As a little girl for as far back as I can remember, I loved looking at our family photos. Some of them were in small paper albums, some were protected in envelopes, and all were stored in a large box. I could spend hours looking at years past seeing relatives I knew as well as many I had never met. We lived in southern California, but half of our family on both sides was in Missouri. One of my very favorite pictures was a black and white glossy wedding photo in a large manila envelope. Oh that dress … it stirred the princess inside of me. I imagined someday I would wear a dress like that. It was the most beautiful dress I had ever seen, and the bride wore it well. She was tiny and beautiful too. Mama told me the groom was my cousin – Daddy’s nephew – and that someday I would get to meet them – Dale and Linda.
The first time that I remember meeting them was the summer of 1962 when we visited family in Missouri. By that time, they had two little boys. My grandpa (Daddy’s dad) raised Shetland ponies and loved to let his grandchildren and great grandchildren ride these little guys. We loved it – well most of us did. 🙂 I love this picture of my Aunt Fran trying to convince her grandsons this was a fun thing to do.
We moved from California to the Midwest in 1965 and visited family more often even though we weren’t all living in the same town. Although we eventually moved closer to my mother’s family, we managed to see my dad’s family a couple of times a year; and Thanksgiving lunch was a tradition with Daddy’s family. Even after rural life with the ponies ended as Grandpa and Grandma aged and moved into the nearby town, we still made the two-hour trip every Thanksgiving morning to Grandma and Grandpa’s.
My grandpa died in 1974, but Grandma still insisted on hosting Thanksgiving even though she was nearly blind. I remember that Linda was such a practical person and was concerned that this was too much work for our aging grandma. Everyone was getting older, growing up, and moving on with their individual lives. When Aunt Maxine traveled from California for a visit in 1981, Grandma wanted us all to gather again. I was busy in Kansas City with work and my life and decided it simply was not going to work for me to make the three-hour drive that day. So early that morning, I called to tell her. I can hear her voice as clearly today as I did then in her Midwestern drawl: “Debbie, are you comin’?”
“No, I’m sorry. I just can’t make it. Please tell everyone hello for me.”
I wish I had made the time.
The following year, on a cold day in January of 1982, Grandma died. We all gathered again – one final time in Grandma’s home. There have been a few reunions over the past thirty years – not enough, but we’re still family.
Earlier this month, we received news that Linda had passed away. Sister and I traveled south a couple of hours for the funeral and wondered what other family members might be there. It just so happened that the day of her funeral would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday, but he had been gone over 25 years. I remembered that Linda and Dale were at the hospital when Daddy died. Sister and I talked as we traveled about how life might have been different had he not died at the age of 67. What if he had lived another 20 years? All of our lives would be, at the least, a little different. It seems like just yesterday we were living in California.
But here we were in 2017 on another cold January day saying goodbye to another family member, and we understand how fleeting life is – a breath one day and a breath the next – then it’s gone. Tick tick tick.
It was good to see family members we had not seen for a while – an uncle, an aunt, and five cousins among many others.
Those closest to Linda lost a wife, mother, and grandmother. I am so sorry for this loss – an earthly loss that is sometimes hard for us to comprehend as a heavenly gain.
And so we are told to “occupy.” But as I “occupy,” I also choose to remember. Tick tick tick.
Someday all of us will understand this completely – Rest in peace.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12, NIV)
For the past few months, I have focused on book signings and presentations for Helen’s Heritage. I want to thank everyone who has purchased a copy of this very special book. We plan on resuming the book signings after the holidays; but in the meantime, I want to remind everyone what a wonderful gift Helen’s Heritage would be to many people in your life. I happen to think that it is a perfect gift for your senior loved ones. They will relate to the times and the seasons (1934-2016), and the font is easy to read.
But hold on if you think it’s just for the senior community. A reader gave this wonderful review:
My 11 year old son and I read the book together. We laughed, cried and felt the special love that families bring! Helen’s Heritage is a high interest American history lesson that will benefit younger generations by sharing themes of growing up, hard work, faith, and forgiveness! Loved it!
