Tuesday, February 23, 2016

THE DUTCH SHOES.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

If you think people can't reach out to us from the other side - do I have a story for you.  Make yourself a cup of tea and read on -

I have a life long girlfriend named Cyndi..............
Her maiden name was Cindy Astles ( she changed the spelling on her own in the 70's when there was a fad of changing the spellings of names to be more " unique " do you remember that ? )

I asked her permission to share this story because it's as fascinating a story as I have ever heard and I wanted you all to hear it !  There's a path this story takes and so I've condensed a lot of it and broken it up into " parts "

Part One.
From a very young age - very very young - 5 - 6 years old - Cyndi had recurring dreams.
Men in trenches to be precise.  Filled with mud - darkness - and guns going off constantly.  She could sense the fear and the panic - she felt the cold - and because there was always a lot of water on the ground in her dreams she even saw that their clothes were soaking wet.  She was an onlooker never part of the scene itself but it was horrific to witness - if only in dream form.  Even at such a tender age she could tell it was war she was witnessing - but she could never understand why all these men had large X's on their backs. She'd wake up terrified  - obviously not understanding these dreams whatsoever.
They continued into her teenage years ( when we met and I first heard about them ) and well into her adult years - until 10 years ago to be precise.
I  assumed those X's meant these men were marked.  That somehow these would be the fallen.

Part Two.
Cyndi had a Grandmother - her Mother's Mom ( we used to visit her often ) who lived in Downtown Montreal - and had a small city garden ( miniscule ) behind her apartment - where she had 2 large Dutch wooden shoe planters filled with little flowers..............and because of that - for some reason - Cyndi had always just assumed that she had Dutch heritage.

Part Three
After 25 years of marriage Cyndi and her husband sadly decided to part ways...............whereupon she met
Bob whom she felt an instant connection to because Bob - although raised in Canada - was born in Holland.
He went back and forth often throughout his life as he had close relatives that had stayed in the home country.
She would listen to his stories about his " home " in fascination - always feeling a pull towards this Country - a deep connection that she explained away as part of her own Dutch heritage and because of this connection she was drawn to Bob almost instantly.

Part Four
Herman Woodburn Astles.
Cyndi's father - who died the year Cyndi met Bob.
One night Cyndi and Bob were talking about names.............a conversation that happened out of the blue really - and she mentioned her Dad's name to Bob.
" Where does that name come from " she asked
" It's the strangest name " she said
" Woodburn as a middle name is just weird " she said.
He promptly began researching the name whereupon he discovered a Herman Woodburn Astles who had fought in WWl and lost his life in the Battle of Passchendaele
He was buried in Belgium after gracing this earth for 19 years - dying a day before the war ended.
Further investigating brought the discovery that he was Cindy's Great Uncle............the younger brother of Cyndi's grandfather - who had passed before Cyndi was born.
He had named his first son in honor of his beloved younger brother.
If Cyndi's father knew about this it was never shared - Cyndi assumes he didn't.

Part Five
Bob surprised Cyndi with the announcement that they would be going to Europe - her first time leaving North America - and the trip would start in Belgium - where they would visit her Great Uncle's grave.
As they made their way through the cemetery Cyndi's heart began pounding until Bob called out
" Over here ! "
And she made her way to meet her long lost uncle.

They then made their way to the museum.................
Where one of the first items they saw was an infantry uniform.............with a water bag and a kit bag - each put on crosswise across the chest  ........forming a perfect X on the back.

Cyndi has not had the dream since that visit.
Rest In peace Herman.
From the bottom of my grateful heart I thank you for your service - your life - and most of all your perseverance.
It is my absolute honor to share your story.
Lots of amazing things have come out of Belgium.
Some of them remain there.

As a grand finale to this story - last year Cyndi and Bob had the honor of meeting the King and Queen of the Netherlands at a gathering in Toronto. ( left of the pic )

Although we've given Bob the credit for managing that - after what Herman accomplished I know that he had to have a little something to do with it too.

As for Cyndi's Grandmother on her Mother's side?
Well it turns out there was not an ounce of Dutch blood in her.............just a pair of Dutch Wooden shoes in her garden filled with - of course - Myosotis Sylvatica

Otherwise known as.....................
                                                         Forget - me - nots.  

