The Stuff of Legends

Every Family Historian has a few brick wills she will attempt to climb every now and again when the maze has confounded her. One of mine comes from my first Family History vacation in 2012.

After visiting and touring the church, after walking the length and breadth of the cemetery, we met with some of the family at Uncle John’s place. We sat in his man cave, sharing stories, drinking beer (for those of us who drink beer), laughing, remembering, swearing to not let so much time pass before our next visit. There is nothing as good as listening to uncle stories. There is nothing as wonderful as not knowing which stories are true, which are tease, and which are faded in between by the beer.

When we returned to the hotel that night, I typed the following, dated April 12, 2012:

 John remembered his dad talking about the Old Country. He told John the Schmitzers were a nomadic tribe, and they moved around quite a bit. At one point, he told John, the Schmitzers settled in Czechoslovakia. When John asked why they moved around so much, he said his dad answered him, “without batting an eye, without the faintest hint of a smile,” that they were always “one step ahead of the Law.”

At the time, I dismissed it as “too much beer.” It was so far-fetched and so random–and there had been mention of our ancestors being horse thieves (to be honest, I think the expression was “Czechoslovakian horse thieves”). I mean, really. Horse thieves?

But the truth is, I’ve learned enough about Family History to know that Family Legend comes from somewhere. When we tell family stories, we don’t just make them up. Usually, there is some element of truth to them–whether big or small. And so, despite the fact that my gut tells me the Schmitzers did not descend from Czechoslovakian horse thieves, this Legend remains one of my brick walls. Every now and again, when my research has left me asking “what next,” I turn around and try to scale the wall. As of yet, I’ve made no progress connecting the Schmitzer clan to Czechoslovakia or horse thievery.

Two years ago at the Schmitzer Reunion, I was blessed to meet the amazing daughter of a woman who served as Secretary on the Reunion committee for a number of years. She graciously gifted me a brown paper bag which had held its treasures for years apparent. The giving itself humbled me speechless. The contents astounded me.

Journal entries of each Schmitzer Reunion detailed who attended, what monies were paid out, who would serve on the following year’s committee, and anything noteworthy that had been discussed or presented for the family’s benefit. Births and deaths, marriages and graduations, names and addresses often grouped by Clan, and a random photograph of my own handsome grandfather in his young adulthood–these are the rare jewels of which Family Historians dream! I guarded them dearly, eager to come home and sift through it all. And here, two and half years later, I have still not completed the task.

Last weekend, I pulled out the sturdy box where I’ve stored these treasures, and I tackled the stack of letters. Yes, letters. Oh, how my heart lifted! Notes written from family members who couldn’t make it to the given year’s reunion were (as I understand) either read or made available for everyone to read at the reunion. Therein, I have stumbled upon two amazing finds. The first, a letter written by my grandmother the year after my grandfather died. I’ll share more about this another time.

But the second was a letter stuffed into a plain, non-postmarked envelope with the word “Important” underlined on the front. And on the inside? A treasure from the real Family Historian! As if it isn’t enough to read a letter from my great-uncle Alois, to work through his post-script notes on the family history, I stumbled upon a brick from a wall I’ve been unable to scale:

I want to say that what Uncle Martin said and Uncle Albert denied about Schmitzers migrating from Czeck to Germany is most likely true.

German clans were fighting and killing each other during the 1500 and 1600 hundreds, some other civilized groups were also involved I guess. Anyway, they did not have enough men to work and run farms and businesses, so they offered Czecks, Italians, and Swiss opportunities to come. Zehnders came from Switzerland and some others. Also, I found out some came from Italy. Bavaria, Italy, and Czeck borders are all close together or were at that time. Later Austria took over some of Italy’s northern border.

Letter from Alois Schmitzer, dated 19 July 1972.

But is it true?

It may be, and it may not be. It’s going to take an amazing amount of time and research, and it may end with no more certainty than I have at this moment. Still, I now have two relatives relaying similar Family Legend. No doubt my Uncle John’s story came from his father–my grandfather, who was Alois’ brother; and no doubt Alois and Grandpa heard it from their uncles, who seemed to have some disagreement about the matter in a manner publicly enough that folks at the 1972 Reunion would know what Alois letter was implying.

Are you intrigued?

I am totally intrigued.

Wish me luck!



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There’s an old lyric from Caedmon’s Call:

I love anonymity and I love being noticed–just the same as anybody else.

