Life on the farm…

My brother jokes about that line from the old John Denver song,  Thank God I’m a Country Boy.  While I agree with that (Girl, in my case), I’m not so sure about this part:

Well, life on the farm is kinda laid back….

Hm. Sometimes, but not usually.

Friday afternoon I walked down the driveway to collect the mail. What greeted me but this scene:dead box

I let loose several choice (French) exclamations. Post…still standing. Mailbox…in the ditch. (The mail, fortunately, was still in it.)This wasn’t the work of a baseball bat, but a car – someone wasn’t paying attention and took out our mailbox, as well as his or her rearview mirror, which was found nearby.

Now, we had a few baseball bats when we first moved here (for me, it was moving back here), but quickly solved that problem with a little Cajun Engineering.

inside new boxTwo different sizes of mailboxes, one sunk inside the other with an insulation of cement. On a 4 x 4, sunk in more concrete. That put an end to joyriders with baseball bats. Can’t y’all respect other people’s property? And isn’t destroying mailboxes against some federal regulation?

Our rural Postal Carrier, bless her, brought the mail to my door on Saturday and asked about the box. Her eyes grew big when I told her what happened. She just shook her head and said “get off the phone and drive, huh?”

Even though the baseball bats have stopped, this is the third – or is it the fourth – cement-reinforced mailbox we’ve put up. Every few years, some drunk couillion takes the curve too fast and winds up in the yard or the ditch. Occasionally they take a mailbox with them. Although the curve is very well marked and drivers are given plenty of warning, there’s always that special someone who just doesn’t pay attention.

Like the guy who recently flipped his F150 pickup and landed on the top of a cane tractor across the road. A sheriff’s deputy knocked on the door and very politely asked if we knew anything about what had happened. Seems that the driver took off after the accident. I’d actually seen the truck earlier, but it was perched so perfectly I didn’t realize that it wasn’t quite intentional (you really never know around here).

Another time someone put their jeep through my cousin’s fence. He, too, took off. I don’t know if the penalty is stiffer for leaving the scene of an accident or for a DWI, but I’m sure those drivers found out.

It’s never dull in the country. And it’s not exactly laid back, either. A couple of months ago, David asked “did you see the alligator in the pond?”

My response:  “Another one?!?!”

Petey the Pond Gator stuck around long enough to be named, but took off eventually. Probably a good thing.

gatorThere’s always work to be done here, but pleasures and rewards are many. I walk to work in the morning to the song of birds and the view of the pond (with or without gator), with occasional egrets, blue herons or ducks (and even a pelican) dropping by.

CardinalThese are precious sights that keep me grounded and make me laugh about things like the gator and the mailbox.

sunsetflying

Life ain’t nothin’ but a funny, funny riddle….thank God I’m a country girl.

On the 12th day of Christmas…

When asking someone “how was your Christmas?” we often receive a reply along the lines of “it was lovely! And I’m so glad it’s over!” I heard that just this morning, and on this, the 12th day of Christmas, I was reminded of something I read recently on Twitter.

It was a retweet of something posted by @theodramatist: “What are some ways that we can start reclaiming/celebrating ALL 12 days of Christmastide?”

nativity dog

How can we keep the magic of Christmas?

Responses to this tweet included ideas old and new, and some great ones at that. While the Christmas theme continues in church until Epiphany, the secular world has mostly moved on. Retailers put Christmas stock on sale Dec. 26th, and – for the most part – wishes of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” has become “Happy New Year!”

Christian churches do, of course, stick to the liturgical calendar. And while I understand that Christmas is a busy and exhausting time for staff, how about keepin’ it “high church” for a while if that fits your congregation? (Um, incense is optional.) I had a crazy idea of a midweek carol sing – a week after Christmas. (Why not? Everyone finally has time for it!)

nativity 2

A Nativity scene made from cypress knees on display at Epiphany Church, New Iberia (2018)

In recent years, my church has started doing the children’s Christmas pageant as an Epiphany pageant, which I think is a great idea. My own home decorations stay up until Epiphany. Here in the the sugar country of south Louisiana, families whose lives follow the calendar of grinding often find alternative dates to celebrate when grinding isn’t finished by Christmas (often the case).

But the feeling of relief that “Christmas is over until next year – WHEW!” is a little sad and bittersweet.

To be sure, Christmas IS a sad time for many, filled with bittersweet moments for nearly all of us. We are reminded of loved ones who are no longer with us; we are reminded of the changes in our lives and the lives of those around us. We look at the changes in the world, and (human nature being what it is), we focus on the things we lack and the things we miss while often glossing over the positive changes.

nativity 4

a handmade clay Nativity displayed at Epiphany last year

Even the wonderful things about the Christmas season (time with loved ones, community worship, giving) tend to overwhelm us, and I think it’s because we try to squeeze it all into such a short period of time!

Shouldn’t that be a good reason to remind ourselves that yes, there are twelve days of Christmastide, and we all pretty much get started celebrating Christmas during Advent anyway. So why all the stress?

Maybe it’s because we want to ignore the things that hurt us, the painful memories, and the wondering-what-next-year-will-hold. The sad irony is that the very gift of Christmas, the miracle of the Incarnation, should be the healing salve that tends the wounds of the less-than-Hallmark-perfect holiday – and so often we forget about that miracle.

nativity 1

One of the many Nativity scenes displayed at Epiphany church on our feast day

I’ll be packing up my Christmas decorations today and tomorrow, with the exception of the Nativity. (After all, the wise men don’t arrive until tomorrow, anyway.) As I do so, I’ll be revisiting the memories of Christmas past and be grateful for them. I’ll challenge myself to bring the beauty and miracle of the Incarnation into all of 2019. Tomorrow, I’ll watch our Epiphany Christmas Pageant, sing Christmas carols, and enjoy the first king cake of the season – and maybe find a plastic baby Jesus inside the cake.

I’m welcoming baby Jesus into my heart, and hope that you do, too.

Merry Christmas, and God bless us everyone.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

Submitted to the DAR Women’s Issues Essay Competition. It received state honors (Louisiana). OK, Charlotte, here it is. 

I suppose I’ve come to that “wise woman” part of my life, even though I don’t feel wise. I am a wife, mother, office manager for my family business, songwriter, and vocalist. I am occasionally asked for advice by young singers.

I tell them that a vocalist can never replace their instrument. If it gets damaged or broken, we can no longer sing – or we must find a way to deal with the damage.

sing 1

This is the story of my own damaged instrument. Not my voice, but my ear. My advice to young vocalists has expanded to include: If you ever experience sudden hearing loss, it is a medical emergency.  I tell them about the symptoms of Meniere’s Disease.

I juggled singing with job and family life. I sang with my blues band, at my church, at our local Jewish temple, and with my music partner in our Gospel duo. God makes each of us an instrument, and I did my best to learn to use and care for my musical instrument. Call me “Queen of the Earplugs;” I treasure my ears.

sing 2

Earplugs don’t help with allergies, though. For years, I’d have occasional bouts of clogged ears and dizziness during high allergy seasons. One December day a few years ago, my ears clogged.

I thought it was allergies, or possibly I’d caught my husband and daughter’s virus. I had things to do at the office and two sick ones to care for. I knew what this was, took ibuprofen and antihistamines, but it got worse.

I couldn’t hear anything clearly in my left ear. While it had been several years since my last “spell,” I’d had a severe dizzy day recently, so I saw my ENT, who was familiar with my history. I expected the usual cortisone pack, but this time he looked at me with concern when I told him this had lingered for three weeks.

I knew from his expression that something was different this time. This should have run its course by now, he said. He prescribed cortisone and an antifungal.

“When will my hearing return?” I asked.

“Let’s wait and see what the medication does,” he replied.

I took what felt like a never-ending course of cortisone and Valtrex.

After a month of medication, Dr. Robert ordered an MRI. Fortunately, there was no tumor, but no answers either. I went to the audiologist for a baseline audiogram. There was nothing but noise and pain in my left ear. Results? My right ear was good, but my left ear showed a profound hearing loss. I took a copy of the report home, filed it away, and cried. I cried me a river, as the song says. How ironic.

sing 3

I told only family and closest friends. I quit scheduling band gigs; even with earplugs jammed into my ears, I was afraid to take any chances. Meanwhile, a bizarre group of sounds had moved in where my hearing used to be: Tinnitus. In different keys. All at once.

Dr. Robert had told me that we needed to wait a year, as there was a chance that my hearing would return with time. Meanwhile, I had this invisible, sudden, crippling loss that I couldn’t even talk about or escape. After asking my husband to repeat something for the third time one evening, he voiced his frustration. “Are you DEAF?” he cried.

I fell apart.

“YES, I AM.” I replied. “In one ear. Half of everything I hear is GONE.” He felt terrible. So did I.

I began telling a few people about my loss. I was shocked at some of the responses.

“Well, I guess so, all that loud music you play!” A laugh. “I could have told you THAT was going to happen!”

Really? I’m the one wearing earplugs, remember? I have the small band that is known to be considerate of noise levels.

My response was anger. Then, there was the well-meaning advice about earwax, about this doctor, that diet, this treatment, etc. No, a cochlear implant would only destroy the way I hear music.

That year was one of adjustment, resignation, and hope. In many ways, I had to relearn to sing because I had to learn how to hear again. Our brains are wired for stereo, and that was lost to me. I quit going places where a large group of people gathered because I could no longer discern voices in a conversation. I quit going to movies and concerts and any live presentation because they were hard to follow. Everything was a wash of noise, coated with a blanket of anxiety and occasional panic.

I considered hearing aids, although I had no idea how to pay for them. We had two children in college. This was hope, though: One day, I can get hearing aids. 

I longed to hear in stereo. I wanted the safety of knowing where a sound originated. If someone called my name, I had no idea of where to turn. I don’t know where a siren or horn is coming from in traffic.

I wanted to hear music in stereo.

When the year was up, I went back to Dr. Robert and the audiologist. I was hopeful, as Erica, the audiologist, had successfully fit my father with hearing aids. I was determined to put up with whatever adjustment was needed. Surely no hearing aid noise could be more obnoxious than tinnitus!

The testing was similar to a routine audiogram. Erica explained that the noise and sounds and speech I would hear in the headphones would be adjusted just as it would be with a hearing aid, so we would find out whether or not a hearing aid would help me.

Whether or not? I hadn’t realized there was a chance that this wouldn’t work.

Today’s hearing aid technology is phenomenal. From what I knew about audio engineering, the ability to adjust amplification of specific frequencies in a device so tiny was nothing short of a miracle.

Unfortunately, this miracle was not to be mine. No amount of amplification or adjustment made a difference – only physical pain. I sat in Erica’s office and sobbed as she held my hands and offered tissue, understanding, and honesty. The cilia, the microscopic hairs of the inner ear that enable us to hear, were dead. No diet, supplement, medication, procedure or technical device would restore them. I faced a life in monaural, but at least I had one functioning ear.

She also offered a tentative diagnosis: Meniere’s Disease. My decades-long history of periodic dizziness was a clue. I’d had several particularly violent dizzy periods in months preceding the hearing loss. During the worst dizzy periods, I always spun to the left. I had become so used to a dizzy period during high-allergy months that they just became a part of life, diagnosed previously as “Benign Peripheral Vertigo.”

I learned about Meniere’s Disease, and saw my history written in what I found. Dr. Robert’s suggestions to address the vertigo were basically the same as for Meniere’s, but I felt defeated as I learned that no one knows the cause of the illness, and there is no cure. My years of periodic spells, interspersed by periods of feeling normal, had a name. Interestingly, it affects more women than men, and the possible causes include infection, allergies, head injury, stress, fatigue, migraines, respiratory infection, and an autoimmune response. I wasn’t too surprised that women experience Meniere’s more than men. It usually affects one ear, but sometimes attacks both over time. I cannot dwell on that. It is critical for me to maintain my balance, and I mean that metaphorically as well as literally.

balance

Balance.

It’s not always obvious that I have a hearing deficit, but an astute observer will notice. I’m getting better at lip-reading. In music, I seek the right position to hear what I need to hear in order to sing. In any group seating situations, I tell the person on my left “I’m deaf in this ear. If you say something and I don’t respond, it’s because I didn’t hear you.” I’ve learned to deflect the still-painful topic of hearing aids by saying “it’s a sensorineural hearing loss, which cannot be fixed by a hearing aid.” I’ve learned that such queries are usually out of concern.

I also tell others that sudden hearing loss is a medical emergency, even if you’ve had it before and you think “oh, allergies.” I also tell them about Meniere’s Disease.

On the positive side, the dizzy spells have mostly stopped; this, too, is typical of Meniere’s. As for singing, I’ve had to hyper-focus my sense of pitch, which has strengthened my vocals. I’ve heard of other vocalists who have experienced a similar hearing loss who have quit singing.

I can’t not sing. I have found a new way of listening, and a new way to focus on the experience of singing. It is a whole-body expression, as you must feel the vibrations and melody in your body. Your mind, throat, ear, mouth, lungs must know how the notes feel as well as how they sound. Perhaps it’s similar to the heightened sense of hearing that some vision impaired people have; I am partially deaf, so I have an enhanced sense of certain facets of singing that some take for granted.

Cedartown680

How can I keep from singing? At a Women at the Well concert. Photo by Rev. Kemper Anderson, at St. James Church in Cedartown, Ga.

About three years into this journey, my music partner and I were preparing to go on a short tour of several churches in the mid-Atlantic states, performing our original Gospel program about Jesus’ women disciples. We had recorded several of the songs from the program, and I longed to re-record some vocals and add harmonies.

Singing overdub harmonies is a challenge when you have only one functional ear. I managed by notating the harmonies, placing the headphone behind my one good ear, and forging ahead in spite of fear deep in my soul. What if I couldn’t do it?

But I could, and I did. A few days later, after the vocals were mixed, we shared the tracks with a friend. Danny is a gifted pianist who tours worldwide and has done a lot of recording and harmony vocals. He knows of my hearing loss, and was floored when he heard the harmonies.

“That’s a miracle,” he said, “that you could do that.”

It is a miracle, and one for which I am profoundly grateful. I still ache over the loss, but on the other hand, I now sing more sacred music and chant. Sometimes frustration still rises to the surface. That’s when the words and music of the hymn How Can I Keep From Singing sustain me:

Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear the music ringing

            It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?                      

Too much.

Two highly visible suicides this week bring that subject into the forefront for the time being. For survivors (family and friends left behind), suicide will always be with them. For those who live with depression, thoughts of suicide are often there.

For the rest of the world, well, we’d just rather not think about it, right?

I’m not practicing professionally right now (I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker), but keep my license current and never stop learning. Suicide prevention is a subject that people will ask me about, and I know in at least some instances they ask me because I’m NOT currently “working in the system.” So I urge them: If someone has verbalized thoughts of suicide, take it seriously.

How often have you heard “I just can’t see how someone can do that?” When someone takes their own life, they’re not thinking right. It’s not a rational act, no matter how much the Suicide may rationalize it. “I have no way out.” There is always a way out, a way through that doesn’t entail leaving this world.

Remember, that person is in a dark, dark place. If you can’t see how someone can do that, you don’t understand the darkness. Be glad you’ve never been there. And if you ever find yourself there, I pray you’ll hang on to a glimmer of hope that things can get better, and seek help.

Hope – and help – is always on the horizon.

If you’re one who believes that suicides are eternally damned, I ask you to reconsider your view of (and relationship with) the Divine. I recognize that this is a long held belief in many branches of Christianity, that suicide is “the unforgivable sin.”

That’s just bull. The God I know isn’t like that. The God I know can – and will – forgive anyone! Is the soul’s journey over at the end of human life? Of course it isn’t. The body’s life is done, and so are the physical limitations of the body. I believe one can ask forgiveness even free from the earthly body. I don’t believe that God says “too late, had your chance, muffed it” and zaps the soul into eternal hellfire.

Besides, deep depression has a physiological component. I’ve heard news-chatter over the past few days that “more people are taking antidepressants than ever, but we have more suicides than ever, so…they’re not working?” That’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at things. There is a great sense of despair, confusion, and uncertainty in the world – and we’ve become a more secular society (to the point of forcing God out of everything as much as possible).  Hmmm, could the two be connected? The almost total elimination of the Divine from our public life is a far cry from “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.…” We don’t have a state religion, but God has been shoved aside in public life because heaven forbid we should bring, um, heaven into the discussion!!

beauty 2

Take time.

The explosion of antidepressant use has many reasons, and I think that one reason is that it’s no longer as much of a stigma to seek help for depression. Another is that we live in a sea of stress. Fr. Matt recently gave a sermon on keeping the Sabbath. We don’t really do that anymore. Even for families who attend church on Sunday (or possibly on Saturday afternoon for my Roman friends and family), the rest of the day is often taken up with work. And if you enjoy Sunday dinner, someone had to cook it.

The point here isn’t that taking a day off will prevent suicides. But perhaps reshaping our societal values so that we value down time and use some of that down time to reconnect with the Divine would help to ease the stress.

beauty 1

When was the last time you noticed the little things?

Take time to relax. Get outside or dive into an art museum. Read a book. Go for a walk. Go fishing and enjoy the world God made for you. Do something nice for someone else. Tell someone you love them. Listen for the still, small voice inside of you. That still, small voice may guide you to be an angel to someone else who really, really needs an angel. God can, and will, use us if we allow it, and if we listen.

Be kind. Smile at friends and strangers alike. Sure, we can show the love of God in big ways, but it’s the little opportunities that come up a lot more often, so smile because you’re a beloved child of God. Smile because we’re all in this together. You never know the inner battle someone else is fighting, and a simple smile just might make all the difference.

 

What once was lost…

Sometimes I find things and am able to reunite them with the person that lost them. How did you find that!? I have no idea.

It’s happened off and on over the years. Is this what you’re looking for? I ask, holding up an object. Yes! But…I looked there! It’s not me, it’s gotta be a God-thing. Heck, I can’t even find my own keys half the time. It makes my day when I can help someone find something they thought was gone for good.

seriously lost

Within the past few weeks I’ve had three “reuniting” events. The first concerned a cell phone that I didn’t find – but I did find the owner.

My brother found the phone in the middle of the road. It wasn’t an iPhone, but clearly a nice, new smartphone. My husband walked into the house and said “Can you charge this enough so we can turn it on and see who it belongs to?” as the battery was dead.

He told me where they’d found it, and all any of us could think of was “oh, my heavens, someone put this on the bumper of their car and took off without realizing it…they’re gonna be so upset…” and the middle of a winding Louisiana 2-lane road isn’t exactly an easy stretch to retrace your steps. It’s a dreadful feeling. You lost your phone, your contacts are all on there, you might no longer have a landline, and this was NOT an inexpensive flip phone, either. lost phone contacts

It took a bit of doing. We had no charger that worked. By this time, friend and music partner Bubba had joined the find-the-owner crusade, and we decided to head to WalMart to see what kind of charger the phone WOULD take. Could we use a charger at their display to charge up the phone? No such luck. A kind sales associate told us it was a unique kind of charger, pointed out the only one in the store that would work.

I wound up purchasing the charger, keeping it long enough to charge the phone enough to turn on, then repackaged neatly and returned to the store. “Is there anything wrong with it?” the lady in customer service asked. “No, not a thing,” I replied truthfully. “It just didn’t work with my phone.” (True. It would NOT work with MY phone.)

The phone, of course, was passcoded so we couldn’t access any info about who the owner might be. However, we did figure out the service carrier – one I was unfamiliar with, but that had a local office – and the next morning saw me at the store, explaining to the manager that no, I didn’t want the phone unlocked, but I was hoping they could track down the owner through the SIM or serial number on the phone.

Here’s where it gets to be a God-thing. He powered up the lost phone I’d brought in, and while he was accessing the info in their computer system, the phone rang. Amazing Grace

It was the owner of the phone, who just so happened to try and call at that precise moment when the phone had been turned on. I didn’t realize this at first, I thought it was some higher-up customer service person at Metro PCS talking to the manager. I heard the manager say “no, she’s right here, she just brought it in…sure, hang on” and handed me the phone.

It was the lady who owned the phone! She was overjoyed to know that she would be able to get it back. Sure enough, it was a new phone – and she had been en route back to Lafayette from visiting family. She would have had to have retraced over 30 miles to search for her phone. In fact, they did retrace their route – I can only imagine my brother found it very shortly after it fell off the hood of her car, as it was unscathed except for a scratch on one corner of the case. I was overjoyed to have played a part in saving someone a lot of headache – in this case, there was a team of us trying to reunite the phone with its owner. We were ALL delighted that it was returned.

Fast forward to this Thursday. I’m heading home from work (walking across the yard) for lunch, and I see one of our employees and my husband both searching for something. “What’s missing?” I said. “Hearing aid” said our employee.

Uh, oh. Those aren’t cheap. We started hunting. Another employee came to park a route car and started looking as well. I started praying for help; who wants to have to replace a $$$$ hearing aid? (In addition to St. Anthony, I believe there are “find-it” angels hanging around. I don’t know, I just ask for whatever heavenly aid is available.) We looked. And looked. And looked…. st anthony

Then, there it was. Sort of like picking pecans; suddenly, your eyes shift and you see what was hidden in plain sight. It was lying among the limestone, perfectly camouflaged.  All I saw was the tiny wire leading from the earpiece to the grey battery unit, but it was enough. It’s a God-thing, I said. Go figure.

Today, though, blew me away.

A few months ago, I found a gold earring in a parking lot. It was a coin, in a gold setting, a clip-on earring that had been somewhat squashed by a car wheel. Yikes! That probably has a story behind it, as I recognized the coin. earring upload

 

I contacted the stores adjacent to the lot, TJ Maxx and Stage. I spoke with the managers (or at least, that’s who I asked for) and explained what had happened. Had anyone contacted them concerning a lost gold earring? No? I left my contact information and stressed that this was the kind of thing that someone would be very upset to lose. I put an ad in the local paper….nothing. I tucked it away in my jewelry box, feeling that I needed to keep it safe, but handy, because there was someone out there looking for it.

After church today, I was walking out and stopped to talk to a fellow Epiphanite. As we talked, I noticed her earrings – wait a minute.

“Nancy,” I said. “Did you have an earring like that that you lost a while back?”

Her eyes grew big. “Yes! How did you know?” she asked.

“Because I have it!” I said.

It turned out that she loves these earrings, and after losing one, had finally gone to our local “can-do” jeweler (Allain’s Jewelers in New Iberia) to have one replicated. However, before doing so, she had retraced her steps, searching the parking lot and contacting TJ Maxx and Stage. Nope, no one had said anything about an earring! (That made me fume! Obviously, we’d spoken with two different people at both stores…but you’d think that someone would have at least posted a note on a bulletin board!)

