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Georgia O’Keeffe It Was Blue and Green

I just discovered a very comprehensive, interesting and best of all FREE online resource:  

Open Culture — The best free cultural and educational media on the web.

Free Art & Images

Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image
Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image

Great Lectures

Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license
Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license


Book Lists By

Book Lists By

  • There is no excuse for boredom from now on.  You’re welcome.  

    (I apologize for the odd formatting quirks in this post.  I did my best, but with the copying and pasting from the Open Culture webpage there seemed to be a lot of phantom issues I could not solve).

Reconciling the “new” post-Mockingbird world with the old

Mockingbird Image by Mark Moschell via Flickr CC license
Mockingbird Image by Mark Moschell via Flickr CC license

I finished reading “God Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee yesterday afternoon.

I do not think it is impossible to reconcile the two Mockingbird worlds.

This new novel is a “coming home” book. Familiar territory to me, really. I was “born and raised” in a small town in northeastern Indiana. We had 699 people and 1 stoplight. My dad had a barber shop on the main street through town.

image by Randy Von Liski, via Flickr CC Springfield IL - Bob & Gale's Barber Shop
image by Randy Von Liski, via Flickr CC
Springfield IL – Bob & Gale’s Barber Shop

My childhood was similar to Scout’s in that we roamed free from early morning ’til the lightning bugs came out. We played barefoot; swam (mostly unattended) in the lake among the lily pads and fish; and created imaginative scenarios for “play” involving whomever was in the back yard that day.

We had a cement driveway and a basketball goal (regulation height). We had a playhouse and a yard large enough for kick ball. We had a ranch house that we could play “Ollie Ollie Over” around. My mom would make Kool-Aid and cookies. Grass stains, bug bites, sun burn — no problem. Life was good. Days were long. Fights were rare.

Steve Lustig, via Flickr CC Haunted House #2
Steve Lustig, via Flickr CC
Haunted House #2

We even had a “haunted house.” It was an abandoned house just a few blocks away from our neighborhood, and we walked by or rode our bikes by it (never alone, though) whenever we were feeling brave enough. The house was not inhabited (alas, no Boo character for us), but the trepidation we felt and the stories we imagined kept us in a state of fear whenever we were near it. That didn’t stop us, though, from finally gathering courage to explore the house (on one very sunny, bright summer day). The mystery was blown. There was nothing there. It was just an old house, mostly empty of everything — except the faint clues and hints about the lives that had been lived within its walls.

Boo and Scout

Now that I think about it, we did have a kind of Boo Radley character. His name was Slim Miller, and he seemed to live in his car. I don’t know the real story of this poor man’s life, but I imagine it was rough (or possibly a result of mental illness?). He had longish hair, a scraggly beard, and an unkempt appearance (no big surprise since he lived in his car). As far as I know he never did anything illegal and he never said “boo” to me or to any of my friends.

Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Croix des Bouquets, Jumecourt, Inn at Jumecourt, Source de la Grace, Source de la Grace Jumecourt Children's Village, SDLG, The Global Orphan Project, image via Flickr CC license
Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Croix des Bouquets, Jumecourt, Inn at Jumecourt, Source de la Grace, Source de la Grace Jumecourt Children’s Village, SDLG, The Global Orphan Project, image via Flickr CC license

When I turned 18, I went away to college after a summer church youth group trip to Haiti. That trip changed my life. I looked in the mirror at some point during that trip and was surprised to see my white face instead of a dark Haitian one. I could count the number of black people in my home town on one hand, and I believe that moment in the mirror opened my eyes and heart forever.

Movie Marquee, image by Pioneer Library System, via Flickr CC
Movie Marquee, image by Pioneer Library System, via Flickr CC

I attended a large state university for one year and then transferred to a Christian liberal arts college (with an excellent music conservatory). Going home for visits and summers as the college years flew by, brought into focus some of the ways my world views were changing/had changed. Assumptions and beliefs I had never questioned growing up either became stronger and more dearly held or gradually morphed into a larger coherent (to me) framework to include the people, cultures, and experiences of my life — broader and wider than many “back home” might hold with but still centered in Faith and Love.

So, I can relate to Scout trying to make sense of her kin and town folk — Harper Lee’s words ring true.

After reading the new book, I mulled over the troublesome issues trying to understand how to piece these two novels together into one coherent narrative.

