Lilacs and thunder

I want to start off thanking my friends and family that held me in their minds, hearts, and prayers today. Mom passed away on Easter of this year and Mother’s Day is here. I decided early on to bow out of going with my Husband to celebrate Mother’s Day and his Father’s Birthday with his family. I didn’t want to take away from the joy of their day and I also didn’t want anyone walking on eggshells around me today. I turned down a lovely dinner invitation as well. I didn’t know how I would feel today. Would I be solemn? Would I be breaking down and crying most of the day? What would I feel today?

I have to say that yesterday was much harder than today. A good friend asked my Husband to substitute for a member of their pool team at a tournament yesterday and wanted me to come as well. I enjoy going and I think she wanted to make sure I was doing something yesterday. Maybe I broke because I was so tired from my medication. Maybe it was the anticipation of Mother’s Day and not knowing how I was going to feel or do and I was not going to have my Husband with me. He, of course, took the brunt of the crying and yelling, but sometimes, dog gone it, he sure seems to ask for it! I planned to do some sewing, some laundry, color my hair, some worthless TV watching, a good deal of nothing. Keep it simple.

ImageMy Husband was leaving early to see his family, so I puttered around while he was getting ready and decided to paint my nails. I painted my toes a dark color with a gold accent nail, and tipped my fingers in OPI Miss Piggy. That always makes me smile. After he left, I made some breakfast and settled in for a couple of episodes of Bridezillas. I know it’s an awful show, but it’s mindless and makes me remember what a great bride I was for our wedding! 🙂 I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to change the bed linen for the summer sheets. I opened all the windows, turned on the fans and loved the feeling of the gentle air through the house. I noticed the wonderful smell and feel of the flannel sheets as they came out of the dryer, held them, closed my eyes, and let myself be taken away by the freshness. Simple.

A theme emerged for me today. Enjoy the simple luxuries today. The ones we seem to miss day to day in our busy lives. So I set out to enjoy as many of the simple things I loved today. I felt like that would honor my Mom. She was at heart, a simple woman. Not that she was not intelligent by any means, but she enjoyed the simple things in life. She loved to grow things more than anything else. Her garden was her pride and joy and she could grow anything. Anything but blueberries, she said. Growing up, we had a garden of about a half acre all put together. We planted 150 tomato plants per year, potatoes, green beans, onions, radishes, lettuce, corn, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, and those were just the vegetables. We had a huge strawberry patch, rhubarb, grapes, blackberries, cherries, apples, and pears. My best memories are of the smells of the cherry blossoms, lilacs, the gentle caress of the breezes across the fields, and the sounds of the crickets and the leaves of the trees in the night. 

I made a gallon of brewed tea and poured myself a pint Ball jar of iced tea. My favorite glass. We canned so much growing up that there were always canning jars around and when you took a jar outside, you had a lid to keep the bugs out. There is nothing like a jar of iced tea on a hot day. This day was heating up. I closed the windows and turned on the air conditioning. I have a previous post publicly proclaiming my love for the inventor of the air conditioning system. I worked on a sewing project that I have in the works and instead of throwing a torn flannel sheet away, I have decided to try to make a night shirt out of it. The flannel is so soft and it will feel wonderful. 

Then something wonderful happened to my day. The rain. I looked around and the lilacs my Husband had gathered for me were wilting and with a storm coming, the bushes next door might get battered. I went out to the shop and got the pruning shears and cut some fresh lilacs in the gentle rain. I held them up to my face and breathed the amazing fragrance of the blooms as deeply as I could. They sit in a place where I walk by and can enjoy them for the next few days. Simple.Image

I sat on the porch with my jar of tea, watching the rain, reveling in the tumbling thunder. I decided to do something I haven’t done in years. I got out of my comfy seat, climbed down from the porch and walked out in the rain. The cold drops falling on me brought me back to my childhood, spinning with my arms out in the rain. Walking though puddles and jumping the deep ones. I miss my Mom, but it would be selfish of me to feel sad that she isn’t here. If she had survived the event that took her life, she would be unable to live at home with my Sister, and have been so unhappy that she would have wished for death. I know she happier than we could ever imagine, she is at her best health, and at her finest age and fitness. I will see her again and she will be the Mom that I want to visit with, not the woman-child wrapped in fears from the past, wrapped in a fragile husk of flesh in which we all are burdened. So, all in all, it was one of the best days ever.



The North Star

The North Star. Sailors used it to sail around the world, others use it as a guide post, to find their way. In most people’s lives, their Mother is their North Star. It’s always up there looking down on you, waiting for you to look up at it. Waiting patiently for you to use her as a point to find your way in life, even if sometimes it is an example of what not to do, you always look up and see where you are and where to go next. 

The North Star is dim now. Our Mother passed away on Easter Sunday. She had suffered medical issues for years and years. She had cataracts at 23 years old. A doctor messed something up and she almost lost an eye. She contracted Toxoplasmosis and it settled in her eye. They tried to incapacitate the parasite by giving her Typhod Fever, a unique treatment they used in the military. It did cause the parasite to somehow only become active once in a while. That was before I was born. She had several surgeries for benign tumors that had “arms” reaching out in her arm and breast. Several eye surgeries and she wore tri-focals by the time she was 28 or 29. She survived breast cancer, heart by-pass surgery, several heart attacks, was fighting diabetes and her mobility became limited by arthritis in her spine. Her kidneys were going, her capillaries were blocking, and she had been legally blind for years due to diabetic hemorrhages. She fell and broke her arm last Thursday. The doctors said that putting in metal plates would allow her to have the use of her arm quickly and after testing, her heart was strong enough for surgery. She came through with flying colors and on Easter Sunday she got up and ate breakfast and was joking with the nurses. The nurse said she sat on the edge of her bed, got a surprised look on her face and collapsed.

The tried CPR several times and we decided it was enough. She had a thready pulse for a bit. My sister was there and put me on speaker phone so I could tell her Ioved her and go be in peace. My brother got there, told her he loved her and then she took her last breath. It was unexpected, but what better day to enter the kingdom of God and what better way to leave this world. God’s speed Momma.

She would tell us that in college, the boys would play this song for her. Here you go Momma:

Here is a link to her obituary if you are interested.


Mona Mae (Gilmer) Durdel

Time Springs Forward

It’s that time of year again where we humans try to manipulate time to benefit our own agendas. If you haven’t heard yet, at 2 a.m. Sunday (really Saturday overnight), March 9, you are instructed to turn your clocks forward one hour. That depends, of course, on if the part of the country you reside follows the time change guidelines. I expect to see lights come on in neighborhoods all over Illinois at 2 a.m. that night/morning as people rise at the government-designated time to physically change their clocks. What is that you say? Don’t hold my breath? Well, I have to admit, even though we own and operate Willy’s Tick-Tock Clock Shop, we won’t be up then either!

I don’t believe it matters if we move the hands of the clocks forward or backward, because time itself will always move forward no matter how hard we try to manipulate it. As humans, we are used to managing and manipulating nature to our liking. We clear forests, plow up grasslands, tunnel through mountains, and dam rivers to accommodate our wants and needs. We’ve built windmills to harvest the power of the wind, water mills to use the power of water, mined the earth, power our homes with oil, gas, and coal, supplement power with solar panels, geothermal heat,  and even split atoms for both the welfare and detriment to man. The one thing we really haven’t been able to manipulate is time.

We are fascinated by time. It is an enigmatic entity. Entity? What is it really? You can’t touch it, hear, smell, taste, or see it, but it moves on and we are all affected by it. From the moment we are conceived, the clock starts ticking for us. There are some people that seem to have their whole lives mapped out from the moment they come out of the womb. Then, there are those of us that have reached the ripe old age of 50 and still don’t know what they want to do when they grow up. Not to be trite, but, where does the time go?

I look around in my own life and wonder that same thing. When I was in grade school, we had an assignment that I remember very well. We were talking about history and time. We were supposed to take the year 2000 (wow!) and figure out how old we would be that year. I did the math and figured out I would be 37 years old. Thirty-seven years old? Oh. My. God. I couldn’t imagine being 37 years old. I didn’t even think my parents were that old! It seemed like school years lasted for years and summer was but a weekend. Remember the agony of waiting for, well, anything when you were a kid? “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Time was not our friend, or so we thought.

