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 familysearch.org.
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. http://tinyurl.com/p4zt76t
Image by Mike Mozart via Flickr CC license.
http://tinyurl.com/p4zt76t

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.

Thankfully.

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

quirkyjazz:

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.

IMG_2864

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.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gnas/4650799888/in/set-72157607972404806
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.

Gifts that Give Back

At this time of year, I’m always on the lookout for gifts that are more than just gifts.  If I can give something beautiful, handmade, or artisan made that gives back to either the artist or the community where it originated — then I’m more willing to purchase that item.  

From Ten Thousand Villages:

Silk Market Round Pillow

From Ten Thousand Villages: Silk Market Round Pillow. Made by Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts

During recent years, Mai Handicrafts has established itself as the primary marketing agent for artisans from neglected families and women. It practices a model of social development in which social service cannot be separated from economic self-reliance. Mai Handicrafts sales fund various community development activities, including clean water projects, vocational training equipment purchase and teacher wage subsidies.

Another site with lovely gifts:

from Krochet Kids intl. 

Our goal is to holistically equip people living in poverty with the skills, education, and resources to change their circumstances forever. Work provides worth. Education breeds innovation. Mentorship nourishes relationships. Through this multifaceted and measured approach we work with each beneficiary to create a path toward independence.

The Envelope Clutch:  (just one example — there are many, many more)

The envelop clutch. Also available in a red pattern.

Next we have –

Accompany, a site that features products that are fair trade, philanthropic and artisan made.  I chose just one example to share here.  There are lots of very interesting and lovely choices.

Introducing global curation at its finest. We scour the globe for the coolest, most beautiful and one-of-a-kind finds, and filter them through a range of style lenses— to create unique boutiques that contain both an eclectic mix of cultures and a well-edited point of view. Each and every piece we pick has a story behind it, and embodies exemplary design. Handmade pieces and ethically sourced items, that bring human impact and fashion impact together to create feel-good goods through a look-good lens.

Allure earrings from the Faire Collection; upcycled horn

 

I learned about this next site through a comment made on last December’s post featuring gifts that give back.

Napada Thailand:

Napada handicrafts employs women from this low-income community enabling them to better the lives of their families while forming community with Christians and learning the truths of God. Some of the women had low paying jobs and some had no work opportunities whatsoever prior to becoming a part of Napada. Napada provides a creative outlet for these women while seeing them come to know and love how they are a part of God’s great creation and plan.

Image (and more info about Napada) from/at Little by Little blog.

Global Goods:  Gifts that Give Back

As professionals in the international development field, Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin traveled to impoverished areas around the globe to support community-based economic initiatives. Time and time again, they met dynamic women that were producing beautiful, handmade goods, yet lacked access to sustainable markets in which to sell their products. Catherine and Joan saw first-hand how women in marginalized communities throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas were able to advance their families’ well-being only after their income was stabilized. In 2005, Catherine and Joan were inspired to found Global Goods Partners to create effective income-generation opportunities for women and their communities through access to the consumer market for handmade, fair trade products.
peacemaker bracelet from Global Goods Partners, $15

 

Lydali:  Gorgeous jewelry, bags and scarves.  SO many cool and beautiful items here!!

The richly hued Tribal Wool Clutches are handwoven from naturally dyed wool using traditional weaving patterns. Handcrafted by Josefina and her husband Paco in Teotitlán, Mexico, the manufacture of these clutches is both ethical and eco-friendly, making it a great bag from start to finish.
Tribal wool clutch from Lydali, $36

FEED:  Creating good products that help feed the world.  Wonderful bags, totes, bracelets, messengers, backpacks — LOTS of cool stuff.  Many items under $40.

image from FEED website
image from FEED website

Far and Wide Collective:

At Far & Wide Collective we have a passion for discovering the beautifully unique and carefully made things one can only stumble upon in the tucked-away workshops and rural village markets on exotic travels. We have found these products – and the people who make them – and we are bringing them to you. We know that if we do, we are helping to build a more sustainable infrastructure in many of these communities and countries for the future.

