Ten Years Ago Today, Birthday Edition

Our mom, Kathryn, was born on Friday the 13th, a day which never proved unlucky for her, and was called home to the Kingdom of Heaven on 7/7/7 — a perfect number and a perfect day.

Her father was one of 13 children, eight of whom were boys and of those eight, four became Lutheran pastors.  Her dad was one of those.  Her parents met when her father had to fill in as preacher at one of his brothers’ churches and noticed the young musician playing for worship.  They courted, married, and Mom was born in a little town called Sherrodsville, Ohio, which was one of a three congregational parish that her father served.  Our mom had a younger sister.  She also had an older brother who died in childbirth.  Her father believed that one day he would meet his grown son in the Kingdom.  Mom seemed to agree.

She graduated from Wittenberg College (now University) a Lutheran church school in Springfield, Ohio.  While in school she had so many marriage proposals that she opined to me that she often used to think that when young men didn’t know what else to say they proposed marriage.  She thankfully turned them all down.

Upon graduation, she began teaching in a small town in Ohio.  She was just twenty years old and was teaching high schoolers.  She stayed in that job for three years — which proved to be pivotal years in her life.  She had accepted an invitation to a Fraternity formal dance in Toledo, and those next three years proved to be the courting years of our parents.

They were an amazing match for each other.  Although he was about to enter law school, he had fallen under the sway of a college philosophy professor and had become an agnostic.  They argued about theology.  She was looking for the right man for her and she had no intention of marrying some non-believer!  You can read more about that here My Father’s Daughter

They were best friends, lifetime lovers, sparring partners, hopelessly besotted with each other.  There was nothing they didn’t talk about including some of the things I remember:  theology, politics, literature, history, church life, family life, music, law, antiques, pigs, cats, birds, and paradise.

After Dad’s graduation from law school, he and mom were married in the summer of 1941.   They had six months of married life together before he was drafted for WWII.  The war years are a story for another time.

Let me get back to telling you about our mom.  She was a lover of words in all their many forms.  She loved lofty literature as well as pithy doggerel.  After being a stay at home mom for four children, dad suggested she go back to school because he thought it was something she would love to do.  When I was in Kindergarten, she started a master’s program in English Literature and graduated when I was in second grade.  My dad was always bringing mom roses from the garden, but on that occasion, he bought her a dozen long-stemmed Red Roses that wowed this 2nd grader.

She encouraged my youngest brother, and later me, to invite friends over to the house to read Shakespeare’s plays — a fun and rather counter-cultural activity for high school kids back then.  She penned some beautiful poems — but is best remembered in our family for the rhyming doggerel she composed for family occasions chiefly the birthdays of her children.

Although she loved her three sons and one daughter to the moon and back — we were never the center of our family.  Our parents were.  Their relationship was the primary one.  Whether they talked about this or not — I have no idea — but it always seemed to me that they believed that if their relationship wasn’t the primary one in the family — none of the children would be secure.   They were rock solid in their belief in God, and their marriage was founded on that belief.  Their marriage was always at the center of our family life.

Their love and devotion to each other was life long.  It was rock solid, but never dull!   Their playful interactions with each other were great fun along with occasional lapses into public displays of affection.  I always remember the time I was visiting with them and accompanied them to the grocery store.  They were in the check out line,  probably in their late sixties or seventies by this time, and my father totally forgot himself and kissed her on the lips.  Then realizing where they were exclaimed —  “Zounds!”  My mother laughed and said the kiss would have been nicer without the  addition of the word “Zounds!”

You can read more about their love and dreams here: Love and an Acre of Land

She was a hard worker and a smart cookie.  She knew that there was more than one way to skin a cat.  When she taught eighth-grade kids remedial reading, she stocked her classroom with things the kids wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen with — Hot Rod magazines for example — and got them all reading at or above grade level in a semester.

She painted every room in our house.  She sewed tons of my clothes including a wedding gown.  She was a member of the American Association of University Women and belonged to a book reviewing group.  It turned out that she became much in demand by social and civic organizations as a book reviewer.

She taught me many hard lessons in fun ways — chiefly by her example.  She was kind to others but never a doormat.  She was proud of her children, but not blindly so.  She was not unwilling to jerk us up when we needed it.

So on this 09 22, I give thanks for her life, I joyously remember her witty reproofs, I delight in the treasure of being her daughter, and I raise my morning coffee cup in honor of the best Mother this girl could have had.

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This Old Lady Who Parked Her Brain, Part 2

“All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” -Winston Churchill

I pondered that wisdom. This time, I had the foresight to put the tarp in the trunk first while bringing a load of nasty four-foot high weeds and invasive vines to it. Then I could pull the top of the tarp toward me while pushing the contents back. This new strategy worked enormously well.

By the time I had cut down and loaded the vine, I headed to the landfill to dump the mound of the garden invaders. I had to wrestle a bit to get the contents out of the trunk but succeeded. Then came the catastrophe.

