July 31, 2013

Keep calm and...

I have something special in my cubicle at work.  It must be special, because not a day goes by that someone walking past doesn't stop, retrace their steps and remark about a sign I have hanging on one of the walls.
The sign kept me strong when I had to endure an incredibly painful union strike a few years ago at my previous job, and I brought it along with me to my new position last year for good luck.  Only a few words, but it says it all.

I had read about the vintage WWII sign in an British magazine (you can read more about it here), and I was intrigued enough to order one from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  It caught my imagination, a sign put back and held in reserve by the British government for distribution in an "intense crisis."  The strike I endured was perhaps not as dramatic as a land invasion by Hitler, but still, don't we all have times when a gentle reminder to steady on, keep a stiff upper lip, and soldier on is just what we need to hear?  A year or so after my purchase, the sign caught fire with the general public and of course took on an unexpected life of its own. The sign below would be perfect for my Saturday mornings....
While my daughter, the cupcake queen, would probably enjoy this one:
She was home recently, and I couldn't help but notice that this is the screensaver on her laptop:
I'll vote for that!

At work the other day there was a discussion about what do we do after a hard day to unwind.  I love to sit down at my piano (my very first "grown up" purchase after graduating from college) and work my way through several Bach inventions.  The concentration and technique required frees my mind and lets the tension roll off my fingers.  Sure enough, there is even a sign for that!
But most of all when it's been a long day I love to go to my library, look through the stacks of books for an old familiar friend and curl up on the sofa while escaping into a fictional world where there are no work deadlines, computer glitches, excel spreadsheets and pressing reports.  And if I can't decide which author to choose, there's a sign in my library to help:
Can you tell I had a bit of an upside down day yesterday?  Here's a poem I found last night that helped slow down the frantic-ness of it all.  Unfortunately, I could not find a title or an author listed, but I hope you enjoy this lovely poem that slowed my racing heart   Perhaps I should read the poem while listening to Bach on my stereo, sipping tea from the cup below and eating a cupcake?!

A wisp of blue
morning mist
gently caresses
the mirrored lake
as a pale yellow sun
slowly filters through.
A pair of white swans
sail effortlessly by
in stately splendour.
Beside a stone bridge
built of mellow stone
a rivulet trickles;
here fieldmice
will find refreshment
through their busy day.
High above
a sycamore tree
not a breath of wind
stirs a single leaf,
and down below
a fly agaric
stands silently proud
like a miniature
red umbrella.
Sitting in his fold- up chair
surveying it all,
a lone fisherman
drinks in the scene,
and breathes
a contended sigh…
Here's wishing you a calm and peaceful Wednesday...feel free to stop by my cubicle and admire my sign if you feel the need!

July 30, 2013

With heart and soul aglow

While speaking with my mother yesterday she mentioned that Sunday was my great-grandfather's 160th birthday.  Perhaps it was because I had just steeped myself in the Civil War era at Gettysburg in May and then again over the weekend in Galena but I couldn't stop thinking about him last night.  My mother remembers him fondly, as he made his home with my grandparents after his wife passed away.  Mother reminisced that he thought the world of my grandmother (his daughter-in-law), who gave him the space he needed to feel part of her family but still independent.  He was her second set of hands out on the farm when a child fell sick in the night, or several were sick at once, or the young ones needed a watchful eye outside while Grandmother was cooking dinner.  I know it is easy to romanticize the past and only focus on the good parts, but I love to hear the stories of days long past and how my family cared for each other.
Ozro with my two uncles
Ozro Prindle was born July 28, 1853, and married Mary Belle on March 9, 1875.  From the book of poems that Mary Belle wrote in honor of her family, she must have had a gentle heart filled with love and pride for her family, but I have to admit...this picture of her always scared me silly.  It hung in my grandparents' bedroom and I always felt her eyes follow me across the room.  In the evenings I would walk all the way around the house in order to avoid going through the bedroom and encountering her stern visage!
Part of a poem that Mary Belle wrote in celebration of her thirty-sixth anniversary to Ozro included these lines.  Good advice then, and still good advice now!

Our path has not all been sunshine
Clouds have o'er shadowed our lives
But he has been a good husband
And I tried to be a good wife

Many times I've been tempted
When things were seemingly wrong
To hastily speak my opinion
but I stopped and held my tongue.

They had a large family.  My grandfather is the handsome young man on the far right.  How long do you think it took the girls to style their hair?  I love their blouses!
Here are two more verses from the poem above.  I must confess to wondering the same thing sometimes!

