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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

SUMMER WITH OHIO FAMILY

The current prompt by Ariana Browning for The Blogging Lounge.
My mother and father moved to Michigan from Ohio in 1954. I was four years old and all the rest of our family was in Ohio.

Steubenville area, mostly, but great aunts and uncles were scattered around the state. After our move, seeing them became a big chore although some did come here to visit from time to time.

This story is about something that happened several times during our growing up years and I am sure my sister and brother, as well as my mom, have different memories of these visits, but I can only relate my own.

Sometimes someone would come to Michigan and pick us up or sometimes...

We would all five load into the car and head south to some predetermined point to meet someone from the left behind family for a big ole picnic and fun in some roadside park. Sometimes one or two of us would return to Ohio from these meet-ups for the remainder of the summer. The family we met would either be my Aunt Joan and Uncle Jim and their two daughters, Cindy and Joey or our grandparents, Dad's parents, and sometimes our Aunt Mimi who lived with them until their passing.

 My brother usually went at the same time that I went and usually for a couple or three weeks. This time I was going alone for a month. I remember it because Momma had talked with me several times about how I couldn't get homesick and whine to come home because no one could bring me or come and get me until my time was up. At the end of the month the aunt and grandmother would be bringing me home. She needn't have worried because I didn't get homesick and I didn't ask to go home because I was everyone's center of attention and I loved it there.

The picnic was fun, as always, and I remember there being a stream that we waded in to keep cool while the adults sat at a picnic table and talked and laughed. I loved a picnic back then and honestly still do. It was an experience I think all kids should have. Nothing there to entertain us, just nature and family and good homemade picnic food.

My grandmother, Mom-Mom, was a short and round woman ever since I can remember. I have pictures of her in her youth and she wasn't always round, but in my lifetime, she was. She was also always very beautiful. Her hair was usually done and neat and didn't show gray until very late in her life. It was very dark brown and I don't think it was colored. I think it was perfect. She smiled a lot. I adored her laugh because it was genuine and used her whole body. She literally shook with laughter and I loved that.

The visits with them were unique because we didn't always do things or go places, though visiting those aunts and uncles were sometimes on our agenda, we just spent time together doing family stuff. Weeding the garden, or picking the vegetable. Cooking was a daily thing and she let me help and showed me how to do things her way. She talked with me if I was with her and left me to myself when I chose to be alone. She understood me and loved me. I thought all grandmothers were like her. They aren't. My mother's mother wasn't like her. She was distant and cool. She tolerated my brief visits and never invited me to spend the night. I was secretly glad of that.

Living in Mom-Mom's house along with Pop-Pop, were our two aunts. Mimi and Ede were both single and neither ever married. Mimi spent my entire visit planning things with me after work or on week-ends. Sometimes it was really fun stuff and sometimes she just took me with her to whatever she had to do, either way I liked it. The pottery stores were among my favorite memories. I loved walking through those and always buying something. Ede wasn't so much into having me around, but she did pay me to do her ironing! I liked earning money and knew I'd get to get inside the freezer to clean it out once it had defrosted during my visit and that paid well!  I liked shopping with my own money even back then.

My Aunt Joan always invited me to spend a few days with her. I know now that it was to give my grandmother a break, but as a kid, I believed she enjoyed having me.  Maybe both are true. I loved going there and being the older girl in the house. I loved my cousins because they were fun and very nice to me. I had other cousins on my mom's side that I also loved and spent time with and Aunt Jean and Uncle Roy were very kind to me and always made me feel very special. Uncle Roy is my mom's brother and the only member of her family that really seemed to love me. I remember these aunts and uncles as particularly loving people who welcomed this northern girl with open arms.

These trips got longer as I got older and eventually began Memorial Week-end and lasted until Labor Day week-end. They are very vivid in my mind and time I cherish with all my heart. Without these, I would not have known any of my cousins very well nor would I have had all those hours of one-on-one time with my extended family and that is a treasure I have because my family understood the value. I understand the value of family time to this day and I am quite sure it is because I had these summers in Ohio.

Jo

Friday, April 4, 2014

Turmoil ~ Blogging Lounge

A trip to the southern east side of the U.S. was  our vacation destination this year. Roomy and I have talked about moving south when we retired since we first married 32 years ago. We visited South Padre Island for 4 winters and loved the Texas island life. We toyed with living there. We visited Arizona a few times and talked longingly of living there. Weather in both locations would suit us just fine year 'round, but the draw back was and remains, it is too far from where our families are. As we age our priorities have shifted to being able to return "home" in a day if an emergency were to come up. The flight would need to be affordable and reasonably convenient. Neither of those locations offer that.

That is how we came to look at and discuss Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.  The trip was intended to take us through the areas of those states where we were attracted either by computer searches or recommendations by friends.

We planned nearly 3 weeks of searching. At the end of week one, a phone call notified us that Momma was going to the emergency room. She was released a few hours later and my sister had it totally under control. I talked with Momma and felt okay about staying. She seemed tired but not afraid or upset. We continued to travel, check areas of interest and visit my brother and SIL briefly. It was fun. It was relaxing. We were eager to feel "at home" somewhere as we drove and gawked. That happened almost immediately as we drove slowly through an area on the northeastern coast of Florida. (Ormond Beach, Holly Hill area.) This was our destination. We both knew it wasn't going to be better than this anywhere.

After visiting friends in St. Augustine, we continued to look around that area and around Savannah, GA. We loved our time in Savannah, but quickly determined it wasn't a place we would want to live. The towns around the city were very disappointing and to be honest, I was still thinking about what Momma was doing much more than I should have been. I can't say it detracted from our search because I felt the search was over, but we agreed to head home by way of Nashville. One day and the night with my daughter's family and then get home. It felt like time.

Turmoil. A three week vacation to scout future home sites ends in less than two full weeks because the search was over and I needed to put eyes on Momma. I knew she was physically all right, but I heard something in her conversations that was unsettling to me. Confusion, maybe depression, irritability all ringing inside my head while I tried to be excited about our future. A future which always included Momma.

The plan is to buy a house with an in-law apartment or a duplex. It was never a consideration that she wouldn't come. She had been quite happy discussing this with me just a few days before we left. Now she had no idea why I thought she would move. She wasn't moving anywhere. Totally unaware of the previous conversations. That locked in stubbornness has taken over and I'm once again in turmoil over my own life and plans.

How do you justify giving up your life plans with your husband because your mom doesn't want to leave a state where the winter makes her miserable for a year round weather in which she can sit or walk outside nearly every day? Turmoil. Going back and forth with plans inside my head. We could move and come back once a month for a couple days. Very difficult January through March, but otherwise, doable. I can just keep talking and hope she will get on board at some point again. I can just stay here until she's gone or I don't feel compelled to stay. Turmoil inside of my head and my heart. The biggest turmoil, do I just give up our wants for her wants?

We will go to our Florida home, if we live long enough, or if she softens up.

Yep, turmoil which I'm praying about.

Jo

Sunday, February 23, 2014

DEAR YOUNGER SELF

DEAR YOUNGER SELF
#theblogginglounge
February 23, 2014


I have done a couple of these posts in the past and I always enjoy doing it, but today, it feels more difficult to look back and give myself advice or even to sit in judgment of that girl or woman of my past. She did okay with what she had to work around and the choices she made seem to have worked okay in the long run. Though she put herself through some unimaginable pain and strife, she learned and grew from those, so they were necessary to arrive here. She did okay.

I do wish I could whisper to the little girl I once was and tell HER that being the baby is not a bad thing and that her family really does love her. I wish she knew how vital those summers in Ohio with the grandparents would be for all the days of her life. She thought she was just having fun. Truth is, she was learning what kind of person she wanted to become. She was learning the value of the kitchen. The heart of many homes is there and at her grandmother's table she was learning how to love nurturing your family. It wasn't about cooking a meal, it was about providing what you had to nourish your family and doing that because that was your job in the grand scheme of things. You were to provide the warmth, the fuel and the gathering spot which ties the family together. That is what dinner is or was back in the day. For me, today, feeding my family is still something I feel compelled to do and love doing. That little girl thought she was just chatting with her grandmother and learning a few of her favorite recipes, and I use that term loosely because it was a little of this and just enough of that and stir and simmer until it's done...no measurements and no times or temps were needed. She did learn, but she had no idea she was learning.

