A Sunday Morning Visit With Me and “Mr. Church”

I’m branching out this morning–taking that little fork in the road, if you will.  This post still shares with you my feelings about my love of God, church, family, special moments, memories, and family histories.  However, in it, I also reveal my love for good music, a good book or a good movie; and, how I spend and appreciate my infrequent solitude that lets me remember back to times and emotions from earlier seasons in my life.

Yesterday was Saturday and my husband Bob is attending a weekend-long firefighters’ leadership seminar in Northern Montgomery County, MD.  So, after running errands I attended our church on Saturday night with my daughter and her family.  And, as always the music, message, and multitude of faithful friends and family filled my heart and spirit as together we worshipped.  This worship was deeply moving to me as one of the older hymns, “Blessed Assurance,” from 1873,  reminded me of my maternal grandmother, Loretta Ford–this hymn was one of her favorites and it was played at her wake.  In fact, grandma’s birthday is tomorrow, and had she lived until now, she would be 122 years old.  Loretta was an adventurer, a pioneering spirit, a fighter, a lover of life and of God. From her I got my confidence, initiative, inventiveness, and drive.  She continues to be my inspiration and not a day passes when I don’t realize that she is still here with me as my guardian angel. So, in the quiet of my home this sunny Sunday morning with only my loving Chihuahuas by my side, I decided to stay nestled in and curled up under my warm blankets to watch a good movie, without any interruption from the cold world outside just beyond my bedroom.

As I casually browsed the list of movies using my relatively new cordless Amazon TV fire stick,  I happened upon a thumbnail for a 2016 no-name, no-hype film called “Mr. Church,” with an image of an older and very pensive looking Eddie Murphy.  So it’s Sunday, I went to church last night, and no church-going for me this morning–and next I spot a movie with “church” in its title.  I tell you it was sheer providence.  So, why bother watching the movie’s trailer, or reading its reviews, when this film literally leapt from ten feet out off my TV screen and triggered my fingers to click the “watch” button on my TV remote.  

Eddie Murphy as Mr. Church

Eddie Murphy as Mr. Church

Now, I’m only a few moments in, and I realize that talented and absurdly funny man Eddie Murphy was giving us an inspired and new look at his first and flawless dramatic performance–one that we’ve never seen from him in his 30 years of producing and starring in comedic movies.  And a performance, that I hope will lead to many more like it.  So, if you’re looking for a pure story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother receive gifted services of a talented cook, “Mr. Henry Joseph Church,” as a six-month arrangement that instead spans 15 years and creates a family bond that lasts forever, this film is for you.  Its story’s overwhelming moments will choke you up with heartrending emotion and your tears quite likely will flow.  But conversely, the easy display of warmth and love within family relationships will grab you up and make you feel like you’re floating on air, or dancing on the ceiling.

If you’re interested in watching the full movie, it’s available for free, here on YouTube

Christmas Traditions in Our Nation’s Capital

One of my former colleagues posted this article from a pamphlet he picked up at the Mary Surratt House Museum titled, “Christmas of Yesterday: A History of Our Treasured Traditions and Holiday Customs.” (If you recall, Mary Surratt was an alleged member of the Abraham Lincoln assassination conspiracy, and holds the dubious distinction of being the first woman executed by the U.S. government. She was hung for treason in July 1865.)

Some of us who are natives or have lived in and around Washington, D.C. (Congress on July 16, 1790, declared the “District of Columbia” as our nation’s capital). may already be familiar with some stories about Christmas traditions just because of our close proximity to The White House.  Others, maybe not so much.  So this post is intended especially for those of you who may be interested in Christmas traditions  in our nation’s capital during the Georgian (1714-1837) and Victorian (1837-1901) Eras.  I added parenthetical and bracketed information to further clarify the times covered within the quotes from the Surratt Museum pamphlet.

[Our second president {1797-1801} and first vice president {1789-1797}], John Adams, inaugurated the custom of holiday parties at the White House. The Oval Room was decorated with greens, and the tables were laden with cakes, punch, and other refreshments, while the children sang, danced, and played with the Adams’ grandchildren.

“Under Thomas Jefferson [President from 1801-1809],  Christmas parties became adult affairs where his guests feasted on imported cheeses, preserved fruits, and other delicacies and where vintage wines accompanied the meal. His six grandchildren wandered among the dignitaries, Congressmen, and Ambassadors, an informality which shocked many in Washington society.

