Hope For The Future


Recently we attended the Kindergarten program that our great granddaughter’s school put on. It was cute, the kids were great and well prepared, and they all sang their hearts out. As I looked around, the gym was filled with parents and grandparents cheering their babies on. This was a big event for many because it was either their first, or their last, child to do one of these programs. For grandparents, it was a joyful continuation of family, tradition, and community. Applause couldn’t have been louder for the most famous artist in the world. It was their kids up there doing an outstanding job.

Those little children, five and six years old boys and girls, are the future of our country, families, and communities. In the year 2031, they will graduate High School, hopefully, and move on to adulthood. As they go to college, trade school, military, or simply working in one of the many blue collar jobs across the country, they will make up the men and women who will carry on our traditions. Some will make a good life, some will fall to the temptations of drugs, alcohol, and violence. Some will turn to crime as a way of life, some with struggle, and some will sail through life without a problem. All of them will have to grow up, mature into the men and women on whose shoulders the responsibility of freedom, strength, and leadership fall.

When we looked at them standing on those risers, all so small, we see our little babies, filled with hope, excitement, and the desire to do well, performing as their teacher asks them. In the years ahead, they will face bullies, struggle with learning, work to become their individual selves. They will fight with others, stand firm as loyal friends, and fall in and out of love with someone. It will be an uphill battle to learn to listen to their conscience instead of their friends who will lead them into trouble. They will have to find their path to faith, religion, and beliefs in God, or not, and they will have to believe enough to stand firm in the face of those who would hate them just because they dare to think for themselves. It will be hard, but thankfully, it happens in small increments of time, over a long time, so they can focus and learn what they must at the moment.

They were all so small, so cute, in their excitement. We watched our great granddaughter as she sang her heart out, proud of each word she uttered. When she saw us afterward, she threw her arms around us and nearly shouted, “I love you!” This is our third generation of children to be part of raising. The feeling we had when our first child was in a program still holds firm today. We told her how proud we were of her, how she did a great job, and how we applauded her efforts. She beamed with joy, practically dancing in her happiness. In her, we see the future, and we pray we can help her on her life long journey. We also pray for all the other children on that stage, that they may have loving parents, security, and a firm belief in themselves and their value to the world. God Bless them all, the hope for the future.

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Trying To Explain Love


Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. The one day for lovers on the calendar world wide. I find that phenomenal. Of course, it is commercially driven, but the idea of love being celebrated makes me smile. Every year I search for the perfect gift for the love of my life. Every year I end up getting him something boring, like a wrist watch. What I want to give him is something that represents the love I have for him, the memories we share, and the passion that we have for one another. How can I find that and wrap it up in a bow? I get tongue tied when I try to use words, and even though I write them down, it still comes out stilted and awkward. I can bring myself to a bright red blush trying to explain what our marriage means to me. I often use music to describe my feelings, my needs. And that works to a point, but I still feel that I don’t quite make the point. He knows I love him, but I don’t know that he understands how much more there is in my soul.
 
Today, the words soulmate is bandied about a lot. I suppose we are soulmates, but like all lovers, we started out as two very young people who were attracted to each other, and we enjoyed time together. We made each other laugh a lot, and we discovered passion together. He was my first and only love, and he always will be. Through the years, we have fallen in and out of love many times, until we learned, at last, that we were destined for each other, good or bad, and that our souls and hearts were intertwined so closely that without one another we weren’t fully able to find happiness. He is my soulmate, lover, closest friend, confidant, and the one person I can pick a fight with who will stand up to me, forgive me, and still love me through good and bad.
 
He believes in me. He pushes me to the next level when I falter and give in to fear. He teaches me things, and he doesn’t laugh when I balk at taking a step into the unknown. He makes me laugh out loud, and he has taught me to laugh at myself and let go of the need to be perfect and simply be myself. He is the father of my sons, grandfather, and great grandfather to their progeny. His love for them makes me love him even more. He is my lover, who taught me how to be a woman. He is still able, after all these years together, to make my knees weak with his touch. It is how I always thought love was supposed to be.
 
