THE BEAUTY OF JUNE

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THE BEAUTY OF JUNE

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”                L.M. Montgomery

Second only to July in my book, June is one of the most splendid months of the year.

My mind and heart hearken back to my childhood, where June meant the beginning of the three carefree months of no school, hot weather, picking cherries, swimming lessons, Father’s Day and the beginning of wheat harvest. The cherry-picking and swimming lessons weren’t always good memories then, but they are now. I love to swim, and I am so glad our parents took the time and effort to make sure we knew how. I was scared of the water when I first started, but not anymore.

I hated to pick cherries then, but I love it now. I remember Mom waking us up early to beat the heat with our cherry-picking. We climbed our two cherry trees with a small bucket, and didn’t get down until it was full. This was followed by an afternoon of pitting cherries at the kitchen sink. It was torture then; I love it now. My husband planted a cherry tree for me in our backyard several years ago, but the frost got the blooms this spring, so there will be no cherries this year.   I did just find a bag in the freezer from last year, so that will still make a good pie.

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LAST YEAR’S CHERRY HARVEST

Today, June 21st, 2020, is Father’s Day. My family gathered at our in-laws to celebrate the fathers in the family. Good food, drink and company were enjoyed by all, as we always do when we gather there. Father’s Day has become a sweet-bitter observation, instead of the mostly bitter day that I felt for the first handful of years after our dad was gone.

To anyone who has recently lost their father, who feels only the bitter, my heart breaks for you. But, I want to let you know that time heals, and in the coming years, Father’s Day will be sweet-bitter for you, too.

I promise.

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LAST YEAR’S WHEAT HARVEST

I remember celebrating most Father’s Days of my youth in the harvest fields. Dad and my brothers would be hard at work cutting and hauling wheat. This year, harvest has not yet started on our farm, nor is there much harvesting happening where I live, 80 miles south of there. The wheat harvest begins first in the south and moves north as the climate dictates.

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30 miles south of my home, a farmer is moving his combine to the field to cut. Note the red machine, vs. the green. My International-Harvester farm-girl heart will always favor the red ones.   I don’t mind getting stuck behind slow-moving farm machinery, because they feed me, too.

Today, however, the climate here is one of unrest, as we wait for severe thunderstorms to roll in, further delaying the onset of harvest.

Aside from the fly in the ointment that storms cause for harvest-hungry farmers, these storms are another thing I like about June.

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Garage sales and lemonade stands are another sure sign of summer.

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Last night was the summer solstice. The annual “longest day of the year.” The sun shone longer in the sky than any other day, and I always observe this peak day. The days will slowly, almost imperceptibly become shorter day by day until the winter solstice occurs on December 21st. I crave sunlight, and welcome each lengthening day until the summer solstice, and now, knowing that the days will get shorter, I will again welcome the longer days starting in December.

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We were at our brother’s house near our family farm for the last year’s winter solstice. Here, the sun is setting on the shortest day of the year.

July will arrive in nine days. So will our annual guests. I will eagerly welcome both, and we will celebrate the first week of July together.

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July, with it’s honor of being the hottest month of the year in Kansas, as well as a week with some of my favorite friends, Independence Day—my second favorite holiday, and perhaps a family vacation, is my favorite month of the year. My three favorite things about Kansas are July, June and August—in that order.

Because I was born in mid-April, I came into being in July. Perhaps this is why I love July so much. Independence Day, with its fireworks, food, family and freedom, should be savored year-round, keeping its spirit alive in our hearts all year, just as we should with Christmas.

Independence–to me, means letting go of those things that hold us back and limit our happiness. With or without fireworks, it means freedom. None of us who enjoy this liberty should ever take it for granted.

As I anticipate another Fourth of July, I am delighting in decorating my home in a patriotic theme. I started on Flag Day—another great thing about June that occurs on the 14th. Today—Father’s Day, I am holding the memory of our dad close to my heart. I am also celebrating the father who made me a mother, and doing all I can to savor the beauty in every day, no matter how many minutes of sunshine it offers me.

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Our dad enjoying a lunch break in the harvest field.

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Last night’s fiery sunset was a fitting exit for our brightest star, shining longer than any other day of the year.

Happy summer solstice, happy summer, happy Father’s Day, and Happy June to you.

It’s a beauty of a month.

THE HONORABLE DAD

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THE HONORABLE DAD

When I was pregnant the second time, I craved ham sandwiches.  And, unlike my normal habits, I ate them in the middle of the night.  I never did before, nor do I now, get up and eat in the middle of the night.

But I did then.

Getting up and going downstairs to the kitchen in the middle of the night was a taxing effort as my pregnancy progressed.  Preparing the ham sandwich was another effort.

In his usual, unique thoughtful style, my husband found a way to take away all the work, and make it sheer enjoyment: he fixed a ham sandwich for his lunch the next day, and an extra one for me.  Then, since the springtime temperatures at night were cool but not freezing, he opened our bedroom window and placed the sandwich (in a baggie) in the window between the screen and the glass.  He closed it, thus creating a refrigerator for the sandwich.  All I had to do was get up and go to the window to get my sandwich.

And I did.  And I loved it.  And I loved him for it.

And our son still loves ham sandwiches.

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Being pregnant is sometimes sheer joy, but often times it is sheer misery.  I experienced both.  My husband did whatever things—both small and large—that he could to turn the misery to joy, or at least to alleviate some of it.

When we were dating, I had a built-in barometer to assess his potential fitness as a future reproductive match for me:  he already had a son.  I liked what I saw, so I deemed him acceptable—if not excellent—as a match.

He was then, and continues to be an honorable—and excellent–dad.