After my 21st year, time seemed to speed up. Juggling school, work, and a social life became the new challenge. I didn’t feel like things were taking forever, now I had to try to keep up as things were moving faster. I didn’t meet my Husband until later in life, so consequently, I wasn’t chasing little ones around during this time. I had a career, roommates, friends, family, and time seemed to just slip by doing other things. I fought against time by not acknowledging it..

I met my Husband and time changed again. Time was so short when I was with him and workdays were forever until I could be with him again. Maybe that’s why we say love makes us feel young again. Coincidentally, we met in the year 2000. We moved to Chenoa. I worked as a secretary and Will was a nursing home administrator. Will’s Grandfather collected clocks and tinkered with them, he had downsized his collection and Will had a couple of his clocks. He wanted to keep them in good running order and have the movements restored. They meant a lot to him. He remembered watching his Grandfather make the case of one we have in our house. We searched a long time to find someone and when we did, they complained about working on them. Will decided to learn how to work on clocks, especially if he was going to collect them. So he did. He trained with a professional, read every book on the subject he could find, watched videos, and spent hours upon hours training. It seemed like forever!

He found out that a lot of other people also had timepieces they needed restored. Hence, the birth of Willy’s Tick-Tock Clock Shop. At first, he just did restorations, but then we needed to expand to sales as well. We remodeled the other half of the building into a showroom for new clocks. We worked long hours and with help from friends and family, finally finished the project. Next came the website. We had people wanting to see clocks, but there is a limited amount of space and too many clocks to be able to house them all. Will spent more long hours of researching and developing the website. Clock descriptions, pictures, videos, music clips, shopping cart features and a lot of faith went into In the meantime, I have been learning to restore clock movements as well.

I come from starting out as an art major and finally getting my degree in psychology. May I tell you that no matter how gently you speak, or how often you curse at it, a cuckoo clock will still need to have all the adjustments made properly before it will run correctly. Trust me. The restoration process is time consuming and not for the faint of heart. The movement is disassembled, we check all the parts for wear, polish the pivots (end of gears that come through the brass plates) to a mirror finish, replace all the bushings (holes where the pivots come through) that are not perfectly round, broach the new bushings to fit perfectly, run the movement through a cleaning system, reassemble the movement, oil, and test the clock. This is a continuing learning experience for me, but I have come a long way. There is great satisfaction in taking something might be 100 years old and giving it new life again, while preserving it’s beauty and value.

I look back and it seems like we started the business just yesterday, but it has been about 10 years. It’s like looking at children and how fast they grow. It just amazes me how time goes so fast watching our nieces and nephews grow up. Our oldest nephew is 22 now. It seems like I was just holding him my arms watching him follow my bright blue gloves. That’s how I got my family nickname, Aunt Bleu (french spelling please). It made my heart melt when I got to cuddle with our oldest niece the other day. She is 17, but still wants to curl up next to her Aunt. The 11-year old wants to take over the clock shop when we retire and during visits, wants to “handle” the customers. The seven year-old still wants to be a pirate princess, and we just celebrated our youngest nephew’s 1st birthday. Love makes us feel young and children make us feel old!

Passing time makes us sentimental. Remembering things that happened in the past fondly. We attach those feelings to objects, pictures, jewelry, and yes, clocks. Our business’ foundation is built on sentimental emotions. Will started the business because he felt a closeness to the clock his Grandfather built. You can tell when people bring in a clock the real value of that timepiece. Sometimes they bring it in swaddled like a baby; sometimes, they bring it in and tell us how they remember hearing it tick and chime growing up; and we have had widowers come in with a clock they want fixed because it was their spouse’s favorite piece and they think of them every time it chimes. We strive to honor those emotions, those memories, not just because we get paid to do it, but because we would want our memories honored in that same way.

I don’t think I have answered the question about what time is, either socially or scientifically. I don’t know that I, or anyone ever really will answer that, but what I do know is that we should be mindful of how we spend this fleeting time that we are gifted.

“Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life.” by an anonymous USMC Veteran

Wuve, twue wuve


It is February! We all know what that means, Valentine’s Day. Actually, it is St. Valentine’s Day. According to the Catholic Church, St. Valentine was a priest that was aiding, abetting, and marrying Christians during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. In the year 269, he was arrested for assisting Christians and held at the Emperor’s pleasure. He apparently tried to convert the Emperor and for that was beaten with clubs, stoned, and beheaded. Pope Gelasius  marked the remembrance of St. Valentine’s martyrdom as February 14th in the year 496.

So here we are today and how do we honor someone that gave their life to help others that were being persecuted for their beliefs? Do most of us even have that kind of love to give out to others? Bruno Mars would die for you, but would you die for him? How deep is a love that is requited with candy hearts, chocolate (I’m not saying not to give me chocolate. Just making a point here folks, don’t get carried away.), a dinner at a nice enough restaurant, or some flowers. Gestures are a nice way to demonstrate affection, but the marks of real love are small and cumulative.

Don’t tell my Husband, but I am rethinking the whole card thing. I always want at least a card to mark Valentine’s Day, my birthday and our anniversary. I am starting to believe that society has trained us to want those things as proof that our significant other has not taken us for granted. That they still remember and acknowledge those moments in time that are milestones for us as humans and as a couple.

Perhaps it would mean more to tell someone how much they mean to you on those days and share the day with you, rather than picking through cards that have generic sayings in them. What would I really like instead of a card on an essentially Hallmark driven day? I would love for my Husband to come in with some of my favorite flowers, freshly cut from the neighbors lilac bush. Oh, that is without prompting. We are still working on that one!

I don’t need specified holidays to know my Husband loves me. I know it every day. I wasn’t feeling good today and went in and laid down on the bed in the afternoon. He came in to check and see if I was alright. I know it when he tries to cop a feel as I get into the shower, curl my hair, handle a sharp knife, lift a boiling pot of water, and etc. I know it when he lets me take his arm when I am tired or when it might be slick. I know it when he refills my coffee in the morning. I know it when he volunteers to turn off the Xbox and watch a documentary about the Amish with me. I am very lucky to have a man that loves me. We are lucky to have each other.

We met by happenstance, but our being together was by a group of determined forces. We were both working in human services. He was the Administrator of a larger facility, and I, was a director of a program for community and residential services in the same town. I had begun holding networking meetings for agencies in several counties once a month. He came with the Director of Nursing (DON) for his facility. We were introduced and neither of us thought anything of it. However, his DON (and boss’ wife) decided then and there that we were going to be together. The scheming began.

My roommate worked for the same company and was sent home by the DON to tell me about this amazing man. The stories of his greatness made me laugh and ask where the bodies were buried! I was also informed that at the next meeting he would be asking me to lunch and I needed to go. I scoffed, but figured that it would just be an hour out of a day. I found out later that the DON had dropped a hint that he should take me for lunch. He had no idea of the scheme.

That next meeting, he came to the meeting. I kept looking at him and thinking how stoic he was and what was I going to do with that? I looked down and saw that he had Spacejam socks on. For those of you that are too young, Spacejam was an animated movie with Michael Jordan and the Warner Brothers characters. I loved Spacejam. Yes, I am a cartoon girl. Maybe, I thought, there was at least a sense of humor. Well, he asked me to lunch for the next Wednesday. We went to lunch. It was over two hours and we were almost inseparable after that. She was right and we acknowledged her at our wedding. He also wore the Spacejam socks with his tuxedo.

What happened to change my mind? I actually let him be him, not what I thought he was going to be. He is a wonderful soul, caring, loving and intelligent. He is strong, soft, brave, and my balance. I could not be more proud to walk beside this man who walks beside me. Even when I cringed the other night when he was doing laundry and we went to the neighbors’ house with him in plaid fleece pants and a plaid work shirt, I would not trade him for anyone. I want our love story to continue and never end.

This is my St. Valentine’s Day card for my Husband. I don’t know if he will read this, he doesn’t really like to read my blog. But maybe I will just open it up for him sometime around Valentine’s Day.

Think about if you would die for someone.  Grenade by Bruno Mars

How Daddy Got Kicked Out of Anne Frank’s House

Remember that old adage, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’? My brother proved that during his time in the Air Force, stationed in Germany. He’s going to kill me for posting this, but I have been telling him he needs his own blog. If he won’t do it, I will do it for him! Isn’t that what siblings are for after all?

A couple of things you should know before you read this: our family is not descended from quiet people and my brother is about 6′ 5″. Now, you may proceed.

It was a long time ago in the city of Amsterdam where I was on a mini-vacation during my USAF European tour of duty. I was with my good friend Dominic Mascis, a short, scrappy, mouthy character which made good company to keep in such an exotic city. We were part of a tour group that cost a fixed price to visit several attractions around Amsterdam. Some historic, and some less so (it is also the trip in which I may have eaten dog meat, but I’ll save that for a later story).

One of the tour stops was at the world-renown home of Anne Frank. Anne Frank was the young girl who was hidden from the Nazis along with her family and others for an extended period of time in the attic of a house. You can refresh your knowledge of the events elsewhere because I dare not belittle their importance by including them in this terribly embarrassing admission.

Prior to arriving to the house Dominic and I took an alternate route that included many small taverns with the consumption of many adult beverages. Needless to say we were feeling mighty fine by the time we rounded the corner to see the front of the historic landmark.

As we did so we could not help but notice our tour group was not there, yet perhaps four tour buses had just pulled up. At that instant, I saw more Asian people in one place than I had ever seen in my entire life. They poured out of the buses in rivers of racial stereotypes. Dominic could not help his laughter which only grew to uncontrolled bellowing as we were overtaken and I was nipple-deep in black hair. It was like Gulliver’s island.

Our humor having been activated already, we walked in with our new tour group. Going through the house proper, then into the hidden living spaces above the second floors. All the while being propelled by a constant flow of people. I lost Dominic a few times, and I must have seemed like a giant parting Asian people yelling his name like as if he was drowning.

Finally at the climax of the tour, the centerpiece in the large living room on the first floor was a 1/6 scale model of the house with all hidden rooms included. By this time Dominic and I had tried to keep our composure in this solemn place, but I had seen something that sent me into an uncontrollably sarcastic exclamation. Something so tacky, so out-of place…. the museum had a 1/6 scale model of Anne Frank… AND USED A BARBIE DOLL TO REPRESENT ANNE FRANK.

Ken was there too. As a matter of fact, there were several Kens. All dressed to the hilt in Nazi SS uniforms. Normally, I would have sighed and allowed the river of black hair to carry me out the door. But I fought against the tide and screamed “DOMINIC! IT’S ANNE FRANK’S MALIBU DREAM HOUSE!!!!” Dominic instantly erupted in howling laughter. “AND THERE’S LITTLE NAZI KEN! IT’S A LITTLE GIRL’S DREAM!” At that point our gutteral laughter and tomfoolery caught the attention of museum staff.

The Asian folks ignored the ugly, disrespectful Americans. Immediately we were escorted out of the building and to the sidewalk where our legs ceased to cooperate due to the insane cackles that wretched free of our reddened faces. What a humiliating experience.

And that, kids, is how daddy got kicked out of Anne Frank’s house.


It looks as if they have removed the offending dolls now.

I love you my brother!

WARNING: Too much information

I know I shouldn’t share, but damn I had a rough day. It actually started last night when I heard a rock tumbler in the bedroom. We don’t have a rock tumbler. I then became aware it was coming from my body, and upon the realization, the race to the bathroom began. Luckily for me, the bathroom in our bedroom is about 15 feet from my side of the bed. That was the beginning of a long night for me. 

I should have known what the night would be like,as I returned to the bed, after the first of many evacuations, Gracie decided to take a ‘pony run’ at me and give me a surprise ‘love bite’. I screamed which set off our Cockatoo, Murphy, into a terror-filled squawking episode, which started the dog barking, and Wil yelling at everyone to shut up. I did sleep fitfully after about 1 AM, rotating between visitations to the bathroom and waking up frightened from dreams that I may not have made it in time. 

By this morning, I felt as if I had been reincarnated as a young slave boy owned by a group of Greek philosophers on a party night. Using my wits, I thought the best thing to have for breakfast was yogurt. I think that was a pretty intelligent choice, except for passing by the Luscious Lemon to go with the mixed berry blend. The next genius move was being health conscious and adding two and a half teaspoons of Chia seeds. They are wonderful, on a normal day. 

