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Elvis, Alan, and Oklahoma City

On September 30, 1974 when I was 14 years old, I attended my first concert.  It was at the Notre Dame Athletic & Convocation Center (now the Edmund P. Joyce Center) which was 20 minutes from my house.  The occasion was my brother’s 10th birthday and my parents had bought tickets for the four of us to see Jeff’s favorite singer in concert.  That singer was Elvis Presley.

Featuring Dr. Forrest Tennant

Even the older and heavier Elvis still had it and the sold out crowd could not get enough of him.  He was wearing a white jumpsuit that night with a big, jeweled belt around his waist.  Every so often, Elvis would start shaking a leg or wiggling his hips, usually to a drum beat, and the crowd would go wild!

He had silk scarves around his neck and he would mop the moisture from his brow and then hand the scarf to one of the many screaming girls and women who stood at the edge of the stage.  A roadie replaced the scarves around his neck throughout the concert and many women got to take home a personal souvenir.

That night, watching “the king” set the bar high for my future concert expectations.  Less than three years later at the far too young age of 42, Elvis was gone.

I’ve seen many live concerts since that night in 1974, and I’ve enjoyed them all.  There are a handful of performers I would still like to see live in concert and last week, my husband surprised me with tickets for one of them…Alan Jackson. We had to drive for four hours to Enid, Oklahoma for the show, because that was the closest location on his current tour.

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On the drive to Enid, my husband asked me what songs I wanted to hear him play.  I said I was hoping to hear “Here in the Real World” because that was the first song I ever heard by Alan Jackson, and I hoped to hear “Remember When” which is my favorite song by him, but most of all, I wanted to hear him perform live “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”…the song he wrote about the events of September 11, 2001.

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Mr. Jackson did not disappoint.  He played all three of the songs I was hoping to hear, and quite a few of his many hits. If George Strait is the reigning king of country music, then Alan Jackson is the conscience of country music. When he played “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”, people in the audience held up their lighted cell phones in tribute and sang along.

Most of us remember where we were when we heard about the two planes flying into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  I had just driven my children to school that morning and I was thinking about my grandmother because it was her 87th birthday.

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I had left the TV on while I was gone and when I walked back into the house, Katie Couric was saying that a plane had apparently flown into one of the towers of the World Trade Center and they thought it might have been a small, commuter plane.  I remember grabbing some fresh coffee and standing in front of the screen to see what was going on and then a few moments later, the second plane hit.

We all have those moments in our lives that we remember so vividly and when the world as we know it shifts and changes forever.  Those memories become a part of the tapestry of who we are and what we carry forward with us.

As we were driving back to Texas from Enid, Oklahoma on Friday, we heard on the radio that Sunday, April 19th was the 20th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing…another day in our history when an act of terrorism robbed many of their beloved family members and friends and permanently changed another community.

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My husband and I had the chance to visit the very moving and symbolic Oklahoma City National Memorial about three years ago.  The Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.  Built on the footprint of the bombed Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the Memorial is open 24 hours a day and is both peaceful and stunning in its simplicity.

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At either end of the Memorial is a bronze gate with a time engraved on it.  The east gate reads 9:01 and the west gate 9:03.  These two gates of time, frame the 9:02 time of the bombing.  The outside of each gate has this inscription:

“We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

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Within the Memorial is a reflecting pool and facing the pool are nine horizontal rows of empty chairs made of glass, bronze and stone. The nine rows represent the nine floors of the Murrah Building and each chair represents a person who died that day.  The 168 chairs all have names on them, and they are placed on the row corresponding to the floor that person was on when the explosion occurred.

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The 19 chairs representing the children who died in the bombing are smaller than those representing the adults.  Three unborn children who died along with their mothers have their names listed on their mothers’ chairs underneath the names of their mothers’.  There are five chairs that are separate from the nine rows and these represent the five people who died outside the building that April day.  As darkness falls, all 168 chairs light up to symbolize beacons of hope.

