Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas, from my Porch to Yours!

By L.A. Kohl
December 18, 2006
(published in the Dec. 20, 2006 edition of the Bullseye)

I felt the need to stop in the midst of my busy-ness and send all of the Bullseye readers a very heart-felt and genuine “Merry Christmas” greeting. Several of you are so kind to me throughout the year, taking a moment to tell me how much you enjoy reading my article. Some of you even take the time to tell my husband, my children, and my parents when you meet up with them and happen to find out that they’re related to that “Front Porch” lady. Your words of encouragement get back around to me eventually, and I truly do appreciate all of them. And with that being said, I have just a little more to say…

I like life to be peaceful, as perhaps you can tell from the title of my column. However, sometimes I feel a little rebellious…a bit like wagging my finger and yelling out loud. Unfortunately, it even happens occasionally during this wonderful time of year.

Thus, you notice that my greeting to you this week is “Merry Christmas” and not “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays." Call me intolerant if you want – but sometimes I wonder, does the rest of the country care that they offend people of a Christian heritage on a regular basis? Last time I checked, Christianity was still the predominant religion in America – and yet, we’re the ones who are expected to set aside our traditions and beliefs and tolerate everyone else’s religious beliefs (or disbeliefs, as the case may be.)

And thus, gone is some of the most beautiful Christmas music ever written, from most places of business. Gone are such things as bright stars and angels. And gone are the nativity scenes from nearly all public places.

As I log onto AOL each day to check my email, my opening screen welcomes me with little “holiday” symbols – things like gift wrapped packages, snowmen, and some Hanukkah symbol that I don’t even know what it’s called. I have yet to see a nativity scene on there, and furthermore, I’m 99.9% sure I won’t ever see one on there. Why is it tolerant and acceptable to put a Jewish Hanukkah symbol there – but if they put the time-honored Christian symbol of a nativity on their screen, they’d undoubtedly have someone complain that they weren’t being politically correct and tolerant? It’s not the Hanukkah symbol that bothers me – I have a great respect for people of the Jewish faith. It’s the fact that our society has this double-standard that says, “Let’s be tolerant of everyone’s differing believes and religions – except for people of a Christian heritage…we can just ignore their feelings.”

We personally chose not to celebrate Halloween. We’ve got our reasons – and I know a few other people who have similar reasons. But do I walk up to the checker at the store who’s dressed up like a witch on October 31 and say, “That offends me – I think I shall sue your store.” No way – I assume my beliefs are a personal thing, and it’s not my place to insist that the rest of the world cow-tow to my feelings. So, all I want to ask is: why can’t the rest of the world return the favor? Why do there have to be law-suits and threats over such little things as nativity scenes (and even now, as we saw this month in Seattle – Christmas trees!)?

Thus, my Christmas greeting and wish this year includes an encouragement to all of you to lighten up, relax, and show a little respect for others. If you’re Jewish, go right ahead and wish me a “Happy Hanukkah” – I won’t mind. But I hope you won’t mind if I wish you a cheerful “Merry Christmas” in return.

All I ask is that you don’t give me a generic “Happy Holidays” greeting. I won’t sue or anything, but I may pull out my soapbox and give you an earful.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

By: L.A. Kohl
December 10, 2006
(published in the Dec. 13, 2006 edition of the Bullseye)

It’s been stated over and over again in the days following the recent big snowstorm, but bear with me as I say it once more...we haven’t experienced a snow like that in a looonnnggg time! So, is it any wonder that a few unusual sights and sounds have occurred since then? I thought I’d take a moment out of my busy holiday schedule and share a few with you…

For instance, snow cream (or snow ice cream – depending on what you choose to call it). That’s usually a once a year occurrence around here, if we’re lucky. However, after November 30, we enjoyed it once or twice a day for several days. And for you deprived souls who have no idea of what I’m talking about – the next time we get a fresh snowfall, go get a big bowlful of it (no yellow stuff, please!) and just start adding milk, sugar and tablespoons of vanilla until it reaches a taste and consistency that is yummy!

One of the funniest sights here at our place during those first few days was that of a little red-headed, three year old boy snowboarding down our 100+ yard long slope; which, during the rest of the year, serves as a large portion of our driveway – but for now, it’s working better as a slope. For all of you winter Olympic fans, we call him our little Flying Tomato in training. After one exuberant afternoon of snowboarding, he came in the house to inform me that, “When I fall down, I get snow all in my face – it’s SO fun!”

Coming in a close second place to that fun “flying tomato” sight was yesterday morning’s sight of a forty-something year old man on his sled, starting at the top of the “slope” (which now, a week after the snowfall, highly resembles an ice rink.) He wanted to see if he could make it all the way from the house to the highway, with one push-off; about a quarter of a mile all total. The mail delivery lady that happened to be paused on the highway, wondering how in the world she was ever going to deliver our package up the driveway/slope/ice rink, was very happy to see this whooping and hollering maniac come flying all the way to the highway (with only a couple of near misses with a Suburban and a power pole!)

Perhaps one of the strangest, yet most non-eventful occurrences happened on Sunday, December 3rd. It was just a phone call. And since everyone else was out playing in the snow, I took the call, and thus had the unusual opportunity to inform the principal of Rock Bridge High school about the conditions of our roads out here in rural Harrisburg.

They were debating the big question – do we have school tomorrow or don’t we – and since Rock Bridge has a teacher or two out this way, the principal simply thought he would call to see how the roads were in our area. (Trust me, if you knew who the principal was, you wouldn’t be so surprised that he called.) I didn’t think too much of it while I was talking to him, but after I hung up, I couldn’t resist proudly going out to announce to my husband, “Hey, the Columbia public school system just wanted my opinion about whether or not they should have school tomorrow!”

Okay, okay…so I exaggerated that a little bit, but as a stay-at-home mom I get very few chances at claims to fame – so I really have to play it up big when a mere semblance of importance occurs.
Thus, I anxiously await the next fifteen inch snowfall, even though it might be another 20 years in the making. Perhaps by then, the president will want my inside opinion about rural, mid-Missouri road conditions.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More Deer Hunting Advice from Li'l Tikes

By L.A. Kohl
October 23, 2006
(published in the 11/15/06 edition of "The Bullseye")
With the coming of fall and cooler weather, some inborn desire emerges within my husband to grab his bow and go sit in a deer stand during the wee hours of the morning. As he often explains, he does it more for the sake of having a story to tell than for anything else.

In previous years, the moment dad begins telling all of the sights and sounds and near misses of the morning, the children – especially the youngest ones – have all kinds of advice and words of wisdom for their dad. This year was no exception, as he returned from a recent bow hunting outing to an expectant little audience at the breakfast table.

“Did you shoot a deer?”

“Well, I shot AT a deer,” came his regretful reply.

“Did you take your gun?”

“No, not yet…I have to use my bow.”

“Well, you should use a gun, it works better.”

“When it’s gun season, then I will – until then, I’ll use my bow.”

“But maybe you could try a spear!” was our boy’s enthusiastic idea.

“Now that’s something I hadn’t thought of,” came dad’s patient reply.

“Just don’t get the baby deers; ‘cuz they like me and I don’t want you to kill them.”

At the mention of “baby deers," dad explained to them about the new law in Missouri, banning the shooting of any buck with less than four points on their antlers. Then he went on to tell them about the first deer of the morning that he kept watching, trying to count the points. Finally, after much time and scrutiny, he figured out the sad truth – only three points.

“And that’s when I was seriously tempted…should I shoot it or not?” he began to say, planning to explain a life lesson about honesty and making right choices. But before he could utter another word, the five year old piped in.

“Yeah – shoot it!” she enthusiastically replied, with no sense of guilt or remorse. (We’ll have to keep an especially close eye on her as she gets older.)