I discovered that I was locked out of my car. Looking through the windows, I could see no keys. Not on the floor. Not in the ignition. My purse was out of sight, with a spare set of keys in it, but, short of breaking a window, I couldn’t see how that would help.

I was seriously pondering total despair when it occurred to me, thank you, Jesus, that I should look through the tarp full of weeds newly dumped. Thankfully I still had my work gloves, so sorting through the prickly vines, some of which had nearly inch-long thorns, was better than it could have been. But the keys did not seem to be there.

Hunting for my car keys sorely tested my willingness to persevere. I finally found them. They were lying in the dirt with all the contents of the tarp on top of them. By this time, soaking from head to foot, I drove to the local grocery store and brought home ice cream. After my shower, I started to feel a wee bit better. But the ice cream and an evening filled with mindless online video games and accompanied by the music videos of my favorite late and great performers saved the day.

One more thing helped, taking some pictures after this week’s taming of the wild kingdom.

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This Old Lady Who Parked Her Brain

Because I am an idiot periodically and don’t always foresee the consequences of my actions, I sometimes have to pay the price. I love to feed the birds and bunnies that eagerly await my arrival.

One of my brothers was kind enough to make me a tiny red picnic table the perfect size for a visiting squirrel. Alas, I put bird seed instead of apple slices or some such on it. Now I have sunflowers and all manner of odd plants which have turned a portion of my backyard into the wild kingdom.

Yesterday I started the arduous task of taking a large load of old leaves and sprouted plants to the landfill. I thought I would never be able to lift that tarp into the car’s trunk. It took me umpteen tries before I was finally successful.

After I took it to the landfill, another feat of muscle not even vaguely like Popeye’s, I was soaking wet from head to foot. I stopped in the local grocery store, picked up some ice cream, and paid for it while apologizing for my filthy self.

After a shower and a considerable amount of ice cream, I concluded that I had to pace myself. So I am chilling today and doing lighter work. Weather permitting, I will try this again tomorrow.

 

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FIRE

There are fires, and then there are FIRES! Some were pleasant such as the fire in our fireplace or the campfires where we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. Others were painful to learn about, such as people injured by a fire while trying to save someone. When I was still a child, my parents took me to the mortuary, where there were three closed caskets of people we knew killed when their home caught fire.

Yesterday I had some errands to run, and when I walked out the back door, I discovered that the sky was filled with black billowing smoke. A neighbor and her two children walked over to see what was happening. I had some errands to run, so I got in the car and headed out, but I didn’t get very far. There were fire engines and I could see firefighters on the roof of a building working to put out the fire.

Fire doesn’t stay put. This fire spread to adjacent businesses. The last I heard, no one died in this fire, but people lost their businesses, apartments, jobs, and possessions. Give thanks for your life and offer help if you are able.

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Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures

All my life, I have loved roses. My father, husband, and I have all planted and tended them. I love seeing them and having some cut roses in the house. I planted three rose bushes in front of the bird bath this spring.

As you will see if you search my blog posts, it is also the case that I like all kinds of critters. My dear Dad used to feed the birds; he was known to sit on the back stoop and restrain the cat while feeding a cracker or something to a visiting squirrel.

Well, I love to feed the birds and bunnies. Every day I take out clean water for the bird bath and leave heaps of birdseed on the driveway. I also take out a bowl of small carrots for the dear neighborhood rabbits who love to visit.

There are a few young bunnies who, along with their older family members, show up to nibble on the goodies I leave for them.

But recently, I have been perturbed off! The doggone rabbits have eaten two of the three rosebushes I planted nearly to the ground, and on the largest of the rosebushes, they have eaten off ALL of the flowers and buds.

The dear little bunnies will NOT have access to the rosebushes! My eldest brother has come to the rescue. The work is still in progress, but we have the materials needed to finish the job.

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A Delightful Surprise

My phone seems to have a mind of its own of late, and the other evening I saw that it had auto-dialed the bugler who played Taps in 2021 at my husband’s burial. I quickly hung up the phone.

But when he learned someone at an unknown number had tried to reach him, he decided to return the call and find out who had called. I told him what had happened, that I had not meant to call him, but that my phone auto-dialed by mistake.

I explained that he was the bugler at my husband’s graveside service. His wife had accompanied him that day. I gave him my name, the name of the cemetery, and then mentioned the reception held in the fellowship hall of a nearby church. I had hired a caterer so that all the attendees could take some time to nibble food while talking to friends and family who knew and loved Ron.

All of that jogged his memory. I thought that would be the end of our conversation, but no, it wasn’t. He took delight in sharing news of the adventures he and his wife were having. He talked about health issues that were resolved. But what particularly cheered me was that he had a fun event booked shortly. He was looking forward to playing in a Polish dance band in a few weeks.

What a delightful conversation that sprang from my auto-dialed mistake!

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Prayers Answered

As some of you may know, I have been married twice. I excel at guilt, and the breakup of my first marriage after multiple decades together still can weigh heavily on my heart.

Ron worked for a time in the same office where I had a part-time job. Eventually, he moved back to his hometown, nearly two thousand miles from where I lived.

