Archive / August, 2011

Hats Off For Ruthe: Plus 5

Back in July of 2006, my sister and I threw a surprise birthday party in honor of our mother’s 80th birthday. Though Mom’s birthday is actually August 29, we chose a date a month early … hoping she’d never guess what we’d planned.  (I must quickly acknowledge my minimal role in organizing the event; my sister is a masterful party planner … I am not!)

It was a picturesque setting for a Saturday afternoon luncheon celebration. We were outdoors in historic Old St. Charles at a small restaurant with a quaint (but extended) cobblestone patio. (Here’s the website; see for yourself what a cute place it is!) The skies were overcast and it was muggy, but all the relatives shared the excitement and good wishes for Mom’s special day.

Halfway through lunch, the previously overcast skies opened up, dumping a torrential rain onto the overcrowded patio. Our lively group (about 40 of us) scrambled for cover! The inside dining room was hardly large enough, but we squeezed in tightly, and though thoroughly drenched, not willing to let the weather put a damper on our celebration.

That celebration toasted a remarkable woman (see my previous posts — here and here — about her). She’s always been a go-getter. Following Hurricane Katrina (in 2005), Mom traveled with a group from her church down to Louisiana to help in the cleanup. She’d never be satisfied to sit on the sidelines in a cushy spot and serve coffee; characteristic of her can-do spirit, she pulled on some well-worn garden gloves and helped haul debris. Continue Reading →

Needles and Pens

Before I married the man of my dreams, my surname was Stricker. In those days, researching family history usually entailed wading through rolls of microfilm at the public library, a monotonous endeavor — like looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack” — that often produced disappointing results.

Thanks to the worldwide web and resources like ancestry.com today’s search for genealogical gems has been greatly simplified. We knew my dad’s forebears came from Germany but little else beyond some vital statistics. Vital stats are crucial, but what I’ve always treasured more are the stories, the flesh and bone details that suffuse life into nondescript names on a page.

Last fall, we were sitting around the dinner table when the lively talk turned to our name’s meaningknitter or rope maker. That’s when my sister-in-law remembered a scholarly article she’d run across years before, an article written in German (thankfully, my brother and sister-in-law are fluent!) that referred to a 13th century German poet called der Stricker.

We learned der Stricker was a weaver/knitter of tales. Der Stricker‘s fables and poetry were didactic, occasionally bawdy, and used both satire and theological insight to critique feudal society. Hmmm … the medieval version of a blogger? Continue Reading →

The Miracle of Mother Love

Conversing with my younger daughter today, she offered an apt anecdote for my previous post. She shared that one of her friends had recently undergone in vitro fertilization, in hopes of bearing a child. (BTW, my retelling of the story isn’t verbatim, so some details may be inexact.)

My daughter’s friend was painfully aware of her husband’s ambivalence about having children. (They were happily married. As he saw it, their status quo was quite comfortable; why introduce an unpredictable variable into an already satisfying relationship?)

At the IVF specialist’s urging, the wife requested they consult a professional counselor and the husband begrudgingly acceded.

[IVF therapy (psychological counseling) is a fairly standard recommendation. Folks experiencing infertility often sustain a psychological hit. If an in vitro procedure fails to produce a pregnancy, stress levels intensify. It’s got to be agonizing.]

I wasn’t there to eavesdrop on their conversation. During the session, I’m told, the counselor queried the husband about his childhood — what kind of toys he played with, what he envisioned his future job would be, the things that energized his imagination. Continue Reading →

Caring For Little Creations

Before my eldest child was born, I worked full-time in the personnel department of a Dallas insurance company. From the moment the pregnancy was confirmed, I knew I would quit working to stay home with our daughter.

Many of my work associates were envious, expressing their own wishes to do the same. Each was convinced her circumstances (usually financial) wouldn’t permit such a course redirection. [It’s worth mentioning:  not one male co-worker expressed his desire to be at home with his kids.] On the other hand, at least one heartbroken mom acknowledged her toddler had grown so fond of the sitter, he preferred to remain with the sitter rather than go home with Mama at day’s end!

Although this was 1974 (during the so-called second wave of feminist striving), I never experienced a moment’s ambivalence in deciding to stay at home. In fact, I recall my final months and weeks on the job, I felt relief knowing the end was near. Working the 9 to 5 gig — keeping us fed, sheltered and clothed while my husband completed grad school — had been a means to that end. Continue Reading →

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