You are not alone


The pain surges like electrical current through the side of my head, it's tiny knives skewering deep. It drains the mind of creativity, stills the hand that would be working, quells the desire to be upright and participating in this family. I curl up in the dark and relative quiet of my room, stuff earplugs in to muffle the residual sounds, close my eyes shut and pray for sleep, the ending to this long, hard day filled with suffering.


Such a tiny organ, your ear. I feel all kinds of foolish when I walk in the ER doors and ask for an injection to stop the pain in my ear, of all places. But there, in the middle ear, is one of those places He wove together in silent, the meeting of several of your cranial nerves:

  • Olfactory nerve: controls sense of smell and taste
  • Optic nerve: responsible for vision
  • Oculomotor nerve: controls pupil constriction
  • Trochlear nerve: eye movement
  • Trigeminal nerve: sensation of chewing, moving mouth, pain/touch in the face
  • Abducens nerve: eye movement
  • Facial nerve: taste/smell sensation; coordination of swallowing; sense of touch on face
  • Vestibulocochlear nerve: balance
  • Glossopharyngeal nerve: swallowing, chewing, tasting
  • Vagus nerve: controls heart, lungs, and digestion
  • Hypoglossal nerve: controls tongue movement
All these nerves pass through or in close proximity to the inner ear. Right now, my trigeminal nerve, facial nerve, and vestibulocochlear nerve are all out of whack. It is no wonder I'd like to spend my days squeezing my head and squinting my eyes closed. It is a rare complication of intratympanic (inner ear) medication injections when the nerves are irritated or accidentally poked by the needle being used to inject the medication. While the medical literature is rife with articles touting the benefits of the inner ear injections, a few small studies have looked at pain during and after the injections. One small study of less than 100 people found that 45 patients reported severe or "debilitating" pain that lasted for up to 6 weeks post-injection. Of these 45 people, all had received dexamethasone (the med I was given). The placebo group and the group receiving antibiotic injections reported no pain, not in a single person.

I breathe a sigh of relief. At least I am not alone. And at least I am 3 weeks into a 6 week course of pain.

I, of course, would appreciate your prayers for my ability to function well as wife, mom and student, and also that the pain would quickly subside.

Joys collected:
*Mama movie night on Friday
*Children's voices lilting happy through the headache
*Dishes done, over and over
*Sun streaming through windows on a Monday morning


In the Margins (and 25 Ways to Encourage Young Homeschooling Moms)



It takes place in the margins: car rides, mornings snuggled in my bed, bedtime, talks on the couch with my eldest. This is the overarching beauty of homeschool, undone from the confines of the 8-3 time frame, we learn together organically with the rhythm of our days. Katy reads her history book voraciously, and we talk about how much courage it took for Christopher Columbus to ask a third king and queen for funding after he'd been turned down by two European governments already. Rosy and I play a word game of antonyms and synonyms on car rides, a constant verbal back and forth that both builds vocabulary and grammar skills. Amy learns her letters and phonics on the iPhone, curled up next to me, describing the letters in her unique right-brained way ("B" is a snowman on a stick, "G" a kitten curled up, "A" an Indian teepee). Caleb astounds us all by rocketing through the alphabet to early reading skills at 3 1/2, and doing Rosy's addition exercises. He tells me all about trapezoids, in between little boy antics painting his skin brown with cocoa and pestering his sisters at naptime.

Pantry fall-out from Caleb's exploits in cocoa powder yesterday

How do your homeschool days look? I have a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and two in preschool. We spend only about an hour of structured school time each day, and the rest falls into place around that. Most of our official school hours are spent on math and science. The rest, so far, is done via computer or verbal exchange. I expect this to change as our homeschool matures, but for now, it is what works in the busyness of family life.


