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Feed the Fire

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The winter of 1984 only seemed to get colder each day. As a former coastal girl, Eastern Washington winters were brutal. I had tried wearing extra sweaters, but I couldn’t keep from shivering. At the time, we lived in a single-wide trailer, out in the middle of what once was an old pasture. Now, narrow strawberry rows graced our ten-acre farm. Nothing stopped the determined winds from rushing down the steep hills behind us and blowing against our trailer. Each blast rattled our metal roof. Whatever wasn’t tied down outside tumbled down the fields. In the mornings, I would bundle my toddler in bulky layers as we drove to the grandparent’s house. Papa cared for her while my husband and I worked. The wind pummeled the car as we drove. The locals informed me that it was too cold to snow. At least snow would have made the brittle cold worth it. As I opened the folk’s front door, a blast of frigid air came in with us. I quickly shut the door behind me. “Come in here where it’s warm.” Pa

Facebook’s #tenyearchallenge

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I decided to pick my own decade for Facebook’s #tenyearchallenge. So here I am at six-years old and sixteen-years-old. When I was six, I was frequently scolded for not coloring within the lines. By 16, I was learning that “coloring within the lines” wasn’t the only way to color. But I still hadn’t faced the adult world. The ten year challenge photos have brought some fun to the Facebook newsfeed. As I gaze at some of my young friend’s faces, I don’t see a whole lot of change over ten years. That’s not true at my age. My mirror gives me my own reality challenge. But for my younger friends, you’re in the exciting, life-changing,  life-building years. You’re also making a difference in our world—or you can be. You’re doing the work of building a legacy that only you can create. Legacies take time, but I already see some amazing work in your lives. I have two young friends raising special needs children, others are tackling college while raising a family. Some are entrepreneurs. Buildin

Being Chill not Shrill

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Meet Larry, a bigger-than-life framed photo my grandson once had hanging in his bedroom. I told him I’d keep Larry—maybe one day they will share a dorm room or an apartment. Until then, Larry watches over me in our large garage. We have a lot of things like Larry. Stuff that means something to someone. It’s just a matter of where it all goes. That can be hard for someone like me. Larry looks like I do when confronting a mess—stressed and a bit panicked.   Ben Franklin succinctly declared: “A place for everything, everything in its place.”  That’s totally me. I put things where they belong. I confess, it borders on compulsion—you can ask my family. I’ve gotten in trouble putting other people’s things away where I think they belong. If I get a call from my grandson, it’s not just to say hello, it’s to ask me where I put something he’s looking for.   Yes, I’m one of those neat freaks. My family gives me more grace than I deserve. They roll their eyes as I flit around keeping things tidy.

Planting Seeds

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It was right before my high school’s holiday break, when I was called to the school office. The secretary pointed to the counselor’s office and I tentatively walked in. His smile reassured me that I hadn’t somehow gotten myself in trouble.   He asked, “What are your plans over Christmas break?” “I’d like to go skiing a couple times, and be with my friends.” I didn’t mention how I couldn’t wait to escape school and homework. My counselor had other ideas. He held out some seeds in his hand. Confusion must have registered in my eyes, because he said, “As a teenager you have more seeds in your hand than I do. You have years ahead to plant and see what will grow.”  I nodded, unsure of where this was going. He didn’t wait long to explain. “You have a couple weeks that can make a difference in some kid’s lives—if you want to plant some seeds of hope. Christmas break for some kids isn’t all that fun or easy. I was wondering if you could volunteer to be a big sister and friend to som

The Night Before Christmas

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As a child, I remember waiting each year for the classic Christmas story, The Night Before Christmas to be read to me. Mom always tucked the book away after Christmas, not bringing it out until mid-December. I sat on one side of Mom, and my sister on the other, and we listened to the story night after night. Then in a flash of time, I found myself in adulthood reading it to my children. My voice had the same intonation as my mom’s when she’d read it to me. My grandson was next as I read the famous story. Now he’s almost an adult. I just read it to my granddaughter this year. Her great-grandmother’s voice came through my own as I recited the familiar words. There is a perfect season in a child’s life when the hardest things to deal with are eating vegetables and having play time end. Children are the reason we do so much of what we do. We know that they depend on us, and even when it can be thankless, it’s purposeful. They are the next generation—the lives that will carry on afte

Gifts We Save

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It’s interesting to see what keepsakes are tucked away in the Christmas decoration boxes. I have a tree festooned with four generations of ornaments. It represents many of my family’s journeys and each ornament has a story. But also tucked away in the holiday decorations is a gift I made for my parents when I was a six.  In December of my first year of school, I made a green-painted Plaster of Paris candle holder. Mrs. MacArthur, my teacher, was incredibly patient. Over 25 children were simultaneously using gobs of messy plaster. I personally dumped the green paint on the floor when I knocked it off my desk. But Mrs. MacArthur only smiled and bent down to mop it up. I won't mention how much glitter I spilled as I sprinkled it over my teacher's careful glue design. It was a top-secret mission—taking several weeks before it was crudely wrapped and on its way home for Christmas morning. I could hardly wait to have my parents open it. Each Christmas thereafter, Mom would bri

Another Chance to Shine

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We walked through the nearly empty home. It had been my father and mother-in-law’s place for a couple decades, and had been the epicenter of many family gatherings.  We faced the final thing to pack: my mother-in-law Bernadean’s favorite antique hanging lamp. We’d waited until now for good reason. We both were scared.  It was super fragile, with a delicate bowl-shaped, hand painted globe.  It had already been broken and repaired twice. The first break had been right after it was purchased—when my father-in-law had tried to move it from its packing box. He searched for an antique specialist to fix it. Then years later, my husband Tom broke it when he had taken the lamp down to make room for extra medical equipment in his parent’s bedroom. It cracked along the same seam as before. Tom found another expert to fix the intricate glass. So here we were—in his parent’s empty home, all the decades of belongings had been packed and moved, and now we paused in front of the hanging antique lam