Mirror! Mirror!

“Oh, heck no!” Those were the first words that rolled off my tongue and tumbled out of my mouth as I used a new Christmas gift this morning. Seriously, someone clearly missed the memo on Christmas. Granted, I was raised Jehovah’s Witness and was thoroughly versed in the evils of celebrating birthdays and pagan holidays. Thus, I may not be as experienced as others may be on traditions and etiquette, but this thing is not a gift and how it was mistaken as one escapes my imagination. It definitely does not conform to my childhood fantasies of Christmas morning when I desperately wanted to believe Santa was real and that mom, dad, and the Kingdom Hall were wrong.

When I was nine, I recall arguing the point with my mother. After all, I clearly heard the Brother in the pulpit who was delivering the talk to the congregation that morning. He mentioned the name Santa multiple times. As I sat in the pew, my heart jumped for joy. I was ecstatic, equipped with knowledge and prepared for battle. Santa did exist. I heard it from the preacher standing up at the podium. Isn’t he always right?

Sadly, it was a short-lived dream. My shoulders dropped in unison with my fledgling hope as my mom explained that I had not heard the name Santa. She explained that what I heard the man say was Satan. My heart wanted to whisper, does it really matter? We just need to rearrange the letters.  (Sigh)  I digress, back to the story.

This present, if one can call it that, is an illuminations mirror. A magnification of one is depressing enough. The ten-time magnification, choose the expletive of your liking as they all qualify! Seriously, though, how were we ever deceived into thinking a magnification mirror of this caliber was essential? If I wanted to examine anything at amplification levels of this magnitude and detail, I would have become a scientist or astrologer. I did not and I do not! Furthermore, if the magnification did not deliver a big enough blow to ones ego, there is a bonus feature; it has a light! Nonetheless, it was like watching a train wreck and I could not look away.

When did my eyebrows turn gray? More importantly, that single unruly brow that I plucked yesterday, how could I have ever known it was a comb-over brow? I could have been perfectly happy had this mirror not illuminated and magnified that little bald spot shining in the middle of my right brow. That new skin I had developed around my eyes, turns out, it isn’t new. It’s old, it has a name, and its name is wrinkle. Today, I lamented these findings to a friend. Bless her heart, she tried to comfort me by saying, “When I got my mirror, I found a glob of make-up under my nose.”  My words dripped with bitterness as I responded, “Oh really? Well, I found a mustache!”

Whoever coined the phrase, “The devil is in the details” was certainly accurate in his estimation. When the initial shock and awe wore off, I recognized more subtle attributes. Every time I peered into it, the mirror displayed reflections of my mother. However, when Blaire gazed into it, it replicated my likeness. I do not wish to expound on other less flattering attributes, but they were numerous. However, I do have one final thought.

Could they not have installed a feature to acclimate oneself, a phased in magnification to allow for slowly adjusting to the aged reflection of the recipient and a possibly even add a dimming feature for the light? At the very least, make it a boxed-gift-set by including a bottle of Grey Goose complete with a straw to ensure the recipient of this ‘non-gift’ does not lose her Christmas cheer!

Sharon Buhman
January 2016

A Way

The sun was beginning to rise on the horizon. Its bright orange light reflecting off the water could be seen for miles. As it rose above the earth, the birds began to sing. In unison, the flowers released their beautiful fragrance into the air to bid the world an exuberant good morning. From the cottage, Kate stood peering out the window, watching as the waves rolled into shore. She had awakened rather early this morning. As had become her custom for thirty years, she found herself standing at the window waiting for the sun to rise bright enough for her to see the green and white boat sitting on the shore. For years, it seemed to sit waiting to give passage to any passerby who might show the slightest interest. However, in all the years that she had sat and watched from her window, nobody ever paid it any mind. She watched, as her own children would skip by it without a glance in its direction. But, there it stood for three decades. It defied the blistering heat of the summer year after year as well as the blizzards of winter. Even through the harshest of winters, as most of it laid submerged beneath the weight of the snow, the green and white stripe could always be seen from the window through which Kate gazed. This morning she reflected on the boat and how through the years its colors had never faded. Even as her eyes began to age and life around her became blurred, its image was always as clear and crisp, as it had been the first day it washed onto shore.

