…but on the bright side

So much time is spent negatively talking about, writing about, thinking about, debating about, and snarking about, our country in the last several years, that many folks forget what it feels like to be proud of who we are, where we live, who we cry for, and what we die for. Perhaps forgotten too, that the generations before us fought and died, lived and dreamed, for the same things we are fighting, dying, living, and dreaming for today.  And the generations after us will do the same.

I, for one, am taking a moment to remember that we do have a brighter side.

For this one moment, as bittersweet tears softly track the history of my life in the wrinkles on my face, I’ll remember how they got there.  This facial road map of my life’s joys and sorrows distinguish me from anyone else, just as our country’s road map is like no other.  And as I look at her wrinkles, I’ll remember how they got there too.

I love my country, wrinkles and all, and invite anyone needing a reminder of what that feels like, to read about and listen to others who felt the same.

The history of a special song, written for a special place, sung by a special woman, needed by a hurting people…

Frank Sinatra considered Kate Smith the best singer of her time, and said that when he and a million other guys first heard her sing “God Bless America” on the radio, they all pretended to have dust in their eyes as they wiped away a tear or two.

Here are the facts… At the bottom of this post, you’ll see the link to the video showing the very first public singing of “GOD BLESS AMERICA“. But before you watch it, you should also know the story behind the first public showing of the song.

The time was 1940. America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

This was the era just before TV, when radio shows were HUGE, and American families sat around their radios in the evenings, listening to their favorite entertainers, and no entertainer of that era was bigger than Kate Smith.

Kate was also large; plus size, as we now say, and the popular phrase still used today is in deference to her, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Kate Smith might not have made it big in the age of TV, but with her voice coming over the radio, she was the biggest star of her time.

Kate was also patriotic. It hurt her to see Americans so depressed and afraid of what the next day would bring . She had hope for America, and faith in her fellow Americans. She wanted to do something to cheer them up, so she went to the famous American song-writer, Irving Berlin (who also wrote “White Christmas”) and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country. When she described what she was looking for, he said he had just the song for her.

He went to his files and found a song that he had written, but never published, 22 years before – way back in 1917. He gave it to her and she worked on it with her studio orchestra. She and Irving Berlin were not sure how the song would be received by the public, but both agreed they would not take any profits from God Bless America. Any profits would go to the Boy Scouts of America. Over the years, the Boy Scouts have received millions of dollars in royalties from this song.

This video starts out with the news, then Kate Smith coming into the radio studio with the orchestra and an audience. She introduces the new song for the very first time, and starts singing. After the first couple verses, with her voice in the background still singing, scenes are shown from the 1940 movie, “You’re In The Army Now.” At the 4:20 mark of the video you see a young actor in the movie, sitting in an office, reading a paper; it’s Ronald Reagan, the future 40th president of the United States, and at 69, the oldest president ever elected.

To this day, God Bless America stirs our patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Back in 1940, when Kate Smith went looking for a song to raise the spirits of her fellow Americans, I doubt whether she realized just how successful the results would be for her fellow Americans during those years of hardship and worry… and for many generations of Americans to follow.

Now that you know the story of the song, I hope you’ll enjoy it and treasure it even more. Many people don’t know there’s a lead in to the song since it usually starts with “God Bless America …” So here’s the entire song as originally sung… ENJOY!

Today, I exercise my right to remove the flag from underneath the flag-stomper du jour and wave it proudly in the air.

God Bless America…and all who stomp on her.

The Barn Dance

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There are some things that are just so much better when you do them in a barn!

Whether it’s squarein’, folkin’, cloggin’, or stompin’, the dances are da bomb.

It could be fiddlin’ or pickin’ and grinnin’ too, the music hits all the right notes.

If stichin’ and bitchin’ is your thing, a quilting bee could be the answer.

Meeting your sweetie on a Saturday night, or cruising and schmoosing at a Sunday social? Both could land you smack dab in the middle of a damned good roll in the hay.

Not that I had any such experience, but when the gals of the FHA ‘colluded’ with the boys of the FFA…there was usually chaff involved. (Chaff – the technical term for ‘honey, brush your britches off!)

No matter what it is, it’s just better in a barn.

This love affair with barns isn’t geographical. No matter what part of the world you live in…you’ll see evidence of local customs and ethnic traditions in the barns that dot the countryside. And whether there’s a floor (or sumpin’)being laid or a roof (or sumpin’) being raised, chances are you’ll find it’s for/with the community (or sumpin’).

That’s the draw for me, and it has been a life long one. The architectural type and features give us the biggest clues as to the who, the what, the where, and the when.
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But it’s the condition of the barn that gives us the why.

Is it a model for advances in the industry, surrounded by shiny equipment and smelling of fresh mown hay and odor d’cow?
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Or is it a sad landmark of better times? Rusting tractors, broken fences, over grown pastures and paddocks with just a whisper of what once thrived there?
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Why is that barn falling in on itself…

Seen better days

Seen better days

…and the one down the road a bright red beacon of hope?
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Why is the barn so big and the house so small?
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And so on…

Growing up in dairy country, barns were as common a sight to me as high-rises and tenements are to city dwellers. But common or not, I’ve been drawn to them for as long as I can remember.

Maybe it was the stories my father would tell of life on the farm; drinking the milk raw, taking the cream right off the top, smokin’ corn silk in corn cobs, telling of things one did ‘behind’ the barn?
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Or my own memories of tire swings hung in the space between the giant barn doors, or pushing my oldest brother (I swear he jumped) out of the hay loft doors ’cause there was a bee headed my way? I think perhaps being around folk who didn’t think “What, were you raised in a barn?” is an insult, may have had something to do with it.

One day, when I’m better equipped to do so, I’d like to tour our beautiful country just to photograph farms and barns. Or parts of barns. Or things that go in barns. Or…you get the idea.

When traveling, my driver is always saying “Look Babe, there’s a silo”. He gets me.

Or when I’m running the dirt roads with Supe, he’s always suggesting this path or the other because “There’s a great barn down here”. He gets me too.

This is not a unique idea by a long shot…I’m sure if I Googled it, I’d come up with thousands who’ve done that very thing, and done it extremely well. But that does not daunt me. I know what I like and I know taking snaps in a drive by is not very professional, but it’s what I do.

One lesson I’ve learned in the time it’s taken me and my third eye to become better acquainted is that, we each have our own perspective; we each see the beauty and the ugly in our own way; we each do what we do for our own reasons; and our eyesight is but a tool…

It is our hearts that are our true guide to what we capture and why.

So, if you’re keen on barns and the like, or just want to see the barn dance so far…you can see it on through link

Just remember…where there’s a barn, there’s a barn dancer.

And I’m one of ’em.
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It’s all in a name

Ah…the good ol’ summertime.

A time for beaches and bicycles and picnics and bbqs and vacations and staycations and more likely than not… family.

Whether you’re a nut from a towering oak, have a touch of sweetness like the magnificent sugar maple, are tart and tangy like the bounty that falls from the fruit trees, or run more to the quiet strength of the whispering pine…we are all branches of our family trees.

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As it will, nature steps in to prune our branches. Our leaves fall through the natural process of age and death, or in times of storm and disease, we sadly lose precious limbs way before their time.

Nature will…have its way.

But because our roots are so deep, we continue on…new saplings sprout from new seeds and new blood.
Often, we are stronger and more resilient for it. Having richer hues and sweeter fruit.

Or, as is common enough in my family to be the rule and not the exception, (leaves fall too close or too far, whichever the case may be) we end up with nuttier nuts and fruitier fruits.

Which leads me to:

“The Family Reunion”

For the good folk up here in the extreme north, the best thing to be said about summer is …NO SHOVELING!
Next to that…there is reunion season, which in my case, consists of the following:

Mother’s Mother’s side
Mother’s Father’s side
Two distinct and unique trunks of my maternal grandparent’s tree.
Let’s say it’s where the Spruce meets the Elm.

Now, the Spruce and the Elm don’t share the same patch of ground. Perhaps because the Spruce is pretty rigid and doesn’t change much, and the Elm, while close when push comes to shove, has a history of infection and being hard to find (much loved all the same).
But…two distinct and separate genus with two distinct and separate reunions.

Which brings me to the other half of my tree:

Father’s Mother’s side
Father’s Father’s side
Or, as is our case…
ONE trunk for my paternal grandparent’s tree
(It’s a damned big tree!)

This is where the mighty Oak meets the Sugar Maple and rather than remaining as such…they became a whole new tree.

The Maple Nut Tree (Don’t Google it…no sucha thang)

Here’s the roots…
The George boys had a thing for the Smith girls…
Brothers marrying sisters…
(No, not their own sisters…we may be hilly people, but we don’t all play the banjo!)

Anyway…because more than one George married more than one Smith, the reunions are Smith/George amalgamations rather than just Smith or just George.
We even have Smiths who married other Smiths and those Smiths married Morrisons who in turn married other Morrisons…

EEE GAD, it’s enough to make you dizzy!

Anyway, the reason I started this, besides having just attended above mentioned gathering of Maple Nuts, is to do with names.
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It really is about names.
But not just any names.
Old names.

One would think, with sir names like Smith and George, the given names would be rather vanilla, wouldn’t you?
Tom, Dick, and Harry kind of names. But no.
And it just tickles the shit out of me to sit around listening to the older folk talk about their parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, bandying around some names not heard 100 years from here.

Kids my age, and those after, hear these names and think
“What the hell were they thinking?”
But I disagree. I think there is something strong, and connective in these old names.
It speaks of family more than the color of our eyes or the shape of our nose.
Names that are passed down in an obvious attempt to keep a loved one alive are beautiful names.

Shall I?
Okay, I shall.
Just a tiny sample.
Promise.

Great Grandfather Smith (ok…the next part is a sing along)

M.U.R.D.O. M.U.R.D.O. M.U.R.D.O. and M U R D O was his nameo!

Now, farmer Murdo Angus Smith married the lovely Rose La Brecque. They had 11 children (that’s Family #1).

Norman George, Mary Ethel, Eva Maude, Christie Rose, Margaret Leona, Clara Esther, Gladys Irene, Pauline Mae, Paul Angus, Walter Robert, and Baby Girl.

These names that don’t quite rrrrrrrrrrrroll off the tongue like names do today, but, it was all about continuity.

The lovely Rose died at the tender age of 36 (she needed a rest I think), whereby farmer Murdo married Marion who had another 5 children (that’s Family #2).

Murdo Harold, Joyce Ann, Fred Donald, Gerald Lloyd, and Virginia Maggie.

Again, these names don’t effortlessly fall off the tongue, but suggest a ‘reason’ behind them.
Nothing trendy here.

Great Grandfather George
Elmer Eugene George
(The only other Elmer I know lives in Cartoonland!)
Now, Elmer married Sophi (pronounced so-feye) Laundry and they had two sons
Raleigh Royal Eugene George and Morton Guy George
(So much packed into two little boys right? Oh, and a side note on Sophi~she had sisters…Mary, Maude, and Mert. LOL. Great huh?)

Both these George boys married Smith sisters:

Raleigh Royal Eugene George married Mary Ethel Smith (my grandparents) and had two children
Roy Eugene and Betty Rose

Morton Guy George married Christie Rose and had four children
Stanley Morton, Philip Dale, Beverly Ruth, and Harvey Elmer

Sadly, after my parents’ generation, the names became more normal(?)
Gone are the Murdos, Elmers, Mortons, and Raleighs.
No more Claras, Maudes, and Gladyses (Gladi?)

I’m as guilty as the next gal. I named my kids rather trendy names, but I think if I’d spent more time sitting under that big ol’ Maple Nut tree, I’d have found the courage to be different in the pride I feel when I’m sitting in that big pile of leaves.

Had that been the case, perhaps I would be the proud mother of Raleigh Murdo Elmer Roy?
Or if I’d had a girl…Mary Clara Maggie Rose?
Perhaps…

And the groaning you hear in the background is my husband who has NO room to talk…he is the son of ELBO.
But THAT is another mango tree altogether!

I hope you’re enjoying the summer, and hoping too, that you’re gathering round the base of your own magnificent family trees. There’s nothing quite like it.

And for those nuts that are part of my Maple Nut Tree…here’s a reminder of the beautiful day spent reminiscing about the old times and creating new ones. (Thanks Debbie and Henry)

-Click on a circle to bring up the full size photos-


The whole gang

One stop on the memory train

I read a post today that transported me

That happens quite often doesn’t it?

To all of us?

We’ll hear a tune drifting out the open windows of a passing car and no longer are we standing on a hot sidewalk in line at the ATM, but magically taken to an ‘out of school for the summer’ beach trip with our best girlfriends, laughing and flirting while sand filled our shorts and Sun-In made us all one shade of blonde or another.

Or we’ll catch a smell in the air that immediately takes us back.  Maybe to a warm and tiny kitchen in the back of a house shared with the post office; where a grandmother is frying donuts in a big cast iron pot and where too, the back porch isn’t just a place to take off your muddy boots before tramping into Gram’s small but tidy nook…but a place where Gramp sits grinding fresh horseradish, tears rolling down his stubbled cheeks as easily as the sweat pours off his shiny bald knob.

And there are times, we’ll read something, like Tink’s post today, that’s like peeking into that too-long forgotten toy box in your mind’s attic…the one where you keep all your found treasures and best memories of childhood…waiting for a day like today.

Sometimes, these trips down memory lane can cover us in a cloak of sorrow or pain, bringing us back to a time and place we’d rather not go back to, for one reason or another.

Other times, happily I think most times, the places we go in our mind are…

…the places we want to be and in the company of people we want to be with.

This is where I went today, when the toy box opened…with thoughts of long candy counters and a shop owner with the patience God gives older folk…

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It sits there still, where it always did.

Across the road from my where my grandparent’s lived, and up two from where I did.

One of two one-room shops in our town of less than…

where one holds the memories of a barrels of chocolate drops, returning bottles for a penny, wood smoke, and men laughing.

while the other is made of children’s dares and double dares to see who’ll go buy the ice cream from the ‘mean old lady’ behind the counter.

And this is who joined me in today’s trip…Gramp in his engineer’s cap and Gram looking the same as everyday I can remember.

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And though this is where they are now…

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Their permanent home is here…always here…

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I thank Tink and her Crazy Train for the ride today.  It was welcome and reminded me that I have enough in my heart and my mind to get me through whatever life wants to throw my way.

And maybe someday, when he’s older or I’m gone, this one will hear or see or smell something, some small thing, that will take him back to a time when he knew he was cherished.

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A Day Out with Superman and Lois – Part II

For some New England states, the lack of development makes for an inconvenient truth…there is a high price for beauty. Of all the states that make up New England, Vermont pays a higher price for its pristine vistas and unspoiled landscapes, than do the others. That’s not a scientific fact, but as one who has lived and/or worked in all of them, I feel confident in my opinion.

Seasonal tourism has become the bread and butter of a state (formerly?) known as The Dairy State. However, that said, it’s still not enough to make up for what this state has lost, what it once was, and still pay for what this state now is…an entitlement state with a tax bill to prove it.

You couldn’t drive a mile without passing a flourishing dairy farm; their rich pastures dotted with the familiar black and white of the Holstein, just to name one of the breeds that carved cow paths through much of the landscape of its history.

