Category Archives: celebration

Celebrate the Positive!

So here we are, ten days into the New Year.  What will it bring?  Has it been a good start?  What about resolutions?  Were they made?  Have they been broken?

My year started out in a variety of ways.  On New Year’s Eve my daughter and her family were driving north to visit family when she hit black ice and rolled her vehicle twice, ending up in the ditch.  The three children, ages 4, 8, and 12, were fine, as was her boyfriend.  My daughter slammed her elbow into the driver’s window and needed stitches, and she had a couple scratches on her face, but other than that no serious injuries.  Unfortunately the vehicle was totaled, and she only had PLPD insurance, so they are down to a single cab pickup with a family of five.  celebrate-small-success1

Here is where viewpoint is important.  Is it horrifying that they rolled….well, yes, the outcome could have been far worse.  Should everyone be upset that they are without a car and don’t have the ability to purchase another?  Of course that is a dilemma that must be dealt with.  However, the overall important thing is that no one suffered any severe, life-altering injuries, especially the children.   So, with that we can say that their New Year got off to a good start.  They came through a scary, dangerous accident without anyone being seriously hurt.   Celebrate the positive!

As for me, my New Year weekend was both work and relaxing.  I had a four-day weekend during which I never left the house.  I took down my tree, sorted and packed items to go to my kids, and also sorted and packed items for me to take when I downsize and others to go into my estate sale.  I came across things I had forgotten about, and spent some time looking at some old pictures of ancestors.   Some would consider a long weekend home alone and working on household tasks a lonely, sad existence.  I am on a time frame to get through all my belongings in preparation for downsizing and an estate sale this spring, so having a long weekend to work on my project was positive.  Celebrate the positive!

Every year I keep a list in my “notes” section on Facebook of the books I read that year.  My goal is always 52 (one per week), but I have never made that.  The best I have done is around 26.  Last year on the 14th of March I had only just finished my second book of the year.  This year I finished my first on the 4th of January and am more than halfway through my second.   I’m not holding my breath on making 52 for the year, but the odds are favorable so far.   Celebrate the positive!

So now ten days into the new year I sometimes look around me and wonder how I am ever going to get through everything I need to by the end of March.  I also worry about my son, who is trying to find a place to live as he is currently staying with me, being able to find a home and move out by the time needed.  On a positive note, he also has quite a few tubs packed with his belongings.  We can only hope that it all falls into place without a problem.  I’m not ready to celebrate yet, but I am trying to think positive.

How is your new year going so far?  Regardless of whether you have had downfalls or things to celebrate, remember to keep thinking positive.  A good attitude can get you through anything.

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Filed under celebration, communication, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, spring, vacation, winter, work

Christmas is Magic

A few weeks ago I decorated my Christmas tree with an assortment of carefully selected ornaments, those that had special significance or appeal.  This will be my last “real” Christmas tree, at least for a few years.  Most of my ornaments will be given away or sold.  My snowman collection, which I have been accumulating for years, and many other things that say “holiday tradition” to me will be forsaken for a new adventure.

I have made the decision to downsize out of my house and into a motor home.  When one goes from a house to an RV, most of your possessions must go, and that includes the majority of my holiday decorations, including my Christmas tree.  Some will be given to my adult children, others will go into an estate sale for others to enjoy.  popcorn and paper garland

When you decorate your tree each year, do you have ornaments that hold special meaning?  Are there traditions you have carried on from your childhood?  Long before Elf-On-A-Shelf became a fad, my mother always had an elf on her Christmas tree for good luck.  When I got married I had to have an elf, and when my daughter found out I was downsizing she said “are you taking your elf?”  This is the way that family traditions are handed down.

American Christmas traditions began around 1830 when an image from England of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert celebrating the holiday around a table-top tree was re-printed in American publications.   The photo was widely published and by 1900 one in five  Americans had a Christmas tree.  The first trees were decorated with things such as nuts, popcorn strings, homemade trinkets, oranges and lemons.  Newspapers and magazines encouraged Americans to purchase more elaborate decorations, and by 1870 ornaments were being imported from Germany.

German immigrants brought to America the tradition of putting lights, sweets, and toys on the branches of the tree.    My tree has some glass-blown ornaments, Hallmark dated ornaments, birds, elves, glass balls, and ornaments from my youth.   There are ornaments that were purchased as souvenirs, such as the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Washington DC, and the Calgary Stampede.  There are memorial ornaments for my father, nephew, and husband.  One year I was given an ornament that depicts two favorite things of mine…books and coffee.  There is a special, sentimental feeling each year as these are brought back out and placed on the tree.

Minolta DSCAlong with tree decorating traditions, most of us grew up with the magic of Santa Clause.  Saint Nicholas was a Christian holy person believed to have lived in the third century, who became known as a protector of children.  The bearded, jolly Santa dressed in red that first appeared in Clement Moore’s A Visit from Saint Nicholas in 1820.   Thomas Nast was an artist who’s first major depiction of Santa Claus in Harper’s Weekly in 1886 created the image we envision today.  Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly between 1863 to 1886, and Santa is seen or referenced in all but one.   It is Nast who was instrumental in standardizing a national image of a jolly, kind and portly Santa dressed in a red, fur-trimmed suit delivering toys from his North Pole workshop.

Santa lives on today because he exemplifies dreams, hope, wishes and beliefs.  In a world filled with stress, violence, poverty, and hunger, Christmas brings out the good in everyone.  The thought that if you just believe, good things will happen.  Christmas is magic, and if you don’t believe that, watch a child’s eyes on Christmas morning.

 

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Holiday Greetings

vicchristmastradToday I participated in two holiday traditions, a Christmas gathering for the Blue Water Shutterbugs Camera Club and the writing of my annual Christmas letter, which I do in lieu of a card.  The writing of Christmas greetings and handling out of Christmas gifts are two areas where I recently learned the history of the tradition.

In the early 1850’s the first American made Christmas card was distributed by H. Pease, a printer and variety store owner in Albany, New York.  Louis Prang, a German immigrant and printer perfected color printing and introduced a new colorful Christmas card in 1874.  Within five years the sales were over 5 million.  Popularity grew and Americans began sending cards instead of writing Christmas letters or making personal visits.  Cards held their popularity until the 21st Century.  The increased use of the internet led to a 60% decrease in the sale of Christmas cards in the past decade.  In 1958 the average U.S. family mailed 100 Christmas cards.  In 2001 that figure was down to an average of 28 cards per family sent and received.    I know I have dropped my card sending down from about 75 to 30, and the number I receive has also substantially declined.

