Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Living in a Bottle Full of Wishes

The '60s "I Dream of Jeannie" TV show turned 50-years-old earlier this month, and I was a fan.

My childhood friend Gail Piper and I enjoyed turning her family's corner couch into the bottle that Barbara Eden's character lived in. 

Joyce, Gail's mom, let us pull her high-back dining room chairs near the couch. Somehow we put up sheets over the couch to the windows so we could get in and experience that rounded house feel. Is this why I have a fascination with the tiny house movement

Jeannie's apparel and hairdo fascinated us. Gail and I took empty tubes from wrapping paper supplies (because the cardboard was stiffer and the circumference bigger than paper towel rolls) and assembled bee-bop ponytails on top of our heads.

Did we take the bottom of our button-down shirts and tie the ends to show our belly buttons? Maybe. 

We even had bottles that we affectionately dubbed our genie bottles.

Here is mine. 

Yes, I still have it.

This was one of my mom's perfume bottles—and it was emptywe didn't drain it. Now the bottle houses a dried-up rose on a shelf near my jewelry box.

When I stumbled upon "The Today Show" interviewing Barbara Eden about the anniversary of the show, I frantically searched for the hand drawn picture of Jeannie that Gail's mom Joyce drew for me. 

See it there over on the left? I've cherished it all these years. 

I snapped a picture of it and tweeted it. And guess what? Barbara Eden starred it! Well, whoever runs her page did if she didn't.

Now that's a wish that was granted without a request.

What television characters did you act out in your youth? Did you ever wish, that just for a day, a show would be true? Do you have any mementos from your childhood make-believe play time?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Piece of Furniture Finds its Forever Home

A piece of furniture that used to hold oil cans in my dad's garage now sets inside my house.

It's filled with books, items from my childhood, and other things I packed away in tubs when I needed to make room for a husband and step-daughter.

My crafty friend Valerie Shellhammer helped me refurbish this jewel.

at home in the house

When my brother-in-law Jeff saw it earlier this summer, he said, "It was a pie safe." He pointed to the screens on the top doors. "Flies wouldn't get in the pies that way," he added.

So that's what I'm calling it. The pie-safe bookcase.

Here's its story.

Dad said, "Are you sure you want that thing? It's really oily." 

I did. I had magazine pictures from years ago of what I wanted to turn it into. 

Dad didn't know that as a little girl, I had an entire plan of how to turn that yucky garage into a studio apartment. That bookcase was a key component of the design.

Yes, I have quite the imagination. Maybe when I'm 90 like he is, and if the garage is still standing, I'll renovate that garage into cottage I dreamed it could be.

Anyway, he let me have this cabinet, and that's when I learned there were doors for it. The top had that chicken wire, but the bottom doors were solid. Dad cleared out his stuff and packed it up for the trip from South Dakota to Kansas.

My brother-in-law Rick used my brother Elliott's pick-up to haul it down here. He brought a couple more items from the farm too.

The bookcase, a two-piece outfit, sat in my shed except for the times I took it out to scrape it.

I remember my friend and colleague Tim Hiebert bringing me, a relatively new home owner, a weed eater he'd picked up from a garage sale. That was somewhere in the mid to late '90s on Labor Day weekend.

Why do I remember that? Because he startled me when he walked into the backyard while I was scraping it. Tim said it looked like I had my work cut out for me.

And I remember the weekend because I thought I could get the thing completely scraped and done in a few days.

Work it was. Lots of elbow grease. 

What I found underneath was shocking. 

Red. Red paint.

Grandma Elizabeth, who no doubt had this in her house, must have painted it red. (Read "Namesake" by clicking here to know more about her.) Oil also seemed to seep from one corner. 

I decided I'd better measure the thing. It was too tall for my house­—if I was going to use both parts. I have low seven-foot ceilings, and this thing was nearly 10 feet tall.

My dream project went back in the shed to be infested with wasp hives and bird poop. Not much different than its life on the farm in the garage.

That was around 15 years ago.

After I got married in 2006, we moved the bookcase from the shed to our newly built garage, so the bookcase got cleaned up a bit for that. It stored lots of stuff on its open shelves with the doors setting on top collecting spiders. I still had dreams of it being inside the house some day though.

One summer my husband Chris bought me a hand sander, so I could use electric power to continue to clean up the thing. It worked. I went through a lot of sandpaper, but it worked.

A couple more years passed.

Brittany moved on to college and then out on her own. Her teenage room got redesigned back into a guest room. Here was my chance to get that thing in the house.

Valerie and I checked out vintage stores in Wichita for ideas. She snapped pictures. I bought paint. We had good intentions. But life happened.

And so it remained.

In the garage storing golf balls, flower vases, sander equipment, old yearbooks—not what I had envisioned for the thing years ago.

One day, Valerie said, "Let's get your bookcase done.

So on November 6, 2014, our first cold day of the fall season, we painted it with white chalk paint in the garage.

My husband had to cut off about two-and-half inches from the bottom, so it would fit in the house when finished.

Val finished up the doors at home.

Months pass.

Then finally in May, the entire thing was done. We put some sort of glaze on it. Smooth surface now.

Val found new hinges, but we saved the original clasps.

Oh, if those clasps could tell me the hands that have touched it throughout the years.

Finally, my dream piece had its new home inside the house.

I had fun arranging the items in it on my first full day of summer vacation. It took me all afternoon, but I wanted to make it look inviting to the point that if you came to my house, you'd love snooping around in the thing.

You'd figure out a lot about me through the book titles, the cups filled with bookmarks, the newspaper clippings and pictures arranged in boxes by year or topic. If my memory ever starts to fade, this will be my go-to place.

Sentimental me sure enjoys going in there, pulling out a box, reading through old notes.

After 26 years of teaching, I have a lot of notes from students—and I believe I have kept every one.

My Cousin Cynthia gave me Aunt Mary Ruth's notes from the state quilt she made me when she finished the embroidery squares that Mom had started. Precious to see her handwriting and planning.

Letters from my sister-in-law Doris when I first attended college. I've always loved her fancy cursive writing. And letters from Mom too. Kept in the envelopes with the dates stamped on them.

Notes from college pals. Homemade cards from my eight nieces and nephews who are now all adults. The vocabulary list of a made-up language my niece Jessica and I tried to invent one summer.

Notes from Steve Elliott and his mom about how thankful they were for the connections we made while I student taught at Halstead the fall of 1988. I would not have stayed with teaching if it wasn't for Steve, but that's a story for another post.

Material things. Yes. But things from events, students, and people that matter. This bookcase keeps them safe. Just like it did Grandma's pies.

Have you ever taken on a project that spanned two decades to complete? Have any items from an earlier time that you wished could be at your fingertips? Any family heirlooms in your home?

Friday, July 3, 2015

5 Simple Ways To Teach Patriotism

 Please welcome Elizabeth Tatge as a new guest blogger. Elizabeth left the Air Force after a four-year tour of duty to work for Air Traffic Control. She held stints in Las Vegas, Denver, and Wichita. After 20 years, she retired. Elizabeth is active in whatever church she attends. She's directed drama, organized women's retreats, and volunteered to help with VBS. She has two adult children. Elizabeth doesn't refer to herself as a writer, but I hope to change that. She's read to me from her journals. She's a thinker. A reflector. A writer. This is her first post for the blog.

5 Simple Ways To Teach Patriotism by Elizabeth Tatge

After serving a four-year tour of duty in the Armed Forces, in my case the United States Air Force, I came out with a strong sense of patriotism. In Basic Military Training School, aka boot camp, we were taught respect for our country and how to honor the flag.

For me, the American flag translates over to America itself. Love of our great country and patriotism must not be forgotten when it comes to teaching our children the basics of life.

Here are my five tips for raising patriotic children.

One: eyes on the flag

When my children were small, whenever the National Anthem would play on television, I would have them stand in our living room with their right hand over their heart. They kept silent until the song was over.

When I was in the Air Force, we were taught to visually seek out the American Flag whenever the anthem was played. We were to turn toward it, remove our hat, and keep our eyes directly on the flag until the song was overor, if a parade, wait until the flag passed by.

Teaching children how to behave during the National Anthem or when our flag passes by is a simple way to teach a child patriotism. Our actions show children that the flag is important to Americans, and that it deserves these moments of silence, awe, and respect.

Thirty-plus years later, I still practice this respect of our flag. Every time.

Two: attend patriotic ceremonies

Often times, small towns will hold a ceremony at the local cemetery. By attending this and similar events, such as a Veteran's Day parade, your child will learn through others that country and military service is important, and that those who have served, should be honored and rememberedespecially those who lost their lives in the line of duty to their country.

Attending events that honor our military will show your child that it is important to you, and it will become important to them as well.

Three: display the flag

Display an American Flag on the outside of your house or in your yard. If not continuously, then at least on patriotic holidays. Ask your child to help you put up and take down the flag. Children love to help, and this is one way to teach them how to handle the flag. Follow the basic rules of etiquette for handling and displaying the American Flag and talk about them with your children. They will understand the importance of something that is to never touch the ground. That one simple thing is very much on their level. If you treat the flag with reverence, your child will also.

Four: participate in a patriotic parade

Buy all kinds of red, white, and blue paraphernalia. Have your kids decorate whatever they want and march or ride in the parade. Do it every year until they won't do it anymore!

One year, my kids put the bunny cage in their little red wagon, decorated it, and along with the bunny (poor guy) headed off down to Main Street in Cheney, Kansas, to march in our small town parade. They were proud as could be! 

Five: teach patriotic songs

Teach your child the National Anthem and patriotic favorites like Yankee Doodle. When on vacation in a vehicle, sing these songs together. Make it fun! Ask your child to participate whenever there is an opportunity to sing a patriotic song. Encourage your school's music teachers to sing patriotic songs and have patriotic programs, and send them thank you cards when they do.

How do you celebrate our Independence Day? What displays of patriotism or the flag exist in your life? Any favorite July 4th memories?

Credits: all pictures courtesy of Chris Harris of Kansas Wildlife and Nature Photography. Picture 1: Lower Fox Creek School House at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. Picture 2: A country barn in the Haverhill area of Kansas. Picture 3: Milkhouse Barn near Clearwater, Kansas. 4. Lake Afton Car Show in 2014. Chris' photography can be purchased on Fine Art America.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

9 Tidbits About Stella, born June 28, 1925

Mom would be 90-years-old this June 28. She died over ten years ago. As a tribute, I decided to share nine things about her. My siblings grew up in a different decade, so I enlisted their help along with Dad’s.

One: her family

Mom's dad died when she was 14-years-old. My mom was the youngest of three daughters. Grandma Katie moved Mom and her sister Bina from the farm into Doland after an auction. Her sister Grace was already married to Johnny. Dad told me a lot more about the death of Jacob B, my grandpa on my mom’s side, and the financial hardship it caused my mom’s family in 1940, but that’s for another post.

While still in high school, Mom served as a waitress at the café. After high school she earned a desk job at Northwestern Public Service also in Doland. Ironically, my oldest sister Priscilla held a similar job in Huron years later.

Two: her school years

Mom won the spelling bee when she was in elementary school. One time when we were out in public, Mom had me look over at a woman across the room and then said, "That's the one who slapped my hand with a ruler." Seems Mom got in trouble or the teacher was super strict.

Three: her marriage

Mom was 19 when she married Dad. For more details about their wedding click here to read "What I Never knew about my Parents' Wedding." Mom was instrumental in Dad’s decision to follow the Lord once and for all, but again, that’s a story for another post.

Four: her first-born

My brother Elliott was around four-years-old when he went out to do chores with Mom one time. A barrel with pig slop in it caught his eye while Mom gathered chicken eggs.

Little Elliott, knowing how they’d dip a bucket in there to feed the hogs, decided to take a look, but he bent over the barrel too far and fell in—only not all the way. His head was buried in pig slot. Mom came around the corner and saw only his feet sticking out. Who knows how long he was like that.

Elliott said the next thing he remembers is walking to the house beside her. Mom saved my brother's life that day.

Five: a seamstress

Brenda, my sister, wrote this passage: 
Mom didn't do a lot of sewing, but she made matching dresses for Priscilla and me when we were in first grade. We wore them for school pictures. I wore those pop beads that looked like a string of pearls. That was always my favorite school picture.
I wish Mom would have sewn more dresses, but she had Dad's jeans to patch. That was a never-ending job with a pile always awaiting repair. My hubby teases me about how much money we would save if I could patch his jeans, for I do not sew. I only fix buttons.
I did learn to iron though, by pressing pillowcases and Dad's hankies. To prepare for the task, Mom had a sprinkler bottle filled with water that we would shake over each washed and dried article. We'd then roll the items up and snuggle them in one large laundry basket. The basket was wooden—not the plastic kind of today.
Six: her Saturday routine

Priscilla said Saturdays were for cleaning. “The kitchen floor got washed and waxed. We did it on our knees with a rag—not standing up with a mop handle in our hands. Then in the evening she made sure we did our Sunday school lesson.”

The girls enjoyed tea and homemade buns with Mom when they were done with chores. They'd use Mom's blue tea pot, an item that set around just for looks when I was a kid.

Seven: tutor to her children

Mom helped my sisters study for tests when they were in grade school. Brenda said Mom sat in the black leather chair in the dining room and asked questions. (This was that black chair I wrote about in “Mom’s Pestering Pays Off” and "Easter Tidbits” click here and then here). Priscilla said Mom would write out questions, like making up a paper/pencil test, then they would need to fill in the answers.

Eight: the field work

Mom preferred fieldwork to housework, so Brenda performed the chicken chores, and she said she must have prepared the meals. Priscilla said Mom had special field work attire: shorts that came to the knee, a sleeveless blouse, and a cap. “She’d grab an apple for lunch and would stay in the field until it was done,” Pris said.

Nine: trips to Huron

Priscilla remembered shopping at Farmer's Market for groceries. And Brenda recalled fond memories after piano lessons in Huron. “Afterwards, Mom would take Priscilla and me to the Double H to get a cone. Mom always ordered banana ice cream,” Brenda said.

Final Thoughts

It seems like Mom has missed more than ten birthdays on this earth. Each year it gets a little easier thinking about her on that day, for I know if she could, she wouldn't want to leave her heavenly home. But that doesn't make me miss her any less.

What childhood routines do you remember with a loved one? Do you have any relatives that did men's work and women's? How have your Saturday routines changed since childhood?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Four Little Girl Memories of Dad

It's Father's Day this weekend. Time to reveal fond memories of Dad.

Telling of "The Pig Jumped Over the Sty" story

I'd long for lazy Sunday afternoons when Dad would tell me this drawn out story. Sometimes I'd cuddle with him in his black recliner in the corner of the living room, but most times I'd sit on a nearby chair because he'd get sleepy and barely get the story told. I didn't want to be trapped there in the midst of his nap or wake him up trying to get away. Maybe in a couple weeks when our family gathers to honor his 90th birthday a few months back, Dad will tell this story to his twenty-one great grandchildren, and I'll get to hear it all over again.

Counting the church offering

This was our Sunday-after-church ritual upstairs in his office while Mom put lunch on the table. Dad's thick fingers thumbed through the bills. He'd pause to face the bills in the same direction. Maybe that's why my wallet has to be organized. Coins got sorted into a white organizer. Sometimes he'd let me do that. If there were enough, he'd blow air into colored cylinders and wrap 'em all up. All the money was placed into the yellow pouch and put in the safe. This memory is so dear to me that I've written numerous creative essays about it.

