Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lottie's Daughters' Memories of Music in their Family

Glinda writes:

This section focuses on Lottie Hart Brenz's 3 daughters' memories of their Mother, memories her stories of the Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages, and memories of the role of music in their family when they were growing up. Text comes from 3 sources: their "Round Robin Letter" of childhood memories (mid 1980s), Mother's (Dorothy's) response to Granddaughter Melanie Crawford's questions about women's family history for a Women Studies class (2000), Mother's and Aunt Ruthie's discussions of their memories (February 2008), Mother's responses during for an interview with Truman State University Professor Jay Bulen and his graduate students on her Mother and the Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages (February 2008).

Mother tells us (February 2008) that at the time her Mother was enrolled in the Conservatory of Music, Lottie and her family lived on a farm east of Greentop. She was unmarried at the time. Her Mother's Father (Robert Nelson Hart) would drive his daughter (Lottie) to meet the train at either Sublette or Greentop (7 or 10 miles from Kirksville). Mother says that horse and buggy almost had to be the mode of transportation, considering the times. Her Mother would board the train and travel to Kirksville. She would live with her Grandparents (Isaac and Catherine South) during the week while she was taking lessons at the Conservatory of Music. Isaac and Catherine South lived across the street from the Brenz's (her Father's family).

Mother says (February 2008) her Mother had a piano at home on the farm. She does not know if the Souths had a piano but she does know her Mother had access to a piano in town for her long sessions of practice. Aunt Lula had told Mother years ago that having a piano was not something everyone had during those times.

Aunt Louise wrote in the 3 sisters "Round Robin Letter" (about 1983): "Daddy got acquainted with Mother [Lottie] who was staying with her Grandmother South who lived across the street from the Brenz's. Mother was finishing her musical career which she was studying piano ... She had to practice 6 and finally 8 hours a day before she finished. Grandmother Brenz would send Daddy after eggs --- to her neighbor. She wanted our Daddy, (her son) to meet that Miss Lottie Hart, who was to be our Mother in a few years."

Mother wrote to Melanie (fall 2000): "Regarding education, Mother (Lottie Hart Brenz) who was born in 1884 came to Kirksville from Greentop to study classical piano and language at the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages. She graduated in 1909. As we were growing up, we often met someone who had heard Mother perform. At her graduation the invitation mentions she would play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Adagio Movement for piano. She also played William Finks Romance Op 200 No. 2 for the left hand only and Keler Bela's Lustspiel Overture, a piano duet with class mate Edith Kaster. Her accident [about 1923] kept her from public performances later."

Mother said her Mother played the piano at her church, Trinity Methodist Church east of Greentop (February 2008). She does not know the years.

Ruthie wrote in the "Round Robin Letter" (April 1986): "When I think of Mother I remember so many things. Her love of music, her reputation as a musician. Many times someone mentioned her music at a wedding, or church or funeral and how they remember her playing from years ago. "

Mother wrote to Melanie (fall 2000): : "Besides Mother playing the piano, Daddy loved to play the French Harp and sometimes the neighborhood men would get together with their harps. Louise played the piano and in the school band she played the cornet. Daddy bought a violin for Ruthie from Mr. Mellinger and she took lessons from Mr. Jay Hatton and then Mr. William Ulrich. Ruthie still has her violin. Louise played the piano all her life. She had Mother's piano until she moved from the farm (East of Sublette) ... Dorothy took piano lessons from Ruby Diehl who drove from Greentop to our home for the lessons. Later she took from Anna Margaret Downing. (She was one of Jack's school teachers at Willard School.) Regardless of the shortage of work for Daddy they somehow provided music lessons for us. Our Daddy and Mother frequently sang while working around the house. I can still hear Daddy sing three of his favorites, 'Beautiful Dreamer,' 'I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen' and 'Let the Rest of the World Go By.' The latter song, I believe was popular when they were going out together." (When I reviewed this section with Mother 3/1/08, she says she remembers her Mother telling her that this song was popular at that time.)

Jay Bulen asked Mother if she had observed in those times that women were more likely to play the piano and men the French harp (interview 2008): Mother responded yes.

Aunt Ruthie wrote in the "Round Robin Letter" (Summer 1985): "And of course Mother played and sang hymns at her piano. The songs I remember she sang were 'The Old Rugged Cross,' 'In the Garden,' 'Almost Persuaded,' 'God Will Take Care of You' and of course the Christmas Carols. Louise tried to teach us to harmonize with our voices as she played popular music."

Aunt Louise wrote in the "Round Robin Letter" (above 1985): "Before Mother's hands got so crippled up, she gave many piano lessons, as she was an accomplished piano player. Mother tried to teach me to play the piano, but I should have been whipped---I just didn't try very hard. So, she paid $1 a lesson for me to take from Mrs. Margriete and she didn't know as much about piano as Mother did. Both of my little sisters took from Ruby Deal."


Photos above: Lottie Hart, date and occasion unknown. In conversation February 2008, Mother remembers Aunt Lula saying that Lottie had beautiful clothes and that not all the young people did. Aunt Lula also said this "did not turn Lottie's head", which meant that Lottie did not let what she wore distance her from those around her.

Photo below: Lottie Hart, date and occasion unknown. Mother notes on the back that she lived east of Greentop.


Glinda's notes:

(1) Thinking about Grandmother traveling by buggy and by train in 1909, I can imagine how how dusty, smoky, loud, and bumpy that must have been. I can almost hear the train go "Chug-Chug-Chug", and that whistle blow. As she would travel by buggy, the countryside would have been filled with people living on and working small farms with their diversity of crops and livestock; that's very different from today when our lives are so focused on town. I can almost see her Dad and she wave as their buggy goes by.

(2) One of Jay Bulen's students Ashley commented on the special clothes one would need for attending the Conservatory of Music during those times.

(3) I also can imagine that Grandmother must have had considerable family support for such a venture (both from her parents and grandparents).

(4) I wonder about the social sphere surrounding a choice to go to music school for a woman in the early 1900s. Continuing education was surely not a privilege available to all at that time.

(5) I keep wondering about that train ride. What was the fare? How long did it take? What did the train look like?

(Edited: 3/3/08)

Depot Photos: (Above) Sublette Depot 1900s and (below) Greentop 1907. (Thanks to Deleta and Hollis Dale for helping me find these!) Source: Missouri Train Depots (3/2/08).

Wagner Conservatory: Grandmother's Commencement Program

Glinda's notes:
(1) Photo above: Lottie Lillian Hart's graduation picture when she finished the program at the Conservatory of Music. Next 3 photos: Her commencement program, June 29, 1909.

(2) Since these are copies of originals, they did not "scan" well. We will be looking for the originals. In the meantime, if we do not find them right away and if I am confronted with some extra time, I will type these into the Blog. For now, this will have to do. Consider this just a taste of what is to come.

Created: 2/28/08

Wagner Conservatory: Published Accounts

Glinda writes:

As I have mentioned previously, Grandmother Lottie Lillian Hart (later Brenz) graduated from the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1909. As is all too common with women's experience, record of such experiences and institutions of which they have been part has all but vanished with the passage of time and generations with direct experience. Today, few people in this area seem to know of the Music Conservatory; it must have been quite prestigious and uncommon in a rural setting at the turn of the last century. Very little is written about it. So far, this is what I have found in published accounts:

WAGNER CONSERVATORY.---The Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages was orgainzed in 1893 by Prof. E. M. Goldberg, who had formerly been connected with the music department of Stephens' College at Columbia, Missouri. He has been conducting work in music and languages ever since in Kirksville. At times Prof. Goldberg has had assistants, but he has generally been the sole instructor. From: History of Adair County, by E.M. Violette, published by The Denslow History Company, 1911, page 396.
Source of photo: History of Adair County, by E.M. Violette, published by The Denslow History Company, 1911, page 715.

PROFESSOR EDWARD M. GOLDBERG, musical director of the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages, was born in Luegde, Prussia, in 1850. When twelve years old, he entered the Liceum at Hanover, also attending the School of Music. In 1865 he entered the college at Muenster, Westfalia, completing the course in 1869. He next entered the University of Wuerzburg, taking work in the department of philology, and a year later continued his studies at the University of Leipzig, also attending the Royal Conservatory of Music. In 1872 he came to America, locating in Chicago, where he established a private school for the study of modern and classical languages and music. In 1874 he located in Washington, also teaching the same year in Cincinnati, where he was tutor of the daughter of Mrs. Allen. After four years he became a professor of modern languages at the college at Westfield, Illinois, where he established a musical department. In 1883 he served in the same capacity at Grand River College at Austinburg, Ohio, where he married Miss Nettie Pierce, a prominent teacher. In 1885 he was engaged as head of the musical department of Stephens Female College at Columbia, Missouri. Here his wife was at the same time teacher of Latin, German and French. They lived here for eight years. After the death of the president of the college, Professor Goldberg came to Kirksville, Missouri, where he established the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages. During its existence this school has been attended by no less than two thousand students, from various states, some coming even from New Mexico. The musical graduates of this institution are teaching in ladies' seminaries and private schools, as well as privately, and are considered very able teachers. From: History of Adair County, by E.M. Violette, published by The Denslow History Company, 1911, pages 711 and 714.Source of photo: Adair County Revisited: Pictorial History of the 20th Century in Adair County, Missouri, by Amanda Jones (Editor), published by Heritage House Publishing, 1999, page 15.

Six young ladies graduated in 1900 from the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages where they studied under F.M. Goldburg, back, center. The school was a Kirksville branch of Stephens College in Columbia, MO. (Contributed by Frank Smith, grandson of Essie Holmes Smith, front, left.)


COMMENCEMENT EXERCISE, TURN OF THE CENTURY --- The Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages "classical graduates" are pictured with their musical director, Prof. E.M. Goldburg. The photograph which as been reproduced for Mrs. Frank J. (Lucille) Smith of Rt. 5, Kirksville is believed to have been taken about the turn of the century.

The conservatory at 113 W. Washington St., was opened Aug. 4, 1893 and this was reported to be the seventh annual commencement for a four-year course including a two-year organ course.

Mr. Smith's grandmother, Essie Holmes, who became Mrs. Orie J. Smith on March 21, 1912, is shown on the left in the front row.

Others are believed to be Lola May Carter, Lenna Lee Langford and Zina May Morris, all of Kirksville; Ethel Lee Cram of Green City; A. Maud Sesser of Leon, Kan., and Professor Goldburg.

Mrs. Smith has a "glowing" newspaper account of the commencement including the decorations, talent and comments of Elder H.A. Northcutt, but she is seeking additional information for a family history. (Photo and text appeared in the Kirksville, MO Express and News, January 12, 1986, no page given.)


Glinda's notes:

(1) Please note 2 variations of the musical director's name: E.M. Violette (1911) uses Professor E.M. Goldberg; the Daily Express accounts list both E.M. Goldburg and F.M. Goldburg.

(2) I am curious to see articles from the Kirksville Daily Express during the time period of the Music Conservatory. In fact, I would be quite eager to get my hands on them!


(Edited: 2/28/08)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Interweaving Paths and Stories

Glinda writes:

Our histories are full of story. Often layers and layers of interwoven stories appear over time and across time. You start out one place and then you wind up someplace else. Rich text emerges. Such is the case in this photo, which popped up from Della Brenz's album.

Della Brenz was Mother's Aunt (and Sister to Mother's Father Fred Brenz). While no date is given, I suspect this picture was taken about 1909 because of its placement in her album which carries dates of 1906-1910. Since Aunt Della was born in 1886 (d. 1968), she would be in her early 20s in this picture. Aunt Della graduated from the State Normal School in Kirksville, Missouri. The primary function of such schools was preparing teachers, which were in short supply at that time.

After graduation, Aunt Della taught school for a few years. She is pictured here in the front row and the middle of her 30 students. Mother marked an "X" so we would know exactly which one she is. Judging by their size, I would suspect the children are about 4th grade.

We are not exactly sure of the location of this photo. Mother says Aunt Della taught at Willard School in Kirksville, Brashear, and possibly Trenton, Missouri. Curiously, we have family links to all 3 of these schools. Diane Selby Bloskovich (Mother's Daughter-in-Law, who married Son Brian) went to Brashear Public Schools. And Grandson Bransen Bloskovich went to Trenton Public Schools.

So who went to Willard School? Several family members did, especially in the early 20th Century when family members lived along Centennial, Burton and Mary Streets. Mother went to Kindergarten there. Her Sisters Thelma Louise Brenz (later Griffin) and Ruth Irene Brenz (later Wells Glassburner) went there. Mother says Dad went to all 6 grades there. His Sister Anna went there; we believe his Sister Mary and Brother Joe went there, although we cannot as yet confirm. At the end of the 20th Century, Grandson Brennen Bloskovich went to the 1st half of 1st Grade at Willard until the new lower elementary school was complete. (Photos below: 1st: Willard School built in 1899 and opened January 1900. 2nd: Willard School later.)

A little more information on Willard School: In the northwest part of Kirksville, Willard School was named in honor of Frances E. Willard, an educator and reformer of that day who gained renown for her work in the temperance movement (A Book of Adair County History, 1976, page 237). Two buildings have carried her name. I am not sure if they have both been on this site. Mother remembers the older school, which was built in 1899. It opened for classes in January 1900, although it was not yet complete (Violette, A History of Adair County, 1911, page 180). I am not sure when the 2nd Willard School was built.

In the mid-1980s, Mother's Sister Thelma Louise wrote: "On our trips to Grandmother's, we had to pass the pickle factory--and sometimes we were given a pickle by one of the employees. The Willard School was on down the street. Aunt Della used to teach there. She was engaged to the principal, but he was in World War I, and was killed."

Aunt Louise shared later memories: "I walked to Junior High from West Mary Street for 4 years. I walked with the Heaberlin girls, Anna Bloskovich and Frances Bubany and Mary Frkovich. I would see a cute little boy with short pants and barefooted, and little did I realize that he would some day be my brother-in-law. He has been a real brother to me and his name is Jack Bloskovich." The picture below was probably taken earlier than Aunt Louise's junior high days, judging from Aunt Ann's size. However, the cute little boy on the bottom left in short pants is surely Dad.

Photo below: Dora Bloskovich and her children about 1922: Front: Jack and Joe; Back: Anna, Dora (Mother), and Mary.

Glinda's notes and questions:

(1) Can you identify the school in Aunt Della's picture? When did Aunt Della receive her teacher's diploma from the State Normal School?

(2) When was the 2nd Willard School built?

(3) I also note considerable life and vitality in the pictures of her children. What was it like to teach or to be a student at the turn of the last century when formal schooling in such large facilities was still relatively new?

(4) I had no idea (or perhaps had forgotten) that Aunt Louise knew Aunt Ann (which is what we called her) and Dad. I also did not know that Aunt Ann and Aunt Louise were so close in age. Aunt Louise was born in 1914; Mother and I think Aunt Ann was born very close to the same time. We are looking for the year.

(5) When I look at the interweavings here, I am in awe that family members a century ago could somehow have walked the same paths we would walk. Did they know? What paths do we walk now that someone 100 years from now will then walk, and we will only be a distant dusty fragile memory?

(Edited: 3/5/08)

A Country Dawn

February 23: The early morning greets us with a soft blanket of quietly disappearing clouds and pink merging into golden light heralding the sun. Richard goes on a photo shoot before I begin to stir. Later I create a banner from his photos for the blog while listening to "Dawn" from the soundtrack of Pride and Prejudice (2005). (Thank you, Nile!).

As I hear the soft melody of the piano from the CD, my thoughts again drift to Grandmother. At her family home in the countryside east of Greentop just 100 years ago, I can almost see her playing the piano as the day began. The melody from her keys greeted the symphony of the new day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quote (My Version)

I used to accept what I read as is. I had been taught not to question, especially those things stated by acknowledged "greats". Occasionally, I find a quote I just know I have to change. The original quote by Socrates is: "An unexamined life is not worth living" (from: Quote DB, 2/24/08). Dear Friends, my version is:

An unexamined life is not yet fully lived.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wagner Conservatory of Music History Project

February 20: Mother, Melanie and I met with Truman State University Music Professor Jay Bulen and 2 of his Master's students, Ashley and Tim. Professor Bulen and his students are embarking on a history project on the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages in Kirksville, Missouri. Mother's Mother (Lottie Lillian Hart, later Brenz) graduated from the Conservatory in 1909. We shared all we could find. More of this will be included in a later entry.

