Not Mine   Leave a comment

I was passing through the student union at my local university where I was planning on attending a presentation in one of the research buildings, when I saw the TV screen in the lobby.  The print headline on the bottom of the screen said something like “One Killed, Ten Injured in Ohio State Incident.”

I quickly sent off two texts to my son, as any parent would who saw that screen.

Well, maybe parents with more sense would have just called.

Regardless, I didn’t get an immediate response.

I  knew that the odds were against my son being the one fatality on a campus that big.  But, I excused myself to the restroom, where my mind repeated, “Please God, not my son, Please God, not my son, Please God, not my son.”  I knew this was a lame prayer–what about the other parents whose children had been affected by this incident, whatever it was?

Well, I imagine that God as a Father has a great deal of compassion on those who utter those words.  He knows what that’s like.

However, the next thing that happened was a shift in my mind to the good news, which was “God, I know he is safe in your hands, no matter what has happened.”

I can’t keep him safe, which every parent who sends a child off into adulthood knows.  We still want to, but we learn that we can’t.

And when you know that he isn’t in your hands now, you also realize that he never was fully in your hands to begin with.

He wasn’t mine when he was a wish and a prayer twenty-three years ago.

He wasn’t mine when he was a squirmy, active baby who rolled all over his crib in his sleep.

He wasn’t mine when he was lost for half an hour in our neighborhood when he was two years old, despite the fact that he was my responsibility, one which I completely failed that fall afternoon.

He wasn’t mine when I held him when he was sick, when I cleaned up his vomit, nor when I baked his birthday cake or told him to do chores, nor when I bought him clothes, taught him geometry, and supervised his college application process.

He was never mine.  He was always his, and God’s.


Posted December 1, 2016 by swanatbagend in Uncategorized

What is Essential After this Election   1 comment

What is essential after this election?

I can’t stop thinking about my friends and family who are minorities–and Americans.

What must they be feeling as they look around themselves at neighbors, co-workers, bosses, school-mates, in states and precincts where they know that most of those who voted, voted for Donald Trump?

Mr. Trump’s attitude toward the public’s response to his comments has generally been belligerent, although he did give an apology regarding the video of his crude remarks about women.   He hasn’t attempted to mitigate his racist and elitist views.  Others have attempted to apologize for him, but that’s definitely not the same thing.  So it follows that people in the groups he thinks little of are wondering what it means for them and their children that overnight their citizenship has been transferred to a state which will be run by a person who hates.

How can they not be afraid of what may come next?

And I know my friends are thinking this, worrying how their neighbors will feel free to treat them, because they are saying so.

I would like to know why people who are respectful and kind voted for a leader who is none of those things.  How will it work in our country when those in authority say things that, I trust, your mother taught you never to say?  I’m thinking of the rules we learned as children, such as, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” and “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”  These are the foundational rules of our society.  But this election’s results prove that Mr. Trump was correct when he decided those rules are for lesser mortals.

Please tell me why it has become OK for our nation’s elected leader to treat other human beings with a disregard that would not otherwise be tolerated in any venue.

What is essential now is that people with heart and kindness work overtime to show their friends and neighbors that their position in our society has not changed.  We must work ten times harder than before to bridge the gap, to reach out the hand, and to speak up for others.

We must.


Posted November 14, 2016 by swanatbagend in citizenship, community

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Election Day   2 comments

I wasn’t as surprised by this election’s results as I would have been if I hadn’t been driving across the midwest and southwest in October.  I saw many Trump/Pence signs as we traveled and very few for Clinton.  Thus I had a heads up that the pundits and the surveys might actually be wrong.

So I wasn’t shocked last night or this morning.

Yet I still am concerned.

I don’t think things are as dire as Donald Trump says they are.  I don’t think we need him to make America great again.  America is already great.  We may not be able to claw ourselves to the very top of the international pile, but that is not what is necessary to make a nation great.  Any student of history can tell you that world powers rise and fall.  We have not fallen as far as the paranoia tells us, and we can exert ourselves to live in a way that makes us good and great, with or without Donald Trump.