He then went on to tell how he had walked to a different area, trying to find a bigger buck. As he meandered, he couldn’t resist the temptation to try a little target practice on a squirrel up in a tree. That ended with nothing more than an arrow stuck in the trunk of the tree. He told us that it was too high for him to reach, so he was planning to take a ladder out later, to retrieve his arrow. That brought on a rapid series of safety rules:

“Dad, don’t pull too hard on the arrow, or you will fall off the ladder and die.”

“Dad, you should not hold the arrow when you’re on the ladder, or you might fall on it and die.”

“Dad, you should never point the bow towards you, or you might shoot yourself and die.”

After all these imminent threats of death and destruction, our five year old came up with one final safety rule. I have no idea what it has to do with bow hunting…but it was very sensible advice, and I shall close my article with her words of wisdom.
“You should never run when you are carrying a pitchfork.”

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Very American Holiday



By L.A. Kohl
November 15, 2005
(maybe Jodie will have space to publish this one of these years...)
As the years go by, I appreciate Thanksgiving time more and more. For me, it has become the “relaxed” holiday, to reflect and count my blessings.

I believe part of my growing appreciation for Thanksgiving has come through my increased awareness of the truly miraculous founding of our great country. For your Thanksgiving celebration – here are a just a few examples.

France and Spain were exploring and settling parts of the new world long before England finally began colonizing it. Why didn’t they become the ones to form our country’s government, rather than the English? As un-politically correct as it may sound, I firmly believe it was divine influence; God wanted America to be founded on Christian principles.

Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603) desired that a Bible be placed in every church in England, which gave all people access to the scriptures. Our country, with its foundations based on such biblical ideals as equality, justice, freedom and individual responsibility may have looked much different if it had been formed by France or Spain, where people did not have ready access to the Bible.

Even when England did begin trying to colonize the new world, there were many set-backs experienced by those first, adventure-seeking businessmen. Not until a small band of people seeking religious freedom decided to give it a try, did we see a new country taking root.

When the Pilgrims providentially found themselves outside the territory of the London Company and the Virginia colony, they recognized their immediate need for a governing document. Thus, in November of 1620 in the harbor of Cape Cod, before the settlers even went ashore, the Mayflower Compact was drawn up and signed.

History had never seen such a document. A document created and voluntarily endorsed by the people, and for the people. It was a huge milestone in the formation of a new country that would be the first of its kind – a country that would establish the right of the people to rule.

God worked in “mysterious” ways; despite all of the Pilgrim’s initial hardships and struggles (50% of them did not survive the first year, but in comparison, 90% of Jamestown’s population perished.)
The place they found to settle was ideal: fertile soil, four spring-fed creeks, and a large section of ground already cleared and ready for planting. Later, an English speaking Indian named Samoset informed them that a vicious tribe, the Patuxets, had inhabited that area. The Patuxets murdered every white man who had ever landed there – but just a few years prior the entire tribe had died of a mysterious plague. Neighboring tribes were so fearful of the misfortune that they continued to avoid the area.

Because of Samoset and another English speaking native named Tisquantum (“Squanto” for short,) the Pilgrims were able to make a peace treaty with Massasoit, chief of the large Wampanoag tribe.
In March of 1623 Massasoit was gravely ill and given up for dead by his people. God intervened through Pilgrim Edward Winslow’s attentive care and medicine. As a result, a grateful Massasoit informed the Pilgrims about eight neighboring tribes that were plotting to kill all the English; and he gave them valuable advice on how to deal with the threat.

Later that same year, a severe drought threatened to ruin all their crops, meaning certain starvation in the coming winter. William Bradford asked everyone to participate in a day of fasting and prayer to ask the Lord for rain.
Edward Winslow described what happened: “But, O the mercy of our God, who was as ready to hear, as we were to ask! For though in the morning, when we assembled together, the heavens were as clear and the drought as like to continue as it ever was, yet…before our departure [from the day of prayer and fasting], the weather was overcast, the clouds gathered on all sides. On the next morning distilled such soft, sweet and moderate showers of rain, continuing some fourteen days…such was the bounty and goodness of our God!”

Now, over 300 years later, Americans can still celebrate Thanksgiving because of the intense faith of this small band of English men and women. As you begin your Thanksgiving holiday, ponder on what William Bradford wrote those many years ago: “We have noted these things so that you might see their worth and not negligently lose what your fathers have obtained with so much hardship.”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A View of amendment #2

(published in the Nov 1, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")
I prefer not to get involved in politics anymore than I have to. I do try to become informed about election issues, and I exercise my right to vote, but that’s about as far as it goes for me. It’s not that I don’t care or that I’m indifferent – debating political issues is just not something I’m passionate about. Thus, I’m treading rather new and awkward territory, but here goes.

Some very valid points have already been pointed out by the editor of this paper in recent weeks, which have helped clarify some important facts about the upcoming Amendment Two decision. I agree with him, and won’t labor to repeat what he’s already said.

I have recently learned an interesting fact that, though…a fact I had not heard mentioned amongst all of the “stem cell initiative” hype and publicity.

Did you know that the very opening paragraph of Amendment Two lists 45 sections of the constitution of Missouri that it will either repeal or change. Forty-five!

This is the exact wording of the beginning of the proposed amendment, taken from the Missouri Secretary of State’s government web site:
Constitutional Amendment 2
Stem Cell Initiative
Submitted October 11, 2005
NOTICE: You are advised that the proposed constitutional amendment may change, repeal, or modify by implication or may be construed by some persons to change, repeal or modify by implication, the following provisions of the Constitution of Missouri – Sections 2, 10, 14, and 32 of Article I; Section 1 of Article II; Sections 1, 21, 22, 23, 28, 36, 39, 40, 41, and 42 of Article III; Sections 1, 14, 36(a), 37, 37(a), 39, and 52 of Article IV; Sections 5, 14, 17, 18, and 23, and subsection 17 of Section 27 of Article V; Sections 18(b), 18(c), 18(d), 18(k), 18(m), 19(a), 20, 31, 32(a), and 32(b) of Article VI; Section 9(a) of Article IX; Sections 1, 6, 11(a), 11(d), and 11(f) of Article X; and Section 3 or Article XI.

I know it’s all technical sounding; and please don’t ask me anything about all of those specific articles and sections of the constitution…but I counted and re-counted, and that’s 45 sections, folks. Is there not something wrong with this picture?

Even if I didn’t know anything at all about Amendment Two, I wouldn’t vote for it simply because it seems there must be something fundamentally wrong with any amendment that would have to change THAT much of our current constitution in order to be legal.

It appears that no matter how you slice it, Amendment Two is much more, and affects much more, than what its proponents are telling us.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Love, Honor, Cherish...and be Selfless

By: L.A. Kohl
October 9, 2006
(published in the Oct. 18, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")

You know, sometimes you have an experience or a discussion when the proverbial “light bulb” seems to flash on all of a sudden. This happened recently when my husband and I were discussing marriage.
I don’t know how or why the topic came up, but for some reason we were discussing how selfless you had to be in order to really make a marriage work. The longer the discussion went on, the more I could see the practicality and logic of it. I’ve now thought about it so much, that I already know one of the first questions I’m going to ask when my daughters or son tell me they’ve found the one they think is “it” – the special someone they want to spend the rest of their life with. I’m not going to say, “So, do you love him?” Instead, I believe the question will be, “Are you ready to take a back seat; are you ready to sometimes give up your wants, are you ready to put a priority on someone else’s needs?”

Not that I think you need to become a doormat once you say, “I do."A marriage should help make you more complete and fulfilled – but it should make you want to serve the other person.

Let me explain what I mean, just from our personal experience, as I know every marriage is unique and different.

