Listen, Children, to the (Real) Stories

grandfatherOur son was playing a piano recital at a retirement home, and one of the residents sat down next to me before it began. She looked at the program and commented on the music Will was going to be playing. She then told me she had been a piano teacher out of her home evenings and weekends in Milwaukee for many years and that she had worked in a downtown law firm during the day time. She told of taking a streetcar to work and how much she loved what she did, especially the music teaching.

In those few brief moments, the woman gave me a glimpse of our city’s past and a glimpse into the life of a productive, knowledgeable and hard-working woman. Her story stays with me two years later, and I only wish I could have heard more.

In the midst of worthless, fake celebrity and social media culture, our young people walk around with their heads glued to their phones, uninterested and unaware of the fascinating  life stories around them. If I had to share advice to young people (on the unlikely premise that they would listen), I would ask them to sit down with their elders and listen to their stories carefully.

I don’t know if my adult children necessarily want to hear about my life years ago or their grandparents’ lives, but I try anyway, thinking that someday, they will want to know more about their own pasts which are tied up in the pasts of their own parents and grandparents.  The best stories are real stories. Every life is a story, tragic, funny in ways, and filled with insights into the people we are and the times in which we live.

As a child, I used to pour over the black, antique photo albums from my grandma in Minnesota. Grandma told me about her sister who died of influenza, leaving a husband and two young children behind, she told me about her childhood adventures with her cousin, Albert, who grew up with her, and how they once, as young children, decided to clean their neighbor’s home while she was out. The lady made the mistake of leaving her door unlocked. Grandma and Albert, who were about five years old at the time, even tried to haul out the lady’s feather bed for beating on the line like they had seen their mother do. Unfortunately, they got the feather mattress stuck in the door. Imagine the shock of coming home to that! I think the lady learned to lock her door.

If you have a chance, listen to the stories of older people around you. Encourage your children to do the same. Interest in the lives of seniors is a beautiful gift to them, and you cannot hear the stories of the past without picking up things, the values, ideals and wisdom gained through long years of living.

Here is a bit of my grandmother’s life. A little pristine invitation to a recital one June evening back in 1931 when she was 19-years-old. Her name was Norma Olson. I can almost see the scene at that church where her friend’s piano students were to perform that evening, with Grandma, who studied voice and violin, contributing to the music. A little bit of her life story that I am glad I know.


Bonnets for Babies

bonnetFor some reason, most retailers don’t carry baby bonnets anymore. When Emily was a baby, I wanted to find some, but looked without success. Stores had hats for infants, but not bonnets. I did a search, was happy to find a place online that made beautiful bonnets that were not very expensive, and I bought several. They have them in larger sizes as well. My daughter-in-law asked me where I had gotten them, as little Gianna, my granddaughter, has outgrown the little ones from Em,  and she isn’t quite big enough for the larger ones.

If you are a mother or grandmother who likes babies in bonnets, you will love these at Comfykids. The trouble is making up your mind, they are all so sweet! Rosebuds, and eyelet and ribbons…ah!

Here’s Emmy in her bonnet what seems like yesterday. She’ll be seven-years-old soon. It’s hard to believe!


All the Precious Little Things

Thunder woke Emily and me up in the wee hours. Knowing how scared Emily gets of storms, I went in to lie by her for a little while. It was one of those sweet Mama and daughter times, when you remember how quickly time flies and how dear these passing moments are.  One of those times when you can just be in silence together and understand. I felt her small arm creep around me when there was another crash of thunder, and I remembered how very comforting it is to have someone you love nearby in a storm.

With Mother’s Day recently passed, I wanted to elaborate on a comment I made today on Facebook about mothers. There is a terrible assumption in Western culture that you must, necessarily, pass through a phase where you despise your mother as a teen daughter. If you don’t have screaming matches, constant battles and open warfare, you probably aren’t normal.