About eight years ago I went back to what I recently learned was the original tradition.  Instead of purchasing and mailing Christmas Cards, I created a Christmas Newsletter that gave all the information on my family newspaper style.  I use articles and columns to lay out my newsletter for easy reading.  The first year I did this I received many positive responses.  Friends and family enjoyed getting this newsworthy mailing rather than a purchased card with just a signature inside.  Today I wrote and have printed my 2018 Christmas newsletter.

The Christmas party I attended today included a white elephant gift exchange, which is a bit different since it involves the giving of a used item from your home that is no longer of use to you but may be of use to someone else.  They are given wrapped, but do not have the giver’s name attached.  This provides a festive yet inexpensive way to enjoy the act of giving and receiving gifts.

Gift giving was not always part of Christmas tradition.  The act of giving gifts increased from the 1820’s through the 1850’s, when shopkeepers re-shaped the holiday tradition.  Prior to that time people gave unwrapped gifts.  Then Americans began wrapping the gifts they gave, as a gift hidden in paper heightened the excitement and designated it as a gift.  As this grew in popularity gifts from stores, factories and homes of laborers were wrapped in paper that advertised the material status of the giver.  The more grand stores used distinctive colored paper and adorned them with tinsel cords and bright ribbon.

Gift giving became a symbol of materialism, as it signified family ties and the importance of the recipient to the giver.  In 1856 Harper’s Magazine attached the security of a relationship to gift giving when it stated “Love is the moral of Christmas…What are gifts but proof of Love.”  Gifts were given on a declining scale based on a person’s relationship.  The best gifts were given to family and close social circles, lesser gifts in descending order of value to relatives and acquaintances.  The deserving poor received the least valuable and least personal gifts.

The act of giving gifts was controversial, as some perceived it to be a materialistic perversion of a holy day.  Affluence was viewed as a reward from God and charitable gifting as a Christian duty.  A rich man could escape condemnation by acting in a generous fashion to help those in poverty.   Best and Company had an advertisement in 1894 that suggested while purchasing items for Christmas the shopper should think of Children less fortunate and for them the store suggested “a gift of serviceable clothing” be chosen from a group of marked down goods that “would be more than welcome.”

In today’s society the act of giving to those less fortunate is seen in all aspects of our life, including toy donation boxes in stores, mitten trees, and the annual Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive to gather money for providing meals, toys, and other items to those in need.   Over the years I have participated in various forms of charitable giving, including shopping for a needy child and/or family, donating to mitten trees, working as a server at a soup kitchen, donating a stuffed Christmas sock for a designated sex/age child.

As you go through your holiday preparations think about where the traditions came from, jot a personal note in that Christmas card and if you are able, help out a child or family in need.  After all, it is an American tradition.

 

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Bulleted Reunion

IMG_20180720_185225304I had the pleasure of attending my 40th High School Class Reunion in Eaton Rapids, Michigan this weekend.  The coordinators did a fabulous job of pulling the weekend together with a variety of activities to keep people on the move.  This was especially nice for those of us traveling in from out of town, especially those traveling from out-of-state.

This is my bulleted list of memories of the weekend.

  • Meet-and-Greet at Eaton Rapids Medical Center Conference Room.
  • Great desserts!
  • Friendly conversation with classmates.
  • Tammy (Ball) Albright’s face sign
  • Olive burgers and beer at Abies Bar
  • Woman’s bathroom is small with two toilets, no stalls.
  • Breakfast at Darb’s Patio, always yummy!
  • Glitch in planned tour of high school – Honor Society students are prepared to do tour, school is locked and they don’t have keys.
  • Classmate makes a couple calls and resolution is on the way.
  • Dave Johnson, teacher when we attended, later principal, now retired, has master key to school and comes to rescue, conducts the tour, and does an awesome job of sharing the way it was when we attended, and what changes have been done over the years.IMG_20180721_130944998_LL
  • Touring the high school after 40 years brings back memories, including these mentioned during tour:
    • The Cold Tongue
    • The smoking bathroom
    • Pep Rallies
    • After home game dances
    • Band/band camp
    • Typing class
    • 1-2-3 Roll’em Ferndock
    • World History class lectures in auditorium
    • Theater performances in auditorium
    • Mr. Phillips math classes
    • Mrs. Lohrke, English teacher
    • Mrs. Shimnoski and Mrs. Tuthill, Business/Secretarial Block teachers
    • Various athletes, coaches
    • Teachers and counselors now gone but long remembered
    • Library no longer has a comfy seating area of bean bag chairs, chairs, etc.
    • Senior Bench (now gone)
    • The former layout of the school compared to what it is now
  • Non-Reunion Activity:  Quick stop-over to visit with my sister for a couple hours
  • Walking a block to the Red Ribbon Hall for the reunion because I thought all  parking in front was taken; there were still open spots.
  • Some classmates’ appearance has hardly changed, very recognizable.
  • Some classmates have changed a lot — thank goodness for name tags!
  • Being surprised at how many people recognized me immediately.
  • Good food, good desserts.
  • Good conversation with old friends and classmates.
  • 1978 Graduate photo frame for shooting pics
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  • Fun slide show of “then and now” pictures of classmates.
  • Party Favors:  Eaton Rapids glass and notepad
  • The Red Ribbon Hall has very good acoustics = loud atmosphere.
  • A lot of us still drink, but not like we used to!
  • Many of us no longer “close down the bar” and left before the party was over.
  • Cell phones are great for event pics…I didn’t see a single “real” camera all weekend.
  • Facebook sharing of activities and photos on the ERHS Class of 1978 Page
  • Sad realization that we have lost 11 classmates, a nice memorial table was set up.
  • A quiz of things about our last year of school – presented by Mrs. Wheeler, former teacher.
  • Each classmate was to stand and give their name (maiden) now and where living…which grew as it went around the room to name, where living, married/years, occupation, children/grandchildren.
  • Amazing how many people have stayed in Eaton Rapids and/or the Greater Lansing area.
  • Surprised at how many have moved out of state, or resided in several states.

