Thursday, July 22, 2004

Who I Am (and who I'm not)

“A friend loveth at all times….”
~ Proverbs 17:17 (KJV)

If I live to be a hundred
And never see the seven wonders
That'll be alright
If I don't make it to the big leagues
If I never win a Grammy
I'm gonna be just fine
'Cause I know exactly who I am

I am Rosemary's granddaughter
The spitting image of my father
And when the day is done
My momma's still my biggest fan
Sometimes I'm clueless and I'm clumsy
But I've got friends that love me
And they know just where I stand
It's all a part of me
And that's who I am

Lyrics to “Who I Am” ~ performed by Jessica Andrews

“This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

~ Shakespeare-Hamlet

Over the years, I have often contemplated the meaning of friendship and wondered whether I fit the criteria of what a good friend is or should be, in the traditional sense of the word. My sister’s article mentioned that I can go into a store and come out with a friend, and that’s true. I have made many new friends simply by striking up a conversation. It’s just that I wouldn’t want to have them all over for supper!

Webster defines a friend as “…one attached to another by affection or esteem; one that is not hostile.” In that regard, I guess I might qualify. I have many friends, both near and far, who are very dear to my heart. Yet, while most friends get together for lunch or coffee and talk on the phone regularly, for me it’s more of the exception, rather than the rule.

The problem is that I am an intensely private person, and that quality is not exactly conducive to meaningful, interactive relationships. Although I thoroughly enjoy visiting with people when I’m out and about and I love communicating through my writing, I am fiercely protective of my privacy when I’m at home. My home is a sacred haven of rest for me and my family.

I feel pretty certain that this is a source of disappointment many people in my life whom I consider to be a friend, but I just hope that they can accept me the way I am – idiosyncrasies and all.

I have had the same best friend since I was fifteen years old and I am privileged to have married my best friend and raise four sons with him. Keen has been my soul mate and confidante through all the changing seasons of our life. Consequently, if we have any free time at all in the midst of his hectic school schedule, we guard it jealousy and prefer to spend it together or with our family. To some people, that seems selfish. But I don’t think anyone should try to tell another person how to spend their free time – any more than they should tell them how to spend their money.

One Friend
performed by Dan Seals

I always thought you were the best
I guess I always will
I always felt that we were blessed
and I feel that way still
Sometimes we took the hard road
but we always saw it through
If I had only one friend left
I'd want it to be you

Sometimes the world was on our side
sometimes it wasn't fair
Sometimes it gave a helping hand
sometimes we didn't care
'Cause when we were together
it made the dream come true
If I had only one friend left
I'd want it to be you

Last month I took a day trip to the town of Barnes with two of my fellow writer friends, Dorothy Masters and Barbara Lerma, and we had lunch at a wonderful little cafĂ© called Our Daily Bread. It is owned by Kayleen Drebes, another woman I became acquainted with after reading her poetry in the Topeka paper. Two of Dorothy’s friends, Tom Parker and Walt and LeNore Stumpf, joined us at the restaurant and we all enjoyed some delicious food, great conversation and a whole lot of laughter.

LeNore is a talented writer who has written several books. Tom is also a gifted writer who now shares his column with me via e-mail. His latest work was a heartwarming piece about his wife of thirty years, Lori. In that column, he included the following quote which seemed to tie in perfectly with my theme this week.

“This is the greatest gift: to know that someone sees you as you are and loves you anyway.”
~ Andrew Hudgins, in his prose poem “After the Lost War

That is my hope – that those who I have been blessed to call friend, can see me as I am and love me anyway – despite the fact that I may not be as accessible as they would like.

I try to use my column as a vehicle to stay in touch with the people I care about and keep them up to date on the happenings of our life because otherwise it would be nearly impossible for me to communicate individually with everyone. And if I weren’t a bit of a loner, I wouldn’t have the time to reflect on my life and share those “reflections” with others.

Here’s a short poem I wrote a few weeks ago in an attempt to capture my feelings.

