Tag Archive | Dan Korth

Better Than Counting Sheep

Counting SheepOne night last week I couldn’t sleep. I’d taken a Sudafed for some head congestion, and my body just wouldn’t let me drift off to sleep. So, I tried to heed the advice I’d received from a friend and shared on Facebook a week or two ago – use the time to talk with God.

God and I started out by talking about all the things I was grateful for that day. Mim and I were up at Christmas Mountain for a few days, and we’d had a nice, restful day together. After about half an hour of thinking about the events of the day and all the good things that came to mind, I was still wide awake. I guess God wanted us to talk a while longer.

The next topic that came up was all the heroes in my life – or the people on “God’s Guest List” for my life, to use author Debbie Macomber’s phrase. I spent most of the night remembering lots of people who had impacted my life in a very positive way. This was kind of like counting sheep, only each sheep was a person in my life that I was thankful for.

Of course, I started with my mom. Without a doubt, she was the kindest, most loving person I have known in my life. You know that, because I’ve written about her a lot in my blog.

Elsie at PresHouse

Mom worked at the Presbyterian Student Center at UW during most of my growing up years.

Then I thought about my sister Nancy. She was 11 years older than me, so she was almost like a second mom. She was truly my hero when I was a child. She started teaching me to play the piano before I was in school. When she went away to college she subscribed to a bi-monthly children’s daily devotional guide for me to get me in the habit of reading my Bible and praying every morning before getting out of bed.

Nancy-Marian-Danny going to church

Nancy, Danny, and me ready for church.

The next person who came to mind was Mrs. Knoblauch, my first grade teacher. I had lots of good teachers as I grew up in Cambridge, but Mrs. Knoblauch was the one who got me off to a good start in school. The day I remember best in first grade was a blustery day in the fall. When I was out in the playground after lunch, a speck of dirt or a falling leaf blew into my eye. It hurt and my eye wouldn’t stop watering. Every day when we returned to the classroom from the playground after lunch, we would sit at our desks while Mrs. Knoblauch read us a story to quiet us down. That day, she looked at my eye first to be sure I would be okay, and then had me sit on her lap while she read the story to the class. I knew she loved me and would take care of me.

Then I thought about all my grade school, junior high, and high school teachers. Some made the list of heroes, some didn’t. Same for college professors.

I was still wide awake, so I went back to thinking more about my family. My brother Danny and my dad both made the heroes list, people that I admired and who had a positive impact on my life.

Danny is only two years older than me – so we were close enough in age to fight with each other about almost anything. We still disagree on many things, but we’ve learned not to fight most of the time. What I admire most about him is that he inherited our mom’s commitment to being kind and helpful to almost everyone. Probably the most valuable thing I learned from Danny is how to fight when it’s necessary to fight, and how to get along without fighting when that’s the best thing to do.

Working up the soil for his last garden

My dad still drove his tractor until about a month before he died, at age 87.

The earliest memory I have of my dad is riding on the tractor with him. I would sit on his lap and watch his hands on the steering wheel, especially that little gadget that was a ball-like wooden handle that enabled him to control the steering wheel with just one hand, even on bumpy fields. (I vaguely remember these gadgets were considered unsafe, so he eventually had to take it off. I know it wasn’t on the steering wheel when I started driving the tractor a few years later.) I guess the most valuable thing I learned from my dad is that you need to take responsibility for getting things done, regardless of the obstacles that may come your way. If the hay needs to be baled and the hay baler is broken, you figure out how to fix the hay baler. You don’t wait for someone else to do it.

Mim head and sky

Mim – my best friend for 42 years and counting …

I continued to think about all the people who have been positive influences in my life – throughout my career, in my social life, and in my spiritual life. Mim certainly was on the list, along with people who have lived with us (and their families), my aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, classmates, fellow church members, … and, of course, my dogs.

I was able to keep “counting sheep” for several hours, feeling more and more grateful for all the people who have helped me become who I am today. Since you readers don’t have most of a night-time to review all these people with me, I’ll simply say, God and I had a nice, long conversation. Thanks to one sleepless night, I am more appreciative than ever of the many people who have touched my life.