We are excited. If you have any information about the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages, Kirksville, Missouri (established 1893) contact Jay Bulen at 660-785-4441 or

OK: Family members and others out there: What would you share? Even snippets can be very important clues.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grandma Says

Don't get too full of yourself.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Her Story, His Story, Our Story

Glinda writes:

We 3 partners are digging into Adair County history. We want to know the story of the place we call home and a county that has known 6 generations of our families on either side. Plus, we want to know the stories of family members who have gone before and the context of their lives. Nevermind, Mother, Melanie and I are drawn to the story of the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages from which my Mother's Mother graduated in 1909. "Dig in."

We have a number of references to start our journey. A primary one is the History of Adair County by E.M. Violette (1911), a Professor of History at what was then the State Normal School in Kirksville. This very old and fragile text was a treasure of the Brenz family and originally held by Mother's Uncle whose name is carefully stamped in relief on the title page, Dr. H. S. Wiles [(b. 1877, d. 1940), married to her Father's Sister Clara Brenz Wiles(1881-1968)]. The history as reported is vast and obviously the product of extensive research. This text from the family archives is a treasure to us now.

Something essential is missing. A look at this text clearly indicates that this is HIS-Story. There are hardly any "She's" in it. HER-Story is almost completely left out. With all due respect to Professor Violette, I know he was a product of his times. Women and the substance of their lives, even until relatively recently, have not been considered important and therefore have not been recorded. Some very essential parts of our collective history (add to that those of other races, ethnicities, socioeconomic groups) have been omitted. Sadly, the text, while supposedly definitive, becomes distortion.

The recording of history in western Euro-centric traditions is an interesting presentation. Typically, men's lives have been in the public sphere and women's in the private sphere with some exceptions, of course. As reported by men, history became about men and not all men. The spirit of reporting history from this view presents text which is typically quantitative, objective, detached. Texts typically feature extensive discussion and data on business and commerce, structural organization of communities in ways served mostly by men, wars, and celebration of themes of domination (or winning).

Looking at Violette's 1188 paged text, pages 461-474 are devoted to the "Great Men of the County" and pages 475-1168 to Biographical [sketches]. In this latter section, the subject is also men. Many pictures and names of family members are given, which of course included women and children. This is the greatest representation of women given in the text. Whether on purpose or without thinking, women are screened carefully from view. Women just happened to be there, perhaps by accident, never on purpose. Who knows?

Women's history is very different. Because of women's attachment to the private sphere (i.e., home and family), women's history often presents the everyday lived experience, the fabric of our lives, the rhythm and flow of ordinary lives. There is spirit, feeling, inter-weaving of, and a sense of the breath of life of families and communities.

Women typically place higher priority and have more involvements in the lives of children and elderly, social issues, education, churches, libraries and literary societies, the arts, among others. They also have been known to be politically active on issues related to these spheres. However, since these have not been within the interests of patriarchal historians, their involvements have fallen outside the margins of texts.

Whether by accident or on purpose, the omission of women's stories has been the reality of the world and culture of which we are a part. When one's voice is silenced, one's story is untold or worse yet misrepresented, one's gifts to the world are not affirmed. I believe this has created untold damage to females through time and to younger generations emerging. Among other things, this silencing has invalidated women's ways of being and forced women to take on characteristics of that dominant society in order to "succeed".

"History" is incomplete without her stories. Fortunately, in recent times, increasing focus has been given to such initiatives which has in itself not been an easy task. Women's lives are complex and as a result, our stories are almost impossible to categorize into boxes contrived by historians who come from a patriarchal tradition. To tell her story, one must address topics in her voice.

Embarking on a long journey of such discovery, I find myself wondering about women's history in Adair County, and most specifically, the stories of women in our family. For the former, I did an internet search (which revealed 1 entry). I do have other places to which I will address this question.

But what of the women in our family? The information is there, but it is a vast puzzle. The storage of such information is found in a myriad of known and unknown locations. Yet, these locations are a treasure trove which will likely lead to other discoveries along the way. A beginning list would include:
  • oral history as shared with me throughout my life
  • oral history from Elders available to me now
  • oral history as shared with other family members and friends
  • pictures, pictures, and more pictures (most with names, some not)
  • memorabilia, especially those things they chose to pass down (recipes, quilts, handicrafts, plants)
  • newspaper articles (especially they kept)
  • correspondence (letters, postcards)
  • their writings (journals, diaries, stories, poems)

Throughout my life, I have loved the history and its potential for story. Yet, for the most part, history classes in high school and college in the 1950s and 1960s were dreadfully boring. Because of the detached and so-called objective views, history became dead, without life and breath. While unknown to me at the time, the story of my gender was a major blank mark across every story, every page.

My primary goal here is to recover as much as possible "her story". However, that said, I choose to reclaim the fullest story of all my family members in their times: Her Story, His Story, Our Story. I believe that their story is our story, after all.

I am excited. This is a long journey. It is like putting together a vast puzzle, some pieces of which will always be incomplete, but trusting that those I need to know will be presented before me on that beautiful path ahead.

Dear Reader, whose stories do you wish to reclaim?


Note: Three women's historians (and former fellow colleagues at the University of North Dakota) have been very influential in my life regarding my quest for women's history. Without their example, I probably would have known something was missing but not known what to do about it. Thank you, Kathleen Brokke, Anne Kelsch, and Barbara Handy-Marchello. That said, the above thoughts are my own.

Photo below: Violette's volume has been covered with what appears to be either oil cloth or kitchen wall paper from an earlier place and time. Looking closely, one can see small hand stitches which hold the handmade cover carefully over the old for protection. I wonder: Whose hands have held this volume and whose hands carefully stitched this cover in place?

Can I Help?

At one time in this region, molasses was widely used and preferred as the sweetener of choice. This beautiful thick syrup rich in nutrients was made locally from Sorghum Cane, an annual crop. The process was very extensive, demanded highly skilled knowledge and equipment, and required a community or large family in its production. Molasses making was just one more factor which permitted country folks to be independent and self sufficient.

Unfortunately, molasses making as a craft has almost fallen by the wayside. The use of white sugar has become more widespread due in part because of current societal preference, our extremely busy times, greater availability of cash, and dependence on industrialized agriculture.

In the Crawford family, we made a decision in 2003 to bring back this craft in the vintage way of the boys' parents John and Ethel Crawford who have since passed on. This was and is a big deal and a big commitment. Made for family use, the stuff is yummy and nothing like that "old store bought stuff" as the boys' Mother Ethel would say. In August and through September, we will be preoccupied determining that precise moment when the Sorghum Cane is ready and making our annual batches.

We live in a time when many traditional crafts with long histories in our families and our society are being lost. We also live in a time when families have lost considerable self sufficiency. We also live in a time when many people are reclaiming skills. People are saying this is important and considering "How can I help?" That is exciting.

At this season, we have molasses to use, although the number of big empty jars is increasing. Here, Melanie is making Molasses Cookies with what could be described as a little help from Max, the Cat.

What traditions in your family do you wish to reclaim? Or what traditions have you reclaimed?

Nature Notes (and Language Notes)

Richard noted today that Dark-eyed Juncos are greater in number. Seemingly, early migration is underway. They have been wintering farther south from us and will nest into Canada.

Backyard trees are full of Goldfinches, Blue Jays, Purple Finches and Cardinals, plus a few others: Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tree Sparrows, and an occasional Sharp-shinned Hawk also looking for lunch. We have not seen a decrease in Goldfinches yet. Few other migrants seem to be around, although Richard did see 2 Red-winged Blackbirds this morning. One was an young adult male just growing in adult colors.They looked out of place in the cold and snow.

Northern Harriers continue to grace us with their butterfly flight as they search the fields for something to munch on. A Krider's Red-tailed Hawk (which was very light in color) has been replaced by a melanistic Red-tailed Hawk (which is dark).