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I thought this picture was taken on Father’s Day, but given my long sleeves and long pants (right), I think perhaps it was Dad’s birthday in March.  Suzanne is on his lap, Gail is in the back.

So too was our dad.  He was an honorable dad, man, husband and human.  He was fair and just.  He spoke his mind, which were always words of wisdom.  He was respected by all, and he knew not a stranger.   For all of this, I am forever grateful.

I know that not every dad is worthy of this honor.  I know there are many fathers—and mothers too—who are not honorable.  Who do not deserve to be a parent to their beautiful and innocent children.   Who do not treat their children with love, respect, caring kindness and tenderness.  Who did not want to be parents, but found themselves in that position.

There are many mysteries in life, and that is one of them.  How such gifts in the form of children are given to parents who are not honorable.  I don’t have an answer, and I don’t want to bring you—or me—down any further by discussing it.

Instead, simply pray for the children, and pray that future potential parents are somehow better chosen.  And if you are a parent, keep being the best parent you can be.

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If you have ever paid attention to the composition of a pasture full of cattle (I’m a farm girl, remember, so bear with me here), you will notice an imbalance between males and females.  In order to reproduce cattle, farmers and ranchers will place the heifers—adult female cattle—in a pasture with a bull—the male.  But there is only one bull for multiple heifers.  It only takes one bull.  More than one would cause disastrous conflicts between the bulls, but I digress…img_20180615_080341675.jpg

This was the scene at the edge of our backyard yesterday.  The cows come home to our home every once in awhile.

In the human animal kingdom, males can reproduce hundreds, if not thousands of times in their adult lives.  Females, who have approximately 30 fertile years, can reproduce at a maximum of about once per year.  Thirty is a generous estimate, but the world record for most babies delivered is 67, in 27 pregnancies with all of them being multiple births.  I could not find a statistic for most births to one woman without multiples.   Most women—myself included—strive to keep it in the single digits.  In 2015 in the United States, the average birth per woman was 1.84.

I have a point here:  females have a much higher physical stake in the reproduction process.  One cycle of reproduction, from fertilization to potential repeat fertilization, is about one year.  That is, if everything goes like clockwork.  The physical toll is increasingly measurable with each successive pregnancy.  For the male, there essentially is no physical toll.

Call it instinct, call it pure motherly love, but there is a force that nearly every mother feels for her child.  If she is the biological mother, she has carried it within her for approximately nine months, then she endures otherworldly and possibly excruciating pain to give birth.

This is not to take away from the love a father feels.  I am simply stating that he does not experience the same physical and hormonal phenomena that a woman does.

Sadly, there are too many stories of women who choose not to stay with their offspring.  If we are to call it instinct, then perhaps this would never happen.  Even in the animal kingdom—I have seen it on the farm—mothers sometimes abandon their young.

There are many stories of fathers leaving their children as well.  In the face of divorce or desertion, too many fathers simply walk away.

But I also know of many fathers who lost their children’s mother to divorce or desertion, and remained the only present, active loving parent.  Sadly, I know a few who lost their children’s mother to death, and the love and devotion they show to their children cannot be exceeded by any degree of motherly love I have ever witnessed.

Many fathers have stepped up to become a father to children that were placed in their lives through circumstance instead of through birth.  Any father—or mother—who takes on children and raises them as their own deserves a special place in heaven—as well as on earth.

My point is this:  fathers can more easily walk away, and they more frequently do.  But most often they don’t, and those fathers are the ones we are honoring today.

Both Gail and Suzanne were single mothers for a period of time.  I bow down to each of them; I never had to face that challenge.  Gail told me today that her oldest daughter wishes her a Happy Father’s Day each year, as well as Happy Mother’s Day.  She realizes now that she was both mother and father to her for a long time.  Many parents have to be both, and they deserve recognition every day of the year.

Speaking of the animal kingdom, I have long had a fascination with two different species:  in college, I collected penguins.  Not so much now, but they still intrigue me.

I did not know this fact then:  the male emperor penguin incubates the egg by sitting on it for two months.  He cannot leave.  Even when the mother returns home late from the sea, the male has to feed the chick, even if he hasn’t eaten for months.   If you want your heart warmed but also perhaps ripped out by a true story from the animal kingdom, watch the documentary March of the Penguins.  It details this very phenomenon.

No wonder I consider penguins cool creatures—as well as another creature:

Instead of the female, the male seahorse—as well as several other related species—gives birth.  They carry the young—up to 1500 eggs– in a pouch for 9-45 days, then deliver them into the water.  Again, I felt an affinity for this species long before I knew the male did the hard work.  I spoke of this admiration in Lessons From My Sister—And the Sea Creatures (July 30th).  They are so amazing to me.

Of course, it’s not like I think they are so cool that I would get a tattoo of one or anything like that…no, never.

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Of course, I miss my dad today.  I cannot not feel the pain more today.  But I am celebrating.  I have a lot to celebrate with my children and their father, as well as my in-laws, and we did just that today.  We couldn’t all be together today, but this picture from last Christmas is my husband’s entire brood:

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My memories of Father’s Day as a child usually involve the harvest field, because that is typically where he was.  I made my annual pilgrimage to the family wheat fields yesterday for a truck and combine ride with my brothers, which will be highlighted in a future blog soon.

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I felt my dad there, too.

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My heart breaks for anyone who is struggling through this day because it is their first Father’s Day without their father, and I am thinking of more people than I care to mention here, but they know who they are.

He is still with you, and always will be.

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These flags were flying along the highway on my way home from the farm yesterday.  I don’t know the family who lives there, but I know of them.   My heart was warmed, and it was already 99 degrees outside.

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY