Hello Reformation, It’s Me, Janie

I was performing in Jakarta. There was no other way off the stage as all the back exits were blocked. The crowd was so tightly packed that when I got done with my set I had to be crowd surfed all the way to the back of the room over heads and then gingerly deposited at the door. It was a changing moment. What a night!

Lots of problems with that last paragraph. I have never been in Jakarta, let alone Indonesia. I am not a performer…in public. I have never crowd surfed. The only thing that is accurate is that I feel reformed and it is as odd as this story of me in Jakarta. Here goes.

There are non-negotiables in my life. Here is the short list. I love Jesus. I love my husband. I love my kids and their mates. I love my grandchildren. I love my parents. I love most of my relatives. I love most of my friends. I love my dog.

As I continue to age, it seems like I am becoming more of who I am and less of what the world expects of me. It’s quite empowering, especially to those of us who were raised in the time when women had certain roles. I have learned to say no, but am still learning to feel no need to explain myself and better deal with the guilt when I do. I have decided that I can pick and choose my surroundings, who my friends are and how much I can put up with before I say no.  I have a lower tolerance for people, situations or experiences that negatively impact my mental health. This wasn’t always so.

Every generation has their growth pattern. I am sure that my own perspective thinks that my generation had to make a larger jump than some previous ones, but it is probably not true as I think about my ancestors. I think about my own personal family to see what has gone before me and take stock in those whose shoulders I stand on. My family record is full of strong women and men who did interesting things in the “Old Country” that I will never know about. Most likely it was trying to outrun the neighboring fiefdom and trying to scrabble enough food together to live for another week. Who knows what the times even before that were?

There was talk of a relative that was a goose girl working around the local castle in Germany, getting preggers by one of the head men and then finding a nice guy to fall in love with who took her and her little to America. There was the man who got on the ship from Devon England, landed on the east coast of North America and then he or his son walked to Wisconsin. Walked? Then there was Hulda and her dad that came from Northern Germany to make enough cash to send for the rest of the family. When I say rest of, I am talking about like ten other people. No problem, get a job in a house that is owned by someone who doesn’t speak your language or share your religion. Pick up coal from the ground around the train tracks to heat your room. Actually get all your relatives to Chicago and then move to Wisconsin. Makes my silly story of jamming in Jakarta pretty weak.

They all had reformations. They reinvented themselves and yet kept the important parts. No material goods although gaining land was important, but mostly just love and faith. I wish I could talk with them to discuss how they did it. Most likely they would give me some noise like, “Ach!”, and bat my inquiry away with their hand. They would think it was nothing, but really know it was something.

My grandmas were born in a time when voting wasn’t even a thing for women. Lizzy and Sarah were married first, had at least one child and then could vote. I voted early today in the mid-terms and am still awed by it, but not because I am a woman, but because I am a person with a say. When I was a girl and cigarettes were advertised on television there was a commercial that had the theme, “We have come a long way baby”. Now we can get cancer from cigarettes just like men. Not thinking that was a perk, but it was a choice. We have come a long way.

I was looking up when women could own property in their own name in Wisconsin. I found “The Married Women’s Property Act of 1964”. The effect was simple: it enabled a wife to share housekeeping money (and any property derived from that money) equally with her husband. Previously it was legally considered to be her husband’s money only and so reverted back to him. The Act was hugely significant, as for the first time, it enabled married women without independent income to acquire their own money. What? I was five!!!

I did see that women could own property on their own in 1848 in the new state of Wisconsin, but could not do business on their own. Hmmm. This must have been more than a little reforming for my great-grandmother “Marie” Caroline Friedricke whose husband August Friederich “Wilhelm” died sooner than expected leaving her to figure out their farm and 13 children. Sometimes I drive past that farm and wonder how they did that. I am sure I would have gotten an, “Ach…”

Sometimes I wonder how things change and if they do. My grandma Sarah carried a hat pin to fend off unwanted hassling. She also knew how to drive a sleigh to deliver mail when she was single When she was married to someone outside of her culture she hung wall paper for a side hustle and dealt with her alcoholic husband with whom she had three children. They are all gone now.

The grandma, Lizzie, was raised in a bit of privilege, but worked along side the hired help, doing the same work and then saw her own family through the depression with anything she and her husband grew. She raised three children, one with limited cognition, one with many health problems and one that struggles with relationships. I would say that if I could speak with those grandmas today they would both say more than, “Ach..” They would admit it was difficult, but that would be all. Grandma Spiegelberg would shake her head and Grandma Knutzen would rub her temple and  then fold her hands in her lap looking off the the left.

I have spent the last 59 years sorting out who I was, who I want to be and what I am doing. Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t. In the last few years I have really come into a more understanding view of my own self. I think that having such dynamic parents placed me in a shadow of what was expected and how I was to be. This is good for a person to have a moral compass and a path to follow, but sometimes I feared that I had lost myself in trying to be what was expected of me. I assume that most children of dynamic parents feel that. My parents are and were good people, but they also brought their own strengths and insecurities to parenting. I know I did. I think that best we can do as parents and best we can expect of our parents is to say they tried to do their best with what skills and knowledge they choose to use and are able to dig out.

Since my dad died I have changed. Since I have changed jobs I have changed. Since I figured out what I really believe about Jesus and how he works, I have changed. You would think that I would have had that down long ago. I had some of it down, but I am getting it more all the time. Is that what happens when you get older? I think that the sorting of my spiritual life it is the biggest change for me. Since that is one of the non-negotiables and that it is so ultra important to me….. and it took so very long to sift out…. it is freeing to have that worked out… for this month.

There is no need to sort out the non-negotiables with those I love, that is fluid and I love who I love, but……..I feel reformed. Just like Jakarta. I have been delivered gingerly to the door.