Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Having a Daddy

I'm so excited because today I finally overcame inertia, not to speak of gross procrastination.  I should get a prize for procrastination.  Today I wrote the introduction for my new book, (working title), Every Girl Needs a Good Daddy.  It's about a girl growing up during the Dust Bowl days in southwestern Kansas and how her daddy marched every step of the way with her.

Anyway, when I finished writing the introduction to this new book, a story popped into my head about girls and their daddies.

A few years back, I was working in the inner city with some kids in a friend program.  I was supposed to go there and help them individually with their schoolwork, but I decided to run a little gifted class instead.  I would have five or six students and, of course, they were eager and capable of doing anything I asked of them.

One day, I decided to teach them how to speak in front of a group.  In order for them to get the idea of what to do, I demonstrated.  The topic was "A Favorite Person" and I went to the front of the room, surveyed the group until I had eye contact with each child, then proceeded to talk about my father for three minutes.

When I finished, they clapped and I bowed, then said, "Now who wants to be next?"  Vanessa approached the front of the room, surveyed the group until she had eye contact, then began:  "Miz Hughes, do you mind if I say something before I start?"

"Of course, Vanessa.  Go ahead."

"Well, I just wanted to thank you for telling us about your daddy because none of us have a daddy so we don't know what it would be like."

"You're welcome," was all I could manage to reply.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Welcome to my blog!

I hope you will like it here and will have fun reading what I have written for you.  My passion is writing and I want to share that interest with you.  Feel free to pass it on to others you think might enjoy it.  I’m a bookaholic, too.  I just can’t help it.  I love books; therefore, I also love authors.  Even though I don’t personally know most of the authors I read, I feel like I know them by the time I finish their book.

Authors are my mentors and have been my entire life.  Since I was a small child, I loved going to the library.  I loved the way it smelled; I loved touching the books; and I loved the illustrations.  The artwork transported me far, far away from my hometown of Liberal, Kansas and I envisioned myself in the pictures, alongside the characters in the book.

Each week, as I approached the check-out desk, clutching my library card in one hand and half a dozen books in the other arm, I knew I was in for an encounter with the scary librarian, Miss Jessie Jordan.  Dowdy Miss Jordan was tall, slender, and wore her brown hair in a bun at the nape of her neck. She wore a beige shirtwaist dress, grandmotherly shoes, and looked over her wire-rimmed glasses at me with a scowl.  Then she began her weekly lecture.

“Books are your friends, Stephany.  You must treat them gently. Don’t turn down any pages, and  always wash your hands before touching them.”  There must be a reason I remember her stern admonishments decades later.  She made an impression on me, though, because, to this day, I wash my hands before I pick up a book.  I also have a huge collection of bookmarks!  Sometimes, when I dare to turn down a page in my own book, I feel her disapproving look.  Now that’s what I call a life-long impression!

In my next blog, I’ll tell you about a book I’ve written.  I think you’ll like reading about raising a well-adjusted child.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What Love's All About

He stands over her grave.  It's Christmas.  This is the first time in fifty-two years that she won't celebrate with him.  He twirls the rose in his rough, tanned hands.  Every day, he goes to the floral shop and buys her a red rose. Every day, he comes here to give it to her.

He places the delicate flower on her newly-dug grave, just like he has every day since she left.  Then he walks over to the bed of his pick-up and lifts out a chair.  He places the chair beside the brown clumps of earth.

 He starts to talk, just like every day since she left.  He tells her what happened yesterday; he shares news from people he saw the day before.  She needs to keep up on the family.

Everything said, he gets up from the chair, leans down and scatters the petals from roses of other days on top of the dirt.  He's making a blanket of roses for her.

"I love you, babe."

He walks slowly to the truck and places the chair back in its place.  He'll need it again tomorrow.  He gets into the cab, turns on the engine, glances at her resting place, and silently promises to return tomorrow.

We took him home-baked cookies a few weeks after she went away.  He said he had lots of food in the freezer from the funeral.

"Do you want to see her picture when she was 19?" he asks.  She was a beauty.  No wonder he misses her.