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Another part of the Memorial is a Survivor Wall which consists of four granite slabs salvaged from the destruction of the building.  On the wall, are the names of all of the survivors within a two block radius of the blast site.  On the north side of the Memorial is a 100 year-old elm tree which also survived the blast and has become an emblem for the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

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The inscription in front of the Survivor Tree reads:

“The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”

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Bronze elm leaf cast from the Survivor Tree

Sunday night, on the Academy of Country Music Awards Show, Alan Jackson again sang “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing.  If you have the opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial, I encourage you to do so.

Lyrics to Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)

Written by Alan Eugene Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning

 That September day?

 Out in the yard

 With your wife and children

 Workin’ on some stage in LA?

 Did you stand there in shock

 At the sight of that black smoke

 Rising against that blue sky?

 Did you shout out in anger

 And fear for your neighbor

 Or did you just sit down and cry?

 

Did you weep for the children

 Who lost their dear loved ones

 Or pray for the ones who don’t know?

 Did you rejoice for the people

 Who walked from the rubble

 And sob for the ones left below?

 Did you burst out in pride

 For the red, white, and blue

 And the heroes who died

 Just doing what they do?

 Did you look up to Heaven

 For some kind of answer

 And look at yourself

 And what really matters?

 

I’m just a singer of simple songs

 I’m not a real political man

 I watch CNN but I’m not sure I could

 Tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran

 But I know Jesus and I talk to God

 And I remember this from when I was young

 Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us

 And the greatest is love

 

Where were you when the world stopped turning

 That September day?

 Teaching a class full of innocent children

 Driving down some cold interstate?

 Did you feel guilty

 Cause you’re a survivor

 In a crowded room did you feel alone?

 Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her

 Did you dust off that Bible at home?

 

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened

 Or close your eyes and not go to sleep?

 Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages

 Or speak to some stranger on the street?

 Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow

 Go out and buy you a gun?

 Did you turn off that violent old movie you’re watching

 And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?

 

Did you go to the church and hold hands with some stranger

 Stand in line and give your own blood?

 Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family

 Thank God you had somebody to love?

 

I’m just a singer of simple songs

 I’m not a real political man

 I watch CNN but I’m not sure I could

 Tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran

 But I know Jesus and I talk to God

 And I remember this from when I was young

 Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us

 And the greatest is love

 

I’m just a singer of simple songs

 I’m not a real political man

 I watch CNN but I’m not sure I could

 Tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran

 But I know Jesus and I talk to God

 And I remember this from when I was young

 Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us

 And the greatest is love

 

Where were you when the world stopped turning

 That September day

A Satisfied Mind

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

~Benjamin Franklin

In the past month, I’ve taught both of our daughters to do their taxes.  Each of them prepared their own taxes this year and they were surprised how EZ it was to simply follow the directions and fill out the form.  Obviously, it’s a bit more complicated once you graduate from the form they used.

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My own taxes were not so easy this year.  Because my husband and I both started new businesses in 2014, we had to get some professional help to prepare our taxes.  It took me a lot of time to prepare all the documentation I needed for my taxes and I’m glad I have another trip around the sun before I have to do that again!

Taxes have been a bit of a sore subject for those in our country going all the way back before the events in 1773 when the Boston Harbor became a giant tea cup. Before federal income taxes, United States government revenues were gained primarily via tariffs, which are taxes levied on imported (or exported) goods and services.

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We became independent from Britain in 1776 but it wasn’t until the Civil War that Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which included a personal income tax of 3% on an annual income of $800 to help our government pay war expenses.

That tax was repealed in 1871 and in 1894 Congress enacted a 2 % flat rate federal income tax on incomes over $4000.  The flat rate federal income tax was ruled unconstitutional in 1895 by the U.S. Supreme Court because it was a direct tax and not apportioned or shared based on each state’s population.

This problem was fixed in 1913 with the ratification of the 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which allowed the federal government to establish a permanent individual income tax without regard to the population of each state.  The 1040 tax form was introduced that year and taxes were mandated for U.S. citizens making more than $3,000 for the taxable year.

 

March 1st was the tax deadline day starting in 1913 but it was changed to March 15th by Congress in 1918.  March 15th stayed our country’s tax day until the tax overhaul of 1954 which changed our tax day again to April 15th.

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If April 15th falls on a Friday, tax returns are due the following Monday.  This will be the case in 2016 when the April 15th falls on a Friday due to next year being a leap year with 29 days in February.

When April 15th falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, tax returns are due the following Tuesday.

Happy Tax Day!

For those who file a U.S. tax return but are living outside the United States and Puerto Rico, tax day is June 15th due to the two month automatic extension granted to these filers.

Hopefully, if you’re reading this you already have your taxes completed for another year.  If you’re still working on them, here’s a list from www.irs.gov of some common tax mistakes to avoid:

*Mail a paper return to the correct address

*Check your math…math errors are common on paper returns

*Use the correct column when using tax tables to figure your return

*Enter the correct Social Security number on your return and make sure it is easy to read

*Make sure your account and routing numbers are correct if you request an automatic deposit for a refund

*Be sure to sign and date your tax return

*When mailing, don’t forget to attach all the required forms to the front of your tax return

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Once you’ve sent your taxes, you can take a deep breath and celebrate by listening to “The Taxman” by the Beatles or “Take the Money and Run” by The Steve Miller Band or perhaps the Jeff Buckley version of  “A Satisfied Mind”.

“A Satisfied Mind” was written in 1955 by Joe (Red) Hayes and Jack Rhodes.  According to Mr. Hayes, many of the song lyrics were things he always heard his mother say.  The song title came from his father-in-law who asked him who he thought was the richest man in the world.  After he threw out a couple of guesses, his father-in-law told him the richest man in the world wasn’t the man with the most money but rather the man with a satisfied mind.  Then, he had the title for his song.

Many, many artists have recorded this song…the first version I heard was sung by Porter Wagoner when I was a young girl.  Others but not all, who have recorded it are:  Faron Young, Willie Nelson, Roy Drusky, Jean Shepard, David Allan Coe, Ella Fitzgerald, Red and Betty Foley, Cowboy Copas, Joan Baez, The Byrds, Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan, Sonny James, Lindsey Buckingham, Marty Stuart, Lucinda Williams, Rosanne Cash and Johnny Cash.

 Lyrics to “A Satisfied Mind” by Joe (Red) Hayes and Jack Rhodes:

“How many times have you heard someone say,

‘If I had his money I’d do things my way.’

 But little they know that it’s so hard to find

 One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.

 Once I was winning in fortune and fame;

 Everything that I dreamed for to get a start in life’s game.

 But suddenly it happened, I lost every dime,

 But I’m richer by far with a satisfied mind.

 Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old

 Or a friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold;

 The wealthiest person is a pauper at times

 Compared to the man with a satisfied mind.

 When life has ended, my time has run out,

 My friends and my loved ones I’ll leave, there’s no doubt.

 But one thing for certain, when it comes my time,

 I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind.”

Listen To This Record ♫

Author’s note:  The third Saturday in April…this Saturday, April 18th…is Record Store Day.  This is an annual event started in 2007 to celebrate the thousands of independently owned record stores around the world.  Recording artists release albums and CDs on this day and also make special appearances and hold fan meet and greets.  Individual stores hold parties to mark the occasion and to celebrate their unique role in their communities.  So, if you have an independent record store in your community, you might want to get in on the fun!

  

 

Spring Cleaning And Peanut Butter Cookies

There’s something cathartic about cleaning, especially at the beginning of a new season.  Be it our houses or our garages or even our flower beds and yards, there’s something satisfying about a new beginning and a clean slate.

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When I was growing up, one of the rites of springtime was my mother’s annual ritual of spring cleaning.  On one of the first warm days after the cold, Indiana winter quasi-hibernation, she would begin early and open all the windows to “air out” the house while she cleaned it from top to bottom.  The sun would be shining, the transistor radio would be playing on the counter, and my mother would sing along as she worked to the music of the Everly Brothers, Johnny Tillotson, Sam Cooke or that new kid, Elvis.

