Birthday Confabulations

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

Fifty-five, in case you are wondering.

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

1-jill fest-001
Jill-Fest button

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

Choir concert

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

America Sings logo
John Jacobson’s America Sings!

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

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

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


1-WHS swing choir
HS swing choir yearbook photo

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

1 dozen red roses
Red roses with baby’s breath

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



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

AQS Quilt Week in Paducah, KY

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

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

Bargain Nook
Bargain Nook sweaters

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

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

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



Into the Woods Philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gifts that Give Back

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

From Ten Thousand Villages:

Silk Market Round Pillow

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

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

Another site with lovely gifts:

from Krochet Kids intl. 

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

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

The envelop clutch. Also available in a red pattern.

Next we have —

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

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

Allure earrings from the Faire Collection; upcycled horn


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

Napada Thailand:

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

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

Global Goods:  Gifts that Give Back

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


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

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

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

image from FEED website
image from FEED website

Far and Wide Collective:

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

Gone Rural:  Swaziland

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


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

Shake the Dust:

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

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

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

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

Other blog posts featuring gifts that give back ideas:

Mine from last year:

One I found just recently:

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

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

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

The words to the chorus go like this:

Hey well ain’t it your birthday?
Then why aren’t you smiling?
I just drove 250 miles
In the middle of the night
On an empty tank
Dodging deer along the way
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:

Exit the Vortex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




Who knew? Famous Friendship Series: Cassatt and Degas

Cassatt stated that her first encounter with Degas’s art “changed my life,” while Degas, upon seeing Cassatt’s art for the first time, reputedly remarked, “there is someone who feels as I do.”

NPR recently featured a story about the friendship, mutual admiration, art  — passion? — between Edward Degas and Mary Cassatt.

Read it here.

I am a fan of both painters.  I love the movement, the color, the subjects they chose, and their individual voices.

Knowing of their connection makes me feel that I know them both a little bit better.

Little Girl in a Blue Chair by Mary Cassatt


Little Girl in a Blue Armchair is full of Degas’ influence. First of all, he brought the girl to Cassatt — she was the child of his friends. In a pretty dress, she sits slumped in a chair, hand behind her head and legs spread apart. She looks bored, exhausted and not at all dainty or proper. Other big blue chairs and a sofa are in the room — “like bumper cars,” Jones says. A window in the corner may show Degas’ direct influence. 


There is an exhibit at the National Gallery featuring the work of both these artists:  It runs May 11 to October 5, 2014.

Quotes from the NPR story and from the exhibit home page.

March Inspirations: Another Week

Monday — Old Oak Tree

Embed from Getty Images

I mentioned that I had a couple of job interviews last week.  I ended up getting both jobs!  One, being a sub for the local HS, I only got to  do for two days!  Because the other job will be as a long term music sub (K-8 general and vocal) for the rest of the school year.

I went Monday to the two elementary schools where I will be teaching to sign some papers, to see the buildings, and to meet some of the faculty/staff.  One of the schools is several miles away from the interstate on a country road.  From the outside, one can see the school was built onto an old brick one-room schoolhouse building. Outside the front door, a bit off to the side, is a huge ancient oak tree.  I stopped to take in its strength and silhouette.  I thought of all the students that tree has presided over — all of their comings and goings, all the days of learning and playing.  I felt a sense of “place,” of being rooted, and at that moment I was assured that once again, I will be where I belong, where I need to be right now in my life.

Tuesday  — Girls play “The Voice”

Embed from Getty Images

At the end of the young girls’ choir rehearsal I accompany on Tuesday evenings, the girls were given a few minutes of free time because they had worked so hard to learn the new music.  The girls began playing “The Voice” and self selecting into groups of judges, performers, score keepers, and one girl who sat off to the side watching. It was so fun to watch them disappear into their imaginary world of play!  I enjoyed seeing them choose their roles, some switching roles several times, and that one girls who felt most comfortable sitting to the side watching the whole thing (with a shy smile on her face — I don’t think she was unhappy or upset — she just wanted to watch instead of be involved.)

Some girls were natural and instant leaders.
Some struggled to decide where they fit in.
Some felt comfortable in supporting roles.
Some tried several different approaches.
Some needed to have a friend by their side.
Some stood in the spotlight and sang, pouring out their heart and soul.
Some kept track of what everyone else was doing and tried to impose order on the chaos.
One watched with a shy smile.

I thought about how this “play” the girls created relates to grown-up lives. Hmmmmmm —-

Wednesday — Being the “Sub”

Embed from Getty Images

I was subbing at the HS again on Wednesday.  I think my favorite moments are when I have conversations either with an individual student or a group of students that gets “real.”  I catch a glimpse of the “real” person behind their public persona, and/or they catch a glimpse of my “real” self.  I try to be genuine in all situations, but being a sub is a pretty artificial scenario so it often takes a bit of convincing and ice-breaking until any sort of tentative temporary relationship can be established.  I’m thankful when that happens.  Those moments are why I continue to “aspire to inspire!”

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Thursday — Another first day

Today I spent the day getting acquainted with the music teacher for whom I will be long-term subbing.  I met most of the students at one of the elementary school where I will be teaching.  The most common question I was asked by the students was, “Can you play the piano?”  🙂  Happily, my answer was an emphatic — “YES!”  It was a good day, and I’m looking forward to the joys and challenges of the weeks ahead.

Embed from Getty Images

Friday — HUGE Smile

Embed from Getty Images

At lunch (new music long term sub job school) — a student was recognized by one of the teachers with a good-bye cake.  She called the student up, and told everyone in the cafeteria that this would be his last day at their school.  On Monday, he would start school at ta new school.  She had a large sheet cake so that everyone could have a piece of cake to celebrate this student’s time at the school with them.  Everyone applauded and cheered. He had the HUGEST smile on his face. He was absolutely BEAMING.  (p.s.  The young man has Down Syndrome).

Quilt Class at MAM: March Inspiration 8

Embed from Getty Images

I took a quilting class in this wonderful space today!

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This afternoon I took a quilt class in the gorgeous lobby of the Milwaukee Art Museum.  The group was divided into four sections:  improvisational quilting (inspired by Gee’s Bend style quiltmaking); hand applique (inspired by the floral quilt); hand quilting (inspired by the star quilt); and crazy quilting stitches (inspired by the crazy quilt in the exhibit).  The groups rotated through each of the four areas spending about 45 min. or so at each station.

I had fun meeting fellow fiber enthusiasts, and it was especially wonderful to spend time being creative in that amazing space.  The teachers were excellent and I picked up several good tips and ideas.

As I was driving home north along the shore of Lake Michigan, I stopped to take a few photos.  The ice has finally begun to break up, so there is some open water peeking through here and there.  The shards of ice that are strewn about and piled up in various configurations created a decidedly other-worldly scene. Is there an ice planet?  This is what I would expect it to look like.

Lake Michigan ice; March 8, 2014.  Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Lake Michigan ice; March 8, 2014. Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Lake Michigan ice; March 8, 2014.  Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Lake Michigan ice; March 8, 2014. Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Lake Michigan ice; March 8, 2014.  Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license
Lake Michigan ice; March 8, 2014. Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license

Inspirational Wall Slogans from Chennai India

The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest meaning and significance.
The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest meaning and significance.
Light lights another and its light does not grow less.
Light lights another and its light does not grow less.
Look for strengths in people, not weaknesses, for good, not evil.  Most of us find what we search for.
Look for strengths in people, not weaknesses, for good, not evil. Most of us find what we search for.

All Images by McKay Savage; Chennai, India October 2009.

One of Chennai’s lovely quirks of public space are these series of inspirational and motivational wall slogans in several areas of the city. The sequence is from along GN Chetty Road in Chennai as you approach Gemini Flyover and is one of the longest stretches.

You can see more of these wall slogans in McKay Savage’s Flickr Photstream.

March 2 (retroactive March inspiration post)

Final Few February Haiku

This post marks the end of my February Haiku (part of my Joy 365 project).  This was more difficult than the January photos.  I am already behind on March!  I’m not sure what I will be doing with March yet.  Stay tuned, and as always, thank you for reading and following The Tromp Queen!

25 Tues — First rehearsal with area HS students preparing for upcoming district solo/ensemble contests.

image by TTQ
image by TTQ

Singers prepare songs.
First run-through:  a little shy.
Music minds the gaps.

26 Wed — Meet with photographer at Milwaukie’s Art Museum lobby to take head shots for my new job as MCC accompanist.

image by TTQ, CC license -- at Milwaukee Art Museum
image by TTQ, CC license — at Milwaukee Art Museum

Hair, make-up, jewelry:
Head shots at Art Museum.
Carved marble profile?

27 Thurs — Driving across the state from east to west. Going through Pville en route to quilt retreat.

Driving Driftless roads
Passing bluish-white meadows
Trees and cows dot hills.

Tears rush to fill eyes.
I don’t live here anymore.
“Home” is elsewhere now.

28 Fri 

image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr
image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr

Favorite coffee shop:
Time to chat with my dear friend.
Joyful day begins.

quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license
quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license

Next stop: Quilt Retreat.
Bound with stories, tools, advice,
Hugs, laughter, sorrows.

Connections endure:
Souls and voices — we still hear.
Fabric soothes us all.

February Haiku Project Continued: 19 to 24

February Haiku Project Continued:  19 to 24

image by Conrad Kuiper via Flickr CC
image by Conrad Kuiper via Flickr CC

Stark shadows on snow.
Branches cast graphic shapes:
Nature’s modern art

Fragile bunny tracks
Trail the length of my sidewalk.
Snow too deep for hops?

image by Nedra via Flickr CC
image by Nedra via Flickr CC
image by The Tromp Queen, all rights protected (please don't copy)
image by The Tromp Queen, all rights protected (please don’t copy)

Anything better
than a roomful of girl teens
laughing and talking?

(Answer:  No! life is good)


image by Bob Haines GSFC Photo Club via Flickr CC, stained glass Library of Congress in DC
image by Bob Haines GSFC Photo Club via Flickr CC, stained glass Library of Congress in DC

Late afternoon sun —
Long winter shadows on snow —
Golden light shimmers

Ebony sketches
As ink on pastel batiks —
Twigs, branches, sky glow.

(I wrote this thinking about tree branches silhouetted against the sunset, but this stained glass window captures the look, color, texture, and the feeling so I’m going with the “non-literal” illustration this time.)

February Haiku Challenge: Sleeping in, Eating out, Eating in (and SNOW everywhere all the time!)

Feb 12

Sleep in:  late school start.
Why are we still behind time?
Some things never change.

image by Dauvit Alexander via Flickr CC
image by Dauvit Alexander via Flickr CC

Feb 13

Snowy drive ‘cross town
slip, sliding our way to YUM
Viet, Thai, Lao lunch

Vietnamese Beef Salad, Mekong Cafe LLC Milwaukee Lunch Buffet — Awesomely delicious!

Feb 14

Making what I want —
Not waiting, hungry to sit.
Valentines at home!

Valentine's Day roses
image by Philip (outdoorPDK) via Flickr CC

(See my food blog soon for tonight’s recipes!  Aunt Helen’s Ham Loaf, veggies stir-fry, Martha Stewart’s Molten Lava Cakes — The Heat is ON!)

Be a good neighbor.

Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc
Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc

Be a good neighbor — Re-visited one year later.

Today is the one year anniversary of my first regular post on The Tromp Queen blog.  Click on “Be a good neighbor” here or above to read that post.

(The VERY first one was called “Apparently I can be talked into starting a blog but I don’t really count that one since it was mostly just an announcement of my presence and intentions).

It is also the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death.

I wrote a post about my dad last May as I contemplated Father’s Day without Dad.  The post is “Missing Dad.”

A year later — I’ve written 140 blog posts as The Tromp Queen.  I have 200 followers here.  I’ve made new friends and have enjoyed this whole blogosphere more than I ever imagined.  I recently started a recipe blog, called The Heat is ON!  My family endured a year cram packed with changes.  New job, new city, new home, new schools, new neighbors — new practically everything.

Some things never change.  I still miss Dad, and I always will.  The events of that day and the week after feel simultaneously quite recent and a long time ago.

Thank YOU for reading, commenting, following and most of all for caring.  I hope you’ll continue to hang around for rest of the journey.

It means more to me than you know.

Joy 365: January

The Tromp Queen’s January Joy 365 project is COmPleTe!! Please check out my photo gallery of January Joys! Next month, I’m going to write a “Happiness Haiku” every day, or at least that is my goal. I will wait til I have the whole month complete and then post them all on Feb. 28. Enjoy!

The Tromp Queen


Jan 6:  Snow Day (actually frigid wind chill day) — watching Bollywood Bride and Prejudice — FUN and JOYFUL!  (clip below)

Jan. 28:  Snow Day again!  Thankful to be safe at home with both children.  No School for either because of Blizzard/Polar Vortex revisit.

Beautiful animated Polar Vortex image.

Amazing photographs of Polar Vortex 2014 in Chicago from Colossal.

View original post

Going Away

Now as the year turns toward its darkness
the car is packed, and time come to start
driving west. We have lived here
for many years and been more or less content;
now we are going away. That is how
things happen, and how into new places,
among other people, we shall carry
our lives with their peculiar memories
both happy and unhappy but either way
touched with a strange tonality
of what is gone but inalienable, the clear
and level light of a late afternoon
out on the terrace, looking to the mountains,
drinking with friends. Voices and laughter
lifted in still air, in a light
that seemed to paralyze time.
We have had kindness here, and some
unkindness; now we are going on.
Though we are young enough still
And militant enough to be resolved,
Keeping our faces to the front, there is
A moment, after saying all farewells,
when we taste the dry and bitter dust
of everything that we have said and done
for many years, and our mouths are dumb,
and the easy tears will not do. Soon
the north wind will shake the leaves,
the leaves will fall. It may be
never again that we shall see them,
the strangers who stand on the steps,
smiling and waving, before the screen doors
of their suddenly forbidden houses.

“Going Away” by Howard Nemerov, from New Poems. © University of Chicago Press, 1981.  Featured on Writer’s Almanac, October 4, 2013.

This poem brings me back to the emotions I lived with most of last year. I tried to describe something quite similar to this poem’s scenario in my this feels final poem and post.  I’m pleased to report that I’m no longer living daily in this emotion. Slowly I’m adapting to my new life, making friends and finding new favorite places.  I still have days when I look back, but most days I’m looking forward or at least being present in my now.

I want to share this poem with photos I found on Flickr (Creative Commons!) to remember that time and to be thankful the pain isn’t quite so immediate now. I appreciate all the love, support and encouragement I’ve had from friends (and family) far and near, in person and through technology. Thank you for being with me on this journey.

We did have an offer on the house back in the other town late last fall, but the deal fell through.  I know some of these feelings and emotions of loss and separation will come rolling back when the house sells. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to face it when it happens. Somehow, I will be.

Joy 365: January


Jan 6:  Snow Day (actually frigid wind chill day) — watching Bollywood Bride and Prejudice — FUN and JOYFUL!  (clip below)

Jan. 28:  Snow Day again!  Thankful to be safe at home with both children.  No School for either because of Blizzard/Polar Vortex revisit.

Beautiful animated Polar Vortex image.

Amazing photographs of Polar Vortex 2014 in Chicago from Colossal.