Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Kay Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all yo' mommas out there! I'm lucky enough to know some pretty incredible mothers. Two of the best and most influential in my life share a name: Kay Baker, my mother, and Kay Wilkinson, my mother-in-law.

Kay Wilkinson

Me and Mom
To these women, I know nothing means more than family. Their lives serve as great examples of what it means to put others before self.

My mother was the central pillar of my childhood. Her sacrifices made everything I was and am possible. She's taught me to always laugh loudly, to treat all other with respect, to sing whether others listen or not, and all true love is unconditional. With her, I know I always have room to be myself. She is one of the funniest people I know, and one of the most beautiful. 

From my mother-in-law, I've learned "the more the marrier." I've been lucky enough to go to Florida with her and about 25 others twice -- trips she has organized with her family. Nearly every Tuesday for last 10 years she has made our family dinner, and every Thankgiving, you can bet I'm eating her food. Whether it's picking the boys up from school, or watching them bowl on Saturday mornings, she routinely goes above and beyond to do what she can for the kids. I don't know if I've ever known anyone who values family more than Kay Wilkinson. My wife is an amazing mother, and I know it's because she has had a great example to follow.

I hope today they know they are truly loved and appreciated. Happy Mother's Day to all the Kays out there!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day 2012

Anna Jarvis is the unofficial mother of Mother's Day. According to information released by the U.S. Census Bureau, she organized observances in Grafton, W.Va., and Philadelphia on May 10, 1908. As celebration caught on around the country, Jarvis asked members of Congress to set aside a day to honor mothers. Her efforts were recognized in 1914, when Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Here are some other interesting facts and figures about the day we dedicate to our mommies:

  • There were more than 85 million mothers in the 2009.
  • In the last 12 months, 4 million women between the ages of 15 and 50 have given birth.
  • 81 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 44 reported they had become mothers.
  • In 2008, the average age of a woman giving birth for the first time was 25.1.
  • In 2009, there was roughly 25,000 jewelry stores in the U.S. and more than 17,000 florists.
  • There were 10 million single mothers living with children under the age of 18 in 2011. This is up from 3.4 million in 1970. 5.2 million of last year's single mothers were owed child support. 

In recognition of Mrs. Jarvis' efforts, I'd like to take a minute share some interesting facts about my awesome mother: Katy Baker, a.k.a. Kay Brown.

  • She was born Dec. 3, 1954 in Cape Girardeau, Mo. to Eugene and Virginia Baker. Kay was the fourth of seven children, and the first girl.
  • She currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • She has given birth to two handsome boys. Brian was born in St. Joseph, Mo. on June 10, 1975, and Justin was born in Kansas City on Feb. 27, 1980.
  • From 1983 forward, she was a single, working mother. 
  • Both of her children have graduated college.
  • A devoted mother (and grandmother of five), Mrs. Baker loves traveling, eating out, Law & Order SVU and making fun of gray hairs she sees on her oldest son's head and in his beard.
  • Not only did her children have everything they needed growing up, but today they have a mother who is going through life with them, sharing in their triumphs and tragedies, helping them find meaning and direction, and is known to regularly put their needs before her own. 
I love you, mom. And not just on the second Sunday in May. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blue calming waters

Sunday dishes and basketball
swirl with singing in the young soft car,
a green and gold bicycle gift,
passing out in a tiled bathroom.
I'm pulled from my body in
a timeless flash.
A sacred oasis,
constructed for rest, for knowing,
for letting go, finds me
in a dying moment.
Mourn for me, but I am not lost,
lying still, on a white linen sheet,
in the street, on an adjustable bed.
The light guides me on a drying line,
through a cave
into a field of green, by a river
with blue calming waters.
A friend waits for me on the bank,
holding the love we share
of a simple melody.
We cross.
'I'm home' we sing.
We're home. And I'll wait for you there.
So we can fade together, forever,
into the sun.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today, my mother turns 57. We saw her at Thanksgiving when she drove down from Iowa. She lives with a friend of hers outside of Des Moines, but manages to come to Springfield a few times a year.

The older I get, the more I appreciate her. Mom has always been something of a free spirit. My parents got divorced when I was 8-years-old, and she never remarried, often saying that she didn't need the hassle. She was always prone to unexpected trips to see the relatives or some old friend of hers my brother and I didn't really know. In fact, if there is one place where she feels most at home, it's probably her car. There is just something about the road that calls to a free spirit like mom.

Since it's her birthday, and I love her so much for all she done for me over the years, I thought I'd get her something really special.

It's a picture of a new BMW-M3. Love you, mom!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Down with Bears in 2012!

I'd make a lousy politician, but that doesn't stop me from daydreaming about all the fun it could be to run a campaign. The campaigns I dawdle about, admittedly, are ridiculous.

I've joked before that I don't understand why predators are allowed to live among us. I'm not talking about sexual predators (a fine and easy target for your average politician), I'm talking about real predators like lions, or stealthy pumas, or giant black bears. Though I'm not sure bears are technically predators -- they're more like hairy fisherman -- they still can be pretty big and scary. Even the little cubs could stick a paw on you and leave some nasty scratches. In my opinion, the whole species is not to be trusted. We're right to put 'em behind bars in zoos. But, is that enough? I don't want to be an alarmist, but there's still a few roaming Ozarks' woods. Let the birds free I say, but lock up all the dang wolves and bears!

"Down with Bears in 2012!" could be my slogan. No one would vote for me. Then again, I don't want to be elected.

There are other things to be afraid of, of course. Like pigeons. I know I seemed pro-bird just a moment ago, but pigeons creep me out. All their cooing and fearlessness and germs. Something should be done. I like the idea of donning a military hat and ranting and raving from a pulpit about the dangers of pigeons. It's funny to me. 

These days, the things others say and think and feel and promote have been on my mind a lot. I'm sure the tornado in Joplin has had something to do with it. It's been all over the news, part of my work and seems to be dominating casual conversations.

I feel horrible, as so many people do, about the ones who died and the people who were injured, lost homes or were close to the ones that died. To think about what those most directly impacted have gone through is both deflating and disheartening. As a result of all that chaos, many in our area seem to be reflecting on the meaning of their own lives. Those who believe there is meaning. Some have used and will use the tragic event to reaffirm their own world views, regardless of whether those views have any objective merit.

Case in point: Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Church is coming to Joplin to show support for tornadoes. The church's Web site,, believes, apparently, that God's wrath is both present in our everyday lives, and totally awesome! It's disturbing, of course.

I've heard and seen a lot of talk about God in connection to the EF-5 tornado since May 22. Most of it has been inspiring: People turning to God for strength; Citizens helping one another feeling compelled by their belief in a higher being and purpose; and mothers and fathers thanking God for what wasn't destroyed.

I get it. I understand why people believe in God, why they pray and why they come together when times are tough. I also understand why they wouldn't.

It's hard, but natural, to try to make sense out of something so brutal, mindless and destructive. The world is a scary place.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

The years go by, don't they? Today, I felt the sun penetrating a spring breeze and realized that my birthday is only about a month away. This summer, I'll take the fam on a quick trip or two, go swimming a few times, and then, before I know it, I'll be helping to pick out school clothes. Football and new shoes turns into Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Before long, the rains will bring back spring breezes.

These seasons are our fate. We're babies, then toddlers, then grandparents forever dancing and spinning around the sun.

As the summer of 1975 approached, my mother went into labor at the age of 20. From the pictures I've seen of her around that time she had long, dark hair and big glasses. She looks different now, but not too different, you know.

As a kid, what I remember most about my mother was that she was there. She was involved. She took me to my soccer games. She saved things I brought home from school.

I remember mom singing a lot. She was always very spontaneous, and very mobile. She was prone to unplanned trips to look at homes in neighborhoods we couldn't afford to move to for no reason after going to the grocery store or wherever. It's a trait I've noticed in myself as I get older. If I have time to take the long way home and turn up the radio, I do. She's the one who taught me how to drive. Now, I'm teaching Chase.

She lives in Iowa these days, but comes down to see me and my peeps, my brother and her friends three or four times a year. This last time she came down, she slept on the pullout couch she gave us. We played poker with the kids that night. She looked at a couple of my stories, and asked Val and I about work. I wonder how long it will be before Val and I are visiting our kids. I know mom really enjoyed it when our boys were still babies. We're already missing that ourselves. They're getting older.

I know what we have to look forward to. Summer's around the corner. Then fall. The long cold winter. And then it starts over.

Mothers know it, too.

That's why the good ones, like my mom, put school work on the fridges and band-aids on bruises. They come to weddings, and graduations. They pinch cheeks and take photos. They make our favorite meals. They play poker, and they ask about work.

Mom, we won't dance and spin around the sun forever. I'm old enough to know it now. Today, I just want you to know that I'm here for you. As life pushes us through the seasons, I'm here for you, too.

Love ya, mom.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mr. Friend

The devil is a dollar bill.
Green, not red.
Its face of death
Regal. Androgynous.
Gaze at his strength.
So formal, this ugly courtship.
A queen in her ballroom gown.
Knowing no love.
Shining God's light.