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A is for Appomattox Court House

You know the scene in Love Actually when Mark confesses his love to Juliet? The Juliet that is married to his best friend? He silently tells Juliet with hand-written signs that to him, she is perfect, and that he will love her for always. And then he walks away. And he says, “Enough. Enough now.” And my heart breaks– every time. Unrequited love, sigh. But at least it was over. Mark said what he needed to say and it was over. Because it’s a movie and not real, what happens after that truly does not matter, but it is my sincere hope that he found another true love; someone who loved him back in the same exact way.


But that’s not my point. Resolution is.

Oh my… how is she ever going to get to Appomattox?

I will. Don’t worry.


I got really into the Civil War for a while. I mean, I still think it’s completely fascinating, but for a while there I was like really far gone. (I don’t have interests per se, I have obsessions.)

My cousin Spruce recommended the Jeff and Michael Shaara father-son Civil War trilogy to me one time. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. Then I couldn’t get it out of my head. Then I went to Gettysburg and was just floored. Absolutely in awe of what that time, that place, that horrific war must have been like. I can’t even imagine… but I try. And scenes tumble around in my brain pretty frequently.

One of the most striking things about my obsession was my complete 180 regarding General Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the confederate forces. Let me explain.

Twice upon a time, long before graduate school, I visited Arlington National Cemetery and learned about the yellow-ish house on the hill that had belonged to Robert E. Lee and his family before the Civil War. I knew little about Lee at the time, except that he’d commanded the Confederate Army, and in my black and white world, that was enough.


Robert E. Lee was a bad man and he deserved to have his land taken away. Better yet, he deserved to have it stand as a symbol of the horrors he wrought– I thought of Arlington National Cemetery as a sort of personal punishment for Lee as a result of his involvement with the Confederacy.

Oy, not so. Not so at all.

Granted, the Shaara trilogy is technically historical fiction, so many of the scenes are imagined, but it’s all based as much as possible in fact, and I learned that Lee was not nearly as one-dimensional, and definitely not as evil, as I had always pictured.

Lee was sick and tired before the war even started. Literally sick (cardiac issues, I believe) and tired of fighting in war after war. He was offered command of the Union Army first, but declined on account of his familial roots in the south and later took up command of the Confederate Army.

The battle details get somewhat fuzzy for me, I’m not good with the names and the dates and the details, but the feelings really stuck with me– the struggle, the futility, the exhaustion. Lee was absolutely sad. He did not like killing and he did not like ordering his men to their death. Yet, he was brilliant at it. And he did it all out of a sense of duty and honor and commitment, the likes of which was unparalleled. I think Lincoln even knew that, and I truly don’t think he held it against Lee personally.

As time wore on and on and the Confederate Army became more and more desperate for resources of every type, including and perhaps most importantly able-bodied men, surrender became inevitable. From what I understand, surrender was inevitable for a while and I can only imagine how painful it must have been for Lee to carry on knowing that every death past that point was for naught. So that brings us to my favorite scene: The surrender of General Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the Union Army, at the Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

Can you even imagine the relief? To know that it’s finally, truly, really over. I have to believe that even though it was surrender and not victory, it was probably past the point of even mattering. All that mattered was that it was over.

Sometimes, just seeing something out, getting to the end, is enough, no matter the outcome.

Both Lee and Grant handled surrender, defeat, and victory incredibly gracefully, in my opinion. I can only imagine the relief they both must have felt at that moment, just to know that the endless fighting could stop.

Have you seen the movie Lincoln? You should– it’s really good. It’s not actually about the Civil War, but rather about Lincoln’s efforts to get the 13th Amendment through Congress. Even though that’s the case, it’s practically impossible to not show the surrender of General Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse before showing the assassination of Lincoln (a mere 5 days later) and that is another respect in which the movie truly does not disappoint– it’s my favorite scene of the whole movie, even though it’s minor. I thought they did such a nice job of capturing the simplicity of the end and the relief felt by everyone.


Really, I’m not trying to relate anything in my life to that moment at Appomattox. And the parallel between the final moments of the Civil War and that scene in Love Actually is weak. But A is actually for Appomattox, and I got there, like I said.

Ladies and gentlemen: The Letter A.

Winter Forever

A fun little diddy I came up with this morning just for you:

This is the snow that never ends!
Yes it snows on and on my friends!
Some people started shoveling it not knowing what it was
And they’ll continue shoveling it forever just because
This is the snow that never ends…

Imagine Shari Lewis singing it as Lambchop. Lambchop in a little red winter hat and red winter mittens.


Interesting that I have a very distinct image in my head of Lambchop wearing a red hat and red scarf and yet, I cannot find such an image anywhere. Did I invent that memory? Am I combining Lambchop’s red mittens with Beaker’s red scarf from The Muppet Christmas Carol?

…Oh man, great news… while searching for an image of Lambchop, I came across a picture of Lambchop with Kermit! How awesome is that?!


Answer: crazy awesome!


Anyway, fingers crossed this is the last bit of snow we have to deal with this spring! Hope you enjoy the song! (On repeat… mwuahahaha!)

A list of things that make me feel smug. Super smug.

I had such a great start to my day today. It was 7 degrees below zero this morning and the windchill was something ridiculously below that. It was cool though, because I dressed warm with a hat and mittens and all that, but I still wasn’t exactly looking forward to the hike from my car to the building. But, I noticed when I parked that one of the security vehicles stopped in front of me (I pulled through– because it makes me feel smug to not have to reverse when I leave) and rolled down his window.

My initial reaction was “CRAP! Am I outside the lines or something?!” but that nice, nice man offered me a ride to the building instead! Seriously?! I was thrilled! I usually enjoy a nice walk to start my day and again in the evening, but this snot-freezing cold isn’t exactly pleasant. So instead, I climbed in, he cranked the heat, and we listened to Christmas tunes and chatted until he dropped me off right at the door. I was absolutely delighted by this small kindness!

But, I’ve got to admit, I was also feeling kind of smug when I stepped out of that car and walked right up the stairs and in the door, barely feeling the chill. And I thought to my self, “Good grief! The things that make me feel smug are so silly! I should make a list.” And this is that list.

Things That Make Me Feel Smug

  1. Living somewhere colder than you. I know, it’s ridiculous, right? I of course have absolutely no control over the weather and neither do you, and yet, when it’s colder here than it is there– I get smug. The high for today: -2 degrees. Smugness.
  2. Being able to reach that thing on the top shelf. I’m tall and I have got some seriously monkey-style arms. Before I instituted a ban on negative self-talk (for other people mostly, but sometimes they call me on it), I complained about it a lot. And yet, when there’s something up high that needs to be grabbed, I feel super smug when I’m the only one that can do it.
  3. Having a real Christmas tree. Real trees are messy and expensive and can be a major source of bother for allergy sufferers… and yet, having a real one makes me feel totally smug. Please don’t mistake smugness for judgement. This is about me, not you. But that tree, it gets me!
  4. When I hit 10,000 steps in a day. I wear an UP band every day (I’ve told you about that before) and those days when I hit my goal (and the goal everyone is supposed to have or something) I feel totally smug. Boom… step x 10,000! I rule!
  5. Using my passport when I travel domestically. Unnecessary? Oh yes. But it makes me feel so worldly. Like yeah, I have a passport, it’s really NBD. (Except the first time I tried to use my passport at BWI, the TSA guy was like, “Is this your first time using your passport?” I, naturally, beamed at him with a huge YES and started going on about my vacation. To which he responded, “You need to sign it.” Not so smug right then.)
  6. Having an out-of-state driver’s license. I was truly sad the day I had to get my new Wisconsin license because being carded was no longer so exciting. I loved buying a bottle of wine at Festival Foods and having the cashier ask me when I moved here and why. It was a fun little way to start a conversation. And it made me feel super smug– yeah, I did just move here from a big city, whatevs. I’m a Sconi through and through now, though. No more smugness… unless I get carded in California. That still makes me feel smuggy– just a little Sconi from a small town on vacation in SoCal 😉
  7. Buying a whole chicken. I was scared of roasting a whole chicken for a really long time. Until I did it once. It was actually crazy easy and oh so ridiculously delicious. I’ve loved doing it ever since. And I always feel so smug when I buy one. Look at me, buying this whole chicken like Julia Child, and yes, I am going to season and cook it myself. I’m even going to make stock out of the carcass. Go ahead, be impressed.

How about you? What makes you feel smug? I can’t be the only one.

I had a friend in college who always looked smug, my friend Aimee and I (yes, that Aimee) called him Smuggums– appropriate and a palindrome. Making up good nicknames makes me feel smug too… just ask my sister, Shabsky.

An announcement to stay tuned and a birthday wish!

AHH!  You GUYS!  I am SO excited about Under the Tapestry’s inaugural Profile in Awesome coming up next Wednesday– trust me, you do not want to miss it!  Concerned that you might?  Pop your email address into the window to the right to subscribe or friend me on Facebook (Rachel Stankowski) or follow me on Twitter (@rachelstanski).

But for today… today….

Today is my Grandma Rita’s birthday!  Happy birthday, Grandma Rita!!

I think she’s turning about 60 or so… right, Grandma?  Regardless, she doesn’t look a day over 59!  The most important thing to know about my grandma is this:

There is nothing… NOTHING…  that feels better than being loved the way my Grandma Rita loves.

