Monday, December 15, 2008

We Are Family

Our family had a lot to celebrate together this weekend. On Saturday, the grandchildren saw Santa Claus visit our community and participate in all the festivities surrounding that event.

My son, Dave and his beautiful wife, Amy, became members of the Palisade Methodist Church. I was so proud and honored to be asked to stand up with them, during church services. My nephew, Shane, joined the church, also. We celebrated the occaison with a delicous family dinner afterwards in the church hall.

We met after that to spend the afternoon at Jared and Missy's, for our family day. We started this three years ago, when their beautiful baby daughter, Maya, passed away in the night, when she was exactly 2 months old. This anniversary on December 14th is difficult, so we face it together. Jared prepared a prime rib roast that was melt in your mouth scrumptious. The kids helped decorate angel sugar cookies and they had a blast doing it.

I felt incredibly blessed as I looked at each member of my family gathered together, playing games, rolling out cookie dough, laughing and talking, holding the babies, Jacob and Sawyer, just being together. I have such an appreciation for each person in our family and how they enrich my life so much, and how much easier it is to face this anniversary every year as a family, to not be alone. In many ways, it proves that sharing joy with your loved ones is multiplied, but the sorrow is divided when we come together. We need each other, especially on this day.

In past years, we have taken a few moments to go to the cemetery to lay some flowers on her grave, and to release balloons in her memory. I've grown to love those small observances, that mark for us, that we remember Maya. The awful blizzard yesterday, made that not only impractical, but dangerous, because of the sub-zero wind chill. I was more than happy to be where it was bright and warm, with family.

I am so thankful for the new good memories for this date, and the joy I saw on Dave and Amy's faces in church yesterday. I am so thankful to belong to church and blood family. I am thankful for each new member of our family this year, Sawyer and Jacob, and new baby B, but I cannot forget Maya.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Early Christmas Present

We went Christmas shopping on Saturday, and we bought a present that we both can use and enjoy. (Well, I'm not sure about the "enjoy" part.) The treadmill is set up, now, and neither of us have any more excuses to put off walking for our health! It is going to come in handy, since the five-day weather forecast is rain, turning to snow.

I have fulfilled 3 days walking, a bit of progress to be sure; it is that many times more than before. I have to almost trick myself into doing it, by just telling myself to get started. I don't want to stop after the first 5 minutes.

I'm trying to act as if I like it, in the hopes I will change my mind. I am willing to be willing to be convinced, by cracking my mind open a little bit. Truth is, I like the result, and so I keep putting on my walking shoes. I keep moving. For now, I am of the belief that this body I live in needs and deserves a chance to feel better, and so I am not willing to give up. I press on.

Change is hard, but not changing is more painful. Just for today, I am willing to do what I can to keep changing in a good orderly direction toward my goal. I will renew that goal every day to focus on the goal of good health, doing what I can while it is today.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pride Comes Before the Fall

I baked two pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving dinner, and they turned out beautifully. They smelled delicious in the oven, even if I say so myself! The first pie was gone, eaten at the first dinner we went to at Jerry's side of our family. Lots of people liked my pie, and since we had another meal to attend later at my daughter's house, I thought this was working out pretty darn good, with one for each. I was basking in the compliments and really looking forward to a piece later, when I had digested some of the meal.

We stopped at home during the afternoon, and as my husband was opening the front door to take the pie to the car, it slid off the container of rolls, and proceeded to fall end over end to the floor, narrowly missing the dog, who scrambled nervously under the table to avoid the pumpkin missile that nearly exploded on her head. It seemed to happen in slow-motion, like a train wreck that can't be avoided, and you stand helplessly watching it.

And then, I began to laugh. It truly is like spilled milk, usually happening unintentionally. But, my husband was pretty upset, as we scooped up the pie from the floor with pancake turners and into the trash basket!

You can't let these things get you down! I can always make more pie. But, next time, I'll carry it. Ok, honey?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

I really like the holiday of Thanksgiving, the traditions of family and good food and the chance to celebrate all the good things in life in which we are blessed.

I am thankful for my husband of 35 years, and his positive attitude toward things. I am so glad to wake up with him everyday. I am thankful to now be working with him, now that I am adjusting to being employed once again. I loved being able to work in the yard and and garden with him for most of the summer, doing what I love to do.

I am thankful we have jobs and he is doing what he loves to do. Me. I am still adjusting, but I am, indeed, thankful.

I am thankful I am the luckiest mother and grandmother in the world! I get to see them often and to see them grow up. I get to be a hands-on Grandma! I am thankful for the two new grandchildren this year - Jacob and Sawyer - and the promise of another in the coming year. I am thankful we are all pretty healthy, just the minor stuff like colds and colic.

I am thankful Dave and Amy's new home is in Palisade and they have new jobs, a new beginning for both. We are ecstatic to have Jack around, too!

I am thankful for our friends this year....we have many, old and new.

We lost our old dog this past year, so I am thankful for the 9 years he spent with us, and for the two Pound Hounds we adopted. Maggie and Sampson are our new Fur-Kids.

I am thankful two of my poems were published, totalling four to date. It is a blessing, at this time in my life.

I am thankful for all the problems we faced this year, for the fact that we faced them together, and so the load was divided and the joy was multiplied, as we waited upon God to work in his mysterious and mischievous ways. I am thankful for the chance to work on the lesson of patience and persistence, as it helped my faith to grow and to deepen. I began to learn to give thanks for all things, not just the things I pick and choose that are easy.

I am thankful my health has improved, and the back problems that I had last winter have improved. I still struggle, but I am learning to take it one day at a time.