Our culture plays up generational differences in entertainment and advertising, repeating the lie that our mothers always have to embarrass us, always have to be viewed as stupid,  that mothers are the enemy of fun and coolness, and that teen girls must revolt against the oppression and over-protection. What a tragic and false line of thinking.

As a teenager, I remember being in a restroom with other girls in front of the mirror, applying their make-up and chatting. One of the girls called her mother a “bitch.” It stunned me, and the reason it stunned me was that I loved my mom. It wasn’t that there were never any misunderstandings. It wasn’t that I was some perfect daughter. (I regret not getting my head out of the clouds and helping her more with housework and things I could have done to lift her load. As a mother of grown children, I think of Mom’s labors and sacrifices more every day.)   But the thought of hating her as a teenager? Not within the realm of possibility. It made me sick hearing it.

I realize girls and moms can have opposite personalities, situations differ, and our culture has changed. But it is a moral sickness to assume that daughters have to hate their moms in the teen years to be normal.  Instilling respect, compassion, empathy in our daughters is something we have to work at. It will not come passively, because the culture disciples and indoctrinates in a very systematic way.

One way that I work to achieve empathy and compassion is to remind our youngest, the only one still at home, that I do need help. Children who are waited on and not asked to do their part within the home become the entitled brats we see who fail to launch. I want her to see people with lenses that show the burdens others carry in this life, and to adjust her own demands in light of those things.  That is a check to selfishness, and a call to usefulness and kindness. Our children need this desperately in our age of entitlement.

There are no guarantees that our children will not go through a stage of selfishness and dislike for mothers (or fathers.) But don’t assume it’is necessary, and working on a strong relationship of trust and love will help mitigate the toxic assumptions this world promotes.

As a P.S., one of my favorite memories is of my mom french braiding my long hair in high school. I never did manage to do it myself. She would get up early sometimes, even when tired, to do it for me.  Bless you, Mom, for all those precious, little things.  <3









Warning: Kellogs Now Adding Peanut Flour Across Product Lines

A few weeks ago, I posted a warning regarding peppercorns being used in some restaurants that were from the tree nut family, something that directly endangers those with tree nut allergies, and something nobody would think to ask about.

Today, the site I subscribe to regarding food allergies has a warning regarding the decision by the Kellog’s company to add peanut flour across product lines. This announcement was quietly made on their website, something that will likely be entirely missed by many consumers. Even the smallest amount of peanut product can cost someone their life if they suffer from an allergy – something increasingly common. We have two in our family who will die if they consume peanut products unaware, it’s that serious.

This article here contains the warning, and this additional article sheds light on why they are doing it. This is irresponsible of the Kellog’s company at a time when peanut allergies are on the rise. To make a change that endangers the lives of customers and not make a loud public announcement is a slap in the face to all of us who have trusted these companies. (A bad idea, I guess.)

Please share this as widely as possible for the safety of anyone who has a life-threatening peanut allergy. Perpetual vigilance is needed to protect them. If you want updates on product safety and food allergies, sign up at and subscribe to their page if  you are on Facebook. That is where I saw the needed warning. I’m grateful to know it.  Kellog’s has lost our family’s business.




Thanks to my Mother, Freda Eliason

As mothers we are faced with all kinds of circumstances in raising our children. There are stresses and challenges that nobody else may see. The burden of caring for another human being or multiple other human beings, in all areas of need is difficult to express. Yet love carries us through. We don’t see it as some terrible weight we have to carry. It’s our child, those are our children. Our happiness is tied up with their well-being. You can’t separate the two things.

I remember realizing this when my firstborn son, Charlie, became sick over and over again his first winter from a stomach virus he was contracting in the church nursery. (I didn’t make the connection as quickly as I should have!) Until Charlie was well, my world came to a total standstill. As a young mother, I rejoiced over every bottle he took, every spoonful he ate when he was sick. Life stopped being about me completely. When he was hospitalized with the illness, I was literally sick with worry. This other life, this sweet boy, was all that mattered to me.

