Getting Along

As you may or may not know, I grew up with seven siblings. Seven brothers and sisters that in total, were nine years apart in age! It seemed I had playmates all the time. We lived on a farm and had gobs of activities along with acres of land to play. Did we always get along? I introduce you to my tribe of good chaos!

First of all was my oldest sister (by one year) Bernadette. Being the oldest, she knew EVERYTHING of course. She also was the first to get EVERYTHING! A new doll, a pretty coat, a two-wheel bike, and all the flu, chickenpox, and measles she would bring home from school! She was so pretty with her long, wavy, black hair. Her nickname was Berni.

When we played, she was the mother, doctor, teacher, and any other leader we could pretend. Berni was the director of all games and fun. Always helping Momma with chores in the house, I remember her cooking, baking, sewing, and clipping coupons from the Sunday newspapers. A planner and organizer, we trusted Berni’s word. She seemed more mature than the rest of us and enjoyed her position.

Berni always had a boyfriend and so often in love. In fact, she married her high school sweetheart, Jim. Together, they shared two children and a wonderful, rich marriage. Homemade everything and love earned her the title, Berni Crocker (after the heroine of General Mills).

I was the second oldest in the family. I grew up really skinny, had lots of curly hair and big brown eyes. Even though my full name was Josephine (named after my Daddy), I was called Joey, Josie, or Jo. I remember getting along with all of my siblings, but not always at the same time.

Next in line were twin sisters, Annie and Mary (nine months younger than me). The twins were born two months early and named after Momma’s two sisters, Aunt Ann and Aunt Mary. Because we were so close in age, we were probably the closest with each other. Momma raised us as triplets. We learned to crawl, walk, and talk at the same time. Momma was crazy busy!

Annie was quite funny and I loved keeping secrets and playing with her, however, she could be a little bossy. She had qualities I so admired; she was taller, cuter, and more assertive. Sometimes we double dated. I always thought she knew everything about boys. I wanted to have her courage, sass, and boyfriends.

Daddy nicknamed her “Punna”. We thought maybe it was the Hungarian translation for Anna, but never asked. No questions, Punna she was.

I so remember twin sister Mary as the patient, hard-working sister.  I saw her as one of Daddy’s favorites because she was always helping with chores inside and outside the house. I don’t remember Mary as mean, spiteful, or sassy. It was easy for me to get along with her. We used to share a bed and play a lot together. Daddy nicknamed her “Mudda-skush”. Not sure of this term, we agreed it was another Hungarian moniker. Not wanting to mispronounce her pet name, I have memories of calling her “Mud”. No surprises, she graciously accepted.

Without a doubt, “church” was one of our favorite pretends. We recited Latin learned at Mass and used goldfish food as our Communion wafers. When that ran out, Berni and I made hosts from flour, salt and water. Using pillow cases as head coverings, AKA, habits, Annie and Mary were nuns at St. Make Believe. I most remember this when we were supposed to be taking naps in our large upstairs bedroom!

The fifth child in my family was the first boy, Joe. Yes, we both were named after Daddy. We called him Jojo and he was always silly and often in trouble. Surviving in the midst of four older sisters likely contributed to his mischievous being.  Always planning and inventing, Jojo had lots of energy and ideas. His carefree spirit and incessant prattling often kept me in his company. 

Jojo loved being with Daddy. Together they did small jobs for the neighbors or small businesses in town. Patching roofs, fixing machinery, delivering seed corn, just to name a few. I got along with Jojo because he never seemed to get mad. He was always climbing, exploring, or inventing some contraption with Daddy’s collected junk. I loved his mindless sense of life! 

A most vivid memory I have of Jojo was on one of the hottest days in summer. I was helping Momma bake several fresh peach pies in the steamy kitchen. Jojo was outside yelling for Momma to look out the window. 

He had climbed the 30+ foot silo and stood on its top. With a foolishly, courageous jump, he made a landing on the roof of the peaked barn! There was an unbelievable gap between these two structures, however, on the peak of the barn roof stood Jojo waving at Momma and me. His champion grin was quickly dashed as Momma screamed, “I don’t know how you got up there, but you better get yourself down without getting killed!”

No harm, no foul. Joe landed safely and another day of his adventures were in the memory books. Today, Joe continues to be inventive and oh so talkative. He is a friend to everyone he meets.

Miss Kathy Sue is number six in my family. Of all my sisters, she is the most compassionate and loving. Just three years younger,  I remember her always being in the mix of collecting flowers and leaves in the woods, “fishing” in the county ditch, playing church, and riding bikes up and down the driveway. Daddy used to call her “Kukuts”. It supposedly meant “little worm” in Hungarian.

