Five Family Events in Wild Wylie

Two lane road on rainy day in Wylie

A Wet Day in Wylie, Texas

When I started my research about Wylie, Texas to share its attributes as a destination, I faced the challenge of too much information. I needed to focus. History? Shopping? Awards? What would my readers want to know, especially the local readers, who visited Wylie before it blossomed?

Wylie gained over 8000 new residents between 2008 and 2016 with its population moving towards 50,000. Located east of Plano, Texas, a city numbering almost 300,000, the residential and business market attract people who appreciate the small-town atmosphere.

Wylie’s western theme creates atmosphere for events that cover “something for everyone.”  Grab your 2018 calendar to consider five or more dates for family fun. Whether you like music or shopping, eating or art, visiting Wylie is easy to reach by car. You won’t want to miss any of the fun.

Events on Ballard Street

The Ballard Street Merchants Association, along with other civic groups, organizes events throughout the year. Ballard Street is two lanes with quaint and clever retail stores and restaurants.

Upcoming events include:

April 30, 2018

Taste of Wylie-$10-$12 tickets with more than 20 restaurants participating

May 6, 2018

Pedal Car Races-for children ages 2-5, $10 entrance fee the day of the race. Be sure to see the online photos.

June 30, 2018

Bluegrass on Ballard-arts, crafts, car show, music-music-music with people in lawn chairs in the middle of the street by the stage, food trucks, and fun for all to start your Fourth of July fun.

October 25, 2018

Boo on Ballard-kids in costumes visit the stores in hopes of treats. A safe place for parents and kids to increase dentists’ income. No charge, except what you pay for the bargains in the unique retails stores. Four authors from the Sachse/Wylie Authors Group at the Wylie Art Gallery presented a special program for writers.

December 2, 2018

Art Shop and Christmas Tree Lighting-Many arts and crafts vendors at Baptist Community Center with programs for adults and kids at the Wylie Art Gallery across the street. Holiday parade and Christmas tree lighting in the evening. Great fun! Another special program by members of the Sachse/Wylie Authors Group.

Directions:

  1. Follow George Bush Highway to Highway 78 north of Garland. You’ll pass Firewheel Mall on your right. Drive through
    Wylie Art Gallery

    Wylie Art Gallery
                        Wylie, Texas

    Sachse.

  2. Five more miles north turn left onto Ballard Street.
  3. Find a good parking place and grab a bite to eat.
  4. Investigate the cool shops. You can find everything from fine jewelry to antiques to coffee shops, restaurants, gift shops, and clothing.

I had the pleasure of participating in the two events in 2017, both at the Wylie Art Gallery, a must-see venue with enormous variety of mediums.

Pick an event and y’all come! Wylie is growing and fast becoming a prime venue for entertainment.

 

Charlotte and the Chimpanzees

Thirteen teenagers may hit the “best seller” list with their cookbook

dog and cookbook

Fargo and Ruth reading the new cookbook.

May Day, 2014, I found myself in a theater in Portland, Oregon with 13 little girls, my son and another parent. The girls wanted to see a movie about chimpanzees and Jane Goodall.

My son and his family live Portland with 14-year-old Charlotte and 11-year-old Lane. I visit a couple times a year. I’ve watched some of the 13 girls grow up since their moms played with them in the nearby park with tubs of Cheerios for the kids to stir, throw at each other, and eat with gusto as young toddlers. The moms called them “Sensory Tubs,” I think.

I have cheered them on the soccer fields, in plays, and at birthday parties. I know a few of the parents and visited with several of their grandparents. By invitation, I attended one girl’s Bat Mitzvah. Last time I visited I learned about Ultimate Frisbee at Charlotte’s game.

That movie convinced the girls to raise money for the animals. They decided they would collect recipes from famous cooks and chefs and include a few of their family recipes for a cookbook. They wrote letters to renowned chefs and celebrities. Most Friday nights they met at various houses where they would prepare and taste the recipes before writing evaluations for those selected for the cookbook. The girls started Roots and Shoots of Portland, established worldwide by Jane Goodall for young people to help preserve ecology. The girls titled the book Saving Pan, updating their website with each step.

When I visited last spring, a professional food photographer had volunteered to shoot the food photos for their book. Charlotte and her mom met with the photographer for her photo while I was there. Parents with connections found a reasonable publisher and public relations professionals.

My son notified me that the cookbook launched in early December 2017 and sent an article from the Portland Business Journal about the successful unveiling. Would I like a copy of the cookbook for $25? It arrived, as attractive as any dazzling Betty Crocker cookbook. They learned about people, the ecology, the publishing process, and ate healthy, vegetarian food. Michelle Obama and Jane Goodall submitted recipes along with many others.