But as much as I think this campaign was run on a platform that does not align with reality, that is not my main concern.

I call on every one of us to remember that just because our president-elect is, unbelievably, openly nasty to people he doesn’t like, each of us does not have to be that way.  We can choose to deliberately shun his ugly attitudes toward others.  We can choose to reject the name-calling he brought to the campaign.  There’s no excuse for any adult human to dismiss other people in this way.

Mr. Trump has changed the tenor of political dialog from merely rude, to hateful and childish.  There is nothing here to emulate.

But I plan on moving forward utilizing this helpful question, “What would Donald Trump not do?”

It should serve me pretty well.

Posted November 10, 2016 by swanatbagend in character, citizenship

Gospel Elitism   Leave a comment

I’ll just say up front that the title of this blog is deliberately contradictory.

Gospel and elitism do not go together, but maybe I got your attention.

Take Jesus.  He spent most of his time on earth with earthy people.  He did not hang out with the mighty, wealthy, non-odiferous and powerful.  Humble would be more like it.  He did not cast out people because they weren’t cool enough or good enough or holy enough.

In fact, his harshest words (that I can find) are directed toward those who looked pretty good on the outside.  He called them whitewashed tombs.

Two women I know: one of them went to a Christian school for several years when she was a child.  The other had Christian roommates when she went to college.

One was teased and tormented by girls at her school, until her parents eventually found out about it.

The other was ostracized by her roommates, and made to feel that she was less holy because she wasn’t doing the Christian things they were doing.  She wasn’t living her life the way they thought Christian people are supposed to live.  I really don’t know what it was she wasn’t doing–Bible study? small groups?  going to a certain church?  having daily devotions that other people could see?  praying before meals in the cafeteria?

Another woman I know was at a homeschooling field trip when the person next to her initiated conversation by asking where she went to church. The woman replied that she was a member of a different faith.  The person who’d asked about church immediately turned her back on the woman and started conversing with someone else.

There is an open invitation to the table to sit down with Jesus, but, are people going to want to sit down with the ones who are already there?

If we ask them to come join us–will they have any desire to do so if we are hypocritical, self-absorbed, judgmental, and cruel?

Posted November 3, 2016 by swanatbagend in the church

5,000 miles   Leave a comment

Disclaimer: This is not a polished blog entry (if you have experienced that here before–maybe you haven’t).  This is a rough journal of impressions of our recent trip to Arizona.  Thanks to my husband for providing a note pad which I used up, since this writer foolishly left home without one.  I didn’t forget anything else, however.


Best moments:

Seeing my aunt and cousins in Scottsdale Arizona

The Milky Way at the Needles area of Canyonlands

The hummingbird pavilion at the Sonora Desert Museum

The covey of quails in our campsite

The desert millipede who was almost six inches long

Seeing Neptune while at Kitt Peak, first time ever

Sunset view from Kitt Peak

The slivery new moon and Venus at Canyonlands

Meeting a pair of entomologists from University of Cal Riverside at the Canyonlands Visitor Center

Marshmallows in the dark at Durango–you know who you are



10/1/16 There’s something about an open vista that gives perspective.  That’s why road trips, especially those to west, where you can see for twenty–thirty miles, are so helpful.  Seeing into the distance — being surrounded by the big picture — by definition, these experiences allow one to place oneself in the world.  At a literally level and in a personal way.  It’s not just metaphorical.  If you can get a view of the world, you will be more correctly placed in the world.  You will know better who you are.

Will I regret spending the last 17 years homeschooling when I get to the end of the process?

I have passed up other opportunities, mostly because I just didn’t have the energy. But if I had chosen a different route — a career, to work on a novel, would that work be more rewarding or meaningful than the way I have spent my life now?  I chose to invest my energy in being present with my kids.  I chose to spend time with people — the three of them, and the others our lives intersected with.  I’m not saying that this choice is the ultimately superior one for every family.  Not at all.  Each person has a gift to contribute to the world with her life, and God knows it.  I chose this way which led on to way, and no, I never did come back.  Do I regret not doing the other things instead?  I can’t.  I don’t.  No.  I had a time and a place to be with some people and I lived that.  What would my kids’ lives look like right now if we had not homeschooled?