“When Andrew Jackson came to the White House in 1829, he was in mourning for his wife; but his family put up a stocking on a White House mantel and the morning found it stuffed with small presents – including a corncob pipe. His nieces and nephews also had stockings filled with cakes, candles, nuts, and fruits.

“Because President Jackson had been raised as an orphan, he threw a party for other orphans. Among the treats were ices shaped like apples and pears to eat, and snowballs made of starch-powdered cotton to throw.”

“The first Christmas Tree entered the White House in the 1850s during the administration of Franklin Pierce (1853-1857). This official presidential sanction helped to popularize the custom in America.”

Our 16th president’s young son, Tad, reportedly rounded up street waifs during his father’s administration (1861-1865), and brought them home for turkey dinners.”

“By 1885,  President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889) had added new-fangled electric lights to the White House tree.”

“The tradition of Christmas season receptions spread throughout the area into homes not so grand as the White House.”

“On New Year’s Day, our early Presidents generally held an open house in the best democratic tradition. It was open to all, no matter the political and social differences.”

Even the simplest of homes in nearby Southern Maryland (where I grew up and still reside), could be simply decorated with pine, cedar, crowsfoot, running cedar, laurel, bay and holly from the nearby woods. Ivy and rosemary were, surprisingly, the most prized Christmas decorations of the Victorian era. Fresh fruits from the Washington Markets, abundant osage oranges, and pine cones and pods could all be added to the arrangements. Some accounts of the period refer to cedar boughs being dusted with flour to achieve the ‘snow’ effect that we spray on today.

“Mistletoe, shot from trees, abounded. New Englanders had to pay for mistletoe for it grows only in warmer climes, but Marylanders found it abundant in neighboring woods.”

“The proper Victorian was not too staid to enjoy a stolen kiss! And there was a proper way to kiss under the mistletoe. As the man kissed the lady, he was obligated to pluck a berry from the branch and present it to the lady. This practice continued until the berries were gone. The mistletoe then lost its power of love, and no more kisses could be had.”

Huh. That seems to be the Victorian version of the expression, “if you snooze, you lose.”

“Many a Christmas romance started under the mistletoe and led to a Christmas wedding the next year. The season was a popular time for weddings because family and friends traditionally gathered at Christmas and it was easier to get everyone together. The night before the wedding, a party was held at the bride’s house. The next morning the wedding procession began. The days following the wedding were filled with parties, for the bride and groom of the early and mid-19th century did not take honeymoon trips.”

“But, back to our customs…In the nearby hearth burned the traditional Yule log – or Christmas log as it was called in the south. This had been an English custom, and the Southerners stuck with their English ties.” [The Yule Log was believed to bring beneficial magic and was kept burning for at least twelve hours and sometimes as long as twelve days, warming both the house and those who resided within. When the fire of the Yule Log was finally quenched, a small fragment of the wood would be saved and used to light the next year’s log. It was also believed that as long as the Yule Log burned, the house would be protected from witchcraft. The ashes that remained from the sacred Yule Log were scattered over fields to bring fertility, or cast into wells to purify and sweeten the water. Sometimes, the ashes were used in the creation of various charms…to free cattle from vermin, for example, or to ward off hailstorms.]

“One practice on the plantations called for the Master to allow a Christmas rest for the slaves. The holiday lasted as long as the Christmas log burned, so slaves were often caught sprinkling water on it to keep it burning slowly.”

“A Victorian Christmas was bright and cheerful, and the decorations and parties were as simple or as elaborate as the people cared to make them.”

But, no matter the year, where you live, or how you and yours celebrate this season, let us all not forget, the true meaning and its reason!

Wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

She’s Still Mom–Even With Alzheimer’s

In December 2010 after a fall on the sidewalk and a hit to her head and face, doctors ordered a CT (computerized tomography), scan of mom’s brain. This CT scan was the first confirmation that mom had mild Alzheimer’s disease.


This was also about the time that mom had driven herself to church (just three miles away and only a couple of turns) and got lost trying to drive home.  And, about the time when mom and I had our first ever argument–and it was over next to nothing.