Please consider this as you are drafting your gift list this Christmas. As an added bonus to the first 50 purchasers between now and Christmas (November 29-December 25, 2016), I have set aside a paperback copy of Reflections for you. Reflections is a perfect companion to Helen’s Heritage. You will find many of the people in Helen’s Heritage woven throughout the pages of Reflections.
So how do we accomplish this? You can purchase Helen’s Heritage through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the publisher (click here). Also, you can buy directly from me; and I can ship both to you at one time ($3 shipping fee will be added to the cost of Helen’s Heritage). Leave a comment on this post if you would like to purchase from me, and I will be in touch via e-mail. (No need to enter your e-mail address within your comment; I will see that privately). If you choose to purchase from one of the other sources, leave a comment as well. I will contact you about sending me a purchase confirmation dated between November 29-December 25, 2016, and will then mail you a copy of Reflections.
THANK YOU AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!
It was your birthday week, and I can’t believe you were not here. I remembered your birthday week last year. After living your dream of moving to Ketchikan, Alaska, and living there almost three years, you felt you needed to move back to Kansas City. I helped you drive to your new home in 2012 (what a dream trip that was), and now it was time to help bring you home. I had two connecting flights and would travel all day, but it was a spectacular clear day in August; and I captured this shot of Mt. Rainier approaching Seattle.
I thought back on our trip to Seattle the year after you moved to Ketchikan. We gathered together in Seattle in 2013. We had a wonderful extended weekend visit. The three of us had been friends for about thirty-five years.
You once told me it was after that trip that you felt a little homesick. And then your health declined, so you decided to move back to Kansas City to be closer to family and doctors. But your emotions were split. You loved Ketchikan too. You made sure that I saw the amazing beauty of Ketchikan when I arrived the second time.
In a couple of days, it was time to begin the long journey home – two days on the ferry and then a three-day road trip traveling in the same little red car we drove on our first adventure.
We had a pleasant and uneventful drive from Washington to Kansas City – unlike the deer-hitting adventure of three years earlier. We did have one hazard on our last day on the road, but you dodged it beautifully. I’m still trying to figure out how a pig was sitting smack-dab in the middle of the interstate in South Dakota. We laughed till we cried and couldn’t believe our eyes. Imagine that – a pack of deer in 2012 and a pig in 2015, both in South Dakota.
You settled into your condo in Kansas City on your birthday. It was good to have you home – spur-of-the-moment visits, Royals baseball games, shopping, and helping me prepare for the wedding the next summer.
Finally, it was wedding day. Then the following day, you were gone. We were called to the hospital, but you really weren’t there. A machine kept you breathing for another day, but you had already found peace.
Now, your birthday has passed again. As the weeks turn into months, I miss you more. I thought we would have more time for those Sunday afternoon visits. I went on one this past Sunday without you. I would like to hear your comments and review of “Helen’s Heritage,” but your voice is absent. I still look for you on the couch when I reach the bottom of the stairs, but you are never there.
I am beginning to understand that on this side of heaven, the chair will forever be empty. So I have this one request, please save one for me there.
This has been an exciting month for me. Helen’s Heritage went live (you can purchase by clicking on the book on the sidebar of this website), and I have also enjoyed reading a published version of my blog A House, A Home in “Country” magazine on my iPad.
I am still waiting for my hard copy of “Country” to arrive. You can subscribe to the print edition by clicking here or calling the number at the bottom of the linked page to order a single copy of the August/September 2016 issue. You can also download a digital version of the issue by clicking here. The story is on page 54 in the “Family & Community” section. Their title is Heart of a Home. They also refer to “The Gathering Place” and say: “Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Hike put life and love into everything they did.” You’ll have to read the rest for yourself. 🙂
Our first bulk shipment of Helen’s Heritage will arrive next week, and we have a kickoff book signing scheduled at the Polk County Senior Center, 1850 W. Broadway, Bolivar MO, on August 14, 2016, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. Both Helen and I will be there. Stay tuned for another signing in Kansas City, and we would welcome the opportunity to present Helen’s Heritage to your specific group. Please leave a comment on this blog to inquire, and we will be in touch.