I've had a lot of things to forgive this year. Betrayals, upheavals, disappointments and hurts. I am willing to be willing to be thankful for these things, as I give them to God and allow Him to transform them as is His will. So many times, all I could pray was for God's good will to be done. It wasn't easy, in fact, it was difficult. Each time, God would bring to mind how Jesus forgave from the cross, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." And I pray for the same, when I am the one in need of mercy, too.

I am thankful for second chances, for new beginnings, for each new day. I am thankful to be alive. I pray for the ability to give thanks, no matter the circumstances.

I give thanks for the increased awareness that God never deserts me. It is like a continual awakening that never ceases to give me peace.

Monday, November 17, 2008

If I'd Known Then What I Know Now

I would count each hair on your head and
memorize each nuance of light
dancing on each gossamer strand.
I would store your fresh baby smell in a
bottle for days of drought without you,
when my memory grows dim; future
faith blinded my present with you.

If I'd known then what I know now, nothing
could distract me from watching you
nestle safe in my arms close to my heart,
sweet visions skipping on your eyelids,
diamonds sparkling in morning dew and
pixie dust reserved just for you.
Order the mundane be silent - no
desire for caution this last day!

If I'd known then what I know now,
I would beg God for just a little
more time, for one last kiss on your velvety
cheek, one more lingering look, one
more breathtaking smile before you go,
long enough for my solemn promise:
this is not good-bye, my love, it is
"See you later, Sweetpea."

`February '06`


How, may I ask, could I allow
my child to tread so close to the edge,
without shouting a warning?
If I should tangle
with the stabbing thorns of fear
or landslides of self-doubt --
it is my very own rock-and-a-hard-place.
If the bough should break, the cradle
shall fall, taking my heart with it.
The whir of dark thoughts
clouds my mind. I feel like
a seamstress threading
a needle in the dark.

My mother-heart must allow learning
by consequence or obedience.
How near to the edge do I tread
before the vertigo of indecision
plummets me to my own demise?
Can I save my own flesh and blood
or will I drown in an ocean of guilt,
rescue attempt gone awry?
It is inconceivable to contemplate
this endless dark night of the soul,
or your cruel muttering,
"I told you so."
How do you finally let go?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Are You For or Against?

In this country, we've had the war on Poverty, the war on drugs, the war on terrorism in the past 40 years. If there is a problem, we declare war on it. Strong feelings elicit strong reactions, which ultimately contribute further to the problem.

But, the poor are still among us, and in this recession, there are more than ever. There are more drugs than ever, and we have clearly not won the war on drugs, nor do we have a ceasefire or peace treaty. Sorry, Nancy Reagan, it was a worthy cause, but, applying more of the problem multiplies the problem.

Now we have a war on terrorism, which is insane when you stop to think about it. Where does it stop? Where does it end? I for one, do not want to increase the problem of terror in our country, or our world. Fear is the problem, and declaring war on fear is to multiply fear and terror. It is not the solution we need.

If you respond with hatred, when hatred is directed your way, you have become a part of the problem of hatred, rather than the solution which is love. Love and forgiveness inspire people to work at what they are "for" rather than what they are against. If you're against violence, you'll fight it with you're own brand of violence. If you're "for" love and peace, you'll bring those energies to the presence of violence and discord, and ultimately dissolve the hate.

Mother Teresa was invited to march against the war in Vietnam. She replied, "No, I won't, but when you have a march for peace, I'll be there."

She also stated, "God does not command that we do great things, only little things with great love."

It's no wonder she is a saint. She spent her life working the solution, not the problem.

The next time you declare war on something, think about it from the solution end of it and work backwards. And think about the Man from Gallilee who advised us to "Love your neighbor. Do good to your enemy." Then on the cross, when the Roman soldiers were killing him slowly, and his best friends had abandoned him, he forgave them with these words, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." He blessed them who murdered him in a torturous, public death, while his mother watched, and the spectators gambled on his clothes. Forgive them. They don't know what they are doing, because they are killing in the name of God, killing God's very son. He blessed them, interceded on their behalf for their very souls, because they had lost their good soul, and he knew their darkness as nobody else on earth.

I think the point I am trying to make is that Jesus did not retaliate, or curse them, he forgave. He cut the cord of revenge because he knew, "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." He did not even complain about his murderers, his fair weather followers, he prayed for the others, for their peace and forgiveness! He prayed for the solution, even while completely embroiled in their problem, as they crucified him to death.

Think about it the next time you are against something. I want to be a part of the solution. I want to be a peacemaker. But, I have to begin small....I have to begin with me, and as I am peaceful, I will send waves of peace where I am. I am "for" peace, and I know it must begin within me.

Are you "for" or against?

Friday, November 14, 2008

You Were Early and I am Late

You missed shinnying up the apple tree,
cowboys and Indians, skinned up knees,
"come out now, ollie, ollie, oxen free,"
because you were early, and I am late.

No tattling and catching big fish,
summer star gazing and making a wish,
grownup plans to accomplish;
see, you were early and I am late.

Melancholy regrets float on thin air -
tossing baseballs and pulling my hair.
I wonder if your hair was also fair?
Bro, you were early and I am late.

My reluctant brother, if you're able,
save me a seat at the Lamb's table;
but Fate spoke first and wrote this fable,
for you were early and I am late.

I dedicate this to my older brother, Kent Eugene,
born Sept. 11, 1952 - Sept. 12, 1952.

Daily Rx

Each morning I gaze into
my cup with the chip on the rim,
and begin my morning ritual,
filling it with fragrant liquid
and imbibing it's warming elixir.
Marred by accident,
my lacerated heart resembles
this chipped cup, functional,
but with piece missing.

Imperfect, lacking strength,
I turn to God to fill me
with what I need this day.
I am willing to be useful.
I am willing to tap God's grace.
And so it goes, I become
whole only when I offer
my emptiness to God.

Cup cradled in warm hands,
I open to quiet hope
intertwined with it's rising steam.
I am ready to accept this healing potion.
I am ready to meet the day.

~Tami Vrbas~ 2006
published in Summer '07 Inspirit Journal

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Birthdays!

Happy Birthday Greetings to my daughter, Missy and to my granddaughter, Peyton. May you have many, many more and all the love you can hold.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday Tori and Sarah! Tori spent her birthday, on Monday, playing in Ogallala in a sub-district volleyball tournament. They won on Monday, and played again on Tuesday evening and defeated the #1 team to move into the semi-finals Thursday night against Hitchock County. Happy 17th birthday, Tori!

Happy Birthday to Sarah, who was home, sick with a stomach virus, on her birthday on Tuesday, November 4th. I really hope you are feeling better and feel recovered to celebrate on the weekend. I don't give out the age of adult birthdays.

I wish you both many, many more happy birthdays. We love you!

My apology for the late greetings. Jerry and I have worked long, hard hours because a co-worker needed some vacation-time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On Voting Booths

Voting booths remind me of the sanctity of the confessional booth for several reasons. The first is physical, in that there is a small closet like area, with a curtain, in which a person can slip into; there is room for just one person. The curtain obscures the person and the ballot from the prying eyes of the public. It is not always quiet, but it is quiet enough to do what a person's conscience guides him/her to do.

What goes on in the voting booth is between the voter and the ballot, which is collected and collated anonymously. When the voter leaves that booth, and the voting precinct, it is a personal choice whether to reveal or to not reveal to another living soul what business took place in that booth. I like that the sanctity of voting in our democracy is protected, as the sanctity of the confessional booth is protected in our society.

I like that I have the chance to vote someone into office, or to vote a deadbeat incumbent out of office, whether locally, statewide and nationally, or all three. And the best part is that I can do that in the voting booth, without fear of reprisal from friend or government.

And as much as I appreciate my privilege to vote in this country, I abhor the political process, the down and dirty, just plain lying that is done, the slant in the news, the manure slinging, name calling, put down the opponent to win, and never discuss the issues, and good manners are for the other guy to watch, not me, attitude the news media, the political parties and pundits exhibit. I also resent the self appointed prophets who try to call the results of the election before the election has actually taken place. If I had the power, I'd call a moratorium on all that, but then I think somebody named Hitler did that, and that's a whole other story in the history of mankind.

That's why, despite the downside of the process, the upside is exactly my point. When I finally get inside that voting booth today, and I close the durtain behind me, I can cast my vote for the candidate of my choice without anybody breathing down my neck. I need never tell another soul how I voted, but I am old enough to be fully cognizant of one thing. My vote counts and there are consequences one way or another that we shall all have to live with.

And there will be a percentage of the population who will be happy with the outcome, and a group of people who will think the world is coming to an end if their party does not get voted into office.

And we shall all need to pull together the day after to become a nation of people who cannot become divisible by forces outside the US of A. We shall all need to reach across the aisle and work on uniting this country again, and to work toward resolving the problems that will not go away. It just may be that outside forces will not destroy this country, but our own tendency to see portions of our population as them against us, the haves and the have-nots, the rich against the poor and middle-class, the educated against the blue collar worker, the immigrant against the natural born citizen, or the Democats versus the Republicans. We are all Americans, we just disagree. Diversity is not a dirty word, and it is not a threat to patriotism. It is a sign that, in fact, democracy at it's best is at full play in this country, and that all peoples have a voice, no matter how much I disagree or agree with the message.

And my fondest dream is that those running for office will do so to be public servants, instead of dipping into the pork barrel for their own personal gain. I can dream.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grappling With Ghosts

I can still see him clearly in my mind today, six years later. There was nothing spectacular about him, nothing outstanding, but I have not been able to get this stranger out of my mind. For awhile, I wished I'd quietly taken a photo of him, as he watched the concert that summer evening.

Let me go back to July of 2003, to a place in Nebraska called Comstock, where weekend music festivals are held during the summertime. The weekend lineup of rock groups were from the '70's and 80's, and Jerry and I were excited to have a weekend getaway to see these acts perform. Rock giants like Steppanwolf, Blue Oyster Cult, Grand Funk Railroad, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Little River Band, Foghat, the lead singer of Foreigner, and the headliners Def Leppard, among others were on the schedule from Friday night till Sunday night.

Friday night we were all sitting in lawn chairs or on blankets on the ground, far up the hill from the mosh pit. People were in groups of two to twenty, waiting for Creedence Clearwater Revisited to come up next. The first two acts had just finished up and the heat of the day was starting to dissipate a little. The high for the day was 105.

He wore a white t-shirt and a pair of denim overalls, with farm boots and clean white socks. The cap on his head was printed with a"Vietnam Vet" VFW gold insignia. I figured he was a farmboy from Nebraska who had been called up by the draft in the 60's. Throughout the first two acts, he had laid all chilled out on a lawn chair with a footrest. During intermission, it appeared he might have dozed off for awhile.

But I digress. He was totally relaxed and chilling on that lawn chair, with the pup tent shielding him and his wife from the hot sun, until the announcer introduced Creedence Clearwater Revisited and they launched into the guitar introduction to "Run Through the Jungle." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that reclining, middle-aged, gray haired man, jump up and leap into the air and let loose a whoop to join the rest of the audience that was on their feet, too.

He whooped and leaped once more, and then he fell back on that rickety lawn chair, which unceremoniously dumped him onto the ground, as it fell to the side. And I watched spellbound as he sat up and just sat there on the brown grass, totally dejected and physically spent. His body was in Nebraska, but his mind had broke through the time barrier and leaped over 3 decades of time. I had the sense that he was back to 1968, sitting in the jungle cover, in the mountains of Vietnam, with his M-16 in his hands and the ghosts of his buddies calling to him over the span of time.

