About Patrice

Married 39 years to my childhood sweetheart, (we met in kindergarten), I spent the first years of our marriage as a stay at home mom, home schooling our 3 sons. I own a couple copyrights for songs, have produced a calendar for 27 years, and entered the work force full time at age 60, which makes me ask, “What did I do with all that free time???” Well, with a little over a year under my belt, I’ve gotten used to the schedule and want to use some of my time writing. Whoever invented the blog – you’re a keeper!

Straighten your Star . . .

There’s a star hanging on the side of a house on my mail route that I pass everyday, that has been crooked for as long as I can remember. And even though my ‘remember’ isn’t as good as it used to be, we are talking years, here.


As I pass by it everyday, I sit at a stop sign, waiting on traffic to clear, I contemplate what it would take for me to go across the street, up the driveway, and where to park my Jeep so I could climb up on it and straighten that puppy up.

But then I realize I’d probably fall off my Jeep, break my hip, and the thing would swing back into it’s crooked state, mocking me, and I would be out of a job and incapacitated for life. So I endure it and try to learn a lesson from it, a lesson which has varied as time has passed.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned from this crooked star:
1.) Sometimes there are things in life that are out of kilter and may never get straightened out, but there is a reason for it, and accept it and move on. Sure, it causes you pain every time you look at it, but most things in this world are out of whack and if you can’t move on, you’ll be no use to anyone as you sit frozen in your denial.
2.) You can’t fix things for other people. If they can drive up their driveway everyday and not be bothered by their crooked star, they wouldn’t appreciate you straightening it anyway!
3.) Think things through before you act/speak. Acting/speaking on impulse can cost you plenty. Who among us hasn’t let slip something stupid from our lips and died a thousand deaths as soon as we realized what we just said? As a woman who has had 3 babies weighing over 10 pounds, you would think I would know a pregnancy belly from a fat belly – but NO! I still cringe when I recall telling a girl that she looked ‘great’ with child, only to have her look embarrassed and disappear around a corner to escape me.
My Aunt, a pastor’s wife, (of whom it is said that I am her clone) told me of a party at her home where the young, pregnant mother of several kids said, “My husband says I seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat!”  to which my aunt audibly mumbled,  “. . . not to mention his pants”. So much for ministry protocol.
Before you speak, hear the impact of what you are about to say as if you were on the receiving end, and make it pleasant and not accusing or belligerent. I find that people are not aware of how they come across to others and didn’t mean to sound ‘that way’. Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden Pond spoke of our conversations with one another and I have always  tried to remember this particular quote: “The bullet of your thought must have overcome its lateral and ricochet motion and fallen into its last and steady course before it reaches the ear of the hearer, else it may plow out again through the side of his head.”
So, I refuse to waste time plotting about how to straighten that star that mocks me every day. I just look at it as a timely lesson and think of how I should be straightening my own star.
My crooked star could be driving someone else insane.

Snow ahead!

I said that to elicit a response from you. . . raise your hand if you moaned? (My husband raised his hand.)
I like the cold – it energizes me. Heat sucks the life out of me.
The summer is one long sauna for me. My work means being out “in it” everyday – with my window open. My right arm looks like leather after all these years, and when  I look at it I hear the phrase ‘you can’t un-bake a cake‘ turning in my head.
Having learned how  to drive in the snow of Minnesota winters, ( see January 2017 post) I am pretty fearless when the sky starts spitting white stuff. I’ll admit that having a 4 wheel drive Jeep helps alleviate my fears, but the vehicle does you no good if you don’t understand the physics of gravity. Couple gravity with going uphill, on ice, and coming to a dead stop to put mail in a box and take off again. It makes for such an interesting day! And when it’s downhill to a busy road and you have a stop sign. Let’s just say – a lot of praying goes into it.
I have a couple on my route that actually give me cat litter to get out and spread on the ice on that downhill stop when I get to it. It’s always by their garage door in the winter, God bless ’em!
But I don’t feel the cold like I suffer from the heat. I am well insulated, if you get my drift, but that’s neither here nor there. I think it has to do with temperatures and their affect on the populace – people get angry in the heat, they lose their temper. When the ground is blanketed with snow, everyone’s cool! It’s like the world has been given a big tranquilizer! It’s quiet, it’s peaceful . . . visions of fireplaces and good books, hot chocolate and a blanket, swirl in my head. I don’t have a fireplace and I don’t want one, but I have a DVD of a fireplace that burns down slowly for over an hour and then starts all over again! Bonus: It doesn’t make the room hot!! (You know how I feel about heat, right?)
So, I am ready for the winter adventure to begin again. I want to smash through those snow drifts and hear jingle bells and amaze people when they find their mail in their box every day! Stop cursing at me! I can’t help it!

In the meantime, Fall is a beautiful thing, too.

Deep breaths of crisp autumn air,
the hint of burning leaves somewhere
School buses flashing news of
kiddies in their new school shoes

And backpacks advertising heroes
temperatures are nearing zeros
Rosy cheeks and runny noses
“Hi ” to everyone you know is

filling up the days with cheer
soon to start a brand new year
and unlike any other time
Fall brings out my need to rhyme

So brace yourselves and fire the stove up
I must bring myself to quoth up:

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
as I have seen in one autumnal face”
(John Donne)

Shopping and other joys

Yesterday, Dane and I hit town to pick up odds and ends since we were both scheduled to go to our dentist first thing in the morning.
He had his list, I had mine.
We are expecting company for the weekend and I much prefer shopping for small, unnecessary items to drag into our house than to be home cleaning and getting rid of said items. Ahemmmm. Just clearing my throat.
Shopping is an event that has evolved over time in our 42 years of marriage. There was a time in years past when the 2 activities mentioned in the opening paragraph were of equal status: Shopping with Dane was like pulling teeth. He would be out working all day to make money and then come home to hear me asking him to join me in spending it.  I get that now.
But we have matured now, (fingers crossed), and realize that there are days coming when either one or the other of us would give our right arm to hear the words, “Want to go shopping with me?” The last two words being the key.  With me.
We take off for that thrilling trip to the DDS, and after we’re done there, we head out to face the day.
We’re hungry so we hit a new place called Scratch Biscuits or something like that, down near Grandin Theater. In his search for the ultimate biscuits and gravy which has eluded/disappointed him for years, he has high hopes that this is the place.
We are out of our element here – the other 2 customers arrived on bicycles, and there’s black paint and lots of metal in the decor, and ponytails. We arrived in a ’99 plymouth van with 321K miles on it, not one tattoo between the 2 of us, but, at least Dane has a beard . . . I had just tweezed mine that morning . . . the lights at the dentist are cruel!!
Dane asks for biscuits and gravy and the bearded, pontailed guy is so enthusiastic to let us know that the biscuits are awesome, the cook is awesome, (she has a ponytail, but no beard), and that we’re going to love everything! Great!
Now, for the biscuits and gravy? Dane asks to ‘add’ grilled onions?
“Sorry, we don’t have grilled onions. We have raw onions. Would you like us to add some chopped raw onions?”
(Note: I am reading Dane’s mind here, and I’m hearing him say . . . throw those chopped raw onions on your grill with some butter, buddy. But he held his tongue. We’re too hungry to get thrown out of here.)
“OK. I’d like 2 eggs over easy.”
“We don’t have eggs – well we do, but they’re pre-whipped. Would you like 2 eggs scrambled?”
(ALERT!! My eyebrows go up, eyes open wide as I stare at the lovely black counter top while reading Dane’s mind screaming, “A breakfast place without eggs? If they’re pre-whipped, how do I know if I get 2? Maybe you’ll only pour 1 and 3/4 on the grill?” But he held his tongue, again.)
“Sure, that’s fine.”  (Whew – he must be really hungry – maybe even hangry.)
I chime in quietly with, “Bacon, cheese and (pre-whipped) egg biscuit, please.”
When we sit down to eat our $16 breakfast with our plastic forks and paper plates, I dream of Hardees and ask him how his gravy biscuits are and he says – “I can’t taste them – they’re all heat. My mouth is burning.”
This is a guy who puts Tabasco on his baked potatoes.
On to Sears in search of all cotton Cannon towels.
The tomb, formerly known as Sears, has like 2 employees and one checkout per 50 thousand square feet of store.
We find the towels we want, wander around looking for a checkout counter, and when we finally find it, we stand there for 5 full minutes without being waited on. Dane went around several corners and asked the only employee he could find if they could come and wait on us, but she said it ‘wasn’t her station’.
We left the towels on the counter and walked out the door. Yes, I know – we are terrible people.
On to Walmart where you can be entertained while spending money.
Then Parkway brewing company.
Followed by a trip to son, Jarl’s, shop to pick up a cam shaft for Dane’s truck.
Then Camping World for an RV plug. They don’t have it.
To Lowe’s for an RV plug. They don’t have it.
Calls an electrical supply store, they have it.
Just another day in paradise – we got to spend it together, laughing, driving around and reading each other’s minds.
These days, when I ask Dane if he’d like to go shopping, he always smiles and says, “Absolutely!” Because now, he gets it.

