Tag Archives: family

Memorial Day thoughts

My sister and I visit the cemeteries each year on Memorial Day Weekend. Well, not the weekend, but on Monday. We do this because everyone who decorated the graves before us are all gone. This tradition has become more deeply meaningful for both of us. We do not just visit my mother and stepfathers grave and my grandparents graves, we have begun to visit my great grandparents graves and other extended family members that no one remembers or perhaps other relatives live too far away. I wrote about this tradition two years in a blog I called Remembering.

I have seen some news articles and some social media posts about how people have forgotten the “real” meaning of Memorial day and have been saying things like “Happy Memorial Day!” I also know that while for some people the main purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the service men and women who have died in wars across our countries history, that is not the only meaning for this day. As I said in my former post, some of us were raised that this was a weekend to remember those who have gone before us. It is a time to decorate graves and tell stories and also in my family tradition, to have cookouts and family time.

I don’t think any of those things are unimportant or wrong. I took American flags to both my stepfather’s grave and my grandfather’s mausoleum. I had a wonderful party on Sunday evening. In worship on Sunday morning at First, we focused on memorial and legacy gifts and Ascension Sunday.

 I am sitting here on Monday evening, experiencing a “good” tired feeling. It has been a full three days. I have celebrated a neighbors birthday, worshipped on Sunday, had 40+ people over for a wonderful evening and then visited four different cemeteries. I also made hospital calls and been grateful for so many things. 

My sister and I have decided to remember those family members that no one else seems to remember. Mostly it is unmarried or married without children couples and babies and small children. We even placed pinwheels and flowers on the graves of some small children who were not related. 

Our great grandparents were visited 


My great grandmother held Tammy and I as infants before she died. We visited our favorite great aunt (she was awesome and fun)


Then we headed to Great Plain and visited Aunt Leola (who was not our favorite and liked to pinch us hard!) and even though there is no gravestone, we visited baby Stella, who died at two.


Then just a little ways away, we visited baby Clyde McClure. If I remember my family history, his mom ( my grandmother’s sisters) HAD to get married and this little baby did not live. His parents are buried elsewhere, but we remember him today.


Finally at the Calvary cemetery we visited Maudie. I have visited this grave since I was a little girl. At one point, there were still decorating it, but that has been a very long time. This little lamb stone speaks of the love the family had for this precious child:


The little poem at the end says “Sweet Maudie unto earth,  a little while was given. She plumed her wins for flight, and soared away to heaven.”

Finally beginning last year, we sought out a very small cemetery that my grandparents visited only once. It was part of my grandfather’s German Lutheran heritage.
 What we both remembered was one small baby grave that had only the last name Wiske , but no first name. Last year we went searching for Baby Wiske and we found the grave, but had to pull back the grass to see the name. It happened again, we had to pull back the grass. 


But while there we remember Remick’s, remembering family reunions of long ago and  decorated the grave of my grandfather’s brother and wife.


Finally we visited a marker in a Wichita cemetery remembering my mother. We had visited her grave and my stepfather’s grave in Garden Plain


She had married again late in life and had just a few short years which were a gift for both her and her husband Jerry.


Here is what I believe, we only have a short time to love nad laught and share. Whatever the number of hours or days or years, each moment matters. I know sometimes that it is uncomfortable for folks when people don’t “remember” or “memorialize” in a preferred method. I think having dinners, going to the lake, making memories is not bad or sinful or wrong. I also think mourning and remembering and honoring is not bad either. 

I find the moments I take to walk cemeteries and “recount the tales” and wonder about the stories I don’t know to be sacred and holy. I also find hosting family and friends for a party is also sacred and holy. Time is a gift and choosing to spend part of it with those we love is precious.

So tonight, I am grateful, for family, for friends, for memories and for time enough to pay attention.