Arkansas River morning.  Traveling the valley from Cañon City to Salida.  Gold and orange on the mountains.  Smooth glide of water over the stones rounded in the river.

Afternoon north of Pagosa Springs.  The most perfect valley I’ve ever seen.  Dimpling pools, streams, meadows, pines, aspen and sunlight shedding more gold over the gold already there.  Almost no sign of humans, except for a few fences and a road leading off.  Cliffs and pine forest on either side as we dropped downward alongside the water.



The ridges running north-south around Durango vanish in an amazing vista as we head west toward Cortez and pass over the major ridge.  Pink covered fins rise to the left — we can see for miles — maybe 50.  Down the other side, the bronze, brass and gold of the hillsides is interspersed with twenty shades of yellow of the aspen and willow.  The sky is vivid blue between the clouds.  And a strong wind from the south blasts us refreshingly.



Canyonlands–the Needles.

No cell phone reception.


Blue sky.  Red rocks.  White cirrus clouds.  Green pines.

One tries to breathe in and bottle the sky somehow — take it in in huge gasps.  As if one could keep it, as if time, air, life, were collectible/salvageable/could be contained.  As if, if one tried hard enough concentrating one’s power of will that one could tame or retain blue space.  But like the place it is untameable and uncollectable.

Does one always travel with the past when in the national parks?  I find today I have Mom, Dad, my brother and my oldest son with me as I go from rock to rock.  They were with me before in parks in Utah, and so I find they still are.



Last night watching the sunset at Pothole Point, my twelve-year-old said he was thinking of the song about if all the stalks on earth were quills and all the seas ink, the sky would still not be great enough to contain would you could write about God’s greatness.  I asked him why he thought of that song.  He said it was because of all the amazing sights he had seen over the last three days.  That had included a night sky ranger show bringing in the arts, including references to Stars by Emily Bronte and Starry Night by Van Gogh, readings from Asimov, with the most incredible view of the Milky Way ever–it lit up the night sky–he said all the skies on every planet in the universe would not be big enough to contain that message.



Many honeybees on ubiquitous yellow flowers on scrubby plants.  At Goblin Valley and at Glen Canyon.  Where can they have their hives?

Over the Colorado River between Cataract Canyon and Lake Powell.  On the mighty Colorado goes to erode another layer of the Grand Canyon, as I roll on with my family toward another chapter of our journey.

NE Arizona south of the Monument Valley area.  It just goes and goes and goes.  We drove for over six hours today getting from north of Lake Powell to the Glen Canyon Dam.  The immensity of rock, sagebrush, the pavement rolling ahead of us in a swoop on a straight for miles–3, 10, 30?  I can’t tell.  I just can’t comprehend how much space and how few people to make it home.  Elemental.  Rock, air, fire and few plants.

I have a fun chat with a young Frenchman in the laundromat in Page.  He is visiting the southwest, sandwiched in between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with his girlfriend.



NE Arizona is bare and rocky.  And amazing.  I note on my map the entire area is the Navaho Nation and the Hopi reservation.  Page is the only city out there.  I can see the evidence of white greed.  Amazing the canyons may be, but fertile and pleasant, they aren’t.  Miles–miles–miles of openness.  Your eyes hurt from all the light.  I don’t think Montana has the sole ownership of the title “Big Sky Country” any more.

Lake Powell is a shock after hours of driving in rock.  Turquoise blue water, bizarre.

Flagstaff is my last dose of sniffing pine trees and feel cool air before I must trade ponderosas for saguaros.  But they are blah.

Los Muertos peach salsa, where chips go to die.



Unusual sign at a rest area: “Do not unload livestock at rest area.”  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to do so.  Also, “beware of bees.”  Africanized bees buzzing around the water fountains at the rest area put me off getting a drink.  But I wonder if the ones I almost touched at Goblin Valley were also Africanized? no way to tell by looking.