She would remove the screens and clean all of the windows both inside and out until she was certain there wasn’t a single smudge or smear left on the sparkling glass.  The screens would be rinsed with the garden hose, then brushed with warm, soapy water and a brush bought from the Fuller Brush Man.

My mother didn’t buy window cleaners; she made her own.  She would use an ammonia/white vinegar/ water mixture which I thought smelled pretty bad, but it certainly did the trick.  At some point, she heard that the paper and ink of newspapers were a bit abrasive and were really good for getting windows clean.  Then, for a time, we saved the old newspapers to clean the window and mirror glass.

My mother’s homemade window cleaner:

¼ cup – white vinegar

 ¼ cup – ammonia

 ½ bucket – warm water

At the tender age of three or four, my job was to wipe clean all the window sills after my mother had finished washing the glass.  I would beam with pride when she told me what a good job I was doing.

Once the windows were done, my mother would wrap a damp towel around her broom to clear the winter cobwebs from the corners of every room and to remove the dust from above all the doorways.  Cleaning supplies were very basic back then and we didn’t have a different apparatus for every cleaning job like we do now.  There were no ceiling fan dusters or window blind dusters or Swiffer mops.  There were your hands and a cloth or whatever innovation you came up with to get the job done.

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My mother grew up right after the Great Depression when people saved and recycled everything because “there just might be a use for that”.  Because of this, she seldom threw anything away if she could figure out a new use for it.  One of the funniest things I remember about her spring cleaning and indeed cleaning in general is that she would use my dad’s retired, holey underwear as dusting cloths.  She said they were soft and good for the furniture as she sprayed Pledge on his old tighty whiteys.

This past year, my lucky item

Another of my “jobs” was to carry all the throw rugs from the house outside and shake all the dirt and dust from them.  My mother would then wash them and hang them on the clothesline to dry in the warm sunshine.  She said everything smelled better when it dried outside.

In my mind, I can still see the box of powdered Spic and Span on the counter beside the kitchen sink and the bucket of warm sudsy water on the floor and my young mother scrubbing the black and white vinyl kitchen floor tiles which we now know probably contained asbestos.

Spic and Span® Extra Strength

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When the work was all finished, she would bake her favorite peanut butter cookies to celebrate a good day’s work and we would sit together at the kitchen table to rest…me with a cup of milk and her with a cup of coffee that she liked to dunk her cookie in.  By the end of the day, the house would shine, and the scents of Spic and Span, Top Job, Comet Cleanser, Pledge, and peanut butter cookies would mix and waft together throughout the house.

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My mother’s Peanut Butter Cookie recipe (that she got from her cousin, Wilma)

1 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup peanut butter

2  cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

Dash salt

Cream together shortening, sugars and vanilla.  Add eggs.  Beat thoroughly.  Stir in peanut butter.  Sift dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture.  Form into tiny balls and crisscross with a wet fork.  Bake at 375o for 8 – 10 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Makes 6 dozen.

Big Batch Peanut Butter

I did my spring cleaning last week, so I may just make a batch of peanut butter cookies to share with my mom today!

Author’s note:  The Fuller Brush Company was a household products company founded in 1906 by Alfred Carl Fuller in Hartford, Connecticut.  Known for their part-time door to door salesmen, the Fuller Brush Man was as iconic a figure in the 20th Century as the Avon Lady.  Some well-known folks who worked as a Fuller Brush Man once upon a time are evangelist Billy Graham, actors Pee Wee Herman and Dennis Quaid, and media mogul, Dick Clark.

Hammin’ It Up With Rituals And Traditions

My daughter (the one who just moved out) came over for dinner last night.  She showed up at the door holding an Easter Lilly for me and said, “I know how much you love Easter Lilies.”  And she’s right.  I’ve had one every year for as long as I’ve had a home of my own.  For me, an Easter Lilly is a symbol of Easter and a sign of springtime.

