Tag Archives: motherhood

Reader’s Choice ’12: Moon Walk

Anne Burkholder and her husband Matt are the only two Dartmouth graduates who live in rural Nebraska. 

Anne Burkholder

Anne Burkholder

Anne and Matt have worked his family’s diversified farm for 15 years. He farms 5,000 acres of alfalfa and she is “boss lady” of a 3,000-head feedyard.

This past June, the Burkholder’s farm was featured in BusinessWeek, and earlier this month, Anne appeared on RFD-TV. Her blog Feedyard Foodie is a steady, intelligent voice in today’s turbulent conversations about animal welfare and ranching.

Anne carefully selected her Reader’s Choice post. “I love it because being alone with God and nature is my favorite thing to do,” she said. “It soothes the soul—centers your perspective—and lends itself to feelings of hope and promise.”

Oh, how I long for that this Christmas. Anne’s Reader’s Choice is: 

Moon Walk

in the field

click to read Moon Walk

readers choice


Filed under faith, family & friends, food & farm, life

Pumpkin Patch Peril

Last week my son had a day off school, so we trekked 25 miles to meet some of his school mates at Walter’s Pumpkin Patch.

pumpkin arrangement

pumpkin arrangement

This is the first fall in my son’s life we won’t be pumpkin and apple picking at America’s largest, family-owned, pick-your-own orchard, Eckert’s in Belleville, Illinois. We’re mourning the loss of Pumpkin Jamboree weekends and phenomenal fried chicken. But this year Eckert’s is 458.78 miles away.

Yes, I MapQuested it.

corn maze exit

maze exit

Walter’s isn’t the same as Eckert’s, but it’s still a blast. We were there on a weekday, so we had the place to ourselves including paddle boats, underground slides, an in-ground trampoline, corn maze, people-sized hamster wheel, giant seesaw, tree houses, and of course pumpkin picking.

Now my son has never struggled with separation anxiety. From the moment I dropped him off at nursery school, he’s not been one to look back. There are places to go, things to do, people to see. Mom? Mom who?

Walter’s was no different. He jumped head first into the activities, oblivious to my whereabouts. After lunch, he took off with his friends on their next adventure, leaving me in the dust.

I walked over to the country store to to chat up the owner. Turns out she knows the Eckert’s people. We discussed the finer points of Walter’s transformation into a destination farm.

As I strolled out of the store, I saw a small, lonely figure standing a block away from me on the driveway. Was that my child? Was he crying?

“What’s the matter?” I said as I got to him and held him. “Are you okay?”

“I couldn’t find you,” he said. “I thought you left me at the pumpkin patch!”

“Oh, no,” I said, “Mommy will never leave you.”

It was a promise I couldn’t keep, and I knew it the second the words came out.

“Mommy will never leave you at the pumpkin patch,” I said as if that clarification somehow helped.

Life is full of changes and loss. There will come a day when I will leave him—not by choice, never by choice. Death comes at the most inconvenient times.

Or he may leave me first. I pray not by death, but by growing up. His father and I are raising him with the goal that one day he’ll be independent of us. However, I can’t promise I won’t follow him if he moves away. Don’t you want me to be your daughter’s mother-in-law now?

We dried the tears and talked about how we both needed to tell each other where we were going to be, especially in strange, new places.

The school counselor’s words often haunt me, sloshing big buckets of guilt: “Moving is one of the top five most traumatic experiences for a child.”

Oh, Lord, what have we done.

“I miss Eckert’s,” said my son. So do I, baby. So do I.

pumpkin arrangement

pumpkins on porch

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

Brand new from an album due to release in January 2013, please listen to Need You Now by Plumb.

How do you deal with loss? How do you help your children deal with it?



Filed under faith, family & friends

The Fear of Summer: Romancing the Routine

mom, I spy your routine!

Summer evokes a mild case of panic in me.

Oh, sure, there’s the good stuff. Long, sunny days. Outdoor swimming pools. Vacation plans. Quality time with the kiddo. But if I learned anything in all my years of schooling, it’s that summer is synonymous with the loss of routine.

I was one of those strange children who didn’t like weekends. More at home with the rhythm and clear expectations of the classroom, I skidded toward summer break on a downward spiral. And I know I’m not alone.

We Type As like our routines. Changes in THE PLAN are exciting, but they can be frightening at the same time.

Maybe you’re not Type A. But maybe you’re a parent. Maybe—I’m guessing here, you and your children thrive on some semblance of structure.

Come on, moms and dads. Back me up on this. Doesn’t the thought of filling all those unstructured hours of your child’s summer vacation strike a wee bit o’ fear in even the bravest of super parent hearts?

Ridiculous, I know. Yet the fear of summer lingers. It nabbed me yesterday morning in yoga class. I like my yoga instructors Grace and Boomer. I’m comfortable in this routine, this respite from the stress of relocation, motherhood, and what to cook for dinner. I don’t want to give it up.

