A Visit to Jan Karon’s Mitford Museum

I first discovered Jan Karon several years ago in the pages of Victoria magazine, which my “adopted mom” used to send me. Jan was Victoria‘s “Writer in Residence” one year. I don’t remember what she wrote in those pages, but I liked it and was inspired to look up her books.

Jan has written a whole series of novels set in Mitford, a fictitious small North Carolina town. The main character, Father Tim, is not your typical novel hero. He’s not suave, handsome, young, and muscular. He is middle-aged, balding, a little overweight, and often unsure of himself. But he and the other Mitford residents are some of the most endearing characters in literature.

I loved the stories and characters, but I was also amazed at the amount of spiritual truth woven in them. These books were not marketed as Christian fiction, yet they contained clear salvation decisions, Scripture, and scriptural applications.

I know I have read through all the Mitford books at least once, maybe twice, and I have listened to the audiobooks once. I have not reviewed them individually, but I gave a brief synopsis of each Mitford book here.

My friend, Melanie, is also a Mitford and Jan Karon fan. I think she was the one who alerted me that a Mitford Museum was being created in the school Jan attended in Hudson, NC. Their grand opening was last October, with many special events planned for the day. We would have loved to have gone then, but felt it would be too busy. Plus Covid was more active then. We decided we’d try to go this spring.

And we finally went this past week! My dear husband agreed to drive us. The museum was a little over three hours from us, but we planned to leave about 8, get there by 11:30, have lunch, and then spend the next few hours at the museum before heading back home.

It was closer to 12:30 by the time we got there, due to traffic, weather, and detours.

Melanie is on a few Mitford Facebook groups and had asked for recommendations for restaurants. We went to the Vintage Cafe and Bakery. It was so good. I loved the atmosphere of the place. They brought the best yeast rolls and sweet butter I have ever had to the table as an appetizer. We didn’t take a picture of any of the food–we were too hungry. But it was wonderful.

One interesting tidbit about the Vintage Cafe: sometimes they make the Orange Marmalade Cake that appears in almost every Mitford book. They didn’t have it when we were there. They don’t make it often because it is expensive, plus the owner had just made several servings of it for a Mitford tea the week before at the Museum.

We also had a couple of neat encounters at the cafe. Melanie knew a couple of people who worked at the museum through the Facebook groups. One of the ladies was eating there as we came in. Melanie had asked her to tell another lady that we would miss her, because we were running late, and this lady got off before we’d get to the museum. But in a little while, the second lady came to the cafe to see Melanie after she got off. I thought that was a sweet gesture.

On to the museum.

I had not realized that the museum was only one part of a larger enterprise. I did not take a picture of the front of the building, but I had seen it here. I thought that was the whole building, and that all of it was the Mitford Museum. But the building is three times the length of what’s in the picture and houses several businesses, arts-related offices, little shops, etc. It’s called the Hub Station and was formerly the Hudson School. The Mitford Museum takes up two classroom-sized rooms and a gift shop. One of the rooms was Jan’s actual classroom.

These are in the hallway leading up to the museum door.

Jan Karon's Mitford Museum

The two rooms that make up the museum are filled with memorabilia. There are notes from Jan at each display, telling what objects were or explaining some behind-the-scenes detail about them. Some items are from her childhood, like a big cast iron pot that her grandmother did laundry in. Some have to do with Jan’s life as an author. I had not known that she wrote ads for NC before writing books, but some are on the walls there–I think I have even seen them in magazines. Her descriptiveness and way with words shines through even there. One section shows the different houses she lived in and which books she wrote in which house.

One of Jan’s actual desks is in the museum, along with some of her manuscripts. I wish I had taken a picture of the whole desk–it’s massive.

Jan’s typewriter, a gift from her daughter
An edited part of a manuscript

Above the desk is framed art work from the original covers of several of the books.

I had not read Jan’s children’s books, but one, Miss Fanny’s Hat, was based on her actual. . . I can’t remember if it was her mother or grandmother. But there is a picture of the real “Miss Fanny” wearing her hat, and the hat itself in a curio cabinet.

This was in a space between the two rooms:

If you’ve read Shepherds Abiding, you know Father Tim picked up an old, broken down Nativity set that he restored for Cynthia. That story grew from an old Nativity set Cynthia bought. If I remember correctly, I think Jan had a local artist restore it and included some of her experiences in Father Tim’s. That Nativity is in the museum. It’s huge.

Another interesting story was that Cynthia married Father Tim in an aquamarine suit. Some time later, Jan saw this suit on eBay and said it looked exactly like what she had envisioned for Cynthia’s wedding suit. So Jan bought it, and now it’s in the museum.

I don’t know if you can read the print here, but this house was the basis for the Meadowgate Farm in the books, home of Father Tim’s friend and veterinarian who becomes his adopted son Dooley’s mentor.