In fact, we have since learned that Alzheimer’s begins with changes in the brain that are happening while people are still cognitively normal, decades before any signs of memory or thinking problems. A person diagnosed with any one of the 10 types of Alzheimer’s and dementia goes through 7 stages that affect the quality of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s live four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on their other health factors.

So here we are, entering our seventh year after mom’s diagnosis.  But the real reason I sat down to write this post was to give thanks for the good day that mom and I spent together yesterday.  It began as a typical Thursday.  Helping her select clothes and get dressed, combing her hair, and giving her time to apply makeup and, of course, waiting on her repeated visits to the bathroom before leaving and switching her home oxygen to her portable oxygen and then helping her walk to the car.  And, of course, observing the “goodbye kiss” ritual that she and dad never fail to forego before leaving home without the other.

Bob had taken mom to and from her 10 a.m. hair appointment as he always does and we had eaten lunch together as a family as we usually do.  Next, it was off to mom’s hematologist  appointment to check the status of her iron (she suffers from iron deficiency anemia, too, and has been receiving treatment for this for about 15 years).  On our 20-minute ride to her appointment, mom and I typically chat about the beautiful or sometimes rainy days.  She teared up over seeing a deer that had been hit and killed by a car and was laying just off the side of the road.  Once inside the reception area she became very socialable and we enjoyed a philosophical conversation with another patient while they waited their turns to see the doctor.

Several nurses came and went while we were inside the examination room.  Nurse Chris escorted us into the room and weighed and measured mom.  They struck up a lively conversation and we all had a few laughs over just little things that came up; e.g., how mom has gone from 5’2″ to just 5′ and 1/2.”  We sang a few lyrics from the song “5’2″ eyes of blue, could she love, could she woo,” has anybody seen my gal?”

Mom also played a guessing game with Nurse Janice about their ages and similar life events when they each had attended elementary school.  (Neither of us would have guessed that Janice was the age she revealed.) When asked, mom also told Nurse Chris that she didn’t know if I thought of her as my best friend, but I was hers and that she could always count on me–a very special moment. I reassured her that she was my best friend, too.  And, as a mother always does, she added that, in fact, she has three grown children and she loves and is proud of them all.

Also in keeping with her norm (pun intended–short for Norma), when we’re leaving the examining area, mom always says goodbye to all of the nurses.  They told her how cute she is and to take good care of her “feisty” self.  She told them that she would and added:  “My husband and I go dancing every Saturday night at the Knights of Columbus.  We just love to dance.  And as long as we both can still breathe, we’re going to keep on dancing.”

Although they used to attend regular dances at the Knights of Columbus, they haven’t been able to dance in years.  But, on their granddaughter’s wedding day they put down their canes and walkers to dance this dance on February 21, 2016.

On our return trip home mom was looking at all her wrinkles and the bruises on her arms and hands (she bruises easily from her blood thinning medicines).  She said if she didn’t know better she would think that she had punched my father–and then she giggled and went on to say:  “You know,” your dad and I have been together since we were young teenagers and met when we started our part-time summer jobs at ages 14 and 15.”  “We have lived a very long life together, have had many great times and some difficult times but sometimes he can be just so irritable and cranky–we even used to call him “Cranky Frankie,” but, “I love that man!”

Yes, I am thankful for all the years that the Lord has allowed me to spend with my parents–the great times and the difficult times, and pray that when their time comes to an end here on earth that He will take them swiftly to end their daily suffering by being debilitated by Alzheimer’s.

I leave you with the following for those readers who have been fortunate enough not to have Alzheimer’s affect their lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Some Facts about Alzheimer’s

Tumultuous, Terrific, Tragic, and Treasured Times . . .

The word “tumultuous” best describes my personal little world over these past 30 or so days. I know my family’s events pale in comparison to the tragic and horrific events precipitated mostly by mean-spirited, greedy, and angry people of our world at large. To maintain my sanity and not be overwhelmed or sickened inside by these larger tragedies I choose to focus on my biological and spiritual family and how we love and support each other through the good and sometimes challenging times.

chesapeak-beachSo, let’s start with the obvious, that is the “tumultuous” August weather along the Delmarva coast.   We experienced severe periods of record setting weather – from the very high temperatures, to threats of tornadoes and hurricanes, high winds, and unusual flooding conditions due to heavy downpours of rain in very short periods of time. Roads were closed, trees were toppled, electricity came and went, but together, we “weathered” these days.

