Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Graveyard Surprise

Remember this? The trip last summer to the family cemetery which has been utterly neglected for who knows how long?

That cemetery and its condition has weighed heavily on my mind since then. So in recent weeks, I took it upon myself to do something about it. I recruited some volunteers, and yesterday we headed back out to the cemetery for a full day's work.

This is what we had to work with.

Yes, inside that fence, there really is a cemetery... somewhere.

Several hours later, with a lot of equipment and hard work, my dad, brother, cousin and I turned THAT into THIS:

(The first picture was taken from the top of the cemetery looking down, and this picture was taken from the bottom of the cemetery looking up, if you're wondering about the vast change in background.)

It was discouraging to find that several of the stones have been broken and knocked down. By cows, we're guessing, as cow patties were found scattered throughout the cemetery. Their pasture is all around the cemetery and we can only assume that someone has left the cemetery gate open for them...

Fortunately, one cousin married an undertaker, who formerly worked in a cemetery, and she's hopeful that he will know how to repair the stones, and also get us some new markers at cost for the graves that lie unmarked in this cemetery.

My great grandmother drew us a cemetery map before she died, and it's a good thing she did, for there are several unmarked graves and after she died, there would have been nobody left who remembered who they were or where they were buried. Now we have the record and I feel burdened to provide those individuals with some sort of marker as a remembrance.

So, we've got some work ahead of us yet, but it is such a relief to have the cemetery cleaned off, to be able to actually see the graves and walk through the cemetery, and we're working on a plan to make sure it stays cleaned off this time. I am really looking forward to taking my grandmother back to the cemetery later this summer to see it, and hopefully erase from her memory the desecration she saw last summer... She has no idea we went out and did this, so it will be a really fun surprise. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Memorable Memorial Day

Way out in the middle of nowhere, on the top of a steep mountain up which no vehicle can drive, lies a cemetery.

And in that cemetery is the grave of my grandmother.

I was 15 years old the first time I ever visited this cemetery. My great-grandfather died and he too was buried here. They used a crane to hoist the coffin up the mountain-side, and we all hiked up. The place had the charm of a bygone era... with its smattering of old graves, many of which were marked with nothing but a rock with no way to know now who was laid to rest in that place.

We've been out there two or three times since then, and each time we had an incredibly difficult time finding the spot. I got smart the last time we went, and drew a map, marking clearly each turn with its landmarks.

So out we went, my brother and sister and I, along with Little Girl and Baby Boy. I drove the lead car and my brother followed, and confidently we took turn after turn using the map I drew several years ago on our last visit. Everything was going well when we reached a fork in the road. We were waiting for a particular "street sign" which was put up when 911 was put into the county and everyone had to be assigned a "street address." The sign itself cracked us up as the road name was "Left Fork Johnson's Fork Little Ann Creek Road." Yes, this was all on one of those green street signs.

But here was a fork, and we hadn't yet reached that sign. We hesitated. "Left," my sister said. "I'm sure we go left." I turned left skeptically but we both breathed a sigh of relief as the first house came into sight around the bend. "That house looks familiar!" we both exclaimed in relief.

But I still wanted to see the map and make sure we were on the right track and try to figure out how this turn had come about that we weren't expecting. So I pulled into the driveway and my brother pulled in next to me. We rolled down our windows.

"We're almost there," I told him. "I know we're close, we just aren't positive which way to go because that fork isn't marked on my map."

"I know we're going the right way," my sister kept saying. "I KNOW we are. She won't trust me."

Meanwhile my brother is exclaiming, "We're in somebody's DRIVEWAY! We're at somebody's HOUSE!" I wasn't terribly concerned about that...

So we kept driving. Long story short, we drove way out that road, then came back and tried the other fork, and then came back to try the first fork again, figuring we must not have gone far enough.

Just as we approached that same driveway that had initially upset my brother so much, my sister says, "WAIT! Isn't that the barn that says HOWDY on it!?"

Sure enough, the final landmark, the HOWDY barn, was right there, with the letters nearly worn away which is why we'd not noticed it before. No wonder that house looked so familiar to us both, and nothing farther on did. THAT was the place!! The street sign we were looking for must have been pulled down.

I quickly pulled right back into that same driveway and we were laughing so hard, wondering what on earth my brother must be thinking to see us turn right back into that same spot.

We got out, laughing -- in the pouring rain, mind you, not the best weather for a cemetery visit on top of a mountain, but we couldn't help that -- and explained to him that this was indeed the place. And then we began the climb.

After crawling under the tree that blocked the path, I turned around and took this shot. I think you can make out our cars parked at the bottom of the hill, which gives you some idea of how ridiculously steep this climb was. And we weren't quite halfway there yet. :)

At last we reached the cemetery. The kids had a wonderful time exploring. They planted flowers at our grandmother's grave and picked daisies from the surrounding woods to lay on other graves.

