Thursday, December 31, 2015


Long before the days of social media and acronymns, the theory of YOLO was alive and well in Gordy's house.  It was usually the reason given for one of his spontaneous plans to have fun.   His actual  phrase was "You only go around once, Pal.  You might as well enjoy it."

 "Pal" was his generic term for his kids and later,  grandchildren.   We all felt good inside when we heard it.  It might mean just about anything was coming, but you were going to be part of the journey.  Sitting in geography class in the 7th grade, a messenger came from the school office with a note for me, which read "Gather all of your books and please come to the office."   I could not imagine why, but did as instructed, only to hear that my parents were picking me up to go on vacation.  One hour later, I was on the way to the airport for an adventure with Gordy.

I say it was an adventure "with Gordy" because my mother seemed to just go along for the ride, accepting the next surprise just as we did.  He kept our destination a secret and a few hours later, we were seeing Florida in the midst of winter, in all it's warmth and beauty.  I remember getting into the rental car and watching my Dad put the top down on the 1966 convertible, listening to my mother caution him to slow down, as he seemed to fly across Florida's causeways, shouting to us to look at the beauty of Miami at midnight.

The week was memorable, with lots of family time swimming and waking each day with NO plan.  There is something wonderful about a visit to Sea World, just because it sounds good that day.  For me, to this day, a real vacation is one without plans.  I learned to love the idea of waking up and doing exactly what "sounds good".  While others grapple with the idea,  of what sounds disorganized, both my brother and I love to create a plan in moments and make it happen.  We learned that we could make anything happen, just because it "sounds good".  

His reason for the trip was simple.  "It was snowing, cold and we needed to have some family fun."  Within hours, he scheduled time off work, booked flights, packed our suitcases, called the school and had us on a plane.  He was "Cookin' with gas!"

On the way to the airport, he stopped to buy a new "movie camera" to record the memories and bought me my own camera.   Before his death, he had those memories transferred to play them in his VCR and we enjoyed watching that wonderful week together.  I still smile when I hook up my old VCR to see it again.  Family time at it's best, unplanned with no schedule to meet.  "You only go around once, Pal!"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I am 61 years old and realize that I am bordering on obnoxious, as I continue to talk about my Dad.  I have always talked about him, but now it seems as so many of his words and explanations of life just cry out to be shared.  During my  early adult life, I never stopped to think that he was profound.  I knew he could be a bit unusual at times, but  it was part of life with Gordy.  Everyone who knew Gordy knew that my Dad just DID things that no one else did.  We loved to tell the stories about his mischief and humor and enjoyed them over and over.  Suddenly, there were messages in those stories that had become clear to me.

When I was still working, I would often blurt out one of his favorite phrases.  My boss would always laugh out loud and ask me "whatever made you say that?"  or "you come up with these phrases that are just perfect for the occasion, but I have never heard them before."  After a while we began to call them "Gordyisms".   One day he said "You really should write a book and call it Gordyisms. "

"Now, you're cooking with gas!"  was a particular favorite of his and also worked well at work when my staff was doing a great job.  Back in 1960,  I heard that as I was finally balancing on my bike or learning to tie my shoes.  As soon as he said it, I knew I had accomplished whatever he was teaching.  His lessons were often lengthy and complicated, but I never knew that because he was keeping my mind so busy in the process.  Learning to ride a bike began with discussing just where I would like to go, once I could "ride like the wind".  He made me feel like an adult, expecting that I could do whatever he directed, so....I did.

One day when I was about 10 years old, I told him I wanted my bedroom painted blue.  He asked me if I was sure that it was worth all the work and expense.  I had to think about both for a minute before I asked if it cost a lot.  Of course, I never dreamed that the work was going to be done by ME.  He responded by telling me to get out my pencil and paper so we could do some math.
 (Hidden Lesson #1)

"How much does paint cost?"
Me:  "I don't know!"
"Well, the first thing you need to know, is if you can afford your project.  How would you find out?"
Me:  "Ask the man at the hardware store?"  (Learn to problem solve)
"Get the phone book and look up the number"  (Learn to use alphabet & phone book. It WAS 1964)
Me:  "Ok, here is the number...."
"It's not MY project.  Call the man.  Tell him you want to paint your bedroom and you need to know how much a gallon of paint costs and don't forget to ask about a brush, a roller and a paint pan"

Feeling torn between very grown up and very unsure of myself, I dialed the old rotary phone.  Amazing, but the man at the hardware helped me through my project costs.  However, then I had to add up the numbers, since there were no handy calculators.   After giving my Dad the total, he checked my math, got up and said "I will drive since you can't reach the pedals, but if I pay, you are doing the rest of the work on this project, ok?"

Dad handed me the money and told me to be sure to check my change was correct....


(Teaching total self confidence in one big reality moment!  )

My Dad returned to his chair, opened a cold can of beer and began to watch Saturday baseball.  I stood there with my purchases and waited.....

"You had better go and clear that room unless you want blue paint on everything."
(Was this project really worth it?)

An hour later, he showed me how to cover my furniture with old drop cloths and patiently watched as I learned to stir the paint and helped me pour the first bit into the pan.  He showed me how to roll the roller and apply the first swipe.  Then he said...."Let me know when you are done!"

My mother was having fits in the background.  He just waved his hand at her and told her to leave me alone so I could paint my room.  I think back now and laugh.  She must have been a Saint.  The first thing I did was to paint a huge heart in the middle of the wall.  I was having a ball with that paint.  Then I took a break.....but when I returned to cover the heart, it showed through my attempt!  I called my Dad and he sat there and laughed and laughed.  "Guess you learned  a lesson here, Pal!"

Eventually we covered that heart together and I kept painting.  He would poke his head in and say "Now, you're cookin' with gas!"  I felt like I was 10 feet tall and all grown up.  By the end of the day my room was blue.   My body and clothes were blue, the floor was speckled in blue and I have never been so proud of myself.  I had painted away to the sound of the radio on a summer afternoon all by myself.