Late night last night at the Lowell Observatory.  We saw M15 at the Clark telescope and the Ring Nebula at the McAllister Telescope Dome on a 16 inch Cassegrain.  Cool mountain night with a few lonely crickets and many, many trains passing through Flagstaff.  The Clark is the telescope which was used for the observations that led to the discovery of Pluto.



Spent last night at Usery Mountain State park east of Phoenix.  Had a great Mexican dinner at Los Olivos with my aunt and cousins.   It had been six years since I’d seen my aunt and 19 since I’d seen the cousins.

The water tap at our campsite had a slow drip despite our efforts to tighten it down, but this attracted quite a few creatures: bees, a curve-billed thrasher, a grey bird with yellow in it, what looked like a flicker but may have been a Gila woodpecker and a chipmunk.  The thrasher gave us quite a few meaningful looks from its orange eye.  Early this morning, I was delighted before sunrise by an adorable covey of Gambel’s quail visiting the tap and our site.  I shadowed them throughout the campground trying to get pictures, as they hurried away from me muttering amongst themselves with their alert crests sounding the alarum.  Saw them three times, but not after the sun was actually up.  Also, I saw what appeared to be two budgerigars and a cactus wren.

Sonoran desert–I love you!  Especially after sunset or before sunrise, the sentinels standing tall with the Palo verdes and cholla rising around them.



Sonoran desert museum: hummingbird aviary.  Bright eyed little wonders tipping their heads to give us inquiring looks.  Saw a covey of disorganized quail ahead of us on the road; the birds could not make up their minds which way to go.  Tonight–Kitt Peak National Observatory: a fortress of white-capped domes on an impressive peak.



Saw these features from one of the many telescopes, the roll-off roof, with a 16-inch reflector.

Also a great intro to the use of binoculars and planispheres for star-gazing.  A beautiful night.  Never seen a sunset from such a vantage point…blue, purple, pink ridges one after the other, shading gradually to more faint colors.  We could see for miles in three directions.



Saw Meteor Crater this a.m.  Have heard about it for years and finally got to see it.  Took the guided tour along the north rim out to the ruins of the original office and house where Barringer’s mine manager lived.  Fascinating.  Heading into New Mexico now.

Made friends with Pumpkin, the v. round orange cat who lives at the Meteor Crater RV park last night.  He was an extremely friendly cat about town, and a highlight of our visit.  My sixteen year old picked him up and he purred mightily.



East to Littlefield TX after a longer than expected drive seeking RV parks in the Texas panhandle that did not exist, via Clovis New Mexico.  This area seems to me to still be recovering from the Dust Bowl.  A desolate and stern country with warm, tough people.



North to Amarillo and now on to Oklahoma City marveling again at how a map does not justly convey the distance you have to travel to get somewhere in Texas.  There is a time warp as you drive the straight roads — it seems to take longer than the actual elapsed time to get 10 miles.  Drive 5 miles, it would seem to take 15 minutes.

Oklahoma, you are a sight for sore eyes!

Rich red dirt and peaceful farm trees in the gentle hills and valleys….and of course the wind.  But it smells wonderful.  A hundred, a thousand flashbacks to my life when I was a young woman, junior high, high school, visiting my grandmother in Oklahoma City.

A side note: There aren’t any Honda Odysseys in Texas nor in most of Oklahoma, as far as I can tell.  Where I live, you can’t throw a rock without hitting one, but I went for several days out west without noticing any.

This has been a trip of extremes–in terrain: from the view of Pikes Peak, to the Colorado valleys of Durango and Salida, to the knobs and cliffs of Canyonlands, to the Sonoran desert, to the vast plains of Texas and Oklahoma–and in temperatures: 95 degrees in Phoenix, only four days after we hit 38 degrees in our pop-up at Canyonlands–and six different stops to see different groups of friends and family!



Red sumac on the roadsides in Oklahoma as we leave Green Country.  Golden glowing grass-heads straining north in Missouri as the grey clouds break up into beautiful puffs–the sun is out.  Another parting after another meeting.  This trip has been full of these which has brought joy–and pain, because partings always bring sadness, and when you schedule so many short visits, you haven’t had enough time to soak in the company before you must tear yourself away again.

This is the price I must pay for family and friendships scattered across half a continent.

God is good.  God is kind.  God is amazing.

To tell you my story is to tell of him.







Posted October 27, 2016 by swanatbagend in travel journal

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When You Give a Banquet   2 comments

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors–for they will invite you back and in this way you will be paid for what you did.  When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind; and you will be blessed, because they are not able to pay you back.”

I realized years ago that Jesus is addressing me with this parable.  I realized that I expect some sort of repayment when I invite people to my banquet.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be a reciprocal banquet.

I just want something.

I became aware that I wasn’t giving others food, time, or attention because God is good.  And I intended to change.

But what I have found?

I. Can. Not. Do. It.

I want, no, I demand, internally, to be repaid for my friendship or my service.

I have re-read this passage probably several dozen times in the past twenty years.  And every single time it is as relevant as before.  It is so deeply ingrained in me that I cannot blame my upbringing nor the teaching I have received over the years or People Who Were Mean to Me or anything else.

As my then four-year-old son told me when asked why he was doing something I didn’t want him to be doing, “It’s just sin, Mommy. It’s just sin!”

In his case, we gave him coffee flavored ice cream for dessert.  This led indirectly to his attempting to fit himself under our bedside table at midnight, thus waking me up, and causing me to feel aggravation.

In my case?  I have no other explanation.

I have been given, given, given to by God, pressed down and overflowing.  There has not been a day in my life that I have gone hungry.  I’ve had a home and someone to share it with me.  When I was at the lowest points, God always brought me what I needed, eventually.  He kept me alive through deep despair and depression.  He gives me ice cream, and kittens.

This ought to be enough!

Enough to satisfy the crouching beast within me who always wants more.

The old man (or in this case woman) who demands from others, the unforgiving servant, the old heart is not going out without a brutal fight.

Posted September 28, 2016 by swanatbagend in character

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Still Learning   Leave a comment

There are always surprises in marriage.  As I wrote a few weeks ago in this blog (, I learned something new about my husband during the process of negotiating plans for a weekend with extended family.

But that’s not the only thing I have learned about him recently.

Do you know how long we have known each other?  We have been married almost 3/5ths of my life.  We have known each other for thirty-one years, which is more like 31/49ths of my life (reduce that if you can).  Thirty-one years is a long time as far as human life spans go, and you would think that after that amount of time nothing your spouse could do would really surprise you.

You would think

Board games have never been a big thing in our family.  One reason was some of our children couldn’t handle playing them when they were smaller,  so we basically stayed away from competitive games for family time and were more into hiking, camping, playing outside, and horsing around in the den and knocking end tables over.

The other reason is that as far as I could tell my husband did not like board games.  He was willing to play Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit if pressed at larger family gatherings, but he never, but never asked the kids and me to play a game with him.

So, logical conclusion: he must not like games.

But this is what happened.  I gave our youngest son a game called Survive for his birthday last year.  I knew he liked it because good friends of ours had introduced the kids to it and I’d heard a lot about it when he got back home.

We were at the beach on vacation at the time, so during our afternoon siesta we all sat back sipping Pineapple Fanta and tried a round of Survive.

The daddy man loved it.

He wanted to play again the next day.

Requests to play the game continued fairly regularly over the next few months, and then his comments made something go “click” in my  head.  He was wondering out loud how the game would turn out, (aside from the fact that each game is inherently different because you set up the game board variably each time using three types of tiles that represent rock, sand and jungle) if we all shifted our strategies a bit, stopped playing so nice, if he put his high value tokens in another area of the island, and so on.


This year, things got even more interesting around our house, because my son received another game–Settlers of Catan.

We have now laid the myth to rest.

Between Catan, Doctor Who Risk, and Survive (oh, and chess!), there is strategy and game playing going on at our house.

And I thought I knew all there was to know about that man.


Posted September 18, 2016 by swanatbagend in humor

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