Telling a personal story: Part 2 Moving On: by Jonni Rose Lukenbill

Farmer’s daughter, city savvy! Moving On: Part Two

Town living as a pre-teen was strange territory for me.  A few miles from the farm but a different culture.

Farm kids worked hard from an early age, kept quiet at the dinner table, and were relatively contented with life.

Town kids whined a lot.  They pitched a fit in the store if they didn’t get the goodies they begged for.

Town kids had little to do after school and on weekends.  They played in the playground or in their suburban back yards.  They watched a lot of TV, albeit black and white, all Saturday morning!

Back then, the town kids got bribed with an allowance to make their beds and help with the dishes.  They got paid to work.  Now there was a concept that was an interesting development in my tiny little mind.

Our “new” house was much smaller.  Our backyard would have fit on our former home’s back porch.  The three older kids still living at home slept in an open attic, boy on one side, girls on the other.  As the youngest, I was allowed a delightful princess-pink twin bed in a room shared with my mother. It was on the main floor and was the only bedroom in the entire house. And as a bonus the house had a nice bathroom with real running water and a hot water heater.  Imagine!

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Blue suburban skies

Life was peaceful bliss that first few months in town. With my father left back at the farm, there was little consternation.  My mom went to work nearly every day at the phone company in a nearby town and we kids were left to our own devices.

One delightful summer day, sunny sky, crickets chirping … all that lovely peace and harmony was shattered.

Our divorced elder brother, accompanied by his two snot-nosed offspring, moved in with us. The blissful summer began to slowly crumble around me. In creating an entire new conundrum of inferiority for me, my brother and his family quickly wore out their welcome in my childish eyes.

The grandkids got the bulk of my mom’s attention even though they were grimy little beasts.  How could I ever measure up?  One of them surreptitiously fed his despised sweet peas to the dog under the table; the other got away with leaving her soggy cereal in her breakfast bowl and got excused from the table anyway.

Outside of the home fared no better.  Assimilation in the town neighborhood was slow for me.  The playground was full of danger and treachery.  A well placed punch in the stomach from the little fourth grade bully knocked the wind out of me and the seemingly friendly pooch took a chunk out of my knee that self-same summer.

Third grade. The school was crowded, the nuns were a baffling combination of unpleasantly cruel and generously sweet. I never knew where I stood.

One afternoon, during an assembly hall presentation by a visiting monsignor, I, the ever vigilant law-keeper, raised my hand and dutifully announced that it was twenty past lunchtime. The nun was livid with anger, she marched me back to the classroom, brutally gripping my little arm.  Her teeth gritted, she grunted, “you must be an only child, you are so spoiled rotten.  How dare you interrupt a dignitary?” My innocent mind was whirling with clouds of confusion and fear.  How could I have angered her when I deserved praise for helping her keep the time schedule intact? How could she think I was an only child when I had seven siblings?

Then just as confusing and soul stirring, the fourth grade teacher, sister Mark-Marie had a guitar and a gentle manner.  She would teach us not only the approved songs from the official hymn book but would brazenly assist us in executing songs like Lemon Tree (very pretty) and The Lion Sleeps Tonight.  How we laughed, singing “ a-weemah-weh, a-weemah-weh” with Mark-Marie playing rhythm on her acoustic six-string!

Clouds began to form

Then fourth grade came with a new disaster in the making.  We had moved once to get away from the old man who was our inebriated father; tragically, he eventually followed us to town and back into our lives.

Then I was beginning fifth grade in the little house in the little rural town.  The siblings were so much older than me that they one-by-one moved on to their own lives and out of mine. The brother with the little kids found a new wife and headed on out.

The siblings were my only buffer besides school that kept me safe from home problems.  Parental dissonance was always stirring in the background.  The parents’ screaming tournaments were becoming intolerable. In due course, mom became disenchanted with his narcissistic brutality and we moved closer to her work.

Closer to the Big City.  Next time.

All content including Photos on Sage Prairie are the property of Sage Prairie Studio, Jonni Rose and Sage Prairie©2018

Telling a fascinating personal story that isn’t TMI

Telling a fascinating personal story that isn’t TMI by Jonni Rose Lukenbill

What is Too Much Information (TMI)?  How do you entice readers with fascinating details without drenching them in the sweat of your personal angst?

