Category Archives: Family

A Fair Blessing

While cleaning up at my parent’s house, I came across a folder full of family history materials.  There were a couple of genealogical charts, some handwritten sermons – more on that later – and a diary.  The diary is typed (apparently copied from the original) and titled “DAY BY DAY REPORT OF A COVERED WAGON TRIP FROM LAWN RIDGE, KANSAS TO UNION CITY, OKLAHOMA made by Wilson W. Jackman, Dave Todd, and others.  Lawn Ridge, Kansas – March 28, 1893.”  (Dave Todd was my great grandfather, born 1866 in Holton, KS)

Some of the text has faded and is unreadable, but the parts that are still legible make for interesting reading.  The closing paragraph is a fantastic blessing from Wilson Jackman to Dave Todd.  A couple of months ago Mark Scott told us that a handwritten letter is a warm and personal way to communicate with someone.  This blessing from Wilson is just that.

We are pretty badly sunburned but, withal, as hale and hearty as can be.  I enjoyed every day of the trip and feel sorry that it is over.  David tired of it, though he stood it pretty well.  David is a good boy and always does his part.  He is good company and, remembering that last dinner and forgetting all the other,  I can recommend him as an excellent cook.  I wish him the success he deserves in all his undertakings, matrimonial and otherwise, and trust that he shall be blessed with a worthy helpmeet to accompany him through the “journey of life”, and that as the somber shadows of “the night” shall lengthen toward the close of a long and useful life, when the pleasures of the world shall cease to delight, the consciousness of the close and ever nearing proximity of the unexplored ocean of eternity shall depress, and only enjoyments which afford comfort and consolation is in the happy reflection of a life well spent in the exercise of piety and virtue, may he recall with pleasure the incidents of the journey we took together from Kansas to Oklahoma and ever fondly cherish on memory’s fairest page, the pleasant days of April eighteen hundred ninety three.

As this year comes to an end, and we prepare to begin again, may I also wish for you a fond recollection of the incidents of the journey through 2014.  Even when we look back on the tragedies and sadness we’ve known this year, I pray your memories are filled with the good times and love you’ve known – may you enjoy the “comfort and consolation in the happy reflection of a life well spent in the exercise of piety and virtue…and ever fondly cherish on memory’s fairest page, the pleasant days of” 2014.


Happy Mother’s Day

I’m not terribly worried about losing my memory, since it seems I don’t have much to begin with.  I really do not remember a lot of details about my childhood.  I have some memories of specific events but if you ask me about growing up in general, I just don’t remember much about what it was like.  So on this Mother’s Day, as I listen to everyone talk about how great their mom was, and what a great influence she was to their lives, I know that those things are true about my mother, but I just don’t remember the details.

I do remember a few specific things and I do know that my life has been blessed by growing up in her house, under her influence.  I’m just not sure I can tell you exactly how.

Mother was a terrific cook.  She taught me some basic kitchen skills, and shared some of her best recipes (some of them I still have, in her handwriting).  Some of those recipes might be hard to follow (“bake at 350 until done” – but when is “done”?), but they are still stained with kitchen spills and my kids still love her meatloaf and fried potatoes (actually, those would be Aunt Grace’s potatoes, but still).  I love to cook and I love being in the kitchen.  I’m sure that without her help, that would not be part of my life.

When I was around six years old, two of my cousins came to live with us.  I have zero recollection of the details of how that got started (I’ve heard the story, but don’t have any original memory of it).  I do remember some of the following six years while they lived with us, and I now know that taking those kids in had to be a huge sacrifice for my parents.  But I do not recall ever hearing my mom complain about the extra work, the cramped living space, the drain on our budget, or any other hardship I’m sure she endured.  All I know is she poured out her heart to all the kids living in her house, and a bunch of kids who didn’t live there, too.  Even with two cousins and a sister in the house, I never, ever felt like she was holding back on anything she could give to any of us.  We were all fully blessed with all of her love.

