Bright Spots       *Happiness and Joy*  Loving Through the Loss/The Promise/Vacation/The Letter/Turn Your Bed/Little Greats / My Mind's File/Bucket List/Lindenwald

Happiness and Joy

            Thoughts of Christmas when feelings began to warm young bodies: something sweet swept into our home in southeastern Kentucky shortly after we recovered from Thanksgiving.

Of course my memory tumbles backward to when I was little and too old to accompany two of my brothers into tree-covered hillsides to choose Christmas greenery- a tree and a number of small branches to be fashioned into wreaths and others decorations.

That warmth spread through the house warming the hand cut stones that formed our living quarters, that and open fireplaces ablaze with wood and coal. Now, memory has a way of leaping in great strides across the years. My thoughts awoke suddenly in little home in Fairfield. My husband and I, by that time, clearly were parents of two little girls.

The youngest daughter came hurry into the room where we were, telling us excitedly:  “I have filled our house with happy times and joy!”  Because she was so excited and we were busy making gift lists, we didn’t stop to take a walk to look at this ‘happiness and joy.’

She was about five years old, I think, and I had begun to notice her sly look at me when I mentioned Santa. Anyway, this scene was a far cry from my earlier mental picture. Of course, the recently tuned in mind pictures begin to fall in line as I recalled purchasing some loosely packed glitter in a bag. Her older sister (exactly five years older,) must have been having some secret conversations.

After all Santa has been appearing in every grocery, mall and street corner and I had begun to see that five-year-old had caught her father and me in what she called a lie.  And it became our first Christmas crisis.  The little one triumphantly led us both into the living room where the tree stood in all I beauty.

“See!” she shouted, flinging her arms wide to encompass the entire floor of the room. It sparkled and shone, with all kinds of holiday glitter, lifting with  something looking alive through out the room.

We looked at each other, silently consenting guilt and began to talk bedroom to our little girls. I think, looking back at all the holidays, and bringing up scenes of all the fun our family enjoyed in that ‘happiness room” in all those years.                           

Loving Through the Loss

Thinking about death never bothered my mind when I was a youngster. Babies arrived at our mountain home in southeastern Kentucky regularly.  See, my father was a minister.

And I believed that God wouldn’t let anything bad happen to a person who was devoted to obeying whatever God had said he must do. I knew in my little-girl heart that my father was such a man.

But I need to move away just a bit from sadness. After all, I started this page about mid-December, 2015.  The holiday season always sends my mind reeling backward to the safety and softness of the tall Appalachians, which seemed to surround us with calm tenderness.

I don’t know how they did it, but our parents, though they struggled to make a living in those troubled times, never let us feel lost or desperate or hungry. As their kids became old enough they, boys and girls alike, took their place alongside parents; in the gardens, the fields, the kitchen and whatever needed doing.

The size of the family had reached 13 children before a tiny boy had what they thought was flu and it was too harsh for the 14-month old, named Billie Jack for his grandfathers. I recall gathering at the hillside cemetery as our father knelt by the fresh grave and prayed through his tears.

We didn’t go to a funeral home, (you needed a car and more than that you needed money).  Women from the community, in which many of our relatives lived, came with nice cloth and stitched small garments, preparing the body before it was lovingly placed in a handmade coffin constructed by men of the area.

It seemed to me a long, long time before I could stop my mind from twisting back to all those painful scenes.

But time helps. And work never stopped at our mountain farm. Poppy sometime during their early years in their home on Polls Creek in Leslie County, had constructed a mill on the banks of the creek. His aim was to harness the creek to provide power. And for years he ground “ bushels “of shelled corn into meal for area people. His pay was a small amount of the corn to keep for his own family.

Memories stay with us, and year upon year life moves ahead, leaving beauty and grace with us. It takes a lifetime to learn what to keep in a safe place in our minds and to know the difference between the good and the bad, so we can walk a steady path.

Our family grew fast, and each babe brought delight and a growth of mouths to feed. We called our parents, Mommy and Poppy as long as they lived and beyond and their love remained throughout their lives, as steady and comforting as those soaring mountains that gave all of us sustenance.



The Promise 

Pulsing with color,

     the promise appears,

          its arc an eye-bat on the sky,

      an afterthought to blackberry clouds

           licked westward by Mother Wind.

Her  windy voice whirs 

     and whispers joy.

               Rainbow -- carving its message

                      on the soul.                                    



Morning sun donned his armor;

Ready to break the day.

In the east, navy blue clouds

Easily blocked his way.

But, crashing through the solid blue,

Red splinters joined the fray

Sun-power poured bright glory,

Helping daybreak on its way.

