The Joy of Taking Part in Sports

Blog illustrations are sequential start-to-finish photos of my most recent large 17x25 watercolor “The Power and the Grace” - rowing friends, Ashley and Kendall, who I photographed during a training session back in August on Great Hosmer Pond in Craftsbury, Vermont.

"The Power and the Grace" 17x25 watercolor by Elise, 2017, available
This piece required enormous focus and energy. I am still recovering from the effort. I hope you will enjoy the metamorphosis journey, how a blank piece of 300 lb. 100% cotton Arches cold press paper slowly turned into a clear visual message, telling a story.

I've wanted to write a Sports blog for awhile now and this painting illustrates it nicely, so it's time.

Movement and Balance

It's taken me years to comprehend why I love movement so much.

According to the Boston Trauma Center (I heard this fact on an online webinar), it used to be thought talking was the only way to help traumatized people, hence the advent of couches and therapists. But now people who study the body understand touch and movement also help heal trauma.

ADHD (which I don't have) can be a sign of the microbiome (intestines, digestion) needing work. It can be overcome by changing your diet.

Not being able to sit still can also be a sign of PTSD, being in “fight and flight”... I know this was probably true of me, years ago. As a child I was always moving, going places. Sitting still wasn’t something I enjoyed doing.

Painting can be a sedentary profession, if you don’t learn to stand up while you paint. Being in front of a desk four-five days each week takes discipline in any profession. I’ve now trained myself to sit very, very still for hours at a time. This is not healthy for the body or eyes!

Because of my work I MUST take time to stretch and move. I sometimes accomplish this less than more, but I keep at it.

It's said you give to the world what you need most. At the moment, I am in need of encouragement to get outside.

 Feeling Your Body

Being sensitive to yourself, learning to control and feel what’s going on in your body is important. Knowing what and when your body needs to eat and also when to exercise or rest is a very important area of health. Sometimes I drag myself outside. Other times, I just rest.

My many experiences with serious injury and partial paralysis have taught me playing any sport is a very special privilege, not to be taken for granted.

My parents taught my siblings and I to try new things, to love to learn. We are grateful for the opportunities and the mindset of “I can” they gave us.

May my sporting tales encourage you to try out a new area of balance and movement!

Making Movement a Priority Yet Also Learning to Play

For years I've kept track of how I invest time each day, including painting hours, when I practice guitar or piano, and also for tracking exercise.

My goal is to spend time seriously moving at least eleven days each month. And there has to be a significant amount of effort for me to count it as exercise. This is a minimum, some months I am much more active.

“Going on vacation” used to be a term which meant, for me, “I get to invest four hours a day exercising”. I loved this freedom when time and strength allowed, but sometimes I overdid it.

I remember doing the entire cliff walk in Newport, Rhode Island one winter, in cold weather, exhausting myself.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico “on vacation” I swam in the ocean twice a day, doing laps. I loved it, but also realized later what a workaholic I was. Sometimes it would be best just to stop working and play in the waves...

Curiosity may Kill the Cat but it Can Educate the Mind

Growing up, my parents bought a Sunday newspaper most weeks. My older sister’s favorite sections were the comics and arts & entertainment. But I was interested in reading the Sports section first. I didn't care too much about big team sports like football, baseball and basketball, I liked reading about individual sports.

We didn't have a television in our home for most of our childhood, but for three weeks, winter and summer, every four years, my parents would rent a TV so we could watch the Olympic Games. I guess this chance to see races around the world really influenced me, for today I love sporting events of all kinds!

Detail - Kendall
And winning races isn't the whole point of learning to play sports – it's more about challenging yourself to grow stronger, to take part.

Perhaps too many people “sit on the sidelines” in all areas of life today.

Detail of Kendall's face
Being a Child

Children don't have to be told to exercise. They do it naturally. My first experiences with snow sports came as a child, sledding in little red sleds and runner sleds – Flexible Flyers – which were good on an icy crust.

Then my parents got us ice skates and I remember holding my daddy's hands, trying to skate between his legs when I was around three. I took only a few lessons over the years, for skating lessons were costly, but I still ice-skate whenever I have the opportunity. It's such a beautiful feeling, to float on ice. I really love to play with my edges.

When I was five my dad taught me to do flips on an indoor gym trampoline, which subsequently led to my flipping (disobediently) on my bed at home. This was before my serious neck injury at eight.

We played co-ed soccer at recess in school, and by age nine, I could keep up with the running speed of the boys in fifth grade.

I learned to swim, a little bit. My dad taught me side-stroke. And we all went to Jones Beach to enjoy being in the waves when we visited family.

We had our little bikes and roller-skates as children. We also had a tether-ball; badminton rackets and net; and bats, balls, and gloves to play softball.

My mom taught us to play croquet and sometimes we went bowling. Once in great while we played miniature golf with our grandparents, too.

My mother's old Pogo stick kept us busy, bouncing. I got up to 1,000 bounces one time. If kickball is considered a sport, we participated in that activity, too.

We climbed trees and hung out of them. We fell out of them, too. We also went on long mountain-climbing hikes in the wilderness as a family and did tent camping, in summertime.