And I took this picture for the Author game that inspired Jan (which I had never heard of but now what to find!) But at the time, I missed reading the plaque above talking about how Jan declared to herself in the mirror passed down from her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother that she was going to be an author some day. I wish I had gotten a photo of the mirror, too!

The friendly and informative docent took this picture of Melanie and me “with” Jan.

Melanie and I with Jan

Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures with Jim!

The gift shop is called Happy Endings after the bookstore in the books.

Those are some of my favorite spots in the museum. Melanie shared some of hers here. There is much more to see.

We made it just a day trip since there wasn’t much else to see in Hudson (though I spied some antique shops for those interested). Blowing Rock is nearby, but we didn’t want to stay overnight this time.

Because of the distance, I don’t know that I would go to the Museum again unless there was something going on I didn’t want to miss. They had just had a Mitford Tea at the Museum the week before, with Jan in attendance, and they’re planning another next May. I’m thinking about that. There is also a play about Mitford that I’d love to see sometime with Jim, since he’s not familiar with the books, but probably not this year. It sounds like they’ve done it before, so hopefully they’ll do it again.

I’ve shared links to the museum and Jan’s web page above, but the Museum has an active Facebook page with photos of events and the latest news here. And Jan Karon shares a lot of neat things on her Facebook author page here.

Are you a Mitford fan? Have you been to the Museum? I’d love to hear about it.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Assorted Stray Thoughts

This week has been a blur for many reasons. My mindset can’t think very deeply at the moment, so I decided to share various passing thoughts, some tongue-in-cheek, most not terribly important.

I received an email advertising the ESV Panorama New Testament. My mind kept reading Panorama as Paranormal.

We don’t get HGTV, but the last couple of times I was in the hospital, we had that station on. I was amazed that any time on any show they staged a house for viewing, someone karate-chopped the sofa pillows. Who decided dented pillows were a thing?

Speaking of decorating, I just recently became aware of a new/old style called grandmillennial, explained here. It’s “halfway between minimalism and maximalism” and “nostalgic and comfortable without looking kitschy.” Sounds like my tastes! Except they advocate earthy colors, and I am partial to my pastels.

Why do people pay $20-50 for a one-hour online course but balk at paying $10-12 for a ten-hour book?

I occasionally see or hear people say something like, “If you’re going to drink decaf, why bother?” Well, some of us can’t have caffeine. In my case, I am not supposed to have it due to heart rhythm problems. But I like the flavor and warmth. I’d be more concerned about not being able to make it through the day without caffeine.

Does it bug anyone else when speakers say “I see you” to people they can’t actually see?

Why do people use Latin phrases and then put in parentheses what the phrase means? Why not just use the English words in the first place?

Are people really motivated by being yelled at? The climax movie of the movie Facing the Giants had a coach on hands and knees alongside a player, yelling, “Don’t quit, Never quit.” But if I were in that position, I would want to yell back, “Stop yelling!” Even Pelaton commercials turn me off. (I’m not an athlete. Can you tell?) I respond better to coming-alongside encouragement than having someone in my face.

I’m about done with articles that won’t let you read further without subscribing or unblocking ads. I know they need to make money, but that doesn’t seem the best way to get subscribers. I like some sites that let you read so many free articles per month.

Sometimes I see foot massages referred to as a romantic gesture, but I can’t stand the thought of someone messing with my feet.

When I am actually in a grocery store, I’ll see people filling online orders with their big carts. They’ll scan an item and put it right in the shopping bag. I’ve thought that would be nice to be able to do as an average shopper–scan and bag your items as you get them instead of moving everything to cart, to conveyor belt at the checkout, and back to the cart again. But that will probably never happen because of the expense of the handheld scanners and because of dishonest shoppers who wouldn’t scan all their items.

Do you have favorite things you do with certain leftovers? I love making a sandwich with leftover meatloaf, sometimes grilled-cheese style. I can remember my mom making little strips of leftover pie crust dough, putting a little butter and sugar and cinnamon on it, and putting it in the oven just a few minutes to cook through. So good. (Odd, though, I don’t remember her making pies from scratch–but she must have if she had pie crust dough.) If we have tacos, I like to make a quesadilla with the leftover taco meat and cheddar cheese for lunch the next day. And if I am making rice, if I have enough, I like to make a little bowl of rice with butter and sugar. That must be the base of rice pudding, though I have never had it.

Sometimes my thoughts do pinball between topics like this. Occasionally I’ll retain one long enough to write it down. 🙂

Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have stray unrelated thoughts floating around?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

A Visit to the Pinta

On Saturday, our family got to visit a life-sized replica of the Pinta, one of Christopher Columbus’s ships.

Actually, the Pinta was a little larger than life-size to accommodate the height of modern people. We were told the average European then was 5’2″.