“Now, you can have a matching necklace!” I said. There we stood, in the rain in front of Epiphany Church, with simultaneous jaw drops. We were BOTH thrilled to see God’s hand in this. “I almost didn’t wear these this morning” she said. “I usually don’t wear them to church.”

To me, all of these things are “nudges” from something beyond us. Sometimes we hear these nudges and act on them, sometimes we miss them – or, often, we hear them but don’t believe them or just think “that’s my imagination.” I have to trust that intuitive voice more often, the one that says “hang on to this…look here…go there….”

shhh angel

I told her and told her, so let’s see what she does now. Ya think she heard? 

The very best part of these stories is how blessed, humbled and happy I felt to play a small part in being God’s hands. Sure, it’s all material stuff. But a phone, a hearing aid, and a beloved earring ARE important, and it’s good to remember that we have Divine help with the “everyday” stuff as well as the “big” stuff. (It also feels good when I know that someone else is NOT going to have to go through the headache of replacing a phone or hearing aid.)

Now, before you think I have some superpower here with reuniting stuff with owners, let me assure you that I don’t. I’m still looking for my beloved Mont Blanc fountain pen, which has been missing for quite a while. And my keys. Anyone seen my keys? Crud, where’s my phone? My glasses? Now, where did I put my glasses?

wheres my glasses upload

Oh, wait. Um. Never mind…

Independence Day: Why I am a DAR

I was tempted to write something related to the founding of our country in honor of Independence Day, but decided to write something more personal (and patriotic): Why I am a member of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

In south Louisiana, it seems that the dead play as vital of a family role as do the living. Before I was born, my grandmother’s youngest sister Louise (“Sweetheart”) had married and moved to the west coast. She was interested in joining DAR, and my grandmother, back here in Sweetheart’s home town, did the genealogical research. (This was long before the days of the internet.) My great-aunt joined DAR years before I was born, but I grew up with a knowledge that I had ancestors who had supported the cause of American independence in the Revolutionary War. “You could join DAR,” my grandmother (not a “joiner” herself) told me. She wanted me to know that my patriotic roots ran deep.

BL Flag

At home, I fly the flag. Solar lights keep it lit at night.

I thought that one day I might do so. I grew up knowing that while the USA wasn’t perfect, it was a very good place to be – and that as a US citizen, I have a responsibility to be informed and engaged. Our children were taught this.

About 8 years ago, I felt the urge to do something more proactively patriotic. I contacted my local DAR chapter through the national DAR website (www.dar.org)and asked about membership. I received an incredibly kind and welcoming phone call from the chapter regent. I remember hanging up the phone and thinking “why didn’t I start this process sooner?”

I’ve been a member now for 7 years. Every once in a while I get an occasional surprised look from someone – a new friend or acquaintance – when they learn I am a DAR. I’ll joke about it: “Nope, sorry, left the gloves and hat at home!” In the words of author Cynthia Moore writing in Town & Country magazine, “We’re not all thin-lipped white women with our noses in the air.” Yes, people have misconceptions about DAR. I’ve heard a lot of them. I’ve even had some of them myself (which is probably why it took me a while to look into membership). But the truth is that this is an incredibly diverse, active organization.

flag box

One of our chapter projects: Placing flag disposal boxes in local libraries. Folks know they aren’t just supposed to throw away a worn American flag, but what to do with it? The boxes were generously made by a “HODAR” – “husband of DAR!”

The mission of DAR is threefold: Education, Historic Preservation, and Patriotism. DAR is strictly non-political. There are currently more than 185,000 members in over 3,000 chapters around the world. Membership is open to any woman, aged 18 or older, who can prove direct lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution. This is the only requirement for membership, and the society does not discriminate on the basis of creed, ethnicity, race, background, etc. The ancestor may have provided military service, civil service, or material support, so not all were soldiers.

In Louisiana, we have quite a few members who have ancestors who were part of the Galvez expedition. Some (such as my 5 X great grandfather Joseph Dupuis) were Acadians who had been divested of property and displaced from their homeland in the mid-1700s. (I can only imagine that these Acadians would have welcomed the opportunity to oppose the British!)

