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.
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.
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.
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).
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’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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every once in a while I get excited about something and feel the need to share with whomever is willing to listen. Today, that is you!
I recently discovered Outlander, which is both a collection of novels by Diana Gabaldon and a TV series on the STARZ network.
The basic premise has to do with accidental time travel by means of a Stonehenge-ish set of stones near Inverness Scotland. A woman is taken from 1945 back to 1743; the books (and very well done TV series) deal with her life in both eras.
Can the future be changed? Can love heal all wounds? Are our paths governed by fate, destiny, faith, honor, love or chance (or some combination all those things)?
The characters are well developed, and the historical details are woven intricately into the story. I’ve literally laughed and cried (not at the same time) while reading the books and while watching the series.
I bought all 8 (verra long) books for my Kindle (currently reading book 6) and ordered both seasons of the show on Bluray. (Season two releases on Nov. 1; Season three is shooting now in Scotland.)
Also, who knew kilts could be so sexy? I’ve not been paying attention apparently.
If you have trouble falling asleep now and then (or even every night), this is the only thing I’ve found that helps while not making me feel groggy and out of sorts the next morning. It is called simply “Sleep.”
The brand is Nature Made. CVS often has it on sale for buy one, get one free.
After our trip to Turkey a couple of years ago, I’ve been on the lookout for foods I can make here that are similar to foods we ate there. One item that is very good and tastes very authentic to me is available at Trader Joe’s.
Take them out of the can, drizzle them with a little lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and you are good to go! Delicious.
Good measuring cups and spoons are necessary kitchen equipment. Until recently I was using a couple of sets of old plastic measuring cups. I ordered some good stainless steel ones and they are so nice! Click here to order them from Amazon for only $7.95 (for one set of cups and one set of spoons)
I carry ear buds with me most of the time. I love this little case. It is small and sturdy; most importantly it keeps the ear buds untangled and intact. The item is called
Case Star ® Black Earphone handsfree headset HARD EVA Case – Clamshell/MESH Style with Zipper Enclosure, Inner Pocket, and Durable Exterior + Silver Climbing Carabiner with Case Star Velvet Bag
I grew up in a small town. When I was in college, I used to describe it as 699 people and 1 stoplight. It is a little larger than that now– population now around 1,100 with 3 stoplights–but it is definitely still a small town.
My hometown is a pretty special place, though.
The area has dozens of lakes. Seventy-five to be exact (in the county).
Because of all these lakes, the area is very popular with weekend visitors. Many people drive several hours just to spend a couple of days “at the lake.” We lovingly call these visitors “Lakers.” They arrive in droves on Memorial Day Weekend and are there all summer until Labor Day weekend, with more on the weekends. They rent cottages or stay in hotels; they float on pontoons, ski behind power boats and fish until their hearts are content.
The big summer event happens in June, though.
Every year since 1945 during the last full week of June, the Lions Club in my hometown has hosted a Mermaid Festival. There is a carnival, elephant ears, salt water taffy, caramel corn, a beauty pageant and a cutie contest, a talent contest, and two parades with floats and marching bands.
Mom and I were in the old Rinker’s store which is now a consignment antique mall looking at the antiques. Mom saw one of the old mermaid signs that used to hang on the downtown streetlight poles during the Mermaid Festival. The signs were painted by a local artist and some people thought they were a little too risqué.
Mom started talking about how much a local feisty elderly woman hated the mermaids and actually took a shot at one that someone put out by her house (as a joke).
The elderly woman got arrested and hauled into “the hoosegow.”(Mom’s word for jail.)
I said something like she shouldn’t have a gun if she thinks it is reasonable to go around shooting at mermaids.
A lady came around the corner and said, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I’m over here freaking out because I thought my whole life mermaids were NOT real.”
I chuckled and assured her that she was indeed correct in her assumption that mermaids were not real — and then went on to explain we were talking about mermaid SIGNS not actual mermaids. She looked relieved and we all had a good laugh.
Mermaid image by Chip and Andy via Flickr CC license
image by Chip and Andy via Flickr CC commons license
My husband had gone grocery shopping that afternoon with a list I had made. Unfortunately, he forgot to buy the main ingredients for two items I had planned to have for dinner that evening.
Normally, grocery shopping is my domain. But I had done nearly ALL of the Christmas shopping and gift wrapping, so he had volunteered to do this errand today.
He had gone to two stores already to get various items. I didn’t want him to have to go out into the fray again, so I tried to figure out alternatives.
One item we could easily do without. I had wanted to make that yummy spinach dip with the water chestnuts and Knorr vegetable soup mix. Yes. Nosh and nibble. It is kind of impossible to make without the soup mix. The other thing was a deli roasted chicken that was going to go into a made-from-scratch chicken pot-pie. You can’t really make a pot-pie without a chicken.
I looked in my freezer. No chicken.
I decided to run to the nearest grocery store to get one.
I got a parking spot (which is surprising since the small lot is usually packed). I got to the door and a young woman stopped me saying, “I’m sorry we’re closed. I can’t let you go in.” I looked at her blankly.
“What time did you close?” I asked.
“5,” she answered.
I looked at my blank left wrist where I usually have a watch. I thought I had left home well before 5 (and we only live a few minutes from the store).
I looked back at her and calmly asked, “Well, what time is it now?”
She said, “I don’t know but it is after that.”
I said, “I really need a chicken. Don’t they have some left in there?” (looking past her longingly into the store…)
Again, “Sorry. I can’t let you in.” Then she added helpfully, “Maybe try Pick-and-Save? I’m sure they’ll still be open.”
I wasn’t trying to be uncooperative. I had my tastebuds set on delicious home-made chicken pot-pie. My daughter had volunteered to make it for our dinner and I was really looking forward to it! Sigh.
I got back in my car. The clock read 5:02 pm. I groaned inwardly. Really? They kept me from buying a chicken because of one lousy minute?
I sighed (again) and decided to drive the 10 minutes or so to the other store.
Driving. Traffic. Stoplights.
I got to the parking lot and drove slowly by the main doors. There was a cluster of people there. I had a sinking feeling that I knew why they were there. I rolled down my window.
As I slowly drove away I said out the window to no one in particular , “I really need a chicken!”
I tried to think of where I could get a chicken (cooked or raw). I thought of our favorite Greek place. Their baked/broiled Athenian chicken is delicious, juicy and always quick to pick up. Or even better, I could get Greek food for dinner and then my daughter could make the pot-pie for Christmas dinner or the next day.
More driving. More traffic. More stop lights.
Nope. The Greek place was closed. No chicken. No carry out food.
Hey — The Boston Market back there was still open. They have cooked chickens! I pulled in hopefully. Yes. They were indeed open. I walked to the door. YES. There was as short line. The person behind the counter said to everyone, “We are out of chicken and meatloaf. No more chicken or meatloaf.” Sigh.
I turned around and went back to my car.
Hungry. Tired of traffic. Feeling frazzled.
But I was determined not to get angry.
Hey. He DID buy the ham for tomorrow. We could cut it open and carve some slices off the bottom. I also had him get swiss cheese and buns so I could make those tasty hot ham sandwiches with some leftover ham. We could have those tonight! It is fast and we have all the ingredients. We had enough carrots and fruit to round things out for a meal.
I sent a quick text. “I’m coming home. No chicken, but I have a plan.”
Sometimes you just have to go home and eat a ham sandwich, even when you really want to have chicken pot-pie.
Now I realize this whole story is a 1st world problem. I’m thankful for a refrigerator full of food, for a fully equipped kitchen to cook food in, a home to eat it in, a car to drive to the grocery and a range of very luxurious grocery stores within short driving distance of our home. All these things are blessings and I’m truly grateful for all of them.
Sometimes we have to remember to be flexible in our expectations and desires. Let it go. Anger leads to the dark side. (Hah! Couldn’t resist the Star Wars reference!) Chicken or ham. It’s all good.
For the recipes mentioned in this post, please visit my food blog: The Tromp Queen COOKS! (I’ll post them in the next few days.)
As I was cruising the internet for inspiration and resources, I found this gem. It is the format for a poem: The “I Am” poem, specifically.
I Am Poem (format)
I am (two special characteristics about your personality) I wonder (something you are actually curious about) I hear (a saying that someone might say to you that encourages/discourages) I am on a journey toward (a vision for your future/challenge in your present) I want (an actual desire that you hold for yourself) I am (the first line of the poem restated)
I pretend (something you actually pretend to do) I feel (a feeling about something imaginary that is holding you back) I touch (an imaginary touch) I worry (something that really bothers you) I cry (something that makes you very sad) I am (the first line of the poem repeated)
I understand (something you know is true about yourself/context) I say (something you believe in) I dream (something you dream about for your future) I try (something you really make an effort to do/understand) I hope (something you actually hope for yourself/context) I am (the first line of the poem repeated)
I am musical and creative. I wonder about a lot of things I hear keep putting one foot in front of the other. I am on a journey toward an unknown future. I want peace. I am musical and creative.
I pretend everything is okay. I feel like I’m underwater. I touch cold space. I worry about being shot. I cry for beauty. I am musical and creative.
I understand Love.
I say aspire to inspire. I dream in color. I try to improve. I hope I can sleep. I am musical and creative.
As a teacher, one of my fundamental desires is to “Aspire to Inspire” my students. I found this list of rules (with a great little backstory*) and am sharing it so that you might possibly find truth in it as I did.
RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.
RULE TWO: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.
RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.
RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined: this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.
RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
RULE TEN: We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.
HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything. It might come in handy later.
*John Cage (most famous for 4’33”) was a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg (created 12-tone technique for composing music). Cage, in turn, inspired a generation of composers and artists. One so inspired was a California nun, Sister Corita Kent, who created this list of Rules in 1968 for a class project. For more information read this Open Culture article.
Do you ever see something out of the corner of your eye and think — “Oh! That would make a great photo!”
This seems to happen to me frequently. But I hardly ever do anything about it, and I regret that.
Last spring, on my drive to school I spied three red tulips that were growing in a very obscure place beneath a tangle of on/off ramps. Each day as I drove the tight right-turn of the clover leaf going under a multi-lane Interstate highway and off ramp to emerge going in my chosen direction on the Interstate I just drove under, I would see the flash of red off to my left. Each day I thought, “Bloom where you are planted. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”
How did tulips get planted in this desolate, neglected, non-landscaped area of highway underpass undergrowth? Did someone throw a few tulips out of their car window one day and they happened to land in a protected and fertile enough spot? I plant bulbs in my flower beds nearly every fall, and each fall, many of them are eaten by squirrels (or other varmints).
Red Tulips. Images by James Petts via Flickr CC.
Red tulips. Image by cranberries via Flickr CC.
Each day, I thought “I should stop to take a picture of those tulips before they stop blooming.” Each day I would tell myself I didn’t have time and that there was no safe place to pull over and stop. Needless to say, there is no photograph because I never stopped. But the image has stayed with me.
Another image that I regret not stopping to document happened last fall near my school. I was with my college-aged son in the car going shopping for school necessaries when we was on break. It must have been Thanksgiving weekend because what we saw were people putting a large inflatable Santa sleigh (complete with reindeer) on top of a ranch style house. The funny part was that there were two legs sticking out from under the sleigh part, toes down. It looked like Santa had accidentally landed on someone and squished them flat. Who knows what that person was doing on the roof while Santa was trying to land, but that is beside the point. We discussed stopping but didn’t.
I WISH I had taken a few seconds to stop and take a quick photo. My son and I both laughed at the sight of those legs; at first we thought the legs were not real but were an intentional part of the scenario they were erecting. As we drove away I had the chorus of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” running through my head.
Just this past week I was driving on a road that goes behind the garage area of a nearby car dealership. There are always a lot of cars parked along this not-very-busy-dead-end-road; some new cars for the dealer, some cars for their repair shop; and I presume some of the cars of the dealership employees. I noticed a long black sedan type of car. Sticking out of the closed trunk was one skeleton arm and hand. It was totally creepy looking (and fake, I might add!). Again, I considered stopping but didn’t have a camera with me (not even my phone camera). Consequently — no photo.
On a trip to Indiana driving at highway speed on US 30 between Valpo and Warsaw (which must be in contention for the US most boring highway) my eye caught a beautiful scene as it flashed by in an instant. There was an old red well-used barn, a field of sunflowers in full bloom, a blue sky with puffy white clouds and the whole thing was framed in green leafy trees. You guessed it: I didn’t stop.
Remember the NYC pizza rat? Well, I had a pizza squirrel one day in my backyard. The squirrel had pretty much a whole slice of pizza and somehow managed to carry it across our backyard, up a tree trunk and then hop to the top of the fence with it. The squirrel paused then looked at me with an accusatory glare as if to say, “This is MY pizza. Keep your hands OFF!” I wondered where he had found a whole slice of pizza and how he managed to carry it while running and climbing. I wondered if eating the pizza would make the squirrel sick. I wished I had my camera so I could catch a photo (or video!) of the pizza-toting squirrel. Alas, the only image I have of this scenario is in my mind.
Am I the only one who has these photographic regrets?
Does this happen to anyone else?
I finished reading “God Set a Watchman” by Harper Lee yesterday afternoon.
I do not think it is impossible to reconcile the two Mockingbird worlds.
This new novel is a “coming home” book. Familiar territory to me, really. I was “born and raised” in a small town in northeastern Indiana. We had 699 people and 1 stoplight. My dad had a barber shop on the main street through town.
My childhood was similar to Scout’s in that we roamed free from early morning ’til the lightning bugs came out. We played barefoot; swam (mostly unattended) in the lake among the lily pads and fish; and created imaginative scenarios for “play” involving whomever was in the back yard that day.
Robert Patton, via Flickr CC Will the Ball Get Her Before She Gets Home
Robert Patton, via Flickr CC Later Summer Sports
We had a cement driveway and a basketball goal (regulation height). We had a playhouse and a yard large enough for kick ball. We had a ranch house that we could play “Ollie Ollie Over” around. My mom would make Kool-Aid and cookies. Grass stains, bug bites, sun burn — no problem. Life was good. Days were long. Fights were rare.
We even had a “haunted house.” It was an abandoned house just a few blocks away from our neighborhood, and we walked by or rode our bikes by it (never alone, though) whenever we were feeling brave enough. The house was not inhabited (alas, no Boo character for us), but the trepidation we felt and the stories we imagined kept us in a state of fear whenever we were near it. That didn’t stop us, though, from finally gathering courage to explore the house (on one very sunny, bright summer day). The mystery was blown. There was nothing there. It was just an old house, mostly empty of everything — except the faint clues and hints about the lives that had been lived within its walls.
Now that I think about it, we did have a kind of Boo Radley character. His name was Slim Miller, and he seemed to live in his car. I don’t know the real story of this poor man’s life, but I imagine it was rough (or possibly a result of mental illness?). He had longish hair, a scraggly beard, and an unkempt appearance (no big surprise since he lived in his car). As far as I know he never did anything illegal and he never said “boo” to me or to any of my friends.
When I turned 18, I went away to college after a summer church youth group trip to Haiti. That trip changed my life. I looked in the mirror at some point during that trip and was surprised to see my white face instead of a dark Haitian one. I could count the number of black people in my home town on one hand, and I believe that moment in the mirror opened my eyes and heart forever.
I attended a large state university for one year and then transferred to a Christian liberal arts college (with an excellent music conservatory). Going home for visits and summers as the college years flew by, brought into focus some of the ways my world views were changing/had changed. Assumptions and beliefs I had never questioned growing up either became stronger and more dearly held or gradually morphed into a larger coherent (to me) framework to include the people, cultures, and experiences of my life — broader and wider than many “back home” might hold with but still centered in Faith and Love.
So, I can relate to Scout trying to make sense of her kin and town folk — Harper Lee’s words ring true.
After reading the new book, I mulled over the troublesome issues trying to understand how to piece these two novels together into one coherent narrative.
Some have thrown up their hands saying, “She never meant for this book to be published” or “She wrote this first, submitted it and then the publisher requested major revisions. Mockingbird is the result.” I don’t buy either of those.
I think it is clear she wrote this as a sequel. However it started out, the version that was published yesterday expects that we have lived through that earlier Maycomb County summer with these characters.
I think it was deemed not publishable for various reasons which might have included fears of inciting violence in the ongoing Civil Rights movement, the fragile state of world politics (Cuban crisis, Vietnam, space race, etc), and (apparently) Harper Lee’s own wishes.
The reconciliation will come in part 2. I’m still working it out.
I love looking for great books at low prices at places like Goodwill, Thrift shops, and used book stores. I love buying a hard back novel for less than $2 or a recent bestseller paperback for less than a dollar. I also love taking them back to the store again as a donation if I don’t think I will want to ever read that certain book again.
I do not, however, like the fact that I sometimes have to put up with underlined passages, highlighting or even comments written in the margins. Unless it is a book I really, really have been wanting to read for a long time — I usually pass on buying a used book with any markings at all. The marks bother me, probably more than they should.
I find myself trying to figure out why someone would underline that particular passage or word. I almost feel like I’m reading someone else’s journal or peeking at their notes or journal without permission.
Imagine my surprise at finding a website called “The Pages Project” that is devoted to preserving specifically this “marginalia.” The “about page” says that “the goal of the project is to demonstrate the layered expansion of meaning and insight that occurs through the marginalia left by ordinary people within printed books.”
If you have pages to share, follow the steps given under the “Submit a Page” tab.
By the way, a great source for buying good quality used books is Thrift Books. Most books are $2.99 or less and shipping is FREE! They have a pretty comprehensive list of search categories, but for some reason one must check “hide out of stock items” when searching. Why show items that are not available? That makes no sense to me.
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.
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.
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
On a central Virginia moonlit byway
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:
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!
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.
i first learned to sew alongside my mom, but lost interest in the craft until my early twenties when i got my own machine. over those last fifteen years, i’ve experimented with modern quilting, accessories and garment sewing, pattern design, hand-printed fabric, and textile design.
imagine gnats started as a little etsy shop, selling small sewn items to help support my family and also to give me a creative outlet in a corporate world. it’s come a long way in just five years… from a hobby to a full-time job. my love of sewing and design has grown as well, and now my own sewing patterns help and inspire others to create.
i am proud to have created patterns for garments that are easy to sew and easy to wear. imagine gnats patterns feature classic silhouettes with a modern twist that incorporate clever details and practical techniques.
I’m bound and determined to knit again sometime soon. I have yarn, needles and a project all picked out. The free pattern is HERE.
It is the “Honest Warmth Shawl” pattern from Lion Brand Yarns. I found the photo on Pinterest and tracked down the pattern. You might need to create an account on the Lion Brand website in order to get to the patterns, though I think they have a “guest” route, too.
I really like this free printable: It simply says “just begin.” If you search around a bit, you can get other colors for the background.
viat Sarah Jane Studios, Sing your song free printable
This next one is pretty utilitarian, but there are SO MANY cool options! Printable Paper.
1,352 papers you can download and print for free. We’ve got graph paper, lined paper, financial paper, music paper, and more. Printable Paper has been featured by LifeHacker, Kim Komando, Woman’s World magazine, and the Today Show.
For me, the music paper section is the most interesting.
This printable music paper (also known as manuscript paper or music staff paper) is available with various number of staves per page, in both page orientations, and in four paper sizes (legal, letter, ledger, and A4). Also available are chord charts and tablature paper.
Speaking of paper, I love pretty note cards and such. You can find millions of free fonts, textures, and printables on Pinterest or by doing a Google search. I found these great little cards from Coconut Cards.