I Will Not Comply!

button_census_1970Back in 1970, I was newly married with my Beloved in his last semester of college and I took a job as a census enumerator for the Decennial US Census. My assignment included multiple rural areas in Arkansas and a few small town/suburban areas.

In completing my assignment, I learned a great deal about life in parts of the county vastly different from the city of St. Louis where I’d spent most of my life prior to my marriage. Some of the things I learned were surprising. For instance, many of the rural folks whose homes I visited had yet to experience the pleasure of indoor plumbing.

One lovely woman eagerly invited me into her kitchen where a single spigot was ensconced on a pedestal in the middle of the room. This was her running water (only cold, no hot) and she was absolutely tickled to have that faucet and share her good fortune with me!

At another location, I arrived (in my car) at an address and as I surveyed my surroundings, I noted a man waving frantically at me from his open-door outhouse. When he saw me acknowledge his wave back, he briefly shut the door, completed his business and exited the outhouse. With great eagerness, he hurried my way. (No, I didn’t shake his hand.)

Needless to say, the two or three months I worked as an enumerator were memorable and enlightening! When I’m researching online census records as I work through my genealogy, I’m often reminded of those adventures. In addition to the amusing experiences mentioned above, there were also poignant occasions like the day I knocked on the door of a grieving dad who had just returned from the funeral for his seven-year-old daughter. He sobbed and though I told him I’d return another day, he urged me to complete the questions that day. Continue reading “I Will Not Comply!”

Wendy Grows Up

"Peter pan 1911 pipes" by Francis Donkin Bedford (1864–1954)
“Peter pan 1911 pipes” by Francis Donkin Bedford (1864–1954)

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, J. M. Barrie’s fictional creation of Neverland and his story of Peter Pan has fascinated me since childhood. Between the time when my sister Nadja died (previous post here) and the birth of my younger sister Tamara (previous post here), our family resembled the Darlings (except I was second, fictional Wendy Darling had been born first). In our case, my family included older son Eric, daughter (me) and younger son Kevin. We slept upstairs in slant-ceilinged little rooms away from our parents’ space.

The sudden appearance at the windowsill of a boy who could fly and a fairy “no longer than your hand, but still growing” would have been an exciting scenario for the three of us! Becoming friends with a boy who’d lost his shadow might have puzzled us at first, but we’d have figured it out quickly enough.

Though I’d never have counted myself with the Lost Boys of Never-Neverland, in my younger years I well remember times when I wished fervently that I’d never grow up. The press of adult decisions and responsibilities seemed overwhelming and scary. I knew once I’d completely traversed the threshold of adulthood, my decisions were my own … for better or worse. Tell me that’s not sobering!

Over my lifetime, I’ve realized how significant imagination is to the proper formation of our adult personalities. There’s a terrific book by Professor Anthony Esolen called Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. Whether read by a parent of small children or an older parent (like me), this book provides helpful insight about imagination. Another book, Tending the Heart of Virtue by Vigen Guroian, is subtitled How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination. An older book (1998), this one is well worth close study and reflection. Continue reading “Wendy Grows Up”

Wind and Weather

ChristinaRossettiPoems from childhood are especially memorable for me. As a child, I memorized poems written by (among others) Victorian poet Christina Rossetti. (The sketch to the right was drawn by her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.) From time to time, I’m reminded of Christina’s simple but profound eight-line vignette, Who Has Seen the Wind? It goes like this:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Last week, we had an amazing display of wind in our region. One moment, the sky was clear with a storm visible to the west. Within minutes, the storm had blown in. At first, there wasn’t any rain, but the dirt-and-gravel road in front of our home churned with dust cyclones that reached twenty feet into the air. We were watching out a window as the blasts of air carried particles of debris and bent the trees violently. The wind’s impact against the house convinced us to move away from the windows. Eventually, one of the trees lining our drive toppled over. Continue reading “Wind and Weather”

Like, Ring the Bell

My Beloved and I tend to be Grammar Nazis. When our children were young, there was a black and silver bell in the middle of the kitchen table. If one of us (adults included) used “Uh” or “Um” or “You know” or “like” as conversational fillers, these infractions earned a ring of the bell. On occasion, the repeated dinging made coherent conversation difficult, but this was a helpful exercise and we learned from it. (Truthfully, we’ve talked about re-instituting the bell because it’s so easy to become lazy in our speech!)bell

In recent weeks, Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crimes video has made the rounds on social media. An amusing video, Word Crimes tackles common errors / blunders / unacceptable shortcuts found in written English. It’s a clever presentation.

Before I go further, please allow a word in my defense. While I readily admit to being a Grammar Nazi, I’m not heartless or cruel (most of the time). When I catch a grammar or spelling faux pas, I usually keep it to myself … unless my Beloved is there and we can share a laugh (discreetly). But I hasten to add, I’ve found errors I myself have committed – and failed to catch in proofreading. Those errors are by far more painful to me than any amusement I receive from the errors of others. Just sayin’. Continue reading “Like, Ring the Bell”

What Drives You?

This is the story of a little girl, fun-loving, intelligent, warm. During her early years, she was blessed with the love of a supportive extended family and meaningful friendships with her peers. Only the most minimal misfortunes or disappointments have crossed her path and her life was generally good.little-girl-1

It’s hard to identify a single event or set of circumstances that created what I’ll call a wrinkle in her psyche, but that wrinkle rooted and grew. She developed an almost insatiable drive to be noticed.

Though short of stature, the child was blessed with a lovely voice as well as musical talent. Before she entered school, she’d already played the title part in a Christmas musical, The Littlest Angel. While still an elementary school student, she played another title role in a school-wide musical production of Hansel and Gretel. Audiences applauded the child’s clear, strong vocal delivery and the poise of her youthful presentation.

So strong was her voice, it became an issue during one choir recording session. Because of her diminutive stature, the girl stood front and center in the first row with other choir members. After an initial run-through, studio engineers suggested changes, one of which was to relocate that little girl standing in front. Continue reading “What Drives You?”

Life Is A Gift

On Wiseblooding, I post periodically about abortion. It’s an issue about which I feel strongly. I am unwaveringly pro-life. Back in the late 70s, I composed a simple poem that summed up the debate of that time. Those were the days when discussion seemed more focused on the specious question:  When does life really begin?

Over time, this question was shoved aside, because for many supporters of abortion, it didn’t really matter. Whether life was judged to begin at conception or later (as late as the child celebrating his/her second or third birthday), these individuals supported abortion without regulation or reservations.

As you read the poem below, please imagine in your mind’s eye the intertwined strands of cascading human DNA. The short lines and sustained simple rhymes are meant to evoke that image.

Epitaph, abortion, down-syndrome, termination, infanticide, poem, poetry, verse
Poem: Epitaph

Guitar Man

Norman_with_guitarToday is my dad’s 92nd birthday. He has been gone from this world for twenty years, but as one might suspect, his influence continues. I’ve posted about him here (2010) and here (2014).

To the best of my knowledge, the picture at left was snapped while he was stationed in France with the Army during World War II. It’s an unusual picture to me, because I don’t remember having seen my dad play a guitar, ever. I do recall he once owned a mandolin (and memory suggests it may have been his mother’s) but I think if I witnessed him playing that instrument, it may have been a single occasion.

Dad loved music, but he mostly used his voice as his instrument. Later in life, he purchased an organ (mentioned in the second post linked above).

After coming home from work in the evenings and eating dinner with the family, my dad would retire to a comfortable chair in the living room where he’d read the evening newspaper for a bit, and eventually sit down at the organ to play … sometimes for an hour or more. He was a man who worked hard everyday (whether at his job or around the house) and he treasured this contemplative opportunity.

Oftentimes as a youngster, I’d fall asleep to the sounds of his organ music. (He learned to play well, though not fancifully.) In my experience, his nightly practice became a rhythm of life (a concept I referred to yesterday) that helped to sweep away (in a sense) the day’s chaos and to usher me into a peaceful night’s sleep.

This ongoing inculcation of music appreciation wasn’t the single influence that encouraged my love of music, but it was a powerful one. When I was in my teens, I recall following my dad’s example:  as the evening progressed into night, I’d retreat to the organ and enjoy my own contemplative recess.

Growing up in the transitional 50s and free-wheeling 60s, I think I probably gave my dad his share of gray hairs because he was a perpetual worrier. Today, I realize it wasn’t so much that he thought I’d crash and burn, but it was because in his teen years, he’d come close to doing so himself. (He and his brothers were something of a wild bunch apparently.) Three of the four brothers went to war … and came back men. The eldest stayed home, caring for their mom, and that responsibility matured him as well.

Dr. Howard G. Hendricks (one of my Beloved’s long-ago professors) frequently told his students:  One of the best things you can do for your children is to love their mother.

My daddy modeled that guideline throughout his life. I know he and my mother must have had numerous disagreements, but I only remember one instance where their conflict was so severe my dad walked out the door and took a drive. When he returned an hour or two later, they spoke privately and the quarrel was over. This was a terrific example for me to see how much my daddy loved and honored my mother.

My dad wrote the poem below in 1983. As a love poem to his bride of 37 years, he was striving for a simple poem to express his strong love; in other words, his ambition was focused on love, not timeless original literature. If the poem seems trite, that’s irrelevant because the poem was meaningful to the one person who mattered … my mother.

Poem by Norman A Stricker
Poem by Norman A Stricker

Grace For Infirmity

The ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease are taking a toll on my 91-year-old mother-in-law. My Beloved’s daily visits to the assisted living facility where she resides have become ever more perplexing as the communication barrier widens. Still the loving son, his perseverance in ministering to her needs – even when it seems impossible to penetrate the fog – causes me to admire him all the more.foto_google_alzheimer

I’ve been fortunate that my mother (at 88) doesn’t have the added challenge of dementia; macular degeneration has its own way of challenging a person. One time, Mom had failed to hydrate properly and suffered serious hallucinations (an odd phenomenon considering her blindness), but that situation has been avoidable as long as she’s drinking plenty of water. Continue reading “Grace For Infirmity”

Penitent Sister

Hill-coverAfter yesterday’s post, I laughed and laughed because that was a fun post to write! I told my Beloved, I don’t care if anybody else enjoys the post, I had fun writing it!

But suddenly, in the midst of my laughter, it occurred to me the joke actually might end up being on me! There’s sort of an unwritten rule about lampooning … if the object one uses hasn’t earned iconic status, the joke almost always falls flat.

In my case, I got to thinking about the news reports I’ve been reading that indicate Hillary Clinton’s recent book release isn’t getting the numbers (in sales) that everyone hoped. Uh-oh!

One headline reads:  No one is reading “Hard Choices,” either. The article beneath the headline notes people may purchase but fail to complete the tome. Using a metric that gauges how far into a book readers progress before setting the book aside, Amazon rates Hard Choices as averaging a dismal 2.04%. That’s about 33 pages through this volume of 657 pages!

Another headline says:  Execs on notice after Hillary’s book sales tank. Let me quickly point out that “tank” is a relative term. It would probably be kinder to say the book has not performed as publishers and booksellers had hoped, but its fourth-place standing on the Nielsen book-scan list is hardly the tank.

However, as I began to think about whether or not the book (cover art shown above) has yet to earn “iconic status” – as in immediately recognizable by almost everyone who sees it – I’m not comfortable believing the book has yet reached that pinnacle. Hence, my need to admit the joke’s probably on me, because few may have understood my silly effort was meant to lampoon! Silly me!

Egg on my face, yep. But did that stop me? What do you think? Continue reading “Penitent Sister”

Dream A Little Dream

As a writer, I’m subject to the same inclinations as almost every other writer throughout time:  the unquenchable desire to have my words appear in print. I have had the privilege of selling poetry, prose and fiction, but to date, there isn’t a book on the shelf that declares me as its author.im-writing-a-book

Of course, I’ve compiled a book for you to write (another link here), but I consider that a completely different product. This particular book does have my name in it … but not on the cover because you must tell your story as you complete the book and only you can tell that story (not me).

When I was a younger woman, I often dreamed about the books I wanted to write … someday. I also used to dream about an agent (or a publishing house) calling me out of the blue to solicit my upcoming bestseller! (I told you it was a dream!) I had this delusional notion that my brilliance was so obvious, these publishing entities should jump at the chance to snag me into their stable, though I’d never even produced a book-length manuscript!! [I have now but it’s non-fiction.] Continue reading “Dream A Little Dream”