FB_IMG_1532145667519Time passes so quickly.  How is it we have already been out of school forty years?  Many thanks to classmates Julie and Jane Brenke, and their sister Jill, for organizing the reunion as well as several others who stepped in and assisted them.

 

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First Day of Freedom

Imagine six years of life where your movements are controlled, where you have no privacy, where you can make phone calls out but no one can call you, your mail is read prior to you receiving it, where you can never go visit, but must wait for people to visit you.   That is the life my son led from the time he was 24 years old until he was 30.

When he received notice in December that he had received parole he began counting down the days.  March 20th seemed like it was in the distant future for him.  For me it went fast.  I was trying to get things done prior to his release, and of course I made the six hour drive to pick him up.

Patrick was released from Newberry Correctional Facility in Michigan’s upper peninsula at 8:00 am March 20, 2018.  Although he is on a tether for the first six months of his two year parole, and he must abide by curfews that in the beginning are tight, it is considerably better than the spot he was at.  So how did Patrick spend his first day of freedom?

I picked him up at the correctional facility, we loaded his belongings into the car and than took our last two prison photos, a “selfie” of the two of us, and then one of him in front of the facility.  Every time I (and my now deceased husband) visited we paid to have photos taken of us together and one of Patrick alone, so this was our last prison photo shoot.

Our first stop was a gas station/McDonald’s combination where he got a McGriddle sandwich — also one of my favorites.  When he asked if he could have bacon added to the sandwich the girl responded “you can have whatever you want” and Patrick responded “those are words I’m not used to hearing.”

I had purchased him a cell phone, but phones have advanced considerably in the past six years.  He was on the phone talking as we were crossing the Mackinac Bridge and I heard him say that the water looked really cool with the ice on it and “if I wasn’t on the phone talking to you I could take a picture.”  He got instructions on how to stay on the phone and take a photo at the same time.

Two years ago my husband/Patrick’s father passed away, and I had obtained permission from the parole agent to make a few stops, Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly being one, where Patrick saw his father’s grave-site for the first time.

We then headed to Fort Gratiot, he did not have to check in with the parole agent until the next morning, and we had permission to go shopping at Kohls to get him some clothes and then out to dinner.  We ended up spending about three hours in Kohls.

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Patrick tries on a hat at Kohs

Patrick helped me pick out short outfits for my grandchildren’s Easter baskets, then we shopped for clothing for him.  He had changed sizes while incarcerated and had to try on a few things.  A pair of tennis shoes, four pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, one shirt (couldn’t find many he liked), some boxers, and socks and we felt he had a nice start.  I had already purchased him a nice pair of fleece pants, hoodie, polo, and a v-neck t-shirt prior to picking him up.  During our shopping Patrick had to exit the building and stand in an open area of the parking lot so the satellite could take a picture of him/his location.  He was told that happens frequently in large department stores or malls if in for a while.

Next stop was Red Lobster.  Lobster Fest is going on, and we had the same meal — two different kinds of lobster and green beans with mushrooms, and of course salad and biscuits.  The place was quiet, the service was good, the food was fantastic.

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Dinner at Red Lobster

We were on our way home when my daughter called and said her boyfriend had the truck torn apart and needed to pick up a hose to complete it, could I swing by, pick him up and take him around the corner to the auto store.  I went by her house, dropped off Patrick, picked up Rob and took him to the auto shop, then went back around and dropped off Rob and picked up Patrick and we came home and unloaded the car.

The evening was finished off with Caroline (my daughter) and her three kids coming over for a while, and then Patrick and I watched a bit of TV.  It was a wonderful day for me, and I’m sure a great first day of freedom for him as well.

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Freedom on the Horizon

For the past six years my son, Patrick, has called me every week, sometimes more than once a week, and each time we engage in a 15 minute conversation.  He always calls me.  I am not allowed to call him back.  We try to exchange as much information as possible in those weekly conversations.  Things that need to be handled, questions, and some general fun information on what is going on in each other’s life.

This past week Patrick called me in the middle of the day while I was at work.  It was a very special call and he was bursting with good news.  He finally received notice on the outcome of his parole hearing, which I talked about in All We Can Do Is Wait.  He is being paroled!  On March 20, 2018 I will be picking Patrick up from the prison and driving him home.

He will be on a two-year parole and is being released on a tether.  It is a six-hour drive home and Patrick will need to report to his parole agent here in our county that same day.   He will need to get a driver’s license.  The majority of his clothes will not fit as he has gotten taller and broader in the past six years.  Patrick was twenty-four when he went in, and will be thirty when he comes out.

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and Grace, October 30, 2017

It is exciting to have Patrick coming home.  In the time he was incarcerated he lost two daughters (my granddaughters) to foster care/adoption.  He also missed the funeral/memorial services of one grandmother, two grandfathers, and his father (my husband).  In addition to a general loss of freedom, those who are incarcerated can lose much on a personal/emotional scale as well.

We are both looking forward to the day of Patrick’s parole with excitement, but I think also a bit of trepidation.   Neither of us are the same people we were when he was arrested all those years ago.  There will be an adjustment period as he will be living with me initially while he gets his feet under him.  My home will need to meet the requirements of his parole.   He is used to living under the constant scrutiny and control of a prison and will now have the ability to enjoy freedom within the confines of his parole requirements.    He is used to living with all men.  I am used to living alone.  It will definitely be an adjustment.

The countdown has begun.  Seventy-seven days to go, but who is counting.  Freedom is on the horizon.

 

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It’s Just Another Day

As I write this only a few hours before the ringing in of 2018 it occurs to me that millions of people are getting together with friends, going to parties, visiting bars, or participating in numerous other activities to ring in the new year.  Year after year I have spent New Year’s Eve the same way — home doing my normal activities until around 11:30 pm when I switch to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve to watch the ball drop in Times Square.  Some years I go to bed immediately after, other years I continue to watch the celebration for an hour or two.

New Year’s Day arrives.  I might flip on the parades to watch a bit.  I change over my calendar to the new year, and empty out my “Good Things” jar.  Overall the day is treated like pretty much any other stay-at-home day, doing whatever activities I choose or need to handle.

best-quote-for-new-year-2018Do I set goals for the new year?  Usually.  Do I achieve them?  Sometimes.  Even though for the most part New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are just another day, they still contain a bit of tradition that is repeated year-after-year.