Who I Am
By Eileen Umbehr

I may not meet the expectations
Of everyone in my life
I may not win a big award
For best mother, friend or wife

But all I can do
Is what I can
And all I can be
Is who I am

So although you may not understand
Why I live my life as I do
Please try to accept me for who I am
And I will do the same for you


I’d like to close with a poem titled “The Family Friend” written by Angie Forshee from Ozawkie. When I called to tell her how much I enjoyed her poem in the Kansas Plus section of The Topeka Capital-Journal, we talked as if we’d known each other our entire lives.

The Family Friend
By Angie Forshee

My mom introduced him
when I was just a kid
I knew of him,
but I didn’t know what he did.

I wanted to get to know him better,
this old family friend
I wanted so bad to call him,
but I didn’t know how or when

The years went by and we lost touch,
like old friends seem to do
But sometimes I would think of him,
when I was feeling blue

I started a life for myself
and wondered where and how he was
But never did I contact him,
there was always that excuse – because

I’m all grown up
and have a child of my own
I was ready for that step
So I invited him into my home

It took a while to contact him
because I didn’t know where to start
I felt we’d been separated for so long
and spent so many years apart

But after I made the call, I knew
he’d been there from the start
For you see, he was always
right there in my heart

I introduced him to my son
and now we visit him home once a week
I knew my life wasn’t complete
and he was the missing link

He’ll always be a part of Evan’s life
and the rest of mine
Now I know I didn’t have to make the call,
God was with me all the time.

Blessings to you, my friends ~

P.S. The reason this came out early is because I'm getting a new computer and I have to give up my old one so that they can transfer all my information over to the new machine. After that, we'll be heading to Minnesota for a family reunion, so this will be my last column for a couple of weeks. I thank you for allowing me to express myself through this column, and I thank you all for your encouraging feedback. I'll talk to you in a couple of weeks. God bless ~ Eileen

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Our Adventurer

“The light in the eyes [of him whose heart is joyful] rejoices the heart of others….”

~ Proverbs 15:30 (Amplified)

There's this love that is burning, deep in my soul
constantly yearning to get out of control, wanting to fly,
higher and higher; I can't abide, standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire, standing outside the fire
Life is not tried it is merely survived
If you're standing outside the fire

“Standing Outside the Fire” ~ recorded by Garth Brooks

Last year I wrote a Reflections column about our third-born son, Keen II, but since I was just getting my feet wet, the article was short and didn’t go into very much detail. So today I’d like to write a more thorough birthday tribute to Keen.

The titles I chose for our other sons were: Jared – Our soldier; Josh – Our Entrepreneur and Kirk Van – Our Little Man. For Keen, I’ve chosen – Our Adventurer.

After reading through my journals from when Keen was growing up, I found several stories that illustrated his lifelong love of adventure – beginning at the tender age of two. At that time, our boys all shared one large bedroom. One morning Keener decided that his crib was too confining and somehow managed to do a cartwheel right over the railing of his crib!

Keen was always a little trooper. When he was only 2 ½ he would go sledding with his dad and brothers and haul his own plastic sled back up the hill all by himself. But he never complained a bit.

Here are several excerpts from the journal I kept for Keen:

February 14, 1987 (age 2 ½)
Keen is racing to boyhood – it just can’t get here soon enough for him. With two older brothers he wants to do everything he sees them do. He’s always used a cup with a lid on it, but now he wants to be big so he says, “No Keener cup, no Keener cup.” The other day he was standing by Josh’s two wheel bike saying, “Help me please, Daddy. Help me, pleeeease!”


Keen is perpetual motion. He always wants to be on the go.
“Let’s go to shop and see Daddy, okay?”
“No, Keener, Daddy’s picking up trash.”
“Oh, rats!”


Keener Bean – what can I say about him? He’s like that song from The Sound of Music. “How do you catch a wave upon the sand? How do you hold a moon beam in your hand?”

You don’t. That’s just it. Keen is uncontainable. He wants to go – be – live!


February 16, 1988 (age 3 ½)
Today Keener said, “I know what I’m gonna be when I grow up. I’m gonna be a cop! I’m gonna have a gun and I’m gonna say, ‘Freeze!’”


Last night at supper he finished eating his chicken leg and tossed it back onto the platter in the middle of the table. When it hit the platter he said, “It’s a three-pointer!” The boys said when he plays Nerf basketball with them and makes a basket he’ll say, “This guy can’t miss!” He really seems to enjoy sports.


That certainly turned out to be the case. When Keen was about nine years old we enrolled him in a basketball camp at Washburn University. When they handed out awards on the last day Keen ended up with nine separate certificates. The coach made the comment, “What can we say? This kid just does it all.”

Keen really enjoyed the sport of basketball throughout high school, and he was good at it, too. But his true talent proved to be in the area of running. In his senior year in cross-country he was undefeated the entire season and ultimately won the State Cross-Country Championship.

A few years ago, Keen and his dad and brother all took scuba diving lessons together and took a couple of trips to Table Rock, Missouri. Keen went beyond the basic training course and earned two advanced level certifications, including rescue diver.

This past year has been one of particularly “high” excitement for our adventurer. Without telling his mom and dad (until it was too late for either of us to object), Keen enrolled in sky diving classes at K-State and went on a couple of jumps. Be still my heart! I couldn’t believe it! But he thoroughly enjoyed the thrilling experience. Thankfully, he’s decided not to make a lifelong hobby out of it; sort of one of those “been there, done that” things.

Keen’s latest attempt to satisfy his thirst for adventure has come in the form of a brand new motorcycle. (Okay, for all you motorcycle enthusiasts, it’s a Yamaha YZF R6 SS.) Keen works for the State in the computer division of the Department of Revenue and he decided to spend some of that hard earned money on something he’s always dreamed of owning. In fact, I was going through his box of memoirs the other day and discovered just how long he’s been dreaming of owning a motorcycle when I came across a list of “Letters to Santa” from Keen’s kindergarten class. Keen asked for “…new pajamas a new teddy bear to sleep with, and a new real motorcycle.” Well, Santa (and the bank) finally came through after all these years! When we saw the gray and black motorcycle with flames painted on the side we had to admit it looked like it was made for Keen.

Last Friday before Keen drove his new motorcycle for the first time from Topeka to Manhattan, he called to ask me to “shout out a prayer” for him. (Actually, I “shouted out” several prayers.) But that leads me to another aspect of Keen’s character – his faith in God. Ever since he was a little boy, he has talked about God and prayed to God. He would often say out of the blue, “Mom, don’t forget God and Jesus.”

When he was 3 ½ years old I hurt my back and neck in a minor car accident and he would say, “I pray for your back and shoulders last night.” Then he’d ask, “How is your back feeling today, Mommy? Is it feeling much better?” If I said yes then he would throw his arms around my neck and say, “Good – now I can give you a big bear hug!”

Keen always was and still is such a loving and loveable son. Here are a couple more excerpts from my journal that illustrate my point.

October 26, 1987 (Age 3)
This morning Keener said, “I wuv you, Mom. I really wuv you. You’re the greatest in the whole world. And daddy’s the greatest in the whole world. And God’s the greatest in the whole world.” (He repeated the part about God three times.)

Later he told me, “I’m growing up so big and I’m so tall!” Then he pointed to the ceiling and said, “But I won’t break your wall. I’ll be careful of your wall.”


When Keener gets up in the morning he runs into our room and announces excitedly, “It’s Keener Beaner!” or “Heeeere’s Keener!” Lately he’s been telling Daddy, “I love you a hundred pounds.”

This morning I’m making chocolate chip cookies for a PTO meeting and I gave Keener one of the beaters.

“Thank you,” he said.
“You’re welcome. I like a boy with nice manners.”
“Thank you, Mommy.”
“You’re welcome.”
“Mom, you have nice manners.”

A couple of weeks ago I was zipping his coat before we went to story time at the library and he said, “You’re a real sweety, Mom.”

December 2, 1988 (Age 4)
Keen is so full of love. Every morning when I open the door to my room, he comes bursting in and says, “Mommy, Mommy! I love my Mommy!” Then he gives me a huge bear hug and says, “Good morning, baby!”

Tonight out of the blue he came running over to me and hugged my tummy and said, “Oh, I love my baby.” He said he hopes it’s a “brother baby.”

Keen is in a definite “I love you” stage. It’s only 9:30 in the morning and I’ll bet he’s already said it 10-15 times. Yesterday he came up to me and said, “You’re so nice to me, Eileen.”

Keen has become a song writer of late, too. He has the sweetest little song that he sings in the sweetest little voice. It goes, “I love Mommy, she’s so great. So, so great – so, so great. I love her so much…..Uh-huh. I love her. Why? Because I love her because the baby’s in her tummy.” And on and on it goes.


This morning I was sitting on the couch and he put his face down by my tummy and said, “Good morning baby. I love you. I can’t wait till you’re done. You’re great baby. I’ll be happy with either one, okay? I love you.” It’s so sweet.

When Keener gets ready for preschool sometimes he’ll stand on the porch and wait for the van to pick him up. Then he’ll talk to me through the screen door. Today he said: “I love you. Can you hear me, Mom? I love you so much with my heart.”


Yes, Keen, I hear you loud and clear. You have always been such a great source of joy and love for our family and we thank God for blessing us with you!

I’d like to close this birthday tribute by sharing the words from the Hallmark card I bought for Keen:

Son, there are so many things I want for you – so many wishes in my heart as I watch you grow into your own life…I wish you a world of adventure and experience ~ and also the serenity that comes from listening to your inner voice as the world rushes around you…

I wish you the strength to face challenges with confidence – along with the wisdom to choose your battles carefully…I wish you the satisfaction of seeing your goals achieved and also the true contentment that is born of simple things ~ work well done, friends well-loved, moments caught and cherished.

And my greatest wish is that you will always remember how much you are loved – for you are a good and caring person…a man I am proud to have for a son.”

Happy 20th Birthday, Keen ~ we love you!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Live and Learn

"For by grace given to me I warn every one among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought - not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance; but to rate his ability with sober judgment …” ~ Romans 12:3 (Amplified)

Well it's a strange old game, you learn it slow
One step forward and it's back you go
You're standing on the throttle
You're standing on the brake
In the groove – ‘til you make a mistake
Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug…

The Bug” ~ recorded by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Have you ever had one of those days? Well, I’ve had one of those weeks. Last Tuesday I planned to run several errands in Manhattan, but when I arrived in town, I discovered that I’d forgotten my wallet. I had changed purses that day and unfortunately, my wallet didn’t make the transfer. I did find enough cash in the glove compartment to meet a friend for coffee, however. But then I somehow managed to spill it all over myself. Ugh!

“I’m myself. I can stick my foot in my mouth. I can trip and fall. I can mess up in front of the whole world and be honest. Instead of trying to cover everything up.”
~Jessica Simpson

A few days later I noticed a strange phenomenon in our back yard – brown spots were popping up all over. I eventually realized that I had used the wrong weed spray on our grass. So instead of having a dandelion-free lawn, we now have a polka dotted lawn with dead spots scattered throughout. Lord only knows how many years we’ll have to look at the results of that little oversight.

“People who seem most at home with themselves are not rocked by their faux pas. They are able to move past their flub-ups without absorbing them into their sense of worth.”
~ Patsy Clairmont, Women of Faith

Well, I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it. I think we have to learn not to take ourselves too seriously, because none of us makes it through life without experiencing our own share of personal humiliations and ego busters. It’s always better to be honest and real about our mistakes rather than pretending that we never make any. A friend of mine gave me a copy of a poem titled To a Louse by Robert Burns (1786). It’s about a pretentious woman who walks into church, not knowing that there is a louse in her bonnet!

The English version of the final paragraph reads:

Oh, that God would give us the very smallest of gifts
To be able to see ourselves as others see us
It would save us from many mistakes and foolish thoughts
We would change the way we look and gesture
and how and what we apply our time and attention

The Bible warns that pride comes before a fall, so it would do us well to keep a close watch on that particular area of our lives.

Anyway, my woesome (that’s the opposite of awesome) week also included a not-so-friendly discussion between me and my husband after I was informed that my previous rule about Kirk not talking on the phone after 9:00 p.m. on school nights had not only been altered while I was away in Nevada, it had been eliminated all together!

Yes, as much as I hate to burst my own bubble, I must admit that life at the Umbehr house is not always filled with love letters, laughter, cute kid stories and Bible verses. We are a real family with our share of ups and downs, just like everybody else. But thank God, there are far more “ups” than “downs.”

To top the week off, while I was mowing our lawn on Saturday morning, I got something in my eye that caused me extreme pain every time I blinked. My optometrist, Dr. Janasek (who had just finished mowing his own lawn), graciously agreed to meet me at his office. Lo and behold, he found the tiniest black speck under my eyelid. It turned out to be a weed seed, of all things. How could such a minuscule dot no bigger than the end of a pin cause such extreme discomfort?

But I’m happy to report that my less-than-idyllic week ended on a much more positive note. Saturday night Keen and I enjoyed a special evening on our covered porch, listening to the radio and dancing to our favorite songs in the cool night air. It was simply magical. Then on Sunday morning we both awoke early and decided to take a long walk down our country road. We arrived at the top of a hill just as the sun was rising, so we sat on a stone fence and watched that beautiful orange ball emerge above the Flint Hills – thankful for all the blessings in our lives.

It’s a great day to be alive
I know the sun's still shinin' when I close my eyes
There's some hard times in the neighborhood
But why can't every day be just this good?

“It’s a Great Day to be Alive” ~ recorded by Travis Tritt

I’ve Learned…...
By Andy Rooney

I’ve learned….that the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned.... that when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.

I've learned.... that having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned.... that I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one more time before she passed away.

I've learned.... that when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned.... that just one person saying to me, "You've made my day!" makes my day.

I've learned.... that being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned.... that you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned.... that I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.

I've learned.... that no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned.... that sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned.... that we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned.... that money doesn't buy class or happiness.

I've learned.... that it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned.... that under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned.... that the Lord didn't do it all in one day. What makes me think I can?

I've learned.... that to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I've learned.... that when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned.... that love, not time, heals all wounds.
I've learned.... that the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I've learned.... that everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned.... that no one is perfect… until you fall in love with them.

I've learned.... that life is tough, but I'm tougher.

I've learned.... that when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned.... that a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned.... that I can't choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it.

I've learned.... that it is best to give advice in only two circumstances; when it is requested and when it is a life-threatening situation.

I've learned.... that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned.... that one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

My Birthday Surprise

(Note: This week when I opened a copy of The Prairie Post I got the surprise of my life. There, in big bold print, was a headline which read: Family Turns Table on Reflections Columnist, Eileen Umbehr, along with a big picture of me! My sister Mary, with the help of my other siblings, decided to write a birthday tribute to me! I was completely caught off guard. As someone who believes that words spoken from the heart are one of life's greatest gifts, I'd like to thank Mary and all my family for my birthday surprise and for all the love expressed in these words. Now the pressure is on to live up to them!)

Dear Reflections Readers,

This article is not written by Eileen Umbehr, but for Eileen Umbehr. She has blessed many of her family and friends with heart warming tributes on their birthdays. We thought she should have a turn.