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A day of ordinary in the New Year

I write this on the 9th day of Christmas and and the second day of 2017. The last of the company left mid-afternoon yesterday. I miss them, the ones that left mid-week and the ones just yesterday. There never seems to be enough time to do everything and say everything. The moments are so fleeting and yet so appreciated. 

I, as usual, took few pictures. I mean to, I really do, but in the midst of playing and walking and laughing and just being together, I forget. I did some important ones, four generations with Andrew’s mom who is 96 and one never knows when there will be another chance to have family around her for a picture. I took a few pictures of food, as is my habit, maybe because it doesn’t move quickly. 

The house is incredibly quiet. I miss the laughter, the conversation and even the shouts when small fights would break out in the midst of playing children. I don’t mind the quiet actually, it helps me re-image in my minds eye the last week-drinking coffee, eating meals, playing games, Pokémon walk, a trip to the zoo, our boxing day open house filled with friends old and new, watching movies, opening gifts and toasting to a new year.

So on this second day of the new year, I am doing ordinary things. Washing bedding from 8 beds and I am not half done. Washing towels, from lots of showers and baths, folding laundry, putting away dishes and tidying up. If truth be told I am not much of a housekeeper, I would much rather do other things. Today, it feels right to just slowly put the house back in order. None of the decorations are coming down yet as it is only the ninth day of Christmas and I refuse to rush the end of the season. I am, however, not putting the Christmas pillows back on the beds as they will soon need to be packed up.

On this ordinary day, doing ordinary everyday things (as noted in this Carried Newcomer song), I am pondering what this year will mean. I look back at last year and am so astounded and perplexed and amazed at what the year brought. I moved into a new church appointment, I was shocked by the bitterness and hatred that unfolded in the political process and I was blessed by so many things. Truly 2016 was a year of ups and downs, but really in many ways pretty ordinary. Every year of my life has been filled with joy and sorrow, love and laughter, tears and grief, times of anxiety and times of hope. 

I guess as the days of Christmas wind down I must admit that each year I long that somehow this Christmas will truly change the world and move it from darkness to light, from oppression to justice, from hate to love, from bigotry to equality. I know that it is probably naive and silly, but I long for a time when there are more stories of hope and love and justice and peace than there are of hatred and violence and terrorist attacks and war. In the midst of ordinary moments these longings are pondered in the midst of folding laundry, making beds and cleaning up the debris. 

William Auden in his poem For the Time Being, speaks to some of that longing. A pdf copy of part of the poem is found at this website http://www.cynthiadavisauthor.com/Auden,%20Oratorio.pdf. A couple of the lines state, “Once again, as in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed to do more than entertain it as an agreeable Possibility…to those who have seen the Child, however dimly, however incredulously, the Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all…Remembering the stable where once in our lives Everything became a You and nothing became an It.”

I re-read this poem each year, praying that the Time Being will change, and someday everyone will be a YOU and no one will be an IT. When the world returns to ordinary, I can choose to remember, I can choose to do more than entertain the Possibility that the world can be different, I can choose to be part of an ordinary everyday way of living that will change the world, just as God chose to change the world through a tiny infant, born to pretty ordinary everyday people.

So, in the words of the poet, “In the meantime There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair, Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance.” Laundry to washed, folded and put away, beds to made, dishes to wash and a few dinners and meals to cook for Andrew before my vacation is over. A few days left to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-with-us, before the season of Epiphany and “ordinary time” return to the church calendar.