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This is my sixth spring living in Texas.  It’s warmer here at Easter than it is in the Midwest.  Every year after my lilies have bloomed, I’ve planted them in my perennial flower bed in the backyard.  After five years, my lilies have multiplied and right now there are many baby plants coming through the soil and reaching for the sun.

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For years, my growing family would head to grandma and grandpa’s house to celebrate Easter.  Every year I would take an Easter Lilly for my mother.  It was one of our family rituals at Easter and now it looks as if it has become a family tradition since it has been (happily) passed to the next generation in my family.

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The differences between rituals and traditions have always been a little unclear to me, so I did some research on the subject.  It seems we all have everyday rituals we like to follow and these become engrained in our daily routines.  These are the little things; the small habits which provide the color and comfort in our lives.

Rituals are acts or behaviors which are perceived to have meaning and value for us.  There are casual, every day rituals such as exercising at the same time or eating dinner as a family which are important to us as individuals.

More formal rituals, which are often tied to holidays or significant rites of passages in our lives, often have symbolic or religious meaning and are considered important for us as a society.

Many families say a prayer together before meals.  This is an everyday ritual which may also be steeped in tradition if the prayer that is spoken or sung is one passed down a generation.

My husband and I like to drink our coffee together while we do our morning devotional, and then we have an afternoon cup while we watch the evening news.  These are every day rituals we each enjoy and look forward to because we know we will have this time together no matter what else the day brings.

There are also more formal rituals which follow established customs and are practiced at important events and ceremonies.

At graduations, there is the processional march to “Pomp and Circumstance” and the turning of the tassel from one side of the mortarboard to the other to signify that the person is a now a graduate.

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For sporting events, we wear the colors of our team and sing the national anthem before the game or match.

At weddings, vows are said to one another, rings are exchanged and there is the ritual of the groom kissing the bride at the end of wedding ceremonies…which may be where we get the phrase, “sealed with a kiss”.

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Traditions, on the other hand, are the beliefs and information that are handed down by word or example from one generation to another in a culture.  Traditions have a special significance for members of a society and help us know how to act and behave in different situations.

Shaking hands as a greeting is a ritual we practice in our society but it is also a tradition passed down through generations to acknowledge and show respect for another person.

At Christmas, Christians have a tradition of displaying a nativity scene which reflects the birth of Christ and the reason we celebrate the holiday.  Traditional Christmas trees are displayed in homes, and each family has their own tree decorating rituals and traditions.

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In the state of my birth, Indiana, Memorial Day Weekend is known as “race weekend”.  During World War II, the Indianapolis 500 was not run for four years.  When the war was over and the race was first run again in 1946, a tradition was started of singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the race.  It was also about that same time that the famous words, “Gentlemen, start your engines” became a tradition before races.  Of course, now it is “Ladies and gentleman, start your engines”.

Indianapolis 500 website.

Colored eggs have been a part of Easter celebrations since the 15th century.  The egg has always been a symbol of new life and of the rebirth of the earth after the long, bleak winter.  For Easter, many families and churches color eggs and hold Easter egg hunts for the children.  This is both a ritual and a tradition which has become a part of our Easter holiday.

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Here is a fun story about a family ritual born out of necessity, which turned into a family tradition.  I borrowed it from blogger, Linda Neale.

The Easter Ham

“As a little girl watches her mom prepare the Easter ham, she wonders why her mother cuts off both ends of the ham before putting it in the pot. So, she asks why, and her mom realizes that she doesn’t know. That’s the way her mother prepared the Easter ham.

So they call grandmother and pose the question about cutting off the ends of the Easter ham. Grandmother admits to not knowing either. She just prepared the ham the way her mom did it.

Their next call is to great-grandmother. When they ask her about her method of preparing the Easter ham, she laughs. Then she says, “It was the only way I could get the Easter ham to fit the small pot I had!”

My own grandmother baked her Easter hams in a pool of apple juice and would frequently baste the ham with the juice while it was cooking.  So, yes, that’s what I do as well because it’s a family tradition…or at least it was.  Now that we have miniature pot-bellied grand pigs, we are now a ham-free household.

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Happy Easter!

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“This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love