It may not have been the “church in the wildwood” like the song that I learned as a child, but the Sanford church was very important to me as I grew up.

The church sat at the foot of the hill a quarter of a mile from the corner of NY41 and the North Sanford road. It was built in 1859 on land donated by Pinny family, the owner of the farm at the top of the hill with the proviso that it would revert to the farm if the church stopped using it. The church’s white clapboard siding had not seen a coat of paint for many years, but with its tall steeple is was a landmark for many people. A short bluestone walk led from the road to the six-foot square, six-inch thick piece of bluestone that served as a porch.

Stepping inside through the door was a small foyer with a narrow storeroom on either side. In the left room were coal and wood, a shovel, broom, dustpan, and mop. In the right closet were boxes of dilapidated costumes for the annual Christmas pageant: old bathrobes for shepherds, lopsided crowns for kings, and assorted cloths for draping various characters. A special box held a Santa suit.

Inside the sanctuary, the windows were opened by the first arrivals during the summer. The door was propped open for air circulation. After being closed up all week, the air was stultifying and muggy.

When winter came, the double doors were closed to prevent any heat from escaping. The original black cast iron potbelly stoves, one in the right front and one in the left of the sanctuary were replaced by newly installed modern ones that provided more heat, but everyone still sat close to them on a cold day. A church member went down to the church early Sunday morning to start the fires. He had to milk cows, so early could be somewhat delayed.

I loved sitting in the painted brown and white pews. The congregation was always small. I never remember more than twenty or twenty-five people in attendance except for special events like the annual Christmas program. As I sat beside my mother I studied the six stained-glass windows, each dedicated to a long-deceased member. The sun’s rays on them let colors bounce off the windows like a kaleidoscope onto the tan Homasote walls. The white tin ceiling entertained me as I counted the decorated blocks and tried to multiply the numbers in my head.

Mrs. Mallory was our organist-pianist. To keep ones’ feet pumping the organ while reading the music to play required a lot of energy. It was not easy. When a mouse or some rodent chewed one of the pedal straps, the organ became useless except to entertain us kids after church. Mrs. Mallory moved to the piano.

When Miss Ruth Underwood was our pastor, we had a small orchestra that played for the service for special occasions. Joan, her grandfather, and I were the violinists. All together there were seven or eight members of the orchestra. The drummer was Alvin. I think Mr. Mallory was also a member, but I don’t remember what he played. Mrs. Mallory led us on the piano. I cannot swear to the quality of the music, but we thought we sounded good.

By the time Joan and I were in high school, we’d become somewhat accomplished pianists to play for services and give Mrs. Mallory a break. We prepared a prelude and offertory, but we almost never knew what hymns the minister had chosen until time for the service. This could create complications.

While I was playing the prelude, Rev. Dodd came down the aisle and lay a small scrap of paper with three numbers on the piano. When he announced the first hymn, I opened my hymnal at the same time as everyone else. It was the custom for the pianist to play the hymn once before the congregation sang. If it was a hymn I knew, I breathed a sign of relief. Occasionally, the hymn was one that I didn’t know. Depending on its difficulty, I got enough practice after introductory time through to play it properly. But sometimes I required more practice and it would be the third or fourth verse before I reached proficiency. Occasionally, I forgot to check the key and might start playing in the key of D, when should have been D-flat or vice versa. Changing the key didn’t always go smoothly.

Rev. Dodd loved the gospel hymns and sang in a loud voice, a little off key and a little out of rhythm. It was a major challenge to play against his rhythm. I could get a jump on the other hymns by studying them during scriptures and prayers. I could imagine what my fingers would do. During the sermon, I would practice the final hymn by fingering it on my lap.

Our church was a three-church charge. North Sanford and Sanford churches took turns for the times for service. The McClure church, largest of the three, refused to change its service from eleven-thirty. We, in Sanford could have service at nine o’clock or ten-fifteen; other times, especially in the summer one church might choose an evening service at seven-thirty or eight o’clock.

Regardless of the time of service, my family rarely missed church. If Dad, a farmer couldn’t make it, he would drive Mom and me to church and pick us up afterward. For me, the Sanford church was a special place.


PHOTO: View of a small museum from our apartment on Observatorow



We get mail that comes to us through the American Embassy. If we wait until we’re home (to open it), we make a pot of tea, then sit with our feet up and relish every word.

Our life here can be described as a set of small victories. I have begun to feel as if I’m digging for Herkimer diamonds and find small (and large) perfect jewels. The hall of the opera house is lovely with great crystal chandeliers made in Poland. It has a huge stage canted uphill for a true life-like effect and the possibility of nearly any stage effect including someone jumping from a suspended bridge into the water.

At another concert hall we saw Garrick Olson, an American pianist born in White Plains, New York, who won the Chopin competition here in 1970. He played to a standing room only audience who called him back for encores several times. While I had not heard of him, the Poles certainly had and love him. He was excellent. On December 8 we have tickets to a symphony concert to hear Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, which I’m looking forward to.

I have been teaching English to a group of novitiates of Mother Theresa’s order. I will not go back now until January when I expect here will be a totally new group of girls. They impress me. They thoroughly enjoy life together. Mother Theresa believes in laughter. While these girls are very serious about learning English, they giggle and share silly things that have happened to them.

In addition, I’m singing in a choir led by an American expat. It consists mostly of Poles, so 98 percent of the instruction is in Polish, which I miss. I can understand the letters, so I usually know where we are. We sang Mozart’s Requiem. It was a thrill to be a part of it.

Shopping  produces jewels. I found a lovely plaid skirt, a blouse, and a sweater for 174,500 zlotys, translated is about $25. Clothing appears in strange places as do odds and ends one needs–Crest in local news stand, or slippers in an underground cross walk. I have also been able to get great haircuts just up the hill from our house for the equivalent of 75 cents.

Enough for now, another chapter to come later.




What do you do while you wait for a doctor to see you, for the person ahead of you at the grocery store, for the pharmacist to fill your prescription, or for the stalled traffic on your way home?

Do you sit and steam because it is now 35 minutes past your appointment for which you left early so you would be on time?

Do you shift from one foot to the other as the person or persons ahead of you in line seem to have all the time in the world?

Do you drum your fingers on the steering wheel and say unkind things to whomever is keeping you from moving?

I could have said yes to all these questions at one time, and as I waited anger would build and I would think of all the things I could be doing. Whether or not I would actually be doing those things is doubtful.

The only way to eliminate the waiting is to leave: not to keep your appointment, walk away and not get what you need, or get out of the car and walk. All of these solutions would have consequences.

Through the years I’ve learned that waiting can be fun and restful.

Arriving on time at the dentist today for my eleven o’clock appointment, I discovered he was at least a half hour behind. I’d planned to buy gas after my appointment, so I went to do that. I returned and in a few minutes I was seated in the examining room. After five to ten minutes, I realized I was in for a long wait. What should I do? I’d not brought a crossword puzzle or a book.

Relaxation is always good for the body. I began with head and neck stretches; I sat back in the chair so my head was on the headrest, my arms on the armrests, my legs stretched out in front of me, I closed my eyes, and began quiet deep breathing. I’ve been known to fall asleep in the dentist’s chair or lying on the doctor’s examining table. Time passes.

After fifteen or twenty minutes today, I felt rested. I began thinking about what I needed to for my writing. I’ve wanted to post a blog for several days, but no topic seemed to blossom in my brain. Now it did. I pulled a little notebook and pen from my purse. This is result.

If you are a writer, the grocery or pharmacy can become character food. One day while I was next in line, I watched a woman in a wheelchair cart with less than twelve items, which someone had already put on counter. That should be quick, right? It must have ten minutes as she told the very patient clerk into which paper bag each item should go, then to put the paper bags inside plastic bags. Then the clerk went around the counter to put them in her cart. I’m sure those  minutes hold a story. Meanwhile, I discouraged out persons from standing behind me in the short line. The next cash register line was moving quickly.

In the car, you can catch up on the news with an NPR station, or listen to the music with more intention. While the music plays on my radio when I am driving, I only half listen. Stopped I can concentrate on what I’m hearing.

Wherever you are waiting you have time to pray. Pray for ones you know. Pray for the hungry and the homeless. Pray for the sick and lonely. Pray for all those you know and those you don’t. Pray for this world torn apart in so many, many ways.

Waiting will no longer be an annoyance, but an opportunity.



I am in the process of finishing my memoir On Becoming a Minister’s Wife with writing a chapter on “Reflections.”

The body of the memoir takes me from not wanting to be a minister’s wife through the first nine years of living the role. Two years ago I wrote 50,000 words during the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in a stream of consciousness style. This past year I’ve been reordering, editing, deleting, and adding to those words so they would make sense to someone other than myself. Now that part is readable, thanks to my writers’ group friends, who have listened to me read it twice. They are due much praise for endurance.

I am struggling with this last chapter. My husband, Richard, celebrated his fiftieth year of ordination in 2013. From 1963 to 1993 he served five churches, retired for health reasons, but continued to enjoy preaching as a supply for several years. Our lives were so intertwined, how do I sum up those years for myself?top-bmp

Questions I am seeking to answer include:

What did I like or didn’t like about my role?

How did it affect my life as a wife and mother?

What did it teach me about myself?

Would I do it again? Yes, I would, provided I was married to the same man. I think perhaps that is the key to all my answers.

Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”



Dreams of a Ten-Year Old and Today’s Reality

How do your thoughts and dreams when you were ten-years-old match with your reality today many years later?



Growing up on an upstate New York dairy farm during World War II, I learned to love acting in a one-room schoolhouse. Our small movie theater showed the popular musicals as soon as they left the big city theaters. I loved the idea of singing, dancing, and acting in front of large audiences.

Audiences were not easy to come by, but I had one built in for my convenience. Our dairy barn had two rows of cows which faced a large open area Dad used for feeding them. Standing there I could act out my dreams to an approving audience. As an adult, I had roles in several plays. It was one of these that showed me how difficult it would be as a professional having to go on stage night after night.

My alternate dream was to be a teacher like Mrs. Parsons, my country school teacher. She was my ideal as a teacher. After I graduated from Fredonia State Teachers College (as it was named then), I tried to emulate her. Teaching children to read was a joy for me, especially when I saw a child suddenly ‘get it”—and understand all those squiggly marks on the pages of a book.

In our two-shelf country school library, there were several books about foreign countries which I loved to read. As a ten-year-old I fantasized about being in those countries, but didn’t believe I’d ever walk their streets and travel their roads.

Today’s reality? I love the theater, wonderful music, learning new things, meeting old and new friends, and visiting new places. Dreams can come true.


Newspapers, radio broadcasts, TV news, and every other media that you can think of will undoubtedly have a story or program dedicated to reflecting on the twelve months of 2015.

As I think about the year, I realize it is the first one since 1954 that I’ve been “on my own.” That’s not entirely true because I have a son and daughter, their spouses, and two grandchildren, for whom I’m not responsible, but who watch over me. It is the grand shift from being the parent to being parented. I am not complaining. It is wonderful to feel their care, while leaving me free to make my own decisions about my life.

Good things have come to me during 2015. New friendships have begun. Others have become deeper.

There are family joys. Frequent family parties have been highlights during the year. Tomorrow, my son will treat us to Eggs Benedict to begin 2016 when everyone gathers around my table. My daughter has a new job that she loves as a research nurse. One daughter-in-law has one semester to finish her masters, the other drops everything to fix or help me whenever I call. My older grandson has begun learning to play the baritone, and my younger grandson loves art and books.

I’ve continued to write. Recently, I’ve been enjoying reading and editing a 50,000-word memoir that I wrote in November 2014 on “Being a Minister’s Wife.” Last November, the death of husband the previous March was still very close, which helped me record the details of our life together. Now, I am able to look at those words and determine if they follow the theme and discard the bits that don’t. The memories are as vivid as before, but I’m able to sort their importance to the story I want to tell. My weekly writers group’s members, who have become good friends, help my efforts.

While a minister’s wife, I was never part of the decision making process for the church. That changed in 2015. As an elder, I learned how my new church prepares holy communion, I participated in leading the congregation in new ways for me. Singing in the church choir continues to be a major part of my week.

What will 2016 bring? No one knows, but God, family, and friends will guide me through it.


The West Point Concert Band is a first class unit. Last night I sat with friends and thousands of others on the hillside facing the bandstand below Trophy Point on the West Point campus. It was a perfect evening. The sky was clear and the air was comfortably warm. Precisely at 7:30 the announcer stepped forward to begin the final concert of the 2015 summer season.

Tradition dictates part of the concert—a salute to all of the country’s military corps with their theme songs, and the traditional march, Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa.

One of the highlights of the latter is the piccolo solo in the trio section. Last night the band’s piccolo player was a featured soloist in a larger work and relinquished her short solo. The audience was given the opportunity to vote by phone to choose the instrument to play the solo in her place. None of the band members knew who that would be until it was announced at the last moment.

Chosen:  the tuba player, who did great job with the tricky little melody. So the highest, smallest instrument in the band gave way to its lowest, largest instrument. It was a fun event.

The band closed their summer concerts, as they do annually, with the playing of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which was written to commemorate the Russians victory to save their country from Napoleon’s Grande Armèe.

The orchestration calls for cannons and carillon. The cannons of West Point thundered in rhythm of the director’s baton. I didn’t hear a carillon. My only thought about the music was I missed the richness of an orchestra’s strings.

The last note faded to cheering and applause. A moment later fireworks lit the sky. I enjoyed watching them twinkle through the leaves of the tree over my head. So, ended a perfect evening.


Deposit Central School orchestra in concert 1949
Deposit Central School orchestra in concert 1949

May and June bring with them the season of concerts and recitals as schools and music teachers break for the summer.

My friend and I began piano lessons at age eight in fourth grade. Mrs. Briggs, a patient teacher, listened as we stumbled through those first few lessons of learning to read the new language of music. As in learning to read a spoken language a child figures out all those scribble marks on paper have meaning, in music a person must understand that all the black and white dots on lines say “play this key.”

Each spring, we memorized a recital piece to show off our talents, which grew year by year. The same was true when I began playing violin in school. In the spring our orchestra and band played a concert, and we played instrumental solos, too. In sixth grade, our brand new orchestra was fortunate if we got all the way through Three Blind Mice that first spring, but by high school graduation, we were an accomplished ensemble playing advance music.

I also remember that if I played well, Dad took me and Mom to the Greek Candy Kitchen for ice cream sundaes—always something to look forward to.

Do dads still treat their children after a successful recital? I hope so.