Friendships

There’s an old story that goes like this:
A man is sitting on his porch when a car comes down the road and a young couple pulls up the driveway, rolls down the window and says, “We’re thinking of buying the Smith house down the road and we were wondering, are the neighbors nice around here?”
The man asks, “What are the neighbors like where you live now?”
“Oh, they aren’t friendly at all! Don’t wave or talk to you. Rude people.”
“Well, the people here are kinda’ like that, too – you won’t like them,” he replies.
The next week, he’s sitting out on his porch and another couple pulls up and asks the same question,
“We’re looking at the Smith house down there, but we were wondering what kind of neighbors we’d have?”
He smiles and asks, “What are the neighbors like where you live now?”
“Oh, they’re wonderful! We really hate to leave them!”
“Well, you’ll find the people here are just as friendly as can be!” He answered with a smile.
With few exceptions, life is what you make it. Neighbors are as friendly to you as you are to them. A smile and kind gesture will reap wonderful rewards as time goes buy.
A recent conversation (via e-mail) made me laugh out loud at an old friend’s words – I miss inter-acting with people who aren’t in the same circles of work, church and family, but this thing called e-mail can help us weave in and out of one another’s lives from time to time. . .and that’s a blessing.
I often think about the settling of the old West in America and how people would leave their families behind, knowing they would probably never see them again, and often, they would never know what happened to them!
Can you see them looking at today’s technology where we speak into a little rectangular thing in our hand and have conversations with friends across the US and beyond? We put dirty dishes in a box, push a button and they come out clean?? Or see us typing with our thumbs and sending pictures of our cat? Mind blown!
Our ability to stay in contact with one another is an amazing thing, but we often have less contact because we know that it’s at our fingertips, available any time – and that time is always tomorrow.  
It’s hard to fathom how we got this way, but only because the act of fathoming something takes time that we don’t have to spare. We have to none to spare because we’re busy wasting it on cat videos and instagram pictures of our meals. (Disclaimer: I confess to the former, do not partake in the latter.)
Remembering to push the buttons on our conveniences (e.g. dishwasher, washer, dryer, crockpot, a/c, DVR) is now a difficulty??
“Honey, did you start the dishwasher?”
“Did you remember to push ‘record’ on the Twins game?”
So much stuff – so little time.
Remember the bumper sticker that said “JESUS IS COMING – look busy!” That will not be a problem these days, it’s just what we are busy with that is the problem.

