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.
As this day draws to a close, my mind wanders back through the years…
Easter when I was young meant a new dress, hair curled (with bristly rollers and a hot hair dryer on Saturday), gloves, hat, purse and maybe new shoes. We’d go to church with Aunt Helen.
We’d have an Easter egg hunt in the house. My sister and I each had a woven basket with a nest of green paper grass and filled with eggs we had colored the day before. We usually had some plastic eggs filled with candy, too.
I also remember having delicate large decorated sugar eggs that were hollow inside with a peep-hole on one end to look at a spring-themed diorama inside.
Most years, we’d drive the hour or so to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we’d have a big meal with cousins and Aunts and Uncles and look for Easter eggs out in the yard. I don’t have many specific food memories associated with Easter. Jelly beans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate rabbits were the main treats we had.
In later years, Easter day usually meant a long morning at church. As church organist/pianist, I often played for 3 or even 4 services on Easter morning. When my husband and I had small children of our own, we made special arrangements with the Easter Bunny to visit while we were away at church (since we didn’t have time before church usually).
We colored eggs every year often experimenting with new ways to decorate the shells — natural dyes, crayon batiks, rubber bands, ombre effects, etc.
Holy Week holds very special memories of having our daughter. I wrote about this in another blog post, The Miracle of Grace. I am still in AWE of the miracle of her birth. Hallelujah! She was baptized on Easter Sunday.
Holy Week services have been an important part of my faith journey. I remember being moved to tears singing Ah, Holy Jesus in an 1800’s sanctuary on Good Friday. I remember singing in and directing Easter/Holy Week cantatas. Lent and Tenebrae services made more sense after we became Lutherans. I’ve attended a few Seder meals in the home of a Jewish friend and cherish those memories. There have been healing services and prayer vigils.
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
Image by QuirkyJazz (aka The Tromp Queen); via Flickr CC
He who has God lacks nothing. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
church in NJ
Broad St. Presbyterian Church, Columbus, OH Photos by The Tromp Queen, CC license
My mini daffodils, TTQ cc
photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill crabapple blooms
crabapple bloom, Mother’s Day in Galena, IL — photo by quirkyjazz, aka Jill
crabapple leaves in spring sunlight
More from the Koln Dom — stained glass
One year when our children were very young we visited my mom and dad for Easter weekend. After we came home from church, we found a tree in their yard decorated with plastic Easter eggs. There were other eggs hidden around their yard. It was quite a mystery because none of us had made arrangements for the Easter Bunny to visit us there. (We solved this mystery many years later when a neighbor admitted being the accomplice.)
Our children are much older now (18 and 21). This year we didn’t even color eggs at all. We did indulge in some candy, though. I deeply enjoyed attending church together, all four of us since it such a rare event now that our oldest is away at college. The church we attend now has a tradition of singing the Hallelujah Chorus (from Messiah) at the end of the Easter morning services. Anyone in the congregation who would like to sing with the choir is invited to do so. My son and I both went up to sing. It was joyous.
Whatever your faith tradition, I hope we can agree that LOVE and CARING for each other are essential for living our lives together now and forever.
My dad died five years ago this week. I ran across this summary of that week’s events. I sent it to just a few friends at the time, but as I read it today I thought it might be of help to someone who might be going through a similar life event.
I thought I’d post a summary of all that has happened this week. All of you were very close friends at some point in my life and I still care deeply about each of you. If you don’t want to hear all the details, then you don’t need to read the rest of this. I thought some of you might want to know more, however, so when I had the chance to collect my thoughts last night I tried to write them down to share.
The funeral planning started the minute I got here Sunday evening and it all went very smoothly. The few things that could have been major issues were solved quickly and with little effort.
It has been very good to have time with my sister and with my mom. We took time to sort photos for the slide show (power point) and it was wonderful to bring back all those memories.
I have a very clear vision of my dad as his much younger, happier, healthier self, smiling and enjoying himself with many, many relatives and friends — all together in the presence of Jesus. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more darkness!
Tuesday we spent time gathering the items and photos for the display of my Dad that would be on view during the calling hours and funeral since there wasn’t a coffin. I posted a pic of this on Facebook. R, B and S arrived just as the calling hours began which was wonderful. Tuesday night we had about 400 people (which is about 1/2 the population of this town!) come through the line to give condolences and offer memories and comfort. We saw so many people and heard so many stories that we have difficulty remembering them all, but we were left with an almost tangible sense of the impact Dad left on so many lives in this town. So many people told us about ways that he had cared for them during difficult times or that he made something special for them. R (the funeral home director who was a childhood friend of mine, growing up in our neighborhood and a member of youth group at church, etc) said he thought if we had had more hours of calling that we would have had even more people! But it was what we could do and I think it was as much as Mom could do in one day.
Wednesday the service time arrived so quickly. We talked with the people who came early to talk with us and with mom until nearly the last minute. The service was fantastic. The pastor did an excellent job. He wove in the humor and the grumpiness and the love — it was perfect. The two people who did the eulogy were right on. One was my cousin and the other was one of Dad’s very close friends through thick and thin these last 35 years or so.
Both were heartfelt but also made us laugh. All those trips to various basketball and football games in a car full of girls were definitely mentioned and chuckled over. We sang Mom’s favorite hymn towards the end and also played the recording of A’s song. My mom had heard the song (the composer was a student of mine when I taught at a small high school in central in IL) and LOVED the words and felt they were so perfect. The pastor did a short homily type wrap up using several of my dad’s favorite scriptures. I also played a piano solo arrangement of my Dad’s favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.
Several people said it was the most joyous funeral they had ever attended. Even the funeral director said he didn’t think he had ever heard quite so much laughter at a service.
Many people said it suited Dad perfectly. We all felt very peaceful about the whole thing.
After a lunch at the church, we met at the graveyard very briefly. It was cold and windy. You can see my sister’s house from where his ashes are buried.
I think this was the most difficult time for me.
The pastor read the scripture from Revelation about no more tears, no more pain — and it became very real that my Dad’s body had been burned to ashes and was in that little white box at my feet but that he is face to face with Jesus now. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I will not ever see him again on this earth and as thoughts of all the good memories crowded my mind.
The plot we got for them is right next to Dad’s friend who did the eulogy.
Very cool how that worked out.
My mom will be buried there, too.
Mom and I have listened to the funeral music several times these last couple of days. We had two songs played during the prelude that were sung by the university choirs that I have accompanied for the last several years (7? or more now). One is called “No Time” (No time to tarry here for I’m on my journey home…I really do believe that just before the break of dawn you can hear the angels sing in that morning…Fare thee well for I on my journey home — it is gorgeous!). The women sang that one and they really did sound like a choir of angels! The men sang a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace which I loved at the time (2006) and thought it would be perfect for funeral music someday. I had the mp3s sent here so that we could have these songs as the prelude. There are about 80 to 100 college students in these choirs each year so over the years I’ve gotten quite attached to many of them, so having this music at the service meant a lot to me. (Plus the pianist is very good 😉
The more we mull over Dad’s last few weeks and especially his last week, we are so thankful for the way things ended for him. He saw most of the people he loves at least once in the last month and he got to do many of the things he most enjoyed in those last few days — eat with his favorite relatives and go to a HS basketball game. He died at home on the couch in his sleep (if not in his sleep he died as quietly as if he was just going to sleep because Mom didn’t hear him from the next room).
We are thankful he didn’t have to be in a nursing home or kept alive on a respirator or via feeding tube. We are thankful that he didn’t have time to be afraid or to feel pain this time. I’m thankful that I called that afternoon — probably it was in the last hour of his life.
We all feel a wonderful sense of relief, of peace, of comfort. We are truly surrounded by love and prayers and we feel it every minute of every day since those first few hours as the news spread.
There are so many details to take care of. I want to do as much as I can before I go back to WI. Lori has done so much over these last few weeks, months, years. But we also are trying to take time to just rest and soak in the peace.
I’m thankful I had such a wonderful Dad, and that I have had this time to say goodbye to him.
I 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
Once upon a time in a small town in Indiana, a young man named Cecil married a young woman named Violet on July 10, 1926. A little more than two years later, Violet died in the fall of 1928 of consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of 22. Her burial took place at Woodlawn Cemetery in Warren, Indiana. The grave is marked with a simple, small grey tombstone with black lettering.
On Christmas Day of 1930, Cecil married Edith. They were married for over 66 years. My mother is their first-born of four children.
I’m Cecil and Edith’s grandchild. I’ve been doing family history research for a little over a year now, though I’ve been interested in family stories and connections for much longer than that.
My mom refers to Memorial Day as Decoration Day. She isn’t alone in this tradition. My Dad’s relatives have a tradition of decorating family graves for Memorial Day. This usually happens on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend or a few days before that. Many relatives are buried in just a few cemeteries within a short driving distance. Sometimes there are several cars moving in a caravan from place to place; sometimes there are just one or two cars. Each family grave stone is cleaned. Weeds are pulled. Live flowers are planted or planters hung from hooks. Silk flowers are stuck into the ground. Photos are taken. We often end up at a local restaurant for a fun family lunch afterward.