Thank you all – readers, subscribers, and followers on Facebook and Twitter (@debra_irene). I hope to meet you at an upcoming book signing!
What was it like to be born in the depression era and to grow up the youngest of sixteen children in a poor family in rural Missouri? What was it like to be separated from your mother as a young toddler, to be without her daily nurturing and yet have deep spiritual roots and an overall strong family base? How do you carve out your own journey? And then, when your journey is over, what heritage have you left for your descendants? Will they know about the struggles and the victories on earth? Will they know about the promise of an eternal home? Will they know the family stories, those jewels locked up in time?
Helen decided not to keep those jewels to herself. Instead, she unlocked the treasure box, opened it wide, and documented it all for the generations to come. Come and read her stories. Learn of her heritage, the one on earth and the one for eternity.
We are available to present the book to your group. Please contact us to schedule a date. The paperback and hardcover versions are live. It will also be available as an e-Book. If you can’t wait for a book signing and want a sneak peek, here you go. It’s a great day!
It was a busy spring for me. After five years of working on mother’s story, I finally had pushed it off to the publisher and celebrated with a trip to spring training and the Great Southwest. When I returned, there was something else to focus on: my son’s June wedding. So I enlisted the help of one of my best friends to help me shop – dress, jewelry, and shoes for the mother of the groom. (I hate to shop.) Success!
Cathy and I have been friends for over three decades. You might recall a blog I wrote three years ago when I helped her move from Kansas City to Ketchikan, Alaska. What an adventure we had (click here to read).
Last August, I helped her move back to Kansas City. She had mixed feelings about returning. She longed to be two places at one time.
It was nice to have her home. We went to ballgames, visited friends, and she helped me get ready for the big June wedding. As always, she encouraged me with my writing and celebrated with me when I learned that, while waiting for some final edits to be made to my soon-to-be-published book, a short story I had submitted to a magazine four years earlier would be published.
And then the day was finally here – June 25. It was an unseasonably warm day, but the wedding was beautiful. There was much to be thankful for and to celebrate.
After a joyous reception, I dropped off Cathy at her home. Before I could say the usual: “Call me when you’re safe inside,” she adamantly asserted that she was not going to call me. We both laughed.
Less than twelve hours later, Cathy had departed this life without notice, without warning. Gone.
I went back and read Ecclesiastes 3 again. I had experienced verse 4 all within a twelve-hour period, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. I didn’t have time to bask in the afterglow of the wedding.
Then a few days later, my world of emotions seemed small in comparison to a national tragedy, injustices all around. I want to scream, can we all just use common sense? Let truth reign! Can we pray for the wisdom of Solomon?
They say it’s all part of life, and we find a way to go on. In the midst of tragedy for a multitude, my personal hurt is still very real, my personal joy is still very real. Individually I want to do better and be better, and collectively maybe we can make a difference in our country. At the end of the day, I think I will ask if I have loved today.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
And so, here I am two weeks later. I miss my friend. I’m not sure the hole will ever completely close, but I did watch the mother/son dance video and smiled. I wait to turn the pages of Helen’s Heritage and see a version of A House, A Home in a national magazine – both in just a couple of weeks. And this morning, I will return to the office and hope that the office is still there. Why?
Because life, for some of us, continues on.
As I was closing in on the last few segments of Mother’s Story at the beginning of the year, my thoughts drifted to the final product – the book itself – what it would look like, how thick it might be, what colors would be on the cover. And I so much wanted my mother to hold her book on Mother’s Day. I didn’t think it to be an unattainable goal. But as it turns out, Mother’s Day is just a few days away and the book is still in production with the publisher. We are several weeks away from Mother holding her book, but it will be worth the wait.
So instead of being able to offer the book for purchase on Mother’s Day, I thought we would do the next-best thing – a random drawing for a giveaway. One lucky person will receive a free copy of Helen’s Heritage hot off the press as soon as it’s done. In fact, let’s make it a 2fer! I’ll throw in a copy of my first book, Reflections, too.