I tried hard not to stare, but something about this man's nostalgic journey back in time grabbed at my heart and I could not take my eyes off him. I had never seen somebody of his age become so animated and enthusiastically react to the music of his generation and then slump into what I thought may have been a post traumatic stress episode so instantly. I had never seen somebody jump so high physically and then emotionally crash, just as suddenly.

After several minutes of "Running Through the Jungle", they went through the other songs in their repertoire: Suzy Q, Proud Mary, Green River and many others. The crowd was appreciative and rowdy, but that veteran was totally still and unresponsive. Each time I glanced his way, I felt like I was intruding into his space, but I couldn't seem to stop myself. There was something about him that really yanked on my heart. He was there, but he really wasn't "there."

I have no idea who he was, or where he lived, but I have found myself thinking about him every now and then, and I find myself saying a prayer for him to find peace for his memories and the past, and to find a way to weave all those experiences into the means to live as a whole person today. I pray for all of those who grapple with the gray ghosts in their past, which are triggered by a few familiar chords of a favorite chart climber from that era; just a few notes are strummed and the past may be resurrected.

As Creedence Clearwater finished up their set, he and his wife folded up the pup tent, lawn chairs, and their "baggage" and slipped quietly into the shadows of that Nebraska night. When I glanced over a few minutes later, another group of concert goers was spreading out their things and claiming the spot.

I'm thankful, now, that I didn't take a photo of him. It would have been a sacrilege. I'm glad I didn't intrude into his personal space and add to his grief; but, I will never forget that vet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Volleyball Game Shots

At the Lady Broncos game against Medicine Valley, on Oct. 14th, I snapped these shots of my awesome granddaughter, Tori Adams, as she played varsity volleyball in Wauneta. I can't tell you what a thrill it is to watch her play. She gains confidence and skill as time goes on. She is #9.

Bethany setting to Tori.
Tori serving.
Waiting for the serve.
Good job, Tori! From your button busting Grandma.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Two Peas in a Pod, Two Gifts from God

Today is Matthew's birthday. It is Maya's birthday, too. I spent the morning with Matthew, Nathan and Jacob, while their Mom went to a meeting. We had such a grand time playing together. When she got home, we had lunch together, for which I am so grateful. We also talked about our little girl. And though it brings tears, to not talk about her hurts even worse.

Some say you never get over the loss of a loved one, that you will continue to grieve that person's absence from your life until you die. I believe that to be true by experience. As long as you can talk about them, remember them, a part of them continues to exist, at least in their loved one's memory.

If love forms a circle, then that circle of love, that seems broken to the human eye, continues to exist in the heart that remembers. May the circle of love in our family be unbroken. The love we had for you, is still in our hearts. I want to say life is unfair, that you were taken too soon, but frankly, there are no promises of a long life for any of us. If there is anything to learn from you leaving us "too soon," it is that each of us may be a little more aware that we will not be here forever, and that our days on earth are numbered. Let us love each other today, while there is the opportunity.

Happy Birthday, Maya. And tell Jesus thank you for taking care of you, Sweetpea! I am so grateful. Amen.

Meeting Sawyer the First Time

What a joy to meet Sawyer and to hold her! Can you tell by the grin on my face, that this is exactly what I've waited all day to do?! And for those of you who think this gets to be ho-hum after the first few -- look at the joy on my face, it never gets old, and it is always a thrill to meet one of your grandchildren for the first time. Each time is the first time with that special child and the joyful thrill just gets better and better!
My tenth grandchild. I am so blessed!
Grandma Mary Lou holding Sawyer.
Great Grandmother Mary Lou and Sawyer Jane Vrbas.
Grandpa Jerry and Sawyer. She looks pretty cozy in Papa Jerry's arms, doesn't she?!

Monday, October 13, 2008

She's Arrived!

I am so happy to announce that Sawyer Jane Vrbas was born at 9:59 pm, CT in McCook Community Hospital, to Joe and Sarah Vrbas. Her Daddy reports she has strawberry blonde hair and is chubby. Since he called before she was weighed and measured, I don't have the details, just talked to a very happy daddy. We are very thrilled and relieved mom and baby are doing fine.
We are not going to be able to see her until after work today. Hope she and her Mommy get lots of rest, for we will be there tonight to meet the newest member of our family. It's going to be very hard to keep the mind on work today! My heart is in that hospital! It also means I won't have pictures until then, either.
Congratulations to Joe, Sarah and Peyton. Welcome to the world, Sawyer Jane.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Any Day Now....

For nine months we have awaited the arrival of a new child to our family. In the past week, I have not been far from the phone, just in case, the call came to let us know, our son Joe, and his beautiful wife, Sarah, have left for the hospital to have this very much anticipated birth of their daughter.
Peyton has her wheels to go to the hospital to meet
her new little sister. She is ready!

All of the cousins are ready to make room for one more!
Luke, Matthew, Jacob, Tori, Jack, Peyton, and Nathan
Stay tuned. It should be any day now. I'll keep you informed!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Our Welcoming Committee..

This is what you will see, if you drive by our house
when we are at work.
Where are our people?
Is it 6:00, yet?

