Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stress Relief

I don't know about you, but I need some stress relief. It usually helps to pop some packing bubbles. But, if those are not handy, check out these virtual packing bubbles.

I'm especially appreciative of the "manic mode" - especially on a day like today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sacred Harp Singing

Even though it has been my intention to do so for years, I have finally contacted the local St. Louis Sacred Harp singing group. To be exact, they are actually called the St. Louis Shape Note Singers. For those of us who are Primitive Baptists, we are quite familiar with what "sacred harp singing" is...even though there are a few differences from the singing done in our worship services.

It is called Sacred Harp because most singers use a book (or hymnal) called "The Sacred Harp". And it is sometimes called Shape Note Singing probably guessed it: the shape of the note on the page allows the singer to know what note to sing. A triangle indicates a "Fa", a circle indicates a "So", a square indicates a "La", and so on. There are no instruments accompanying the singing, and all of the participants sit in a "hollow square." Most selections are fugues sung in four part harmony...very loud four part harmony, I might add.

If you are attending a Sacred Harp gathering for the first time, you might have many questions. (Why in the world are they singing so loudly? Why are the singers moving their arms like that? Why are they sitting in a square? What's all the jibberish in the first verse?) It might be best for first-timers to check out this handy Beginners Guide. Or, better yet, you can look over all of the interesting information on a web site maintained by the Sacred Harp Musical Heritage Association.

Most people either love it or hate it. It's somewhat difficult to describe. So, it's best just to give it a listen to determine what you think. Check out a sample from a singing in Alabama or this one from a singing in Minnesota. Here's yet another from another singing in Alabama.

Sound familiar? You may recognize this type of music from the battle scene and the church scene in the 2003 film, Cold Mountain. I am looking forward to joining the St. Louis group for a singing later this month. An update will be provided soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What's In A Name?

Filmmaker Alan Berliner set out to answer this question...especially about his own name. I don't know if you were able to see his answer about identity, but it was the film, The Sweetest Sound. (It originally aired back in 2001. But, you can still purchase the film.)

On the PBS P.O.V. review of the film, a popularity index is provided along with an interview of the filmmaker. If you'd like to find out how common your surname is in America, check the ranking database of 50,000 most common names.

For fun, I thought I would look up some names.
First, from my family...
Stremmel is surname number 40519 in the USA.
Webb is surname number 122 in the USA.
Washburn is surname number 1512 in the USA.
Reum is surname number 49540 in the USA.
Smith is surname number 1 in the USA.
Keefer is surname number 3808 in the USA.
Mather is surname number 4736 in the USA.
Ernst is surname number 1913 in the USA.

Now, from the in-laws in my family...
Strode is surname number 11189 in the USA.
Krohe, as a surname, does not exist in this database, because it is not among the top 55,000 most common names in the US.
Vanderploeg is surname number 18032 in the USA.
Brown is surname number 5 in the USA.
Geissler is surname number 11769 in the USA.
Prior is surname number 5464 in the USA.
Sparrow is surname number 4718 in the USA.
Gardner is surname number 160 in the USA.
Coutre, as a surname, does not exist in this database, because it is not among the top 55,000 most common names in the US.
McNeil is surname number 832 in the USA.
Kinsel is surname number 12866 in the USA.
Patterson is surname number 94 in the USA.
Wardin, as a surname, does not exist in this database, because it is not among the top 55,000 most common names in the US.

Bubble Fest

One of my favorite things to give the kids in the neighborhood or my friends' children is a bottle of bubbles. You know the kind....a brightly colored plastic bottle with a plastic wand and bubble solution inside. I guess I like to give those away because it reminds me of fun times with my brother when we were in grade school. We used to have a bubble set that would entertain us in the back yard, and this set included a round plastic tray (to hold the solution), a big wand (to make giant bubbles), and a special wand that had about 50 holes in it (to make many small bubbles at once). I am sure a toy company still makes these, but I haven't seen them or looked for them for years.

