“And His Name Will Be ‘Prairie’.”

Today is the 150th birthday of the state of Kansas.  Being a 5th generation Kansan, I am proud of my Jayhawker heritage.  Stories have flown about me since I was old enough to recall them.  From poor English immigrants that traveled to southern Kansas with dreams of  cheap land and a new life to the single mom, whose life consisted of providing for her daughter.  Her only help was ownership of a hotel as the railroad came through Protection, KS.   I could go on and on with the interesting tales of my family’s rich heritage.

My great granddad, whom I remember quite well, was the first white baby born in Kiowa County.  Herbert Prairie Parkin made his first appearance in a sod house in the side of a hill.   Perplexed at what to name him, his middle name surfaced as ‘Prairie’ as that was all that was there.  Prairie chickens, prairie rattlesnakes, prairie antelope…..well, you get the idea.  From humble beginnings he turned sick abandoned calves from the Dodge City bound cattle drives into a very prosperous life.   Great stories like the one of young Herb milking Jesse James’s cow while Jesse was on lam have been left in diaries, pictures, and all sort of artifacts pertaining to my ancestor’s life.  If you have Parkin blood, you know his story.

A few years ago something began to haunt me.  The Greensburg Tornado came and wiped out almost an entire town and many houses in its path.  It spared Great Granddad’s by a mere mile.  It took with it was not one, but two churches in town that Great Granddad willed small fortunes to when he died many years prior.  The legacy that outlived his life  in those two buildings was ‘gone with the wind’ in minutes.  Now, we will not know this side of heaven the rewards credited to him from his investment in the people those ministries touched and still touch today, but  the less important buildings are no longer.

Since my curious brain can not shut off, a question started to form: What had happened in his life that made it so important that he left money to 2 churches and not just one?  Anyone during that time period could play the socially acceptable ‘church-goer’ game.  In fact it was expected of them, but this two church loyalty hinted there was more to God and Herb’s story.

What was it?  I don’t know and sadly, anyone who would know is gone or just doesn’t know.   I can only imagine and speculate, but not know for sure.

Before long the wheels started churning about my other ancestors.  Granny Dovey was next.  I know it had to be unbelievably hard to run a hotel on the open plains with a small child to be responsible for on your own.  On top of that, she led a very colorful life when the hotel days ended for her.  How did God extend his hand to her to make it so important  that she provided every one of her offspring  (in-laws included) with not only an Old Time Gospel Hour Edition of the Bible, but a Strong’s Concordance and a Bible dictionary?   The Word of God had to have been incredibly valuable to her, but why?  Sadly, no one knows and it drives me crazy.

So the questions continue to plague me with all the other family members-past and present.  How valuable those testimonies are!  Thank God I pinned my mom down before her world became a cloud.   Many of my assumptions had been wrong and her story was much richer than I had dreamed.

With my questioning has come a challenge and a passion.  I can’t retrieve those precious treasures, but I can make sure my kids know my story.  While it’s interesting that I was Miss Congeniality in the Kansas High School Rodeo Queen Contest in 1980 and have the  unique claim to fame of running a cat through the dishwasher, what is really going to matter are those stories of grace, faithfulness,  and provision.  The list of God’s mercies never end.  I can not keep what He has done in my life and the grace He has extended to me hidden. I don’t want anyone to wonder.  I want them to be able to grab on to any encouragement and awe God would give them in the stories.   After all He is the star in them!

So I write and write and write to glorify God and invest in my family.  Until my heart stops beating, this testament will continue to be added to.  If I wasn’t possessed with the writing thing, I am sure God would show me another avenue.  He is creative like that.

Usually my blog leaves you with a giggle but today I leave you with this Scripture that continues to challenge me  “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.”  Psalm 102:18

Is your lineage ( biological or relational) worth the investment of you sharing your legacy?  Just asking…….

“Please Mr. Custer! I Don’t Wanna Go!”

My title is the song that has played through my brain for a couple of weeks.   While indians weren’t attacking, my attitude was.   I would have rather had my fingernails pulled out with pliers than go to the leadership conference I had been invited to.  ‘Invited’ might not be the best description.  It dealt with my job and honestly at the time of being asked, I was on board.