Among the Dickinson and Boling extended family we celebrated still having five living generations – a rarity in today’s world.  And, on this rare occasion we gathered everyone available from down the east coast and across the world from among our family total of 42 members.  In fact, we celebrated five of them on a single day in August at our daughter Jen and her husband, Brian’s, beautiful and spacious new home. The birthday celebrants ages were 16, 24, 25, 48, and 89 – a broad mix of personalities and generations that range from the millennials, (16-34), to generation X (ages 35-50), to me, (the only baby boomer), and then the silent generation (ages 72-93).  From a gender split perspective, only 2 out of every 5 family members are female.  The youngest and the oldest of those being celebrated were females; three were born under the sign of Leo, the Lion (the earlier mentioned two females and one male); two of the guys birthdays fell under the Virgo sign (a father and son).  And, when all of us converged, it made for more fun times, great memories, and interesting, often amusing, conversations.

fr-worch-in-heartsOn the day of the big birthday party, we learned of the death of a very near and dear family friend, (he passed on our son’s actual birthday). Father Don pastored to our family during some challenging times in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  He was the man in our lives that most closely followed in Jesus’ footsteps and lived his life as Jesus would have wanted him to.  So now,  just four short days after spending good times with family, it was time to switch our attention and emotional gears from celebrating birthdays to attending our friend’s very large and sobering funeral in Potomac, MD.

Following the funeral, God came to me.   He said to me in but a whisper;  “I’m adding an item to your bucket list.  You are to get up on your church’s stage and publicly share my word among your biblical community.” Next, Satan tried to steal me by infusing great FEAR into me. But, God was there as He always is. He said “I am calling you to do this!” And, the next week, at the meeting of our EDGE drama ministry, it appeared that most everyone would be off doing end of summer vacations or had other business and family commitments.  The EDGE was one actor short of completing its cast for next week’s message.  So there it was, God’s plan for me once again put in place.

So, this weekend, at my age, I took to the stage for my very first time.  The experience was well worth it.  I’m told that not only am I now an “actor,” but that I should ignore all those who have told me that I can’t sing – or, that I should sing “solo,” i.e., so low no one else can hear me. – I think I might possibly return to that stage at some point in the far distant future, but I probably will forego the singing, (because I think someone fibbed to me about my singing talents).

jackson-dickinsonAnd, on the evening of my first acting experience, our family got some fantastic news. Our eldest grandson, Joe, and his lovely wife Corrie had become a family of three, with the birth of their first child, Jackson.  This means I’ll have to add a trip South to my bucket list so we can meet  face to face with our fifth great grandchild.

Although I married very young, and am no longer a spring chicken, this baby boomer’s count of grandchildren and great grandchildren has already exceeded my wildest dreams at 14!   chelsea-six-monthsAnd by thanksgiving, we’ll likely add one to this number, making it 15. That’s when our second oldest grandson, Justin, and his wife, Chelsea’s, little boy is due, making them a family of five.

And, despite my attempts to end this post on a happy note, we have just contacted the FBI to report that we have been scammed out of half of our property tax savings for this year.

BEWARE:   If you are in search of a part time job and come across an offer to be a mystery shopper for “Applied Research Masters Center,” it’s a new scam out there.  They will send you a check for $1,850 which you are to deposit in your savings account; keeping $350 as your commission.  You are then go to a store that sells iTunes Gift Cards and purchase $1,500 worth among three cards, to ready yourself for your next assignment.  Here’s the crux of the scam:  you send them photos of the newly purchased cards with the serial numbers on them and the place of purchase.  Needless to say, after the bank returned the check  to us this morning and we called iTunes, we found that the cards had already been redeemed.  We can only pray that this is where the scam ends.  My husband is at our bank now as I share this post with you. I guess this final event, puts the capital “T’s” on “tumultuous” and “tragic.”  And, a big “L” on “Lessons Learned.”


A Gentleman’s Calling Card – 19th Century Token of Everyday Life

A Form of Business Card

With the printing press invention of the early 1800’s, 19th century gentlemen used a form of business card to formally introduce themselves to others in a dignified style. According to The Encyclopedia of Ephemera, the acquaintance card was, “A novelty variant of the American calling card of the 1870s and 1880s,

Emily Post?

Hello Again, Lathrops!