"Here's an aerial view of the house we built together," he offers.  It's a pastoral scene with outbuildings and a modest home.

"You mean she did construction?" I inquired.

"Yes, right along with me.  Raised four boys, too," he offered.

We leave, somber for his loss.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Season for Jayhawk Fans

Let's see--leave Excelsior Springs at 4:30, meet Jessica at 5:30, drive to Lawrence and arrive in time to get a BBQ sandwich at the arena before game starts at 7:00.  Good plan.

Here I go....need to get gas...uh-oh, it's almost 5:00...better hurry.  Take short-cut through Liberty at rush hour, only it's rush hour on short-cut, too. 

Almost to Kansas.  Better call Jessica.  I'll be about 15 minutes late.  Exit onto K-10.  Uh-oh, big traffic back-up.  Accident up ahead...helicopter hovering.  Guess I'll exit on Renner Road, go to College Blvd., turn right to Woodland, then take Woodland straight to our rendezvous point.

Bad idea.  Everyone else thought of it.  Another traffic jam.  Better call Jessica.  I'll be even later.

Meet Jessica in Price Chopper parking lot.  Left her phone at home today.  So much for messages.  She was ready to leave...thought we got our signals crossed.

On the road again.  Uh-oh, big traffic jam outside DeSoto.  Better take Kill Creek Road exit, go through DeSoto, then meet up with K-10 on down the road past the hang-up. 

On the road again.  Uh-oh, big traffic jam outside Eudora.  No exit to take for avoidance.  Oh, well, still have 45 minutes til game time.

Drive through Lawrence.  On the road two hours.  Must find restroom.

Arrive at Pete's parking.  Pete and Jessica elated to see one another.  Jessica didn't attend games last year.  Pete thought Jessica had died.  It was knee surgery.

 "You know, Jessica, as you get older you'll have lots of things go wrong with you."

"Thanks for the encouragement, Pete."

Get tickets out of purse.  Get out of the car.  Lock it.  Open trunk.  Put purses in.  Slam it. Walk toward arena.  Halfway there, discover one ticket gone.  Walk back to car.  Unlock trunk.  Look through purse.  No ticket.  Pete thinks someone is breaking into trunk.

Walk toward arena.  Go to ticket office. Wait in line.  Explain dilemma.  No problem.  New ticket printed.  Better hurry.  Game time.

Go to front door of arena.

"Welcome to Allen Fieldhouse."

Tickets won't make the machine "ding".

"You must go back to the ticket office.  You can't get in with these tickets."

"We were just there.  They gave them to us."

"Sorry.  We can't help you.  We don't have anything to do with the ticket office.  You must go back there."

Back to ticket office.  Explain dilemma.  No  problem.  Tickets reprinted.  Better hurry.  Game is well into first half.

"Welcome to Allen Field House."

Machine "dings".  Eureka!  We're in.

Search for BBQ stand.  Not on first floor.  Go to third floor.  BBQ is on second floor.  Game further into first half.

"There's only one more thing that could go wrong--no BBQ sandwiches."

"Jessica, go on in and sit down.  I'll track down the BBQ stand and meet you at our seats."  Game stopped for injury.  Crowd is quiet.  Game inching toward half-time.

Go to second floor.  Find BBQ stand.  Buy last two sandwiches.   Pay $20 for two sandwiches and two cokes.  Put pickles and BBQ sauce on sandwiches.

Go to third floor.  Find seats.  7:49 and almost half-time.  Look at floor.  Sixty percent of team is either injured or are being disciplined.  Recognize two players on the floor.  Whose team is this?

Game over.  Twenty-nine point win by strangers.  Walk to car.  Look on floor-board.  Ticket laying there.  Oh, brother.

"We have no place to go but up the rest of the season."


"Do you hear a funny noise?"


"When we get to your car, let's take a look and see what it is."

"Sounds like something flapping."

At Jessica's car.  Open doors.  Get out.  Jessica pulls tomato plant from underneath car, with tomatoes on it.