One day I got a call from the receptionist to ask me if I could come and claim the flowers which had arrived for me. Who would send me flowers? Well, it turned out that the receptionist had shared the news with Ron that my mother had died.

I responded to his gift with a thank you note. But instead of reading it and tossing it out, he wrote back with questions that seemed only polite to answer.

What I hadn’t counted on was that he was unstoppable. Once he began, he never stopped writing letters, usually chock-full of questions.  His questions to me, with descriptions of his beloved home state, friends, history, jobs, and every other topic under the sun, kept flowing. Once we began, we never stopped writing letters to each other.

We learned about each other through those letters. We were friends, but over time that friendship grew, and eventually, he and I married. He had two daughters, nearly my own age, and I had one daughter still in high school. We wrote letters to each other during all the years we were together.

The letters between us touched upon every aspect of our lives. The Good Lord seemed to watch over us as we corresponded and talked to each other via snail mail and phone. No subject could not be tackled together.

Shortly after Ron’s death, I started to re-read our letters to one another. But I didn’t get very far. They were so emotionally overwhelming that I had to put them away for another day. I wanted to read them, but I could not. I couldn’t read them without grief raining down on me.

For sanity’s sake, I put them further away. Then, as my aging brain is wont to do, I forgot where that place was. Off and on since that time, over the past two years, I have hunted for the letters and have never been able to find them.

Recently one night, I cried in frustration and asked the Lord’s help to find our letters. The Good Lord heard my prayer and led me straight to them. Five minutes later, in a place I would never have thought to look was that vast treasure trove.

I have our letters again, and this time, my tears are tears of Joy & Thanksgiving! Thank you, Jesus!

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Eager Friends, Happy Heart

I come by my folly honestly. From the time I was a little person, I remember my father feeding the birds every day. I mentioned that in an earlier blog post which you can find here:

Lessons From Earlier Gardeners

I didn’t notice this gang of hangers-on when we first moved here. I don’t quite know how long ago I started paying attention. There is joy in giving gifts to others — and I have regularly greeted them with words, often telling them that their daily meal is compliments of my dear husband and inspired by my father’s example.

The little birds are very skittish. They make a lot of noise, but as I near them, they instantly become silent. I buy two 18 pound bags of birdseed every ten days or so. I also stockpile carrots for the visiting bunnies.

Thank you, Lord, for the visiting rabbits, these delightful birds, as well as their increasingly chubby squirrel friends. I am cheered!

 

 

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These Crazy Days Before Christmas

I don’t know about you — but I can’t remember a Christmas that seemed as full of stress as the one coming in less than a week. This morning there were more ornaments on the floor around my tree. Despite having cut the tree trunk at the big box store where I bought it, it has steadfastly refused to drink water.   

Decades ago, when I sent a gazillion Christmas cards, I would write them in September. I left the envelopes unsealed because sometimes a card needed to be changed due to some  event:

  • birth or death 
  • sickness or healing
  • promotion or retirement
  • children or grandchildren

Today, December 21st, I am still answering the cards that friends and family sent me. I hope they have a sense of humor, as it seems highly likely my card will arrive after the fact. Thinking of Charlie Brown’s Christmas seems appropriate somehow. But all the things worrying my frazzled brain need to calm down.  

Advent comes to a close in less than a week. Saturday is Christmas. Saturday, we celebrate. 

This from the King James Version of the Gospel of  Luke, 2:8-14:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

 

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Ill Suited for the Task

In second grade, I started taking piano lessons with my aunt, my Dad’s older sister. It wasn’t negotiable. My three brothers had done this as well. I was a mediocre student at best, my aunt had little interest in allowing me to try some song that I liked, from a musical perhaps, and so I trudged on as best I could.

Finally, when I had finished 6th grade, I quit and went on to take organ lessons from a remarkable organist at a Methodist church not far from my home. It was the only way I could figure out how to get out from under piano lessons with my aunt.

I took organ lessons for a couple of years, then left that behind. I often received requests to play the organ for funerals during my high school years. Many good musicians had day jobs — I was a kid who wasn’t in the workforce yet, so I was available to play for funerals. I only played for one or two weddings and swore I would never do that again. But funerals were reasonably straightforward. Much of the service was spoken, not sung, and the hymns were generally well known.

Currently, I fill in for the regular organist at our church every third week or so. I no longer feel confident in playing the organ, so when I pinch-hit for Isaac, I do so on the piano. Even so, I generally screw up. A younger skilled musician has shared some tips to make the task easier. I will attempt that this coming Sunday. I am grateful, beyond measure, for the pay; and nervous, in equal measure, for the job.  Musically trained people are kind and withhold their comments while the congregation pays me for my attempt.

Long ago, I earned a Master of Divinity degree after training to be a Lutheran Pastor.  I was approved for ordination, but life intervened, and I have never been ordained a pastor.  Looking back, I think I did that task rather well, while musicianship I regularly fail.   Such is life. Sometimes we are asked to tackle jobs beyond our comfort zones.

Lord have mercy.  Christ have mercy.  Lord have mercy.

 

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