Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chopin Doesn't Live Here Anymore

I am standing in my kitchen
Like a thousand other mornings
Of a lifetime of mornings
In silence.
Deafening silence.

Every morning of my life
Every year of my life
For decades of my life
Was a soundtrack

Brahms and Bach
And Bela Bartok.
And Ludwig.

Schubert and Schumann
And Shostakovich.
And Wolfgang

They played for me.
Butchering and mastering.
Neither mattered.
Both were grand.
And all was beauty.

Every forgotten sharp
And shaved note
And curse under the breath of frustration
And tears
Were background noise I forgot to take in.
Hours a day
Of an ordinary, extraordinary soundtrack.
And I missed it.

And I miss it.

The music.

Louder than it ever was
Is the silence
And the longing
And the ache
In the wake.

Chopin doesn't live here anymore.

© 2017 Laurie Sitterding
My entry for the February 2017 prompt—Music and Memory—at Poets Online.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Plural Possessive Refresher We All Need, Even Though No One Wants It

...And Just in Time for Christmas Cards!

I bring you the following Public Service Announcement, from your friendly grammar-girl editing professional. This is just in time for Christmas cards, in case you want to have them grammatically correct.

(If you know what's correct, and you choose to knowingly do it wrong because "you don't care if it's wrong because you think it looks better that way"—you know who you are!—then this post is not for you. Carry on.)

However, if you really do want to have it right, but grammar was never your big thing, here you go. (I really am a Grammar Geek. I have always loved it. Weird, I know, but true!)

See below for all the helpful grammar rules. With examples. And maybe even your last name—or one similar to it—so you can get it right if you want to. 

And this is all you're going to get. Because, after all, this:

Plurals and Possessives of Names
If you have a straightforward name that doesn't end in any problematic letters, things are pretty straightforward:

* Lucy Clark
* Lucy Clark's book
* Lucy's book
* the Clark family
* eat with the Clarks
* eat at the Clarks' home (because it belongs to all of them)
* Love, the Clarks (not Love, the Clark's)

The main "rule" to remember is that you never, never, never form a plural with an apostrophe. Just don't. (Yes, those of you "in-the-know" grammar types realize that this statement is not technically 100% true, because you do make the plural of a single letter using an apostrophe, but that is rare, so for now, just remember that all ordinary plurals—including your family names—do not use an apostrophe. Ever.)

If you happen to have one of those names that ends in a letter or letter combination that requires creating an interesting plural before adding possession, you have some special things to learn regarding your name.

PLEASE NOTE: Microsoft Word does not get this right. It can't read your mind, and it doesn't know how many people you mean. If you have auto-correct on, it will often change your word to something wrong even if you typed it right. It does not necessarily know more than you do.  It is not always right! Just be careful and check your "think-it-knows-better-than-you" auto-correct function—don't just accept it as right because Microsoft Word said so!

These are the correct forms for your "exceptional" name:

* Chris Sanchez
* Chris Sanchez's book
* Chris's book (NOT Chris' book)
* the Sanchez family
* eat with the Sanchezes
* eat at the Sanchezes' home (NOT the Sanchez's home)
* eat at the Sanchez home (my personal preference with these kinds of names and spellings, since it is seemingly less strange)
* Love, the Sanchezes (NOT Love, the Sanchez's) or Love, the Sanchez family (less awkward)

This is true for other names, as well:

Esther Cavendish
Esther Cavendish's book
Esther's book
the Cavendish family
eat with the Cavendishes
eat at the Cavendishes' home (NOT the Cavendish's home)
eat at the Cavendish home
Love, the Cavendishes (NOT Love, the Cavendish's)

Patsy Fahs
Patsy Fahs's book (NOT Patsy Fahs' book)
Patsy's book
the Fahs family
eat with the Fahses
eat at the Fahses' home (NOT the Fahs's home)
eat at the Fahs home 
Love, the Fahses (NOT Love, the Fahs' or Love, the Fahs's)

Rita Cox
Rita Cox's book
Rita's book
the Cox family
eat with the Coxes
eat at the Coxes' home (NOT the Cox's home)
eat at the Cox home
Love, the Coxes (NOT Love, the Cox's)

Mike Church
Mike Church's book
Mike's book
the Church family
eat with the Churches
eat at the Churches' home (NOT the Church's home)
eat at the Church home
Love, the Churches (NOT Love, the Church's)

David Monteaux
David Monteaux's book
David's book
the Monteaux family
eat with the Monteauxs 
eat at the Monteauxs' home (NOT the Monteaux's home)
eat at the Monteaux home
(Note that this is "wrong" in French, because the name is Monteau, and Monteaux is the correct plural. But often, during Americanization, French family names keep the -eaux form, thereby "messing up" the plurals and plural possessives forever!)
Love, the Monteauxs (NOT Love, the Monteaux's)

Mike Teixeira
Mike Teixeira's book
Mike's book
the Teixeira family
eat with the Teixeiras (NOT the Teixeira's)
eat at the Teixeiras' home
eat at the Teixeira home
Love, the Teixeiras (NOT Love, the Teixeira's)

Rose Williams
Rose Williams's book (NOT Rose Williams' book)
Rose's book
the Williams family
eat with the Williamses (NOT the Williams's)
eat at the Williamses' home (NOT the William's home or the Williams's home)
eat at the Williams home
Love, the Williamses (NOT Love, the Williams's)

Heather Jones
Heather Jones's book (NOT Heather Jones' book)
Heather's book
the Jones family
eat with the Joneses (NOT the Jones's)
eat at the Joneses' home (NOT the Jones's)
eat at the Jones home
Love, the Joneses (NOT Love, the Jones's)

EXCEPTION: Ancient Classical names have a special exception to these rules. So, though it is correctly written Davis's message, it would be Moses' message, Jesus' sermon, or Socrates' teachings. Maybe someday Davis will be ancient and famous enough for us to refer to Davis' message, but for now, it's just wrong.

So, there you have it. Do with it what you will...

And also, to balance things out, here's a great article: "How to Quit Being a Grammar Snob." I'm not quite there yet, but I'm 100% better because of the author, my friend Brian Wasko, and his influence over the past several years. Thank you, Brian. (And yes, I'm still working on it. Especially this time of year!)

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Extraordinary Ordinary

This kind of beauty takes my breath away. I can't believe it's just growing in my front yard!

The title of this blog post is from the title of the inspiring book I'm reading, The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of Mark Rodriguez. From the preface by his mother, who put the book together from his journal writings: "Like Mark, we can have that same intimate and loving relationship with God. When we ask, He makes the ordinary extraordinary. May the words of Mark, a seventeen-year-old ordinary kid, help you to experience this extraordinary ordinary life with God."

Mark's life was ended by a seemingly random act of violence when he was just 17 years old. The words he left behind in these journals have been an incredible gift, not only to his family but to all of us who knew him and thousands who didn't. I have grown in my relationship with God through the words of this extraordinary, ordinary young man.

*Entry 8, August - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the book mentioned above.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Buy You a Dress So Pretty

My daughter OG has moved into her sister's old room. (EV has moved into a new room, in a new house, in a new life, in a new town, with a new name... but that's another post for another day!)

One of the things OG is doing is to decorate the room in a Victorian theme, which includes a picture wall of old black-and-white framed photographs of family members. It is beautiful...both the room, and the photo wall!

When my auntmy mother's sister and my daughter's great auntmailed her the old black-and-white photos, she stuck in a couple of color snapshots from my childhood. Among them was this gem:

Good heavens, Mom! Buy me a new dress, already. Put that thing I'm wearing on my sister, and buy me a new one, so we might not both look like, well... Hmmm... I don't know what to call that...

(Oh, and doesn't my cousin, John, look thrilled to be photographed next to his obnoxious little cousins visiting from out of state?!)

This picture makes me cringe and smile, all at the same time. Kind of like most things in life I look back on with a fresh, new perspective from the future...

*Entry 7, July - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is a line from the song "Pouring Rain" by David Stewart.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Last Day at the Beach

The Last Day at the Beach. That's the title of this achingly beautiful song from William Ackerman. I can't listen to it without getting wistful. This year's family reunion beach week has been the first year that we have had more high school graduates among our children than not... four to three! One of my daughters is married, and her husband joined us this year. (Welcome, Ronald!) One of my sister's daughters is engaged, and her fiancé joined us this year, too. (Nice to finally meet you, Crawford!)

There's been lots of fun and feasting... sunburn... beach volleyball... ukulele... feasting... rain... Avengers and Jurassic Park (must. get. ready. for. sequels!)... feasting... Taboo...  Nanny's cakes (coconut, chocolate chip, rum, and poppy seed)... new pups ("Finley and Chewie, meet the cuzes!")... biking (and even a bicycle built for two!)... feasting... donuts from Duck Donuts on National Donut Day... skim boarding... freezing produce... "Farkle!"... boogie boarding... feasting... hot tubbing... coconut rum fruity drinks and Mike's hard lemonade... The Dugger Interviews (isn't the world talking about anything else?!)... feasting... shopping... reading... Pictionary... corn hole... rain... feasting... Heads Up! charades (thank you, Ellen!)...