Nearly every generation of my family, leading up to but excluding mine, was raised or worked on, a family dairy farm.

The sights we see today, or in our case, the sights Supe and I captured yesterday, are now the norm.

Neglect may come to mind…but it goes much deeper.

Neglect suggests a choice.

Being a farmer is a choice.

Losing a farm is not.

And this doesn’t just happen here, it happens all over our country. But here is where I live, and here is where I love, and here is where I weep, for the loss of the American dream, one field, one barn, one beautiful bovine at a time.

I’m glad this day of Reflection with Supe resulted in the following photographs, for amid the not so subtle colors that draw the throngs of leaf-peepers, there are also signs of the times.

And please, don’t get me wrong, not all the photos of yesterday are sad reminders.  Some are of the wondrous sites that bring these people from thousands of miles away.  The commentary only addresses those photos that evoke a sense of loss for days gone, livelihoods lost, to government’s well intended (?) intervention.

These signs are everywhere.

And knowing his roots as a farm boy, I also know it’s never easy for him to see what is an all too common sight today.

I wanted him to know that I see what once was when I point my camera in the direction of a falling down ruin of a barn, or the overgrown and gone to seed fields that once produced food for the masses, four-legged and two-legged alike.

I wanted him to understand that the photos I take are not just a sad reminder of the times. Nor are they just a snapshot of the foreseeable future.

They are, for me and I hope for him, as much a tribute to the rich history and grass roots past that he cherishes and I’ll never let die.

I wanted him to come away from our day of Reflection knowing I see and feel, the depth of what’s lost and that I’ll never take life, or family values, for granted.

So, here, Part II of A Day Out with Superman and Lois:

The High Price of Low Progress
~♥~
For Dad
~♥~

(and for you Dad, we’ll start with some to make you smile)

See? You are smiling right? :)

See?
You are smiling right?
🙂

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I’ll end with a Patch
A Pumpkin Patch
Pick one…it’s YOURS!

Bridges

A twist on the twister lovingly known as crazytraintotinkytown. Dallas and I have collaborated twice before this one…her stories, my photos. This time…my photos first, and she wrote the story around them. I love it and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do…it’s one of my favorites so far.

I hope you notice the header on Tink’s page as THAT was the original challenge photo.  A series of photos of Bridges.  The photos in the story were inspired by Tink’s writing.

If you’ve not picked up the gauntlet and collaborated yet….do it! It’s G R E A T! So, without further adieu, “Bridges” by Dallas Dyson at Crazytraintotinkytown.

Crazy Train To Tinky Town

This is another of my collaborations with the stylish and very elegant Rhonda over at 50 Shades of Gray Hair. This one was more of a challenge for me as Rhonda supplied the pictures and I wrote the story around them. I have loved working with her and not only is she a great photographer and a perfectionist but a generous spirited soul too. So on behalf of myself and my team-mate we hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

I opened the letter with trembling hands; the one that I had been waiting weeks for. It had arrived in the morning post but I had crumpled it into my pocket and delayed reading it until my Mum had left for work. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to share it with her but I just didn’t want to feel guilty either.

Mum and…

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For the Love of a Damned Good Conversation

I was working on a post this morning, having to do with the tons of fun in the sun trying to sell a house in today’s market (yeah, right), when as often happens, a short sidestep away from the center line resulted in being led down another dirt road.  But that’s life, especially my life, as I live for the treks down the less traveled dirt.

This particular step off the line was a conversation with a friend that began with small talk about the Gawd awful heat wave and remedies for sun burns, meandered to the pros and cons of having your home and all its contents spread all over the air waves for any ol’ burglar to scope out, tip-toed into current affairs generally and recent events in the Florida courts specifically, then naturally (!?!) morphed into what it must be like for a child to be raised in a Muslim household that forbids TV, radio, music, internet, and playing with children not of their own religion.