Old Country Cemetery

On a corner of a quarter section of land, adjacent to the county road, sits an old cemetery, that has long ago been abandoned. This is located just a half mile from the old run down farm house in the previous post. One headstone has been fenced around, probably to keep cattle from stomping on the grave. You wonder how many unmarked graves there are in the areas between the standing, and surviving headstones. It's really a peaceful spot.
There are many clumps of iris growing in and around this burial area. I hope to go back in the spring, in May, to witness their bloom.
My Great Grandparents Lewis and Hattie Johnson are buried here. He passed on December 13, 1894, the year before his grandson, my grandfather, Van Austin Peterson, was born to Jacob and (their daughter) Amanda Peterson. He emigrated from Sweden, she was born in Illinois, of Swedish parents. She lived until 1913. The inscription on the bottom reads, "To dwell with the happy and blest."
This old implement sits by the side of the road, in the weeds, just 1/2 mile from the old homestead, on other property. I just couldn't resist snapping a photo of the rusted and weathered piece of farm equipment. It's kind of sad that it was abandoned in the weeds, and not in a museum. Do you think people were so glad to have the new and improved tractors and other farm implements, that made their jobs so much easier and the work faster, that they were none to glad to leave it, forgotten in the weeds, to rust and rot, for industrial progress?

Visiting the South Divide

An old hand pump, sitting on a knoll in wheat stubble, is all that is left at the location where my Dad grew up south of Palisade. The camera is pointing north, and just to the left of the camera,
this oil well storage tank sits.
Don't you think the sky is a beautiful blue in these photos?
This field to the south of the county road is what my Uncle Frank hoped to come home to farm, after WWII. I'm not sure how the family no longer owned it, perhaps, other opportunities off the farm beckoned, and it was sold. Uncle Al was of the opinion the lawyer who handled the deal misrepresented it's worth, especially when he saw present day oil wells in the area. There is a working oil well pumper in the center of this photo, if you look closely.
This dilapidated old farm house sits a mile north of the old home location and is characteristic of farm houses of that period. When I try to imagine the old farm, I like to think it resembled this, with kids playing in the yard, a dog or two, and some farm equipment sitting near a windmill, a chicken house and of course, a barn. In many cases, the settlers planted fruit trees, too, to insure their long term survival, and to provide much needed shade. It was a beautiful Indian Summer day, and thankfully, I did not encounter any rattlesnakes or ghosts.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Searching for the Old Home Place

It was a gorgeous fall day, last Wednesday, driving home from Trenton to get our new vehicle licensed; so, I turned off Highway 25, to do a little road trip past the general area where my Dad lived when he was a little boy. It is between Palisade and Trenton, about a mile west of Baker's Acres. The last time I had been there was the summer of 2005, when my Uncle Al Peterson was here for his class reunion.

That summer, Uncle Al drove out to the old home place, with his son, and my cousin, David, to show us where he grew up with my Dad. It was really exciting for me to have his input of memories to add to what little I could remember of what my Dad had told me. Many times, I had wished I had kept a written record of what my Dad related through the years. Many times, I wished I had listened closer. Many times since then, I wished I had asked more questions.

As we made the turn to go east, and slowly drove the mile, Uncle Al told us that the field to the southwest was a piece of land that his older brother, Frank, had hoped to farm after he returned from the European theater of WWII. He got quite agitated as he remembered family history. He recalled some doings with a lawyer, in which the result was the family lost that piece of ground. As he gazed upon the oil wells that dotted the land on both sides of the county road we traveled, he showed a mixture of anger and sadness. He remembered they had been poor as church mice. Dirt poor.

As we came over a slight hill, he stopped in the middle of the road and though, there was nothing there, he expressed great disbelief. "It's gone!" he exclaimed. "There's nothing left!" he choked out. David and I were very quiet, for all we could see was plowed fields and nothing but horizon. Behind us was a large oil storage tank that probably sat where the old barn or chicken house formerly stood with the animals that kept the wolf from the door and starvation at bay, from day to day, for a family of 7 people.

"I can't believe there is nothing left!" he said, again. Then he pointed where there once had stood the windmill, the barn, the house they lived in, and the fields that my Grandfather would have plowed with the most primitive of tools and work horses.

"Mom used to cover the windows with quilts, at night, during the winter, to keep the snow from drifting on us while we slept."

"We used to take turns climbing the windmill to see how far we could see. On a clear day, you could see for miles and miles."

"In this direction," he pointed, "was the garden Mom planted every year. During the dirty thirties, when I was little, the grasshoppers literally ate the onions out of the ground, after they had eaten everything else. One of us kids made the claim that at least, we would have potatoes, if they ate everything else. Those damn grasshoppers ate the stems clear down to the ground, then ate the taters, too!"

He sat there for a long minute or two, and then he said it again, with sad disbelief, "I can't believe it is all gone." I couldn't believe it either, but I was so glad to be a witness to what he could remember from our emotional road trip.

Back to the present, as I slowly drove the same hallowed ground, and stopped and searched for anything that could be a sign, I discovered there was an old hand pump that may have been a part of an old windmill in that spot.

Is it where my grandparents once lived and where my dad grew up? I can't say, but, I have an idea that it very well may be. There is nothing else in that area to ever indicate a family once worked the land, and scraped out a living as they worked the land, and weathered the years together in this place on the prairie.

My next step is to try to locate land records that might support this claim. I am also hoping to find documentation of some sort to support the family history that my Grandfather Van A. Peterson was born in a sod house south of Palisade, about 1895.

I did not have my camera with me that day, but I hope to go back soon, and get some photos, particularly of the hand pump, at this place that no one can go home, again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

More Butterflies

Admiral butterfly on the Autumn Joy Sedum, which also attracts lots of bumblebees and wasps and other moths, too.

Blanket flower and an old plow. Thank goodness for today's roto-tillers that are gas powered and not human powered!
Monarch in the cosmos.
The zinnias have been beautiful this year. Such vibrant colors.

Monarchs in the Sun.

There have been many butterflies in my garden in the past few weeks. This is some of the photos I've been able to take in the zinnias.
Admiral butterfly.
Two admirals having lunch.
The monarch.
Closeup of an Admiral.
Monarch sunning while there is the chance.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Windmill Closeup

Country Pics

Prairie dog posing for the camera.

A pasture pond in the hills north of Palisade.