Startled by the knock on her door, Kate’s attention was diverted to her granddaughter calling for Grandma to allow her entrance. Unable to wait, Rachel, Kate’s youngest grandchild, burst into the room with a jolly hello and a hug. Still standing by the window Kate gathered five-year-old Rachel into her arms, as Rachel asked, “What are you looking at Grandma?” Holding Rachel’s cheek against her own and looking out the window she replied, “See that green and white boat on the sand? I am amazed that after thirty years, it hasn’t changed at all.” Following her grandmother’s gaze, Rachel looked out the window then back at her grandmother. She looked out the window again before turning to her grandmother with a puzzled expression on her face and said, “Oh, Grandma, you’re so funny.” She jumped down out of Kate’s arms and announced, “Mom said it’s time for breakfast!” With that, Rachel skipped out of the bedroom.

At breakfast, Kate sat down at the long wooden table admiring her children and grandchildren. It was the first time they had all been together in years. After helping herself to a small portion of scrambled eggs, she said to her oldest daughter, “Lauren, tell me. While you were growing up, why didn’t you and Chance ever play on the boat sitting out on the shore?” Looking up with the same perplexed expression as Rachel wore earlier, Lauren asked, “What?” Kate repeated the question and watched as her son, Chance, and her daughter exchanged worried glances. In unison they replied, “Mom, there is no boat on the sand.” “Of course there is!” said Kate with a touch of laughter in her voice; “It’s been there for years!” With a look of concern on his face, Chance said, “Mom, there has never been a boat down on the shore. Are you feeling O.K.?” Feeling increasingly disturbed; Kate chuckled nervously and reached for a piece of toast. She quickly changed the subject and reassured them that she was feeling fine. Kate watched as the concern on their faces subsided before her mind drifted back to the boat.

Having finished breakfast, Kate entered her bedroom. Her legs, steadfast and strong all of her life, had begun to shake as she neared the window. With her eyes squeezed shut, she kept telling herself, “It must be there. It must.” As she hesitantly opened her eyes and looked, a smile spread across her face. It was there. She walked away from the window, and remembered a chorus she used to hear in church. The words were taken from the Old Testament scriptures. She was surprised that after all the years she could still remember these words, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me. He will be my guide. Hold me closely to His side. With each new day, God will make a way.” Astonished by the words, she scrambled back to the window to once again find the boat. For the rest of the day, she alternately laughed and cried as she looked out the window at a boat that was placed there for her eyes only.

Chance and Lauren were indeed correct. There had never been a boat down on the shore patiently waiting to make passage for them if they were ever in need. It was only visible to Kate. She now realized why the snow never completely buried it, why the colors never faded despite her failing eyesight. She understood. Sometimes, in the midst of the most difficult seasons of life, when the waters are running too deep, the blizzards too overwhelming, the fires too great, all we really need to know is there is ‘a way’ of escape. Such knowledge of ‘a way’ gives us the courage and strength we need to overcome in the midst of adversity. The vision of that green and white boat before her on the sandy beach had been the anchor that Kate held onto when she felt the need. It was God’s way of saying, “Kate, I will make a way for you where there seems to be no way.”

Sharon Buhman
August 2000


Drandonake! That was my first thought when suddenly awakened at 3 a.m. Peering through the mini blinds, the sticker identifying the window’s size, type and manufacturing company was still affixed to it. The light reflected off the patio ceiling giving the cedar a beautiful golden glow. Inside the room, I could see the black ceiling fan, round and round it went. Filling the room was the sound of the oscillating floor fan humming rhythmically and our two pugs snoring softly as they slumbered at the foot of the bed. A sudden tightening hit my chest and tears began to burn my eyes.

“It’s hot in here!” said Shirley, interrupting my sudden swell of emotion.

“Want me to lower the A.C.?” I said, choking back any sign of distress in my voice.

“Would you?”

“Sure.” I said as my feet hit the cold, dusty cement floor.

As I rounded the corner of the bed, the tears spilled over my lids and down my cheek. I could see the hallway light shining beneath the bedroom door. That light meant the kids were awake. I quickly wiped the wetness from my face and wondered what I’d say if I ran into Blake or Blaire. If Blake were to see me, he would be less inclined to ask me directly, but he would launch a subtle investigation over the next few days as he questioned others trying to figure out what was wrong. He’d worry, but he wouldn’t share it until later, if ever. He’s my negotiator, a persuasive mediator. If I ran into Blaire, she would ask me directly, express sympathy and want details. While she listened she would decide if my current situation was a result of being unfairly treated. Her motivation is justice. While amazingly empathetic, she is less inclined to sympathize if she deems it deserved. She is the Judge in our family having a strong constitution for right and wrong, cause and effect, truth and consequence. The light from the hall invaded the room as I opened the door. Thankfully the hall was empty. A few more steps, a couple of taps on the thermostat and I was safely back in the room.

“Thank you!” Shirley said.

The door closed behind me sealing off the light from the hall, leaving us in a cloak of darkness. Shirley is my best friend. My comrade in arms. The one who has my back on the battle field. In a word, the Equalizer. Whoever caused me pain must die and anyone interested in the facts will need to figure it out without the testimony of the perpetrator because, well, unfortunately…

As I knocked the dust from my feet and slid back into bed, I could hear her deep, steady breathing indicating she had quickly fallen back to sleep. I was thankful. The tight chest and burning eyes commenced. We were not counting down the months or weeks or even days. We were counting hours. My mind wandered back to Drandonake.

Near the front of our 38 home neighborhood is an esplanade. The esplanade has very narrow roadways on each side allowing for only one vehicle and zero room for passing. It makes mail, furniture and other deliveries to those homes interesting. When planning the neighborhood the developer built the esplanade trying to save the mature trees living there. Eventually the disruption to the land was too much for the trees to overcome and they died leaving the esplanade, an eye sore, void of anything mature save the weeds. Petitions, discussions and investigations into cost of its removal eventually stopped as we were all lulled into acceptance.

Once I was unable to stop and talk to a neighbor who lived in front of it due to a car following closely behind me. Frustrated by the inconvenience and engineering absurdity, I murmured my discontent as I rounded the corner to my home. I could see my kitchen through the front window. To my shock, it was on fire. That night with the kids home safely, the fire out, the smoke cleared and fire trucks gone, I thought of the irony. That esplanade had suddenly become a blessing.

Tonight we are cocooned in the middle of 700 acres spending time with friends and family. I am lying in a bunk bed, in a room built for the cook of a hunting lodge in a small town in Texas thinking of that esplanade and today’s activity; target practice. The last time we were here for target practice it was with air-soft guns. Those air-soft guns replaced the Nerf collection Blake spent years accumulating. Not surprisingly, before the Nerf guns he owned western cap guns that he holstered in his belt and wore plastic chaps, a straw cowboy hat, red bandana and boots. Today, I was a proud mother as I watched Blake. He wore steel toed boots, a pair of Levis strapped on by a belt with a clipped holster where a Glock 17 rested and a blue US Air Force ball cap rested on his shaved head. I frowned as I noticed his Carhart t-shirt was too short. Spread out on the table in front of him were magazines filled with 9mm and 223 rounds of ammo for a mini 14 and a Keltec Sub2000. I worried even as I heard him repeating and following recommended gun safety measures like; don’t laser anyone, open, empty chambers, and finger resting on barrel and not on trigger until safety is off and ready to fire. He’s vigilant, ensuring all of us are adhering to these safety measures. But, I am still a mother, which meant after target practice, all chambers emptied and open, magazines out; firearms in one room and magazines in another. He voiced a slight objection reminding me that in 72 hours he would be leaving for BMT where they will train and groom him to defend this country against those who are intent on doing us harm.

