The irony of four score and seven years ago

29 05 2017


I may be wrong, but I think Lincoln stated more than just giving context to the beginning of his speech dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg Battlefield in 1863. Four score (a score is 20 years) and seven years ago from his perspective was 1776 – the year of the Declaration of Independence. Such irony! Lincoln wasn’t just pointing to the date Read the rest of this entry »


The Gauntlet

11 04 2011

The gauntlet begins in eleven days.

By the end of June I shall be tested to the limit of my endurance, completely celebration-ed out.  From April 22 through June 19, we will celebrate my husband’s 54th birthday, Easter, our son’s 25th birthday, my mother-in-law’s 59th wedding anniversary, our 29th wedding anniversary, our daughter-in-law’s 24th birthday, our son’s and daughter-in-law’s 2nd wedding anniversary, Mother’s Day, and my 50th birthday, which is on Fathers’ Day this year.*

Maybe it’s presumption, but this year there will probably be more than one party in my honor for my semi-centennial, adding more events to our overly-full calendar and inches on our middle-aging waists.  And maybe I’m looking at the future through the past, but in previous years by the time we reach my birthday, I’m tired of celebrating.  A day at the library poring over magazines I don’t subscribe to is preferable to one more party.

This string of parties is complicated and hampered by the fact that the party-planning gene got left out of my DNA strand.  And I don’t like cake.

American festivity IS cake.  Birthdays can’t be celebrated without trick candles atop two overly-decorated layers.  Weddings require skyscrapers covered in cascading fondant roses.  Most holidays (thank goodness pumpkin pie reigns on Thanksgiving!) must also have a cake to be properly feted.  In our society celebration just can’t be done properly without cake.

My feeling is why waste half of the party calories on dry floury crumbs, when they could be totally spent on ice cream?  Luscious creamy goodness!  There is no contest!!

Growing up in a large family, I ate any and all sweets (including cake) because my (also party-challenged) mother baked desserts infrequently.  When she discovered the recipe for Cream-Filled Cupcakes, birthdays got way better for both of us.  Since frosting isn’t needed, they were easy to make for a harried mother-of-five, and I got my cream-fix in my cake.

Now in my own family, these two-for-one cupcakes have become our birthday tradition.  I pushed them so hard when our sons were growing up they didn’t have a chance.

Although I’ve never heard any complaints.


*That leaves our other son’s birthday, my mother’s and mother-in-law’s birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to be spread throughout the other ten months of the year.

Cream-Filled Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

1.  Make chocolate cake mix*, preheat oven according to package directions, and put batter into cupcake papers/pans.
2.  Beat:    8 oz softened cream cheese
3.  Mix in:    1/3 c. sugar
4.  Beat in:    1 egg
5.  Stir in:    1 c. (6 oz.) chocolate chips (and colorful sprinkles if you like)
6.  Drop a teaspoon of cheese mixture into each cupcake batter.
7.  Top with sprinkles.
8.  Bake as package directs.

* I never use more than 2 eggs, even if the box directions call for more.  I also increase the water by 2 or 3T.  This will ensure that the batter isn’t too thick, allowing the cheese to sink to the bottom of the cupcake as it bakes.

These cupcakes are sweet enough without frosting.  The sprinkles and candles are all that’s needed to make them pretty.

Juneteenth, Part the Second

10 07 2010

(See the previous post for Part the First)

Curious and clueless, I looked up “Juneteenth”.

Thank-you Wikipedia!

On June 18th, 1865, General Gordon Granger and 2000 Union troops entered Galveston, Texas and took possession of the state.  The next day, General Order No. 3 was read to the people in the last state to officially abolish slavery and recognize Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made almost three years earlier:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

The next year, jubilant public celebrations marked the anniversary of freedom, and the holiday became shortened to “Juneteenth”.

I am as Caucasian as the snow that falls in Northern Michigan.  I haven’t really experienced racial prejudice, and I’ve certainly never been a slave.  Yet, even when I was young, photos and stories of people enslaved caused a visceral response in my gut.  And recently, without any conscious intent, my hatred of slavery showed up in a song I wrote.

Way past midnight as I alternately sang and wrote, the beginning of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address forced its way into the lyric because I needed a rhyme.  Not knowing why it was in the song, I read and re-read the short speech that he gave in 1863 to dedicate the Gettysburg cemetery during the Civil War on the site of the bloodiest battlefield in our nation’s history.  Around 2:00 AM I understood.  Lincoln wasn’t giving a history lesson in the opening sentence.  “Four score (a score is 20 years) and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  His last phrase was an indictment against the people of the United States for giving lip service to freedom for the past 87 years while brutally enslaving hundreds of thousands of fellow human beings.  The issue had been settled in 1776 in the Declaration of Independence, which he quoted at the end of his opening sentence.

Those 87 years (and many more before 1776) of slavery should never have happened.  Juneteenth should not be a holiday.  All Americans should celebrate Independence on July 4th.  Stupidity, arrogance, and mismanaged power, however, made a second Independence Day necessary.

A couple of months ago I heard Efrem Smith*, the African American pastor of Hip Hop Church, speak on the freeing power of the arts.  He asked himself as he was wedding the arts with worship in his new church, why music, storytelling, and other arts were so important for his enslaved ancestors.  What was it like for a slave to connect his artistic gifts and his devotion to Jesus?

“Their identities were totally transformed as they went into the back woods under threat of being beaten after working a 15-hour day.  In the darkness, broken people, through song and dance, through art and storytelling, became the Beloved of God!  Worship wasn’t about a performance; it was about freedom.  It was saying, ‘I’m not a slave, the oppressed and broken, I am THE BELOVED OF GOD!'”

That is the story of the day on which I was born.

I gladly give up my claim on June 19th to celebrate freedom.  An ordinary girl fades into the background to become part of something far more important.

* (his blog)

* (download the mp3 or DVD)

Juneteenth – Part the First

21 06 2010

I am an ordinary girl.  And up until last year, I thought my birthday was an ordinary day.  Usually eclipsed by Father’s Day, and somewhere near the summer solstice (today is the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere which is tilted toward the sun), June 19th seemed to have no distinction except for a string of parties celebrating the day my mother gave me birth.

When I was a child, school was out for the summer by June 19th.  My mom didn’t bring 30 decorated cupcakes in at the end of the day while my classmates sang Happy Birthday, and my name was never written at the top right corner of the blackboard where special holidays were written in perfect teacher-writing under the date.  Still, it was a good time of year to have a party.

In late June the sun baked the midwest air until Mom relented to our whining and took the five of us swimming in Grandma’s pool.  When our lips turned blue, Grandpa coaxed us out of the water with the promise of a bowl of the ice cream of our choice from the “deep freeze” in the cellar.  Bellies full, and body temperatures lowered, we scattered over the farm for the rest of the afternoon to our favorite spots.  I usually wound up on my back in the tire swing, miraculously keeping the ice cream down as I watched the leaves of the chestnut tree circle above my head as the unwinding tire picked up speed.

Some birthdays were more memorable than others.  On my 16th Mom was out of town, so Dad was in charge.  With teenage romantic expectation I imagined a special celebration to mark such a significant day.  That evening, when Dad finally returned home from the hardware that barely kept food on our dinner table, without ceremony he simply said, “Happy Birthday,” and placed the blue sleeping bag that had been part of a camping display earlier that day in my limp hands.

Others were more festive; like the complete surprise my husband and a friend of mine planned when I turned 40.  But in my small world, that’s all June 19th ever was-my birthday.

Until last year.  When I flipped the calendar from May to June, I noticed “Juneteenth” printed in little letters at the bottom of the 19th square.


More to come soon.  Sign up to receive an email notification (top right) when I post Part the Second.  Thanks for reading!

Happy Apple Birthday

19 06 2009

This morning after sleeping in on a luxurious day off, I had a late Birthday Breakfast.  Nothing special—two rice cakes with unsweetened peanut butter and an apple.  But in that ordinariness a blessing was waiting!

Several days ago I left a note for our son to buy milk, eggs, and a bag of apples at Aldi on his way home from work.  He did, but I’ve been so busy with work (early mornings/late nights) I hadn’t been in the fridge to see if he had remembered.  This morning as I began gathering my breakfast, I noticed the five gallons of milk and three dozen eggs.  The bag of apples was also where it should be, in the fruit drawer, and I retrieved it and set it on the counter.


As I turned to get a plate, the label caught my eye:  Chazy Orchards.  “NO WAY!” I laughed out loud!  ‘The largest MacIntosh Orchards in the World’ were just a few miles from our previous home in West Chazy, New York.  My imagination walked back to our home there, and I smiled.  Not a clear-across-my-face grin, but a wistful nod.  Troubles and heartache have continued to bombard us since moving to Indiana several years ago.  Thoughts of home in West Chazy during a simpler time surrounded me—like an ample cloak, heavy with familiar comfort.  Yet as I remembered more realistically, I realized that even after 16 years, it still hadn’t really been home.

So I asked myself where home is for me.  Working backward through the places I’ve lived, I came up empty.  Both my family growing up, and now my married family, have moved into towns and cities and not been able to become a part of the “home town” circle.  My roots go down quickly and deeply, but they have always been stunted by the clay of long-established associations.  There are places, however, which have seemed more like home than others—and it’s always been because family was nearby.

For me home=family, whether or not I have felt included in the lives of others around me.  The sadness that no place feels like home is an emotional cord that grows stronger with each heartache, tying me with growing longing to my True Home and Forever Family.  That is my home where I belong—truly belong.  That is where real family lives and loves.  That is where every good and perfect gift originates… like a bag of Chazy Orchards apples!

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