I’ve now been married for over 21 years, and if I wanted to get selfish – I could languish in self-pity over all the dirty clothes I’ve had to wash for my husband during those years. Or, all the lunches I’ve packed for him, or all the messes I’ve cleaned up after him, or all the meals I’ve cooked for him. I suppose if I wanted to think only of myself, I could say, “You know what? I’m not your servant girl, and from now on you’re doing those things for yourself.”

What about from his perspective? He’s spent 21 years working his tail off earning a living, only to turn most of it over to me. Sure, the majority of the time I use that money to buy groceries, pay bills, and things that aren’t just for ME – but there are plenty of times when I spend some of it on myself. Wouldn’t he be justified in saying, “Hey, it’s about time you did your fair share around here and started earning a little income yourself!”

Instead (and I know some people will think this is weird) I actually take pleasure in fixing a meal that I know my husband is going to enjoy. And maybe I can’t say I “enjoy” doing his laundry – but it makes me feel good when he’s looking for a specific shirt to wear, and I can say, “Oh, I just washed that for you, its right here.”

Am I repressed or unfulfilled? Do I ever think, “You know, if I weren’t married, I could do whatever I wanted for me, myself and I”? No, I’m honestly very happy and content. There is a deep satisfaction that comes from getting yourself off of center stage, and focusing on another.

What about from his perspective? Is he cheating himself out of all the fun “toys” and hobbies he could have, if he didn’t have to use all of his money to support a wife and children? In reality, he actually enjoys giving me the money to put in the bank every week; he likes being “the provider." And he has fun trying to convince me that I really should go buy something just for myself with some of the extra. He literally does have to convince me most of the time, because I can always think of something that he or the children probably need worse than I need anything.

It’s not something you’re going to hear or read in the media, but I believe it’s one of the most basic fundamentals for a marriage to thrive…put the other person first. You’re not depriving or cheating yourself…rather, you’re investing in your marriage, and a lifetime of love.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

A View Without the Safety of the Front Porch

By: L.A. Kohl
September 17, 2006
(published in the Oct. 4, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

As I’m sure most readers realize, the fact that my column is entitled “The View from the Front Porch," does NOT mean that I sit around on my porch all the time. (Although after today, I’m thinking it looks much more affable.) I usually feel fortunate if I get a few moments on the porch once a week or so. More often than not when I’m outside, I’m walking somewhere rather than sitting on the porch.

That was my current state today; a very pleasant Sunday afternoon. It had been raining off and on most of the day, and I happened to be out meandering. I had nothing in particular to accomplish. I just wasn’t in the mood for sitting, and thus I was “piddling." You know, things like picking a few fresh zinnias to bring in the house…checking out the one surviving squash plant in the garden to see if it was going to produce anything…and generally enjoying the freshness of a rainy, September afternoon.
The dog was romping, the kittens were scuffling, the trees were rustling, the husband was whistling, and the little ones were inside napping. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Then it happened.

After almost fifteen years of living in the middle of the woods, I’m surprised it’s never happened before – and yet, “it” took me completely by surprise. “It” was an acorn thumping me squarely on top of the head.

It’s been too long since my math and science classes, but it seems like I remember something about mass times velocity equaling something. I’m pretty sure that acorn fell from at least twenty or thirty feet, so in my case, it equaled a very tender spot on the top of my head - and a hefty amount of laughter.

I couldn’t believe it; I was completely taken aback. However, in spite of my shock, my response happened instantaneously. I’m not the type of person who typically thinks “quick on her feet” so to speak, but after being a mom for so long, this response just came naturally – even before the laughter and the groaning.

You’ve probably guessed my response, haven’t you? Yup, I grabbed my head and muttered, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling – I must go and tell the king!”
Now, if I can just go and convince Henny Penny and Ducky Lucky, I’ll be good to go.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fall Festival Time

By: L.A. Kohl
September 10, 2006
(published in the September 20, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
I’m a person who likes things that are constant and unchanging. (Just ask my husband, whose inborn desire to rearrange furniture on a regular basis always bewilders me.) Many things in our lives continually change: children grow up, the economy goes up and down, “newer and better” versions of things come out, people get older, friends and acquaintances move on. For me, it’s just comforting to have a few stand-bys that vary little from year to year.

That’s part of the reason why I enjoy fall so much – its similarities each year are refreshing. You can always count on cooler weather, changing colors, and last but not least…fall festivals. Everywhere I look, I read about different towns celebrating something during this time of year. In Hatton, it’s pumpkins; in Boonville, it’s steam engines; in Hermann, it’s wine; in Marceline, it’s cartoonists; in the town where I grew up, it’s old settlers; and here in Sturgeon and Harrisburg this past weekend – it was just fall in general.

They can all call it something different and focus on varying themes…but basically they are all just a fun way for communities to celebrate fall. You’ll find many similarities at whichever festival you choose to attend…parades, carnivals, baby contests, queen contests, music and dancing, and loads of food, just to name a few.

The parade is always the highlight for my children – mostly because they like getting candy. My dad loves the antique cars, or in Harrisburg’s case, the ugly trucks. The candy and cars are okay, but what I really enjoy are the marching bands.

They bring back memories from my distant past (much more distant than I care to admit.) Who could forget all of that marching, over and over, putting in extra hours before and after school because there was so little time to practice between the beginning of school and the time of the first football game and the Old Settler’s Reunion?

Thus, I just can’t help myself; I have to intently study a band that marches by. Are their steps all in “left/right” sync, are they all “guiding right," and are they all getting their knees up? Problem is, most bands today don’t have to get their knees up…I think they waited until after my marching band days were over to change the rules on what “marching” really constituted. Ah well, the style may change, but as long as there are marching bands in the parade, I remain content.

And that’s what I like – the knowledge that there will be a marching band in a parade, in some fall festival somewhere. It’s not the specific band or parade itself; it’s the fact that it’s a constant in this ever changing, fast-paced world of ours.

So this fall, take some time to relax and celebrate the unchanging sameness of a local fall festival. Your parents and grandparents before you probably did, and your children and grandchildren after you undoubtedly will, also...so why mess with tradition?!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Disturbing "View" of News

By: L.A. Kohl
September 1, 2006
(published in the September 6, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")
We don’t do “news” much around here. No subscriptions to big name newspapers, no nightly viewing of the news on TV, etc. For the most part, we find it all very biased, depressing, and not worth our time. But, I do occasionally read reports from different sources on the internet – and this past week I read two totally unrelated articles that just made me go “UGH!” in exasperation.

The first was passed on to me from an acquaintance in Sturgeon. The article was from the July 22, 2006 edition of the MiamiHerald.com. In a nut shell (emphasis mine) it was about a man named José Luis De Jesús Miranda – they just call him De Jesús for short. You can probably guess from his name what his problem is…yup, he thinks he’s Jesus Christ.

Oh, he hasn’t always thought that; particularly when he was a 14 yr. old heroine addict. However, over the years he’s progressed from being himself, to being the re-incarnate Apostle Paul, to being “the Other” (supposedly paving the way for the second coming of Christ) and now, finally, to being Jesus Christ himself.

The sad thing is that he has a very large following in several countries. His church claims to have 300 education centers in 52 countries, 200 pastors, 225 radio programs and its own 24-hour Spanish-language satellite network that's beamed into approximately 3 million homes.

That article actually didn’t surprise me very much. There have been people like De Jesús come and go throughout the centuries. In fact, Jesus Himself, (the real one, who lived a couple thousand years ago and has been gaining followers daily, ever since) warned us that there would be such “false prophets." Time will prove the falsehood of guys like De Jesús; but I pity the people deceived by him in the meantime.