Who knew a blind date all those years ago would lead us to this? Who knew that a soft kiss in the darkness of a drive in movie would bring us such long lasting passion? Who knew that as we neared the end of our lives we would cling to one another more and need each other as deeply as we do? We didn’t, neither of us expected a great and abiding love that would guide, design, and create our lives from young to old. But, here we are, forty-eight years after we met, still madly in love, and finding joy in one another.
 
I spent today listening to love songs, trying to find the perfect song to share with him on Valentine’s Day. There are hundreds we have heard over the years. So many bring memories, good and bad, tears and laughter that choosing one is nearly impossible. There are the love songs from the days we met. There are songs from when we were parents of young children, songs that we listened to when we were trying to navigate the distance that grew between us, songs that we danced to, songs that made us look at each other with tenderness. How does someone hopelessly in love choose only one song when every song seems to speak my feelings? I can only try. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJs5cT4HwjA
 
Happy Valentine’s Day, to all lovers out there and especially to the love of my life.

Road Trip, Or Not.


Going on a road trip with the Mr. is always a challenge. It begins when we decide we are going to go visit our son or my mother. First there is the decision on what route to take. I hate driving on the interstate. Boring beyond words, especially in southeastern Arkansas. It is so flat there it makes Oklahoma look like it has mountains. The Mr. however, loves to drive on the interstate because he can drive faster than on regular state roads. He doesn’t care about the scenery or small towns. But that is because he gets tunnel vision and becomes totally focused on getting from point A to point B as fast as possible.

Because he is driving, he has something to concentrate on. I am one of those people who gets miserably car sick. I can’t so much as read a map in the moving car without my stomach trying to turn inside out. So I am sitting in the passenger seat with nothing to do but look out the window. I can try to have a conversation with the Mr. but his brain generally isn’t into it. I get bored fast on the interstate. On the state highways, there are things to see like odd small towns, landscapes, and the occasional animal. Sometimes I get to drive if we are on state roads, mostly though, the Mr. drives. Not because he likes to, and not because I am a bad driver, I am actually better at it than him. But, I get tired easily, so I don’t often get to chose the route.

The second issue, once in the car, is the music. The rule in our family is the driver gets to pick the music. Except he doesn’t choose music, he listens to talk radio. Which is fine for a bit, but on an eight hour drive, it gets old and repetitive. With satellite radio, there are hundreds of choices for music. And we have the MP3 options as well. If he does choose a music station, it stays on that station no matter what they play. I, however, like to switch stations -a lot. Why listen to a song that is boring or by someone you can’t stand when there is so much to choose from? But the Mr. hates it when I do that. He also hates the music turned up loud. Why the heck bother to have it on if you can barely hear it? Makes it hard to sing along.

The third issue, do we stop for the night or just keep going? Its a toss up whether the Mr. will stop or not. I can pull the “I don’t feel well” card and he will stop no matter how close we are to the destination. Sometimes, I just get worn out and claustrophobic being stuck in a car for hours on end. We generally manage about eight hours in the car before I start getting stressed and antsy. The Mr. will keep driving until he is too tired to see straight or we get there.

The fourth issues, one that many women of a certain age deal with is the bathroom stops. Look, a woman my age has a bladder the size of a walnut, and we have to have a pit stop every hour or so. We hold it as long as possible, really we do. We can’t help it if that means we stop fifty miles down the road from the last stop or two hundred. Either we don’t drink anything and dehydrate, or we have to stop as often as our body demands. And no, we can’t just stop on the side of the road like guys can, not and be comfortable, private, or safe. So just get used to a pit stop every hour or so, or have a dehydrated, hateful witch on your hands. Your choice. The Mr. stops. He knows better than to suggest anything else.

We haven’t been on a long road trip in a long time. We try to keep it within a day’s drive when we go on short vacations. Once we retire, I want to travel to the seven states we have never been to out of the fifty in the US. Some how I don’t know that we will do that and keep from annoying each other. I guess we will have to give it a go and see how it works out. One thing for sure, I am going to drive as much as possible, take back roads, and turn up the music while I switch stations regularly. The Mr. can just deal with it.

