Be That Teacher

It was more of a pathway in the woods than a road. Overhanging limbs brushed the windshield and scraped the side of the truck. The road meandered upwards with no end in sight. 
But I followed it anyway. Recent rains had filled all the potholes, effectively disguising just how deep they were. My truck bounced mercilessly.
Coming up a final incline, a curl of smoke and the top of a metal chimney pipe came into view. Then I saw a woodshed that somehow had become a home.  Knocking on the door, I could hear whispering, then the door cracked open to reveal a woman staring at me with bloodshot eyes. “Yeah?”
Her question was all the greeting I’d get. I explained I was her son’s teacher and that I missed seeing him at school. What I didn’t say, is that his absences had led to his being held back last year, and so far, he was on pace to fall behind again, unless he came to school more regularly.
I could see her son standing at the far end of the small room. He was tall for a 10-year-old. He was wea…

Golden Opportunity

Dear Pam & Ed,
Congratulations on your Golden Anniversary! Fifty years is a long time, and you two have written quite a love story. I haven’t told you just how much your marriage has inspired my own. 
I’ve seen how your God-honoring choices often meant personal sacrifice—you did what was best for those you loved. Family and faith were always above personal gain. 
The love you shared extended far and wide—even into the classrooms where you both taught hundreds of children.
Pam spent tireless hours making certain kids could read and helped struggling students learn math. Ed was often paired with the toughest kids. 
I still marvel how he found the road into their hearts, melted through their tough exteriors, and showed them that their education was their future.
When retirement came it wasn’t the end of classrooms, but the start of after school Good News Clubs that encouraged young kids in more incredible ways. At a time when God was being removed from schools, Ed found a gentle way to br…

Cedar and Gold

1979: While college newlyweds, Tom and I cut downed cedar logs into bolt-sized sections for roof shakes. It paid our bills.
So when Mom needed cedar shakes for her cabin, we went hunting for cedar on her land. Her property covered nearly ten acres with deep valleys and steep bluffs.

We finally found a huge one. It was buried with moss and debris, but when Tom cut into it the wood, it still smelled fresh and the grain was perfect for shakes.

We teamed up. Tom chainsawed and I carried the bolts out to a clearing where there was a trail to the cabin. As we worked, neither of us noticed the time.

It was just the two of us in the woods, working together, which is what we loved most.

At dusk,  Tom noticed his gold watch was missing. We searched the area where we’d been cutting and hauling. We sifted through piles of chainsaw chips, moss, leaves, and limbs, but no watch. 
We walked back to the cabin. Mom had fixed dinner for us all—my grandparents were there too. I told them Tom’s watch had…

The Second Look

As I think of it now, it was probably the beginning of an obsessive compulsive trait. I was five or six—and whenever I went out with my parents, if I’d see something interesting—a display case, or a toy, or a pretty picture, I’d touch it once. But for some inexplicable reason, before my feet could move, I needed to touch it again. I never told anyone about this strange need.
Somehow, very soon and without my awareness, that tendency left me without a trace.
Or perhaps the trait evolved later in life. 
While I don’t need to touch things twice, whenever I visit a new place, or see something beautiful, I tell myself to take a second look, and make it last in my mind.
With the ease of smartphones, we can just as easily snap a photo. But when I stop myself, steady my eyes for a second and final look, it is not digitally stored, but it goes from my eye, to my mind, directly to my heart.

Obsessive? Perhaps. But I remember many places and things I’ve seen just by thinking about them once again.

Behind the Wheel

Long before government programs assisted single moms and children, Mae needed to find a way to support herself and her young daughter, Gracie. Her husband, the philandering accountant, had run off with another woman. She was desperate but not undone.
He’d left her with a car and a couple suitcases of clothes. Mae promised her landlord to pay for their room within a month. She then drove with her daughter to Providence Hospital and offered a shuttle service. 
Maybe it was the plight of the young mother, or the fierce determination in her willingness to drive anywhere at anytime, but her business soon thrived.

Mae was dependably dropping patients off, running errands, and delivering nuns from their convent to their work at the hospital. Mae became an Uber driver nearly one hundred years before Uber.
Not only did Mae survive her divorce, she found out she was a savvy businesswoman.  Her daughter, inspired by the nurses, graduated with honors from college and was hired by one of the nuns whom…

From the Space Needle to the Moon

I remember Dad telling me to listen quietly as he turned the volume up on President Kennedy’s speech. Kennedy was challenging scientists and astronauts to set their sights on a moon landing. 
The whole moon exploration set off a wave of inspirational thinking. I was four when the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair featured the Space Needle—and it’s out-of-this-world design. I still have my Space Needle souvenir. From fashions to building designs to kid’s toys—it all took on a futuristic look.
I was a bit older as I listened to President Nixon give the Apollo 11 astronauts a hearty send-off as they blasted towards their lunar destination. I watched our grainy black and white screen as Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon. Yes, I’m that old to remember all of this.

In school, we were introduced to basic rocket science, and watched NASA films explaining the details of what space travel involved. The whole idea of going to the moon inspired awesome inventions—like Velcro—and my personal fa…

Do Something

A small monument for a boy and his father stands in the center of the baseball park where they’d spent so many hours. 
The boy’s first home run ball and his mitt are encased in bronze.  As etched words in the granite explain—both father and son were killed by a drunk driver. 

Now, nearly two years later, a dedication of the monument and an adjacent baseball batting cage brought together those who still feel the tremendous loss. 
The surviving family members and small community have tried to make sense of the senseless. The addition to the ball park will be a bittersweet reminder of their love of baseball and the special memories made there.
As I walked by the engraved bricks—with messages of hope, loss, grief, and memories—I was looking for my grandson’s words carved into the one he had made. It’s been painful for him. His best friend’s picture remains on his nightstand. I ache for him as he mourns quietly.

Then I gazed at the monument. It told about the two words that the father and son l…