The other article that I found disturbing was entitled “Fashion Aims Young," from the August 24, 2006 New York Times. It was all about how the fashion industry has begun targeting the 4 to 9 year old segment of society. (Yes, I said FOUR to NINE year old.) They claim that their miniature creations of adult clothing aren’t necessarily sexy, just “candidly provocative."  (I had to read that a few times…trying to decide how “candidly provocative” was more acceptable than “sexy.") Do I really want my little seven-year-old girl looking “candidly provocative?"

As much as I hate to see the JonBenet case plastered all over the media once again – if nothing else, does it not re-iterate to parents the possible dangers of dressing our little girls up as fashion queens? So what if Karr wasn’t the murderer? The fact remains that he seems to have had a very sick infatuation with a little six year old girl. And I’m sorry to say – there are a lot more perverts out there like him. (Excuse the harsh judgment there – but as a mom of six girls, I have a zero tolerance level for men like that.) To me, common sense says, “Don’t dress little girls like fashion models, if for no other reason than to keep guys like him from noticing your daughter."

The sad thing to me about this article was not that the clothing industry is trying to make little girls look candidly provocative – it’s the fact that we, as parents, are buying into it, because we all know they wouldn’t be creating the stuff if it wasn’t a lucrative business.

The article ended with a mom from New York, who seemed to think it was cute that her four-year-old daughter walked in wearing something tight and hot pink, and basically said, “I’m wearing it mom, whether you want me to or not.” I pity them both. If the mom is too lame to tell her daughter “no” when she’s only four…they are in for a lot of problems in the years to come.

Thus, that’s why we usually choose not to keep up with the news. I prefer to dress my little girls in cut-offs and t-shirts - and remain blissfully ignorant!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

One down, Six to Go

By: L.A. Kohl
Aug 13, 2006
(published in the Aug. 16, 2006 edition of "The Bull's Eye")

Well, we did it. It wasn’t easy, and it may take months (or years) to make all the adjustments, but on August 12, we took our oldest child to college.

I’ve been giving myself “pep talks” all summer long, trying to prepare for it. When she left this summer to spend six weeks working at an orphanage in Guatemala, I kept telling myself, “It’s okay – you’ve still got six more children here at home.”

That argument didn’t work very well. Saying that there were still six more at home was kind of like cutting off a thumb and saying, “It’s okay, I’ve still got nine more fingers.”

So as I tried to prepare myself for this college phase of life, I gave myself some different pep talks. Things like, “It’s okay – it’s a great school with lots of like-minded teachers and students.” Or this one, “She’s got a great ‘head on her shoulders’, and she’s excited and ready for this.”

But it still didn’t work. She might have been ready, but even after all my pep talks to self, I don’t think I was ready.

Each child is such a unique and irreplaceable part of a whole. And no matter how many of us there are, there is now a hole in our whole that we call the Kohl family. No matter how big or little your “whole” family may be, you know that when even just one is missing, there’s a hole that no one or nothing else can replace.

And yet, amidst my sorrow of watching that first one leave the nest, I find myself experiencing moments when I feel a sense of joy and anticipation. When I think of it realistically, I know I would not want her to stay home indefinitely – to always feel obligated to be a part of our home. I’m looking forward to getting to know the new friends she’ll make at college, seeing her explore her options as far as college classes and activities are concerned, and yes – watching her get swept off her feet someday by a young man that will treasure her even more than we do. (If I said that last part to her face, she’d blush and say, “Oh, MOooom!” But moms just can’t help it, can we? We all want a “happily-ever-after” for our special little princess.)

Thus, I have to pick myself up out of my first-one-left-the-nest melancholy, and try to look forward to many new phases and experiences that the future will bring.

Isn’t that what we all have to do at different times in life? Getting through all the various aspects and chapters of life, enjoying each and every moment as much as possible, but not trying to hold on to those moments for too long and too tightly? Instead, we must look forward to the moments that are yet to come.
“…but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13b

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Babes

By: L.A. Kohl
July 29, 2006
(published in the Aug 2, 2006 edition of "the bullseye")
For lack of anything deep, moving, or reflective to write this week; I’ll fall back on my old stand-by. Judging from the comments I receive, the funny things that little kids say and do seems to entertain several of you…so here you go.

Our seven year old has been figuring out some personal, spiritual things lately. In fact, she’s going to be baptized in a few short days. But a few months ago, she came to me and said this out-of-the-blue statement:

“I know God is always by my side – but I just don’t know WHICH side!”

It was one of those moments when I knew she was being completely serious, but it took every bit of self-control on my part not to laugh out loud.

And then there are the statements that you’d really prefer not to hear. Our newly turned five year old walked into the house a few days ago, and made this comment to a big sister who happened to be sitting nearby:

“I petted Katie (our cat) and she is really fat – I think she must have babies inside. How do the babies get in there?”

Oh brother…the big sister said something like, “umm – you should probably ask mom," while mom hid in a corner of the kitchen, intently studying a recipe book and wishing that her dad would walk in right now!

Then, there is the “boy” of the house. He’s only three, so he’s in his prime. He loves to be helpful, and he is almost always the first child to wake in the morning. One morning dad thought he’d put this helpful, early riser to work by telling him that he could put the cereal bowls on the table. Dad explained that he could find the bowls in the cupboard by the table, or in the dishwasher.

The boy enthusiastically ran out of the room, and said, “OK! I’ll get the bowls out of the
‘frig-rator!”

(Umm – and while you’re at it – get the milk out of the dishwasher??? Maybe needs some work on his listening skills!)

One thing that I love about him is his polite little spirit. I don’t know if it’s all these big sisters he’s got surrounding him, or the influence of a great dad, or a little bit of both – but he can melt his old mom really quick with his sweetness.

The other day I had taken the three young ones down to our lake for swimming. Usually it’s their Dad who indulges them, but he wasn’t around and they had been begging and begging. So, I told them “just for a little while," donned an old swimsuit, and hiked down to the lake with all three of them. We played around for half an hour or so, and then I started telling them it was time to go back to the house.
I climbed out, hoping they would follow my example, but they were still too busy playing. I was drying off and re-iterating that we really needed to get back to the house, when the boy stopped what he was doing, looked up at me, and said, “Mom, you sure are cute…thanks for taking us swimming!” and then he went right back to splashing and playing.

I seriously believe he was sincere with his comments, and not just trying to butter me up. So you parenting experts will just have to overlook and forgive my reply to him:
“Oh, well, I guess we can stay down here a little bit longer.”

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Loss of Childhood

By: L.A. Kohl
July 17, 2006
(published in the July 19, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
I find it so disturbing, that it’s a big reason why we homeschool our children as long as we do. It happens much too quickly from my point of view. What am I talking about? The loss of childhood.

I saw it reiterated once again last month, as I spent a couple of weeks working at youth camp. My twelve year old daughter was now old enough to go to the “older” youth camp – the one for Jr. High and High school age youth. She was excited about it, but I was rather dreading it.

The very first day, I overheard conversations from the other twelve year old girls in her cabin. Every conversation seemed to be something about “boys." At one point, I felt I could be a quiet bystander no longer. I looked at the girl that was talking about some boy, and I said, “You know, if you haven’t figured it out yet – my girls don’t do ‘boys’ very much, unless they want to go catch frogs or play pirates. We just want our girls to enjoy childhood as long as possible.”

I tried to smile and say it in a light-hearted manner, so as not to embarrass my daughter or the other girl too much; but inside my heart was aching for these very young girls who were wanting to act so “grown up." And my twelve year old, who had been looking rather lost, looked relieved, laughed, and said, “Yeah, the only boys I know very well are my cousins!”

At another point during camp, a sixth grade girl started telling me about this boy that she had “dated."(What does a date between two twelve year olds look like, I couldn’t help wondering?) Perhaps she was just making up stories to try and impress me with how grown up she really was – but she picked the wrong person to try and impress.