My dad taught me to fish when I was six, which I suppose is a sport…not a very active one unless you are traveling up a stream bed looking for trout.

We were given the privilege of learning cross-country skiing at an early age. I clearly remember being with my dad at age seven, when I first got the kick and glide rhythm. “You've got it, you've got it!” he told me.

My mom was able to find us two little Shetland-type ponies, when my sister and I were ten and eleven. We called them Love and Joy. Those ponies gave us a great deal of practice in taking daily responsibility, and we learned to ride and drive them. I fell off my pony, Joy, a lot. But I would get back on her and try again. I studied horsemanship, reading lots of books on equitation, and my riding skills improved. I trained our mare, Corrie, for a 25-mile trail ride once.

Growing Up in the Water

As I got older, my dad saw my ability on a diving board and began to coach me. We joined a summer swim team. I swam and also represented the diving team.

My dad would stand next to the board and coach me on how to do a 1-1/2 forward flip during practices. “Dad, I don't think I can do it,” I'd tell him. “I'll stand right here and watch you do it,” he encouraged me. 

I would try. I loved bouncing on the board, but the excruciating pain of landing wrong, head down, with pinched nerves in my neck was horrible. I would wonder if I was paralyzed and then I'd get out and do the same thing again. I didn't complain too much, I just locked it up and ignored the pain. I didn't know this kind of pain wasn't normal, at the time I figured I was pretty normal.

One of my favorite dives was a forward flip in full position, with a half twist. I did just about everything I could to land feet first, due to my increasingly painful neck issues.

After my dad left, I continued to try to dive, but in losing him, I felt I'd lost my nerve. I became afraid of hitting the board and inward dives were too scary.

We joined a winter swim team for four years, where we all really learned to swim. Back, Breast, Butter, Free. I am so grateful for the ability to be comfortable in the water today. It really helped me in learning to row this past summer, because I wasn't afraid of tipping the boat, which I managed to do quite often!

I swam through a lot of pain during those four years, emotionally and physically, but swimming has remained one of my favorite things to do.

A few years ago I waited in line to take my turn at a beautiful bouncy diving board at a New Jersey pool. Doing back flips takes courage at first, but once you get the feel of it, it's hard to stop. They’re fun at any age!

I am becoming more cautious about taking physical risks these days. I didn't flip off the rocks into Lake Champlain this summer, I just jumped =\ I had recently injured myself...otherwise I'd have flipped!

Variety is the Spice of Life

When we were little, we made ourselves archery bows, using bendable branches and string, and we had straight sticks for arrows. We spent hours outside, playing.

We took the local hunter-safety course and learned  how to shoot and clean a rifle. I liked aiming and hitting the targets, but don't really enjoy the loud noise, shooting. In New Zealand, I did some shotgun firing at clay pigeons.

We played only a little basketball. Aunt Elise became a PIG, a HORSE and a loser at one-on-one just last weekend, because my niece's basketball skills are getting rather good. =)

At the local college on summer Sunday evenings, growing up, my family played volleyball in the sandpits. We had a net at home for birthday parties and cookouts, too.

Playing round-robin at the Ping-pong table in our cellar was a favorite past-time when friends came over...and we tried to learn to play Pool (billiards), too, when we went somewhere that had a table.

We trained and ran in the local foot races annually, although running is NOT a sport I enjoy. Too much impact. We also trained with the local cross-country team because we knew the coach. I only went running with them once, if I remember correctly...

I walked eight miles to town many Sunday mornings, to get to church early, enjoying the solitude and the woods. In our culture, people don't use walking to get places, they just go out to exercise. 

The mental mindset of “three miles is nothing” has really helped me over the last few years. I now walk this distance to read my emails and have an internet connection at a library.

Mountain biking on back roads is an even faster way to go places. I still bike a lot every summer.

Mom gave us tennis lessons at the local university, so we came to understand TV tennis match scoring. We also played raquetball. Tennis requires a lot more arm as well as running to the ball, while raquetball is more about using your wrist.

My brother learned to rock climb outdoors as well as at an indoor gym. I went rock-climbing a few times indoors and once outdoors, roped in.

My brother also learned to golf, and he took me once, for a round of nine holes. Someone said I was a “natural” as my drives were long and straight, even though I needed help to see where the golf ball went after being hit! Golfing this one time was so much fun! I can easily understand how Golf can become addictive.

I lifted iron weights a bit, to improve my swim team times, and then later for strengthening my upper back and neck. We had daily hay bales and water buckets to lift, too.

Loving Winter

We built a Luge run one very snowy winter with family friends, shoveling down through three feet of snow and banking the turns. We covered the run with water, which froze, and then we had our icy course!

Three to four times each week, come winter, I cross-country skied with my old 9mm three-pin bindings, back and forth on a ¼-mile track. I'd pack my track down each time it snowed. There was no one else around, just me, the trees and the sky. As I got stronger, double-poling down the inclines by winter's end on ice was fast and fun.

Alternately, I'd climb the hill behind our house and set up my ski poles for gates, and go down, practicing my balance without metal edges and with my heels free. Herring-boning up the steep hill was a great cardio workout. My lungs worked in the cold air happily. I'd go skiing at 7° F without the wind-chill factor, in my wool sweater and feel perfectly warm. Sometimes we had extremely strong winds on our mountain.