I don’t know why, but it seemed that Kukuts was the one who got hurt during our many outdoor adventures. She was younger, very small in stature, and so wanted to be included with us older ones. It became obvious that she was the “chosen” one to play along. 

I still remember the day we played Doctor. It was summer and we were in an empty corn crib. Whomever the “doctor” was, he/she had “prescribed” a corn kernel as medicine. At the age of two, Kathy had no choice but to be the “sick” patient and was administered the corn, UP HER NOSE! She couldn’t breathe, Momma couldn’t retrieve the swollen kernel, thus, a trip to the hospital! 

Little Worm was also the only sibling that ever broke a bone (her arm, falling off a horse), and chipping a front tooth (being shoved into a metal corn wagon). Minus the injuries, I so wanted to have her cuteness and gentle charm.  Kukuts was easy to love!

Number seven in our family was my second brother, John. Johnny, as we called him, was a favorite of Momma’s. He had a gentle spirit and the biggest brown eyes! He was five years younger than me and somewhat sickly. I remember very little about Johnny as a small boy. He was a great play pal, and I don’t recall any bickering or bad feelings between us.

I will never forget the day little J. was rushed to the hospital because he had quit breathing. He was about two years old and had been crawling on the floor. Fuel oil that had been leaking from a room heater and Johnny found it. Immediately he turned purplish-blue and was rushed to the hospital. Given last rites, no one believed he would survive. 

Johnny bounced back fine. He is by far, the tallest, most able, and kind-hearted brother anyone could want. He is a true giver, committed, and a wonderful husband, father and friend. I live closest to him and spend a good time giggling, reminiscing, and sharing a barley pop or two.

Last, but not least of The Crazy Eight is Baby Theresa. We are eight years apart in age and close siblings today. My memories include that she was the most spoiled. She always had someone feeding or holding her. Baby T. received all the swing, wagon, and yes, piggy-back rides! We’d all take turns dressing her pretty, combing and braiding her hair, and treating her like a princess. We lovingly called her Theressy (with a long “e”).

I recall one unforgettable incident with baby sissy. Momma had scheduled a photo session for her princess. A few of us decided to add the sweet smell of baby oil to her already dark locks. We used so much oil that her cuteness was quickly replaced with the likes of a rain-soaked duckling! Momma did not have the time or patience to get the excess oil from baby T’s hair! Cuteness had gone awry!

I remember little about Theresa growing up as I had various part time jobs as a teenager. When I graduated, she was about ten. Off to college I went as T. played sports in high school and then to work after graduation. She had lots of friends and independence. I know for a fact, she and Johnny were the best of pals and siblings.

Today, Baby Theressy seems to be a go-to for advice and knowledge. She has a strong commitment to her family and work. Always a giver, she is loved by so many.

Lessons Learned All in all, there were more happy, joyful, and playful times in my childhood than not. I rarely recall any long-lasting arguments of significance. It seemed if someone was on the outs with another, there was ALWAYS another sibling that would pity and side with you! Trivial spats and bickerings were reshaped and molded into a huge love connection of respect and companionship. Momma and Daddy kept their brood consistently appreciative of each other and cemented together with Godly faith and goodness. A loud, “YES!”. Yes, I DID get along with my siblings! Love lived! 

Thanks for reading and sharing the love! 

What Feeds You?

 What Feeds You?

How our tree of life is fed, develops and matures into a masterpiece of being is in direct relation to those who nurture and support us. What are those attributes and factors that feed our lives? Specifically, what gives us strong roots that enable our branches to become viable, long-lasting limbs? Words, deeds, and a support system of peers, family, along with self assurance remarkably help transform our sapling into a mighty structure.

During my many years of maturing, I have been gifted with a number of healthy relationships. Along with these support systems, are the multitude of philosophies and philosophers regarding positive living and being.  As a result, much of my life has been positive and filled with endless energy. 

Included in this piece are the many thoughts of others that I have gleaned as twigs of my tree of growth and development. Gathered from conversations, sermons, and yes, tea bags, these words and thoughts have guided me in one way or another. May you find value and thought for yourself.

Chaos:

  • There is a fine line between creative and chaos. “I have lived a life of creative chaos.”
  • Chaos is not a mistake, it’s a new opportunity to create. God is always working within us. Our curiosity in working chaos by peace, creating something new of our new, current mess!
  • Do you rise to the challenge or let fear guide you? Oftentimes, the Goliaths get in our way of stepping out of our comfort zones.
  • It’s tough to work to open the mind and heart to allow God the freedom to do surgery on the soul!