Patti-Margaret-Holly-Edith cropped

Patti (left) and her sister Edith (right) were among our many delightful assisted living residents. Edith’s daughter Margaret and granddaughter Holly joined “God’s guest list” for Mim and me when Edith first became a member of our assisted living family.

 

 

Success! I finally memorized it!

child playing piano 2“Jesus loves me, this I know … “That’s the first song I memorized as a child. That’s a song little children still memorize today. Sometimes when I’m practicing the piano or organ at church, a little child will timidly walk up to me to watch me play. I’ll stop what I’m playing and invite the child to play a key or a pedal so they can find out what it feels like and sounds like to play a note or two. Then I’ll play “Jesus loves me.” Without exception, the child will smile. Sometimes they sing along. I think it’s a universal truth that it’s both comforting and fun to respond to something we’ve memorized.

“God bless our food. Amen.” That’s the first table prayer I memorized. I repeated it before every meal until I went to kindergarten and learned “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let this food to us be blessed. Amen.” For the past 60 years, I’ve repeated this prayer before meals.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands …” I remember memorizing “The Pledge of Allegiance” in first grade.

Village Blacksmith“Under the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands …” I think I was in fifth grade when I had to memorize this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  I was surprised to hear my mom recite the whole poem when I was trying to memorize just a couple verses. She’d memorized it in grade school, too.  She also had memorized “October’s Bright Blue Weather” by Helen Hunt Jackson and just about every other poem I was assigned to memorize in school. She remembered them all.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 KJV) That was one of the first Bible verses I memorized in Sunday School. Apparently a lot of people memorized that verse, because nowadays you even see it posted on billboards.

Throughout my grade school and high school years my mom had my brother and me memorize one Bible verse a week. She wrote a verse on top of a chart. The days of the week were listed below the verse, across the top of a grid. All the chores Danny and I were supposed to do every day were listed down the left side of the grid. The top half of the grid was Danny’s. The bottom half was mine. Every time we completed a job (like make bed, wash dishes, etc.) we were supposed to read the verse on the top of the chart, and then write its reference in the grid. By the end of the week, the grid was filled and we had memorized the Bible verse. If we could still recite each verse by the end of the month, we would get a prize. As I recall, we had a 100 percent success rate. The first verse we memorized this way was Ephesian 4:32, “Be ye kind, one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (I think my mom’s real motive for having us memorize this verse was to help us remember to be nice to each other and not to always be squabbling.)

Memorization. Is that a thing of the past? Do we still memorize anything?

I thought about that quite a bit last week. I really wanted to memorize a short reading by Joan Chittister that I’d come across in my daily devotional reading. It was really hard for me to memorize two simple sentences, much harder than it seemed to be in my youth. I finally memorized the 20 words, but I’m making myself repeat those two simple sentences several times a day, until I’m sure I won’t forget the quote.

What are those 20 words that I’m struggling so hard to memorize? Here’s the quote:

We are not born simply for the sake of personal survival. We are here to make life better for everyone.

That was the daily reading in “The Monastic Way” for last Thursday, December 12. That was also the day that some of the women inmates at the worship service of the Dane County Jail were talking about how much the other women in their cell block were helping them learn how to live better lives. That kindness was giving them hope for a better future. It was a perfect illustration of the principle Joan Chittister was stating – that I’ve finally memorized. “We are not born simply for the sake of personal survival. We are here to make life better for everyone.”

helping hands 12-17-13

Sibling Rivalry – We’re at it Again!

Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.  [Pamela Dugdale]

Danny and me a long time ago

Danny and me a long time ago

My brother Danny was almost two years old when I was born. According to our mom’s notes in my baby book, Danny’s first reaction to me was “pretty baby Marian” as he watched me sleeping in my crib. His next recorded comment was an exasperated, “Marian cries so loud I can’t think!” We’ve had a love-hate relationship ever since – for the past 65 years. I agree with Anna Quindlan when she says, “There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother… Oh, how I hated that little boy. And how I love him too.”

Danny Marrian Kittens

When we couldn’t get along, our cats were our friends.

As little kids, we played together – baseball, football, croquet, cowboys and Indians, Monopoly, and on very rare occasions – maybe once or twice in our whole childhood – we played with dolls. We worked together – feeding calves, gathering eggs, baling hay, washing and drying dishes, and whatever other chores Mom and Dad gave us to do. And almost every day we got into a fight over something – such as which story book Mom should read to us before bed, or whether or not the other person had done their fair share of the work we were jointly responsible for doing. Sometimes the fights were simply words and looks. Other times we’d hit each other. I was usually better at word fights. Danny was better at hitting. Fortunately, our anger at each other never lasted longer than a few minutes.

Danny and Marian - teenagers

Our teen years were not our best.

As we got older, we fought less, but we played together less, too. In grade school, I had become the studious little girl who got straight A’s, and Danny had become the boy who was interested in construction and mechanical challenges, and had little interest in books. If we passed each other in the hallway, Danny would look the other way rather than acknowledge that he knew me. I was an embarrassment to him. I guess the feeling was pretty mutual. The closest friendly thing I remember doing for Danny in high school was type a book report that his girlfriend had written for him so he would pass English.

We lived through those awkward years. When I graduated from college, Danny and his wife (who had written the book report) and their 3-year-old daughter helped me move from Wisconsin to Connecticut for my first job as an English teacher. From then on, we learned to relate to each other as adults, mostly.

Family Portrait - early 1960s

Family Portrait – early 1960s

I still love Danny, and I know he loves me, but we’re fighting again. He’s become the conservative, and I’ve become the liberal. Usually, we can avoid topics where we strongly disagree. But that wasn’t possible last weekend. A friend of ours held a wedding reception in her home for Mim and me. Our friend wanted to provide an opportunity for my family and a few close friends around Cambridge to celebrate our happiness. Although Danny has treated Mim as extended family for the forty years we have been together, he refused to come to our wedding reception because he doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage. That hurt me just as much as all those childhood punches. I’m sure our mom and dad are looking down from heaven and saying, “Won’t those kids ever stop fighting!”

No, I don’t think we will. We’re both human, and I’m sure we’ll both hurt each other, and forgive each other, until we die. “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” [Desmond Tutu]

Danny remodeled our old farmhouse into the perfect house for Mim and me. He also built swinging doors to help us keep guests out of the kitchen when Mim and I had a B&B.

Danny remodeled our old farmhouse into the perfect house for Mim and me in 1992. Later he built swinging doors to help us keep guests out of the kitchen when Mim and I turned the farmhouse into a bed and breakfast.

Another Talk with Abbey

Abbey-Marian

Late Sunday morning, after I got home from church, I was sitting in the La-Z-Boy in my office reading the newspaper. Abbey came up to me and sat down. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to talk. She started by asking me about church.

“Mom, how did the music go in church this morning? I know you played one of my favorite songs for the prelude, ‘God Will Take Care of You.’ I heard you practicing it.”

I replied with, “It’s funny you should ask, Abbey. Before church started Pastor Jeff asked me if I was going to play that song today. He thought he had heard me practicing it when I was in church on Friday. When I told him that song would be part of the prelude, he said that was quite a coincidence. That’s the song he was going to sing in his sermon. I told him it’s more surprising that we don’t have these ‘coincidences’ more often, since we both are studying the same Scriptures as we select our music for the service.”

Abbey responded, “Oh, that’s no coincidence, Mom. God obviously wanted the people in church to think about the words of that wonderful old hymn today.”

GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU
(Words: Civilla D. Martin, Music: W. Stillman Martin, 1904)

Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.

Refrain:
God will take care of you.
Thru every day, o’er all the way,
He will take care of you;
God will take care of you.

Thru days of toil, when heart doth fail,
God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you.
Refrain

All you may need He will provide,
God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied,
God will take care of you.
Refrain

No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you.
Refrain

Dan and the dogs out for a ride. Holly on right. Sadie in background.

My brother Danny and the dogs out for a ride. Holly on right.

Abbey continued, “You know, Mom, I’m so glad you practiced that hymn all last week. That song has been on my mind ever since my cousin Holly was in an accident last Sunday and taken to the Emergency Animal Hospital in Madison. I know God takes care of us dogs, too. I really hoped that God would heal her body, but I guess God thought it was time for her to go to heaven instead.”

“You’re right, Abbey. We all love Holly so much. She has been an angel on earth for twelve years. Now it’s time for her to be an angel in heaven.”

“I guess so. But I’ll sure miss her.”

All the dogs get excited when Danny takes his recumbent bike out for a ride.

All the dogs get excited when Danny takes his recumbent bike out for a ride.

Abbey was quiet for a few minutes, obviously thinking deeply. Then she said, “That song is on my mind as I think about Uncle Dan, too. It’s been almost two months since he was diagnosed with leukemia. Even though it’s the “good” kind of leukemia, he’s really gotten sick from the chemo pill he takes every day. And then last Monday, he had to go to the hospital, too.”

“As the song says, Abbey, we can trust that God will take care of Uncle Dan, too. He’s got a team of some of the best doctors working together to make him better. He’s been accepted into a research study at the University of Wisconsin, which will give him the best, top priority, treatment possible. We certainly can be thankful for that. I think he might even be able to come home from the hospital early this week.”

"Sisters" - Holly and Sadie.

“Sisters” – Holly and Sadie.

“Oh, good! Cousin Sadie has been so lonely. First, her sister Holly left her. Then her mom and dad disappeared. She’ll be so happy to have them home again. Aunt Linda has been staying with Uncle Dan in the hospital, so it’s really been lonely for Sadie. I’ve been telling her about this comforting song all week. I wish I could sing it to her, but I don’t have much of a singing voice, so I’ve just been sending her the thoughts.”

God will take care of you.
Thru every day, o’er all the way,
He will take care of you;
God will take care of you.

“Those thoughts are good ones for all of us to keep in mind, all the time, Abbey. I’m glad we have that song to remind us that God loves us and is always with us.”

“Me, too, Mom. Can you keep playing it on the piano this week? Whenever I hear the tune, the words come to mind, and it feels just like I’m getting a hug from God.”

“I’ll remember that. I’ll keep playing the song and feel God hugging me, too.”

Abbey getting a big double hug

Abbey getting a big double hug from her two moms.

My Brother Danny

Danny and me a long time ago

My brother and me a long time ago

I have a brother who is two years older than me. He’ll be 67 on September 11. (His birthday is the event I prefer to associate with that date.) To me, and to most of his friends and relatives that have known him since childhood, his name is Danny. To his wife, and to friends that first met him as an adult, his name is Dan. Legally, his name is Daniel, but I don’t know of anyone who calls him that.

My big brother as a baby being held my Mom

My big brother as a baby being held my Mom

I sometimes wonder why my parents gave him the name Daniel. I remember my mom said she really liked the name Danny, but she didn’t like the name Dan. I also know she liked the song “Danny Boy” – even though there wasn’t a drop of Irish blood in her – it was all Norwegian. I wonder if she named her only son for the song, or for the Bible character Daniel.

I knew the story about Daniel in the lion’s den, and something about some writing on a wall, but I didn’t know much else about Daniel in the Bible. One of the daily devotionals I’m reading this year is Designed for Devotion: a 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation by Dianne Neal Matthews. On July 10, I started reading about the book of Daniel. I’ll have to admit, I’ve peeked ahead through July 18 to read everything she says about Daniel. I’ve learned that when Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem in 605 BC, he captured the most impressive young men and brought them back with him to Babylon to indoctrinate them and then place them in prominent positions in his court.

Daniel was one of the young men captured. Despite living the next 70 years in a culture that worshiped idols and promoted a very luxurious lifestyle, Daniel remained faithful to God.  Daniel trusted that, no matter what happened, God was in complete control. God’s plan would be accomplished for Daniel’s life, for the Jewish people, and for the world at large. For thousands of years, Daniel’s courage, integrity, and commitment to prayer have been an inspiration to generation after generation.

Maybe that’s why my parents gave my brother the name Daniel. They wanted him to have the same courage, integrity, and commitment to prayer that the Biblical Daniel had. And they wanted him to be an inspiration for future generations of our own family. Maybe.

Don’t feel that I’m putting any pressure on you, Danny!

Danny was always ready for a big job!

Danny was always ready for a big job!

“A Season for Every Activity under Heaven”

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven….
A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…. 
[Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 4]

Two friends of mine died last week. One was a high school classmate. Nicki had a very bubbly personality – she was always happy and a fun person to be around, until the last few years. Unfortunately she suffered a long, steady decline from early onset Alzheimer ’s disease. My other friend had been our next door neighbor in Chicago for 13 years. Elaine was also a kind, happy person – always a joy to be around. She was older and her health had been deteriorating over the past few years. She was almost 90 when she died. Both friends have now completed their time of suffering.

As it says in the Bible, life provides ”a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” For me, last week was a time to mourn the deaths of my friends. Now it’s time to move ahead to some happier times. The village of Cambridge is here to help with that by hosting a “Frosty Frolic.”

Cambridge is a nice little town. Some of the businesses decided we needed a special celebration to help us enjoy winter more, so they came up with the idea for a “Frosty Frolic” for this weekend. My brother, Dan Korth, is participating in the celebration by hosting an open house in The Carpentry Shop as well as in his home. He’s inviting people to stop in to look at a fancy bar he’s building in his own family room. The bar is an ornate 1890’s era supper club style bar. I always enjoy looking at his projects. He’s come a long way from his first carpentry project.

Dan's first house

When Dan was a little boy, he knew exactly what he wanted to do when he got big – build things. He built his first house when he was seven. I helped him. That’s the two of us in the picture, hard at work.

Dan got quite a bit fancier in his buildings over the years. He built lots of houses in and around Cambridge. He also became intrigued by the challenges of remodeling commercial buildings. One of his more unusual projects was gutting the old Chevrolet garage on Main Street – that had originally been built as a wagon factory – and rebuilding it as retail space, a collection of eight Victorian-style shops. The building currently is the Rowe Pottery store. Another interesting project was across the street. He remodeled the old feed mill into a rustic restaurant.

Remodeled Farmhouse

One of his best projects was remodeling the farmhouse we grew up in, what is now Whispering Winds Retreat Haven. His starting point was a modest 1500 square foot two-story house with three bedrooms and one bathroom. He doubled its size, turning it into a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house with a fancy front porch. (His son – carpentry runs in the family – later added another bedroom and 2 more bathrooms.) The remodeled farmhouse has been quite versatile. The house has served as a bed and breakfast, an adult family home, and now as Whispering Winds Retreat Haven.

Dan has always said that he loves what he does for a living. He can’t imagine retiring. He’s having too much fun. He no longer builds houses. He just does the really fun stuff now – building custom cabinets and furniture.

Dan Korth in The Carpentry Shop

The Carpentry Shop, located right next to his house, is where he does all his work. He has a showroom filled with a variety of furniture and cabinets:

  • mission style chairs
  • end tables
  • book cases
  • a fireplace mantle
  • a wine cabinet
  • kitchen cabinets
  • a kitchen island on casters
  • an umbrella stand
  • and whatever else he feels like building.

Customers can buy furniture off the floor, or they can brainstorm ideas with Dan and have him build a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture or cabinetry that’s perfect for their needs.

The Carpentry Shop Helpers with Dan

If you can’t make it to Cambridge this Saturday, you may want to go to the FaceBook page for “The Carpentry Shop” and look at some pictures of his shop, his furniture, and his helpers.

(Note: It takes three shop dogs – Piper, Holly, and Sadie – to replace me as his helper.)

If you can make it to Cambridge, the town will do everything it can to be sure you have a great “frosty frolic” while you’re here. It may help you remember that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Here are some of the special things you can do in (or near) Cambridge on Saturday afternoon this week:

  • Jump into Lake Ripley through a big hole cut into the ice as part of the “Dip for Dozer” fundraising event.
  • Watch the big ice chunks from the hole be transformed into beautiful ice sculptures with the help of a chain saw under the guidance of Jim Murray.
  • Enjoy a free wine and chocolate tasting at Katy’s Corner on Main Street in Cambridge.
  • Shop the sales in the specialty shops for which Cambridge is so well known.
  • Tour the studios and workshops of local artists and craftsmen, including a potter (Mark Skudlarek), a recycle artist (Simone Mausser), and, of course, a furniture and cabinet maker (Dan Korth).

More details about all of the special activities happening at Cambridge’s Frosty Frolic can be found at  http://www.visitcambridgewi.com/events.htm#Frosty%20Frolic.

Whispering Winds still has rooms available for the weekend. If you can stay two nights, you can have the second night free. Call 608-212-6197 for details.

It’s time to enjoy the season of winter – before it’s gone!