Detail - final of Kendall's face and torso
My mom and siblings and I finally learned to downhill ski the one winter we all worked at a ski area. My edge control from ice-skating came in handy and I was able to ski the black trails by the end of the year halfway decently.

We were known as “the family” and this winter became probably the most fun winter of my life. We rented skiis for $1/day and I skied forty days for just $40!

I taught myself to Telemark ski too, just on the green trails with low leather boots (not much control), getting literally black-and-blue on both hips from falling so much. Finally, the balance and technique came together!

Two of my siblings love to snowboard, but I never tried to because my neck, low back and wrists have been injured too much over the years.

I made the hard decision to stop working for a free lift ticket the second year, in order to focus on planning my new speaking-contest and to begin teaching children about good character. It was a sacrifice. I have missed downhill skiing.

Final Detail of Kendall's face
Experiences Around the World

The summer I worked in NYC, I bought Rollerblades, going around Central Park many times, without any knee or arm pads. I never fell badly, thankfully. My sister and I Roller-bladed a lot in Vancouver, British Columbia, too.

I did fall hard twice, Rollerblading, catching a pebble while flying along on asphalt, when I came back to Vermont...and spent most of that summer healing my road rash and wounds.

I rode horses three times in New Zealand – once in the Waiuku Forestry, which was heavenly. Another horse did a flying lead change for me. Although I hadn't ridden in years, it came back to me.

Final Detail of Ashley's face
My family went snorkeling to see the fish in the Florida Keys once, too.

There was a Pilates class in the Hamptons. And a Zumba intro class in Maine. Holding an exercise class on a concrete floor is not a good idea. I didn't return after that first class due to joint pain.

Usually I tend to injure myself in exercise classes, trying to keep up with others and do things my body isn't ready to do. I generally find it better to just work out on my own and pace myself.

I took a women's self-defense class a different year in NYC, from a friend, learning a bit about martial arts, which requires a lot of balance and body control. It was lots of fun, although I managed to get myself injured, again.

Vermont, 2017

After twenty years of waiting, I trained and FINALLY skied in the Craftsbury Outdoor Center's annual cross-country ski marathon in January of 2017, winning second for my age group at the 12K distance. I was NOT going at any real speed, but I started and I finished. I kept telling myself to ignore everyone else, and just ski my own race.

My sister gifted me with a summer of special joy – to learn my 38th “sport” - how to scull. I had wanted to learn to scull for years, watching others race, but with no equipment or suitable water around it seemed pretty improbable. Then I moved to the right location.

Co-ordinating arms and legs with proper back posture and the moving seat and oars took a little time for my brain to figure out. After starting in a wide rowboat, I moved to a middle-sized boat, and finally to a narrow racing scull in about two months time.

On Mt Monadnock, Vermont, October 2017

This past fall I hiked up Mt. Monadnock in Vermont and Mt. Cardigan in New Hampshire with an old family friend who needed someone to go along for health reasons.

Me on Mt. Cardigan, NH, October 2017
I still desire to learn to sail, sail-board, surf, and water ski before I die. The common missing element here is having enough water. And I'd really like to learn to ballroom dance, and play polo - the “sport of kings”...

I'm dreaming now, but it's a nice dream!

With thanksgiving for all the good gifts Christ brings to the Body,
I am gratefully your painting and balance-loving friend,

She girdeth her loins with strength and strengtheth her arms. ~ Proverbs 31:17

Flow - Planting Garlic and How Grounding Ourselves Improves Emotional Health

When I was growing up, I read many of former President Calvin Coolidge's writings. He was a deep thinker who grew up on a rural Vermont farm. 

He spoke about the order and flow of the four seasons. 

Flow, 22x30 original watercolor painting by Elise, August 2017, Private Collection

President Coolidge shared how each distinct season of the Vermont year brought it's own cyclical pattern to be followed – as Ecclesiastes tells us, there is a time to plant and a time to reap. 

Continuing to follow this natural rhythm of life amid all the changes I've experienced in the last few years has brought me a lot of joy and peace.

When I have my hands in the soil and am planting the seeds of healthy food, I feel connected to my seeds, the plants they will become, and to the soil they are planted in. Working in the earth grounds and settles me.

Drawing - stage one

Grounding and Emotional Health

Back in August I listened to Tim Ferris interview Michael Gervais. Michael is an adviser to Olympic athletes. He pointed out that many people today lack an ability to focus due to distractions provided through our technological age and our smartphones. Micheal explained how only when in the flow state of the brain do we experience the emotions of awe and wonder. But entering this flow state requires that one must be able to focus.

Interestingly, especially for those concerned with the rising tide of emotional and mental health issues, I learned this past year how our bodies were designed to process emotions and discard those which are not needed. 

Just as our digestive tract processes our food and discards waste through the large intestines, processed emotions were meant to leave our body through our feet, electrically, going into the earth. 