As I was writing this I looked up and saw my handwritten list of 2017 goals I had set.  Lets just say I had good intentions and leave it at that.  That list just got folded in half and tossed in the wastepaper basket.

I’m thinking instead of setting goals maybe as I go through the year I should make a list of things I accomplish.  In fact, now that I think of it, that would end the year on a much more positive note.  No depressing list of goals I did not achieve to toss into a wastepaper basket.  Instead I will be able to review the year with a list of things I completed — assuming of course I do something productive in the next twelve months.

Here’s Wishing Everyone A Productive and Happy New Year!

 

 

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Do I like it or not?

We are having our first snowfall of the year…well not really.  We had a few flurries in the air a couple times earlier this year, but nothing that stuck and it has been unseasonably warm until now.  We are getting dumped on.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. you go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found? J. B. Priestley

The First Fall of Snow

So with the snow falling and sticking to the roads and people nervous as they always are on the first bad roads of the season, we had to make a 40-mile round trip to pick up my daughter from work due to her car being in for service.  What are my thoughts?

  • People constantly refer to how bad the roads are
  • Some people are very nervous and drive extremely slow
  • Some people are idiots and drive a maniac speeds
  • My car appears to automatically turn of Max Defrost when it is turned off, so auto-start doesn’t give you the max benefit when used.
  • Heated car seats are the best
  • If you forgo using the brush for mittens because the snow is fluffy, you will regret it later when your mittens are wet and fingers feel cold.
  • Freshly fallen snow on bushes and trees with Christmas lights on them is pretty.
  • There is something about snow that puts you in the Christmas mood
  • Yikes!  Only 12 days until Christmas and I’m not decorated and have more shopping to do.
  • Who am I kidding, I wish I were somewhere on a beach, somewhere tropical, not in the midst of a snow storm.

So, I assembled my Christmas tree last night, and I should have put the lights on tonight but it still remains naked.  I’ll tackle that project tomorrow night.  For tonight, I’m going to crash.

If you are in the midst of a snowstorm, stay warm.
If you are somewhere tropical, I wish we could trade places.

 

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Tradition with a Twist

As we celebrate Thanksgiving the minds of many is already on what has to be done in preparation for Christmas…the shopping, baking, decorating, and the traditional Christmas card mailing.

I have noticed over the years that the number of cards received has dropped tremendously.  Is it because people are too busy to bother?  Is it because people think an email “Happy Holidays” is as good as a traditional snail mail greeting?   Is it because the price of Christmas cards has become so outrageous, and then once bought and prepared the postage still has to be purchased?  The words Tradition and Change

It could be any or all of those reasons, but I tend to believe the cost of cards has had a huge impact on the traditional sending of the card.   The last time I purchased cards, which was several years ago, it was over fifty dollars just for the cards.  I had always sent the traditional card with a newsletter on our happenings for the past year typed and included, and usually a bit of a handwritten personal note on the card as well.   Then life happenings put me in a position to change all that.

In 2010 I did not get my traditional cards bought and the holiday crept up on me.  Still I did not want to miss the traditional sending of the holiday greetings, so I did it with a twist.  I used my Publisher program to make a Christmas Greetings newsletter.  I set it up to read like a newspaper with various topics and column headings and included a few pictures of the family as well.  A separate column was set up where I wrote about each of my adult children and my grandchildren.  Other topics might have been travel, house remodeling/upgrades, and other such items.  I then mailed the newsletter, with no card, in regular #10 envelopes.  I folded them so that the “Christmas Greetings” header was visible when it was pulled from the envelope to give it a bit of holiday feel.

My newsletter was well received.  People enjoyed getting lots of news on the family.  I also heard that the newsletter format was liked because it was a rather long letter, but they were able to pick up and read various columns and then sit it down and finish later without loosing where they had been.   I have not purchased any Christmas cards since then.  Every year I continue to do the Christmas newsletter.  It is printed back-to-back, which cuts down on paper.  Some years it is one sheet (2 pages), other years it has been 2 sheets (4 pages).  A red pickup truck with a Christmas tree in the bed drives down a snow covered driveway toward a large farmhouse decorated for christmas. The ground and trees are covered with snow. A dog walks across the front yard. Red bows and wreaths hang from the mailbox, a pinetree in the front yard and the house.

What has happened over the years since I started this?  Last year I received three “letters only” Christmas greetings.   So far I am the only one using newspaper format, the others were written in the traditional letter style, but they were full of information and happenings from throughout the year.   I enjoy receiving Christmas newsletters.  It is nice to hear about what people you are away from are doing, and it is more personal than a standard card.  It shows you took time, put effort into the greeting, even if it is a letter that has been printed and photo copied.  It still took a bit of time to compose that newsletter.

As we enter the holiday frenzy I challenge you to do tradition with a twist.  If you have already purchased your Christmas cards, then enclose a short newsletter about the past year inside each.  If you have not purchased cards, consider composing a Christmas Greetings newsletter and mail those out to family and friends instead.  You may find, as I did, that in a couple years you start getting those in return as well.  Tradition with a Twist!

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Celebrating Independence Day

I want to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July — the celebration of the birth of the United States of America.  Many people today do not understand the significance of the holiday, nor how it came to be celebrated in the manner it is.

I write a column for The Lakeshore Guardian and for the July 2017 I wrote about the history of our celebration and the changes that have taken place since the very first time festivities took place in the year of our independence, 1776.  You can read the column by clicking on Celebrating Independence Day, which will take you directly to my column.  While there feel free to click on Articles by Grace Grogan which will take you to a 4-page listing of the columns I have done for that paper.  There is no subscription fee for the paper so feel free to view at your leisure.

If for any reason you have difficulty using the links above, I have scanned and attached the Celebrating Independence Day column below, which you should be able to click on and enlarge for easier reading.

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, 4th of July Celebration.

Celebrating Independence Day001

 

Celebrating Independence Day002

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Cherish Surprises

It is easy to get wrapped up in the mundane routine of everyday life.  You get up, have breakfast, check your email, pack your lunch, drive to work, drive back home, and so on.  Your habits are routine, your interactions with others are routine.  It is all the same.