I actually post this as a warning to my fellow humans. Eat the plain yogurt. Fuck healthy eating. I learned so many things today. I learned that jellyfish can swim up your plumbing, sting your anus. I learned that you can take your heartbeat by counting the number of times your sphincter throbs in a minute. I also learned that Chia seeds can pass through the human body within two hours and seem to have barbed wire wrapped around them by then.

I didn’t even have any sugar free gummy bears.

Ken Norton and Life Lessons


There has been too much death in my life the last two weeks. A childhood friend, distant cousin, a friendly face from my youth, a friend’s Grandmother, and now Ken Norton. Almost everyone will ask, “Ken Norton?”. How does he fit into that list of people that touched my life. Well, I’ll tell you.

As most stories do, it starts even before I was born (because it all ultimately leads to me)! My Dad was a musician. He played country music and was a local celebrity. His dream was to make it big on the Nashville scene. I’m not terribly clear on the actual timeline of events, but Mom and Dad were married in 1955 and moved around a bit after that. Dad’s Martin guitar is a 1956 model, so I am assuming that he, Mom, and the Martin traveled down to Nashville in around 1956 or so. He made an appearance on the Ralph Emery Radio Show, was backstage at the Grand Old Opry (the original one) and met Roy Acuff, and many others I can’t remember. There are pictures in albums at home that tell that story. Dad recorded several 45s for Nashville Records.

He recorded a song he wrote “Bright Lights Uptown”. Long story short, he lost the rights to it, it was published under the name Cowboy Copas on a posthumous album, the lawyer wound up in jail, the rights were purchased by a music conglomerate, it is still on lists as one of Honky Tonk’s best songs, and can be purchased mp3 on almost any sales site. Just like a country song. Because of that experience, he and Mom hosted country stars in their home when they came to Arthur, Illinois for the fair. Yep, Arthur. Yes, Amish, buggies, corn, etc. Apparently at the time, it was a hopping fair for country singers. Dotty West was at the house and in fact, Ferlin Husky was perfecting “Wings of a Dove” in their shower.

We heard these stories every once in a while. Almost every time they told the stories, someone would ask, “What were they like?”. The reply from Mom and Dad was always “Just like everybody else”. That was one thing that was instilled in me (I can’t speak for my siblings) was that no one is better or worse than us, don’t put famous people on a pedestal and don’t look down on those with less than you. Treat everyone you meet with respect.

I believe it was Dad’s first by-pass surgery (yes, first we are the poster children for heart disease). Living in Central Illinois, the premiere hospital for heart care was in Springfield. Dad was admitted, we, the family were shown the video of the surgery that was planned for Dad, and then the waiting began. We said our goodbyes, and went to the surgical waiting room to wait to hear how the surgery went. The room was fairly full, and there were rumors of someone famous being there with us. We heard Ken Norton in the room waiting for his Father to come out of surgery.

He wasn’t hard to miss, because I had seen his picture. He seemed big at the time, but probably because he was so muscular. He was 6′ 3″ and 220 pounds in his prime. My Dad was 6′ 5″ and about the same weight, but more belly. I’m not really intimidated by size coming from a tall family. What I remember most about him was how fast he put away a giant bag of green grapes!  He must have had previous visits to hospitals, because he seemed prepared. You can tell when a family is used to waiting in hospitals. We come in like gypsies, hauling in food, drinks, entertainment, and comfy clothes, knowing what waiting long hours requires. A couple of other things I also noticed were that no one tried to introduce themselves to him and he never asked for special privileges. We were all there for the same thing, we were all the same.

What he did do with his celebrity was to make his way around the floor in the days during his Dad’s and my Dad’s recovery and visit people. Introducing himself and encouraging people to get better. Sharing stories and laughs. He would send my parents Christmas cards for several years after that time and called more times that I know to check in with them to see how they were doing. I don’t know how many people he did that with, but that was a generous man with his most important gift. His time.

I only spoke with him briefly when he called to talk to Mom and Dad. I passed on the phone and listened to Mom and Dad both get on the phone and laugh with what you would have thought was an old friend. Rest in peace Mr. Norton.