We haven't.            

Listen carefully to your dreams...............sometimes they involve someone desperately trying to share their story.
And they can move mountains to make sure it's told.
A young boy - buried in a far away Country made sure someone from home came by to visit him.
And whisper Thank you.

And it seems that he hasn't stopped just quite yet. This feels like the beginning of a book.
A book I'm going to attempt to write this year.  You know - to fill in the gaps of all those missing years.
But more than that - I want his story to be reached by as many as possible.

It would appear he does too...............

I've struggled to hit publish on this particular post because of the fact that I DO want to turn this into a book.
Now that it's out there have I left myself wide open to theft?
Have I set an impossible deadline for myself?
Should I have kept mum and then if I never finish it only I ( and Cyndi ) would know about it?

And then I thought of everything that young boy from rural Gaspe, Quebec accomplished and I felt ashamed.  He did it without any tools at his fingertips at all.

So here's a little sneak peak of :

By Suzan Sweatman

January 6 1905
Gaspe Quebec

"Good morning young man" his mama whispers in his ear…………he squirms slightly as she nuzzles his neck looking up nervously to make sure Richard isn’t looking their way but Richard’s nose is buried in the Marvelous Land of Oz – the much anticipated sequel to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Pa doesn’t like the notion of his kids reading books – says it’s a waste of time.  Ma slips them in as gifts whenever she can but still they’re careful to read them in his absence only.  Not that he’d do anything harsh but that look he gives with one eyebrow raised is enough to stop them in their tracks.   Richard once threw out a much beloved dog eared book because of that glare and still has no idea that it was retrieved by Ma.  She says it’s a sin to throw anything out that man has created – Pa laughs out loud and asks if she’d save what comes out of the outhouse.  There’s no need to be vulgar she says with disgust.  I don’t want you boys speaking that way, do you hear me?  Pay your father no mind, hear?  But the boys are on the floor howling with laughter.  Pa says the funniest things.  Like when he told the preacher man that God lived in his house– right there in the parlor with the bible – and that he reckoned he was as comfortable here as he’d be anywhere else – and that he was danged sure God didn’t get up every Sunday morning to trek over to that small building with the cross on top when he could just stay in the parlor with the fire going and be nice and warm like.   Ma was mortified.  Didn’t speak to Pa for 3 weeks over that one.  The boys worry now and then for their Pa’s soul but they knew in the end that there wasn’t a finer man this side of Perce Rock and if they know that than surely the Almighty knows it too.
Ma places a steaming plate filled with scrambled eggs and beans and 4 slices of homemade bread.  His birthday breakfast.  He picks up his fork to dig in but the fork is whisked out of his hand before he can start.
"You’re prayers Herbert. Good Lord – you’re the other side of 7 as of today on  I shouldn’t have to remind you to say your prayers " !
"Some have meat and canna eat " THWACK
" OW  "- he yells out in protest - rubbing the side of his temple
"You’ll NOT be saying that blasphemous prayer at our table"
" But Pa sa – "
" I don’t care what your Father says – Robert Burns is not a preacher and you will NOT say that prayer at our table. "
Pa walks in as Herb is rubbing his temple –
" What’s going on here "?  he jovially asks
Ma hisses through her teeth –  " you’re turning these boys into heathens – I won’t have it Charles "!
" God is Great – God is good – let us thank him for our food "
" That’s better Herbert……..thank you "
Pa winks at him and He feels better instantly – it’s always better to be in on a joke with Pa than on the outside of one with Ma.
" Is it your birthday then Herb? "
" Yes Pa " he answers still rubbing his head.

