Tag Archives: GodSigns

Unforgettable: Memories bind a musician and her mother

Patty Peterson’s mother was unforgettable.

Patty comes from what local press calls Minnesota’s First Family of Music. The Petersons comprised matriarch Jeanne Arland and siblings Linda, Billy, Ricky and Paul; nephew Jason Peterson De Laire; and cousins Tom and Russ—all performing musicians and singers. Patty’s dad, pianist Willie Peterson, died in 1969. Her Mom was, Patty says, “a brilliant jazz pianist and singer.” When Jeanne was widowed, Patty “became her pal.”

A popular jazz singer and radio host (Minneapolis Jazz88 FM), Patty performed often with her mother. “We kidded that we were the Jazz Judds,” Patty says. “Mother would say from stage: But we just didn’t have their money!”

Jeanne died in June, 2013. After, Patty and her family spent many hours going through Jeanne’s possessions. There were dozens of glitzy, glamorous pieces of costume jewelry that sparkled in the lights on stage and which Patty wanted to go to nieces and granddaughters. As Patty worked in her mother’s home, she listened to her mom’s jazz tapes. “I’d talk to her out loud, like she was in the room with me. I’d say, ‘Mother, your voice is so pure.’ Or ‘Wow! Listen to that lick you just played on the piano!'” (A lick is an arpeggio, or musical technique where notes in a chord are played in sequence. Yes, I had to look it up.)

Patty kept asking her mother for a sign. For months, she waited. Her dad had come to her in a vivid dream about 4 months after he died.

Her mom: nada.

One day, 9 months after Jeanne died, Patty returned to her mother’s home. She was sitting on the bedroom floor sorting jewelry when she noticed something under Jeanne’s vanity. Patty had gone through the room earlier. Whatever the object was, she says, “It wasn’t there before.” It turned out to be a child’s book, well worn, with the front and back cover missing. The first page was folded.

“As I opened it, I realized it was Zippy the Chimp, the first book I ever loved.” (The children’s book was based on the life of the real Zippy. Born in 1951, Zippy became one of the most famous performing chimps in that era. YouTube has a clip of Zippy on Ed Sullivan’s variety show.)

What was the connection with Patty?

Patty was born pigeon-toed. “I was so tiny I could walk beside Mom holding her hand, touching the sidewalk with my other hand. With my turned in feet, I guess I looked like Zippy the Chimp. Zippy became Mom’s nickname for me.”

In discovering that book, “Mom found a really inside way to let me know she was still there with me. It’s as though she said, ‘Oh, yeah. I’m here, Patty. I’m fine. I see what you’re doing for my house and for our family.'”

Patty opened the book and found her childish printing from years ago: “This is Patty’s book. I can read this book.” When she read those words, she “felt a rush so strong that I knew the message came from another place … from her. It touched my heart. No one else knew what that book meant to me.”

Patty used to host a talk show that included spiritual subjects. When clairvoyant author James Van Praagh was a guest, he recommended looking for a picture to appear unexpectedly when someone from another place wants to connect with us. For Patty, Zippy was that connection.

Mother of 4 adult sons and grandmother of 4 (5 in September), Patty is no stranger to miracles. Seven years ago, she survived a potentially deadly aortic dissection (a tear in the main blood vessel coming from her heart). Surgery to correct the problem was successful. Patty has become a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, Go Red for Women and the TAD Coalition.

Not long ago, Patty (a pal of mine from afar), was especially touched by something said to her. A woman attending a church service where Patty was singing commented on the  the extent to which Patty shares her time and talents. This stranger said something which behooves us all to remember:

“You really live your gift.”

A lesson she learned from her mother.

TO LEARN MORE about Patty’s music, visit her website.

(Have deceased loved ones reached out to you?  Thanks for sharing your stories.)

Author’s Father Returns in Song She Sought for Years

Writing a biography presents challenges for any author. Details elude. Disappointed by her inability to find the lyrics to a song that was central to her parents’ story, Carol Jean Delmar published her book without them.

LA-based Carol Jean’s biography of her Holocaust survivor parents, Franz Jung and Franziska Perger, is moving and well-researched. Serenade: A Memoir of Music and Love is based on her father’s audiotapes and on Carol Jean’s travel to places her parents lived or visited. Franz was an opera singer whose extraordinary bass-baritone voice disappeared. He then rose to head the costume department at CBS. He supervised costumes for blockbuster films like Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and TV shows including The Untouchables.

The book has received lots of praise, including an inspiring note from E. Randol Schoenberg, the grandson of composers Arnold Schoenberg and Eric Zeisl and president of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. He wrote that Carol Jean’s memoir was, “Gripping and beautiful … the musical culture that was a part of their being, the terror of having it all ripped away by the Nazis, is of course very familiar to me, and yet, as always, uniquely compelling to read.”

Still, there was that lingering question of … that one song.

En route to Cuba, where Franz and Franziska lived while awaiting US visas, Franz sang at the Cine General Salom in Venezuela. Included in that concert was a love song Carol Jean thought was called, Sweetheart, Sweetheart, Sweetheart. She scoured music stores and bought sheet music; none represented the song in her head. She regretted being unable to track the song down.

This December, ten years after her beloved father died, Carol Jean felt especially lonely. Flipping through TV stations, she stopped on a PBS classical music station. The first video played was the song she’d sought, actually titled Will You Remember from Sigmund Romberg’s Maytime.

“Suddenly there it was,” Carol Jean says. “George London was singing it for the old Firestone Hour. I got the composer’s name, went to YouTube and found it. It was a sign. My father knew I was sad and lonely this past holiday season. I believe he was there somehow, sitting in my kitchen where he always sat for dinner, letting me know he was watching over me.”

In a clip she found from a 1937 movie, Maytime, Nelson Eddy sings the song to Jeanette MacDonald when she’s a young woman. Later, Eddy comes back as an old man—in MacDonald’s mind’s eye.

“That’s when It got eerie,” Carol Jean says. “In the book, my parents serenade each other with music, letters and poetry. I serenade them with my book. Now, suddenly my father was back, serenading me in a different way. He was telling me I’m not alone. My family is with me and everything will be all right.”

Days later, Carol Jean felt blue again. Lying in bed, she clicked on the Turner Movie Channel—and, what was playing?


She’d never seen the old film. At the end, the older couple watches a young couple walk away. “My heart started thumping,” she says. “It felt like my parents were happy together, looking over me, but telling me something I needed to hear. To go and live my life.”

By the way, in the refrain of Will You Remember, one line goes: “I love you in life’s gray December.”

Remember when Carol first heard the song? Go figure.

(Godsigns appear through all our senses.  Please send me yours.)

Discovering the Religious Significance of Pretzels

I love discovering a story, when I’m least expecting it. While wandering through the Petoskey Antiques Show here in Michigan—I heard a story that I saved until this month as 2 billion Christians around the world approach their season of Lent.

It’s the story of a common snack food—pretzels—with a religious history that reaches deep into the traditions of Lent, the Christian season of fasting and reflection that leads to Easter.

I thank antiques dealer Rick Klass for starting the story as I talked with him at the Petoskey show. Most of us associate pretzels with Germany. After all, the German-style Snyders company sells more than twice as many pretzels in the U.S. each year as the second-ranking brand, Rold Gold.

“The Germans take credit for creating pretzels,” Rick told me, “but the credit belongs to Italy.” He explained that, during Lent many centuries ago, Italian monks baked unleavened bread. They rolled the left-over scraps into tubes and formed them into the shape of children’s arms folded across their chests in prayer. They were soft-baked as rewards for children who correctly recited their religious lessons. The monks called these treats “pretiolas,” Latin for “little rewards.”  The 3-part shape of the pretzel was also associated with the Holy Trinity.

As your humble fact checker, I dug further into the history of these salty treats. In Lynne Meredith Golodner’s book, The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads, I discovered a second legend concerning the pretzel’s origin. Lynne acknowledges the Italian gifts story, but also cites a source that says the treats were first called “little arms” in another Latin phrase that also sounded like “pretzel” when Germans took up the recipe.

Little rewards? Little arms? There are so many variations on the legends, Lynne concludes, that the early history of the pretzel, 1400 years ago, is impossible to nail down today.

What is known? The first popular pretzels in America are associated with German and Austrian immigrants, especially communities in Pennsylvania. To this day, Lynne found, Pennsylvanians eat 12 times more pretzels than other Americans.

Now, whether crispy or soft, pretzels are firmly linked to Lent in many congregations where the early legends are repeated each year. The world’s oldest sketches and descriptions of these treats are in manuscripts now stored in the Vatican Library.

Take your pick, Lynne concludes: The classic shape can remind you simply of arms folded in prayer—or, more specifically, the Christian Trinity. Both associations are correct.

And, that’s an inspiration: Salty flavor and spiritual mystery in a single crunchy bite.

P.S.  Please share your Godsigns stories with me, and give blog readers something else to chew on.

THE PHOTOS WITH TODAY’S COLUMN: Thanks to food stylist Celeste Dykas and food photographer Stephanie Fenton for these photographs, which were made for use with Lynne Golodner’s book, The Flavors of Faith: Holy Breads.

Shih Tzu Orphan Annie Finds A Home

In April of 2011, Sandi and Jerry lost their beloved blonde Shih Tzu, Sammy.  Sammy had been part of the family for 17 years and was the couple’s second blonde Shih Tzu.  Sandi and Jerry had both grown up with dogs and had owned one through four-plus decades of marriage.

Sandi was done.  She didn’t want to go through the sadness of losing another pet.  Their children were adults, living on their own.  They had just remodeled and redecorated their house in Scottsdale, AZ.  And Sandi wanted to travel without worrying about a pet left behind. Case dismissed.

But not quite.

Jerry spent months researching websites, looking for a third blonde Shih Tzu and hoping Sandi would relent.  He found the Ruby Ranch Shelter in Phoenix, AZ.   Owner Pam rescues unwanted dogs, many with special needs, and fosters them until finding them a home.  On weekends, she shows them in a pen she sets up at Petsmart.

Sandi remained firm.  No more dogs.

Cut to Yuma, AZ, 150 miles from Scottsdale.  An elderly woman had two blonde Shih Tzus—one with bladder stones,  one healthy.  Unable to afford surgery for the first, the owner left both dogs with a vet.  He called a local rescuer.

After almost 1 and ½ years, Sandy recovered from grieving Sammy.   She began to think “it might be nice” to have a dog again.  She gave Jerry her qualifications.  No puppy.  A female.  (In case of an accident, she wouldn’t lift her leg on new upholstered furniture,)

That was all Jerry needed to hear.  He emailed Pam.

Pam had both dogs brought from Yuma to Phoenix.  She funded surgery for the sick one and contacted Jerry about the other.

Sandi and Jerry, who had seen and passed on a different dog, drove to Petsmart.  They met a 5-year old Shih Tzu named Annie.  They held her, walked her on a leash, and fell in love.  Annie won Sandi’s vote.  Pam agreed to keep Annie for a week while the couple took care of previous commitments.

Sandi says, “As we left, Annie was standing with her front paws on the fence of the pen.  She watched us walk away.  Her big eyes seemed to say: Where are you going?  Don’t you want me?”

After a week with her new family, Annie stopped hiding under the coffee table.  Now she dances on her hind legs when Sandi & Jerry come home, has taken over Jerry’s favorite chair, and sleeps snuggled in their bed.  As Sandi puts it, “Annie, like Sammy, runs the household.”

Sandi says, “With people and dogs, there’s chemistry.  You just know when something is right.  Annie’s a perfect fit.”

Rescue dogs often don’t come with papers.  Annie did.  Looking through her papers, Sandi was startled. She realized that the exact time Annie’s former owner decided to give her up was the exact time she changed her mind.

In Yiddish there’s an expression, beshert, or meant to be.  That’s just how Sandi and Jerry feel about Annie.   As for Annie (sorry about this…), she thinks it’s bow-shert.


(Please send me your Godsign stories about subjects that bark, neigh or simply speak.)


On A Farm in Northern Michigan, A Grateful Appaloosa Says Goodbye

Highs and Lows.  They’re part of a day on the farm.

The day started off with grey skies, chilling drizzle and wind.  And a call alerting us to the poor health of our Appaloosa mare Chinoek.   “Collicky,” our manager warned.  The vet was coming.  At the stable we peered into a stall at a long brown and white speckled face.  Chinoek, at 30, was no longer the proud, galloping steed who, with a flick of her head, could back off the herd.  She had been given medicine to settle her stomach.  She wore a navy blue blanket.  She gazed at us sadly, then limped to the bars of the stall, to Burton and me in turn.  We each reached in to give her a gentle scratch.  She lumbered to the center of her stall, bent her arthritic legs and  heaved with a thud to the sawdust laden floor.

That day we had agreed to host a trail ride on our farm as a fundraiser for The Front Porch restaurant in Ellsworth, MI, a tiny town hard hit by the last recession.  The Front Porch is unique and not just for its yummy American fries.   Begun and supported by several local churches, it operates on an unusual basis.  Diners pay what they can for breakfast and lunch–sometimes more; sometimes zero.  When only a few riders signed up for the trail ride, it was postponed–fortunately since it was a sad day around the barn.

Part of the event was a raffle.  A $500 cash prize was donated.  By the day of the drawing, all 1000 tickets were sold. Additional donations raised a total of $7000.  John, manager of the Hastings Funeral Home in Ellsworth and past president of The Front Porch, was the star ticket seller.  Early on he’d tried selling a ticket to a local man.  It was against his religion to gamble, the man said.  “Don’t look at it as gambling,” John parried.  “It’s a charity donation.”  The man reached for his wallet.  John started to write his name on the ticket.  The man objected.

John had recently conducted a funeral for someone who died in his young 50s, leaving behind a wife and six children.   The widow was struggling to support her family.  John wrote her name on the ticket.  Others joined in this effort, without ever informing the possible recipient.  By the end of the raffle, John had racked up 670 ticket sales.

The drawing took place at our barn.  The winner turned out to be a retired woman who’d taught in the Ellsworth schools, as had her husband.  Their son was getting married soon.  She was thrilled to save the money for the church wedding.

Sara, the large animal vet, showed up.  Burton met her at Chinoek’s stall.  I didn’t have the heart to join him.  Winter was approaching.  Chinoek was suffering.  Sara had put down her sister the day before at a different barn.  She recommended the same for Chinoek.

Burton returned to the farmhouse and told me what had happened.  I said, “This morning when Chinoek came over to each of us, I had the feeling she was saying, ‘Goodbye.’”

“So did I,” Burton said.  “I mentioned it to Sara.  She said, ‘I don’t think she was saying goodbye.  I think she was saying thank you.’”

Now, it’s your turn …

Please send me your Godsign stories, big and small, about humans or animals. And, please, share this story with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook icons or the envelope-shaped email icons. Invite friends to share their stories, too.

(And special thanks to jumpinghooves for the photo, today.)



Novelist Karen Kingsbury Meets Her Hero Rod Stewart

Novelist Karen Kingsbury visited New York City to meet with her publisher. Her novel, The Bridge, had become a best seller; her publisher signed her to a 10-book deal. After, she was walking the High Line elevated park on Manhattan’s West Side, thinking how she wished she could share the news with her father. Her dad, her “first and biggest fan,” had died six years earlier.

She murmured, “Have I told you lately that I love you, Dad?”