Don’t you just LOVE these conversations that sprout tentacles like a giant squid?  I do…I love the random nature of them almost as much as the feeling of comfort I get knowing we can talk about anything…all at once!  Very stimulating to say the least.

Anyway, post Muslim life discussion, from which we both came away thinking we’d like to try our hand at reading the Koran, the conversation jumped the broom to religion in general.  While one of use believes and the other does not, one thing is certainly true:  Where we find intolerance, bigotry, segregationist thinking, there is usually a religious aspect fueling it.  If we are ever to see the day when our planet’s caretakers can live in true peace and brotherhood…religious fanaticism or extremists, of any kind, must see the end of days.

This of course ‘evolved’ into, well, evolution.  Which as a non-believer in religion of any kind, is in fact, the religion of choice.  Past the talk of apes and chimps, we discussed how humans are shown to have an innate ability to share.  Yup.  Share.  Which of course led to whether being kind and empathetic is genetics or learned, and whether lesser traits, like competing in all respects, is too, learned or innate.  Survival of the fittest after all, with no moral force guiding it?  For the non-believer, the take is that we are just naturally a ‘nice’ animal.  For me, the believer, I tended to agree, but still harbor some doubt.  I do think, that while certain characteristics of humans are innate, most are learned behaviors. Basically, nature vs. nurture.  An old and forever on-going topic of discussion that has its own, very long, dirt path.  We discussed why certain behaviors occur in some animals and not in others.

For instance, the beaten dog.  How can a dog who knows mostly pain from the hand of its human, still find it within itself to lick that very hand the few times it might be extended in what one could only marginally be described as love?  It’s insane.  Yet, it happens all the time.  However, for a child to be reared in the same way, the risk is far, far greater, that the result could just as easily be a non-empathetic psychopath as it could be a loving, thriving, kind, and generous, human being.  Is that a choice? Nature vs. nurture again?  I used myself as an example, and even so, I still have doubts about it…or maybe doubt is too strong a word.

I have questions.

Being a victim of childhood sexual abuse (The year that broke the dam) from the ages of 5 to 14 and a victim of rape at the age of 19, one could imagine that I could have become a bitter, angry, mean-spirited, non-trusting, love-hating person.  But I didn’t (Back on the Road).  I’m like the beaten dog…and I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic here…it’s more a visual aide.  I live a life filled with as much love as there is hate; as much beauty as there is ugliness; as much need for love, both to give and to receive, as distrust of it.  So, it begs the question…was this my choice? Or was I bound by genetics to grow into a woman with a heart and huge capacity for empathy?  I don’t know.

But here’s the rub, and ultimately, the reason for our long stroll down these particular paths…in speaking with this friend, it was pointed out ardently, that I do, in fact, have a wonderful heart, a good and strong personality, a huge capacity for love, and that (this is the key) I’m beautiful on the inside.

Ah yes…the beauty within vs. the beauty without (is that the term? doesn’t sound right, but you know what I mean).  I, for one, actually HATE that phrase.  I love that I am, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a double-edged sword for me.  I fell into the trap long, long ago, that it’s more important, at least initially, to be more beautiful on the outside. It has been my experience, and I just may have to take the responsibility for it  (Delusional Illusions), that people who could not see beyond the surface passed me by without a second glance and without having the pleasure of getting to know me.  I’m not alone.  I’m certainly not unique in my thinking this is the way of things. I say honestly, if it was a choice to be the way I am, it was not an easy one, but for me, the only one.  Why? Genetics? Nurture? (shrugging shoulders still)

So while I do still struggle with this question, the conversation, for all its meandering, did help me see that hard or not, choice or not, I am on the right path.  My path. And if Joe Blow from Kokomo chooses to walk by me because I don’t look like a Playboy centerfold…I say one thing (well, I say it behind his back ’cause I’m nice)…

Fuck You!

We are all beautiful…let’s get to the heart of it, shall we?

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Yes…my photo…and yes, I draw hearts in the snow…and the sand…and the dirt…it’s just how I roll.