Tag Archives: Friendship

Remembering Kathy

Here is Kathy in a reflective mood.

Today (December 1)  is Kathy’s birthday.  I often think of her and always on this day.

Long ago, Kathy died five months before her twenty-fifth birthday.  She is eternally young in my mind, but even if she were here today, she’d still be young at heart.  She was one of those perpetually upbeat people, a good soul, a happy person, a helpful person, a fun person.  She was one of my best friends, and the only friend who traveled through grade school, high school and college with me.  We were so different in many ways, but we had a bond that couldn’t be broken — even now.

She was my room mate on and off in our college town, often leaving town for new adventures before returning to go back to school.  She’d tried a lot of jobs, including cab driver and blackjack dealer in Las Vegas.  She’d wanted to be a doctor to help people.  We were in a chemistry class together, when she told me she’d realized that a scientific career wasn’t for her.  She found many other ways to help, such as driving Meals on Wheels to help people who couldn’t get out of their homes or prepare meals. She always helped anyone who asked.

She’d starting moving into my house to be my roommate again a few days before she was killed in a car wreck.  On a Saturday morning, I was getting ready to attend a wedding, ironing a dress on Kathy’s ironing board (which I don’t think she’d ever used!) when I heard the news on the radio.  It didn’t sink in at first, and then I sunk to the floor in shock.  I never made it to the wedding.  A photograph of  Kathy’s mangled truck was in the city newspaper that Monday morning.   A drunk driver had strayed across the center line and rammed head-on into Kathy’s truck.  She and her friend Susan were killed instantly. The drunk driver survived and was barely hurt.

Our hometown church was packed for the funeral.  It’s a cliché to say that those who have passed on before us were the glue that held the group together, but Kathy truly was the center.  Her place is a gaping hole at every reunion.

On our nonstop drive to Berkeley, California from eastern Kansas, we did make a few stops. Here Kathy and I put the camera on top of my car and set the timer. We're in the Great Salt Desert in Utah.

A week before she died, she’d asked me to take photographs of her softball team in action. She and I both loved photography.  She’d been my assistant photographer on the high school yearbook for two years. I later was glad I was able to give the photographs to her family.   She is buried in the same cemetery where my father is now buried, and after his funeral I visited her grave site.  Kathy’s parents had erected a headstone with their names on the stone carved either side of hers. It was heart-breaking to see.

Even now I miss her so much.  It may sound very selfish, but I feel truly robbed. I have lost family members and good friends since, and each new grief stabs me with the truth of how precious life is, how blessed we are to have family and friends, and that most things we think are important are truly trivial.  Still, I need to learn that lesson again and again, and Kathy continues to teach me. One lesson she always “taught” was to have fun!

One of the most fun things Kathy and I did was drive nonstop (except for pit stops) from the Kansas City area to Berkeley, California, to visit Jan.  Kathy was a tireless driver, although I took over occasionally.  That trip is still one of the highlights among many highlights in my life.  Kathy and I had a great time with Jan, and I am blessed that we are still close friends.  Her blog is Planetjan.


Filed under Friendship, Life


Hammock on the Veranda Postcard postcard

Here’s a photograph I took on a recent visit to South Carolina. Can’t you just imagine yourself relaxing in this hammock with a cool drink and a book? I didn’t try it myself, because I probably would have spilled my drink on my book. But it’s a lovely fantasy.

When bloggers start posting just a photo or two or a YouTube video once or twice a month, you know they are on the downhill slide to quitting. It’s true that I’m blogging less and less often. But I’m not giving up, I swear.

Soon after I started blogging here in the Spring of 2008, I read that the average blogger lasts about two years. I don’t know where those statistics came from, but that seems about right. When I make the rounds of my fellow bloggers, I find they are posting less, too. Sadly, some of my favorite bloggers have stopped posting, apparently forever or so rarely that their infrequent posts are merely the sputters of a dying blog. Blogs take time and commitment. They sure as heck don’t make any money.

I know the world isn’t begging for my thoughts, but I do like to post about interesting subjects I find, usually about nature, travel, music and history topics. Lately, though, I’ve been enjoying a rest in my “mental” hammock. What I really want to write about is politics, but I’ve sworn not to. Wouldn’t be polite.

