Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reaching the Top

Here is my quilt top, and tonight, our class moves on the to the actual quilting portion of the lessons. I can't wait! Last night, I was up very late trying to put the finishing touches on piecing the quilt squares together. I hope to give you another update next week after I understand more of the process. This may not turn out to be a bad table runner after all!

The Place The Music Died

In the midst of miles and miles and miles of corn and bean fields is a gem: Clear Lake, Iowa.

One of Clear Lake's premier attractions is the Surf Ballroom. Located near the intersection of North Shore Drive and Buddy Holly Place, the ballroom is best known as the site of Buddy Holly's last concert on February 2, 1959. Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, died in a plane crash north of Clear Lake following their performance at the Surf in the early morning hours of February 3rd. Each year, a tribute is held the first full weekend in February to pay tribute to the legendary performers.

In 1995, the Surf Ballroom was restored to its original splendor, thanks to the Dean Snyder family which purchased the ballroom in September of 1994. The ballroom had the great honor of being named Iowa's Attraction of the Year in 1995. In 1998, the Surf, along with former manager Carroll Anderson, was officially inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Okoboji, Iowa.

Throughout the year, the Surf Ballroom is host to a variety of musical acts, ranging from rock and roll, to jazz, the blues and traditional big bands.

Just a few miles out of town, visitors may visit the site of the crash. It was just another Iowa soybean field before the plane carrying Buddy Holly went down there. Now, to fans, it's hallowed ground.

Ken Paquette, who lives in Portersfield, Wis., 50 miles north of Green Bay, wanted something permanent at the exact location of the crash. "People didn't know exactly where it was," said Paquette, a 50's era fan. "There were flowers scattered all along the fence line. I thought there should be something there."

Paquette made a stainless steel guitar and a set of three stainless steel records. On the guitar are the names Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, along with the date of the crash, 2/3/59. On the records, there are the names of the recording labels and the big hits for the three artists: "Peggy Sue" on Coral, "Donna" on Del Fi and "Chantilly Lace" on Mercury.

The memorial is located on private property. Visitors are asked to respect their rights while visiting "The Place The Music Died."

While there are so many attractions in the area, including the Fort Custer Maze, Central Gardens of North Iowa, Guardian Angel Roadside Chapel, Clear Lake Fire Museum, and quaint neighborhoods and downtown shops, none compares to the town's namesake: Clear Lake. These pictures don't do it justice, but hopefully, you'll see a hint of its beauty when viewed in person. To best see the spring-fed crystal clear lake during a visit, you may want to take a ride on the Lady of the Lake, a beautiful stern wheeler ferry boat.

Our time in town was short, but immediately, I could tell this would be a great place for a peaceful, relaxing vacation for anyone who loves water and architecture. It resembles an ocean shore town, and it seems unbelievable that it could be situated in the heart of the midwest. Hope you have the opportunity to visit Clear Lake sometime.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Ma and Pa!

Because I was in the car yesterday, I was not able to make a post. But, I still wanted to document a special occasion on May 29 for my parents: their anniversary. 37th anniversary, to be exact. After many, many (MANY) hours on the road, they were tired. But, we were thankful they were still smiling! Aaron and Ketra met up with us on our way home Monday evening, and we had a fun time talking about the trip and looking at pictures over dinner.

Little Brown Church in the Vale

Last night, I returned safely to my home after a trip to MN with my parents. On the way up to and back from my cousin's graduation, Mom, Dad and I took some short detours to see the sights along the way. Most probably think that Iowa doesn't have anything interesting to see, but now I know differently! (OK. Maybe these highlights aren't under the category of FASCINATING or MUST SEE stops, but they are interesting to ME and they helped break up the trip. We needed some breaks to stretch our legs.)

Outside of Nashua, IA... in the former settlement of Bradford, IA, we visited the Little Brown Church in the Vale. Here are some of the basic facts of the church building, the settlement of the town, and the song known by so many across our nation. (Excerpts from church brochure and web site.)

The first settlers came to the Bradford area in 1848 and with an abundant water supply and virgin timber, the town grew. By 1855 the first members of the Puritan-Congregational Church had begun holding meetings. By 1856, Bradford had 500 residents and was the first town in this part of Iowa (southeastern Iowa.)

A young music teacher named William Pitts was traveling by stagecoach from Wisconsin to Iowa to visit his future wife. While waiting for the stagecoach horses to be changed, he walked down Cedar Street and saw the empty lot where the church now stands. Of particular beauty, it was a wooded area in the valley formed by the Cedar River. Being a romantic young man, the thought came to him of what a charming setting the spot would make for a church meeting place. Returning home, he wrote the poem “Church in the Wildwood,” and later set it to music. He put it away in a drawer and forgot it.