Linked up to Lisa-Jo's 5 Minute Friday writing exercise


25 Ways to Encourage Young Homeschooling Moms:
1. Ask her what her children are learning...and listen to her answers
2. What are her fears about homeschooling her children?
3. Share an experience you've recently had with a homeschooled child
4. Get her talking about her curriculum choices!
5. Ask her what her biggest dream for homeschooling is.
6. Offer to watch her little ones for an hour so she can dig in with the older kids.
7. Fold her laundry...especially all the socks!
8. Notice one thing each of her children is especially good at, and write her a note telling her their strengths.
9. If you see something homegrown & educational on Pinterest or elsewhere on the web, share the idea with her.
10. Draw her children out socially, and compliment them when they interact well.
11. Support community programs for homeschoolers in your area, and tell her you did so.
12. Share a favorite verse, blog post, or devotional on perseverance. Print it out and mail it to her.
13. Offer your services in something you're very good at...pottery, art, music, science? Help share her burden!
14. Drive her kids to an event once a month to give her a morning to herself.
15. Offer to go with her to the library...and pay her fines for her!
16. Ask her if she's saving any household items for homeschool projects (toilet paper rolls? Kleenex boxes?) and give her your extras.
17. Give the children a gift subscription to National Geographic KidsGod's World NewsRanger Rick, or Highlights.
18. Offer childcare so she and her husband can have a date night.
19. Accompany the family to a homeschool fair, book sale, or conference and watch the children during workshops or shopping times so she can focus.
20. Pay the entrance fee for the children to take a gym class or participate in a sport.
21. Listen to her concerns about time management and homeschooling.
22. Give the family an unused bookshelf or organizational system you have around the house.
23. Surprise her with a visit and make coffee for her...then sit down and chat!
24. Give her a gift card to a local salon or spa for a manicure or facial.
25. Do the dishes and mop the kitchen floor!

Under the saddle

I came alive because of cancer. I remember the year before I was diagnosed, when my third daughter was just starting to toddle. I was completely, unabashedly overwhelmed as a mother of three girls three and under. I was pregnant already and I felt like someone hooked up an IV to my arm during the night and drained every last bit of energy right out of me. I told my husband I wanted to go back to work. This was too hard, cuddling children all day, trying to keep up my housework, the clinging, and the crying, and the poopy pants. It was just too much. I was stuck in a job I hated.


And when did mothering become work? Sometime after the second was born, and I could no longer give undivided attention to anyone. Worse than the actual hatred of my job as a stay at home mom was my guilt over my hatred for my job. What mom doesn't love working with her children? I felt like a complete failure, and I simply wanted out.

Then something miraculous happened. A blessing in disguise. The winter of my soul, the cancer that robbed me of my normal, dreary life, ended the season of my discontent. Years spent fighting the bit of motherhood were swept away in a torrent of lonely reflection when I left my family behind for three long weeks for radiation seeding treatment in 2008. The saddle suddenly removed, I saw the scars left by my twisting and turning, resenting the crown of motherhood as though it were a tight bridle instead.



The dippers cup stars in summer and spill them across the black in the winter. Close to the horizons, the sky is void of those specks of silver. I am a woman stretched across the heavens, arms reaching toward the trees, feet toward the moon rise. In this middle, high above the earth's orb, is perspective and peace. As a young mother, I was blinded by the lack of choice. When I am old, I will look back and long for these days. Though I am in life's winter, this season of suffering growing heavier each passing year, I can dance here, in the space of the middle, because I've known the much harder struggle of bucking motherhood.

I used to cup stars like the summer's dippers, holding my time close like a treasure to my chest. Now I am the dipper in winter, spilling stars, spilling laughter and giving time and worrying less and loving more. I revel in the giggles with my oldest daughter, sit in my messy front room cuddling my second, almost 7 and grown long and lean, just because it is her birthday party day and she wants me to. I wake up in the morning and lay still for an hour, my son digging in my armpits (don't ask! It's his comfort thing, ever since he was a baby) and my youngest daughter in that sleep stupor still, staring at the ceiling and holding my hand, a statue carved in the marble of morning. We spin together, through trials, tribulations, triumphs.