1800’s:  Bradford County, Pennsylvania

Image Loretta Alice Lathrop Ford, taken 3-27-1965My maternal grandmother, Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford [Loretta Ford], was born 121 years ago (March 7,1895), about 265 miles north of my home in southern Maryland. Wyalusing (“the good hunting ground”), her birthplace, was a small village in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and the town and its name remain there today.

Map - 1891 Bradford County-Wyalusing PAThe 1891 county map on the left  is significant to me because I found more of my grandmother’s family (born in or moved from/to) in Bradford County places like Asylum and Tuscarora.  While I’m at it, I also should add that before 1750 the Wyalusing settlement was known as Gahontoto–home to the Tehotachsee tribe of Native Americans. This small tribe would eventually be completely wiped out by the Cayuga tribe and the town rebuilt in 1792 by the chief of the Cayugas and about 20 other families.  Bradford county was created on February 21, 1810, from parts of Lycoming and Luzerne counties. Originally called Ontario County, it reorganized and separated from Lycoming County on October 13, 1812, and renamed Bradford County for William Bradford, who had been a chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and United States Attorney General–yet another member of my family’s lineage.

Emigration of the Lathrop Family Into Wyalusing and Surrounding Areas

William Lathrop Jr. (1798-1868) was born in a cabin along the Wyalusing Creek near present day Rush.  At the time, the area had no formal name.  Rush was an unsettled wilderness within the large northern part of Pennsylvania  which was simply called “Luzerne County”. William’s father (William Sr.) had moved to Pennsylvania from Unadilla, New York,  as a young man with his wife and daughter Catherine. William Sr.s’ mother and stepfather, Ebenezer Whipple, with his oldest brother Ezra and his family, had moved to Pennsylvania, but the exact date is unknown.  Their move was perhaps as early as other 1790.

Over the next 20 years, as William Jr was growing up, his father built the first church in Rush, the “Rush Baptist Church” (now defunct).  William Sr. served as its deacon and elder of the small congregation. William Jr. became its first pastor.

William Jr. married Sybil Lathrop from the neighboring township of Bridgewater in Susquehanna Co., PA. She was his 4th cousin once removed. Sybil’s brother Ezekiel III also married into William’s family by marrying William Jr’s sister Lorinda.

It was in the 1800 Wyalusing Census records that I found the first Lathrop’s–my 5th great-uncle, Ezra Lathrop, Esquire, son of Ezra Lathrop, II and Susannah Gates, my 5th great grandparents from Norwich, New London, CT.  From the limited information available on this year’s form, Ezra’s household included himself and three others:  one male and one female under the age of 10 (I assume his children) and one female (aged 16-25).

Susquehanna River from Wyalusing Rocks

Susquehanna River from Wyalusing Rocks

There was a second Lathrop household listed:  William Lathrop–he would have been my 4th great grandfather.  He headed up a household of 5 people, he was born in Norwich, New London, CT., too, and died in Susquehanna, PA.  His household listed:  two males under 10, one female under 10, one female 16-25, and himself, 16-25; which I am interpreting to be husband and wife, possibly his first wife Rebecca Huntington, and their three children, (Rebecca died in 1812 at age 39).

But, Why to Wyalusing?

Throughout the 1800s, Wyalusing served as a hub for shipping logs down the Susquehanna River and grew as a commercial center for the surrounding farms. The Welles Mill Company, established along the Wyalusing Creek in 1820, was a prime reason settlers came to live in the town and farm the surrounding countryside.

As the town grew, it became a shipping center on the North Branch Canal which followed the Susquehanna River through this region and crossed the Wyalusing Creek by way of an aqueduct. Still later, in the mid-1800s, the railroad built through this area and Wyalusing became a main shipping point for livestock, grain, lumber and flagstone. The town’s business section, built mainly between 1820 and the early 1900s, has been fortunate in escaping any serious fires like those that swept through other towns in this area. Consequently, the charming, old storefronts still exist today as they were more than a century ago.

Now, when William Bernard Lathrop (my maternal great grandfather) was born on July 3, 1847, in Wyalusing, his father, Serrel, was 26 and his mother, Harriet, was 24. William had three daughters with Mary Janette Gray. The U.S. Censuses of 1850 and 1860 show him living in Asylum and then Wyoming townships, respectively.  In the 1870’s and ’80s he lived in Herrick and Wilkes-Barre townships.

Loretta’s Mysterious Estrangement from Family

estranged-familyOne of the mysteries that remains in our family is what caused the estrangement between my grandmother, Loretta, and her parents/family when she was a young adult. Because the Lathrop’s were originally among the first puritan founders in the colonies and came from England and had strong religious commitments and beliefs, we felt there must have been some sort of “shunning” that took place.  This might be very reasonable to assume, given my grandmother’s strong faith, will, and determination to reach her goals in life, whatever they were at the time for herself and others.  But, the generations who might have known about such an estrangement have long since passed.

Presbyterian LogoOne of my more recent finds, however, is that William, Loretta’s father, while living in Wilkes-Barre, on Friday, January 23, 1874, went to the home of Elder Mr. Rutten, along with 14 others.  There, he affirmed and made his confession of faith and participated in Holy Communion performed by Reverend R. B. Webster, one of the founders of the Presbytery in Pennsylvania in the mid-1800’s.

By 1889, I found that William had moved back to Wyalusing with his new bride Lydia Malvina Westler.  They had 13 children together–my grandmother, Loretta, being their 9th child.

Lydia died on May 5, 1910, in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, at the age of 49, from typhoid fever. She was buried in Wyalusing Borough Cemetery (although the death certificate and other sources indicate this to be her burial site, the cemetery does not include her interment among their database (?)  My grandmother, Loretta, would have recently turned 15.

Loretta’s father, William Bernard Lathrop died from colon cancer.  Loretta would have been 23.  He died on September 5, 1918, in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, at the age of 71.  But, we are not sure where she was at the time of his death or when or how she ever learned of it.

In the U.S. 1910 Census, Loretta was 15 and living on Third St. in Wyalusing with her parents, her younger brother Harry (age 12), and her twin sisters Virginia and Virgilia (age 9).  In the U.S. 1930 Census, she was living at 855 Morton Place, in Washington, DC with her husband, Robert Gideon, “Roy,” and their two children; John (age 4) and Norma (age 2).  I’ve searched census records and can find only one Alice Loretta Lathrop Ford or Alice Lauretta Lathrop Ford.  This person in the 1920 Census shows up in Sioux City, Iowa, as a boarder–could it be?  Will we ever know???

As for the rest of Loretta’s life, I’ve written a lot about her and her Ford family in my earlier posts.  And, yes, she remains my guardian angel and was no doubt my biggest human influence throughout my life–although she died at age 72 soon after my 21st birthday.  I would have loved for my children to have spent some time with her.  But in a way, her influences on me and my life have carried over into how I raised them and instilled the importance of family upon them.



Our World Is Full Of Circles

Our world is so very large and yet we seem to travel in circles

Herrington Harbor South

Herrington Harbor South

For example, today I had an absolutely delightful and rare lunch date at a small cafe at Friendship Maryland’s Herrington Harbor South Marina Resort on the Chesapeake Bay.  My daughter and I joined a mutual friend who we have had only limited contact with over the past couple of years because of rapidly changing responsibilities and special interests that have taken us all in multiple directions and different circles.

When our circles first came together 

I was an impressionable eight year old and Claudia was about five years my senior. She lived with her family in Parkland, District Heights, MD. My parents’ best friends from their teen years were Claudia’s family’s neighbors.  But, in my 8-year-old eyes she and her family seemed to have the most beautiful, spacious, and perfectly decorated home, the June and Ward Cleaver-like parents, and I admired her personal beauty and gifts in creative arts.  (Claudia taught me how to color–and not just to stay within the lines, but how to take an ordinary image on a coloring book page and make it my own work of art by using just the right mix of colors, outlining some parts, coloring softly on others, and boldly elsewhere.)  I believe Claudia’s seamstress mother passed down to her a lot of her talents and skills–plus guided her seemingly innate social skills that made this shy 8-year-old feel comfortable and welcomed–a trait of hers that still stands out today in whatever circles she’s in.

Fast forward nearly 30 years.  Claudia and I next circled back to each other when we both went to work for the same Federal agency.  And, we both remained there throughout the remainders of our lengthy careers.  Its campus was large and so was the facility in which we worked.  So we saw each other only occasionally, to say hi as we passed or to wave to each other from across or down the long corridors.

It was about 15 years into my career there when my daughter, Jen, changed jobs and started her career at this same Federal agency.  Once again, Claudia and my paths crossed again. As it turns out, Claudia was assigned as Jen’s first supervisor.  I can’t say enough good things about Claudia as a person, a professional colleague, and a mentor to my daughter. Jennifer, now about 17 years at this agency, has come a very long way in her career. But, the basis of her success began with Claudia’s teaching her the ropes in how to navigate the inner circles to succeed within this big and always complex workplace.  The rest can be accredited to Jen’s willingness to learn, to think on her feet, to take pride in every task assigned, to always ask the right questions to best understand the “big picture,” and to offer appropriate suggestions at just the right times.

After our initial circle of hugs and hello’s, there we sat today, across the table from each other, picking up our relationships just where we left off on them a few years ago, reflecting on days past, and catching up on family and life events–it was as if we never missed a beat since our last time out together.  Let’s see–that would be when we shared a limousine to go to dinner and a concert in downtown Washington, DC.  And if one of us, within our fond memories, was at a loss for a name or place, we circled our memory banks to fill in the blanks, and sometimes even finish each other’s sentences!

Nearly two hours later, we bid our fond farewells, but not before scheduling an August luncheon, which we hope will be the one of many monthly get togethers to come.  And, so we can narrow the distance in which we circle back our memories at future meet ups where we hope our conversations will move forward instead of in circles to help solve some of the many problems in our world!




Are You the Apple of Your Family’s Eye . . .

Or, the One Rotten Fruit that Spoils the Bushel?

As I draft this post, my husband and I are driving to Virginia to be with our eldest son, Bobby’s family.  We are joining him, his wife, and their youngest of three sons, Andy, who is graduating from the Virginia Police Academy on Friday.  Bobby’s other two sons are serving our Country in the United States Air Force and are away at their duty stations.

But recently, as the school season came to a close and we have celebrated mother’s day, and preparing to celebrate father’s day, I realized most of the focus of my life, especially recently, has been on Family.

In fact at our church, Chesapeake Church in Huntingtown, MD., we just finished up a 9-week teaching series “Family:”

This superb series looked at today’s challenging dynamics and lifestyles within our christian family community.  It’s weekly messages included: “We are Family,” “The Single Family,” “The Married Family,” “The Very Married Family,” “Adding Kids to the Family,” “Raising Kids in the Family,” “The Blended Family,” “The Seasoned Family,” and “The Deeply Rooted Family.”  My eyes and heart opened to the potential volume of strengths in understanding, patience, communication, cooperation, mutual love and respect required for any and all members of these families to stay on the same page together and to lead successful and individually fulfilling lives within whatever type of family we live.

One day we’re born into a family, for better or for worse. . .

Netflix BloodlineMeanwhile, searching for some downtime entertainment, I surfed Netflix.  I happened upon a Netflix Original Series “Bloodline.” Among its stars were Kyle Chandler and Sissy Spacek, actors that I am familiar with. But, it was the title, “Bloodline,”   that most appealed to my family historian/genealogist proclivities.  So I decided I’d start watching the series at Season 1, Episode 1, released March 20, 2015.

No surprises here. Bloodline’s TV Series was a direct dichotomy to the 9-week series on family we had just studied at church.  In fact, the free use of f-bombs and adult nudity scenes disappointed me.   But, the realistic inter-family dynamics and dialogues intrigued me.  To paraphrase Glenn Kessler, one of the series originators:  Our DNA is such that the past is always with us”, and, “We’re going to learn more about one son’s effect on a family …”

Although based in the beautiful Florida Keys, “Bloodline” is a dark drama that explores family secrets that lurk just beneath the surface of a contemporary American family’s persona. The Rayburns’–they are hard-working and respected pillars in their community.  Their eldest son of five children, Danny,  AKA the “black sheep,” has just returned home.  It’s the 45th anniversary of his parents’ hotel.  Childhood memories are shared, old familial behaviors and dynamics quickly resurface, and Danny’s mere presence threatens to expose his family’s dark secrets and shameful past.  Deputy Sheriff John Rayburn, the next eldest Rayburn son and Danny’s champion, wants family relationships to smooth out and for Danny to be successful this time back.  And, as the ancient proverb goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So, yes, despite all the siblings good intentions, events spiral, a series of  lies to protect family members unravel, family loyalties are pushed to their limits, and all their futures remain in a severely menacing peril.  And yes, after binge watching Bloodline, there is a cliffhanger to which I can’t imagine a good outcome.  But the good news is, it looks like in Season 3 next year we will find out how, or if, this family survives as a unit, or whether any individuals rise above their deeply frayed fabric.