Don’t let monotony drag you down.  Even when each day is a repeat of the prior one, you can bring some variety into your life, or into the life of others.  By doing one, you create the other.  The end result is you will both probably benefit from the interactions.    surprise - momens seize us

Now if you are wondering what can you do to create surprise in someone else’s life, think about what things you find to be a pleasant surprise.  Moments you cherish.  It can be anything big or small.  It is something that creates a moment of pleasure, of surprise, it makes you smile and brightens your day.    At the same time, if you tend to overlook those moments when they happen to you, learn to cherish them.  What am I talking about?  Easy.

A phone call from someone when you least expect it, an impromptu opportunity to get together with a friend, finding a $5 bill in your coat pocket, an unexpected opportunity to travel, a handwritten letter in the mail, when a child brings you a bouquet of dandelions, a wild animal standing near the roadway, spotting a rainbow, and the list goes on.  There are no set rules, whatever makes you happy, whatever makes you smile, that is your surprise.

To cherish the surprises, you need to be alert to the small things in life that we often overlook.   Be more attentive.  Enjoy life and cherish surprises.

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Benefits of Hitting a Brick Wall

When I started this blog my intent was to begin building a reader base and to also write a book about the events that surrounded my husband and I attempting to foster and adopt our granddaughters.  We were denied contact, denied the ability to foster, DHS fought the recommendation in our favor on adopting the oldest child, and the girls were eventually adopted out to strangers, not family.  I wrote about it in Attempted Adoption: An Emotional Whirlwind three years ago.

I also began a memoir at the same time about the events surrounding that time in our life.  I got the first draft of the first four chapters written and then my life turned into a turmoil and I sat it aside.  I have had it tumbling around in my brain and do want to get back into the writing.

At the time I was working on those first four chapters I knew something didn’t seem right but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I have just completed reading  The Truth of Memoir by Kerry Cohen and now know what was wrong.   I was writing when I was still angry at what happened.  If you write from an angry/frustrated viewpoint you do not treat the people in your book fairly.  I wanted to get back at Child Protective Services, Department of Human Services, Michigan Children’s Institute, the guardian ad litem, the judge…everyone who had a part in denying us our grandchildren.  There were other people who also frustrated me, such as my son’s ex-wife who was addicted to pain killers, which played a roll in the children being taken, and my son who was caught doing home invasions and went to prison for a lengthy enough period of time that his parental rights would be terminated.

When I started the book I felt it important to tell our story, to help people realize that this is a corrupt system and it is a nationwide problem.  At the same time I was out to make those I felt treated us unfairly look bad.  While their behavior may have been deplorable, I still need to treat them with fairness in the book, meaning I need to stress that it is my viewpoint.  I also need to make allowances for the fact that these people were doing their job, and recognize that it can be a pretty horrid job to be involved in.  While emotion is important to a memoir, so is understanding and fairness.

Memoir - not about blame or hurtSo what do I do now?  I pick up where I left off and keep on writing.  When I have completed the first draft I will go back and re-work, edit, and tweak every chapter.  From a legal standpoint I have to determine for which persons I will use real names and which people will have their name changed.  As I work my way through the writing and editing process I may on occasion share a small section here as a post.

My brick wall was life, but in the end it was a good wall to hit when it came to my writing.  I have had time to process the events now.  While I may not agree with the process and outcome, I can now deal more fairly with each person in my memoir.  The benefit of hitting that wall is that my writing will now be better because of it.

 

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Filed under Adoption, celebration, Child Protective Services, children, Coping, CPS, Department of Human Services, DHS, education, Family, Foster Care, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Keep the Magic

Think back to when you were a child and the magic that Christmas held.  The excitement and anticipation of a visit from Santa.  The traditions that went with the season.

Remember getting toy wish books?  Once they arrived my sister and I would pour over them for hours, looking, looking again, and writing out lists of what we wanted for Christmas.  Inevitably the list was lengthy and mom would say we needed to shorten it down…the agony of it all!  children-become-a-child-at-christmas

Traditions of the holiday stand out in my mind.  Making Christmas cookies and decorating them, followed by eating them for breakfast as we opened gifts.  Decorating the house was always fun.   In the early years we would trudge through the snow at a Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree, which Dad would then saw down.  Of course they always looked smaller in the woods then they did in the living room.  One year Mom kept saying the trees were too small.  The “perfect” one had to be sawed considerably shorter after Dad brought it in the house, not to mention the fact that it was so big around it stuck out about one-third of the way into the living room from the corner where it stood.  It was huge!

Dad would put the tree into a stand and then we would have to let it sit for 24 hours to let the branches “drop” as the tree warmed up.  After that the decorating could begin…lights, ornaments, garland, and icicles.  The tree decorating was usually stretched out over several days, as we were in school and Mom also worked during the day.  Evenings were spent viewing the tree, seeing a spot in need of an ornament and then finding the perfect one to fit that area.    magic-of-christmas-when-children-are-around

When Hallmark began their dated ornaments Mom started a tradition of purchasing a dated ornament for my sister and I every year.  Those were wonderful to have as we got married and moved out and many of those oldies hang on my tree every year.  When I had kids I kept the tradition, purchasing each of them a dated ornament every year…something I continue to do even now when they are 28 and 32 years old.  Of course I also purchase one every year for each of my grandchildren.  My daughter has also tried to maintain the tradition with her children.

Christmas morning when growing up was always fun.  The discovery of wrapped gifts under the tree.  Going through our Christmas stockings to see what small hidden treasures were there.  Then of course spending the rest of the day playing with new games, reading new books.  Enjoying a day of family fun.

Over time childhood moved into teen years, and we no longer believe.  Gifts become more useful.  Then we become adults and Christmas is nice, but something is missing, at least for a while.  All good things come to an end…or do they?

magic-light-in-a-childs-eyeEventually we get married, have children, and the fun starts again.  This time we hold the magic and enjoy watching a child’s eyes sparkle with excitement when they talk about their Christmas wishes, Santa Clause and the fun of the holiday activities.  We relive the magic through the eyes of our children.

Too soon our children grow, become teens, grow into adults and move out on their own and Christmas once again lacks the magic, at least for a little while.  Then the grandchildren are born and the cycle begins again.