Well there’s a little something for you on the log pile outside – after you’ve split a few of them bring it on in.
" Oh and son? "
" Yes Pa "
" A birthday smack from your Ma is as fine a gift as a young man could ask for - it means she loves you - hope you understan' that "
But Herbert only hears 2 words from that entire sentence.
Pa just called him a young man...........him - Herbert - a young MAN - he changes his mind about running outside to the log pile and instead takes deliberate slow steps like his Pa does.........he's a man now.
Pa always says that there’s nowhere a man needs to get to that he can’t walk to.  Runnin’s for animals and racer’s he says – we ain’t racer’s – we’re just men and we’ll miss all of God’s bounty if we run by it every day.
 When he gets outside there’s a note written in his Pa’s shaky handwriting that reads :
And so he grabs the gifts – there are two in fact – wrapped up in some of Ma’s burlap and heads back into the kitchen. 
He gingerly opens the first gift and gasps with delight – it’s a leather bound note book – his very own notebook
"I suppose if we’re going to have a writer in the family he’ll have to have his own notebook to 
start " his Pa says affectionately ………
Herb knows these are expensive and not the type of thing Pa would easily agree to so Ma had to have a lot to do with this particular gift – he looks at them both with gratitude – what a lucky guy he is that God chose these two to be his parents.  I suppose he really does live in the parlor he thinks – or how could have known?
Richard says –  "hey there kid – aren’t you going to open that other gift "?
Herb feels shy for some unknown reason and opens it carefully.
"Aw gee – thanks Rich " he mumbles.
" Well you can’t be writing your book with blood from your fingertips can ya "?  Richard laughs.
Herb doesn’t know how Richard managed it – Pa doesn’t believe in allowance either – but there in front of him are 3 new pencils.
"I'll do your shoveling this morning for you little brother - Happy Birthday "
" And I'll collect the eggs this morning - just this morning mind you - seeing it's your birthday and all " Ma adds.
Herb feels blessed.  Truly blessed as he gets dressed to hit the outdoors again.  This time it’s to get to school and although he’s closer than a lot of the kids to the school house he still has 2 miles to walk before he can see it in the distance.
"You coming Rich" ? – he asks his older brother
" No " – Pa says – " I need Richard here today – you go on son "
" Bye Ma – bye Pa – have a good day Rich and thanks everyone "
" Cover your face"  Ma yells out the door – drying her wet hands on her apron  but he’s already past the gate and can’t make out her words.
He waves and darts towards the creek – now frozen solid – and decides to take a shortcut by crossing over it.

7 years old seems to be a mighty fine age to be - yes indeed - it might just be the best age of all.

Now excuse me.
I have some writing to do

Given to me  after her first trip.
A simple little token of her travels?
Well I might have thought so at the time but the more I think of it the more I realize I was meant to have those little shoes since the day I met Cyndi.
And I think we all know who made sure they would sit on my desk someday for inspiration.
You see ........that young man who wanted his story told isn't quite finished.

Have a wonderful day everyone
Much love


FLUSTER BUSTER                                                     REFRESH LIVING
SAVVY SOUTHERN STYLE                                     ART & SAND
THE ESSENCE OF HOME                                          FRENCH COUNTRY COTTAGE
BETWEEN NAPS ON THE PORCH                           SAND & SISAL
STONE GABLE                                                            THE INTERIOR FRUGALISTA


  1. WOW! That sent a tingle down my spine ~

    Definitely write the book!

    Hugs ~

  2. What an amazing, amazing story! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks Laura for reading !
      It IS an amazing story !

  3. Suzan, I had chills about half way through reading the recounting of Cyndi's story. . .by the end, I had tears in my eyes. What a remarkable experience(s)! You are the perfect friend/confidante for her, too. I love what you have written so far, it is a very good beginning. Best wishes to you and to Cyndi.

  4. ooooohhh. just a little bit spooky! Good luck with writing the book. I have to add some info for you. My favorite book (from long ago) is The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr J. Murphy. It was written long before I discovered it around 1984. It is still being reprinted yet today. In the back of the book, Dr Murphy explains that when you sleep, your soul can leave your body and communicate with other souls of people both alive and dead. It took me years to believe that this was true, but I have come to accept it. Perhaps this explains why your friend (as a child) got so much information in her sleep from an unknown relative who was deceased in body, but not perhaps in spirit.