Considering the flurry of birds in our backyard and occasional events which spook them, we sometimes have a bird which hits the back window. Whenever we hear that thump at the window (very often associated with the Sharp-shinned Hawk), we head immediately out. This morning, Richard saved a Tree Sparrow, giving the little feathered-one a gentle heart massage and body massage, at which point s/he took off. Other times, we put the bird into a large brown grocery bag which we close to take away the light. In those cases, the bird, which is often just stunned, will wake up and be ready to head back outside. At that point, we release them back to their home in the wild.

Deer are seemingly very hungry right now. They also are in small herds, grouping up wherever they find food. As the spring goes on, the pregnant females will be giving birth to Fawns and seeking greater isolation.


Afterward: We have been spending some time musing over the term "dropping Fawns" or "dropping Calves", which has been Richard and my first choice in words. Until now. Melanie stopped us in our tracks. She said it somehow sounded like the Deer or Cow was dropping a piece of paper.

So where does this language come from? Richard thinks it may be a patriarchal term. It is a term without pain, feeling, or mess. Let's disconnect (or dismiss) from those things. Melanie could not imagine the Deer or the Cow turning around and saying: "Oops, I dropped a kid." But rather, it's giving life. It's a miracle. It's beautiful. That is not the same things as dropping a quarter on the street.

Isn't language fun?

Did You See It?

February 20:

Across the Americas, a spectacular total lunar eclipse was visible. Wednesday (February 20) was the full Moon day. At certain times when the Sun, Earth and Moon are in special positions, the shadow of the Earth from the Sun falls over the Moon, thus resulting in an eclipse. Cast in shadow, the lovely Moon does not disappear, but rather takes on a reddish cast, at least from our view.

Richard took this picture at the farm. Mother, Melanie and I had just met with the team from Truman State University who are researching the Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages. As we closed our meeting and stepped outside, the sky was clear and Mrs. Moon putting on quite a show.

Where were you? I wonder what special stories people have of such things.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Exciting News

My Grandmother Lottie Lillian Hart Brenz graduated from the Richard Wagner Conservatory of Music and Languages under Professor Edward M. Goldberg in Kirksville, Missouri, in 1909. This was a very important piece of her life and the life of her family. Almost 100 years after her graduation, warm memories of that experience are still felt by my family.

My family and I have only found snippets of information about this school, its professor or graduates. A Music professor from Truman State University and some of his students are working on a special history project on the Conservatory. Tonight, he and his students are meeting with Mother, Melanie and me. This is exciting!

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No Complaints

Glinda writes:

February 19: When I awoke this morning (Tuesday), the temperature was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Just a bit past noon, it is now 24. Winter's hold is still felt strongly. Some musings are in order.

Looking back to Saturday evening, we had rain and some freezing rain in the night. Winter had softened in that dynamic play of edges between Winter and promise of Spring. As we woke on Sunday morning, the rain turned to snow. At first, we had that nice wet Snowman (or Woman) snow which comes straight down in globs. But the wind came up from the northwest and the temperatures turned cold. In the afternoon, the winds increased and we had "horizontal snow". Over time, the snow from above began to decrease. The clouds looked "thin" with a slight blue tinge of sky showing through. Teasing cold winds played with snow in the air but close to the ground.

Those who have lived here tell us Winters of the last 5 years or so have been very mild. In fact, some years hardly any snow has covered the place and ice on ponds just hasn't amounted to the usual fare. These are not the Winters of our childhoods when northeast Missouri was known by some grumbling Human inhabitants as the coldest place in state.

Recently from the North, the 3 Crawfords have certainly been changed by severe North Dakota Winters we've experienced these past 32 years. We learned some valuable lessons there. The power of Nature is evident, especially in Winter. You can't fight it. It is useless to complain. You may need to alter some supposedly all important Human plans. To make peace with the place and ultimately oneself, one must go with Nature's flow and respect the Awesome Power that is. Or move.

We have loved this year's Winter in our new home in Missouri with the variability of snow, ice, cold temperatures, occasional thawing relief. At first, the Winter season was scary, because for one, we didn't exactly know what to expect. For another, we live in the country, so it was easy to feel like we were out in it. At that time, my thoughts changed as I began to reflect with gratitude on simple essentials like heat and warmth. We are blessed in these times. This is not the reality for all. As time and Winter went on, I began to see we are living in a wonderland with the raw power of Nature all around.

Some folks in these parts have complained about the severity of this Winter season, but we have no complaints. Nature is an Amazing Power. To complain would be like a mere Babe in the Womb complaining to Mother about the temperature of the room. She knows how it must be. Or, to shift metaphors, it would be like a mere molecule of paint on canvas grumbling about the Masterpiece which the Master paints.

When Nature is more "in your face", we 3 C's are relaxing into that space of accepting we are not in charge. We are filled with awe as we witness such drama. We see ourselves as part of Nature rather than separate from Her. We try to practice humility and grace in these things. Looking back, we may be getting a little better at it. We reflect on how small and dependent we Humans are in the scheme of things.

I also am grateful that this season seems more normal and that in this brief moment, perhaps global warming has slowed. Perhaps somewhere, the Polar Ice has slowed its melt. Polar Bears need that. Those generations yet to come would be grateful the season is more the norm and we Humans (their ancestors) did not complain. Instead, we celebrated the life giving capacity and wondrous complexity of our Earthly home.

I see beauty in all of these things. On my trip to the mailbox, I noted tracks of Rabbits, Deer, Fox. The songbirds are feeding exuberantly and in large numbers on this day. A Cardinal left me a feather in a Human footprint in the snow. Yes, beauty lies all around. We just need to open, stop and look.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Recipe: Berry Cobbler

Glinda writes:


I have come to believe that family stories reside in recipes. Head into those spaces of foods we used to know or have always known. Mix them up. Smell those aromas. One goes immediately back in time. The stories spill over almost like ingredients we hardly knew we had tucked inside.

Yesterday, I headed to my treasured folder marked "Aunt Lu's Recipes". A few years back, I was asking Mother for Aunt Lu's recipe for Spiced Peaches. Mother did some calling, especially to Eileen Stevens, Aunt Lu's Granddaughter. We didn't find the recipe, but were able to come close. As time went by, I became the recipient of Aunt Lu's recipes, via Mother's cousin Eileen and Mother. I already had a few. But I am deeply grateful for this collection.

In this collection of well worn hand-written recipes, I have 2 little books. Mother tells me when Aunt Lu used to take care of my brother and me, she would come with a little book of handwritten recipes tucked into her purse. She would have some kind of sweet for us as we arrived home from school. I can still smell those Raisin Bars baking. Plus, she would fix our supper. That meant when our parents arrived home from a long day at work, dinner was on the table. She never ate with us, at her insistence. Dad would take her home.

The above recipe popped out of my folder. I loved that Berry Cobbler. Richard, his family and I have had long and whimsical discussions on what makes a Cobbler a Cobbler. That is the subject of another Blog. This recipe is the Cobbler I knew and loved as a child. I hadn't had it for years. You mix up the dough, put it into a pan, then place the fruit on top. Somehow, like some kind of cooking magic (and there is a lot of cooking magic), the dough rises through the berries to the top.

I made the Berry Cobbler last night with Blackberries Richard had picked last summer at Hollis', which is the family farm of his childhood. Just after I took it from the oven, I called Mother. She was excited because she had not had it or thought about it for a long time. She told me the recipe was actually her Mother's, Lottie Lillian Hart Brenz. She said my Grandmother would usually make it with Blackberries or Peaches. We promised we would bring some in for her today. She laughed and said, "It better not be a crumb."

So here is the recipe. I have a few alterations which modify this to our preference.

~~~Berry or Fruit Cobbler Recipe~~~

(1) Bring 1 quart of berries or peaches to simmer. This should be just so the fruit "steams". It should not be a vigorous boil, which will tear up the fruit.

(2) Sift dry ingredients together: 1 cup white sugar (I used 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup Rapadura), 2 cups white flour, 2 teaspoons Baking Powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt (we used less). (I no longer have my sifter, so I run the dry stuff through my big strainer. This keeps all the dry stuff, including the Baking Powder even throughout.)

(3) Melt 4 tablespoons shortening (I used butter or buttery spread; if I am making it for Mother, I will use the buttery spread). Stir in 1 cup milk (I used Hazelnut Milk, which is what I had and is a non-dairy option).

(4) Stir the above together. Spread in greased baking dish. I used a 9x13" pyrex (which seems slightly less in volume than our 9x13" stainless steel pan).

(5) Spoon fruit on top.

(6) Bake at 325 for about 25-30 minutes. To be truthful, I did not set a timer and I do not know the exact amount of time. I used my nose to tell me it was almost done. Then I checked with my finger on the top of the cake part. It should spring back from touch. I also used a toothpick in the cake part. It came out clean. If doughy, it needs to cook a little longer.

(7) Serve with cream, half and half, or ice cream. Be prepared for an old fashioned treat.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Snow Globe

Glinda writes:

At bedtime last night, the outside temperature was 33 degrees. Richard noted ice forming on the deck. We had rain throughout the night. At times, it just poured. Our source for weather information, WeatherUnderground, posted a Flood Watch for the area.

As I got up this morning, I think I saw that precise moment when the rain turned to snow. At first, I saw "one gray something" which I could not identify. My slow morning brain must have still been thinking rain. I took a second look. Then, big isolated globs fell from the sky. When they hit the shingles of the roof, they scattered. Those first snowflakes were more like snowballs of wet snowflakes stuck together with a vaporous watery glue. They were huge. I could see the well defined snow falling down against the background of the dark South Woods which were wet from rain.

Within 20 minutes, the snow was finer in texture. Instead of the dark tans, grays, blacks for backgrounds of a few moments before, the world had become white. We could see the edges of our "40" but not much beyond. Richard had gone to feed and water the Chickens, and open their door to the outside world. Our little house, the 3 Humans plus the Dog and Cats, and the Chickens seemed to be inside a bubble of our house looking out to one of those Snow Globes of my childhood.

Melanie said: "Let's go for a walk." The 3 Humans and the Dog headed outside where we happily became part of the Snow Globe rather than separate from it.

Photo above: The Master paints a gentle brush stroke of snow on every blade of grass, leaf, bough, branch, twig, except those on yonder side of wind.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Glinda writes:

I adore Sunflowers. They are one of my great loves in the garden, especially the veggie garden.

I love to watch them grow. As the seedlings thrust up from seeds in the soil, they grow every day. You can almost see it. Last summer, I would head to the garden just about every day, stand beside them, and see how much I had shrunk from the day before. While some are tall, others are relatively short. Their tall and variable heights make for great contour in the garden. Their variable and usually vibrant colors make for great contrast with the luscious greens of the vegetable plants.

I love watching their smiling faces bloom. I am enchanted by the mandala like pattern of the fattening seeds. My eyes could gaze at their lovely curving patterns on those broad seedheads for a very long time.

This is one of my favorite cut flowers. I love to create flower arrangements high on drama and radiant with life. Sunflowers are the leading lady of such a beautiful cast. This is a great flower for an arrangement to be seen at a distance.

Late last summer, I would stand underneath their tall heads, poke at seeds and watch the Chickens scramble at our feet. It was a riot. Plus, in the late summer and fall, Goldfinches arrived like sunbeams to devour the seeds. This year, we plan to save a bunch of seedheads back for the Chickens and for feeding the birds over the winter season.

I think I out-did myself with the selection of seeds for this year's garden. I am really excited. These are seed packs in my stash:
  • Antique Mix, yellows, golds and reds, 3-6 feet, turn of the century heirloom varieties (Shumway's)
  • Arikara, 12 feet, yellow, multi-headed, collected by Melvin Gilmore from the Arikara on Ft. Berthold Reservation; I wonder if Dorreen knows about this (Seed Savers)
  • Autumn Beauty Mix, cream to mahogany, 6-8 feet, up to 2 dozen flowers per plant, heads up to 8 inches across (Shumway's)
  • Fantasia Mixture (Pinetree)
  • Giant Sunflower, 8-12 feet, heads up to 20 inches across (Shumway's)Irish Eyes, 24-30 inches, dwarf, golden pointed petals with green centers (Seed Savers)
  • Italian White, 6 feet, 4" flowers, dark chocolate centers with pure white outer petals (Seed Savers)
  • Large Grey-Stripe (Shumway's)
  • Mammoth Gray Stripe, 9-12 feet, heads 14 inches across, great for toasting (Gurney's)
  • Mammoth Russian (Shumway's)
  • Pastiche, 5 feet, soft shades of yellow, red, buff (Gurney's)
  • Ring of Fire, 4-6 feet, dark centered blooms, 4-5 inches across, petals fade from dark red to golden yellow tips, or cream to mahogany depending on seed catalog (Seed Savers and Shumway's)
  • Royal Flush Mix, 6 feet, 4-6 inch flowers dramatic color combinations (Gurney's)
    Skyscraper, up to 12 feet, multi-headed, bright yellow, flower heads 14 inches across (Gurney's)
  • Summer Cutting Mix, 5-7 feet (Burpee's)
  • Sunspot, 2 feet, 10 inch blooms (Gurney's)
  • Tarahumara, 7-10 feet tall, rare (Seeds of Change)
  • Tithonia, Mexican Sunflower (from dear friend Sarah Saltmarsh)
  • Valentine, 5 feet, very long lasting cut flower, dark brown center, soft primrose yellow petals (Seed Savers)
  • Velvet Queen, 6 feet, crimson petals (Gurney's)

Will I be saving seeds for re-planting in 2009? I don't think so. On the back of their seed packs, Seed Savers tells me that my gregarious Sunflowers will cross-pollinate and should be separated by 1/2 mile to ensure seed purity. Of my 17 varieties of Sunflowers, I would need to plant one every half mile. That means I would make it 8 and 1/2 miles of the 10 to Mother's house. She would like that.

I have to smile as I think about my attachment to Sunflowers and my plans for the garden this year. When I was digging through some old family photos last fall, I found a picture of Aunt Mary Bloskovich Bryson standing beside a very tall Sunflower in the first growing season of their new house in Prairie Village, Kansas. The year was 1956. Last summer, I was here in the first growing season of our new house standing by my enormous Sunflowers too. (That's the thumbnail picture of me by my bio in the lefthand column of this Blog.) Some things don't change and, for Sunflowers, that is a very good thing.

Sunflowers make me smile. Just like some people, I see them and I smile. I can't help myself. Perhaps more of us should aspire to be Sunflowers and to plant Sunflowers. Now that's a plan.

Photo above: Our seed stash

Photo middle: I drop Sunflower seeds to the now exuberant Chickens.

Photo bottom: In 1956, Aunt Mary stands by her Sunflower in the first growing season after they moved into their new house in Prairie Village, Kansas.

Seeds Have Arrived!

Glinda writes:

All seeds for the garden have arrived! We may order a few more between now and planting, but mostly the seeds are right here at our finger tips.

We have sorted them into 4 small boxes: Richard's (2 boxes), Melanie's (1), and mine (1). We now are sorting them again into the few piles we will need to start indoors.

I have detailed in an earlier entry the veggies we ordered, but I did not detail the flowers. Melanie ordered flowers and so did I. The flowers will be in the "Grandmother's Garden" in the front and throughout the big veggie garden in back. That means the veggie patch should be a riot of color. I have purposefully ordered older varieties known to generations before. We will surely be enjoying them in the yard and garden. Plus, I love to make bouquets and give them away.

We are excited. Here is what is in our seed stash:

  • Aquilegia, or, Colombine (Shumway's)
  • Bachelor's Button Mixture (Seed Savers)
  • Bachelor's Button, Polka Dot Mixed (Shumway's)
  • Calendula, Neon (Shumway's)
  • Canterbury Bells (Shumway's)
  • Celosia, Scarlet Fire (Seeds of Change)
  • Cosmos (from dear friend Ann Hiner)
  • Cosmos, Sensation Mix (Shumway's)
  • Everlasting Flower Mix (Shumway's)
  • Gloriosa Daisy, Single Mix (Shumway's)
  • Grandmother's Old-Fashioned Flower Garden (Shumway's)
  • Morning Glory, Grandpa Ott's (Seed Savers)
  • Pansy, Can Can Mix (Shumway's)
  • Salvia, Blaze of Fire (Shumway's)
  • Salvia Mixture (Seed Savers)
  • Snapdragons, Maximum Mixed (Shumway's)
  • Sweet Pea, Grandiflora Mixture (Seed Savers)
  • Wildflowers, Bird & Butterfly Mix (Shumway's)
  • Wildflowers, Native Perennial Mix (Shumway's)
  • Zinnia, Benary's Giant (Seed Savers)
  • Zinnia, California Giants Mixed (Shumway's)
  • Zinnia, Magellan (Shumway's)
  • Zinnia, Oklahoma Mix (Shumway's)
  • Zinnia, Persian Carpet (Pinetree Garden Seeds)
  • Zinnia, Thumbelina (Shumway's)

My eyes and hands go over and over the seed packs. Occasionally, my eyes drift outside to the gray skies overhead which are likely to bring freezing rain and snow after midnight tonight. Such things don't seem too bad as the gardening season will soon arrive.

(Richard just brought me a fresh baked cinnamon roll. Yummy! I am headed away from this Blog to the kitchen!)

What, Dear Friend, will you be planting in your lovely garden this year?

Hedge Apples

Hedge Apples form the eastern border of our "40". In our quest to find out more about Hedge Apples or "Osage-orange", I headed to the web, which is reminiscent of one of my best friends as a child, the World Book Encyclopedia. The web could be considered to be an encyclopedia at one's finger tips. So here we go!

Wikipedia (02/16/08) tells me that the Osage-orange is common to this region and parts to the south. This sturdy plant was commonly used as a tree row windbreak in prairie states. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Great Plains Shelterbelt" WPA project, launched in 1934, used the Osage-orange as one of its major trees By 1942, 30,233 shelterbelts were planted containing 220 million trees and stretching 18,600 miles. Trees especially in the early stages have sharp thorns and were planted as cattle-deterring hedges before barbed wire. Later, they became an important source of fence posts.

I remember hearing as a kid that that when Osage-orange was used as fenceposts, the tree would resprout if the wood was "green". Thus, "hedges" would result. Richard wonders if the hedgerow on our east side may predate Roosevelt's program. To him, the trees look older. Plus, most of the WPA projects went into Plains states which were harder hit by the Dust Bowl than northeast Missouri.

Looking closely at this tangle of trees, one can see barbed wire between the trees. In some cases, the tree has grown around the barbed wire, as is shown in the above photo.

Whose hands planted these trees? What story would they tell of this land? What dreams did they bring to this place? What stories could these old trees tell?

Story of the Land

February 12: We begin to address the question: What is the story of this land? We read about the Human history of Wilson Township and Millard from A Book of Adair County History (1976). Digging for these things is going to be quite an adventure!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who Are You?

Glinda writes:

I am hanging out more and more with Mother these days. These are treasured times. We are beginning to dive into the treasure trove of family photos. We are finding just a few now. Maybe that is a good thing because it permits us to focus and not get too distracted. We could get very distracted.

As the time passes and the journey of discovery unfolds, I think we will find photos everywhere, tucked in corners all around, in Mom's house and in other places near and far. I see faces on these fragile old photos and I wonder:
  • Who are you?
  • In what time period did you live?
  • What were your lives like?
  • What was the rhythm and flow of your days?
  • What were your challenges and triumphs?
  • Why did you bring your dreams to this place?
  • What were those things in life that had the greatest meaning to you?
  • What was going on in that outer world that somehow shaped your life?
  • Did time pass as fast then as it seems to now?
  • Did you think about those generations that would follow, of which I am only a tiny part?
  • Did you think about that great Tree of Life that would fan out into so many families as the sands of time would pass?
  • Who are all those precious family members that somehow trace their lineage to you?
  • What are those tender ways that bind your life to mine, of which I am so little aware?
  • What was the legacy you left to those of us who follow?
  • What are lessons you would have for us now?
  • How could I not have thought so much of you before?

You walked in this county. You brought your hopes and your dreams here. You walked in some of the same places our feet now walk. You breathed the same air. You tilled the same soil. You drank the same water. You planted seeds here too. Perhaps we are not so different after all.

I look at these questions and I laugh. These are questions I too should address.


Photo above: Mother asked her Aunt Lula (Hattie Luella) Myers Hart to write the names on this photo. Aunt Lu, which is the name we called her, was in her 80s and inscribed on the back of the photo the names of those she had known in her always vigorous hand. This picture is of Elizabeth Cragg Hart and her children (seated, left to right: Emma Hart Wellborn, Elizabeth Cragg Hart, Charlotte Hart Mustoe; standing, left to right: Robert Nelson Hart, Richard W. Hart, William Hart). Elizabeth Cragg Hart was my Great Great Grandmother and Robert Nelson Hart was my Great Grandfather. I see that William Hart (Elizabeth's husband) died in 1890. Judging from the dress, I am assuming this picture was taken some time in the 1890s after he passed. Elizabeth passed in 1913.

A Breath of Fresh Air

While Richard was running errands across the countryside yesterday, he stopped at a little country store run by an Amish lady. He bought a few things (including horehound, one of our favorites) and paid by check. While he was recording the check in his ledger, he noticed the storekeeper look at the check and then take a second look. When he finished recording the check, he looked back up at her. She was holding the receipt and $6 in change.

She said back in September, he had purchased a stainless steel pot which was 10% off. At the time, she overlooked giving him the sale price. She later caught the mistake and kept the receipt at the till waiting for Richard to come back so she could give him proper change.

Richard was amazed. In these days when people seem greedy in their grabs for money and subsequently distrust seems to shift to escalating levels, such things are like a breath of fresh air. We all smiled. That simple act is part of a world to which we aspire.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Everyone has a story. Honoring story honors the sacred gifts that person brings to the world, to this walk. It begins with two simple things: a listening ear and a caring heart. We have forgotten how to do this. Our ears have become clogged and our hearts shielded and blocked.

Consequently, many of us have forgotten our own stories. And we certainly don't pay attention to the stories of the other. Instead of the real thing, we chew on some artificial paste. As a pitiful substitute, the media blasts stories of others into center stage of our lives. You can name the names. Most are cast in artificial light. Many fall or are fallen before our eyes. Media megaphones blare the shoulds: we should do this or that, have this or that. Subscribing to the latest media drivel, we will of course become at last happy and successful. Our individual stories fall in shadows far from glaring light. Peace and contentment, connection with the other slip illusively through our fingers. Down deep, we know there is more.

I think especially of our Elders. The language of our fast paced culture shifts like desert sands before an intense and fickle wind. Many new words are based on short-lived technology and pop culture. Increasingly, Elders get left behind. Each day, they travel into a new land where familiar terrain is more and more beyond their reach.

I remember hearing our former neighbor and his Grandson visiting as their beautiful deep, almost mirror image, voices carried over the fence between the yards. The Grandson would share with Grandfather his adventures in the world. A few years later, I remember asking one of my 20 something students that if, when she was 50 years older, that no one asked about her story, those things she held dear over the course of her life, how would she feel? Laura responded: "I'd be mad."

Of course, the Elder's role is to listen to such things. But who stops and pays attention to the stories of the Elders? Who listens to and honors their stories? Who comes to learn and grow? In traditional cultures, the Elders pass on the stories of the culture. They are the glue that holds it all together. They have weathered the seasons and as a result have some essential lessons to share. Plus, they are living manifestations of our history. They are the window to the past. They are the very foundations for our present and future. In the West, we pass them by at accelerating rates of speed. We let them sit in places of isolation which do not honor the sacred space in which they reside.

Every single person has a story. Even that person who is most like us and least like us has a story. Magic arises as we open those ears. We place ourselves and them in a position of honoring. We come to share, learn and grow, not to judge. Our hearts open, and the light shines all around.

As we begin to do this, sometimes we break free what seems like a long held messy block in the plumbing. Those first words may gush and they may not make sense. But once the flow begins, it can become the sense that matters most of all.

So what, Dear Friend, is your story? What is your purpose here on this walk in time? Of all the experiences you have had in life, what are some you cherish most? Who is someone that you wish to know their story? And for them to know yours?

At long last, we are listening up.


Photo above: Everything has a story too. Sometimes that story is not what it first appears. In 1966, Richard's Mother (Ethel Kirkpatrick Crawford) gave us this beautiful Broken Star quilt as a wedding gift. In 1985, I wrote a family book on her quilts and her life. At the time of my research on her quilts which was almost 20 years after she had given this quilt to us as a gift, I found out Mom C. had originally made this quilt for herself. The date was about 1955 and the 2 pink prints were from the 1930s and 40s. The quilt was handquilted by neighbor and friend Mrs. Rosy Crowder. This quilt, which was never used, was her pride and joy. Later, when each of her 1st 3 sons were married, she made them quilts off the original pattern in colors of their choosing. When the 4th and last son was to be married, she decided she did not want to make another one, so she gave us hers. Considerable magic sits in story, particularly family story. Why we would even consider watching TV?

Photo below: Ethel May Kirkpatrick Crawford in late teens (late 1920s).

Monday, February 11, 2008

No Pretense

Glinda writes:

About 15 years ago, I got plain tired of having the house just so when company came. Richard and I were busy with our careers and lifestyles which always seemed to demand more than we could give. There simply wasn't time for such games.

You know what I mean: cleaning the house for them, cleaning the house so that it looks like no one lives there, having all the material colors and styles someone else says we need. Having all that material stuff meant we needed to work more to pay for it. It was good for economic development but not so good for people who were already tired. Overall, in preparation for company, I felt like I was getting ready for a home inspection rather than a visit with friends we cared about and we thought cared about us. Were they coming to visit us or our house? I was not sure if all this chatter in my head was universally held or just the monkey mind of my programmed female brain.

Melanie was gone by this time, so it was up to Richard and me to work this through. Perhaps I should say "me" since I seemed to fret more about these things. These are some of the things that I/we tried: We would dine out with friends rather than dine in. The restaurants were usually too loud, too quiet, or too impersonal for us to engage in a meaningful conversation with those we cared about. We had Bernice, who saved us for a while with routine cleaning every Wednesday morning. We reduced the times people would come over. That really wasn't the idea. When we did have them over, I turned down the lights and used candles at dinner. They thought I had created ambience. I thought I was so smart.

With all the trumped up talk of women having 2 careers, who was to manage the house? Richard did help. I thought about hiring someone fulltime but with tongue in cheek, I would have encouraged her (or him) to have a career outside the home. Then we would need to hire someone else to take care of the house for the 3 of us. In the middle of all of this, I still yearned to have special friends share this place we called home.

I quit.

At the time, we had some very dear friends with whom we adored getting together. I suggested another option to Anne and Steve Kelsch: "No Pretense." What that meant was that our 2 families would get together without pretense. They would come to our house to visit "us", not our house. We would do the same. Anne and Steve agreed. We had a plan.

With this little mantra as our guide, the tension just dropped away. This little experiment was so successful, it spilled over fully into other parts of my life. I was more accepting of the fact that I did not have a perfect house and I could not be a perfect me. I loved getting together with those I love and without the intrusion of some impossible material standard.

Is that not what relationships are supposed to be? Is that not what our lives are supposed to be? How could I even think of going to another's house with anything less?

Should you come for a visit, Dear Friend, or should I come instead to your house, "No Pretense" will be a basis of our interaction, at least from my end. If you desire something different, we may not be getting together much, but that's okay. For me, I am not going back. I am at peace with these things. Life is simpler, richer, and much more fun.

How, Dear Reader, do you sit with these things?

Afterward: As I come to a pause after clicking away at these keys, my family always asks what I have been writing. Richard smiled at this one. He shared that in the early 90s, he had written in the margin of his cherished copy of Thoreau's Walden that when he has his own cabin someday, he wanted a plaque outside the door: "Please leave your pretenses at the door."

Continuing with our family check-in time, I asked Melanie where she stood with "pretenses". She laughed, put her foot on the table and pulled up the pant leg to show a naturally hairy leg. Her Mom (that would be me) is grateful that each generation of our family seems to be coming to these things a little quicker than me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grandma Says

Don't put off until tomorrow
what you can do today.

On Our Way

Glinda writes:

Yesterday (February 9), we had a wonderful visit with Allan and Mary Morken, our former next door neighbors in Grand Forks. Al and Mary were on their way from North Dakota to Arizona. They managed to leave Grand Forks just ahead of a storm, one of those Arctic blasts so common to the North Country at this season and something we were soon to feel the effects of in northeast Missouri.

Upon pulling into our drive, Al emerged with a beautiful bouquet of tulips, which are his signature. In the world according to Al, you can never have enough tulips, so he keeps planting more and more each year. (I think he's right.) Mary held 2 lovely quilted pieces she had made especially for Melanie and me, one inspired by watermelons and another by sunny yellow lemons. She is always doing such lovely spontaneous creative sharing things.

Like the tulips and bright colors of the quilted pieces, their time with us was just pure sunshine. We celebrated just being. Time stood still. No one was in a hurry. We laughed. They shared some pretty creative ideas for the farm. Our gentle banter back and forth was as if we were living side by side just as we used to do.

In case you are looking at a map, Kirksville is not on a straight line between Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Lake Havasu City, Arizona, which was their destination. In fact, our little farm doesn't seem to be on a straight line to anywhere. As with everyone, Al and Mary's time to be gone was limited, plus winter is a season when one travels quickly from one point to another. But we felt none of that on this beautiful day.
Over lunch, I commented on how they had come "out of their way" to see us which is a common way of referring to such things and spoke as to how much this meant to us. Al leaned forward in his chair, commented on some important events he had observed, and replied he had reached a point in life that he was not putting things off.

After they left, I was deeply touched by their visit and by Al's comment. I spoke of these things to Mother on the phone and to our dear adopted Rachel who came for some shared time that evening. Their response was we had something very important to learn from Al and Mary. I agreed.

Musing over such things, I have found some little jewels of life lessons. According to the Morkens, the Crawfords and Butterfly Hill Farm were "on our way". Their visit was intentional. Spending time with those we care about speaks volumes as to their meaning in our lives.

I think of how important "visiting" was to previous generations, where people had front porches and parlors, because they used them for such essential things. I also think of the Amish in this area, who, I am told, set aside "Thursday" as "visiting day". The Amish recognize the essential nature of community and face to face interactions. In fact, they build their communities and lives around them. Such simple things strengthen bonds we have to each other and create wealth in knowing who we are and what our place is in the larger fabric of the whole. When we stop, take time for others, plan for visits "on our way", we tell people they matter in our lives. Isn't that something for which we all deeply yearn?

I think of those times when I said: "Let's have tea" or "We will have you over soon." We didn't do it. I had good intentions; I just got wrapped up in those things of life that were so demanding of my attention or seemed so important at the time. Right now, I do not remember what those "important things" were, but I do remember who I wished I had spent more time with.

Life is a journey and many lessons come along the path. Al and Mary brought some lessons yesterday. They brought the beautiful presence they have and always will have in our lives. They reinforced the meaning of making intentional space for people on our way. As for me, I am checking off this Blog for now because I have some calls to make. I won't get them all done tonight, but I will one by one.

Where do you sit, Dear Reader, with these cherished things?
1st Photo: In the midst of winter, Al's tulips and Mary's handiwork brighten Butterfly Hill Farm.
2nd Photo: When we spend such cherished moments, the outer world drops away and time stands still. I wonder if at these moments, we sit at the hearth of life in its pure essence. We are nourished on levels we cannot even know.

3rd Photo: Mary, Al, Etta and company, Melanie, Richard and Glinda (behind camera) share a laugh as Al in his deep resonating voice reminiscent of an earlier radio era suggests some plans for "Chicken Theater" "coming to you from Butterfly Hill Farm". (Can chickens laugh? Why not? We did.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Random Acts of Kindness Week

From All of Us on Butterfly Hill Farm (with Glinda as scribe):