I didn't realize until years later all the lessons I had learned that day or even think that I had worked really hard.  As my brother often remarked, our Dad gave us the ability to learn by doing.  He showed us the steps, but let us take them on our own.  He expected that we succeed and was nearby to guide without taking over, ever!  How many times as a parent do we take that much time, when it would be far easier to do the project yourself?   What a fantastic gift to give a child!

So, when the project is going well...I catch myself saying "NOW, you're cookin' with gas!"

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Break....From the Home Front

It is 3:50am and I am awake, thinking of all the reasons that I cannot sleep until Catie is home and safe.  Yes, I have heard her tell me over and over that she is all of 19 years old, a virtual old lady  and quite able to navigate the world.   Let's just say that last phone call home when she told me she could not wait to be home safe in our arms did me in.

I read a recent article that said "Greetings from Panama City Beach, where it's not really spring break until a crowd big enough to fill any college football stadium shows up for a free Luke Bryan concert at the Spinnaker Beach Club. "  Catie was in the front row, making college memories that will surely last a lifetime.  That is good.  Of course, the other article was about the missing student that was never found.    Every friend I spoke to seemed to know all about Panama City Beach, "the new Spring Break Place to Be".  I most loved the people who told me just how wild it was.  Letting go is the hardest thing a mother or grandmother will ever do.  Push them out of the nest, teach them to fly on their own is great advice, but does not come without sleepless nights.  

She has learned that people really do steal, not everyone tells the truth and that driving outside of Eaton Rapids is a whole new world.  She experienced paying a hotel bill, learned how much it costs to eat out for a week and how expensive gas is.  She grew tired of being designated driver in the crush of Panama City Beach traffic at 2am.   I know she will want to go again and I also know she will spend less of her summer money on Itunes, Victoria Secret purchases and McDonalds, saving for the big week in Florida.  She had to do a lot of last minute babysitting to pull this off.  

A 1000 memories, lessons learned and at least that many minutes spent awake this week wondering if my little one is safe.  I just got the latest text saying she is in Olivet and will be home soon.   She will be eager to cuddle up with Frankie, safe in her own bed.  Maybe I should wake her for church in the morning, instead of letting her sleep all day!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Extreme Couponing or Extreme Madness?

A few weeks ago, I happened to glance up at the TV and a show called Extreme Couponing caught my attention.  At first, I thought it was silly reality TV, then I began to ask myself, why not?  I listened as one after another statement just made sense.  "If you see a quarter on the ground, don't you pick it up?   Why would you choose to pay $1 MORE for an item?  Coupons are actually currency...."   I went to my laptop and began to search, finding endless pages of advice and coupons.  Strangely, my brother was watching the same show and the next day he took the challenge.

 My brother and his 192 rolls of toilet paper for free is going to keep driving me until I come at least close to that kind of accomplishment.  I hauled out the Kroger savings card that I had kind of, halfway used in the past, clipped a bunch of coupons and headed to the store.  Yes, I was so exhausted with my heavy cart, that I had to call Mike and Joe, looking for help to get it all through the snow and into the car.   I had bought about $400 in groceries, but paid just under $300.  A 25% savings is nothing to laugh at, but I was not ready to star in the next episode on TV.

I had stuck to my plan and I did not purchase junk that I would not normally buy and did not stock up on anything in particular.    The next week, I left the coupons home and did an unplanned shopping trip, which I immediately regretted.  Every time I entered an aisle, I saw items that I knew had coupons waiting at home.  I was paying too much, so I left before too much damage was done (about $100).  Unfortunately, that created a need to make a foolish stop at the local Family Fare.  That trip made me realize I should never, ever do that again AND it also made me realize just how much money I have wasted there over the years.  I don't even want to think about that.

Week 3 began with a plan.  I loaded up my Meijer card with their MPerks sales, clipped the coupons and headed to the store.  I learned that Meijer does not double coupons and that they have their computers set to catch any attempt at using both a coupon and MPerks, which defeated half of my plan.  They were also smart enough to offer the EXACT discount that the coupon gave.  I saved the coupon for later use elsewhere and used the MPerks.

  I was able to buy 5 large boxes of cereal for $10 and felt satisfied that $2 per box was a good savings.  I got $20 off my groceries for filling a prescription at their store and also learned that I do not want to use them as my pharmacy.  Their poor customers service was just as bad as the last time I tried. The 3 men working at an empty pharmacy made the Rite Aid ladies look good on a bad day.  I really messed up their Sunday by filling a prescription.   Thanks, Meijer for paying me to learn NOT to buy my medicine at Meijer.    In the end, I saved about $50 on a $300 grocery trip.  Less savings than I had at Kroger or Walmart.

I have learned it is not productive to try to do a full week of grocery shopping at one store.  It will take a bit more time, but the payoff will be generous, if I use the double coupons at Kroger and take advantage of the card savings at all 3 stores.

  If I really want to work hard, Walmart will match all competitor's ads, so I could get all the ads, make a list and head into my worst nightmare....Walmart grocery shopping.  UGH!

Between the terrible meat at Walmart and their sad produce section, the only deals to take advantage of are on canned, boxed or other packaged items and general merchandise.  I am realizing this is going to require some more planning, but I will conquer it....after all, Walmart has razors this week that will only cost me about 50 cents a package!  I am ready to go again!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

You Know You Are From Michigan....

Still fighting off what is hopefully my last cold this winter, I put off leaving the house today until 2pm.  I hadn't looked at the temperature, but the sunshine tempted me to choose a lighter coat.  Backing out of the garage, I reached for my sunglasses and then decided to  just pull off that coat!  Last week, I had to warm up the car for 10 minutes before entering it.  It feels like Spring IS coming.

Never mind the fact that we have at least 2 feet of snow still on the ground, people are lined up today for a car wash.  It isn't snowing today.  The sun is shining.

As I drove through Charlotte, I noticed puddles.  You know it has been a rough winter when the sight of a muddy puddle of slush makes you feel pure joy.  I pulled up at the post office and hesitated to reach for the coat, just as I saw 2 more people walking up the steps, clad only in sweaters.  I took the plunge and called out to one of the other women, asking "Doesn't it feel great?"  She burst into a big smile and yelled out "I LOVE IT!!!"

It's been a very long winter.  Bring on the flip flops!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lasagna, Brownies....and Memories

When Catie and I went shopping on Saturday, it was the last errand of the day and it seemed as if Walmart would be the death of me.  I pushed the heavy cart back and forth 3 times between the front and back as I tried to remember everything I needed, cursing the layout that makes you walk every inch of the store.  I was picking up groceries for "Chin Sunday Dinner" as the kids have named our weekly family meal.  Then I remembered a friend who had surgery and decided to double the meal and drop it off.

 I had a Peanut Butter Fudge Brownie recipe in mind for dessert and would bake 2 batches of those too.  Then Catie corrected my numbers, reminding me that she HAD to take sweets back to school to share with her friends.  She advised me that treats from Grandma Chin were now expected on Sunday nights.  
As I cursed the recipe that called for nearly a full pound of butter per batch, I loaded the cart with tons of sugar, butter, cocoa and peanut butter.  Adding in a new calculator to replace the one that was stolen in class when Catie went to the bathroom,  the ingredients for lasagna, the weekly supply of juice and some fresh fruits for her to take back to the dorm, I was grateful for her help pushing the heavy cart,  as we made our way to the register to pay. 

Sunday, I began making the sauce for lasagna and Joe asked if I was feeding the neighborhood.  Andy walked by and remarked that he would eat it all week.  I've never seen sauce or lasagna go to waste in the Chin house.  Catie watched and declared that she now knew how to make Chin Sauce.  (I'll remember that the next time and she is welcome to try her hand at it).  However, she was hanging in the kitchen with baking in mind.  Catie loves to bake, so I offered to allow her to make the Peanut Butter & Fudge concoction.  No deal!  She wanted to do it together.  

It turned out to be quite a process to bake 3 pans of these brownies.  Neither one of us could resist tasting each of the 3 layers and by the end, we got creative, adding to the recipe for "taste".  Then we found out our friend already had a meal planned for the day, so we would and drop off one another day.  No problem...until Mike and Courtney cancelled.  Now we were staring at a HUGE pan of lasagna and 3 pans of the richest brownies on earth.  One bite was so rich, it was hard to take a second until the sugar rush subsided.  I knew I could force myself through the pan before the week was out.

Catie quickly grabbed her pan and began to slice and get it ready for her dorm buddies.  She was debating if she should take total credit for the baking or admit that Grandma "helped".  The best part of the day was her Facebook posting:  

Had a good weekend at home, I made homemade peanut butter brownies and lasagna with grandma today (: 

I guess it was the memories we made that were far more lasting than the food.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pleasant Dreams

Yes, it is 4:10am and as I lay in that land of barely asleep, Andy came down for the 31st time and although he was attempting to be quiet.  I am awake.  I was in the midst of the most lovely dream.  I am more angry about leaving my dream than being awake at 4am.  In my dream, I was with so many people that I have loved and lost.  Some are still alive and yet we have lost the people that brought us together....namely our parents and grandparents.  My cousins are wonderful people and I do miss them.  In this day where very few live people in the same little towns as their parents before them, we are scattered throughout the country  Somehow, when a phone call or even a Facebook chat brings us together for a few moments, we always share those memories of Nana and Pop and the wonder and joy of being children in a close family.

We reminisce of warm days at the cottage, as our parents played pinochle and drank beer.  We were running freely in and out, jumping in the lake with a bar of soap to bathe, since there was no bathtub.  We were playing Chinese Checkers on the screened porch, when the lake was too rough to swim.  The only game in the cottage was stored behind the couch and I still have it in my closet.  I need to pull it out and play it with a grandchild soon.  Someone has to tell the story of my father and Uncle Bill almost getting into a fist fight after too many beers, but Nana was handy with a mop to break it up.

The cottage never seemed small.  The Detroit house on Northlawn seemed to grow as did our family.  I realize, looking at the photos, that we were packed in like sardines.

There are still old photos with little girls,  all in dresses and MaryJane shoes.  Summer's bathing suits gave way to holiday gatherings when all our mother's brought pies and favorite dishes to Nana's house and children gathered upstairs in bedrooms, according to age.  You always knew the cousins closest to your age the best. Only the youngest grandchildren missed out on this life that was truly reminiscent of a "Waltons" episode and I wish they had these memories.  They are something to build on.

Many of us are in our 60's now, which is older than our grandparents were when the memories were made.  When you are a child, age is kind of simple.  You are a kid, you are a parent or you are a grandparent.  That is "old".  It wasn't too old to laugh with us, tease us and love us.  It was old enough to teach us and so many of us are still making the old recipes.  Just the other day, my cousin's daughter posted something on Facebook about making Christmas cookies.  She was using Nana's (her great-grandmother) recipes.  Technology enabled me to ask for a copy of one of these precious memories and I will make them and remember.  I keep a photo of Nana teaching my own children to bake Christmas cookies in my kitchen.

In my dream, I was hosting a party with grandchilden and everyone was there.  We were near a lake, in a cottage that was unknown to me.  As I walked through the crowd of cousins, Aunts and Uncles, I was teaching my grandchildren to always speak to everyone.  There was so much laughter and love as I moved through the crowded rooms and soon I was in a screened pavilion out by the lake, filled with relatives.  Suddenly we were talking about what a good job Uncle Frank had done in building it.  I have to smile because it is something he might have done in is life, if he owned lake property.

