Smokey Shadow

When we were kids, us siblings decided to sleep overnight in the huge haymow of the barn. Sleep in the hay! yea! (insert picture of actual barn)old barn

A big yard light gave off enough light through the top of the flopped open barn door to see enough, and enough dark to sleep. Maybe. The 12 foot wide barn door hung down on hinges attached to the lower header. It was big enough to climb up and sit on. One could view the whole farm yard from there. You can see the door in the picture between the two top windows.

  Rumors of cougar sightings didn’t daunt us at all. We were safe in the barn, or so we thought.

In the middle of the night we heard some very loud scratching on the side of the barn. No one moved. We quit breathing as the shadow of a monster cat walked across the back wall of the haymow. The shadow was 12 feet tall and his tail twitched slowly back and forth as if deciding what to do.

  I’ll speak for myself here as my siblings probably have various traumatic memories. Panic was my first temptation. A nano-second later my second thought was to blame my siblings for going along with the idea of sleeping in the middle of the haymow in  very confined sleeping bags. Cougar bait, that’s what we were.

My third thought was to turn around and look that cat in the eye. If we were going to be eaten, I wanted to look that cat in the eye. Well, um,  I kinda wanted to look that cat in the eye (with one eye?)

It was one of the barn cats on a leisurely stroll across the big door header highlighted by the yard light. It cast a huge scary shadow on the back wall. It was probably the same cat that had somehow gotten into the house (cats not allowed in house on the farm) and in the middle of the night had slowly walked down all the piano keys. That time I figured it was the death angel playing a hair raising music back drop for what he was about to do with one of us, probably me. (ya, haywire imagination here).

“Smokey” someone muttered

Now, as down through all of life, My siblings and I have faced our fears. There is always a fear, always scary shadows with more to come as we log in more time and experiences  in this life.

  I have learned and relearned to face the fear and quit looking at the shadow. 

The shadow was filled with a million imaginations while smokey strolled the doorway.

My siblings and I recently lost Mom, then Dad. Our parents looked cancer in the eye. They strolled, hobbled and passed through the valley of death. They both knew personally the Lord as their Shepherd. They both displayed a peace that passes all understanding to the rest of us. They both walked through the doorway of death into eternal light while we as siblings could only see the shadow.

Hey, we have scary shadows being cast everywhere. True peace is only found in Jesus Christ. In his words (which I have experienced in my short 64 years) kids memorial stone eml

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27   


The oft recited Psalm 23 was a favorite of both dad and mom.  (The valley of the shadow of death did not scare them)

They lived by Philippians 4:6-8  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.…


Traveling through a small town close to nowhere recently, I stopped at a small gas station in Northern Wisconsin. While browsing through both short aisles for some things to munch on I could tell the young, soon to be, cashier was being trained in by an older women who seemed insistent that she call her customers “honey”. I guess I was going to be practiced on very soon. I hear it when down south but Wisconsin? In the woods?

I placed the soda and chips on the counter and watched the nervous teen gather some courage to greet me. I nodded my head and gave her a slight smile. I waited and then heard her fumble her practiced line. What came out was “How you doing Homey?” She put a frozen smile on her reddening face, took my money and gave change. I turned my  cap a bit sideways, smiled, nodded and walked out the door while pretending to hitch up my pants. Man, those girls had a set of lungs for laughing. I could hear them after I got in my truck and shut the door. I wish I could have made the ole truck backfire.

Aside from an occasional fun moment, I long for real. Why is real so rare? Someone who is really interested in you, your need and maybe notice something about you. “hey, nice hat, what company logo is that? “I see you like hot and spicy chips. I couldn’t do that”

It’s not hard to be interested in other people. It’s easy to connect with strangers with a little practice. Don’t call them “honey” if it’s not naturally you, and “homey” is not recommended.

Go ahead, try it on the next cashier, church greeter, telemarketer and most of all on any little gas station personnel in Northern Wisconsin.


Cold Beauty

Frosty birch eml

I watched the cold foggy early morning come into the light. A magical fairyland I thought. One could just watch in awe at the transformation. The fog had rushed to form intricate crystals over everything. Odd. Something was odd, yet beautiful.

I closed my morning reading, sipped my strong morning coffee brew and silently said “I’m not going out there. Looks cold”. I looked. Three degrees Fahrenheit. I said a prayer “Thank you Lord for our warm house”. In my mind a voice answered back “come outside, I want to show you something”.  I went outside, for three seconds. I came, I saw, I froze. I went back into the house, put socks and boots and really warm stuff on and headed out with the camera.  Click on any picture and click the slide show.