I will use my ordinary, everyday life to give witness to God’s love and grace in this time and space and place. I only have ordinary everyday minutes in which to love, to serve, to hope and offer hope and to live out my faith in the God who graces our lives in the ordinary, the birth of a child, an ordinary family and out of those things, come hope, faith and a vision of a new day and age of peace, justice and righteousness. So…in the time beings I re-affirm the words of Howard Thurman on this ordinary 2nd day of 2017 and 9th day of Christmas:

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My daughter’s letter

My daughter wants to move home to Kansas. I would LOVE that. Having her and her husband and my grand boys closer would make me very happy indeed. They have talked about it on occasion. She recently even looked into a business opportunity. In the end, she has decided she can’t move back, at least not yet. The policies gutting public education and watching as town after town and city after city are struggling with how to cut more from education has convinced her that Kansas doesn’t care about children or about their education. The link to her blog is here:

http://talesofanearthmama.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-letter-to-governor-brownback-please.html

I am also reprinting it in this space with her permission. I would LOVE to have her closer to home, but I respect her decision to do what is best for her children by staying away. How many more are leaving and/or not coming back because of misguided policies. I love Kansas, but this makes me very sad indeed. Here are her words:

A Letter to Governor Brownback- please stop the insanity

I sent this via email and snail mail to the Kansas Governor office. My pessimism says no one will read it. So I’m sharing it with you. I want someone other than my husband to hear my frustrations and sadness. So here is my letter to Governor Brownback expressing my deep sorrow over the state of education and funding in Kansas

Governor Brownback,

I’m writing you about my deep concern surrounding education and educational funding in your state. Let me introduce myself, my name is Kristin Saner and I am a native Kansasan.  I was born in Kansas, raised in Kansas, went to college in Kansas, got married and gave birth to my three boys in Kansas. Five years ago I moved away to pursue graduate education. Now I long to move home. In fact I was exploring buying a business in Hesston, which is near my family and friends. Sadly your policies and new laws, which continue to cut funding to education, terrify me so badly that I decided that I cannot  move home at this time.

With 3 boys in elementary school, I am looking at what public schools offer for kids. I’m a huge advocate for public school, which provide education and opportunities to not only my kids but all our kids. These kids are our future. I know Kansas teachers are working hard day and night to make the education system the best it can be for the kids they teach. I hear about the daily struggles from friends, about how they are attempting to persevere. The reality is limited funding and resources continue to be huge barriers for both teachers and students.  My heart breaks knowing that friends, who have dedicated their lives to teaching, must face these barriers on a daily basis. But, at the end of the day, I have to look at what’s best for me and my family. While all the teachers and administration staff where I currently live have their own barriers and hurdles to cross, I feel we are making positive strides for the education my kids are getting. I cannot say the same for the schools in Kansas.

Governor Brownback, your policies have made it so that I feel I cannot move home. And I wonder, if I feel this way how many other thirty something adults dismiss our state as a place to makes roots?  How many other born and raised Kansasans  went somewhere else to pursue an education but don’t move back due to your policies? How many people look for a place to raise their own families but dismiss Kansas due to the current state of the education system? How many young families currently living in Kansas are fleeing because they feel their kids would be better off elsewhere? Listen to your people, Governor, for I know that they are working to fix your mistakes. They are trying to provide the best for our kids with what limited resources you have left them. I can only hope and pray that in the coming years things will get better. I pray this for my friend’s sake, for my friends kids, for the families I don’t even know.  Selfishly I pray for my own sake. While I can’t in good conscience move home now, I still long to do so. And I desperately hope, in a few years time, I can feel that it is safe for me to do so.

Sincerely,

A Homesick Kansas girl

 

 

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Christmas Merry or Not

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” the song goes. Every artist including Kermit the Frog sings this Christmas standard. The song itself, is reflective, a bit melancholy and challenging. Regardless, the song states, “have yourself a merry little Christmas, now.”

Now those who know me, know I tend to go overboard at Christmas. My house has 23 decorated Christmas trees, yes that number is correct. I don’t count the little miniature trees that are not decorated, although my husband would include them in counting the trees. I have lighted Christmas garland everywhere and outside lights that my twin sister states are “Griswold-like.”

I love Christmas cookie and candy making. I watch a plethora of Christmas movies and have more Christmas CD’s than I want to admit. Yes, I still play CD’s, in fact I have the old time @Firestone and @Goodyear Christmas LP’s which also get played. I don’t begin these activities before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is its own holiday and deserves respect and honor.

