The Tromp Queen Recommends

After a trip overseas last fall, I have a few movies to recommend.

On a long flight, it is luxury to have the option to watch not only one complete movie but to possibly watch two or three (or more!). I watched a three music themed movies on this trip:



And Bohemian Rhapsody

These three movies had many similar themes. I enjoyed all three of them and recommend them to you.

The Freddy Mercury and Elton John movies dealt with difficult issues such as excessive drug and alcohol use, HIV, and really — the loneliness that fame brings. These men were unique geniuses; their lives were chaotic and filled with turmoil.

The movie Yesterday had an interesting plot. I won’t give it away, but because of a certain event the Beatles as we all know them (their music, their fame, the group) didn’t exist and had never existed. One man took advantage of the situation in a surprising way that brought him great success. I thought it was great the way Ed Sheeran played himself in the movie and actually had a fairly large impact on the story line.

I also watched Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

This is a movie I almost gave up on. It is not a happy-go-lucky jaunt. She is desperate for money, out of favor as an author and has various life/personal issues (some out of her control, some within her ability to change). I’m glad that I stuck it out. There are some interesting moral situations and more than one interesting friendship. I enjoyed the role performed by Richard E. Grant — quirky and artfully layered; very well done.

I could have watched the live action Lion King, but I chose not to. I don’t think that movie needed to be made.

The other movie I highly recommend from this trip is Green Book.

Stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali gave incredible performances. I can’t think of one role that wasn’t superbly acted, in fact. Granted, you need to be in the mood for a somber movie that faces some disturbing issues (racism, discrimination, homosexuality, class and cultural issues, elitism, and more). It is a movie that will be with me for a very long time.

GB Van Norman

I wrote about our New Old Haus in a recent blog post:
A friend helped me do some further research and we found quite a bit more information about the original owner of this 1890 Victorian house. George Bosworth Van Norman was the owner, and this post will bring you up to date with what I’ve learned.

The following is an excerpt from “Men of Progress. Wisconsin” (pages 343 – 346):
A selected list of biographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life. Together with short notes on the history and character of Wisconsin. This file was contributed for use in the USGenWeb Archives by: Kelly Mullins,
Photos and additional information added by J Hasker. 


VAN NORMAN, George Bosworth, one of Milwaukee’s most stirring and progressive businessmen, has his residence at 966 National Avenue. He is descended in the fourth generation from a family that immigrated to this country from Holland and settled in Pennsylvania. He is the son of Jacob Van Norman, who was born in Harrisburg, and who was by occupation a farmer. In 1855 he sold his farm in Chemung county, New York, and with his family removed to Wisconsin, settling on a farm in Moscow, Iowa county. Here he resided until his death in 1872. He had prospered in the things of this world and left his family in comfortable circumstances. 

The maiden name of Mr. Van Norman’s mother was Polly Parks, who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, her grandparents coming from Yorkshire, England. She was the mother of ten children, and one of those women who are never weary of well-doing for family and friends, living a most active life of eighty-six years, and dying in 1886, at the home of a son near Moville, Iowa.

(George is leaning on the fence on the right side;
his parents are seated on the left and right of the table.)

G. B. Van Norman was born on a farm near Chemung, Chemung county, New York, on the 25th of November, 1842. He was thirteen years of age when he came with the family to Iowa county, Wisconsin. He was sent to the district school three months in the year, the rest of the time he was expected to do his share of the work on the farm. The practical knowledge of farming and stock raising thus gained has been of no little advantage to him in this subsequent career.

Though not the son of a poor man he was brought up to earn every dollar he spent in boyhood; and he often did an extra day’s work for a neighbor to add to the sum laid by for a holiday. By the time he was eighteen years old, he had a few head of stock and a small sum of money which he had earned, but which he gave to his father when he enlisted in the army. 

During the four years of his army life, no opportunity for making a dollar was lost sight of and his income from pay and trade was sent home to his father for safe keeping. Upon his return to Wisconsin at the close of the war, he immediately cast about for an opportunity for investing his savings, and making a start in some business. Not desirous of following farming, with little business experience and a limited education, the problem before him was not one of easy solution.

His first venture in the business world was in partnership with Edward Maher of Mazomanie, who knew something of the hardware trade, and with his knowledge and three thousand dollars which Mr. Van Norman furnished, a store was opened in Spring Green, Wisconsin. In the spring of 1866 Mr. Van Norman sold his interest in the store, retaining the horse and wagon, with which he continued to go the rounds of the farm houses, selling those articles so necessary in the household, but so difficult to obtain in a scattered farming community, yet by the sale of which the notion peddler picks up many dollars. This second venture was of short duration.

A better opening was found in the purchase of an established meat trade at Spring Green, and later combining with it the shipping of stock to Milwaukee and Chicago. In this business Mr. Van Norman continued until 1874, when he moved to Milwaukee, and entered the live stock commission business at the Union Stock yards. After nineteen years at the yards, the increase in business was such as to warrant the opening of an office at the Union Stock yards at Chicago. This now being his main office, Mr. Van Norman makes Chicago his headquarters four days each week, the Milwaukee office being in charge of A. L. Nickey, an old and trusted employe, who has been given an interest in the business.

This Philip Armour is the founder of the Armour meatpacking company that lasted from 1867 to 1983 (then became part of Smithfield, then Con Agra).

(Notebook presented by GB Van Norman-Shattuck-Paxson & Co. Livestock Merchants)

By his indomitable energy and business tact and unceasing labor, Mr. Van Norman has built up a mammoth business, of which he is justly proud. In 1891 he helped to organize the South Milwaukee company, and was elected its president; this office he still holds. He is also president of the Eagle Horseshoe company of Milwaukee. In 1893 he entered the packing business with Wm. Plankinton, F. R. Burrows, D. D. Booth, O. F. Mason and J. M. Quinn, the company operating the old packing plant of the Plankinton estate. Mr. Van Norman is also interested in other industrial enterprises to which he gives more or less of his time and thought.

Four generations: GB Van Norman is on the far left.

In August, 1861, Mr. Van Norman enlisted in Company H, Eighth Wisconsin infantry, Captain Stephen Estee. He was soon promoted to first duty sergeant, and held the office until 1863. Re-enlisting in that year, he was commissioned second lieutenant and given command of all veterans of his company at Madison, Wisconsin, and with them he reported at Memphis,  Tennessee. As the captain and orderly had failed to recruit sufficient men to allow the full number of company officers, he was appointed by Col. Britton. drill master of all recruits assigned to his regiment, and in this capacity he served until the close of the war. His record as a soldier is a long and honorable one, as he participated in every battle and skirmish in which the regiment was engaged, seventy-two in all. 

