I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with many blessings to count.

I had the day off with, unlike the past two years, no work responsibilities, so Mom and I went down to our farm about 35 miles southwest of Kearney.

My parents lived there from their marriage in 1944 until they built a house in Wilcox in the fall of 1974, when my twin sister, Lisa, and I headed off to college and my farmer brother Glen and his wife moved from a rented farmhouse onto the home place. Dad still drove out to the farm every day to work, before slowly reducing the time (spring planting and fall harvest mostly) as he edged toward full retirement.

I hadn’t been in the farmhouse – remodeled some, but mostly the same as when I was growing up – since Glen died in July 2012, a few weeks before our NFPW 75th anniversary conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.

It was different, sad, strange and empty to not see him there.

I get that same feeling whenever I go to a familiar event or place and see an empty chair where a regular ought to be sitting. At each NFPW conference there are people who are part of the heart and soul of our organization who have left us in the past year and are part of the memorial service or who simply could not be there for whatever reason.

I thought about that Saturday afternoon as I addressed envelopes for the Christmas cards I’ll mail soon and reviewed the two I already have received.

One, which came in a gift package, is from one of my three farm family hosts from my two weeks in Tasmania, Australia, in April 2003 with the Nebraska Women in Agriculture group. Tasmania Women in Agriculture had visited Nebraska in September 2001 and returned in 2007, including two of my three host couples.

We share gifts from our states and cards that must be sent extremely early to arrive in time for Christmas. Lyn Young’s came extra early this year, but it was a good reminder for me to get my three packages on their way to Tasmania about two weeks ago.

My other early card is from NFPW Past President Marj Carpenter of Texas. Her note reminded me of the empty spaces in our NFPW history and personal lives when people many of us have known for decades are not at our annual conference/family reunion.

“I really missed NFPW, especially in South Carolina,” Marj wrote, “where Martha Reed and I helped start that affiliate.”

We always love to see many new faces at the NFPW conferences, but they are an addition to not a replacement for the members no longer with us.

The same is true for our state affiliates. When I go to our Nebraska spring and fall conventions, a little part of me still expects to see people such as the late Marianne Beel and Marj Marlette come into the room.

It’s also true in families. My brother, Glen, was the jokester and the storyteller in the family. Even when he didn’t feel well during the 13 years he battled multiple myeloma, he almost always had a twinkle in his eye.

He was 8 years older than Lisa and me, and nearly teased me to death. I realized later that it was a sure sign of affection.

I didn’t see him on Thanksgiving Day, but his smile and personality are obvious in his son, Scott. Scott’s son, Ryan Glen, 20 months, is the spitting image of his dad as a toddler.

Ryan was born six months after Glen died and will be joined by a sister in late February.

Glen’s two daughters each had babies last spring: Sheila had a boy in March and Shelly had a girl on May 6, bringing the total to seven grandchildren and one on the way.

Glen always was a big kid himself, so he loved to play with children. Scott has assumed the teaser role for the next generation of Potter kids.

Although Glen wasn’t at the farm on Thanksgiving Day, his current youngest granddaughter, Ansley, was … by the grace of God.


In May, I wrote about how Ansley had a “not breathing” episode on her first morning home from the hospital. Fortunately, her dad was sitting right by her at the time and her mom is a registered nurse who immediately began CPR.

The CPR continued nearly all the 35 miles from Hildreth to the hospital in Kearney, and she had another episode in the emergency room.

On Thursday, I saw a bright happy nearly 7-month-old baby. She has been on a heart monitor every other time I’ve seen her. Earlier this month, when Ansley turned 6 months old, the doctors determined it was safe to stop using the monitor.

The blessings don’t get much bigger or better than that.