Not only is Helen’s Heritage my mother’s life story; but it is a family documentation, a forty-thousand-word family history book filled with short stories and mini stories along with seventy-five images from about 1880 through today. Her story is a collection of many stories of hardship, strong family ties, faith in the midst of failure, and yet a truly blessed life. During these past few years as we talked and I retold her stories on paper, I laughed, cried, and at times gasped.
Here’s what you need to do to be entered in the random drawing to receive a free copy of Helen’s Heritage and the bonus copy of Reflections:
- Simply subscribe to receive updates on my website (Enter your email address on the right sidebar of this page to subscribe. Don’t forget to confirm your subscription by responding to the email you will receive. Only confirmed new subscribers are recognized.)
What if you are already a subscriber?
- Like Debra Irene’s Facebook page. (Click here and “Like” the page, not a post on the page, although those are appreciated too! Only new likes are recognized.)
What if you are already a subscriber and have already liked my Facebook page or do not have a Facebook account?
- Leave a comment on this blog.
Do one of the three things above by 5:00 p.m. Central Time on Monday, May 9, 2016; and you will be entered into the random drawing. Winner will be contacted by email or Facebook message on Wednesday, May 11.
Thanks for your interest, and I promise to keep you posted on Helen’s Heritage. Here’s a teaser:
A blog? You must be surprised.
Well, it really isn’t a blog; but we’re going to call it one since I’ve only written two in the past year. That’s because I have practiced “planned neglect,” a term I learned from another writer and professional speaker who coaches that sometimes in order to bring a work to completion, other things must be neglected.
As you may or may not recall, I have been focused and determined to finish Mother’s story, and so I temporarily abandoned my blog and many other things in order to complete the project.
So the latest news is: we are ever-so-close!! SURPRISE!! The manuscript now resides with the publisher, and can you tell that I am just a little bit excited?
I’ve been told by other writers that when you complete a book, you should take some time to reflect and relax. “Downtime” is a good word. So what does one do when you have devoted five years to a manuscript loaded full of pictures, stories, quotes, and family history and finally pushed it off to the publisher AND considering that your hometown team won the World Series last fall? SURPRISE!! That’s right, you go to spring training!
See you later with details on when the book is available to purchase – Helen’s Heritage – a grateful day it is!
How did I go from being the youngest girl in the office to the oldest – overnight?
In 1979, in my early twenties, I moved to the big city and launched into corporate America. I had worked since I was twelve when I started babysitting, washed dishes in a bowling alley restaurant, and then worked in a chain department store all through high school. I then had a military tenure and furthered my education, but this was now the real deal in the big town. The Royals were hot and so was I. I was confident in my abilities but not aggressive or overbearing, and certainly I avoided conflict. Above all else, I wanted to be cooperative and easy to work with. I wanted to please everyone and hear those words “Well done!”
After a brief orientation in the HR Department on my first day, the recruiter escorted me to the fifth floor and down the Treasury Department hall to the Tax Division’s office on the left side of the corridor. It was a small seven-member division – sort of like a small office with its own system/rules within a large company. There was one other lady, much older nearing retirement, in the group who was to be my trainer and mentor. The first thing I noticed on my desk was a large green glass dish with four grooves for cigarettes – an ashtray that I suggested could be removed. But I wasn’t special. There was an ashtray on everyone’s desk, and I soon learned that I was the only nonsmoker in the group. Marie said that although I didn’t smoke, the ashtray was needed for others as they interacted with me. Boy did I find this to be true as the ashes grew at the end of her cigarette and eventually fell like a slinky toppling end-over-end onto my desktop. No worries, however, she quickly blew them away into the open air; and they scattered onto the floor.
Marie wanted to mold me. She wanted me to dress like her, work like her, eat with her, act like her. But I certainly had no intention of becoming like her. Although professional and well dressed, for goodness sake, she couldn’t even apply her make-up properly. Eyeliner smudged and dots of mascara speckled beneath her lower lashes on many days. Her hair dresser teased up her thin, fine hair colored the perfect shade of red to where you could see straight through it. Not to mention that I would NEVER EVER force my way of doing things on someone else. No, I would NEVER become Marie. After a couple of years, I moved on to another position in the company – a very good place to be, good for my career, and out of the reach of bossy Marie. Over the next few years, I saw her in the hallways, on the elevator, and in the cafeteria. I was respectful and gave her a retirement gift on her last day. I could not hold a grudge and always wished her well, but I would NEVER be like her. I never regretted my decision to move on. I had the world at my fingertips, or so I thought.