Why do we have dreams like this?  Maybe I just needed some time with all of those wonderful relatives of mine.  Every so often they seem to stop by and I wake up knowing how important those memories are.  It was good to see them all tonight.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013 and JOY

 The photo above caught my eye because I was sure if someone took a photo of my heart, this would be it.  I was leaping into the air, stemming from pure joy because I could not wait to leap into my future.  There would be little looking back, except to breathe a sigh of relief, pause to give thanks or to remember why I was so thankful for my wonderful future.  Yet, in order to appreciate the joy, we must sometimes remember.

After nearly 42 years of marriage, I finally "get" it.  Married life is not about a good or bad weekend, month or even a tumultuous year.  It is about a lifetime of putting shoulder to shoulder and making your way through life's adventures, joys and  unfortunately, sorrows.  What a blessing to have a partner in that journey.  My worst fear was to face it alone.  After 2 years of gut wrenching fear being my constant companion, the dawn of 2013  is filled with promise. 

I know the rest of the world faces illness every day.  This time it was MY  husband who seemed to suddenly spiral downward, each day bringing a new complication.  Rarely did I have the time to lament over how unfair it was, this final insult,  after too many punches in the past few years.   

 From diagnosis to new diagnosis, I was reading and searching for knowledge.  It was a challenge to keep up and understand what was happening. The days were filled with hospitals,  phone calls, new doctors,  new diets, medications and many miles driven.  As I sat compiling numbers for my tax return,  I had to recalculate over and over to believe we had traveled well  over 8,000 miles driving to pharmacies, doctors and hospitals.  

After a lifesaving heart surgery, being told that he needed a kidney transplant seemed like something out of a sad Lifetime Movie.  We were first sent to dialysis classes, and quickly realized that while it was a life-extending treatment, it was not a permanent solution.  It was miserable and only a temporary means to cope with  a life ending disease.  Transplant lists usually brought a 3-5 year wait and patients often did not last that long.  There are just not enough donors.  We were told that our children could provide the best chance and the oldest 2 stepped right up to be tested first.  They both matched.  It was getting real.  

On November 16, 2012 we left the Ann Arbor motel room in the early dark hours of the morning.  There was so much to be said, yet both of us seemed to afraid to speak what was in our hearts.  We quietly drove to the University Hospital and met our daughter in the surgery waiting room.  She and her father stepped up to the desk together, smiling and acting as if it was an every day affair to check in and share human organs.  No drama, just love.  

Father and daughter walked in, leaving my son in law and I with a quick kiss and a smile.  He and I sat there and looked at each other, keeping up the ruse.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  As the sun slowly rose, I thought of my first born child laying in surgery, giving up her kidney to save her father's life.  No amount of statistics could ease the anxiety in my soul.  Then, to my surprise, my husband walked back out of the surgery area.  With IVs inserted, he was told to wait with us until his kidney was "ready".  This was just too weird now.  Our little girl was in there and it was hard not to talk of  fears and to focus on the miracle we hoped for.  

The transplant surgeon emerged about an hour later with a big smile on his face.  "Everything is going like text book.  I've been watching your daughter's surgery and we should have a kidney in about 15 minutes, so be ready to go!"  We just stared at each other. It felt like waiting for a baby to be born and I realized she was giving birth to her father's new life.  She would endure pain and bring forth new life.  

During the hours, they both lay in surgery, I embraced the statistics.  They would be fine. No complications, no organ rejection.  Just absolute success.   I would not accept any other answer and for the 1000's of reasons that I ran through my head,  I just knew it was going to be ok.   Then my name was called and my heart skipped a beat.  I could see my daughter now.  Quiet, but with a face that showed great pain, she lay there looking so tiny in that big white bed.  The nurses encouraged me to talk to her and to try to get her to verbally respond.  I knew my stubborn girl and as she shook her head "No!"  every time I asked her to speak, I sat quietly by her.  This was not a day when I could push her to do anything.  Thankfully, my friend stepped in and did what I could not.  

Then a nurse called my name again.  "Your husband is back!"  I stood in that large recovery room with my husband on one side and my daughter on the other.  I literally did not know how to move from one to the other.  Thankful for my friend, who was lovingly tending to my daughter, I walked the few steps to my husband's bedside where the doctors and nurses were jubilant over the success of the surgery.  At that moment, I was felt close to collapse from sheer joy and relief.  An hour later, on the way to much needed food, I swooned as if out of an old southern novel.  

It was really over.  It really worked.  2 years of fear washed away in an instant.  Although there would be recovery days, medications and doctor visits, she had saved his life.  Moreover, she had given him a quality of life that would bring a real future.  Since birth, she had always felt like a little miracle, but never in a lifetime could someone do anything bigger than what she had just done with such humility.  Here is Cat embracing her baby girl, after coming home from the hospital.

Today, he gets up and goes to work each day.  He enjoys Skype sessions with his grandchildren, signed up for the gym to rebuild his strength and is back announcing at the High School wrestling meets.    He is able to eat a normal meal without fear and to talk about going fishing this summer.    We are dreaming and planning our retirement without calculating the miles to a hospital or dialysis center.   

2013 is filled with promise, because 2012 held a miracle.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Miracles Do Happen

I try to only blog about the positive things in life.  There is enough drama and sorrow everywhere else.  We are about to embark on a miracle journey and that is the biggest positive in my life so far, so it deserves time here.  After spending the last 2 years fighting kidney disease, quietly and while not complaining, Joe is about to be cured.  He will receive a kidney from his child, completing a cycle of life that few will ever experience.  How many children can give life to their parents?  Isn't that usually the other way around?