I will never fight motherhood again like I once did. And for that, I am thankful for cancer. This year of remission, I set a goal to learn to rest like Jesus did and to learn how to enter into the joy of childhood with my children. For isn't this one of the characteristics that draws us to His character? The ability to rest even when more work was left to be done, the foresight to care for His own physical and emotional needs even when the needs of others (such as those waiting for physical healing) hung in the sands of time? I don't want these years to slip by without notice. I want to burn them into my memory, fill them up with the quiet, simple moments that really matter.



In the Margins



It takes place in the margins: car rides, mornings snuggled in my bed, bedtime, talks on the couch with my eldest. This is the overarching beauty of homeschool, undone from the confines of the 8-3 time frame, we learn together organically with the rhythm of our days. Katy reads her history book voraciously, and we talk about how much courage it took for Christopher Columbus to ask a third king and queen for funding after he'd been turned down by two European governments already. Rosy and I play a word game of antonyms and synonyms on car rides, a constant verbal back and forth that both builds vocabulary and grammar skills. Amy learns her letters and phonics on the iPhone, curled up next to me, describing the letters in her unique right-brained way ("B" is a snowman on a stick, "G" a kitten curled up, "A" an Indian teepee). Caleb astounds us all by rocketing through the alphabet to early reading skills at 3 1/2, and doing Rosy's addition exercises. He tells me all about trapezoids, in between little boy antics painting his skin brown with cocoa and pestering his sisters at naptime.

Pantry fall-out from Caleb's exploits in cocoa powder yesterday

How do your homeschool days look? I have a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and two in preschool. We spend only about an hour of structured school time each day, and the rest falls into place around that. Most of our official school hours are spent on math and science. The rest, so far, is done via computer or verbal exchange. I expect this to change as our homeschool matures, but for now, it is what works in the busyness of family life.

Linked up to Lisa-Jo's 5 Minute Friday writing exercise
And, for fun, 25 Ways to Encourage Young Homeschooling Moms:
1. Ask her what her children are learning...and listen to her answers
2. What are her fears about homeschooling her children?
3. Share an experience you've recently had with a homeschooled child
4. Get her talking about her curriculum choices!
5. Ask her what her biggest dream for homeschooling is.
6. Offer to watch her little ones for an hour so she can dig in with the older kids.
7. Fold her laundry...especially all the socks!
8. Notice one thing each of her children is especially good at, and write her a note telling her their strengths.
9. If you see something homegrown & educational on Pinterest or elsewhere on the web, share the idea with her.
10. Draw her children out socially, and compliment them when they interact well.
11. Support community programs for homeschoolers in your area, and tell her you did so.
12. Share a favorite verse, blog post, or devotional on perseverance. Print it out and mail it to her.
13. Offer your services in something you're very good at...pottery, art, music, science? Help share her burden!
14. Drive her kids to an event once a month to give her a morning to herself.
15. Offer to go with her to the library...and pay her fines for her!
16. Ask her if she's saving any household items for homeschool projects (toilet paper rolls? Kleenex boxes?) and give her your extras.
17. Give the children a gift subscription to National Geographic Kids, God's World News, Ranger Rick, or Highlights.
18. Offer childcare so she and her husband can have a date night.
19. Accompany the family to a homeschool fair, book sale, or conference and watch the children during workshops or shopping times so she can focus.
20. Pay the entrance fee for the children to take a gym class or participate in a sport.
21. Listen to her concerns about time management and homeschooling.
22. Give the family an unused bookshelf or organizational system you have around the house.
23. Surprise her with a visit and make coffee for her...then sit down and chat!
24. Give her a gift card to a local salon or spa for a manicure or facial.
25. Do the dishes and mop the kitchen floor!

