Think Pink

Sunlight arrived first, followed by Moonbeam. Both summer babies, they were born a little over two years apart. I envisioned for them days of laughter and nights of sharing secrets, and (someday) grown up girls who were friends.

How was I to know then that my vision was just a dream?

SB and R 1
sisters since birth . . .

As a child, I had five sisters with whom to play, and I imagined my girls would have as much fun playing together as we did.

years later . . .

People who knew us and watched us grow up said they had never seen a group of sisters who were so alike and yet so different. Our mother didn’t try to make us become more alike; she allowed us to be different and enjoyed the kaleidoscope of our personalities. So naturally I assumed that if I ever had girls, they’d be like us: varying shades of pink.


SB and R 3
Sb and R 4


When Dave and I started our family, I figured our offspring would have a childhood like mine: days filled with the rich texture of creative playing and blending of varied hues.


I didn’t mind having three boys in a row. I grew accustomed to days filled with rambunctious noises and snips-and-snails-and-puppy-dog-tails, awash in a spectrum of blue.  With each pregnancy, it didn’t matter to me what sex our baby would be.

SB and R 5 snips and snails
three boys and no girls – yet

I just wished for healthy children who would grow up to love Jesus and have fun together as they swirled rainbow after rainbow of fun.

Then when Sunlight, our fourth child and first daughter joined our family, I was tickled pink.

Maybe, just maybe she would one day have a sister. My sisters and I fought our way through childhood days but also made wonderful memories playing together. I wanted our little princess to have as much fun as we did growing up together.

Two years later when another baby was on the way, I thought perhaps my dream would come true. After all, how could I raise my little girl without a sister? I wasn’t sure I’d know how to do that.

And I wished, just this once, for another tint of pink to add to our palette.

So the day my doctor did an ultrasound to make sure it was safe for me to travel, and asked me if I wanted to know what sex this child was, I said yes.

Never mind that Dave and I had always chosen not to know ahead of time because we wanted to experience the surprise of finding blue or pink at the end the rainbow.

Never mind that all four children were in the exam room because we were heading to a friend’s pool after this visit.

Never mind they might pick up on the lingo and spill the paint.

For the first time in any pregnancy, I wanted to know.

Dr. Ward scanned my abdomen, looked at the monitor, and said quietly, “Think pink.”

“Are you sure?!” I asked, elated.

To answer, he pointed to the screen and named the female parts of this unborn child.

All afternoon, I hugged the sugar-n-spice secret to myself. This was before the days of cell phones and texting, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to Dave until he came home for supper amid the clamor of kids.

Around the supper table that evening, I told Dave about the ultrasound.

“I know the secret, and I’ll tell you if you want to know. But I promise not to say another word if you don’t want to know.”

“Sure,” he said, eyeing the children as we passed food around the table, “but not now!”

I couldn’t wait. “Think pink,” I said, grinning.

Dave wasn’t convinced. We knew too many people who had painted a nursery pink only to come home with a little-boy-blue.

Still, I was convinced because I had seen that ultrasound.

We didn’t tell anybody that we knew, and carried visions of  everything-nice in our hearts while we waited.

The boys were oblivious as I laundered pink dresses and stock-piled little girl onesies. Less than a month later, little Moonbeam appeared.

Petite and tiny, she was as dark as her sister was fair.

a mama and princesses two
a mama and her princesses two

I should have known then that these little maidens might not be as alike as I had dreamed.  SB and 4 6 They weren’t.

Oh sure, they liked to play with dolls and have play school, or play church. They liked to color, have their hair combed in different styles, and wear new clothes.

Oh yes, they spent many hours of fun playing together and imitating others. Yet even then, each girl’s swatch held its own distinct colors.

sb and r 8
look-alikes on the outside


sb and r 7


The older they became, the more visible were their differences.  Yes, they both carried the X chromosome. But that is pretty much where the similarities stopped. We talked about it a few months ago, sitting in a restaurant out of town.

“You can count on one hand the ways we are alike,” said Sunlight, daring us to prove her wrong.

Moonbeam grinned across the table, first at her, then at us.

I hadn’t pondered that thought much because I knew it wouldn’t change the way they were designed. But when I had to answer the question, I realized how much they were both right.

For once, they agreed!

3 blue-eyed cherubs
3 blue-eyed cherubs

We found a few ways: they have the same parents and the same brothers.

Both carry the recessive blue-eye gene (but then, so does one of their brothers).

Of our half-dozen, they are the only ones who wear glasses. I admit that it was hard coming up with other similarities.

“You both like to read,” I said, knowing exactly what was coming next.

always their father's daughters
always their father’s daughters

Sure. Sunlight enjoys mystery, novels, and fiction. Moonbeam likes history, animal stories, and love stories.

They enjoy videos. Sunlight likes detective, suspense, and comedy episodes. Moonbeam watches historical features, love stories, and family shows.

As a child, Sunlight’s countenance disappeared behind clouds with a mere look from her father, and obedience was usually instant.

Moonbeam defied in word and in deed, often stomping her foot and spouting words to emphasize her refusal to obey – thus spending hours in time out.

Both enjoy music. As children, Sunlight played flute, and Moonbeam played clarinet. Their taste of music is varied although there are genres about which they now agree.

While Sunlight is able to mend if necessary, Moonbeam designed and made her own quilt when she was nine. It’s true that she had some help from an aunt, and the quilt was hand-quilted by cousins and bound by another senior friend. But the design and piecing of the quilt was done by Moonbeam herself.

Sunlight likes to cook but hates to hang out laundry. Moonbeam likes to clean and do laundry but does not like to cook.

Sunlight likes babies and small children; Moonbeam relates well with young cousins and older kids.

Sunlight is disciplined and can get up early in the morning even if she’s been up late. Sunlight likes to watch movies as she falls asleep.

Moonbeam needs a lot of sleep and stays up until all hours of the night, falling asleep with several open books on her bed, and then wants to sleep in come morning.

They both like to shop but would never wear each other’s clothes because their tastes are so different (unless we’re talking Virginia Tech clothing). Even if they shared the same tastes, difference in size prohibits sharing of clothing.

sb and r r grad
graduation speech in bare feet

Moonbeam never wears shoes unless she has to and walked barefoot at her high school graduation.

Sunlight was appalled at her sister’s bare feet on the platform as she gave her graduation speech; she likes to wear heels and be proper even though she enjoys sporting sandals and flip flops.

Moonbeam hates to be cold; Sunlight is usually hot and sleeps with the AC on high or a fan blowing in her face.

sb and 4 11 sb sky dive
ready for that sky dive

Sunlight is daring. Skydiving, snowboarding and donating blood regularly are accomplished feats. Moonbeam is cautious.

Moonbeam wouldn’t think of spending her money on skydiving and admits a sense of relief that she does not weigh enough to donate blood.

Sunlight thinks the speed limit is posted for the lowest speed one should go. In the first week after Moonbeam received her driving permit, she had to pull over to allow cars to pass her because she barely kept the speedometer at speed limit.

In the past year, however, Moonbeam has navigated her way across hundreds of miles in Virginia without any trouble at all.

When the three of us travel anywhere, Sunlight takes the wheel. When it’s just Moonbeam and me, I’m the driver.

Sunlight is my navigator, introducing me to new shops and new flavors.

Moonbeam keeps me tuned to new people and ideas through new authors, books, and web sites.

Sunlight beams gently, providing warmth and compassion to those who are lonely.

Moonbeam is fiercely loyal once she knows someone well but tends to hide her compassion behind clouds.

Both of them are hoarders, but when it is time to dispose of items, they differ.

Sunlight keeps cards, tags, and receipts from trips and events with friends. She willingly disposes of toys and teddies once special to her.

Moonbeam keeps cards, pictures, notes, awards, and memorabilia from travels and special occasions. Moonbeam refuses to allow her childhood Tigger to be gifted or sold.

Sunlight is bored with genealogy and who is related to whom. Moonbeam will read family history books in order to learn more about the families from which she hails. She visits readily with older people who can answer questions about her genealogy.

Career pursuits are at opposite ends of the spectrum: physical therapy vs. agriculture sciences and a minor in history. Neither has an understanding of the interest of the other in career choice; yet in this case, Sunlight is following her mother’s side of the family and Moonbeam follows her father’s.

saying farewell to FFA
saying farewell to FFA

In relating as a family, Moonbeam favors her mother’s side of the family; and Sunlight favors her father’s.

Moonbeam thinks like her mother and has difficulty seeing humor in family jokes that she does not consider funny. She is nostalgic and hates to leave friends behind when she moves on to new avenues.

Sunlight has always held her own with her brothers and cracks jokes with the best of them, and unless it’s in your genes, you just don’t get it. Their humor is one of a kind.

sb and r sily face
two peas in a pod

When both of them are home, I enjoy their blending of hues, making quite a team.

My laundry and cleaning is done without complaint by Moonbeam. The kitchen, complete with meal preparation, is kept stocked and cleaned by Sunlight.

When I need computer or internet assistance, I ask Sunlight.

When I’m looking for something I’ve misplaced, Moonbeam will know exactly where it is.

While I have always practiced having these gals do things in which they don’t excel or don’t like to do, I also know who is quicker to respond to which need – and I utilize that as well.

We’ve spent time talking about the mosaic of their personalities. We’ve made conscious decisions to enable those personalities to blend into the tapestry of our family.

A year ago we did a long-distance Bible study for three months. From a dorm, an apartment, and home, we met via Skype on a bi-weekly basis. For once, they agreed on a topic, and we connected long distance. For once, discussions didn’t take us down random roads, leaving one frustrated with the other. After all these years, it finally happened.


It’s been quite a twenty-year ride, being their mom. Our girls were right. They are more different than they are alike.

When the obstetrician said, “Think pink,” that’s about as close as it got.

I’m grateful that there are many shades of pink, for otherwise, I would surely be bored.


Some shades are vivid, vibrant, and intense. Others are delicate, serene, and tender.

I’m okay with that because I know the One who designed the entire spectrum of pink. I also know that He makes no mistakes. In His massive canvas of life, He never has to correct mistakes or begin over.

Each color, each shade, and each hue adds a different flavor to our family and our world.

They will always be sisters. One day, I believe, they will become best of friends.

When I think of being a mom to girls, I no longer just think pink.

I envision cherry blossom, fuchsia, raspberry, magenta, cerise, flamingo, ruby, strawberry, and rose.

I think of contrasts: light and dark, rich and pastel.

And I am grateful that, in our family, we have been able to experience and enjoy the varied contrast of textures.

We’ve also been touched by the unique and diverse shades of pink.

4 boys + 2 girls = 1/2 dozen
4 boys + 2 girls = 1/2 dozen. L to R: Jason, Sarah Beth, Rebekah, Tim, Aaron on Ben’s shoulders

Celebrating the Mothers in my Life



It’s Mother’s day, and I am looking outward instead of inward.

Rather than looking at what I don’t have, I choose to claim the blessings that are mine. I realize there are women who feel pain over being single or childless, especially on Mother’s Day.

There are other women out there who have prodigal offspring and wonder if they are ever coming home. Other moms have buried offspring. I recognize that pain.

I know the pain is real and realize, (not to be cliché), that only God can heal.

I have learned that healing can be expedited if I look outward instead of spending too much time looking in.


I  was one month shy of thirty when I got married and a little over thirty-one when I had my first child. Ten years later I had my sixth.

I can’t identify with mothers or women who have had miscarriages, suffered infertility, or buried a newborn. God has not taken me through those valleys although I could write a book about valleys of my own.

I cannot empathize with women who wanted to adopt but couldn’t, or with single mothers who gave away their newborn for adoption and don’t know whether or not they should consider themselves a mother. (I think they should.)

I’ve never had an abortion either, so I can’t relate to mothers who crave to hold the baby they chose to abort. I have never buried a child.

Walking with friends who are living that grief has made me more certain it is something I hope I never experience, even though I well know it could happen to me. Nor have I felt the rejection of a mother who didn’t want me, or wondered if she wished I had never been born.

Sure, there were days I didn’t think there was a lot of love to go around.  Yet when the sticks were down, I knew where I belonged.

Don’t think for a minute I think I have achieved, or that I have it all together, or that life is perfect for me. It just isn’t so. Yet because of others who have experienced heartache and grief, this year I choose to look outward instead of in.

Mothers and Motherhood Should be Celebrated

I remember Sunday mornings when my church celebrated mothers – those days when I wasn’t a mother and had not yet found my Prince Charming. I wondered if I would ever be a mother, yet I was glad to honor the mothers in my church who did all the things that mothers do.

Some of those moms were pretty awesome, and some would probably have benefited from some parenting classes. Some of those moms were the best Sunday school teachers I had, possibly because they had children of their own. I had other teachers who never mothered their own but became that image to their students and gave a security that some of them had never felt at home.

And the Menu Was?

I had a teacher who, on a whim, invited her entire Sunday school class of girls home for Sunday lunch. She had forgotten that it was Children’s Day, and she wanted to do something special for us.

I can’t tell you a thing that was on the menu that day, but some forty-five years later I still remember the warmth and love I felt as well as the fun we had at her house that afternoon. She didn’t have to teach about hospitality; she modeled it. Because of women like Mary Anna Yoder, I choose to look outward instead of in.

Mothered by Others

I had aunts – sixteen of them – who were so busy raising their own children and (by the time I came along) being a grandmother that they didn’t have much time to be an auntie to me. We didn’t do sleepovers and those things one would think aunties should do.

We were expected to finish the food on our plates and help with dishes when we visited for Sunday lunch. They critiqued what I wore or didn’t wear and things I wrote and how I combed my hair and the friends I called mine.

They modeled courage and hard work and following God’s Word instead of the world.

They never funded a vacation for me or gave money towards my college education.

But I knew then that, if I ever needed a place, I would be welcomed and loved by any one of them.

I Belonged

Sure, some seemed more generous and loving than others and I definitely had my favorites, but I knew I belonged. Each one of them claimed me as their niece. Each of them is now gone, and I wish sometimes, like Emily in Our Town, that I could have just one day to visit with them. Because of my aunts, I have chosen to look outward instead of in.

A Special Aunt

One of those aunts was single and, although she never bore any children, she was Aunt Kate to children and adults alike in her community in Appalachia Maryland. She was Tante Kate to children in Luxembourg and Germany where she worked for several years as a missionary.

I never considered Aunt Kate less of a woman because she didn’t have children or wasn’t married. She did some fairly prolific things in her life. Her sisters, all of whom mothered five to ten children of their own, admired her for the woman she was. Aunt Kate chose to look outward instead of in.

Aunt Kate with her great niece and nephews from Nebraska

She gave her heart to children and to adults, and I considered her a woman of wealth because of who she was. If Aunt Kate had spent her life bemoaning her fate of singleness and childlessness, she would never have become a favorite of all of us.

In Aunt Kate’s later years, she had plenty of nieces (many of them nurses) who gave back to her because of all she had invested in them. Because of Aunt Kate, I have chosen to look outward instead of in.

A Special Nurse Mentor

I worked alongside a nurse on the midnight shift at WVU Medical Center in Morgantown, West Virginia in the late 1970s. I was a new graduate and she was a pro. She was sweet, short and Chinese. I was not so sweet, not so short, and Caucasian.

She taught me about connecting with irritated families and frustrated doctors, and how to irrigate catheters and check equipment and how not to let my patients see that I was nauseated. Those nine months we worked the graveyard shift together, she modeled caring for the whole person.

Her patience was insurmountable as she birthed me into becoming a better nurse than I was when I arrived on her unit.

Because of mom-mentors like Lian Lee, I choose to look outward instead of in.


Aunt Kate with her great-nephew Benjamin and the Bible she inscribed with his name on it.

My Kids’ Aunts

I have sisters – five of them – who are single and have never birthed or raised a child. But they’ve been there for their nieces and nephews (as well as our foster kids,) and taught them to tie shoes, to read, to play fairly, and to enjoy nature. They’ve fixed zippers and played ball, patched up dolls and made or mended blankets. They’ve traveled to attend piano recitals and graduations and weddings and baby showers and livestock shows and cheered from a distance when they couldn’t be there in person. The aunties have had sleepovers and paid nieces and nephews to go to different homes to sing for older folks when the temperature was in the single digits.

Aunt Rachel drove from Maryland to Virginia to root for our kids. Here is she helping “blow dry” a sheep in preparation for the Livestock Show and Sale.

They’ve allowed little ones to help bake cookies and driven to Tastee-Freez just to buy ice cream cones for good behavior. Their nieces and nephews are mostly grown, so they’re working on the next generation now.

They’ve babysat and changed diapers and picked blackberries and taken photos and read stories and had tea parties and colored Easter eggs and hidden Easter baskets. So on Mother’s Day, I choose to look outward instead of in and applaud my sisters who have helped mother our broods in ways we never could.


Easter egg hunt at Grandma’s house in care of the aunties

My Mother-in-law

I had a mother-in-law who was the best a girl could have. She claimed me and cared about me. She showered love on me and she scolded me. She mothered me and she mentored me. She laughed a lot, prayed a lot, and loved a lot. She wasn’t perfect, either, but she was forgiven. Her time on earth was much too short; but because of this woman who loved red, I choose to look outward instead of in.

Yes, I have chosen, this year, instead of looking in, to look outward.

My Mother

I had a mother. Imperfect – that she was. Old fashioned, I thought at times. Set in her ways, for sure. Mama didn’t like to have the furniture re-arranged. For goodness sake (words she would never have used), why not leave it just the way it is.?! If it wasn’t broken, she saw no need to try to fix it.

The music we enjoyed was not always what she thought was best. Some of the places we went, she never would have gone. Some of the things her grandchildren were allowed to do, she never would have done or allowed her girls to do.

She was a single mom for fifteen years and she was sometimes so busy making a living that she didn’t have much time to enjoy life. We didn’t have much when it came to counting material things, but we had security.

We were family, and we belonged.

Mama didn’t complain about needing to raise her girls alone. She just did it. She chose to work instead of sitting at home receiving government assistance. She might not have talked much about her feelings and we seldom saw her cry. But we belonged because we were family.

Somehow, after a long summer’s day when our mother finally came home from her bread route, everything was okay, because our mama was home. She was a woman of integrity and there was no shame in telling folks we belonged to her. She prayed – for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She spent time reading her Bible and when she could no longer read it herself, she wanted us to read it to her.

Looking back, I realize there are so many things she taught by her life – things I didn’t see at the time. Those things are part of me today, and I am the woman I am because of her.

Looking Out Without a Mother

This year, I don’t have my mother, but I am choosing to look outward instead of in. I had her for fifty-five years, and I am grateful. When I knew I would soon be saying goodbye, I couldn’t imagine walking through that valley or finding a way to say good-bye. But a friend helped me be realistic. “It won’t be goodbye. It will just be goodnight,” she said. “You will see her in the morning.”

I miss my mama. There are days I wish for one more conversation, for the opportunity to pick up the phone just one more time and call home. I’d like to hear my mama’s voice once again. There have been days when just hearing her voice would have made me feel like everything was going to be okay. I’ve imagined what it would be like to pick up the phone and call her. I can almost hear her voice. And then I cry, because imagining and remembering is as far as it can go right now, even though I believe she is in that cloud of witnesses cheering me on (Hebrews 12:1).

So I can look inward this year and bemoan that my mother is no longer here and that my kids don’t have a grandmother. Or I can choose to look outward and recognize the good things in my life because I had my mother and so many other women who have blessed me all those years.

I can covet accolades from my own brood or I can reach out to others who feel empty.

I am a woman, and I choose to embrace life, here and now.

That’s why I’m looking outward instead of in.


Autumn is Here

Autumn is Here!

autumn road
 Fall tells the same story all over again,
Bursting with fire, wind, laughter, and rain;
Enchanting in colors of orange and brown,
Aglow in the splendor of leaves falling down.
  autumn one leaf
I hear her still calling, haphazardly so,
To the Scarlets and Maples, to have them let go.
And again at this season, the best of the year,
I’m alive in creation, for Autumn in here!
auturmn trees
Gertrude M. Slabach, circa 1981
One day in a writing class, the instructor read portions of stories and poetry from different writers.
She asked us to write down words we heard that struck a chord in us.
When that was done, she told us to take those words and write a poem or vignette, using those words.
This poem is the result of that writing exercise in 1981 at WVU in Morgantown, WV.