O.K. We've marked our calendars and are getting ready for some very special intentional actions. February 11-17 is Random Acts of Kindness Week promoted by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. In a time when kindness seems set aside for other more efficient and brittle means of discourse, it's time we brought it back. Bringing kindness back these days may seem like a radical act. But when we get really good at it and integrate it into daily living, it will be the new normal and the tension of our times will become a distant memory. Now, that's a plan.

On our Blog and in our lives, we try to stick with experience and actions of the 3 partners. We respect that all living beings have their own paths and their own good reasons for doing the things they do. But if you would like to join us in actions of kindness, we would jump for joy!

We have put together a sampling of actions we feel fit the spirit of the week. They are ones we have done, observed, or would like to try. We are not suggesting these for others. We aren't even suggesting these for ourselves. Acts of kindness need to be done in the moment in ways that seem right for the journey. Make it fun. Play. We each know the things we want and need to do. Just make this the week to do it. Who knows? Maybe we will make Random Acts of Kindness Week a whole month, even a whole year, a lifetime.

Some preliminary reflections: (1) Most women and some men are more oriented toward relationships, kindness and service. That is beautiful indeed. However, exclusive service to others means we often forget ourselves. As a result, we run on "empty". But of course, we also need to treat ourselves kindly. Don't leave "me" out of the week's special opportunties and actions. (2) Kindness needs to be extended to other companions on the journey, including the those we do not know, Non-Human kin, the Earth herself. (3) Acts of kindness do not require money. Consider resources. Share what you have. First and foremost, share yourself. (4) Give freely without expectation of return.

Here's our list:
  • Bake a batch of cookies and share.
  • Greet people.
  • Say: "Hello. How are you?" Mean it. Listen closely to their response.
  • Walk a dog at the Humane Society.
  • Take your dog for a walk when s/he least expects it, or rather, let your dog take you for a walk. (You will need a large park for the latter.)
  • Have a pot luck for some friends with whom you have been wanting to get together. See who shows up and be grateful for any and all who do.
  • Pick up litter. Recyle what you can.
  • Read stories aloud.
  • Consider those folks to whom you have said: "Let's have coffee sometime, or lunch." "We'd like to have you over." But you haven't done a thing. This is the week: Do it.
  • Greet someone who routinely provides service that smooths your life, yet you don't even notice (clerk or bagger at grocery store, letter carrier, paper carrier, custodian). Thank them.
  • Write love letters.
  • Tell someone dear who you usually overlook: "I love you."
  • Make a donation to charity.
  • Volunteer for a worthwhile cause.
  • Give to the food cupboard, especially some of your favorite foods.
  • Take an armload of unscented toiletries to the women's shelter.
  • Invite a friend to tea.
  • Post that 5 year old's drawing on the refrigerator. This is easy.
  • Make a homemade meal for yourself and your family.
  • Give assistance to someone who needs it.
  • Open the door for someone.
  • Smile.
  • Call a friend you haven't connected with for ages.
  • Give someone a heartfelt compliment.
  • Sing to the birds. If no tunes come to mind, talk to them.
  • Share some of your breakfast with the birds.
  • Put out carrot peels for the bunny who shows up when you are out. This little guy has been trying to get your attention for some time.
  • Let someone else go first.
  • Bring someone flowers.
  • Say "I love you." Yes, we said that above. Say it again and again.
  • Laugh.
  • Try something organic, if you have not tried it before: an apple, a snack. Share something organic with a friend who may not have had it before.
  • Get eggs from a local farmer who raises free range chickens. Say "Thank you" to the chickens and the farmer.
  • Smile all the way to work.
  • Volunteer to baby-sit.
  • Take a meal to or spend some time with someone in need.
  • Spend time with an Elder; ask them to share their story.
  • Do something special you have been putting off until you have time.
  • Talk to a stranger.
  • Put a pretty stamp on a bill. Put "Thank you" on the back of the envelope. Mean it.
  • Say "Good Morning" when you answer the phone.
  • Hug a tree.
  • Imagine a world of peace, kindness and freedom for all beings. Dedicate one action toward that end.
  • Consider an individual to whom you usually respond with great tension. This could be a world leader or someone close by. Consider that s/he was placed in your life as teacher. What are lessons to be learned?
  • Consider an individual or a place where there is great tension. Send "metta", or loving kindness as our friends, the Buddhists, say.
  • Send loving energy to someone who needs it.
  • Pray.
  • Play, that gentle, loving, spontaneous play of a child, even if for 5 seconds.
  • Provide transportation to someone who needs it.
  • Pay attention to your foot steps on the Earth. Walk kindly.
  • Give up your favorite seat.
  • Give up that favorite parking place and park far away from work. Enjoy the walk.
  • Drop some lucky pennies in the parking lot, and imagine some unknown person who has been gifted a lucky day.
  • Consider what "kindness" means to you. Talk to someone about what kindness means to them.
  • Check quotes on kindness. Post them in appropriate places: mirror at home, your signature line, your web site, bulletin board at work, coffee shop, wherever.
  • Listen to someone else's story. Don't judge. Don't "one-up" the teller. Just listen.
  • Spend time with someone. Time is the most significant resource in showing another you care. Giving freely of your precious time speaks volumes and can make someone's day.
That's our starting list and it is not even Random Acts of Kindness Week. This stuff looks like so much fun, we think we will get started this week. What would you add, Dear Friend?
Glinda's Notes on Photo Above: When we were living in Grand Forks, Mary Morken, our next door neighbor, walked over one day and gave me this lovely Shamrock. She also gave one for Mother. My family has had many connections with Shamrocks over the years. My English Grandmother (Mother's Mother) enjoyed Shamrocks as a favorite plant. My German Grandfather (Mother's Father) found 4-leaf clovers anywhere he went; he would press them into his books. Although he died in the 1940s before I was born, we still occasionally find them among his things. My Father (Jack Bloskovich) was a master bricklayer. When he was in his late 30s, he and another bricklayer constructed St. Patrick's Church (St. Patrick, Missouri) which was a replica of an old church in Ireland. When the church was dedicated in the 1950s, a plane dropped Shamrocks from Ireland on the gathering below. My Father said in later years that of all his construction projects, he was most proud of his work on this church. I believe that St. Patrick's Church may well have set the standard for the work he did throughout his life. How did my neighbor Mary know Shamrocks were important in my family and that I had always wanted one? This little spontaneous gift brought forward and interwove threads from my family. Her simple act of kindness had ripples through my life. Thanks, Mary! I love the Shamrock. When I see it, I think of you and Al. And I smile.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Nature Notes

Monday, February 4:

Freezing rain and ice in the night topped yesterday's 4 inches of snow. We awake to a thick blanket of fog, with temperature's in the mid-40s. We head to the woods for a walk. All sounds seem amplified, to the point you want to talk with words as light as a feather, or no words at all. We hear the sound of running water, as water drips from trees. But it seems more than that. The snow pack is melting, settling into what must be a river of water underneath.

When we talked on the phone later, I told Mother what we observed. She said the water was headed to the Mississippi River. To which I responded: "Into the Gulf, the Sea, and then back to me."

Winter is really different here. Things seem very changeable. We wonder if that is normal, since weather patterns seem to be changing everywhere. By mid-afternoon, the temperatures were in the 60s, the fog had burnt away, coats were cast aside and sunglasses were needed. It was absolutely beautiful. The snow was ALL gone. Or was the snow a figment of our imagination? Beginning tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, we are back on winter storm watch until Wednesday morning. Thunder is possible. We did have thunder and lightning yesterday. It wasn't much, but it was the lowest, longest, gentlest rumble of thunder I think I have ever heard.

After the dry spells of the last few seasons, all of Nature seems to celebrate the moisture. We 3 Humans do too.


My religion is very simple.
My religion is kindness.
When we feel love and kindness toward others,
it not only makes others feel loved and cared for,
but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.
from the Dalai Lama

Source: Random Acts of Kindness, February 4, 2008

Grandma Says

Do unto others
as you would have them
do unto you.


Where there is kindness,
there is God.
Source: I am always amazed at the synchronicity of things. I carefully selected peppermint tea from our ample tea stash this morning. Yogi Tea is one of my favorites; it comes with a little meditation attached to the tea bag, which I like just as much as the tea. While the water came to a boil, I prepared my cup, added some honey, opened my tea bag and noted the above quote.