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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Culmination of Efforts.

This was from a previous Memorial Day
service. When it was sunny,
versus ours when it was rainy.

Last Monday, was Memorial Day. My spouse went to the Military cemetery to observe the ceremony that was taking place. I had planned to attend, but our own "troops" so to speak, were on their way over to our home. This was the day assigned to be work day in the yard, a mother's day present, if you will.

Number one son.
It was cool, drizzly, and overcast, perfect for weed pulling and planting. At least from my point of view. There had been some hemming and hawing about this request. Some, who shall remain nameless, even said they wished I would be satisfied by material gifts, instead of gestures.

I can hear my grandmother's voice in my head as I type. "The greatest gift is your time, the greater gift is being happy about giving it." My grandma always had a saying for everything. Which is not the point of this post, but still entertaining.

My spouse.
Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Time and tide wait for no man.
2. The rooster can crow all he wants, but its the hen that delivers the goods.
3. It is a great life, if you don't weaken. (She always added under her breath, "but I've weakened.)
4. Wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
Tomato bed number three.
5. Patience is a virtue, virtue is a grace, and Grace is a little girl that will not wash her face.

Back on track:
My four grown children and our son and daughter-in-law were present. Together with my husband, they worked together, very cheerfully, the entire day. Chopping wood, planting grass seed, building planters, planting flowers and weeding.

On the break for lunch, as we gathered around the kitchen table, I was filled with contentment. The room could hardly contain the laughter and love which was abounding in our mud filled kitchen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Knocking sense into my head, literally.

Darling Clementine.
Okay. I just spent the last quarter of an hour trying to find the root of the expression of "knocking some sense into someone". That alone should tell you quite a lot.

Earlier today, I was walking Clementine (our esteemed dog) and  I managed to walk right into a tree. I would like to think  it was because of the broad brim hat that was upon my head, which I wear to keep the sun off of my fair and delicate skin, but no. Most likely not.

The blow I administered to my forehead was so potent, for a few minutes I saw stars. Many stars. I did remain standing and thanks to my dear friend, managed to go on and finish the walk.

Where we were walking before
 the head bump.

Truth be told, the hit upon my head was not my favorite activity today, but better then some to the other things I have encountered. It certainly triggered a visceral response to all I have been thinking about.

So.  I think the force of my person hitting the tree, has knocked out of me all of the puzzling thoughts and emotions about everything I have been grappling with these last few days. None terrible or life shattering, just eye opening, both literally and figuratively.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Friends and what it takes to be one.

A variety of the flowers  purchased.

 "He was a friend who listened without a clock and without anticipation of results." 
(read in a recent obituary)

After reading the above sentence this morning, I went about my day of:

1. Driving various family members here and there
2. Shopping for flowers to be planted in the garden
3. Working on several project I am employed to take care of
4. Cleaning up the breakfast debris
5. Walking the dog with my friend 
(We now are outside walking instead of the track, as the weather has lured outdoors.)

Whilst I was doing all of these activities, I found myself coming back to that sentence again and again.
Just love these flowers.

How to listen without thinking of the time or what else one needs to do? Or how to let go of expectations from the effort expended with another person?  Both easier said than done. Anyone that has had a spouse or child will agree. 

When I am out somewhere, I am often struck by how many people are together and looking at their phone and not each other. It happens all over the place. I see it in restaurants  church, the park, at the train station and even at people's homes I have been invited too. I wonder about this behavior. I know, it has been written about, commented on and debated at every turn. I doubt I can add anything new or profound on this cultural situation. 

Think I will just stay with th flower theme.
What has this got to do with this quote? Everything. Why? Because, if we as people do not value the person right in front of us enough to look them in the eyes, and hear what they have to say, what is to become of us?

How can we have so many ways to connect and be so unconnected? 

For I believe we are all in this together. That is my hope.  And listening as though there is not a clock ticking or a text waiting (with a better offer) leads one to: being a friend who will hear with their eyes, see with their heart, and bond with their soul.

I will now get down off of my soap box, and try to practice what I write.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Strawberry Days or what time looks like picking strawberries

We have done a lot of picking over the years.
Every June, for as long as I can remember, I have gone strawberry picking with one family member or another. It started when I was a child, and has continued on through my life. The last twenty-five years or so, it has been with my children and my step-grandmother.