The day AFTER Thanksgiving, the decorations begin and the plans are made. This year, for the first time in many years my children are home and the grandboys are here. Such a blessing in so many ways. There has been laughter and a bit of yelling over a game or two, some cooking and baking and eating and watching movies. My heart is happy.

Having said that, there are still those moments, when I acknowledge the ones that are not here. My facebook feed has an option to look back “on this day” and the last few days have been filled with memories, many of which go back long enough to include my mother.

Now my mom loved Christmas, but not in an over the top way. She hated baking, particularly cookies. She preferred recipes that were easy and didn’t take a whole lot of time. She was into convenience. She liked family around, but often preferred to observe rather than to participate. She did LOVE Christmas music though. The house would be filled LOUDLY with old Christmas albums playing non stop during the holidays.

For some reason, the past few days keep reminding me of her. The last Christmas we spent together this pictures was taken.

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It’s one of my favorite pictures of my mom and my sister and I. Yesterday I pulled out a cookbook she gave me. This particular cookbook was one of those “church” cookbooks, from her congregation.

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Not new, obviously but included the “pumpkin bar” recipe she made every holiday and “puppy chow” which grandboys love. I made the pumpkin bar recipe this evening and of course it reminded me of her.

I am not a person who wallows in sadness or grief. I am finding myself, noting the moments, and being grateful for both the joy and the sadness. I do not want to be one of those persons who gives up holidays because someone has died during that time period. As a pastor with so many funerals after 33 years, I would never ever celebrate a holiday again. I want to grieve and to celebrate.

Life goes on, and that is as it should be. When I prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, that birth took place in the midst of tragedies, in the midst of fear and grief and also in the midst of joy and celebrations. Each loss changes things, but grief ought not to have the final word. Love and laughter are life giving.

I ran across this amazing piece of music. It acknowledges the grief and the uneasiness of those who have lost loved ones. “Different Kind of Christmas” by Mark Schultz will speak to those with most recent losses but also those who are recreating holiday experiences.

In my life, it seems every year is a “different” kind of Christmas. Not necessarily bad, but always different. The world, the community, the family changes and each year for me I am challenged to embrace the beauty of Christmas, God made real in “Emmanuel” God-with-us.

So, on this day before Christmas Eve, I wish you a Merry Christmas. May your holiday be filled with love, with laughter, with friends and family far and near. May you experience Emmanuel, the presence of God with you.

 

 

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Giving Thanks

Today I give thanks for so many things: family, friends, a job, a home I love, a chance to cook and for the people who will gather around my table tomorrow. Thanksgiving week usually tends to be a slower week at church, even though we are gearing up for Advent.

Today, once I got home, it was full swing into getting ready for company. We had kids and grandkids coming home. We finished up cleaning and making beds. For me, it was cooking and baking.

I tend to do as much preparation as I can before a big feast day. I want to enjoy the day and not spend the whole time in the kitchen. Tomorrow, three of us will participate in the ‘Say Grace’ 5K race in the morning. The money supports a ministry of the United Methodist Church and it’s fun.

So, today I made a chocolate bourbon pecan pie, caramel apple banana muffins, a cranberry tart.

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I tasted the cranberry curd….oh my is it tasty! I also bought pies from the youth, so dessert is covered! We smoked a natural ham in the smoker and I I just pulled the turkey out of the oven.

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My twin sister is bringing the green bean casserole and the make ahead mashed potatoes. The 7 layer jello salad will be done before the evening is out. There will be relishes, corn and dressing to finish up tomorrow.

When it is all said and done there will be ten around my table and I couldn’t be happier. Surrounded by love and laughter, that for me is the bedrock of Thanksgiving. The food is important, but the fellowship is what makes the feast.

So from my house to yours, may you experience love and laughter this Thanksgiving and may grace and gratitude bless you.