Sometimes I silently wonder
If our living had bettered the world
We have done so little to help it
Then I thought of our boys and girls

And hope, truly hope, they will do
The things we would like to have done
And when their life work is ended
They too will be gathered home.

I had never seen this photo until just a couple of weeks ago.  Isn't it great?  Evidently they are both holding brooms, but to me it looks like they are early National Geographic explorers, setting out on an adventure with walking sticks at the ready!
Here's my very favorite photograph of him, taken late in life.  He was an upright man, who strove to do good and honor his God.  He gave the last prayer in his country church in Indiana and the very first prayer in the new church, which is the church I attended as a little girl.  Many tell this story about him...a man came to church inebriated and the pastor chastised him, asking him if he didn't want to mend his ways in order to enter Heaven.  The man replied that to the best of his knowledge the only people he knew for sure were going to Heaven were little children and Ozro.  I am proud to be his great granddaughter.
The final stanza of Mary Belle's anniversary poem reads:

So father let us be faithful
Unto the end of life
Then Heaven's benediction
Will rest on man and wife.

Happy 160th birthday, Great Grandfather Ozro!  And in honor of your special day, here is a poem written by your wife in 1912 to commemorate your birthday.

In eighteen and fifty three
According to the date
Ozro was born
In Ohio state.

They moved to Indiana
In eighteen and sixty two
And have lived here ever since
They though it best to do.

Here he grew to manhood
And here he found his mate
Here he reared his children
To man and womanhood's estate.

Now he is nearing three score years
With heart and soul aglow
For Heaven and immortal life
Where ere long he hopes to go.

(signed) Companion

July 29, 2013

An attitude of gratitude

I had planned a different post for today, but my heart is so filled with an attitude of gratitude that I simply couldn't think of a better way to start the week than by sharing some of the things that make me so very thankful. I had originally planned to write about the "first Thanksgiving" at Berkeley Plantation, which certainly ties in nicely with gratitude and giving thanks, but oh my, there's so much more...
For starters, TODAY IS MY ONE YEAR BLOG ANNIVERSARY!  I can't believe how fast the year has gone, and when I started I never dreamed that I could find something to write about almost every day, love it so much and in the process have fun and gain new friends from literally around the world.  I am so very grateful to each and every one of you that read my blog and let me know that occasionally something resonates with you or you enjoy one of the pictures or poems. 
I had also planned to write a little about my weekend camping trip to Door County, but sometimes life takes a turn and if you are flexible and can turn with it amazing things can happen!  My husband and I took Friday off, got up early and packed the car in anticipation of a three day weekend of hiking, golf, campfires and time spent together under the stars.  Didn't quite happen that way!  Here was the view from the car:
and of the campsite next to ours:
I would consider myself a pretty hardcore camper, with a can-do attitude.  But I have my limits.  And not only would we be putting our tent up in driving rain, the park rangers were predicting an even heavier storm system to arrive a couple of hours later!  Sometimes you just have to know when to give up.  So we said goodbye to Door County and drove back home...nine hours total in the car.  Well, since I try to be really honest in this blog, my husband drove and I pouted.  I was so disappointed.

I'll now leave out the part about arriving back home, unpacking all the clothes, food and camping equipment, and discovering that our sons were throwing a small party in our absence.  Which was fine, except it kind of left us with nowhere to relax, as our family room was now full of young men, pizza boxes and game controllers.  When it rains, it pours, right?!

So here is where the "thankful" part comes in.  Saturday morning my husband woke me up early and said "come on, we weren't supposed to be home today, so let's go find an adventure."  Exactly thirty minutes and one cup of coffee later we were out the door!  I had often heard that Galena, IL was a great place to visit but neither of us had ever been there.  The map said we were only 88 miles from Galena, so it seemed like a perfect place for a day trip.
View of Galena from Grant's Park
We had an amazing time.  You almost feel like you have time traveled back to the 1800's, and its Main Street has been voted one of the "Top Ten Great Places in America."  Since we both love history we had a blast walking around the town and checking out all the beautiful historic homes.  We're already plotting a return visit, since there was simply too much to do and see in just one day.  So what could have been a dreary, disappointing day at home turned into a wonderful time.  Needless to say, I am very thankful for my wonderful husband, who made sure our weekend still was fun!
The sun even came out for a while in the afternoon!
And being home all day on Sunday gave me the unexpected opportunity to work on two outdoor projects, sew three pillow covers and finish the first two rows of my very first quilt! And I am very thankful for my new sewing machine and the fact that I only had to take out stitches once to make sure I lined the seams up correctly. 

At the end of the weekend, my heart was filled with thanksgiving...I had a wonderful time with my husband, visited a new town, had time to hang out with two of my sons and phone chat with my daughter, have several nice telephone visits with my mother, and spend time doing creative projects that bring me joy.

We can discuss the merits of who has ultimate claiming rights to the first Thanksgiving in November, but until then I will celebrate my own weekend giving of thanks...for all of you and how much you enrich my life.  Thank you.

A List of Praises

  by Anne Porter
Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath, 
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes, 
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry 
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away 
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods, 
At night give praise with starry silences. 

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls 
And the rattle and flap of sails 
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor. 
Give praise with the humpback whales, 
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.
Give praise with the rasp and sizzle of crickets, katydids and cicadas, 
Give praise with hum of bees, 
Give praise with the little peepers who live near water.
When they fill the marsh with a shimmer of bell-like cries
We know that the winter is over. 

Give praise with mockingbirds, day's nightingales.
Hour by hour they sing in the crepe myrtle 
And glossy tulip trees
On quiet side streets in southern towns.
Give praise with the rippling speech
Of the eider-duck and her ducklings
As they paddle their way downstream
In the red-gold morning 
On Restiguche, their cold river,
Salmon river, 
Wilderness river. 

Give praise with the whitethroat sparrow.
Far, far from the cities, 
Far even from the towns, 
With piercing innocence 
He sings in the spruce-tree tops,
Always four notes 
And four notes only. 

Give praise with water, 
With storms of rain and thunder 
And the small rains that sparkle as they dry,
And the faint floating ocean roar 
That fills the seaside villages, 
And the clear brooks that travel down the mountains 

And with this poem, a leaf on the vast flood,
And with the angels in that other country.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20501#sthash.px7Sg2fd.dpuf

July 24, 2013

My own sweet prince and princess!

Once upon a time a handsome prince and beautiful duchess had a sweet baby boy, and the whole world celebrated their joy with them.  But life is more than fairy tale characters and royal personages--we "common folk" have much to celebrate as well!

Twenty nine years ago today I was blessed with the birth of my first son.  I didn't know love could go so deep or be so vast, or so many years later still be so strong and pure.  We named him Michael, from the Hebrew meaning "who is like God".  A good, strong name for a little boy who has become a good, strong man. 

Growing up I had siblings  who I loved a lot, plus lots of young cousins. I babysat in high school, earned a teaching degree, taught Sunday School and in general, pretty much loved kids.  But nothing prepared me for the love that washed over me when I held my firstborn in my arms and realized we were linked at the heart, forever.  I was astonished at the depth and breadth and take-your-breath-away feelings that I had never known existed before.  In short, I became a mother.

 Close your eyes 
 Have no fear 
The monster's gone
  He's on the run and your mommy's here
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful 
Beautiful boy 
 Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful 
 Beautiful boy
Before you go to sleep
  Say a little prayer
  Every day in every way
  It's getting better and better
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful 
 Beautiful boy
  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful 
 Beautiful boy
Out on the ocean sailing away 
 I can hardly wait to see you come of age
  But I guess, we'll both just have to be patient 
'Cause it's a long way to go, a hard row to hoe 
 Yes, it's a long way to go but in the meantime 
Before you cross the street 
Take my hand 
 Life is what happens to you
  While you're busy making other plans
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful 
 Beautiful boy
  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful 
 Beautiful boy
And twenty-eight years ago, another mother was holding her beautiful little girl in her arms, calling her Gena, which derives from the Italian name for Queen. How appropriate.  For she grew up to become the queen of my son's heart.

 They said you have me wrapped around your finger
Like the ribbons that you wear in your hair
Maybe 'cause when i see your little fingers holdin' onto mine
I don't have a care
You've got me buyin' you bows and dresses
Oh, what a beautiful mess that this is

I think I'm in love
She's two foot three
Eyes blue and green
I just can't get enough
She got my heels over my head
Or better yet, she got me movin' to the beat of her drum
And if love were time, i would spend all mine
Just livin' inside her world
'cause she's daddy's baby girl

Soon she'll crawl, then walk, then talk, she's here for a while
Then sweet sixteen, and like a dream, she's down the aisle

And the little girl grew into a beautiful princess:

The two beloved children went off to school:

And grew into beautiful young adults, ready to head off to college:

Where they met and became super-heroes:

Sharing the same birthday and the same major,
as well as the same family values and love of God and family.  They grew to realize they shared something else....a beautiful love for each other.
  And so they decided to begin a fairy tale of their own.

And on this special day I wish my wonderful son and his beautiful wife all the very best that life has to offer.  You are loved more than you can possibly imagine, and we are so very proud of both of you.
  Happy, happy birthday!

July 23, 2013

Berkeley Plantation

A quick shout out to the royal couple and their new son!  My assistant's husband is a Brit, and distantly related to the Middletons, so we heard the news quickly at my workplace yesterday.  I have been a royal family watcher all my life, probably because my mother loves English history and literature so much.  Long before I was fascinated by Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie I was creating my own Royal Family paper dolls at home, so it's really no surprise that I have enjoyed all the hoopla about William and Kate's wedding and pregnancy.  Most of all, though, I've just really enjoyed watching two lovely young people who look like they have their heads screwed on straight fall in love and start a family. Call me romantic, but who doesn't love a happily ever after fairy tale?
Royal proclamation announcing the royal birth
But there are some rather startling facts to go along with this little guy's birth.  Who knew what a royal birth could do for the British economy?!  Here are some surprising statistics surrounding today's historic news:
No doubt there will probably be some money spent on this side of the pond as well.  You do know what this birth really means, don't you?  It's time to start planning a christening party for the fall!  And yes, I am sure it will involve Pimm's Cups in one way or another. 
Two of my friends concocting Pimm's Cups for our Royal Wedding party

And now on to the rest of my post, that if I stretch it a little (okay, maybe a lot) has a royal connection as well.  Yesterday I wrote about my love for Grouseland, home of the first Indiana territorial governor, William Henry Harrison.  Having discovered his "ancestral home" was only a short drive from Williamsburg, VA, my husband and I spent a lovely morning touring the home and grounds of Berkeley Plantation.

Here is a little history from the official Berkeley Plantation website (you can find more information here.)
Eleven years after the settlement of Jamestown, in the spring of 1618, four gentlemen met in London to negotiate the formation of a company to start the town and hundred at Berkeley, in the colony of Virginia. Their motive was strictly profit making. Those four Gloucestershire adventurers were William Throckmorton, Richard Berkeley, George Thorpe and John Smyth. All except Smyth were related by blood or marriage. Smyth became a family member 18 years later when one of his daughters married Thorpe’s son.

King James I (there's the royal connection!) had granted a large tract of land in Virginia to the four. The land was over 8,000 acres with 3 miles of waterfront. The land grant to the Virginia Company of London show the Patent letters are dated February, 1619, just 6 months before the expedition across the Atlantic.  Over the next one hundred years this site was occupied, then abandoned after an Indian uprising, then eventually the original Georgian mansion was built in 1726 of brick fired on the plantation, occupying a beautifully landscaped hilltop site overlooking the historic James River. The date of the building and the initials of the owners, Benjamin Harrison IV and his wife, Anne appear in a date stone over a side door. The mansion is said to be the oldest 3-story brick house in Virginia.
I'll give you a private tour of the interior of the plantation tomorrow, but today let's stroll through the magnificent gardens.  They were truly breathtaking, affording beautiful vistas of the James River. 
The five terraced gardens, dug by hand before the American Revolution, are stunning, and the plantation's one thousand acres are filled with miles of old gravel roads that meander through field and forest, pastures, ponds and the river.  Here is the map we were given before we started our exploration of the gardens:

I only wish there was a way I could share the lovely scents of all the blooming flowers that were wafting through the air, and the quiet lapping sounds of the waves at the river's edge.  But if we can't engage all our senses in this visual tour, we can at least enjoy the beauty of the gardens and leave the rest to our imaginations.

I hope you have enjoyed the garden tour, and here's a poem by ee cummings, titled "This is the garden:  colors come and go" to start our day on a pleasant note:

This is the garden: colors come and go,
Frail azures fluttering from night’s outer wing,
Strong silent greens serenely lingering,
Absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden: pursed lips do blow
Upon cool flutes within wide glooms, and sing
Of harps celestial to the quivering string,
Invisible faces hauntingly and slow.

This is the garden. Time shall surely reap
And on Death’s blade lie many a flower curled,
In other lands where other songs be sung;
Yet stand They here enraptured, as among
The slow deep trees perpetual of sleep
Some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.