My grandmother and I would confer over the phone, briskly, for she was from the age of: don't talk long on the phone, it costs money. She married my grandfather four weeks before my wedding. Which means, she has been a part of our family for almost thirty-five years.

When the appointed day would arrive, I would pack up my children, maybe a couple of one of my siblings children and drive up to the part of Wisconsin where she lived. When we arrived, she would be standing at the window of the kitchen, watching for us. Allowing only enough time for the children to make a "stop" as she called it, we would then be off for the strawberry patch.

Grandma was tall and willowy, she was always reminding herself to stand up straight. She would wear a broad brim hat, have her gloves and baskets in hand for the days picking. She was not much of a talker, but always made an effort, asking each of whichever great grand child was with us in the car, things she remembered they were interested in.

This is what it looks like.
When we arrived in the patch, which was in the front yard of a house out in the country, we would
disembark and spread out into the rows, Some years it was hot without a breeze, some years it was damp and rainy, some years it was perfect, blue sky, gentle breeze and a few clouds, to take the heat off one's back. The children would eat berries as they picked, with admonishments called out  from me:  "don't eat too many, or put some in the basket so we can make jam when we get home."

Grandma did not admonish, she quietly picked, every once in awhile, looking up at the children and smiling as though, some secret, happy thought was going through her mind,  as she watched the children. Occasionally, she would share a childhood story about how she and her siblings would help her mother pick fruit and make jam.

Love strawberry jam!
It was on these, slow days, I gradually got to know her. She had had a harder life than most and her marriage to my grandfather had turned out to be her port in the storm. He loved her, and while I think sometimes he did not understand her, they were good for and to each other.

After we had picked and eaten our fill, we would pay for the berries and go to lunch. Nothing fancy, as we were all stained with red juice and bit sticky.

During one of these lunches she told me about coming back from the army* in World War 2,  how she took the trains all across the country to see the USA. Growing up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, she had not seen too much, so she took the time after her discharge to do so. I think she said, she went alone, but I might have that wrong.

After lunch, I would drive back to her home, the children would make another "stop" and I would continue on, which is about an hour and half more in the car.

This last week, my daughters and I were saying it is almost strawberry season and it was only a few days later my sister called to say: "grandma died".

Her's looks like this.
Grandma was ninety in March. We all got together and gathered around her to celebrate.  She was particularly pleased by one of her great-grandchildren, who stands six feet nine inches tall,  play the accordion (which had once been her's) for all of us to hear.

 I am grateful for those days we shared, I am richer for them and I hope she was too. I will never pick a strawberry again, without thinking of her, how we grew to know, and love each other. It is funny how much a difference those days made when they are spent together.

For I believe, it is the time we take with each other, slowly adding up over the course of our lives that makes us who we are. For at the end of the day, all we really have, is the sum of how we spend our time, and how we treat one another in the process.

*Actually, today (5/21/13) I found out today at the funeral, I was mistaken, Grandma was in the Navy hospital corps.

Friday, May 17, 2013

First Year of Marriage--not always the easiest...

This is not my daughter, nor is this the dress she wore.
I just couldnt find a picture of her dress,
 this one looked pretty nice so I am sharing...

My daughter will be married one year this weekend. It has gone really fast for me, probably it has for her too. It does seem like only yesterday she was trying on wedding dresses and tasting wedding cakes. ( I am not going to lie, loved the cake tasting part...)

While I am only an observer of her journey this last year, I clearly remember my journey through my first year of marriage, almost thirty-five years ago.

This is the place, but it was covered in snow.

We were married Thanksgiving weekend in 1978. It was cold, clear and sunny. There had been a recent snowfall  so the ground looked very picturesque. Our reception was held at a local prep school that had once been a mansion to a meat packing mogel.

Wayside Inn, where we were snowed in.

We honeymooned in New England, we were snowed in at a country inn and were barely able to get back home due to weather.

I love being married, but truly, it was a growth opportunity. (Still is.) When we arrived to the apartment we  rented, it was the first time in my life I lived away from home.  The first night there, I felt like I had just spent the night at someone's house and I could hardly wait to go home.