Once they knew that he needed a kidney, the reaction was swift.  So many, including friends were willing, but only one would be chosen....and I truly believe God has His plan.  It was truly in His hands.   We will never forget the love extended by offers of those who for one reason or another, could not be  chosen.  When you offer to give up a part of your body, you are showing true love.

Joe does not complain as he goes through endless testing, medications and surgeries.  He goes to work each day, regardless of exhaustion.  He has shown exactly what he is made of.  Determination, the need to take care of his family, humility and the list goes on.  He is just plain tough.

Our reward will come when, as U of M promises, he will feel healthier by the hour after surgery, returning to a state of health and life to go on for many years as husband, father and Papa.  God knew how much we needed him and He will take us through this.  There is going to be one big celebration party coming!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Every time I hear people rave about exotic vacations, cross country road trips or dream of a retirement filled with travel, I shudder, thinking how I would much rather bloom where I am planted.  As the saying goes, "different strokes for different folks" because some will always yearn to see what they have not seen and I will always wonder why they are so anxious to give up the comforts of home.

My favorite chair is always waiting to cuddle me, my coffee pot produces a consistent quality that cannot be duplicated and thoughts of airports make me cringe. Long car trips make my joints beg for relief, so transportation to the lands I have not seen is a major hurdle.  Anyway, hotels rarely have a comfortable chair and it is just too much work to find a snack at 2am when you don't have the candy stash in the drawer waiting.  Among the comforts of home, my best buddies Rocky and Josie cuddle beside me most of the time and I am sure they agree that our morning snuggle time is the absolute best.  With one Chihuahua on each side of me, even the coldest winter mornings feels warm.   I have actually come to the point in life where I really missed my dogs every day of my last vacation.  It takes a lot these days to convince me to leave home for longer than an afternoon.

This morning I thought about the fact that I am getting ready to drive 1224 miles this week to attend a 2 hour school event.     However, when a little boy has stolen your heart, you will drive to the ends of the earth, regardless of "travel-phobia".

This adorable little boy reached out and stole my heart on the morning he was born.  I remember the tears of joy running down my face as I held him, bonding instantly to the warm little bundle in my arms.  I had already learned that grandchildren are God's surprise gifts.  You assume nothing can equal the love of your own child, until you hold that first grandchild.  Tate was number 6 and I knew from experience what a gift he would become.

I have been called Junkfood Grandma and I had to learn that Tate preferred broccoli to my never ending stash of candy.  I could however make him smile with waffles and "Grammy Syrup".   He preferred a good game of cards to the latest video game and was delighted with a blank notebook and a pencil.  I watched him make lists in his notebooks and had more fun than he did when I found a new notebook to give him.

His sense of humor can send him and you into fits of giggles when you least expect it and the twinkle in his eye comes through in every photo.  The best part of being Tate's Grandma is the moment when he runs through the door yelling "Grammy!!!!"

 Although Hallmark has invented every kind of holiday, the teacher who thought of Grandparents Day deserves a hug.    I have been honored to attend these events for 2 other grandchildren and those afternoons  absolutely beat seeing the Grand Canyon or Buckingham Palace.   There is nothing better than the face of your special little one as he shows off his artwork or sings a song he has practiced just for you.

 So, my bags are packed and I am just waiting to open the car door and hear...."Grammy!!!"

In My Dreams

It is truly Spring when I think about freshly turned earth, ready for neat little rows of eggplant, zucchini, green pepper and tomato plants.  Every year about this time, I envision my perfect little garden.  Then I wake up and remember that I absolutely cannot turn that earth, much less rake it out.  I really like to fantasize and dream of beautiful raised beds, built in tiers and adding to the landscape of my perfect yard.  Some days I wonder if I bought a book and learned how it is done, if I could actually do it.

There is magic in picking that perfect vegetable and eating it within the hour and although I have had the garden and eaten the perfect tomato,  it did not look like something that graced the cover of a gardening magazine.    The day we were closing on our mortgage, I glanced at the deed and realized the land had once been part of Eaton Rapids famous Miller's Dairy farm.   Thanks to years of cows depositing their manure in my yard and you can literally throw a seed out the back door and watch it grow.

The down side to this is that I have 1/4 acre of constant growth.  The hedges that frame our property are so high that it might take a bucket truck to trim them this year.    Flower beds quickly fill with weeds that should be part of a science fiction movie.  Rose bushes seem to grow overnight until pruning could be done almost daily.  I look at the bush outside the door and remember scattering the petals down the aisle for Cat's wedding.  They are beautiful, but whatever is planted will quickly demand my attention daily.

Since no one in this house feels the urge to commune with nature, I have 2 choices.  I can continue to dream or find someone in need of a few bucks to turn that earth.  I don't think I will kid myself about building tiered beds either.  Who am I kidding?  Turning on the saw would be dangerous for me.  Another day to wish my brother wasn't somewhere across the country.

Friday, April 27, 2012

1000 Attaboys!

As self confessed Dr Phil fan, I think sometimes the man just says something brilliant.  On a regular basis he reminds us that "It takes 1000 Attaboys to equal one time when you tell your child they are a jerk."  For some reason the other day I got to thinking that we spend so much time trying to correct our kids that it must outnumber the times we stop to appreciate them.  I decided to take the day and notice what was good about them.  What an amazing experience!

I quickly realized that lately Andy had begun to really care about the rest of the family.  It showed in the many little things he stopped to do, the smiles and jokes that brightened my day and the consideration for others.  I realized he really did not complain when I asked him to take care of chores any more.   When did that happen and how did I not notice?  Maybe I was too busy correcting something else.

Yes, Catie grumbled and forgot to empty the dishwasher, but she also brought home an award winning report card.  Certainly worthy of praise and so instead of just keeping it between us, I posted it on Facebook so everyone could tell her what a good job she does.  Every comment made me smile.