Saving the Light - stage two

The Case for Leather-Soled Shoes

However, since the advent in the 1970's of plastic-soled shoes, those in the Western world are no longer walking around on mainly leather-soled shoes. We are no longer grounding our body to the earth's electrical frequency in the same way we once did.

Most people today cannot process all of their negative emotions. Because 80% of our population lives in cities, and only 2% now farm, people cannot easily discard these unwanted emotions through contact with the soil of the earth.

Negative emotions and past traumas are now being stored in the electrical bio-field surrounding our body.

I find this a fascinating explanation for the mental health problems we face in America today.

Adding the Supporting Background - stage three

The Case for Obeying the Word of God - Tent Camping and Grounding

I grew up camping in tents with my family but it's been awhile since I slept outside overnight in a tent. A hard sandy New Zealand beach in 2007 comes to mind! 

But annually, the Hebrew people were told by our Father in heaven to build shelters and to camp outside. This was an annual grounding, a re-setting of our body frequency similar to what I learned through watching The Grounded on You Tube

The Feast of Booths or Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot, is this annual Jewish festival.

 “You shall dwell in booths for seven days … that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (vv. 42–43). 

~ Leviticus 23:33-43

Foreground Water - stage four


How to Make $300 in Three Hours by Planting a Bed of Garlic

Each year, one of the easiest and fastest ways I've found to “make $300” is to re-plant my garlic. Each clove planted in good soil represents at least $1 in savings at harvest time, next August. Locally grown garlic bulbs are often even more expensive than $1/bulb today, so by not having to purchase garlic, I am saving a lot of money each year, while supporting my health.

It takes less than two hours to ready the soil, plant and lay mulch over the top of the beds. Once mulched, garlic requires little weeding. Part of the allium family, garlic loves rain and in hot weather needs to be watered. 

I snap off the garlic scapes after they begin to curl in June and use these scapes for either garlic scape pesto or they can be steamed as a vegetable. 

If the scapes are left on the stalk, the top of the scape forms a seed pod. These garlic seeds can also be grown into a garlic bulb, but it takes two years of time instead of just the one year from planting a clove. More energy goes into the bulb, creating a larger garlic bulb, if the scapes are snapped off at the right time.

Pulling the bulbs from the ground in late July or early August is very satisfying and is easily done. From planting to harvest, I invest 3-4 hours of work, to gain around $300-$600 of reward.

Planting my garlic is one of my most enjoyed annual fall tasks during the third week of October, before the ground freezes.

I always use composted manure. If you think you've used enough composted manure, use some more! Garlic is a heavy feeder and loves manure! Manure, to me, is better known as Black Gold.

After harvest and the curing period, the stalks are cut off and I store each different garlic variety separately in a closed paper bag.

To best over-winter the bulbs, they need to be kept in the dark at around 40-50 degrees. Storing garlic in higher heat dehydrates the bulbs. Storing garlic in the refrigerator or in a place below freezing will cause the bulbs to sprout.

Before using any large bulbs for eating, I sort through them to choose which bulbs will be planted and which will be stored for eating.

I sacrifice my largest bulbs, containing the biggest and best cloves, for planting - in order to gain the best garlic next year. This is analogous to much of life - You must not be selfish and save the best for yourself! Give the best, and the best will be given back to you at sometime in the future.

The cloves are planted with the pointed end up and the root part down, 1-2 inches deep, and 4-6 inches apart, in rows that shift - so I'm planting the next row of cloves in the spaces of the previous row. I neglected to take a photo of the cloves after I set them in the soil and before I packed the soil down. 

Each bed pictured here contains around 100 cloves of garlic. Total, I planted 307 cloves this year. These will hopefully become 307 bulbs of garlic over the next nine months. I pray that our Father in heaven will bless their growth.

Last Summer I helped harvest 95 pounds of garlic. Seventy-six of those pounds was at the Farm where I was gardening, and the other 19 pounds was from my own small patch of 295 bulbs. We sold around 40 lbs of the Farm garlic to a local co-op, but I don't normally sell my personal garlic. It is medicinal quality, packed full of sulphur and I use it for prevention and treatment for many things. 

Garlic is a natural pain-killer, is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic. It gives you energy and, like many vegetables, acts as a natural diuretic.

Ancient Greek wrestlers were said to eat raw garlic before they wrestled. If you're a friend of mine, you might be gifted with some special garlic but I don't plant as much as I used to plant.

Once carefully cured and stored at the right temperature, my garlic will last over a year from harvest, and so I use what I harvest all year long, until the new harvest comes in.

The Many Benefits of Consuming Raw Garlic 

Garlic is now considered a Superfood. I've heard reports that people in the Middle East have beautiful skin which glows because they eat so much garlic, which helps remove toxins from the body, assists in supporting collagen, and helps prevent cancer.

While some people definitely don't like the flavor or smell of garlic, or feel good after eating it, I'm thankful I do!

Garlic is also known as an excellent natural anti-inflammatory agent. Chopped fine and swallowed (not chewed) with warm peppermint tea is a remedy I use for colds and the flu. I eat raw garlic three times a day when fighting an infection.

Using garlic internally has helped save my life in the past. Used externally as a foot poultice, garlic has literally saved the lives of several of my family members. If I have a slightly infected cut on my skin, I cut a garlic clove and swipe it on the affected area, and then it heals fine. Olive oil can be used before you swipe the garlic, because garlic oil is strong and can cause blisters.

Garlic brings down high-blood pressure naturally. My family has been known to swipe the feet of family members in the hospital with a cut clove of garlic.

A friend used garlic on a two-year-old boy's feet when he was experiencing a high fever. This boy's fever broke about fifteen minutes later and he returned to his playing, happily. Garlic helps the immune system fight infections!

Garlic is known for it's strong, pungent odor. Many people are afraid to eat it before going into a social setting. There are two ways to overcome this stigma: Chew raw parsley after eating fresh garlic, or eat a tablespoon of tomato sauce or natural catsup.

Garlic can also cause some people a lot of flatulence or intestinal gas. This means garlic is benefiting your body by killing off excess yeast in the gut. Be thankful! Yeast or thrush infections are very prevalent today, due to the over-use of drug antibiotics, and systemic yeast infections are often a leading cause of cancer.

Final Details and Balancing Values - stage five -
Flow is a 2017 Watercolor Portrait by Elise of an SBTC summer athlete at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury, Vermont
I am very grateful for the wonderful gift our Creator has given of the flow state of the brain - providing us with the emotions of awe and wonder; and of the culinary and medicinal value of fresh garlic. 

Taking time to go outside and lie down on the ground and be still for even a short time is well worth the effort. Girls who tan themselves on the beach always look so relaxed to me. I would imagine their fun-loving natures are assisted by the sunshine and the beach sand they lie on...

And the next hobby I'd like to take up is surfing - for it, too, leads to more of flow. Vermont being land-locked...surfing here may be a little difficult.

Happy 500th anniversary of Reformation Day!

Warmly, your painting and planting-friend,

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 

A time to be born, and a time to die; 

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; 

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; 

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; 

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; 

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; 

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; 

a time of war, and a time of peace.

~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Near Death Experiences and the Providence of God

I am combining my own true stories with the life-changing, near-death experiences of my forefathers in this blogpost. 

Interspersed with the text are photos of my latest large detailed watercolor painting, Chariots of Fire, 14x22 watercolor on 300 lb Arches cold pressed paper. The full painting play-by-play is followed by detail photos of the progression of how I painted the focal point of men training in the boat, John Graves and Ben Davison. They are presently competing in the Rowing World Championships, in Sarasota, Florida for the United States of America. When I run fast, Jennie, I feel His pleasure ~ Eric Liddell.

Chariots of Fire, 14x22 watercolor by Elise, September 2017

It's easy to believe the lie you are the “master of your own destiny.” 

While I do believe our daily choices change our entire lives and that we need to take responsibility for the consequences of our decisions in life, I also believe there are many people who have really wanted to live longer, but died. And those who felt they wanted to die, but lived.

People sometimes spend years waiting for the right timing and funds to take steps to accomplish what they have always really desired to do.

Sometimes our lives can be changed in a hurtful manner by circumstances outside our control, or the actions of others.

Conversely, our lives can be saved by someone else's care and protection.

I believe our Father in heaven holds each of our lives in His hand. He designs and allows our challenges and also opens and closes doors, in the right time and way.

I and II Samuel in the Old Testament contain chapters full of history surrounding many gory battles. Many, many people died before they had lived very long. This is true today. And if you're reading this and still alive, you can be grateful for the immense gift and the great potential of just being alive. 



I asked a nineteen-year-old acquaintance a few years ago if they had ever had a near-death experience. They said no, they had not. This surprised me, I thought everyone had had times, early in life where they realized their life had been spared.

When you realize you are still here, you could have died but didn't, you can then figure you are here for a Purpose!

There is someone for you to help comfort, someone for you to encourage. There is something your life needs to say to the world, through an action or by words.

I nearly died a few times before being very old. My life has been like a Parkour obstacle course. Just getting through it has been difficult.

Yet another change of where I live and work at the end of August led me to some thinking about the Providence which has allowed me to be here. The relatives in my immediate lineage experienced harrowing times in life. Had these ancestors not been protected and died, I would never have been born. But God is in the business of providing and protecting those He wants to have escape trouble, to overcome trials and remain.


My Maternal Great-Grandfather and Grandmother, Opa and Oma

My Opa was born in 1891 in Hamburg, Germany. He grew up by the seaside and became a skilled mariner, working on three-masted schooners and traveling around the world by sail for many years.

Opa first went to sea at age fourteen, and worked his way up from cabin boy to first mate. He once stopped a mutiny on board his ship by telling the men, “If you want to get to the captain you'll have to go through me, boys.” Opa was respected and the mutineers stood down.

When first mate, Opa kept the ship's log. He spoke at least five languages fluently, and he was a writer and poet. German sailors of that time had to memorize the names of 360 different ropes attached to the sails on three-masted schooners.


My Opa nearly died when a young man, around 1914, after he fell out of the crow's nest onto the ship's deck, docked in the Melbourne, Australia harbor. The impact of his fall broke some of his ribs, puncturing his lungs. He was put into the Melbourne hospital, where his crew waited for three months for him to get well. Opa didn't recover enough to leave the hospital after three months, so his crew sailed without him.