Their friends were having picnics and pool parties and parades. But in our family, Memorial Day has always been a day to visit the cemeteries and decorate all of the family graves.

Family traditions handed down from previous generations are what memories are made of. I think our kids had a better day than their friends. What do you think?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thoughts on Friendships

Back in December, I read an interesting post on the issue of "best friends." I intended to write a post on my thoughts at that time, but then I sold a house, bought a house, moved, and with all the chaos, this particular post went unwritten.

Last night, I read another interesting post on the subject of friendship, and my thoughts on the matter were aroused again.

When my sister and I were young, everybody was her best friend. I mean, everybody. "But Mom, I HAVE to go to Mary's party, she's my best friend!" Never mind that the day before, she HAD to call Kelli, because she was her best friend, and the day before that, of course she needed to buy Sonya a birthday present, she WAS her best friend, after all!

Throughout life, I always had ONE best friend. And a twin cousin who was truly my best friend throughout all of childhood, but in addition to her, ONE best friend at school. It changed in time... there was Kim for a few years until she changed schools, and then it was Amber. When she left the school, it became Rachel, and when we parted ways it became Robyn. But at each stage in life, there was just ONE best friend. So I never understood this issue my sister had with calling every friend her best friend.

But now, things have changed. You know all the surveys that come around -- it used to be by email, now they are proliferating on social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook. I always hesitate when I come to questions such as, "Who is your best friend?"

It's not that I don't have a best friend; it's that I have many, and they all serve different functions in my life. If a problem arises, I know who to call if I just want a listening ear, and who to call if I want practical advice. I know who to call if I make an exciting Laura-find, and who to call if I want to go out and do something fun. I know who to call if I want to share a funny kid story, and who to call if I simply want to chatter endlessly about nothing. There is overlap, of course, but you get different reactions from different people and I can't imagine not having any of them as my "best friend" or the void their absence would leave in my life.

Maria concludes her post with the opinion that after a certain age, you don't NEED a "best friend" and thus the line between best friend and good friends becomes more blurred... but what is that age, and why? (And why has my sister been that way from birth?)

And Jennifer's post on how friendships ebb and flow is particularly interesting because I was thinking just a few days ago on this very issue, mainly because of facebook and the renewed relationships it brings about. On facebook, I have the opportunity to become reacquainted with some of those best friends from years past, where the relationship ebbed simply because of a change in circumstances. Why is it that some of those old friends I picked up with like no time had passed whatsoever, and others I feel such a distance with, and non-interest in?

Is it that with all the years apart, we've all changed (obviously) and some of them have changed in similar ways to me and we're therefore still very much alike, or not so much alike but whatever attracted us to each other in those days still exists, and others have changed very differently, and thus the disconnect and lack of interest in renewing relationships with those people?

Jennifer writes that "it is a mystery," and I must agree. It really is no different from new relationships... why is it that I can join a group of people and instantly feel a connection with one or two of them and not the others? I guess the bigger mystery here though is that the connection was once present and now it isn't.

I suppose in the end, it doesn't really matter. But it's something to wonder about...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thoughts on "Taking a Bloggy Break"

I spend a lot of time on the computer. I won't deny that. Sometimes it's for work, but much of the time it's for enjoyment. The majority of my computer time is spent doing one of two things: learning new things, or connecting with people.

Unless someone is a bigtime gamer, I think one or both of those two things is what most people do on the computer, isn't it? Chatting, email, blogs, facebook, myspace, twitter -- it's all about connecting with other people. Google -- hello, wonderful tool to find out just about anything you could ever want to know, as well as many things you don't!

Now personally I think that learning new things and connecting with other people are both very good things, so I don't have even an ounce of guilt over the amount of time that I spend on the computer.

But many others do. I've tried for quite some time now to understand just what the issue is, but I don't get it.

So often, on blogs that I follow, I'll read about someone "taking a blog break" for a week or a month or an indefinite period of time, to rethink their priorities or to live life instead of writing about it, etc. They never come right out and say it but the implication always seems there to be that if you spend a lot of time on the computer, you aren't living life. That to fully experience life as it should be, one must not spend very much time on the computer at all, or even must fully break from it for long stretches of time.

What I question primarily is why these people feel the need to share with everyone else that they're taking this bloggy break... (or twitter break... or technology break... or what have you). I know a couple of bloggers that I used to follow -- and just recently stopped following for this very reason -- who do this on a regular basis. They're always having to regroup, to break away from all technology for a week, or from the blog for a week, etc. And it's always this long introspective post explaining to the world why they feel the need to do this.