But, now I was not and praying for at least 12 foot of snow to hit during Saturday night.  Or, maybe even typhoid fever?  That definitely sounds like something to get you a free pass.  Since the County Health nurse was going, it would clinch it for me.

Honestly, this reaction is so not me.  It is so not my character not to be the one cheering to go.  I love a field trip.  In fact when I worked at the middle school, every year I would fenegle my way to going with 6th graders to the State Fair, which the other paras gave into me gladly.   One year I went to the same IMAX presentation on tornadoes at the Kansas Cosmosphere three times in one week just to break up the routine.  If the wheels are turning, strap me in because I am already half way there.  This time, despite knowing we would be spoiled rotten, I was not even the least bit enticed with the ploy that it was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on the Waterwalk in Wichita.

My suspicions were that I wasn’t the only one going feeling this way.  We got pep rally like letters in the mail, but they made no difference.  In fact, it made it worse.  “Prepare to be taken out of your comfort zone.”  Excuse me, but the last year of my life I have resided out of my comfort zone and would like a vacation back into it, thank you very much!  I still feel like I am healing physically and mentally from those challenges, not to mention a few new ones to be thrown in to keep us on our toes.  My husband was handling some different challenges of his own and I was not too hip on leaving him, either.  I grumbled that I was dragging my heels to everyone around, even if it had a comedic side to it.   The thing that really had deterred my attitude is I have had some long-awaited dreams that I can finally work on.  These have been put on a shelf for so long, I thought they were lost.  Suddenly in the last few weeks, they have come to life.  In fact on Saturday I had just gone to a workshop that had my head spinning with information and ideas.  All I wanted to do was come home and get to work before my brain blew up from inspiration and excitement.  If I didn’t get going, I might forget.  My fire would be snuffed out, hence the dream be delayed once again.

Sunday morning in the land between getting up and staying in my cocoon for a few more minutes, God and I had a little chat session.  Laying on my back, I sincerely confessed that I was sorry for being such a whineybutt.  Evidently there was a reason I should be going and if there was not even a skiff of snow on the ground, I would get on board and not be so negative.  I got up and looked out.  Not even a powdered sugar dusting.  I also figured with typhoid fever one probably had to run a temperature.  I wasn’t even warm.  I was going to Wichita and plastering on ‘a smile is my umbrella” attitude.

Then I sat down for some quiet time.  Just like God, guess what the story was?  It was about David being a shepherd first and knowing he was anointed king, but he worked as a harp player and a warrior for 22 years before the king gig finally came to pass.  The verse tailor-made for my man Dave (and I) came from 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 that says “Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time–pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.  If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you.  Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.”  (From the Message)  BAM! BIFF! POW!  Could that have hit any closer to home?  I think I even got a nosebleed.

So I went for the four mentally exhausting days.   It is true that I got down and kissed the ground when I got home.  I will also be honest.  It was invaluable in many ways, and since I am still processing what went on, I think I will see the value take shape more and more.   I found the experience very frustrating at times and felt like we were spinning our wheels during part of it, which was all part of the plan to help us learn.  I texted Cliff once to “Rescue me!” and imagined him driving the backhoe up on the lawn of the Hyatt, bucket raised to the second story awning to save his beloved.  He did not act on this plan to which all parties are thankful.  At some point everything came together and the light bulb moments happened.

Does the experience have anything to do with my dream?  I don’t know, but I am betting it will contribute to it some way even if I can’t see it in action at the moment.  I know I am one step closer to trusting in God’s best for my life and fully commit to whatever God asks of me.  I’m not there yet, but I have faith and hope because after all I am still a masterpiece in the works.  Aren’t we all?

The 25 Year ‘Long’ Tornado!

A few years back my daughter Misty and I sat in the car totally frazzled.  We both had our heads back on the headrests, looking at each other.   I spoke.  “Mist, how did we keep up with her when she lived here?  She wears me out!”

The “her” is our daughter #2, Casey Michelle.  I was referring to her going to college the middle of August that year and had just come home Labor Day weekend.  Already we had adjusted to a slower paced groove in a mere 2 weeks.  You see, everyday is a high paced adventure with Casey in our lives.  Whether it is setting the house on fire, charming the tattoo artist to drop the price of her latest ink of choice, or managing to trade terrible concert seats to actually sitting on stage with the headlining  band, the world is this child’s oyster.

Casey being a whirlwind caught us totally off guard  when the 9lb 12 1/2 oz  little chunk chugged into the world.  All she wanted to do was snuggle and sleep.  I barely remember her being a baby.  Little did we know, we’d best enjoy it while we could as she was charging her batteries to go like her hair was on fire the rest of her life.   She’s a little over 5 ft tall stick of dynamite.

Adventure follows her-whether good or bad.  If it needs to take a break from her, well, she will have none of  it  and will text adventure  to see what it is doing because she has hatched a plan.

Her style is funky. When stressed her hair color changes with the crisis.  Her love language is making and giving unique gifts tailor-made for the recipient in mind.  Her loves are traveling, homeless missions, cowboy dancing, Gilmore Girls, diet Coke, exercising-why am I trying to even go here?  The list would get too long.  She loves life!

As I have watched her grow and mature, not many can compete with her people skills.  From the time she could walk I never knew where she was at church because either the Jr. High girls had whisked her off, or she was in a closet kissing boys.  She has always been right where the action is and everyone is her friend.  She doesn’t know a stranger.  When MSN Messenger was hot, she could have 12 conversation windows open at once and 3 of them would be named Tyler.   It doesn’t matter if someone drives a Vette or if it’s the homeless guy in Panera who stays all day for the bottomless cup to merely keep warm, she is their new best buddy.   She sees everyone through the eyes of love.  Many times her heart gets stomped on, or she is misunderstood which results in breaking someone else’s heart. When that happens Case is crushed.   Since experience is a faithful teacher, she is learning to set boundaries, but  even then she still looks at the person through the eyes of love.

What lessons I have learned from her!   It is a challenge to see the world through her Love-Of-Jesus glasses and live life with that passion regardless of the price.   (I’m also considering getting ‘adventure’s” cell number to see if it wants a date.)

Happy 25th Birthday, Casey Michelle Long.  May you always be loved as much as you love others!

The Crush

Many, many years ago in a beauty shop backroom not so far away, my friend, Rashelle and I would huddle around the TV to watch General Hospital.  We were new friends brought together due to our jobs at Evon’s Beauty Shop.  Midst the perm fumes and hairspray Rashelle introduced me to the love drama of Luke and Laura and stories lines I can’t even remember now.  But alas, one character made our hearts race.  Dr. Noah Drake was played by none other than that ‘working class dog’ himself, Rick Springfield.   Something about his demeanor and his feathered hair morphed us into being 13 year olds again-minus the Tiger Beat magazines. We followed his singing career and even dragged our husbands to Dodge City to watch his first attempt at the silver screen.

(This is a confession I am not proud of.   While I entertained thoughts of being ‘Jesse’s Girl”, I kind of forgot I was Cliff’s bride!   Another amazing reason I marvel that he has put up with me!)

This man-crush quite perplexed me as I had always been more of the cowboy persuasion. Somehow I was caught up in not only Rick’s cute-ness, but the story of Noah Drake and his romance with Nurse Bobbie.  Bobbie was the sweet girl next door, who we all knew was the one for him.  She was charming and down to earth at the same time.   They would flirt while looking over patients charts and in life threatening surgeries their hands would ever so lightly brush as they clamped off a renegade aneurism.  It had taken forever for the stars to finally line up so they would get together.

Soap Opera Digest rumors started flying that Rick was leaving the General Hospital in which we immediately started draping the customers in black shampoo capes.  How could this be?

