Monday, April 30, 2012

Baptism- I Love Jesus

Baptism is one of the happiest events in our church. The candidates sit in white robes together looking like angels through the service. I love when children are baptized. Yesterday, my great nephew, Jacob, who is nine, stepped into the baptismal fount.
The family took two rows. The worship songs rang happily, even the hymn was a favorite, It Is Well. A great song to sing with its echo. Pastor Ken, witty and insightful in the word, preached on the final decision about Jesus ascending into Heaven and what to do when told to wait. He spun great baptism stories. He left us hanging by not having time to tell a story, "I really like that one." We have to come back next week.
The candidates then exit to their side of the fount, females one way, males the other side. They make their confession of faith in Jesus, pastor asks them if they have anything else to say. Most don't. Not Jacob. He smiled and cried out, "I love Jesus!" Then splash, he comes up wet and we sing a chorus of joy.
Joy fills the church with every dripping saint. The songs cheer, the congregation claps. Then the white gauzy curtain closes. The baptisms are over until the fall.
I grew up with baby baptisms. They, too, were joyful, but more at seeing precious babies and small children and their reactions to the trickling of water. Adults were sometimes baptized. My father chose the sacrament when Diane, as a baby, was baptized. My friend, Sherry, had the water sprinkled on her head when we joined the church as communicant members.
Baptism is a public sign of commitment to Christ. With immersion, it is seen as an act of obedience. With infant, the family is committing the child to Christian upbringing. I felt sad that sometimes,we never saw the families again. It appeared to be a social act, not so much a personal step of faith.
Baptism doesn't save a person. It is a symbol. Faith in Jesus and allowing Him to be Lord of one's life is the saving grace. But still such joy when the public confession fills the sanctuary, like Jacob's big smile and declaration of "I love Jesus!"

Friday, April 27, 2012

Basements and Crafts

The other day I opened a new bar of soap. As I observed the fresh imprint, I thought of how in fourth grade, we all did projects. We loved them and continue more at home. The soap conjured memories of painting Camry bars with gold paint in my basement. The soap imprinted with flowery vines in shades of light blue, green and white smelled pretty. We gave them to our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and friends' mothers for sachets in their dressers.
Our basement was cavernous, with white washed walls in the front part and a plank door to the furnace, which was all dirt around the furnace, and dingy windows at the top of the dirt wall. I did this project at a large work table. Dad also drilled coconuts there to get the milk then cracked them open. The stairs were open with shelves at the top against the wall that served as Mom's pantry. On the back of the door hung her board for rolling dough. The landing was very narrow. A chain kept the door open a slit for the cats to go downstairs for their kitty litter. Against the stairs the solid pencil sharpener was always ready to sharpen my pencils. A glass pane door showed the stairs to the outside with slanted door to the  elements, like in the movie Wizard of Oz. Eventually steel doors replaced the wooden ones.
Another craft we took off with was place mats. The mat, a luminous plastic, mother of pearl color, honeycombed that we wove yarn through the holes. I got extra to do them at home as well, since it was fun.
The Powell's basement was like ours, basically a white washed hole in the ground. Our houses were older. You didn't really play in these basements or cellars. Some of my other friends had more modern basements that we often played in on rainy days. Karen's was circular with the stairs in the middle of the house. Her house was probably a Sears house, old but still in the twentieth century. It did have root cellar, that we only peeked into once in a while. We were not encouraged to go into that part. Mrs. Wencil held Good News Club on one side of the basement, where I learned so many songs, memory verses and got confused about Elijah and Elisha. But I learned more about the love of Jesus in that dim room.
Uncle Dale's was a rec room with carpet and TV. I loved that room. I watched the Beatles cartoon with David and Bruce there on a Sunday afternoon. I didn't get the show. Sunday cartoons were different than Saturday morning ones. Behind swinging slated wooden doors, Aunt Elizabeth had her washing machine and dryer. I only saw that part once. That was the work area, off limits.
We had so much fun in many of the basements. Mom always wished ours could more like some of the modern homes. I think it would have been interesting, I imagined it sometimes. The couch, a TV, maybe a pool table, but then where would I have painted bars of soap or watch a coconut being drilled?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mr. Steak