It's a lot more fun to praise, but I do hope she empties the dishwasher today.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chapter 2

It has been a year since I last posted here.  I sat yesterday reading back over the postings that began in 2006 and am so grateful for this journal of my life.  A high-tech scrapbook of sorts, complete with photos as life happened in the "Nuthouse".  A lot of it was good times, some of it was not.  Either way, it was life as it happened to me.

In March of 2007 we lost our Karen and I notice that my postings were frequent, as I worked my way through the numbing grief.  When it was too painful to speak, there was always the blog.  Joy or sorrow, celebrations and everyday life fill the pages.  A lover of history, it is mine and I wonder if I should print it and put it in a book for some grandchild to read.  Perhaps one of them will be like their grandmother who would be delighted to find such a record.  Regardless, today I realized that it is not time to end it, but to create another chapter.

 Each year in March we all brace ourselves to face the end of the month, not sure whether to stifle the memories or give in to them and mourn.  This year, I knew it was a time for new beginnings.  

Five years is not a magic number or an official ending point for grief.  Somehow in my heart, I knew I had traveled the road of mourning and that it was time to begin Chapter 2.  I can finally look at pictures of Karen and smile, remembering her laughter.  I am ready to take the boxes of memories and create the Scrapbook of all Scrapbooks.  Every time I tried before, it was just too painful.  Now I want to do it.

 I know now it is time to remember Karen's life, rather than her death.  I caught myself the other day giving Catie a lecture about how she should be more like her Mom and told the story about how she took over running the house when I was ill and she was only 15.   She took care of baby Mike, managed to handle Joey, cleaned the house and actually made me homemade chicken soup and baked fresh bread from scratch.  That was Karen at her best!

 I will always answer the question of "How many children do you have?" by saying 5.  When asked for details, I will tell people that one is in heaven.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tiger Mom

Recently in the news the Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mom, by Amy Chau has caused much controversy. After the first few interviews that discussed Chinese traditional methods of child rearing, I cringed at the thought of such punitive discipline. I could not imagine refusing to allow my little darlings to have friends spend the night, so they could instead practice their instruments or study, long after their homework was finished.
Finally, I had to buy the book. There had to be a reason for so much discussion and just pushing children hard was not enough to generate this much discussion. I cannot put it down. Although the methods are absolutely severe, the reasoning behind it is fascinating and compelling. Amy Chau hit it right on the head when she says that we absolutely teach our children to be disrespectful by allowing them to watch TV shows like "Hannah Montana" where the entertainment is listening to a teen quip sarcastically to her parents as the laugh track plays constantly. It really isn't funny.
Chinese culture teaches respect, both for self and most especially for elderw who have earned it. For a child to converse in a manner that does not show respect is considered a shame unto the family. What an amazing concept! Although, I think it used to be similar in the US a couple of generations ago.
To excell is expected in Chinese culture, yet today our worries are about pushing our children too hard. Chau questions what Americans push their children to do and why. She says that her parent's generation worked very hard to provide and to raise children who were equipped to succeed in the world. She fears raising a child that is "too soft", entitled and unable to do the tough things we all have to face.
Although very wealthy, she made her children do lots of physical labor growing up. She feared she would raise a lazy child who expected things to come too freely. She demanded that they work hard at whatever they chose to do, just to teach hard work. I am not finished with the book yet, but I am starting to see what she is trying to accomplish.
There are many fine young people in this world, but how many struggle into their twenties, still unsure of what they want to do. In Amy Chau's world, this is the luxury of a lazy child. Her thinking seems to be a throwback to the society I grew up in, not the one I raised my children in. I am looking forward to finishing this book, knowing if I was a Tiger Mom, it was a different kind of tiger!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Longing for My Childhood

14 year old girls with freshly scrubbed faces wore simple tennis shoes,  pink or blue pedal pushers and blouses with splashes of 1960's era color.  Pedal pushers were something between shorts and what are now called capri pants and it was funny to look back at them.  Watching a movie set in my childhood,at first made me smile, but soon left me stunned and  a tear ran down my cheek somewhere in the middle of the movie.    I wasn't yet quite sure why.

Those girls, with barrettes and bows in their naturally colored hair,  actually said "Okey Dokey" and "See ya later, Alligator" to their friends and "Yes, Ma'am" to adults. They met a man walking down their road and sat and listened to his tales while drinking from glass bottles of soda pop that he bought them.  He offered them each a cigarette and of course, they had to try it. Coughing away, they tried different poses to be cool and soon tossed them to the ground, stating they had to be home soon for dinner.   While they waited for their mothers to call them for dinner, they read books in the yard, comparing stories.   Video games would not be invented for another 20 years and the black and white TV usually wasn't turned on until the family gathered after dinner.   Instantly, I was back laying under the apple tree in my yard, book in hand with Pat, Susan, Yvonne and Annie.  I learned to embroider with the same girls under the same tree on a summer afternoon.

 It wasn't just another time, it was a very different world.  We said the Pledge of Allegiance as we started each school day.  Blue jeans were not allowed in school and girls wore pretty dresses.   In a world without cell phones, we spent time with the kids on the block, most of it spent outdoors.  We didn't send a text message, but knocked on the door of each friend, stopping to greet mothers in the kitchen.   Just like these girls, we got up in the morning and our day began rouding up friends who spent summer days seeking and inventing adventures.  The girls roamed their grandmother's attics, searching for treasures or creating a mystery to solve.  They played in the woods, building treehouses and forts, just as I did.  My best fort was in the yard, where I could string an extension cord to have electricity to read by in the evenings and begged to spend the night with my friends.

 They rode bicycles, not to go anywhere, but just to be together. I wondered how many miles Pat and I logged as we rode until dark every single night, after the dinner dishes were finished.   They stopped along the way to visit neighbors that they called Mr and Mrs.  and even said "Please" and "Thank you" on a regular basis.  I remembered fondly that I knew the name of every single family on my street and how we greeted everyone as we rode by.   When a fight broke out on the playground, one girl stated loudly "We were raised to be ladies!"  as the others nodded in agreement.   I realized that I was one of those girls.