My boy-child

Easter 2008, Caleb at 2 weeks old
Four years ago, you made your entrance in a slam-bam-thank-you-Ma'am birth that took my breath away with it's suddenness and beauty. You, perfect skin, blond little faux hawk hair, that look of consternation you wore as a newborn. My one and only son, the child for whom I prayed as Hannah did Samuel, yet my arms held lock-tight where her's gave way in obedience. My favorite boy in the whole world - I have whispered this line of love into your ear from the time it was tiny as a seashell. You were never overshadowed by the cancer diagnosed when you were six weeks old. You shone like a star in the dark night of that 2008 year that was filled with suffering, bad news, and separation.

I remember handing you to my mother, your grandma, in the hour before I swallowed my radioactive iodine pill, remember the tears stinging as I ached to nurse you and longed to hold you over those two long weeks I didn't see you at all. What if you didn't remember? What if the powerful bond we'd shared since your birth was shattered by the distance and time when Mama wasn't there to comfort you?


You are a boy now, not a baby any longer. My last baby grown tall and lean, strong and funny. I feed you cookies and chocolates to replace the year of breastmilk that you missed out on. You shower me with your kisses and my heart is soothed. You didn't forget. You are still my son.  I read of Samuel, the story of Isaac at the alter on the mount, and I can't do this. I had to lay you aside for those weeks of radiation. I can't imagine ever putting you down again.


Happy 4th birthday, my sweet Caleb! You are loved more than you may ever know.





Losing Normal: Emotions on Tuesdays

Sometimes it just hits you in the gut like a ton of bricks. There is nothing left in your life that is normal. You watch, on Facebook, at church, through blogs and e-mails, as your friends and most of your family progress through a "normal" life, with fun pictures of holidays, updates about jobs, all the little details that make up "normal". And you realize there is little left you can claim as normal. I found a photo taken a few weeks before we lost normal. What brings the tears the quickest is my children.  They don't remember "normal". I see Katy's innocence. I had never asked to learn to do laundry or cook a meal or clean a bathroom yet. She has had to grow so fast. And Rosy, so easy going and self-motivated and happy. She sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the non-normal. How can I make my peace with these losses?? How do I see this as a gift??

One of our last days of "normal".  Two weeks before my cancer was found.
Life was messy, and crazy, and hard work.  And wonderful.

Most cancer patients go through this, as their life gets ripped to shreds by cancer, its treatment and the treatment side effects. An even smaller number continue to go through this for a long period of time. That is where our family fits, once again in the statistical margins, defying the definitions and the predictions. Even worse, it's not just cancer that has our number. It's everything from infections to accidents, and "normal" life problems gone awry, like food poisoning and routine surgery or vaccinations. Nothing goes "normal" for us.  Not in 2 1/2 years.


I have to write it, this broken heart that longs for the day when I look back and realize no one has been in the hospital for several months. The day when I realize that I have actually managed to care for my own children for a whole month without asking any relatives for help or spending any exorbitant dollar amount on childcare. The day when I realized I've cooked every meal and swept every floor and wiped every nose and taken every picture and maybe even passed a test or gone on a real...restful rather than healing...vacation.


I know, deeper or truer than most, that life is a gift and every day, however flawed, is a blessing. I know that my life is already a half-blown seed pod, and I need to be mindful of how and when and where I blow those seeds remaining. But there is such longing to just be normal again. I remember with longing a day I was frustrated because I forgot about dinner until 4 p.m. and had to rush to defrost something. I look back at a day when I cried over the 10th poopy diaper and pleaded with God for an "out" from the drudgery of motherhood, and I laugh at my near-sightedness. I recall a vacation when I fought with Aaron because of a difference of opinion about a leisure activity, and I wish I knew then what I know now. I also know that, should God ever grant "normal" life to me again, I will forget all of this, most of the time. I will take things for granted, and throw away blessed moments for the sake of my pride, and I will choose the wrong things to spend time on, and I will wound people and shock myself at how stupid I can be again so quickly. All those little details look now like the miry clay at the very bottom of the clear pool of life.

It is kind of like yearning for childhood as an adult. This longing for something easy for a change. God says to give up my life to find it. Okay, Lord. You've got my life. It's long been given up. Please help me find the new one in the wreckage. Please heal us. Please rescue us. And please let me never forget.

{a repost from the archives on this busy Tuesday: we are down at Mayo for an MRI to rule out a brain tumor as a potential cause for my sudden hearing loss - pray, please?}


This is our Emotions on Tuesdays link up. Link up to a post, old or new, about your emotions. Tuck the graphic at the bottom of your post, and come back to share your story with all of us!








iPhone Case DIY


1. Select your image and print from your computer.
(Check out Zazzle for inspiration, or Google your word + "sketch")


2. Choose your medium.
(Sharpies & paints work well on hard cases. Oil pastels on silicone.)


3. Wash with soap and water, and dry the case.


4. Position your clean case on the image to trace.


5. Trace the image from left to right to avoid smudging.
Start with your main color, then highlight with other colors.


6. Now smudge the image to blend using a damp finger.
(Skip this step if you want a crystal clear line drawing.)


7. Coat the inside of the case with a water-soluble sealant such as Mod Podge.
(if your image might smear, dab instead of painting.)


8. Let the case dry completely.


9. Now use a damp cloth to clean up any smudges around the image.


10. Ta-da! To change your image, simply wash with soap and water,
and start all over again!



Delight > Fear


Every time my heart screams, "stop", I push my body for the "go". The children clamor cacophonous and my eyes squeeze shut against the knife in my ear. Sometimes I shout, hands shaking, to get their attention, to get them quiet. But then we dive in together, into whatever got them so excited. Last night, painting. The day before, constructing a fort.

My therapist calls it "opposite action" but I've learned to call it "delight". Half way through, I always find myself giggling with my kids, a kid again all wrapped up in the glory of whatever we've poured our whole selves into. In therapy, they tell you to do exactly what you're afraid of doing - for me, exactly what I'm afraid of failing at. For a year and a half, since we left our church, it's been these children. What if I am failing them? What if they were hurt for no good reason? What if I can't do this parenting thing alone, without a community of faith? What if I'm not enough?

Each "what if" slowly is replaced as the days march on and I do the opposite and find out I can.

What if I'm failing them? Of course I will. But not this moment.
What if they were hurt for no reason? The reasons are big. And they aren't as hurt as I thought.
What if I can't do this parenting thing? Every time I do delight, I build to the list of times I HAVE done it.
What if I'm not enough? Of course I'm not. But I am the RIGHT one. The only mother God gave these kids.
The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. (Ps. 37:23)



Linked to Lisa-Jo today

Crumbling in Vulnerability, Comfort in the Sun


I quit taking my sleeping pills because my heart doesn't like them much. I wake every night around 2 or 3, and go out to the porch to drink in the beauty so that I can fall back asleep with a full soul. This morning, the moon is just rising in the east, half-hidden behind the trees, like the last curl of an orange peel cupped in the hands of the night sky. As I watch, it catches the rays of the rising sun behind it, and glows lemon suddenly, brilliant. I am not alone in the night. The stars are out there singing. The sun preparing to rise.
The sun rises in the morning and sets at evening in our hemisphere, according to the appearance of things; and then it makes haste to go round the other hemisphere in the night: it "pants", as the word signifies;like a man out of breath with running; so this glorious body, which rejoiceth as a strong man to run his race, and whose circuit is from one end of the heavens to the other; is in haste to get to the place where he rose in the morning, and there he makes no stop, but pursues his course in the same track again. By this instance is exemplified the succession of the generations of men one after another, as the rising and setting of the sun continually follows each other; and also sets forth the restless state of things in the world, which, like the sun, are never at a stand, but always moving, and swiftly taking their course; and likewise the changeable state of man, who, like the rising sun, and when at noon day, is in flourishing circumstances, and in the height of prosperity, but as this declines and sets, so he has his declining times and days of adversity. Moreover, like the rising sun, he comes into this world and appears for a while, and then, like the setting sun, he dies; only with this difference, in which the sun has the preference to him, as the earth before had; the sun hastens and comes to its place from whence it arose, but man lies down and rises not again till the heavens be no more, and never returns to his place in this world, that knows him no more. (Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