Light:

  • Light does not come on by itself. Someone has to make it happen. It is a radiation from within that we give and share with others who live in darkness.
  • God’s compassion in our darkness is what we are to be to others. Get involved and make a light.
  • If you give someone light, it can make all the difference.
  • Once we were all in darkness.
  • Now, because of what God had done within me, I have become one who shines light on others.
  • Like our God who puts stars in the sky as light..take your light and punch holes in the darkness.
  • Live light, travel light, spread the light, be the light.

Controversy:

  • Persecution is conflict gone too far.
  • Good is generally contested by evil.
  • Trouble will never leave you where it found you.
  • We are living in a roller coaster of anxiety. Most of us just close down or shut off. We live in chronic anxiety.
  • People, by nature, are fickle. They are easy to persuade, but difficult to keep their persuasion.
  • People are filled with contradictions. All of us! No athlete achieves greatness as a lone wolf. We can worship anywhere and not be a member to receive support and growth.

Contentment:

  • Choose to act better than you feel.
  • Refuse to compare yourself to others.
  • Accept others as they are rather than as you wish them to be.
  • Accept things as they are rather than as you wish them to be.
  • Be to others what they see as true contentment.
  • In God’s pottery, there are no imperfect pots.
  • Our society thrives on discontent. With our weaknesses, we allow ourselves to remain in a life of discontent. It’s the pattern of our world.
  • I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
  • What do we need to be content? Food? Shelter? We often think what we want is a need. “Stuff.”
  • There is always a place in time where we must meet ourselves and patiently learn something – to come to ourselves. It’s a fantasy that we think “the grass is always greener”, when in fact, it is not. 
  • See the good in any situation and/or person. “I’m not homeless..my home is here, under the bridge.” It helps to cope when you see the good in every person and/or experience.
  • All the “stuff” in our lives gets in the way of our love, loyalty, and openness with God.
  • Believe in yourself. Be true to you. Unfortunate circumstances will come to you. Stay focused on your mirror, no matter what. L. Schlessenger

“Holy God, patient and kind, you know that we worry and become distracted by many things. Help us to choose the better – the joy and peace of your presence. Just as Martha offered hospitality to strangers and Mary listened carefully to your word, may we learn to be your hands and heart in the world.”

Pain:

  • Pain is proactive – it’s the test tube of our faith.
  • Pain pushes us to the edge of questioning. 
  • We must make peace with pain to grow and move forward. 
  • In the midst of all our grief/suffering, there is always a piece of JOY. 

Forgiveness:

  • It’s a matter of acceptance. Sometimes it’s yourself. Just “Push and Pray.”
  • Anyone can ride..but it takes talent to fall..and get back up. J. Walls
  • Don’t ever apologize for your scars..they prove you are a survivor. It gives you texture. Some of us have more texture than others. It’s what makes your stories. J. Walls
  • Our greatest need is forgiveness.  

Love Me/You:

  • Love me as your friend; if you cannot, then love me as your enemy. Because the Bible says to love one another. Love me like that.
  • The most wonderful places in the world are in someone’s thoughts, someone’s prayers and in someone’s heart.
  • Your memories – all are a priceless treasure. Everyone has a story to tell..you slip on a banana – is it a comedy or a tragedy? It’s how you live it.
  • Look into your heart – how can we throw more beauty into the world?
  • We all have this beauty within us – music, reading, smiles, loving children, loving others. Bring it out, share it!
  • The beauty of Michigan is God’s doing! It’s everywhere for us to use.
  • “Make me a blessing”..”Count your blessings”.. Never focus on what you’ve lost, but rather, what you’ve found in your life.
  • Sometimes the best way to remain sane is to love like crazy! It works for me!
  • The more I give away, the more I seem to have. 

Justice:

  • We need to heal the brokenness of today – Truth and justice matter.
  • How we treat each other matters. We are all accountable.
  • Are we hungering for justice and truth enough? This must be valued more than winning.
  • I dream of the day all people become all for one and other. Continue to hunger and thirst so that one day we will all be satisfied!

Life/Death:

  • In the rhythm of life is death – neither is negotiable.
  • Nothing makes us consider life more than death.
  • Life doesn’t happen to you – You happen to life. M. Dooley

Aging:

  • Age is not how old you are, but how many years of fun you’ve had. M. Maldre
  • Age is no barrier. It’s a limit you put on your mind. J.J. Kersee
  • Age is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength. B. Friedan

Keep Going:

  • How do we keep going when life gets tough?
  • Most often, times are the toughest when the road is the narrowest, the gate the smallest, and we have to get through.
  • None of us ever get everything we want. We don’t get everything that is sweet.
  • Tomorrow is another day and there will be another battle. It’s a part of life.
  • Keep calm and prep for the run!
  • Running from your own demons – Choose to turn around and face them. Put a harness around them and take hold. Take from your past and hold on to them; make the most of them.
  • Everything we have comes as a blessing or a curse, just depends on what we choose.
  • Do we insulate or isolate ourselves? Because of what we didn’t have, does that make us less of a person? NO!