I watched those girls play freely, without fear, roaming their neighborhoods, not to return until dinner and back out again.    Their mothers couldn't call to check on them and didn't worry either.  They were too busy getting their housework done, visiting the beauty shop and spending afternoons playing cards with their girlfriends.  Every woman in the movie either looked like my mother, neighbor or my aunt.  They wore pretty dresses and ballet flats, changing to high heels to greet their husbands with a cocktail at the door.    They served lunch on pretty plates and took pride in setting a beautiful table.  The clothes looked funny now,but I realized that it was an era of femininity and yet freedom.

I thought about how the Feminists had not yet emerged, yet discontent was relatively low and girls couldn't wait to be called ladies.  It was a time when cleavage and tight clothing was for bad girls and no one wanted to be a bad girl.    It was a time of freedom from expensive name brand clothing and electronic diversion; freedom from  fear  to roam the world and grow up freely smiling at your neighbors.  I realized that my tear was for nostalgia, but even more for a world that my grandchildren would never get to experience and I would wish it for them.

I kept watching the movie, nearly ignoring the story, but immersed in the era.  It seemed so strange to remember a world without a computer,cell phone,.  television, Ipod or video game and I remembered what kids used to do.  I wish for one day of my childhood for my grandchildren.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I have to admit that starting projects is much preferred to finishing them.  My knit basket will rat me out if I don't admit it, as will the kitchen that is currently painted 4 different colors.  When you begin something the excitement is still there and has not yet been killed off by the boredom or physical pain in some cases.  I also love to window shop and do much more looking than buying.  When starting a project, I can shop forever before making a decision.  And then.....sometimes it just doesn't work out.  The kitchen currently has walls sporting 2 shades of blue, gold and beige.  I don't like any of them.  The yellow paint is resting in the can, waiting for another day.  

I am facing that moment where I need to sort my craft room so that I can find what I want to work on next.  I could finish a number of projects, but maybe I will start a new one instead.  I just spent the last hour reading patterns online and stopped by one of my favorite yarn stores today to buy a new pattern....for someday.

Life is too short to commit to anything you don't have to!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers Day

I miss my Dad today.  I miss him every day.  I have written here many times about how he influenced my life.    It has been 20 years since he passed away and yet, I miss him more than ever.  I miss his silly jokes, watching him do the "fishy dance" with my little kids, listening to him tell "Jenny stories" and hearing him say "While you're up, can you get me a beer?"  Yep, I miss it all.

I miss waking up on a Sunday morning and finding out we were headed for a "new adventure".  We never knew what he would do and that was the fun.  We might take a trip to our grandparents' cottages (never planned) or he was just as likely to buy a plane ticket and head for Florida.  No planning, just spur of the moment fun.....always.

I want to drive down Wildwood Street and see him sitting on the porch in his lawn chair, with his dogs Mickey and Jewel beside him.  That is exactly where you could find him from about May to October every evening.  I used to just get in the car and drive over with my 3 little kids whenever I needed a break.  He loved those kids so much that I could pull up and know that they would be occupied and giggling for hours.  I never knew anyone in my life that could and would spend hours on end just talking to children.  It was his favorite pass time.  

Maybe that is why I miss him so much.  He was a father who really talked to me.  He was interested in everything I said and did.  Not just half listening, but really listening.  As we talked,  I learned so much without ever knowing he was teaching me.  I did know one thing and that was that he loved me and would rather be with me than any adult who came by.  

 I read and hear about parents who spend "quality time" with their children.  My Dad spent ALL of his time with us.  Sure, he went to work, but if it was a Saturday and we wanted to go along, he took us.  We knew that meant we would get lunch at the local bar on the way home.  Once we arrived, he didn't go sit with his buddies, but ordered us each a hamburger or hot dog and then sat down and we would play a make-believe game.  My name would be "Joe" and his name would be "Joe".
 We were two buddies, sitting at the bar, talking about our lives.  We would role play forever.  "How's life, Joe?"  he would say...."Pretty good, Joe.  How about you?." I would answer.
 "Do your kids need new shoes?"  he would ask.  "Yeah, they probably do" I would say.  "Well, I know where you can find some extra work to earn that money.  Are you interested?  My rose bushes need to be weeded and I am paying good money."  he would say.  And on it went.....

Now when we got home, I would actually weed those rosebushes and he would pay me.  I was learning about life and never knew it through those make-believe conversations.  No lectures, just talking and using imagination.  How much that man taught me!

He was all about family and he made sure we knew it.  How many times  I heard him say "Family is the most important thing in your life." I cannot count, but he didn't just say it, he lived it.  He had few rules, but one of them was "Never go to bed mad."   So many times I had to hug my brother and apologize for being mad before bedtime, but what a lesson it taught me.

We spent our Sundays with our grandparents most weeks, either having dinners together or in the summers at their cottages.  We played pinochle or just sat and visited.  He enjoyed playing poker with my great-grandmother pictured at the left and she loved to see him coming with the cards and a 6 pack of beer.  Even as a young man, he took the time to play cards with an old lady.  It makes me understand why 2 generations later, my brother and I would go to the Senior Citizen apartment building and play cards with my grandmother.  We learned from him that there were good times to be had with our family.

He is in every childhood memory.  He left me with a longing for his company.  This week is always tough.  His birthday is June 14 (which is flag day and he loved flying the flag on his birthday) and Fathers Day falls the same week.  It is always a week of thinking of Dad more than ever.

Once we grow up, we sometimes forget how to play.  He was a bit like Peter Pan and never forgot how to be a child.  He knew how to play.  When an adult plays, children stop and join in and the fun begins.  Looking through old photos, you find so many silly poses and costumes like the one shown at right with my uncles.  He would do anything for a laugh.