Mom had a way of making me reach my potential.  When I went to college, she told me if I didn’t make a 3.0 grade point average, I wasn’t going back (my high school GPA was only 2.5).  That one semester when I dipped below 3.0, I was terrified she would yank me out of school, but she gave me one more semester to bring it up.  Later, she told me it was all a bluff because she knew I could do it, and I needed the incentive.

Oh, and besides us kids, she also loved her strawberries.  Both as food and as decoration. Now that I live “just down the road” from the strawberry capital of America, I sure wish I could share some of those fresh berries with her.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom.  Even if I don’t remember the details, thanks for your love and influence on my life.


Just because you don’t know them, doesn’t mean they aren’t family.

There is a book titled “Innumeracy”  that talks about our numerical illiteracy.  In the book, John Allen Paulos suggests that we are connected to every person on earth by no more than three or four acquaintances.   That is, every person you meet is at least acquainted with someone who is acquainted with someone you know.  There is a Wikipedia article on the Six Degrees of Separation, suggesting that everyone is, on average, approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth.

You’ve probably heard that you should be nice to everyone, because you don’t know what someone else might be going through.  I’m here to tell you, you better be nice to everyone, and keep your happy face on, because they just might know your family – they could even BE your family.

One of the few times we went skiing when we lived in Colorado, I met a guy on the ski lift who lived in my Dad’s hometown (very small town in Kansas), and was well acquainted with my uncle and cousins.

While working for J-M in Colorado, I was on a trip to Ruston, LA where I ran into my wife’s uncle in McDonald’s.  When I approached him and said “I think I know  you,” he said “No, I don’t think you do!”  After I told him who I was, he relented and we had a good visit.

And this week…well, it’s almost unbelievable.

A couple of months ago I was assigned a new role to provide services to the Shell Pipeline group, including some offshore operations.  So, this week I flew out to a couple of platforms to have a look at what I’m in for, and answer some questions for them.  (My first helicopter ride – but that’s another story.)  One of the platforms is operated by Shell Exploration and Production (E&P), but is transitioning to the pipeline group.

While we were eating lunch, the E&P superintendent mentioned living near Texarkana.  Someone asked what town.  He said Atlanta.  I said I knew a few people in Atlanta, that my mother grew up in Rodessa, and that in his later years my grandfather had married a lady in Atlanta – but I couldn’t remember Blanche’s last name.  He said “Is your last name Selman?”

“Well,” I said, “my mother’s maiden name was Selman.”  And he said “My mother was Blanche.”

Makes me wonder how often we meet someone without knowing how connected we are.  Or how often we pass someone on the street without meeting them, and knowing how connected we are.

Summer is Now Over

On June 22nd, Debbie declared that “Summer is Over!”

“Um, no,” I said, “in fact, yesterday was the first day of summer.” Nevermind the August-like heat we’ve been experiencing since mid-May, the calendar says June 21st is the first day of summer.  So, summer cannot be over – it just started.

What she really meant was that the time for relaxing and enjoying the break from all the school schedules and taxi-driving was over, because the rest of our schedule between now and the middle of August (yes, school starts in the middle of August around here) is packed full.  No time for relaxing.

  • All three girls were at summer camp for a week
  • Whitney went to camp for two more weeks after that
  • Mikayla has Colorguard practice every Tuesday until band camp starts
  • Alyssa left for Honduras early this morning
  • We’ll be visiting the Alabama Tar Pits, commonly known as Orange Beach, this weekend
  • When Alyssa gets home, she’ll have dental surgery (wisdom tooth extraction)
  • Whitney goes to Freshman band camp July 26
  • Whitney and Mikayla both have full band camp starting August 2
  • School starts August 11
  • Alyssa moves into the dorm sometime a week or so before August 18 when she’ll start college classes

I was planning to do the water bottle project again this summer, but since summer is now over, I guess that won’t happen (a service project for the kids to hand out ice-cold water bottles to people working in their yards) (FAIL).  Wow!!  Who knew summer could fly by so fast?

All this, and I really must make time to finish the capstone project so that hopefully by the time the calendar says that summer is over, I will be able to declare that I have completed the requirements for a Master of Public Health degree!!  And the topic??  Heat Stress Management – appropriate for such a hot, short summer, don’t you think?

Down From the Mountain

So, last week I was in the Rockies, and really charged up about seeing the beauty of the mountains (and a few old friends).  I flew home on Friday, and Saturday we left for vacation.  We spent the weekend in Shreveport, then on Tuesday we drove over to Lake O’ the Pines to meet friends and spend a few days in a rented lake house.  In my Rocky Mountain High post, I mentioned that the beauty of any place is really the people.  The only thing that changes from place to place is the weather and geography.

The first time I went to Colorado (late ’70s), I thought it would be a perfect place to live.  When we moved there in 1989 I found it was, indeed, fabulous (John Tefft told me the only downside was that they didn’t have a beach).  But, on our first trip home after moving there, I also discovered the beauty of my birthplace.  I had never noticed it before – I suppose when you grow up in an area, it’s easy not to notice it.

After we spent a couple of days on the lake with some of our best friends, surrounded by pine and sweet gum trees,  looking at the perfectly still and calm water on the lake, feeling a nice breeze off the lake…and so forth, I had to ask Scott “If you live here, where do you go on vacation?”  He said “The Rocky Mountains.”

Last week I was reminded of the beauty of the mountains – this week I was reminded why retiring to East Texas would be a pretty good choice, too.  (Besides the beauty, I know a few people who would like to see us move closer…)

Rocky Mountain High

We lived in Denver for five years when we were first married.  The new airport opened just after we left, and Friday was the first time I’d ever been to it (15 years later).  We did come back to Denver once to visit friends, but we drove in.  So, I’m here for a professional conference for the week , and I took advantage of the opportunity to visit a few of our favorite places, and worship with our Church family at Columbine Church of Christ.  Although I hardly knew any of the people at Church, I did see a few old friends and had lunch at the FANTASTIC mountain home/cabin of our old preacher.  And even though the veiw from my hotel room does not include the mountains (it looks out directly at the backside of an adjacent office building), I’ve been reminded of a few of the things I loved about living here.  Even though those things are wonderful to see/experience, I’m reminded (again) that the only difference in places you live are the weather and geography.  It’s the people that make a place wonderful – and there are wonderful people everywhere.

A few things that I think you can only experience here (or, at least, I’ve never experienced anywhere else):

  • seeing shadows of clouds
  • roads closed due to snow (in late May)
  • driving down a long, winding mountain road without using the brakes (lots of downshifting)
  • wearing a jacket in May
  • a view of the mountains from the Church building (the preacher’s wife once told him no one would listen to the sermons as long as they could look at a view like that)
  • xeriscaping
  • green chili with pork
  • old, un-restored vehicles with no rust (a result, I think, of low humidity and no salt on the roads)
  • big sky (okay, that’s Montana’s claim, but from here, you can see what the big deal is – and it’s a big deal)
  • blue columbines
  • deer wildlife in people’s yards, particularly in the small mountain towns (the preacher said they’ve had bears on their porch, eating from the bird feeders)
  • “ranches” in the middle of the city (small horse pens that are intact, despite the development sprouting up around them)
  • Church family (okay, that applies anywhere – it’s just been nice to be reminded that where ever you go, you can have Church family that cares about you and your family)

Fire in the Kitchen, Part 2

Read that last post first.

Okay, now come back and read this one.

She’s still got it.  Five minutes after I posted that last story, Alyssa called.  She is now 17, drives her own car, is enrolled in a nice college – just an all around good, smart kid.  So you’d think she wouldn’t keep doing this to me.

She called, and says “Can you come get me.”  Um, yes – but Mom took you shopping, right?  Me: “Where are you”

Alyssa: “I’m at the hospital and I don’t know where Mom is.”


“Oh, yeah, she dropped me off to see Ms. Reeves, but she was asleep, and Mom’s not back yet, so can you come get me.”

Deep breath.  Another one.  Okay, collect myself.

I’m okay now.