Making me eat the crust of my toast 

Mom didn't make me eat it, and one time Dad noticed. He told me I was eating it. Can you imagine? I hated that part. Now I had to eat it all by itself without the tasty jam? He spied on me then for the next few breakfasts. Told me to eat the crust first and get it over with. So, that's what I've done with my toast ever since—and I even like the crust now.

Playing my stupid "Be a Monster" game

This was a game I made Dad play when I was way too old to be playing a game like this (and I even make him do it now—because it just cracks me up). There are two ways to play it. One: put a bag over your head and slowly walk stiff-armed into the room, growl, and head toward the person you're scaring. Second way: no bag needed but smile sincerely and nicely and then just slowly develop a creepy looking face, show the gums of your teeth, and make your hands look like you're going to claw the person. We played variations of this simple game last Christmas with Kassie and Cameron, two of my great nieces. We had to stop when they got truly scared, but then they begged for more. These two stupid monster games, especially when Dad is in the mood to play them with me, give me a good bellyache laugh every time. 

What are the little things your dad did when you were young? Any activities you still share? If your dad isn't here anymore, what fond moment appears in your mind the minute you read this question? Give us some details, please. I can't be the only one out there with some sweet, embarrassing memories.

Writer's Note: To read last year's Father's Day post, click here for "Dollars and Sense: A Lesson in Interest of a Different Kind." For more about my dad, read the three posts I wrote early this year after he turned 90. I wrote in segments of three decades. Click here for "First 30 Years of My Dad's 90-year-old Life." Click here for "The Middle Years of a 90-year-old's Life" and here for "Old Age Creeps in at 70-80-90 Years of Age."

Friday, June 12, 2015

Grandparent Treats: Juicy Fruit & Cherry Pie

Guest Post 
by Amy Wallace
Circle of Life

Growing up, I had fun with my Graber cousins because we were near the same age. Life has taken us down various paths and to different states, so we don't get together as often anymore. But recently we were together and shared stories and remembered. 

1977: Cousins Clark & Wendy, me, & their brother Chad

Our Grandpa Phil was known for his quiet demeanor, outstanding singing voice, and Juicy Fruit in his pocket.

His musical talents served him well throughout his life. In 1942 he joined the Army Air Force.

Part of this time was spent in Special Forces Entertainment. Phil’s love of music and natural singing abilities were to put use entertaining troops.

Bing Crosby had come to entertain the troops and somehow Grandpa Phil got called up on stage to sing with him. 

Throughout his life Grandpa sang in barbershop quartets entertaining audiences and providing music for special occasions.

Phil passed this love and talent for music onto his children and grandchildren. The Juicy Fruit tradition was passed down from his Dad, Ben B, who also always had the treat on hand and passed it out sparingly.

Grandpa Phil holds my brother Jake  ~ around 1981.

Grandpa Phil was frugal. But I still remember clearly the time he got a new red International combine that had a cab with air conditioning.

His allergies and asthma forced him to do it, but I sure enjoyed riding with him after that.

Raised with a strong faith, Grandpa didn’t believe in working on Sundays. Even during harvest time he observed the Sabbath as a day of rest.


Grandma Lola was an amazing cook. My cousin Wendy reminded me that it didn’t matter what time you showed up at Grandma’s, she could suddenly whip up a multi-course meal. And she only went to the grocery store once a week. We had multiple courses and dessert. In fact, I can hardly remember a time I was at her house that she wasn’t in the kitchen.

When it came to eating, Grandma rarely sat at the table. She sat off to the side, so she could get up and tend to everyone else’s needs. She always had extra mouths to feed around her table from farmhands to family members.

I never remember Grandma wearing pants—always a dressuntil she was in her 80s. A favorite chore at Grandma's was collecting the eggs. It was exciting to venture into the hen house and see how many I could find.

Grandma believed Vicks VapoRub could cure anything. I was at her house one time and had an upset stomach. She slathered me up with Vicks. I don’t remember if it helped or not.

Grandma was famous for her cherry pie. Once a married adult, my dad encouraged me to have her teach me this art. Although I was reluctant at the time, I cherish this memory. As we were making the pie, I furiously tried to match her “little bits" with an actual measure. She didn’t need a recipe. The recipe card from that day is now stained with cherry juice from my multiple attempts to perfect her masterpiece.

Cousin Chad sits the chair with my brother Jake behind him.
Cousin Clark stands nearby. Seated are my cousins Karen and her
sister Wendy. I'm in the red T-shirt.


Holidays at the Grandma and Grandpa's were a treat. We sat around one huge table. My cousin Wendy and I shared the piano bench at the end.

We cousins had contests to see who could make the tallest mountain of mashed potatoes, and then we added gravy and corn. That combination must be the most delicious creation on earth!

Cousin Chad swears that Grandma’s cinnamon apples were the best.

One time all of us older kids were teasing the youngest cousin, Karen. Her brother Chad exclaimed, “Karen! That’s like your seventh piece of chocolate cake!”

She replied, “No, it isn’t. It’s my sixth!”

I remember real candy canes being hung like ornaments on her tree. And on her piano, she hung a stocking for all the grandkids. We could count on finding a notepad and a snow globe inside the stocking each year.

As we got older, our adventures during holiday visits took us outside. We all remembered heading to a pond near the house one time. It was about half frozen with some sort of beaver bobbing its head above water. We'd all gotten cameras for Christmas, so we all snapped about 40 shots each of this animal. As the film was developed (at a great expense), we all got in trouble for wasting so much film.

That same day, we were playing “Tarzan” on some branches. Cousin Clark speculated on how cold the water would be if anyone fell. Well, Wendy was the lucky one as the branch broke and she got soaked.

I hang out with Wendy at our grandparents' in the late 80s.
No worries, though, Grandma fixed her up with some ever-so-fashionable man’s pants and a shirt that were both several sizes too big.

A rite of passage in the family was to play Pitch. As soon as you were old enough to learn, you played cards. And it wasn’t just casual playing—these games were were highly competitive and serious!


In the spring of 1991, Cousin Wendy and I sang “Grandpa” by the Judds at the annual talent show at the high school. The recording of that song played at his funeral in 1997. All of the grandkids have musical talent, something inherited from Grandpa Phil and our ads. 

As we got older we would have concerts—oldest Chad on the piano with the rest of us singing. I imagine a highlight of Grandma and Grandpa’s life was in April of 1995. All the singers in the family (including the grandkids) worked up a couple of Grandpa’s favorite songs and sang them in church. We sang “Inside the Gate” and “Hide Me Rock of Ages.”

In January of 1997, during one of the coldest winters on record, Grandpa Phil passed away from a heart attack.

That spring an auction was held and Grandma moved off the farm and into Kingman. The last photo I have of all of us cousins was taken that day on the farm. See below. Tragically in May of 1998, Cousin Clark was killed in a car accident.

Left to right: my brother Jake, Cousins Chad, Karen, Wendy, me. Behind me, Cousin Clark; beside me, husband Sean.

We continued to sing as a family a few times for Grandma’s birthday and other occasions. She loved that.

When we got together for family meals at Christmas, in addition to a prayer before the meal, she'd request that we sing “Silent Night.” We sang it a cappella with parts—the only way to make real music.

As the Circle of Life goes, in 1998 she was able to experience great-grandparenthood. Before her passing in 2008, there were five great grandchildren born. As of this writing, there are seven. See below, the four generation picture from 1998.

I hold daughter Macy beside Grandma Lola and Jim, my dad.

Macy and I were able to sing together a couple of times for Grandma before she passed away. She left this life knowing that the passion and talent for music would carry on.