Meanwhile, church members grew tired of meeting in places such as the lawyer’s office, abandoned stores and parishioners’ homes. They began making plans to build a church. A family in the parish gave them the property. When Rev. Nutting arrived, talk of building became serious. Limestone was quarried and by 1860 the foundation was laid. The Civil War slowed the work, but when one family gave trees and another donated the sawing of the lumber, the work never really ceased. By 1862 the building was enclosed and not a penny had been spent. When it came time to paint the building, the cheapest paint to be found was Ohio Mineral Paint, which would protect the wood but which was unhappily brown. With help from friends in the east, the building was finished, complete with bell, in 1864.

Mr. Pitts had married and was living in Wisconsin. In 1862, the couple moved to Fredericksburg IA to be near her elderly parents, and Mr. Pitts was hired to teach singing class at the Bradford Academy. Imagine his surprise when he saw a little brown church nestled in the very trees where he had stood some years before. He went home, found the song, and taught it to his class who sang it at the dedication service of the church. Pitts had written a song for a church that wasn’t there. The congregation had painted their little church brown without ever hearing of the song.

In 1865, Pitts sold the song to a Chicago music publisher for $25. He used the money to enroll in Rush Medical College, but his song was forgotten. After graduation in 1868, Pitts returned to Fredericksburg where he practiced medicine until his retirement in 1906.

History was hard on the Little Brown Church. The railroad by-passed the town and a flour mill moved to New Hampton to be on a bigger river. The railroad and other industry moved to Nashua. The town, once the county seat, slowly disappeared. In 1888, the church building was closed, although the congregation continued to hold Sunday School every week at the school. Occasional services were held at the building. In the early 1900’s a Society For The Preservation of The Little Brown Church was started, and by 1914, services were again held, as they are now.

History took another turn when the Weatherwax Quartet traveled throughout Canada and the United States in the 1920s and 30s. Their theme song was “The Church in the Wildwood” and they talked about the little church. After World War I, highways were improved and cars brought many visitors. When a School superintendent and a merchant's daughter were married at the church, a new tradition was started. Over 40,000 visitors come to the Little Brown Church each year, and over 400 weddings are performed annually. In June of 2005, the 72,000th wedding was held at the church. The congregation is alive and well with an active congregation and weekly services at 10:30 on Sunday. They remain, as they were founded, a Congregational Church, now affiliated with the United Church of Christ. The song continues to be sung in a little church that is painted brown and sits in the wildwood.

In 1998 the bell tower was completely restored. In 2000 with help from the State Historical Society of Iowa Site Preservation Grant Program, a new foundation was placed under the church. This project has enabled the church to be completely handicap accessible. Air conditioning has been added for the first time.

If you're not familiar with the song, you may listen to the tune and sing along with the lyrics below. (While it is not a true hymn, the song has been included in many church hymnals.) You may also may want to take a "virtual tour" of the sanctuary or make a trip to see it and the surrounding attractions in person.

The Church in the Wildwood
by Dr. William S. Pitts

There's a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale;
No place is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

(oh, come, come, come, come)
Come to the church in the wildwood,
Oh come to the church in the vale,
No spot is so dear to my childhood,
As the little brown church in the vale.

Oh, come to the church in the vale,
To the trees where the wild flowers bloom;
Where the parting hymn will be chanted,
We will weep by the side of the tomb.


How sweet on a clear Sabbath morning,
To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling,
Oh come to the church in the vale.


From the church in the valley by the wildwood,
When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood
Wing my way to the mansions of light.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Give Piecing A Chance

Two months ago, I signed up for quilting classes. I've been wanting to learn for so long, and I have enjoyed quilting by hand the few times I've been given the opportunity. But, those occasions were long ago back in my hometown. And, after becoming a member of TNT (the local craft guild) last month, I became more motivated than ever to learn!

Little did I know that the class would begin at the same time that work would become extremely busy. But, thankfully, the workload was light the day the class began, and I was able to attend as planned. (Since then, I've had to be up after midnight a few nights to complete my quilting homework.)

We are making a basic table runner, and the instructions have been put together by the owner of the quilt store in Edwardsville, The Quilted Garden. This process will teach me the fundamentals of making nine patch quilt blocks for any size of quilt, and this is the booklet we use as a guide.

This is my newest, neatest craft gadget: the rotary cutter. Last week, we learned how to use it. The instructor explained "the better we make our cuts, the better our finished quilt will come together." So, I took that statement very seriously. She had given the example of someone being very "persnickety" about their cutting... and by the end of class, I was teasingly given that very same label. It took me almost twice as long make my cuts as the rest of the class because I was trying to do the best job possible. It wasn't until nearly the end that I realized I was concerned about cutting issues that I really didn't need to worry about - especially for my first quilting project. But, I didn't know any better. I thought I was just following the teacher's instructions about meticulousness.

Above are some of my other new gadgets... along with my fabric. The green gridded board is a self-healing mat that is used in conjunction with the wide ruler to make straight cuts. You may also see the small box holding my new flat flower pins. I can imagine their purpose, but I do not know for sure. (It's on the list of "required materials.") Then, there's my crazy fabric to match the colors of my dining room: aqua and bright pink calico, along with an aqua and sage green flower print to match the "lily pond" color on my walls... and lavender gingham and wide stripes to match the purple and lavender accents in the room. They all look like quite a mess together, but I have to remember this is quilting!!!

I have been assured that I can leave the office at the regular time today since I will be taking vacation days on Friday and Tuesday to attend my cousin's graduation in Minnesota. So, I'll be heading to the quilt shop to receive a quick lesson in piecing before I head out of town to my parents' house. Hopefully, this lesson will go more smoothly for me, and hopefully, I won't have much homework to finish before next week's class. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have something that resembles a quilt this evening!!! I'll keep you posted on my progress! (I know I'm a dork, but this is very exciting to me.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Maid-Rite Made Right

Our hometown used to have a small Maid-Rite diner, and that place and those sandwiches hold many memories for me. Going there with my family, meeting Susan uptown for lunch in the summers after we received our driver's licenses, grabbing a sandwich in between band rehearsals with our large group of friends... The chrome on the stools, the diner counter, the new addition to the restaurant, the steam rising from the kitchen... So many memories.

Ever had a Maid-Rite? Mom would call them 'steam burgers'. I've heard others call them 'loose meat sandwiches.' (While both are accurate descriptions, I don't like using the latter name. It gives me the heebie jeebies!) Started in Iowa in 1926, the Maid-Rite Corporation is a midwest franchise chain. For those of us who love them, the restaurants are too few and far between. While I've seen and sampled similar kinds - particularly in the South, none of them taste like a Maid-Rite.

The sandwiches consist of steamed hamburger with the restaurant's special mix of seasonings. The servers scoop it out on a bun and top it with your choice of toppings: catsup, mustard, pickle, onion... Then, it is wrapped up in thin white paper and is usually labeled on top with the abbreviations of whatever "fixin's" you requested. Mine are usually labeled with CM. Just catsup and mustard for me.

I set out on my journey Saturday...and as I got about half way to Quincy, IL, it hit me. I could have a Maid-Rite as my late lunch! About two years ago, as Brother John and I were heading to a church meeting up in west central Illinois, we drove into Quincy to have breakfast. And, right near the McDonalds, I noticed a sign for the Maid-Rite restaurant. I know John must've thought I was especially weird after getting so excited... but I asked him if he would mind driving back this same route to see if it would be open for dinner later that night. After a good meeting, we set out, collected all of our change and dollar bills (neither of us had planned to stop for dinner on our way back), and went inside to enjoy the delicious sandwich and crinkly fries. (He'll have to tell you what he thinks of them!)

Well, Saturday, as I took a few detours, I couldn't get that sandwich out of my mind. It got later and later in the afternoon, and my mouth watered more and more. So, I finally reached the exit - with my stomach growling - and took the long drive into town down Broadway Avenue. Almost there... Almost there... Almost there... And then my eyes saw it: the abandoned restaurant. I can't convey the disappointment. I actually sighed out loud. It seems that area of town is undergoing some major reconstruction and development, and all that was left was the sign. (See the mall construction across the street.)

After sitting in the parking lot taking it all in, I laughed at myself. Upset about this sandwich? After not having one for so long... YES! So, I went to the ice cream stand next door and asked if it had been moved. They said "No. Just closed down." So, I went next door to Kentucky Fried Chicken to grab something - anything - because I had waited so long to eat. I had a hard time picking what I wanted, and I apologized to the cashier. I explained why - as I had my mind so set on that Maid-Rite. She quickly smiled... and told me that I could follow simple directions to drive to the "downtown location". And, I was out of there faster than one can say 'loose meat sandwich'. (Again, heebie jeebies.)

Since I'm not that familiar with Quincy, I had no idea it was so close. But, it was. HOOORRRAAAYYY! And, because I was so hungry and the sandwiches were so delicious, I failed to take a picture of them. (I ate them much too quickly!) With a big smile on my face, I continued my journey to my aunt and uncle's house. And, now, I can go at least another year without a Maid-Rite. Hopefully, not much longer than that!!! As you might be able to tell, Maid-Rites are rarely fancy restaurants. Usually just a hometown place full of hometown people... the best kind of place to visit.

Monday, May 21, 2007

See-Saw Signs and Sights

On the way back Sunday afternoon evening, I took an adventure by taking an unfamiliar route home. A route that drives south along the Illinois River. It was just beautiful.... the lush forests, dark dirt, huge fields, fresh produce markets, bait shops, elevated river homes, and quaint villages. The most facinating sight was the river, naturally, and the unique bridges at each crossing. But, I was almost equally fascinated by the deer. I saw over 40 in a 30 mile stretch. At that time, it was almost dusk, so I had to be careful. Unfortunately, every time I backed up to take a picture, they ran away.

But, I thought some of you'd enjoy a few of the other sights I saw.

Don't worry. I had my eyes on the road at all times.

Have any ideas about what this once was?

I always wondered where I could find it! Now, I know!

We must 'be prepared' to use an apostrophe at all times... especially when welcoming others!

Spring Break '95

This weekend, I headed up to the west central portion of Illinois to attend my cousin's graduation. With no set schedule until that evening, there was no hurrying. That allowed me to make some stops along the way.

As I hit the the last twenty miles of Interstate 36 within Illinois (heading west), the territory became immediately familiar, and my memory flew back to almost 13 years ago. The tall, rocky ledges. The miles and miles of low, flat farmland. The Illinois River just a short distance away....

It was my senior year in college, and, through various experiences, my senior honors project became focused on a somewhat new study that was crossing the nation: service learning. I had always been heavily involved in community service - especially while there in college - and it became my main focus that year. I had attended several service summits hosted by the Lieutenant Governor's office to understand how combined service efforts were transforming communities within Illinois, and I attended LeaderShape, hoping it would help me solidify the ideas I had for our campus. While attending the life-changing experience of LeaderShape, we were asked to create a vision. And, that's what I left with: a vision for sharing the benefits of performing community service with my fellow college students on my campus - and campuses everywhere.

The vision centered around asking students to commit their spring breaks to the cause of helping others in need and using their particular gifts within this effort. Spring break service trips weren't common back in those days. While they had begun on campuses on the east coast, such as Rutgers University, it had not yet caught on in the Midwest. And, after meeting with several Break Away staff members who were based at Vanderbilt University in 1991 and 1992, I was on fire. I wanted to help. I was determined. I was especially driven because it was the fall of 1994 (going into the spring of 1995) in which I was preparing for Millikin's first alternative spring break... two full years after the flood that devastated so much property and so many people near the river banks here in Illinois. And, still, there were families who did not have their homes rebuilt. After teaming up with AmeriCorps (which was brand new then), I discovered this area, specifically the small village of Hull, IL, had been determined as the state location with the greatest service need. Even with farmers helping farmers in all of that time, there was too much damage to repair without some outside help.

I recruited and recruited in the hope that these individuals could finally have their homes back, their lives back, and their family members all under one roof. I hung poster after poster on campus. I held meetings several times a week. I went to organization meetings and asked professors if I could make announcements during class. I recruited at all times of the day (and night.) I called stores and restaurants for donations of food. I called rental businesses for donations of equipment. I called corporation presidents for donations of gasoline. I remember being so tired as I worked hard on this project, but I was also energized. I felt like I was trying everything, but I felt like I must do more.

As mom has said, our family is made of farmers who were children of farmers who were children of farmers...and so on. And, when somebody in the community needed help, my grandfathers ran to help them. There were no questions because that's how they had been taught, and they knew if they ever needed help, others would run to help them. It's a genuine community of caring that is built on love in action. Charity. Service. It has always been part of that culture: When one is down, all are down. When others are in need, you help in the ways you are able. So, with the families in mind each step of the way, I kept fighting to make Millikin University's first alternative spring break a reality... praying that the effort would be blessed with participants, safety, and progress. And, in March 2005, a group of excited students headed northwest into an adventure - blessed with those requested gifts and so many more.

I cannot express how life changing the experience was. Some individuals were excited for us because we were interviewed by the news stations and politicians in the area. But, none of that was as exciting and as rewarding as meeting the families who were in such need... seeing individuals, who seemed to have no hope at the beginning of the week, with a sparkle in their eyes as the finishing touches were being completed in rooms and houses. We started and ended each day in prayer. We discussed how the experiences were changing us. We kept journals, tracking our discoveries about the service - but mostly about ourselves. With assistance, we hung dry wall, built stairs, insulated, painted, put up paneling, ran water lines.... whatever was needed. In the evenings, we interviewed the families about the entire experience of the flood and receiving assistance from others. They felt like such a part of us that we laughed when they laughed and we cried as they cried. The service team wanted to keep their stories for all to hear, and we created oral history recordings for campuses who were considering alternative breaks in future years.

When the break was over, it was so hard to say goodbye. But, I knew the vision was only half completed. So, it was then time to set out and share the experience with as many campuses, teachers, administrators, corporate donors, and students as possible. Thankfully, the band of volunteers for the trip were just as dedicated to spreading the word as they were to lending a helping hand to the community of Hull. Each time the experience is recalled (even to this day), tears well up in the eyes of the students that set out that first year. (Even the men!) I am ecstatic that Millikin has continued with the alternative spring break each year, and students have added many more trips for fall, winter, and summer breaks in the years since.

As I look back, the spring of 1995 was one of the most rewarding times of my life. And, I have been so thankful for the continued friendships that have been kept with the people I met that March. This weekend, I was able to take some detours out in the rich, fertile farmland to see some of the homes which we had the privilege to help rebuild. Since then, so much has changed. Some our friends have left the area. Numerous structures which still bore the tell-tale flood line on their house years after the flood are showing off new siding. New homes are being built. And, then, there are things that haven't changed. The crops are peeking out from the black soil, at least 8 people waved to me as I passed them on the backroads, and the river is beautiful (but high). Despite the wonderful experience for those of us that visited Hull in 1995, I pray the memories are the only things that keep flooding back.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A TRUE Fish Story

So many fish stories are too good to be true, but this one has a picture to back it up. Here's one of the photos I received today which I knew many of you would want to see: Brother Charles and Sister Edith with a "28 Lb. Buffalo". Their son, Brother Glen, took them out for a day of fishing, and this is what Sister Edith caught. I even received pictures of her reeling it in to prove it. I had no idea she was so good at this! WOW! That's all I can say. WOW!

Alternative Non-Insurance Insurance

In recent years, I have become acquainted with more and more young women - whether they have chosen to pursue a college education or not - who have wished to stay in the home of their parents and serve their family and church until marriage. Some have desired to start a cottage industry from their home, while others have wanted to spend all of their time helping to homeschool their siblings and/or learn the skills of being a keeper at home. I have also met many fathers and mothers who have these wishes for their daughters. However, there seems to be one big obstacle that has stood in the way of making this a reality for as long as it is desired: insurance.

When young adults reach a certain age (depending on the particular policy), they are usually no longer eligible to remain on a father's health insurance plan. When a child is in college, that age for being excluded from the plan is usually extended. But, if a young adult chooses to become an apprentice outside of a university setting or wants to remain home to learn the skills of the home, many feel pressured to enter the workforce to pay for insurance even when none of the family members want this to occur. The fear of unknown injuries and illnesses and the debt they will cause is too great to allow many families to endure the risk of going without insurance.

I went on a mission to find out how some families deal with this issue, and each one I contacted directed me to Samaritan Ministries. This is a network of Christian families and individuals who work together to cover the medical expenses of those in need. The basics are these:

1. Members share their needs with Samaritan Ministries after medical procedures are completed.
2. Samaritan Ministries then publish the needs after they are processed.
3. Members pay a set membership fee per year plus a standard rate per month ("shares") based on their particular membership status as individuals, couples, or families.
4. Samaritan Ministries assigns members to other members with needs, and members send their shares directly to the individuals who have bills that are due.

Established in 1991 and operating in this format since 1994, Samaritan Ministries is present in almost 12,000 families. I set out to ask a few friends how their families handle their medical costs, but I had no idea how many were members of this organization. I'm pretty sure there are some Primitive Baptist elders whose families participate in this ministry or one similar. In fact, in the past two weeks, I found out that a few of my friends from high school and college that are now in the ministry for other denominations are members. They not only appreciate the ideals and mission of the organization, but they also appreciate lower costs and full control over their preferred choices in healthcare. Every one of them said they have never had a medical expense that has gone unmet. And, there was the extra blessing of receiving notes of encouragement and prayer from around the country.

I have tried to research this as much as possible, and I am not endorsing the organization without reservation. But, I do think it is an interesting concept. One must take time and diligently study to determine if this is the correct plan of action for his family. If you have questions, please refer to the Commonly Asked Questions page, or you may contact Samaritan Ministries at 1888-2OTHERS (1-888-268-4377) to receive references to others in your area who have had needs covered through the ministry.

When I read through the site, a few items piqued my curiosity and sent me back to my bible to study. Do you have any thoughts on this concept?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Back By Demand

OK, OK. I am sorry I took down the blog for a few days. I didn't mean to scare anyone. I had set it to private so that I wouldn't lose my information - as I didn't know how long my pause in posting would last.

However, some of you wrote to express your displeasure. Not only in not being able to read new posts (as random and uninteresting as they may be)... but also about not being able to access old posts with not-so-important information. You wanted it back immediately. You emailed. You called. Two of you even begged. (We need to help you get out more often or maybe buy you a subscription to a magazine or two!) :) Despite the lack of comments by most, it seems that the readership is into double digits. Dare I say, dozens!?!? I had no idea.

So, back by demand, Stremmed Out is once again here... for your enjoyment (hopefully)... after an ever-so-brief period of being "out of circulation." (I realize it was down less days than some have between their regular posts. But, the PRIVATE warning worried some folks, and I was asked to notify several that it was back up.) I can't make any promises about the posting - both in frequency and subject matter. But, I will do my best while juggling other balls in the air.

Thanks for stopping every once in a while to check in. Consider leaving a comment from time to time to let me know how you are doing. And, thanks goes out to the loved ones who have consistently done so, kept in touch, and/or keep a blog of their own.

What A Difference A WEEK Makes...

In late spring and early summer, the yard is ever changing. Some flowers settle into their summer-long status after early blooms, and still others are just coming to life. Just a week after I posted the last group of pictures, I took photos of the following ...and am still enjoying their beauty.

The bright wild roses have come to life, and each morning, the rose bush looks completely different than the night before. Such fragrant blooms. Here are some new contributions to my backyard: Lavender irises that Sister Tracy donated to the yard last fall. This picture doesn't do them justice, but the contrast of the purple and yellow is gorgeous.

The peonies are popping out in the very back portion of my yard... and all over the neighborhood. It's fun to see the different varieties - in both colors and components. My pink varieties are in full bloom, but I'm considering asking my new neighbor if she would be willing to share a few small portions of hers. She has bright hot pink and deep wine/berry colored peonies that have now been transplanted in her sunny front yard. I need to move mine too, as they don't receive enough sun. And, Mr. Ant and all of his friends are working hard so that my white peonies will open soon.

I didn't purchase too many Impatiens this year. Just a few to plant in a few pots under the shade tree. And, as I had hoped, they are beginning to grow and fill in the pots nicely. My later-developing sage plants (two of the $1 bargains from last year) are now being enjoyed by the bees, and I'm excited to see how they look next to bright yellow lilies (also bargains) which are waiting to burst.

Even though the package promised quick results, I never expected the liatris bulbs to produce shoots so early. Here they are, emerging through the mulch. Same goes for most of the annual flower seeds that I planted...all showing growth in only a week. Just amazing. And with so much rain, I've had to water them only once. Hope to provide pictures of the seed results soon. Thankfully, after the false start, the Japanese Maple tree is well on its way to a full recovery, and the yard is accented nicely by its fiery red hue.

Each walk through the grass reminds me of the vastness of God's creativity and the blessings I've experienced because of it. To a discouraged heart, these are reminders of all that is possible through our loving Father... providing possibilities we cannot even begin to imagine. To a joyful heart, they are fireworks in the celebration of all that has been provided and all that is continually renewed. In the simplest creations, ones that are so often overlooked, we are given the gift to be able to sit quietly and reflect that indeed, 'My God, How Great Thou Art!'

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hand-Me-Down Genes

I'm sorry for the lack of posts this week due to various Human Resources activities at work, but hopefully, things will come to a calm soon. It's been rush, rush, rush during the day... but, in most of my late, late evenings (by the time the majority of you are asleep), I've continued with my genealogical search before heading to bed.

Some of you have been in contact with me to ask me about my family research and how to start out on your own journey. So, I thought I'd include a few tips and links that have greatly helped me. I won't claim that these are the necessary tools - as I'm just starting this process myself and am no expert. But, maybe these can help you too!

First, start out and log the basic information in your family tree as far as you can go.... full names for siblings, parents, grandparents, great grandparents. (You may also choose to do what I've done and include siblings, siblings' spouses, nieces, nephews, etc. in each line of your research, but I would suggest working hard on the "skeleton" (direct ancestry) of your family tree first. Be prepared that you may find - as I have - that some individuals were married multiple times because of deaths at a young age - therefore, yielding many sets of half and step- siblings.)

Then, as suggested before, interview your oldest relatives and ask them to fill in any gaps and see if they can go further. Ask if they have any pictures you might borrow to scan, but ask if they might identify the individuals, locations, and approximate years of the pictures first! Approximate birthdates (years, at the very least), locations of births, deaths and residency, and maiden names are especially important to start filling in the family tree. Last, but not least, ask your relatives where individuals are buried. Not only may this help you solidify dates (for both birth and death), some markers document important information such as armed forces service and family member names (both parents and children).

Sidenote: This is my father's mother's father's parents, John Sanduskey Webb and Lucinda Ellen Osborn Webb. While at my grandfather's funeral in March, I was pointing out the grave stones for several of my family members in the Mt. Zion Church Cemetery. Brother Paul or Sister Lydia pointed to one for John and Lucinda Webb and asked how I was related to them, and I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea at the time. Little did I know, it was the marker for my great great grandparents. In just two months, I have been blessed to discover so much.

Tip: Practice writing out dates in the preferred method. Instead of 5/11/07, record 11 May 2007. Remember that writing out all four digits of the year is essential - especially if you are recording today's happenings for future generations. and : Both of these web sites serve to link various state and national databases recording marriage, birth and death certificates - in addition to census reports and immigration records for U.S. ports - to your ancestors. One may access rootsweb at any time. Currently, allows a first-time user to use its services free for 3 days (it allowed me to use it 6 days for free)... before asking the user to sign up as a member and pay fees for special services. I was able to find A TON of information by working hard in those 6 days before fees were required. allows a user to start building a family tree and is wonderful because it actually starts searching its databases to link up documents with the information you've entered in your tree - providing a jumping-off-place to find other documents. You are then able to attach those records - and photos - to each applicable person. You may keep your information in the tree format....or later export it into GEDCOM (the language used by most genealogists in tracking the sources that support their findings.)

Most states have a few web sites that hold information specific to individual counties. These have been especially helpful to me when hitting road blocks. For instance, I could not clearly identify my great-great-great grandparents on one branch (my father's father's father's mother's parents). There had even been much speculation about it by some distant cousins (who were also searching) on some of the genealogy web sites. Some even agreed on the first name but differed on the middle initial. But, then, I found an old book (archived online) about the farmers and history of our home county.... and, then, POW!! There it was in front of me. A paragraph recorded about my great-great-great grandfather (with middle initial), his farm, and all of his children (which provided the link I needed). It even included the name of his father, his origins in Pennsylvania, his wife's maiden name, her father's name and their family's origins. That led me to use this detailed information to seek out census reports that supported the fact that this was the correct family line. An example of these kinds of web sites for Illinois is Illinois Ancestors (for specific counties) ... along with the U.S. Gen Web Project in which you can do searches specific to your area. Note: The web sites that fall into these categories are run by volunteers, and some county and state sites are not as professional and do not hold as much information as others. Maybe you will become so interested that you can contribute to the cause!

Tip: Even though it takes time, begin documenting the full locations where an event occurred. Remember, these findings are not only for you to enjoy, but also for your descendents. This is especially critical as township borders change, when towns come into or go out of existence, or when communities straddle county borders. These details also help your searches yield more accurate results. So, instead of writing Canton, write the location in one of the preferred method for genealogy: City Name (Ward or Div Name if Known), County Name (County), Country
Canton, Fulton, Illinois, USA
Canton, Fulton County, Illinois, United States
(I make my entries similar to the second line - as I like to cleary indicate which portion is the city and which is the county. Many cities, townships, and counties share names in particular states because they are often named after a local hero or early settler.)

The county by state site on epodunk has also greatly helped me to identify counties for known cities, understand changes in county lines as western states developed, and find locations for small towns and villages that no longer exist. As you find a particular community, genealogical resource links are provided at the bottom of each page.

No matter how much information you find on the internet, it will be valuable to someday schedule an appointment with the local county clerk or courthouse staff in the areas which your family lived. While it is great to see the on-line information, it is so much more wonderful to hold an authentic document in your hand or see it while a staff member holds it. Sometimes, you can flip through the books where the licenses and certificates were logged. Even in the cases where all documents have already been scanned into computers or are held on microfiche, I have enjoyed obtaining a copy of the original and seeing the signatures of family members from long ago. I cannot wait to obtain additional copies of these types of records. Be sure to call ahead or visit the web site of each courthouse to understand the fees, hours, and processes that are involved.

There are numerous other valuable resources out on the web, available right from your computer. If you need a little assistance with your search, don't hesitate to reach out, and I will do my best to help you with the little I know. I hope you receive as much joy from your search as I have from mine.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Phonetic Alphabet

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were joking around about sending secret messages to each other... complete with military passwords. (You know, the kind used in fighter pilot and submarine movies so that the home base can understand clearly what is being said since so many letters sound similar. There's no mixing up letters when one hears Alpha, Bravo, Charlie...) She was trying to think of the name for F. It took me a few moments, but I remembered it was "Foxtrot". She laughed at me, and she didn't believe me. But, I was pretty sure I had heard it in a movie sometime.

Somehow and in some way, when I was speaking to my friend mike3e last night, the subject came up again. So, once again, "Foxtrot" was introduced into the mix, and Mike was able to confirm its validity on his computer at the same time. We then had a short discussion about "L" which is "Lima" - think PERU, not BEAN! For a little enjoyment, I thought I'd include the Phonetic Alphabet Chart here. While there are numerous variations, many consider the NATO alphabet the "most correct." (This is also known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) code.)

Signing off,
Sierra Tango Romeo Echo Mike

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friends and Fellowship

I regret that I have failed to post pictures from our 3rd weekend church social for Little Flock. This month, we met in the beautiful home of our newest church members, Paul and Esther Grattendick. And, we had a wonderful time visiting and learning about the many items that Brother Paul and Sister Esther collect. We also learned about their farmhouse which was built by Brother Paul's family and had fun playing with their sweet red-haired dog (which we believe is part Chow.) It was relaxing and a special time with this loving husband and wife who we've come to love so much! A great time in a warm home on a cold, rainy day!

Brother Isaac, Elder Chris, and Brother Dale are teasing each other, as usual. Brother Alan joins in the fun, too.

Sister Elaine and Sister Sandy visit in the kitchen while "Grandma" Mayfield relaxes in the living room.

Brother Paul and Brother Tom enjoy some deep discussion after our snack time.

Introducing Rian Elisabeth

Little Rian Elisabeth Zimmerman arrived early Wednesday morning - healthy and happy. Big sisters Tressa and Abigail could not wait to greet her with a kiss and big hugs, as they had been waiting for their little sister for SO LONG! (as Tressa explains)

Last night, before I took the girls back home to sleep, the family decided to take a short walk, and I tagged along. With some help from Mama and Daddy, Tressa and Abi pushed Rian around in her cart. We went on a search to find Tressa's footprint - high on the wall outside Tracy's room. And, right around the corner, to my surprise, we found Rian's new footprint right under Abi's!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Redwork at Violet Threads

Two weeks ago, I noted that I attended my first meeting for Ties, Needles and Threads (a.k.a. TNT). Within that larger group of crafty women (mostly quilters), there is a smaller group that also meets once a month and focuses on embroidery. Right up my alley. And, they are called the Violet Threads. I was happy to meet with them this past Tuesday, and, already, I have learned so much.

The biggest surprise of the evening came at the very beginning. I was trying to make sure I had met all of the members, and when I came to the final one, she looked at me and said, "I know you." I looked at her and said, "Yes, I know you too." I even knew her name was Mary, but I couldn't remember why. So, I just stared at her for a handful of seconds and then it hit me! She is my neighbor from down the street. In fact, many of the church folks had met her during our annual yard sales on my back lawn or when she and her boyfriend were building her new front porch. She and I just laughed and laughed when we finally realized who the other person was, and I think the rest of the members thought we were nuts. It was nice to catch up with Mary, especially since we rarely see each other anymore.

As you can see, the gathering is small and intimate, but wonderful. It's especially wonderful to someone who has so much to learn. A kind member talked to me for a long time and loaned me books and magazines on smocking. This is the gathered technique you might see on the front of girls' dresses. Tracy, Lydia, and I have been talking about learning for a few years now, and I found out we must save up for the pleating machine that is necessary. In the meantime, I learned some techniques that one can do with lined or gingham material that is just as effective and pretty.

I was also able to take a second glance at some quilt squares that a member was creating. Since then, I've done some research on redwork and discovered that women were willing to pay extra (starting back in the 1880s) to have "Turkey Red Thread" because - unlike so many others of the day - it was colorfast. Women started embroidering tea towels, seat covers and almost anything else with simple red patterns. Around the turn of the century, however, pre-printed quilt squares were sold for a penny... and redwork and quilts became intertwined as a hit! The tradition continues today, and you can read more about redwork here and here.

Important notes:
Soon after Turkey Red was produced, a color fast blue was created. So, bluework quilts are also popular!
*Redwork should not be confused with scarletwork or blackwork, even though the basics are the same: one color embroidery. For the origins of these earlier traditions, check out this page on Elizabethan costumes or this page on general history.

Change of Plans

Just after giving myself a pep talk about attacking that gumball pile and just as I convinced myself I would actually do it, a message came from the sky. Blinding, pouring rain = no yard work.
This was taken in one of the few instances when the rain let up a little... then downpour again. Much of the traffic pulled over to the side of the interstate or just sat in one place in the storm because I assume they were like me and could not see anything - even with the windshield wipers on high. That's always a little scary. Traffic was lined up - both directions - for miles. It took me two hours to get home.