Tuesday brings my son's 4th birthday, the marking of the years that I've lived with cancer. This year, my first of his birthdays in remission. The joy I feel significantly mitigated by the possibility of a tumor in my brain causing the sudden hearing loss I've battled for the past three weeks. Last night, I crumble into tears as we talk over schedules with my parents, and I think, next week I might be in surgery on Wednesday. I cannot stay in that place, that thinking-through-the-possibilities place, and I run, tears streaming, away from the thought. It is too raw there. I can't go back so soon. I will act like a normal patient, not a nurse, not a 4 year cancer patient; I will just go blind into that appointment and allow myself to be blindsided if it is bad news and there is a tumor that needs to come out.

I rest, albeit uneasily, in the fact that I had a premonition of cancer from the first time someone touched the tumor in my neck. Everyone reassured me it was probably nothing, but I had a foreboding sense of cancer the entire time between discovery in March and surgery in June. This time, I don't have that sense. I don't feel cancer lurking. It may be that I am pushing intuition off the field and onto the sidelines because I cannot tenet the fact that cancer has reappeared in less than a month from my remission celebration. For now, I will glory in the small moments of everyday and refuse to have any joy stolen from these intervening days simply because it is possible. I will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Like the sun, I will march on toward evening doing the tasks at hand. In the morning, I will think of this again, I am sure. Today, I am going to think of nothing else but dissertation, homeschool, cleaning my home, bringing the children swimming.


Fear or premonition?


I haven't ever acknowledged fear, not since I was a child. Because all emotions are confusing to me, I have little faith in my own instincts. I hesitate to trust when I feel premonition or trepidation. I assume I'm just being too anxious, and push through it.

For the past few days, I've known I needed to return to Mayo Clinic in Rochester to have an injection of steroids into my inner ear, a needle piercing the eardrum to fill the inner ear with medication that could restore my hearing suddenly lost in one ear two weeks ago. I felt an immense amount of fear about this procedure. It just doesn't seem "natural". But after two decades of callousing myself to the ways of Western medicine in order to become a nurse supportive of cares I find barbaric, I just pushed the fear aside. It seems pretty normal to feel afraid of having something injected into your ear drum. I assumed I was just afraid of the pain.

Yesterday, I had a hearing test that confirmed I had lost another 20-40% of my hearing in my bad ear. I am lucky enough to have the chief of the ear/nose/throat department as my physician. He strongly recommended the injection. And so I climbed into the chair, obligingly tilted my head and held still while he made three injections of dexamethasone into my inner ear. The pain was as intense as I imagined, and I was immediately dizzy and nauseous. The medication was ice cold, and the reflex to pull away was almost unbearable. He and the nurse assured me the symptoms would subside once the medication was in my ear. So, I lay still, following the instructions: do not swallow, do not talk, do not move your jaw to pop your ear, and keep your head tilted so the medication can dwell in the inner ear for 30 minutes. The pain did not go away. By 25 minutes, I couldn't stand it any longer. He returned to suction the excess medication out of my ear, and the nurse gave me a glass of ice water to ease the burning and stinging that made me feel like I might pee my pants.

I was ushered out to the waiting room to return home, assured again and again that the pain would go away. But three hours later, it was still a 10 out of 10. The worst pain I had ever endured. Worse than labor, because it was constant instead of washing over me in waves like contractions. Worse than my ectopic pregnancy when my Fallopian tube burst inside of me (that's supposed to be the most painful event in a woman's life, worse than broken bones, burns, or traumatic injury). I called my team of physicians back at home, telling them we were on our way home from an intratympanic injection and I needed to be seen for this crippling pain. They panicked and sent me back to Mayo to go to the ER there. I called my Mayo doctor back, and he said no one ever has this persistent or severe of pain following the injection. He had no idea what had gone wrong. He's injected tens of thousands of people. And I am the one who gets the worst pain. He prescribed strong painkillers and directed me to try them first before heading to the ER.