Lord, slow me down from my busy-ness and help me be about Your business.
Help me reconnect with friends of old and make it meaningful. I know I can’t relive the old days, but the sweet fellowship of old friends helps define who we are and where we’ve been and acts like a straight edge to see if we’ve grown in grace and forgiveness. Let this follower of Jesus Christ show love to all and healing to those who need it – and may I be refreshed every morning by Your mercy towards me. Amen and amen.

Where’s your mind?

Usually, my day goes on without a single hitch,
but lately I am noticing a slight ‘abnormal’ glitch
It feels like I am seeking something just beyond my reach
and I realize the cause is – my mind is at the beach.

I started to count down the days back at day ’99’
I thought that it would go so slow – but, honestly, I find
the days have flown and soon I’ll get to plant my big old feet
in the sand that goes on endlessly –  which I’ll find at the beach.

Good friends and family join us – relaxing every day
Perhaps we’ll take an ocean cruise from Bogue Banks or the bay
Or maybe read a novel, or poetry from Keats
Or maybe we’ll do NOTHING when you find us at the beach

To see the blue horizon is as good as you can get!
Perhaps I’ll tan my left arm so I’ll have a matching set!
To hear the waves caress the shore in rhythm oh so sweet
-it’s this that I’ve been waiting for! You’ll find me at the beach!!

This is the actual view from our beach rental . . . 

Validation

Admittedly, we all seek some sort of validation in our lives. We want to know that our reason for doing things a certain way or keeping/storing/hoarding items has not been for naught. I know that once every 10 years or so my husband will find an item in the “stuffed to the gills” outbuilding that tells him he was right to keep it, validating the other 6,943 items stored there, including: 38 sheets of cardboard, empty gallon jugs of 50/50 radiator coolant, old National Geographic magazines from the 60’s – 70’s, and vacuum hoses with tears in them. Why?
1.) I can lie on them when I work on my truck
2.) Why pay for pre-mixed when I can mix it myself?
3.) They may be worth something someday!
4.) I can patch them when the new one gets a hole.
In all fairness, I have a couple closets that I haven’t cleaned out in years, and don’t really have the inclination to do so, but I believe I could get rid of 75% of the stuff in there if/when I do clean them, and we give credit for good intentions around this house! Yes-sir-ree-bob! (Although I do pity the boys having to clean all this junk out when we’re gone . . . just bring your phones and sell everything on the “let go” app, ok?)
And that being said, I want to tell you that I received some validation from a young mother today. I watched her grow up at church and now she is the mother of 4 boys and lives out of state. I hadn’t seen her in a couple years or perhaps more, and she was at church this morning visiting family. She came to greet me and told me she thinks about me a lot.
“Why is that?”
“Because I have 4 boys.”
I smiled and said, “Isn’t it fun? Boys always love their mothers and you will always be the most special woman in their lives.”
“Yes, and now I understand – I want you to know that.”
(I may have had a reputation of being a little over protective of my boys.)
Perspective changes when you have kids of your own. I explained to her that I was protecting the girls as much as my boys – having grown up with 3 older brothers and 6 neighbor boys, I understood ‘guys’ much too well, and I didn’t want my boys to break hearts or cause harm to other families. I wanted them to be friends with the girls, but nothing more. No need to be dating someone else’s future wife. Just laugh and have fun. That didn’t always sit well with the girls, but I wasn’t responsible for them, I was only responsible for teaching my boys to behave responsibly.
It’s nice to hear words like that from people who knew us oh so long ago, and to know your behavior back then is now understood. We don’t always get that kind of validation, but it sure feels good when we do.
Thanks Nesee! And best wishes and prayers for wisdom as you guide your 4 young men into adulthood! I give God all the glory!

Mostly hindsight

Somewhere back in time, my mind switched from what lies ahead to what has been accomplished in the past. I think it’s similar to coming of age – changing from a child to an adult. You’re anxious to grow up, but the child in you is afraid to take on all the responsibility and pain, yes pain, that comes with making poor choices and facing failure and defeat. When your parents were responsible for you, you could run to them for comfort and encouragement, but now, even though you want their comfort, you know you are going to have to face this stuff on your own and it just sucks. It’s exciting! But it sucks!
As parents, we watch all this going on during the ‘teeter totter’ years. . . one day they’re still in child mode, the next day an adult, until their teeter totter finally dumps them into the adult stage of life. They have to learn how to do the hard stuff – like saying ‘no’ when they need to, especially to themselves. (Something I haven’t yet mastered completely, either.)
They head into young adulthood wondering what will be, humming Que Sera Sera, like a Doris Day fanatic, always looking ahead. And when reality hits, it’s very shocking.
Suddenly, the corporate executive wanna’ be is wiping the butt of a 2 year old and cleaning up tossed cookies – literally. The person who felt they were something special in this world is just another shopper in the Kroger aisle with a fist full of coupons trying to make ends meet, listening to the background music with ELO taunting “Hold on tight to your dreams”. They furiously mail off their Publisher’s Clearing House entries and dream of what they will do with their $5000 a week for life – after they tithe, of course!
Routine sets in. They see themselves in their children’s faces and are confronted with the fact that they owe it to them to find meaning in this world of furious change, and they join Yoga studios, read DIY books, and play video games for hours to numb the pain. Some get lost in the world of movies. . . which wouldn’t be so bad if it were Jimmy Stewart’s “It’s a wonderful Life” where, even though he’s messed up and thinks everyone’s life would have been better if he’d never been born, he learns that he DID make a difference in every life he touched with his kindness and understanding. But the days of inspiring movies with high morals are long gone and we now have to filter through the slogg of waste that qualifies for entertainment. (I don’t know where ‘slogg’ came from, but I like it and I’m leaving it in here to irritate my spell checker.)
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans” is not a John Lennon quote, but was attributed to others before him – he just used it in a song. (Allen Saunders quote -1957.)
It’s true. We fill our days with what we’re going to do tomorrow, or next week, or next month. I’m guilty – I’m going to be at the beach in 44 days! I am counting down every day. I have the countdown on my calendar at work and the one by my desk at home. My phone defaults to ‘how many days until May 21st?’ as soon as I say the word ‘how’. . .
(that remark can only be understood by the generation who did not recognize the previous Doris Day song reference.)
We long for stability in our lives and fear change in a world that guarantees nothing but change. And yet, when we find ourselves in that stability that becomes ‘routine’, (a.k.a. boring and repetitive), we long for change! When things change, we get upset because we don’t have the familiar around us and we feel adrift and lost and we, once again, want stability and peace, so that we can rest and not be on guard every second.
In short, we are a mess and need an anchor, a hold, a home that is unaffected by the storms of life that swirl around us. I have found that anchor in Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There are no surprises to Him, and He has my complete trust.
As I close in on retirement age in less than 2 years, I find myself spending way too much time rehashing my past and wishing for some ‘do-overs’, trying to balance out the screw ups with the good deeds in my own mind. Why do I do this??? Because I’m human. When did I switch from looking forward to looking back? I don’t know – it was subtle. This is the first time I’ve ever been a senior citizen and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do during these years except trust the One who holds whatever future I have left.
He has given me the gift of knowing who I am (in Christ) and this allows me the freedom to be me, unaffected by circumstances and CHANGE.
Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
It’s an adventure, a joyful one, and I will continue to try to ‘forget the past and press towards the mark’ – Here’s to tomorrow!

 

He’s still the one . . .