He is an adult, but that doesn’t stop the nagging voices of self-doubt. I should have sent him to more training. The money spent on Brian Hoffner’s class was worth it, but I should have done more. He should have spent more time with David, more time with Grandpa Pete, more time with George, more time with me, more time with family. See the emerging theme? More time. Instead, we are out of time.

After 18 years the maternal dichotomy is as strong as it ever was. Such opposing drives isn’t easily explained or taught. It is unique to parents. It’s not understood by people often heard sitting in restaurants, churches or other public places ignorantly saying, “If I had children,” as they sit in judgment on those of us who do. I’ve learned, when another person begins a statement with, “If I had Children,” that which follows should be summarily ignored. No matter how much one reads, studies, or tries, they don’t understand the drives, instincts and motivations of a parent to propel their children beyond the current boundaries of maturity, growth and education and the equally powerful resolve to protect that child from the very thing to which we are propelling them. Blake, at 18, is still confounded by it.

No matter how old, tall or mature he becomes, he will always be that little boy who begged for the freedom to walk with his buddies eight houses up the street to that ridiculous esplanade. I won’t pretend to know the appeal but the kids in the neighborhood reveled in the entertainment it provided. From that esplanade they collaborated together, created battle plans, established rules of engagement and built a military which they divided into squadrons. They elected leaders and established roles and responsibilities. They had disputes over processes and policies one of which was whether to allow those dreaded girls to join and if so, in what capacity. They eventually voted on the measure, which passed, paving the way for the neighborhood girls to join. The story of how they earned entry is replete with espionage and double-crossing schemes.

It was their base and that base was dutifully named by combining the names of its founding members, Drew, Brandon and Blake – Drandonake! That weed infested esplanade. It once saved my house from burning to the ground and later helped develop rule, order, collaboration and the democratic process. If someone were to ask Blaire about women’s liberation, I wouldn’t be surprised if she referenced Drandonake!

No wonder in these last few hours before Blake departs my mind drifts back to that inconvenient piece of land, haphazardly placed in the middle of tiny neighborhood in Seabrook, Texas. Awkwardly positioned and an utter failure for its intended purpose despite the efforts of engineers, architects, city officials and local homeowners who tried in vain to keep the trees alive. That plot of land served a far greater purpose. The soil trapped within the confines of cement barriers helped raise boys and girls making them young men and women.

I wish Air Force BMT were a few houses up the street, but it isn’t. Yet that same worried feeling is ever-present. That maternal dichotomy; letting go, hanging on. It all becomes relative. He is 18 years old, an adult. But the 250 miles he will travel in just under 72 hours feels an awful lot like the day I finally consented to let my tanned, blond-headed little boy walk alone, eight houses up the street to a place called Drandonake!

It’s All Jumbled Up!

I have finally done it! This is something I have wanted to do for a long, long time. I have a blog!

I’ve always found it interesting how the fabric that makes us who we are is often woven and connected by seemingly unrelated events and people.

What makes us, builds us, influences us are seemingly unrelated, but often timely circumstances or events of loved ones and even strangers. If we were to pull these episodes apart and view them individually, I think it looks a lot like a junk drawer; it’s all jumbled up! The magic happens when we put all these ingredients together. That’s when it looks a whole lot less like just a junk drawer and a whole lot more like life!

This is where I hope to share with family and friends stories about life raising Blake and Blaire! Stories that will be anecdotes, sometimes funny, sometimes not!

It will not be long before you see in our family, life, it’s all jumbled up!