Raw, Unadulterated Hate Leads to the Deadly D’s

DIVISION. DECEPTION. DENIAL. DISCOURAGEMENT. DESTRUCTION.

In my near-century of life, in this magnificent Republic, I have never witnessed the kind of raw, unadulterated, unfiltered hate that causes our Republic to shake and shiver; the earthquake of this hate will take us down a path of losing our precious Republic and therefore our freedoms. I have witnessed division in every institution that I have served or been a part of: school, church, college, etc.

In all parts of our lives, we encounter differences of opinion; some can be angry discussions, while others can be calm and pure, productive dialogue. After the differences of opinion are aired and ultimately settled as we carry out our government as our founders intended, we may still have divisions, but they are not hateful, self-destroying actions. We go on carrying out government of the wise people who gave us this magnificent Republic, one-of-a-kind government. But the division that exists in our country now is a different species than our founders anticipated as a result of differences of opinion, whether it be political, personal, educational or any part of our life.

The hate for President Trump has no bounds. It has tons of energy and unswerving, unwilling commitment to remove him from office. Traditionally, we elect a president and go on with knowledge that our constitution and founding documents have served us well. Also, with the knowledge that if not satisfied with the government elected, our founders have provided us with an out – elect new people. This process was meant to keep the power in the hands of the people – We The People. But it is obvious that our very Republic stands at the brink of a chasm of hate that has no bottom. This unfiltered hate for Trump and his followers leads to the Deadly D’s. The results are obvious – Division, Deception, Discouragement, Denial and ultimate Destruction of our Republic.

The founders had great discussion over many of these issues in our government. We need to send in the substitutes for the hate mongers. We need to send in people of good will, people of unending love, people with absolute integrity, people who encourage each other and people who build not destroy. The final remedy is to discuss honestly our foundings and our blessings. We need to sprinkle all these discussions with raw unfiltered, unswerving love for our country and each other.

 

 

Keep Christ in Christmas

             Well, of course, Christ is in Christmas. We even spell, speak, advertise, use the word in our greeting, call it a holiday, send Christmas cards, and on and on. It seems like such superfluous conversation. It is the reason for the season, we say. We take Christmas vacations, except in some schools where they want to be politically correct and take winter breaks. We go over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house for Christmas dinner. We have Christmas Eve church services to celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus, our Christ of Christmas.

            We open our gifts according to family tradition. We celebrate the season with a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations. There are Christmas cookies and special Christmas recipes for Christmas candy. There is the much maligned and much loved fruit cake. And occasionally there is a birthday cake for the birthday person—Jesus of Nazareth. It is really a world-wide birthday celebration.

            Yes, it is embedded in everything that we do on December 25 each year. But perhaps that’s the problem. Where is the real meaning? Most of us know the story. We have heard it so many times. We have sung about the baby away in the manger. I’m certain many of us have donned the duds of the various components of the Christmas pageant. We have traversed from afar and carried the gold, incense, and myrrh to the cradle of the baby Jesus. We have seen the star in the East that led the way to the manger. And the herald angels sing in the choirs of the world each Christmas season.

            It is C-H-R-I-S-T-mas. It is the baby Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, we celebrate. Yes, it is the Son of God who came to Bethlehem that night. Would you be willing to be Joseph or Mary and carry out this incredible happening? But it had to be that way for the rest of our Christian heritage to unfold for us. The baby Jesus, the Son of God, had to be born in the way that he was to give us Easter. There had to be the Christ in Christmas who died on the Cross that we might live.

            Christ is in Christmas, no matter what some might want to do to take him out. We must make certain that when they take the manger scene from the city square, or substitute Happy Holidays for Merry Christmas,  change Christmas vacation to winter break, that each one of us who believes keeps Christ in Christmas.  Even when they teach fifth graders new versions of our beautiful Christmas carols to be politically correct and not offend anyone, we must keep Christ in Christmas everywhere we go and in everything that we do.

            I am not going to be tolerant about this issue; it is too important. Christ of Christmas is my guiding star, the star that lights my world. I will not be tolerant about this truth. I will fight to keep Christ in Christmas in every conceivable way that I can to remind us that Christ is the reason for the season. For those who claim otherwise: stop claiming the season.                

