I Am No One’s Daughter

Thirteen years ago today, at 4:32 a.m., my mother took her last breath and passed from this world. I have missed her every day since.

We laid her to rest two days later, on Mother’s Day, 2001. She wore a corsage of three white roses, one for each of her children.

I bought my house later that year, and planted a rose bush in front of the house. I didn’t know until the next year that it was white, the traditional corsage color for Mother’s Day if your mother is dead. Every year, as if on cue, it blooms right before Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is difficult for those of us who are no one’s child, and no one’s mother. But, Mama would say, “Life is for the living,” so every year on May 11 I make it a point to do something I love, to really live.


If you wish to read more, here are some previous posts:









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First Ladies Tea with Andy Och at Eisenhower Library in Abilene


The Eisenhower Library in Abilene hosted a First Ladies Tea Saturday, with Andy Och who produced the C-Span Series on the First Ladies. He was an excellent speaker and delighted us with stories of the first ladies from Martha to Michelle.

In a nutshell, he illustrated how each of them was very accomplished and unusual for their time. He told stories that were part of the series. You can see the series for free by going to cspan.com/firstladies.

I confess I became a fan of Mrs. Taft. She was the one who planted the first cherry blossom trees, and was the first to give her inaugural gown. She was asked by the Smithsonian to share something with them and thought because she wouldn’t be using the inaugural gown again it was the perfect item. A tradition was born!

The tea itself was tasty, but very minimal. They advertised the menu in advance, so that wasn’t a surprise, but I really wish they had offered more of a tea “experience.” Even if they had to charge more, it would have been nice to have more food offered, and to have the typical things expected at a tea.

We were served cucumber sandwiches, a chicken salad sandwich, a small scone, and two desserts. They had advertised a lemon dessert that wasn’t served, at least not to our table. They were all delicious, but more variety of delicate sandwiches and desserts would have made it much more of an tea event, to go with the wonderful presentation.


The food was done by Apple Mint Catering, and it was great. It just would have been nice to have more selection of food, and some of the traditional tea things – like lemon curd. I so wanted some of that to go with this lavender scone, which was wonderful!

All of that said, it was a wonderful experience. The presentation was spectacular and I would happily do it again in a minute. Mr. Och was the main event, and the tea seemed ancillary to the day. But, it was the tea that attracted me, and I’m guessing others as well. It wouldn’t take much to make it more of a tea experience and have the best of both worlds. I like to have my cake and eat it too. Or, in this case, my fascinating presentation and my tea sandwiches, too!

They are planning to do another one next year, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, so mark your calendar. I already have!

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Olde English Tea at St. James in Wichita

Today was the 85th annual tea at St. James church in Wichita.  They have a central table filled with trays of food, and you serve yourself what you like.

One of the things that’s nice is that you can try a variety of things, and have more of your favorites.


Tea is poured at each end of the table.

They decorate with fresh flowers on the tables, as well as the individual trays.





They have two fashion shows as entertainment.



Jan and I have gone the last few years. She’s always tons of fun!

It’s a nice event. Tickets are $12, and it’s the first Saturday in May. It’s a lovely way to spend a little time and make some memories.

Read about the 2013 tea by clicking here.
Read about the 2012 tea by clicking here.


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Feeling Grateful

I’m feeling a rush of gratitude at the moment. Admittedly, I feel grateful every day, but the last few weeks have demonstrated why I have so very much to be thankful for.

A few weeks ago I went in for a regular checkup and scheduled a mammogram. They called a few days later and told me to come back in for more scans, that there was something in my left breast they wanted to double check.

Everyone I spoke with was very encouraging, telling me it’s not uncommon to be called back. I was fortunate enough to get in less than 24 hours after they called, and even more blessed that they looked at it while I was still there and the radiologist allowed the technician to share with me that he saw nothing to be a cause for concern. I’ll go back in six months instead of a year, just as a caution, but there’s no reason to believe it is anything but normal.


We left on a trip a couple of days later, and I was able to experience so many wonderful things that will influence my writing and my other work over the next few months. Travel is always inspiring.

I was thankful to be with my best friend, and we had a fantastic time. We discovered we both love sauerbraten (who knew? certainly not us!), saw the Harley Davidson Serial Number One machine, saw amazing art, and realized Wisconsin-ites are incredibly friendly!

I also saw a town of about 10,000 people who has done such an incredible job of branding itself that I’ll be using it in future presentations as a good example. Really impressive.

Travel is always about those little unexpected things that stay with you, as well as the memorable moments you anticipate when you’re planning. This trip offered many of both.


We wrapped up the trip with a stop to see the Bridges of Madison County. Not only did we enjoy the bridges, but one of them included a journal so I was able to gather some wonderful handwriting samples for wordsbyhand.com. I knew there would be writing inside the bridges, but the journal was an unexpected joy.


At the last minute, we decided to detour to spend a day or two with my friend’s mom. While there, more wonderful medical news arrived. Even when you’re expecting good news, you’re nonetheless relieved to hear it.


Now I’m back at home, where everything is in great working order thanks to a very kind soul who house sits for me. That allows me to travel without worrying about what’s happening back here from wind, rain, hail or other dramas – all of which occurred during our absence.


I’m also so, so, so thankful to be able to do much of my work from anywhere with an internet connection. So, I was able to keep up on client needs from the road, which allowed me to be away. I’m also thankful to have wonderful clients who understand. I occasionally need to be away – it energizes me like nothing else – and it brings new things into my world, allowing me to be more creative in my work.


Now I’m preparing to go to tea with a friend tomorrow. Sunday will be time for a flea market. Life continues to be full of delights.


Posted in Just Thinkin' | 4 Comments

Michael Reno Harrell House Concert

I spent the evening at the home of my friends Andrea and Steve, where they hosted a house concert by Michael Reno Harrell. They know his work from his appearances at Winfield’s Walnut Valley Festival. It was a wonderful evening.

He is a singer/songwriter and a storyteller. His performance was a wonderful mix of stories that make you think, make you laugh, and make you shed a tear. Needless to say, I loved it all. You can look at his website at michaelreno.com. If he’s in your area, make it a point to go see him. It’s an evening you won’t soon forget.

House concerts have become one way working musicians make a living on the road. If you have the space and the inclination, there’s a website where you can connect with musicians looking for houses, or houses looking for musicians. Check it out at http://www.concertsinyourhome.com/.

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Kim Stafford reads “Serving with Gideon” by his father, William Stafford

Kim Stafford read the  poem, “Serving with Gideon,” by his father, William Stafford, during a presentation at the Hutchinson Art Center on April 2, 2014.

Stafford believed in the power of one person to make a difference. This poem illustrates how that can happen in small, but significant ways.

Kim spoke about his father being an outsider, observing. You can hear that in this poem in a couple of lines, including, “I was almost one of the boys.”

Read the poem here.

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Fred Phelps’ Death and Reaction to It

Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, died last week. While I abhorred what he stood for, I will not rejoice at his death.

It seems those of us who have been vocal supporters of the equality movement are being asked to choose a side. I have already chosen. Equal rights for all people – kindness for all people – including those who are grieving the passing of Phelps, a father and grandfather, in addition to his more public roles.

The “church,” best known for its “God Hates Fags” message and its protesting at soldiers’ funerals, is really little more than a hate group. There is nothing about it I like or respect.

Phelps was responsible for much pain to people, including some people I really care about. But I’m assuming there were people who loved him, and I will not diminish the idea of respect and equality by not offering kindness to grieving people, even if the person they’re grieving didn’t extend the same grace to others.

That’s the tricky thing about tolerance. It has to go both ways, even when it requires us to tolerate things that make our skin crawl. Life has called on me to walk past KKK members and Westboro protesters at various times. I demonstrated my views by attending the events they were protesting, and did so without hurling insults to them on my way by.

Depending on your perception, Phelps was a man filled with hate or a man filled with conviction. I think both are true. Neither affects my decision to send only kindness to those grieving his passing.

I’m well aware some of those are people who hold views that are completely opposite my own. I know they may yet cause more hurt in the world. But if I try to inflict pain on them at this time, it only creates more pain. I see nothing positive about that.

Instead, I will mourn that a human who had more than eight decades on this planet chose to spend many of them causing pain. And I will hope that those who believe in a message of hate will have a change of heart. Regardless, I will continue to be a vocal supporter of equal rights for everyone.

I cannot control what other people do, but I can choose my reaction to it. I’m choosing kindness. It’s not my place to judge if it’s deserved or not.

Posted in News | 10 Comments

What We Need, When We Need It

It’s amazing how often we get just what we need, right when we need it. It’s also amazing how often we don’t even notice it when it happens. I was recently reminded of why it’s important to note such things, and be grateful for them. In this case it even came with an alert to pay attention.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity. Thursday night we went to see David Sedaris, which was amazing. Then on Friday I was in Newton all day for a conference. I left there and headed to Kansas City for Planet Comicon.