I took the painkillers, plugged my ears with swimmer's ear plugs to prevent air from entering the ear, and found some relief in the next hour. The pain decreased to about a 6, and we finally headed home at 7 p.m.

In hindsight, I wonder if that fear I felt was a premonition. Did I know somehow that something would go wrong? Should I have listened to my instincts instead of the experienced physician who reassured me that my fears were not factual?

How about you? How do you react when you have intense fear and a sense that something isn't a good idea? Are you able to trust your instincts? Or do you buckle, assuming your fear is irrational?

This is our Emotions on Tuesdays link up. Link up to a post, old or new, about your emotions. Tuck the graphic at the bottom of your post, and come back to share your story with all of us!








Coming home


We travel seven hours to the prairie. In the cemetery, the gravestones are crooked from the heaving of the ground in winter. Stones working their way up through the black earth for birth in the spring. The men wield heavy boots against the granite, slowly pushing stone back into place, the slab that was crooked set straight again for another year.


It is a mystery how you can live in the land in so many places at once. When I go to the sea, I am home. When I arrive on the prairie, the constant wind through the shivering grass calls my name. Here is home, too. Back in the woods of Wisconsin, where I've lived since I was five, that feels like home. In central Minnesota there is a barren Indian reservation that is my home. In North Dakota, where faculty houses still stand in their neat brick roads against the lonesome prairie, where hockey rings loud every afternoon, there I lost a piece of soul, too. Here in South Dakota, my blood runs thick for 125 years of farming this prairie dirt. The colors are too bright too comprehend, the blue of the sky with green house perched in yellow grass. Here lived ancestors. Here lives a piece of my soul.


We are lost in time, my children and I. We forage through farmhouses abandoned with the last generation. We drive through sections of cropland that bear our family names. Bahr. Grieben. Baumgartner. Ernestine. August. Bernhard.


He picks up earth to finger blackness, a frozen clod like frozen time. It crumbles under his grip, and dust flows sooty across the lonely acres.


I can see Grandma's ghost in a gingham dress, shoeless, black hair flowing in the mournful wind. Her song still sings on this prairie. Her life was built here. It will forever be her haunting home.


Two days in the wind, and my mind is tossed but full. My heart capsized again to the stanzas of My √Āntonia. It is a beautiful, lonesome welcome home. I rest in the peace that my children have seen it now, this land where my blood still flows. A place called home for generations of my family. It's been 14 years since I've been here last, and everything on the horizon rises familiar, the grain elevators, section lines, windrows, red barns 100 years old still standing against the forces of nature. It is good to be home, even for a short time.

I remember when I was a lad 
Times were hard and things were bad 
But there's a silver linin' behind ev'ry cloud 
Just four people that 's all we were 
Tryin' to make a livin' out of black-land dirt 
But we'd get together in a family circle singin' loud

Daddy sang bass (mama sang tenor) 
Me and little brother would join right in there 
Singin' seems to help a troubled soul 
One of these days and it won't be long 
I'll rejoin them in a song 
I'm gonna join the family circle at the throne 

Though the circle won't be broken 
By and by, Lord, by and by 
Daddy sang bass (mama sang tenor) 
Me and little brother would join right in there 
In the sky, Lord, in the sky 
~Daddy Sang Bass, Johnny Cash~

Now I remember after work mama would call in all of us
You could hear us singin' for a country mile
Now little brother has done gone on
But I'll rejoin him in a song
We'll be together again up yonder in a little while

My gratitude list, counting up from 1,911:
1911 kids who travel well with books and views
1917 watching a woman sign the gospel, face fluid, hands racing
1923 a pool and swimsuits - sweet surprise
1924 sleep, dreams
1927 farms I love still standing
1932 black earth
1938 a aunt, Charlotte, a figurehead always for my imagination, home now