The list of fun memories, far from complete, makes me smile... and I list it to keep me from crying. Every year, as the week comes to a close, I am amazed at how quickly it has flown, and how fleeting time is. Our children are growing, and we are growing old, and there's nothing we can do to slow the hands of time. Another fun week is coming to a close much too soon, and we ignore the approaching goodbyes that will inevitably prick our eyes come morning. Goodbye, Beach Week 2015. (Such fun you've been!)

Until we meet again next year...

*Entry 6b, June - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is that of William Ackerman's song by the same name.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

On a Bicycle Built for Two

These two sweet cousins get together once a year, during our annual beach week family reunion getaway on the NC shore. They've been almost inseparable for the entire week, every summer that I can remember--and this year they even got to go biking on the same bike! Such fun!!

*Entry 6a, June - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the classic children's song "Daisy, Daisy" (aka "A Bicycle Built for Two").

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Complete Classical Christian School Reading List (Grades 1-8)

Here is a great book list that I might want to reference later. Like Justin Taylor, publisher at Crossway, "I'm a sucker for good reading lists." Here's what he has to say about this one:

"There are hundreds of thousands of books written for children. The challenge is discerning what is best for them to read, given so many options. I’m a sucker for good reading lists, so I’m grateful for the folks at Calvary Classical School—a classical Christian school in Hampton, Virgina—who have given me permission to reproduce this list. For outside reading, the books are divided into three levels. Books with a “+” denote that any title in that series would be acceptable. I’ve done my best to link to the paperback or cheapest version at Amazon. I hope this proves helpful for a lot of parents and teachers!"

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Borax Ant Killer

It makes me cringe to think of posting a recipe for ant poison here on this blog, but it works!!!  I want to share it with any of you who may also have problems with ants in the kitchen as soon as it gets warm outside. The original post appeared on a blog and came to me via a friend on Facebook. (And did I mention that IT WORKS?!!!)

1/8 C. sugar
1 tsp. Borax (laundry aisle)
1/2 C. water

1. Boil water, then pour in empty jar.

2. Add sugar and Borax to hot water and stir until completely dissolved.

3. Soak cotton balls with mixture and place on a piece of aluminum foil.

4. Place near the path where you have ants coming in. 24-48 hours later, they're gone. (Truly!)

I didn't believe this, really. I'd tried Combat and Raid Ant Bait traps. I'd tried Ant Terro. I'd tried natural remedies. I'd tried wiping everything down with vinegar-water. I'd tried spraying ant killer outside along the perimeter of the house. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, has ever worked before to kill the ants. This works. YAY!!

Update NOTE: This absolutely worked amazingly the first time I tried it. Then, two weeks later, the ants were back. I pulled the leftover poison jar back out, and it didn't work at all! It seems to be important for the poison to be fresh, so I've cut the quantities way down in the recipe. Just make a fresh batch each time you need it.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Birth Day

Today, the delightful woman who made me a mother turned 21. She and her new husband, Ronald, came over after church for a birthday celebration meal. (Each child has always gotten to choose the meals on his or her birthday, and even when you're married and moved out, that's still the deal. This year's choice? Home-rolled sushi followed by spaghetti with homemade meatballs. Hey, I don't plan the things...I just cook 'em!)

When my sweetie little-girl-all-grown-up came in, she handed me these beautiful flowers.

"Happy birthday!" she said.

"It's not my birthday. It's your birthday!" I replied.

"Yes, but you did all the work!"

Amen to that--and your sweet self was worth every minute of the pain!

Happy birthday, dear EV. I blinked, and your childhood was over. Happy first-time birthday where my home is no longer yours. I'm so very proud of the woman you have become!

*Entry 5, May - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the "most recognizable song in the English language." And here is a super fun article containing five fun facts about the Happy Birthday song.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

But First, Let Me Take a Selfie

I know that I'm getting older... and that I "just don't understand"... and that taking selfies is just what everybody (insert the words "under thirty") is doing.

And I've been known to stick my arm out with the best of 'em, to capture a moment with the camera turned the wrong way...

