Monday, April 30, 2007

Connected to My Roots

This last week, I haven't been my usual self. I've felt disconnected to my usual routine... but extremely connected and "caught up" with several items that have been on my to-do list.

Well, that isn't entirely true, either. I must admit, I have an addiction. I've become addicted to researching my family tree. There. I've said it. "They" (the 12-step program originators) say that the first step is admitting that one has a problem, right? (Well, I don't think admitting it is really going to stop me any!) I've only been "at it" a few weeks, but I have been told that I'm much farther than most after several months or even years. I keep digging and digging through census reports, courthouse records, and baptism journals. Online resources are abundant, and I am thankful to have a good amount of information through the oral histories that I wrote about last week. I've found names that are even more unique (Bernhardina, Conrad, Sivilla, Cordelia, Hester, Garrison... goes on and on), and I'm intrigued by the hunt. I think that's the part to which I'm most addicted. The hunt. One must search and search and search to find an answer - even trying different spellings for names - to see if the next clue can be found. Last week, my eyes and head were hurting, but I kept going and realized that one family branch's name (Folkenroth) was spelled 7 different ways in the U.S. census/ population reports throughout the 1700s and 1800s. I also discovered that many who track the Stremmel family tree are missing that Folkenroth branch. You see, my great-great grandfather (Adam Stremmel) was raised (at least part of the time) by my great-great-great-great grandfather (John George Stremmel) because my great-great-great grandfather (also Adam Stremmel) died in his early twenties from intestinal inflammation. His wife (maiden name Folkenroth) then, soon after, became remarried, and because of a scribbly-written name on a census, many researchers don't realize there were two Adams: the father and the son. Clear as mud, right? Needless to say, it has been interesting... and the farther I go with each branch (I'm on 8 or 9 generations with some), it has become more difficult (and FASCINATING!) If anyone is at all interested in genealogy, I plead with you to IMMEDIATELY call your oldest family members and set up a time to ask them a few questions about your family (their grandparents, their great-grandparents, their neighborhood schools, the maiden names of the women in the family, etc.) I hope to meet with several great aunts and uncles in the next two months.

Last week, one of my indirect bosses for Human Resources (who is also a good friend) was in the office for a site visit, and she gave me the most beautiful flowers. With her visit came some work, but it was nice to catch up with her and keep busy. It was also nice to return home each evening to see the gorgeous bouquet. (This picture does not do it justice!) White, yellow, peach, pink and orange roses.

With the genealogy search and the HR files, I forced myself to take the weekend off from any paperwork. (I had to force myself away from the computer and fight the urge to print off more family records reports.) And, my bouquet gift inspired me to get out and get the yard in shape. So, while continuing with the Zimmerman baby watch and keeping my phone close by at all times, I turned off my brain and got ready for some manual labor. I went outside, opened my garage (which is currently filled with plant pots and auction furniture), and immediately realized that one of the neighbor cats (pure white one that chases bugs in my yard) had been stuck in there. Her cries were so loud, and I felt terrible. I cannot remember the last time I had the garage door open. MAYBE a week and a half ago? No matter the situation, it was not good. I ran as fast as I could - down the street - to the owners to see if they could come rescue the kitty. They weren't home, but other neighbors ran back with me. Thankfully, the cat had come out and was crying in the bushes. We all got a glimpse of her, but she wouldn't let us near her. She didn't look starved. But, she didn't look or sound well at all. So, I set out some food and water for her, and hopefully, she's back on the road to recovery. I'm not sure how many lives she has left.

After that shock, I returned to the work plan. After scraping, painting, raking, sawing, trimming, more painting, even more raking, and much stooping over to pick up sweet gumballs that are plaguing my grass, the yard made a miraculous turnaround in twelve hours. (Even though I felt like I had lost twenty pounds, my body was not as fortunate.)

Then, yesterday, I continued with planting and more mulching. Last year about this time, two special people helped me with the process... and the experience was just not the same without them this year. But, I did my best. Here, my bright green window boxes are ready to be installed, and I hope the pink and purple petunias will soon be overflowing the boxes. There's something wonderful about working with the earth, isn't there? I love it. (I just don't like the part where I try to remove the earth from my fingernails.)

Below is a photograph of a portion of my backyard (view from my driveway)... complete with my new birdbath and planters from Sister Velda, two new stepping stones from Aaron and Ketra, and some of my perennials that were planted at the end of this past summer. I bought several for less than $1 at Home Depot last year after we had a hot spell. The store could no longer sell them for full price because they looked so bad, and I was more interested in long-term gain for this year and beyond than how they looked at the moment. (Just a little fried at the time... but a great bargain!) Now I have some plants that are usually pretty expensive but cost me next to nothing. In the middle of the photo, you may be able to see a young sage plant with purple shoots. This bloomed about two weeks ago and has become brighter and brighter. All day Saturday and Sunday, it was covered with bumblebees and butterflies. I couldn't remember the last time I had seen a bumblebee... let alone, five at one time.