Peace:

  • There is so little peace in the world because there is so little peace within ourselves.
  • Peace is the lack of conflict. Shalom – wholeness and harmony.God is the source of Shalom. Peace is everything working as it should.
  • Gratitude and counting my blessings are one great sleek antidote!
  • Open my mind, heart, ears, and eyes to YOU!
  • Peace is an absence – usually of something negative.
  • “Create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me..” Psalm 51:10

Blessings:

  • The blessings of God comes in bucketfuls, not spoonfuls.
  • Even in times when we feel so empty and alone, we have God and his many graces of love.
  • People who are rich worry about everything.
  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. – the desperately poor rely entirely on God. They are free from the bondage to be rich. 

Be You:

  • Don’t give yourself permission to think less of yourself than you are. Be true to you!
  • Give yourself permission to have your own opinion.
  • Focus on what beautiful things go into your life. Beauty will then come out naturally.
  • Find your beauty and send it out! It gives us a way of facing anxiety. WE HAVE THE TOOLS! What a beautiful gift!
  • Follow your instincts – your heart. Give yourself delight. Approve of YOU!

May you find peace and contentment among the chaos in your lives. Continue to feed your stems, branches, and roots in order to produce a mighty tree of strength.

As always, thank you for reading and supporting my thoughts and words. 

Roots Are the Anchor

Recently, I was given a gift of documenting a collection of family stories into a keepsake treasure. My daughter blessed me with a year’s subscription to StoryWorth. Once a week for a year, I am provided with a question regarding my family, youth, and the like. I determine the length of each composition. At the end, StoryWorth will print and produce a lovely book for keeping. What a novel (pun intended) idea to preserve my memories and knowledge of family. 

I am finding great joy in readying my life’s thoughts and recollections into woven tales for my children, grandchildren and siblings. One such question posed recently inquired about my knowledge of grandparents. With the upsurge of interest in family ancestry, I have begun to delve into public records and minimal memories I can recall. Discovering my family roots; the anchors to which I have gained strength and growth, have opened my eyes to struggle and survival. 

Roots. The part of any living thing that attaches itself to the ground or a support system, transporting water and nourishment to the rest of the living via its numerous branches and fibers (online definition). Trees have them. Plants have them. Yes, our lives have them. Roots are the basic anchor that provide strength and food sources to all living things. Large, small, microscopic; all are necessary to the cycle of life. Family roots are the basic to our being and life. Personality, grit, determination, and survival carefully entwine with genetics to produce our very being. 

Sadly, I never met grandparents from my father’s side. They came to America as immigrants in the early 1900s and died at young ages. Daddy was raised by stepparents, and they too, passed before I was born. Faded black and whites are all that I have to imagine their struggles and livelihood as subsistence farmers. I have often regretted not knowing their history or learning to speak their native language, Hungarian. Did freedom and opportunity outweigh their struggles and survival? Likely, but I’ll never know their true verbal history.

As for the grands on my mother’s side, Leo and Ellen were present. Living a few miles away, I saw them often as Momma and her eight chicklets would regularly make a weekly visit following Sunday church. Adventurous jaunts to the barn and mammoth, empty farmhouse provided old, battered and tired memories. 

Grandpa Leo was 100% Irish. I remember him as tall, strong willed, and loaded with a full head of the whitest hair. He was often found sitting at the kitchen table slicing a large onion into a bath of vinegar and spices. Quiet and somber, I do not recall him as warm and fuzzy. He was a retired county employee, having driven a large truck that maintained local roads. Sadly, alcohol was a staple in his everyday needs. As a result, family income and healthy relationships suffered. 

Grandma Ellen’s memories have my clearest, most loving thoughts. She seemed to be the strength and spine of the family. Raising five children during the Great Depression had to have its grapple with daily survival. Add to that, Grandpa’s abuse of alcohol, she had to suffice on little to keep her family fed and intact. 

Although Grandma did not have a formal education, she was beyond resourceful. She took in laundry and provided whatever housekeeping needs the wealthier requested. In addition, Gram would scour the streets late at night to glean curbside trash. Anything metal was worth money as the war effort placed value on any and all “junk”. A few cents here and there kept her family roots sustained. 

Likely the most vivid memory I have of Grandma Ellen was her phenomenal cooking abilities. She made the best desserts from scratch. No boxed sweets for her! Lemon Meringue and Butterscotch pie were always waiting on her countertops for our anxious tummies. And her No-Bake cookies, YUM!  Coconut, peanut butter, walnuts, and raisins made for the best of her chocolate concoction. I continue to use and love on her recipes today! 