Today is our 42nd anniversary. Hard to believe where the time has gone, and yet those memories are as sweet as the day they were made.
Comfortable as an old shoe, as peaceful as a lazy summer day, a fit like a hand in a glove, and, since he’s an electrician, he has all the right fuses and splices that create a spark for me. . . . and since he’s a plumber? (You can thank me later for not going there.)
There are times during the day when I am driving around my little town delivering mail and I just can’t wait for the evening when I get to go home and see him. It’s a feeling I can’t describe, even to him! But I know that’s how he felt when I was staying home raising 3 boys and he was out there working 6 days a week to support us. How do I know that? He told me that years ago.
At the beginning of our marriage we determined that divorce would not be an option. Easy words to say when love is rosy and sweet and you haven’t had to deal with bathroom smells, bad breath and cleaning up vomit. But I knew that some safeguards would have to be put in place in order to keep our commitment to each other and, more so, our commitment to the Lord, so I came up with a rule that would remind me that – no matter what – I must always default to the fact that God had chosen this man for me, blessed me with more than I deserved and I will honor Him with my marriage.
Love is easy – but like??? Not so much.
I recognized that, as much as he could irritate me, I must be irritating him, (though I couldn’t see how that was possible since I was simply showing him the RIGHT way to do things, I mean, come on!) But I had to face the facts and I knew I would have to answer to the Lord for my angry moments, holding grudges, and burying fury under the surface – pretending everything was ‘fine’.
Fine. A word ripe with meaning when it falls from the lips of an angry woman.
So, before the bloom fell from the rose, so to speak, we agreed to ALWAYS hold hands when we prayed. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it?? But this involved every meal, church service, wedding, funeral – anytime – anywhere that anyone would be praying within our earshot – those hands would find each other. This was a promise never to be broken. NEVER!
The reasoning behind this? When you are angry with someone, you don’t want to touch them. Touching requires acceptance, forgiveness, and an element of fondness for the other person. We all need touch. It makes us feel accepted as a human being. It’s the reason that shaking hands means something. You’re reaching out of your personal space and into someone else’s, which is outside of our normal behavior.
If I am angry about something, I can maintain my anger, feed it, help it grow and not deal with it, as long as I am not forced to touch the one with whom I’m angry.
You take a mother of 3 who’s had a bad day, something sets her off, and she wants to explode . . . knowing there’s a dinner table where everyone’s going to sit down and HOLD HANDS to pray and suddenly, I’m forced to deal with my anger. Why? Because I’m not going to be the one that breaks the rule. But this means touching and praying! Praying with hidden anger doesn’t work. It doesn’t sit right with a soul who claims to love the Lord, and your love for the Lord breaks down your anger into small chunks that can be swallowed and more easily digested. After all, you’re sitting down at a table full of food, surrounded by a loving husband and 3 beautiful sons that you don’t deserve, and you’re angry about what?? Your bad day would be the fulfillment of some other lonely woman’s dream come true. Get over it!
This has helped me deal honestly with the ‘stuff’ that goes on within my heart – keeping the big picture in mind and not sweating the small stuff of life. And by dealing, I don’t mean burying it deep. I mean dealing with it before the Lord and trusting Him to carry my concerns so that I can be free to live for Him. He hasn’t failed me in 42 years of marriage – I don’t think he’ll start now!
Isaiah 33: 2, 6 says; “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.”
And  ‘fear of the Lord’ doesn’t mean hide behind a rock to avoid the lighting bolts – it means a respect and awe like a child has for their father. You don’t do the wrong   because you don’t want the punishment he will give when you’ve disobeyed and you can’t bear to see the look of disappointment in his eyes. That kind of fear. Why? Because you know he loves you and you love him.
This kind of love was the base line of our marriage. I love the Lord and He loves me and I don’t want to disappoint Him with my behavior inside my marriage or out in public.
God has been very good to Dane and me. Very good. And especially to me.
I did not deserve such a good man. He is accepting, forgiving, hard working, honest and kind. Generous to a fault, and tenderhearted toward the Lord in all things.
Many years ago, between high school and marriage, I was living alone in an apartment in Delaware and I had a very vivid and strange dream. (Who can explain these things?)
In my dream my inner self, faults and all, were somehow on display in front of all my previous boyfriends from junior high on and they were all asked who would take me. (I assume this meant marriage.) One by one they looked at these faults and struggles that would be ahead in our lives together and they all said no – except Dane. He smiled sweetly and said, “I’ll take her.”
When I woke up, I called his home in Minnesota because I wanted to talk to him. I hadn’t seen him or talked to him for a couple years, but he was gone to Montana for the summer and I missed him. I had no contact with him for another stretch of time, but he found out I had called and reached out to me. The dream had faded by then and I was busy living the life I shouldn’t have been living, so we lost touch again.
Eventually, we did make contact  and he came here to Virginia for a visit, got a job here, and the rest, as they say, is history.
We have worked hard on our marriage, forgiving, giving the other one room to grow, praying for one another, supporting each other, by mostly, enjoying each other. It’s the ‘bar of soap’ theory that I gave my boys. You can hold a bar of soap, but if you squeeze it too tightly, it’ll pop out of your hands. Don’t squeeze or suffocate your beloved. No one (well, other than a narcissist) wants to be worshiped by their spouse. “Oh, honey, you’re so wonderful! I can’t live without you!” gag and  blah, blah, blah. . . . Dane knows I can live without him – but I don’t want to. Mutual respect is the key. Our qualities compliment one another. Where I fail, he picks up the slack and visa-versa. It has never been a competition – it’s two friends on the same team with the same goal in mind which is a successful marriage that honors God.
The ‘work’ part never stops, but the rewards increase over the years and the peaceful, sweetness of long lasting love never wears off – it only grows deeper. I thank God everyday for giving me this man to walk with me through life and love me through the good and bad. . . but it’s been mostly good!

Perfume de plume

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. . .
When Dane and I went back to Minnesota for our 10th high school reunion, I was quite shocked to discover one of my classmates (from grade school on) had changed her first name to Patrice after I left. I felt violated at first, but realized there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I told myself she wanted to be me and felt bad for her not wanting to be herself. There’s just something wrong about someone taking your name.
Names are easily associated with good and bad feelings, like people who, upon hearing their name, make your face light up with joy and happiness. Weird Al has always been someone without guile whose songs/parodies make you laugh. Turns out he is a decent humble guy, too. I have watched several interviews over the years and always feel bad for the interviewer who seems to want to pull something ugly out of him to tarnish his image – to no avail. He’s just a nice guy.
On the other hand, no one looks at their little baby boy and says, “Oh honey – he’s so cute! Let’s call him Adolf Hitler Smith!” At least I think no one would do that??
I do remember hearing about someone local who named their child Harley Davidson – a real conversation starter,eh? There’s the classic “La-ah”.  How do you pronounce that? You’d be told – “Lah – dash – ah” because the dash ain’t silent!!  And a girlfriend of mine who took attendance at a local high school would have to call to ask why ‘so and so’ wasn’t in school today? only to run across a daughter’s name pronounced “Sha – theed”, but spelled Shithead – no, you can’t make this stuff up.
I deal with names everyday and you can imagine that I may make up little ditties to go along with them to tell them apart. I have 13 families with the last name Smith. And yes, one of them named their son ‘John’, can’t imagine what he has to go through on phone orders, or even renting a motel room???, etc. . .
Dane and I have had our share of struggles with name butchering. His can’t be Dane – it must be Dave, Danny, Dean, Dan, or better yet, DIANE.
Mine, being Patrice is always Patricia, or PATRICK, which goes hand in hand with the Diane above.
Our last name, Hamren must be, Harmon, Hammond, Herman, suffice it to say, we are always surprised when someone gets all 3 correct. Dane & Patrice Hamren instead of Patrick and Diane Harmon. (Even my spell check underlines Hamren every time it appears).
The advantage of having an unusual name is – it’s kind of unforgettable. Once stuck in the craw it usually stays there.
My mother and father-in-love liked unusual names. Their 7 children were Craig, Claudia, Dane, Marina, Blair, Erica, and Judd. I continued the tradition With Jarl, Preston and Nelssen – they stick with you! And each of them are as unique as their names.
I realized the value of a good name very early in our marriage and was determined to honor my husband’s family by doing everything possible to make sure our last name was one that brought smiles to people’s faces when they heard it. In essence, a sweet smell, a pleasant fragrance, a perfume de plume.
As we come up on our 42nd wedding anniversary this month, I’d like to think that we have a good name – one that honors the Lord and makes people smile when they hear it – as well as ‘say good things’ about it.
When we’re finished with our work on this earth, I would hope that people would still smile when they hear our name and that it brings good memories and stories of fun and laughter, fireworks and plumbing, singing and 3 fine sons who carry on our name with honor. This is all I ask. To God be the Glory.

The pressure to “jump”

Many years ago when the boys were all home and still youngsters, our youngest, Nels, spent several days up in our woods across the road working on a rope swing. There was a huge Oak tree, magnificent in stature, which presented itself to him as a potential high flying adventure. The lowest branch that stuck out almost straight sideways was as large as most of the other Oak trees in the woods. In short – there was no question of whether it would hold the weight of anyone who wished to test it. This tree was a beauty, and since the woods were uphill from the road, the short starting position would thrust you over the downhill side, making your flight seem incredibly high in the air because, well, it was. At the peak end of your swing you would be 30 feet above the ground, a.k.a. 3 stories. If you fell? Damage would be done. (Right Preston?)
Nels was excited as he worked on this swing. He had to build a platform, accessed by a ladder, on the side of a nearby tree from which you would leap into the air and grab the rope with your legs and sit on a knot made in the rope – I kid you knot! The rope itself had to be tied to the mighty Oak branch which required someone insane to shimmy out on the branch and do the deed, shimmy backwards off the branch and back down the tree via a ladder. That person was wise not to tell me in advance that he volunteered for the job, being the sole breadwinner for the family. . .
As the platform was being built, the rope’s precise length was being decided, and an additional smaller rope was tied onto the big one to enable one to climb up to the platform and reel in the infamous bottom knot that would be the last thing you’d see before you died.
The child could not contain his excitement and was constantly asking, “Are you going to swing on it, Mom?” to which I would casually reply, “Sure, honey!” not having seen the whole setup yet. Day after day, “You gonna’ swing Mom?” “Yup” I stupidly replied.
Then the big day came when we hiked up to the tree swing and I looked up and thought, this is not what I thought it was going to be – this is plunging to one’s death for entertainment!
The millions of visions that flashed through my mind as I looked into this boy’s eyes, filled with pride and excitement at his mom doing this brave thing, climbing up the ladder to the 12′ high platform, dragging the instrument of my death behind me – like carrying the ax for the executioner before laying my head on the block.
I know I was white as a sheet as I went up and sat on the platform. It was dizzying and everything was swirling around in my brain, local newspaper headlines, crime scene cleanup  crews commenting on how I bounced a couple times before being impaled on the splintered stump at the bottom of the platform. . . the stump of another who gave it’s life for the swing of death.
I heard the voices of those sweet boys encouraging me, “Just jump, Mom – you can do it!” to which I would reply “just give me a sec!”  I’m pretty sure I said that for several minutes before it became a ‘tinkle or get off the potty’ moment and I decided that I had told the boy I would do it and I could not let him down. I decided that I would rather die trying (literally) than to see the disappointment in his eyes if I went back down the ladder. So I jumped into the air and got a poor hold on the knot, but it was a hold, and I tried not to look down so I wouldn’t lose my lunch, (I never waste food.)
I swung back and forth a few times until I felt it was okay to say “Get me off this thing!” or something along those lines, and smiled and casually walked back to the house . . . and took a nap.
FYI, I did swing a second time just to prove to them, and myself, that I could do it, but I’m glad I never have to do that again.
The moral of the story? Sometimes you have to jump for your kids to show them that they are worth risking your life for, and to demonstrate to them that you CAN overcome your fears. You don’t have to back down from things that frighten you. I believe that they have gone fearless into the world and that this is one of many incidents that helped them do so.