But, truth be told, I'm a little disturbed. I find the selfie craze pretty disconcerting. I'm concerned about what it is turning us into... who it is making us. It scares me a little to see people so utterly self-absorbed that literally every kind of moment has to be captured with the camera facing SELF. It is changing how we view things. It is changing how we document things. It is changing how we do relationship.

I don't know about you, but I didn't need anything to come along to make me more self-focused... more self-absorbed... more looking at myself and how the world affects me, instead of how it is affecting those around me!

Last night, my family and I were camping, and all of them had headed to the bath house to get ready for bed. I had stayed behind, enjoying the last few moments of our little campfire. The embers were morphing and moving in the smoke, and the last dying flames joined their movements in a mesmerizing dance. It was glorious, that sight, as it combined with the sounds and smells of that fading fire... crackling pops... rising sparks... the scent of wood and earth and smoky tendrils filling my nostrils...

It was in the context of this peaceful, beautiful, holy moment that I saw of one of the most ridiculous things I think I've ever seen. Across the way, at the next campsite, I became aware of a couple of guys who had set up a tripod and camera in front of their campfire. (Yes, a full-blown tripod, complete with camera attachment.) They were ready to capture their selfie the old-fashioned way, I guess... at a decent distance, and without the distorted shoulder in one of the corners. And so I watched them as they attempted to do so. Not once. Not twice. Not six or eight times. No, I watched these two young men literally set up the scene (clinking beer bottles in front of their campfire), hold the pose (as in, "Let's keep these beer bottles in this fake clink for eight seconds while the camera takes the shot), look at the result (apparently never quite perfect enough), and then re-stage the entire thing for a re-do-try-over TEN TIMES. They wasted almost twenty minutes with this project. Were they enjoying the fire? The beers? The company? No, they were obsessed with staging and then capturing the perfect (fake!) moment.

I had been experiencing the perfect (real) moment, and I was never once--not even for a fleeting instant--tempted to spoil the mood by trying to "capture the moment" with my camera. And, had I been so inclined, I certainly would never have been tempted to try to capture it by sticking my arm out and centering my big ugly mug in front of the real show!

I'm not sure what to make of it all, but I know that I never want to miss the real things going on around me because I'm too busy staging some fake ones.

*Entry 4, April - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is from the song "#SELFIE" by The Chainsmokers.

(For some interesting thoughts about selfies, you can read these two articles, which discuss some research-based findings suggesting that our selfie-centered behavior is making us psychologically sick. I wouldn't be surprised.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Now His Life Is Full of Wonder

Today is my son PT's birthday. He is not here to celebrate with us the way he has every year of his life to this point, which is eating his favorite foods--whatever he's chosen for the meals in any given year, and whomever he's chosen for us to share them with.

And even though he is a freshman in college this year, he isn't spending his first-birthday-away-from-home in a dorm room, either.

No, this year, he and some friends have taken a Spring Break road trip to Colorado. Not a bad way to spend your birthday, I'd say. (Beats the view around here today, that's for sure!)

Happy birthday, PT! Hope you're having a blast!

*Entry 3b, March - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is a line from the song "Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Let My Hair Grow Wild and Free

I received the following picture from my son today. His declaration: "So apparently my hair gets really poofy when it gets long."

That, and you suddenly look a lot like Andy Samberg...

*Entry 3a, March - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is a line from the song "Find Me" by Margaret Becker.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happily Ever After

*Entry 2, February - The 12 Months of 2015 Blog Challenge 
The title is a line from the song "Happily Ever After" by Case. (This song is an R&B love song, not a style I usually like much, but the words are fun!)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Reflections on "A Really Kindred Spirit"

"Marilla," she demanded presently, "Do you think that I shall ever have a bosom friend in Avonlea?"

"A--a what kind of friend?"

"A bosom friendan intimate friend, you knowa really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I've dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will, too. Do you think it's possible?"

Yes, it's possible, dear Anne of Green Gables. But it's a rare and special thing to be treasured among the highest of treasures!

Below you will find some thoughts milling around in my head about friendship. They are shared in the form of an email I received from a dear friend, and an email I wrote to my precious family. 

We're in the final stretch of wedding planning and execution around here, and I have no time for blogging about any of it! (The only thing I'll say about that is this: Go hug your sweet little ones. Next week, they'll be driving you around, and the week after that they'll be getting married. Don't blink!)

My loves,
Some of this is addressed to my sweet daughters and some of it to my dear men, but I wrote it intending for all of you to read all of it. I love you!

My dear daughters,
Find yourself a few dear friends like this throughout the years of your life. I can count them on one hand, over my entire lifetime, but they are a priceless, rare treasure. (See note from Christine, below.) 