Sewing without the use of a machine kept Gram creating and busy. Known county-wide for her colorful, intricate quilts, she seldom had idle hands. I fondly remember her making these true pieces of art with no particular purpose or dedication. It was her careful choice of fabric colors and designs that needled their way into prized pieces. Her yellow rosebud Double Wedding Ring quilt made its way to decorating a large bed in the window of a respectable furniture store. Grandma couldn’t be more proud of her dedicated masterpiece. 

Of the four grandparents, I can only rely on public records and stories told for the most part. Grandma Ellen was my best root for deep, nourishing strength. She, along with the others, were survivors in weathering the storms of living and growth. The genetic pool has not disappointed. My roots run deep and are truly nourished with toil, struggle, heartaches, and joy. 

Lessons Learned

Roots are the anchor.  Whether plant or animal, roots provide growth and stability. They are the foundations of our growth and replication. 

Roots are not just physical.  Emotional well being and strength are those roots planted early and often a result of uncontrolled circumstances. These attributes are evident in our search for early family developments and help lead to our abilities to survive and endure. Thank you grandparents, for these roots in planting the seeds of my life. 

Thanks for reading! 

Online Shenanigans – Part 2

A previous blog piece introduced you to my initial adventures and misadventures with online dating. Keeping my attitude and social journey in honest perspective kept this chapter of intrepid waters joyful and enlightening. After several months of this social experiment, technology has reached its peak.  A few months back I readied to conclude and end this chapter of social searching.

But wait! A beautiful sunset to this enterprising venture made for a righteous ending. 

Call it grateful, blessed, lucky. Whatever the term may be, I have been gifted with a most gracious, gentle spirit. Introduced via the internet, Gentleman B. entered my life with usual trepidation. What has developed, in a short few months, however, is much more than I ever expected. 

Spending nearly a year troubleshooting emails and coffee meetups from a popular dating site, I was ready to stop all this politeness and hooey. Enough of introductory pleasantries, truth stretching, uncommon interests, and the like from the possibles. It seemed I was not finding or providing a good fit. Time out for a break from the social scene of my imaginary friends. Alas, one final profile tugged my strings of interest. 

The last of my choices was anonymously contacted. I was not hopeful to say the least.  Afterall, Mr. B. possessed the confirming assets that invariably secured a typical “No” response. Those included; his residence was too far away and as luck would have it, he was rather handsome. Combine that with a pleasant profile, I was certain Mr. Possibility would not return my “Flirt.”

With a click of “Enter”, I ended my online dating experience. Instant relief from the game of pretend. Online dating had ceased. I checked off, “been there, done that” from my Bucket List of wishing. 

Within hours, the unthinkable “pinged” my laptop. Busied with miscellaneous, I ignored the sound. Later that afternoon a check of the ping assured me that indeed, Mr.  “I Knew He Wouldn’t Respond”, had responded. For certain, I was ready for the polite, “No, but good luck in your search.” Surprisingly, those words did not appear.

A few niceties to each other sensed some mutual interests. Dedicated to family, Christian strength, and humor, to name a few. In little time, phone numbers were easily shared. Common inquiries as to singlehood, family dynamic, previous work, and the like were exchanged as conversations seemed effortless and comfortable. I had not felt this ease with any other matchup possibilities. 

Following a week of phone calls, Gentleman B. presented a possible meet up. Realizing there were over two hours that separated our homes, Mr. Polite made quick plans to visit as he offered several possibilities. Sensing no fear or trepidation, I agreed with a simple giggle. 

As you may have imagined, the rest of this narrative is history. Band aids to heal our previous losses have been applied and the medication of acceptance and adventures have begun. It’s the ultimate fairy tale ending all dating sites attempt to accomplish.

Fast forward nine short months. Extended families have been met and resulted in positive happiness and acceptance. Texting and phone calls have been at an all time high to our eyes and ears. Meetups occur on a regular basis as, “we make things work.”  Events of mutual interest, fine dining, and extensive, serious, honest conversations have weaved their way into our new found livelihood together. All without pretense, truth stretching, or imitated happiness. “If” times are readily being replaced by “when” times. Our hearts are once again being nourished and fed. 

Yes, this crazy life I live has successfully intertwined technology and love. As a result, I am happily and madly in like with a man who is no longer a figment of my imagination.  He meets my emotional and physical needs just as he continually reminds me that I do that for him. Thank you, Mr. B. for your generous heart and soul. And, life is good!

Lessons Learned

Love is where you find it. Friend matchups, workplace, church, want ads, internet. You won’t find what you’re looking for unless you are willing to open your eyes and heart. 