 

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Thanksgiving Chores and Preparations

Recently the world has erupted in anger, chaos and violence. Mostly I have been distracted and saddened, deeply saddened by the hatred and anger simmering under the surface. In the midst of all, though, I, can not always think about these terrorist attacks and refugees and all things that are wrong and unjust.

In fact, with the Thanksgiving holiday just a week away, I am juggling work and how to get ready to have our family home. The past two days, I have begun the preparations. Certain chores I don’t mind and others are not so much fun.

Cooking gives me joy. I love all the preparation for baking and cooking. Grocery shopping makes me happy. I actually enjoy ironing the tablecloths and napkins and polishing the silver. I am not so fond of all the dusting and mopping and vacuuming.

Today, all the napkins have been ironed. I have worked on organizing the third floor where the grandchildren will be sleeping. Much more work will need to be done in order for everything to ready.

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Wednesday night at the church I serve, I taught a “stress free holiday cooking” class. It was great fun and my prayer is that it was helpful. For those who want some recipes that would make Thanksgiving easier, I offer these three that are tasty, fast and make the preparations a little easier.

CranApple Sauce

5 apples (granny smith, gala, Jonathon or your favorite)

peeled and chunked

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 cup concentrated cranberry apple juice

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and cook about 10 minutes until it becomes a chunky sauce. Can be served warm or cold

cranberryapple-complete

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes (Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes)

5 pounds russet potatoes

8 ounces cream cheese

8 ounces sour cream

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt  and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

  1. Peel and cook potatoes.
  2. Drain well and mash until smooth.
  3. Add cream cheese, sour cream, seasonings and butter.
  4. Beat with hand mixer until smooth and fluffy.
  5. Place in lightly greased casserole dish.
  6. Dot with more butter.
  7. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
  8. Bake at 350 until heated through (about 30-45 min.)

Creamy-Oven-Baked-Mashed-Potatoes

Spicy Sweet Potato Mash

1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon butter

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 ½ tablespoons real maple syrup

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or hot smoked paprika or to taste

Wash the outside of the sweet potatoes and pierce all over with a fork and place in the microwave. Cook on high for 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft

Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Add the butter and mix well.

Crush the thyme in with your fingers and add the pumpkin, syrup, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Using a potato masher or a large folk, mash the potatoes until smooth. Place the potato mash back into the microwave and heat for 1 minute or two.

The potatoes can be baked in the oven and the mash itself can be placed in the oven to heat. If you want to fancy it up, you could sprinkle chopped pecans over the top, or chopped spicy pecans over the top.

However you celebrate, may your preparations not be too taxing, your anticipation delicious and in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of our world, may you gratitude be a gift of grace and love.

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Thanksgiving Eve

Yesterday I wrote about that it had been one year since my mother’s memorial service. Last year on this day my brother’s and I spend all day cooking and baking and enjoying preparing a Thanksgiving feast. Today, I prepared a much smaller feast to be shared tomorrow with my husband and his mother.

First, my husband and I will participate in a 5K run/walk for Grace Med. This ministry offers health care to the underserved in the Wichita area. They are a ministry of the United Methodist Church. Four years ago they began the “Say Grace” race.

There is much I have for which I am grateful. Yesterday, I was thankful for the memories of my mother and the celebration of her life. I was also thankful for a day bookmarked by a gorgeous sunrise and sunset. I don’t often see both but yesterday morning at the downtown YMCA, this was what I saw as we walked in preparation of tomorrow’s race:

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The end of the day’s picture did not turn out quite so lovely, but the view as I left the church was just as stunning.

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On this night I am thankful for the ability to walk 5K to help the medically underserved in the greater Wichita area; a plan to “skype” with grandchildren; to cook for my mother-in-law and husband; some days at home to enjoy with my husband and to begin to decorate for the upcoming Christmas holiday. I am deeply grateful for family and friends, a roof over my head, and faith to make each day a gift. On this Thanksgiving eve, I am graced to serve.

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