I might tell her to pay more attention to the lessons of summer in Ohio. I might remind her that her home in Michigan is a good place filled with people who do love her and a mom who will eventually allow her freedom in the kitchen so she can also learn to love meal preparation. That mom will give over the kitchen for some not real good meals while she learns her way around and will offer much advice about how to make it better next time. A dad who will eat anything she hands him, including the forty-hundredth omelet she is trying so hard to perfect. Never suggesting that she try something new because until that omelet looked like the picture and tasted delicious, she wasn't satisfied enough to move on. Bless his heart. She wasn't aware of all the wonderful things in her simple life that not everyone had. She assumed the whole world lived as she did. I would tell her to step back and look more closely at her friends' homes; they were not all as easy to live in as her's. They didn't all have a mom and a dad living there and they weren't all as loved as she. She had no idea.

I might even tell her to just continue to live the carefree life as long as she could because eventually we all have to grow up and be responsible and while she could, just enjoy her closet rooms or her row of doll heads that she couldn't bear to throw away long after the body of said doll was in tatters and had been discarded. It seemed wrong to her to throw away a head. While I now think that is really weird, it was the beginning of the woman who thinks all faces are worth seeing and saving. Good for you little girl who had no idea why, but could not throw away a face. Good for you.

Yes, I would for sure tell her to carry on and smile and laugh and remember just this one thing...you are loved little one and valued by some very remarkable people.

Jo

Thursday, February 13, 2014

BEGINS WITH...#Thebloggerslounge

My generation is often referred to as "the sandwich generation" because many of us have children in our homes and parents also needing care in our homes or a facility. I am not technically in either of those situations so I don't qualify. However, is there a parent anywhere with grown children who doesn't feel the need to parent forever? Is there a child who doesn't feel the need to "parent" an aging parent who can't quite make it alone?

My kids are grown and self-sufficient.  They don't need me. They are totally capable of living their lives without my input. I think. I mean, I'm not about to give them that opportunity. I keep my nose in their business by asking questions and I am always here for the long talks moms and kids have to shake things out or to make decisions. I don't make decisions for them, not that they would ask, but I listen and give my opinions and then support their decisions, even when that's hard. It's what I do. I believe in them and their ability to handle consequences of their actions because they have proven over the years that they can do this and I have learned over those same years to be compassionate, but butt out at some point.

My mom, now that's a different story all together. She has always been very capable and since Dad died 35 years ago, very independent. She has always appreciated any help or assistance I've given her and I have done so willingly and lovingly. For the past 4 years she has lived here in the same area where I live and not wanting to drive. She could, but not safely, so good choice. I am the taxi, the checkbook balancer, the call those people and ask questions guy, the take care of business guy. I am her baby girl and she often thanks me for doing those things. It is my pleasure, most of the time; sometimes it's just my job and I just do what needs to be done. Sometimes she doesn't appreciate me at all. Sometimes she resents me. That's hard.

Aging is a mean thing. I have concluded from my experience with people who are 90 and older that being entitled is part of life. "I don't have to" is an answer to things she should be doing, but doesn't want to do. She is right. She only has to eat right if she wants to feel better. She only has to move around more if she wants to be able to move around more. Those are the two areas we discuss most often. With very little progress, I might add, because she doesn't have to. What I see happening with her is decline. Mental and physical and in the last year, much more rapidly than previous years. I want to help her live a more comfortable and healthier life, but I cannot make her do anything. I can't make her be nice about that, either. I can continue to be straight-forward in a kind way, but I can't change who she is or what she says. She can be very mean in her effort to assert herself. It's hard.

I am learning from this experience. I am aware that at some time as I age, my mind will not function as I need it to do. I know that I will continue to lose memory. I will  need assistance with physical things more than I do today. I will not be completely self-sufficient and I will need help. I have learned that when that time comes I will have to be very conscious of the words I choose. I will need to remember to be kind and appreciative. I will also need to maintain as much independence as I possibly can for as long as I can. I have also learned that my future really does depend on my today. Mentally I must begin with today. I have to prepare myself to age gracefully and with as much mental awareness as is possible to maintain by eating healthy food and exercising physically to maintain some strength and balance.