That first year was one of many adjustments:

1. Remembering quarters for the washing machine.(oddly, my mother's machine did not take quarters...)
2. Everything had to be dragged upstairs. (groceries, laundry, furniture, yourself at the end of a long day)
3. I was the one responsible for keeping the "house". (Luckily, I had some good training,thanks Mom!)
4. I was slightly overwhelmed. (Truthfully, frequently still am.)
5. I missed living in a house with a yard and neighbors I knew. (Only four apartments in the building all occupied by snowbirds, so that first winter, I was alone in the building all day)

I think arguing was what we did best the first year. Some might say, we were working out the kinks of what would (hopefully) become a team, instead of two individuals.

I think it is a unique time in one's life, it is the first real inkling of self-sacrifice. It is; frustrating, fabulous and filled with hope and some of the most worthwhile work I have have been a part of.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gardens--many hands make light work

How does your garden gorw?

I love gardens. I love to garden. I love watching the seeds, bulbs, tubers or bare root, sprout and grow into large, lovely, plants.

I have poured over catalogues all winter and have dreamed about what my garden will look like this summer. I have a really well developed imagination. So while that comes in handy in planning a garden, it sometimes gets me in trouble.

Where it gets me in trouble is; due to a very serious and long illness a few years ago, I no longer am able to actually do the work that needs to be done. So to make my garden lovely, I rely upon the kindness of my husband and children.

Every year, since I was rendered unable to work in the dirt, I have requested, for mother's day or birthday or any day, for that matter, the gift of these fine individual's time and efforts.
Just love the packets...

Each time this is requested, I am struck by the amount of cooperation they extend to the project. Now this does not mean that it is done without comment. For, truthfully, that is not the case.

The last few years my daughters have been very engaged in vegetable gardening. My daughter's husband, has been building raised beds in the yard for the tomato plants. This will be the third year and the third bed built.

The tomatoe beds are kind of like these.

"Crop rotation" my daughter said  when I asked about the third bed. This was music to my ears, to hear her talk like this. I had always hoped that one day my progeny would also love to garden.

So in a few weeks, the troops that no longer live here and the ones that do, are going to fulfil my mother's day present and work together to make my dreams come true.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mary, Margaret and Eileen, Sisters in Concert

West side of Chicago, 1929
Where my father-in-law grew up

My father-in-law was one of six children. There were three girls and three boys and truthfully, I am not really sure of the birth order. I only know that my father-in -law was the youngest.

By the time I was married into this large Irish Catholic family, all of his sisters had passed away and only the three brothers remained. So all I know of the sisters is anecdotal.

Unfortunately, my father-in-law's mother and father, had both  died by the time he was six, or somewhere near that age. Some of the these details are a bit hazy for me, but I think the oldest sister, Mary, was only sixteen or so. She kept those kids together and raised them up.

I often heard stories about Aunt Eileen, she was the one that had twelve children, ten boys and two girls. I sometimes heard stories about Aunt Mary, but I never remember hearing much about Aunt Margaret. So truly, my facts are very, very weak on all of the details of the day to day:  how they managed to adulthood in one piece, paid the bills and stayed together.

Queen of Angels where my in laws were married,
 My mother-in-law said it was the longest aisle in the world.
What I do know is this: my father-in-law was a complete package. He loved his wife and his children and worked everyday as long as he could, to care and provide for them. He never felt sorry for himself, he never was cruel, rude, selfish or unfair. When he walked in the door at night, he rolled up his sleeves and said "Rose, who needs a bath?"  He washed floors, did laundry and dishes and modeled a behavior that by example taught my husband to be a team player on our home front.

What does this all have to do with his three sister?  Everything. For they must have been his teachers, his guide posts, his mentors.  From them he must have learned how to love and work together: in thick and thin. (and they had much more thin than thick as this was 1929)

As I said earlier, I never met them, I don't know too many details about them, but I have been the recipient of all of their efforts via their brother (my father-in-law) and their nephew (my husband).

 Everyday I am grateful for their lives, and how by extension, they have touched mine.*

*I am sorry that I never met these ladies as by all accounts there were marvelous.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Empty Hotel -- I went to prom there.

What it looked like in it's hay days
Near where I live, there is a very rag-tag empty building. I remember when it was built. It was fancy. It was a Ramada Inn (or as my grandfather use to say Ramaida Inn).