Some have thrown up their hands saying, “She never meant for this book to be published” or “She wrote this first, submitted it and then the publisher requested major revisions. Mockingbird is the result.”  I don’t buy either of those.

Mockingbird Morning, image by TDlucas5000 via Flickr CC
Mockingbird Morning, image by TDlucas5000 via Flickr CC

I think it is clear she wrote this as a sequel. However it started out, the version that was published yesterday expects that we have lived through that earlier Maycomb County summer with these characters.

I think it was deemed not publishable for various reasons which might have included fears of inciting violence in the ongoing Civil Rights movement, the fragile state of world politics (Cuban crisis, Vietnam, space race, etc), and (apparently) Harper Lee’s own wishes.

The reconciliation will come in part 2.  I’m still working it out.

An Abundance of Roses

Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0

The Rose
lyrics by Amanda McBroom

Some say love it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love it is a flower
And you it’s only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking
That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dyin’
That never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0

It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.
— Maud Hart Lovelace

I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.
— Emma Goldman

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Remembering the Victims

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015. Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015. Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015 image by jalexartis via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015 image by jalexartis via Flickr CC license

I honestly don’t ever want to hear the name of the shooter again.  I don’t want to see his photograph either.

I am ashamed and angry about the horrific violence that has invaded our lives yet again.

I’m praying for the families, friends and loved ones of the victims.

The local newspaper in Charleston has published short bios for each of these precious people.

I encourage you to click on the links so you can see a photograph of each person.  They lived amazing lives, each making a difference to many other lives by living their faith.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.

DePayne Middleton Doctor.

Cynthia Graham Hurd.

Susie Jackson.

Ethel Lance.

Tywanza Sanders.

Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Myra Thompson.

Clementa Pickney.

The Post and Courier

Photo above:  In a moving tribute during today’s services at Mother Emanuel AME Church, a choir member laid#CharlestonShooting victim Susie Jackson’s robe over her regular seat in the church’s sanctuary.

(from The Post and Courier’s Facebook page)

Remembering the Victims.  

Thousands Gather for Bridge to Peace Event:  “We Will Rise Above the Hate.”

Emanuel AME Church Reopens with Display of Faith, Hope and Unity.

Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015  Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license
Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, Saturday, June 20, 2015 Image by jalexartis, via Flickr CC license

Creative Commons license 2.0

Solo Dios basta

Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc
Let nothing disturb thee. Nada te turba.

Let nothing disturb thee. (Nada te turbe)
Let nothing frighten thee. (Nada te espante)
All things pass away. (Todo se pasa)
God never changes. (Dios no se muda)
Patience attains all things. (La paciencia todo lo alcanza)
He who has God lacks nothing. (Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta)
God alone suffices. (Solo Dios basta)

–prayer written by St. Teresa of Avila in the 16th century
–all images by The Tromp Queen, CC license 

Let nothing frighten thee. Image by The Tromp Queen, via Flickr CC
Let nothing frighten thee. Nada te espante.
All things pass away. Mourning  Angel--Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
All things pass away. Todo se pasa.
God never changes. Magical mist and morning sunbeams at Turkey Run SP on Trail 3; photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill
God never changes. Dios no se muda.
Patient attains all things. Stone steps in the arena at Ephesus in Turkey.  Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license.
Patience attains all things. La paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Image by The Tromp Queen.  Chora church, Istanbul, Turkey 2013
He who has God lacks nothing. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.
God alone suffices. Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license.
God alone suffices. Solo Dios basta.

the echo of a tune we have not heard

(Wise words from The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis.)

In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency.

Image by Bable Fortin
Image by Bable Fortin “Tear Here” via Flickr CC license

I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both.

Image by Mudhavi Kuram
Image by Mudhavi Kuram “Gossip” via Flickr CC license

We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name.

Image by Juan de la Obra
Image by Juan de la Obra “Yearning” via Flickr CC license

Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.

Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past.

Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC

But all this is a cheat.

If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering.

Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.

These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers.

The Tromp Queen, CC license
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license

For they are not the thing itself;
they are only the scent of a flower we have not found,
the echo of a tune we have not heard,
news from a country we have never yet visited.

image by dave
image by dave “Taj Mahal India”, via Flickr CC

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendors we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.

Image by Nishanth Jols
Image by Nishanth Jols “Together Forever” via Flickr CC

When I attempted a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light… For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world.

Image by Adib Roy
Image by Adib Roy “Jewel” via Flickr CC

Now we wake to find that it is no such thing.