  5. I love this story, it gave me goosebumps reading it!

  6. I am excited for you and I do you write the story for us all to enjoy.

  7. SuzQ-Your words bring life to this story. I have chills yet again, thanks for sharing. Can't wait to re-live more. xoxox

    1. Thanks SO much Cee Dee ! It's such an amazing story !

  8. Wow, fascinating! Just a bit spooky too. Definitely write the book. It'll be a page turner.

  9. I'm sure your book will be a great read and just the first of many!

  10. Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen but felt only by heart. ~ Denzel Washington
    :)))) I thought you would appreciate this.
    thank you for sharing your heart, art and your dreams. ~ Christina
    Lastly... a quote... one of my favs.. from Marianne Williamson: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." BOO yah.

  11. Hi Suzan. What an awesome story. My grandparents were Margaret and Lawrence Astles from New Carlisle in the Gaspe. There were about l0 soldiers (Astles) that served in WWI from New Carlisle. I checked Ancestry.ca and Herman Astles and his brother John Bertram were from New Carlisle. OMG it's a small world. There is a copy of Herman's medical exam and altestation paper. Your story makes me think of my Grandparents. I remember my grandparents were very spiritual, Anglicans. My Grandfather was a tinsmith and he raised turkeys. My Grandmother always wore an apron, she baked a lot and I loved her huge molasses cookies. They were born in the late 1800's and were in their 80's when they passed away. Although my Grandfather did not serve in the war.
    You have a great story and I wish you luck with it. If I can be of help let me know. My email is thelday@hotmail.com.

  12. Wow! Thank you for sharing this story. It gave me chills & some tears. All those years and finally the tale was rediscovered. Just amazing & very touching.

  13. Wonderful❣ So put me on the list to place an order! Xxxxx

  14. Wow, Suzan, it's really amazing that Cyndi had those dreams at such a young age! I have so many questions! I'd love for you to finish the book so maybe I could get some answers!
    You are a wonderful writer, and I was glued to each word of your narrative! This story begs to be written, and the person to do it is you! I really got goosebumps. Life is so mysterious!
    Love ya,

  15. I believe in the spiritual. There is too much that happens in our world to be discounted. * Can't wait to hear the rest of your story, Suzan! Don't leave us hanging! * When I found my birth family I met my 2nd cousin who had paid to have ancestry information found in The Netherlands back to the 1500's, so I learned I have a huge Dutch presence--last name was VanErkel. When I found two wooden shoes at the thrift shop, I had to get them!

  16. Thank you for sharing! Wow!!
    Keep us posted on how the writing is going. I think it is a great idea and goal!! :-))

  17. From the get-go I knew you had the talent to write something to publish.....(as in a book)...your conversations w/ John were so funny and well written and you are super organized.
    Am sure you'll do as well with this project as you do with all your others.
    WWI was such a waste and I look forward to learning why your Canadians were so gung-ho about fighting in that outrageously run war. Maybe it was just the sense of adventure that drove the 'boys'? I understand that no one ever let on to the families on the home front how the troops were just more dead meat for the arms manufacturers. So they were twice betrayed.
    Such tragedy. You will make us feel it, I've no doubt.
    Write on........

  18. Una historia fantástica que merece la pena ser escrita en un libro. Felicitaciones!

  19. Go with it Suzan, and hang on for dear life. When the muse strikes, she's mean and ruthless...and nothing else matters. Great story---and you will tell it well. Yes, shoes and other things speak to you, demand you tell their story. Thanks for the marvelous share, Sandi

    Oh and it is published here---and copyrighted...by you publishing here.

  20. I love reading your post and then your story. I can't wait until you finish it.

    Thanks for sharing at SYC.

  21. This story brought tears and I think you could do a very good job of a book. Someone who started the same way with a story from a family friend. Cara Black from California Has written a series of books about a Parisienne private detective. But the first story is what happened to the Jewish people living in Paris during the second war. I think you would like looking into Ms. black. She was in her forties.

  22. Wonderful things you've shared with us! It will be fun to write his story and even more fun for us to read. Let us know he is 7 at the beginning...?

    1. THanks SO much !
      Yes he is 7 at the beginning and living on a farm ( which he really did ) after that most of it will be invented :)

  23. I love this story! Beautiful and gave me goosebumps :) Get to writing that book!

  24. Love the way you explained everything i really appreciate you, i was following Monique Custom Shoes and luckily found your post which really inspired me.


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