It took Opa six months to leave the hospital. We had his hospital tags. His seaman's papers were taken from him, because of the start of WWI. Our Opa had no desire to join the German Navy. It seems he may have lived for a time in South America while fully recovering his health. He must have been quite penniless after spending six months in hospital, but he managed to work his way to New York City from Australia.

Arriving in New York City in late 1916 with just $37, Opa met my great-grandmother, Oma, a short time later at a German New Year's dance. They married about eight months later, in 1917.

My Oma was born in 1893. She was twenty years old when she immigrated to America through Ellis Island from Bavaria, Germany, in July of 1913, just before WWI. This was fortunate because inflation became so bad in Germany during WWI, Oma told us, it took an entire wheelbarrow filled with paper money to buy one loaf of bread.

During the late 19th century, Germany was full of city states and Oma told me about the robber barons which still roamed about in her youth, who could jump out of the bushes alongside roads and hold up travelers who ventured forth from their walled towns.

Oma first worked in New York City homes as a domestic servant, and had carefully saved her extra money. After meeting Opa, between them they had just $200. Oma and Opa used these precious funds to purchase their first delicatessen in NYC.

Over the years, they owned and ran four different stores – one in Harlem, another was between 7th and 8th Ave on Amsterdam Avenue, and one was in Sunnyside, Queens. I don't know where the fourth store was.

These were the days when delicatessens made the potato salads, coleslaw and beef roasts from scratch. Oma and Opa traded off, working together from 6AM 'til Midnight, seven days a week. When they got too tired out, they would spend time in Wannsee, Germany, where they owned a beautiful cottage, surrounded by flowers, before WWII.

During the 1917 flu epidemic, Oma came down with the flu. Opa would stand by their bedroom window and watch the hearses going by below to funerals. “There goes another hearse” he would tell his new wife...Oma survived and did not join those hearses. Oma lived to be 96-years-old and was very well until one week before she went Home to heaven.


My Grandmother

Grandma was born in 1921, into a German-speaking family. German was her first language, she learned English at age five, and she eventually also spoke fluent French, after spending a summer in French School in Lausanne, Switzerland.

In the summer of 1936, just before her sixteenth birthday, my grandmother was sent to Germany by her parents, to attend gymnasium (German preparatory school). My grandmother was one of only a few unmarried young women passengers aboard an ocean liner which crossed the Atlantic ocean that summer, the SS Manhattan.

This liner also carried the 1936 USA Olympic team! “The Boys in the Boat” book and movie was based on the eight rowers who won their Olympic race. I assume these young men were also aboard Grandma's ship.

Our Grandma loved to dance. She used to tell us how, at 10 PM, one of the coaches would tell the Olympic athletes it was their bedtime. The coach would stand at the top of one set of stairs, and check off each athlete as they descended, ostensibly going to their bunks. But Grandma said some of the young men would quickly go up another set of stairs to one of the ship's dance floors, where she and another young lady danced with the soon-to-be Olympians far into the night!

It must have been in late August of 1939, three years later, when Opa heard the news another European World War was imminent. He called the American Consulate in Washington D.C. and instructed him, “Get my daughter out of Germany!”

Grandma was eighteen years old at the time. She was notified she must leave immediately. There was no time to pack. She left most of her possessions behind as she was rushed to the Berlin, Germany train station, where she took the last train out of Berlin, Germany, heading for Switzerland, before all the trains were used solely for transporting German troops to invade Poland.

She also took one of the last Atlantic ocean liners from the coast of Italy before German U-boats began torpedoing ships in the Atlantic ocean. I didn’t realize until doing research for this blog just how many ships had been torpedoed in WWII – 2,825 merchant ships, not including warships!

Had Grandma gotten stuck in Germany during WWII, she could have died. And she would not have met my Grandfather and married when she did, just nine months after returning to New York City.

My Grandfather

My Grandpa was the third child of his father's second wife. Grandpa's father was sixty-nine years old when Grandpa was born, and his father died six years later, at age 75. Had my great-grandfather on this side not married again and had the faith to have children at an advanced age, I wouldn't be here.

Grandpa had helped his mother survive the Great Depression in Republican, North Carolina using his fishing pole and shotgun, after the local general store no longer had any food to sell. People had run up their credit lines until the store could no longer buy food. My great-grandmother on this side planted a large garden, and Grandpa loved to hunt and fish.

Then, Grandpa attended Massey Business College, where he learned to take dictation in shorthand, write in Spencerian penmanship and also type. He worked as a secretary for a North Carolina Senator for a time and corresponded with President FDR briefly.

Grandpa's life and future was nearly taken when he was a boy. He had pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, and accidentally poured it down his front and into his rubber boots. He quickly ran outside and pulled his boots off, but the boiling liquid had already done great damage – the skin on both legs came off with the rubber boots.

Grandpa developed blood poisoning in both feet. A doctor said his feet must be amputated, to save his life. My grandpa's grandmother was an herbalist, as many were then, and she refused the doctor's advice. She made up a concoction using raw garlic and onions and applied this poultice to my grandfather's legs and feet. “It burned like FIRE!” Grandpa told us. It also healed his feet!