Remembering the lyrics to the song we sang as a family that was near and dear to Grandma and Grandpa's heart, my cousins and I find peace in knowing that those who've gone before us are celebrating together "Just Inside the Gate." Click here to hear our family sing that song.

What triggers memories of your loved ones that have passed on? Are there any special talents or traditions your grandparents passed on to you?


This is Amy's third Circle of Life segment
for the blog. To learn more about this 
professional woman, wife, mother of three, and the
1995 Miss Kansas Runner-Up, read her
other posts. Click here for "A Musical Round of a Different Kind" and here for "Circle of Life."

Friday, June 5, 2015

Remembering the tragic deaths of 40 years ago

I was eight-years-old when twin girls from my church were killed in a car accident along with their mother and a younger brother and sister.

That was 40 years ago on Friday, June 6, 1975. 

Christmas '72: Karleen, Marce, Stacie, Carissa
Everyone was devastated.

Pat, the mother, was a prominent member of the community and served on the South Dakota Board of Regents, the board that controls higher educational institutions in the state.

As I reflected on this milestone, I realized it was my first experience with death.

The twins were born two months before me, and I often wonder how my life would have been different had Carissa and Karleen been around.

I never played against them in a basketball game. Never sang in the church choir with them. Never told them, “Hey, I finally got my period” or “Mom let me start shaving my legs” or "Todd asked me to the prom."

Would we have drug Main Street in Huron together? Discussed the cute boys at our respective schools? Made the trek to Tabor during our college years?

Marce, Karleen, me, John Wollman, Kristine Wollman (standing )
Stephanie Peters (her birthday party), Carissa

From what I recall, Carissa was loud and blunt; whereas, Karleen was more girlish and quiet. But that’s my eight-year-old mind remembering.

I've never known another Karleen, and had I ever been a mother to a girl, Karleen would have been her name.

The twins usually wore matching clothes. I remember their colorful ponchos and shag haircuts. Their doll house was the size of my dining room table with the leaf in. I wonder whatever became of that. They shared a large room with twin beds. I envied them having a playmate in each other.

my 6-year-old birthday party
I'm seated with Carissa & Karleen standing to my left with Marce in front

I've never known another Marce, their brother. Their little sister Stacie had gone through multiple procedures to correct an issue with her legs. My young mind wondered why God would put her through all that if He was just going to take her home anyway.
When I learned about the fatal accident, I was in the middle of the yard playing. Mom came out and said, “Pat and the kids were killed in a terrible accident while on their way to see Don at National Guard camp in Minnesota.”

Just like that. She said it. No beating around the bush. That’s my mom. She said it like it was.

In shock, I responded with, “I said goodbye to them after VBS today.” Then my eight-year-old reasoning mind set in, “They just got that new car.”

The Mendels had driven a tiny, light blue car with a hatchback. It wasn’t really a station wagon—it wasn’t big enough to be called that. I can picture that car now. But they’d finally gotten a bigger vehicle, a regular-sized four-door car. Everybody at church was so happy they had a roomier vehicle. Strange how my mind went there after Mom told me.

On that Sunday, a couple days after their deaths, we didn’t have a normal church service, but the sanctuary was packed. The funeral, held in the Doland gym, was the same way.

Five caskets.

I have a book that Pat, the twins' mom, gave me. She was our Sunday School Superintendent at Ebenezer Church. She wrote a personal message in it to me. Ironically, it’s a book about a teacher. And take a look at what she wrote in it.

Pat's note to me in 1974:
I hope you enjoy this book. Maybe someday you'll be a teacher.

I guess Pat knew something I didn’t. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I changed my major from mass communications to English. I hope I’ve done her proud. 

God has blessed me with a joyful life and few regrets. Good health, a fulfilling career, a husband, a step-daughter and son-in-law, and most recently, a beautiful little grandson.

As I reach each milestone in my life, I think of the twins in a special way.

Carissa and Karleen. Never to be forgotten.