After a decade with that fabulous company, they announced plans to consolidate offices in another city. It was a sad time for the employees and the city to lose such a good company. I elected not to relocate. Instead, I embarked on those childbearing years of bottles, diapers, Disney movies, and minivans.
It was scary re-entering the workforce in my mid-thirties. During the days of my job search after I had the boys tucked in bed, I stepped into the shower and let the water wash down over my head along with the tears – the fear of change overwhelmed me. So much had changed in the workforce, and I was comfortable with my place as a mom. I thanked God for that time at home with my sons as the tears washed down the drain. I mustered up the courage, sharpened my skills, and felt really fortunate that someone took a chance on me after being a stay-at-home mom for five years. It didn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, and I moved on up in that corporation for yet another decade … until the company spiraled into bankruptcy.
Change?? Not again! At least this time I still had skills, had built on my experience, and the boys were older. They were busy with school and sports. I’m not sure they cared if I was home or not. I thought maybe someone would still hire an old lady in her forties.
Well, someone did. I had never worked for a start-up, entrepreneurial company. My two previous employers were established, large corporations when I started. This was something new and different. I was shocked to see the phone list – a modest two-page listing by first name. But I endured that worthless feeling the first six months and settled into my third corporate career in as many decades. I feel like I helped build the company. I watched the company go public in three different entities, watched it expand and make a ton of money while winning many awards in the city and industry. I ran the office, oversaw several building projects as we expanded, and hired a full administrative staff. My plate was overfull. No longer the youngest one in the office, I wanted things done my way for good reason. Having had to operate with limited staffing, I could not afford many hiccups – had no time for that. I knew what worked, and I knew what didn’t. I still wore and liked pantyhose with my business suits, although I did wonder if some of the girls thought it was a bit frumpy. I hoped most of them liked me and respected me even though I wanted things done a certain way. By this time, my nearsightedness had turned into farsightedness. I didn’t want to admit that I needed bifocals, but I did. (Thank God for blended lenses.) I resorted to a 5x makeup mirror to apply my eyeliner to those lids that were folding down closer to my eyes. I cut my long locks to give myself a free face lift; used various products to give my fine, short strands some texture and raise up off my scalp; and hoped the scalp wasn’t visible. One morning after much work on that short stuff, I reached for the hairspray to hold it all in place and, after spraying generously, realized I had the styling mousse instead. OMG!! Then reality kicked in. The thing I feared the most had come upon me. I had turned into Marie!!
Two years ago, I learned what entrepreneurs do – they build businesses, and they sell them. The company I helped build merged with another. And after yet another decade with another company, another change was about to take place. But this time it was different. I felt what many do as they approach the twilight of their career. I was a bit tired. I didn’t want to be grouchy and wondered exactly how many years I had left. I watched a coworker at 64, desperately trying to make it to 65 in order to retire, succumb to the strangest thing to attack a body I had ever heard of. She didn’t make it. I thought of my dad who died when he was just 67. I wanted time to write more, to bring those other book projects in my head from a dream or an idea into reality. I didn’t want to crack the whip any longer and climb the ladder, but I was – what??? – 50 something???? How can this be? It’s too much and yet not enough.
So it was and so it is. Finally, after thirty years, the Royals are hot again. But what about me? I moved to something interim and realize that many covet my seat. So I am thankful. I hope that someone sees the wisdom beneath the folds in my eyelids. I still want to please. I remember Marie and realize that she genuinely wanted to help me. And I hope that those writing dreams survive until the stories are told. It is here that I abide a little bit longer … as life continues on …
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 (NIV)
My published version of “Hanging Over the Fence” is now listed on Country magazine’s list of short stories and available to read on line if you did not receive a paper or digital version of the August/September 2015 issue. Please click here to read their version, “Stop and Pet the Pony.”