We have been mere spectators.
Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face turned in our direction, but not to see us.
We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance.
We may go when we please, we may stay if we can, no one cares.

Now, a scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable Something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment.

Image by Ali Arsh
Image by Ali Arsh “Grey Heron” via Flickr CC

We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in the universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret.

Thank you for the Music, B.B. King

Marcelo Guimarães via Flickr CC license, BB King em Brasília
Marcelo Guimarães via Flickr CC license, BB King em Brasília

There used to be a saying that if a black performer — it was four theaters you had to play and be accepted before you would be accepted as a true entertainer. One of those theaters was the Howard Theatre in Washington, the Royal Theater in Baltimore and the master itself was the Apollo Theater in New York, in Harlem. … The fourth theater was the Regal Theater in Chicago. My manager said, “Do not go to New York trying to be Nat Cole or anybody else that’s trying to be slick, because there are people that are sweeping the floors that are much better than you’ll ever be. So the best thing for you to do is go there and be B.B. King. Sing ‘3 O’Clock Blues'; sing the songs that you sing the way you sing them. All these other people can do all of those other things, but they can’t be you as you can be you.” That I’ve tried to keep from then until now.

On the best advice his manager gave him — Quote from a Fresh Air (NPR) interview which originally aired on Oct. 22, 1996.

Image by Zach Mahone photography, via Flickr CC license
Image by Zach Mahone photography, via Flickr CC license
Daniel Go, via Flickr Creative Commons
Daniel Go, via Flickr Creative Commons
image by Ricky NJ, via Flickr CC license 2.0
image by Ricky NJ, via Flickr CC license 2.0
Thomas Hawk, Rules of the Road, Memphis, TN bridge, via Creative Commons (Flickr)
Thomas Hawk, Rules of the Road, Memphis, TN bridge, via Creative Commons (Flickr)

May you rest in peace and sing some heavenly blues.

Ogling Google Doodles

I use Google every day at least once or more accurately, usually several times a day.

Sometimes, when I need a short mental break, I look through the Google Doodle archives.

Today, I noticed some pretty incredible Google Doodles as I perused the archives.

What are your favorite Google Doodles?  Do you prefer the stills or the videos?

Wassily Kandinsky’s 148th Birthday
126th Anniversary of the public opening of the Eiffel Tower
St. David’s Day 2015
Ofra Haza’s 57th Birthday
Shoen Uemura’s 140th Birthday
Victor Horta’s 154th Birthday
Keith Haring’s 54th Birthday
Brasilia’s Anniversary
Wisława Szymborska’s 90th Birthday
Tanabata (Star Festival)
Niki de Saint Phalle’s 84th Birthday


First Day of Spring 2015

First Day of Summer 2013

First Day of Autumn 2014

First Day of Winter 2013

First Day of Fall 2012

Zlatko Grgić’s 82nd Birthday

Looking at these wonderfully creative doodles is quite inspiring!

I’m going to make an effort to look at the Google Doodle of the day more often!

Inspirational Centenarians

On a recent visit to a nursing home to visit an ailing relative, my mom and I had a memorable encounter with one of the residents.

Photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license
You can see part of Lily's "lawn chair cart" here.
You can see part of Lily’s “lawn chair cart” here.

Her name is Lily. She is 102 years old. She came to the door of my aunt’s room pushing a lawn chair. The lawn chair was sitting on a wooden square with wheels that must have been custom-built for her. She uses the chair as a cart. Every day she delivers ice cream to residents and to visitors. She uses coupons that a fellow resident wins at Bingo to acquire the ice cream. Lily will try to get special flavors for people but adds with a smile that she might not remember.

Lily -- photo by The Tromp Queen, CC license

As our conversation continued, she asked if we knew of any overseas service men or women to whom she could send a care package. She explained that she has been sending boxes to troops for over 10 years. Several years ago a nearby veterans’ group offered to pay the postage for all her care packages which adds up to over $1,000 each year. Other people have sent her checks or given her donations to help with costs as well.

As I mulled over all Lily said, this quote came to mind:

This quote is often attributed to John Wesley but there is no evidence he said or wrote these words.
This quote is often attributed to John Wesley but there is no evidence he said or wrote these words.

This 102 year-old woman is doing good deeds for as many people as she can every single day. Her good deeds don’t just stay within the walls of the nursing home — she makes a positive difference for young men and women all around the world by sending care packages.