Uncle Bill, my mom's older brother, served 27 years in the Army, mostly as a cook. He served in three wars, well, the Korean Conflict was one, for purists like my husband. He ended up living in the Shenango Valley, for many reasons. His wife and family lived in Tennessee, after Hawaii, Aunt Madge didn't want to travel anymore.
Uncle Bill came here either on leave or permanently in the spring of my sixth grade. I'm a little fuzzy on this. He lived with us when I was in junior high.
One evening, Uncle Bill wanted to take us out to eat. Mr. Steak, a new establishment,was situated in the Hickory Plaza, where Get-Go, Giant Eagle's gas station is now. I wore a new outfit, probably from my birthday, of white flared pants, a coral short sleeve jacket and my new white clogs that could strap across the back. I felt very stylish, pants seem to do that for some reason.
We all sat around the table, listening to Uncle Bill, with his expertise on meal prep. Of course, we had steaks and he taught us how to order them in a restaurant. Medium is the best. The meal included baked potatoes, except Uncle Bill informed us these were not baked, but boiled and wrapped in aluminum foil. Opened our eyes that evening.
My mom loved her brother. She also noted that he was born in March, the windy month, meaning he talked excessively. Grandma adored him. He always sent her flowery, large cards signed, "your son, Bill." During World War II, the letters were shrunk like microfilm. I was reading these in Mom's apartment when I started doing the family history research. This is how I found out Grandma was married to a Brian, because Uncle Bill sent greetings to Brian.
"Who's Brian?" I exclaimed.
"Oh, Grandma was married to him for a while, but I didn't like him," was all my mom said, with that air of don't ask anymore questions.
Uncle Bill had his problems, but he was kindhearted and generous. For my fourteenth birthday, he gave me a German gold ring with a diamond chip in it. He visited Mom every day when she had cancer. She wouldn't eat, hiding the potatoes from the soup the LPN made in her napkin. Uncle Bill then smuggled them out of the house in his pocket. They were like little kids. He broke down in tears when he saw Mom so sick one time in the hospital, as he left her room, seeing me walking to her room. He didn't want to lose his sister.
After Mom gave birth to Danny, they were at some public dinner. Uncle Bill got on stage, sang Danny Boy for Mom. I'm sorry I can't remember more details. He also had a wonderful singing voice.
I try to remember the good in Uncle Bill. At his death bed, the nurse(with whom I worked with at the time in ICU) told me my dad sat by the bed telling this nurse, this was how he first met Bill after a car accident. He had several. This last one in 1989, a week after Easter, when he had quit drinking, was not his fault. Bowling ladies at a state tournament ran a red light, hitting him broad side.  He passed out talking to the tow truck owner, Chuck Watson. The liver deteriorated to the point it couldn't survive a blow like that.  The surgeon came in the next day on the unit, hugged me and apologized. Again, I was practical, after years of drinking, the body can only take so much. Mom always blamed the Army life for her brother's drinking.
When Uncle Bill lived with us, he quietly went to his room after being out. He never bothered anyone. He was pleasant and jovial. He allowed Jesus to redeem him at the end of his life with Reverend Hicks' guidance.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Birthday in Sixth Grade

I don't think it was my year to have a party. I had one every other year I believe. Dan, stationed in Virginia, kept up the tradition of getting me a pet that he probably would like. He knew someone who raised beagles, hunting beagles. The first one was a sweet brown girl that I named Virginia, but called Ginny. Unfortunately, my mother could not train this puppy. She would not be house broken as she had had generations of outdoor dog in her. Dad set up a pen for her in the bigger shed out back.
I walked her all around town. The teens on the Isaly's wall jeered, "What ya walking?"
I replied, "A beagle." And they mockingly repeated it back to me, "A beagle?"
Ginny and I continued our walk. She behaved for her walks.
About a month later, Dan brought a black and tan boy, that I called Beau for Beauregard. I had just read Gloria Salvoldi's Tennessee Boy. I think the dog in that book was Beau or the boy, I can't remember exactly. A southern moniker for Virginian dog. He was sweet, too, but again, not house trainable. He joined Ginny in the shed.
We kept them all summer, but they were hunting dogs. They needed that kind of exercise, not girly walks with a twelve year old, who had no desire to hunt. I'm not against hunting. Loved all the game Dan brought home growing up, squirrel, rabbit, venison, but I never thought about hunting myself. Dad still felt ill from the accident in the fall, so he wasn't up to hunting. We gave the dogs to a farmer that would take them out in the woods.
The same time I got Ginny, my Siamese cat, HoChi, developed bladder stones. At first, we thought he was mad about the puppy. He'd sit and sit in the yard with his back to us. We realized he was losing weight and luster in his coat. A trip to the vet's revealed the reason. We tried so hard to keep him alive. Ground up liver for him. He would crawl over to the litter box, crying, then lay there. Finally, the vet told us, surgery to remove the stones would help, but we didn't have that kind of money.
My feelings jumbled. I couldn't be mad. I was losing my friend and a year before, we could have afforded the surgery. I couldn't say anything, Dad loved the cat, too. Did he feel guilty or bad? I'm sure he did, but we didn't talk about it. I accepted it. I cried, but I never wanted my parents to think I blamed them. I knew the facts. This was life. HoChi was the best, though.
We loved all our pets. Letting them go is very hard, whether to another owner or to death. As Mom said about her first Scotty, "It seems he could just unzip his coat and a little man would jump out."

Monday, April 23, 2012


I can't believe it has been a week since I posted. I didn't have the fight to get on the computer. Not that my girls put up a fight, but I felt unable to even ask. I'm not sure why.I'm passionate about writing, but I found myself slug-like watching the loops of TV shows on Netflix with them. I wanted to sit in the room with the girls.
I find I can't concentrate with the dialogue. I guess I was in a funk. I have been often if you read this blog, but usually I write something. This week, a break must have been necessary, I hope.
I hate looking at the stats as the writing time lags ever more each day. I wonder if writing is really what I'm supposed to do. The dream remains as the work load increases. I need to do the best job everywhere.
I love to blame it on the weather or lack of sun. Is it my Vitamin D sagging? We don't seem to be getting the snow predicted. I believe it has settled in the mountains and farther north. Again, as much as I complain about this area's weather, we have moderate highs and lows most of the time. Even our earthquakes from fracking are mild, with none recently.
So, I hope to get back on schedule. I have been thinking more about when I was in sixth grade as well as reading quite a bit. Finished two books this weekend. My dog also is reacting to my funk by tearing up papers or whatever else he can find. Enough to drive me crazy. Cat in the Hat? anyone?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ah, Eateries

I didn't think this would happen, but I have a bit of writer's block. I reviewed my past posts so as not to repeat myself, and I'm still not sure what to write about. My niece, Michelle, is anxious to hear about the Casino dances, but that is a summer topic. To keep up with the McDonald's story, I could write about the other fast food eateries, but that would show how spoiled I was. Well, why not?
Burger King on the corner of State Street and North Buhl Farm Drive entered the Shenango Valley around 1970. I detested it for some reason. Most likely the commercial that boasted,"It takes two hands to handle the Whopper." Yeah, I know you're singing it with me, huh? I called it the home of the "slopper."
I was strictly a McDonald's kid, hamburger, french fries and a milkshake- at every restaurant I was taken. Except the one time my dad took me to Cocoa Inn in Hershey, PA on the way to see my new niece, Debbie. Then I ordered shrimp.
So, I bulked at going to Burger King, absolutely refused. We had the Volks Wagen camper then, so Dad picked up my meal at Micky D's, then got theirs at Burger King, and we ate at the table in the camper. And I still made fun of the "slopper."
We did agree on Arby's, but that was a special fast food treat. The roast beef hung from chains near the counter. And that horsey sauce, in a bottle then, was the best. Round it off with a Jamocha shake and baby, you had a deal.
In Florida in  1974, I was introduced to Hardee's by Diane and Herman. We did chores around their condo on Saturday morning and scooted to Hardee's for lunch. I loved having great fun. I stayed with them for three weeks that summer. That's another post.
For a short stint, a dough nut shop where Eat-N-Park is now, was first a Burger Chef. The name of this shop was Frugal McDougals. The one time we went, the dough nuts were fresh and hot. In a journal, I started in fourth grade, I wrote about them, "They were yummy." Descriptive.
We loved to eat and still do. As Diane commented on tornado pictures around here from long ago, if you're eating Quaker Steak Wings in Dan's basement, let the winds howl. Which it is doing today, but sunny, the clouds are blowing over.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15, 1972