But how will I continue to do yoga when my son’s out of school for the summer? What will I do with him during class? Turn him loose to run wild through the YMCA? Sit him in front of the Wii for an hour? What if he wanders out to the pool alone? What if (insert catastrophe)?

runs with shovel

And how will I blog this summer? When will there be time? Who will read it? What about the other projects I want to pursue? What if I miss all the opportunities? What if I wake up in September and they’re ALL GONE? What if the world ends tomorrow? What if (insert catastrophe)?

The only way to roll with the changes is one step at a time. One season at a time. That’s why they usually don’t happen all at once. Thank You, Lord.

I’ll take a cue from yoga. Follow my breath. Put my shoulders back and down. Let myself feel grounded. Take a moment to be thankful for another day.

Then I’ll put on my sunscreen and forward march into summer.

The day is Yours, and Yours also the night;
You established the sun and moon.
It was You who set all the boundaries of the earth;
You made both summer and winter. Psalm 74:16-17 NIV

Dear Routine,
Though we’ve got to say good-bye for the summer, darling, I promise you this: I’ll send you all my love every day in a letter Sealed with a Kiss.

How do you roll with the changes in your routine?


Filed under family & friends, humor, life

Una Benedizione

“We Italians have a saying,” said my cousin last month at Aunt Leah’s funeral. “An Italian mother is una benedizione.”

mother’s day may 13

Una benedizione. A blessing. A benediction.

What does that mean? The dictionary gives me several ideas.

A benediction is an utterance of good wishes.

Her words, her wishes for her children, are good. Even those awash in worry or irritation, even those carry compassion. She means well.

“Have a good day at school.”

“You can do it.”

“Get down from there!”

“Wear your coat to stay warm.”

“Wear your sunscreen so you don’t burn.”

“Wear your seatbelt in case there’s an accident.”

“Mamma loves you. Always.”

A benediction is an invocation of divine blessing. 

Silent prayers house the longings of her heart. They stretch over her child as he sleeps. They strain upward and plead with God.

“Lord, bless this child.”

“Lord, save this child.”

“Lord, protect him.”

“Lord, use his abilities as You see fit. As You made him.”

“Lord, help me be a good mom to him.”

A benediction is a service to bless the congregation; a ceremony to set things aside for sacred use, as a church, vestments, or bells.

She prepares imperfect sanctuaries for a noisy congregation and presides over a ceremony of the unseen. The sacred service of things taken for granted.


She wraps children in blankets, birthday presents in paper, boo-boos in bandaids. She feathers the nest with goodnight kisses and turns the pages of bedtime stories. She walks the night feeding a baby, comforting a sick child, or waiting for a teenager to make curfew.

She washes and folds mounds of laundry and lays out vestments for her charges. She cleans up rooms, dishes, and misunderstandings. She completes a task only to see five more erupt into chaos.

She answers endless questions. She faces the fire of a two-year-old and the swagger of a sixteen-year-old. She weeps with those shunned, disappointed, and bereft.

Her orchestra is populated by pots and pans. She directs the sweet, ringing bells of small feet and voices. She conducts personalities like instruments du jour: recorders, pianos, saxophones, violins, trumpets, booming drums. She oversees a heady score—the allegro and adagio of raising another human being.

A benediction is the state of being blessed. A mercy or benefit.

She bestows a state of blessing on her children that remains after she is gone. Though the official benediction may come at the end, it’s been conferred throughout the service.

Mi manchi, Mamma. Sie stata una benedizione per me.

I miss you, Mom. You were a blessing to me.

The Aaronic Benediction

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26 NIV

Dreaming with a Broken Heart by John Mayer who sings and pulls heartstrings.

How has your mom been una benedizione to you?


Filed under family & friends

Tornado Alley

You know it’s bad when your yoga teacher hands out weather maps in class.

red fence

“The storms are coming,” said Grace last Saturday morning. “They won’t be here until tonight, but they’re coming. Don’t know what you want to do about that.”

Saturday afternoon, I was inexplicably driven to clean. This was a momentous occasion. Our first chance to come face to face with the legendary storms of Tornado Alley. Needed to get our house in order, if only to have it flattened.

“Tonight we’ll have a slumber party,” we told our son. “We’ll be in the basement together and that’s the safest place to be.” Not counting other states or planets.

Preparation felt cursory. Unnecessary. We moved about in denial. By six o’clock, the twisters had yet to materialize. We shook our fists at the sky. Dined at a teriyaki restaurant called Tsunami. Let our son watch The Wizard of Oz at his Kids’ Night Out party. Drove home uneventfully.


Meanwhile, the sky went black and began to rain. Normal at first. Then in torrents. Hail. Wailing tornado sirens.

Our descent downstairs was a rush of grabbing the child, the dog, bottled water, pillows, a candle, lip balm. We barricaded our troop in a basement bedroom. From there we monitored the storms’ progress online. Posted updates on Facebook. Prayed.

We couldn’t see or hear the twisters from inside our bunker. Online reports were our only source of information. We quickly learned tornadoes are fickle.

The storms have turned south and will miss us. No, they’re headed north into downtown. Now they’re coming straight up the highway. Right for us!

Our camp scrambled into the bedroom closet. We huddled on the floor with our smart phones and prayers. You realize by telling you this I make you accountable. If God forbid we should ever go missing in a tornado, you are to direct rescuers to look for us in that closet.


And then, without warning, it was over.

The next day, the sky was bright, sunny, and blue. We’d awakened to a life that looked the same as it had many mornings before, except for a few broken blades on our outdoor porch fan.

But the dog refused to leave the house. My body was jittery, sore, and fatigued. Miraculously, no deaths were reported in Wichita, though the city suffered more than $280 million in damage.

We wandered through Sunday trying to absorb our surroundings. Watched a storm chaser’s video of the tornadoes. Saw their smoky devil tendrils trickling downward from a smooth expanse of charcoal clouds. Mustering spins. Willing themselves into funnels.

upside down

When Midwesterners learn I grew up in North Carolina, I cannot tell you how many have said to me, “Oh, I wouldn’t want to live there. You have hurricanes!”

Hurricanes are visible on weather maps three days out. Those that make landfall wreak havoc, but most hurricanes sputter and die at sea. They are devastatingly dangerous, yet hurricanes lack the element of surprise.

We’d survived this first round. A fine welcome to Tornado Alley.

Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him. Psalm 103:15-17 NLT

Dust in the Wind, like you’ve never seen or heard it before, by Judith Mateo.

I shot the photos in this post three miles from my home.

What’s your storm story? How did you survive?


Filed under life

The Songs of Our Discontent

on air at The Ryman, Nashville, TN

So I’m minding my own business, browsing in my favorite home furnishings store, when it comes on the sound system. The saddest song ever recorded.

I’m not going to link to it because it’s so sad. I might not even tell you what it is.

Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin. Circa 1974.


My sugar plum thoughts of needlepoint pillows and coffee table tchotchkes came to a sudden halt. My mind flooded with the festering waves of parental guilt.

What if my child grows up and never comes to see me because he has to go shopping instead?

“Yes, I’m gonna be like you, Mom. You know I’m gonna be like you.”

I sprinted past the dinette sets. Wriggled around étagères. Leaped over ottomans. Until I landed in living rooms where my son sat on a fine leather sofa with my husband, vanquishing a game of Penguin Wings.

Yes, Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon were in the store with me. And no, we still don’t have a cat.

“Mommy loves you!” I said with watery eyes.

“I have 145 penguin coins,” said my son and shooed me away from the iPhone.

“Why are they playing this song?” I said to my husband.

“What song?” he said.

And then there’s Same Old Lang Syne by Dan Fogelberg. Oh, Dan, Dan, Dan.

It runs a close second for the saddest song ever recorded. Heard that one while ice skating recently. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Imagine kneeling and weeping on the cold, cold ice.

pac man fever

Did you know it was based on a true story? Fogelberg crooned the tearjerkers Leader of the Band and Run for the Roses with it on the same 1981 album entitled The Innocent Age. Good grief.

Fogelberg dominates the sad songs category for the 80s. Maybe for all time.

Sister Christian by Night Ranger in 1984 was sort of sad, and yet oddly comforting at the same time.

“You’ll be all right tonight.”

In 1989, Don Henley managed to sneak New York Minute in under the wire and into the decade on his album End of the Innocence. Nice bookend, Don.

November Rain by Guns N’ Roses didn’t come out until 1992. Axl Rose had been working on it since 1983. That explains a lot.

I won’t try to escape if those songs come on like I do with Chapin and Fogelberg. But I will cover my ears if the anguish fest of 100 Years by John Ondrasik (aka Five for Fighting) does. It’s from a 2003 album called The Battle for Everything.

Could someone please just wake me up before you go-go?

Sorrow is better than laughter,
for sadness has a refining influence on us. Ecclesiastes 7:2 NLT

because clearly I do not spend enough time with my child

Wham! was destined to make an appearance here sooner or later. Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Jitterbug. Gotta get in line for one of those t-shirts.

Have a great weekend, y’all!
Be a peach and leave a comment about a sad or not-so-sad song on your way out the door, will ya?

Thank you, William Shakespeare and John Steinbeck, for inspiring the title.


Filed under humor

Skater Boy

Skater boy learns by watching the big kids.


Practicing on his scooter for now. Uphill.

scooter away

Sliding while the big kids speed around like heavy freight trains.

boy follows

Skater boy meanders close to their paths. “Stay back,” I say, “out of their way.”

stage mom

He zooms down lesser hills. Turns and jumps. “Mom, this is my best move!”

best move

Skater boy. You’ve stolen my heart.


“It’s really complicated,” he says. As complicated as 1986, I think.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:1-2 The Message

Walk of Life by Dire Straits seems oddly appropriate here.

When skater boy saw this YouTube video with Mark Knopfler’s picture at the end, skater boy said, “That’s what he looks like? He’s a karate guy?”

Must be the headband.

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Filed under family & friends