We love because it’s the only true adventure.  N. Giovanni. Mr. B. proves this to me daily! Quelch your fears. Adventure is good! 

Thanks for taking this adventure with me! 

Where Did You Go?

Hmm. Let’s begin by visualizing this scenario:  Country living on a 100+ acre farm in mid-Michigan. A multitude of milking cows, grunting pigs, clucking chickens, stray cats and a dog or two for good measure. Toss in a crazy pony, a few ducks and newly found painted turtles. Add in many chores that needed tackling: weeding a massive garden, tending to the animals, harvesting whatever crops were planted for the season, just to name a few. Regardless of the childhood tales of crazy fun I spin, someone invariably will ask, “Where did you go on vacation as a child?”

Simple and true. Few leisure trips away from home for us eight chicklets ever took place. The demands of time and farm living became our Disney and SeaWorld. I’m not so sure any of us felt slighted in any way by not having adventures away from home. We simply invented our recreation and travel ideation every day! 

Our “holidays” began the day school was dismissed for the summer! On or about June 10, leisure and delight commenced. No alarms to wake us; just early sun and gentle breezes to greet our sleepy faces. No handwriting practice; just letter writing to movie stars for photos. No bus waiting at the end of the driveway; just a hop on the tailgate of the pickup for a creek swim!  Lastly, no polished shoes or tidy clothes for us; shorts, tees, and bare feet became our standard fashion. Ahh, Summer Vacation!

Rising before 9:00 a.m. daily was a given. Momma made the call for breakfast, and up we popped. Oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar, toast, and milk was the standard. No substitutes, a solid foundation for the day. Following a quick cleanup of the kitchen, it was out the screen door to a panacea of adventures. Bikes, sandboxes, tire swings, “fishing” the county ditch, building a treehouse, or playing the likes of house, doctor, or church. Our ventures were as varied as our imaginations. No two consecutive days or play partners were ever the same. Here and there, little troubles bubbled, however, most times we enjoyed each other’s daydreams. Ahh, Summer Vacation! 

Yes, our farm was a busy one as well. If Daddy wasn’t in the barn milking the cows, he was most often found in the fields, planting, cultivating, or harvesting. Momma never hesitated to have a bundle of mixed chores needing our attention. Help with milking, feeding chicks, and gathering eggs awaited our energies. Always reminding us that our family was a team, Momma treated us fairly and rewarded our efforts. No monetary allowances. Surprises like hand churned ice cream, fresh donuts the size of a frying pan, or jaunts into town for an orange soda were joyful and yummy. Little treats with large memories. Ahh, Summer Vacation!

One of my all-time “vacation” fun times was spent when our cousins came for a day on the farm. These city slickers innocently shared their naivety and anxious energy to experience the common smells, tastes, and sounds of country living. To them, our life was fresh, unique and spelled, F-U-N! Running barefoot through the barnyard, riding the back of a large, lazy pig, playing hide and seek in the hay loft, and yes, mastering the one-of-a-kind technique of hypnotizing a chicken were experienced. Our inventiveness proved itself every time. Who had the most fun, them or us? Ahh, Summer Vacation!

All in all, I feel so very blessed and do not regret the experiences of summer vacations away from home. Opening the screen door every morning with seven playmates was holiday in itself. Pitching blanket tents pinned to the closeline was the closest we ever got to camping.  Never a dull moment as we embarked on all things country and inventive. Simple. Innocent. Authentic. Epic. Ahh, Summer V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N…on the farm! 

Lessons Learned

Vacation – a leave of absence from a regular occupation, or specific trip or journey, usually for the purpose of recreation or tourism. Often spent with friends and family.

Any word can conjure up different meanings. Our vacations of childhood were not far away, exotic nor costly. Imagination determined our destiny, travel, and leisure.

Necessity is a mother of invention.  Although we may have spent countless hours with necessary chores, our rich, ingenious imaginations provided summers of self-induced vacations. I have no regrets. 

Thanks for reading and taking another journey! 

Gifts in the Giving

It’s December. That hurried, yet celebratory time for family, giving, and receiving. We honor this month in a myriad of love, thoughts and actions. Christmas,Yuletide, Noel, Hanukkah and Festival of Lights, to name a few. However we celebrate, memories are likely to be readied, shared, and treasured. Over and over, this season of giving has accomplished that for me. 

First and foremost are those with my ever-present family of seven siblings. As children, we were poor in finances. Regardless of the circumstances, however, we put to use our rich spirited imaginations and giving to each other. Homemade or some trinket that cost a dime or two were often exchanged and treasured. A new pencil, candy cane, or perhaps a fresh orange. The best of times.

Years have passed since those childhood rememberings, however, our holiday lovefests have not.  With a vow of “No gifts other than a ‘White Elephant”’ (either homemade or less than $10.00 in value), we find more memories in our annual feasting and jabberfests. Sibs are now accompanied with children, grands, and a friend or three.  All in good fun, we keep our spirited love well nurtured. 

I would be amiss if I didn’t include my holiday memories while teaching. One of the most vivid of thoughts occurred during my first year. Nineteen young teens of varying disabilities had become my charge. Combine these youths with individual personalities and unpredictable hormone levels, anything was possible.  In addition, a full moon, and/or change in weather patterns aided and abetted in making our class of gaga fun. Upcoming holiday jitters made for the perfect scene of energized anxiety.

The usual simple construction paper chains of red and green adorned our room. Chatter of Christmas hopes consumed these teens. Hunting gear, cassette recorders, and the coolest of jeans were requested as a few of them mentioned “Santa”. Decorum and conversations were controlled and limited in an effort to keep a lid on frenzy. 

I reminded students that I did not desire gifts.  Repeatedly stressing, “No gifts, please. I ask for nothing.  All of you have shown positive efforts with your classwork and personal growth. That is your gift to me!” (After all, I did not become a teacher to receive boxes of Whitman’s Sampler, essence of Musk, or an endless supply of hand lotion.)

My efforts to convince them otherwise were not taken seriously. First and foremost was sweet, shy, Babbette. Her momma had recently died and she was in tight family love with her father and two older sisters.  A few days short of holiday break, she presented me with a small, hand wrapped bottle. I graciously accepted her act of love as I opened the gift.

Inside was a well-worn bottle of Avon’s Topaz. Out of the box, complete with a chip in the cap, I was aware of this gift’s origin. Broadly smiling, Babs could not contain her excitement. 

“I hope you like the perfume Mrs. S. It was my mom’s favorite. She used some of it before she died, but I just filled the bottle with water, so you couldn’t tell.”  

Classic giving of love and honesty! I was touched by Babbette’s sincerity and respect for her momma and me. I rose from my chair, opened my arms for a hug, and Babs took to me like a kitten. I was truly smitten.

Next with her holiday cheer was sophomore, Anne Marie. She proudly emphasized, “Mrs. S. I never gave one teacher a Christmas gift. You are my first. My mom and dad love you so much and wanted you to have this.”  Hiding her smirk, she presented a brown paper sack.  

As she pulled out the brightly wrapped and ribboned gift, I began to speculate. Its elongated boxish shape had me awonder. Afterall, this family owned a local party store and libations were a popular holiday item. I whispered to self,  “Do not go there. It’s chocolate covered cherries.”

Once again, gratefully thanking Anne Marie, I gently tugged at the wrapping. To my great surprise and awe, I gulped, “Oh my!”

Before my 19 cherubs, a 750ml bottle of Drambuie Liqueur had been revealed!  Appropriate oohs and aahs from the girls were in equal competition to the boys’ hopeful imaginations. No one commented except, of course, Miss Anne.

“My Dad, especially wanted you to have this Mrs. S. It’s so expensive and he only gives this to his best friends. We have Drambuie with my family every Christmas too.  My parents think of you as family. They love you Mrs. S.”

Gift of gifts! I was in a no-win situation. A Catch-22 of sorts. A most loving gift of thankfulness, yet one filled with illegalities in the public school, with minors nonetheless!  Ever polite, I thanked Anne Marie and her family. Making quick of rewrapping, I bagged up my endowment and placed it snugly in the locked closet. 

Just like yesterday, I continue to recall the real love of my family and many students. These priceless giving and receiving moments continue to leave me warm and appreciative. I ask for nothing more than their personal success with life. As they soak up self love and pride, I have received so much more. 

Lessons Learned:

Grateful, I ask for nothing more. In family and profession, I have had more days of gratefulness and satisfaction than heartache and pain. I continue to be ever blessed! 

Children are truly God’s greatest gift. Taken from Psalms 127:3, my life with children have been gifts that keep giving. Large, small, intimate, and silly. I ask for nothing more.

May you find gratefulness and love in this season of giving and receiving.

And as always, Thanks for reading!

Producer and Director of Shortcuts

Of all the writings I have penned in the last year, my greatest joy and ease have been those of family. A childhood of farm life sprinkled by the multiple personalities of seven siblings invariably led to adventuresome antics with a sense of secure well-being. Great memories, great satisfaction of a life well prepared. 

To lead and keep this show of shows operating smoothly, a consistent guide had to be present.  Who was most responsible for our many positive, character building, and loving memories? Once again my readers, I introduce you to the Chief Executive Producer and Director of “Eight Chicklets Strong”, sweet Momma.  