On a spring day forty years ago, I took my longest airplane ride to date. A few hops to New Jersey, but this day, we were winging it to Kansas for my sister's wedding. We had been waiting a long time for this. Diane finally said yes to Herman!
We had a stop over at O'Hare airport in Chicago. I wore a blue body suit, short sleeve ribbed turtle neck with a red, white and blue skort and matching poncho. I'm sure I had navy blue knee socks and loafers, too. People dressed to travel back then.
We stayed at the air force base in Wichita. It was a plain room is about all I can remember. Diane's house that she rented with four other young women was fantastic. A sunken living room, a den, a bedroom on the landing to the rest of the house, a large kitchen that I believe was pink, green and yellow, a sun room, I think, filled this large Tudor on Kellogg Ave. It has since been torn down.
I loved getting ready for the wedding in these rooms with the twenty-something ladies, Leah, Mary and Diane, listening to Horse with No Name, and other songs on the radio. Diane's bed was just a mattress on the floor, her bookshelf, bricks and slabs of wood. Great homemade art filled the walls. Mary fixed my hair with a slight pouf and a single braid against the rest of my hair flowing down. We tried to get it that way a week later and were unable.
The wedding was planned in a hurry as Herman, still in the Air Force, gave Diane a limited time frame. Also gave the parents a short time, too. Mr. Galicia and my dad sat one night calling hall after hall to hold the reception back here. Finally, they settled on the WM Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall, with Carrie Silliman playing the organ. It included a meal, as well.
The ceremony took place at the base chapel. In one picture after the vows, my dad has the best grinning smile on his face. He loved when the girls were married, it seemed. I know how happy he was when I married ten years later.
Diane's friend, Nancy DeVault's nephew, Homer, was to be my partner. They were the family from Pratt, Kansas that we had stayed with different times. But Homer didn't show.
The large house on Kellogg Ave. held the reception. The punch, the girls made in a large clean garbage pail. This was placed in the huge punch bowl for the drinking guests. A small punch bowl held non-alcoholic drink for Mom, Dad and I, plus a few others.
Another picture I liked of the reception is of me sitting on the stairs talking to a girl, Cindy, that I met there. I believe her mother worked with Diane at the school where she taught. Cindy had long brown hair, wore a lavender dress and we hit it off. We wrote for years.
This reception had the cross section of interesting people from the seventies, professional to hippies. All, Diane had befriended. I had a great time. Plus, I got a doll out of it. Peace, a black hair, round sweet face in blue jeans and long sleeve T-shirt and hat. She was smaller than a Barbie, maybe nine or ten inches.
I had a crush on the photographer, who I believed also had a crush on Diane. But this wedding was like a dream come true. We all loved Herman so much and truly wanted them to be together. They fit and still do. Happy 40th Wedding Anniversary.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fascinated By the Story

I've been thinking about the blog and the direction of its content. Musings is just that, a wandering, a pondering of my thoughts. I wrote about family history some, my history. I got stuck in sixth/ seventh grade. I've been on a rabbit trail of sorts, it seems. 
I need to reread  my posts so as not to repeat stories. To say I've been distracted is part of it. Tired, too, I believe as we are in normal spring weather, now, with cooler temps. Today, Saturday, a day off is gray, but not raining.
I need time to regroup as it were. I've been thinking again about David and Mary Thompson, my ancestors from the early 1800's that built Mt. Hickory. That seemed to be the story to start me on my writing journey in earnest, eleven years ago. I set the beginning in April of the novel I had started to write. I started working full time and the research halted to a grind. I also misplaced my notes on them, when Katie needed a three ring binder for school late at night, so I took my notes out and gave her the binder. The notes were not in the obvious places.
Their youngest daughter was named Felicity. She died when she was eleven. When I cross the bridge over Pine Hollow out of Sharpsville, I think did she drown in the creek when it was high in the spring, black waters rushing over her? It would have been just down the hill from Mt. Hickory. But the thing is there are only dates in cemeteries.
I think of Mary with a lilting Scottish accent, although they have been out of Scotland over a hundred years. She was born in Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania. Her parents from Maryland, Queen Anne's County, both of Scottish names- Campbell and Satterfield.
Oh, for the day, I can research and write full time. I don't want to the dream to die. Sometimes, when life gets busy, I feel a dimness in the glow of the dream. The ember, though, will not go out.
For my family, I hope this gives some more insight into our history. I hope I didn't bore anyone else. The Thompsons have just been in my thoughts lately. The beginning of industry in our Valley, coal and then steel. I am fascinated by the story.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


ShenangoValley, a facebook friend, posted a picture of the oldest McDonald's on State Street this morning. By this afternoon, it generated 79 comments. I really enjoy reading them. I guess in a way, the nostalgia works to my benefit, since I write a lot about how things used to be.
People wrote their memories of the hang out. That spot was a huge hang out. A security guard patrolled the parking lot and moved the teens along if they loitered too long. I used to hang out there after the Buhl Park Casino dances, with live bands, every Tuesday night in the summer. We bought one order of fries and a coke for five girls.
The comments also mentioned other fast food places on the strip. Someone mentioned drag racing. In my teen years, races were on the freeway early in the morning, like two am. I had a friend who lived on Stambaugh right above the freeway and he talked about hearing the races.
As soon as a teen could drive, the exciting thing was cruising State Street. Even now, I sit across from where the old McDonald's was at the Dairy Queen that hasn't moved, watching the repeat cars on a hot summer evening. I don't think the kids cruise as much as we did. I think they hang out in the K-Mart parking lot. But I'm far from being a teen and that could have been from years ago.
One of the great things about growing up in this area was meeting kids from other towns, school districts. Living in West Middlesex, a small town with not much to do, we ventured up to then Hickory Township. I think we knew the Valley better than the young people from other communities because we had to travel.
The old pictures stir up memories and bring out the voices. We all seem to want a piece of the past.