This wildflower grows in low spots, such as in ditches, where rainwater accumulates.

These wildflowers can be seen in the prairie pastures and are numerous this year.


In memory of my Dad, Van O. Peterson, farmer/rancher 1928-1997.

Watchman of prairie dog and pasture grass,
what do you guard today? Rugged and proud
sentry of wood and steel, watching when
westerly winds waft o'er the plains.

Solitary giant pumping water
to parched land, thirsty cattle and dry
human hearts. Head into the wind, no storm
cellar ot hide your face when tornadoes

pummel the soft earth. Weather-beaten
survivor of sun, wind and blizzarding
snow. Antiquated silhoueete at
setting sun, won't you watch for me?

~Tami Peterson Vrbas, 2005

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rodent Rodeo

He springs from the chute, like a shot,
gallops like a barrel horse toward the knothole,
canters to the west branch, where he scrambles
into the turn. The bushy tree rat soon emerges,
weaving over, and under, and around,
loping to the straightaway, his feet barely touch.
Oblivious to gravity, he dives fearlessly down
the south slope, and leaps to the ground,
passes the corn cob bait - and with black-oil seeds
beckoning - he makes a final dash to the bird feeder.
He shimmies, undeterred now, up the greased pole,
slathered with Crisco, steps nimbly over the baffle,
installed to prevent such pesky raiders, and glides
to the finish line. The cheeky rodent swishes
his tail, like a victory wave, munches seeds
in tiny paw hands, claims his rodeo prize.
I never saw him break a sweat. Then, cross-my-heart,
hope-to-die - I swear, the little buckaroo winked at me,
as I hung up the dishtowel.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Gatekeeper

I tiptoe to my garden gate
in the dim early light,
to escape to my seat
near the sheltering lilacs.
I am the gatekeeper.
I've come to hedge out
the blaring headlines of war,
the matter-of-fact voice
delivering every atrocity.
Here I linger, for the flutter
of tiny wings to the bird feeder,
where the song sparrows hang-glide
to the lawn, like toy parachutes,
and meld into the waves of
brown birds scouring seed
in the thick green turf. A
woodpecker's drumming heralds
the red queen's entrance to breakfast,
closely followed by her genteel king.
When I swat the mosquito
humming in my eardrum,
I startle a complacent toad
sitting in the rock garden,
warming his bones in the sun.

I retreat to that garden gate
in my mind, now and then,
and recall the innocence
of lilacs in tucked-away gardens,
where the common sparrow dines
with royalty, valiant knights
escort lovely ladies, where a
reptile may sunbathe unharmed.
The divine heartbeat resonates
in this quiet inner sanctum;
worry evaporates like morning dew,
as I evict the thieves of serenity.
For I am the gatekeepr,
and in this peaceful respite,
mosquito bite is the only threat
of bloodshed to be found.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Whine Making Season

I spent the afternoon in the sunshine in my garden. I could hear the soft calling of the turtledoves in the spruce tree that stands by the back gate. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend they were serenading me, as I bent to pick tomatoes, fresh lettuce and a gallon bucket full of strawberries. Then I tried to stand up straight, and my back really protested.

I have to admit that I am weary of tending the garden this year. Thankfully, there is much less to tend, since some of it has been cleaned up. But, I got to thinking, I planted the peas and onions in March, during a warm spell. No wonder I am really tired of it! I am ready for a break.

I'm glad the intensive gardening chores are only for a season. I'm glad I don't have to fight the weeds all year long. And sad to say, I hardly look at the containers full of petunias and geraniums, or the flowerbeds with their last burst of blooms before frost comes in the near future. I did notice a couple pink roses, as I was coming in the back door.

Isn't it ironic, how enthusiastic gardeners are in the spring to get their hands in the dirt, to get the seeds planted into the ground. We can hardly wait for the soil to warm up enough to make things sprout and grow. After a winter of looking at snow and gray landscape, we yearn for green. As Ecclesiastes states it so wisely, there is a time to sow.

Today, I was thinking how much wisdom there is to the seasons, how certain activities are equated with one season, and not with the others. After tending this vegetable garden all spring and summer, and the flower beds, the lawn and everything, I am very relieved that soon the need for this will pass until next year. I am thankful it is the time to harvest and to pick apples, etc.

So, I am determined to stop and smell those two rosebuds by the back door tomorrow morning, to check the last cantalope left to ripen, and to enjoy the butterflies on the zinnias and marigolds.

Oh, did mention that I saved some flower seeds for next spring? When the snow recedes next spring, the air warms and the birds return from the south, I will be ready to create my garden once again; my fingers will itch to plunge into the soil and to place those seeds into the warming ground. And every chance I have, I will walk along the string that marks the rows, and my eyes will seek the first wisp of green piercing the ground, and the connection between the seasons will continue from one year to the next, just as the Master designed it. And after a winter's rest, I will be good to go, again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys

The insistent ringing of the telephone brought me out of the bowels of the basement, on a run to stop the phone's dictating demand, "Answer me. Run. Hurry. NOW." I answered on the fourth ring.

"Mrs. Vrbas?" a female voice queried. My heart began to pound with growing anxiety.

"Do you know what your little boys are doing?" the voice continued, slightly accusingly.

"They were playing in the yard when I went to the basement to do laundry," I answered a trifle defensively, still trying to catch my breath.

The zinger came in a polite informative voice. "Were you aware they are relieving themselves on the street?" Sure enough, through the window, I spied my two young sons, standing side by side on the curb, with both hands in front of them, directing their pee toward the passing cars. I sincerely wished I was in the basement and could stay there indefinitely.

"Yes. I see them. I was doing laundry in the basement and they took advantage," I tried to explain through clenched jaws.