You will have many, many special people move in and out of your circle of associations over your lifetime, but deep, heart friends—"bosom friends," as Anne of Green Gables called them—are a true, rare gift from God. They don't usually come along when you're a teenager, (though they certainly can), and they are usually the result of "clicking" with someone on both a spiritual level and a personality level. You'll know them when they come along. Treasure them. 

(And know that I'd love nothing more than to eventually be one of them to you!)

My dear men, I cc'ed you rather than addressing you directly because men's friendships tend to work differently than women's. A deliberate choice to facilitate some connection with the spiritual men in your circle—for accountability and occasional companionship—seems to be key for guys. That, and a deep, heart-and-spirit connection with a "wife of noble character." ("Who can find? She is worth far more than rubies...") Treasure her, too, once the Lord brings her along. 

Dear ones, settle for nothing less than the best: a deep, soul, Spirit connection with your spouse. It, too, is a rare gift from God, and worth waiting for, and earnestly seeking. 

I'm so glad I have your dad as such a soulmate for walking this life together, and that God has given me friendships like those I've shared with Christine. Karen. Cheri. Kathy. Johanna. 

Keep your eye out for those special types of friends. They don't come along every day! And work to become ready to *be* that kind of friend, once they do. 

Life is good, and God is great. Above all, love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is, and will always be, your first and closest and truest Friend. And He will shape you into the man or woman of God that He wants you to be, and that will make you the kind of friend that's a rare treasure. Like my dear Christine, writing from across the miles in Iraq:
From: Christine
Date: February 13, 2015
To: Laurie
Subject: Thinking of You
Laurie, I am thinking of you all so much as the wedding approaches. I am really bummed to not be there to help out. When you asked for Christmas trees, I knew you must be planning something special.  
Just know that I love your family and am so glad I know you and Iivo from even before dear EV was born. We have walked thru lots of life together, and I can imagine the thoughts and emotions you have as EV gets married. 
I will be thinking of you so much next Saturday and look forward to being with you to hear all about it! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I received the following photo texts from my daughter OG today:
Just randomly settling himself on a plastic bag...
With his little toy
All comfy
Isn't our little Finley adorable?!

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Visit from Across the Miles

A decade or so ago, some dear folks moved here from Germany to spend a couple of years working in the States. We met them in our neighborhood park and became fast friends. Last night this dear man arrived on our doorstep, here in town for a few days with business. Our son PT was great buds with their Max during elementary school, and our "baby" girls, now both 14, used to share a weekly play date when they were 5. Too bad they couldn't all come!

Ulrich said something during his visit that rings so true to me: "There are some people that you can not see for many years, and when you do see them, it's like no time has passed at all. You can pick up right where you left off. I believe that this is what heaven will one day be like." Amen to that!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


A message from my dad, the puppy caretaker while we're away: "That's a little mound of toys piled on his food bowl."

I guess he's missing us and not sure when he'll get his next meal while we're gone. Poor little guy!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Not a Cheesy Card

I have gotten some pretty terrific gifts for my birthday this year (including the much-needed laptop I'm writing on right now!), but my favorite present by far has been this poem my husband presented to me last night. It is as much a tribute to Williamsburg and our alma mater as it is to me. We've long called this town "the center of the universe"—and, for us, in some ways, it is.

I am so grateful for such a dear companion to walk through this life together!

Not a Cheesy Card

On these streets,

Among these trees and houses,
Where leaves rustle and a carriage rumbles by,
I fell in love with you...

Where old porches and new shoppes,

Old traditions and new ideas,
Godless pride and Holy worship breathed among old stones,
I fell in love with you...

Magnolias and pines,

Delis and waterside parks,
"We were young," "sure enough," and "ready for the storm"...
I fell, fall, falling, keep falling...

Your mouth, your kiss

Your hand, your hair... you... beautiful...
Your neck, all else, the universe centered, or so it seemed...
Fell, fall, falling.  Keep, keep falling...

Our little homes, growing, then not...

Your belly, growing, then again,
Our children, our loves...
But I still fall, falling for you...

Your hand,

Your hair,
Your mouth, still... you... more beautiful...
Falling... further... still...

You are my true love and I will cherish you until the very end.

I am... really... still... falling... in love with you

© 2015 Iivo Sitterding

Maybe pick a different pair?!

Looking for bridesmaid shoes is hard work, and every once in a while you just need a fun break...

Apparently even big girls still like to play dress up!