            

Memories of a Past Thanksgiving

It’s amazing how easy it is for folks to get into the spirit of a holiday. Those special days are reminders, lest we forget. On Thanksgiving, people gather around a feast-laden table. They hold hands and give thanks for all those present, those who are not at the table, for friends, family, and the food that has been provided. There is reverence, gratitude, joy, and friendship. Conversations are civil and memory rich. “Remember the time that…”

The feast is just part of the day as families and friends gather. A father throws endless high-arching passes to his young  son who deftly grabs the football and throws it back, eagerly awaiting the next pass. Two little pre-teen, compatible cousins shoot hoops or drop by the appetizers to grab bites to fill the voids in growing girls bodies. Or all of the kids invent their own games and laugh and squeal with delight. And there is always the cell phone activity. And there are older cousins who sit and talk, text a lot, and help when called. The television is tuned to the Thanksgiving Day football game, sometimes eagerly watched and other times totally ignored.

The kitchen is the busiest place in the house where it’s all systems go! Beautiful children continue to run in and out and through the house. Grandma and grandpa sit with smiles at the wonder of it all. Moms and Dads are trying to manage the stress of such a big day with so many moving parts. But they all come together and dinner is served. The after-dinner game of hide-and-seek in the house is a game enjoyed by the little and the “big” kids

As we think about our Thanksgiving Day filled with so many positive happenings, so much love, so much fun, and so many pictures for the camera of the soul, we smile and give thanks.

If we were to journal the week following Thanksgiving, we would find the same things happening and more, just not all in one place. Somehow we forget to be grateful for the ordinary things that happen every day. The simple things that we hurry through–the warm shower, a breakfast, the beauty of a morning walk, the children clamoring for our attention as they ready for school, the car and the roads that take us to work or school, our teachers, our colleagues, our friends and neighbors. Learning to be grateful is a task for all moments. So often we don’t say thanks until we regain something we have lost.

On the day after Thanksgiving we have the same choice that we have each day: to be grateful or not. The joy experienced from the gratefulness expressed and felt on Thanksgiving Day is available each day, each hour, each minute. It is a gift that is with us always, but we must choose to be grateful. With gratitude, comes joy.

Recalling My Navy History – Proud to Be a Veteran at 98

 Every one is a veteran of something because you have done it for some time, but being a Veteran because  you have raised your right hand to serve your country, uphold its Constitution, and protect it from enemies from within and without, is quite a different matter. You are allowed to wear that uniform that sets you apart and requires much of you.

        Military service was not on my planned life’s journey itinerary. That is, until a young female naval officer came to talk to the girls in her former high school in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Those girls just happened to be in my physical education and biology classes. These kids were among those I taught in my first teaching job.

        I was a mere 21. She talked of the War, the Navy, the opportunity, but most of all the duty. It was early 1943; Pearl Harbor was still a raw subject. The War in the Pacific was horrific. The War in Europe was difficult. The young naval officer was not a recruiter; she was just a citizen turned patriot. She was going to do whatever she could to help those brave men aboard the ships, the planes, and the landing barges that carried the men to islands in the Pacific that became infamous and those that sometimes weren’t even named on the maps of the world.

        The Navy needed physical education instructors to work with the physical fitness of the WAVES, the women in the Navy, she said. I could do that; I could serve my country. After I enlisted, I was sent to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for my physical. During my interview, the officer suggested that I was too young to be an officer. In my youth, I became enraged and gave a lecture to her on the lack of relationship between age and maturity. She was not pleased, decided to rid herself of the upstart, and sent me to take the physical. Having been blessed with good health coupled with my attention to my fitness, the physical was a breeze.

I raised my right hand, repeated the words of the oath, and I was in the Navy. I thought that I would be able to finish out the school year, but that was not to be. I was called to my first duty base in May, 1943.

        Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, was like a foreign country to this small town girl from Iowa and the pheasant filled prairies of South Dakota. It is a beautiful and elite women’s college. The town was definitely a cultural adventure for me. We ate at the famous Inn in the city. I came to understand that the food was extraordinary. But then I only knew lobsters existed because I studied Biology in college. I came to relish the new things to explore. It did not take long to appreciate the fine cuisine at the Inn.

        I came also to understand the uniqueness of the women with whom I served. I was one of very few with just a bachelors degree; most had masters and doctorates. It was amazing to learn what people had left to raise their right hand. So many left very prestigious positions. It truly was an interesting, diverse mix of women who had accomplished much in their civilian lives; I did not truly understand how much until after the War when I came to understand fully the glass ceiling.

        As the training came to a close, we all eagerly awaited our “orders.” Mine took me to the Naval Air Technical Training Center at Millington, Tennessee, not far from Memphis. It was a huge base with a Naval Air Station across the street and a Naval Hospital just down the street. The military during the War was a great melting pot and equalizer. The uniform of the United States Navy or Marine Corps was the same for celebrity, teacher, farmer, business executive, movie star, football coaches and football stars, famous chefs and photographers, holders of gold medals, the college grad, or the kid who dropped out of school. Insignia told you what they were doing, but most certainly not where they were from. But we all took the same oath.

Yes, I am proud to be a veteran. I have been able to speak of my pride when folks express surprise that I was in the Navy. Some seem to think that women in the armed services were quite different from those that I knew. My children know that I am proud; I know they are, too. My grandchildren know that I am proud; I know they are, too. My friends know, my colleagues know, and any shipmates I meet certainly know. The sports guy who wants to stop playing the national anthem at sports events will never know or understand my pride. Too bad. His loss.

       America, feel my pride.   I am just one among so many. But I am ONE. As long as I have voice and pen, I will tell you about my  pride.  Do not ignore those who would silence the pride of those who know it. And above all, preserve the voice of those who served and paid the price of the silent voice. They rest with pride; we must be their voice, too.

If You Don’t Like Change, Don’t Watch the Sun Rise

I am going through many major changes in my life’s journey. Change is swift and super challenging. Without faith, impossible would creep into my vocabulary, but I am not letting it enter. So I thought it was a good dose of medicine to read one of my earlier writings about change, which has been very helpful to me. So, if you’re going through changes little or big, I share this with you.

The clouds lay in layers of gray with the white light of the rising sun behind them. It was an awesome sight. I took a little walk early this morning toward the end of my driveway. The sky in the east was a special sight to behold. These sights and scenes happen only when they happen. If you’re not there, you miss them. Or if you’re not looking, you miss them. There was such beauty in the scene and so many lessons in that early morning landscape.

Everything in the picture  of the moment added its very own color and texture. Every palm frond lay quiet as if it were enjoying the scene as much as I was. Their green lace against the totally blue sky above them offered contrasts with two of nature’s great colors, blue and green. The eastern sky was like a different canvas. But its convulsive changes as the sun demanded more of the space were offset by the strength of Palomar Mountain and the surrounding peaks. They stood firm; they changed a little bit in color, but that was the extent of it.

In just a few more steps, the sun had demanded its place in the morning sky. I could no longer look in that direction. The bold light was so bright I could not view it straight on. That scene of a few minutes ago was finished. It was indeed a picture to capture. That is why we have cameras. We have not only the kind that you point and shoot, as my grandchildren say. “It’s easy, Grandma,” but we also have the best camera of all where the pictures are ours alone. They are stored in the memory book of our mind.

The lessons. Wow. If you can’t tolerate change don’t watch a sunrise; you’ll be a mess in a few minutes. If you love change, a sunrise does wonders. If you think you’re a color expert, don’t watch a sunrise or a sunset; nature has its own color combinations. An early morning walk is a great time to get lessons in getting started; everything around you is doing the same thing. Flowers that rested for the night are waking up; birds and animals are moving about; the sky tells its story.

But the sun–Old Sol is pushing the hardest. No question about where it will be when I take my afternoon walk. I will have to look in the other direction. Yes, it will be on my western horizon. And I can almost bet that it will give me a whole new set of lessons. I’m guessing the picture will be shades of red and orange as it drops into the Pacific Ocean. It continues to teach me that I am one of many; as I see the red sunset many in other parts of the world will be seeing the white light of the rising sun.

Change is happening. I must use the gifts that I have been given if I am to enjoy the abundance of the universe, and I will never enjoy what is to come if I am not grateful for what I have. All of us have the same gift of time so deftly monitored by the sun.

Labor Day 2019 – Lessons of Hard Work

Labor Day each year brings many memories, but it also comes with many questions. The conversations and programs often are confusing. Are they speaking of labor, the noun, or are they discussing labor, the verb? There are a lot of synonyms for each. This day I prefer to speak of the labor that creates, that gives birth to something special, that is difficult, joyous, fulfilling, exhausting, exhilarating, and full of anticipation, expectation, wonderment, and even fear and pain. All of these can co-exist in the planting of a garden and even more so in the labor of birth.

Whatever synonym one chooses, it  seems to be tied to the word “work.”    We even tie the education of our children and youth to the word. “Honey, just remember you’re going to work just like mommy and daddy,” we say. And so they go off to “work” in this place called school. They labor in a place that should be filled with enchantment and joy, but is often filled with tedium, repetition, being told what to do all day, and often filled with few opportunities for choice and real problem solving. Monopolies breed these attitudes, and public schools are monopolies.

While the children labor in the vineyard of the school, the adults labor in the “workplace.” My first one was my home. I can’t remember when I didn’t have chores. Neither can I remember any time in my life when I wasn’t tagging someone around trying to learn how to do something. When would I be big enough to run the tractor? When could I knead the bread? I could dry the dishes if I stood on a chair, or feed the chickens if mother carried the feed.

I was fascinated with how things worked–the windmill, the incubator, water in its various states, and the diversity of the snowflakes. Examination was not a test in my life, it was an opportunity to examine, to observe, and to ask the questions that filled my environment. My unpaid workplaces fit the old Confucius saying: Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.

My first paid job was working for my eighth grade teacher cleaning her apartment. What faith she had in giving an eleven year old kid a job. But I was grateful for the fifteen cents an hour I earned. Opportunity knocked early on my door. And it’s been knocking regularly since then. I ushered in the little theater in town; that allowed me to see movies.

At about this same time, my grandfather, the master of thrift, hard work, and personal responsibility,  was also the master teacher. He would never give us (I had many cousins) money, but he would always provide opportunities for us to earn it. He provided the seed potatoes, the plot of ground ready to plant, and taught us how to do the rest by his example. I planted those potatoes, I hoed those potatoes in the hot Iowa sun, and learned how to look to nature for the rain and occasional cloudy day when I could abandon that straw hat he insisted I wear. I was so proud of that paycheck when I sold those potatoes.

But the lessons were the priceless parts of the process. Maya Angelou has said it well: Nothing will work unless you do. I found out in that potato field the truth in the statement of Thomas Edison: Opportunity is often missed by most people because it is dressed up in overalls and looks like work.

Grandpa offered the same opportunity to all, but others saw only opportunity dressed up in overalls and looking like work. I could only learn the lessons of hard work by working hard. Margaret Mead knew this. Even the home-spun advice of Ann Landers informed us: Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work so most people don’t recognize them. I am thankful for the early lessons of recognition.

Labor Day’s Past and Present- Critical Questions Remain the Same

This is a blog I wrote in 2012. As I reread the blog today, the critical ideas involved are still so pertinent that I want to republish it; my granddaughter has survived college, is in her second year of employment that she enjoys, and fortunately lives in a country where she is making her own yellow brick road. But the questions I asked are still pertinent to our culture of today. In many cases, they are more important then when I asked them these years ago. Will some of these be answered by her next birthday?

My message for Labor Day is well stated in this blog:

It is Labor Day 2012. And it is my granddaughter’s 16th birthday.

I celebrate labor. I want to blow the trumpets and announce again the importance of the work ethics of our founders, our grandfathers and grandmothers. My German grandfather was a master at teaching the value of honest labor. He never gave us a fish; he gave us a fishing pole. He never gave us money; he gave us the opportunity to earn money. Then he taught us how to keep some for that rainy day. He was grateful to his new country for the opportunity to own land, to build a multi-family home for his large family, to work from sun-up to sun-set; and to ride in the caboose of the long freight train that was taking his cattle and hogs to the markets in the stockyards of bustling Chicago.

As an immigrant, he seemed to understand better than many who are born in this country, how important it is for government to help you keep what you earn, rather than to figure out how to take more of a citizen’s earnings. He helped his children get their starts. He was an entrepreneur and a tough negotiator when it came to venture capital–the money he and his family had earned.