“As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits] good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [faithful stewards of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor]."
I Peter 4:10 (Amp)

Eileen is the youngest girl in our family of nine children, and number seven in line. Maybe because she was always small, she had to learn to hold her own. She was an ‘A’ student, and athlete, matched wits with our older brother (no small feat), and for as long as any of us can remember – a writer. She would write to our Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins. She would write letters, thoughts, prayers, poems. She was – and is – everyone’s cheerleader, literally and figuratively. She organized teams, games, skits and sing-a-longs. She was the “go – to gal”. She would practice her cheers on the lawn for hours. She made the High School squad the year we moved to Singapore. Eileen was so sad. Little did she know that she would meet the love of her life, Keen. Now, she is our cheerleader. Eileen is the best listener, is a passionate supporter of those she loves and causes she believes in. She is the first person we want to call when something happens. She is always there for us. Nothing is too much trouble when someone is in need. She recently volunteered in the women’s prison counseling pregnant inmates. She had nothing but love and acceptance for them – never judgment.

Eileen is a person who just has to give – her time, her talents, her energy. Ninety percent of the time, no one even knows that she did it. She doesn’t want credit. She just wants to bring the love of God to everyone around her. Her son Josh says “Yeah –my Mom can go into a store and come out with a friend – and a good one!”

Eileen’s birthday is July 3rd. Our Mom used to say that she stole the fireworks from the 4th of July. Considering her personality – the saying sure seems to fit. The meaning of her name is ‘Light’ – and that is just what she brings. Eileen is full of laughter, joy and love. She has more life in her than three people put together! She has an uncanny ability to handle many challenging projects at once – and keep all the balls in the air! When she was here in Nevada writing her book, I introduced her as “the ambitious one”. She told me that her dream her whole life was to be a wife and mother. She has achieved that goal beautifully having married the most incredible man I’ve ever met, and raising four amazing gentle men. She now has two daughters and two grandsons to continue the dream.

On a personal note, Eileen came to Nevada when I was expecting twins. Even though I was two weeks over due, the doctor was reluctant to induce me due to implications it may have on him. Because of her strength, my twins were born healthy. My son was born with a knot in his cord, and would have died if he was not delivered at that time. Mind you, Eileen had her four children at home, the youngest a two year old who celebrated his birthday during her stay. Recently, Eileen essentially put her life on hold to help me through the painful process of extricating myself from a twenty-five year abusive marriage. She never tired of what must have been an excruciating process of false hopes, false starts and what Dr. Laura calls ‘stupid forgiveness’. She knew when I needed her and she knew when I didn’t. There is great power in that.

Eileen is truly one in twenty million. There is none quite like her. We feel blessed beyond measure to have her in our lives. I wish you the same. If you ever meet her, you will come away with a new friend – and a good one!

“The measure of love is to love without measure.” ~St. Augustine

Happy Birthday, Sis! We love you!

God Bless ~


Thursday, July 01, 2004

A Risk Worth Taking

“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.”

~ Psalms 104:33,34 (RSV)

"The act of writing gives us a chance to reflect in private before exposing our heart."
~ David Lowenherz, author of The 50 Greatest Love Letters of All Time

“But I’m just self-styled from the country
Writing of that which around me I find,
And whatever comes from my heart that day,
Or inspirations that come to my mind.”

~ Excerpt from poem written by Irene Toburen, Waterville

Exactly one year ago this week, The Prairie Post published my first Reflections column on July 3, which just happened to be my 45th birthday. It has been such a gift to be able to share my life with all of you and to express “whatever comes from my heart that day.”

“A writer’s life does not begin when they put pen to paper, but with a heartfelt belief that their life is a story that must somehow find its way to be told.”
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder

That is so true. I love writing and have always felt compelled to record the events of our lives. Keen jokingly refers to me as a “serial archivist.” But if I hadn’t taken the time to document all those happenings, then I never could have written a book of memories for each of our boys, or 800 pages of journal entries about the personal side of our extended legal battle, or 425 pages of my book about our Supreme Court case.

Writing is what know, what I do and what I love.

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”~ Abraham Maslow

The Nature of the Poet
By Eileen Umbehr

Ever since I was a little girl
I've enjoyed putting words to rhyme
Whenever someone's birthday came ‘round,
I'd kick out a poem in no time.