No matter how old you are, keep the magic.  If you have no children or grandchildren, go where there are children.  Watch the lines for Santa, volunteer at organizations that cater to children, work at a toy give-away,  contact charity organizations and volunteer your services.   Keep the magic alive.

Keep the Spirit * Keep the Magic
Look at Christmas through the eyes of a child

belive-in-the-magic-of-christmas

 

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Filed under celebration, children, events, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir

Thanksgiving Solo

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time when people gather with family or friends, enjoy a football game, a parade, fellowship and of course, food.  Over the years I have participated in large family gatherings, small family gatherings, dined with friends, or gone out to a restaurant.  This year, for the first time ever, I am doing Thanksgiving solo.  That was my choice.

A year ago I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner and had my daughter, her three children and her boyfriend over to join my husband and I.  Ron was battling cancer; a battle he lost eleven days later.  Ron didn’t feel well; he didn’t want my daughter and the grandchildren here but I insisted on having Thanksgiving with them.  Why?  Because I knew the boys, who at that time were 9 and 4, needed it.  Thinking back it may have been the last time they saw him.  thanksgiving-pumpkin-pie

So now we move forward a year.  I had surgery on my ankle a week ago, so I informed my daughter that I would not be preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year.  I let her know that my intent is to stay home and crash.   As it turns out my daughter has to work long hours on black Friday, so she and her boyfriend decided to stay home and do their own turkey.   Why am I not joining them?  For one I can’t get into their house.  Secondly I can’t go anywhere without a chauffeur.  Third I don’t want the hassles of the mess that comes with cooking, cleanup and three children in the house.   I prefer to go the quiet, solo route, at least this year.

So what will I do?  I purchased a stuffed chicken breast and will fix that with some sweet potatoes for myself.  It isn’t a turkey, but at least it is poultry!   I will read, do paperwork, write, or just put my feet up and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV.  Time will tell as the day unfolds.

I hope all of you have a very Happy Thanksgiving, complete with turkey, stuffing, and of course pumpkin pie….in fact, eat an extra piece of pie for me!

 

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Up and Back in a Day

This past Saturday was emotional, enlightening, fun, and exhausting all rolled into one.  A couple weeks ago I wrote about my cousin losing her husband after a lengthy battle with cancer in Feeling Their Pain.  The funeral was set and I debated for a week whether or not to go.  I wanted to go, but I have a lot going on and I was juggling the loss of an entire Saturday to travel and attend v. being able to get things accomplished around home.  I didn’t want to later regret not going so I went.

It was a beautiful fall Saturday in Michigan.  The visitation was scheduled for 10:00 am, funeral for 11:00.  I set my alarm for 4:00 am and was on the road at 5:15 am for the four hour drive.  I watched the sunrise through the passenger side of my vehicle as I traveled north on I-75.   A quick fifteen minute stop in West Branch gave me the opportunity to re-fuel the vehicle and myself by way of coffee and pumpkin donuts.  I was in Traverse City at 9:30 am.  death

The funeral was held at the Reynolds Jonkoff Funeral Home in Traverse City, the same place my Grandmother’s funeral was held years ago.  A beautiful, historical home that lends itself to comfort for memorial services.  Photo boards and memorabilia of Charlie’s life were on display, and a slide show of photos played on the screen.  Always smiling, always clowning around and being silly, that was Charlie.

I was greeted by family I rarely see and met some I have never seen.  It is hard to maintain contact with extended family when we all live so far apart.  Facebook is a blessing in that regard for helping people to stay in touch.  Charlie’s widow, Michelle, and I had not seen each other since we were children, but we recognized each other immediately.    It had only been six days since Charlie passed and Michelle was struggling emotionally.  We held each other and cried together, Michelle because the pain was new, me because I was reliving the pain through the memories this setting brought on.  I left her a card in which I enclosed the poem I read at my husband Ron’s burial, If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (see below).

During the ceremony the Obituary of Charlie Jokinen was read.  Charlie grew up in grew up in Bobcaygeon, Ontario and the stories shared by his best friend from childhood were filled with humor; good memories of a wonderful person in his youth.   Michelle’s daughter, Nicole, talked about what a wonderful, accepting person Charlie was when he came into their lives, and how despite his struggles with cancer always attended her sporting events, concerts, and other activities of youth.  I learned that Charlie and my husband, Ron, were very much alike.  Both loved photography, being active, loved life and family, and were always smiling.   It was a wonderful testimonial to a life well lived and a person well liked and loved by all.

Following the ceremony was the procession to the Memorial Gardens where Charlie was laid to rest beside my Uncle Lee and Aunt Jesse Hilts, who were laid to rest beside my maternal grandparents, Ralph and Grace Hilts.  They are all located not far from the graves of my paternal grandparents, uncle and parents.  After a short grave side service during which Michelle lowered Charlie’s ashes into the ground, we proceeded to the Grawn Baptist Church for a luncheon and fellowship with family members and friends.

About 2:30 I hugged Michelle goodbye before getting on the road.  We promised to stay in touch and get together for a weekend.   We now have a common bond not shared by our siblings or other cousins.  I did manage to accidentally announce my departure rather loudly.  As I was walking across the lot to my car I somehow managed to activate my car alarm.  Nothing like a bright red car with the horn blasting and lights flashing to signal the end of a memorial luncheon.  I glanced around, thought I was safe from anyone having witnesses my blunder and got into my car.  Then a grey pickup pulled in next to me, it was my cousin, Iva, and her husband Milt.  I rolled down the window and Milt congratulated me on adding a bit of humor to the end of the day.

I took the more scenic, leisurely route across the state on my way home.  This served two purposes.  It allowed me to enjoy the beautiful northern fall scenery with an occasional stop to take photographs, and the climbing in and out of the car into the cool air helped to keep me awake as I drove.

It was not until I got on US-10, an expressway, that the length of the day made me drowsy.  I know that if I keep busy it helps me to stay awake and the singing and dancing in the car while driving wasn’t doing the trick.   I finally made a stop and picked up a highly nutritious snack at Speedway gas station of a spiced pumpkin cappuccino and a small bag of crunchy Cheetos.  I know, individually they sound yummy but as a combo it sounds horrid.  Remarkably it wasn’t, so go ahead and give it a try sometimes.  It did work in keeping me awake as I stretched that bag of Cheetos all the way to I-69, which marked only an hour more to go on my route.