"I just thought you would want to know what they are up to," the voice spoke in a most helpful, slightly superior tone. I thanked the voice, and then said good-bye.

I stood at the window, my eyes resting on my male offspring, as they made their private parts private once more. Three and four years old, I couldn't help but smile, as they giggled and joshed with each other for a few minutes. It was cute, but in ten years, it could be an undesirable habit. I did not desire to be the mother of future exhibitionists.

I called to Dave and Joe from the front door, while waving to the concerned citizen from across the street, that I had just spoke to on the phone. The boys came running to the door for milk and cookies. They nodded their heads agreeably while munching cookies and licking at milk mustaches, as I explained they should come inside to use the bathroom. I felt satisfied it had gone well and was no big deal.

I shared this incident with my husband later and how proud of myself I was of how I'd handled the situation with our boys. I couldn't believe my ears later, when he was tucking them into bed. I heard him say to them, "Next time you need to go when you're outside, don't go on the street. Go outback to the lilac bush, where no one will see you."

We laugh about it now, especially since the two kids were crack shots and hit the tractors that would go by, much to the hilarity of the farmers driving them. To the best of my knowledge, they are not exhibitionists today.

My Favorite Prayer

Dear God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself..and
the fact that I think I am following
Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But, I believe this:

I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please You. I hope I have
that desire in everything I do. I hope I
never do anything apart from that desire.
I know that if I do this You will lead me
by the right road...though I may know
nothing about it at the time.
I will trust You always for though I may
seem to be lost and in the shadow of death,
I will not be afraid because I know You
will never leave me to face my troubles
all alone.

~Thomas Merton~

Monday, September 8, 2008

Summer Visitor

Early in the summer, I set out a hummingbird feeder, just as I had last year. But, this year, I set the bishop's hook near the large bay window, so we could observe the little suckers close up.

Well, it hung there, full of red sugar water (they call it nectar, to be specific) hoping to entice one or two to come near, and to hang out in our yard this summer, and to join all the other birds that I feed, too. But, it hung there for weeks, untouched. And it seemed to mock me, every time I walked by.

One day, in July, that feeder hanging there with nothing happening nearly got the best of me, and I took it down to put it away in the basement. And as I emptied it into the sink, a little bit of hope nudged me, and I filled it again. One more time, I said to self.

The next morning, about 7:30, as I walked by the window, one tiny green hummingbird shot up to the hanging feeder and took a drink. It was there for maybe two seconds, they are so quick. Well, I probably chased the poor thing off when I hooped and hollered for joy, when I saw it! It came back often that day and for three days total. I didn't get too much done, for those three days, because I had my behind firmly planted by that window watching the little green miracle just on the other side of the glass

Then, just as I was getting used to it being around, I didn't see it again, for several weeks. But, I continued to change the red sugar water - er, nectar, faithfully. He might come back, you know. And thankfully, my husband got some photoshots of it.

Later, in August, it was back again, but this time, it seemed quite agitated, continually watching around it, on guard, it seemed. It didn't take long to find out why. There was another one, that kept buzzing around, and when it buzzed past, it took up chase. Sometimes, it even perched on the bishop's hook, and even though it was vigilantly watching for the other hummingbird, too, it would gaze into the window pane, as if it was as curious about us, as we were about him. (Or her?) Then, there were three of them, and one would guard another, while it took sustenance at the nectar feeder, and seemed to be guarding this one from a third one.

I was in heaven, let me tell you. Now, there were three, and they were buzzing around, back and forth from the trees, to the feeder, and around the yard and back again. I think we had a male protecting a female from another male. He was sure territorial! No bird was going to take his girl!

Off and on, we saw them for about 8 days. Then, it was quiet, again, for I guess that they may have had a nest of little ones. This is even better yet, now there will be more of them. I don't think we watched tv for more than a week. We had much better entertainment right out of our window and I had a front row seat.

I see one occaisonally, now, that we are into September, and the nights are a bit cooler. Soon, they will migrate, as many birds do. But, you can be very sure, I will put that red sugar water feeder out again, next year. Same place next year, okay guys?!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Recycling the Shrine

He needed a place to remove his muck boots
before entering the house, somewhere
to plant his behind, without standing on
his head; so Dad haunted farm auctions
and scoured old country homesteads, waded
in waist-high weeds, and woke the
custodial grasshoppers, always clutching
a spade, in case he'd rustle up a rattler,
scavenging for pieces of old farm implements;
a rusted gear here, the cast iron tractor seats
and old cream separator bases there, muttering
to himself, "Glad we got rid of those milk cows,
back then;" rustling up bits and pieces of the
past with a screw driver and pair of pliers.

Back home in his dusty shop, he'd lay the body
parts out on the floor, like Dr. Frankenstein in
his lab, with a foot here, a seat there, until he'd
welded this odd creation together into a solid,
one-of-a-kind, heavy stool.

They sit on my patio, now, just three rustic
thrones to judiciously tuck the left-right of your
back side; the flange juts up like a saddle horn.
They are irrepressible, like the bib-overall clad
farmer butts that bumped tirelessly, minus
padding or springs, with Massey Harris through
the green seas of corn and wheat, the vast
acres of hay, soybeans and milo with McCormack
Deering across the Great Plains, and honed
Allis Chalmers to an earthy patina; our leisure
forged by Farmall and their blood, sweat and tears.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Window Sill Altar

Beneath a hushed
cathedral of trees,
I stand near the glass
as sunrise approaches,

the streaks of pink
and periwinkle-tinged
light unfurl like
birthday banners

in a pewter sky.
The gnarled fingers
of brown trees limbs
rise in joyfulness,

lifting the darkness;
auburn light bathes
the sleepy shadows.
My heart rises

like a chalice held high,
an offering of
the warm wine of gladness,
the broken bread of praise.