Gladys Culver was my 2nd grade teacher, and she retired at the end of that school year. She is now 104 years old! She still plays piano for her fellow nursing home residents quite often. She made a difference in so many lives in my small hometown community not only as a school teacher (for 50 years!), but also as a woman of faith in my home church. I fondly remember her playing the organ for decades of church services. She encouraged my sister and me to sing duets together and to play piano duets together. (Singing was more successful than the playing.) I don’t remember her ever not having a smile on her face.

Read more about Gladys here. Here is a video interview with Gladys. You can see and hear her play the piano at the 28:30 mark. How wonderful!

I have a quilt that Gladys’s mother-in-law hand pieced and tied (completely made of 1970’s era double-knits). It turned out to be king-sized! Looking at the fabrics brings back so many memories of the clothes my mom made for my sister and me throughout our childhood. I don’t remember exactly how old she was at the time, but I’m fairly sure she was well over 90.

My Aunt Ruthie was still “taking care of the old people” even as she closed in on her own 90th birthday. She died just a few months after reaching 90. I still take inspiration from her work ethic, loyalty and generosity. “Be a good neighbor” and “Always vote” were the family words of wisdom, and she reminded us of these expectations frequently.

All these women embody/embodied the phrase “young at heart.” They seem/seemed to be living lives about 20 years younger than their chronological age. They do/did not let “old age” dictate what they could or could not do.

What needs to be done?
What can I do to help?
I will do it — that is what these women say/said.

The Pages Project

used books
image by Don Shall, via Flickr CC license

Have you ever bought a used book?

I buy them all the time.

I love looking for great books at low prices at places like Goodwill, Thrift shops, and used book stores. I love buying a hard back novel for less than $2 or a recent bestseller paperback for less than a dollar. I also love taking them back to the store again as a donation if I don’t think I will want to ever read that certain book again.

I do not, however, like the fact that I sometimes have to put up with underlined passages, highlighting or even comments written in the margins. Unless it is a book I really, really have been wanting to read for a long time — I usually pass on buying a used book with any markings at all. The marks bother me, probably more than they should.

book ornament

I find myself trying to figure out why someone would underline that particular passage or word. I almost feel like I’m reading someone else’s journal or peeking at their notes or journal without permission.

Imagine my surprise at finding a website called “The Pages Project” that is devoted to preserving specifically this “marginalia.” The “about page” says that “the goal of the project is to demonstrate the layered expansion of meaning and insight that occurs through the marginalia left by ordinary people within printed books.”

photo by Erik Schmitt for The Pages Project


This is the article that led to this discovery: The Message Hidden in Classic Literature: How a graphic designer is paying tribute to marginalized marginalia.


If you have pages to share, follow the steps given under the “Submit a Page” tab.

By the way, a great source for buying good quality used books is Thrift Books. Most books are $2.99 or less and shipping is FREE! They have a pretty comprehensive list of search categories, but for some reason one must check “hide out of stock items” when searching. Why show items that are not available? That makes no sense to me.


Acquire an odd new hobby. Not on my list, but I did it anyway.

Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license
Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license

I’ve been interested in my family history since I did a project long ago in elementary school.

I gathered as much information as I could from my living family, but it was not very comprehensive and didn’t go very far back. I liked knowing how long my ancestors had lived in certain areas of Indiana. I liked knowing the names and connections of family members who lived many, many years before I was born.

Late last summer a friend introduced me to Find a Grave. (Thanks, Janet!)

It is a website that helps any interested person “find, record and present final disposition information from around the world as a virtual cemetery experience.” In other words, you can find the burial location of dead relatives. If a photo of the tombstone is not available, there is a method to request a photo (a cadre of willing volunteers provide this wonderful service). The best part is this is all FREE!

You have the ability collect your relatives into a Virtual Cemetery so you can find them easily in the future. Volunteers photograph whole cemeteries and create “memorials” (pages with family connections, tombstone information and photos if available, and obituary information). Family members can leave virtual flowers and messages. If you are within 4 generations of a person you can request that the memorial page for your relative be transferred to you so you can control what is posted. It is quite an elaborate community!

When my friend told me she had gotten involved in this website she warned me that it was “addictive.” Yeah, right — I thought.

But, it is.

