Archive for the ‘legacy’ Category


Clouds over Crater Lake

Movie reviews set us up to believe that Cloud Atlas is unique in the way it zips us back and forth through time and shows us how people and events connect from era to era, but Jim Broadbent’s character, sitting at his typewriter, gives us a clue—this movie is the equivalent of literary fiction in structure; it uses “tricksy” devices, flashbacks, foreshadows, repetition and such to make a point that, in the end, is not all that profound: everything is connected.

Most interesting is the question the movie poses: How much leeway do we have to change the natural order of things? What can and should be changed and what should be left alone? (more…)


Read Full Post »

ancestral booty

Shortly after my sister retired she ran herself into the ground with joy. A celebratory road trip through the hottest part of the eastern U.S. coupled with raising her hand to babysit her tribe of grandkids while their parents took a time out landed her in the ICU with severe dehydration.

In our retirement dreams we pursue passions put on hold during our working years with all the enthusiasm of a twenty-something.  Sadly, our sixty-something bodies lacks the elasticity of our ageless imaginations. We are soon felled by any number of chronic conditions. It’s the relaxation release syndrome; relax enough to begin to enjoy yourself and a parade of ailments show up for the party. Organs lose their rhythm, joints lose their blue book value and if we aren’t sending get well cards to our friends, we are receiving them.

To get ahead of this curve, I’m trying to lose baggage that weighs me down. I figure a lighter load has got to be good for my health. My baggage is a large house full of stuff – my stuff and stuff I’ve inherited from generations that go back to when the Israelites wandered the desert.   Remember, they plundered the Egyptians before they took off for the Promised Land?  I think I have some of that stuff.

Here is a short list of stuff that makes my house look like a museum. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Each ring is a story in the family tree

I don’t print my digital photos anymore. I file them away in computer directories and post one occasionally on a blog. Albums with yellowing pages herniate generations of family photos from their centers. They weigh on my closet shelves and on my mind. I don’t want leave any messes for my children to clean up, but I do want to leave them stories.

 What I’m throwing away

All photos of scenery. (None of us possessed the talent of an Ansel Adams)

Faded photos and blurry snapshots

Anonymous portraits*

Photo frames & portrait folders

All pictures that are duplicates and photo strips, nameless pets and posed soubrettes*

*unless I can make up a great story about that lass with the feathers

What I’m keeping

Photos that tell stories; I’m not in the record keeping business. I’m in the story telling business. (more…)

Read Full Post »


David Bailey|dreamstime.com

Singing with the choir on a Sunday morning, we plodded through I Will Sing of My Redeemer as if it were a dirge. I felt the weight of the cruel cross on my back as we sang.  Then a chorister reminded us that the song was supposed to be sung Energetically. Lightening our hearts, picking up the pace and focusing on the outcome of Christ’s sacrifice, we sang of His wondrous love and being made free. Oh, the joy!

In a couple of weeks I’m heading for Eastern Europe on a Rick Steves tour. Why Eastern Europe, people ask me?  To blog in a café by the Charles Bridge will be a fantasy fulfilled. But also on my itinerary is something I never wanted to see—Auschwitz. Does my discovery that I have Jewish heritage change my reticence? Not really. However, reading the review of a three volume tome, The Jews in Poland and Russia by Antony Polonsky, has given me added focus for this trip.

Polonsky reminds us that memory is about what we choose to record. The Jews have an eastern European history and Eastern Europe has a Jewish history that is vivid, deep and rich.  To feel only the weight of the Holocaust does my ancestors, the Wolffs, a disservice. I will reach out to this unexplored corner of my history by paying attention to the cultural history in the Jewish quarters I will be visiting.

Joy was meant to play a central role in Jewish life—feasting, singing, the love of family and friends.  The writer of Deuteronomy 30:19 exhorts us: Choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! To truly live takes the kind of energy that Marty Parks infused into his arrangement of the Philip B. Bliss hymn.


Read Full Post »


I am now the matriarch; the moral compass.  It’s a position of leadership and responsibility I can embrace or abdicate, but what does it mean?

In my Universal Dictionary of the English Language (1938), passed down to me by family on my mother’s side, matriarch is given a sentence and patriarch a whole paragraph.  A matriarch is the wife of a patriarch with corresponding status.  A patriarch is the head of a family, clan or tribe who rules by paternal right; a venerable old man, the senior member of a society or community.

A Google search turns up this definition of matriarch: a woman who rules or dominates a family, group, or state; specifically: a mother who is head and ruler of her family and descendants.

It’s interesting that the word dominate shows up in the more modern definition of a matriarch and the concept of partnership gets dropped. Wikipedia offers the view that associating the word domination with matriarchy is a patriarchal attempt to condition society to reject the concept of matriarchy.

Pshaw, I say. I prefer the definition that describes a partnership where mom and dad each have something to say based on their seniority. They probably say the same thing, only differently. Deciding what to say how and to say it is the challenge. Here are three guidelines. (more…)

Read Full Post »

The Old Testament writers were masters of “show, don’t tell.” Consider the tale of the woman from Tekoa.

King David’s son Absalom has been banished for killing his brother. (The motive is a whole other story. See the rape of Tamar.) David’s chief of staff Joab wants to reconcile David and Absalom and restore peace of mind to the people so he employs the services of a wise woman. He instructs her to pretend she is in mourning and to seek the king’s help.

The wise woman bows before King David and plays his heartstrings. Claiming to be a widow whose family is in upheaval because one of her sons has killed his brother, she says her family is calling for the execution of her remaining son. This will leave her childless and penniless. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Do and Hope

Even the most fractured families have family lore, stories handed down through generations. These stories are told and re-told when the tribe gathers.  The lost sheep tend to be the ones who loom largest in family legend. They are the ones most likely to end up in a memoir or as the model for a character in a novel.  The less you know about them, the more interesting they become.

Legend has it that my grandfather Fernen Edward Matheson ran away from home when he was sixteen. All he would say was that he came from Chicago. He refused to tell anyone who his parents were; not his children; not his wife. That’s how the story goes. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: