We fell in love to the rhythm of Country music. The cassettes and CDs we mixed for each other became the soundtrack for those years. The songs we listened to reflecting the ups and downs, the excitement and the tears.

“Don’t Take the Girl” was the first Country song he played me, the summer of 2001. It went on the cassette tape he made for me that began with “Good Morning Beautiful”.  I played it every morning.

While I was at Summit in the summer of 2002 that penpal of mine sent me a list of songs he wanted me to try to find and download to make a CD (he didn’t have the internet). He titled it “Where I’m At” and it began with “What a Beautiful Mess”. Each song on the CD is an epic representation of that time in our friendship: “She’s More”, “She Was”, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful”, “My Heart is Lost to You”, and “Wrapped Around” were just a few of my favorites.

Then came the years of “So Complicated” and “I’m Already Taken”. “Emotional Girl” and “She’s in Love with the Boy” were my theme songs; “What Was I Thinkin’” and “I Should Be Sleeping” could have been his. All I wanted was that “John Doe on a John Deere” to say “I Can Love You Like That”. I waited not-so-patiently for him to “Check Yes or No”, to say “Me Too”. “Don’t That Make You Want to Fall in Love?”

But our love was “Sinkin In”. Even though “Is It Raining At Your House?” was the way I often felt. (We still play that CD full of “Songs About Rain” on rainy nights, or the days when we’re praying for rain.)

He told me to listen to “I Volunteer” and I knew he was saying “I’ll be the Last One Standing”. But I knew that “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, “In This Life I Was Loved By You”.

And then, “Thanks to the Keeper of the Stars”, we went from “Not a Day Goes By” to “One Day Closer to You”. He must have been “Doin’ Something Right” when he sang “She Thinks She Needs Me” and “You Can’t Hide Beautiful”. Because we were singing “Passenger Seat” and “Next to You, Next to Me”, “Fishin’ in the Dark”.

And when “The Maker Said Take Her” it was “So Help Me Girl” and “Only God Can Stop Me from Loving You”.

Whenever I listened to “In My Dreams, Your Dreams Come True” it was like hearing my man’s reassurance over and again: “Girl My Love For You Is True”. The mailbox was proof that we were singing “Write This Down”, and I never went anywhere without “Carrying Your Love With Me”.

And by the time I was singing “He’s Mine” and “Valentine”, we were looking forward to merging our CD collection, “Me and You”, “Forever and For Always”. And “When I Said I Do”, “She Thinks My Tractor’s…” found its way into our wedding prelude along with “From This Moment On”.

Even though he might not have introduced me to Country music until just five years before we got married, he “Had Me From Hello”. Because when we met that day was when “Heaven Sent Me You”. And now? We’re “Soulmates”, “Two of a Kind Working on a Full House.”

{Five-Minute Friday prompt on a Tuesday: “rhythm”}

when time spans generations

Mary and her great grandma Mary

There’s something about a visit from my grandparents that puts my life back into perspective.

When they look at my young daughter, they see me at that age.  When my husband talks to my grandma, he hears me.

My son, just learning to walk, is delighted to try out great grandpa’s cane.  And sitting there between his daddy and his maternal great grandpa, you can see that the family resemblance is strong on both sides.

great grandpa's caneGrandma and I talk about work and little ones and she recalls the days when she was a nurse by night and came home to care for four little children during the day while grandpa worked in the woods.

I grew up eating hot dogs and Top Ramen noodles at Grandma’s house.  Now the roles are reversed as I fix old-fashioned vegetables they’ve never tried, and lunch is served on my red wooden picnic table instead of her fiberglass one.

I show Grandma the raised flower bed and fenced herb garden my husband built for me.  And I point out the bleeding heart plant she gave me that originated in the flowerbeds of her mother-in-law, my own great-grandmother.

We take the time to sit and talk, to watch my girls play dress-up and my son take his toddling steps.  Somehow nothing else seems more important than soaking up these moments and searing them into my memory.

My daughter walks the lane holding her great grandma’s hand, delighting with her in the flowers and the birds along the way.  And if her hair was red and the driveway a different one it would be me there by Grandma’s side twenty-five years ago.

We say our goodbyes and suddenly, time spans generations and life seems so very short and family so very precious.

a walk down the lane

down the aisle


Ten years ago today, we walked down the aisle together for the first time.  I’ll never forget the way you looked at me, standing there across the stage at your sister’s wedding.  Thick as the emotions were, there was no way I could help that big smile from flooding my face as we walked out together.

Later your quiet, soft-spoken grandpa grabbed our arms, put them together and said, “We think you two make a really cute couple.”  At our mild protests, he just thought a minute and said, “Well, we’ll see.”

Tonight, we’re babysitting while your sister and her husband go out for their tenth anniversary. Their three kids and our three kids. What a lot can happen in ten years.  I guess Grandpa was right.  (I always thought he was. ;) )

Thanks for being the handsomest groomsman ever.  And for becoming my groom six years ago.

your redhead


July 13, 2002

a man like my daddy…

"Who gives this woman..." photo by John Feldschau

Dear Daddy,

I never thought I’d marry a man like my daddy.  We were too much alike, you and me. Clashing more often because of our similarities than because of anything other than just me being an emotional teenage girl.

But every year that passes, I see more and more resemblance between you and the boy you once told to stay away until you ran out of shotgun shells.

You’re both generous and self-sacrificing.  You’re both so patient with the women you love. 

You’ve picked each other’s brain about projects so very often that you know the other will take your side in any discussion about how to do things.

And after fifteen years, you’ve picked up each other’s phrases so much that it’s frequent these days to hear my husband sounding just like my dad.

You’re both opinionated but easy-going, you like chocolate and my cooking.  And you both adore the little ones who look so much like their daddy and so much like you.

You call my farmer to check on his hay, he calls you to see if you can find a better weather forecast than he can.  It makes me smile to hear the two of you—always brief, but always kidding each other. 

You are men of integrity and men of character.  So different, yet so alike. You balance each other out and spur each other on. 

You always make it a point to serve your wives by making Sunday morning breakfast.  You show your families your love by your hard work and self sacrifice. 

You were a whole lot more like my dream man than I ever realized.  And we’d be so proud and thankful if our son would grow up to be like the grandpa he looks just like.

I’m so thankful I married a man like my daddy.  (And I’m so glad you told him “yes.”)

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.  I love you.


Daniel and Grandpa

Papa’s Barn

My maternal grandfather’s birthday is today.  It seemed a fitting time to share this piece I wrote ten years ago for a college writing class.  Happy Birthday, Papa!  Thanks for your example and all the memories. I love you.

Papa's Barn

Stepping lightly over the hot wire fence alongside my cousin Melissa, I recall the day not so long ago when I could duck under the wire more easily. And as I step into the mucky barnyard, dodging more than just mud puddles, I begin a journey back in time. First I stop to gaze at the barn in front of me. The rooster weathervane stands atop the tin roof with its red head outlined against the blue sky, while the siding below is lightened to a tan by the sun. The metal gates enclosing the front of the barn were once bright yellow, but through the years the paint has faded and chipped away. I slip the rusting chain out of the catch and place my hand on the cool metal bars, swinging the gate open just wide enough to slide past it. As the drawn-out screech of the gate’s closing hinges echoes throughout the Brink Ranch, I step into the past.

It was a crisp but foggy morning in the late 1980’s. A casual observer along the road might have seen a six-foot tall man walking toward the barn, in green coveralls and a brown hat that advertised Ivomec. Four children traipsed along behind him. The oldest was Robert, a grown-up boy of seven, attired in faded blue jeans, a red sweatshirt, and the ever-present dirty baseball cap. William, four years younger, in a dark blue coat that added to his waddle, looked up to his older cousin as the essence of manhood. Five-year-old Gretchen hopped along in pink rubber boots right behind her brother. Bringing up the rear was a quiet four-year-old, Melissa Ann, with a long dark braid reaching halfway down the back of her purple coat.

The thin gray-haired man opened the barn gate, as the children ran past him to scramble up the neatly stacked bales. Robert reached down the post to flip a switch, and the barn was illuminated in a soft glow coming from light bulbs hanging high above the rafters.

Breathing hard as they ran up and down the hay bales, the children were enveloped in the familiar scent of cow pies, made sweet with the mixture of straw and alfalfa. Though never sold in stores, it is a pleasant perfume to many a man, including the tall rancher who now was ascending the steps of tightly bound hay bales behind the younger generation. Armed with wire-cutters, he was ready to feed the three dozen hungry Herefords who were loudly mooing their impatience in the feed bunks below.

Clip, clip. The fragrant alfalfa split into many flakes as he pulled up the baling wire and expertly bent it into a bundle that he stuck in his back pocket with the clippers. The boys were standing ready—Robert grabbed a flake and carried it to the edge of the haystack, dropping dried clover-like leaves as he went. He looked down at the feed bunks where steaming noses and drooling mouths were sticking through the green metal slats, and shouted, “Here you go, cows!” while the heifers below vied for the first bite.

In the middle of the barn could be seen a pair of once-pink boots, now covered in manure and straw particles, where Gretchen was lying on her back staring up at the rafters. Heedless of the straw now entwined in her long red braids, she breathed deeply to absorb the aroma, then sneezed at the dust. Each summer during hay time the bales were stacked to the rafters, but now the supply was depleted. A flicker who made his nest in the barn every year fluttered near the roof. As Gretchen lay gazing upwards, she began to count the mud dauber nests on the walls but ran out of fingers.

A meek “moo” from the other side of the barn reminded the girls of the big plastic bottles that had warmed their hands on the trip down the driveway. Two twin calves awaited them—each from separate mommies that had chosen to care for just one calf. Melissa didn’t mind, though. She loved the twice-daily ritual of feeding them. The little calves eagerly stuck their noses through the green bars of the Powder River gate, sucking vigorously on the bottles. It was all the girls could do to hold on, while the warm milky saliva dripped off the nipples onto their fingers.

Meanwhile, Robert and William followed the older man inside the barn as he expertly forked the alfalfa and hay throughout the feed bunks. This man they called “Papa” was not just a rancher, but also a veterinarian. Papa the rancher could pick up hay bales with ease. Papa the vet was concerned when a pregnant heifer or a young calf didn’t show up at meal times. And Papa the Christian showed his grandchildren how to work hard and do right as he went about his daily chores, imparting values that would influence the cousins the rest of their lives.

Melissa’s call awoke me from my reverie. I meandered down the hay bales that somehow looked smaller now. “Remember when we were little, Mel, how much fun we had coming down with Papa every morning to feed?”

Of course she remembered. Her life had been shaped in Papa’s barn even more than mine. We cousins will always share special memories of our time at Papa’s barn.