Members join DAR on the basis of descent from a single patriot, but members can later “add” patriots. I joined DAR on the basis of my lineage of another 5 X great grandfather, Landlot Porter, of South Carolina. Why him? My great-aunt had joined on that same lineage, making it relatively simple (no pun intended) for me to complete the lineage documentation. These “additional” patriots are other ancestors that you show descent from, and they are called “supplementals.” The beauty of all of this is that DAR members are constantly adding information to the DAR Genealogical Research System database, which is open to anyone for genealogical research – no membership or fee required. (See www.dar.org and click on the green “GRS” button at the top.)

But why did I join? When I first visited a meeting, I met a group of down-to-earth, caring, intelligent, faithful and involved women with whom I had in common several very important things: A love of country, a respect and passion for historic preservation, and concern for the education of our coming generations. Some were women I already knew from church or other connections, others were new faces.

We are not the same, and come from different backgrounds and even different political ideologies. However, we hold some important things in common, and this is the treasure of DAR. Different members tend to focus on different projects that are near and dear to them – that’s another wonderful thing about the organization – there are many opportunities for service, and opportunities for women to stretch beyond their comfort zones. Some of the things we do involves supporting our military and veterans, providing scholarships and taking on conservation and historic preservation projects. Some of our projects are small, and some are connected to larger statewide and nationwide projects. Our members are involved in their communities and volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours in a wide range of capacities. It’s not all just about lineage and genealogy; far from it!

DARling cookies

We have fun. We love our country. And we like cookies.

I laugh about the fact that genealogy is the “great equalizer.” If you go digging into your family tree, you will find that not every branch is exactly stellar! We are all descended from saints and sinners (and perhaps a pirate or two)! We can look at our patriot ancestors and feel some pride in what they did for American independence. I can’t help but wonder – would our ancestors be proud of us?

That’s something that DAR makes me think about. I can be so grateful to those who went before me, to those who – ancestors or not – birthed this country, inspired by ideals and concepts for freedom and self-government. DAR helps me to find things that I can do to help pass on the blessings of liberty to the next generation. Perhaps best of all, I have made some very precious friends through DAR.

DAR flags gumbofest

With some awesome friends at the Gumbo Cookoff in New Iberia, LA

President Ronald Regan said “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again.”

Our freedom is a blessed and fragile thing. Today, and every day, I give thanks for those who defend it and pray for their protection. I pray that God blesses the USA, and that God’s gift of freedom may be enjoyed by all people, throughout the world. Lord, guide me to do whatever I can do to ensure and support freedom, so that all may worship and live according to their conscience.

241 years.  Happy birthday, USA. May our imperfections lead us to continue to better ourselves and our country. It’s still America the beautiful, land of the free, because of the brave.

The comments reflect the personal views of the author, and are not an official statement or representation of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  For more information, see www.DAR.org.

Memorial Day

Yesterday I overheard someone saying “Happy Memorial Day!” It struck me as a little odd.  I wondered if someone had slept through civics (or history) class.

The holiday we know as Memorial Day reflects a centuries-old tradition of honoring those who died in war.  In the United States, “Decoration Day” began in the years after the US Civil War.  After World War I, the recogntions were expanded to honor all Americans who fought and died for their country.

I wore my Memorial Day poppy this weekend.  A few people recognized its significance.  At church I sang “In Flanders Fields,”a musical setting of the poem written during World War I:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

~~~By Lt. Col. John McCrae (Canadian Army)

Read about the writing of this poem here:                                 http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/flanders.htm

and learn more about the history of Memorial Day here:
https://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.aspArlington blog copy

I hope you’re spending a relaxing day with family today, and ask that you join in our national moment of prayer at 3 PM (your local time).

For our military readers…thank you. God bless you and we pray for your safe return home.