These are stories of growing up in ever-changing environments.  Not only living in three different towns within 16 years but also in a time of lightning-fast political, economic and technological change...

Farmer’s daughter, city savvy! Part One

Born in the wilds of southeastern Lake County, Illinois, I was brought up to be tough, resilient, independent, versatile, and smart.  Whining was not allowed in my family nor in the greater community in general.

A farm community encompasses hardy folk who are not slowed down by injury or weather disasters.  It only makes them more determined to work .  The goals in my way-back community were usually straight forward:  have healthier more sturdy livestock, bigger crop production, pay the bills, keep the tractors in running order, have big strapping children who can carry on the chores as soon as they were big enough.

Humor was present in the form of self-deprecating wit and sarcasm often aimed at government officials that  butted into farm business.

Education was not a priority although there was a sense of pride among the parents of a high school graduate who went on to agricultural or teaching college.  Again, simple goals.

There was no option to become a writer or an artistic person of any type.  This was considered frivolous; how could creative pursuits possibly lead to the realization of the aforementioned goals?


Childless couples were looked upon with pity and a tinge of sadness that they had no one with which to share their legacy. It was not unusual for families to succeed in having eight or even a dozen kids.

People tended to drop in on one another of a Sunday afternoon, sometimes without invitation, to chew the fat about the new farming equipment coming out; or a new sewing fabric store in a nearby metropolitan area (before Walmart & JoAnn); and how Sears Roebuck had a new mail order catalog just out.

Now, understand, that this was a very different time and the division of labor by gender was not only accepted but preferred by many.  Occasionally you would get a daughter who loved doing the spring planting on the old red Farmall tractor or the sons (as in my family) who tolerated their mom teaching them how to mend a button or darn their socks.  These aberrations were looked upon as a way to create even hardier, more versatile human stock.

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The dads and brothers usually worked the farms and factories and the moms stayed home.  My mom was the exception.  She was a telephone operator in the next town. She grew the garden crops, “put them up” for the winter with the help of my sisters and worked a forty-hour week besides.

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The kids that got away after high school either made it or didn’t but seldom ever came back home to beg a roof over their head.  Once you left the fold you either made your fortune or were too ashamed to come back, hat in hand. This was looked upon as character building; but, also had a place in the community’s success. If someone came back to beg, they were considered a drain on the family and farm society in general.

Kids sometimes stagnated in the farm life and grew with resentment.  Frustrations were played out in petty crime that was soon grown out of or scared straight by a local law enforcement officer who was often a member of the same religious organization. Community pride.

Other than those occasional teen frustration episodes, family troubles were usually kept inside the family boundaries.  Alcohol dependence, abusive perpetrations, brutal disfunctions were kept tightly under wraps.  These problems at that time, in that place, were kept darkly quiet and secreted away within the walls of the farmhouse.

We left the farm and moved into town when I was around seven years old; but only a few miles (spittin’ distance) from the farm we left. I felt as if I were a part of that same farm community as many of the farm families went to the same town church on Sundays and some of the farm kids attended the parochial school that I had transferred to after leaving the country school.

Even after we left the farm, I continued to observe that same sarcasm, resilience and wit as I did when living the farm life. But town was different in so many ways. Next time.

All content including Photos on Sage Prairie are the property of Sage Prairie Studio, Jonni Rose and Sage Prairie©2018

Green Is the Color of Success

When you look outside on a breezy spring day, what do you see?

Green grass poking its spears out from the winter-dead brown thatch.  There is a promise in that green.  Future growth is the promise of spring.

In each of our lives we have many chances to renew ourselves. New Year’s resolutions; birthdays; big life events like college, a cross-country move, marriage, baby, divorce, new job, lost job; are significant turns on your path that you can use as an opportunity for positive growth. Who are you? What do you want to be? Where do you want to go? What is your color of success?

Your own greening.  A fresh spring.

When you gaze out your window this April….see the green….what does it mean to you?

All Photos on Sage Prairie are the property of SagePrairieStudio and Sage Prairie©2017