They tumbled about like storm-blown stones,

Two little boys, on a sandy shore

Excitement wrapped in flesh and bones

And joy erupting with shouts galore

Away from school and homebound chores,

With books to read  and songs to sing;

Parents at hand all 24 hours

Vacation, to them, was fit for a king.

Then one day a storm came blowing

On a boil of clouds hovering close

Wet swimsuits pinned up without knowing

How soon the storm would hit our house,

But hit it did and huddled inside

Vacationers gathered together in fright

The rage of nature’s angry tide,

As wind and water turned day to night.

Hello! Morning came and wet sand shone,

Clear skies yelled a welcome to beaches

Swim suited figures danced to the tones

Of happy shouts: vacation went on.

The Letter

I found the following at the bottom of an old cardboard box. I became so enchanted with the word selection and spacing that I went straight to the writer and on to the recipient and got permission from both to pass this on.  Here it is.

I am a creature of gentle joys. Not relinquishing any idea of the major ecstasies that are, perhaps, still to come, I, nevertheless,  avail myself of every opportunity to absorb into my soul the smaller plissés and they are plentiful. And this winter night I ponder and hug them to me.

He looks at me with a tenderness that I think is quite wonderful. He told me yesterday what a fine woman he thinks I am. He put his arm around me, letting me snuggle into his shoulder. He is ill and he seems to be even more attentive and sweet when he feels this bad. How special I think that is.

Washing dishes in the evening, the living room softly lamp lighted, snow falling outside, I dry my hands and glance around my little house. The fireplace calls me onto the couch with colorful afghan warming my feet. There is a winter quiet that only comes in the deep winter when the earth is muffled, hushed with the cold. So it is tonight. Here is peace.

Today at church wee child showed me a drawing he had made, and pointed to his open Bible, Genesis, chapter 5. “I’ve read that far,” he said. He has always sat in the pew in front of me, sometimes waving back at me shyly. This was his first verbal communication. I felt honored.

There are times when worry is a fist in my stomach that keeps punching me into wakefulness far into the night. Other family problems “too painful to be endured. I will not endure this. And somehow, that decision gives the writer surcease. She went on with her letter.

There are other times, “too deep, too poignant to be spoken, no longer needing to be shared. I hug them to myself and find, amidst the aching, my identity. . . .whole and entire . . .at last. But even in the dark night of the soul, there is a certain knowing that the dark always lasts, and that the gentle joys and smaller blesses are everlasting.

I spend an evening out to dinner with three sisters and we laugh –We Laugh! The whole  time. And to one, my second self, I silently dedicate all these treasures that I so often take and reexamine carefully, drawing pleasure and strength all the time.

 And I turn these healing thoughts directly, to the one who loves them most. 

Turn Your Bed

Browsing through a magazine with the front cover teaser: “Secrets of American History,” recently, I found out how scientists teach animals to take part in American espionage, and had my brain boggled by more info about the Zapruder films, then I came across a major piece about Norman Rockwell.

They headlined that story: “American Enigma.”

I’ve always liked Rockwell. Goodness knows, for some years the art world looked down their collective nose at him. I loved his simplicity and his ability to show us ourselves with such tenderness.

Seems to me none of us have the right to looked down on others. I’m reminded just now of a gathering I attended once and found a lot of folks laughing at a story a woman was telling. I am always humiliated and embarrassed when there is merriment at something said in all seriousness.

The woman continued telling her story about not being able to sleep at night. She related facts about a trip to her doctor. He asked her if she lived near a river, she said yes and the next question was “is your bed turned to face up or down river.” She said down and he told her to turn her bed directly in the other direction. And ever after that she slept like a baby. More laughter.

I tried to come to her rescue by relating a story in a scientific magazine I had read a few days before. The scientist had a tale about billions of tiny magnets found in brains f birds to help them migrate.

I reaped a few laughs of my own for that.  I wish we wouldn’t talk about billions of anything. Especially, not the national debt. Not good to owe that much, even if you’re in it with thousands of other taxpayers.

I tried to find out how birds know about migrating for miles and miles; could it be microscopic magnets inside their bodies? And how do the Buzzards know the way to Hinckley, Ohio yearly?

I read, too, that members of some great studier program have been looking to whether magnets affect humans. They did it by placing a group of college students in a bus, putting foil over the windows, then driving in random patterns throughout the town.

When they stopped, not one person could find the back to the starting place.

Oh well, the first magazine I mentioned is the “Smithsonian.” And I still intend to write about Norman Rockwell.

Little Greats

A gaggle of adults sat around a picnic table on one of those recent blessedly-perfect summer days. Everyone watched as two-year-old Jackson came toward us as fast as those little legs could carry him. In his hand he carried a long-stemmed daisy-like bloom.

Around the table he went, pausing at his mother’s chair where she sat cradling Jackson’s two-week-old brother, Jonah. A prolonged sigh of pleasure greeted Jackson’s action.

Sometimes I fall deep into the throes of writing about aging, generation gaps, brand new babies and everybody in between. So maybe you’ll forgive me if I go on a bit of a written chronicle about family.

From two daughters, Bridget and Bekka, born five years apart with their father, the late John Eaton’s military service between. After that, came two granddaughters, Sarah and Jordan.

By now you’ve guessed what I’m heading for—the entrance on the family scene of Jacob and Parker , offspring of Sarah and her husband, Josh.

Now I must explain that Jackson and Jonah are first cousins of  Jacob and Parker and they have lovely times together. Needless to say, the fun of watching our delight in those first great grandson numbers doubled as soon as Jonah came along, although his best things to do just now are sleep and eat and certain other necessary activities.

Soon Jonah will begin to feel a part of his brother and his cousins, just as Jackson has. The three have their own language, it seems. At least they get along swimmingly.

Benefits for parents, grandparents and all other assorted relatives is joy and extreme love and pleasure as these little ones climb their way into the rising ages of their lives. Lord, have you watched how fast they learn from the beginning? Jonah, cuddled in his mother’s lap curled little fists under his chin and slept. I mean, even those little lessons top the endearing chart.

With the first grandchild, husband and I stood by adoring: she went to school, on to university, played volleyball, fell in love, married and then came the two little greats. Second granddaughter goes to school, keeps up with politics, paints, writes, fixes broken things and delights our souls.

I grieve that husband is not around to watch her climb through her young years. But Jacob, Parker and cousin Jackson and Jonah combine a fine cast for their own artistic productions.

I am, I believe, one lucky great-grandmother. (AKA Ma). And, by the way, you may call me Ma.

My Mind's File

Happiness, I hear, comes in short bursts of joy, delightful moments, beautiful blessings, all of which are so purely and keenly fastened in the halls of our memory we have them forever.

For instance, one surprise swiped me in the face as I entered the gym at Fairfield High School where Second Daughter had been rehearsing. Mind you, this was years ago when the high school was in another location.

Inside the gym door, the first thing I saw was daughter and her friend, Danny Tiberghein, dancing around the outer edges of the gym floor to the beautiful strains of a waltz. I didn’t stop to see who was playing that waltz, I was transfixed by the way they seemed to float with the music as thought he effortlessly lifted her with each step.

I can’t put dates on these happenings. That little fact didn’t rest in my mind’s files, just the joy of watching that lovely scene and alongside now, a sadness of missing Danny. We all loved him.

Just as keenly happy and joyous was the time I drove around a sharp corner of a road in Laurel County, Ky. on the way to my mother’s home. There, so blazingly bright I put my brakes on, was a big, orange and red sun ready to slip behind the trees. It was summer and streamers of reddish pink laced the leaves as I caught my breath. So gorgeous it sits in my mind to this day.

So do a number of other sunsets, including one on the Hawaiian island of Maui. A friend who was familiar with the island, drove me through a burned out forest to a wide, sandy beach with the ocean spread out with gentle waves toward a sunset that bled into the water, spreading like silver and gold toward the shore. There, several fires where local people cooked a picnic dinner, glimmered, gentle and wondrous.

Sunsets stop me in my tracks even at home. I step onto my front porch at just the right time in the evening. I get a great such a great glimpse as the sun goes out of sight.

Smiling babies sing in my soul. One special baby, however, charmed me deliciously but that meeting ended with a slap! I was on a driveway/sidewalk chatting with friends when a pretty young mother came pushing her baby in a stroller toward us. The wee one, maybe and a year old, was smiling at our group. I couldn’t stand still. I went to her, bent over, held out my open hand and said, “Give me five!”

She did! Laughed a delighted look up at me and smartly smacked my hand with her little one.

And there was the time I was driving our 1953 Chevrolet to work at Cumberland College in Barbourville, Ky.  Snaking my way up steep, curving slopes, I noticed the hillsides were glittering at me. I became so enthralled I pulled over and stopped as I topped the mountain side. There before me a carpet of brilliant branches waved from slope to slope. From tiny twigs to the big round tree boles, ice formed clothing for the world. I have no words to describe the glory of that moment. I remember a prayer of thanks because I had resisted calling in sick.