I arrived home around 7:00 pm.  A tiring day but I am glad I went.  It was good for Michelle to have me there.  It was good for me to be there.

funeral-whentomorrowstartswithoutmepoem

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Filed under cancer, celebration, Coping, death, Family, Illness, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, travel

Shall We Elope?

Life spins and churns, twists and turns, and in the process dreams are born, moments cherished, and desire becomes reality.  Such is the case with a friend of mine who after spending more than twenty years widowed and single married the man of her dreams.

Wedding wishes, preparation, anticipation, and anxiety all come into play when anyone gets married.  We are used to watching young people plan big, elaborate weddings, and there is excitement in that type of a “production.”   This was different.  It was two adults with children and grandchildren planning a small, simple, elopement with tidbits of details that added to the fun and uniqueness of this blending of their lives.

Planning to have an outdoor wedding in Michigan during the month of April is always gutsy.  They decided they wanted to get married on the covered bridge in Frankenmuth, a popular location that is a unique, small town atmosphere and also a popular tourist destination.  Being that it was two hours from home they needed to search and find a pastor to perform the service.  They checked on use of the covered bridge, booked a motel and made arrangements for early check-in, arranged for a second witness, and made plans for photo locations.

Then a week before the date the couple held their breath when snow crept over the state.  All was not lost.  The day of the wedding was warm and sunny, comfortable for the bride in her sleeveless dress, a bit warm  for the groom in his suit.  A perfect day, perfect weather.

Vicki held to tradition.  The morning of the wedding I received a text message asking if I had something she could borrow.  She had the something old, something new, and something blue.  She wore a bracelet that belonged to me for her something borrowed.    I attended the event and served as witness/matron of honor and photographer.

I met Mark and Vicki at their motel and after Mark dressed and I had taken a couple shots of Vicki helping him with his tie, he left to meet us at the bridge.   I helped Vicki with her dress, we took a few preparation shots, and I was shown a gift she had purchased for her new husband.  It was fun, girly, and relaxing all at the same time.  We arrived on location to find Mark chatting with the pastor and her husband.

 

Photos by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

Vicki had been worried about finding an appropriate dress, but she did and made the purchase.  Then after reflection decided there was nothing wrong with her purchase, but it lacked the pizazz that one wants for their wedding day.  She kept looking and ended up with a lady-like, age appropriate, knock-him-off-his-feet dress.  How do I know, because I was walking with them and Mark looked over at Vicki and said “you look good, you look really good!”  He was right, she did.

Rather than use the bridge, which was dark and cool, for their ceremony they opted to stand near the water overlooking the bridge.  Prior to vows the groom, who is in a band, sang to the bride.  Vows were spoken, rings exchanged, and of course the traditional kiss.   The marriage license was signed, then they posed for a few photographs before we went to lunch.

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Fried Ice Cream Deluxe – Yum!  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

When in Frankenmuth the tradition is to go for chicken dinner.  Traditions are made to be broken, and when you have a small elopement instead of a over-the-top wedding, plans can be adjusted on a moments notice.  How many brides and grooms do you know who have their wedding dinner in a tiny Mexican restaurant?  Well I know one, and it was great.  They were even presented with a huge, free fried ice cream because it was their special day.

After lunch we shot a few more photographs and then the happy couple went for a horse-drawn carriage ride around town.  The end of a perfect day leading into a perfect night, and the beginning of a perfect union of marriage.

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Their first adventure as husband and wife. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2016

 

 

 

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Filed under celebration, decisions, events, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, spring

My First Easter

It is funny how traditions with couples and/or families develop over years.  What is crucial to one couple is unimportant to another.  Being the  first year without my husband, people anticipate that certain dates may be hard, such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.  However those were “Hallmark” holidays that Ron and I rarely paid attention to, so my first year solo on those dates causes me no emotional stress.

This is my first Easter alone.  The weekend looms ahead of me like some dreaded dark cavern.  Why?  Because that is a weekend Ron and I generally did things.  For years when our kids were growing up we would drive to Belle Isle and visit the Aquarium and Whitcomb Conservatory.   There were years we traveled, years we stayed home.  Generally we were out and about at least one of the two days taking pictures.   Once we had grandchildren we put together Easter baskets for the children and had an egg hunt inside our house.  Easter has always been a fun weekend for us.

This year I have no one to share those things with.  My daughter, her boyfriend and her three children will be over on Sunday for the kids to get their Easter baskets from me, but not until around 7:00 pm because her oldest son is spending the holiday weekend with his father.   I have contemplated driving down to Belle Isle, driving around my area to take photos, or just staying home to clean and organize.  To a certain degree weather and the condition of a sore ankle will play into those decisions.    I don’t feel enthusiastic about any of it.

Building a new life takes adjustment.  It means accepting change.  Maintaining tradition.  Letting tradition go.  Freedom to make changes.  Keeping things the same.  Doing things you’ve always done.  Doing things you never did.    Building a new normal.

As I spend my first Easter alone creating whatever will become a new tradition, a new normal, I hope all of you have a fun-filled weekend doing whatever it is that makes Easter weekend special for you and your loved ones.

HIPPITY HOPPITY HAPPY EASTER DAY!

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Filed under celebration, Coping, Family, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, memoir, spring

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

I hope everyone has a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day, whether you are going about your normal routine, decked out in green, drinking green beer, or having a bit of Irish Stew.  However it is you spend St. Patrick’s Day, make it a good one.

As for me, I’ll be going to work just like normal, and depending on the weather I may or may not wear a shirt with a bit of green in it.  I don’t wear true green because whenever I do everyone asks me if I feel okay, so not only is green apparently not my color, but it must make me look horribly ill in the process.   My only concession to the holiday may be drinking a bottle of beer I have in my frig, which is a German beer,  but what the heck, at least it is a beer.

May the Luck of the Irish be with You!

St. Patrick's Day - may You always walk in sunshine

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What Creates Happiness?