I remember Aaron and me taking turns with the large-holed wand, trying to make the largest and longest bubbles, and seeing if we could have one float higher than the trees (which would often be the culprit in popping them). This was really fun....until we ran out of the manufactured bubble solution! From then on, it was hit or miss about whether we could make a homemade solution that would hold up in the back yard breezes.

Well, children of today should have no worries - as they can just turn to to find 3 great formulas to help with their giant bubble attempts. The web site also includes other helpful tips, great resources for anyone wanting to complete a science project on bubbles, and some info on Professor Bubbles, a performer and the keeper of this site.

There are many weird scientists and many child-like employees here at my workplace, and we've been hatching a plan. In the next couple of weeks, we're going to have a "Bubble Fest" during one of our lunch hours. If all goes as planned, I'll post some pictures from the event very soon. Happy bubble blowing!!!!

Friday, August 18, 2006

I Bet Your Pet Yeti is Sweaty

The title of this entry is just as dumb as this site. But, both make me laugh. Dad and I were talking about odd sites, and he passed this one on to me. Go for it! Shave the yeti! But, make sure you get every last bit of hair.

For those wanting to know more about this odd creature, the yeti, fee free to check out these sites:
The Unmuseum
Encyclopedia Mythica

"Out-Calvined Calvin"

In my reading of Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk, the following is one of the most amusing portions I've found so far. In Chapter 5 "A Misfortune, Not a Fault", second paragraph, pages 81 - 82, you will find the following excerpt:

Lincoln was raised in the thick of Old School Calvinism. In Kentucky and Indiana, his parents belonged to a fire-breathing sect called Separate Baptism, in which congregants heard - in the tradition of Jonathan Edwards's famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" - that they were bound for eternal hellfire, and nothing they could do or say or think would change their fate. Preachers did allow that a chosen few were ordained for grace and would be saved, but these fortunate ones had been selected by God before time began. As one Baptist preacher in Lincoln's Kentucky explained it, "Long before the morning stars sang together...the Almighty looked down upon the ages yet unborn, as it were, in review before him, and selected one here and another there to enjoy eternal life and left the rest to the blackness of darkness forever." Such Baptist ministers were so intense that it has been said that they "out-Calvined Calvin."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Big 33rd Birthday

Today is my birthday, and I turn 33. To celebrate, I thought I would call my mom, Phyllis, and interview her about the "big day" that occurred 33 years ago. These are the facts I found out (or was reminded of.)

  1. Mom woke up on Friday, August 17, 1973 with contractions and called into her part-time job to tell them she wouldn't be coming in that day.
  2. If she had reported for work, she'd be heading to the strip mine offices outside of Norris to type letters to each employee warning them of the hazards of mining and recent findings about black lung. (This was in the days of typewriters where each letter needed to be typed separately because there were no programs to do a "mail merge".) Dad would have gone into work at the music store.
  3. Dad and Mom drove from Farmington, IL to Graham Hospital in Canton, IL at about noon.
  4. I was born at 7:39 p.m. in the evening on Friday, August 17, 1973....even though I was not due until September 8. Over 3 weeks early! I weighed 6 pounds and 8 1/2 ounces.
  5. I was in the hospital all night Friday, all day Saturday, all day Sunday, and even until Monday morning - WITHOUT A NAME! The nurses told Mom and Dad that they couldn't release me from the hospital without one.
  6. Many of you know my brother, Aaron Michael. That's a great name, right? Well, my mom and dad thought so too, and they had it all picked out for me if I was a boy. I asked Mom how long they had that name in mind. She said, "Oh, ages!" and "Months and months." But, in all of that time, nothing seemed to come to mind for the possibility of a girl. Hmmm...
  7. Finally, I was named Michelle Denise. They really don't know where the name Michelle came from, but they just liked it. I was given my middle name to name me after my father, Dennis, and my cousin, Sheila Denise.
  8. I was taken home to live in the apartment that Mom and Dad had over the music store in downtown Farmington.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

CHS Class of 1991 Reunion (15 years!)

On the weekend of July 22, I headed back to Canton, IL to visit with family and attend my 15 year class reunion. (YIKES! I cannot believe that much time has already passed.) It was a hurried weekend, but it was a great reunion. And, I appreciated all of the work that the committee did to create a nice night for us. I hope even more classmates will attend next time.

Here's Susan, Hocker, Anne, Bates & Strem. Thanks for being so much fun. A special thank you goes out to Tricia, Andy, and Mom & Dad Hocker for allowing us to go out on a boat ride. (By the way, Andy is NOT growing antlers. We were just meeting at the Canton Elks Club.)

Of course, there's absolutely NO WAY that some of us could be THAT close to a huge stuffed elk and not pose by it!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Too...(What's the word?)...Cute

Even though it is out of the ordinary for him to do so, my friend John sent me the link to an interesting web site. It is especially out of the ordinary because of the subject matter. This just isn't John's cup of tea. But, it's definitely mine!

Please check out the Cute Overload site. It may take a while to load all of the pictures for each section, but it is definitely worth the wait. Be prepared to see kittens, puppies, birds, turtles - even chinchillas and koalas, two of my all-time favorites. Also, be sure to see the specialty headings on the left-hand side on the main page...which include "The Rules of Cuteness", "Cute or Sad?", and "Unusual Animals" along with the listings for specific species. Just the kind of site (and full pot of tea) one likes to see when a smile is needed!

If we were pressed to do so, my family would probably come up with the following submissions for consideration:

Mom's cat, Cindy, tangled up in Dad's afghan yarn. (Note the black spot on her upper lip resembling Cindy Crawford's mole. Hence the name.)

Dad's dog, Lennie, who seems very concerned over this matter. Probably best for the "Cute or Sad?" category. Not quite sure.

Wouldn't You Know It!

Directly after suggesting that individuals buy a book and tune into a TV show, I discovered that both suggestions should have been made with caution.

After weeks of watching History Detectives, I was disappointed in last night's episode for 3 reasons:
  1. The detectives seemed to make many more assumptions than usual when trying to determine the cases.
  2. The show researched the first "natural" artifact that I have viewed, and some of the archaeologists began to talk about "millions of years ago." Creationism was never discussed. (n the past two months, the detectives' cases have focused on toys, photographs, certificates, books, and the like.)
  3. The show included some language that I had not heard on it before. It was, of course, much better than what most of us are hearing any given night on network TV. But, for those who are especially strict in what they allow to be played in their houses, it may not meet everyone's rating of "safe for family watching" which I had previously stated.

Last night, I also continued with my reading of Lincoln's Melancholy, and when picking up at the end of chapter two through chapter three, I realized that the book was touching on topics that may be quite uncomfortable for some. Namely, in this portion, the author focuses directly on Abraham Lincoln's talk of suicide and his much-speculated relationship with his closest friend, Joshua Speed. Just like I mentioned with History Detectives, it seems the author also connects some dots with assumptions that I cannot make - especially with the evidence provided in the text. While he is careful to leave some scenarios open-ended with possible causes or outcomes, he bridges gaps with theories in others. (Maybe these are "common sense" to those more familiar with Lincholn's life.) Either way, I thought the following note from the author was quite interesting - when referring to the phrase "that fatal first" - a quote from a letter by Lincoln, commenting on something that happened on January 1, 1841 that aided in causing a particularly severe bout with deep depression. No one seems to know exactly what this event was. Shenk writes, "Though it would be satisfying to know for sure what Lincoln meant by "that fatal first," the lingering mystery of the phrase serves as a reminder that history is not what happened in the past, but the best story we can tell with the available material. When there are conflicting narratives, we sometimes must admit our ignorance and live with the frustration."

While I would still recommend History Detectives to almost anyone, I have learned my lesson in suggesting books before fully reading them. If it continues in the way it has begun, I imagine I would recommend Lincoln's Melancholy with particular reservations. If you would like to discuss it before purchasing, please give me a few days to complete it and gather my thoughts. I am still anxious to see if author includes any mention of Abraham Lincoln's faith in God.

Monday, August 14, 2006

99th Birthday for Grandpa

I could not let this day go by without mentioning that it is the 99th birthday of my Grandpa, Sheldon Rasho Stremmel. Shed - as many refer to him - was born on August 14, 1907, and it has been a true blessing to have him as my grandfather.

Pictured here with Grandpa is his sister and my great aunt, Frances (Stremmel) Briney.

The entire family is extremely thankful for the care that my Uncle Roger provides for Grandpa each day. We know that 99 is quite a milestone, but we are already looking forward, Lord willing, to seeing Grandpa's face next year on the "Today Show Smucker's Board" where Willard Scott greets the birthday boys and girls.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GRANDPA! We are praying for you today - and every day.

Lincoln's Melancholy

Even though I have had the book for months and have always had great interest in the assumed topics, I was not able find time to get caught up in Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness until this past weekend. Named in the "100 Notable Books of 2005" (New York Times), "The Best Books of 2005" (The Washington Post), and one of the "Dozen Non-fiction Books That Mattered in 2005" (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), the book has been a fascinating read so far (after the Introduction, Chapters 1 & 2) and seems worthy of the praise. Especially intriguing are an anecdote re-told by Tolstoy (the prelude) and direct quotes about Lincoln, his behavior, and intimate interactions recounted by his contemporaries (and preserved through documented interviews).

If you are curious about Lincoln, America in the late 1800s, or the study of depression, I imagine you'll enjoy AND learn a lot from this book. For those who are not impressed with today's theories on psychology, psychiatry, and mental illness, I believe, at the very least, you will be enlightened by how Lincoln's contemporaries - and Lincoln, himself - viewed changes in mood, dealing with life's hardships, overcoming tragedies, etc. As you might expect, there are all sorts of interesting hypotheses about what might cause these "bouts of intense sadness" - even talk of an excess of black bile in an individual's body (the humoral theory). I am very much enjoying the quotes of friends (that have been long-ignored by many historians) that accompany the well-known events of Lincoln's life, and the mentions of nearby New Salem and Springfield, IL are always exciting for this central Illinois gal. However, I have not yet read one bit about how Lincoln's faith carried him through life's trials. I'll be paying close attention to see if that matter is discussed in later chapters.

If you are considering purchasing the book, please first consider reading an
excerpt from the introduction. Or, maybe you'd like to check out the book's entire web site. I have especially enjoyed reading the "Readers Respond" and "Errata" sections of the site.

As a sidenote (but a somewhat related note), if you do not already watch the show History Detectives on PBS, please check your local listings and tune in. I try to watch it every Monday evening, but PBS does air it a few times a week. The team of four (whose experience includes work as professor, sociologist, auctioneer, architect, appraiser and so much more) stop at almost nothing to find the history behind family heirlooms and artifacts that are brought forward by everyday citizens. Join them on their journeys and learn about our history through this entertaining, yet informative, program - suitable for the whole family.

P.S. For those of you who have been watching History Detectives since 2003 and who noticed I am recommending books from the 2005 bestsellers lists.....yes, I am way behind the times lately. I guess I should just be thankful I'm not even further behind.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Reum Family Genealogy

Please note: Dates and information will be updated when found.

Johann Adam Reum united with Eva Katharine (Abe) Reum
(Parents of Johann Daniel Reum) Great-great-great-great-grandparents

Cowherder Georg Adam Knott united with Katharine (Börner) Knott
(Parents of Catharina Elisabethe (Knott) Reum)) Great-great-great-great-grandparents

Johann Daniel Reum Great-great-great-grandfather
Born May 16,1823 in Frauenbreitungen, Germany - died Nov 24, 1870
Married on Dec 31, 1857 to
Catharina Elisabethe (Knott) Reum Great-great-great-grandmother
Born Oct 16, 1930 in Frauenbreitungen, Germany - moved to America in 1886
(Per Donald Lewis Reum, believed to have died ca. 1913, buried in Danvers, IL cemetery, grave marked with slender, tower-like stone, referenced by name Reum with no other text information)

Johann Daniel and Catharina Elisabethe (Knott) Reum's Children
1. Johann Caspar Carl (Before Marriage), born May 12, 1856, married Jan 1, 1878 to Weyh
2. Friedrich August, born Nov 13, 1858, moved to America in 1885 Great-great-grandfather
3. Richard, born Feb 1, 1861, married Dec 25, 1883 to Mittelsdorf
4. Luise, born July 25, 1863, moved to America in 1882
5. Margarethe Christiane, born Mar 20, 1866, moved to America in 1886
6. Caspar Friedrich Eduard, born Jun 10, 1869, moved to America in 1886

Friedrich "August" Reum (born Nov 13, 1858 - died ? ?, ?) Great-great-grandfather
Married on ? ?, ? to
Eliza (Friesch) Reum (born ? ?, ? - died ? ?, ? ) Great-great-grandmother
Eliza (Friesch) Reum was the daughter of …

Friedrich "August" and Eliza (Friesch) Reum's Family, Pictured Here:
Back row, left to right:
Charles Reum Great-grandfather, Arthur Reum, Ida Reum Alwes, Robert Reum
Front row, left to right:
Elmer Reum, Father "August" Reum, Lena Reum Buck, Mother Eliza (Friesch) Reum

Reum Family Reunion

This past Sunday, immediately after church, I rushed north to Danvers, IL to attend the Reum family reunion. It had been quite a few years since I had been able to attend, so I was greatly looking forward to seeing many of the distant cousins I had remembered. The Reums are my mother's mother's father's family. One odd situation with this part of the family is that each branch pronounces the name differently. We've always said "Ream" or "Rhyme", while other cousins say "Room". There would always be a comical part of the reunion where each branch would count up the number of descendants that were present at the event and insist that their branch be called by the "correct name".

This year, we were blessed when a cousin stepped forward to share pictures and stories from her family's recent trip to Germany. She reconnected with some of our distance cousins in a town named Breitungen (or Altenbreitungen), in the former East Germany. The funny part? The entire town is filled with Reums....even having Reums marrying descendants of other Reums....and ALL of them pronounce the name "Roym". Who woulda thunk it? It seems we're having an identity crisis.

Our cousin in Germany (Anita Dohrer Reum) was wonderul to share much of the genealogy information she had found. Even though Anita's married name is Reum, the interesting part is that we are most closely related through Anita's mother's side of the family, the Dohrers. Please see one of my next posts which will include pictures and family tree information.

The day was ended with a nice ride around Danvers and a cemetery tour - provided by my great uncle Donald Lewis Reum. While I enjoyed seeing old homes and the stones of some of my ancestors and distant cousins, I sure wish I had remembered to bring a camera with me. Hopefully, next year.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Pretty Penny

From orphan girl to queen of the castle, Penny has lived an interesting life so far. But, currently, she's bored. She keeps trying to find things to do, but it seems to only put her in more trouble. For instance, on Sunday, she once again darted in and out of my closets all morning as I prepared for church. Little did she know, I was also heading off to a family reunion and wouldn't return until 9:30 pm that night. Right away, I thought something was weird when she didn't greet me at the back door, begging for food, at my return. So, immediately, I suspected the closet. And, there, I found her. Caught all food, no water, no light, no Simon to keep her company. You should have seen the quick dart to the basement (aka the location of the litter boxes.)

In recent months, she has started this odd ritual of bringing up items from the basement - usually pens or ribbons - she's retrieved from my storage boxes. Hey! If I leave her to it, maybe my basement will finally be cleaned out!

Introducing Simon

Heeerrreeee's Simon. Despite numerous attempts to control his diet, Simon has lost only 1.5 lbs since I adopted him about a year ago. That means he's still weighing in at a whopping 21.5 lbs. His rotund body does make him quite cute (like a live teddy bear), but he still needs to "get down the pounds", according to the vet. I guess it would also help if he didn't have access to Penny's food. Hmmmmmm.....

Also pictured is Simon's favorite position in the house. Don't ask me. I have no clue why he likes to straddle the couch arm. My brother's theory is that if Simon were to sit in a "normal cat position" the weight of his massive body would make his legs fall asleep. We'll go with that.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Woman's Best Friends

I know. A dog is supposed to be man's best friend. But, this gal's pals are cats. I love 'em, and I especially love the two that I have now.

Last spring, after much consideration, I decided I wanted to adopt a cat from a local shelter. (The decision was between a chinchilla and a cat, and the feline won out.) So, in March, I started researching on, and immediately, I fell in love with an orange, long-haired kitty named "Penelope" at the Granite City APA. After my first visit, I hoped she'd be mine, and after several visits, I put down a check to make it official. Mom and I set out to shop for all of the cat necessities in between the Toastmasters district events in Rockford in April. And, that next week, it would finally be time to complete the "adoption".

Because her orange coat was a pretty coppery color, her named was adjusted to Penny. The transition to my house was a rough one, as Penny would often cry out throughout the night. She had been rescued from a farm full of cats and she had plenty of play mates at the shelter, so my friends and I thought, maybe she's just lonely.

In the meantime, one of my co-workers was going through a tough personal situation and had to move to a new apartment that wouldn't allow pets. Bryan didn't want to give up his cat, but he was limited in options. So, knowing about Penny, Bryan begged me to please take his grey-blue cat, Simon - since Bryan felt I would provide a good home for him. I saw a "head shot" of Simon, and after careful consideration, I agreed to take him - as I hoped the gesture would be both a help to Bryan and to Penny.

That next weekend, I was happy to see Bryan pull up in my driveway and was anxious to see Penny's reaction to her new friend. But, you would not believe MY REACTION when Bryan stepped out of the car..... carrying a huge, 23 pound cat. (It seems he failed to mention how enormous Simon's body was. Small detail, I guess.)

In the end, Penny continued crying out - not because of loneliness - but because the medical records at the vet's office were incorrect. Penny had never been fixed as originally believed. No wonder she was having trouble! And, Penny and Simon had a rough "adjustment period" of getting used to each other.

Today, however, Penny and Simon live in a peaceful co-existence. Their names make me think they're just like an old English couple. Simon, with his big roly-poly body, lumbers around and eagerly awaits his next meal. Penny darts from room to room, attending to all of her toys and rearranges the house just as she wants it to be. Penny and Simon groom each other, curl up to each other, and look out for each other. Most of all, they look out for me, and they seem to know exactly when I need a little extra attention and encouragement.

For those who fear I am well on my way to "Old Maid-dom", I assure you this is not the first two steps toward hoarding an eventual 80 cats in my house. But, I am thankful for the two I do have.

Allergic Reaction

Already, it has been an odd week. Yesterday in the early, early morning (approx. 4:00 a.m.), I awoke to the strangest sensation. I was dreaming that my two cats were licking and biting my hands and feet. In my half-asleep, fully-annoyed state, I started to kick them both off my bed....when out of the corner of my scrunched up eyes, I realized that neither Penny nor Simon were near my hands. They weren't even THAT close to my feet, for that matter.

That's when I became fully aware that all my fingers were bright red and were almost twice their normal size. My palms were swollen, burning and itching. And, as my feet swung out from under the covers....yep, same story. I don't know to what or how...but I realized I must be having an allergic reaction to something.

I immediately ran to the tub to fill it with cold water, and then ran to the freezer so that I could also empty every ice cube tray into the tub. Sometimes, the ice water reduces the swelling and burning. I've had this odd situation happen before - usually after pulling weeds or walking in the woods. And, once it happened after taking a new medicine. But, never has it happened in the middle of the night, hours after being outdoors, eating, or touching anything new.

After the swelling reduced, I then covered my hands and feet with a special ointment, or salve, (2 of my least favorite words of all time) that I keep for eczema in the winter. I was relieved to see that the "stuff" helped....for about an hour. But, soon after, the swelling, burning and itching returned.

Long story short: The doctors are still stumped. I've gone through so many medicine changes in the last few weeks...but none that should cause an allergic reaction to appear 7 - 10 days afterward. I haven't changed soaps, detergents, fabric softeners, or cleaners recently. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary on Sunday except attend a family reunion. (Could it be true? Could I really be allergic to my family?!?!?)

Per doctor's orders, I took a super-dose of my allergy medicine, and by mid-afternoon, all seemed to be back to normal. Another day missed at work, and another weird ailment.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Especially for Mom & Aunt Dorothy

Last night, as I drove home from work in "rush hour" (more like snail's pace) traffic, I turned to my usual routine of calling to catch up with friends and family. The long thread of cars in which I had found a place was going nowhere fast, so I felt safe to once again reach across the country through my cell phone. It helps me use the 2+ hours that I usually have in my car each day while driving back and forth to work. (This will be the first of probably many references to my hope of finding a job on the Illinois side of the river.)

After remembering that it was August 3rd, I was blessed to reach Aunt Dorothy on the phone. Uncle Maurice and she were preparing to go out with Jon and Jaclyn, their grandchildren, to celebrate her 83rd birthday. (I try to remember that Aunt Dorotny is almost exactly 50 years older than I. My big 3-3 is quickly approaching!) Aunt Dorothy feels 83 is OLD...and in our visits and exchanged notes in recent years, she always seems to mention this. But, I know better. To me, she seems as if she has hardly changed a bit. And, through the inflection of her voice, I can picture her sitting in her house on the farm, her smile, and the glimmer in her eye. She also frequently mentions the "old days"... and I know exactly what she means. I am busy and I have moved away...but my memory often takes me back to those "old days". When I was younger (when we all were younger), our family would so often be with Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Maurice. Memories flood back: homemade dresses that she made for me - complete with rickrack, the odd suction-cuppy rubber thing that held their bar of soap, setting out for a visit and wondering if we were going to the farm house, the "little house", or the "house in town", the contest between Aaron and Aunt Dorothy to see who could first exclaim "Mercy!" (Aunt Dorothy's most common saying) when seeing each other, sliding around the humongous back seat of the Oldsmobile saved for special occasions, the organ, the funny push buttons on the TV, asking Uncle Maurice to once again tell the story about his auger accident, Aunt Dorothy's special combs, playing with Peanut, mushrooming (filling garbage bags), fishing at the pond, her cooking (especially her roundsteak?), going to visit Larry and Tammy, chasing the cats out of the barns, saying our prayers before bedtime,...and especially of all of the memories of Mt. Zion Church. Fascinated at communion time - even when I didn't know what communion was, I would stand at a careful distance and watch Aunt Dorothy carefully and delicately set up the wine and bread crystal that Elder Hopkins would later use in the services. Each time, she would place it on the table in exactly the same way, and that would fascinate me. It was evident that she took her duties very seriously, and it gave me a glimpse of how much she truly appreciated and respected the services in which the members would participate later that day.

Aunt Dorothy has always been one of the women who has stood as an example to me...of kindness, of generosity, of faith, of family, and of love. I know my mom considers her a second mom, and she's always been an extra grandma to Aaron and me. We can't be together as often as we'd like, but we should make more of an effort. Aunt Dorothy is sad that things aren't the way they used to be, but she says the memories carry her through. I hope we can carve out time to make some more memories very soon. And, in stiving to do my best to follow the Lord, any time spent with Aunt Dorothy, a true Titus 2 woman, is time to be cherished.

I was so happy about my conversation with Aunt Dorothy that I called Mom to tell her all about it. However, she did not have much time - as Dad and she were heading out the door to attend a Toastmasters event. Dad loves Toastmasters, and I am so thankful that he has met many wonderful friends through his activities with the organization. Before we ended our chat, I asked Mom if she would pass on a message regarding some blogs to the Campbell family for me. Before continuing, I stopped to ask, "Mom, do you know what a blog is?" To be honest, I don't even remember her actual answer. I just know that it wasn't quite right. I thought to myself, what better way to show her than to create one? So, Mom, this was started for several reasons - but especially for you. Besides, it's clearly time that I get with it. I don't know how many people at my high school reunion were shocked that I, of all people, didn't have one. It's been quite a week for first blog and my first DVD player. I know, I know. Please don't give me grief about it. For someone who's usually so "up" on things, I've been lagging behind for some reason, as of late. Hopefully, with my birthday near, this new year of my life will be filled with catching up to my usual "stremmed out" pace.