Years ago, I told you how I love to be alone; these days I’d be perjuring myself.

I’ve loved these words for years, because I think it’s true for many musicians, many artists. We grow up feeling totally out of place; we long for solitude to make sense of our art; and after years of being the wallflower who observes life all around, we yearn for the intimacy of being in the throes of life’s squall. The process may be different for each of us, and maybe it happens more than once (maybe it’s cyclical?…oh dear Lord, I hope not…) or in different patterns, but there exists somewhere in our creative mind a place that affirms the juxtaposition: I love anonymity; I love being noticed.

Recently, through an amazingly odd turn of events, I found myself with access to an empty house.

I was elated.

The thought of having this space to myself for any given amount of time was an amazing thrill. It is every artist’s dream to have an empty space to fill with the stuff of their practice and creation. And it just so happens, for this songwriter, it is more than empty space; it is wooden floors and high ceilings and wide open spaces kind of empty space (wide open spaces?…there’s a Psalm about this). It is an acoustic heaven.

One night, as the sky settled into starless night, as the neighbors all shut down and drifted to sleep, as the words of a new song meandered about me like a fog that cannot lift, I felt it: Isolation.

Solitude is a blessing, right?

Except that it isn’t. It cannot be…unless it is balanced by the commotion of fellowship. When it lacks balance, it is no longer solitude; it is isolation.

Yes, another fence-post from Sarah. You must accept the two things which seem contradictory, or you forfeit them both. Perhaps you come to a different conclusion, but for me, the only answer is to accept the contradiction. Tozer writes about God’s justice and mercy in this regard. If we were able to remove God’s justice, there would be no need for His mercy. And if we removed His mercy, justice would simply be cruelty. They are balanced inclusively with one another like dueling sides of a mountain.

The moral here is not so much a moral as it is a plea.

From one artist to many others.


…don’t let me isolate myself.

I am sorely tempted as of late. I am hurting and confused and frustrated by many events of the past year. I am heartbroken and grief-stricken and overwhelmed by sorrow. I know it is a season; I know it will pass; I know that nothing stays the same forever (except the Changeless One). But if you think of me, please reach out to me. Even if I don’t respond (which I am prone to do), I promise–I notice. And I appreciate. I save those texts, those voicemails, those emails, those cards. I hold them dear like treasures a child finds at the beach on a beautiful summer day.

They are balm to an weary and wounded soul.

Pax Christi.


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The Search for a Presidential Candidate: Part I

The Search for a Presidential Candidate: Part I

On Thursday, August 6, 2015, Fox News partnered with Facebook to host the first Republican debate for the 2016 Presidential race. I won’t lie: I was enraptured by the event, even though it’s been years since I considered myself a Republican. With seventeen candidates, the debate was broken into two tiers, the Big Leagues debated at 9pm, EST, while the JV aired at 5pm, EST. I won’t bore you (or myself) by listing each candidate, giving commentary or play-by-play, et cet. If you haven’t done so, please go back and read A Prologue so you know what I’m looking for and at in this election cycle.

I categorized the candidates into three groups that made sense to me. The first group were those that I just don’t see as plausible candidates, either for the nation, or for my conscience. This group is Too Little, Too Late. These candidates, I thought, were just trying to maintain a position, and I have nothing to say on their behalf. It is unlikely I would even consider casting my vote for these candidates. The second group is Great Expectations.  These candidates were the ones I expected to really connect with, candidates I want to get behind and cheer on. Three candidates fell into this group. And finally, the Come Have Sunday Tacos at the Moore House group. These were the candidates that I really connected with based on their presentation at the debate, and only three made it to this group.

Today, I’d like to share with you my thoughts about the three candidates I carefully placed in the Great Expectations category.

Senator Rand Paul is the first (and obviously first) choice for my Great Expectations Group. He is probably the most blatant (and perhaps the only) Libertarian choice, if you couldn’t tell with all of that “Fourth Amendment” stuff he pummeled against Christie. I expected, by reason of Libertarian Solidarity, to be amazed and impressed by him; I simply wasn’t. While I totally agreed with his Fourth Amendment pummel, I thought his demeanor was a bit “I’m louder than you.” This is not how an argument is won or a debate is decided; more importantly, it is not how hearts and minds are persuaded. It doesn’t mean cat-poop if he “beats” Christie at this debate if people walk away shaking their heads at “two more politicians fighting about who can be louder.” The irritation and volume Paul exhibited is concerning to me for that reason.

I do appreciate that he is willing to say things that are controversial and unpopular (ie: The Fourth Amendment; calling Trump out on splitting the vote; et cet.). And I appreciate his Libertarian views. I did, however, find him very “I need to be your candidate!”

The next time I hear Paul speak, I want to hear about his tax proposal–I’ve heard rumors of glory, but for all his noise this week, I’ve heard nothing about his infamous tax proposal. I also would like to hear him express why it is important to talk about the Fourth Amendment. Look, Americans (particularly Republicans, I think) have this idea that sometimes we need to forfeit a little freedom in order to maintain safety or economic security or fill-in-the-blank. There’s a serious danger in doing so, and instead of getting into a shouting contest with Christie (and face it, you’re not going to “win” a shouting contest with a man that loud and bully), take this opportunity to remind the American people of that danger.

So yes, Paul–you’re redeemable at this point. Please. If I have to move you from one group to another (and I do; you’re not allowed to stay in the same group forever), I’d rather move you to the “Taco” group than the “Too Little, Too Late” group.

Senator Ted Cruz is the second candidate on the list. I wish I had much to say about this man, but I just don’t. I have exceptionally high expectations of him because Beck seems to like him. He seems to be relatively consistent with policy, which is good. Cruz is obviously both well-spoken and intelligent. So why did I land him in this group? Two reasons. First, there was all of this monkey-business last week about him calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “liar.” Now listen–dishonesty is dishonesty. If McConnell lied, someone ought to call him out on it. I honestly don’t even know the context in which the L-word was used, or to what it referred. So it’s a precarious question mark for me: How do we balance the need to call one another to honesty without being the bully I referred to in A Prologue? Does calling someone a liar make Cruz a mud-slinger? Not necessarily. It made me step back. To be fair, however, the few times I’ve heard Cruz interviewed, he has graciously turned the topic back to the issues facing our nation every time the media has tried to corner him with a “gotcha” about one of the other candidates. So I do think I have to be careful not to disregard Cruz just yet.

My second issue with Cruz is probably more important. I appreciate an intelligent, articulate person–and Cruz is definitely both of these things. I wonder, though, where his convictions are. I often wonder what politicians are passionate about. It is probably easy to get caught up in the humdrum of political life, and forget that holding public office is (and should be) about serving the people who elected you. I don’t mean to imply that Cruz has forgotten this; only…that I would really love to see him get riled up about something. Not riled up like Paul or Christie or Trump; but riled up like a man who knows that the actions (or lack) of the next president are going to make or break us. Again, maybe he feels passionate. As a candidate, I want to hear it in his voice. I want to see it in his eyes. I want to sense it in his body language and his address.

So Cruz? I want to have you over for Tacos. But Tacos at the Moore House are very high honor, and you’ll have to convince me that you can handle it. I sincerely hope you do.

Finally, and with a still unconvinced heart, I offer Dr. Ben Carson. Carson has been my candidate from the first moment I heard him speak–long before we were ever discussion this election. His tone, his manner, his conviction, his respect, his humility and even keel–these won my affection early on, and continue to win me. I have an amazing amount of respect for Carson, and the diligence he exemplifies. So why am I putting him in the Expectations group?

Oh, Ben. I wish I didn’t have to.

The first question addressed to Carson was very poignant, and I found myself feeling that my feathers were ruffled a bit on Carson’s behalf (which is why you never want to vote for me–for anything). Nonetheless, Carson answered the question better than anyone could have, I think. His point was brilliant, that our Founding Fathers were not career politicians; they were thinking, working, reading, philosophical men. And I do feel that having and using a brain is a better item for your resume than your years in office.

This just…isn’t it. There’s a place in the course of history for this man–mark my words. Maybe he is a future president; maybe he is an ambassador; maybe he cures cancer; maybe he is Secretary of State; maybe…who knows? But right now, at this moment…I’m just not convinced that this is the moment or the role. There are very decisive things that need to happen under the next presidency, and I’m not sure Carson is ready to do them.

I would love to be wrong. I invite you, Carson–to show me that I’m wrong. I want to get you into that Taco group.

That’s all for now, friends. I’ll share the Taco group sometime this week. In the meantime, is there anyone you’d like to see step up their game?



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The Search for a Presidential Candidate: A Prologue

The Search for a Presidential Candidate: A Prologue

There are three things I want to be forthright about before I delve into my thoughts about the candidates.

Number I. I consider myself a Libertarian. I find that I am not quite as Libertarian as most of the Libertarians I know, and this frustrates both them and me. The likelihood, at any rate, of me voting for a True Blue Democrat or a Red Handed Republican is gone with yesterday, never to be seen again. My feeling thus far is that the Democratic party will not have any candidates to tempt me. I am, however, open to any new faces that come to the show.

Number II. About a year ago, I contemplated how to best use my vote in this election. I don’t want to waste a vote, you see? I hear so many Libertarians and mid-road voters say that to vote Third Party would basically be throwing a vote away. I want to be clear: I disagree with this sentiment wholeheartedly. Wasting a vote would be casting it for a man or woman whose character and policies contradict my own. So how do I spend my vote wisely, seeing as I only have one? I set a standard, that’s how. And what is that standard? For me, it is twofold.

First, it means that I’m not going to spend my support and vote on a mud-slinger. That’s right. The money that is wasted in this country on smear campaigns is ridiculous and offensive to the needs around the world. It offends every fiber of my being. So candidates who are spending money to disparage other candidates? Candidates who employ a name-calling, loudest-voice-wins-the-argument, bully tactic? I’m sorry, but how you speak of another human being tells others more about you than it does the other. Honestly, we’ve had enough of that nonsense in our governing offices.

Second, it means that when a candidate speaks, I’m listening for content and not advertisement. Listen, I understand. With seventeen candidates aching for the Republican party nomination, this first debate was a big deal; It was a defining moment, whereby many candidates were going to sink or swim. It was almost necessary to have a thirty-second blurb that you could revert to when you had a moment to speak, otherwise you may never have another moment to “sell yourself” to the voter. I get it. But don’t you think we’ve had enough of slogans and sales tactics? This nation doesn’t need the best price, the best deal, the newest model. We are seeking a Leader, not a Used Car Salesman. And for that matter, I’m not interested in promos and political promises. “This is why you need me in office” doesn’t cut it. “I’ll defund Planned Parenthood” is a vain promise or threat, depending on your stance. How about substance? Give us some meat and keep your dainties for when you’re entertaining the political elite.

Number III. I don’t often write about politics. Quite frankly, if there’s one sure way to scare off my three blog viewers, it’s to wax political (hm…wax political? Wax politic? Anyone know the proper way to say what I just attempted?). In fact, I’m not sure what is stirring in me that requires writing about it here, but it definitely does. Please understand that my words are, in no way, an attempt at persuasion: I value the society that allows men and women to freely think, speak, and disagree with one another. Neither are my words a vain endorsement: It is much too early in the presidential race to avow myself to any candidate. Again, I want to be absolutely clear about this fact: I am not a political blogger. I am not a political anything. I’m just me. I’m just a mid-thirties gal who is trying to be informed and involved in the issues facing this nation and this world. I know it’s almost cliché to say this, but I sincerely believe that we are living at a precarious moment in history. It’s time for Americans to be awake and aware of what is happening around them, not to simply throw themselves at the mercy of a candidate or a party or one solitary conviction. That’s right–I don’t think we’re at a place in our nation’s history where we can afford to vote solely the abortion issue. It’s time to expect more of men and women and accept less of the status quo.

If you’ve read this far and your head hasn’t exploded, I encourage you to stay tuned. Tomorrow morning, I will share my first blog about the Presidential Candidates.



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A Few Ends

I thought I’d share a few snippets of what I’ve been working on so y’all don’t think I’ve totally neglected writing. I hope you find a line or a phrase or a word or a meter that you appreciate.

One for Amy…

Oh open your heart, love

To imperfect lives, love

Sometimes true beauty shines

In how we give

Of our time, love

And all that we are, love

You’ll never find another heart like her

And how about this…

You can smell it–

If you Breathe in slowly–

The cool and the crisp

Of Superior.

And if you silence your heart–

And you silence your phone–

You can hear Her soft whispers of love

To the shore.

One for the guy who doesn’t love me…

I’m  so aware

Of your whiskers and eyes

Your fingernails and

Your guitar.

Your warm, gentle fingers

So treacherously close

It takes all of my will

To keep mine where they are.

And one for a friend we made in Eau Claire in May, who is now eight months past her brain tumor removal…

Miracles happen every day

Every breath you breathe, every step you take

And every beat of your heart

It echoes the very heart of God, the steady pulse of Love

Each day is a gift

What will you do with it?

Pax, yo.


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