His love was his music career, and he was hitting the concert trail.  While we agreed to wish him luck, we reluctantly awaited the fateful day of the last episode.   The situation was this, Noah (as ‘we’ called him) had arranged for his rich and rather snooty parents to meet his beloved Bobbie.  I can’t remember exactly what happened, but Bobbie was being her charming down-to-earth self, but Noah was quite embarrassed with what she wore, how she acted, and what she said.   The ‘real’ Noah was coming out with his parents around and Bobbie just didn’t measure up. The knife that cut through Bobbie’s heart (and ours) was when he snarled at her “Don’t act so common!”  A big time relationship killer!  It was immediate for Bobbie, but it still took us a while to accept the fact.

Today is Rashelle’s birthday.  We have grown up a lot in 28 years.  We still follow Rick’s life and are glad that he seems to have gotten his life straightened out.  Little did we know he was a big ol’ mess at the time. It’s a miracle Mrs. Springfield still considers herself  “Jesse’s Girl” and would have traded for mine in a heartbeat.  These past 20-something groupies now realize how blessed we are with what we’ve got.  Amen and thank you, God!

What piece of wisdom has come out of this is the line “Don’t be so common!”   Oh my stars!  How could we ever be common?    Sure there are  times it is so easy to fall in with the crowd and just survive life.  We constantly need reminded of who we are and whose we are.    Since He created us and He is pretty amazing at the creating thing, we have nothing, absolutely nothing to be embarassed about.  We can embrace being His workmanship.   “But we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him, who has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9.  There is definitely nothing common about that!

Turkey Egg Honors

The Turkey Egg Queen!

I have a friend who is on the verge of turning the BIG 50.  She has been blogging with great humor of the aches, pains, wrinkles, loss of eye-sight, and all other delightful issues that go with the inevitable.  How she pulls humor out of something that would otherwise be depressing is beyond me, but she does.  (Check her out at 49andcounting.wordpress.com)  Since I am much, much younger, I have some time before I hit the day that AARP starts sending me greetings in my mailbox.  I do confess reading glasses are my constant friend, although I never know if they are on my head, stuck in my shirt or where the several pairs I have scattered to the 4 winds have landed.  Honestly, I haven’t really thought about it too much this natural phenomenon.

Last night I was looking in the mirror at my shoulders and arms.  Spots are starting to show up from all the sun damage of the last 48 years.  Oh yes, I live in Kansas, the Sunburn Capitol of the World.  Even when you really, really try, the sun does some sneaky tricks and before you know it, you are glowing like a red-hot poker and bathing in aloe vera.  Thoughts of my grandma, who is almost 96, made me giggle.  She always says she is ‘as freckled as a turkey egg.”  A truer statement has never been spoken.  She is a canvas of all sorts of spots, speckles and blotches.  There are more of them than there are her natural fair Irish skin tones.  Trips of hauling us grandkids to the creek with a jug of limeade and weenies to roast had to added a blemish or two.  Not only did she bake at the swimming pool with my brother and me, she would load up her car with towels, blow up dinosaurs and her lawn chair for my kids as well.  She had to be pushing 80 at that time.  Hours and hours on her beloved golf course have contributed to the condition.  We won’t even go into all the meals to wheat fields, time spent in the garden, or dressing chickens for half the county.  If her eyesight and knees didn’t hamper her, she would probably still be taking walks on the creek and climbing the barn ladder to feed the cats.  She is truly a testament of living life to the absolute fullest.

So, instead of seeing these spots as unwelcome in my mirror, I see softball and baseball tournaments spent on bleachers watching my kids hit it out of the park and my husband in his coaching element.  In my younger days, there was always a push to wear long sleeves at the high school rodeos, but once out of the arena, bring on the t-shirt.   Those great experiences got me out of Comanche County and  to experience other people and places.  Speaking of teen years, what about the combo of baby oil and iodine to get that savage tan?  I’m sure the FDA has declared this a lethal substance by now.  We were voluntarily were basting ourselves like an episode of “Great Barbeque Cook-offs”.  Regardless, I am so glad that I didn’t miss the time well spent with friends even if no SPFs were involved.  Moving cattle, working in the wheat field, painting and mowing, well, I’d much rather spend my time outside than inside any day-even if it means an extra sunspot or two.  I do believe that even a Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty or two have made their appearance on my map of speckled history.   In fact, I already have my seeds ordered for Cliff and my date with our garden as soon as the winter says ‘good-bye”.

So slather me up with sunscreen as I’m not asking for skin cancer or pain, but don’t expect me to stay inside and not kick up my heels over some brown spots.  My Grandma Olive is one of the most beautiful women I know for she has taken advantage of every moment that God has given her. I don’t care if I am polka-dotted as one of Lucille Ball’s dresses.  I am embracing that my body is a walking scrapbook.  I can only hope to someday wear the hallowed ‘Turkey Egg’ crown with as much grace and style as Grandma does.

Heavens Sakes!

Today started with a laugh that turned into a thought-provoking day.  The Early Show had a segment on the breaking news that the horoscope chart which has been around for—-well, eons is wrong.  Something about the earth has wobbled and thrown everything off.   What was once considered 12 real deal signs is now 13.  I just had to giggle at the conversation of the anchors of the show for it was causing much mayhem.

No, I am not a believer in any of it.  Yes, in Jr. High I used to look up in Teen Magazine if my true love would find me under the Libra sign, but since Prince Charming was probably reading Wheels for You, he missed his cosmic opportunity to show up on my doorstep.  Later, I learned that God had put up a ‘not a thing you need to concern yourself” ban on them, I haven’t paid much mind to it and prefer to put my trust in Him and not his creation.  Today he made good on the scripture that says “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the wise?” (1 Cor 1:20)    It opened up to me God’s great sense of humor when it comes to unveiling things that aren’t of Him.  Since God gave me a wild imagination, let me give you a few examples.

I guess I am a Libra as was my mom and my eldest daughter, Robin.   Today we were catapulted into Virgo-land.  Being ignorant in this, I googled what we are to be like personality wise.  Of course we all 3 have ‘charming manners’ and a ‘delightful elegance“.  We ‘love to debate and smile while doing so.”  My husband immediately disagreed as he sees my ‘debating‘  as way more passionate with usually a raised voice, the gnashing of teeth and lazer beams burning from my eyes.  “Ditto” would be the opinion of my son-in-law with his beloved as well.  We ‘can’t stand sloppy surrounding and loves luxury.”  Oh my!  Failed on that first point as we live pretty fast paced lives, but who doesn’t love the second point?   Since we are no longer Libras, is there a way to keep the ‘charm‘ and ‘elegance’ as a consolation prize as we move into Virgo-land?

The new us!  We are now ones ‘who aren’t talkative at all“.  Oh pluleeze…..really?  Does the stars not know that we are from a long line of chatterboxes?  There is yet an invention created to shut us up.  It is in our gene pool and I have told every family secret ever on the radio airwaves that covers all of south central Kansas and northern Oklahoma!  To add to this, we would ‘stand away from a crowd and not be involved.’   Virgo had better be planning a personality transplant on us Scarlett O’Haras at the Wilkes Barbeque.   When I say ‘all’, it is ALL of the family and not just the Libra/Virgos.  The ‘so conscious of looks that one stands in front of the mirror for hours’ is out the window too.  We have too much of life to live to not ditch the make-up and wear paint speckled sweat pants with flip-flops.  We also ‘hate procrastination’.  Tell that to Robin, who 27 years ago was two weeks overdue.  Honestly, she isn’t so guilty of this now, but I’ll snap it up for the sake of argument.

If we are under the same mystic force, why are the three of us so different?  Robin is ultra organized and disciplined.  She could whip everyone in the Middle East in shape in 5 minutes.  They’d be marching in little lines and all would be right with the world.  I am the total opposite.  More of a ‘don’t sweat the small stuff” and ‘it’s all good, baby!” person.  My mom doesn’t even have to worry about either anymore.  She is a lady of leisure and is in a world of contentment all the time.  In fact, today I was sitting with her at the nursing home and popped on her this new discovery.  I said “Well, for 70 years you were a Libra and now you are a Virgo.”  She looked at me like “what galaxy did you come from” and went back to eating her coconut cream pie.  This breaking news is not going to affect her life in the least.

My imagination peaked.  My brother falls in the ‘new sign’ category.  Since Clay was born Dec 17th, he is now some new name that has a guy with a giant snake as the symbol.  It kind of looks like something off professional wrestling and one Clay will be proud of.  Now when we were growing up, I was sure his sign was ‘Creepylittlebrotherdeluxe”, but I think I read where this new one is something like “Notsuchabadguyafterall”.

Daughter #2, Casey, told me that she got the honor of  breaking  it to a friend that her Taurus tattoo is now obsolete.  Quite a reaction followed that!  Then some news reports are saying that this has been messed up for around 100 years and someone in 280 BC predicted it, so it’s not really a newsflash.  The news media just broke this 100 year news today, so can it really be considered ‘breaking news?”  Then the story came out that it is only supposed to effect those born after 2009.  I want to know if a little sign like the one to buy cigarettes that says “If you were born before this date…will show up on convenience store counters with those little horoscope scrolls.    Oh my, the scenarios this ol’ brain can conjure up.

So as my brain shuts down to go to bed tonight, I marvel at the beauty of those stars and the Creator, who it is written “The heavens declare His glory”.   Oh yes, they do a mighty fine job for that is the whole reason they were created in the first place!

Snow Ponderings

Sunday morning as I got ready to leave for work, I amazed my family with a prophecy that would come to pass on that very day.  “There won’t be very many at church today” I proclaimed.  Cliff was intrigued.  “Why not?” he asked.  “Because of the storm” I said with confidence.  “But it’s not supposed to come in until tonight” he reminded me.  I chuckled at his naivety, “This is the first snow storm of the year.  Everyone is in a panic about when, how much, will school be cancelled Monday and whatever else they can think of.  Although there is nary a flake in the air, everyone wants to hunker in, including me” and out the door I went.

And it was so.  Church attendance was very low.  God still showed up as He is a regular attender and pretty faithful about coming, no matter what is going on.  A lot of conversation snippets were laced with a giddiness of what was coming.  Stories of the Blizzard of ’71 were taken down from the memory shelf and dusted off.  Amazing tales were shared of resourcefulness and pioneer-spirit as we persevered in the face of critical trials.  I shared some of my own from an 8-year-old’s memories as even a 2nd grader had unbelievable experiences during it.   I refrained from busting out the tune “Ain’t Snow Mountain High Enough” much to everyone’s relief.   Electricity definitely was in the air even if the flakes weren’t.

Once I got home, the Weather Channel was our constant friend during tv time-outs of the various ball games.   “Has it started yet?” and  “Do we have enough pop and chips?” were the main concerns.  Cole dragged in a 1/2 of a tree to stick in the fireplace that Cliff dubbed “The All-Nighter”.  At no other time did chili and homemade cinnamon rolls sound so divine. Yes, we were set!

After a zillion trips to peek through the blinds or look out the front door, we missed its arrival!  It snuck up on us while our beloved Jayhawks were in a barn burner with Michigan.   After the final buzzer, what a sight we discovered!  The street was a pristine path that no car had defiled.  The grass was covered enough it looked like an iridescent blanket.  The trees had been mounded with fragile white frosting.   This was a scene Norman Rockwell would have loved to been around to capture.  As the snow sparkled in its descent through the street light’s illumination, tranquility descended with me.    Tomorrow footprints would mar the purity of this Bedford Falls scene straight from “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  The approval rating of the Superintendent would hail him as a hero or an idiot by the unknown snow day call he would be forced to make in the wee hours.    Sightings of walker-toting elderly folks who hadn’t been out in months would cause our hearts to race as they skated across frozen parking lots ‘to just pick up a few things.”.  Windshields would need to be scraped as we froze our tails off and tracked mud in on just mopped floors.  The joys of winter!

As I returned to the scene laid out before me the wonder of  the calmness that only a fresh fallen snow can bring overwhelmed me.  All the hoopla to get to this moment had melted away for tomorrow was still to be written.   Tonight was to be cherished gift as the world stood still and we would sleep in heavenly peace.