One fellow blogger, Shouts from the Abyss, has kept up the good fight by blogging EVERY day (sometimes twice) for more than a year!

Planetjan has slowed, too. She has a very full schedule, but she’s also dedicated to posting. She’s hilarious, so I’m always happy to read one of her posts. Her latest is Hands On Learning.


Filed under Communication, Friendship, Internet, Life, Personal, Writing

Swept Away

Before the flood, beautiful plants, planted by one of the stylists at his own expense, always adorned the front of the salon during the warm months. Because of the flood damage, the Salon is now closed forever.

Periodically, floods sweep through Kansas City.  In early June, 2010, five feet of water surged into the hair salon where I’ve been going for more than fifteen years, destroying it.  It destroyed more than furniture and equipment. It wrecked a home.  The Salon, like a lot of similar salons, was a little community center.  

M., the owner and my stylist, had created a lovely ambiance with art on the wall, plenty to read, coffee and treats. From time to time, she would host craft sales and other events in the space.  People lingered at the Salon, chatted, got to know every one. The salon was the center of M.’s many fund-raising activities for a host of charities.  M. featured the work of many local artists and photographers.  

When this photograph was taken, water had already receded quite a bit from the strip mall where the Salon was located.

 M. was a stylist at the Salon for eighteen years, owning it for most of that.  She couldn’t get flood insurance, so everything that was damaged is a loss.  In the middle of the night, a wall of water broke through the windows, knocking everything around.  For hours, the cabinets and chairs and other furnishings steeped in the shoulder-high angry, filthy water.  Bottles of shampoo and conditioner swirled in the torrent, ending up in front of a restaurant at the end of the strip mall.  When the water finally receded, not much could be salvaged.  

The physical losses are painful, but what M. says she misses the most is the camaraderie of the other stylists and their clients.  She and four stylists have found a temporary home in another salon. It’s a lovely place, but the stations are all cubicles, so you don’t see much of the other stylists or patrons. The other half of the stylists from the Salon found spots in another salon far away. 

Flowers every day all year at the Salon!

“That salon was my life,” M. says.  She did have a premonition that it all might end, though.  A minor flood two years ago left her feeling anxious at every heavy rain, so in March she didn’t renew her long-term lease.  Instead, she renewed her lease on a  month to month basis, so she’s now not obligated for another three years.  That’s the main bright spot, if you can call it that.  For now, she’s just going to style hair and not worry about running a business.  She’ll re-group and then decide what to do. 

It’s tough being a small business owner. They keep the country going, taking on risk and are often under a lot of stress, not just for themselves but for the many others relying on them for their livelihood. 

M. will bounce back.  She’s one of the most positive people I know. She has a huge circle of devoted friends.  

More flowers outside the Salon.




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Filed under Business, Commerce, Friendship, Kansas City, Life

Ode to a McIntosh Apple

I love apples.  These McIntosh apples are my favorites.

I love apples, the tasty member of the rose family. These McIntosh apples are my favorites.

 I grasp your smooth curves eagerly between my trembling fingers.  Your skin is so brilliantly green, blushed with bright red.

You minx, how you tease me with your beauty, with the promise of your juicy sweetness.  Are you ripe? I hold you to my lips.  My teeth bite into your firm white flesh. I taste tartness, yet sugar melts into my mouth.  On my tongue I feel you crisp and firm, yet yielding, a dribble of juice on my lips. Piquant perfectly describes how you stimulate my taste buds.

So clearly, I remember the day we first met.  It was a warm early autumn day, a little overcast in a New York orchard. Everywhere, the leaves were brilliant, although yours, I must confess, were a little spotty. Leafy Autumn fire is not your glory.  No matter.  Your abundance overwhelmed me.  The pleasure of your flesh enraptured me.  I am yours forever. (Catherine L. Sherman)

An ancient apple tree holds a tree house in its stout limbs, which no longer bear fruit.

An ancient apple tree at Anita's old house holds a tree house in its stout limbs, which no longer bear fruit.