Among the more noted battles in which he took part were Nashville, Corinth, Iuka, Jackson, Champion Hills, Vicksburg and many others in Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana. He was twice wounded, but did not leave his regiment on that account. He served in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth army corps, under Grant, Sherman and A. J. Smith. After four years of constant service, except for a short furlough on account of illness, he was mustered out at Uniontown, Alabama, and returned home with his regiment. He is a member of the E. B. Wolcott Post, No. 1, of the Grand Army.

GB Van Norman c1869

In politics Mr. Van Norman is a Republican from principle, but has never gone actively into campaign work. He has been many times solicited to become a candidate for some of the more important city offices, but has always refused on account of the demands of his business.

1902 calendar from GB Van Norman-Shattuck-Paxson & Co Live Stock Commission. Chicago and Milwaukee.

His connection with clubs and societies has been, for the most part, merely nominal, although he was an active member of the Commercial club during its existence, and he was one of the charter and active members of the Light Horse Squadron, and for some time second lieutenant of the organization.

Brought up a Methodist, and for a number of years in his youth a member of that church, Mr. Van Norman’s relations with that denomination were broken by his removal from the paternal roof. While not, of late years, directly connected with any church, he has been an occasional attendant with his family upon religious services wherever it was most convenient, irrespective of creed or denomination.

In the fall of 1865, Mr. Van Norman was married to Miss Elizabeth Atkinson, a native of North Anson, Maine, who had come west as a teacher, but who, at the time he met her, was in Madison, Wisconsin, nursing a sick soldier brother. After ten years of married life, she died, leaving three daughters, Jane Ella, now Mrs. Robert C. Brown; Alma, now Mrs. James T. Stewart, and Lizzie, now Mrs. Burton C. Waite– all of Milwaukee. 

Mr. Van Norman was married a second time, to Miss Cornelia Parsons, a native of Connecticut, but at the time a resident of Spring Green. She died seventeen months after, leaving an infant son that survived her but a few days.

Mr. Van Norman’s present wife was Miss Minnie A. Booth, a native of Albany, N. Y., but who, for a number of years prior to her marriage had been a resident of Milwaukee.

For more information and to read a fictional account of Van Norman’s army years: The Spur and The Sash written by Robert Grede, available on Kindle from Amazon. Grede’s Grandfather was GB Norman’s Grandchild (the baby in the 4 generation photo). 

Photos in this document were copied from various websites including The Spur and The Sash site.

2020: My fiancé and I own GB Van Norman’s Milwaukee home. It was built in 1890 and this massive safe with the original owner’s name on it is in our basement:


USGENWEB ARCHIVES NOTICE: In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, data may be used by non-commercial entities, as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit or for presentation by other persons or organizations. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material for purpose other than stated above must obtain the written consent of the file contributor. This file was contributed for use in the USGenWeb Archives by: Kelly Mullins,

This New Old Haus

Our New Old Haus: A work in progress

Last summer we purchased an 1890 Victorian in Milwaukee, WI. It was a hoarder house, and it took us more than 6 months to clear it out. We’re currently working on patching plaster, installing some insulation and drywall where needed, and preparing to paint walls and ceilings. We hope to move in in the next month or two!

I’ve been curious about the original owner and architect. There are so many lovely architectural details in the house, it seems an architect must have been involved in the planning.

Today my step-son did some research into the house while looking into when the alley behind our house was closed, and we found some interesting facts.

G.B. Van Norman, commission merchant for the sale of livestock, office, C.M. and St. P. Railroad Stock Yards. Mr. Van Norman is a native of New York; came to Wisconsin in the Fall of 1855. He enlisted, in the Fall of 1861, in the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry, and served until the close of the war. He then engaged in the stock-shipping business and followed it until he started in the live stock commission business in Milwaukee, Oct. 2, 1875. His success as a salesman is clearly proven by his immense receipts, his consignments having reached as high as seventy-five car-loads in a day.

GB Van Norman lived until he was over 80 years old, and is buried in Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.
He was a community minded man:
G.B. Van Norman and others petition to cause the sidewalks on Nineteenth Avenue from National Avenue to South Pierce street, in the Eighth Ward to be graded and planked.

In the basement, there is a large old safe. The name G.B. Van Norman is painted on the outside.

A quick Google search for the name on the safe turned up this interesting court case from 1884:

60 Wis 296 BATES v CHICAGO M & ST PRY CO Garnishee etc

Filed April 8, 1884

Where a railroad company is served at 5 AM with a garnishee summons and two hours and a half later the property of the defendant is delivered at a place a hundred miles away to parties entitled to receive it; the service is not made in time to give the party served an opportunity to prevent the delivery of the property by the exercise of reasonable diligence and the company is not liable as garnishee. Personal property to be reached in the hands of a garnishee is such as would be subject to a writ of attachment or execution if it was in the hands of the principal debtor and personal property under the control of the garnishee but situated out of this state is not to be reached by process of garnishment in our courts. Public policy and the proper discharge of the duties of common carriers require that they cannot be held liable upon a garnishee summons for personal chattels in their possession in actual transit at the time the summons is served. Appeal from circuit court Racine county Fuller & Fuller and HH Field for appellant Chicago M & St P Ry Co garnishee etc Robert F Pettibone for respondent Alphonzo C Bates TAYLOR J

The facts in this case are as follows:

On the second day of March 1882, the respondent commenced an action against PH Cunningham in the Racine county circuit court and at the same time made an affidavit as required by law and issued a garnishee summons against the railway company. A copy of the affidavit and garnishee summons was served upon John W. Cary, the general solicitor of said company, at the city of Milwaukee on the second day of March 1882 at 5 o clock AM of that day. In due time the railway company made answer to said garnishee summons denying any indebtedness by the company to said Cunningham and also denying that it then had or now has in its possession or under its control any real estate personal property effects or credits of any description whatever belonging to the said Cunningham or in which he has any interest and alleging that the company is in no way liable as garnishee in the action. Upon this answer the plaintiff took issue. On the trial of the issue it appeared that at the time the garnishee summons was served on the general solicitor of the company at Milwaukee the railway company had a car load of hogs in its possession shipped by the defendant. Cunningham at Lyons Walworth county in this state on the first day of March 1882 consigned to one GB Van Norman at the Union stock yards in Chicago that at the time the garnishee summons was served in Milwaukee on the general solicitor the car load of hogs was in actual transit on its way to Chicago and was already south of the boundaries of this state and in the state of Illinois and that the hogs were delivered by the company’s agents to the consignee in Chicago at 7:20 o’clock AM on said second day of March 1882. The jury found that Cunningham owned the car load of hogs at the time the summons was served notwithstanding the fact that they were consigned to Van Norman. On the trial the counsel for appellant requested the circuit judge to instruct the jury as follows:
First: If you find from the evidence that at the time the garnishee summons was served on the defendant garnishee the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul Railway Company on March 2 1882 the consignment of hogs in question was outside of the state of Wisconsin then the defendant railroad company is not liable as garnishee and you must find for the defendant.
Second: If you find from the evidence that the garnishee summons was served on the defendant at an unreasonable hour in the morning and at such a time that the garnishee defendant could not stop the delivery of the consignment of hogs in question then and in that case the defendant railroad company is not liable as garnishee and you must find for the defendant.
Third: If you find from the evidence that the consignment of hogs in question arrived in Chicago in the state of Illinois at about 7 o’clock AM on March 2 1882 and were delivered at about 7:20 AM of the same day and further find that the garnishee summons was served in the city of Milwaukee Wisconsin at 5 AM of the second of March AD 1882 then the service of the garnishee summons was at an unreasonable time and the defendant railroad company is not liable as garnishee. The learned circuit judge refused to give either of said instructions and the defendant took proper exceptions to such refusal. The jury found a special verdict as follows:

First: At the time of the service of the garnishee summons upon the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul Railway Company in this action was said railway company in possession of a car load of hogs shipped by the defendant PH Cunningham to GB Van Norman Chicago?
Answer: Yes

Second: What was the value of said car load of hogs shipped by PH Cunningham to GB Van Norman March 1, 1882 and delivered to Van Norman’s agent at Chicago at 7:20 AM March 2, 1882?
Answer: $726.40

Third: Did the consignment of hogs in question shipped by PH Cunningham from Lyons and Burlington Wis to GB Van Norman Chicago Ill on the first day of March 1882 belong to said PH Cunningham and did he own said hogs?
Answer: Yes

Fourth: To whom did the car load of hogs shipped from Lyons and Burlington Wis to GB Van Norman Chicago Ill March 1 1882 belong at the time of the service of the garnishee summons in the case.
Answer: PH Cunningham

Fifth: Was the said consignment of hogs outside of the state of Wisconsin and of the county of Racine and in transition at the time the garnishee summons in this case was served on the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul Railway Company on March 2 1882?
Answer: Yes

Sixth: Was the property in question delivered by the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul Railway Company to Van Norman’s agent at Chicago at 7 20 AM March 2 1882?
Answer: Yes

Seventh: Was the garnishee summons served on John W Cary general solicitor of the garnishee defendant at 5 o’clock AM March 2, 1882?
Answer: Yes

Eighth: Did the garnishee defendant the Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul Railway Company at the time of the service of the garnishee summons herein have any property in its possession owned by PH Cunningham?
Answer: Yes

Ninth: Do you find for the plaintiff or for the garnishee defendant?
Answer: For plaintiff

Upon this verdict both parties moved for judgment. The court rendered judgment in favor of the plaintiff holding the company liable as garnishee. From such judgment the company appeal to this court.

From The Northwestern Reporter, Volumes 19-20.


History of Address changes and Additions:

Our house’s ‘historic name’ is ‘G. B. Vanotsman’ (which should most likely be G.B. Van Norman) and the architect was ‘B. Larsen.’

“On the 1910 map, the alleyway is now gone. New house number as well? 342? what was the number on that big door in the attic?”

The big door in the attic did indeed have the number 342 on it. Unfortunately I sold that door sometime this winter on Facebook marketplace. I didn’t realize it had a connection to the house. I thought it was a random door the previous homeowner had acquired somewhere and stuck up in the attic.

“The sunroom addition was not apparent on the 1910 map either, so it was built after that. Judging by the the fact the rear addition is wired with all BX, and it seems to be similar age of the rest of the BX in basement, and BX wasn’t popular until the early 1930s — we can presume that the addition and garage were built around the same time and from 1930 on. They’re both very old though.

Around the 1930s Milwaukee went through a big street renumbering/naming. Our street was previously called Nineteenth Avenue. Before that time, our house number used to be 330A Nineteenth Ave, or A330. Houses apparently were numbered if they were over 15′ apart, but if they were close enough, they got A/B/etc

Aerial images going back to 1955 show our alleyway and driveway being the same way they are now, and the same buildings all around it so there have been no major changes since then.”

The Tromp Queen Recommends (again)

Here are a few items I think are useful.  I hope you’ll give one or more of them a try!

Silicone egg poachers!  I ordered these from Amazon because I like poached eggs but I don’t like all the fuss of using an egg poacher pan.  If you use one of these little cups you can make a poached egg in the microwave in 35 to 40 seconds.  It cooks faster than a piece of toast!  For a fast breakfast it is just the thing.  It is also possible to use these silicone cups in a pan of simmering water.  They are dishwasher safe.  I’ve made eggs with and without non-stick spray. Easy to use.

cozilife egg poaching cups
Cozilife egg poaching cups



I often struggle with insomnia.  I don’t like to take extra medicine but sometimes I need something to help me fall asleep.  I previously recommended “Sleep,” an herbal sleep aid.  Another sleep aide I use is called MidNite.  It is especially good for taking in the middle of the night; hence the name!  An added benefit of this brand is the tablets are chewable. I recommend either or both of these.

Herbal sleep aid.


Chewable herbal sleep aid


If you are always in search of a charging cord that works with your various devices, consider this choice:



[2 Pack] USB Charging Cable, 4 in 1 Multiple USB Charger Cable Adapter Connector with Lightning/30 Pin/Micro USB/Mini USB Ports for iPhone, iPad Air Mini, iPod touch Nano, Galaxy and More

I like it because it works with my iPad and with my Android phone. A 2-pack cost under 10 dollars!


I have very thin and somewhat naturally curly hair.  This shampoo always makes my hair look better.  Yes, it is more expensive than Suave or Pantene.  It does work for me, though.

free and clear
Free and Clear Shampoo and Conditioner

I’m never leaving here


I drove through the rolling green hills of the Driftless region of southwest Wisconsin today. The farm fields have sprouted; some are already knee-high with corn or soy beans. The hills are dotted with clusters of trees, grand old solitary oaks and pastures full of grazing cows or horses. The sky was bright blue with a few floaty white clouds. It was a nearly perfect early summer day.

I used to live in that area. I didn’t think I ever took the beauty for granted, but after not seeing it daily for the last five years or so — I was definitely soaking it in today.

I had a hand-drawn map on a piece of paper to guide me. The address didn’t show up on my GPS. In this now-city-girl’s opinion, it was out in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely gorgeous nowhere, though. I had never been to this farm before. The friend who lived there was the friend-of-a-friend with whom I’d have a few coffee chats over the years.
I had also had this woman’s daughter in my children’s choir at one time about 8 years ago or so.


The two friends were waiting for me on a lovely screened in back porch as I drove slowly up the long gravel driveway. I got out of the car, flung my arms wide and declared, “I’m never leaving! This is absolutely beautiful.” (This photo is the view from the screened in back porch).

We laughed and hugged and said hello.

I’ve written about my friend, Anne, before. And here as well.

The woman who lives on this gorgeous farm was diagnosed with an aggressive very rare form of cancer last October. She went from mammogram, to biopsy, to starting chemo in FOUR days. It was urgent. Her prognosis was never good. The doctors thought she wouldn’t make it through October. I saw her today, looking great and full of joy and love — about 9 months after that thought. She is fiercely determined, surrounded by prayer and LOVE.

We had peppermint tea and some delicious veggies, cheese (it IS Wisconsin, after all!), gluten-free crispy crackers, and dark chocolate covered cherries. A lovely tea party for three.

We chatted about family, about our children, about our lives. We talked about her treatment until she declared she’d had enough. We went on to talk about the book she had finished (during chemo!) and about her upcoming book signing. I bought a few for family and friends, and she happily signed them for me.

We talked about balcony people and about basement people. She said, “If you are on the stage performing at the very top of your ability and the balcony is full of people who love you unconditionally, who believe in you, who are your most loyal supporters — who is in the balcony?” I got teary and reached out my hand to Anne, “Anne Donovan.” She grasped my hand. I talked about how Anne has buoyed me through the years and not only me, but my children. Without fail, without reservation, without shyness. She is on our side. Always. No question. Ever. I’m incredibly blessed to have a balcony packed full of wonderful friends and family and colleagues.

Then she asked, “Who is in the basement? Who second guesses you? Questions your words, your motives, your actions?” Well, I could name a few people. But thankfully very few.

This woman inspired me. She gave me comfort and support today; she declared my life had already touched many lives for the better and predicted I would be continuing on that path. She hugged me tightly and she knew I was thinking I might not ever see her again. She saw my tears. She prophesied that I will be open to more joy and love than I can imagine. All three of us hugged and at least two of us were tearing up.

I took a quick photo of the three of us.

I will carry this sacred moment in my heart.



Lean on Me


I’m a music teacher.

I teach first and second grade general music.  Each year I plan and prepare a 30 minute musical program of songs (usually with choreography and various props) for my students to perform for the rest of the school and for their parents, family and friends.

I started thinking about what I wanted to do for this year’s program last summer.  I considered several ideas.  One that I liked a lot was to have a rainbow theme for the songs.  Each song would represent a color of the rainbow.  For instance, Purple might be “Flying Purple People Eater” and Green could be “It isn’t easy being green.”

I liked the idea.  I had trouble coming up with a good idea for “orange” though.

While I thought about various ideas, I kept having the song “What the World Needs Now” running through my head.  In light of all the tragedies of the last year and considering the course our national government is on, I began to think of a different type of theme for our program.

What if we sang songs about what the world needs now?  Love, obviously, according to the song — but what else does the world need?

Song ideas poured out of my mind.

I remember songs I learned as a young child. I firmly believe lyrics of songs can be something to hold onto in times of trouble.
Words have power.
Our minds have power.
I want to fill my students young minds with power and hope.
With love and dreams.
I want to arm them with songs that will feed their souls, and not with fluff to fill the time in a music program.

I considered many options.  I distilled my ideas down to a list of 7 songs.

I chose songs about family, community, love, dreams, tenacity, peace, friendship, healing, and music.


One of the songs I chose was Lean On Me. I was concerned about not having enough time for the students to learn all the lyrics.  I came up with what I thought was a great idea — to have one of the school custodians sing the verses as a solo.  The students would then only need to learn the chorus and bridge sections.3ell, the night of the recital came.  When the time came up, he was nowhere to be seen.
I asked if anyone had seen him.  No one had.

I said, “Oh well, we’ll skip that song and come back to it when he arrives.”

In my mind, I was trying to think of who could sing the solo verses.  I’m a music teacher and of course I could do it.  I’m not a solo singer, though.  Never have been.  I’d much rather have my back to the audience (directing a choir) or to my side (playing the piano).

A song or two later a teacher came up to be between songs and whispered, “We’re going to sing it.  We’ve got you covered.”

Ah!  What a perfect solution.  I was filled with gratitude at their thoughtfulness, resourcefulness and … bravery.

We sang our songs.  We came to the end of the last song.  I grabbed the microphone and announced that we had a solution to our missing soloist issue.  The teachers (12 of them, including student teachers) along with the principal and one of our assistant principals gathered on the gym floor in front of the children and sat down in a semi-circle.

Started the music: Lean on Me, the Bill Withers version.  We hummed the introduction.  Then the teachers began to sing the verse.  Everyone was smiling.  The children came in with the chorus:

Lean on me when you’re not strong.
I’ll be your friend.
I’ll help you carry on —
For it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.

Call on me, brother, if you need a hand.
We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you’d understand.
We all need somebody to lean on.

During the next verse I encouraged the audience to join in singing the verses by saying the words as they would need to sing them. Many people joined in the singing.

It really was a wonderful ending to our program.  The song ended up being the closer for the concert, and it was absolutely perfect.

What the world needs now is love, yes, but also friends and community and people who are willing to lend a hand.

Singing teachers
These are the teachers. They are singing.

teachers sang
I love the part when all the teachers sang for Mr. Ron at the concert.


In the morning I found this whole school email from our principal in my inbox:

Dear Staff,

I can’t let your day begin without sharing something that was pretty amazing about last night’s 1st and 2nd grade concert. Our scheduled guest soloist couldn’t make it so we all decided to sing! Our students and their families will likely never forget the day the 1st and 2nd grade teachers along with their principal and assistant principal sang with them, Lean on Me, directed by their music teacher. Thank you to the teachers who were courageous and willing to take on my crazy idea! The kids and the families were amazed and the families decided to sing along with us. I am so proud of our school family! Have an awesome day!!!

It takes a village and I’m so thankful my village is full of wonderful, caring colleagues.

This was my reply:

Hello all,
Thank you sharing our magical moment, Mrs. Smith.
It was a wonderful experience and I’m honored to be surrounded by such caring and resourceful colleagues.  Thank you to all who sang the verses for us!!
After the plan was hatched, one of the teachers whispered to me, “We’re going to sing it.  We’ve got you covered.”
It takes a village, and I’m thankful to be in this village together.​
Be what the worlds needs today!

Curious minds might want to know the song titles I chose:

Proud By Teresa Jennings

Reaching for a brass ring is symbolic of taking hold of an opportunity or winning a great prize.

We Know The Way By Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina from “Moana”
We tell the stories of our elders in a never-ending chain.


What the World Needs Now is Love By Hal David and Burt Bacharach

Is love, sweet love:  It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.

Lean On Me By Bill Withers

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend — I’ll help you carry on
We all need somebody to lean on.

Peaceful By Teresa Jennings

Think of the world without any war. Think of the world at peace.

Young and Positive By Nitanju Bolade Casel, of Sweet Honey In The Rock from the album “I Got Shoes”

My eyes are on the prize and they will stay that way.

Kusimama By Jim Papoulis

Sung in Swahili:
Mimi Kusimama — I stand tall
Na upendo — with love
Na tamani — with hope
Watoto ni karibu dunia –children are closer to the earth



Birthday Confabulations

I’m hitting a milestone this year, birthday-wise. I guess every birthday is a milestone, though. This one feels very much a mid-point.