And those posts always leave me feeling annoyed, quite frankly. To do it once, no big deal. But over and over? What is the purpose? Why the need to share with everyone that you're doing this, and why? If you really want to live life, why not just live it and not worry about your blog or your twitter or your facebook or whatever it is? Why a specified amount of time that you're taking a break and then back to the same old thing? What is the point?

I could understand if someone felt they were really spending too much computer time and needed to back off a bit, saying to themselves, "Okay, I'm limiting myself to X amount of time per day on the computer." But is there really a need to share this decision with the world? (Unless one is looking for accountability, but we don't know if they only spent that amount of time or not so it really seems as if a real life person would make a better accountability partner here...) But that isn't even what I keep seeing. What I keep seeing is, I'm doing nothing for X amount of time and then I'm returning to business as usual. It's usually followed by a question posted to the readers that asks them to consider doing this as well, or asks them if they're having the same problem, etc. And I read those and just shake my head thinking, NO! No, I do NOT have that problem. I DO spend a lot of time on the computer, but I do NOT see a problem with it. Nor do I see how refraining from using the computer for a week only to return to it full force at the end of that period is going to help me "live life" any more completely.

If they want to live life, why don't they just do it, instead of telling us all about it? I usually spend my late evening hours on the computer, but if I have a real life thing to do -- if Little Girl is over for the evening, or if a friend wants to go out and do something, or whatever, even if I have a series of those events that is going to keep me occupied for a couple weeks, I don't even think about the computer -- it doesn't occur to me to come announce on my blog that I won't be posting for X amount of time. Who cares? When I have the time, and have something to say, I post. And when I don't, I don't. Is it really that complicated?

I just don't get why people feel the need to "check in" with the world, I guess. I'm not saying they're wrong -- don't read that into this. I'm just trying to understand.

If you're one of those people, maybe you could enlighten me. Just why DO you take technology breaks, what do you expect to gain from it? Why do you post on your blog that you're not going to post for X amount of time? Maybe you're concerned that your readers will think something happened to you? And apparently that does happen... though to be perfectly honest, I never even NOTICE that a particular blogger hasn't posted in awhile, because there are enough other bloggers who are that I simply don't keep track...

Anyone have any thoughts to offer on this point? Do you feel like you spend "too much" time on the computer, and if so, why do you feel that way? I don't see the computer as a waste of time for me, I see it as a tool for learning and for communication with people, and those are two things I value... but maybe others don't see it that way? Is computer time not "living life"? Because quite frankly, my life is made much more fuller through the relationships that I form and maintain using the computer as a tool -- and that doesn't just mean people I meet online, that includes connecting with family, coworkers, and "real life" friends (as if internet friends aren't real life... which is another soapbox of mine :) ).

So... just wondering... :)

P.S. And no, I am not referring to you. :) The people I am thinking of have no idea I even exist and are certainly not reading this blog. And I'm not referring to, "I'll be out of town for the next week so won't be posting" type of things on blogs. I'm talking about deep introspective posts, again and again and again, about why they need these breaks... So don't get a complex. This isn't about you. :)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Things That Bug Me, and Other Tales...

Today is Mother's Day. I'll be honest. I hate Mother's Day. I've hated it for years.


Because Mother's Day is one huge blatant reminder of what I'm not, of course.

I hate watching adorable little girls and boys in church singing songs about their mothers or telling their favorite things about their moms. Because I don't have a little boy or a little girl up there with them. I hate when the pastor asks all the mothers to stand and every woman in the church is standing... except me. (I'm sure I'm not the only one, but it sure feels that way.) When the usher handing out the gifts nudges you, thinking you've simply forgotten to stand up, and you have to flat out say, "No, I'm not a mother..."

The worst though is when people send you Mother's Day greetings, online cards, virtual flowers, etc. Why are they sending me Mother's Day cards!? I'm not a mother. I'm sure they mean well, but the last thing in the world that I want on Mother's Day is someone wishing ME a Happy Mother's Day. Though I know it's not intended this way, it feels like a slap in the face.

I've asked people why they sent me Mother's Day cards knowing I'm not a mother. Their answers aren't at all logical to me. "Mother's Day is for all women!" they'll exclaim. No it isn't. It isn't Women's Day. It's Mother's Day. It's for mothers. You know, that thing I'm not.

Another justification is, "Well you HAVE a mother! So you get to celebrate Mother's Day!" Yes... but that doesn't justify sending ME a Mother's Day card. I have a father too, but nobody sends me Father's Day cards!

But enough complaining... next year, hopefully I will be a mother, or at least a foster mother, and these miserable Mother's Days will be over.

Next item on the agenda, for things that bug me... literally:

We had our first sunny day in WEEKS. Literally, we have had weeks where it has done nothing but rain, rain, and rain some more. So we took the kids out to play. Caterpillars were everywhere. Baby Boy wanted nothing to do with them, but Little Girl caught them, built them a house, the whole nine yards.

A little while later, while working on her house, she handed me a caterpillar and asked me to hold it for her. After a few minutes, I got tired of it crawling back and forth from hand to hand, so I set it down on my leg. It sat there just fine for awhile. Suddenly I glance down, and see this thing defecating on my pants! I instinctively flicked it off, and went after one of Baby's Boy's baby wipes, figuring they ought to be good for cleaning up poop. :) Well, the caterpillar didn't survive the flick, and Little Girl was furious with me for killing her caterpillar.

Sorry. It pooped on me. What would you have done!?


A little while later as we sat there talking, a bug flew in my mouth. Yuck! So all in all, it was a very buggy day for me. :)

On the bright side of things, my little Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-wanna-be-in-training is coming right along. We've been reading Little House on the Prairie together, but she usually wants just one chapter and then she's done and moving on to other things, so it's been pretty slow going. Last week, I had a feeling she was hooked. We read a chapter, and then I turned the page and said, "Oh, the next chapter is the best one!" My mother asked what it is, and I said, "Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus." My mother and I are both clearly very excited about this chapter, and it must have been contagious. Little Girl seized the book from my hands. "Give it to me!" she said. "I want to read it myself!" I made her read it aloud to me. :)

So this week, she was clearly ready to read, and we read four chapters before she finally decided it was time to quit. And she said next week we will finish the rest of the book. Yep. I've got her now. YAY. :)

The other day, she was downstairs watching Alf and my sister was upstairs. Suddenly, she heard Little Girl's feet pounding up the steps. "MOMMY, MOMMY!" she shrieked. "YOU HAVE TO COME SEE THIS!!!" "What!?" my sister asked, and so excited she could barely speak, Little Girl gasped out, "ON THE TV! COME AND SEE!"

My sister went downstairs to where Little Girl had it on pause. She rewound it a little, and it was the episode where Alf broke the TV and Willie said he wasn't going to get it fixed, they just would have no tv. Alf was aghast and made reference to how they were going to be living like Little House on the Prairie. Little Girl's eyes shone as she said, "Isn't that SO FUNNY, Mommy!" I love that Little House references excite her. :)

Then another day they were at a store, and Little Girl picked up a stuffed Scottie dog and was playing with it. My sister was paying no attention, until Little Girl told her to look. She had tied a piece of cloth around its head to look like a bonnet, and she announced proudly, "Look, Mommy! I made a prairie dog! Not the little kind that live in holes in the ground -- it's a little dog on the prairie!"

Yep. That's my girl. :)

Sunday, May 3, 2009


The Compassion Bloggers have been in India this week. Just as with their trips to Uganda and the Dominican Republic, I've followed their blogs closely, learned much, and been overwhelmed by what I've seen through their eyes.

The other day, I was working at a family's house and happened to glance out at the backyard, where the children themselves had built a playhouse. It's a sight... uneven boards nailed up wherever a child happened to place them, and nothing but holes for a door and windows. But it's serviceable. It's just a playhouse, after all.

But the thought crossed my mind as I saw it: This little kid-built shack looks very similar to the homes in these impoverished communities where Compassion kids live. What, in my eyes, is a shoddy playhouse, would be in their eyes, a home.

And then I read about a little girl in India named Kiran, and saw pictures of and read descriptions of the home she shares with her family of five. It's 4' x 6'.

Stop for a moment and really think about those dimensions. Picture it. Their entire house is smaller than my BED.

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around that one. Try to imagine five people even sitting in the house at one time, let alone sleeping there. (The girl explained that some of them sleep out on the street since there's not room for them all to lie down.) The girl's mother makes $15 a month cleaning homes. $15 a MONTH.

And I thought it was bad that the family of my little Rebecca in Uganda makes about $1 a day. That's twice the amount that this other little girl's family makes.

Just last week, I complained that my two "kid bedrooms" are so small. They may be small by my standards, but to these girls, just one of these bedrooms that looks SO tiny to me is bigger than their entire home.

And while I sit in my enormous-to-them home and complain about my "tiny" rooms while sleeping in a bed that is bigger than some people's entire house, do you know what my little 6-year-old Rebecca is doing? Based on what she wrote me in her last letter, she sits in her Ugandan hut and prays for God to triple my income so that I can come to see her.

A child whose family makes $1 a day is praying for God to triple MY income.

There are no words to describe the thoughts and feelings this knowledge brings.

I read the following quotation on a couple of different blogs this weekend:

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”

“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”

“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

I'm doing something about it for Staurin, Angie, Milton, Marsabi, and Rebecca, my five wonderful Compassion children. But it still just doesn't seem enough. I can't sponsor any more right now myself, but maybe I can find others who can.

So... want to sponsor a child?