"Thanks, Pete."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Good-Bye, Steve--We Barely Knew Ye

     Call me sentimental, but Steve Jobs' death threw me.  It's not like I didn't know it was coming.  I'm surprised he lived as long as he did, given the severity of his long-standing illness.  Recently, I was vaguely aware of his impending death, as I had seen touching political cartoons and web-postings about his final days at Apple.

     I remember knowing about Steve when he was that handsome, long-haired college guy.  I never met him, but for some reason, I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on regarding his life and what he was doing with technology.  I admired his tenacity, his intuition, his creativity, and his ability to make me want to go buy everything Apple, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

     Our son, Blake, was in college in the mid-80's, majoring in computer science.  This was about the time Jobs invented the NeXt computer, with a hefty price-tag of $10,000.  Blake was entranced by it.  He asked his dad and me if we would buy it for him.   After we finished laughing at this ludicrous request, we replied that we appreciated his passion for it, but we would not be buying him one.

     Undaunted, Blake went to the bank early Monday morning and borrowed $10,000 against his car, then salivated over his new dream machine when it arrived a few days later.  We all know this was not a popular computer, but twenty-four years later, Blake still has his NeXt in its original packaging.  I hope he can sell it for a fortune some day, then he will be laughing, too--all the way to the bank.

     One year I sent Blake and his dad to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as their Christmas gift.  They were both in nirvana, slurping up all the techno-info they could slurp.  Multiple Jobs sightings made the experience even better.

     When Blake graduated from the University of Kansas, we asked him what he wanted for a gift.  "I want to go to California and attend Steve Jobs' Computer Camp," was his immediate answer.  He probably had been dreaming about this for years, so we honored his request and off he went for another nirvantic experience.

     Blake ended up with a job in the Silicon Valley soon after graduation and I made several trips to California to help him get settled.  One sunny day, he took me sight-seeing in Palo Alto.  One of these sights was Steve Jobs' house.  I was delighted to see Steve playing in the front yard with his children.  This affirmed something I had read about him.  He had two loves:  his work and his family.

     Last Christmas, along with millions of other Steve Jobs fans, I wanted an iPad.  I don't know why I wanted it or what I would do with it after I got it, but I didn't care.  I'm still trying to figure that out almost a year later.  Brilliant marketer, that Steve.

     The day Jobs died, I felt a strange sense of loss.  I knew someone to call who felt exactly like I did about Steve Jobs--my son, Blake.  I needed to console and to be consoled by a person who cared as much as I did about a man I never knew, but one who had done so much for us.

     "In honor of Steve Jobs, I think I'll go buy a new Apple computer," he said when I called him.

     "And I--I think in honor of Steve Jobs, I will go buy a new Apple phone," I replied.

     Steve Jobs really had a hold on us.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Grief Found Me

I've been wondering what's wrong with me lately. I've been weepy and that's not like me.

It all started when my chorus was singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and my mother's face popped up in front of me. She was smiling. Her porcelain skin was shining; her long, black hair was in braids pinned across the top of her head in Norwegian style like her mother had worn hers. I stifled my tears, but could no longer sing. Luckily, it was our last number of the concert. That crying continued on into the next day. Here it was, 57 years later, and I was mourning my mother's death.

I've tried to analyze it. Back when my mother died in 1953, we didn't have any grief counselors. We didn't know the language of grieving. We didn't go to family counseling, nor to the Solace House to talk about our feelings with other kids who had experienced loss. We just sucked it up and trudged on, going about our business as if nothing had happened. All I knew at age eleven and just finishing the fifth grade, was that I needed my mother.

I also knew my dad needed me. There he was, forty-five years old, with four children ranging from 19 down to seven, faced with all the housework, cooking, and laundry, plus a business to run and a farm to keep up. Luckily, my grandmother lived four blocks away and could help out with alot of the domestic chores.

One thing she could not do was to braid my hair every morning. My mother was passing the tradition of Norwegian braids down to me and she had done the braiding before she died. Several neighbors said they would take turns doing it, but after a few weeks, this became a burden and it was decided that my hair needed to be cut.