This Mother’s Day, I remember the sacrifices of my own dear mother in caring for me and my brother and sister. Without the sacrifices and incredible labor of this woman, the ministry of VCY America would never have been possible. Most have no idea what Mom went through to both raise three children and bring her own constant service to the ministry her husband began. She served above and beyond the call of duty. Largely unrecognized and un-thanked, God has seen all that she has done and why. The reward for her faithfulness will be great.

So thank you, Mom, for everything. Everything I know about loving my children has come through the hands and heart of my mother. Most of all, she has pointed us Godward from the time we were very young.

Two weeks after my dad died in December, Mom underwent triple bypass surgery and has been recovering since. All of us pray for her continued strength and for the joy and love she has given all of us to be returned to her.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there, and to those who have recently lost a mother, may her memory be a blessing to you.


Just Eat It

lunchWhen I was in school, my mother packed my lunch each day. We didn’t have hot lunch but once a month, so all the kids brown bagged it. Some days, everything she sent was what I liked. Other days, not so much. But back then, with two recesses a day out in the fresh air and no snack like they have in many classes now mid-day, by the time lunch rolled around, I was starving. By 10:30 I was starving, for that matter! So whatever Mom sent, I ate it, like it or not.

Twice recently, I caught our six-year-old complaining about something she didn’t like to eat. “I only have ketchup on this,” she said the other night. “I don’t like mustard.”Too late, there was mustard already on the hamburger.

“Eat it anyway. Life doesn’t revolve around our likes and dislikes, ” I said.

She ate it and never said another word. When we were kids, it really was different.  Times were such that our delicate little tastes weren’t catered to. Mom put dinner on, and we ate it.  Less of things we didn’t like, second helpings of what we did like. She didn’t serve up individual meals because this one doesn’t care for that shape of pasta, or this one won’t eat that kind of vegetable.

Much has been written about entitled Millennials, the cry bullies in that generation who are turning campuses into hell with their endless demands for safe spaces, speech censorship, etc. Raising people like this starts early — by catering to a toddler who refuses to drink out of this cup or demands a certain cereal bowl or he won’t eat breakfast.  Go ahead, meet your child’s every demand, but you’re making a rod for your own back and the rest of society as well.

Yesterday, Emily complained mildly  that she had been hoping for this and not that for breakfast “Eat this, and thank God for it,” I said rather abruptly.   She did. Her wishes don’t rule our home, and she knows it. It’s not that her feelings don’t come into consideration – it’s that we have the final say as parents, and whining about what you didn’t get to eat is a terrible way to start out life. The headlines have ample evidence of how that turns out.

On a separate but related note, I read yesterday that the average American prom costs $1000 dollars per student,  with kids engaging in ever more exotic “promposals” to ask a girl out. Some of these “promposals” cost hundreds of dollars in themselves, and the more over the top, the more attention you get on Instagram.  The obscenity of this, in the face of the staggering costs of higher education (read debt) can’t be adequately expressed in writing. The schools enable all of this. No, they encourage it.

Rather than parents and schools proactively reversing the trend by dialing back the scale of the prom event and making it a fun time all can participate in, the entitled kids are driving the party bus, and it is completely out of control. Those girls who aren’t asked out, or who don’t have  money for limo rides, after parties, formal dresses, shoes, accessories and getting hair, nails and make-up done for the “red carpet??  Well, kids you’re out of luck. You have a big L for loser on your back. And we wonder why we have depression and suicide on the rise in schools? Nothing is as it should be, that’s why.

We can only commit to teaching our children better in our own homes.  We are not ultimately responsible for the choices our kids make as adults, but we are responsible to do our part to raise grounded, grateful and common sense people. Sometimes that means telling them, “Just eat it.”

Our Son Will – Making A Joyful Noise on the Pipe Organ!