Everyone talked about how it had a pool in the center of the building and that you could have dinner around  it. Which now when I write about it, I think: Oh goody! Chlorine!

In an area that did not boast many hotels, it must have been a pretty big deal to have gotten it built. I was in highschool at the time and the senior class was very delighted at being able to host our prom there. So much nicer than the gym. When that is your reference point, the perspective is much different.

Probably pretty nice.
Today at the high school in my town, will have nothing but the downtown destination of Chicago for their prom. Kids have to be loaded on busses and ferried to the "big city" for the culmination of the dating year of high school.   I suppose there is a certain cachet attached to getting dressed up and heading "downtown", but it is a long way back when so many things can go so wrong. After all prom is an evening of "great expectations" or at least it was in my day.

Anyway, what I was really thinking about was how sad the former hotel looks to me when I pass it, which I do at least eight times a day. It has a ghost like quality, which is more than borderline creepy. The building is empty or looks that way, so when a light sometimes is shining through a lone window or a car is parked under the portico, it is cause for notice.

My family often remarks things like:

1. Tear the building down.
2. Maybe it is a "Norman Bates" hotel.
3. I saw someone go into the front door, yikes!
5. Wouldn't it be nice if they put a Trader Joes there?

I wonder things like:

1. What did they do with the furniture?
2, Is there mold in the building?
3. Do squatters live there?
4. Bet they have rodents.
5. When is the city going to do something with this building?

Sometimes, I think about the prom I went to there. It was, in retrospect, pretty mundane. A large room with  round tables covered with white tablecloths and table decorations in the school colors (red and grey). The D.J. was too loud, the food  in too short supply and the lemonade  too sweet.

This is not the pattern she made for me, but similar.
My sister had made my dress for me, out of pale blue silk with white lace. She also had made me a jacket to match. She was kindness itself, for she also purchased the fabric.

My date? Was the man I would eventually marry, though I did not know this at the time.

So, when I pass this empty, worn out building, the recollection about it most vivid?

Prom night, entering the ballroom, feeling inadequate and unattractive compared to the other girls in the room, which was when, my date leaned over and whispered into my ear:

"You look lovely."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wondering-- do you do that too?

Clementine with a friend. Notice: not barking.
Somedays, I wonder. I think you know what I mean. Things happen or people behave in odd or strange ways that seem all out of proportion to the series of events in front of them.

Dogs won't stop barking (a common occurrence here)  or the house taxes come on the same day as the quote for the painter name it.

I often find myself observing the ironies of life along with the juxtapositions of events before me and think: What did the early explorers do?

James Cook was not home much,
by the looks of his path.
Odd question, I know, but really, what did they do?

Did James Cook, as he sailed around the world, worry about whether or not things back home were okay?
If his uniform was going to be cleaned in the near future? Or was it cleaned frequently by some lowly cabin boy?

Are they saying: Let us go this way and stay dry?

Or Lewis and Clark? Did they walk in wet boots and shoes as they traversed the rivers of Western America?   Of course they did, without any of the amazing products we have today to keep dry. Yet, they put one foot in front of the other and charted the Louisiana Purchase. Thank you Thomas Jefferson, we are forever change by your forethought.

There would have been no Mount Rushmore without that purchase. (Not that I have been, but I did enjoy the Alfred Hitchcock movie, that featured it.)

Our guy: Vasco.
Or Vasco da Gama? Any thoughts about the everyday tasks of running anything besides a ship? Not to mention what did women do while their husbands were gone?  For money? Home repairs? And all of those millions of decisions that have to be made when you have a home and children.?

Probably, somewhere there are books or letters or something that addresses all of these issues. I may have even read some of them, If I gave it any real thought, I might even remember what I may have read about all of this.

Mostly, I wonder and am glad that, while I do not have all of the answers to everything, ( if truth were to be told, I hardly have any answers for most things) but, I do have the ability to find out, should I choose to stop wondering and go look.

That... is something.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Conversations (overheard while running errands)

Once more, not my shoe repair, but you get the idea...

So, Saturday. While I was running, oh say a million, annoying, but necessary errands, (think: cleaners, market, shoe repair, and on and on and on...) there were many conversations that were going on around me.