Fifty-five, in case you are wondering.

I’ve been thinking about memorable birthdays from my past.

1-jill fest-001
Jill-Fest button

When I was turning 49, I decided to have a party instead of waiting until the big five-oh. As I talked with friends, we began to call it “Jill-Fest.” I made buttons. We ate at our favorite local Chicago-style pizzeria and had our favorite beverages. Friends from the various parts of my lives met each other for the first time:  quilters, church folks, university colleagues, neighbors, musicians. We had a great time!

Choir concert

Many birthdays were spent performing in concerts or recitals. Both of our children were members of the local Children’s Choir, and I directed the youngest choir. Every few years, the last concert of the year would fall on my birthday. One year, the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to me. One year I had a university choir concert (I was the accompanist for two of the choirs) AND there was a Children’s Choir concert at the same time (different venue).

Another memorable year, I accompanied two talented students who sang for a vocal studio recital. They sang a hilarious song called “Tear Jerk.” (This video is not of our performance. I’m including it in case you want to watch a version of this very humorous duet.)

In 2006, I also played for my first ever full vocal recital (university level). I had three weeks to learn all the (very challenging) music for a 45 minute program. It went well and I went on to play MANY more in the following years.


For my 40th, I got to eat lunch with by three best friends in a Galena, IL at Vinny Vanucchi’s (a FABULOUS Italian restaurant) and then shop the quaint main street stores. I bought a sterling silver ring with a small stone (which fell out a few months later). They got me a bottle of wine (to share during lunch) and a stone for my garden.

Vinny Vannucchi's Italian Ristorante
Vinny’s in Galena, IL

Some years I had a “birthday week” or so.  I had a flexible schedule (working about 5 part-time music related jobs) so I had plenty of time for coffee chats, breakfasts and lunches with friends. So many good memories!

Simple family birthday celebrations are the most common through the years, though. We almost always have a cake or pie following a special meal of some sort (either home-cooked or “out”). When I was very young, we’d celebrate with Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins. Middle school and high school years we celebrated with something sweet at school (cake or cupcakes) and maybe a pizza night (at home or “out”). Usually by the time my birthday rolls around, the trees are just beginning to grown their fresh green leaves, daffodils and tulips bloom, and the grass is growing again. When our children were small, we celebrated by going to the zoo or by taking  walk in the woods. I try to avoid cooking on my birthday if at all possible!

America Sings logo
John Jacobson’s America Sings!

When I was the music director at a small high school in Illinois, I spent my 27th birthday with my students at the very first America Sings! festival in Washington, DC. Everything except the cherry trees seemed to be in bloom. My eyes were red and I couldn’t wear my contacts. I’ll never forget the sound of thousands of singers singing “Love will be our home” with the White House to our right, the Washington Monument behind us, and the Lincoln Memorial in the distance ahead of us as the day melted into twilight.

1-America Sings SJO 1989
SJO HS music dept at the 1st America Sings! event in Washington, DC April 1989

On the bus ride back to the hotel, they sang the song again spontaneously, beautifully, a cappella. This was memorable because I usually have a no-singing rule on bus trips. (They tend to over sing and cause vocal stress; plus, it gets annoying!) We when got back to the hotel, we had cake and a little party to celebrate the event, the end of our trip and my birthday, too.


1-WHS swing choir
HS swing choir yearbook photo

Way back when I was in high school, we had a swing choir performance scheduled on a Sunday evening (on my 17th birthday). I asked several of my friends to go shopping or whatever during the day. Everyone said they couldn’t or were busy. I felt sad and a bit hurt, thinking no one wanted to celebrate with me. THEN our choir director called an extra rehearsal for that afternoon (at his house, which was very odd). I was definitely NOT happy.

1 dozen red roses
Red roses with baby’s breath

I arrived at the house and wondered why I saw Carla Darr’s car there. She wasn’t in swing choir. SURPRISE! Yes. I was totally surprised. It was not a rehearsal! It was a surprise birthday party. I was shocked and SO pleased. After thinking no one cared, I had no doubt they DID care. (I love my friends!) I got my first dozen red roses from my BFF.



One year sometime in the early to mid 1990s, I spent my birthday at the AQS quilt show in Paducah, KY. Quilters all over the United States (and around the world) aspire to attend this event.

AQS Quilt Week in Paducah, KY

The whole town of Paducah focuses on all things QUILTS for those few days at the end of April each year. To begin with, there is the main show with thousands of quilts on display and hundreds of vendor booths for shopping. Then, all around the town are other smaller quilt shows, fabric stores and art galleries — and of course, the fabulous Hancock’s of Paducah (fabric frenzy central). It is a quilter’s paradise.

Speaking of birthdays and shopping, we used to live in a town with a Bargain Nook.

Bargain Nook
Bargain Nook sweaters

On your birthday you could get 50% off your total purchase (up to a certain amount, but usually it was $100 or even more). This store sold mostly Lands’ End items — returns, seconds, defectives, etc — but also other used items in good condition. I LOVE Lands’ End stuff. Because of this store, I could indulge my love of cashmere sweaters! (For instance I’ve bought them for a little as $10!) Even better, the proceeds from these stores benefit a community organization:  The Hodan Center. Including my town, there were four bargain nooks within a radius of about an hour’s drive. Some years I would go to all four stores!

It is the mission of Hodan Community Services to provide and promote opportunities for work and personal development so that persons with disabilities can achieve individual life goals.

The celebration today (so far) has included breakfast cooked by my husband (bacon and eggs), a nap, time to read and fiddle with facebook, talking to my mom, and coffee (also made by my husband). Tonight we’re going to eat sushi and then see the national tour of the musical “Chicago” which is playing here in Milwaukee.


Easter Memories

As this day draws to a close, my mind wanders back through the years…

Easter when I was young meant a new dress, hair curled (with bristly rollers and a hot hair dryer on Saturday), gloves, hat, purse and maybe new shoes. We’d go to church with Aunt Helen.

1-Easter with Aunt Helen
Fancy hats, purses, shoes and gloves.

We’d have an Easter egg hunt in the house. My sister and I each had a woven basket with a nest of green paper grass and filled with eggs we had colored the day before. We usually had some plastic eggs filled with candy, too.


I also remember having delicate large decorated sugar eggs that were hollow inside with a peep-hole on one end to look at a spring-themed diorama inside.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2014-02-12 21:22:55Z | |
Sugar Easter Egg

Most years, we’d drive the hour or so to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we’d have a big meal with cousins and Aunts and Uncles and look for Easter eggs out in the yard. I don’t have many specific food memories associated with Easter. Jelly beans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate rabbits were the main treats we had.