We missed the decorating day this year, but my mom and I made the trip to Woodlawn on Saturday anyway. We had arranged to meet a couple of cousins there.
Mom and I happened to park near Violet’s grave. She is buried next to Grandpa’s brother who died of influenza at the age of 17 just a few years before Violet’s death. We have many relatives buried in that area of the cemetery.
Our cousins arrived and we stood talking for several minutes. As we chatted, I noticed a man and a woman walking from a car parked some distance away. They seemed to be making their way directly toward Violet’s grave.
Sure enough, they stopped right in front of her grave marker.
I couldn’t resist asking if they were related to Violet.
The woman looked at me intently and said, “Why are you asking?”
I replied that my grandfather had been married to Violet when she died.
The woman was flabbergasted. Her father was Violet’s brother; Violet had been her first cousin.
I pointed to my mother and said, “Cecil’s daughter is right over there.”
Mom and our cousins came over and everyone got introduced to each other. The woman, Leilani, and Mom had quite a conversation, and shared several reminiscences. They talked about Naomi who was the sole surviving person from that earlier generation. I remembered some of Leilani’s Aunts and Uncles. We had often gone with them and with my Grandparents on fishing vacations at cottages in northern Michigan.
I asked if Leilani had a photo of Violet. She said no but she would love to have one. I told her I had one and would be very happy to send it to her. Mom asked Leilani if she had any photos of her parents that she could share in return. She readily agreed. We exchanged addresses and promised to send the items soon.
I didn’t hear about “Grandpa’s first wife” until about 30 years ago. Grandpa was in the hospital and I was visiting my Grandmother at her home. She casually mentioned her concern that Grandpa might want to be buried by his first wife instead of beside her. I was shocked and speechless for a few moments. I had no idea he had been married before! My Grandparents had been happily married since 1930 and no one had EVER mentioned a previous marriage or anyone named Violet.
I quietly asked her a few questions. They were young. She was pretty. Her name was Violet. She was a Yount. She died of consumption. They didn’t have any children. She and Grandpa met a few years later and the rest, as they say, is history.
I assured Grandma that I was sure he would want to be buried next to her, not Violet.
So that is why the Yount family has always been close to Mom’s family. I thought they were just friends. The reason was much deeper — they were related by a long ago marriage that ended tragically.
I can’t help thinking — If Violet hadn’t died, my mother would not have been born and by extension, neither would I.
88 years after her death, I’m thankful Violet is remembered and her memory is honored by her family. I’m thankful for the encounter we had in the cemetery near her grave, discovering relatives in common after so many years.
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.)
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’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.
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 —
People make mistakes. So many mistakes.
Even when you think you are doing “the right thing,” people often get hurt.
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).
Being “in the woods” is confusing, sometimes scary, and often dangerous. Take a friend; don’t go alone.
Actions often bring unintended (far-reaching, severe) consequences.
It is impossible to protect everyone from evil and danger. Bad things happen; even to good people.
Getting what you thought you wanted will not necessarily make you happy.
Lies, deceptions, greed, stealing — never the best way to go.
Beauty does not guarantee a happy life.
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.
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 posted this last year, but I updated it just a tiny bit. REposting because this is still what I want him to hear as he goes out the door.
To my nearly 20-year-old son as he prepares to leave for college (again) this weekend:
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.
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!
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!)
(and this addendum since last year — )
12. ANSWER YOUR PHONE when we call! If you can’t talk right then, fine. Text us and let us know when it would be a good time to talk. We MISS you! Have a little sympathy for the old parental units now and then. It doesn’t matter what we talk about — we mostly just want to hear your voice.
When I read it, I immediately wanted to write about the sensory links in MY past — but I saved the link in my draft posts, time moved inexorably forward, and I let the inspiration slip away. The idea still interest me, though: What are the sounds, sights, smells, and sensations that remind me of my childhood?
I grew up in a very small town in Northeastern Indiana near a freshwater lake. Most of our summer days (and winter ones, too, when we weren’t in school) were spent in, on or near the lake.
The sound of lapping waves on a boat or seawall or shore definitely brings me back to my childhood. The smell of “my lake” does, too. It isn’t necessarily a “fishy” smell. To me it smells fresh, fun, summery.
I remember the feel of bare feet on a white-painted wooden pier as I walk out over the water, peering down through the slats to catch glimpses of small fish darting every which way in the greenish water. I see water weeds and lily pads swaying in slow rhythmic movements.
I close my eyes and can still feel the wonderfully warm sensation of “laying out in the sun” on either the pier or on our old pontoon boat.
My fingers touch the rough terry texture of the towel beneath me. I hear WLS or WMEE on the old FM radio (that we once dropped IN the lake, but miraculously is still worked after it dried out!). Those summer songs! Any top 40 hit from June, July or August from the mid to late 70’s turns me back to all of these senses as fast as a time warp whenever I hear them.
Since we lived in a tourist area where people came to enjoy the lakes in the summer months, staying in cottages and cabins, I had a summer job every year from the time I was 14 or so. My first job was working on the Dixie Boat. This paddlewheel boat took hour-long scenic cruises around our lake three times every evening and about 8 times on Saturdays and Sundays. A man from our church owned and ran the boat and we lived just a couple of blocks away from the dock so it all fell together. The job was to pop popcorn and sell ice-cold bottles of pop during the hour-long boat ride. The concession stand was “down below.”
So not only does the smell of REAL popped corn popping in an old-fashioned machine (as you might see in a movie theater for instance) connect me to this memory, but the sound of a very large diesel engine and a paddle wheel does, too! It was so loud that it was often hard to decipher what the customer was trying to order!
Another sound that reminds me of home is the sound of a pressure cooker! My mom used this odd appliance to cook meat quite frequently through my childhood years. Dad was a “meat and potatoes” guy and worked long hours, so Mom always tried to have hearty dinners ready for him when he got home each evening. I think the idea is to cook the meat faster, keep it more moist and tender — but what I remember is the loud whistle sound and the sound of the chattering top piece when she finally released the pressure. Do people still use this appliance? Apparently so!
Another sound that reminds me of my childhood is the sound of dishes clinking around in dishwater (in a sink) and the sound of silverware, glasses or pots/pans being put away. My mom always did the dishes by hand (my sister and I often had to help, of course), but she usually ended up putting them away herself. She did it energetically so there was always a lot of collateral noise. Mom was kind of a fanatical housekeeper, too. She did laundry a LOT (still does when she has the chance, in fact! She LOVES it). She ran the vacuum cleaner nearly every day. So — the sound of a washing machine or vacuum cleaner can bring me back to childhood, too. This doesn’t automatically happen, though, because I hear all of these sounds pretty frequently.
My dad used to whistle as he worked out in the garage on his woodworking. He listened to an old radio tuned to a hard-core old school country station. He would sometimes sing along with the radio. I remember hearing “Cool Water” many times.
The smell of sawdust brings me back to all of that, as does the sound of a scroll saw or lathe (which I don’t hear very often).
My dad had a Barber shop on the main street of our small town. He would sometimes send my sister and I “uptown” (a couple of blocks down the street to the local drugstore) to buy an assortment of comic books for the shop. I pity the poor boys who had to read the comics we bought!
Jonathan Morris image of Archie’s Joke book; via Flickr CC license
image by Jasperdo; MAD magazine via Flickr CC
Christian Montone image via Flicr CC; Casper Comic book
We always got Archie, Donald Duck (and the three little ducks), Richie Rich, Casper, and similar titles. We also bought the “boy” ones, but not as many of those. Maybe Dad bought those himself? I’m pretty sure we got MAD magazines, too, when we could. Whenever I see or hold a comic book (or smell that newspapery smell they have), I remember these trips “uptown.”
One of the perks of being the daughters of the Barber was that we got free access to the stash of Dum-Dum lollipops! He gave these tiny suckers to young customers after their haircuts, of course, but we could have one any time we stopped by. If I have one of these little lollipops now, I still imagine standing in his shop or sitting in the big barber chair (if he didn’t have a customer at the time). I always had the sense that I was a visitor there, though. It was definitely a manly atmosphere there.
My memories are not just my hometown, though. The smell of cinnamon and molasses reminds me of my Grandma Schwob. She made these delicious baked apples that were topped with little cinnamon red hots AND marshmallows! They had their own apple trees so that added to the deliciousness, I’m sure. I will post her recipe on my food blog, The Heat is ON!, in the near future.
Her molasses cookies were thin, soft and SO good! We spent many, many holidays there, too, so the smell of turkey and dressing brings back memories of their house and of family get-togethers we had there.
What are your sensory links to your past? to your childhood? I’d be interested to hear.
Access to use all these wonderful Getty images?
I chose this image of the Yosemite Valley because seeing this specific view literally took my breath away. Then, when I could breathe again my eyes got teary. It is one of THE MOST beautiful natural vistas I have ever seen. I could have stood there for hours. I felt awed by the spectacular and extravagant beauty of this world. Yes, I’m a Christian — but I don’t see how anyone could look at this place and not feel the presence of the Divine.