Still, our first impression was that the ship was much smaller than we would have thought. And there was no belowdecks. There was a cargo hold, but everyone would have lived and slept on deck. It was hard to fathom a crew of 26 men in that space for as long as they were at sea.

Several placards were placed around the ship with explanations of life on board, Columbus’s route, instruments he used, etc.

There were also several instruments and items like a sword (under glass), a model of the ship, etc.

A couple of volunteers were on board to provide information and answer questions.

We were amused by a couple of anachronistic inclusions. 🙂

I appreciated that nothing was mentioned about anything controversial with Columbus. Those conversations are important, but one can enjoy learning about the ship without agreeing with everything that was done. The ship was presented as a “sailing museum” and was for the purpose of sharing information about history. This type of ship, a caravel, had been in use for a couple of centuries and was a common “workhorse” type of ship, one brochure explained.

It was the first time I had ever been on a “tall ship.” All in all, it was a fun and educational outing.

You can learn more about the Nina and Pinta replicas here and follow their itinerary here.

Whatever happened to these sayings?

I don’t want to be guilty of that bane of older people: considering everything “back in my day” to be superior. No era or society has been perfect since Eden.

Many societal perspectives have improved from what I grew up with. And I love the conveniences, technology, and multiple ways to communicate that we have today. 

But in my youth, I heard certain sayings repeated enough to become truisms. I don’t hear them any more, but I think we need them more than ever.

  • I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” (Evelyn Beatrice Hall). Freedom of speech used to be one of highest values in this country. Now, if you don’t fit within the prevailing narratives, you’re publicly shamed or “canceled.” We’ve gone from absolute truth to the postmodern lack of absolute truth to “My truth is the only truth.”
  •  
  • “It takes all kinds to make a world.” That seemed to sum up how people reconciled the fact that others could think so differently from themselves. Along with this one was:
  • “Live and let live.” Most didn’t advocate “anything goes.” There are times to speak out against wrongdoing. But we’re also not made with cookie cutters. We won’t all do and act the exact same way in everything.
  • “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” This encouraged people to consider the background, personality, and perspective of others. Now, people make all sorts of judgments based on a 140-character tweet instead of trying to understand the other person’s viewpoint.
  • “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”This one went around fairly recently, but it’s been quickly forgotten. Now people can’t seem to just disagree on matters large or small without vilifying each other.
  • “Don’t believe everything you read.” A corollary to this was “Just because you see it on TV (or in the newspaper) doesn’t mean it’s true.” Now we tend to believe articles and posts that support our views and disbelieve whatever doesn’t.

Of course, these are limited. They are not Scripture. Some may have exceptions. But they are pretty good common sense, and some are based on Scriptural truth.

What do think? Is it possible to bring these back? Can you think of any others?

(Sharing with InstaEncouragements, Grace and Truth, Senior Salon)

Back at home

Thank you so much for your kind comments yesterday and your prayers while I was in the hospital. I’m back at home now and feeling well. I have follow-up appointments with my primary care doctor and cardiologist soon.

I’m probably going to have to have a second ablation. I can’t tell you how much I hate the thought of going through that again. But I also hate having afib and going to the ER. We’ve known people that were much improved after the second one. So, we’ll see what the doctors say.

Meanwhile, I’m going to mainly relax the rest of the weekend.

Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

Here we are at another Friday, and another opportunity to recount the blessings of the week.

1. A big surprise. One afternoon, Jason texted to ask if he and Timothy could come over after dinner. Mittu had not been feeling well, and I assumed he just wanted to give her a bit of time to herself. When he came in, he handed me a card and gift bag but told me I couldn’t open them yet. I thought that was odd, as it’s not my birthday or any other gift-giving occasion. Then he proceeded to set up a FaceTime call with both Jeremy and Mittu, and then Jesse came in from his room. I wondered what in the world was up.

The package turned out to be an Apple watch that they had all pitched in to get for me. After my last afib episode, they discussed getting me an Apple watch because it has the ability to do an EKG reading and to alert you if your heart goes into an abnormal rhythm.

I was so touched by their thoughtfulness, and sad that I had made them worry.

Jason helped me get the watch set up and showed me the basics, and I’ve explored it more since then. I like it!

2. Flowers from Timothy.

3. Getting my fall decorations up, finally. I almost skipped it—somehow I just wasn’t as into it this year. But I do enjoy them, and I like decorating to some degree with the change in seasons. Once I got started, I got more into it, and I was glad I got them out.

Special thanks also to Jesse, who fetched the boxes down from the attic and put them back again. He joked that after he moves out, whenever he comes to visit I am probably going to ask him to take things to and from the attic for me. He might be right…:)

4. Discount prescription coupons. One of my new prescriptions came from the pharmacy with a note that a manufacturer’s coupon might be available for that medication. We investigated and filled out the information to receive the discount card. When I used it for the refill, it knocked our part of the payment from $60 to $10. It does make you wonder—if the manufacturer is willing to give out these discounts, why don’t they just lower the price by that amount? I don’t know, but I am glad I found out about them.