I called my granddaughter. “Charlotte, I am so proud of you. Your cookbook is gorgeous. What was the most difficult part of sticking with the project? It took such a long time.”

She said, “Staying focused. It was lotsa fun! I’m so excited about it.”

“What was best about it?”

“I had a lot of fun cooking, and it was really cool trying out a variety of techniques for each different recipe. It was really amazing so many people contributed, and so many cared about the cause and willing to contribute was absolutely unbelievable.”

Although she’s a very picky vegetarian, she tasted food she would never have touched or tried. Mostly, she likes macaroni and cheese. The thirteen girls attend different high schools now, but continue their neighborhood friendships.

When the parents sold 400 books in one week with minimal advertising in a few restaurants they added a “purchase” button on the girls’ website http://www.savingpan.com/. It’s a great gift for anyone. All profits go to the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center. Order now  before it hits the New York Times, best seller list.

Resistance

Resistance remains a common response, today and yesterday.

 Chambon-sur-Lignon

Hilside view

Chambon-sur-Lignon

When I worked in Chambon-sur-Lignon in France, I heard whispers that the townspeople saved 5000 Jewish children and adults during World War II. I assumed all the surrounding towns must have hidden Jewish children and adults. Not true. Other villages saved a few, but Chambon-sur-Lignon, near the demarkation between occupied France to the North and the Resistance of Southeast France, saved many more lives than the surrounding small towns.

The farmers and townspeople hid the children in barns, the woods, and false closets.  They “hid” them in plain sight in schools and dormitories. Jewish teachers escaped certain death or death camps, if they had remained in large cities. The people of Chambon never hesitated to imperil their lives to save others. Andre Trocme, the minister in this Huguenot enclave, encouraged the entire town with his mantra of righteousness.

More than twenty years after the war, I traveled to Chambon. When I lost my suitcase and needed a job, a lady in Chambon found work for me in a rehabilitation center. The director loaned me clothes. Kindness surrounded me. I learned the importance of loving others, no matter what. The people of Chambon treated me as they treated the Jewish children during the war.

Throughout my life, the lessons I learned helped me with personal and professional strife. Ten years ago, when my husband and I decided to return to see where I worked, my research included watching Weapons of the Spirit (a film by Pierre Sauvage) and scanning a few books. I decided someday I would write about my experience.

My Resistance

Last year my memoir, Gift of the Suitcase was launched after struggling with deeper research, recollections and the writing process. My scrutiny and networking continues. When an online alert notified me that Pierre Sauvage would speak in Tulsa for two appearances in mid-November, I wanted to attend.

A serious illness attacked me, called the Yebbits. Yeh, but what if I get lost? Yeh, but what if he forgets we connected online? Yeh, but what if I can’t find the hotel, the theater, a place to eat? Yeh, but what if the hotel isn’t safe? I pushed my resistance aside. Yeh-but I’m going!

And I never got lost on my 500-mile round trip to Tulsa.

The Movie and Message

Pierre’s remastered Weapons of the Spirt film will be re-released in 2018. His talk on Sunday commemorated the Jewish holiday Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), when thousands of Jewish businesses and synagogues in Germany were destroyed, considered the beginning of the Holocaust in the late 1930s.

The powerful message resonated with the people, as the audience had lost relatives and friends among the six million killed. Pierre spoke about the persecution of the Huguenots centuries before they migrated to Chambon. He reminded the audience about the massacre in Tulsa in 1921 when homes of African Americans were destroyed and as many as 300 lost their lives. He noted the sexual harassment in the movie industry near his home in Los Angeles.

Pierre is working on several other documentaries. He is dedicated to making the world a better place. We both want a better world.

We do not want another Holocaust. With so much hatred, vengeance, and ugliness in the news, his message of kindness adds value in a world of chaos. Let’s all reach out with kindness every day.

Let’s replace grouchy with grins. Let’s smile more, befriend more, and remember the humble citizens of Chambon. Chiseled in stone over the door of their small Chambon church, it says aimez vous, les uns, les autres. (Translation: Love one another.)

Love

Love One Another

“Don’t look away.” Pierre Sauvage

 

Time to Volunteer

Ricker

Lon Ricker on his Motorcycle

Get on the Motorcycle and Ride

The kids return to school in August. What will you do with extra time? Your full-time job requires concentration. The children go to lessons and practices. Time to volunteer remains an issue.

You retire thinking you may find time to help others. But, you cannot seem to find time anything but your golf game or online interests.

Lon’s Story

Lon Ricker is a friend. I watch him from a distance as his career evolves. He’s not quite a Renaissance man but an “uncaged” spirit who loves family, freedom, and helping others. He worked with my husband. When he was promoted to a management position he hated it. With no dependents or home ownership, he quit.

After I ride around the block with him on his motorcycle I ask, “What are you going to do?” He responds, “Maybe odd jobs. For sure I will ride my bike a lot.” And he did. He looks relaxed, happy, but he tires of painting walls and carpentry. When he returns from his “free range existence,” he volunteers at the SoupMobile, a philanthropy in Dallas where the homeless eat daily. He loves it and they love him, volunteering many hours.

The leadership proposes he become the paid Development Director, which means he builds relationships and raises funds for the organization. He expands the Christmas program where the homeless stay in a fancy hotel overnight for a fabulous holiday experience, requiring many donations and volunteers. Now he’s trying something new.

After serious introspection, Lon starts a consulting agency to assist non-profits with communications and fund development. He has family obligations and is a homeowner, but he‘s a risk-taker and a king of networking. He’ll do well, resulting from his super attitude and experience.*

Limited Expertise

Teaching

Ruth loves facilitating programs.

I share his story to emphasize that we find time to do what we want. Sometimes life truly interferes with volunteer ability but constraints can be excuses.

When I changed careers to write, I considered offering to teach classes at church, but I didn’t feel qualified. I don’t attend Bible studies. I don’t have a background in Biblical history or a knowledge base for interpreting miracles. My religious acumen lacks depth. But the need arises for teaching once a month.

Guess what? When I begin the class, my voice quivers and I cope with butterflies, a little like I am riding behind Lon on his huge bike. My voice becomes more confident as the group becomes attentive. I am enjoying facilitating, rather than calling it teaching.

The last two Sundays the curriculum emphasizes the need to be “Servants.” Humph! I don’t like the curriculum so I find time to customize the suggested message for the group. I use Father Gregory Boyle’s book, titled Tattoos on the Heart during the classIf a Jesuit priest can create programs for the tough gangs on the West Coast, we, too, can make a difference. He’s an excellent role model. The class may not have liked writing a poem or hearing about gangs, but they will remember the topic. The experience encourages me to share the joy in volunteer work.

While researching for the lesson, I discover several women in the church drive a great distance to Gainesville, Texas to participate in the Kairos Prison Ministry. She and her friends help female inmates find answers for a better life. When I talk with Carolyn Jones about the program, I hear passion in her voice.

Volunteer work is important, no matter what you choose. No time? Try hard to MAKE time. You may find a new passion in life, which may feel like riding a Harley-Davidson when you walk in the door to a meeting the first time or two.

With the enormous number of philanthropies, finding a fit for your volunteer effort should be easy. You may find new confidence, new relationships for your career, and more personal rewards than challenges.

Eighteen Worthy Non-Profits

Susan G. Komen Foundation-research and assistance for cancer patients

KERA-public radio and television

Rotary International-many worthy community activities

Lions Club-helping people with eye problems and the need for eyeglasses

Hearts and Hammers-refurbish low-income housing needs

Soupmobile-feed the homeless; ancillary services

Salvation Army-donate your gently used stuff; maybe be a bell ringer at Christmas

Red Cross-help with blood donation

Bed Start-donate beds and other furniture for families sleeping on the floor

Gateway of Grace-build ramps, helping with building projects

Food pantries-amazing grace

Board memberships-new friends and insight

Kiwanis Club-service projects and fundraising for children

Book Clubs-get to know your neighbors

HOA-home owners’ association which helps the communities stay safe, presentable and friendly

Habitat for Humanity-donate furniture, refurbish and resell

 

Ambiance to Ambivalence

New Orleans

New Orleans Architecture

New Orleans is a gorgeous city, but….

New Orleans beckons me to this day, but with doubts. As a Francophile, visiting New Orleans appears on my bucket list with a line through it. Two years ago, I begged the husband to fly to New Orleans. The man is not fond of flying anywhere, much less to a drivable location from Dallas. We drove across the state when we visited Lafayette a few years ago: borrring! I don’t see how people stay awake on Highway 49 before heading east on Highway 10 to New Orleans. The expense for the trip is about the same if you fly and stay fewer days than if you would drive with extra nights in a hotel.