I discovered that I enjoy solving the mysteries of birth and death dates, marriage licenses, names of children, and figuring how the various branches of our family tree grew. I couldn’t imagine that sorting out these tangles would interesting but it is!

Another site that I’m using in my research is
Here, it is possible to quickly and easily locate sources that help clarify connections and family relationships. It is amazing to see electronic versions of actual documents — census records, birth/marriage/death certificates, emigration records, draft registrations, and more. You search for the records in a massive database, then you can attach them as sources for specific relatives.

I quickly learned to be very careful in choosing my sources and in checking dates and locations. As incredible as it sounds, in more than one instance I had more than one couple with identical names and years of birth in the same county married in the same year — but they had divergent records (burial places, children, etc.) that didn’t quite match up.

It is like a scavenger hunt to find sources to verify each child, each marriage, each set of parents — and it all leads backwards and forwards through time.  I particularly enjoy finding out which generation made the voyage across the Atlantic to get to America.

I might have found a connection between my husband’s mothers ancestors possibly marrying a distant relation of mine in my maternal grandmother’s branches. I haven’t found proof but some of the facts I’ve uncovered seem to point to this scenario.

There is a family story that claims we have a relative that was close to Cyrus Hall McCormick (the inventor of the reaper).  My husband’s family has a story that some of his relatives traveled with the ill-fated Donner party.  (Obviously they must have survived the ordeal).  I can find evidence to support neither of these claims at this point, and believe me I’ve tried.

Using these two websites, I discovered a cemetery within just a few miles of my in-law’s house where a dozen of my ancestors (all of whom I had no idea even existed before I started this research) are buried. My maternal grandfather’s grandfather had several brothers and sisters and these are the folks that are in that cemetery.

Marriage Record of Katherine and Leopold
Marriage Record of Katherine and Leopold

One mystery I unraveled involved John Schwob, Katherine Schwob, Leopold Reuf and Adelheid Schwob. I knew John was married to Mary Miller. I couldn’t figure out how Adelheid fit into the Schwob picture. I didn’t have her anywhere on my list but all the other Schwobs in that cemetery had already been established as my relatives. John and Mary were Katherine Schwob’s parents. Adelheid had been married to Friedrich Reuf and their son was Leopold. Mary Miller died and so did Friedrich Reuf.  Katherine Schwob married Leopold Reuf. They are both buried in this cemetery. John Schwob then married Adelheid Reuf and she became Adelheid Schwob.

(This would be like my husband’s mother marrying my dad!)

As confusing as all that sounds, add to the mix misspelled names, errors in birth years, and generally inaccurate cemetery records in that particular cemetery — and you can get a sense of the tangle of mysteries that had to be solved.

Many of my roots are clear back to the late 1700s or early 1800s.  Some lines go much further back — to the early 1500s and a few back to the 1100s.  I’m leary of the accuracy of these lines that far back, but it is fun to look at the names and follow the trail.  One line lists Edward IV, King of England as an ancestor of my husband’s paternal Grandmother’s family.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you.  Beware!  This hobby can be VERY addictive.

Don’t judge a truck by one bumper sticker.

One of the little perks I give myself on a cold winter day on the way to school is a trip through the McDonald’s drive-through. I like their breakfast sandwiches. I realize it may not be the healthiest choice on earth, and that many people have philosophical issues with the place. But I enjoy an egg McMuffin, a sausage biscuit with egg or sausage and egg burritos now and then — I just DO.

Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC license.
Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC license.

I found a McDonald’s that is not far out of my way that has lightning quick, reliable service in the drive-through so I’m tempted to stop every once in a while.

Today was one of those days.


I didn’t sleep well.
Our coffee maker is on the blink.
I was hungry but didn’t want to cook anything at home.

So —

I drive up.
Place my order.
Dig around in my bag for some money.
Drive up toward the window to pay.

I find myself facing the tailgate back of a big red truck.
On the left side of the tailgate is a very large bumper sticker:

It says — I’m Pro-Choice on Guns.

Under that there is an image of a machine gun.

Instantly I am perturbed.  Irritated.  Upset.  Angry.

I work in an elementary school.

Guns and schools — well, we all know the horrific things that have happened.

I had to fight the urge to flip the guy off.

My friends know that I am not a frequent flipper.

I’m being honest here.

Not my usual response to these things.

But this bumper sticker really hit me wrong.

I did manage to restrain my flipping urge.