Its The Music


Today I was listening to music I grew up hearing my parents and grandparents sing, and some that I grew up singing as well. Music is as much of a part of my heart and soul as my love for my children. I can’t imagine not hearing music every day. Sometimes it makes me smile, sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes I want to dance, and others I listen for the emotions the song imparts to everyone.

My mom and dad were in a band most of my life in one place or another. There are certain songs I heard them rehearse many times, songs that always remind me of them no matter who sings it or where it is performed. My mother has a unique voice and she can sing just about any song from her lifetime, but when I think of the song that reminds me most of mom, it is always a Patsy Cline song called Walking After Midnight. Hers is one of the best renditions other than one by Patsy herself. Here’s Patsy from Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owpdDjsErA4 My dad sang a lot of good Country music. I learned to love George Jones, Ray Price, and Johnny Cash along with many others from Dad.

When we were little kids, he sang a song called Old Shep. Every time he sang it all four of us girls would cry. This is Johnny Cash, singing his rendition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=km0zHbxvwZQ But, I think my favorite songs were the ones Mom and Dad sang as duets. They had an uncanny ability to harmonize as beautifully as the Everly Brothers. They could bring an entire audience to their feet when they sang the old love songs so many grew up with in their generation. One of my favorite songs is one I often sing to my husband. This is Let It Be Me, by the Everly Brothers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYpdLb6eKg8 When I hear that song, all I want to do is slow dance with my Mr.

My dad is gone now, probably having a great time playing and singing with the great stars that went ahead of him. My mom still sings occasionally at various venues. She still has, at the age of, ahem, never mind, a strong, solid mid range voice. Hit the right intro key and she can sing the song as long as she knows the words. She still gets standing ovations, and she will always have the soul of a natural performer. I wish I didn’t get stage fright so bad, I would love to do a duet with her just once. Something from the greatest singers of her generation, its a dream.

One of the earliest memories I have is my paternal granddad playing his guitar in the evening as the sun went down. Ingrained in my memory, I see him sitting on his old rocking chair in the yard, softly picking out a tune, sometimes singing, sometimes humming along. It was easy to see in his face that music brought him calm and peace. He loved the melodies of his era, and he shared them with everyone. He was always willing to teach someone to play the guitar, or to learn a song. My mother has an old school book in which he pasted the words to songs he wanted to learn. Some of them have long since been forgotten by most people, but there, in black and white, are the songs my granddad loved. I am still searching for recordings of many of them.

I hope my grandchildren will remember that their slightly crazy Nana loved music. I will never be a performer, but I will always sing in my home, my car, back yard, and to every baby who comes in my home. Babies aren’t critics, they just want to hear music and rock with Nana. Meanwhile, I will go back to listening to the music of my childhood. Sonny James seems like a good choice. This is for my Mr. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pU_8D5jBqd0 because he is my first and only love.

Ornaments and Traditions


Every year since we got married in 1971, the day after Thanksgiving is when we start decorating for Christmas. No matter how broke, despondent, worried, angry, or disappointed our life is at that moment, we begin to build our home into a happy place designed to celebrate the traditions of our families and the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, we have collected many decorations, some made by our children and grandchildren, some bought in the far off places we have lived and traveled to, some handed down from friends and family. Each one is a treasure, carefully packed away every year to be brought out and rediscovered the following year. As time goes by, some of them get a bit worn and tattered, but they still go on the best place for them on the tree. As I see them being hung by my family and myself, memories flow through my mind about how and when they came to be part of our tradition.

I have twelve cloisonne bells that were given to me as a gift when we lived in Hong Kong, each one has a slightly different sound when it rings. I have a set of lovely hand carved Angel ornaments that I bought when we were visiting Bruge, Belgium. And the lace ornaments that I bought in different countries to make a special collection is beautiful. But the ornaments that I love the most are the ones made by my children and grandchildren, and now, great grandchildren. Some were made at school, others were made in scouts or as projects we did together as a family. They aren’t fancy, and they aren’t perfect, but they are unique, one of a kind, filled with love and memories. I have hand prints in paint on plastic bobbles, I have ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter. I have drawings on paper, hung carefully next to the crystal angel that I bought for my first grandchild’s first Christmas. It doesn’t matter what they are made of, they are more treasured than the most expensive ornament on the tree. Because my babies made them, I would rather have them than any other treasure on my trees.

Now I have two trees, one for my fancy store bought and gifted ornaments. It is lovely to behold. Sparkling and glittering with lights and special stones. I put it up in my home office, where it can be seen from the front of the house. It is an addition to all the sparkling lights outside. The other tree is for all my special treasures from my family. It is in my living room, and it glitters and sparkles unlike any other tree in the world. Each ornament is a memory or a story to pass down to our progeny. Each one is a part of our traditions, sacred, and delightful. Usually, the youngest in the family puts the star on the tree, but the one on the tree is built in now. This year, the youngest will be eight hours away, he is two, the perfect age to start telling the stories about each ornament. Instead, our five year old will do the honors when she comes to visit this weekend. She gets a kick out of decorating the tree her way. Meaning most of the purple ornaments are at her eye level, in one place on the tree. She has a thing for organizing colors that way. If she can’t reach a place she wants an ornament, either her Papa or I patiently position it until she is satisfied. Then we have hot chocolate and play until bedtime.

As the days lead up to Christmas, our entire house is decorated inside and out. While I do the baking creating goodies to share with friends and family, the Mr. hangs lights and swears under his breath every time he has to repair another string of lights. When we are done, our home looks like a place of joy, it smells delightfully of chocolate and fresh baked goods, and the music of Christmas fills the air with both sacred and fun sounds of happiness and celebration.

Traditions bring us together as a family. The stories bring us laughter and teaches us through example. The decorations remind us of the past, the people, and the love we all share one generation to the next. I love Christmas, it completes my life, just as the month of December completes the year. Merry Christmas One and All. God Bless Each and Every One of You.

A Moment Out Of Time


My husband and I were in Venice, Italy. He had a business conference and I went along. We had walked to St. Mark’s Square after a late dinner. We were standing in the crowd listening to music when a tall man, wearing an old fashioned cap, walked up to me and handed me a red rose. He asked if I spoke English. I said, yes. He bowed then said, “I heard your laughter. When I turned to see who was laughing, I did a true double take. You reminded me of someone I deeply loved that I recently lost. Your laughter is just like hers, filled with happiness and love. I give you the rose in remembrance of her, and to remind you to always love your man like you do now.” Before I could say a word, he bowed again and disappeared into the crowd. Tears filled my eyes, he sounded so sad, so lonely. I wanted to run after him and promise him I would always love my husband.

My husband was standing behind me while the man spoke to me. When he left, my husband, who had never shown an ounce of jealousy in all the years we had been married, nearly growled, “Who the hell was that? Why is he giving you a rose? I explained what happened. He was still glowering and grumbling about how guys shouldn’t give romantic roses to another guy’s wife on the way back to the hotel. I was girl enough to be secretly thrilled that he was jealous.

Something changed between my husband and I after that bitter sweet moment between the stranger and I. The fading romance between us was reignited, and a quick business trip to Venice became a second honeymoon. Today, years later, just the mention of Venice, makes us look at each other with that special smile. Every couple should have a Venice moment in their lives. A moment out of time where they can rekindle the romance and passion in their marriage.

To this day, I wonder about the stranger and hope he found a new love, because a man like that, who loved that deeply, deserves a woman who can love just as strong. Thank you stranger, for bringing back the love and joy between my man and I. I will always remember. I promise. God bless you.

The Music Goes On


This is a story told to me by my mother Jean Bonham Vandenburg

HOW THE MUSIC STARTED IN THE BONHAM FAMILY

O. C. Bonham played the fiddle. He met another musician, Clarence Rodgers, who also played the fiddle or violin. In fact he was a music teacher for Atoka schools and private students too. Mr. Clarence Rodgers was an accomplished Classically trained musician and was well known as a brilliant music teacher. Mr Bonham was a widower, who had four children by his first wife. Ida New. Two of them survived,Minnie Lee and Zed.

Minnie was very good on the organ and piano. She was a good vocalist too. Mr Rodgers taught her the piano and she played in church. Minnie eventually married and became the mother of five children, who grew to be talented a singers in church as well. Mr Bonham married again to Lydia New Trimmer and had two children, Oran Carl and Collie. Although Carl, as Oran Carl came to be known, survived, Collie died when a very young child. Clarence Rodgers taught Carl to play the guitar and other instruments. Mr Bonham, Mr. Gene Warren, the principal of Harmony School, Clarence Rodgers, Carl, and his friend Hardy Wilkins would gather at the Bonham house and play music during the winter when crops were harvested and laid by.

O C Bonham married later in life to Novella Burlison and they had had five children. Clearance Rodgers taught the oldest son, Orville, to play the fiddle too. His children are part of the Bonham Bluegrass family. Sara Ann, Glen, and Virgil all were talented. Their big brother, Carl, taught Ollie and Glen to play the guitar.

Carl liked ballads and the music of early Country and Western singers such as Jimmie Rodgers. His friend, Hardy, was a good musician who played for dances at the outside dance floor in Stringtown, Oklahoma that was made famous when the infamous criminals, Bonnie and Clyde had a shoot out where they killed a deputy and wounded the sheriff. Carl and Hardy were will known in the area and played for dances held in homes throughout Atoka County. His daughter can remember going to someones house and they would move all the furniture  out of one room so that could have room to dance. When the little kids and babies got sleepy the parents would lay them on the beds to sleep. When the movie, Gone With The Wind, came out, Carl and Hardy played during the intermission every night. Carl was a good singer and, thanks to Clarence Rodgers, a good musician, When Carl was first learning to play, if he missed a cord or made a mistake, Clarence would smack Carl with his fiddle bow.

The daughters of Carl and his wife, Thelma Bolling Bonham, also learned to sing at an early age. Jeannie Bonham Vandenburg and Jackie Bonham Hand, sang on a radio show that was recorded live from the Mamie Johnson school in Atoka every Sunday. They, and the teachers from Harmony decided to have a show at Harmony School to help buy new basketball uniforms, Jean and Jackie and the other students organized the show and it was a big hit in the community. It helped to get the much needed uniforms.

Jean married Eddie Vandenburg when he came back from the Korean War, He was an outstanding natural musician. Later, when he went back into the Army, Eddie and Jean were stationed many places where they always became involved with country music. They entertained at the military clubs and civilian clubs near by. They were asked to record and go on tour, but being a soldier came first so they had to let the opportunity pass. Both Jean and Eddie were song writers, and Jean continues to write today. They were both raised to sing traditional Country Music. Eddie passed away a few years ago, but Jean is still invited to sing at various venues where she performs now and then. If you get a chance to hear Miss Jean you are in for a real treat. She has had many years experience and has performed with many talented bands and fronted for many rising stars. She has some great stories to tell about the places and people she and Eddie have met.

They were parents of five children and who are also musicians and vocalists. The girls enjoy singing in church. Karron is a writer and was a choir director and, the youngest, Rebecca and her husband, David Barrington, often sing and direct musical events in their church, Eddie Vandenburg Jr. is good musician and a collector of music instruments. Some of Eddie and Jean’s grandchildren and great grandchildren also have interests in music.

With each generation, the music goes on in the Bonham family.

Thank You Mr. Barry, Somewhere In Time


Have you ever heard a piece of music that fills your soul, your heart? One that, when the first notes play, you slip into a memory, a moment in time, a feeling that envelopes your entire being? The music from the movie, Somewhere In Time, does that to me.

I don’t know why. The movie wasn’t all that great, but the music speaks to me in a deeply, wonderfully personal way. The smooth, gliding notes make my eyes want to drift shut, and a soft smile comes to my lips as I let the music lead me away from stress, sorrow, and worry. I can sit for hours listening to the same music over and over as my thoughts wander, and day dreams drift like clouds in my mind. I feel tears gather, and when I least expect it, love fills me.