Sigh…I almost missed it. I almost missed the stirring of my soul from depths within me. The combination of beauty, microscopic intricacy, emotion and frigid coldness strummed my inner heartstrings.

And the odd part? There was only frost on one side of the fence. Many of the trees were frosted on one side. Anything exposed to the tiny bit of air movement west to east had frost on the west side only.

It reminded me of a lot of people I know, warm to their group of friends and cold to the rest of the world. I came back into the house with cold camera fingers and another prayer on my mind “Lord help me to keep the frost off both sides of my heart”

Cold is beautiful, but only sometimes.




Wintering In Spirit

How does one fight depression?

I spend most winters slugging through a depression as do about 15% of the population. Right now I am waiting for the sun to peek out and quickly set from several days of moody weather. The clouds are lifting weather wise. My personal clouds seem to have settled in for awhile. However, I manage those clouds well, for moments, sometimes days, okay maybe for a little while. Take a peek at my world (pausing to grab the camera here) as I attempt to take action steps which are doubly hard as depression saps energy.

Getting out and doing something is the hardest thing to do. Even pursuing passions is hard. Very hard. Below are some action steps that I take or have taken intentionally. My first two pictures…tonight’s sunset. I wish they lasted more than five minutes. Jan 25 sunset 2020 emlsun lit ice 2eml

Seeing beauty in nature helps my inner being. It’s an action step and I love it anytime.

Back yard 2eml
Another action step: I crawled up on the roof for perspective…with the camera…last week
Fire embers to stare at
I often build a fire in the woods in the snow. There is something about staring into a fire, pondering life and thinking deeply.
tracy stir fry eml
Cooking something different: another action step to ward off depression.
colorado 2013 (4)
Taking a winter vacation. Mountain skiing or winter camping in the snow in remote BWCAW…I love both. This is keystone Colorado.
He Restores my soul eml (2)
One midwinter, My wife and I joined a team to Guatemala to help build homes.
Gray Squirrel in sumac 2eml
I watch 3 squirrels out our living room window often. Picture taken from our living room
Fall Oak in winter eml
My best action step is just getting out in nature to notice analogies of life (when not fishing).

This little oak tree refused to let Autumn go. There are so many things I don’t want to let go. If I could figure out how to let my depression go, I would. Maybe I reflect too much or maybe it’s as simple as a lack of vitamin D or the body processing the D poorly. Whatever the case, I refuse to become an obese couch potato.

I however am open to your suggestions. How do you fight the doldrums of winter? I have seen doctors on this issue. They tell me I have plenty of company in this world. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that my relationship with God is my foundation and my wife is a very stable rock in my life. I find strength to get out there. There is also a depth of being in walking through the valleys of life on many levels. I prefer being on the mountain top though. For now, the roof will do. Hey, I’m in Wisconsin and I have a great job…meanwhile, I love the snow and cold outside but my personal winter inside is hard.


Ice fishing cp eml
Yep, gotta get out on the lake more…who wants to go ice fishing?

Cold Cold Hands

“Grandpa, my hands are cold and I can’t find my gloves” said a small whimpering six year old voice behind me. I laid down my ice fishing auger and turned to see two little bare red hands extended out to me in the freezing temperatures. No gloves, 100 yards away from the semi-warm fish house, freezing temperatures with below zero wind chill and my grandson had wandered across the ice to find me with no gloves on. I had asked him to stay in the fish house while I drilled more holes to look for better fishing. He didn’t.

I took off my gloves and cradled his in my warm hands and gently cradled them while warming them. While he tried unsuccessfully to hide sniffles I was feeling my own father cradling my hands 59 years ago while adventuring in the woods to look for the perfect Christmas tree. I had managed to get very cold, was near death and I was only five. My father told how his much older brother had warmed his hands at -30 temperatures as they gathered firewood. His brother also told him how to keep his hands warm when they start getting cold as he told me and as I had told my son (another story) and now my grandson.

It’s not good to be cold.

My wife and I  stayed warm that day, caught fish

All other rules are associated with this rule. Another rule: don’t get wet (because you will get cold). Another: wear layers of warm enough clothes to keep you warm (or you will get cold). Yet another: keep active (or you will get cold).

My grandson violated about 10 rules for staying warm. After drilling holes through 18″ of ice and setting up our fold up fishing shelter, little man stepped into one of the 10″ augured holes up to his thigh in the icy water. I took his boot and sock off, wrung out the sock and boot lining, dumped the water out of his boot, took one of my boots off and a wool sock and put it on him. It was so big I folded it back over the foot for a double layer. I found a plastic bag to keep the sock and foot dry and put it up to his thigh under the pant-leg to keep him dry. Note to self: bring extra little clothing and gear next time. My grandson then left his gloves outside on the lake (lost them temporarily) because the fish house was warm enough.