Avoiding what I am dealing with today with my own beloved mother for my children. Or perhaps for the people they hire to take care of their old decrepit mom. I don't know, I only know it
BEGINS WITH the choices I make today.

Jo

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Flower Cart #theblogginglounge

Standing at the back door looking out to the greenest of green grass while my coffee brews
 makes the morning feel fresh and new. Maybe makes life feel fresh and new.
Yes, a new start. A new chance.
Not that life has been bad to this point, not at all.
Yet, since the goal is to be a better person each day, the green-ness is a reminder.



Ariana Browning's photo.




The little cart with ivy growing and blooms just about to open is alone in the center of the yard.
It sits with no distractions.
Seeing it feels warm. Seeing it feels as if nature is tapping on my shoulder. Come play!
And play, I shall.
I am not able to refuse the call of sun and warm air and green things growing.
I will tend to the flowers and the pristine water in the pool.
I will sit near the bird bath and hummingbird feeders and enjoy their chirps.
I will sip my coffee in silence just soaking in all that makes me happy about my own 
little piece of the earth.
Just the sight of the little cart I filled with growing plants will be enough to step into this day 
with a smile of summer's promises.

Jo

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Busy Blog Pages

I write this piece as a blogging service announcement. You may agree or disagree or just think I'm nuts in the head. All fine with me. I'm going to write it anyway, cuz I feel like it needs to be said.

My expertise comes from being a professional (albeit unpaid) blog reader and commenter. I read and comment a great deal more than I write. I love a well laid out blog page that makes reading easy and commenting easy breezy.

Some of the biggest problems I, as your reader, have encountered involve the junk on your page other than your blog. The ads that pop up and have to be removed so that I can read on. The left side list of places you want me to share your blog that interfere with your words. The badges that take up a quarter of your page that I have to scroll through to get to the comments. Typing my name, email and website addy every time I want to comment. Captchas! Music that plays automatically when I open your blog. I like quiet. A blog written around pictures which don't show on a mobile FB platform. Subscribe to me pop-ups while I'm reading in the middle of the page.

One or two of those don't really bug me that much, but dang, if you want readers you really have to think about someone who is trying to read your words being able to actually read them without a bunch of stuff to work around. Your readers are lazy and they came for your words. Not for your extra add-ons.

Just suggesting here that I'm probably not the only reader who doesn't come back often if it's too distracting to read. And I don't comment where there is a captcha and often don't comment if the site can't remember my email or web page addy after I type in my name.  Ain't nobody got time for that!

Just sayin' make it easy for the people you are trying to attract! Doesn't that make sense?

Or no? It's your blog and your readers. It's just my opinion.

Jo

Friday, January 17, 2014

SAD Update

January 17, 2014

We are in the midst of a horrible winter, weather wise. We've had a record snow fall and an epic ice storm and we have seriously just begun the season. It's tough to even watch the forecasts because, honestly, I don't want to know what's next. What I smile about is that over 100 days have passed since the SAD season has launched and this sufferer is not suffering. I am looking at each day as it comes and I am facing each one as happily as I can manage because, after all, it's only one day. I can do anything for one day. And the tomorrow? I'll do it again.

Each morning starts with a smile to me. Just because I like who I am. Then a quick look at the days motivational phrase. Today it was, "There is comfort in familiar places and good friends."  That's a nice thought for any day. From there I give myself a quick list of blessings in my life and finish my first cup of coffee with hazelnut coffee mate.

All of this is done inside my head, privately to me. Except the coffee, that's a nice warm and fresh cup in my hands and warming my chilly body while settling and setting my mind for this day.

I cannot recall another Michigan winter that has been so calm. I can't think of any other cold, dreary or stormy season that I could easily laugh everyday. Nor another fall/winter that I could curl up with a book because I wanted to get lost in the story and not because I couldn't face reality, just because I wanted to enjoy fantasy.

2014. Welcome and bring it! I'm good. I'm grateful. I'm strong and I'm winning!

Jo