To be loved by my Grandma Rita is a privilege, a treat, an honor, a revelation, a lesson in how to live a good life.  She loves her family, she loves her friends, and she is willing to wrap just about anyone into that fold– as friend or family, no matter how you walk into her life or she walks into yours.

Big holidays are such a prime example.  It’s never odd for there to be a new significant other, friend, coworker, or neighbor without family of their own joining us at the table.  And never once have I seen my grandma put out by this– everyone is welcomed with open arms, big smiles, and lots of good conversation and amazing food (seriously, my Grandpa John’s fudge… to die for… and if my Aunt Debbi has baked something… oy, my mouth is watering).

In fact, my grandma is so welcoming that even people who join unexpectedly at Christmas are never forgotten by Santa.  I’ve been the odd man out before at someone else’s family Christmas, and it can be hard.  But when you come to my Grandma’s house at Christmas, Santa shows up with something in his bag specifically for you.  Like with your name on it.  I’ve seen the shock and joy on practical strangers faces time and time again.  But that’s what my Grandma Rita does.

Master story teller and published author, Pastel the clown, ringleader of the Wardcliff Kindergarten Circus, lifelong teacher and student, world traveler, and avid reader– a huge happy birthday to my beautiful Grandma Rita!



By the way… I’m literally making homemade (like started from the dang tomatoes) ketchup right now. I’m the homeliest!!

Paralyzed by Indecision

Have you ever felt like you had so many things to do that you all you could do was nothing?

Of course you have.  Who hasn’t?

I kind of feel like that right now, except not about things to do (well, kind of about that too, but that’s not the point ), but about things to say…

I am BURSTING right now with things to tell you! Bursting to the point that none of the words want to wait their turn! And those impatient words are trying so desperately to get all over my screen that it’s turning into the crab in the bucket phenomenon and I am paralyzed.

Since nothing else is working, I’m going to let the words come and see where we go. (Out of the bucket, you crabs!!)

First, not posting yesterday nearly destroyed me. I worked late (unnecessarily so, more on that another day), did lots of stuffs around the house and yard, made some phone calls and emailed some friends, canned 5 quarts of homemade enchilada sauce (you should seriously invite yourself over to my very homely home for enchiladas sometime– it’s good stuff!), and then finally sat down with my computer (at something ridiculous like 11:30 pm– I am nearing 30, this is WAY past my bedtime) with the intent to pound out a crappy post and put it out there just so that I didn’t break my own arbitrary rules about posting Monday through Thursday.

Let me say that again: I planned to pound out a crappy post just to say that I posted, because it was Wednesday.  And I told you I would post on Wednesdays.  Lame.

Are you offended? You should be, dear reader! You deserve much better from me! My (almost) apologies for the crappy thing that (almost) happened.

Anyway, some of the many, many things I am dying to discuss with you…

After posting about the 23 Things, I keep seeing examples of these ideas at play in my life– over and over and over again– and I’m pretty excited to tell you about them.  Nothing more satisfying than supporting evidence!  (Except chocolate.  I would gladly accept chocolate in lieu of evidence.)  I’m also excited to tell you a story about stories and to share with you some of the information from my “Personal Interest” folder…

That’s pages and pages of notes on things I find absolutely fascinating. So excited to delve into it!

Finally, I am super excited to announce a little series I am going to call “Profiles in Awesome.” I know a lot of really, really awesome people (not to be sexist, but women especially) that have eaten too much humble pie and I think I need to tell you about them. But most importantly, I want them to tell you (and the whole world!!) about themselves, so I’m going to do interviews! I can’t wait!!  (Of course, I am making a lot of assumptions here… and really just hoping that people will answer my interview questions.  I think they will.  I can be persuasive.  And I will guilt trip you (MS) if you try to tell me no.  Guilt always works.  Guilt and jalapeno poppers.  And maybe a promise of relative-anonymity.  Anyway, I’m determined to make this work!)


And while you’re here– please throw a Happy Birthday shout out into the universe for my SASsy friend!!

Begging for Belly Rubs


A quick Saturday afternoon post over this lovely Labor Day weekend. (We’re spending it in Green Bay– the Holy Land. Go Pack Go!!)

Every morning while I get ready for work, my dog Curly (for Curly Lambeau– I told you Green Bay is our holy land) follows me around. Just before I head out the door, she rolls over on her back to let me know she wants a belly rub. It puts a smile on my face and I happily oblige. (Metaphorical smile– I’m totally not a morning person. Regardless, I do oblige.)

Asking for what you want– what a concept. I don’t think I consciously learned that from Curls, but it seems to be something I put in action lately. To my husband, “I love you– do you love me?” To my boss, “I’d like to work on this project, here’s why…” And it works!

Although, I can’t imagine that I’m as cute as Curls begging for a belly rub.