A friend suggests a hotel in New Orleans. She and her sister stayed at a medium-priced hotel between several of the venues we want to visit. I make the flight and hotel reservations. I barely notice the term “suites” and “non-suites” but there was a price differential. I reserve the less expensive room. The location on the map looks perfect since I prefer not to be in the midst of noisy crowds in the French Quarter.

Flight is fine. Trip from airport to hotel is fine. We drag our bags along a dark hotel corridor at the hotel to enter a room which costs more than $150 per night. The price is reasonable for New Orleans. We enter a drab, musty, gray room, which is all wrong. The bedspread has a tear in it. It looks dirty. The room smells worse than a wet dog. I call the reservation desk. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but that’s shur nuff what ya paid far. We can move ya t’a suite in the otha tawar as that’s where the nisa rooms are, but y’all needa pay a little bit more.” Although I’ve lived in the south for over thirty years, I had to listen carefully to understand her lovely, Louisiana accent. Fine. Let’s move.

hotel bath remodel

No Soap Dish and Bathroom Problems

I fail to check out the bathroom, but the suite looks comfortable and clean. We drop our bags and head to dinner, tired but happy with the upgrade. After dinner, I discover the bathroom remodel apparently stopped weeks ago. The window sills are covered with icky, gray-green mold. The shower stall has no lip on it. The water would flood the bathroom floor. Again, I contact the front desk but this time I discover that’s the last room available. Someone would clean the bathroom in the morning.

We discuss our plight and decide we can handle anything after having reared teenagers and stayed in stranger places. We would use the shower gently to “make do,” as we do not want to search for another place to stay.

Cafe du Monde

Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square

Most everyone who visits New Orleans starts the day with beignets at the famous Café du Monde. Maybe not everyone, but it is high on my priority list.  The melodious, fun-loving quartet plays jazz on the corner outside the roofed patio for travelers as we munch the beignets (fried dough with confectioners’ sugar, sometimes filled with fruit). The sun shines on the world.

We find the visitors’ center and buy tickets and board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, a boon for travelers who do not want to drive in the city. After studying the map, we “hop off” the bus for the short walk to the World War II Museum to buy the tickets for the hour-long, in-depth documentary “Beyond the Boundaries.”

C47?

Inside the World II Museum

Both my husband and I love World War II history and stories. The high point of the trip is the museum. Its reputation as a historical gem proves true. We stand in line for the movie, huddled with a group of friendly tourists awaiting an excellent documentary in 4-D technology with commentary by Tom Hanks. Original footage and realistic sound effects astound the crowd. The lunch with a zillion other people in the large, museum café, is tasty and reasonably priced. Two more hours of walking through the displays add the joy of learning while traveling.

When we leave the museum, we shiver, as the weather changed from sunny to dreary. My husband decides he needs a nap. By the time, we reach the hotel, he is not feeling well, but later, we wander to a nearby, excellent restaurant for dinner. I do a happy dance that I packed my lined jacket as I had not expected the bitter cold and rain in early March. The excellent fish dinner at a nearby Cajun restaurant revives us.

Unfortunately, the husband’s recuperation did not last. In the morning, he declines to see more of the town. Disappointment reigns for fifteen minutes before I head out on my own. Maybe he will feel better later. I know where to look for antiques. Research before leaving Dallas helps me decide to shop. I board the “Hop on, Hop off” bus, near the hotel, making sure I take the correct route on the breezy, crisp day.

Magazine Street

Cornstalk Fence Hotel on Magazine Street

Magazine Street travels through the Garden District. I feel guilty to have fun while the husband wallows in misery at the hotel.

I meander through the stores: gifts, hardware, clothing-funky and fancy. Magazine Street holds fascinating shops and astounding homes, bed and breakfasts with ornate architecture. I buy lunch at a thriving bar, sitting alone on a stool. The bartender ignores me after serving a splendid po’boy and iced tea.

It is time to locate the last stop on the “Hop on, Hop off” bus to circle to the hotel. The tour guide regales stories about many parades in New Orleans as the tourist industry schedules regular festivals. New Orleans people love to party and entertain. Charles Street has a trolley and wonderful venues to visit. My head bounces back and forth looking at the historic buildings from the bus.

Ted, the husband, feels better. The day before we depart is excellent for photos. Again, we board the bus and ride around town with two excellent guides: one for the north end of the city with a change of guides for the southern half. We eat a quick, flavor-filled lunch in the French Quarter with no time to visit specific sites.

colorful street dancer

Is it a clown? A dancer?

Before we leave, I want to see Bourbon Street. We visit a high-end antique store on our traipse to Bourbon Street. I am not tempted with their high prices. A clown and dancers perform in the street. We hustle to Bourbon Street where the open doors let the stale smells of alcohol and cigarettes waft through the air. As we walk, I see an old, squat, heavy-set woman with no shirt walking along the street. Not a pretty sight. I almost cried to think of her lack of dignity. Was she drunk, on drugs, or what? Did she need food? Did someone take her shirt? No one pays attention to her. I’ll never know her story.

Perhaps I should return to New Orleans. I try to accept surprises when they occur. I took advantage of the chance to see the shops on Magazine Street and enjoyed the time alone, but I don’t know if I’ll ever beg to see the town again. Too much went wrong to want to return. I’ll buy my beignets elsewhere.

Addendum: I contacted the hotel manager upon returning home. After I sent photos of the nasty conditions in the room, I received a discount.

 

 

 

 

Let’s Celebrate Independence Day

flag

“I pledge alliance…”

An Essay

I finished reading the Lilac Girls, a powerful story of inhumanity. One of my book clubs chose it. I resisted reading it, preferring not to hear about the hideous treatment in concentration camps during World War II. The novel, historical fiction, is based on events surrounding a large group of female prisoners during the Holocaust. The “heroine” is the lady who organized and helped raise funds for a trip for the survivors for rehabilitation and relaxation in the US after the war.

The story needs to be shared again and again. I barely touched on the indignations the children and people encountered during the war in my book Gift of the Suitcase, yet one reader told me she found those passages uncomfortable. Throughout the Lilac Girls, the enormity of the atrocities of war caused me to cringe with sadness, even tears.

We are fortunate to live with freedom. I appreciate my independence. I am living the American dream of doing what I love (writing and traveling). Freedom to write this essay is a blessing, which is cause for celebrations with fireworks and friends.

My first trip to Europe gave me an inkling of how Americans are hated and loved. Shamefully, innocent people continue to be killed throughout the world. Our independence should not be taken for granted or in isolation. I realize the world may never rest in peace, but we, as individuals, can live peacefully.

Let’s try to make our country more lovable. We are a country of mixed heritage. Diversity is a strength. Let’s celebrate our wholeness as a nation. Let’s celebrate our unique heritage and respect others.  Vicious words, rather than constructive discussions, foster hatred. War fosters pain and suffering, no matter who is right and just. A fellow author suggests the Democrats and Republicans need to re-brand themselves. I agree.

 

 

Fun on the Fourth

Audie Murphy

Audie Murphy

The Audie Murphy and the Cotton Industry, totally entwined in history.

Antiques and memorabilia at the Audie Murphy/Cotton Museum create lasting memories for visitors. It’s worth the drive, an hour east of Dallas on Highway 30. “What,” you say, “is Audie Murphy doing in a Cotton Museum?” Hunt County, Texas is famous for two things: Audie Murphy and cotton.

Audie: the Hero

Audie lived his life in the fast lane. Born in 1925 in Kingston, near Greenville, he entered the Army ten days after his eighteenth birthday. One of twelve children, he marched off to war with love in his heart for his family and his country.

He served in Sicily, Italy, and France, facing the Germans and stunning his superiors with his expertise and bravery. He returned to Hunt County before his twentieth birthday with thirty-three military awards, including the Medal of Honor. News services picked up the story to honor him.

Audie: the Actor

Audie’s face became well-known throughout the U.S. A handsome guy, articulate and feisty in interviews, actor James Cagney invited him to visit Hollywood. When Audie published his autobiography, the movie industry chose his story for film. He talked his way into the starring role. Much to everyone’s delight, he became as famous for his acting ability as his military acumen. Unfortunately, like many actors and sports stars, he died young and poor. His investments failed and he gambled too much. He died on a foggy, misty night in an airplane accident near Roanoke, Virginia in 1971 at age 46.

A selected list Audie Murphy movies in the gift shop:

To Hell & Back

Cimarron Kid

Cast a Long Shadow

Apache Rifles

Drums Across the River

Cotton and Antique Displays

Beautifying

Hairdresser Agony

The Audie Murphy/Cotton Museum equals fun. Take the grandkids. Let Grandma share her experience with a permanent hair wave using the funny machine that looks like it could electrocute anyone coming near it: she will laugh until her stomach aches, watching the grandkids’ faces.

The cotton displays provide insight into the process of picking and baling the cotton. An enormous wooden cotton gin exhibits the intricacies of the ordeal of making cotton. You will find more insight about Hunt County as the museum supports the entire area.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and closed most holidays, but it will be open on Tuesday, the Fourth of July. A young family can spend an hour or two rambling through the museum, trying to explain how someone used to pick cotton to make a shirt. Senior citizens may saunter slower to reminisce longer than the youngsters.

The scenery refreshes urban cowboys, vets, and families. Horses lean over the fence and an old cabin and restored old home rest in the pristine setting.

Beige horse

Check the website for more detailed directions and tickets. I guarantee you will love the place, especially if you are an antique with young ones in the party.

The Flapper and the Music Man

 

poster

McMichael Band from 1930s

The story of a young, entrepreneurial couple in the 1930s who collaborated to teach music to the townspeople and their children.

“Who’s the gorgeous woman with the brown hair and finger wave?” Bill murmured to a new friend at a singles party in the 1930s. “I’m not sure. I’ve seen her here a few times. Great style, don’t you think?”

Early Years 

Florence borrowed a dress to wear to the party as her meager earnings prevented costly, stylish clothes. At age 26 her attire was classy, not spinster-like. Her pearl white, satin dress shimmered like glistening snow, accessorized with a little brown hat and clunky, brown tie shoes. She worries about finding a good man. Maybe her finger wave hairdo and friendly demeanor would attract attention.

The remnants of the Depression lingered in Central Ohio. After Bill attended college in Columbus, preparing to teach music, he settled 30 miles from his alma mater. With limited growth opportunities in Coitsville (his hometown), near Youngstown, he risked moving to Newark to investigate employment. Newark, a city of 30,500 offered better opportunities. He stayed the rest of his life.

Unemployment reached the catastrophic statistic of 25% about the time of his arrival. Finding work proved perplexing as few jobs existed in public schools. This young, inexperienced musician decided to teach private lessons. After a year of floundering, he found space for a music studio, in a big house on Hudson Avenue, along tree-lined curbs beside fancy, old homes. With plenty of space for private lessons, Bill’s friendly reputation for teaching the guitar, banjo, bass and mandolin traveled fast. His popularity around the town increased when showing off his students’ skills at club meetings and in churches.

Florence flounced by Bill with pearl earrings dancing from her earlobes at the party. As she moved towards him for a lingering, flirty handshake, she said to him, “Hi, I’m Florence. Are you enjoying the party?” His heart beat faster and faster! Her cologne lingered in the air, suggesting he should learn more about this lady.  Tall, gaunt and gracious, his attraction to Florence seemed mutual.

Florence needed a job. Bill needed someone to schedule appointments for the students and manage the accounting. He paid her a small salary and gave her mandolin lessons rather than extra money. He taught her, in her words, “Everything I know.” They married in 1934.

Growing the Business

Her musical talent blossomed, adding the piano, accordion, and guitar to her skills. Bill taught her the basics of music, which led to her teaching career. She increased his earnings by suggesting he should sell stringed instruments. Word of mouth traveled fast with moms bringing their children to learn from “the new guy in town.”

Flo & bass

Florence with her Bass

She played string bass with his 90-piece banjo band they took to contests throughout the United States, often winning top prizes. When their stringed orchestra played at the World’s Fair in Chicago, they won many awards and recognition. Imagine transporting 90 students, parents, friends and instruments cross country! He became the biggest customer in the U.S. of Gibson products during that decade. Florence suggested marketing ideas while finding locations for the student performances.

World War II

World War II raged within the first ten years of their marriage. Bill departed for the Army shortly after their daughter was born, leaving in early 1944 for the Army. How would she cope? Her tears flowed as she cringed, realizing how little she understood. How could she manage the store and teach while nurturing her baby?

Flo & baby Ruth

Note our hats.

“Whatever will I do?” she wailed. Bill’s response surprised her, “You’ll survive. I trust you.” She hired a nanny to care for the baby who helped with cooking and cleaning. She hired a sales clerk at their store, punching fear in the face. Roomers in the upstairs bedrooms added a little cash to her income while Bill continued his musical career in the service. Bill directed an Army band and played the bugle at Fort Lee, Virginia, never leaving the U.S. Failure was not an option.

Florence morphed into the predecessor of Super Woman, during his tour of duty. Her strong stamina, quick wit, and gift of gap, appealed to customers. She grasped profit and loss, bankers, and bills. Bill recognized Florence’s survival skills. When he returned after the war, she had stashed money in the bank and owned a thriving business.

The Business Roller Coaster

In the 1950s, the couple added phonographs, pianos, sheet music, records and radios. They added television, bringing more business growth. Florence worked in the store and taught music lessons. His first shop on Church Street grew. When they needed more space, they moved to South Third Street around the corner from the popular town square. They moved to another home with their young daughter. She brought her first grade class to see their new television at her house. In fact, their daughter thought all families owned a piano and implored her guests to buy a TV from her dad.

