To Barbara, With Love


Click either photo for Barbara’s tribute video.  (Change the tab from 720p to 360p for easier download.) Her family chose “Jackson” as her opening song because of her passionate love affair with her husband, Warren.  They did get married in a fever.  As you can see, Barbara was/is the beautiful sister. All four of us girls worked in the same restaurant, but not at the same time. Even though I waitressed almost 20 years after Barbara, people would always say, “Is Barbara your sister? She’s SO beautiful.”

I’m typing this from a motel room in Spearfish, SD, en route to the funeral of my sister, Barbara, in Missoula, MT.  She passed away on Thursday, May 16, 10 p.m.  My husband and I were packing the car for a trip to Spearfish for a family graduation and the wedding of a friend, when we received the news that she would not likely survive the week.  Over the years, her health had deteriorated to the point where we knew it would be only a matter of time.  The news allowed me to pack a few more clothes and today I’m ten hours closer to a new 20 hour destination. As usual, God’s timing was perfect.

As the youngest child of nine (eleven, if you count my siblings lost to miscarriage), I selfishly felt that I was given less than favorable odds of not having to watch my siblings leave earth — one-at-a-time. I’ve thought how much it will stink to be the last one standing — to struggle through life alone. Barbara is already the fourth (or sixth) to go.  I feel happy for Barbara and strangely peaceful.  After all, there are 101 Reasons to Celebrate.  This world isn’t the last stop of the journey.  It’s merely a training ground for the next adventure.

Lucky for the world, Barbara’s greatest accomplishments were the Barbarachildren, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren she left behind.  They are a living testament to her compassion, humor,  idiosyncrasies, curiosity, generosity, faith, hope, and love.  In light of that, I realize she hasn’t really left any of us alone.  The best of her remains — and will to the end of time.  We just need to appreciate what/who we have.

I’d better expand that Reasons to Celebrate list.

Thanks, Sis!  I love you!  See you tomorrow, in the faces of your progeny.

911: The Universal Call to Action

Tragedy is not a typical topic for a blog about writing for children.  But, since today is the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, it seems only right to reflect and grow.  There’s no escaping history and our children may need to talk about it.

During a recent tour of Washington, DC, on the way from the U.S. Air Force Memorial to Arlington Cemetery, our tour guide pointed out the bus window, “And, there is the Pentagon.  Note the section of limestone, lighter than the rest.  That is where American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the structure.  The benches on the grounds by the Pentagon are part of a memorial — each one signifying the loss of a life that day.”

Everyone in the bus grew pensive.

I’m sure you remember where you were that September morning.  I sat, oblivious, in a clinic waiting room. Then someone turned on the TV.  A year later, I spoke on behalf of our Chamber of Commerce at a city-wide memorial service.  I still have my decade-old notes:

Everything  changed on September 11. This horrendous event, meant to demoralize America and steal our faith, has indeed brought us to our knees.  But, little did our adversaries know that in our humblest moments, we are  strongest — when we can admit our need for God’s help and each other.

Isn’t it ironic that the numbers nine-eleven would hold significance to our adversaries as a number which would inspire them to do harm? In America, nine-one-one is the universal call to positive action, when we are called to help and care for each other.

Misguided men meant to change our country in a negative way — to tear us apart. Yes, we were changed, but not in the way they had hoped.  They’ve taken our pride and we’ve traded pride for wisdom.  They’ve taken our indifference and we’ve traded indifference for compassion.  They’ve taken our ingratitude and we’ve traded ingratitude for appreciation — a deep appreciation for the great country in which we live. They’ve taken a part of our hearts, but hearts regenerate.  The more we give of our hearts, the more our hearts grow.  Our adversaries have enlarged America’s heart to strengthen our love for one another. Yes, we have been changed — for the better.  Because, we are not the Solo States of America, we are the United States of America, one nation, under God, indivisible… May God bless America. (End of notes.)

Let’s talk with our kids today.  If we don’t have the words, Martin Luther King Jr. does: