It was an ordinary summer day as my mom hung the wash out to dry.  The wind whipped the sheets on the clothesline as I rode my tricycle back and forth beneath them.  Mom hummed while she worked, and I filed away a memory.

On another ordinary summer day we were stopped in traffic in Chicago.  It was the early 1970s; Bozo the Clown was a celebrity with preschoolers in the city. My young nephew had the entire car in stitches as he insisted it was Bozo in the car ahead of us silhouetted against the bright sun instead of a man with bushy hair and a ball cap.  In a matter of months we would all learn that this funny little guy had cancer and was in for an uphill battle.  Then we longed for ordinary days.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary the afternoon I walked into a friend’s apartment.  There on the couch sat a young man with brown eyes and a warm smile.  That smile still warms my heart three decades later.

It was completely routine to have my children playing on the kitchen floor as I made dinner.  There was music and laughter.  There were bills to pay and dishes to wash; baths to take and bedtime stories to tell.  All of it so ordinary.

The thing about ordinary is that it sometimes takes a while to realize how completely extraordinary it truly is.


Posted in Bigger Picture Moment, Folk Journaling, Good old days, Mama Kat | Tagged | Leave a comment

Not By Bread Alone: 52 Loaves

A few weeks ago my friend Michael slipped me his copy of 52 Loaves, a record of William Alexander’s quest to perfect a simple loaf of bread by baking it every week for one year.  Alexander’s project took on a life of its own, leading him to spend time at a mill, a state fair and a French monastery before the year was complete.

Michael had read the book sometime ago and has been harboring a secret desire to build a brick oven in his backyard ever since.  Understanding that I would get as caught up in this man’s journey as he did, Michael set me to reading.  Sure enough my own version of bread baking fever struck hard.

There will be no brick oven for me.  Instead the book has inspired a project celebrating my mother’s love of bread.  No meal was complete for Mom without a serving of bread, and if she was eating at your house and you neglected to serve bread, she would remind you of this fact.

not by bread alone

Between August 16, 2014 and 2015 I will attempt a bread project each week in honor of my mom.  For the first week my project is creating a levain (or bread dough starter) using apples grown in my own backyard and instructions from William Alexander’s book.  Have you ever noticed the haze on a fresh, unwaxed apple?  Turns out the haze is actually wild yeast that has collected on the fruit.  Soaking the apples in water for a few days and then “feeding” the resulting cider items from the pantry is supposed to be enough to get a sour dough starter going.


After sitting three days, bubbles have formed in my container of apples and water.  This apparently is a good thing.


Bon appetite, you bubbly mess.  There is bread to be made.


Starter instructions can be found on William Alexander’s website which also provides links to online sources for his book 52 Loaves.  And in case you are wondering, yes, there is a bowl of yeasty glop bubbling across town at Michael’s house as well.  Our spouses are reserving judgement.

Posted in From the Library, My Parents, So THIS is the kitchen | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Birthday, Dear Susie


Today would have been my mother’s 95th birthday.  To mark this special day I have compiled a list of the ten things I am most grateful for in the way I was raised.


I am glad my parents introduced me to my faith.  They exposed me to the teaching and allowed me to make my own decisions.  An abiding faith grew out of my experience.

My parents put family first.  I was always secure in their love for each other and for every one of us kids….and God knows there were plenty of us kids to share that love.

Laughter.  Funny people who minimized their troubles by appreciating the absurdities of life, they taught me the importance of a sense of humor.

I grew up in an environment where intelligence was valued. We read…all of us…lots.  We were given a set of encyclopedias and encouraged to investigate.  School was a priority.

We knew we were not the center of the universe.  We supported one another.  I think I was the only sophomore in Arsenic and Old Lace who had an entire row of family in the audience.  Still, we were always aware our personal needs were no greater than anyone else’s.  That life was give and take.  That sometimes we are on top and sometimes we are not, and that is the natural order of things.

Wish fulfillment.  My mom was gifted at listening to our material wishes and somehow with very few resources making them reality on Christmas day.  There is joy in wanting and dreaming and longing.  There is thrill in finally receiving.

Growing up with little of monetary worth, I learned it is not what you have, but who you are that truly matters.

Books held an exalted position in our house.  They were to be treated almost reverently, because they were your ticket to time travel, world travel, and your escape from ignorance.  Both of my parents could be found with a book in hand on any given evening.

Mom and Dad had a playful relationship.  He called her Bunny and would pat her on the bottom as she went by.  They found the same things funny and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

It is not the things in life that make us truly happy.  It is the people and the love that grows from these relationships that makes a full life worth the living.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


Items #684-693 of my One Thousand Gifts

More at Ten Things of Thankful


Posted in Celebration, My Parents, One Thousand Gifts, Parenting | Tagged , | 19 Comments

Trego County Fair

I feel like the wind was taken out of my sails somewhat this week with the news of Robin Williams dying.  I remember watching Mork and Mindy wondering about this off the wall guy in striped suspenders.  I could not have imagined how often he would entertain me and later my children over a span of decades.  I admired his work, his long-term sobriety, and his nimble-witted tirades.  And though I never knew him, I will miss him just the same.


When I feel rattled by life, I gravitate to the stalwart traditions that never seem to change.  Here are photos from the Trego County Fair.

calf goat

My daughter and I wandered through the livestock pen realizing our sum total experience of fair exhibits came from reading Charlotte’s Web.


This pig couldn’t decide between sleeping and eating.  I am pretty sure he was doing both simultaneously.


The sheep was ready for her close-up.

purple ribbon

The elusive purple ribbon.

chicken angry bird

Angry Birds, anyone?

I named this guy Elvis.

chicken frankie

And this is Frankie, my great-niece’s pig.  She brought along Carla, her other pig, as well. Carla had no time for the fair paparazzi.  Trust me though, she was some pig.

My Memory Art
Posted in Aging is Not for the Faint of Heart, Black and White Wednesday, Daily living | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

TToT: A Wing and a Prayer

(Photos from a chapel in downtown Chicago.)

Chicago chapel

The week started off spectacularly well; my son is home from China.  After his first night back in his own bed, we jumped into the van and headed to the German consulate in Chicago in hopes of procuring a study visa.  So much to be thankful for….He is home.  He learned so much.  He saw amazing sights.  And did I mention he is home?!

Chicago chapel

Barely got in the door from Chicago and it was time to go to work.  Being back in the middle school reminds me how thankful I am for good teachers.

I placed an order online at Disney this week.  There was free postage, but I could not input the promotional code.  When I called customer service to have the postage adjusted, the operator had trouble getting her computer to accept the code as well. Looking for reasons my order wouldn’t qualify for the free postage, she pointed out that the offer covered domestic shipping only.  I reminded her I am in Kansas, and she reiterated the offer was not good on international postage.  Fairly confident Disney is an American corporation,   I asked where she was located and was told Tennessee.  Trying very hard not to sound as astounded as I felt, I pointed out that Tennessee and Kansas are indeed within the same country.  Greeted by absolute silence, I tried another approach and explained that Kansas is the one smack-dab in the middle.  Crickets.  She put me on hold for a bit, and when she returned, I had my free postage.

Boy, am I thankful for good teachers.
Chicago chapel

Our trip had been stressful and not altogether successful.  I truly felt thankful for this peaceful little chapel in the heart of the noisy city–for its beauty, safety, calm and serenity.

Later that day, I felt more than a little thankful for Chicago-style pizza too.

Ten Things of Thankful
#673-683 of my 1000 Gifts
Posted in Just thinking | 28 Comments