Bucket List

At first I thought the term, “bucket list” originated with the movie about all the things Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson wanted to do in their life time, but then I saw it popping up everywhere.

That is, after I started my own unscientific survey including people of all ages.

“At the top of my list,” said an 80-year-old minister, “is to be able to see and be with two beautiful little great-granddaughters who live so far away from me. “And next on my list would be to somehow know when it’s time to quit preaching.”

Two bucket list favorites, I noticed early in the survey, were losing weight and getting out of debt. Those felt so heavy on me, I had trouble keeping track. They weighed my bucket down.

Not a good time to talk about either of those subjects. Still, the definition of the two words seems to be aimed at goals and what we want to accomplish.

One handsome 30-something man said: “I want to go sky-diving when I’m 50,” and I was greatly encouraged by his waiting that long, seeing that he is the father of two small sons.

Speaking of sky diving one person I asked, a woman just turning 60, had completed her first jump from an airplane. 

Sisters, both in their 70s, would like to return to the place of their childhood deep in the Appalachians, where an enormous rock in the mountainside formed a perfect place to build playhouses. Topping their bucket list was to play house again up there.

And, who knows, that could happen.

“I want to go to Geneva, Switzerland and see the Hadron Collider, an atom-smashing experiment,” said a 13-year-old high school freshman.

A bright young man who had given the idea some thought, had a trip to see the Grand Canyon high on his list. Me, too.

A retired teacher listed a visit to New England and publication of a book of poetry.  Good goals, I say.

Travel seemed to be somewhere on everyone’s list. “I want to go to Alaska!” said a lovely (middle-aged) woman.

I like to think that many of these aims can come to fruition, and I’m not paying much attention to one female who has not reached 60, who said her bucket is all leaked out. I don’t believe that. However, she admitted another item on her list was to establish a Butler County School for Creative and Performing Arts.

I have another name for that wildly popular term, “bucket list” . . . dreams.  It’s ok to call them something else, it seems to me. We all have dreams. They change with the various phases of our lives. I remember dreaming about a fancy doll when I was very little. Later, my heart was set on having a fancy dressing table. Nowadays my bucket bobbles, bounces and threatens to change the top of the list every day. So I constantly change, hoping each day to be able to do one good thing.

Mind you, I’m writing this a few days before Christmas, and that topic was uppermost on the mind of one nearly 85-year-old who worried about getting gifts for the children AND the adults who planned to visit. “First on my bucket list is to get through Christmas!” she said.



A soft train whistle blows to tell you your food is ready.  Soon, a pretty girl brings a heaping plate of good things to eat.

A low murmur trickles around the Lindenwald Station Restaurant in Lindenwald, Ohio.  Members of my family and I have gotten into a habit of lunching there, where little motorized trains trace a winding track halfway around the room. 

I always ask new local businesses how things are going when I stop by.

“It’s picking up,” answered Donna Cooper, who, along with her husband, Mike and their family operate the place. “This is a very tight-knit community and word-of-mouth helped. The community seems pleased we are here.”

The area feels familiar to me. Citizens Bank used to do business almost on the same spot where the restaurant rests. Many times when our family was trying to decide on a major purchase for the family I would visit the bank and ask Margaret Kindred if we could afford that item.  And she would tell me in a kind voice her opinion. After all, she knew the details of our income.

My family and I moved from our Kentucky home to Fairfield in the 1950’s; so Lindenwald was near enough for us to take advantage of its many offerings to residents. Then there was a drug store where a pharmacist advised us about medications when we were confused about dangers. And near by a little movie invited film buffs. 

Someone gave me the name of Debbie Doerflein, who is doing her part to add to the community. She runs several businesses under the umbrella title of “Heaven Sent.” Her Wedding Chapel serves as a base for wedding ceremonies and attending activities, there is a Bible bookstore, A Coffee Shop and a Bridal Boutique.

When I asked her how is business and did Lindenwald seem as though it was becoming more and more like a family-styled community, she responded:

“Honey, I’ve been trying to add to this community’s family feeling for 17 years.”

Another thing that thrilled me was finding the first and second copies of  “The Lindenwald Ledger, “ published monthly Chris Vogt.  The June issue sparkled with opinion, sports, and other coverage such as churches, schools and even a crossword puzzle.

Obviously, the community is moving ahead. Strangely enough, Monday morning, twomen from Lindenwald Baptist Church rang my door bell. They, and 12 other fellows were going through the neighborhood inviting folks to visit their church.

From the Lindenwald Station and its bells to announce the food, to the friendliness of business people and the scope of “The Lindenwald Ledger,” it seems to me the community is looking a lot like a great family place.

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