I received two of the best nights of sleep that I've had for a long time. It was hard work, but I always feel good after a day of hard work. I just need to become more motivated in initiating. So, I'm already trying to get motivated for this evening's projects. You may see the yard photo and think it all looks pretty good. You may even wonder what else I might need to work on. Well, take a gander down in the right bottom corner of the picture - right in front of the white planter. See that tiny brown gumball taunting me? Laughing at me? Well, he and hundreds (if not thousands) of his little friends are continuing to have a party in my yard, and it is time for me to end their celebration. Maybe I can provide some before and after photos tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have another long, uninterrupted night of wonderful sleep. (Dreaming about my ancestors, of course.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Branches on the Family Tree

My head is all a-swirl this week because I am eyebrow deep in genealogy research. I am truly enjoying it so far, but the effort requires many hours of reading... now in books, web sites, and oral histories, and later in libraries and courthouse files. My eyes are tired, but the treasure hunt motivates me to press on. It is so exhilirating to find one little fact, such as a middle name or, better yet, a maiden name which opens the doors to an entirely new branch on the family tree. It has also led me on some paths to towns and counties that no longer exist. After discovering a small tidbit about a family member or the local industries, my imagination runs wild in dreaming up what my ancestors must have done in the early 1900s, 1800s...and even 1700s.

One of the best parts of the search is discovering the old and unique names... or the many ways to spell them. Research shows, in one family branch alone, multiple women had a form of the name Katherine... which was also spelled Catherine, Catharine, Katharine, and Catharina. I have a long way to go to flush it all out, and some of the most interesting are held by uncles and aunts up several generations. Since many of you know a certain couple who are working very hard to find and narrow down baby names, I thought I would post a few from my direct ancestry that are not so run-of-the-mill these days. For your consideration. (Remember none of these are surnames... just first and/or middle names.)

Sheldon Rasho
Charles Bertle
John Sanduskey
Loren Eugene
Joseph Glenn
Charles August
Friedrich August
Johann Daniel
Johann Adam
(Yes, we're German.)

Clara Fern
Ruby Margaret
Estella Margaret
Ethel David (Yes, that's her middle name.)
Lucinda Ellen

I am especially fond of Lucinda, Ruby, and August. Do you have any family names that you love?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Marks of Usage

In doing some family history research today, I discovered a web site that is dedicated to providing ancestry information about residents of my home county. There are the usual records of farmers and businessman within various periods of time, but there are also some more personal artifacts that I found valuable - regardless of their lack of connection to my ancestors.

One of note is a diary from Mrs. Lodema Bayless recorded from 1846 through 1870 (provided to the site by Ms. Sharon Bearce). It is important to mention that Mr. and Mrs. Bayless traveled from the northeast to Illinois in 1846 and bought land in Fulton County IL. In 1848, her husband was injured and passed away, leaving Lodema with four children, Jacob Franklin (8), Sarah Louise (6), and twins, Nancy and Mary (4). Her entries are not long, but they reflect the struggles of a widowed mother trying to keep a farm running in those times. One entry about the death of her son, Joseph Franklin, in 1863 was particularly touching to me and serves as a good reminder in carrying out my life. May each of our testaments show great marks of usage and may we each live to be remembered as a good child of God rather than great in the eyes of men.

Entry: February 1963

I received two letter from the South where Franklin had been sick for a few weeks. Both of which informed me that Franklin was no more. That he had gone the way of all the earth. We had received two letters while he was sick the first written Dec. 7 from Elijah White, the second from Mr. Peterson their chaplain, who said he would get well. Then Jan.7 Franklin himself wrote and said he had had a hard spell of sickness, but that he was better that he hoped soon to join his regiment again. He says in his letter 'Mother this is your own sons writing' thereby letting us know that he was able to write and how glad we were to get another letter in his own hand writing and to learn that he was better - but alas how soon the scene was changed, how soon our joy was turned to grief. The next we heard was those two letters above mentioned, which brought the sad news of his death, but while they brought such sorrowful tidings they also brought some cheering.

Mr. Kelley his first lieutenant wrote that he had no doubt but that in the Lambs book of life was written the name Franklin Bayless. He said he appeared cheerful, contented and happy.

Mr. Vandevander wrote that Franklin was a good boy, a good soldier and that he had no doubt but that he was better off than the rest of us. He said his testament showed marks of usage. How cheering the thought to think that he has given such satisfactory evidence even way there among strangers, that he was a child of God. It cheers my heart. If he must die, how much I would rather that he should die a good boy, a dutiful son, a child of God, than without these to die with all the honors that could be given to him by man. It is better to die good than great. Franklin was 22 years old the first day of Dec. and was taken sick about the same time. He died Jan 27, 1863. Thus Franklin was taken from us while still in the prime of youth and while we needed his help so much, as well as his company. We miss him very much. He was a good boy. He experienced religion under Elder Shaws preaching, was baptised and joined the Free Will Baptist church when he was 15 years of age. From that time to the time of his death, I don't think he ever went to bed over 3 times unless we had company, without first raising his voice in family prayer with the rest of us. If he was tired or sleepy he would say "Mother I want to go to bed." when our work was laid aside. Till we prepared for bed; and then he was satisfied to go to bed. I trust he did not forget to pray while he was in the service of our country, away yonder in the South. He was at Holly Springs in the hospital sick, at the time of the raid there when part of the place was captured and burned. His clothes were burned with the rest. There he was taken to Jackson, Tennessee where he stayed until he died.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Adopt A US Soldier

I have been blessed to be involved in the "Adopt A US Soldier" program, and the experience has been very rewarding. Heartfelt, thankful notes from our service men and women have expressed deep gratitude for anything I've sent, and, sometimes, I think I've received more benefit from the program than they have.

The Adopt A US Soldier site wrote me a note today with a plea for me to sign up for more troops and to please encourage others to sign up on their site. If this is something you'd be interested in - helping and supporting a soldier by sending them some snacks and memories from the US - please go to for more information.

The site's plea also included these statements: We are getting more and more soldiers that are signing up to be adopted. As you know, our service men & women are having their tours extended for another 3 months for a total of 15 months of service in a war zone. We know that your e-mail, “snail-mail”, packages and other communications make the soldiers day when they come back to their barracks at the end of their shift. We thank you again for your continued support of our soldiers.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

T-N-T is Dynamite!

Tuesday night, I went to my first meeting for a community group called Ties, Needles and Threads (TNT), and I became a member. This group is for crafty women who love to work with fabric, embroidery, quilting, and so many other techniques. I had so much fun with the ladies, and I can tell I am going to learn a lot from them.

My mom taught me how to embroider when I was young, but I do not know as much as I'd like about particular stitches and want to ensure I am tying off my strings properly on the back of my projects. Right away last night, I was able to find some mentors who do such beautiful work, and they were able to provide some great tips.

I would guess that most of the membership is age 40 to age 70, and the room was full of wisdom. I cannot wait to spend one-on-one time with many of them because they are true artists. The majority of the group is extremely involved in quilting, and I want to learn all about it! Already, my vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds, but I had to ask many questions to make sure I understood some of the terms that were mentioned. The ladies were very nice in providing those answers and welcoming me.

Last night was "President's Challenge Night". As I understand it, the new president announces a theme each spring and, the following spring at the last meeting of her presidency, the members spread out their themed projects to be judged in a fun competition. Bed quilts, lap quilts, baby quilts, wall hangings, garments, hand embroidery, machine embroidery, tatting... so many categories. So many gorgeous creations. The theme was "Fun and Games", so there were items with Carndinals baseball, island cruise scenes, Monopoly, and, most of all, Sudoku. I can't even begin to describe the beautiful patterns and fabric. And, I can't wait to find out the theme for the coming year.

I kept hearing the letters "AQS" being thrown around. Members had "AQS" on their nametags. There was an "AQS" sign-up sheet that was being passed around. Everyone kept talking about Paducah, too (which I assumed was Paducah, KY.) I should have known that AQS stands for "American Quilter's Society", and a big competition will be held in Paducah this next week. Four members from our guild have items entered in the contest, and I was sitting at a table with a new friend, Bonnie, who makes the most beautiful (PURPLE!) clothing and who plans to bring her contest clothes to the next meeting.

The meeting ended with "Show and Tell".... and I believe my mouth was gaping open in awe the entire time. I wish I had pictures to show, but my camera batteries ran out once again. Members that had something to share took turns standing up to talk about their recent projects, and I loved every one of them.

I was most interested in some of the older, vintage quilts, so I learned about some of the basic patterns:
Double Wedding Ring
Rose of Sharon
Aunt Hattie's Garden
Oh My Stars!
Bride's Bouquet
Jane Austen Quilt
Dresden Plate

My great great aunt (Aunt Bess, right, Mom?) was a very interesting woman, and she made numerous beautiful quilts. In fact, there are a few around Mom and Dad's house. Unfortunately, we've used my favorite one (which is purple) so often that it is now extremely sad looking. I doubt it can be repaired. Not good at all. But, Mom gave another one to Ketra for her heirloom wedding shower, and another one is usually spread out at the end of the bed on which I sleep at home. I believe that one is a version of the Dresden Plate. But, instead of the dark colors pictured in the example above, it has a white background and very bright, vibrant colors in the pattern. I wish I could have known Aunt Bess so that I could learn how to quilt from her and speak to her about her life experiences.

The ladies of the Ties, Needles and Threads Guild know how to have fun, and they are willing to put up with my many questions. So, I loved my time with them and cannot wait to see what everyone is working on next month.

10 mph

A few years ago, I was notified of a special opportunity - one where I could see some of the inner workings of a documentary film. I signed up to receive regular emails from two gentlemen, Hunter and Josh, who had given up their 9 to 5 jobs and trek across country on a segway. The estimated rate of speed on the segway was 10 mph. Therefore, their film was named 10 mph, and they saw the country in an extremely unique way: SLOWLY. They met with ordinary individuals and extraordinary individuals, saw barns and skyscrapers, and traversed through the sweltering heat and pouring rain. State by state, county by county, country road by country road.

Photos from Segway LLC web site:

Unfortunately, I was out of town when they hit St. Louis. And, once they crossed over into Illinois, the team was busy meeting up with old classmates from nearby Principia College. But, I've kept in touch, sent little notes of encouragement, and have enjoyed receiving press releases along the way. The documentary has been viewed and reviewed at many independent film festivals, and it is now available for purchase.

I have not seen the film YET. But, I've seen a few trailers and many photos, and I've read many of the journal entries from the trip. What I've seen, I have really enjoyed, and I thought some of you might enjoy it too. Quite an adventure, I imagine. A slow one, but that probably made the adventure much more life changing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Getting Serious

Late last night after returning from our Sacred Harp gathering, I ventured upstairs to my little library to look once more to see if I could find a book that captured my attention. There were several that I wanted to pull so that I could share them with friends. I also wanted to return a particular book back to the shelf. Not because I wasn't interested. I was. I AM. But, I had just read it for the 3rd time in six months. (It intrigues me that much, and it has also taken a while for some of the info to stick.) I now need the information to just settle and stew for a bit.

This book is "Getting Serious about Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness" by Debbie Maken. Some of you will remember that I wrote a post about the topic this past fall. Some of the points it posed caused some discussion on the blog and much deeper discussions over email, during long car rides, and even through wedding reception meals, if you can believe it. The ideas are "old hat" to some and extremely controversial to others - especially men - because the author identifies churches (and older men) for being at fault in not doing what previous generations did in preparing younger men for marriage. It scolds men for putting off marriage. It scolds well-meaning church members for the illogical, unbiblical comments that are made to singles longing for marriage. It scolds the ministry for what is preached from the pulpits on the subject.

The book cannot be summarized adequately by me, here, and now. (Besides, the info is settling and stewing once again, remember?) But, for the many who joined in the conversations in the fall but have not yet read the book, I thought I would direct you to a Canon Press question/answer session with author, Debbie Maken. (Please note additional questions are posted and answered below the on-line interview.) Understand, this cannot cover all of the principles within the book, but this reveals a glimpse of the author's thoughts on some of the main topics. I think the comments left on the link (book title above) would also be interesting to most of you. I believe it accurately shows the strengths, shortcomings, and views of the author - along with those of the reviewers. (It should be easy to spot which readers with whom you might best relate.)

I feel it is important that I state this once again: I do not agree with all of the author's points, but I do agree with many of them. And, I'm still figuring out others. But, at the very least, her thoughts get me thinking and motivated me to get grounded in The Word. And, that's wonderful!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Best of Friends

...with so many shared interests: bird, squirrel and rabbit watching, eating (clearly!), meow-whining for more food, waiting on the back steps for me to come home, more eating, more meow-whining, more waiting, carrying things up from the basement, attacking moths, carrying around ballpoint pens, batting balls back and forth, stalking each other, perching on the arm of the chair, inhaling catnip, cuddling on the couch, general grooming, lying on my feet, still more eating. What a life!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Click, Spark, Flame

Just as most settle in at home base to count to one hundred while the sun seeks his hiding place behind the horizon (where he's sure he won't be found for hours), the slow burn increases. It jolts with a click, results in a spark, and grows into a flame. A flame of energy, of life, of restlessness to connect and do and be. Desiring something greater, bigger, more alive than the night before.

It flickers and lilts from left to right seeking other flames, for it would be a marvelous tryst to entangle and build with another. Fire igniting fire. Nevertheless, so seldom are others found, for multitudes have turned back to the standby pilot light position from which the flame has just departed. They feel they've worked to sustain a glow all day and now long for the peacefulness of the cooling embers. They have no fuel left to burn brightly and join in the adventure. There are no energy reserves to expend - especially on a wandering flame. When the light approaches, the doors repeatedly slam shut and the resulting breezes dare to blow her out. It cannot be denied that the flame, on occasion, becomes nearly extinguished, wanting not to waste the energy, herself, and wearied by the fight to remain illuminated.

However, in the expanses of darkness, the brightness is determined only to grow with sharpness and tenacity. A deafening buzz follows the click. The electricity sparks off in pops and snaps, continuing to reach out with longing. Hoping to connect and do and be... something greater, bigger, more alive. Brighter. Providing warmth to another. Seeking forests with no boundaries. She wants to burn in the way of her youth and retraces the trails of distant memories.

Under deep, moonless skies, the blaze erupts, glowing and growing against the black. A fiery celebration, even if just a celebration of one. But, no less a celebration. Colors bursting. Fireworks of flame. Coals screaming from the hallelujah heat--

--But, gasp. Choke. No air! No air! As all dances under the constellations do, the festivities are suddenly dampened by a thick blanket of fog and remembrances much stronger than those glorious youthful trails. The freedom of the night is ceasing.

"This is a no-burn area," the fire recalls. "It is not acceptable to freely flicker. I dare say, not even in my own backyard. Especially at this time. Especially in this way." The flame has been the pupil, and experience, the teacher. The education has gone against all which the flame has known and held in her core, but life has broken her of the hopes of how it could be with heavy, drenching buckets of how it is. Besides, aurora is approaching. And, the glowing sun and the fire cannot share this space. On the rare occasion when the attempt is made, the flicker is small and weak. Dull and lifeless.

So, the flame reluctantly loosens her yearning grasp on the nighttime and surrenders to the glow that is growing ever so slowly in the eastern skyline. 'It is time to retreat,' as she does before each dawn. 'I soon must hibernate,' as she settles into each morning. 'It will be a seemingly endless wait until my next roar,' as she sleepwalks through each day while her heat wanes to hardly a whisper. But the daydreams of trails that have not yet been explored carry her through the sunlight hours until the golden orb seeks his nocturnal hiding spot once more. Then, click, spark, flame... and the fire can dance, connect, do and be all she has anticipated in her woolgathering without limits. Yes, it is always merely a quick trot around the floor after each stoking, but the dream-inspired dance is what keeps the fire aflame night after night after...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Get The Read Out

I don't know what has gotten into me. During the past two years, I was usually reading 4 or 5 books at one time, mixing things up a bit by spreading my time between a few genres. But, right after Christmas, my reading came to a standstill. That was right after I picked back up with my embroidery projects and I've spent many evenings working on those projects since. Many pillowcases. Many bibs. Many stitches. I'm currently working on a table runner with my favorite flower, the pansy. But, it is taking a long time...

I guess all of my reading didn't cease. I've consistently continued with my studies in the Old Testament, and they are also taking a much longer time than anticipated. But, the blessings are well worth it. I'm moving at a slower pace because I am attempting to write summaries after each chapter, diagram family trees, and create lists to help me remember portions of the law. I did a terrible disservice to my brain in my younger years by training it to remember great amounts of information for tests - only to turn around and dump it soon after "when I didn't need the facts anymore". So, in recent years, I've been struggling to remember some of the most basic facts while trying to hold on to them so tightly that my memory cannot let them go. But, just days later, I find myself having to turn back to chapters that I thought I knew like the back of my hand. It makes me frightened to think what my memory will be like when I am 70 and 80. I truly need your prayers about this, that God might help me better grasp these verses that are invaluable.

With all of that said, I'm getting antsy and anxious, and I miss my other reading. I've gone up to my little library. But, nothing on those shelves is looking good at the moment. So, I need some help in finding some good reads for the spring and summer... perfect for afternoons and evenings in that backyard hammock that I've mentioned so many times. Brother Paul suggested "John Adams" or "1776". What do you think? Would you be willing to write about your favorite books or about a book that has intrigued you lately? Or, is there a book to which you return over and over? Anything that just pops into your mind? It can be new or old, fiction or non-fiction, deep or light, mystery, biblical, inspirational, historical, romantic, Christian living, ... No matter the type, I would love to know what your suggestions are. So, go through your own libraries or "Top Ten" lists and suggest away, please.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Definition: the transposition of initial or other sounds of words, usually by accident and usually with comic effect. Named for Rev. William A. Spooner (1844-1930), warden of New College, Oxford, who was famous for such mistakes.

Examples of what one meant to say vs. what one said:
crushing blow vs. blushing crow
jelly beans vs. belly jeans
taking a shower vs. shaking a tower

I was talking to a friend on the phone this morning, and she had one of these accidental experiences. And, I explained that I do this from time to time. I know it happened just last week at church, but now I can't remember what I accidentally said. I DO know it happens more frequently, for some unknown reason, when I say particular phrases:

Hits and Misses
New York
Banana Nut Bread

I don't know why.

Talking about this today reminded me of the Andy Griffith Show. Whenever we stayed at Grandma and Grandpa Stremmel's house, it was pretty definite that we'd see at least one episode, if not two or three episodes, of the program. It was their favorite, and the cable stations - especially TBS - packed in multiple showings of the program each day. I can't estimate how many times I've seen certain ones, and it was especially funny to see Grandpa, Grandma, and Uncle Roger anticipate what was sure to happen next to Barney Fife or recite the exchange that was about to occur between characters. Well, in one of the episodes we like the most, Barney gives the governor a ticket (for illegal parking, I believe.) But, Barney unknowingly drinks spiked water from the water cooler (because Otis has been messing with it) and becomes rather bold in his inebriated state. When Andy speaks to him about the possible retaliation Barney might receive from the governor, Barney basically tells Andy that he's not worried about it and stands by his act as an officer of the law: "Tell the governor to put THAT in his smipe and poke it!" Dumb, but it still makes me laugh.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Motorin' to Music City

My family plans to visit Nashville in late July and early August. It will be our first "family vacation" since I was in high school. (That's a long time ago, folks.) We know there are a ton of great places to visit, but we need your help.

Are there any "must sees" that you know of? Are there any places that receive a ton of hype but aren't worthy of it? No matter if you want to share your opinion about a particular mansion, recording studio, historical site, concert venue, or museum, I'd love to hear it.

Each of us already has our very own Tennessee Travel Guide (courtesy of Dad), and we're busy circling, crossing off, and highlighting the entries for "central Tennessee." And, as much as the web sites help, they don't tell the whole story. So, we need the whole story from you. Please write in with your suggestions and experiences! (And, thanks, in advance, for doing so!)

Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut

When it comes to m&m's, I always do. No plain for me.

Today, I became an m&m. You can, too!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Two Weeks Ago

Two weeks ago, it was hot and sunny, and it was time to go on some adventures. So, I headed off to the "Higher Ground" Sacred Harp Singing in Terre Haute, IN. (Thank you goes out to Charlie, Presley, and Karen for allowing me to tag along and for answering so many of my questions. It was a really fun trip!) It has been wonderful to see shape note singers every few months and get to know them... in addition to making new friends each time. We met at the Campus Ministries building on the campus of Indiana State University, and it was a good day of singing praises! One of the sweetest scenes is when an older Sacred Harp singer takes a younger one under his wing and teaches the younger the traditions. Below, Michelle Cull brings in a chair to allow her daughter to see everyone and teachers her to direct. It's also been a real blessing getting to know the Eldridge family from southern Indiana. We met them back in September at the Illinois convention and have seen them a few times since. Hope to see you again soon, Rebecca, James and Katherine!

The next day, after worship services, I had some fun with these two cuties. First, we rode to the store to pick up some supplies. Abi wanted to get a bag that was twice her size! Then, we visited the Granite City APA. This is the animal shelter where I found Penny, and every so often, I try to volunteer some time to help out or bring some food for the animals. Unfortunately, my camera batteries failed right at the worst time when Abi and Tressa were holding the newest kittens. But, we had fun playing in the two cat rooms, watching the gerbil in its wheel, and visiting the dog kennels. The dogs were LOUD! But, Tressa thought the very calm dalmation was extremely sweet.

We then headed off to the pet store where the shelter was holding an animal adoption drive. Tressa was drawn to the black cat, while Abigail loved the dogs - especially one named Cheerio. Seemed fitting since Abi loves Cheerios so much.

But, I think the hamsters and fish caught their attention more than anything else.

Because it was so warm, it was a perfect day for a stop at Dairy Queen for some ice cream sandwiches. We dashed home to enjoy our treats on the patio, and they made all of us smile. YUM YUM!

Hopefully, we'll have many more fun weekends like this one throughout the summer.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Plea for Mercy

Sunshine. Then, no shine.
Cloudy, gray, then hot.
Just when I think spring has stuck
Evidence proves it has not.
Flip-flops and t-shirts,
Then back to coat and sweater.
No matter how hard I try,
I can't control this weather.

70 and breezy,
Then rain for days on end.
An umbrella, instead of a rake,
Becomes my new best friend.
Now, clear skies. Green shoots of grass.
Barefoot in the yard.
The ever-changing temperature
Keeps catching me off guard.

Windows down. Windows up.
Rain comes pouring in.
The clouds part suddenly.
Will the sun finally win?
The warmth of spring is here again.
It's when I feel my best.
But, sadly, the cold gray is coming back,
Taunting me from the west.

So back to coats and scarves,
Tissues and sneezes galore.
The changes all too frequent,
I've given up keeping score.
Please no more boots and jackets!
Please make the wind gusts cease!
I'm begging for sunny days once more.
Peace, be still. Please, peace.

Take away this sore throat and aches.
Relieve me of this zombie look.
I just want to settle into spring
In my hammock with a good book.
85 just a few days past,
Couldn't guess what'd come in its place.
25 degrees out, oh my!
I continue to plead my case.

Please bring back the bright sun rays,
And the gentle breezes that blow!
Please let us have a long break
From the rain, hail, sleet and snow!
I'm trying to remain patient,
I'm trying with all of my might,
In waiting for the calm after this storm
Of spring's long weather fight.

I never thought it would be in the low twenties and I'd be enjoying my very own lilacs, but it's true. And, the faint scent fills the house. (Thankfully, despite my bad cold, I can tell!) Because of the hard freeze, I covered as many plants as possible, but it's difficult to cover a lilac bush or all of the beautiful white blossoms on a huge apple tree. So, I decided to cut most of the lilacs and just hope the apple and the rest of the trees will be OK. As you can tell, these changes back and forth have been trying, but I am thankful we've been blessed with a couple of sunny days scattered among the others. Just makes me much more anxious for the beautiful days I trust are on the horizon, and my prayers have been full of pleas for those to arrive. Hope this recent "cold snap" isn't causing too many problems those reading this blog. It might not even be affecting your area, but I know this is a huge concern for the two greenhouses near my home and for the local orchard owners. They are doing everything they can to fight the cold when the blossoms are so new and fragile, and they fear losing their entire crop.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

This Old House

I love old houses. And, I love to drive on the backroads to see what I will find. The worn wood, the wind-swept paint, the crumbling brick, the broken windows, the sagging structures... all of it makes me wonder, "Who built this? What happened there? Who lived there through the years? Were there children playing in the yard? Who were the last to live in it?" So many stories the creaking floorboards and crackling walls could tell if only they could talk. Yes, if only they could talk.

Right off the main path sat this house, and Lydia, Tasha, and I noticed it on the way to the Sacred Harp singing last month. So, we couldn't wait to stop and take a closer look on our way back home. And, I couldn't help myself from taking a peek inside.

So run down, and yet so beautiful at the same time. I wish I had the money and know-how to restore old buildings. I feel at home in them.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Imperfectionist

Back in October, I read an article by Ginia Bellafante in the New York Times titled "The Imperfectionist." (Sorry that I cannot provide a link. Online membership is required.) Remembrances of the article have returned numerous times through these past few months, and this weekend, I was happy to find the copy that I printed out back in autumn. (Exhibit A, your honor: My tendency to print out too many articles that I want to keep or - worse yet - file for later reading. This is one of the few times I've actually gone back to look for one and then actually found it.)

The article is about Dan Ho, author of a fairly new book, "Rescue from Domestic Perfection" and host of a Discovery Health program, "The Dan Ho Show." I am in no way endorsing either of these - as I have not read the book and I have not seen the show. But, the article about his life - at the very least - intrigued me. Some excerpts:

*Dan Ho likes to get rid of things. For the past eight years he has committed himself to a project of aggressive divestment, letting go of houses, sofas, refectory tables, electric mixers, Georg Jenson silverware, and a collection of ceramics. Earlier this year... Mr. Ho, 40, decided to reduce the sum of his possessions and eventually winnowed them down to about 55. Motivated neither by debt nor by environmentalism but simply by a compulsion to unburden himself, he moved from a 1,200 square foot house in Portland, ME to a rented apartment one-quarter the size in Greenwich Village, where he now lives with two roommates... 47 items of clothing and a backpack, suitcase, television, computer, bath towel, single set of sheets, toothbrush, and bottle of witch hazel.

*"When people say they want red walls, do they really want red walls?"..."Do they really want red walls, or do they want impact? Chances are, what they really want is recognition and what they're really, really looking for is recognition from themselves."

*"Perfection is a cheap caricature of style... Candles don't set a mood, people do... Myths [are] enslaving..." One of them, he thinks, is the idea that you should always be ready for drop-in guests. "No, you shouldn't," he counters, "unless you're running a bed-and-breakfast."

*At the core of his philosophy is the belief that our relentless attention to renovation and reorganizing, to building and rebuilding, distracts us from the more demanding work of becoming better partners, caretakers and friends.

*"What I hate is our whole culture of trade-ups-manship... No one ever seems to be happy in the house they actually buy. You visit someone's new place and you say, 'wow, this is great,' and inevitably they'll say, 'well, it's O.K. for now.' and that drives me absolutely crazy."

*[Demonstrating the thought processes of trade-ups-manship] "You build a house, then you put in a pool... Then you need peony garden. Then you watch 'Martha Stewart' and you realize a peony garden needs a fence. Then you think, 'I should have a rose garden, too, and if I'm going to have a rose garden, I have to have 30 varieties.' "

*"If you ever have enough sheets, towels and blankets to warrant an entire closet I can guarantee that you've missed some really good opportunities to do something else."

*What he disavows is inauthentic simplicity. From his perspective, no one should go out and buy drawer dividers to better organize their socks; they should have fewer socks and throw them in a drawer with enough room to distinguish the black ones from the navy ones.