I looked further down to see what other tidbits of wisdom this guy had on his bumpers.

The next one I see is a large black-bordered white oval that simple says IRAQ in black letters in the center.

In smaller letters curving around the bottom of the circle were the words:

I served.

Oh.  My.

He served in Iraq.

I’m instantly ashamed of myself.

I send a silent apology and a fervent “thank you for your service” thought toward the red truck with all the mental force I could muster.

I give myself quite a “talking to.”

No wonder the guy wants a machine gun handy.  After living and working in Iraq I might want one, too.

I don’t begrudge him his gun sticker any longer.

The next thing that happened brought me to tears.

I drive up to the “pay here” window.  The young woman says — HE PAID FOR YOU.

I am flabbergasted.  Speechless.

Most people would react by paying for the person behind them, and I wish I had done that!
But I was all caught up in my inner drama.

I drive up to the next window to get my order.  The server has a huge smile and obviously knows what the guy had done for me, too.  I say “Thank you” with tears in my eyes and try to mumble something about what a nice surprise and that this has never happened to me before.  I don’t know what I said, really.

I looked around for the red pickup.  I wanted to say “thank you.”

I saw him heading toward the stoplight in the left turn lane.

Normally, I would need to turn left to get to school but I quickly drove up beside him in the other lane.  I rolled down my window and yelled “thank you” and gestured from my heart over to him.  He nodded and waved as if to say “no big deal” and then he drove off.

As I drove to school I mulled over  all the thoughts and emotions as I munched my burrito and sipped my sugar-free latte.

As a Christian the ramifications of “HE PAID FOR YOU” is glaringly obvious but equating my free breakfast with eternal salvation seems trite and ridiculous.

Why did this kind gesture surprise me make the tears well?

I surmised that it is because I was so mean and judgmental about the first bumper sticker.  Then already felling chastised by the second sticker, all my assumptions were blown away by the incredibly kind, thoughtful and simple gesture of his “paying it backward.”

This young man who risked his life in Iraq while I lived my comfortable Midwestern American life bought ME breakfast.

The point that stuck with me is that caring (or hurting, for that matter) for each other doesn’t always need to involve grand gestures.

Simple words and actions matter.
Do good things.
Mean thoughts can lead to mean actions.
Don’t go down that path.

Be kind.  Be generous.  Be spontaneous.  Be thoughtful.

Let’s do it.

Pay for the person behind you in line.  Soon.

I’ll tell you my story.  Please share yours, too.

Oh.  And the next time you see vet?
Gather your courage, and please take a moment to thank them for their service.

Into the Woods Philosophy

Though it drives our sixteen year old daughter crazy at times, our family often has “deep” discussions after watching movies, plays, musicals and sometimes after viewing art exhibits and the like.

We finally (in our fast-paced-first-world-lives one week after opening seems like “finally”) saw the new Into the Woods movie last night.

I’ve been thinking about various themes from the show —

  1. People make mistakes. So many mistakes.
  2. Even when you think you are doing “the right thing,” people often get hurt.
  3. Stand up for yourself. Stand up for what you believe is right. (Doing this is easier if you don’t have to do it alone; see #4).
  4. Being “in the woods” is confusing, sometimes scary, and often dangerous. Take a friend; don’t go alone.
  5. Actions often bring unintended (far-reaching, severe) consequences.
  6. It is impossible to protect everyone from evil and danger. Bad things happen; even to good people.
  7. Getting what you thought you wanted will not necessarily make you happy.
  8. Lies, deceptions, greed, stealing — never the best way to go.
  9. Beauty does not guarantee a happy life.
  10. Stay on the path? Get off the path to smell the flowers? Not an easy decision.  “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit….not.” One of my favorite lines!

And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not.

from “I Know Things Now” from Into the Woods, by Sondheim

I by no means exhausted the list of themes from this show.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

For Belonging


I have been searching my mind for wise words to share. I keep coming up empty. Fortunately I found these words to share instead. May the New Year be a year of peace, grace and love for each of you.


Originally posted on Soul Gatherings:

For Belonging
by John O’Donohue

May you listen to your longing to be free.

May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.

May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.

May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.

May the sanctuary of your soul never become haunted.

May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.

May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.

May you never place walls between the light and yourself.

May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you,
mind you, and embrace you in belonging.