I sat at the end of the driveway this morning and contemplated the significance for me today of the double celebration. What do the next Labor Days hold for my 16 year old granddaughter? Will they be a celebration of hard work, of ethical behavior in the workplace,and of policies that will allow her to keep what she earns in the future? She works hard at her present endeavors; no one shoots the three-point shots for her; no one spends the hours doing her homework; no one takes her tests or writes her papers.

When she finishes her school work and heads out into her work world, what will she find? Will she find business, industry, and the professions prosperous and free, or will she find them further transformed to be controlled and largely owned by an ever-expanding government?

As I sat pondering the meaning of Labor Day and the future of my granddaughter, I thought about what college holds for her. Will those wonderful years be filled with opportunity to become all she was created to be, or will they be filled with an ever-increasing culture of entitlement, of subversion of our founding principles, of biases that re-write our history, of assassination of our founders, and one that belittles our founding documents that guarantee her freedoms?  Or will she encounter those bastions of truth that honor the exceptionality of this land and who instill the responsibility and humility that come with being a citizen of this Great Republic? Will she come out of college understanding and defending the Constitution rather than thinking it is a document that is outdated?

I ask these questions because I have spent a great portion of my professional career at the university level. And I see President Obama spending a great deal of time on college campuses. Why? Is the transformation not yet complete? I have seen all sides of the questions I ask. I have conducted classes during student strikes and I have walked by students occupying administrative offices. I have given diplomas and as a dean, recommended hundreds of students for degrees at all levels. What have the great private and state universities lost of their heritage that I should even be able to ask these questions?

Read the founding histories of education at all levels. You will be astonished as I have been even though I thought I knew the history. I lived on the inside of these institutions for many years. But the transformation has happened over time, and it has been intentional and clever. Our insistence on religious freedom has been a strength used against us. Our Christian foundings have been diminished or subverted; self-reliance has been replaced with entitlement all in the name of compassion and equality; equality of opportunity has been replaced with demand for equity; and self-reliance and responsibility have been replaced with demands for rights.

But I’m betting on my country and my Creator. I’m betting on the truth, innate desire for freedom, personal responsibility of our people, integrity, and hard work. And I’m betting on friends and neighbors to give people fish who really need help, but I’m hoping that the rest of us will take the fishing pole we are handed and learn how to fish.

Yes, I’m betting on future Labor Days to be celebrations of hard work, of self-determined enterprise, and an appreciation of all labor wherever it may be.

Yes, and I’m betting on a great future for my granddaughter. She is an American, born in this special land of opportunity, this one-of-a-kind place where she is guaranteed (if we keep these guarantees) life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Birthday, dear one, on this 2012 Labor Day.

God’s Creations Revisited

I want to share with you a document I wrote when I had nearly-full sight and had the mobility to walk greater distances. Now I cannot see some of the things I talk about in the article below; I do not take the extensive walks I used to take, but as I reread about God’s creations and the magic palate, I found that I was just as grateful now with the memories as I was when I first experienced them. Now let me share with you what I experienced in May 2014. The beauty is the same; I see it differently.

What a beautiful day. The walk to the end of the driveway is always an adventure. It is one I take everyday in my trek around the house. While it is the same driveway, the walk is always different. The blossoms are at a different state in their journey. The birds and their songs are different at different hours; their flight patterns vary with the tasks of the hour. The palm fronds are greeting the sky in different ways as they meet the morning breezes. The sun greets me at a different angle. The shadows cast their magic with the path of the sun. The breezes say hello with a gentle brush across my face.

            The sky is its own study each morning. This morning it is a blue dome with white, fleecy clouds covering it like a white lace covering a blue tablecloth. Yesterday it was a beautiful, clear, blue dome. The silhouette of the palm fronds against the blue is an impressive piece of nature’s artistry. The mountains across the valley stand majestically as they lend their beauty to the horizon.

            The yellow iris proudly present themselves as they add their beauty to the scene; it seems each is proclaiming it is the perfect blossom. The  bronze day lilies vie for attention as they stand among the iris. Nature mixes in the red, pink, and rose colors of the geraniums that trail along the driveway and sometimes climb the palm trees. God’s artistry creates amazing pieces of art in nature.

            As I proceed around the house, I can smell the last vestiges of the perfume of the orange blossoms; they are rapidly pursuing their journey. In a few days there will be little green nubbins, the first sign of the next piece of their destiny. They, too, will soon mirror the mature fruit left on the trees. An orange tree, like so much of nature, is a beauty to behold. And how magical when you can see the evolution day by day. How can one not be grateful?