“You are too young to be dating,” I told her, before she had hardly even finished her sentence.

“That’s what someone else said, too,” she lamented, “but I don’t understand why they think that.”

I didn’t hesitate to tell her why I thought it. I don’t go into “lecture” mode very often with anyone other than my own children, but I couldn’t help myself this time.

“Because you are only twelve years old,” I began, “and before you know it, you’ll be an adult. You only have a tiny amount of time to be a child; you have the rest of your life to be an adult. You shouldn’t try to grow up so fast – enjoy being a child while you can.”

She walked away, and I suspect that what I said went in one ear and out the other, but I couldn’t help saying it anyway.

I wish I could have brought that whole cabin full of twelve-year-old girls home with us after camp…away from all boys. I wish my girls could of shared their dress up clothes with them (they get great deals on old formals at garage sales,) and then hosted a tea party for them. I wish they could have went out to the lake in the paddle boat, and let my girls “accidentally” push them out in the water in their old clothes – not having to worry about if some boy noticed that they had their stylish bikini on or not. I wish they could have come and strapped on some plastic swords and tri-corner hats, and created some swash-buckling adventure with the video camera. I wish they could have come and stood around the piano, while my daughter tried to plunk out some old Disney movie songs while they all sang their lungs out.

Childhood is a precious, brief time in life…and I wish our society wasn’t so consumed with trying to rob it from our children.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Date with Dad



By: L.A. Kohl
July 6, 2006
(published in the July 12, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
I didn’t really have the time to honor my husband this past Father’s Day like I wanted to. We were too busy with ministry related stuff…so Father’s Day slipped by without much time or attention on my part.

Now I’d like to remedy that a little bit by bragging about what my husband is up to tonight.

It all began a few weeks ago, when Nate came to me and said, “I think I’m going to take Bethany on a date July 7 – opening day of “Pirates of the Caribbean II.”

Actually, maybe it all started much farther back than that. Our oldest daughter and one of her good friends had asked their dads to take them out to eat, rather than paying them for a cleaning job they had tackled together. So, they all got dressed up and the four of them went to a very nice restaurant to eat – a “double date” so to speak.

Thus, daughter number two has been wondering for years…when is dad going to take her and her friend, and her friend’s dad, on a double date? After all – he did it for the firstborn, so shouldn’t the second born get equal treatment?

That’s what led to Nate and I heading to the movie theater in Columbia last week. We bought four advance tickets to the 12:01 AM showing (that’s about as early on July 7th as you can get!) of POTC II. Whether it’s a good movie or not, I don’t know. But Bethany is the biggest “Capt. Jack Sparrow” fan I’ve ever met…so no matter what, she’ll think it’s awesome.

And I personally think her dad is awesome for caring about what she enjoys; being willing to sacrifice some time and money (and sleep!) in order to involve himself in her interests. As you can see by the picture, he REALLY involved himself! They were quite the pair as they left in their pirate outfits, headed to pick up her friend and her dad, so they could go eat at…Long John Silver’s, of course! And then go stand in line for an hour or two at the movie theater, so they’d be sure to get four good seats all together.

Maybe a father/daughter date is a new concept to some of you; but it’s a concept that fathers of little girls should consider. Call it a father/daughter “outing” if you prefer; what you call it doesn’t matter – but what it is matters greatly.

A teenage young lady needs to know that her dad cares about her; that her father thinks she is valuable, precious and worth some of his time. If she doesn’t “feel” those things from her father, then she’s likely to go looking for those things from some other male figure. Unfortunately for some girls, it’s the first boy who comes along who happens to look twice at her, and the majority of the time, that boy doesn’t have her best interest at heart.

Anyway – enough with the psychology stuff. That wasn’t the point of this article. The point was this: I have some very blessed and self-confident daughters who have one of the most awesome dads in the whole world!

Of course, that’s just my own personal “view” – but it’s a view worth bragging about once in awhile. Thanks Nate, for making time for your girls.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Life in a Small Town

By: L.A. Kohl
June 15, 2006
(published in the June 21, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")

I know it was only a few months ago that I wrote an article about how much I appreciated living in a rural, small town area. But something happened a few days ago that made me want to express my “awe” over small town life once again.

It all started one day when I sent a $39.00 check with my husband and oldest daughter, so they could purchase a roll of stamps on their way through town. She had lots of thank you notes to mail, so I wanted lots of stamps. (Perhaps before I continue, I should explain that we normally only stop at the post office an average of a couple times a month – at most.)

Anyway, later that day when they got home from working together, Nate tossed some assorted stamp booklets on the table and said, “They didn’t have any rolls of stamps, so they gave us five books of 20 instead.”

I noticed that there weren't many full booklets laying there, but I just assumed my daughter had more thank you notes than what I thought she did, and ended up using several of them. Imagine my surprise when I walked into our post office the next day and the postal mistress (or matron…or what do you call a female post office manager?) asked me a question.

“Was your husband in here yesterday?”

“Why yes, he was,” I replied, wondering where this was going.

“Did he buy a lot of stamps – like $39.00 worth?”

“Yes he did; all in booklets, since you didn’t have any rolls of stamps on hand,” I answered. I couldn’t help feeling impressed that she not only knew who my husband was, but she remembered how many stamps he’d bought!

“Well,” she continued, “Did you get all of them when he got home?”

Now this was getting humorous…did she know that my husband was prone to leaving things in places and then forgetting to tell me where he’d put them?

“Umm,” I stammered, “He did bring home three booklets....”

“I’m asking because a woman found half a book of stamps in the trash yesterday, and turned them into me. Your husband was about the only one I could think of that might have accidentally thrown them away – so here you go,” she said as she pulled them out and handed them over to me.

I couldn’t help chuckling as I got into the car and drove away. I was amazed by several things about the incident...all of which could undoubtedly only happen in a small town.

First, that a lady found 10 stamps in the trash and didn’t keep them for herself. Secondly, that the postal worker was able to figure out who had thrown them away. And lastly, she not only figured out who threw them away, she figured out who his spouse was so that she could get them into the correct hands.
You gotta love small towns!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Time Passages

By: L.A. Kohl
May 24, 2006
(published in the May 31, 2006 edition of "the Bullseye")

The rumbling outside could be heard off and on throughout the day today. But when the actual rain finally started sometime mid-afternoon; it had “inviting” written all over it. By the time it let up, all nine of us had managed to find an excuse to go out in it for varying amounts of time. Nate and I were a little more practical, and were only a bit soggy. The kids, however, from the eighteen year old down to the three year old, were drenched.

It suddenly took me back to the summer before fourth grade, to a small house on Lakeview Street in Centralia. I suppose my brother and I liked to play in the rain at other times in our lives – but for some reason I only remember actually doing it during that one year stint that we lived in Centralia.

Undoubtedly it was hot and stuffy in the house – no air conditioning – so whenever it would begin raining, we would begin begging to go out and play in it. Mom would peer out the door, to make sure it was just a gentle summer rain and not a major thunderstorm, and if she gave the go ahead, out the back door we would bolt.

Isn’t it strange how certain things and events can transport you through time like that – even if it was decades ago and even if it was a seemingly insignificant occurrence?

I remember standing at my Grandma and Grandpa Hall’s grave a few years ago, on Memorial Day weekend – and having all these little snippets of memories bombard my mind…purple irises and pink sweet peas, gathering eggs in a hen house, fishing on a pond bank with Grandpa, snapping beans and shelling peas with Grandma, enjoying her mulberry/rhubarb pie, and bread with milk gravy. Nothing significant and life changing, but all the little memories brought tears to my eyes all the same. Just the realization that all those things were now in the distant past, no longer to be experienced, made me feel melancholy.

