Williamsburg Hill

Williamsburg Hill

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Time of Reflection

A year ago, I wasn’t feeling much Christmas cheer.  It was the shadow of upcoming change that darkened the season and prevented me from enjoying the holiday.  For weeks, my focus had involved sorting through boxes that contained memories from our lives, deciding what needed donating, tossing or saving.  Packing and getting things in order overshadowed decorating, shopping, gift wrapping and cooking.  Christmas was hastily put together, an afterthought for me, because a bigger event loomed soon afterward.  And for the first time in my life, the decorations came down and were packed away as soon as December 25th was history.  It was as if a light switch had suddenly been flipped, and the holiday was forgotten and over.  Time to move on.  Time to face big change once again.  And on December 30, 2015, I said goodbye to a house in Chicagoland that had been home to me for twelve years; a new place waited in Memphis, a new job for my husband. 
It’s difficult to explain the emotions that get attached to a house.  It is just a building, after all, and a dozen years don’t seem like many to some people.  However, it’s the level of living and the significant events that made those years full and meaningful for me, and that’s what makes a house a home.  The house saw both of our daughters graduate from high school and college; it was our home when one got married, and the other became engaged.  Within those walls, I wrote books and saw three of them published; anniversaries and birthdays were planned and celebrated, holidays passed and parties were held, vacations enjoyed.  The golden retriever that moved into that house with us lost her life to illness during those years; the sweet angel with fur that just moved south with us entered our lives as a puppy there, too.  The tenure might have been short, but the content was full. 
It was tough putting the house on the market.  The “For Sale” sign was placed in the yard on January 2nd and five months later it sold.  During that time, I never lost the emotional attachment but I could only endure one visit in order to check on it.  Walking into that empty shell which had meant so much to me and seeing the condition it was in due to viewings was too much.  It was a disappointing list of things that hit me full in the face when I opened the front door, and it looked tired; the disrespect shown by strangers for something that had been part of my life took its toll.  I never went back.  The day our house sold was bittersweet, but I know the new owners are making their own memories in it.
Those who have gone through it know this: moving is hard.  Doing so across country means uprooting and leaving everything you’ve come to rely on behind you.  The day to day things taken for granted have to be rethought anew, with much of it trial and error until the fit is right.  In the past, the kids moved with us, easing the difficulty of that unknown, but this time was different.  One daughter remains in Chicago, while the other lives in Colorado.  Plans now have to be made to see both of them, and that’s tough on a parent.
And when the family moves because of one spouse’s job, that spouse has an immediate source of interaction to help with adjusting to a new place.  While moving is usually difficult for children, they too have support from schools and new friends.  It’s the other tag-along spouse/parent who is left dangling, trying to make things work while struggling to figure out his/her purpose that moving affects the most.  You feel lost while trying to establish yourself; planting seeds to initiate new roots is timely and they don’t always take right away.  It’s easy to feel like a failure.
The year has passed quickly, as they all seem to do nowadays.  It saw our oldest get married in May; we took a trip to Scotland and England in October, and spent Thanksgiving with the youngest in Colorado.  Family will arrive in a couple of days to share Christmas, which will be celebrated as usual.  No rushing and the decorations won’t be taken down on the 26th.  The latest manuscript is now in the hands of literary agents, and there are thoughts of the next book.  I just organized a food drive that I hope becomes an annual event, and I’ve already participated in an author fair.  My new house is starting to feel like home.  You see those seeds are sprouting.
Take the time to reflect, and if you have the time, don’t rush.  Enjoy the season with friends and family.  I wish all of you the happiest of holidays; Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

SS Edmund Fitzgerald 
A memorable and surreal moment of my life came in November of 1994, several months after we moved to Detroit, Michigan.  My husband had taken a job downtown and we lived in the suburban area of Grosse Pointe; the most convenient access to and from the city for us came via Jefferson Avenue.
Driving this route provided a startling contrast in scenery.  Beauty and blight.  Manicured lawns and vacant, overgrown lots.  Occupied, historic buildings and abandoned, vandalized ruins.  One structure that consistently caught my attention was a particular church; in fact, whenever we were within a couple of blocks, I found myself looking for it as if making sure it hadn’t disappeared. It never did.  The building stood at the corner of the entrance for border crossing to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.  Perhaps that was why it was more noticeable to me at the time.  We’d often take the tunnel, crossing under the Detroit River to simply go to dinner or to do things in Windsor, Canada.  Its location made it a building that couldn’t be missed.  But I like to think learning the history of the building is what appealed to me, how it stood stoically, and had withstood what too many other historical buildings in the city of Detroit had been unable to do.  It had survived. 
So it was one Sunday in November that we decided to attend a service at this church.  The Mariners’ Church of Detroit held a surprise for us.  Inadvertently, the day we chose to attend was the very day its bell “chimed till it rang twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald”.  It isn’t an exaggeration when I say the gooseflesh ran down my arms once I realized what was happening.  I remember glancing at my husband, and thinking, “No way!” and thanking whatever force that had guided us there for that annual event.  Not only did they ring the bell, but each crew member’s name was read, too.  Then the choir performed, singing that famous Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which notably mentions the church in the lyrics: 

The Legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and crew was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early
The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well-seasoned
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ship's bell rang
Could it be the north wind they'd been feelin'?
The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the captain did too,
T'was the witch of November come stealin'
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing'
When afternoon came it was freezin' rain
In the face of a hurricane west wind
When suppertime came, the old cook came on deck sayin'
Fellas, it's too rough to feed ya
At 7 pm a main hatchway caved in, he said
Fellas, it's been good t'know ya
The captain wired in he had water comin in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd put fifteen more miles behind her
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the rooms of her ice-water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams
The islands and bays are for sportsmen
And far below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the maritime sailors' cathedral
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee'
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early

Lightfoot released the song in 1976 as a tribute to the twenty-nine men who lost their lives in the shipwreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior, November 10, 1975.  Launched in 1958, the freighter was considered the largest carrier on the Great Lakes at the time, but was no match for hurricane-force winds and thirty-five foot waves seventeen years later.  On November 9, 1975, the ship departed Superior, Wisconsin with 26,000 tons of ore bound for Detroit (not Cleveland, as in Lightfoot's lyrics).  That evening the National Weather Service issued a gale warning for Lake Superior, upgrading it to a storm warning at 2:00 a.m. the next morning.  The captain of the Mighty Fitz made radio contact that afternoon:  "I have a bad list, lost both radars, and am taking heavy seas over the deck. One of the worst seas I've ever seen."  At 7:00 p.m., the freighter, SS Arthur M Anderson made contact with the doomed ship and had her on radar, but approximately twenty minutes later she disappeared.  Every crew member perished and no bodies were recovered.  An excellent website that provides bios of these brave men is www.ssedmundfitzgerald.org.
Creative and artistic liberties were taken by the singer/songwriter with respect to the song, such as the name of the church, mentioning what the cook said when there was no way of knowing this, saying the ship was bound for a city it wasn't.  All of this was to make a wonderful song that works.  Lightfoot eventually changed some lyrics for performances, including the reference to a "musty old hall" when one of the parishioners of the Mariners' Church complained to him that the hall wasn't musty.  I would agree with this statement.  It is now performed with the lyrics "rustic old hall" instead, although I think "classic" is a better adjective.  
The Mariners' Church of Detroit 
The Mariners' Church of Detroit, built in 1849, was established according to the will of Julia Anderson in 1842, who saw it as a Maritime Mission for maritime travelers on the Great Lakes.  Today it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, considered an Independent Church adhering to Anglican traditions, and was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.  It began the annual remembrances of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975 that continued until 2006.  It then extended the event by remembering all of the lives lost on the Great Lakes.  Today the church holds a Blessing of the Fleet every March for those going to sea, and a Great Lakes Memorial Service every November for those who have lost their lives at sea (this also includes military personnel who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service).
That day twenty-two years ago was pretty special to me.  It was one that came with such surprise because of the obvious unplanned timing, but more so because I'm not sure I ever realized the church in that song actually existed.  I think I assumed it was simply part of a special homage from a great songwriter who created one of the most memorable songs of my youth, one that has withstood time.  In fact, the song's longevity is much like the church that's mentioned in it.
November 10, 2016.  Forty-one years later.  For more information on the wonderful church that hasn't forgotten, continues to remember, and stands proudly, visit www.marinerschurchofdetroit.org.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Photographs on Fine Art America from Scotland and England

I returned from a trip to the UK a couple of weeks ago, and it seems all I've done since is relive the wonderful vacation through photographs.  The better ones are being added to my Fine Art America account and I'd like to share the link and a few samples here (higher resolution images are available on the site only).

The new web address is www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com and the latest images were taken in Scotland, including Edinburgh, the Highlands, St. Andrews, Loch Ness and a few small coastal towns; a few have been added from a visit to London, England, as well.  More will be added as I can get to them, but I hope visitors like what is there now.  Fine Art America offers so many items to purchase: from prints (in various formats, framed or unframed), duvets, pillows, t-shirts, tote bags, shower curtains, towels, to cell phone covers and more.  They offer full returns, too, if a buyer isn't satisfied with his/her purchase.

Please take a look, and if you make a purchase, let me know. Thanks to all who have already done so.  I appreciate it.  Now it's time to finish that final round of edits on my book, Williamsburg Hill.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

That Quote is Attributed to...

“When you turn around, you’ll see something I bet you’ve never seen before. If it takes your breath away, then you’ll fit in nicely. If you don’t feel anything, then maybe you don’t belong here.”  - Veronica Randolph Batterson, Daniel’s Esperanza

If you write books, you hope people will read them.  In fact, you remind them, beg them, bug them, post on social media about your work until everyone ignores your pleas (or unfollows/unfriends you, or whatever ‘un’ of the moment happens to be that I’ve never heard before).  It’s wonderful when folks buy your books, and even better when you receive a positive review and shout-out from someone.  Recommendations are priceless because they rarely come, and I love them when they do.
Recognition and referral usually happen after someone reads the book, and I’ve received both.  But I have to say I’m very surprised as to how my book, Daniel’s Esperanza, has gotten attention lately.  It’s through the above quote, and I have no idea how it happened.  It’s being used on various sites by individuals I don’t know, and is being attached to personal photographs that have meaning to the people using it.  I’m told when something appears on Pinterest, it spreads like wildfire (the same with Instagram). I’m not on either one of the sites but my quote is, and it appears to be true.  It’s also being shared on Twitter, and other places I’m not even familiar with.  I guess hashtags are amazing. 
Daniel's Esperanza
Most of the people who use the quote attribute it to me and to the book, and I’m okay with this.  I appreciate it, and it's pretty special that people get something from it.  However, there are some who don’t give me credit, and that’s a problem for me.  It took over three years of work to get the book published, and the quote is actually a piece of dialogue in the book about seeing a band of wild horses for the first time.  Using it as your own by deleting my name and from where it came is essentially stealing.
Hey, I like it that other folks like it.  I like it that it’s being used in the way it has been.  Just give me that byline for it.  It’s deserved, it’s right, it’s cool…it’s what you’re supposed to do.  I’ve even included a photograph here of the book page where it’s published in paperback (about the fifth paragraph), in case someone wants proof that it’s mine.  Also, I’m sharing a screenshot of one person’s use of it (and she attributed it to me and my book – thanks!).
The quote finds itself here
By the way, I just became aware of how this quote has gone viral as I was preparing a blog post on Intellectual Property and Copyright.  I guess I’ll be sharing that next time, but this is certainly an introduction for it, and coincidental. And for those who think I'm being a little goofy about this, I'm not.  It's my work.  Finally, to all those people who like the quote so much:  there’s a whole book waiting to be read that I’m sure you’ll like even better.  Daniel’s Esperanza.  On Amazon. $12.95 paperback. $3.99 Kindle.  And sharing that is even better.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Historic Ridge Cemetery, Williamsburg Hill, IL - Deserving of Respect

Ridge Cemetery - Williamsburg Hill, Illinois
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a blog post about visiting an area in Illinois that was once known as Williamsburg Hill.  When the railroad bypassed the town in the late 1880s and the stagecoach line ceased to exist, residents deserted the village out of necessity.  The only thing remaining from that era rests on the hill itself:  Ridge Cemetery.
After viewing that beautiful and, yes, strange place, I decided I’d found the perfect setting for my next book.  Fictional townspeople have come alive in Williamsburg and Ridge Cemetery plays a prominent role in my story.  The first draft is finished and is now undergoing rewrites.  While I’m happy to share the status of my book, which is titled Williamsburg Hill, I’d also like to share something else.
In March of this year, vandals struck Ridge Cemetery.  Three adults and one juvenile from nearby towns were eventually arrested and face felony counts of unlawful vandalism of a gravestone.  According to a Go Fund Me Page that was started to cover the cost of repairs to the cemetery, approximately 122 headstones were knocked over and damaged.  The news reported destruction was done to some tombstones weighing more than a thousand pounds. 
Only road to Ridge Cemetery
Fortunately, enough money was raised to reset the stones, the brush was cleared, and the grounds were cleaned.  I visited the area again in May of this year for a bit of last minute research, and wasn’t aware of the destruction that had occurred just two months prior.  It was only a few weeks ago that I was informed of what had happened.  Kudos to the special volunteers who worked diligently in a short amount of time to restore the grounds to a place deserving of respect and honor, not one of contempt.
While the cemetery is isolated and difficult to find if you don’t know the area, it is open for anyone to visit.  There have been stories of odd events that supposedly occurred there over the decades, which more than likely attract the strange and curious sorts.  For all of the tales that might scare or intrigue about this nineteenth century place, it seems the only thing to fear are those living and breathing folks who wish to do damage.
Surname used in my book
Ridge Cemetery and Williamsburg Hill spoke to me of a rich background that didn’t evolve into anything greater, but simply ended.  The idea to visit took root as a story to write and I love history.  So seeing the cemetery appealed to me, especially because I thought it had something to say.  And it does.  One doesn’t have to write a book to hear it.  It speaks of families, hardships, lives lost suddenly, prosperity, tragedy, long years of existence, illness, stillbirth and disease.  It whispers of differences during life, but shouts that in the end everyone ends up in the same place together.  It exists as a reminder of those who came before us, and a place all of us will eventually face.  We should listen because it has a lot to say.
The volunteers who worked hard to restore it after the recent destruction know this.  It’s unfortunate that some with nothing but anger inside of them do not.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Books and Photographs

The first draft of my latest book, Williamsburg Hill, is nearly complete.  Since I've been focused on finishing it, less time has been given to blog posts and updates.  So this one is a little short and simply a reminder that I have books and photographs still for sale.

Daniel's Esperanza, Funny Pages and Billy's First Dance can be purchased through various online retail sites.  All can be found in paperback form and for Kindle readers on Amazon.  I appreciate all sales, and if you're interested in giving one a shout-out, please do.  Many thanks in advance.

I also have over 300 photographs on Fine Art America for sale in canvas prints, posters, framed and unframed photographic prints, greeting cards, canvas totes, t-shirts, cell phone cases, shower curtains, duvets and more.  Any purchase is given a 100 percent guarantee; if you aren't satisfied you can return the item(s) for a full refund.  Included here are some screen shots of some of my latest work, but you can visit www.veronica-batterson.pixels.com for higher resolution viewing.

As always, thanks for any and all support, purchases, reviews and sharing on social media. Word of mouth works wonders.  Now back to that draft...hope to have it finished in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Best Place in Milwaukee - the Best Place

   I’ve always affectionately referred to my older daughter as someone who marches to the beat of her own drum.  The word traditional isn’t one I’d use to describe her and I think she prefers it that way.  There is a wonderful photo that occasionally floats around Facebook that depicts a group of young girls in dance class.  All but one stands in first position in front of a ballet barre, waiting for instruction. The other one?  She’s hanging upside down from said barre, winging it.  The caption reads something like this: “There’s always one.”  I think my daughter was generally always “that one”.
As a very young child, my husband and I carried her to dance class (screaming all the way) every Saturday morning for two years.  She hated it, but since she started wearing corrective lenses at the age of two, the classes were necessary to help her with hand and eye coordination.  And if you’ve ever had your fingers accidentally stepped on by a child who is wearing tap shoes (it hurts – a lot), you’ll probably understand I was relieved when those classes ended.  Basketball and softball eventually followed and she was much happier. 
Dolls were never her thing either.  There was one that held her interest for a while after she cut off its hair, giving it a Mohawk.  She named it “Stick-em-up-hair-Barbie” and it took the place of all the American Girl dolls she owned when she wished to play with a doll (and that wasn’t often). 
Her spontaneity, ready laughter and unique personality are traits that define her, and she married a man recently who shares her outlook on life, too.  So it really didn’t surprise me when they told us where they’d chosen to celebrate the big day.  Given who they are, their love of Wisconsin and the fact that her new husband is co-owner of The Hopewell Brewing Company in Chicago, their choice was fitting and represented who they are. 
Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee was it.  In operation from 1844-1996, new owners purchased the site in 2001 and eventually opened its doors to the public.  Named after the brewery’s founders and with historical preservation in mind, it is now a site for tours, events and serves as a well-known wedding venue.  It was the perfect location for our daughter’s wedding, with the ceremony being held outside in one of the courtyards, and a delicious dinner (provided by Zilli Hospitality Group) enjoyed indoors.  Then it was outdoors for music and dancing by MKE Sound.  Holen Photography worked the entire event, capturing the memories of the evening for all to remember.  It was a lovely night, made even more special by all of these individuals.  Thanks to all.
I have to say that my daughter was truly beautiful.  Her choice of wedding dress, and hairstyle (with no veil) were lovely.  Adding to the uniqueness of the evening:  the bridal bouquet was a King Protea flower (Greek legend says it’s named after Poseidon’s son, Proteus); rather than having gift favors for guests, the couple made a donation to PAWS; they also made a Girl Scout troop in Chicago very happy by making a large cookie purchase for guests to have at the reception in lieu of a cake.  However, the bride and groom did cut a small cake for photos, but I believe they were just appeasing me.  I bought a German cake knife and server (circa 1930) for them from an antique store about a year ago to use for their wedding cake.  Little did I know that a cake might not be part of their plans, but it meant a lot to me that they remembered. 
Many thanks to Best Place and all who made the day special.  It was one that reflected the beauty and character of the young couple getting married.