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.”
I am so excited about my latest publication. A condensed version of my blog “Hanging Over the Fence” is in the August/September 2015 issue of Country magazine (a division of Reader’s Digest). They have titled it “Stop and Pet the Pony.” It’s hot off the press. I received my copy today. I noticed they are offering free trial subscriptions to some of the digital versions: CLICK HERE FOR THE DIGITAL VERSIONS. Or you can subscribe to the printed copy HERE.
As usual, I am partial to my hard copy.
Stay tuned for Mother’s Story. I’m working away!
It’s Saturday morning, Easter weekend, no need to rush around; and I was doing one of my favorite things: piddle. For me, that means drinking coffee in bed and perusing around on my iPad or reading. I also think about my writing – all of those things on my writing shelf to complete. I had planned on writing an Easter blog but never got that far. While checking in on Facebook, something caught my attention – a fishing video. Now that was one big fish. I was reminded of a dream I had a few years ago – one that stuck. I hadn’t thought about it for a while. The video displayed a few things glaringly similar to my dream – the struggle to reel in the fish, the calm water, and the nearness of the shore on the other side.
First of all, let me explain how fishing fits in my life. Someone once asked me if I really ever unplugged from the world (phones, computers, pads, everything) what would I do? Is there anything at all that would force me to relax? I had to say: fishing. Why? Because I don’t take any of my electronics near the water, I don’t wear makeup, and I don’t care what time it is. I just sit and wait for the fish. Heck, sometimes I don’t even get dressed, especially at the crack of dawn. 🙂
I’m not the best fisherman in the world and I don’t do well with minnows (or minners if you’re a cowbilly from my roots). My bait of choice is a worm. I don’t go fishing frequently, too many demands on my time. In fact, I haven’t been for a couple of years now – maybe it’s time to schedule one of those trips. But for right now, since I’ve given you a little background, I would like to tell you about my dream – one I had while on vacation in a cabin in the San Juan Mountains.
I am at a small lake or pond. I can see the entire body of water surrounded by houses. The water is still. I am on one side preparing to fish. Two females are with me in my left peripheral – one about my age, one much younger. They are not fishing. They are watching me fish.
I cast my line into the water. To my surprise, the line flies almost to the bank on the other side. Immediately, there is a hard tug on my line. I grab the pole more securely. The tug on the line is so strong, I push my heels into the ground to avoid being pulled into the water. I am stable for a few seconds but then realize the magnitude of the fish on my line. I manage to reel it in to the middle of the lake when it flings out of the water then back in, as if to warn me what I am dealing with. It’s bigger than I, so I stop reeling and let out more line in hopes it will swim the other direction. But instead of retracting, it comes at me full force without being reeled in. I am frightened.
The two females are no longer in my peripheral. The huge fish jumps up on the ramp/dock and lands right next to me but does not hurt me. I look around for the two females. They are gone and so is the fish. I search for them.
On the other side of the lake, a man is being carried away on a stretcher near the bank. He is not in pain, but it appears he is missing a foot or part of his leg. I wonder if the fish did that – bit it off. But, again, he is not hurting. I wonder if the two females met with harm by the big fish or simply ran away. I do not know what happened to them but am looking for them as I awaken.
Pray tell; what is the meaning of this? Your comments are appreciated.
(If you were hoping for an Easter blog, please click here and read one of my favorites from last year.)
A friend invited me to escape the cold winter and visit her in sunny southwest Florida for my birthday. I found reasonable airfare, planned out the days, and booked it. Then I decided it would be nice to visit my son on the way down so added a few flights and days to the front end of the trip.
I left early on a Saturday morning, checked two bags and carried on two, changed planes in Nashville, and arrived in Pensacola without a hitch or a glitch. (Well, I did need a little help lifting and squishing my full-size carryon in the overhead bin.) I hadn’t traveled by air in over a year, so it was a nice jet-setter feeling again.
My son greeted me at the bottom of the escalator with a bear hug while his girlfriend waited in the car – first time meeting her. After another warm hug, they loaded the bags in the trunk – all four. What a beautiful arrival day – the clear, crisp air and sparkling sun created a to-die-for lunch on the deck of a beachfront restaurant.
The next morning, we loaded up the car with twin three-year old boys they were babysitting and headed out for a twenty-minute drive to church. I looked forward to attending with them, but sometimes our best-made plans just don’t work out. As he unbuckled the twins out of their car seats, I opened the trunk to gather items. To my surprise the trunk came crashing down on my head. The blow stunned me for a second – the shock that something had hit my head really hard. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel pain but in a few seconds found myself grabbing for tissues in my purse to stop the flood of blood streaming down my face and onto my green satin blouse. By the time my son returned to the car after depositing the twins safely in their classroom, my hair had turned strawberry blonde. He handed me paper towels and a bottle of disinfectant from a first aid kit and escorted me to the restroom to cleanup.
Needless to say, the service was about over by the time the bleeding halted and I rinsed the blood from my hair and clothes. So I joined my son in the lobby coffee bar where he was waiting for me. Worried, he kept asking if I was dizzy or seeing double. I was fine. Having raised three boys, I was all too familiar with the amount of bleeding that a head gash can produce. I just never expected it to be my head! (You might have thought this portion of the diary would have been about one of the three-year-old lads, not a 50-something lady.)
The next three days were as pleasant as I could have imagined. We enjoyed simple things – a few meals together, watched Frozen, and stocked up at Walmart. I am so glad we took some time late one afternoon to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum.
I loved seeing slices of history in more ways than one.
We crossed the street to view the Pensacola Lighthouse, and paused as Taps played at dusk (brought back memories from a few decades ago).
Just like the day I arrived, the sun glistened in the sky the afternoon that I left. Indeed, such a pleasant visit it was; but it was time to leave.
Five hours later, my friend met me at the airport and had a snack waiting when I arrived and settled into my special room. Although others may visit it from time to time, I feel very much at home when I am there and settled in like a returning college student, “my room.”
The thing I enjoy the most when I visit is simple relaxation. There’s no rush to be anywhere at any specific time. We eat when we want, get dressed when we want, and go out when we want – or not. I love it!
The sun greeted me on my birthday morn.
And I kissed it goodbye when we left for dinner.
We celebrated my birthday like royalty, in princess style.
The next couple of days, we shopped a little, enjoyed lunch on the veranda, and watched the sun dance on the water one last time.
We watched the Super Bowl and Malificient at the same time (minimal dozing for me while multitasking) and one last sunset.
The next morning as we waited to board our flight home, we overlooked the tarmac and saw security vehicles and personnel scurrying around. Passengers chattered about who the VIP might be. We were on a flight to Kansas City with a stopover in Washington DC. I recognized third in line to the throne on the front row.
I don’t believe there was an empty seat on the flight. As we began the descent into DCA, the plane rocked from wing to wing. I looked around to see if anyone else appeared worried, especially when the ground seemed close enough to jump to. I glanced over to blue eyes on my left and then to brown eyes on my right. Both were filled with concern. I wondered which wing was going to hit the ground first. I realized many others wondered the same thing when all wheels finally gripped the runway and the entire cabin erupted with applause. I later learned there was a severe wind advisory in Washington that day.
It was smooth sailing on the next leg to Kansas City. I thanked my friend for the ride home and a wonderful birthday, again. This may not have been the adventure of a couple years ago driving to Alaska. It was an adventure of another kind. Each morning when I brush my hair to the side to cover the scar, I will remember the special time with my son, his girlfriend, and a dear friend. I wrote another chapter in my book of life and was just thinking …
I think I had the choice to sit it out or dance – and I DANCED!
And life continues on …
Thoughtful, considerate, devoted, caring, advisor, friend. These are some of the words used to describe him then …
and now …
Just a couple of months ago we gathered to celebrate our 40th high school class reunion. How can it be that 40 years have passed, and how can it be that someone who seemed healthy and whole sporting his high school football jersey just a few months ago has been taken from us with little warning?
He worked the land that he loved. He made room in his barn to build our float for the parade. When chatting in a small group that sunny afternoon, he thoughtfully asked if those of us from out of town needed a place to spend the night. Caring and considerate, yes, his good character shone as bright as the sun that day. We chatted about the friendship our mothers shared. I remembered back to our 20th reunion. We had not had the opportunity to speak that evening; but as I left, he caught up with me at the door and told me how nice I looked, that the years had been kind. It’s odd, but I do remember what I wore that evening – a pink column dress with pink pumps. My hair still draped down the middle of my back but I had pulled it back in a french braid. A few streaks of gray gathered from my temples to join the back braid. We all had aged, but he took the time to greet me and say something special. I think that’s why I remember.
He was not the first of our classmates to leave this life, but I think we feel this deeply because of the recent bonding at our gathering. And at this stage in life, we have come to realize those things that are most important. There is no need to try and impress each other with our wealth and knowledge. Those things are temporal. This journey on earth is temporary, but we want to yell, “Come back!” While death may separate us for a while, relationships are eternal.
Our days here are limited. How can we know the number?
Yesterday, I hugged my 80-year-old mother a little tighter. I told her I loved her. I slid into the seat of my car and headed down the interstate to continue my life. Why? Because that’s what we are to do, and I prayed for wisdom to understand my days (Psalm 90:12).
Life is too short to live in disharmony, bitterness, and strife. I want that out of my heart. Love and forgiveness are important every day. And I like that song … “when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.”
Rest in peace my classmate and friend. Until we meet again, I will remember to love and dance when I get the chance.
“Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.” Psalm 144:4 (NIV)