After being at the comicon on Saturday, I decided to forgo Sunday and head back early. I had lunch with a friend and then hit the road. I was driving along, as we do sometimes, thinking about other things, when I realized I was somewhere between Topeka and Manhattan and didn’t remember the details of how I got there.

What brought me to my senses was an alarm on my car. It was a low fuel warning, with no towns in sight. I had no sense of how long ago it had been since I last passed a gas station. I looked at the mile marker and realized I was about 40 miles from an exit where I knew there was a gas station. I looked at the readout and saw it estimated I could go another 23 miles before running out of gas.

Before I even had time to process this information enough to worry, I spotted a blue sign that indicated a gas station at the next exit. I’ve driven by that station many times, but never paid attention to it because I didn’t have a need. Sunday, when I had an immediate need, there it was, as if on cue.

It was a reminder to me to pay attention, and to not depend on alarms. It also reminded me to be thankful for the blessings of being provided for – just what I needed, right when I needed it.

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I’ve always prided myself on being able to compromise, to find a solution, even when it seems nearly impossible. I’ve also just walked away, agreeing to disagree, when no compromise could be reached.

There are always things we’re unwilling to compromise on, but they’re generally things most people agree on anyway, so they’re non-issues. For example, most of us believe it’s wrong to steal, but we don’t end up having a lot of conversation with the “pro-theft” believers.

For those of us who are adults at this time in history, we must choose if we believe in civil rights for all people, or not. I confess I do not see a potential compromise. Either we do believe everyone has rights, or we do not.

Someone said to me recently that lots of good people are on the wrong side of history. I don’t dispute that is true. I also think lots of people filled with hate are on the wrong side of history. Why leave it to history to determine which one you were?

People spend far too much of their lives being afraid of people who aren’t just like them. Sometimes it’s because they’re a different color. Sometimes it’s because they’re a different sexual orientation. Sometimes it’s because they’re from a different country. Sometimes it’s because they practice a different religion.

I believe in the idea that our opinions can evolve over time. I know mine have, as I’ve written about here. But it’s tricky business deciding how long we allow for that evolution. Especially when, in the meantime, people are being harmed while we wait.

So I find myself at an emotional crossroads. It makes no sense to me that people who have the benefit of education and interaction with people across multiple parts of our society, have any doubt that civil rights must be extended to everyone. Those who live more sheltered lives may need more time to see it, but I expect leaders to understand the obvious.

I can only affect a small portion of the world around me. But I know which side of history I stand on. I’m confident it’s the right side of history. And there is no compromise.

Posted in Just Thinkin', News | 1 Comment

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

I started making my own laundry soap because I love the smell of fels naptha soap. There are a ton of recipes online for how to do it, but here’s the one I’m using.

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe
1 bar fels naptha soap, grated
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1/4 cup baking soda

Mix together and use about 2 Tablespoons per load.

I grate the bar of soap in my food processor, then add in the other things and swirl it around to mix it all up. I use the blade thing that fits into the bottom of the food processor, not the grating plates that come with it.

I’ve read you can microwave the bar of soap and it will just crumble. I tried this with a bar of zote, something I’d read some people preferred to fels naptha. I didn’t like the smell of zote nearly as much, and have not experimented with microwaving fels naptha.

When I’m making detergent, I try to buy enough soap to use up the boxes of borax and washing soda at the same time so I’m not storing a lot of unused product. Also, I don’t use my food processor often, so when I’m making detergent I want to do a bunch at one time and then be done with it.

I use about 2 Tablespoons per full-size load of laundry. I have an extra coffee scoop I use to measure. It’s roughly that amount, and it works for me.

There are a zillion recipes online for making your own laundry soap. There’s no magic to this one, so experiment until you find the one you like.

Some people also add in oxy clean or scent. At some point, it seems to me it’s easier to just buy laundry detergent. I just like the smell of fels naptha.

This is supposedly much cheaper than other detergent. I haven’t done the math on that, but I’m certain it is true.

People often ask where to buy the supplies. I live in Kansas and they’re all found on the shelves of Wal-Mart, local grocery stores and hardware stores here. However, I live near a large Amish community and that may affect the availability. Everything is in the laundry soap area of the store.

I’m gifting some to some friends in a few weeks.

Posted in Living | 2 Comments