Around the Table in Colorado

We’ve spent the last three weeks in Colorado including Denver, Winter Park, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. We had a handful of legit folkie shows and the rest of our time was spent around the table.

Our first stop was in snowy Denver with the Stephan family. We were referred to them by a dear friend in Green Bay, WI. We parked street side in the new Stapleton Estates. Easy going, the Stephan’s made us feel right at home. We rested after a long trek across the plains states, enjoyed encouraging conversation and on our final night I had the opportunity to make a dinner for us all in their kitchen. Stocked with full amenities, all the bells and whistles, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking in my bus kitchen, but this was a delight. We had organic Shepard’s pie, leafy greens and flourless chocolate cake for dessert, all from my ‘The Apron Strings‘ Cookbook.

   

The Stephan’s also connected us with a local charity, The Urban Farm and we were able to connect for a benefit show. That lead to us meeting a first grade teacher at Fletcher Primary, who invited us to come and share our Australian Folklore workshop with eighty 1st graders. They loved Craig’s mustache, and sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with all their might.

Next we stored our rig with our dear friends at Radiant Church and drove our mini-van up to Winter Park/Fraser to serve at Timberline School. The drive is terrifying coming up that pass but once we were there the beautiful sunshine and snowy mountain tops erased all the fear.  Our friends, Dan and Sarah Thomas are the directors at Timberline and we have always wanted to offer some sort of service to their efforts. So when we were planning our fall tour, we blocked out a week to pour in. We shared in song with the students, we joined them for most of the morning and lunch meals, we helped with child care, building projects and enjoyed making a meal or two for the Thomas’s. And, just a small family affair, we celebrated Graciana’s sixteenth birthday with a home-made pizza party. We had a french themed party for her in September with all of our friends in Chicago, but it’s special to celebrate on the day as well.

Back to Denver for a gig at Swallow Hill and short but sweet say with some of our old friends; Randy, Beki and Diego. Through out our travels we have met amazing kinfolk but there is something about a visit with an old friend. There is an ease to laugh, cry and share deep moments. This was just what we needed. We meet Beki and Randy at Lifest in 2007 and have performed with them and enjoyed community with them. Plus we were able to share a meal in celebration for Craig’s birthday, which falls right after Graciana’s.

On to Colorado Springs to spend a few days with the Penley family. We met them through the Thomas’s and have connected with them over the years. The Penley’s are generous and kind kinfolk. Younger than us but wise beyond their years. Their house was full to the brim with family and the laughter of children. With three children and fostering one, Christy is a super mom in the best sense. She is strong, organized and gentle all at the same time. And, Paul, he’s about the smartest person we’ve ever meet. We enjoyed conversations over delightful meals, a bon fire, quiet time of reading, baking with the kids and shared in song at their church, 1st Presbyterian. While there, Graciana connected with a new friend, discovering a similar taste in books, music and in the journey of being homeschooled.

 

We also had an opportunity to do a little sight-seeing, visiting the Olympic Training Center. Highlight was seeing the wide open arm span of Michael Phelps. That boy is big!

  

And our final Colorado stop was in Fort Collins with the Borden family. Dear friends from Chicago, Diane was my boss at Grrr Records and, the most encouraging person you’ll ever meet. We dove right in at the Borden house, cleaning and getting the garage space ready for about 28 folk to enjoy a Thanksgiving fest. It was a joy to sort through and organize (I’ll admit, I love organizing, I have been known to spend a good amount of time at the thrift store organizing the dresses by size, then color. Ha!) It was also a great visit for our kids, as the Borden clan is five strong. They watched movies, played a building video game called mine craft, helped prepare Thanksgiving decorations, put on plays with dress ups, and made funny movies on their I-Pad. We connect with kinfolk and got our worship on at ECC. Craig got his craftsman fix in by laying down a deck for the Borden’s. And, on our last night I made Asparagus/Mushroom/Leek with a wine cream sauce and Crepes for dinner.

 

We are thankful for our time in Colorado, for the community and encouragement that keeps us on our way and for the many meals shared with kinfolk, new and old.

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Coffeyville and Australian Folklore

Over the past week we have lectured on Australian Folklore about 16 times, in a variety of settings including nursing homes, a mental health facility, Alzheimer unit, retirement communities, a high school and a community college. The range of settings offered some challenges but with a back ground in music therapy we were able to shift into more song than story when needed.

The humanities course is grant funded program, through the Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kansas. They have weekly lectures on history, folklore, story and song in all facets of life, depending on the lecturer. In a rural, southeast corner of Kansas, Caney High school and the surrounding nursing facilities all benefit from this program.

Craig was the primary teacher for our program on Australian Folklore. It was a joy to be able to watch him research and prepare a lesson that emphasized so much of his history. Starting with Aboriginal “Dream time” stories and an a-cappella song we learned from an Aboriginal/Australian group called ‘Tiddas” to the first convict ships from England and then finally stories of the bush life as documented by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. We sang Bound for Botany Bay, My Bonnie, Waltzing Matilda, our own Immigrant song and Old Man’s Town.

The kids joined us for the Community college and High School sessions, which totaled seven sessions in all. They were a great accompaniment, adding wonderful harmonies and a steady beat on the cajon’. Our son even read a few of the poems for the high school classes.

At one of the nursing home facilities I had an intense and profound moment as I  listened to a woman in her forties share her story of regret. She was a jolly woman and was singing along with gusto, so impressed with us she asked for our autograph. I said sure, if we could have her’s in return. She was excited and said she’d be happy to give her autograph to us but she was legally blind. However, she wasn’t always legally blind, only for the past 12 years. I responded with an “I’m sorry” and an affirmation of hope and planned to continue on in song. She interjected with a mumbling of a woman who beat her nearly to death and tried to gouged her eyes out. She said the woman only got 12-15, should have gotten life, but only 12-15 and then she got out after 6 on good behavior. I was shocked and caught off guard. I touched her arm and then she began to crying, “I made a big mistake misses, a big mistake. Have you ever made a big mistake, only to regret it the rest of your life?” I had made plenty of big mistakes but none that left me with blindness, mental delay and a huge scar on my chest.  I answered, “yes” and stuttered another “I’m so sorry.” She continued, “I had an affair misses, it was the worst mistake I ever made. I miss my husband, and my kids. I want my old life back. I want to see my kids. I want my old life back.” I really don’t remember how I responded but it was something in reference to having her old life back, something along the lines however painful, trying to embrace her new life, trusting there was a purpose for her pain and to begin to look for joy in it. I don’t know, everything coming out of my mouth all sounded so ridiculous, so inadequate. But she was gracious with me and after we spoke she smiled really big and said she felt inspired and encouraged. She was thankful for my listening ear. I thanked her for sharing and we continued in song, with “In the garden” followed by a string of old timey songs about “flying away.” Later, we exchanged autographs. Her’s said her name and “Blessing to you.”

Whew!

On friday we explored a little bit of Coffeyville’s folklore and visited the Dalton Museum. We learned about the history of this area and the resilience of the towns people in bringing down the notorious Dalton gang. It was fascinating to learn about the Dalton brothers pre-out law jobs in legislation and as a sheriff, the shift in their thinking and the final plunge into criminal life. It was their last hit before they were going to head to Mexico and retire. How ironic. They went in to the town of Coffeyville with an air of superiority and found out the hard way that “Pride comes before the fall.” All were gunned down except the youngest Dalton, who was imprisoned for 18 or so years and went on to  later wrote a book about the out-law days.

All in all, the week was pretty quiet, peaceful and we were able to catch up on some much-needed rest with early nights in the RV park. It was a balmy 68-80 degrees all week and for our past time we went pecan hunting and foraged a nice little stash that will hopefully turn into pecan pie.