Poems give me an outlet,
To express my thoughts and feelings,
Just painting a picture with words,
Seems to bring about some sort of healing.

The titles tell our life story -
Our hopes, our fears, our dreams;
In the Still of the Night, Standing Tall,
Roots and Wings and He Who Believes.

Some may laugh and others sneer,
At my apparent notion,
To create a poem or a verse,
that expresses my emotion.

I realize that it’s always a risk,
To let others see inside your soul;
But that’s a chance I’m willing to take,
Though their reactions I cannot control.

Because I have no other choice
What people think, I cannot care
For it's the nature of the poet
To want and need to share.

In Eric Maisel’s book titled Deep Writing, he gives a check list of thirteen requirements for those who desire to write deeply. Number seven on the list is: “I will enjoy the dangers of writing.” He states:

“Why does writing feel so dangerous? Because our ego is on the line each time we commit words to paper. Our self-image is on the line. We are magnificent in criticizing others, but put a few words on the page and everyone gets to criticize us back. Packs of wild dogs get to eat our words and spit them back at us. Am I overstating the case? I don’t think so. Writing feels exactly this dangerous to most people.”

“Making a decision to write was a lot like deciding to jump into a frozen lake.”~ Maya Angelou, poet

Yes, writing is definitely a risk – there’s no question about that. But I’ve decided that it’s a risk worth taking.

Joann A. Dockweiler of Nortonville, Kansas, expressed a similar sentiment in this poem which appeared in the Kansas Plus section of The Topeka Capital-Journal.

By Joann A. Dockweiler

It’s lonely, being of poetic mind,
when no one seems to care
about your feelings, thoughts and prayer;
when they only shrug and casually say,
“Oh, you won a prize for a poem today,”
and that was all they did say,
not wanting to hear what comes from your soul.

We poets have two worlds that we live in,
the outside and the one within.
Sometimes we are made fun of,
being this way, “odd, different,”
I have heard people say.

I pay no mind, I have my goal,
to be a blessing to my soul,
so when I put pen to paper in this way,
it’s not for glory or for fame,
but to express to others
that I know they feel the same.


“A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment. Beneath any feeling he has of the good or evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all. To transmit that feeling, he writes.”
~ William Sansom, author

Yet, as much as I enjoy writing, at times it has been a challenge to produce a column each and every week. But the thought of not writing is simply unbearable. Grace Paley once said: “You become a writer because you need to become a writer – nothing else.” I need to write. There’s just something in the way God fashioned me that compels me to share my innermost feelings through any means available and with anyone who will listen.

A Czech poet by the name of Jaroslav Deifert put it this way: “If an ordinary person is silent, it may be a tactical maneuver. If a writer is silent, he is lying.”
I cannot be silent.

In my very first Reflections column, I wrote about the sheer panic I felt after Joann Kahnt agreed to publish my column in The Prairie Post. I wondered what in the world I was thinking because I didn’t have a clue what I would write about from week to week! Now here I am, one year later.
Here’s an excerpt from that first column dated July 3, 2003 – followed by a poem I recently wrote.

“A woman preacher I listen to named Joyce Meyer talks about how we should ‘do it afraid.’ She says that when God tell us to ‘fear not’…He doesn’t mean that we should never feel fear, but rather that we shouldn’t let fear keep us from doing what we want to do. I’m sure David wasn’t fearless when he faced Goliath, but he didn’t let that stop him.

With that in mind, I’d like to embark on this journey despite the fear that I feel inside. I’d also like to thank Joann Kahnt, and you, the readers, for giving me the privilege.”

Unknown reader
By Eileen Umbehr

Unknown reader
Who are you?

You who read my deepest contemplations
All my joys and sorrows
You know me, but I don’t know you.

No matter.

I don’t have to meet you to know
You laugh
You cry
You bleed

Just like me.

Unknown reader.

You are my friend.