In later years, Easter day usually meant a long morning at church. As church organist/pianist, I often played for 3 or even 4 services on Easter morning. When my husband and I had small children of our own, we made special arrangements with the Easter Bunny to visit while we were away at church (since we didn’t have time before church usually).

B hunting Easter Eggs, 1998
Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998

We colored eggs every year often experimenting with new ways to decorate the shells — natural dyes, crayon batiks, rubber bands, ombre effects, etc.

Easter Eggs

Holy Week holds very special memories of having our daughter. I wrote about this in another blog post, The Miracle of Grace. I am still in AWE of the miracle of her birth. Hallelujah! She was baptized on Easter Sunday.

Holy Week services have been an important part of my faith journey. I remember being moved to tears singing Ah, Holy Jesus in an 1800’s sanctuary on Good Friday. I remember singing in and directing Easter/Holy Week cantatas. Lent and Tenebrae services made more sense after we became Lutherans. I’ve attended a few Seder meals in the home of a Jewish friend and cherish those memories. There have been healing services and prayer vigils.

One year when our children were very young we visited my mom and dad for Easter weekend. After we came home from church, we found a tree in their yard decorated with plastic Easter eggs. There were other eggs hidden around their yard. It was quite a mystery because none of us had made arrangements for the Easter Bunny to visit us there. (We solved this mystery many years later when a neighbor admitted being the accomplice.)
Easter Egg Tree

Our children are much older now (18 and 21). This year we didn’t even color eggs at all. We did indulge in some candy, though. I deeply enjoyed attending church together, all four of us since it such a rare event now that our oldest is away at college. The church we attend now has a tradition of singing the Hallelujah Chorus (from Messiah) at the end of the Easter morning services. Anyone in the congregation who would like to sing with the choir is invited to do so. My son and I both went up to sing. It was joyous.

Whatever your faith tradition, I hope we can agree that LOVE and CARING for each other are essential for living our lives together now and forever.



Crossing the Border

CN Tower
CN Tower, Toronto Ontario, Canada Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license 4.0

My daughter and I took a spontaneous trip to Toronto during our recent spring break from school.

As we left the USA to cross the bridge into Canada, there were many signs proclaiming the way to Canada and for the last exit before Canada. We showed our passports to the border person. He asked where we were going, why we were visiting Canada, how long we were staying, if we had accommodations, if we had any guns and a few other things. Nothing dramatic; no problems. We were on our way in just a couple of minutes.

After a few days of adventure in Toronto, we approached the border again — from the Canadian side this time. Our plan was to visit the Motown Museum in Detroit; we had reserved tickets purchased online for the 10:30 am tour. I had not really allowed enough time — it was raining, didn’t anticipate possible late-rush-hour traffic issues, didn’t really think through how long it would take to go across the US border — so I was feeling a time crunch.

US/Canada border at Windsor, Ontario

We chose a line of cars to join. I think there were four lines. Each line was at least 10 cars long and all the lines were moving at a glacial pace. I worried that we had chosen the wrong line. We inched forward slowly, car by car. Minutes clicked by. Ten-o-clock came and went. I worked on how I would beg to be allowed to take a later tour at the museum.

There were border guards walking along the lines of cars. There was a sniffer dog and handler. There were cameras — everywhere — so many cameras.

Finally it is our turn to approach the booth.

I rolled down my window and attempted to clear my throat. (The morning “gags” as my co-workers will attest!)

The guy in the booth (first thing out of his mouth), “Did you just cough on me?”

I laughed and said no. “It is just the morning gags.”

He looked out our passports. “Ah. Milwaukee.” I nodded yes.

“Got a lot of good beer there?” I assured him there was no shortage.

Then he proceeded to ask if I knew that Wisconsin is the #1 drunk driving state in the country.  Yep. I know. Yep. I’m not proud.

He asks about Sarah being born in Iowa. We assure him she is not really an Iowan. Blah, blah, blah.

In my mind, I’m wondering if this guy knows how many cars are waiting in these lines behind us. Does he shoot the breeze with everyone like this? I glance at the clock, mentally calculating how many minutes we have left until 10:30 am and how much time I think we need to drive to the museum.

I mention we have tickets to tour the Motown Museum, thinking he might get the hint.

He jumps on the new bandwagon.
Do I play any instruments? Yes, I admit.
“Which ones,” he asks? To save time, I say, “all of them.”
He gives me grief. I tell him I was a band director and it is mostly accurate to say I can play all the instruments (wishing I had just said “PIANO” and left it at that!).

He asks Sarah what she plays. Violin, she answers. He is impressed. He tells us he wanted to play cello. This brings on a new thought apparently —

“Say. Tell me honestly,” he says, “how hard would it be to learn to play the bugle?”

“Well,” I say, “There are no valves so once you get the hang of the lip thing you are all set. Why? Do you want to play Taps?”

Yes, in fact, that IS the reason. He is a vet, he tells us. There is a shortage of Taps players. I know this because my brother-in-law has played Taps at many veteran funerals.

Bugle. Image from eBay.

“You really think I could learn?”

“Sure,” I say, though I’m basing this affirmation on no proof of his musical talents and mainly his gift for gab.

I kid you not. More questions about the bugle come next!

“Where would I find a bugle?”

“Um… eBay? Or a good music store?”

“Oh. Right.”

At this point, I risk a pointed look at the clock and then say, “Well, if that’s all you need we should be heading to the museum….”

He hands back our passports.

“Have a nice trip.”

We made it to the museum with zero minutes to spare.  The tour started the moment we got past the ticket booth.  The tour was FABULOUS, by the way.

Beautiful Nature and Remarkable People: The Art of Andrey Remnev

image from
Andrey Remnev

My birth place is Yakhroma town, in the vicinity of Moscow. It is situated on high hills, from where broad Bruegelian vistas are open. The uneven terrain with significant differences of high and low; a canal between the Moskva river and the Volga; small rivers, woods and villages; a nearby ancient town of Dmitrov, which is equal to Moscow in age; ships cruising the canal and trains outdistancing them – all this I saw from my window since my early years. It was a view that embraced all the diversity of the world. This is why I can say that the impressions of my childhood and youth – beautiful nature and remarkable people – are the most important ones.

In the museum of Moscow’s St. Andronic Monastery I copied the best examples of the old Russian painting of the 15th-17th centuries.
My own style evolved from the ancient icon painting, Russian art of the 18th century, the compositional innovations of the World of Art group and Russian Constructivism.

As painters of the past, I use natural pigments bound with egg yolk.

I had never saw a work by this artist until today. I ran across the image on the left below — of the woman sleeping, wearing pearls and a thickly embroidered golden gown covered with blackbirds and waves. There is a lovely sense of peace and serenity.  A richness. Stillness.

High Water. Code. Diptych. 2014 Remnev


Remnev_A_Dream‘s-Girl 001
Siesta, 2008 Remnev

The more I looked, the more I fell in love.  This guy is obsessed with birds!  I wish these fabrics could exist in real life.  What fun it would be to wear clothing like this.

Frau Herbst, 2001 Remnev

Migration, 2009 Remnev


Bagatel, 2010 Remnev

Hotbed, 2014 Remnev

Polya 2011 Remnev

Echo, Remnev 2011

Ah, yes.  The birds, the inscrutable expressions on these women’s faces, the textured luxurious fabrics, and a very strong sense of surrealism — the paintings of Remnev are captivating.

Vesna (Spring), 2010 Remnev

Silk Birds, 2007 Remnev

Metamorphosis, 2012 Remnev

Apples of Gesperides, 2007 Remnev


Remnev conveys a sense of isolation even when the subject in the painting is not alone — we feel their loneliness.

Eurasia, 2015 Remnev

Spring-Winter, 2007 Remnev

The unplaiting of the hair, 1997 Remnev

I am struck by the isolation, the feeling of “alone-ness” in this next set of paintings:

Andromeda, 2007 Remnev


Tomorrow will be wind, 2005 Remnev

Deep Breath, 2011 Remnev

Siringa, Remnev



Papagena, Remnev


Enter a caption

Expulsion from Paradise, 2008 Remnev

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this artist.  Which painting speaks to you most clearly? What does it say to you? If you find others by this artist  that intrigue your senses, please share a link.


This Week in February, 2012

Dad's Barber Shop
George’s Barber Shop; Image from a 1991 calendar.

My dad died five years ago this week. I ran across this summary of that week’s events. I sent it to just a few friends at the time, but as I read it today I thought it might be of help to someone who might be going through a similar life event.

I thought I’d post a summary of all that has happened this week. All of you were very close friends at some point in my life and I still care deeply about each of you. If you don’t want to hear all the details, then you don’t need to read the rest of this. I thought some of you might want to know more, however, so when I had the chance to collect my thoughts last night I tried to write them down to share.

The funeral planning started the minute I got here Sunday evening and it all went very smoothly. The few things that could have been major issues were solved quickly and with little effort.

It has been very good to have time with my sister and with my mom. We took time to sort photos for the slide show (power point) and it was wonderful to bring back all those memories.

I have a very clear vision of my dad as his much younger, happier, healthier self, smiling and enjoying himself with many, many relatives and friends — all together in the presence of Jesus. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more darkness!

Tuesday we spent time gathering the items and photos for the display of my Dad that would be on view during the calling hours and funeral since there wasn’t a coffin. I posted a pic of this on Facebook. R, B and S arrived just as the calling hours began which was wonderful. Tuesday night we had about 400 people (which is about 1/2 the population of this town!) come through the line to give condolences and offer memories and comfort. We saw so many people and heard so many stories that we have difficulty remembering them all, but we were left with an almost tangible sense of the impact Dad left on so many lives in this town. So many people told us about ways that he had cared for them during difficult times or that he made something special for them. R (the funeral home director who was a childhood friend of mine, growing up in our neighborhood and a member of youth group at church, etc) said he thought if we had had more hours of calling that we would have had even more people! But it was what we could do and I think it was as much as Mom could do in one day.

Wednesday the service time arrived so quickly. We talked with the people who came early to talk with us and with mom until nearly the last minute. The service was fantastic. The pastor did an excellent job. He wove in the humor and the grumpiness and the love — it was perfect. The two people who did the eulogy were right on. One was my cousin and the other was one of Dad’s very close friends through thick and thin these last 35 years or so.

Both were heartfelt but also made us laugh. All those trips to various basketball and football games in a car full of girls were definitely mentioned and chuckled over. We sang Mom’s favorite hymn towards the end and also played the recording of A’s song. My mom had heard the song (the composer was a student of mine when I taught at a small high school in central in IL) and LOVED the words and felt they were so perfect. The pastor did a short homily type wrap up using several of my dad’s favorite scriptures. I also played a piano solo arrangement of my Dad’s favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

Several people said it was the most joyous funeral they had ever attended. Even the funeral director said he didn’t think he had ever heard quite so much laughter at a service.

Many people said it suited Dad perfectly. We all felt very peaceful about the whole thing.

After a lunch at the church, we met at the graveyard very briefly. It was cold and windy. You can see my sister’s house from where his ashes are buried.

I think this was the most difficult time for me.

The pastor read the scripture from Revelation about no more tears, no more pain — and it became very real that my Dad’s body had been burned to ashes and was in that little white box at my feet but that he is face to face with Jesus now. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I will not ever see him again on this earth and as thoughts of all the good memories crowded my mind.

The plot we got for them is right next to Dad’s friend who did the eulogy.

Very cool how that worked out.

My mom will be buried there, too.

Mom and I have listened to the funeral music several times these last couple of days. We had two songs played during the prelude that were sung by the university choirs that I have accompanied for the last several years (7? or more now). One is called “No Time” (No time to tarry here for I’m on my journey home…I really do believe that just before the break of dawn you can hear the angels sing in that morning…Fare thee well for I on my journey home — it is gorgeous!). The women sang that one and they really did sound like a choir of angels! The men sang a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace which I loved at the time (2006) and thought it would be perfect for funeral music someday. I had the mp3s sent here so that we could have these songs as the prelude. There are about 80 to 100 college students in these choirs each year so over the years I’ve gotten quite attached to many of them, so having this music at the service meant a lot to me. (Plus the pianist is very good 😉

fabulous Fazoli piano!

The more we mull over Dad’s last few weeks and especially his last week, we are so thankful for the way things ended for him. He saw most of the people he loves at least once in the last month and he got to do many of the things he most enjoyed in those last few days — eat with his favorite relatives and go to a HS basketball game. He died at home on the couch in his sleep (if not in his sleep he died as quietly as if he was just going to sleep because Mom didn’t hear him from the next room).

We are thankful he didn’t have to be in a nursing home or kept alive on a respirator or via feeding tube. We are thankful that he didn’t have time to be afraid or to feel pain this time. I’m thankful that I called that afternoon — probably it was in the last hour of his life.

We all feel a wonderful sense of relief, of peace, of comfort. We are truly surrounded by love and prayers and we feel it every minute of every day since those first few hours as the news spread.

There are so many details to take care of. I want to do as much as I can before I go back to WI. Lori has done so much over these last few weeks, months, years. But we also are trying to take time to just rest and soak in the peace.

I’m thankful I had such a wonderful Dad, and that I have had this time to say goodbye to him.


I’m thankful for each and every one of you.

Dr. Who: Philosophy of Fear


I’ve been Dr. Who off and on for over 30 years. Back when my husband was in grad school, it was on every week night at 10 pm on the local PBS station. Tom Baker, Layla, K9, the Daleks, Cybermen, Sarah, John Pertwee, Unit — many years, many Doctors, many companions, many adventures.

Dr. Who has had a re-boot in the last few years. The new version is still on BBC.

My husband (who seems to be in the midst of a Dr. Who binge-watch) had Series 8, episode 4 on today. The topic of fear caught my attention.

I struggle to not let fear rule my mind and heart.
Attempting to think of fear in a different way may help.

Maybe it will help you, too, if you struggle with fear every once in a while
(or all the time…)

Clara (hearing a loud noise): What’s that?
The Doctor: What kind of explanation would you like?
Clara: A reassuring one.


Clara (spoken quietly to a child in the dark):
I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is alright.
Because didn’t anybody ever tell you?

Fear is a superpower.

Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger.

…If you’re very wise and very strong fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly.

Fear can make you kind.

You’re always gonna be afraid even if you learn to hide it.
Fear is like a companion, a constant companion, always there.
But that’s okay because fear can bring us together.

Fear can bring you home.

I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember.
Fear makes companions of us all.


The Doctor:
Let me tell you about scared.

Your heart is beating so hard I can feel it through your hands.
There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain it’s like rocket fuel.
Right now you could run faster and you could fight harder, you could jump higher than ever in your life. And you are so alert it’s like you can slow down time.

What’s wrong with scared?
Scared is a superpower.
It’s your superpower.

There is danger in this room and guess what?
It’s you.
Do you feel it?



A voice heard halfway around the world

CS Lewis quote; image by The Tromp Queen, CC license.

Most days, I probably spend a little too much time on Facebook.
On weekends I probably spend a LOT too much time on Facebook.

But sometimes I’m deeply touched by the things I read and see there.
I’m flabbergasted by the kindness of strangers and friends.

I feel connected to people and places I’ll probably never see again (or ever see period).

Yesterday I made a new friend.
She lives in Hobart, Tasmania and I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Here’s how it happened.

As I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I saw a post about a conversation between two friends:


(at Starbucks)
FRIEND: I need a tea. Do you want anything?

ME: A new president.

Thinking the post was by a friend, I commented:

“I can’t believe it’s only been a week.”

Turns out the post was from another source and a friend had re-posted it. A short while later I got this very kind message from a woman in Australia who said my comment struck a chord with her which prompted her to contact me:

Please excuse me contacting you like this .
I normally wouldn’t. But I’m sitting here in Hobart Tasmania like 12 thousand miles from Washington and I was thinking exactly what you said

” I can’t believe it’s only been a week”

A cry from the heart or just a bemused thought or whatever.

Exactly that. A week in time. There’s 52 in each year. If things are 208 times worse in 4 years god help us all long before then.

My apologies again but you struck a chord in me. Peace.

This was my reply:

Thank you for your words. I had planned to try to bury my head in the sand for the next four years, trying to naively believe all will be well. Every single day it is more apparent that I can not in good conscience pursue that passive path. My comment was a cry from the heart; I appreciate being heard.

I was having a bout of insomnia. It was about 1:30 am here and I don’t know what time there, but I’m guessing 17 or 18 hours since it is almost literally half-way around the world.

We chatted (via Facebook Messenger) about the new US President and various issues, then meandered on to family and common interests.

I spent a little time trying to figure out if she and I had any mutual friends.
We didn’t.
This was truly a serendipitous connection.

We decided to become friends on Facebook and just started our first game of Words with Friends together.

A person can never have too many friends — virtual or otherwise.
Being kind is always a good thing to be.

Documenting Rural Iowa


Meet photographer Cody Weber.

Cody Weber of

Cody Weber is a no-coast photographer from Keokuk, Iowa.  He has had a lifelong fascination with the history of his home state and a bittersweet love for his hometown.

He has committed himself to photograph and visit all 99 counties and all 947 towns in Iowa with hopes of capturing the soul and story of every one. He calls it Forgotten Iowa.

There are 947 towns in Iowa. I’m going to take pictures of every single one.


There is a real disconnect between city poor and rural poor and neither one seem to quite understand the other.

Read the Forgotten Iowa blog posts  and see photographs here and here.

Check out the Forgotten Iowa Instagram, too.

I discovered Cody’s work on the Antique Archaeology website in an article entitled:

Intriguing project, right?

Image by Cody Weber for

Image by Cody Weber for

Image by Cody Weber for


Image by Cody Weber for

Image by Cody Weber for Dubuque, Iowa area scenic view

Image by Cody Weber for

Image by Cody Weber for

Image by Cody Weber for


Image by Cody Weber for


Rarely does the rain taste like tears

image by TTQ cc; Uncommon Folk exhibit at MaM

Whirlwind of a rainbow, blind eye of the storm.
Keeper of the bear lodge, brave heart soon to rest.

Never have I seen the clouds like this, never have I seen the river white caps whipped so, such rare light marking off in sacred four directions.

Rarely does the rain taste like tears.

Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years --Uriah Heep
Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years –Uriah Heep Image by Robert via Flickr CC.

Tonight my heart is breaking, yet bursting with gratitude – such dichotomy is the stuff of growth and pain.

Life gives us this and more, and in death the reminder of how short and sweet and tumultuous and tender this gift is.

stained glass glow
stained glass windows; church in NJ, image by TTQ CC license

…the storm shall soon pass, with it that kind-hearted Whirlwind and in doing so will leave us all the better for knowing him.

We sit, still in ceremony with all of you. Prayers are felt.

Doug Ellis via Flickr CC license candle light prayer circle
candle light prayer circle


For you who know where I sit tonight, I cannot describe the quality of the light of setting sun on the storm clouds.

sunset storm clouds over Lake Michigan

(We listen) to the wind whip around the house and he laughs! Fitting to go out in a storm he says… The spikes of light in the cardinal points, something very surreal about it all…

image by QThomas Bower, via Flickr CC

My love to everyone in the down south lodge.

Here in the north it’s become a powerful night.

Rainbow Curls image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC license
Rainbow Curls, Iceland image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC


–Kristen Andrews

I found this lovely, incredibly moving tribute posted by Kristen Andrews somewhere on Facebook a while ago.  Such beautiful words, such heart wrenching imagery, such love and beauty — it makes my heart ache.

Simply Give; Give Simply

Dear Readers:

I have done a “simply give; give simply” post for the past couple of years now.




This year’s is going out without the bells and whistles (photos and detailed descriptions) because if I wait any longer it will be of no use to anyone.

All of the following links are for gift ideas (or websites with lists of ideas) that support what I think are good causes.

Made by Survivors:
Tree of LIfe necklace Made by Survivors   *dove of peace pin made from bombshell casings, image below*


Beautiful doves of peace, made more meaningful by their source. Cambodian artisans shape these doves and their universal message from recycled brass bomb casings. War in Cambodia littered the landscape with unexploded bombs. Artisans group Rajana helps young people gain skills in handicrafts production and marketing, transforms bomb casings into fashion statements for peace.


Enjoy exploring!

Merry giving and receiving.

Peace and Grace to you all.