Gone Rural:  Swaziland

The GR Collection weaves together tradition with innovation. Proving that contemporary design and environmental sensitivity go hand-in-hand, our mainline collection of baskets and tableware is crafted entirely from locally-sourced, natural fibres and recycled materials.

Nest:

Nest is partnering with the world’s most promising artisans to build sustainable businesses within the competitive landscape of today’s global economy. Simultaneously, Nest is helping artisans to transform their communities through the alleviation of poverty, empowerment of women and promotion of peace.

Shake the Dust:

Our products are created through collaborations between carefully selected emerging British designers and ethical producers in developing countries. In addition, Shake the Dust also works with all producer and designer partners to select and create products for individual signature collections.

Hand-made products bring a rare element of soul and craftsmanship into our homes and it is in this spirit that Shake the Dust connects you to beautiful products and their creators. Shake the Dust stands for ethical transparency without compromising style.

The brand is founded on the belief that good design, ethical production and profitability are not mutually exclusive. In this respect, Shake the Dust promotes development and sustainability for both designers, producers and the industry and offers a unique blend of good design with a conscience.

I would love to hear of other sites you enjoy that fit this realm of gift giving.  Keep it simple.  Focus on the LOVE.

Other blog posts featuring gifts that give back ideas:

Mine from last year:  https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/radical-gift-giving/

One I found just recently:  http://www.pbfingers.com/2014/11/25/pbf-2014-gift-guide-gifts-that-give-back/

“Please stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”

I heard a song this week for the first time in a long time.  It brought to mind the very first time I heard it which was September 27, 2013.  You might wonder how I know exactly when I heard this song for the first time.  Well, there is a story about that.  I realized the other day that I never wrote about it.  At least I don’t THINK I wrote about it; hence the title for this post.

The song is “Ain’t It Your Birthday?” by Jonny Fritz and the In-Laws.

The words to the chorus go like this:

Hey well ain’t it your birthday?
Then why aren’t you smiling?
I just drove 250 miles
In the middle of the night
On an empty tank
Dodging deer along the way
Onto Central Virginia, moonlight Broadway
Brought to you by this small town
I always thought I could come home to
Oh well I guess I was wrong

I had attended my Aunt Linda’s funeral in Indiana that late September Friday and I was driving all the way back to Dubuque, Iowa in order to attend the rest of the annual fall guild quilt retreat that weekend.
I had been driving several hours in the dark.  I was tired.  I was drained emotionally and physically.  As always, a family funeral brings together far-flung relatives who do not see each other very often — usually just once  a year or so at the holidays.  It had been a good day of reminiscing and of re-connecting. I was sad, but I knew I had done the right thing in going to the funeral.  I was also looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend among very dear friends being creative and relaxing.  There would be much talking, laughing, eating and sewing.

I had my ipod hooked up to the car stereo and I must have had it on some kind of shuffle.  This wacky country song came on.  I heard the chorus.  I laughed.  Here I was driving over 250 miles at night (okay, it was only 9 pm — not midnight) and I had just stopped for gas.  I was on a curvy, hilly country road in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin and was most definitely being cautious for deer and other night critters that might dash out in front of me.

Then it hit me.  This would have been my dad’s birthday.  September 27.

He loved country music.  The twangier the better.  The more steel guitar and sorrowful the better.  He would turn the radio up really loud in the garage while he was doing his woodworking (making sawdust as he used to call it) and sing along to Johnny Cash or Ernie Ford or anybody that old country music station happened to be playing.

Though he was a marshmallow on the inside, he was not one who usually spent extra time smiling.

He also really, REALLY loved to drive.  He would drive hours just to attend a high school football or basketball game, especially if one of his nephews was playing or anyone from our hometown for that matter.

So — this song surrounding me in that dark car on that lonely, long drive with family on one end and friends on the other — felt like a great big hug from my dad.

The weird part is that I had no idea where this song came from or how it came to be on my ipod.