The McIntosh apple will always hold a place in my heart and in my fruit bin, when in season… My dear long-time friend Anita, her daughters and their friends took me apple picking in an orchard near her home in Binghamton.  Actually, the only picking we did was in the orchard store, but it was fun, anyway.  Children laughed on a small ferris wheel.  A tang of smoke hung in the cool air.  We inhaled the earthy fragrance of wet leaves as we shuffled through the rapidly growing leafy drifts.   Pumpkins were piled outside the store.  We chose some of those, too.  It was early October 1994.  I wasn’t there quite at the peak of the brilliant fall colors, but the forest was still a beautiful sight. 

Anita and her family lived in an historic white clapboard house near Binghamton, surrounded by massive sugar maples that were tapped every year to make maple syrup.  At the back of the yard, an ancient gnarled apple tree embraced a tree house.

The following October my father died.  Anita mailed me a box of McIntosh apples and some jugs of maple syrup.  She couldn’t have chosen better.

Anita and I can't seem to stay away from apple orchards.  Maybe we are really daughters of eve.  Here's a small orchard we stopped by in Tasmania.  We only stopped becasue I wanted a photograph. We were really in the area to see a waterfall and buy some cheese.

Anita and I can't seem to stay away from apple orchards. Maybe we are really daughters of eve. Here's a small orchard we stopped by in Tasmania. We stopped because I wanted a photograph. We were really in the area to see a waterfall and buy some cheese.

For more about the apple family, click here:  Stalking the Placid Apple’s Untamed Kin. This story is about the United States Department of Agriculture’s Plant Genetic Resources Unit, in upstate New York, which is home to the world’s most extensive collection of apple varieties and relatives.  Closer to my home in Kansas City, Powell Gardens showcases Missouri’s finest apple varieties in its Apple Celebration Court.

 John Keats’ “Ode to an Nightingale” inspired me to write this ode, which technically is not an ode, but does praise and glorify a subject.  “Bright Star,” a movie about Keats, was very good. See it!

A scan of my photograph of an area near Binghamton, New York, when the trees are starting to turn.

A scan of my photograph of an area near Binghamton, New York, in October 1994, when the trees are starting to turn. (In the dark ages before digital cameras...)


Filed under Agriculture, Food, Friendship, Gardening, History, Life, Nature, Personal, Travel

Dancing Words

Sandy and her daughter Hannah are both artists.  Here they are at the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 2009. In the background, you can see a painting of a bird's nest. Coincidentally, Sandy's workshop is called "The Feathered Nest".

Sandy and her daughter Hannah are both artists. Here they are at the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 2009. In the background, you can see a painting of a bird's nest. Coincidentally, Sandy's workshop is called "The Feathered Nest".

My friend Sandy is an artist. I always enjoy her take on her experiences at the art shows and fairs she visits in Kansas City.  Click here to read her post “Fall Back” on her blog “Dancing Words”. Be sure to check out the video of one of Sandy’s art classes from ART-felt Learning at the bottom of this post.

Plaza Art Fair 2009.

Plaza Art Fair 2009.


Filed under Art, Kansas City, Life, Personal

Teacher/Blogger at Work

Jan photographs an illustration for another one of her hilarious and informative posts about life as an elementary school teacher in Southern California. She gave us a walking tour of her favorite neighborhoods in the delightful town where she lives.  To read the post she was working on, click on this photograph.

Here is my dear friend Jan (Planetjan on my blogroll) photographing a group of stuffed creatures for an illustration for another one of her hilarious and informative posts about life as an elementary school teacher in Southern California (and other topics). She gave us a walking tour of her favorite neighborhoods in the delightful town where she lives. There'd been quite a few changes since I'd last visited. She couldn't resist an opportunity to produce material for her blog, too. (Which is what I was also doing!) To read the post she was working on, click on this photograph.


Filed under Education, Entertainment, Friendship, Humor, Internet, Life, Travel, Writing

Earth Day 2009

Black Swallowtail Butterfly on Coneflower Postcard
This black swallowtail butterfly visited my garden.  Now he’s featured in my Zazzle store.

