfboard that I have dreamed of owning for a bit.  I regularly profess that I need high doses of Vitamin Sea; so if I can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain the girl to the Gulf, then at least I could pretend to be there while toning my well-earned momma-to-many core. A little ocean music and (voila!), I am home. Of course, this kind of surfing won’t result with sand in places I didn’t even remember I had which is always a bonus. And then the Mama side kicks in and reminds me the last fitness equipment purchase I made ended up being a jungle gym for my kids and place to hang the laundry. Argh!

All of this puts me right back at square one, still stuck. So for now, the letter sits, until I can completely make up my mind or at least, until I can balance whether the Nannie or Mama side of me wins out.

But like my Mom said at the cabinet, if you were truly going to spend it like Nannie would, I should go out and buy some lottery tickets. Somehow I have to believe that if there is a window from heaven, tucked up in her favorite fishing hole, Nannie would have looked down and laughed at that idea.

I know for sure one part of her philosophy was spot on – enjoy the moments you have because someday they will be your precious memories!




Love goes on

A couple weekends ago, we made a trip to see our family in North Dakota.  Sadly, the reason for our trip to my sweetie’s childhood hometown was to say good-bye to our former brother-in-law.  He had always been good to us and we wanted to be there to support the rest of our family.  Since Reed is buried there, we knew we would go and tend to his grave.  I would rather be spending money on some great adventure for what would be his college years, but instead we make sure that he has flowers and mementos to commemorate his life.


FullSizeRender (8).jpg

Neither reason for our road trip are ones that make me just giddy to get out of bed. Seeing our family – yes, dealing with another life gone – never. Tragic endings are rough on families.  Of this, we are living proof.  The journey is hard when “so long for now” comes much, MUCH sooner than we had expected.  These thoughts swirled through my head with each wheel turn of the more than four hundred mile journey.


On the day of the service, I watched a morning news show where an interview with a mother-daughter author team caught my attention.  The daughter shared about how her mother’s resilience in the face of difficult circumstances really shaped much of her life. She summed this up in one sentence and as an educator, my interest piqued, wanting to paint her words on all the walls in school.

“Failure is an event, not a definition.” ~Francesca Serritella

Trying to keep my emotions in check throughout the day, this thought continually swirled around in my head as we plunged forward through the tough stuff. I could numb my pain thinking of these words and how I might apply them to the doctorate courses I am taking. Then I thought, “Wait a minute!  Teaching children to be resilient and persist when the going gets tough applies to when tragedy hits a family too!”

“Tragedy is an event, not a definition.” ~Kandy Noles Stevens

This has been my driving force since the day we woke up after the bus crash.  This horrible, terrible event would not define our family.  We weren’t sure how life would go on, but one thing was certain, love would. Our love for each other, including Reed, would endure and faith would carry us through all the tough stuff.  Life wouldn’t always be pretty, but we weren’t going to allow sadness to be our forever garment. And through it all, God would be with us.  That knowledge alone was more than enough.

When one defines tragedy as a moment in time, it becomes second nature to see that like the refiner’s fire life’s hardships shape and prioritize much of life.  But the parts often unseen in the struggle are the unabashed moments of praise are wrapped up in unexpected glimpses of joy even when we are mired in the muck.

While I was understandably sad about the circumstances of our weekend, God still has joy in his repertoire.  The first of which arrived in the form of a text from a young man, whom we have adopted through an “adopt a college student” program through our church.  The e-mail was to tell us that our now “adopted granddaughter” had arrived.


The next moment of joy came when our nephew and his family stopped over and I finally got to hold our great nephew who has Reed as one of his middle names.  Humbled, thankful and awed is the best way to describe how it felt to hold a little boy who has carries forward my sweet son’s name.  A blessing greater than I had ever dreamed possible!

FullSizeRender (6).jpg

In both cases, the joy and the heavenly praise ascended were preceded by God’s unfathomable love for us.  The same love that picked us when we weren’t sure if we would be able to do this hideous thing called grief.  Every time the pain was overwhelming there would be some small God sighting that would remind us how incredibly loved we truly are.  Even though Reed and Scotty were no longer with us, our love for them wouldn’t end.  So it was on the long drive home from our not long enough visit.

My sweetie remembered a local casino always has an amazing fireworks show annually on July 3.  Although a little bit out of our way, he rerouted our path home to take in the celebration.  Part of his reasoning was to remember and honor, Scotty, who loved putting on fireworks shows for the kids each year. We tuned into the radio channel where patriotic music is timed to the lighted brilliance. We “ooh-ed” and “ah-ed” at the show, enjoying one American tune after another.

And then it happened, Reed’s absolute favorite song of all time, Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue, began playing and this was the firework that went off exactly as it did. In my imagination I can only dream that maybe in some corner of heaven, Reed, Scotty, and Jesus said, “That ought to get their attention.”

FullSizeRender (7)


Sure! Plenty will look at this and say it was purely coincidence.  I know differently.  A single moment of illuminated display over the windswept prairie was God’s way of reminding us that love can and indeed does go on.