5. Roast. Jason and Mittu asked us to watch Timothy while they voted. She brought over a roast in the Instant Pot to cook while they were gone, and we all enjoyed it for dinner after they got back. Then she left a bunch of the leftovers with us. Yum!

That’s my week! What’s something good from yours?

In the Hospital

Longtime readers may remember that I had an ablation for atrial fibrillation a few years ago. I’ve had little “blips” of heart irregularity since, which the doctor said was normal. But then last July I had a seven-hour episode. The doctor said we’d keep everything the same for now. Then yesterday I had a 12-13 hour episode. My heart rate was 120-148 beats per minute. The meds they give to lower heart rate also lower blood pressure, so they had to keep that in balance.

Finally my heart rate converted back to normal. They kept me overnight, and I should be going home later today.. We’re talking about why this happened, changes to make, etc. I’m especially thankful they let Jim come in with me.

I have some great things for Friday’s Fave Five! If we get home in time, I’ll try to get a post up. It’s a little hard tapping out a post on an iPad mini. 🙂

But for now we’re doing fine, just hanging out til they release me. Talk to you later!

Update: I’m home! I’m supposed to follow up with my primary care doctor and cardiologist next week. Thanks so much for your kind comments and prayers.

Updated Prayer Request

In May I asked you to pray for Mason, the six-year-old son of our former pastor in GA. He had leukemia, went into remission, came down with cancer again, and at that time was in the PICU with pneumonia and a bleeding lung. He had to be sedated and put on a paralytic drug to give the lung time to heal.

He recovered enough to go off the paralytic and sedation. But because he had been on them so long, he couldn’t walk, had trouble swallowing, and couldn’t talk very loudly. Those things are all slowly improving, though his breathing is still an issue.

The worst news, though, is that the chemo is not helping him. Humanly speaking, his only hope for a cure is a bone marrow transplant. But he would not only have to be in remission to receive it, he would also have to meet several other health criteria. With the chemo only causing harm and not fighting the cancer, the family and doctors made the decision to take Mason off chemo and bring him home for whatever time he has left. They’re still hoping for a miracle, but willing for whatever God wants to do.

I don’t know if there is hope that he could go back on chemo eventually if he gets healthy enough, or if that’s completely off the table since all the types of chemo and even experimental drugs that they’ve tried have not helped.

You can imagine what they are going through. They have other small children as well, one of whom is old enough to understand what’s going on.

One of their main hopes right now is that Mason’s breathing will improve enough that he can remain at home and not have to go back into the hospital. They’ve been at the hospital for so long, with the family separated and visitation limited due to his condition and COVID protocols. They’d love for his remaining time to be at home with all the family together.

I told my pastor’s wife, when I shared this request with her, that, humanly speaking, it would seem like a waste or a defeat to have battled so long with so many people praying, only to end in death rather than healing. I know it’s not, but it feels that way. But, as Amy Carmichael often said, God does not waste His servant’s pain. He has done so much in people’s hearts through this journey already. I wrote last year that heaven is not a lesser answer to prayer.

Still, the family would love for God to heal Mason. I know God understands that. Jesus grieved death when He walked the earth. As we pray and hope for healing, we trust even if that’s not what we get.

I’m sure the family would appreciate your prayers.

Prayer Request

I don’t do this often on the blog, but I’d like to ask you to pray for a little boy named Mason. He’s the grandson of our former pastor in GA. He’s six years old, had leukemia, went into remission, and the cancer came back. He’s been in the hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia, underwent a lung biopsy, and started bleeding heavily. He’s sedated and on a paralytic drug to help the wound not reopen. The latest word from his grandfather is this:

It has been determined that he has inflammation in 3 of the 4 lobes of his lungs. It is not pneumonia but it is classified as pneumonia and it is found in people who have been through chemotherapy. It makes it difficult for the air sacs in his lungs to absorb oxygen.

We got word this evening that his heart rate and oxygen levels were falling and they were unable to stop it. He was given epinephrine to stimulate his heart and put on nitrous oxide for his oxygen levels. He was also put on an oscillator which is saved for last resorts. It worked for now but they have no tricks left. He is critical but has been stabilized.

The next 24-48 hours are critical. The whole family has been through so much for so long. On top of the health issues, they’ve been separated due to COVID-19. His mom is with him, but the whole family can’t be together.

Thank you for your prayers for Mason and his family.

(Update: Mason’s body is weakening. It’s going to take a miracle for him to survive. His parents are at peace if it’s God’s will to take him home, but of course they long to have more time with him here.)