Thursday, 14 August 2014

Toast Sweat and Talent

My Father, Mother and Grandmother

 In 7th grade, Mrs. Meadows assigned our English class homework. We were to write a story about a future career that interested us.

At the time, I was a volleyball player so I took pencil in hand and wrote of a glorious career that would ultimately culminate as a player for the USA Olympic team.  (Of course, we won gold.)

She returned our stories replete with red ink giving comments and our final grade.  A+.  I was happy to be sure, but her comments underneath are what stuck.

"I laughed out loud while reading this.  You have a real gift, Pam.  Keep writing!"

No one had ever come right out and said that to me probably because up until this time my stories were about "Poky, the Long-Eared Dog" and "Mr. Eggo and His Waffles."  

I hadn't viewed myself from the outside before.  This was revelatory.  I knew my parents loved, encouraged and supported me, but it was from a generation that rarely spoke it verbally.  It was assumed in the way that they provided shelter, clothes and food.

My father was a first generation American-German man who loved his family and spoke rarely.  He was first a 20-year Army veteran and then worked the remainder of his life as a factory worker and maintenance man.  But he had a hidden talent.  He could draw.  Every morning (even after retirement) he rose at 5 am.  At his chair, he would tear off a paper towel and place it in front of him where he'd place 2 buttered pieces of toast and a mug of coffee.  As he ate in the early morning silence, he would take his pencil and begin to doodle on the paper towel.  Sometimes he drew people or animals or some design he imagined.

He would then finish his coffee, rise from his chair and lightly tap on my bedroom door to wake me for school.  I would groggily wander into the kitchen and pour myself a bowl of cereal.  After I read the back of the cereal box, I would pull his paper towel toward me.  I was always fascinated to see what he had come up with.

As I would look at the drawing of an old man sitting next to a dog or a funny cartoon character, I would exclaim to him, "Dad, these are great!  Can I keep them?"

He would smile shyly and mutter something about toast sweat and butter being on the towel.  I didn't care.  These were good.
First published book
co-written with one of my dearest friends

I was surprised that my father's art talent never went further than his early morning routine.  Not many people knew about this hidden gift.  But I knew and I wanted everyone to know how amazingly talented he was.  I think for him this may have been the first time he too had received such affirmation for an ability.  His parents and their generation simply didn't have it in them to encourage such a pursuit.  They had recently immigrated from Germany.  Then it was WW1 and then WW2.  Survival was the goal and every family member had to contribute.

I'm a product of their tenacity and determination.  The life I have had simply wouldn't be possible without their sheer grit.  I'm sure they each had hidden talents and abilities that were pushed aside so that money could be earned for bread day to day.

So what do I do?  What do you do for those who help us "see" ourselves…who uncover and affirm abilities in our lives that we've left unrecognized or deemed unworthy?  

First, I say thank you.  Thank you for pausing long enough to investigate my life and seeing something worthwhile.  Thank you for speaking confidence in the spaces of uncertainty.  And a heartfelt thank you for taking time in your day to read…well, anything that I write.  I'm no Charles Dickens or Max Lucado and I couldn't be if I tried.  (Okay...I've tried.)  I'm simply Pam, the girl who loves Jesus and desires to live her life reflecting Him.  

Second, I say "Go for it."  Are you waiting for someone to "see" your abilities?  Believe in you?  Prod you? God certainly sees, because He created each of us uniquely.  The stamp of the Creator (who is very creative) is in you.  We are made in His image, therefore as He is creative so are you. You bring something to this world that is uniquely you.  What are you waiting for?  

Maybe I'll work on a sequel to my volleyball Olympic story.  I'll call it, "Bump, Set, Spike 2: A Tragic Story of Golden Dreams and Card Table Legs."


This entry wouldn't be complete without a shout out to my two daughters and husband.  They are a source of constant encouragement and borderline nagging, but nonetheless inspiring.  You are loved and appreciated.  

This picture makes me laugh every time I see it.  Love these two!


  1. This actually made me tear up! Beautiful story about your dad. My dad, a busy and hard worker had the same talent! You made me remember a drawing he did of a vase of lilacs that was setting on our kitchen table. But it was the ONLY drawing I ever saw that he did. It was perfect and beautiful. I never even wondered about why he didn't do it more often, but now as an adult, I understand his lack of time when he was working hard at a job all day and then working to keep up with the farm all evening until bedtime. Now, in his retirement he has found other relaxing pursuits while he continues to care for his land. But after reading this, I think I will call him and encourage him to draw again. :)

    1. Oh, Sally. That's such a touching story. I'm so glad that you're able to encourage him to continue to grow and create even as he did as a farmer! Hugs to you, my friend!