Sincerest Forms of Flattery

As we come to the tenth day of National Poetry Month 2024, I’m turning my attention to one specific poet, John Keats (1795-1821). Many literary scholars count Keats among the all-time great poets.

One poem written by Keats (a sonnet from 1818) goes by the clunky title When I have Fears That I May Cease To Be. Given Keats was still in his twenties when he died, the sonnet provides a curious window into his spirit. In my view, the poem deserves multiple readings and invites contemplative thought. (See the link above to read the poem for yourself.)

Continue reading “Sincerest Forms of Flattery”

My “Lucky” Day

The Washington Post ran a story the other day about the expected surge in Las Vegas tourism traffic this week because couples have chosen to marry on the upcoming “lucky” day (12/31/23). The next time there’ll be a similar date with the repeating 123 numbers will be in 100 years! I’m reminded of an old Lawrence Welk/The Count meme … a one and a two and a three.

For Las Vegas – always eager to cash in on a unique (and possibly lucky) event – they’ve installed a small pop-up marriage license bureau inside the airport to accommodate arriving couples in their quest for the perfect wedding venue. In this city that’s billed as the “wedding capital of the world,” Las Vegas makes it happen for newlyweds, especially since the average wedding now comes with a hefty $30K price tag. Continue reading “My “Lucky” Day”

Fifty-Four Years Along

This world was quite different in 1969. Average cost of a new home was $15,550 and average income was $8,550. Minimum wage was $1.30 an hour. The price of gold averaged $41.10 per troy ounce. We had no such thing as Internet, nor one cell phone.

It was at the end of that relatively chaotic year (Hong Kong Flu pandemic, Moon landings, the first artificial heart transplant, the Manson family murders, Woodstock, Hurricane Camille, a military draft being reinstated for the first time since World War II, and much more) that December introduced the most life-altering difference for two young kids – my Beloved and myself. We declared our wedding vows to each other before God and an assembled group of family and friends.

Imagine what those times were like! Richard Nixon was sworn in as our 37th US President. An oil spill off the coast of California inspired a Wisconsin politician to organize the first Earth Day which was launched the following year. The Concorde (based in France) conducted its first test flight. President Eisenhower died. The Vietnam War was raging.

Were we crazy? Plighting our troth in such dire, mixed-up times?! Continue reading “Fifty-Four Years Along”

Each Day As God’s Gift

On Palm Sunday when we were kids, it was the custom (as we exited the church building after services) for an usher to give each of us a small palm branch to carry home. It was an odd thing, meant (I suppose) to commemorate Jesus entering Jerusalem while riding a donkey. John 12:13 tells us “they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him” and they acknowledged Jesus as “the king of Israel.”

Looking at the palm leaves (the above image is just one example), I’m struck today by their beauty and symmetry. During childhood, I think we used the branches to tickle and torment each other. Today, my usual impulse is one of contemplation. These green fronds hold the last droplets of morning dew and invite peaceful reflection. Continue reading “Each Day As God’s Gift”

Warren Who?

“Warren Piece.” I distinctly recall my mother uttering those two words as she ushered me out the door with my brothers on our summer afternoon trek to the library. Our visits to the public library were a regular occurrence in those days, and on occasion, we walked the mile+ distance sans adult supervision.

We had specific, unalterable instructions:  stay together, follow the usual route, be home before dinner, and never, ever, ever talk to strangers! We had a tight camaraderie, the three of us. Brother Eric (two years older than me) and brother Kevin (younger than me by eighteen months) might run ahead or dawdle behind from time to time, but being voracious readers, our expectation of new adventures hidden in books on the library’s seemingly endless bookshelves kept the three of us on course to our destination. Continue reading “Warren Who?”

Welcome to the New Year, 2021!

Phew! We made it, right? Thankfully, the carcass of 2020 (metaphorically speaking) has begun to molder in the dustbin of history.

Image by 5598375 from Pixabay

As might be expected, prognosticators are already spinning their tales about what this new year will look like. Will the world continue in the grips of COVID? Will the US economy recover or remain paralyzed by the lockdown doldrums? I won’t venture a guess … except to suggest, 2021 may not be so different from 2020.

From a personal standpoint, I hope your New Year is happy and blessed. May you find joy in the small but meaningful moments as well as abundant laughter to lighten your load. Herewith, my adieu to the year just past.

Hello, 2021!
Light Verse: Hello, 2021!

 

Driving Miss Ruthe

When my parents married in January 1946 after the briefest of courtships, there would have been an ample supply of newlywed adjustments for both. This union was the joining of two individuals from vastly different backgrounds.

My dad’s forebears were mostly no-nonsense, hard-working midwestern people of German descent. Upon arriving in the US, Dad’s grandfather had settled in St. Louis. He and his family led lives of predictability – work, family, church, work some more – with few  distractions or embellishments. They were ordinary folks leading quiet lives.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

In contrast, my mom’s east-coast (Philadelphia) upbringing turned her into an independent, free spirit, a woman eager to embrace the waiting world. From age six (when Mom entered boarding school), familial attachments had mostly evaporated; only her mother remained and mother-daughter visits were infrequent. Living at school was doubtless a happy and wholesome environment, but sans family. Continue reading “Driving Miss Ruthe”

A True Tale of Ricky-Robby

Great news about the recent recovery in Georgia of more than three dozen missing and at-risk children, thanks to the US Marshals Service and Operation Not Forgotten! Parents everywhere can rejoice knowing these children have been released from awful circumstances and returned home. Bravo to law enforcement for their diligence!

As a little girl, I knew children who had suffered neglect and abandonment. Maybe it’s just my impression (due to hazy memories) but in those days, it seemed to me the community took a more hands-on approach to difficult relational problems. Continue reading “A True Tale of Ricky-Robby”

Who She Was

As a tribute to my dear mother, I’ve been compiling certain documents in my possession that add depth to and understanding of her life. A separate section of this blog is titled Blood Type / West and under that heading, I’ve attached a couple related documents. (More documents will follow in time.)

In 2006, we celebrated Mom’s birthday with much more fanfare than usual. We threw a party, Hats Off For Ruthe, and as part of the celebration, I created a book about her life. Given she lived another 14 years, the book is somewhat dated as regards her children and grandchildren. Still, it’s a good record.

Another tab in the Blood Type / West sub-section offers some background information about the boarding school my Mom attended. It was an amazing place for a young girl who came from a modest background and was suddenly bereft (having lost her father) while her mother was thrust into the workforce.

A couple times, I had the privilege (with my Mom) to visit the location of this school (in Newtown Square, PA) which shuttered its doors to students in 1977. The buildings are still there, repurposed. We were able to enter the imposing administration building as well as the inviting stone cottages where students lived under the oversight of a dorm “mother.”

A previously coddled child myself, it was difficult for me to imagine my mother as a six-year-old being brought to this cottage and entrusted (by her own mother) into the care of strangers. It was (no doubt) a crucible for the development of strong character. She could have felt the bitter sting of abandonment; instead, she learned gratefulness for God’s unique provision. She also learned the value of self-reliance.

In large part, the person my mother became reflects the transformation of tragedy (the death of her father) into beauty, as she received an excellent education within a safe environment where multiple benefits (usually reserved for wealthy families) were available to her. Thanks to the generosity of an unknown philanthropist (who’d been dead 20 years when my mom was born), young fatherless girls received a wonderful start in life. Though I wasn’t one of those girls, I’m certainly a beneficiary of aforementioned philanthropy … and how thankful I am.

Art for Art’s Sake

Throughout childhood, my older brother was a role model and I eagerly followed him, learning from his example. He’s two years older and surely, I must have been an annoying shadow at times. When he decided to learn the violin in grade school, I followed suit. If he climbed a tree, I’d be directly behind him. An incident from junior high comes to mind.

image courtesy of Pixabay.com

My brother and his friends (all boys) were hunting rabbits in the barren cornfield near our house. Naturally, they didn’t want a girl tagging along but I begged and bargained:  I agreed to carry any rabbits they managed to snag. (It probably wasn’t the best bargain I’ve ever negotiated!)

I thought it unlikely they’d catch even one rabbit … imagine my chagrin when they bagged two! But I kept my side of the bargain, grasping a pair of rabbit ears with each hand for the trek homeward.

Needless to say, this experience ended my “hunting” inclination. I began emerging from my brother’s shadow to do my own thing. But even today, he acknowledges gratefulness to his younger sister (shadow) for introducing him to one of my classmates – now his wife with whom he recently celebrated 53 years of married life together. Continue reading “Art for Art’s Sake”