View original

Scratching the Surface

Be the bridge. Be the light. Be there. image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Be the bridge.
Be the light.
Be there.
image by The Tromp Queen, CC license

This time of year seems to be filled with peace, joy and love… but when the surface is scratched there is often sorrow, pain and sadness.

I’m praying for several very sad, troubling, desperate situations for various friends and families.

Take time to really listen and be there just in case YOU are the one who is the bridge,
the safety net,
the strong hand to hold.

Be kind.
Be patient.
Be light and salt.

Most of all — be there.

Back Hoe Disconnect

I drive a lot more than used to.  I have three part-time jobs in various locations around Milwaukee, so I sometimes spend more than an hour a day in my car.

It is easy to get impatient especially with people who insist on running red lights (well, they SAW the yellow so that means they should go through the light even if it turns red before they get to the intersection, right?).  Sigh.  I also see too many people still talking on their phones (Please, people — hands free is at least a LITTLE safer than holding that blasted phone to your ear while you turn left in front of me crossing multiple lanes of traffic).  Don’t get me started on all the people one can see clearly TEXTING while driving!  Please all of you agree on the roads you want to use and the rest of us will stay off those roads. Seriously.

I grew up in a small town.  I used to describe it as 699 people and one stoplight (which was quite accurate at the time, I might add).  Now I drive past way more than 699 folks and several stoplights before I even get to the interstate!

Somedays traffic is flowing well, and the other drivers seem reasonably rational and semi-intelligent. As I cruise by all those cars, people, houses, businesses, companies — I sometimes feel disconnected and isolated.  I’m in my own little world inside my vehicle and everyone else on the busy highway is in theirs, too.

Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC
Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC

As I was driving one day recently through the city — I pondered the number of very large cemeteries that I pass going from one of my jobs to another.  I catch glimpses of intricately sculpted stones — angels, obelisks, crosses.  Row upon row upon row.  There is even a quite large pyramid in one of the graveyards I pass.  If I go a certain way, the interstate cuts through a military cemetery. There are rows and rows of solemn white crosses on gently flowing hills on both sides of of the highway.  At sunset the light is beautiful against the stones.
image by Just Add Light via Flickr CC

My most common thought about these cemeteries is that I wish I had time (or tell myself I should MAKE time) to go walk around in them on a nice day so I could look more closely at the interesting monuments and possibly take photos of them.

One day last week, I was driving along beside one of these huge graveyards and I caught sight of a cluster of cars and a back hoe out of the corner of my eye.  My heart lurched.  I felt sorrow for those people gathered there on the cold grey winter day to honor and mourn their loved one.  I wondered if the person was young or old, if the death was from illness or some tragedy, and even what kind of life they had led..  The back hoe was not very far away from the clump of cars and people.  It sat with the bucket facing the grave as if it was anxious to dig in immediately after the last prayer was uttered.

I felt like I was intruding on the privacy of the deceased and of the mourners.  What a very personal moment to be unintentionally sharing with all the people who happen to be driving by the cemetery at that exact moment. But I felt oddly connected to their sorrow.  I had sudden flashes of the many cold, grey funerals I have attended — too many.  I mulled those memories over as I drove on, away from the sad tableau.

public domain image:  "JCB 3CX Backhoe loader" by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force -
public domain image: “JCB 3CX Backhoe loader” by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force –

As several days passed, I wondered why this image (of the backhoe and the gravesite and the mourners) was sticking with me.  Why is it still there in my mind?  What am I supposed to make of this?

Obviously, we are mortal beings.  We live, we die.  It’s the circle of life (cue the musical production number).

hah!  Sorry.  I just saw Lion King (Broadway touring company) and it is still fresh in my music memory.

It doesn’t matter how big or fancy the tombstone might be — we all end up the same way.  Dust to dust.

Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license
Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license

But instead of feeling nihilistic about that fact, I feel a reverence for the fragility of our lives.  I want to be remembered for the good things I said and did, not for the way I let small irritations (or big ones) get to me.  I want to be kind and loving.  I want to be salt and light to the world. I want to spend more time with my family and friends and make more time for the things I enjoy doing, whether by myself or with others.  I want to keep my word, do my best at my work, and waste less time in general (FACEBOOK can be a time-wasting vortex).

The back hoe might be revving its engine, but I’m not going to keep looking at it or listen for the sound of its motor.
I’m going to keep looking for the beauty in each person, each minute, each day — and keep looking for that beauty in myself, and in the world around me, too.