It is a piece of music, meant as a background for a sad love story. I have heard thousands of soundtracks over the years, few stay in my heart and mind like Somewhere In Time. I stopped trying to figure out why it touches me so deeply and simply allow it to happen. It is a blessing.

I suppose it is silly, maybe overly dramatic, to allow music to deeply effect my life. Music is always with me, every moment of every day. Sometimes it is a reflection of my day or emotions, like listening to loud rock and roll when I drive my car on a sunny day, top down, music blaring. Sometimes music helps me create a story or a character in a story, and sometimes it lifts me out of sadness or loneliness. Music helps me say what I feel when words fail me. It makes me sing, dance, and rock my babies to sleep. It makes me want to be in the arms of the love of my life, and sometimes, it makes me cry.

It is rare that one piece of music can invoke all those feelings and thoughts. This soundtrack does all of that and more. I don’t know anything about the composer, John Barry, but he found his way to this music that has taken root in my soul. Thank you Mr. Barry, from the bottom of my heart.

Listening To Him Sleep


I lay in bed listening to my husband sleep. I started thinking about the life we have shared over the nearly fifty years we’ve known each other. It hasn’t always been an easy partnership. Life has a way of making things difficult, painful, and sometimes, sad. We have loved long and hard, and sometimes, nearly hated each other just as much as we loved. We grew from young teenagers madly in lust with each other into adults who raised our boys, drifting along with, and sometimes away from, each other. But here we are, growing old together, still holding hands, still dancing in the kitchen to love songs, still laughing with and at each other, still loving each other. We still have dreams, ideas, and travels ahead of us, and we are all too aware that it could end in one last heartbeat of either of us.

Recently, my brother introduced me to a new singer, there are several songs on the album that I like, one, however, made me reach for the hand of the man I love. “More Of You” by Chris Stapleton. The words reached right into my heart and made me cry. In the past two years five of my long time friends and my mother have lost their partner or husband. Every one of them was a sudden, unexpected loss. All but one of these marriages was a long time relationship of between five and sixty years plus years. I have known these women for many, many years. One raised me, and the rest of us became close through friendship that led us together through good and bad, happy and sad events in our lives. Now, late at night they don’t have the blessing of lying next to the man they love listening to him sleep. It makes me hurt for them. And it makes me feel even more blessed than ever to know that the love of my life lies next to me.

I know as I look at him, sleeping and mumbling in his sleep, I hear the music and the words, “I fall more in love with you/ Than I’ve ever been….”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCcby6SVbJE

“More Of You”

When I think of you and the first time we met
And I heard the sound of your sweet gentle voice
My heart took me over and gave me no choice
And right then I knew

[Chorus:]
It makes me want more of you
Again and again
I fall more in love with you
Than I’ve ever been
From the moment you wake me up
Till you kiss me goodnight
Everything that you do
It makes me want more of you

When I look at you now that years have gone by
I think of the memories that time can’t erase
And all of the smiles that you’ve brought to my face
Your love’s been so true

[Chorus]

When I leave this earth you’ll be holding my hand
And it gives me comfort to know you’ll be there
And I’ll thank the Lord for the love that we share
You’re heaven to me

[Chorus]

Everything that you do
It makes me want more of you

Broken Memories


A Valentine for my husband of 46 years.  In all the years of pain, loss, joy, and happiness, we have fallen in and out of love many times.  Today, we have found each other again. And this is what came to mind today. I love you old man, I always have, even when I got lost in the sorrow.

Broken Memories

Memories of your arms

holding me, hands touching me

reaching for you, touching

broken memories.

Memories of laughter

sunshine days, warm nights

gentle loving,

touching broken memories.

Memories of joy

memories of contentment

careful words, giving

broken memories.

Memories of loneliness

memories of emptiness

memories of needing you

lost in broken memories.

Memories of growing old

lost and alone

finding you in my heart

mending broken memories.

Reaching for your arms

touching your love

finding warmth

leaving behind broken memories.