            I never cease to be amazed as I turn the corner. I leave the fragrance of the orange blossoms; I know in just a few feet the roses will start  to share their varied perfumes. They have to share their beauty with the vastness of the view across the valley. As I look across the valley, the avocado trees in the foreground add the incredible greenness of their foliage to the scene. But in a few more steps, the roses send out their calling cards. A rose is something special. And each of the many that I have sends its individual greeting card. The beauty of the buds, the fullness of the blossom, the attempt of each petal to last as long as possible–all magic. The colors an variety are unbelievable.

            And that’s just some of the plants. Now add the glory of a hawk, the pride pace of a road-runner, the scamper of a ground squirrel. or the tail of a rabbit scurrying away. The sound of the music from the many birds that love their nests in my palm trees, add the symphony to the scene. Even the crows add their base notes to the sound.

                 How could I not be grateful enough to understand that tomorrow my walk will be looking at another artistic rendering of God’s magnificent creations? I hope your grateful walk today was as beautiful as mine.

Keeping the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

It behooves us to understand what is going on around us. I know the news gets really monotonous and totally confusing if you change from channel to channel Where is the truth?  It’s not fun to watch violent protests. It’s annoying to see demonstrated how little our people know about their Christian beginnings in this great nation. It is disconcerting to see our young indoctrinated away from most conservative and Christian values and principles in our schools at all levels.

I believe if we are to survive we must embrace our successes without apology. We must restore our founding values and principles in our people, particularly the young. We need to restore personal responsibility, self-reliance, work ethics, true compassion for others, integrity, honesty, joy, tolerance, self-respect and respect for others. These are gifts of the Spirit.  Our laws were time-tested through the ages before they were ever put into our legal structure. Sharia law or any other attempt at law must not be tolerated as substitutes for our legal system. Other legal systems must not be tolerated in the name of religious tolerance. Our very founding depended on these time-tested ideas for living together in peace and harmony.

Recently I heard a commentator say that America First was a racist slogan. I do not know how that is even possible as a concept, even semantically. I  believe President Trump feels that wanting American to be First Again is founded on the humble idea that when America is First, it has more to share. It’s light casts a broader and brighter spectrum. It is a better model for people who need hope; it is a better friend to those in need. Only if we grow arrogant, forget the Divine guidance we received at our founding, and think we did it ourselves, can it be otherwise. I believe that we have the choice of  being America First, Again, or not being the republic that our Founders gave us.

We must ask ourselves if we are willing to fight tyranny with the same commitment that our Founders made. They gave us documents to follow and guide us. We must not allow them to become transitional, situational, or modernized.

I love America. I have traveled the world. I did not find any place on any continent where I wanted to live. I found beauty, uniqueness, discovery, celebration, wonder, respect, protest, war, compassion, and love. But each time I stepped back on American soil, I found my home–land of the free and home of the brave.

My flag flies proudly every day; I see it wave gently in the soft and gentle breezes. I see it hanging like a wet noodle, limp and its beautiful stars and stripes not visible. Some times it seems to be sending me messages about how it is being viewed by many. I have seen it tattered and torn as it survives the storms. I am reminded of those brave men who looked for it “over the ramparts” that fateful morning. It was flying just as my flag made it through the storm. I gently take it down, and I replace it with a new one made in the U.S.A.

God is first in my life, and my America is first in my heart. As long as my heart pumps, I will do what I can to make America First, Again. As long as I can speak or see to write, I will share the importance of Christian Heritage of America.

Our Founders knew.

We must know and teach our children to know.

We the people must know. We the people must be the lamps in the dark corners of tyranny; we the people must protest the squandering of our taxes; we the people are all we have to keep this incredible experiment, our republic — the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Excerpt from America First, Again Second Edition – Chapter titled “Trumped 2017”

My Field of Dreams

Watching a WNBA basketball game the other day brought back all kinds of memories. What fun it would have been when I was playing basketball in my high school and college days to have known that there was a career possible in the sport that I loved so much. And of course, my mind wander back to those early days in that small high school gymnasium in the basement of my high school in Lansing, Iowa.

My first games were played with the floor divided into three parts. Two players played guard in the back third, two played running center in the middle third, and two played forward in the front third. While I was still in high school, the rules changed and the court was divided into two parts. Three played guard in the back court, and three played forward in the front court. I tried to play with the boys sometimes because I loved having the whole court for play. And I loved being able to dribble on the whole court. We could only take one dribble. It was a challenge to see how far you could make that one dribble take you. But we played our one-dribble-two-court game with passion. We felt lucky in Iowa because not many states had girls basketball at all.

I loved basketball; I still do. I love to watch my granddaughters play. I loved playing enough to sneak out of the house for school the morning I woke up with a rash on my face and, of course, in other areas of my body. I knew something was amiss, but we had a game to play that Tuesday night, and I wasn’t going to miss it. Of course, I got no further than the first teacher I met at school, my coach. He saw me and recognized that I had measles. I really didn’t feel ill, but I obviously was sent home. My mother was not happy. I think probably she was more embarrassed because the teachers might think she sent me to school with the measles. She was pretty strict about right and wrong. Going to school with measles was wrong, but sneaking out was like lying. That was really bad.

The girls played the first game of the evening and the boys games followed. We were always pleased when we could draw the crowd to our game. We had tournaments just like the boys. Boys and girls in our school had the same coach. Eddie Albertson was a special guy. He was not only my coach; he was a mentor, my math teacher who gave me advanced math books for the summer because we didn’t have the classes in our small high school, and he was my friend. We played “HORSE” after we finished practice. He believed in me; he never “let” me win. When I did, it was pure accomplishment. He helped me to understand my athletic and academic gifts. He pushed me to find my own “yellow brick road.”

So many memories. Harpers Ferry had the biggest pot-belly stove I have ever seen to heat their barn-like gym. It was nice and warm within fifteen or twenty feet of the stove. The rest of the gym was freezing as was the classroom where we changed our clothes. Wow. I can still feel that cold. Sometimes we would stop on our way home after games out of town to have a snack. Mother always managed to have a little change for me. We never ate out so these little restaurant visits were pretty special. Waterville had sisters who were amazing shooters; Gronna sisters, I think. I envied them because they had a basket on the side of their barn and they practiced all summer. I didn’t have a barn nor could I afford a basket or a basketball.

The coach helped me buy a pair of leather basketball shoes; it was such an amazing luxury. Do you know how proud a little girl can be of a pair of leather basketball shoes? We had a little shower in our locker room; some places we went did not. I earned letters all four years in basketball and kittenball (softball). Those letters meant I earned a great deal of respect from my peers, but more importantly, I knew I had been given great physical and mental gifts. In my small town, those gifts often languished into submission to mediocrity. As each year has passed, I realize how fortunate I was to have Eddie Albertson as my coach and to work for the Superintended who had a sign in his office that read: There’s always room at the top.

Those were the days of three-court basketball, short basketball pants, cold gyms, cold showers, getting to the game with very cold hands and feet after walking to the game and wondering if they would ever warm up. They were times of listening to the cheers, seeing the pride on your parents’ faces, getting the accolades of the teachers the next day, being elected captain of the team, and loving the coach. They were times of walking into a market and having the owner say, “Great game, Sylvia,” when normally they didn’t know I existed. And they were times when I had to walk home after practice and sometimes it was pretty scary. I could choose to walk through a pasture where there was a bull, or I could walk the road past the city dump. But my dad always told me I could run faster than anything chasing me.

They were times of expectation and happiness. I was very good at this game I loved. I learned there how to excel. I learned how to outthink my opponent. I learned the value of every minute; a game has only so many minutes. The importance of one minute on the outcome of the next, taught me life lessons. I would try to live my life like I played basketball. Give it my all, play fair, solve the problems at hand, listen to advice from those who cared about me, discard the criticism of those who envied or were trying to hurt me, play with passion, and learn from each experience. I learned that I  had been given by my Creator everything that I needed to play the game. Yes, I had been given gifts, but I knew that gifts unopened were of no value. They needed to be used, expanded, shared, and utilized to serve others.

Basketball was a field of dreams whether it was three or two courts. I was quick and very fast; I can only imagine the fun I would have had playing the whole court. But believe me, I play full court in all that I do at 98.