First of all, regarding the comments about drop-in guests and the sheet/ towel/ blanket closet... it's clear he's no Primitive Baptist! And, while I agree with his thoughts on people setting the mood, I'm going to have to keep thinking about the candles for a little while longer.

I don't agree with everything Dan Ho believes nor will do everything he has done. I don't plan on selling my house anytime soon. And, I am not winnowing down my belongings down to the double digits in the near future. (Even if I tried, it would take a while.) However, this has made me think about how much "stuff" I have. Worse yet, how much time I spend moving my "stuff" from place to place. Even worse, especially before church meetings and family visits - when I should be praying and preparing in much more important, significant ways. It's like making the deliberate choice to place a ball and chain on my body - and maybe more significantly, on my mind - that makes all of me move at a more labored pace. Weighed down. Obstacles at every turn.

Now, some of you have been at my house and don't understand what I could be talking about. Clutter? Where? Other friends know better because they've ventured into my basement or looked in CERTAIN closets or shown up unexpectedly at one of THOSE times. But, just like hurtful remembrances and sinful thoughts tucked away in a nice dark corner, no matter how much they're hidden from plain view, they still find a way to affect me day by day, moment by moment. So, as stated a few days ago, I now declare this an official time of agressively getting rid of some stuff: the stuff I'm holding onto for some occasion just in case I might need it someday (that one really has a hold on me), the stuff I'm holding onto for some big project I know I'm never going to complete and I don't even want to do anymore (it will not be a sign of failure!), the stuff I'm holding onto that helps me think I need other stuff to build on it (you know, the building-block-you-need-five-more-things-to-go-with-me stuff)... So much stuff, so many categories, so many (bad) reasons for keeping it all of this time.

(Related: I took a poll with the ladies in the office today and asked how many of them were holding on to a stash of lipsticks or lip liners or eyeshadows that were probably given out as free samples from Clinique or Estee Lauder - in colors they were sure were not right for them and had no intention of wearing - which has taken up space in their bathrooms for more than 7 years for no good reason. You can guess the results. We had one agressive thrower-awayer, and the rest relunctantly responded with yes. Most of the latter group admitted they really wish they had that space for something much more important but just hadn't made the time or it was too difficult to throw it or give it away.)

I especially agree with what Ho states about reflecting on how I spend my time, clarifying priorities, seeking simplicity instead of feeding my sinful nature of discontentment - in what I own, in what I'm working toward, in the home improvement projects, in what I am expecting to come my way in life. Discontentment in what I hold in my hand and in my mind and in my heart. Especially once in the vicious cycle, I find myself so caught up in what might come along instead of focusing on the wonderful of the here and now. I don't believe Ho is talking about becoming a slacker, someone who never desires advancement or excellence or a plan toward improvement. I just think he's talking about taking time to redefine excellence and reprogram and focus.

I pray for freedom from lugging tubs and boxes from place to place. I pray for open spaces to work on the activities I want to fill my life. I pray I never have to make another trip to the store for something I know I have but just can't find. Most of all, I pray for contentment in what I have so I have more time in working on who I am and how I can better serve others.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tell Me About It

It seems they've found a new Maytag repairman. Honestly, I didn't know they were looking.

Remembering Brother Jim

This past Saturday, we lost a dear friend, Brother Jim Stubblefield. While Sister Velda and he were home in Nashville, Brother Jim passed away unexpectedly after being rushed to the hospital because of a shortness of breath. After a battle had been fought with leukemia, Brother Jim had been given a clean bill of health several times. But, we were sad to hear that the doctors have determined that the leukemia had a strong and silent return in recent months.

Several times, I have reflected back to last weekend when Brother Jim and I had a talk after church about my parents, my house repairs, and the blooming flowers all around us. I always enjoyed our chats, and it is odd to think about how much has changed in a week. Brother Jim and Sister Velda have told me they feel blessed to have two places that are home to them: back in Nashville and here in the St. Louis area. But, no matter how much we miss him, we rejoice for him... remembering that he is now truly HOME with our Saviour, with no sickness and no pain.

I ask that you please remember his wife, Sister Velda, and all of their family in your prayers. May we remember that time with our church family members is a precious, precious gift.

Introducing Madison Elizabeth Weidling

Introducing Miss Madison Elizabeth, born Monday March 26 in California. Weighing in at 8 lbs, 5 oz, she was named after her maternal grandmother Liz, whose birthday was remembered the day before.

Madison is the beautiful daughter of one of my closest sorority sisters, Jennifer, and one of my past co-workers, Kris. Both have been waiting so anxiously for her arrival, and she's finally here! (After 25 and 1/2 hours of labor, Jen is REALLY glad Madison is here!!!!) What a beautiful blessing.