The next Saturday morning found me at the beauty shop getting a hair-cut and a permanent. This was a huge rite of passage for me. It changed me from a little girl into a responsible young woman. Soon, I was inviting my friend, Martha Jill, over on Saturday mornings to help me clean house. We went from playing paperdolls to playing real house. We seemed to enjoy making the house look spic and span, but perhaps it was too much responsibility for pre-teens. I don't know. I think I lost a bit of my childhood in the process.

 I guess grief finds us, regardless of when the loss occurred or what kind of grief it is.   This I know for sure--there's no getting out of grief.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Detective Hippo

Yesterday put me into shock. It all started out innocently enough. I asked Patrick, my 80-year-old golf buddy who has cancer, if he would enjoy a cheeseburger and a chocolate malt. He was gleeful at the prospect, as he was so weak he could barely make it to the kitchen most of the time.

"I"ll be over between three and four o'clock on Friday with your dinner." I promised.

On Thursday afternoon, Patrick called to say that his nephew had made arrangements for him to live at the New Mark Care Center, but he would have to wait for a bed to open up. The only drawback was that he would have a roommate.

"I hope I get a woman," he quipped. Patrick has been a single guy his whole life, but he loves those women.

He went on to tell me the directions to New Mark, as well as the phone number there.

On Thursday evening, I was out to dinner with a friend and my cell phone rang. It was around 7:30. I looked at Caller ID and it was Patrick. I decided to call him back later when I got home and did not answer the call at the restaurant.

When I arrived back home, it was a cryptic message from Patrick: "Hi, Stephany. This is Pat. I'll be going to New Mark tomorrow........" Then nothng. It was unlike Patrick not to say more, as he is very talkative. His voice was strong on the message, but there was no good-by, no anything.

Friday morning, I called him to see if he was still at home. The line was busy. I called intermittently during the day, but it was still busy.

Friday afternoon, I drove to New Mark, expecting to find Patrick and was anticipating our usual banter. He was not there. The receptionist said they were expecting him around 3:30 p.m.

I drove to his house. Something wasn't right. His paper was still outside and I knew he was an avid newspaper reader. His car was parked outside, which it had not been the times I took him to his chemo treatments. All the drapes were drawn and there were no lights on in the house. I walked to the back of the house--same story. Dark and drapes closed. His phone was still busy.

Going to several neighbors houses, I asked if anyone had seen Patrick that day. No, they had not.

"Oh, just go on home and mind your own business." I told myself.

"No," said my intuition. "Something is wrong here. Call 911."

Two police officers arrived in their dark blue KCMO police cars. They checked the same things I did.

"We don't have enough evidence to break in," one of them said, "but we are going to call the fire department to bring a ladder. We'll go up on the deck and see if we can get in that way."

By this time, all the neighbors gathered. "I didn't see a light on in Patrick's kitchen this morning when I went to walk th dog at 7 a.m. He's usually sitting there reading his paper at that time," one of them volunteered.

Soon, the fire truck and another police vehicle arrived. Three police officers entered the house. I held my breath.

It was getting chilly and one of the neighbors invited me to stand in her kitchen and look out the window.

Soon, one of the police officers came to us. "He's dead," he said softly.

I sucked in a huge amount of air, stricken speechless by the news.

Then another officer came and wanted my ID. "He died on the bed with the phone in his hand."

Oh my God! He could have died while calling me. Patrick could have been dead since last evening. I didn't want to contemplate those emotional ramifications.

Pulling myself together even though I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I continued listening to the neighbors as they recounted stories about Patrick. "Let's all pool what we were going to have for dinner and have one big dinner together."

They asked me to join them and I did. What started out as a tragic event turned into a fun evening and I appreciated being included.

I'll always remember the day Patrick died. It's the same day my son, Trent, died. I didn't make it to the cemetery that day as planned. Life had other plans for me.

When I talked later with my friend, Susie, who had been at the restaurant with me when the call from Patrick came, she said, "Lets make a pact. Whenever we have friend in hospice and that friend calls us while we're at a restaurant, we answer the phone, no matter if it seems rude or not."

Good pact, Susie.