Today is the pristine page
of second chance,
fresh absolution spread
as a veritable feast.

The Lord of Hospitality
bequeaths this one shining cup,
and mystery brims
in new wineskins.

The Invitation

Near the crown of the elm, in the yard
across the street,
I see the red bird
seeking a perch to sit,
throw his head back
and sing --

I like to think
he is singing to me --
but, it is springtime
and his trembling body strains
with each prayerful note,
pitching his invitation,

into the evening --
"Cheer. Cheer. Cheer, cheer-uh;"
his courting song
charges the evening air.
I hold my breath,

for among the basket
of heart-shaped leaves in the redbud tree
behind me, she answers
his intense longing, note for note.
Instantly, he joins her;
then, over my rooftop, they soar,

tails fluttering,
two fiery exclamation points engraved in
a molten gold sunset.
Mirth tumbles from my lips,
and accompanies them, like the
melody of bendiction into summer.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Like Balloons In the Wind

This really happened, and all I did was record it. Some call that serendipity. Some call it God's will. Maybe serendipity is just God blessing us, while remaining anonymous.

Like Balloons in the Wind

Little One~
The balloon that I signed with felt marker,
I will never forget you. Love, Grandma,
was tied with pink ribbon. Each of your earth
family held one,
as we stood in the snow, that fell last night.
I held tightly to your Grandpa's hand,
as we huddled in the wind, by the red cedar,
remembering two Christmases ago.
Your Aunt Katie said a sweet prayer, before
we released those bobbing balloons,
to the December wind, that whisked them,
out of our hands, high into the sky, then,
soared out of sight. Then, your cousin -
she's just three - cried out,
"I want my balloon back!"as they sailed,
by express, to your forever Home. At her age,
it's hard to let go the things you love.

I tried to be brave for your Mommy.
I tried hard not to cry, but the moaning prairie
wind assured me, tears are just wordless prayers
she transports instantly to God.
But, sometimes, I want to stomp my foot, too,
like a child, and shout to the heavens,
"I want my Sweet Pea back!"
Yes, letting you go is hard, at my age.

One day, when I'm released of my bonds of gravity,
I pray my soul will be lifted,
like a helium balloon in a friendly wind, to
my forever Home, where - God willing -
I will apprehend to the dwelling next to you,
and one day, overhear
the wind consoling another loved one, who cries,
"I will never forget you.
Letting you go is so hard to do."

Love and kisses, Grandma


In June, I received word that two of my poems were to be published in the Fall 2008 Inspirit Journal, edited by the Baughman United Methodist Church of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. I have been so pleased with their Journals and very happy to have the third and fourth of my poems published. I am doing this a bit backwards, but I am submitting them on this blog, at this time.


The floodgates of heaven were closed to us,
every cloud a taunting tease under a bully sun,
ever rushing to kiss the ground of another land.
It was spring by the calendar, not the greening
prairie hills. Along dry creek beds, grass and hope
turned to dust; the thorn and thistle were our reward.
Year after year, we were the poor banished children
of Eve, scorched by the welding torch of the sun.

When the rains came, the bloom was on the ditch
rose, once more. In the shade of tall sunflowers,
the cicada chanted his monotonous buzz-songs
to summer. Black angus peppered luxuriant
pastures, grazed the wild-rye-fringed cow paths
to brimming water tanks, under rasping windmills.
Blue flax sashayed on the shoulders of country roads,
near the tangle of black chokecherry thickets. In the
fencerows of alfalfa-scented fields, the honey bee
dives headlong into the fluted necks of yellow clover.

I walk along the saffron leaves of the cottonwoods,
along the the river. It's October, and the sticky spider
webs of dread sprawl and adhere to my soul. I dread
the end of the green milk and honey of this one,
abundant summer. I want to whine, like the locust
laments 'till the killing frost. I'm afraid, so afraid the
good luck ran out, and homesick, for the flickering
fireflies of hope, at dusk, in the Promised Land.

It's Fun to be a Drama Queen in the Land of Pretend

I've been hooked on reading ever since my mother put a book in my hand as a toddler. First, there were fairy tales, and nursery rhymes. Then, as I grew older, it was Nancy Drew Mysteries and other stories. I cannot remember a time when I did not read, whether it was cereal boxes, vitamin bottles, road signs and newspapers; anything that had words on them.

Not only did I like to read, but I liked to hear stories, too, and could inhabit another world thorugh my imagination. Later, when I had my own children, we often spent afternoons, just before naptime, reading stories. Each child got to choose a book, and then he or she got to sit beside me while I read it to them. Because there were four of them, when we finished that book, another book was chosen by another child and they rotated positions beside me to see the pictures, too. Those were really good times in my memory.

But, children grow up, and then, leave home, and in due time, they bring young grandchildren to introduce to the world of books and stories, to tickle their imaginations. I've read The Three Little Pigs to my three-year-old granddaughter, Peyton, so many times, she knows exactly where to chime in when the Big Bad Wolf has his part at the door. We say his line in as deep and scarey a voice as we can imagine a Big Bad Wolf could possess. And when we get to The End, she will look up at me, and proclaim, "Read it, again, Grandma!" That is music to my ears. It is so fun to be a Drama Queen with a preschooler, and to rule the Land of Pretend.

A couple months ago, my grandson, Luke, read a book to me! What a thrill to see him figuring out the sounds and shapes and meanings of letters that make words that fuel our language to compose an idea that can ignite the imagination. His brothers, Matthew and Nathan, also love to sit with a book.

Earlier this summer, I listened to my daughter-in-law, Amy, read library books to her son, Jack. Part of their summer routine was to frequent the library. Books are fun, and it thrills me to see our family is continuing to be a family of readers into the next generation, too.

It all starts with a story, some history, and putting words together to write a tale that begs to be recorded.