Shoe Repair:
"Do you mean I have to bring the ticket or you can't find my shoes? Really? They are black and have heels."
"No ticket, no find. You want come back here  look? That five dollar."
Five dollars? To look? Really?
Just so many to look through!
Shoe repairer shaking head in firm conviction, "Yes."
"Geez, there are a lot of black shoes with heels, are these it, no, these, no..."

"Do I have any shirts here today?  Or clothes or...?"
"What you name?"
"Where is the other lady? She knows my clothes. Oh, my name?"

Lots to hear in the aisles...

"I wish we could all go outside and eat grass, I am so tired of making dinner."
Cashier not sure what to say.
"I mean, really, every day, another meal to make, another meal to clean up, another trip to the store, another  bunch of food to put away. On and on."
Cashier looking like: I hope this lady will sign the slip and leave SOON.
"Don't' you think so too, you are awfully quiet, do you speak English?"

Gas Station:
Person on cell phone while filling tank:
"Just have to find a babysitter, do you know anyone?"
(Must be listening to other person for it is silent)
"Anyone? Not an axe murderer or anyone like that, but, I mean really, any ideas?"
Another pause.
"How about you?... Oh, that is right, I am going with you."

As I was driving back home thinking about these and other things I had overheard, I realized, I have been "that person". The one that lost the "ticket" or assumes the cleaners will "know" or could cry at the thought of another dinner to be made or needing a babysitter so desperately.

I have,(I am sorry to say), on occasion made snap judgements from the snippets of conversations of others. My goal, as I continue on through my everyday life, is to give them (and myself) the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Yet another Opportunity for Growth or What the Heck?

One of the latest quits I have finished,
 which has absolutely nothing to do with this post.
You would think at my age (which is almost undisclosed, with the internet being what it is, I am sure it is out there somewhere), I would learn faster or smarter or better or whatever...but no. I have to always learn the most challenging way possible. I hate that.

Don't get me wrong, I love to learn new things, read new things, see new things, it is just the learning curve can be so steep while in the process. Sigh.

Well, on the bright side, there was "no blood", as my mother use to say when, we children, would battle it out over something, that really did not matter in the least.

Picture of me with a orange car,
 I do not own, makes no sense, even to me
I guess, the good news is: I am alive, my brain still works (some might debate this) and my body works reasonably well (for my age). These are blessings that are easily taken for granted.

Thinking about what I am attempting to accomplish, and how to adjust my efforts to bring this idea to fruition, is my latest growth opportunity.

Oh boy! Here goes!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It won't hurt, you will be asleep or other misinterpreted statements

We still think of you Pearl!
When my eldest child was five years old, our beloved rabbit Pearl became ill. So ill, she had to be put "asleep". This my friend, was where all of the trouble began.

At that same time, my son was to start undergoing a treatment, at Children's Memorial Hospital, that would require him to go under anesthesia. It was a painful process that would be ongoing for most of his childhood and adolescent years.

Wanting to prepare him for the realities of this course of action, I carefully explained all aspects of the plan and how it would affect him. Hoping to minimize his worries was the goal.

Then it started. He would say things like:
 "This is the last Wednesday night I will eat pizza with my family."
Really, I said, you won't need one.
"What is a last will and testament?"  (Which might sound like a odd question from a five year old, but trust me on this,  not out of the ordinary, whatsoever, with this child.)
"Who will play with my Legos?"

Now in my defense, I did have three other children, ages four, two and a half and one. So while I fielded these questions with responses like:
"Of, course you will eat pizza with your family again, this may hurt a bit, but don't worry, they will put you to sleep and you will be okay."
"You won't need a will, everything will be okay, you will see, they will just put you to sleep and you will not feel anything, really."
"If you don't pick up the Legos soon, they will be mine and you won't have to worry about a thing."

This tidy compared to how his looked.
These types of exchanges went on as we got closer to the appointed time for the first treatment.

Thank God my niece came over to play. The day before the surgery was scheduled, yet another one of these exchanges occurred,  she looked up at me and said, in all of her five year old wisdom: " Aunt Nomi, I think, he thinks, you are having him put to sleep, like Pearl."

I looked over at my son, his head nodding in the affirmative.  Sigh.