 This is one of my first posts on this blog, first published April 19, 2008.  I’m re-cycling it, in honor of Earth Day on April 22.   It is still a good, somewhat patched-up, usable post with some wear left, I hope. 

The economic meltdown since I wrote this has focused more attention on cutting back, recycling, making-do, re-using, etc., but we’re still nowhere close to the same frugality the Depression-Era and World-War II Era citizens made such an integral part of their lives, even after prosperity returned.

On the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 1970, I slipped out of my house at 4 a.m. and hurried to the next street where my good friend Kathy Dawson was waiting for me at her kitchen door.  It was chilly.  Rather than dress sensibly, we were  in our school uniforms — navy blue wool blazers, skirts and knee socks — as we began our thirteen-mile trek to our high school, Mt. Carmel Academy, a Catholic girls’ school where we were seniors. (There was a much closer high school within walking distance that we could have attended.)  We soon left the comfort of Derby’s streetlights, crossing into the darkness of fields and pastures.  We trudged in the ditch along Rock Road, passing the chain-link fences of McConnell Air Force Base.  We picked up our pace as we reached Eastgate Shopping Center in Wichita.  Traffic was getting heavier.  There was nowhere to walk.

What were we thinking?  This was no fun.  Four hours after starting, we finally reached school just as the first bell rang.  We hustled to our desks, exhausted, rumpled and relieved.  We wanted to save gasoline for just one day to show our concern for the environment, although we did catch a ride home with our regular carpool.   We knew how limited our lives would be without cars and how our lives were not set up for walking or biking, but we were already living fairly frugal lives because of the way we were raised.  The following is an off-the-rack standard issue lament about consumerism. If I were you, I’d just go outside right now and enjoy nature!

Our parents lived through the Depression and World War II rationing.  Frugality was second nature to them.  They slowly and cautiously accumulated the comforts of technology and abundance.  The baby boomers left that caution and frugality behind.  On average, we had smaller families, but built bigger homes with all of the trimmings.  Our expectations grew.  We sought frequent vacations far more exotic than those old driving trips to Grandma’s house.  Cheap energy, an explosion in innovation and far-off labor created thousands of new gadgets that soon became a necessity — we recorded our children’s every move, cell phones for everyone, televisions with a hundred channels in almost every room.  Computers gave us instant access to the world.  Food arrived from all over the globe in every season.  Will we change?  We don’t even know how to do to make much of a difference. (See the link to “Why Bother?” below.)  It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.

We have to get back to the spirit of the first Earth Day.  Appreciating the simple.  Understanding the long-term consequences of our choices.  Acknowledging and respecting what the earth gives to us. It’s the only planet we have. Since I wrote this, I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand, which I know makes me sound like a hypocrite, because that took a lot of energy and resources.  Do I wish I hadn’t gone.  No!  Do I feel guilty? Yes.  Would I like to do it again?  Yes, but I probably won’t because it’s expensive. I do try to enjoy what I have right here at home — most of the time.

Will I walk again rather drive to my destination on Earth Day this year?  Unlikely.  I live in suburbia, at least a couple of miles from everywhere I usually visit.   I’m dependent on a car.  Biking in the traffic isn’t safe, as least not for a scaredy cat like me.  In the heart of cities I’ve walked almost everywhere –Chicago, New York, Boston — I do love walking.  It was great to have everything so close — for a while.  Then I tired of walking in the rain, hauling groceries a couple of miles, not knowing how to transport anything large.   I was happy to leave the noise and the congestion behind.  My car seems like freedom, but I’m trapped by it, too.  As gasoline costs climb higher again, I’m being even more careful about the trips I take.  There’s no public transportation in my neighborhood, and won’t be until people are desperate for it and demand it.

One really important thing we suburbanites can do, as Michael Pollan (“Why Bother?) suggests, is turn part of our suburban lawns into gardens, which is what we’ve gradually been doing. More on that later.   (In memory of Kathy. I still miss her so much.)

Why Bother?” is a link to a story in the New York Times by Michael Pollan.


Filed under Birds, Conservation, Environment, History, Humor, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Relationships, Shopping, Writing