I’ve been experiencing the same types of feelings and thoughts the past few days, as we celebrated our oldest daughter’s graduation from high school. I spent the last few months creating a life scrapbook for her – and if pictures don’t transport you through time, I don’t know what will. One that gets her father and me the most is her “pets” page. There, side by side, is a picture of a smiling little three year old trying to pick up a tiny new puppy; and next to it, a beautiful, young eighteen year old, smiling and kneeling beside our family’s current canine friend. I know several years occurred in between those two pictures, but in our mind’s eye they appear almost as simultaneous as they do on a scrapbook page. The little girl may be all grown up and ready to make a new life of her own, but our hearts still see her as that cute little girl that needs her mommy and daddy.

Life, and time, are funny things. One moment you’re young and full of ideas and ambitions – and the next minute you seem to have grown old, in experiences at least, if not in spirit.

Your children are now the ones with the ambitions, and you’re the ones just trying to keep up with them, doing what you can to help them reach those goals, and wondering where all those years went?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Soldier's Letter for Mother's Day

By: L.A. Kohl
May 6, 2006
(published in the May 10, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
I gained permission to use the following letter, written for Mother’s Day last year by Sgt. Jerod Hall. He was a 26 year old soldier in my extended family, serving in the United States Army. I say “was”, because he was found dead in his barracks at Ft. Campbell, KY last month, after having recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. They still do not know the cause of his death, although they did determine there was no foul play or violence involved.

Without sounding too “morbid” during such a wonderful time of year – I thought perhaps this simple letter could be an inspiration to someone out there. Perhaps you think you’re not the “expressive” type. Perhaps you think your mother already knows that you love her, so why should you make a big, mushy deal about it?

Jerod’s case is a very good example why – simply because you never know when today may be your last opportunity to tell someone how much you love them. You don’t have to use big, expressive words, or come up with some cute, rhyming verse. Speak or write simply from your heart and a loved one will consider it a masterpiece. There’s not a doubt in my mind that Jerod’s mother will consider this letter a priceless treasure for the rest of her life.

See if perhaps it inspires you to do something this Mother’s Day to express your love and appreciation for a very special woman in your life.

After hours of pain endured while bringing me into this world, you loved me.
During my toddler years when you wished there was such a thing as a "child leash", you loved me.
While I was growing up and hit you with a non-stop barrage of questions about the way things are, you loved me.
When I was a teenager and pushed and bent all of the rules as far as they could go, you loved me.
When I was unable to finish college because I could not afford it and had to move back home, you loved me.
When I decided to work in the mines, even though they are dangerous, you worried, but you loved me.
When I decided to move away and devote my life to my country, you worried even more, but you loved me.
As I prepare to go back to a part of the world that is full of danger and strife to help give those a chance at a life that I sometimes take for granted, you still love me.
You taught me good values and gave me a strong foundation to build my life on. You never judged me and only showed me love and respect. For all of these reasons and more, I know that I have the greatest Mom in the world. Even if I do not show it all the time, I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for being MY Mom.
Love,
Jerod Austin

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Varying Views of Late

By L.A. Kohl
April 27, 2006
(published in the May 3, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")
The view around here has been pretty varied over the past couple of months. Of course, the obvious one that has dominated the landscape is the coming of spring. It not only engulfs our physical view – but at times it can overwhelm the senses.

One evening I realized I was hearing the distant rumble of an oncoming storm. I stepped out onto the porch to get a better view (I love to watch a storm roll in…in moderation, of course) and was overpowered with the most wonderful smell. How to define it? It was like the scent of earth, rain, fresh air and newly growing things all rolled up into one powerful sensation. At that moment in time, I simply could not breathe deep enough.

There have been other recent views that were not so enthralling; such as the sight of a jet preparing to take my husband halfway around the world to India. That’s always a rather tough view for the kids and I to handle. However, a couple of weeks later when we get to watch that plane come gliding down the landing strip – knowing that within a few moments he’ll be walking thru the gate and back into our lives…well, that view is hard to beat!

And this year, he brought us all a little something that he’s never before brought home from India. It all started when we sat down to grilled steak and baked potatoes the night of his homecoming. After being “beefless” for two weeks in India – he thought a nice steak would taste great. However, he could only manage a few bites. That night, stomach problems hit him with a vengeance. We all assumed it was “Delhi belly” hanging on a little longer than normal (stomach problems while in India are pretty much par for the course.)   But after a couple of days, when he was finally starting to feel better, our three year old boy got the same thing.

So it hadn’t been Delhi belly after all – but rather some type of Indian flu bug. By the end of the week all nine of us unwillingly partook of it. (Note to Nate: that was one souvenir we don’t ever care to have brought home to us again!)

I’ve saved the most consuming view for last…the view that has been on the horizon for years, but hazy and in the distant future. Somehow within the past few weeks, it has started bearing down upon us, coming sharply into focus.

That would be the view of our oldest “leaving the nest."

In March, there was the senior trip to Florida…in April, the Junior/Senior prom…in May, she’ll walk across a stage and get her diploma…in June and July, she’ll literally fly off to Guatemala to work at an orphanage…and in August – she’ll “figuratively” fly off to college and into adulthood. I know all parents throughout history have said it, but bear with me as I repeat it, “My, how time flies!”

Wasn’t it just yesterday that she was learning her “three R’s," learning to ride a bike, and then learning to drive a car? Now she’s learned those things so well that her college advisor is encouraging her to be a tutor her very first semester of college, and I hear her instructing her father in good driving techniques.
It brings a great sense of joy to us to see the fine young woman that she’s becoming. But it’s a view that is bitter/sweet. Amidst all the fun and excitement of watching a child become an adult, I find myself sighing at the drop of a hat, and finding the view getting rather blurry.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Quiz Bowl, Mr. Smith?

By: L.A. Kohl
March 2, 2006

(published in the April 26, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")
Recently, our eldest competed in her last quiz bowl meet. She only got started last year – so it’s been a relatively short career for her, but she has thoroughly enjoyed it. And I have to say that, surprisingly, so have her parents!

Just as during volleyball season we enjoyed watching our second born make a dive for a volleyball that was way out of her reach – it’s equally as exciting watching our eldest make a stab in the dark at a question that is way over her head.

Sure, she gets a wrong answer occasionally. In fact, she’s gotten so bold and brave lately that more often than not she guesses incorrectly. But she’s got a strategy – I see her intently watching the buzzer, and when it gets to that last second and it appears that no one knows the answer, she quickly buzzes in and gives it her best shot. Why not? It’s like the basketball player standing with the ball at half court, with only one second left in the quarter. He’s probably going to miss (unless he’s Kyle Fischer, of course) but hey, why not give it a shot anyway?

One time she decided that “Smith” would be a pretty good answer for any question related to a person that no one knew. By the end of the match, the other team was laughing and teasing her about “Hey! What happened to ‘Smith’?” whenever she actually gave a different answer. But they also agreed to themselves that one of the times she was going to get lucky and get it correct.

The fun thing about quiz bowl is that it isn’t just about brains. Sure, there are these incredibly difficult math problems that come up occasionally; but then there are also the questions about hammers, turtles or Harry Potter that just need someone who’s paid a little bit of attention during their first sixteen years of life. Or at least someone who knows the theme song to the “Beverly Hillbillies” (remember what black gold is?)

We never knew going and listening to question after question could be fun; but it really has been. So as the season draws to a close – here’s to all you quiz bowlers. Your classmates and teachers may not be able to quote your team stats, like they can for your sport teams – but your accomplishments go way beyond your final wins and losses.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ode to the Milkman

By: L.A. Kohl
March 19, 2006
(published in the April 5, 2006 edition of "The Bullseye")

Here at our rural home, we have a deep appreciation for certain things from bygone days; whether it’s an extremely well-built piece of furniture that is over 100 years old…or a way of life reminiscent of a time long past, when life was a little simpler and slower paced. Let’s say for instance, the milkman.
My grandfather, who would have been 94 years old in January, was a milkman in Denver, CO many years ago. He liked to tell stories about his years delivering milk, first by horse and cart, and then eventually by truck.

But this isn’t about my grandpa…this is about our milkman.

Yes – we had a modern day milkman. For several years, Sam Stroupe drove up our driveway once a week, in his aged, diesel delivery vans, to bring our week’s supply of fresh-from-the-farm, whole milk. He met my grandfather once, a couple of years ago when he delivered our milk and my grandpa happened to be visiting us. I knew Sam had many more customers waiting for their milk, but he patiently stood, listened and smiled while an old gentleman re-lived some of his “glory” days as a milkman.

Occasionally Sam would rearrange his routes and show up on a different day at a different time; but he always showed up. Through holidays, ice covered roads, and simmering heat – you could always count on the weekly visit from “Sam the milkman." And you could always bet that he would greet you with a smile and ask how everyone was doing this week. If we didn’t happen to be at home – we’d leave the door unlocked for him, or leave him a key so he could come in and put the milk in the refrigerator for us. He became a part of this routine we call “life”. It may have been a small part – but it was a valued part.

That’s why I was so surprised one late Friday night to walk in our door and find our empty milk jars still sitting on the table, where I usually left them for Sam to pick up when he brought the week’s milk. I opened up the refrigerator, to see if by chance he had brought the milk and just forgotten the jars…and there was the note.

My heart sank as I read about how a tornado had assaulted his farm south of Armstrong on that stormy Sunday in March. It not only destroyed his home, but his farm buildings as well – and thus, his livelihood. He gave thanks to God for keeping his family unharmed through it all, and humbly admitted that he was getting too old to think about rebuilding. He would be looking for another job, and we would no longer have a milkman.

I know there are lots of folks, from Clark to Columbia, from Fayette to Midway, and many places in between, that will miss Sam the milkman. He not only provided a wonderfully rare service to his customers – he was a link to a quickly disappearing, past way of life.

We’ll miss Sam…his smile, his cheerful outlook, and his fresh milk and cream. Moreover, we’ll miss the convenience and nostalgia of having a milkman, as he becomes another irreplaceable part of the past.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A View of Torino

By: L.A. Kohl
February 27, 2006
(published in the Mar. 1, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

As I watched the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics last night, I couldn’t help thinking that having a view of Torino, Italy from my cozy family room in mid-Missouri had been an awesome experience.

I didn’t have to spend a single cent to watch Apollo Ohno finally beat those amazing Korean speed skaters. I didn’t have to stand out in the cold and snow to watch death-defying acrobatics as skiers flew five stories into the air, did perfect flips, spins and turns, and still managed to land upright. I didn’t have to fight the crowds to see the nineteen year old “flaming tomato” Shaun White win his first Olympic gold medal and propel himself into instant stardom.

All in all – it was just a relaxing, fun and cheap way to get to witness some of the best athletes in the world perform for a couple of weeks.

And what a variety of athletic skills! I’ve never been an athlete, nor am I a sports enthusiast; but I found most of these Olympics fascinating to watch. From the grueling, two hour 50k cross-country skiing free stylists, to the speed skaters who could win their medal within a few seconds, and finally to the grace and beauty of the figure skaters…I found it all intriguing.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one in my family who found it inspiring. Several of them had the opportunity to go ice skating in Jefferson City the last day of the Olympics. Nate and a couple of my girls could not resist the opportunity to try out some tricks they had observed during the Olympic figure skating competition, and this morning they had the aches and bruises to show for it. Suffice it to say, those Olympians do a good job of making their sport look a lot easier than what it really is!

Enough said about sports; I best leave that up to the people who enjoy it and know how to report it. But four years from now, when I get a “view” of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics; I’ll warn you now…I may not be able to refrain from sport commentating again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A View with Regional Flair

By: L.A. Kohl
January 30, 2006
(published in the Feb. 22, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

Most of you reading this article were most likely born and raised in Missouri. That makes us about as Midwestern as you can get, right? I suppose technically back in the 1800’s we were classified as a “slave” state, thus uniting us with other southern states…but just look at a United States map. It seems to me you can’t get much more “middle” than Missouri.

When I was growing up, I remember a conversation with some fellow classmates - I believe we were enlightened junior high students at the time. We all agreed that Missourians talked "normal." After all, we talked like most other people that we heard talking on the news, on TV shows, and in the movies. Didn’t we?

Those people down south had their slow, distinct drawl (“just ‘cuz I talk slow doesn’t mean I’m stupid”) and people up north had their characteristic, fast way of talking (ay?). But Missourians? Well, we just talked like regular people.

That was before a girl from Minnesota moved to our small town during our freshman year. She spent a fair amount of time during her first few months enlightening all of us to the errors of our speech. She later became one of my best friends, but during most of our freshman year, she sometimes had a way of making us feel like we were just a bunch of ignorant hicks.

I remember several ribbings about the word “y’all." Seems like there were also a couple of teaching sessions on the differences in pronunciation of the words “pin” and “pen." But I distinctly remember the day she decided to let us know that we all said the word "wash" incorrectly.

"There is not an 'r' in the word -- you're supposed to say it 'wash,' not 'warsh,'" she explained to a small group of us that was gathered around during lunch break. (You pronounce “warsh” like war with a “sh” on the end, in case you’re not from Missouri and don’t know how to say it.)

Well, it was hard to argue with her. Even though most of us preferred to say "warsh," we were all literate enough to know that "r" did not make an appearance anywhere in the word. We sat there rather humiliated and dumbfounded, wondering how we could convince this “Yankee” that we really weren’t as ignorant as our speech sometimes made us out to be.

The basketball coach, who was sitting nearby, decided to restore our dignity and come to our Midwestern defense with his own unique reasoning.

"Okay, I understand that when I’m talking about laundry, I'm talking about the 'wash' and not the 'warsh,'" he politely conceded. "But I tell you what -- when a big rainfall comes, the gravel road definitely does NOT 'wash' out -- it 'warshes' out!"

With a lot of laughter and a few high fives, that was the end of that Missouri style English lesson.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Life Worth Dying For

By: L.A. Kohl
February 1, 2006
(published in the Feb. 15 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

I rarely promote new movies. My “view” is that the majority of them are unrealistic, much too graphic, or worthless. But there is a movie that was released on Jan. 20, called “End of the Spear," that if you have an opportunity to watch, please do. Make the opportunity if you have to – you won’t be sorry.

It’s a movie that in some ways is on par with “Braveheart” or “The Patriot." Although it’s not about a war against tyrants, it is about living with such whole-hearted devotion and purpose that even death can not stop it; rather, death serves to propel it. In today’s “don’t give a hang” and “whatever” society, it’s a refreshing and inspirational story.

“End of the Spear” is taken from the true story of five missionaries who were martyred in 1956, by a violent, indigenous tribe in Ecuador known as the Waodani.

I can almost hear some of you saying, “A movie about missionaries? Who wants to go watch something like that?”

It’s actually more about the Waodani than the missionaries. They were a tribe so violent they were headed towards self-annihilation. Through the movie, you come to understand them and the desperate circumstances that they were living with on a day to day basis. (For that reason, the movie is rated PG-13.) You begin to understand why five young men willingly risked their lives to try and save them from self-destruction. You come to grasp why five young widows eventually go to the very people that took their husbands lives – not with revenge and bitterness, but with love and the desire to carry on what their husband’s began.

