Thursday, November 21, 2013

Born Too Soon

Today is a sad day in our family, as we should have been rejoicing the birth of a new baby girl. This was my niece's due date. Instead little Merida died during the beginning of the 5th month of pregnancy. No reason that anyone can see; she was perfectly formed when they forced the delivery back in June. It is impossible to understand. My niece has been taking it very hard, which is totally understandable. We live a great distance apart so I have been limited in the support I can offer. My thoughts and prayers have been with her and her family every single day. But on this hardest of all days I wrote a poem for Merida and posted it on my niece's Facebook wall.


There were no cries
Never got to look into her eyes
Held only for a little while
She was born too soon.

We ask the question why
Barely had time to say good-bye
She was perfect in every way
She was born too soon.

Missed every single day
The heartache won’t go away
For the daughter, sister, niece
She was born too soon.

Now rocked by angels above
Our hearts are filled with love
Gone but never forgotten
She was born too soon.

Friday, November 15, 2013

St. Louis Outlet Malls

My friend was off work Monday for Veteran's Day, so we decided to check out the two new outlet centers in the St. Louis area. Like a lot of people, I am curious to see if the area can support two of these malls. And I fervently hope they are not the kiss of death for Chesterfield Mall.  We decided to stop first at Taubman Prestige Outlets, which is accessed via I-64 from the Boone's Crossing exit. Traffic was slow in the right lane exiting onto Boone's Crossing, but sadly for the center most people turned left heading to Chesterfield Commons rather than right towards Taubman Prestige Outlets. Once we arrived at the center the parking lot was quite empty.

The center is set up in a horizontal fashion, similar to a strip mall, with two rows of stores facing each other. Currently there are 48 stores open, with a few more stating that they are coming soon. Billed as a dog friendly destination, there are numerous watering stations for dogs as well as waste disposal bags. As there is no grassy area, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out where the dogs will be doing their business. I have a dog, but this is not a place I can see taking him. Not every store allows you to bring dogs inside, and I would never tie him up while I shopped. Three restaurants are open in the food court: Japanese, Chinese and Italian. We decided to see what was offered at the other center, so we did not eat here.

I was hoping to get some Christmas shopping done, but all I ended up buying was a chew antler at the pet store for the dog and a card game at the game store to play over Thanksgiving.

dog station

one of several dog sculptures

children's play area
Next we headed over to St. Louis Premium Outlets. We hopped back on I-64 at Boone's Crossing and drove west to the next exit, Long Road. After crossing back over the highway, you turn right on Chesterfield Airport Road and follow the signs to the shopping center. The differences in the two centers was noticable immediately. The parking lots here were packed! The layout of the center to accomodate the 90 stores is very different as well. There are three rows of stores, with anchor buildings on each end. The center just has a whole different vibe to it. We went first to the food court since it was lunch time. There are five places serving food inside, and they are typical of the restaurants you would find in any mall food court. Hopefully there is a plan to open up restaurants near this center as well as the other one.

After eating we went in quite a few of the stores. My assessment is that the pricing does not appear to be much better than if you went into these stores in a mall location, particularly when the mall stores have a sale going on. I will add, however, that the Christopher & Banks store at this location is larger than any I have ever been in before, so that was something at least.

The bottom line for me is that I will not make the drive again to go shopping, unless I have guests visiting and they want to go out there. And if we only have time to make one stop, it would definitely be at the St. Louis Premium Outlet due to the larger variety of stores and general overall feel of the center.

fireplace & seating area

one leg of the center


Monday, November 4, 2013

Fall Colors and More

The fall colors in our area have not been as outstanding as in past years, but nevertheless this is my favorite season and I like going for a drive to photograph the changing landscape. We decided to combine a fall drive with a genealogy trip, something I am not able to talk my husband into very often. But he doesn't mind visiting cemeteries, so he was okay with coming along for the ride to an old cemetery. I have been tugging on a branch of my dad's tree recently, and found a link to some ancestors who are buried in the Denson Pioneer Cemetery located just north of Ursa, Illinois. The Hightower family can be traced back to early Virginia in the 1600s, and beyond that to the 1500s in England and Ireland. Of course, there is the small matter that I have to prove the lineage.

George Hightower, my fourth great-grandfather, and his family moved from Virginia to Kentucky sometime before the 1800 census was taken. George and his wife then moved to Ursa, Illinois prior to 1840, and two of their six adult children also moved there during this time period. I found the burial information on the on the website I highly recommend this website if you haven't already checked it out. Volunteers are photographing headstones, transcribing them and putting them on this website. It is very helpful in corroborating death dates and/or locating exactly where your ancestors are buried. Often family associations are listed in the description of the deceased as well.

Kirby in the pumpkin patch
We took a leisurely drive to Ursa on Sunday, stopping whenever the mood struck to take photographs. I feel fortunate that my husband is just as enthusiastic about taking pictures as I am. Otherwise, one of us would not have been having a good time yesterday. We took the dog along, and he is definitely not as enamored with pausing for photo ops. He also did something at the cemetery that probably has resulted in him not going along for the ride in the future. More on that below.

The fall colors actually seemed a little prettier the further north we traveled. The area near Hannibal was the nicest I have seen anywhere this fall. Mark Twain would definitely have had something to write about had he been looking at the beautiful colors this weekend.

Denson Pioneer Cemetery sign
We arrived at the cemetery shortly after lunch. I am glad that the findagrave website included instructions on how to get to it, as I have no doubt I would have been unable to locate it on my own. You exit the county highway onto a tractor path to reach the small cemetery, which is completely surrounded by cornfields. The farmer had already mowed down the corn stalks, which made me wonder if you could even see the cemetery during the spring and summer months. I wasn't sure exactly where my family members were buried in the cemetery but I needn't have worried as it is quite small.  We found the headstones rather quickly. The state of the stones is quite sad, and not just the ones belonging to my ancestors. You can tell that a veterans group (most likely) is replacing the stones of the men who served in the Civil War, as they look pretty new. But many of the remaining stones are broken and/or toppled over. I don't think it is vandalism but instead is the result of years of the elements taking their toll on the limestone or sandstone markers. Here are the stones of George and his wife, Frances Ann (Hall) Hightower, along with their son Austin and his wife Mary (Caldwell) Hightower. Also we found George and Frances Ann's daughter Mary and her husband John Riddel. And while we were photographing the stones, the dog decided to take a roll in the hay, so to speak. Unfortunately it wasn't hay but horse manure he found. Why someone was riding a horse in this precious cemetery is anyone's guess. Let me just say that it was an extremely long ride home with a smelly dog.

Mary Hightower              

Austin Hightower

John Riddel

Mary Riddel

Frances Ann Hightower                                                                                                    

George Hightower