Debt for the pianos and organs caused major angst for Florence. “The bank owns us, Bill! Our names will appear in the newspaper when they come to take everything. We’ll end up in the poor house!” Bill rarely worried, leaving the troubles to her. Although the rise and fall of economic realities consumed their conversations like hail on their windows in a wind-storm, the risk of consigned pianos, organs and other products proved worthwhile.

Bill and Florence showed resilience throughout their marriage. In 1969 at age 61 Bill died of a sudden heart attack. Florence maintained the store until 1972 when she liquidated it. They both loved work. Florence taught private lessons for more than 50 years.  She worked until age 76 or 77 and died in the early 1990s.

Reality and Risk

Bill and Florence faced their struggles through reliance on each other, realistic goals and risk-taking. Although love did not necessarily solve their issues, they counted their blessings, in sync most of the time, despite their differences. Their love balanced each other’s idiosyncrasies while their self-employment enriched the community.

If you visit the natives of Newark over age 50, they probably took lessons from Florence or Bill. Their daughter remains grateful they refrained from naming her Melody, as in her words, “I didn’t want to be a walking advertisement for the music store.”

Today we see a resurgence of the entrepreneurial spirit in small towns. Entrepreneurs face the same challenges as long ago. Tenacity, respect, business savvy, and creative marketing play the same roles, which helped the Flapper and the Music Man.

Happy Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day with a special salute to my own parents.

 

 

 

Finding a Fit after Fifty

Sometimes finding your “fit” takes time.

Linda-the-Pastor

Linda Whitworth-Reed in the Pulpit

When Linda planned to abandon her career of short-term jobs to go to seminary, she was 52 years old. She had supported her husband through seminary a decade previously. They relocated many times for his two different careers. “Now it’s my turn,” she said. “David has not received his next calling. We may need to live apart awhile. I am well aware of the challenges.”

Linda’s dad was a Presbyterian minister. He lived with them after her mother died. When David quit an excellent technical sales job to become a minister, she and her dad applauded loudly. They understood the pitfalls and pleasures of life as a minister.

“Linda,” I wailed. “You’re over 50. Are you sure you want to graduate when you are 56 years old?”

“Well,” she responded, “I’ll still be 56 or 57 anyhow.  The timing is right and I’m sure the call is real.”  The love of learning flows through Linda’s veins. Returning to graduate school would invigorate this energetic lady.

Linda’s work history is one we call “patchwork.” She’s been a French and Spanish teacher, a publisher, an Information Technology Instructor, an exercise expert and held many other jobs. Would this be another two or three-year stint? Teaching and speaking demonstrates a recurring theme in her career.

I questioned how she knew this rung in her career ladder would be a better fit.  Linda is super-intelligent, introspective and gregarious. Before her dad passed, Linda and David took her father to visit people from his past. Within a two-week period three of his friends, who had watched her grow up, inquired about “her church.” They assumed she had followed the same career as her dad and husband. That was the sign she needed. With David in transition the present looked promising for her to begin her studies. The rocky road to seminary took five years to solidify. She registered at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin. Fortunately, David became an interim pastor in Waco, 98 miles from the seminary.

With age discrimination rampant, I worried about my friend. I didn’t need to fret. Her quick smile, unconventional wisdom, and perky personality endeared her to the other students.  Linda expected to fly through all her classes, but Hebrew and Greek gave her heartburn. Although fluent in Spanish and French, she struggled.  Discussions on theology, evolution, and creationism stirred her intellect.  Text books rarely put her to sleep. Volunteer work with the homeless while in Austin opened her eyes wider to poverty. Additional study in family dynamics increased her strength in what she would face in her ministry. Driving back and forth with their two dogs to visit her husband caused horrendous challenges with time management and their schedules.

 

Linda sings

Linda Singing a Happy Song

When she graduated, David and Linda moved to a town in South Texas, a town of over 80% Hispanic. Since Linda is fluent in Spanish, she loved the ability to converse in Spanish daily. David and Linda were called co-pastors. The situation for any new pastor is challenging and this was no exception. She loved the town, the people, and the green parrot in a nearby tree. Relationship building began in earnest.

David went to serve another church as an interim pastor. She became the Senior Minister, giving her a chance for new responsibilities. Her next call took the couple to Little Rock.

My comment:

If you are thinking of becoming a minister, she cautions, you must love and learn how to cope with diverse personalities from a Christian perspective and much faith. Linda has found her niche. The job is difficult, the hardest one she’s ever had, but she loves it.  She found her niche at 57. Risky, but worth the effort and hard work.