I was recently having a conversation with someone who stated they rarely feel happy.  That surprised me.  I am in a period of adjusting to the loss of my husband of 34 years who passed just seven weeks ago, yet I do not consider myself unhappy.  I feel I am just in a temporary state of numbness that goes with the loss of a loved one.

What, I wondered, creates happiness in a person?  Why do some people go through life feeling satisfied with their life, while others are unable to pull themselves out of a state of depression, or rotating bouts of depression?

I believe that to a large degree happiness is created by attitude.  Positive thinking, the ability to adjust to whatever life throws at you.  This mind set contributes to a person’s ability to maintain happiness through life’s trials and tribulations.

Happiness-Quotes-concious-choiceBut what is happiness?  Happiness is created when a person has a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life.   A persons satisfaction with their life, how they feel on a day-to-day basis affects their ability to feel happy.  It is difficult for someone who does not struggle with the overall feeling of happiness to understand how others can lack a feeling of contentment that comes with being happy.

The best way I can determine for one to overcome their lack of happiness is to try to change their way of thinking.  There is a saying “fake it till you make it” that I think would serve a good purpose here.  Pretend to be happy.  Convince yourself that you are happy, that you will be happy.  Why?  Because it is what everyone wants, what everyone desires.  Convince yourself you are and it will come to be.

How do I know this?  Because that is how I live my life.  I have had numerous things thrown my way that can drag you to the bottom of an emotional pit, and yet I have succeeded in maintaining happiness.

What, you may ask, could I have dealt with that could be that bad.  I have had a granddaughter suffer severe brain trauma, not at the hands of her parents or my husband and I.  Child Protective Services removed her and her sister from the family and terminated parental rights.  Even though my husband and I applied to adopt, they were separated and adopted out to two separate families that are not relatives and we have no contact.  I have a son who let desperation get the best of him and is doing 6-22 years in prison for home invasion.   I was riding my motorcycle when a young driver ran the stop signs and broadsided me, causing severe and permanent injury.  Just when I thought I was healed my ankle began to deteriorate and I am facing more surgery at sometime in my future as a result.  My husband developed esophageal cancer and after battling it for a year, including surgery after which we thought he was cancer free, lost that battle on December 7, 2015.

happy_quote - Abraham Lincoln

I have encountered numerous events in my life that could have taken me down the path of negative thinking and left me in sorrow, and yet I prevail.  Why?  Because I am determined that I will.  I maintain a positive attitude.  I am determined to be satisfied in life.  It may be different.  It may not be what I originally planned or thought it would be.  I must accept those changes and look at them as my “new normal” in which I will succeed.

What Creates Happiness?  Perseverance.  Positive Thinking.  Acceptance of Change.  Determination.  All of those things, combined, create an attitude in which you are happy because you have the ability to cope with whatever life throws at you.  That state of satisfaction, contentment with life, gives you the confidence you need to move forward.  That is what creates happiness.

Happiness Quote 1

 

 

 

 

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Filed under assumptions, celebration, Coping, death, decisions, Family, Life is a Melting Pot, mind, reality

Reflections at Christmas Time

This year will be different.  Christmas will be eighteen days after my husband, Ron, passed away.  I am still adjusting but overall have my head wrapped around it and am gradually moving forward with what will now be my “new normal” life.

I’m not having a problem, at least not now, with the idea that Ron will not be with us on Christmas day.  That day will play out almost like normal.   Time will tell, and the times when people aren’t here may be more difficult than when I have people here as a distraction.   In the meantime preparations have kept my mind distracted, decorating, wrapping gifts, and planning meals.

What I am finding is it is the little things you hear, or find, that can really hit the emotions.  Two or Three weeks before Ron passed two boxes arrived that said Precious Moments, I am a collector.  Ron told me not to open them, they were for Christmas.  He put them up in our bedroom closet and that is where they sat.  I went to get them and place them under the tree.  I will open them on Christmas Day and see what is in them.  I knew they were there so it was not an emotional situation, at least not until I saw a green plastic bag containing a box on top of them.  I looked inside and Ron had purchased a Christmas ornament while out west that he probably planned to give me at Christmas.  It was hand crafted metal works in the design of a motorcycle.  Ron knew that even now, five years after my accident, I still miss riding.  Discovery of the ornament and the emotional connection of his understanding that I still feel the loss of an activity I enjoyed came through that one Christmas ornament and hit me.

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A motorcycle ornament Ron purchased out west and had hidden with Christmas gifts. 

Little things impact you, and make you wonder why.  I put both pair of Ron’s eyeglasses into their case.  Then I stood there holding the case and had a hard time walking it over and tucking it onto the desk.  Why boxing up his glasses had such an emotional impact one can only wonder, but it did.

Small connections with people or comments they make can take you by surprise.  A a dental appointment last week a couple of the dental hygienists asked how Ron was doing.  One of them,. Patty, got teary eyed when I told her Ron had died.  Patty has been cleaning Ron’s teeth since around 1974 when he got out of the service and his mother told him to schedule a dental appointment because there was a cute new hygienist there.

There are other people I have talked to who when told of Ron’s passing said he used to talk about me all the time, that he was proud of me, that he was always talking about what I did, if I outscored him on photo competitions, and more.  I never knew he did that all the time.  People he had no need to share that with.    Then my mind questions whether I did equally as well for him.  Did I support him as well as he supported me?  I hope so, but the mind still ponders over it.

I am learning to do things I’ve never done, or rarely done in 34 years because Ron always handled them.  I have done the banking, paid bills, called the CPA for advise, and will be meeting the financial adviser for the first time ever.  I have done minor things such as take the trash out, bring in the mail, change a light bulb, and clean out the frig.

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Ornament given to me by Blue Water Hospice after Ron passed.

I know in the future I will encounter additional challenges, things I have never done.  If something breaks down I will have to call a repairman, when the cars need oil changes I will have to schedule appointments and get it taken care of.   I know furnaces need to have their filters changed, but when and how?   I don’t even know how to change the gas tank on our grill.  My “new normal” is a learning experience.  I hope I live up to the challenge.

So as we approach Christmas Day I reflect on the past.  Christmases of the past, New Year’s of the past, trips we have taken, traditions we held.   I will continue to hold those things dear as I forge ahead into building a new, different, life for myself.

 

 

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Filed under celebration, children, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, Family, Festivals, habit, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, reality