Our son, Will Schlueter, is playing an organ recital in Chicago at St. John Cantius church this Sunday at 3pm. Here is his program.

1) Piece Heroique- C. Franck
2) Trio Sonata 6- Moevement 1. Vivace -J.S. Bach
3) Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue- J.S. Bach
4) Variations on Old Hundreth- Denis Bedard
5) Romance from Symphony #4- Louis Vierne
6) Allegro from Symphony #6- C.M. Widor

About the organist: Will Schlueter is a sophomore at Wheaton College, where he studies organ performance with Dr. Edward Zimmerman. A Wisconsin native, Will has had a passion for the pipe organ since he was very young, and began lessons with Sr. Mary Jane Wagner (S.S.S.F) in 2011. Since then he has performed many times at the finest venues in the Milwaukee area, including St. Joseph’s Chapel, St. John’s Cathedral, and Gesu Church, home of the largest organ in Wisconsin. He particularly enjoys liturgical music, and has played for many  services over the last five years, in addition to participating in the 2013 AGO Competition for Young Organists. Will believes that music is a form of prayer, and strives to share the “joy of the Lord” (Psalm 98) through the wonderful gift of the pipe organ.

You can get more information here about the recital.


Voices From the Past

sltcI am a conservative, because I believe some things are worth conserving. Like hymns that speak of  faith in God, faith that carries us through this ever darker world.  These hymns, passed down, remind us of God’s eternal verities–the same though heaven and earth pass away — and they lift us out of ourselves to look up at Jesus.

Our Savior doesn’t evolve, he doesn’t change with the times. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Things are getting darker around us in this world, but that only means that the light of our Savior shines brighter.

I was looking for a recording of Beautiful Savior earlier, and heard many beautiful contemporary arrangements of it. Then I heard this one, and it caused me to stop. Out of the past, 1941, these voices from St. Olaf’s rose up and turned my heart to praise.  This is the signature piece the college has used for their well known Christmas programs that air on PBS. But this 1941 version has something in it that I love. For once, I can’t put it into words exactly.

The first verse is just humming the familiar old melody,  then the female soloist, then the choir.  These choral students who recorded this so long ago never dreamed someone would be listening in 2016, but their gifts bring a blessing all these years later, because they sing of the  beauty of our Savior whose light never dims.

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine!

Amen, Amen.


A Dash of Color at my Table

My friend, Julie, came over yesterday. She brought some daffodils from her garden. I put them in the vase on my table with the white daisies and baby’s breath I bought a few days ago to make my table cheery. My friend and I had a wonderful conversation over coffee. I’ve known her for over 20 years. We had a lot to talk about!

I passed my dining room table this morning and thought how the yellow flowers Julie brought added color to my own flowers. It occurred to me that this is what friends do in our lives. They add color. We bring white to the table, they bring yellow or red or orange or pink.

We bring one idea to the table, they bring their ideas and challenge thinking or expand it.  That’s why having good friends and making time for them in our lives is so important. Left in isolation, we get narrow and stale. Our own thinking (which at times can be faulty) never gets challenged, and after a while, the cognitive dissonance becomes too great when hearing another’s viewpoint, and it is discarded automatically.  Pride takes over and blindness sets in.  It’s the price of isolating yourself, and the end isn’t pretty.

Nothing is so wonderful as to have a one on one conversation beyond the superficial. Crowded social settings and women’s groups are exhausting to me, and not just because hearing for me can be difficult. Having just one friend to sit and chat with is as good as it gets.  Another friend stopped by  last week that I hadn’t seen in three years. We sat and  talked for two and a half hours and realized we had forgotten to eat the lunch I had prepared!

Friends add the color we need in our lives. Out my kitchen window, I can see my own colorful flowers coming up. Friends, like flowers, need tending to. When we nurture our friendships, they grow even more beautiful.

“A friend loves at all times..”  ~ Proverbs 17:17