A solo version by the same guy who is also known as Jonny Corndawg:

I later found out that this song was on a free mp3 album I had downloaded from Amazon, so it didn’t appear out of nowhere.  It just seemed that way. I still like to think it was a hug from my dad and that is was sent to me on that night especially.  (I checked.  Amazon no longer offers this album, free or paid but you can download the song for $1.29).

From The Tromp Queen archives on related topics of quilt retreats, Dad, and being a good neighbor:

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/quality-time-with-quilt-friends/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/5-stitches-and-a-tube-of-glue/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/be-a-good-neighbor/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/be-a-good-neighbor-2/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/missing-dad/

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/sensory-links/

Why I blog….

quirkyjazz:

I’m reblogging your inspiring post. So many of your reasons are my reasons for writing, too.

I’m reblogging it also so that I will be reminded to write my OWN reasons for blogging.

Thank you for a great, thoughtful and thought-provoking post!

Originally posted on It Goes On:

A few days ago I read a blog post discussing the reasons that people blog. The main point that I took from the post was the poster likening blogging to Facebook and accusing those who blog of showing narcissism through their choice of what they post about.
Whilst I understand this person’s reasons for blogging are to raise awareness of issues in the world, I believe that they overlooked the fact that by highlighting these issues, they were in fact  highlighting their PERSONAL opinions of these issues thereby negating their argument. However, it is that person’s right to blog about whatever they wish – just as it my right to blog about whatever I wish to also.

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Beautiful Streamers

Layers of Rainbow Fabric Invite Visitors to Get Lost in a Sea of Color –

Katie Hosmer recently posted this beautiful blog entry featured on My Modern Met.

Whole Brain Help

Neural Connections In the Human Brain  Two-dimensional brain Researchers at Brown University have created a computer program to advance analysis of the neural connections in the human brain.   Credit: Radu Jianu/Brown University   [Reciprocal link back Neural Connections In the Human Brain]
Neural Connections In the Human Brain
Two-dimensional brain Researchers at Brown University have created a computer program to advance analysis of the neural connections in the human brain.
Credit: Radu Jianu/Brown University
[Reciprocal link back Neural Connections In the Human Brain]

Even though I’ve been teaching music for years, I’m always looking for better and more efficient techniques and ideas to keep me and my students motivated and engaged.

I’ve noticed a huge change in student attention spans and self-discipline over the years.  Lest you get excited, the trend is downward for both.

I follow and am a member of many Music Teacher blogs, pages, and professional organizations.  I keep reading the comment “Try Whole Brain teaching” on music teacher Facebook group comments.  I looked it up and I plan to try some of the ideas with my new students.

You can find information here:  http://www.wholebrainteaching.com/

I like the simple Five Classroom Rules.  I plan to incorporate this into my 5th and 6th general music classes.

If you’ve tried these “Whole Brain” tips and strategies, please share your successes (and failures).

 

Exit the Vortex

vortex
Image from page 173 of “The electro-therapeutic guide, or, A thousand questions asked and answered” (1907)

Just when you think everything is settled and sailing along fairly smoothly, opportunities and options may appear that send it all back into the blender.

I sometimes use the phrase “I got caught in a vortex” to excuse my (occasional) lateness or my (frequent) disheveled appearance.

My life seems to have gotten caught in a vortex again this last month or so.  I admit it freely; I could have avoided getting caught in this vortex.  I actually sought it out this time, though.

Sometimes you’ve got to toss the question out there.  If I’m not happy, what can I change?  What can I do to make change happen?

If you can’t make external changes, the changes must come from inside — change your expectations, change your attitude, change what is in your control, explore options that seem “impossible.”  In my case, exploring the options made the changes happen — both externally and internally.

Image from page 27 of "Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation" (1920)
Image from page 27 of “Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation” (1920)

I’ve been having knee problems since sometime last spring.  I am not sure if it was walking miles and miles for several days on the concrete sidewalks of NYC, having my knee crammed into the back of a seat at the Broadway show we saw, twisting it as I got off the bus one time (when it wasn’t lowered and I thought it was).  Or if it is an accumulation of too many years of standing, dancing (yes!), hiking and too many years of carrying too many pounds.  At any rate, this summer I went through several doctor appointments, a little physical therapy and finally an X-ray.  The reading of the X-ray determined I needed an MRI on my knee to clarify or pinpoint the issue(s).  I decided to take a whole day of sick leave to take care of this appointment (plus the wonderful mammogram that also needed done).  The day chosen for these appointments was Tuesday, September 23.

Going back a couple of weeks — I had tentatively decided to look for a different part-time teaching job.  After school started this fall, I had several surprises of a negative sort pertaining to various aspects of my current job.  I was unhappy and frustrated, and decided it would not hurt to see if there might be anything more reasonable for me t0 do.  I applied for, and interviewed for a job at a school closer to my home (meaning less time driving) and with a much more reasonable work/time load to pay ratio.  I was able to do the interview after school one day so I didn’t need to cause any undue drama or alarm at my current job.

WAGXERS MANUSCRIPT OF A PART OF THE SCORE OF DIE MEISTERSINGER 294 RICHARD WAGNER hauser.
Image from page 322 of “Modern music and musicians : [Encyclopedic]” (1918)
Also, several week ago — I applied for a free-lance choral editing job at a well-known music publishing company with headquarters here in Milwaukee.  I just happened to see a request for applicants from one of the senior editors at this company (who also is a well-known composer/conductor).  The request was posted on a Facebook page for Wisconsin Choral Directors.  It sounded like an interesting opportunity and a great place to get a foot in the door so I sent my cover letter and resume immediately.   I assumed there would be many, many applicants and had no great expectation that I might ever hear anything more about it — but I thought it was worth a try.

Both of these opportunities were “Blown’ in the Wind.”  (That song kept running through my mind during the day all this came together.  You’ll see why.)

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

On that Monday, September 21, I had pretty much decided I would not be hearing an offer from the interview the previous week.

Twenty-four hours later I had two job offers and the opportunity to completely rearrange my work life.  I took the chances.  I seized the day.

I didn’t have much time to consider but the options fit so perfectly together.  Everything seemed to align all at once.

The answers were not blowin’ in the wind, they were etched in the sand under my feet.

Since I already had the whole day off on that Tuesday, I was able to visit the new school to meet with the principal, see the school and visit the music room (which I hadn’t been able to do the night I interviewed).  I also had time that afternoon to meet with the choral editors at the publishing company to discuss what they needed me to do.

Image from page 134 of "Religious emblems and allegories : a series of engravings, with suitable letter-press, designed to illustrate divine truth" (1868)
Image from page 134 of “Religious emblems and allegories : a series of engravings, with suitable letter-press, designed to illustrate divine truth” (1868)

Long story short, I resigned from my current job that night.  I taught just three more days, finishing out the week and saying many tearful goodbyes to the wonderful students and teachers there.

I started teaching at my new school the very next Monday, and started training at the editing job the next afternoon.

I’m feeling refreshed and challenged in many new directions.  I’m incredibly thankful for these opportunities and have had a very strong sense of peace about the whole thing (even while I was in the vortex of it all!)

 

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

 

 

 

Back-to-School Soul Food

image by The Tromp Queen, CC license; sunrise over Lake Webster
image by The Tromp Queen, CC license; sunrise over Lake Webster

Matins

I cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.

image via Flickr CC by Marc Crumpler "early morning rainbow"
image via Flickr CC by Marc Crumpler “early morning rainbow”

My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or star, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart,
That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo,
Pouring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing else to do?

Lotus flower

Indeed man’s whole estate
Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:
He did not heav’n and earth create,
Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.

image by Cindy Cornett Seigle via Flickr CC: Some really pretty sunbeams. Sullivan County, Indiana.
image by Cindy Cornett Seigle via Flickr CC: Some really pretty sunbeams. Sullivan County, Indiana.

poem by George Herbert 1633

 

 

 

The Colorful Clouds of Rho Ophiuchi Credit & Copyright: Jim Misti and Steve Mazlin, (acquisition), Robert Gendler (processing)

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
has established three hierarchies of angels,
has arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and has marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,
You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

 

M.Giuliana D.M.  ray of light, via Flickr CC license
M.Giuliana D.M.
ray of light, via Flickr CC license

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

image by Brian Wolfe "good teacher" via Flickr CC license
image by Brian Wolfe “good teacher” via Flickr CC license

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

image by jane Hewitt "good teacher" via Flickr CC
image by jane Hewitt “good teacher” via Flickr CC

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

Image by Manuel, via Flickr CC
Image by Manuel, via Flickr CC

May You
Guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.
You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.
Amen.

image via Flickr CC license 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike by Trey Ratcliff "Islamic Peace"
image via Flickr CC license 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike by Trey Ratcliff “Islamic Peace”


–St. Thomas Aquinas

These beautiful prayers were posted on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.

The words have stayed with me.

I decided to add a few photos and share them here.

I hope you find a spark of inspiration.

 

ALSO — I recently discovered these great poetry books.  Great stuff for those who ASPIRE to INSPIRE!

Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner
Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner
Leading from Within: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner

 

Photo credits:

lotus flower image:  via Flickr CC by Richard IJzermans: A beautiful lotus flower in the forbidden city, Beijing China.

100 Peking Opera Portraits

Sometimes when browsing various websites, one comes across beauty that must be shared.

While perusing the Metropolitan Museum of Art website, I stumbled upon “One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters by Unidentified Artist.”

The costumes, masks, and poses are fascinating.  What wonderful fabrics and textures and amazing details!

I’ve chosen a few of my favorites to share here.  If you have a few spare moments, please click the link to see all 101 of these beautiful portraits.  Enjoy!

Now I’m left wondering what the story behind all these characters could be —

 

One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters Unidentified Artist Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911) Date: late 19th–early 20th century Culture: China Medium: Album of fifty leaves; ink, color, and gold on silk

 

One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters Unidentified Artist Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911) Date: late 19th–early 20th century Culture: China Medium: Album of fifty leaves; ink, color, and gold on silk

 

One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters Unidentified Artist Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911) Date: late 19th–early 20th century Culture: China Medium: Album of fifty leaves; ink, color, and gold on silk

 

One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters Unidentified Artist Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911) Date: late 19th–early 20th century Culture: China Medium: Album of fifty leaves; ink, color, and gold on silk
Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911) Date: late 19th–early 20th century Culture: China Medium: Album of fifty leaves; ink, color, and gold on silk

LIFE images

Marily coverThis evening I stumbled upon some lovely images from years gone by.

Capturing the essence of a dancer is never easy, and capturing Gene Kelly must have been quite a job. A LIFE photographer did it here, though.

“Gjon Mili,” LIFE noted, “who would rather photograph dancing than almost anything else in the world, recently trained his high-speed camera on the nimble feet and lithe body of MGM’s brilliant dancing star Gene Kelly.” What’s wonderful about Mili’s work in these pictures—made, it’s worth stressing, seven decades ago—is the technical brilliance and economy that he brings to bear on Kelly’s explosive artistry.

Another transporting series of photographs from long ago and also far away — is this set of scenes from Jackie Kennedy’s visit to India in March of 1962 taken by Art Rickety for LIFE magazine.  What a wonderful smile she had!  Her timeless sense of style is evident: the pearls, simply elegant dresses, and grace.

LIFE photographer JR Eyerman photographed a 22-year-old not-yet-famous Marilyn Monroe hard at work taking dancing, singing, and acting lessons from various teachers in Hollywood in 1949.  One can capture a glimpse of her charisma but also a very clear sense of her vulnerability in these photos.

Here is another set of Marilyn Monroe photographs that were never published in LIFE magazine.  They were taken by Ed Clark in LA’s Griffith Park in 1950 before MM became a huge star.  I’ve never seen any of these images before.

 

 

One Mom’s Advice for How to Succeed at College (and Life)

image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))
image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))

To my nearly 19-year-old son as he prepares to leave for college next week:

Dear Ben,

You’ve seen these lists.
I’ve posted at least one list on your Facebook page.
I KNOW you read everything I post on your page, so maybe this is redundant.

Anyway.

 

via Flickr CC image by Rachel:  Sunday Drive
via Flickr CC image by Rachel: Sunday Drive

It is amazing to me how fast these years have gone. You don’t realize yet how fast time truly does fly. Soon you will. It picks up speed during college and never slows down after that.

Remember Grandma always says, “It’s Monday; then it’s Friday. It’s Monday; then it’s Friday.” She’s right.

First of all, let me say that I’m incredibly proud of you and that I love you more than you can imagine.

I can’t resist the urge to impart some words of wisdom before you go, though.   Brace yourself for the forthcoming flow of wisdom because here it comes!

image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU  Senescent maple leaf  Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania
image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU
Senescent maple leaf
Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania

1. LISTEN TO ADVICE, but find your own path. People will tell you which class to take, which Prof to avoid, which dorm is best. What is true for another person may not be true for you. Gather information, investigate and decide important questions for yourself. Don’t rely on what “everyone” tells you.

2. GO TO CLASS. This really should have been number 1, but I’m not that great at lists, following advice or thinking in a linear fashion. But you already know that and I digress. There is no way to succeed without BEING THERE. Yes, sleep is important. So is eating and socializing. But the main reason you are there is to LEARN stuff, to gain knowledge — and you can’t do that if you aren’t in class. Seriously. Don’t skip. Figure out how much each hour of class costs and imagine throwing that money away or burning it. That is what you are doing when you skip.

3. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. I could have said “make friends” but I believe there is more to it than just making friends. You will find people who make you better at being you, who make you feel more alive and more interested in the world. Avoid the people who create turmoil; those who are more interested in what you can do for them than in who you are. Making friends is fairly easy, but keeping them isn’t as easy. Invest time in people wisely. Choose carefully. Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends decades from now.  One of the best ways to do this is to be in and to stay involved in a music organization.

4. Find your PASSION. (I know — trite but true). In your baby book, there was a page for “Mother’s Wishes for Baby.” I couldn’t put into words what I wanted for you at that time, but this is what I wanted to say then and still want to say now:

I want to you be healthy. I want you to have enough challenges so that you grow in faith and courage but always enough tools, resources, and friends to meet those challenges. I want you to have a job that doesn’t feel like work; a job that you love so much that you are thankful each day you get to do what you do and get paid for it. I want you to have confidence, compassion, joy, respect, curiosity — LOVE. Aspire to inspire.  In short:  Do what you love and love what you do.

5. TRAVEL. Save money and plan for trips. When opportunities to travel arise, turn over every rock to make it happen. Go, see and do.

6. THINK DEEP THOUGHTS. Let your imagination run. Dream. Set some incredible goals. Have great conversations. Have some adventures. Keep your sense of humor. (You’ve got this one down pat, already!)

7. BEWARE OF THE VORTEX. Don’t sit alone in your dorm room (unless you are studying or have homework!).
Please be aware of how much “screen time” you are spending. Don’t be that guy who sits there for five days playing video games and eating Cheetos. You are better than that.

8. REACH OUT. If you feel overwhelmed, depressed, out-of-sorts, unhappy or lonely — call someone. You can ALWAYS call home. :)  Also — If you are lost or confused in a class, go see the Prof.  Just do it.  It is the best way to get back on track.

9. While I’m on the home topic — FAMILY IS FOREVER. Hopefully you’ve already picked this tidbit up. Family will be there at the hospital, at your life events, at whatever. We’ve got your back.  Through thick or thin you are stuck with us (in a good way).

10.  KEEP YOUR WORD. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Don’t lie. You don’t have to say everything you think out loud, though. Be kind. Have integrity. Stand up for what is right, even when it is not the easy thing to do.  Learn to say “no.”

11.  Be a good neighbor.  Always vote.  (Sliger family rules!)

 

Love,

Mom

 

image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc via Flickr CC
image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc
via Flickr CC