He loved his sisters and mother and was definitely not afraid to boast about them.  He could often be heard saying "I have the most beautiful sisters in the world!"  (He also had the smartest kids, the most beautiful children and the best wife).  How nice life would be if we all learned from him to go ahead and praise our families.

Gordon, Madeline, Kaye, Nana, Mona and Dee  having fun at a birthday party

He always told me, "You only go around once, Pal.  Make it fun!"

I am trying, but I sure wish he was still here to enjoy it with me.  We will have a Fathers Day picnic today in the park and have a great time.  I will stop often and think just how much he would love knowing all of my children and grandchildren.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

All Because Two People Fell In Love

39 years ago on June 18, 1971 we were crazy kids and we got married.  We were 17 and 18 and had nothing but an old Mustang and a few hundred dollars between us.  We absolutely didn't care about any of the practical things, the planning or the wedding.  We were in love.

We loved our first apartment and furnished it with hand-me downs.  It was ours and that was all that mattered.  We began to create a home where everyone was welcome.  We could always stretch the Kool Aid and spaghetti to feed a couple more and we did.  We played cards and ate popcorn until the wee hours of the mornings with Debbie and Jim. We worked 2 and 3 jobs and still managed to have time together. We listened to Stairway to Heaven and American Pie on an old stereo and we couldn't have been happier.  

When the first "good job" was paying 5.92 an hour, we were ready to have a baby and make our lives complete.  Soon our beautiful Catherine was born and now we needed a house and a dog.  We paid more for our 2004 Chevrolet than we paid for that first house, but we got the dog,  fenced in the yard, put in a sandbox and soon Karen was born.  By this time, brother Mark had joined our family and we needed  a bigger house. With promotions coming along  (and Joe sometimes working 2nd jobs) we bought the next house and added Joey to the family.  We adored our daughters, but now we finally had a son!  

 This photo was taken in 1979 

In spite of numerous promotions, the economy was taking it's toll and Michigan salaries were not rising, although our family was growing.  We moved to Florida where the jobs were plenty and the pay was wonderful.  The sunshine and beaches were like magic after Michigan's days.  Our life with the National Enquirer had begun.  It was an adventure for 8 years!  We met movie stars, spent our evenings on our boat and had wonderful parties with all our friends.  It was a wonderful time of our lives.

One day we realized with 3 children in school that the opportunities for education were just not as good as we had in Michigan.  All our friends were trying to get their children into private schools and crime was rising in our area.  We soon headed home to Michigan and nestled into small town life in Charlotte in a huge, old house with 5 bedrooms.  We still joke about the need to fill those rooms.

Michael and Andrew soon joined  siblings, who were in Jr High and High School.  It was like the whole family had new pets.  We passed them around and they had a multitude of people loving them.  Nothing was cuter than Mike in a Batman costume, trying to fly or Andy sleeping with his baseball mitt.  Cathy went off to U of M and later the Air Force3, Karen got married and made us grandparents and Joey soon did the same.

This photo was taken in 2006, 27 years later and we had grown to 15 of us.  (Joe was posing everyone, while I photographed.)  I think it is the last photo of us all together.  

We experienced the terrible loss of our Karen along soon after this photo, but we remain a strong and loving family.  We are spread so far away geographically, but we remain in touch daily.  It takes about a minute for Joey and Cat to know what is going on at home.  The internet is fast and nobody keeps a secret in this family.

  We have added beautiful little Soleil to our family and we are now 15 strong again. 

 Tonight, as we sat listening to 1970's music, the memories flooded me.  Most of them were good ones and I remain convinced, the best is yet to come.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I never considered myself creative in the least.  During art class in elementary school, I would envy those little girls who could take a crayon and create magic.  I had failed before I began because I didn't trust myself.  My world was not filled with any kind of artistic expression and I had no idea where to begin.

Today I realize that my world is driven by my creative endeavors.  I spend each day making sure to find the time to knit, sew or take photographs.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped caring about what others thought of my work and let it become pleasure.

So, I had better get my "work" done for the day so I can get back to the beautiful part of my life!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thanks, Dad!

Today was one of those days when I missed my Dad, but was so glad I can still hear his voice whenever I get in trouble.  I was driving home from a relaxing visit to the Knitting Shop when I heard very LOUD bells going off.  I looked down and saw a red light flashing, which said "Engine Overheating".  NOT good.

Instantly, I heard my dad in my head.  Pull over and turn it off!  Ok, that would have been fine except I had chosen to take the "shortcut" home, which included about a 2 mile trip through a bit of Lansing's ghetto.  I always joke about the fact that I don't take that shortcut at night and wouldn't want to break down in that neighborhood.  Today I did.

I don't scare easily, but I admit today I was afraid.  I locked my doors, as a large group of not so friendly looking teen boys approached.  Large groups were clustering in the empty parking lot where I sat.  I just kept hoping that this was not going to end badly.  I called Joe and knew it would take him about 30 minutes to get to me.  It was going to be a long, hot wait as the temperature was about 80 and I had the car sealed up.  Of course, my cell phone had very little remaining battery and I began thinking about what I was going to do if things didn't go well.

We added coolant and started the car.  The temperature gauge began to rise again.  Darn it!  As Joe and I began trying to figure out what the problem was I remembered my dad's advice again.  "If the thermostat has gone bad, turn on the heat".  I flipped the switch and within a few moments the gauge began to drop and quickly returned to normal!  THANKS, DAD!

I drove home, with Joe following, praying but knowing it would be ok.  I called my brother Dave and we chatted for a few minutes about how grateful we were that Dad was so wise.  He always insisted that we take part in every project or repair, always teaching.  I like to think he is smiling tonight, knowing he left a daughter who is very grateful for a Dad who believed girls should learn to take care of themselves.  He taught me well.