Winter Pike on a spoon email
Catching fish through the ice with a stick, line and hook…it works well

My Perspective: it was a half mile hike across the lake against a chilly breeze pulling a sled loaded with all the ice fishing gear. I was hot and sweaty in the 15 minutes it took to get to the pickup at a brisk walk. My grandson sobbed all the way while I encouraged him to keep his hands (with his found gloves) under the armpits and keep moving to stay warm.

Grandsons perspective: We were miles from the pickup and grandpa made me run all the way back to warm me up, but it made my hands colder, my feet froze and my legs froze. Grandpa would’t let me ride in the sled (which would have made me warm) and I thought we would die.

  Some day little man, you will cradle your sons hands and remember grandpa (fondly).

A life perspective: My little guy thinks he got cold suddenly. He didn’t. It took time and a few wrong moves on his part. I knew he would feel warm within 5 minutes of getting to the pickup (he did). He got cold by not doing things to stay warm (as I suggested with warnings continuously).  He didn’t even know he was getting cold and there-in lies the danger. We easily drift toward cold family relationships, marriages, become obsolete in the work place, we don’t pay attention to the possibility of a meaningful relationship with God or just don’t pay attention to life itself around us.

Remember the number one rule, don’t get cold. Our natural default is to drift into having Cold Cold hands.


Life Flight update

My last Blog was from the hospital critical care unit. We almost lost our middle daughter. So many wanted an update, wrote kind words and said they were praying for her. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Stories abound. I may write about them in my spiritual blog later.

Tania is home now under strict monitoring by her personal doctor with a lot of check ups planned. She is stable (medically), has no memory of what happened and struggles emotionally as do we. Tania’s vitals, sodium levels and a host of other things are checking out good. Brain and kidney function will hopefully have no ill effect. She will always struggle with her condition of being born with Spina Bifida and 35 surgeries have taken their toll as well as kept her alive. She has a great mind in a body that doesn’t treat her very well. My wife is her care giver most of the time.

I wake up in the night and check to see if she is breathing…then I check to make sure my wife is. I guess it’s easy to mistrust the elements of life mostly taken for granted, like breathing and waking up the next morning.

Have a Merry Christmas and be thankful for even the smallest of things. Life is precious even when it’s hard. Trust God in all things and keep eternity in mind (it’s always close by) and get to know the author of Christmas




The Life Flight Helicopter sat on the pad ready. The local critical team had her intubated and loaded with IV’s, bundled and ready to fly. Small plows were clearing the snow laden lanes. 90 minutes had gone by when seconds counted. Our daughter might die. All the medical centers said they were out of beds. There was no room.

I imagined she would be welcomed into eternity soon. I prayed “Jesus, this isn’t funny but its ironic that no one had room for you either on that first Christmas. Are you going to say to my daughter… there was no room for you in your world so I took you home to mine?”

A critical care unit found room and she was loaded and they were gone in a whirlwind of snow. We drove through the aftermath of the storm and found our daughter still alive but still unresponsive. More waiting. More praying. No more speculation. we are numb.

A couple of days and she could breathe on her own. Around mid day my wife was giving her a hug and her eyes drooped open for a bit and we heard a ragged “hi’ and she closed her eyes. My emotionally numb balloon burst. It was the most mind blowing word. “HI” meant she was coming back to our world. There was hope.

I reminisced about the hundreds of ways “HI” is used and understood. This “Hi” added a new level of meaning. It topped them all…except for the time when I was 11 years old and woke up to say “hi” to my parents (another time to tell). wait..another “hi” ranks higher. That first Christmas when Joseph, Mary and then local shepherds looked into the eyes of the newborn baby Jesus and said “hi” to God who became flesh. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to realize what was really going on.  This is the ultimate “HI”.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. John 1:14

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28


I’m writing from a hospital room. My wife and I have lived a month or more in the last 5 days. We have aged years. Our daughter is alive and getting better. We wish you a Merry Christmas and hope you have said “HI” to Jesus. 

This Christmas, Take Good Pictures

I Love Christmas

This year (Day 1 ) we celebrated Thanksgiving with most of my siblings. Day 2 We went to a nephews wedding reception. Day 3 We celebrated Christmas early with our youngest and family.  Three continuous days of celebration during the seasons first big snowstorm. I brought my camera.Frosty Tree 2 eml

I highly recommend taking purposeful pictures. Aside from hurting the dogs feelings (no chocolate for you big guy) on Christmas, a great time was had by all. I took pictures for several reasons and those reasons tend to guide how, when and where the camera is pointed and buttons are pushed.  Click on one of the pictures for the slide show below.

  1. Take Pictures with Emotion  (excitement, thankfulness, contentment and so on).
  2. Take relational pictures
  3. Take posed pictures (spontaneous poses are best…hold it up! Snap…)
  4. Use a good camera…sorry you cell phone users but get a good camera for good shots and practice framing your picture.

The kids didn’t care that some of the books and a couple of other gifts were slightly used. I wanted the best pictures possible with inside lighting but what I really wanted was “Keepers”, and we are all keepers. Family is so important. Important enough to take good pictures. In the end, family really needs to be content with each other, and we are!

Jewel and boys content eml
Contentedness is such a great thing

Then my favorite all time Grandchild picture at Christmas…Way to go Nique! Nique


For Inspiration in shooting photos with a theme, take a look at



 Louis posts a theme in pictures on his blog THE MONOCHROME EXPERIENCE


By Example: The Extra Mile

I often talk about the disconnect between what we say and what we do. I want to show you an example of what one dad did for his daughters soccer team and their families. I think it’s incredible work and I also know this took many hours to produce.

Don’t just say you are proud of someone. Find a way to show it.

Find the time and use your talents. This will be a life long blessing. Thanks Ron!

Image may contain: 2 people, people playing sports, grass and outdoor

You do not have to know any of these gals to be touched by this tribute. Imagine you are a parent of one of these girls. Click on the video link to watch this short tribute.

I have a bit of interest in the Kentucky State Championship game tonight, after all our granddaughter is the goalie and it’s her final high school game. Ron is my son in law.

Go Lady Gators! (from Bowling Green Kentucky) Win or lose they have been and will be life long winners.

Image may contain: one or more people
Go Liz (grand daughter in orange is all grown up)

Update: Liz’s Team wins 1-0. State champs…Proud Grandpa here

 8 minutes agoMore
Greenwood’s Ellie Belcher and Elizabeth DeMarse named to the All-Tournament team. Anna Haddock is the state tournament MVP.

More News
Greenwood goalkeeper Elizabeth DeMarse stepped up when her team needed her.

The senior had 12 saves in a 1-0 victory over Highlands in the KHSAA Girls’ Soccer State Tournament championship game at Bryan Station High School and was named to the All-Tournament team.

“It’s just staying focused,” DeMarse said after the game. “Every game is a new game, so I haven’t seen them in-game in the past, but I’m still prepared for them. I’m still practicing and still know what to expect.”

The championship match shutout was the eighth in nine postseason games for the Lady Gators.

DeMarse finished the season with 146 saves and 14 shutouts.Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor


Could we not be that kind of people who use our talents and resources to go the extra mile for others? 

A Bird Fiasco

There I was, reading Daryl Madden’s “Layers of Colors poem” which you should read if you love autumn, silence and..just read here and the rains came, wind gusts filled the porch, blew open the end door and something came in trying to wreck the place. The grill was banging like a bear was trying to wreck it (which happens here often). It was just a bird.

A grouse flapping everywhere. Those things are dangerous in flight especially when they eat fermented berries this time of year and try to fly drunk. My house seems to kill a few every year trying to dodge those things.  I only wrecked a couple things with no screens harmed and nothing band aids couldn’t fix on me catching the little grouse. Yep kind of little as grouse go but when he wrapped his little feet and claws around my fingers…we had to make some adjustments, is how I will say it.Grouse in porch 3eml.jpg

I opened the screen door and placed him on the nice autumn leaves in the rain. He ran between my legs back into the screen porch. The chase was on again. It became easy to catch little grouse as he quit trying to fly. Flying into the screens didn’t work well. We repeated this twice so little grouse kept me company, I went back to reading until my wife got the camera and we posed for a few shots before I picked him up again and walked him out to the edge of the woods and let him go under a spruce tree in the heavy rain.

Now normal country living means little grouse for supper. Just so happens our freezer is full and I took a shine to the little guy. In a very real sense I extended Grace to little Grouse and let him live. My fingers wanted to wring his neck and grouse is a very tasty meal. I hunt them but a little drunk grouse? Um no.

As I get older, I appreciate more and more all of nature, all of what God has designed including His grace. Since the origin of sin, death is a part of life about 100% of the time.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush??

I wonder how long it will take little grouse to fly again? It’s a life or death question for him in the wild. I have periods in my life where I couldn’t do anything risky. I couldn’t fly. Have you ever been there? then you know what I mean. Giving up is easy. I doubt little grouse understands what grace means. I wonder how many people actually understand God’s grace? If we accept His gift of Grace it means 100% life. Fly little Grouse fly.

I mean, fly somewhere else!!!


Now, where was I Daryl…