Friendship is good. We all need to have friends and especially the ones that “get us”. Those kindred spirits. The ones where a spoken word sometimes isn’t necessary, they just know.

There are so many levels of friendship.  Some refer to you as their best friend but you hardly know them and somehow they think they know you. Some are just acquaintances and some are those Facebook “friends” that you accepted their friend request but still have to wonder who they are when they appear in your newsfeed..

But those kindle spirits. Those people. The ones that just understand your words and hear your heart. Those are the ones we cherish so much and feel such a loss when they are gone.

This past week I lost two of them.  Not to arguments or disagreements, but to life on this earth. These two left us for the arms of Jesus. They are truly the lucky ones and no more earthly pain for them. This makes me very glad because of my faith, I know I will see them again. But they left a hole in my heart here on earth.

Susan Irene Fox, a fellow blogger, is gone from us and greatly missed – her smile and melodic voice, both in words and on Skype. A true kindred spirit even though we never met in physically proximity the love and friendship was there.







And there is Sandi.  I met Sandi many years ago, MANY. She was a single mom of several kids…… Her smile lit up a room and a neighborhood. We were instant friends – kindred spirits.

Sandi’s journey in life wasn’t easy. But she always kept smiling. Her love for God and family was endless. She was full of hope.  She spent the last several years of life in sickness. Weak, but her spirit was strong. The morning of the pending solar eclipse she went home to her beloved God and I know she is dancing again.  Some say she caused the eclipse – LOL

She is greatly missed. But I am blessed abundantly for having known her and laughed and cried with her and saw many answered prayers for us both because of our prayers together.

Sandi and Me – 2007 California









I love you girls and see ya later!

Cate B



O Christmas Tree

I have a Christmas Tree story.  Many years ago, when the kids were quite young, we lived in a mountain town in California.  The town and outlying neighborhoods rested at about 3500 feet in elevation.  We were in a valley, of sorts, and the higher peaks went up to about 6,000 to 8,000 feet.  They say the elusive California Condor nested up in the higher heights.  I never saw one while we lived there, but a friend of mine did.

Back to the Christmas tree.  A family we knew asked our family to join them in cutting down our Christmas trees.  The man’s parents owned a cabin and land higher up the mountain and we could go up and each get a free Christmas tree – and a very fresh one at that.  Of course we said yes!

Our family piled into our gigantic four-wheel drive, older model, Chevy Blazer and their family into their four wheel drive pick up truck.

It had been snowing in the higher elevations -really snowing.  When we got to the road, that led us to the cabin, the man got out and unchained the gate.  The snow was deep.  We both set our vehicles into four wheel drive and up we went.  Our friends truck slid into a rather deep ditch.  Thankfully, we did not.

We tried pulling them out, etc., but realized he was very stuck and we all piled into our vehicle.  He assured us his dad could help him get the truck out the next day – and they did.

Here we were in a real live Winter Wonderland.  Kids were running around and playing in the snow.  Our friend was putting on some belts and such and wielding a hand saw.  I was wondering which trees do we pick?  All seemed very tall and I couldn’t find those cute ones on ground level.

With those thoughts running through my head I turned, and saw our friend halfway up a very tall pine tree.  He had his belt around the trunk and off he went – much like a phone repair man on a telephone pole.  Boy did he go high!  I had to ask his wife what the heck he was doing!?!  She calmly, and proudly, told me that he does this every year.  He saws the top of the pine off and there you have a beautiful tree.

I was wrapping my mind around that one, when I heard a cry and a tree came tumbling down from the sky.  He then proceeded to climb another tree for ours.  Amazing.  I had no idea that someone actually did that.

Here is a pic (not mine) of one climbing a tree:

Our experience had thicker forested area and branches all the way up.
Our experience had thicker forested area and branches all the way up.

Here is my previous experience, and what I saw in my head – commercial Christmas Tree Farm:

commercial tree farm
commercial tree farm

Well, we strapped the trees on top of our vehicle and loaded two families (total of seven children) into the vehicle and down the mountain we went.  We loved it.

Now, for the best part.  That tree was so fresh, and by fresh it was FULL OF OOZING SAP, that when we placed it into the metal tree stand, well, it flattened the stand.  Totally.  The legs rendered useless.  So, we had to build a stand out of wood, like an X.

We decorated it and kept wiping the sap off of our hands.  It was beautiful and perfect and fresh.

One evening, as we were finishing our dinner, a friend came by, as he often did.  He made himself comfortable on the couch right next to our beautiful, ever so fresh, Christmas tree.

That was when we heard a creeeeeek, and our friend say, “Oh no!”

We looked, and there was Brian, buried under our ever so fresh Christmas tree!  It was so heavy from the sap that it could not stand on it’s own.  I had visions of us going to the lot down the street and buying a not so fresh tree to replace this one.

No worries, we dug out Brian and he went to his truck and screwed an eyelet in the wall and we tied the tree to the wall.  Yes we did!

That experience has left us with a wonderful memory of a Christmas past.

The things we do…….. (not my pic)


Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas!


cate b

All The Leaves Are Brown….

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray……

I love color and I love to take pictures.  This time of year it is hard to find the color, and when the temperatures are in the low teens, I do not want to go for a walk.  We spent several years in a mountain town in southern California – and as the song implies – “California dreamin’, on such a winters day” – may narrowly imply San Diego or Los Angeles.   Where we lived it was brown.  High desert country and the pines on the higher peaks were surrounded by brown dirt and gray rocks and if the sky was gray, the pines looked darker gray.  Understand it was still beautiful!

One of the reasons I love the Christmas season is all the colors we create!  A fun time to decorate.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  While outside looks like this:

snow falling
snow falling

Inside can look like this:

made by Tineke
made by Tineke


Stay warm both inside and outside this winter season.  Spring is coming, it always does.


cate b

Prisoner of Hope – A Typical American Family

part 5 …….

Our family was, what I thought to be, your typical American family. By that I mean we loved each other, we worked hard to make ends meet, my husband and I tried to raise our kids the best way we knew – instilling morals in them and enough discipline so when they are adults they make good, mature, kind decisions, etc.

My husband and I met in the middle of the Jesus People Movement that had spread across America in the early 70’s. We had joined a Christian commune that worked to serve the many young people in the streets during the “hippie” days – the days when so many of all ages were “finding themselves”. Good times 😉

When we married he was my pastor. We wanted a family right away so 10 months later our wonderful son, Jonathan, was born. Twenty months later, Vanessa Joy was born.

As a minister’s family I tried really hard to raise my kids to be pretty “normal”. Meaning, I wanted them to be individuals – to be who they were made to be. Not to be who other people thought they should be. Those raised in the church or those leaders in church who raised their children in the church know what I’m talking about. I knew my kids would be labeled as PK’s (Preacher Kids or Pastor’ Kids) – but by golly, mine were going to be normal. So I told them – the boys – if they wanted long hair it’s OK with me, as long as it’s clean and not hanging in your food while you eat. I let them dye their hair if they wanted, etc. and so on. Be creative! And they were good – no really BIG problems as teens – just the normal “I’ll use my mouth against my parents” kind of stuff – haha.

About 5 years after Vanessa came another boy and then 2.5 years later, our last, another boy. They grew and I tried to enjoy every minute of it. As they began to grown into adulthood and leave home to “spread their wings”, we let them. We encouraged them and loved them even if we didn’t 100% like the way they were doing things. We knew we had to let them go and try things on their own – while watching and listening to their every move. Were we perfect parents? Heck no! I still tell our oldest that I am sorry for anything I did that wasn’t good for him – I told him he was the first and we had NO IDEA what we were doing. He was basically the guinea pig. He laughs – now.

Our daughter’s decision to move to California was a tough one. We didn’t like it I think because of who she had gotten involved with. We decided to love her through this and pray like crazy that things would go a different way. Did we, as parents, really know what way they should go? No. We just knew that a different partner would have been better. Would a different way still have her here, still alive and with us? Not necessarily. We really don’t know the outcome. We all see only a part of the puzzle of our lives. So we do our best.

She had decided to move to Seattle after the relationship broke up with this friend of hers. She was ready for a new start and it felt right by all of us. This was in November of 2004. She made many good friends in California that are like family to us now.

Her youngest brother was living in KCMO and had gone to California to spend Christmas with her. The middle son was in Shanghai, China studying at the University there. The oldest and his family were just a few miles from us in NJ. All was good.

Until that phone call. That one short phone call that changed our life forever. You really cannot prepare for such an event. We’ve walked through this with friends when they lost their son – but he was their son. It was a tiny bit of preparation – but not.

Bad things do happen to good people. We think we’re good people. We are not by any means perfect in anything. We are human, after all. But all we knew was to reach to the author of our faith, Jesus Christ. The anchor of our souls. He was amazing during that horrific time. We could feel Him holding us. We saw Him in so many people – the ladies at the church we used, who picked up snotty tissues with their bare hands – the many who stopped by with food and hugs – even strangers. Those who loved us afterwards and became part of us. It was incredible. Terribly, wonderfully incredible. And extremely painful.

We hurt daily as a family and individuals. But we embrace the pain and try our best to keep going. It has become part of us. We feel for those who have loss. Everyday you can see it on the news – we live in an imperfect world. There is pain, disease, heartache, violence, etc. , all around us.

I hope when any of us – our family and friends who know this heartache firsthand – or even you, Reader, come across a fellow human being who has suffered loss of some degree can look into their heart and reach out a helping hand. A hug? A word? A look? Pick up a snotty tissue? See past the walls of social standing or racial barriers or just plain old likes and dislikes – and see them in a different light.

To be continued …………


Prisoner of Hope – Our Darkest Day

Part 1 …….

I am about to bring to you, Reader, a personal account of great loss to me and my family.  I will open to you an experience of great loss and grief and, at the same time, great victory and triumph and peace for us.  I hope that you can glean from our hurt and loss to apply to yours or to help someone you love.

In January of 2005 I worked in a small town Police Department on the East Coast of the United States.  It was a normal day in my life – went to work, I knew at four o’clock I would drive home and feed the dogs and myself (my husband worked evenings so I wouldn’t see him until very late) and just relax with the TV or a book.

Our children were all adults by this time.  One married and living about 4 miles away from us.  Our daughter on the West Coast and  a son in China studying Mandarin and the youngest living in the Mid-West.  It was a bit lonely since we were a close family but communicated by phone regularly and saw the oldest often with his wife and our grandsons.

In the afternoon, while still at work, I felt a strong desire to call my daughter and see if all was OK.  I had seen on CNN that there were heavy rains in Southern California and that always meant possible mud-slides.  I called her and she said everyone was home in the small community of LaConchita due to mud on the main freeway.  That was pretty normal there in the winter months.  She sounded a bit afraid.  She told me there were reports of possible tornados and I asked if she was near a hill.  She said she was fine there and we told each other, “I love you”.

Those were the last words I heard our only daughter say to me.  My heart broke that day.

She, along with 9 others perished as the hillside broke free and covered several homes and streets.  A mother and her three young daughters perished next door while their dad went for ice cream.  It was a heartbreaking day in La Conchita that January 10th, 2005.  And a heartbreaking day for our family.

Being on the east coast was difficult.  I received a phone call from a friend that told me what happened and at the time all they knew was that my daughter was missing.  I immediately called my husband and he came home from work so we could pray and wait.  We had to call our sons.  We called Jonathan, who lived the closet and our youngest, Kirk, who was in Missouri.  We decided to wait to call Matthias who was in Shanghai, China until we knew the outcome.

That night was the longest night of out lives.  Waiting is hard on a normal basis.  But to be waiting the outcome of a tragic situation is pure hell.  We are a God-fearing family with a personal relationship with our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We try our best to trust and depend on Him to guide and carry us through life.  We are human.  We lack trust often and lack faith often.  But one thing I can say that was proven that dark day in January of 2005 is that we have a Hope in God that is anchored deep.  Meaning that when the clouds crash down on you and all looks dark – we saw an anchor fastened deep that would carry us all through this dark, hurtful time.

…………… to be continued ………….

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