My grandfather went north to New York City around 1933, to take a job in the garment district. Then he got a job with Canada Dry, where he worked for the next forty years, walking nine miles each day on those once-burned feet, to feed his family.

Chariots of Fire, 14x22 watercolor by Elise, September 2017

My cropped photo reference

The original photo I took from a coach's launch


Working to Save Others Lives

In the 1940's during WWII, because he was married and had a child, my grandfather served as an air-raid warden in NYC.

For years after the war, our Grandpa and great-grandfather, Opa would cover their dining room table with brown-paper wrapped boxes, tied with red-and-white string. They would gather German addresses, any addresses, even for those they didn't know. Opa knew the common German people were literally starving after the War, so he sent many food parcels back to his townspeople, to try to save their lives.

Opa also sponsored immigrants coming to America. He believed in giving people a chance to experience what America had given him. We believe around forty-two people were able to start new lives here in America because of my great-grandfather, Opa.

One family immigrated here from Paraguay, South America and moved to Arkansas, where they eventually owned and operated the second-largest pecan plantation in the state. Annually, at Christmas-time, our family would receive a box of pecans, in gratitude.

My Opa and my Grandfather understood money was a tool, to be used to help others. Their generosity is a wonderful example for me. I, too, am here in this world to do all I can to support and encourage others. To save many lives.

Detail progression starts here

My Dad

I've written previously about my dad's early near-death experience, at age four, when the stitches from his tonsillectomy came out and he nearly bled to death in his crib. He was rushed to the hospital and given type O blood transfusions. We believe he was given untested dirty blood and my dad had many health problems as a result over his life-time.

My dad attended a military school for his first two years of college. It was a hard place, with young men committing suicide by jumping out of the windows because the physical and mental pressure there was great. My dad got through it. My siblings and I grew up getting drilled, learning to properly stand at attention, march, do an “about-face” and how to salute.

During the Vietnam War, my dad enlisted in the Marines. He didn't want to wait to be drafted. During his physical examination he was told by the doctor, “I can't send you to Vietnam! You've got a rash up both arms, and you'll make so much noise scratching in the jungle, your entire company will be shot and killed!” “You can't stop me,” my dad replied, “I already have my orders for basic training.” “Watch me,” said this military doctor. He picked up the phone and canceled my dad's orders. And so, my dad didn't join the Marines or go to Vietnam, he got married instead and had children. This doctor possibly helped save my dad's life.

Another time, my dad went on a pretty crazy treasure-island hunt, getting caught in the Atlantic on a barge during a hurricane and very nearly didn’t make it back to shore.

My Own Life Experience of the Protection of God

I can point to four times I could have died but didn't, although there are probably others our Father delivered me from without my knowledge. I am grateful for all that has happened to me, I'm equally grateful for much which has NOT happened to me.

My Leg Cut

We had a small beaver pond on our land when I was ten or eleven years old. My dad, a WSI (water-safety instructor), was our life-guard when we went swimming. One day, while swimming to try to reach my sister on an inner-tube, I felt something brush by my lower leg. I reached down and my hand seemed to go into my left leg! There was no pain.

I had to put my right foot down on the slimy mud at the bottom of the pond in order to raise my left leg, to see what was wrong.

What I saw was horrifying! I screamed. There was a four-inch long cut on my left shin. It was very deep and I could see the artery inside my leg, pumping blood!

My dad, trying to calm me down enough to understand what was wrong, told me he was going to walk away unless I stopped screaming. He actually turned around to walk away, so I would stop my hysteria. I told him about the cut I saw. “Now come over to me, Elise, and show it to me,” he said.

I exited our pond on the shallow and muddy far side, and went down across the stream below the concrete dam over the big rocks in the stream bed, to show him my leg. He saw the cut before I reached the other side and told me to stop walking. My dad came down into the stream bed to pick me up, carrying me up the bank and toward the house. My sister ran ahead to tell my mother I was injured.

My mom quickly came toward us and I saw her eyes as they met my dad's eyes. He shook his head. My dad was trained in many medical procedures, but this cut was too big for butterfly bandages.

We went to the hospital that day, where I had thirty stitches. I remember my mom talking about packing the cut with sphagnum moss, so the cut would heal from the inside out...but we didn't try that method. Instead, I got an intern who applied a “pain-killer” which I seemed to be allergic to, and only then did I feel enormous pain!

I spent a good deal of time sitting in bed that summer, waiting for the cut to heal. The very next day my dad went into the pond with his fireman's boots and gloves on, sifting through the mud, looking for something sharp enough to have cut me...he didn't find anything more than a sharp rock. We don't know what sliced into my skin, but had my leg artery been cut, I know I could easily have bled to death.

Building Rafts and Nearly Drowning

My mother had a rule – we were not allowed to swim in our mountain stream-fed pond until after June 1st. But my sisters and I found ways around this by building rafts each Spring, so we could get out on the water earlier, as soon as the ice broke.

We made up individual “blue-prints” but usually had to combine our building plans for lack of good materials. We used poles from the woods and spare boards, nailing them together. We also had a prized inner-tube which we surrounded with boards and put in a trap door on hinges, in the center of the tube.

We used empty cider jugs with metal twist tops on them for flotation devices. After our nails punctured too many jugs, we used our Styrofoam play surf boards for flotation under our wooden rafts. We spent a good deal of time brainstorming ideas to make things float!

We even crafted one raft with a mast and sheet sail, and we let a friend christen this special boat. I guess we looked a lot like Huckleberry Finn, with our palm-frond braided hat, poling around the pond with our pants hiked up to our knees! 

Sometimes we did accidentally capsize. If we leaned too far to one side, the inner tube would slide out from underneath the boards, and slowly, very slowly, the remaining unsupported wooden part of the raft would sink into the icy water...and whoever was on the raft had an awfully cold shock!

One summer day, when I was around twelve years old, and no one was life-guarding us, I jumped from shore onto one of our pole rafts. My small brother, who was six at the time and couldn't yet swim, was already on board this raft. I knew the raft only held one person and it was really stupid to try to put two on it.

The raft immediately flipped over and while I was still in mid-air, falling, I twisted around to see my brother submerged, his straw-colored thatch of hair floating on top of the water. I grabbed for his hair, lifting him up and he grabbed me around the neck, trying to stay afloat.

Both of us went under the water. I remember kicking hard, feeling nothing underneath me except water, as I came up once. I can still see my sister swimming away from us in the inner-tube, not realizing we were in trouble. I didn't breath, I just croaked “help” and then went under again, with my brother on top of me.

It flashed through my mind we were about to drown.

Suddenly, I felt firm mud beneath my feet, and I was able to stand up on mud in knee-deep water! I don't know how this happened except that God saved our lives that day.


A Bad Car Accident

The year was 1987. Our family was traveling home by car from Florida, where we went annually to see our grandparents. It was lunchtime and we got off I-95 in Richmond, Virginia, to find some food. We had gone through the AAA tour book that morning, noticing Virginia didn't yet have a seat belt law. We made the conscious decision NOT to wear seat belts that day. This decision probably saved my life.

My mother had twisted in her seat to ask my sister what type of food she wanted to eat. Turning back to the road, we headed through an intersection. I was reading my Bible for the day, and remember glancing up to see the street-light was red. I opened my mouth to ask why she was going through a red light just as, very suddenly, a refrigerator fell on top of me. It felt like a refrigerator anyway. It was really a two-ton truck, whose driver knew the intersection light changed rapidly. His truck plowed into the side of our car, T-boning our old 1969 steel Pontiac directly in the side, between the doors. The post held.

I was in the front seat on the far right. One of my sisters was in the middle seat. The door on my side of the car came in nine inches. Our car was totaled. The front window glass shattered but didn't fall. Had I been wearing a seat belt, as was usual, I would not have been able to slide sideways away from the impact and crushed door.

The thin page I was holding ripped on impact and my Bible shot across the three of us in the front seat, hitting the front door to the left of my mom with a thud. Our car clattered up against the light pole on the opposite side of the intersection. A stranger came over and reached into our car to put the gearshift into Park, because my mother was in shock.

My sister and brother in the back seat had collided, hitting their heads, and both had bad concussions. My sister had a serious TBI and spent some time at the hospital because she lost her short-term memory for a day or so.

I could feel that my ribs were pushed out of place, in front and back of my rib cage, but I told the emergency people who arrived with an ambulance I was fine because I wasn't coughing up blood. I couldn't raise my arms above my head and developed a cough. A chiropractor helped put us back together after we arrived home in Vermont. 



After priming and painting the outside of our large clapboarded farmhouse the summer I was twenty, I painted the walls and stained the woodwork inside my bedroom. I slept in the room that night, against the wishes of my mother. We had been doing a lot of home renovation, and the toxic fumes from polyurethaning our wooden floors had also affected me.

My pancreas decided it had had enough with toxic fumes and synthetic chemicals, and I nearly died the next summer.I remember having an infection in my abdomen, which caused a lot of pain when I walked. A doctor told me all my digestive organs were shutting down and that I could die...I couldn't eat anything without lots of pain.

The pancreas and spleen meridian is known to be connected to “over-thinking” and I certainly had this problem in spades. At the time, I was highly critical of myself and others. I was inadvertently killing myself.

Our family went to Maine for a short time that summer, where I spent a good deal of time down by docks on the ocean, thinking about my life.

I remembered my past times of physical and emotional pain and thought about facing the unknown future. I remember deciding I wanted to live. This required faith. I began to heal following this decision. I also memorized and meditated consistently on Philippians chapter four, and focused on re-training my brain to think about beautiful, good things.

Just as a clay pot must be put in a hot kiln to dry it, and must be put into the fire again, when glazed, it also spends time cooling, on a shelf, away from being in use. 

I feel like a clay pot sometimes. Being moved from here to there. I desire to be a vessel unto honor fit for the Master Potter's use. 

Our wise kind Father never makes a mistake as He molds and shapes our lives to fit His perfect plan. 

I wish you all contentment and joy where you are in life, 
your painting-friend, 

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. ~ II Corinthians 4:7-11

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