As for me and my family, our brief trip for our grandson’s graduation was fantastic.  We spent nearly two full days of quality time together.  And, best of all, our grandson gave us a hearty thank you “for always being there for important family events that mean so much to me.”  Likewise, family means everything to us–the spontaneous get togethers, supporting family through rough patches, and the culmination of successes celebrated with planned family events.

And, I close this post having just returned from year four of our biblical family’s Annual Dragon Boat Race Festival at North Beach, MD, where we come together to play and raise money to support our local End Hunger in Calvert County Charity. #givewhereyoulive — Another Great Family–and no bad apples!


A Woman Before Her Time: Loretta Alice (Lathrop) Ford

My Role Model —

In memory of my maternal grandmother, Loretta Alice (Lathrop) Ford (1895-1968). She would have been 121 years old today–a woman before her time–god loving, pioneer-spirited, and up to any challenge despite her age, gender, social status or physicality–MY ROLE MODEL.

Loretta Alice (Lathrop) Ford

Loretta Alice (Lathrop) Ford

I loved her dearly and daily life events keep her ever-present in my heart and mind.  You always knew when she was happy because she would be whistling a tune or two; I never once heard her complain or fail to help others in need, even when times were not easy in her own life.  I believe grandma was and remains my guardian angel.

This picture was taken at my family’s home where we held our wedding reception on a beautiful sunny and warm Saturday, on March 27, 1965. Nearly 51 years ago. Her surviving nine heart attacks before succumbing to the flu and then pneumonia attests to her fortitude in this life.

Happy Birthday Grandma!

And, together they danced…

The Month for Lovers Continues…

Caitlyn and Anthony 02-21-2016My niece, Caitlyn Boling (daughter of my brother John Arthur and his wife Joyce), and her new husband Anthony Rubio, honored my parents’ (Frank and Norma Boling) 70 years of marriage together (2/5/1946) at their wedding this past Sunday, February 21, with an Anniversary Dance especially for them.

As some of you may know,  dad is 87 and suffers from advanced diabetic neuropathy–nerve damage caused by diabetes and arterial disease. The neuropathy affects his arms, hands, legs, feet and blood vessels (poor circulation).  His sensory neuropathy causes numbness and pain in his lower extremities and feet and his motor neuropathy includes overall muscle weakness and loss of balance.  Needless to say, he balances himself and walks with the aid of a cane.

Mom, age 88, suffers from advanced alzheimer’s, general body weakness, loss of balance, and chronic pleural effusion (water in the lungs) which requires her to wear oxygen 24/7.

Amazing Transformation

With all this being said, when DJ Mike called our family patriarch and matriarch to the floor, Bob helped up dad from his chair and took his cane.  I removed mom’s oxygen and walker and steadied her as she made her way out to the dance floor at Peace Lutheran Church – Waldorf, MD.   As we at Chesapeake Church – Hungtingtown, MD,  learned from a wise young man who passed all too soon this past week, “It’s together, or not at all.”  And, in fact, together they danced!

When you watch the video, notice how both of them amazingly animate, share their love as  fresh as the day they first met, and enjoy dancing together as they so often did for so many years.  And what you can’t see in this video is the family and friends observing them in awe and their goose bumps and tear-filled eyes.  It was definitely one of the best moments, among the many great ones, for all at the reception.  And the unfortunate fact is, mom didn’t remember the wedding ceremony just moments after watching her granddaughter take her vows.  But, she smiled and critiqued the video when I showed it to her just a couple of days later–and the conversation and her connection lasted several minutes.

“Thinking Out Loud”
When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks?

And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70
And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Well, me—I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So, honey, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are

When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way (mmm…)
I know you will still love me the same

‘Cause, honey, your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand

That, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
Thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are (oh, oh)

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, lo-ud

So, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh, darling, place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
But maybe we found love right where we are
Oh, baby, we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are


Thank you Caitlyn and Anthony for giving us this moment and great memory to be shared always.