Currently Linda has been a minster for nine years. David is “honorably retired” and finds part-time ministry and musical gigs wherever they live. He does wood-working while she writes the sermons. Now they live in Iola, Kansas.

As we worked together on this article, she stressed, “In working with myself and others in order to give myself grace, I must realize we do the best we can with what we have.”

Are you doing the best you can with what you have? From exercise guru to minister, we find peace with what we have, no matter the age or circumstances.

 

 

A Passion for Performance

Robin Read’s Performers Add Joy to the Christmas Season

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Robin Read

Everyone in the tiny town in upper New York state knew little Robin. In elementary school, she decided to be a singer. Family encouraged her. At age 13 she trotted off to the Seagle Music Colony, the oldest summer vocal training program in the United States, probably the youngest person to attend this program.  Here, she learned about set building, make up, costuming and  took part in plays, musicals and operas.

When she graduated from high school in the largest class ever (33 students), she found a path to Texas, as she hated snow. While attending Texas Christian University she majored in Music Performance and continued to build her performance and production skills . Voice and performance brought attention from renown artists and professors.

Her Journey

Robin Read’s history, rich with stories of success, delivers a message of hard work, business savvy and gutsiness. Immediately after college, she married a photographer who taught her the importance of accounting, operations, along with the mechanics and dynamics of photography.

Divorced after 15 years of marriage, she returned to her dreams. At her first audition after her hiatus she pretended confidence with fear rumbling in her stomach. She won the role, leading to admiration from many in the industry with her peppy personality, acting ability and technical talent. Her theatrical acumen kept her busy with minor and leading film roles. She’s been on the same set with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and starred as the leading lady for many theatrical performances.  Robin’s entrepreneurial spirit led to voice-overs, commercials, television, film and theater, preventing any “starving artist” experiences.

Robin Buys Holiday Cheer Entertainment

About 20 years ago she joined a singing group, Holiday Cheer Entertainment company, with other trained

Christmas Cheer Singers

Victorian Costumes for Crisp Christmas Weather

singers who perform during the holidays for tree lightings, corporate parties, elevator lobbies, and other venues. Sometimes they sang at elegant, private, holiday parties. Other times they sang outdoors, waiting in the wind and weather for Santa to arrive.

Four years ago the lady who founded the Dallas based group decided to sell. When she asked Robin to purchase the group, Robin thought, Work from home? Flexible schedule? Singing gigs? Christmas joy and cheer for others? Remarkable Robin took the risk.

She loves holiday music, customizing each performance on the spot. For example, if the crowd resonates with children’s laughter, they quickly switch from “Silent Night” to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

During the holiday season, life becomes overwhelming, as she is a control freak, a big reason for her success. Before she signs a contract to send a group (usually three to eight singers), the individuals must commit to the event. She chooses the specialized singers based on personality, location, and type of event. Customers return year after year because of her consistent attention to detail.

Off Season

In the off season the singers continue to meet, but not as often. Since she participates in the groups, she understands singing “White Christmas” can cause frigid fingers. She has lined the capes they wear and added hoods. They wear gloves. Who knew owning the group would require her expertise in sewing? She copes with the myriad of staffing issues, such as the mom with a teenager who was rear-ended on the highway, recent divorces, and sudden bouts of laryngitis. She indicated, “My singers are like family. Most of us have been together for years.” She hires, coordinates the schedules, bills the clients, pays the singers, and warms cold hands. She upgrades costumes during the summer, storing them in a special room in her home.

The Rewards

Although her singing groups are paid, it’s not the money that keeps them singing to hustling crowds. The joy she and her singers see as the crowds sing with them, whose faces reflect memories from long ago, and the wide-eyed children which fills the crisp air with cheer. When she chose singing for a career, she had no expectations for the rich rewards she would find bringing holiday happiness to crowds.

Watch for her at a tree lighting or on a street corner with her classically trained, enthusiastic choirs or quartets in their Victorian costumes. Like her on FaceBook Holiday Cheer Entertainment or visit her website to see upcoming events and watch her upcoming company growth. She is adding weddings, birthdays, and other holidays to the repertoire in the future.

The world offers opportunity in the arts for jobs and businesses; however, it takes long hours, hard work, risk taking, revenue building, and talent. Robin Read and Holiday Cheer Entertainment demonstrate careers in singing are possible, but it doesn’t happen without passion and performance. Being an accomplished singer is not enough. A singer without performance is like a writer without readers.