With the support of Daddy, Momma was most often the person in charge, manager of all things that made our house a home. As countless pennings have included her abilities to nurture, discipline, and empower family, Momma had to be resourceful is so many ways. Family first was her life objective and model for success. Second, were her many shortcuts. 

As previously composed, life on our small farm was work-filled, often tedious, with little time for boredom. If we weren’t playing outside, Momma seemed to invent odd jobs to keep our idleness busied. Planting, weeding, and picking gardens of vegetables seemed never-ending.  Fruit trees aplenty had our cellar filled with preserved jams, jellies, and applesauce. Enough butchered beef, pork and poultry added to the healthy food on the table. Yes, homemade everything. 

Momma kept farm and family humming with her many shortcuts of survival. One well-sharpened butcher knife, a pair of tin snips, and one long sewing needle were tools of her trade. The seasoned knife cut meats, scraped old wax from the floors, and served as a handy pair of scissors. No one touched that knife but Momma! 

Tin snips taken from Daddy’s tool box also served her well. Most often they cut up whole chickens in little time. Cut, snip, and ready for baking. In addition, Momma made good of the many fruit blossoms and pussy willows that we often plucked and presented her. Setting the chicken aside, she readied all twigs for a perfect bouquet! Tin snips ruled!

A simple sewing needle provided Momma with many a shortcut. First and foremost was her ability to create just about anything. With a swatch of fabric and her trusty Singer Sewing Machine, Momma whipped up clothing, comforters, pillows, and curtains. Us girls often had matching jumpers, skirts, and flannel nightgowns readied for fall and winter. Oversized comforters and bed pillows kept us sleeping like royalty as she feather stuffed and needled them together. In addition, she festively decorated windows with holiday themed curtains. Creative abundance while shortcutting the catalogs. 

Momma’s first aid was also a shortcut to the doctor. We did not frequent the medical experts as she kept ample doses of Merthiolate (that creepy, burning, orange stuff), Vicks, Bag Balm, and the one very long sewing needle in her first aid stash. The needle, often wiped clean with a dish towel, served as sliver remover and quick pimple popper. With a pinch, a slip with the needle, the sliver removed scar was dabbed with antiseptic, and we were back to playing. Seldom did we develop infection. 

Last but not least, Momma’s sewing needle served another shortcut of sorts. As a young teen, I so wanted pierced ears. Keeping the almighty dollar in her pocket, Momma secured my desire to be ear lobe decorated. Calling her sister, arrangements were made for the expense free service. 

Momma gathered up her chicks and headed to Aunt Mary’s.  Arriving, we found her kitchen table readied with towels, scissors, ice cubes, a rather large sewing needle, and a few cans of cold beer. My courage was challenged, however, outweighed by the coolness I would acquire with my piercings.

To begin my lesson in shortcuts, Aunt Mary and Momma made initiation and calm with a beer. School haircuts to cousins and my sibs followed as they were standard procedure. We giggled and gossiped while they were completed.  Tenseness began to build.

“Ok, Francie, you’re up,” cheered Momma. “Let’s get those ears froze so you won’t feel anything.”  Yikes, no turning back now!

With a large ice cube wrapped in cheesecloth, Aunt Mary pressed it firmly to my right earlobe. Sipping on her second brew, she became more relaxed as she continued to assure me that all would be fine. Deep breaths consoled me as the audience of siblings stared in awe. 

Once the lobe appeared to lose its feel, Aunt Mary centered an ink dot for the mark. With needle alcohol sterilized, she showed confidence and ready.

“Ok, Francie, here we go. I will push this needle through your lobe and at the same time Momma will follow through with the earring. Here, take a sip of beer and a deep breath. This will be quick and you won’t feel a thing.”

With a slow breath and a quick slug I pinched my eyes as the women made quick of their task. One lobe completed, one remaining. Applause as the surrounding kiddos approved. Whew, this was easy as I felt no pain.

The second lobe took a little longer. With an increase of beer, giggles, and confidence, Momma iced and marked the spot while Aunt Mary readied the needle. The task was not as quick, the feeling a little more evident, however, the piercing was complete! I was a rock starlette in the making thanks to these women of wonder and The Needle! 

All in all, shortcuts by Momma led to numerous memories and lessons in survival. Funny how the power of one strong family and a sewing needle can stitch the best of true gifts.

Lessons Learned:

Homemade and/or shortcuts do not equal poor. Often embarrassed as a child to give Momma’s homemade bread and jam as teacher gifts, I now realize the praises I received were genuine and sincere. As an adult, I so appreciate these lessons in homespun.

Always trust a good butcher knife and a well-appointed sewing needle.  Momma did this best. And no one messed with Momma!

Thanks for reading!