Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mayberry No More . . .

Once upon a time there was a little town in Minnesota called Monticello (Monti to those who called it home). Monti was a lot like Mayberry. All of my grandparents lived there, one mile apart. One grandma was a little tiny Swedish farm wife. She worked hard inside and out. She baked yummy treats and always had them in the freezer, ready to pull out for afternoon "coffee" if someone dropped in (she cut the cake into the tiniest little pieces - in a crazy little aside, I would, later in life, blame her for my love of frozen Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes - I put them in the freezer to avoid eating them, but learned I loved them frozen even better!) She also had a bathroom. This was huge.

The other grandma was a very young "working" grandma - she worked at the bakery in town, bowled, and brought treats, including pop, home from town. We loved being at both places. But they still had an outhouse - I always tried to "wait" till I got to the other house.

I loved going to town with Grandma W, the "working" grandma - she was always proud to have my sister and me walking down the street with her, and enjoyed introducing us to her friends (well, everyone knew everyone) as "Margaret's girls." I don't recall ever going to town with the farm grandma.

Unfortunately, "progress" entered the scene and the idyllic little town changed everytime we visited. My mom's folks (the "working" grandma) retired from farming when they were paid a large sum to sell the farm to allow the Interstate highway to cut through their land. The farm on the hill was no longer. I know my oldest brother mourned especially - it was literally his playground when he went to stay in the summer for a few weeks.

I walked past the old driveway last week when I took my morning walk from my aunt's (mom's sister) apartment. I came to the old cemetery that we used to love to explore (not the one my uncle was buried in). This cemetery was at the base of Grandpa and Grandma's driveway. It looks much larger than I remember, which is the opposite of what usually happens when you look at things from your childhood. But it used to be a bed of weeds covering the stones. Now it is well maintained.

The gas station sign you see rising high above the cemetery is the location of Grandpa's hilly pasture, the one we used to sled down and stop just in time to avoid the barbed wire fence just this side of the train tracks.

This paved street was once the steep hilly driveway that we climbed to get back to the house.

I did what I used to do when I was younger - looked at the names and dates and tried to imagine why so many young children were buried there, what had happened to decimate these families, such as this one. . .

. . . and these . . .

. . . and what happened to this one with no known name . . . and who is on the broken one?

This one especially gripped my heart - twin brothers, Harry and Herman, gone a day apart just before their 6th birthday. I can't imagine the grief.

I've read a lot of historical fiction of the pioneers and my mind can imagine the kinds of illnesses that ravaged these people in this little town back so many years ago.

The really old ones are learning precariously --

The most elaborate ones must have been placed much more recently . . .

But - someone forgot to come back - I wonder if she is buried there - because I know she couldn't still be alive!

I continued my walk that day and found what I was looking for - a piece of Monticello that had not been built on - yet.

I wish little towns could stay the same - I know people come back here to my town, who lived here in their youth and are saddened by the changes (I don't like it myself!) I know, life has to move on and progress is inevitable, but it is hard to realize what has happened to the wonderful places of your childhood.

My cousin, who serves in Mali, says that Monticello has lost its charm - it is just another town now. It has all the fast foods, the big box grocery store, large schools, new houses - it has become a bedroom community for folks who work in the Twin Cities, but want a bit of respite for the evenings and week-ends. But in the meantime, it is no longer "Mayberry." I look at their houses and their businesses and realize they have no idea what it used to be like. I wonder if they call it Monti.

This same cousin, several years ago when we were together in the same place, was with my sister and me as we tromped around my Grandma and Grandpa Swanson's old place, looking for souvenirs. We each did eventually get a piece of the old lilac bushes, which are growing healthily in our yards. I said I wondered what people must think as they whizzed past the property and saw these middle aged people wandering around in the weeds. My cousin, Ann said, "They probably think we're a bunch of missionary's and preacher's kids hunting for our roots." And she was right.

More about Ann and others to be continued . . .

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Farewell, Uncle Al

When I was a little girl, I was thrilled to have two uncles, aunts, and 4 cousins serving as missionaries in Africa. It gave me great joy to share the things they brought us during "Show and Tell" in school. We only saw them every four years, and not often then, but it was a huge time of excitement for me. My brother, sister, and I used to play missionary in our back yard. We had a merry -go-round that we pretended was an airplane (one uncle was a pilot) and we would fly into the village, preach to the chief in his hut, and he would give his heart to the Lord.

I didn't really know my aunts and uncles that well until they were home in retirement - of course, we spent our time with our cousins when we were all visiting at Grandma Swanson's house. What wonderful memories.

Uncle Al went home to Jesus after a long life well lived. He would have been 88 soon. He was deeply into dementia and his lungs failed him at the end. He would not have known us if we had arrived before he went home. The service was a celebration. It was held in the church that my dad and his family grew up in. This church sponsored my two uncles and their families for their entire missionary service years. I will share some of his history with you, as it was printed in his obituary.

Uncle Al's life verse was from II Timothy 2:2 - "And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men (and women), who will be able to teach others also." One thing that was so amazing about this man was his gift of language. In six weeks' time he had absorbed enough of his new language to preach to the African tribe he worked with for 45 years.

My grandpa and grandma "entertained many missionaries in their home during those years growing up, and from an early age Alan felt the call to be a missionary. . . (after college) Genevieve and Alan were married . . . and after a short honeymoon, were off to attend the Missionary Training School of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Nyack, New York to prepare for overseas missionary service.

"By a series of circumstances, the Lord led Alan and Genevieve to the Sudan Interior Mission, and they left for Africa in October 1945, first by ship to Egypt on a troop carrier, and then by air through Khartoum, Sudan to Kano, Nigeria, where they began to prepare for a life of service in helping to open up a new ministry in what was then the French West African country, under French control, of Upper Volta. Following early language learning and trekking to villages in the region, SIM asked Alan and Genevieve to start the first indigenous language Bible Training School near Fada N'Gourma. For the next 25 years, the school trained Gourmantche young men and women to become the future pastors, evangelists, and Christian lay leaders in this region of what was to become known as Burkina Faso. The Bible School was turned over to local leadership and Alan and Genevieve went on to other ministries - starting a Christian Youth Center. . . in Ouagadougou, and then becoming the SIM Regional Director for all Francophone countries. During these years, Alan and Genevieve were the core of a small group that translated the Bible into the Gourmantche language, and during their retirement years they completed a Bible Commentary in the Gourmantche language with the assistance of their home church, Riverside Alliance Church. They returned to Burkina Faso four times to lead pastor refresher training programs . . . "

The church in Burkina Faso, when they heard of Al's death, wanted to be represented at the funeral service. A young man whose parents were students in the Bible school begun by Al and Gen, is now completing his Ph.D. in New Testament at Wheaton College in Chicago. He drove 7+ hours from his home, arriving around 2:00 a.m., to share greetings from the Gourmantche people. We enjoyed getting to know him and his young son, who came with him. We talked him into spending the night instead of heading back to Chicago after the funeral, as he had planned.

My dad was privileged to have part in his brother's service, and also prayed the committal prayer at the very old cemetery - it is way out in the country in a little community called Orrock. I'll share more about that in a later post, but it was quite the trip down memory lane. My aunt Gen was buried here 10 years ago -

This is the other uncle (the pilot) and my aunt and cousin.

This is my aunt, the only sister - who admits that she was very spoiled.

Al's two children, Ann and Richard, are in the middle - their spouses with them. Both couples have been missionaries in Africa, and Ann and Larry are still serving in Mali.

The remainder of the trip was memorable, and I'll be sharing more as time goes on.

Back from Minnesota

I have so much to share with all of you, my friends. But, alas and alack, I don't think it's going to happen today! You know how it is when you get back from a trip - so much to do.

The funeral was a celebration of a long life well lived. There were many there that I hadn't seen in years, so that was a blessing.

I got to be with Diane Viere, Partners in Prayer for our Prodigals, so that was a bonus.

I have missed you all - will be visiting soon!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Be Back Tuesday

I will be flying to Minneapolis in the morning (Wednesday). My uncle, who was a missionary in Africa for 42 years, is home with Jesus. His was a life well lived. I will write about him when I get back.

Yes, it's sad, but at the same time I am rejoicing for him. He didn't know anyone at the end. He now knows where he is and he is known by his Father.

I am looking forward to seeing my cousins, their children, and their grandchildren, many of whom I have never met. The timing is right to be at a reunion of my mom's small remaining family. I also hope to connect with Diane, who used to blog on Partners in Prayer for Our Prodigals. I see her often on Facebook, but miss her here. We met up two years ago when I went back there with my folks and my sister.

If you think of it, please pray for me as I am the taxi for my folks and myself in a strange car in a city I don't know (thank you, whoever invented the GPS).

See you when I get back!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

This Week-end I . . .

Keys to the Cottage

  • Ended a great VBS, working in the kitchen. Made about 250 snow cones during the week.
  • Rode my bike to the gym, then worked out.

  • Went to the recycle center with DC to off-load branches he had sawed off the big front yard tree.

  • Picked some cherries from my sister's tree - first year it has had enough to pick. Hope to get at least one pie.

  • Split a yummy Subway sandwich with DC.

  • Finally succeeded in booking a ticket for Kev to come home for a week later this month. Waaayyy too expensive, but worth every penny.

  • Had a nice visit with my sis-in-law, here from Idaho, while my brother, husband, and BIL went to a showing of WWII planes.

  • Came home from the grocery store to find four starving little girls had arrived. Fed them grilled hot dogs (Nathan's are the best).
  • Finally got the kitchen cleaned up in between putting groceries away, getting bath water ready, and mediating all of the other "stuff" that goes on with 4 female siblings.

  • Wore a dress to church that hasn't fit for at least 3 years. Fun!
  • Had a blessed service with a missionary from Mozambique.

  • Shared a wonderful lunch with missionary and other friends at Mimi's.

  • Learned that my missionary uncle went to heaven last night after a long, worthy life. Wishing I could go to Minnesota for the funeral. Same problems as above - high fares - and those 4 little girls --

  • Began Continuance phase of PRISM weight loss program. Still 2 pounds to go, but I'll do it!

  • Relaxed and caught up on some DVR'd retro shows.

  • Finally remembered to do "This Week-end I . . ."

    Don't perish from envy for all the excitement! Join the fun over at Becky's place

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy????

So does anybody's life resemble this song? Or the one by Nat King Cole - "Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer"? I feel lazy, but that doesn't mean I can take it easy. Fortunately, I live in a dry climate, so the days aren't hazy. Crazy is the only word in this song that really applies to my life. As I said on Facebook recently (with apologies to those who have already read this), in the math of summer, 2x2 is exponentially much more than 4!

My other slogan for the summer is "terrible twos times two!" They are absolutely adorable, and are so much fun, but they are definitely more of a handful than they were last summer. Kate and Emma went to the doctor recently and they are in perfect health - weighing 22 and 23 pounds. It seems that either Emma is catching up with her sissie, or that Kate has slowed down a bit - don't know which. They are still conversing in their own little language, but they are letting us in on their conversations more often now. That part makes it easier, for sure. The doctor no longer mentioned speech therapy - thankfully. These little rascals don't believe in napping, at least at my house. In fact, their favorite two mini sentences are "No Nap" and "No Nigh-Night." (They do end up sleeping at home after they go home around 2:00 - lucky Kristen!) I do enforce a bit of quiet time, for my sanity, and this is how they occupied themselves the other day --

"Shhhhh - don't tell Grandpa!"

"Emma did it, Grandma!"

Grandpa took it much better than I expected - it took him 1.5 hours to put his files back together. We put Emma's bed in front of the file drawer (which has no lock, unfortunately), but somehow she managed to do it again yesterday, not quite so much. Grandpa wasn't so blase about it this time! After he put the files back together again, he put the kabosh on any further shenanigans in those drawers!

And he's looking ahead to the day they learn to climb out by themselves and help themselves to the other drawers --

Do they ever love being outside! And Grandpa is their best buddy and most fun playmate.

They can discuss anything with him!

Playing nigh-night is much more fun than the real thing.

Playing with a floatie is just as much fun on grass as in the pool!

What is she thinking??

The big girls get to go to Bible camp this summer - Care Bear has been already and Feisty will go to a three-day in two weeks. Care Bear chose to go to Camp Itch-ow-ee this year instead of staying in the cabins. Here are the lovely accommodations:

We picked up the kids at the end of the week - I have to say, I wasn't favorably impressed when we went down to have a look before we went back home. Care Bear, on the other hand, loved every minute - she called it "Home Sweet Home!" They sleep in the tee-pees, use porta-potties, no showers, meals outside on picnic tables (not in pristine condition!), and all of their chapels and fun times around the campfire. The only reason they go across the road to the rest of the camp is for swimming, archery, and all the other recreational activities. Little bitty Care Bear was the smallest in the group, from what I could tell. When we got there, this is the condition we found her in:

Turns out she went horseback riding and came in contact with a tree branch. I never did get a good explanation for how it happened and nobody else was hit. It could have been so much worse - we are so thankful for the angel that was on the back of that horse with her and kept her from falling off! Her glasses went flying, and thankfully somebody found them before a horse stepped on them. She says she didn't even cry. That was the "owie" part of the week --

Here's the "itchie" part --

The day after she got home, she went swimming and the scabs came off. She had me take a picture so she could send it to her two favorite counselors, along with letters and drawings.

Well, I hope this one publishes okay - it's the second time I've written it. It was a good day for a re-write - it's a gray, rainy day.