Some people may hear the story and say, “what a waste." After all, that tribe chose to live that way – they didn’t ask anyone to come help them out of their vicious cycle. Why should five, young, intelligent men attempt to help them, just to end up leaving their wives widowed and their children orphaned?

Perhaps I should let them explain why.

Nate Saint, the young pilot for the group, made this statement shortly before his death, “During the last war we were taught to recognize that, in order to obtain our objective, we had to be willing to be expendable … Yet, when the Lord Jesus asks us to pay the price for world evangelization, we often answer … It costs too much … God didn’t hold back His only Son…” (Splendor, p. 176: Dec. 18, in Nate’s journals on Operation: Auca.)

Apparently Nate and his friends were willing to be expendable in order to reach the objective.

But, you may ask – if they were killed, then how did they accomplish anything?

The group that Nate Saint worked with, Mission Aviation Fellowship, states that tens of thousands of people from around the world volunteered to take the five martyrs place shortly after hearing their story. One magazine, “Eternity," specifically found 600 missionaries who credit the martyrdom as influencing them to go overseas.

And the Waodani? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out how it ultimately affected them. For now, I’ll leave you with the words of one of the martyrs…Peter Fleming, a 27 year old with a Masters in literature, from Seattle, WA.

“[The Lord] has been leading my meditation to the stringent statements of Christ regarding discipleship; specially those words of Christ to His disciples before He sent them out… ‘He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it.’ I have been directed to these and similar passages again and again. I should like to put these truths to the utmost test.” (Liefeld, p. 48, Aug., ‘51 to Jim Elliot.)

After watching the movie, I think you’ll agree that he aced the test.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

In the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

By: L.A. Kohl
January 5, 2006
(published in the Wed., Jan. 25, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")

I think I can say that I like animals as much as the next person. I doubt if I can classify myself as a bona fide “animal lover” – although I used to be. As a child, I had about every kind of pet that I could find, or afford. In other words, ones that cost little or nothing. I had some of the normal things: cats, dogs, a hamster; and then some of the not so normal things: ants, baby crawdads and a turtle.

Nowadays, I’d classify myself as more of an “animal tolerater." I tolerate the cockatiel, hamster, cats, and miniature horses. I do really like our dog, and would hate to lose him – but all the rest of the menagerie I just co-exist with because my children want them.

What I can not explain is somehow along the way from “animal lover” to “animal tolerater”...I became an accidental animal murderer.

Ooo – sounds terrible, doesn’t it? I never intentionally set out to kill anything. Unfortunately, the animals just seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luckily for the animal kingdom, it’s only happened a few times.

One of the first accidental annihilations happened shortly after we moved to our small acreage north of Harrisburg. I was really getting into the “natural” way of landscaping and gardening. I liked to transplant things from our woods or creek bottom up to the yard. This particular time I was digging up a gooseberry bush (crazy, I know.) I pounced on my spade a couple of times, and then pried up a little in the loosened area. That’s when I saw it...a snake. Not just any snake – I was sure it was poisonous. I have never again run so quickly up the hill towards our house. Nate went to investigate, and sure enough, it was a copperhead, and sure enough, I had unwittingly spliced it into a couple of different pieces. Believe you me; I felt no remorse over that one.

The next strange incident was a road-kill accident. I know – most people have mistakenly killed some animal that darted out in front of them...usually a dog, cat, deer, or rodent. Not me. I collided with a mallard duck. It came flying at me from out of nowhere. (It occurred to me a few moments later that it may have been a Kamikaze duck.) I know lots of hunters spend many a cold, damp hour sitting in duck blinds, waiting patiently to find an illusive duck. For me, it took a split second and “thunk” - I had my duck without even trying.

The last one was the strangest of all. A few years ago I was helping my husband survey a couple of farm fields that a developer wanted to turn into a subdivision. A wide ditch lay between the two fields... rather swampy, and overgrown with grass and weeds. It was too wide for me to jump, but I jumped as far as I could, because I’m not very brave when it comes to strolling through dense, swampy areas. When my foot came down, a terrible noise burst forth from beneath me. I scrambled the rest of the way out of the ditch, then turned around to catch a glimpse of a bunny rabbit squealing (I didn’t know they did that) and convulsing in the weeds – then everything went quiet. Ah man, I couldn’t believe it. Only I could manage to jump a ditch and land squarely on top of the only bunny probably within several hundred yards. When we told the kids about it later, one of them said, “MOM! You killed a cute little rabbit???”
Nate’s reply was, “Well, either that, or he’s now a quadriplegic, riding around in his little bunny wheelchair.”

All I know is, to this day I can’t stick a spade in the ground or hop a ditch without hesitating just a little bit; wondering what my next victim may be.

Warm Up with a cup of Tea

By L.A. Kohl
January 3, 2006

(published in the Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006 edition of the "Bullseye")
No, this isn’t a “recipe” column, but with nine people around the house on a daily basis, the culinary arts do consume much of my time. Thus, they occasionally creep into my front porch musings.
I don’t know about everyone else, but my family loves a cup of something hot to sip on a cold wintry day. Coffee and hot chocolate are typical stand-bys, but we also enjoy some different takes on the common cup of tea that you might like to try.

First is my grandma’s spiced tea mix. Every fall, when the first cold weather starts chilling our bones, the kids start asking when I’m going to make them some spiced tea. It’s a fairly common recipe that some of you may know as “Russian Tea." Just mix together 2 cups of orange breakfast drink mix, 1 cup of instant tea, ½ cup of lemonade mix, 2 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. each of ground cloves and ginger, and that’s it. You can also add a cup of sugar if you have a sweet tooth, but I’ve always thought the lemonade and orange drink mixes give it just the right amount of sweetness. Heat up a mug of hot water and stir in two or three tablespoons of the mix. Mmmm, the aroma alone will warm your senses!

The next one is a recipe I stumbled across in an old recipe book. It’s called “Near Coggon Spiced Tea," but I have modified it to suit our tastes. Start by bringing 2 quarts of water to boil in a stock pot. When it reaches the boiling point, add 6 sticks of cinnamon (3”-4” long), and the following spices tied up in a coffee filter: 2 tsp. whole cloves, 1 tsp. ground ginger and 1 tsp. ground allspice. Allow this to boil for ten minutes, then stir in twelve tea bags, 2 c. sugar, ½ (12 oz) can of orange juice, 1 (12 oz) can of grape juice, ¼ c. lemon juice, and 4 more quarts of water. Return to a slow boil, and boil gently for at least ten minutes, then remove tea bags and spice bag. This has a wonderful aroma as well, and can serve a large crowd as it makes over two gallons.

I’ve saved our most memorable tea recipe for last – chai. I learned how to make it when our family spent a couple months in India during the winter of 2001. It was a daily experience while we were there, but now it is just an occasional treat. The chai we were taught to make in India has little resemblance to the chai mixes you can now purchase at the grocery store. Maybe it’s kind of like the difference between a cappuccino mix from the store, and a cappuccino you buy in your local coffee shop. Anyway, traditional chai is more or less just hot, sweet tea with lots of milk. Different spices are often added, the most common being black pepper. I know it sounds weird – but give this recipe a try sometime and see what you think.

Boil 5 cups of water, then add 6 tea bags and ¼ to ½ tsp. of ground black pepper (we like the ½ tsp. amount, but you may want to start with the ¼ tsp. amount.) Reduce heat and simmer this mixture for about 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, and stir in ½ c. sugar and 3 cups of whole milk (or 2 cups of cream). Reheat this mixture. At this point, you can strain out the black pepper and serve – or, just dip out your cup of chai and be careful not to take the last swallow! If the black pepper variety of chai is not to your liking, then you can try substituting spices like cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom.

Whether you are a committed tea drinker or not, I would highly recommend any of these to help chase away a bad case of wintry cabin fever.