The line came from her father’s favorite song: the Rod Stewart version of “Have I Told You Lately.”  Her dad called her when he first heard it.  It summed up his feelings for his family, he said.  “Whenever you hear it, know that I love you.” They continued to call each other whenever and wherever they heard the song. “It connected us,” Karen says.

The title was engraved on her father’s headstone.

Walking with daughter, Kelsey, and son-in-law, Kyle, Karen thought this was “one of those moments when Dad would have been so proud of me, and I couldn’t share it with him.” To distract herself, she suggested taking a picture. She stretched her arm out, trying to hold the camera far enough away that she, Kelsey and Kyle were all in the frame. A man passing by offered to help. He was dressed stylishly in jeans and a sweater, had spiky blonde hair and spoke with an accent.

As the man walked away, it dawned on her.

She sped after him. “Excuse me, sir!”

He turned around.

“Are you Rod Stewart?”

“Sometimes,” he said.

She told him about her dad’s favorite song.

Tears filled his eyes. “Can I give you a hug?” he asked. He pulled her to him. “You made my day.”

Karen writes about the encounter in the August issue of Guideposts magazine. She concludes: “Just when I was missing my dad so badly, the rock star who sang our song crosses my path? Really? You could never plan or even imagine something like that!  But Someone had.”

(Thanks, Linda, for passing along this delightful Godsign story.)

In Second Marriage, Love Blossoms Again


Anne nursed husband Bob through five tough years with cancer.  Before he died, he said, “You will meet someone with even more in common.  My best legacy will be for you to enjoy a happy second marriage.”

Fourteen months after Bob died, his prophecy had not come true.  Then, at a neighborhood holiday party in Santa Barbara, CA, Anne ran into a local builder.  He was renovating the elegant nearby San Ysidro Ranch and offered her a free night in the hotel. She decided to spend Christmas Eve there.

A week later at a different party, Anne spotted Michael across the room.  A casual acquaintance and local philanthropist, Michael was several years older.  Still Anne says, “I felt an invisible hand on my shoulder pushing me toward him.”  This old-fashioned, 60-something widow found herself asking Michael what he was doing Christmas Eve.  “Not much,” he said.  She invited him to dinner.

She reported the invitation to me, her big sister.  I shrieked, “You invited him to a hotel? What will he think?”

“I don’t know how I had the nerve to ask Mike out, especially to a hotel,” Anne says.  “I had never done anything like that before.  I think I was propelled by Bobby.”

Michael arrived at Anne’s cottage bearing a bottle of champagne and a large bouquet of roses.  They dined and talked in front of a glowing fire and danced to the one CD in the cottage.   At 11pm, Michael “gave me a lovely kiss and was out the door, the perfect gentleman.”

The next morning, Anne gathered up the roses.  In the firelight, they had looked pink.  In daylight, she realized they were apricot.  Apricot was the color of the roses she carried in her wedding to Bob over 32 years ago.  Bob had continued to present them every year for their anniversary.  Just before he died, he’d paid the florist in advance to deliver apricot roses to Anne once a month for the next year.  As if the flowers weren’t enough of a Godsign, Anne realized something else.  The CD to which she’d danced with Michael was by Tony Bennett—Anne and Bob’s favorite singer.

Later that morning, Anne returned home.  Michael had dropped off a bag of seedless tangerines.  The note read, “These are from my tree.  They are sweet but not as sweet as you.”  Seedless tangerines were Bob’s favorite fruit.  And the bag Michael put them in was a Hallmark-type bag with a photo of Venice, Italy.  Venice was Bob’s favorite city and the last big trip Anne and Bob took together.

Putting her apricot roses into a vase, Anne walked upstairs and placed her hand on an antique silver box holding some of Bob’s ashes. She asked: Is this the man you want for me?  She says she felt “a warm current run up and down my spine.”

Anne and Mike have been married for seven years.  Friends often call their marriage a match made in heaven. 

Anne says, “I couldn’t agree more.”