Monthly Archives: April 2012

When my nephew, Barry was just a little boy, he and his mom lived with her parents. As far as Barry was concerned, his grandpa was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Barry was determined to be just like his grandpa!! My father-in-law was building a house on their land when Barry was just about 1 year old… just old enough to want to help. When my father-in-law was doing the preparatory work Barry wanted to be with him. He wanted to know all about the cool things his grandpa was doing, especially since he had no intention of going to school or anything like that. He was going too be far to busy being Grandpa’s partner.

In building a house, you have to have the right tools for the job. You can’t expect to build a house with a nail file, or paint with a toothbrush. The right tools are vital to the success of the entire project. A good carpenter has tools that are well fitted to his hands and to his
way of working. He has a team of workers who know their job and work together to get the job done. Each person helps the others to do the job right. That said, Barry had his own tools. He had the little wooden hammer he used on one of his toys, and since some of his other toys included tools, I’m sure he had a little toy saw, shovel, pliers, wrench, and many other tools that he figured might come in handy in this endeavour. Barry put his tools to work whenever he could find someone to lift him up to the work area so he could get at it.

The home plans will always include plenty of storage space, because everyone knows that storage space is vital. Barry considered himself the Foreman of the storage areas, I think. He had to make sure they were the right size, because a storage area that couldn’t hold it’s foreman was…well, simply too small. There are lots of times that a guy needs to get into those cupboards, and cramped space in there is just not acceptable. So Barry was the Foreman and also the Inspector of the storage areas.

Yes, building a home is a big job. Being the foreman on such a job usually means plenty of stress, so one final thing that Barry learned from his grandpa about the right way to be a carpenter, was that you have to take time out for occasional breaks. So, every once in a while, Barry would find a cupboard to hide out in for a while, and the most important item to have in that space was the thing we all know helps with the stress of any job…the Folger’s Coffee!! It can be the only thing that lies between a man and his sanity.

Writing about my own birthday seems…odd somehow. I was due on April 27th, which is my dad’s birthday, but I was…to quote what my dad used to say about me…stubborn, and I refused to arrive on schedule. Ok, ok, I know I’m a stubborn person…I always was, and it has not always been a bad thing. I stubbornly stick to something until I succeed at it, which in my opinion is a good thing. Still, my stubbornness wasn’t always completely welcomed in my parents house, when I was younger.

I was a debater, which my parents always called arguing…imagine that!! I simply had my own ideas, and somehow I think they just didn’t understand that. My dad probably gave me a little more leeway on the debates than my mom would have liked, and much more than my sisters expected me to live through. But, somehow, I survived my childhood, without my parents killing me for my stubbornness, and managed to move into adulthood.

I think it was in my adulthood that I grew into my stubbornness, so to speak. I have always hated losing, and it was my stubbornness that makes me keep trying and working at something until I succeed at it. I have always felt that my stubbornness is a big part of why my marriage worked…that and the fact that Bob has the same kind of stubbornness that I do, and that he hates to lose too. Of course, like everyone who is married, I have read all kids of opinions on what makes a marriage work, but I believe that if you don’t stubbornly determine to make a marriage work, it simply won’t. No one can keep up with all the steps to a successful marriage…at least not if they are going to live life. You just have to love each other and decide that you will accept who your spouse is and learn to get along. Of course, loving your spouse involves some of the steps to a successful marriage, but I think they happen spontaneously…not by planning.

My stubbornness plays a role in my career too. It is what makes me work hard, and makes me determined to succeed. It is also that stubbornness that makes me fight for the health of those I love. As a caregiver, I hate to have to put my mom or in-laws in the hospital. I want them to be healthy, and it infuriates me when I can’t keep them healthy, but I rejoice when I am able to bring them home and watch them get strong again.

I know that most people look at stubbornness as being a negative thing, and something to be avoided, but not me. I have learned to live with my stubbornness, and even to be thankful for it. It has defined me so to speak. I suppose that is because there are good kinds of stubbornness and bad kinds of stubbornness, and I have chosen to make my stubbornness work in a good way.

In March of this year, my mother-in-law was in the hospital twice. The second hospital stay was followed by a little more than a two week stay in a nursing home…supposedly for rehab/physical therapy. That stay in a skilled nursing facility nearly killed her. After taking her out of the nursing home, she would have two more hospital stays. After the first one, they wanted to put her in a skilled nursing facility. After I told them about the horrible care she received and what we could do for her, her case worker agreed that we could do a better job of caring for her than any nursing facility could. Now I know that you are thinking you might be reading the first negative post from me, but that is as far from the truth as it gets.

Yes, my mother-in-law has been very sick and even close to death a couple of times, but as of this writing, she is doing well. I have been so pleased with her progress. She has Alzheimer’s Disease, as most of you know, and she doesn’t always understand the importance of some of the things she needs to do to recover, like wearing oxygen and walking to get stronger. She also doesn’t understand why she feels so weak…mostly because she doesn’t know that she had Bronchitis twice, Pneumonia twice, and Pleurisy twice since February 21st.

Today my mother-in-law was such a trooper. I have been making her get up and move 4 times a day…with the help of my wonderful husband, daughters, sister-in-law, and father-in-law. She didn’t want to do it, and sometimes we had to make her do it. She is one big sore muscle, truth be told. Even with all that, today that sweet woman who has been through so much over the last 2 1/2 months, got up every time I asked her to, walked further than she had in 2 months, cleaned up her plate at each meal (she hasn’t had much appetite in the last two months either), smiled like she used to, and talked with my father-in-law (another thing she hasn’t done much of lately). She worked so hard, through the pain and shortness of breath. I was so proud of her for all her hard work.

The last 2 1/2 months have been long and hard on her, but she is a fighter, and I know she has it in her to come back from this. We will not give up, and I will fight hard to keep her out of a nursing home, because she deserves every opportunity to live at home for as long as possible. Now, as I write this I hear from my daughter that she fought her so hard tonight that she had to have her husband come to help make her get up for bed…aw well, tomorrow is another day.

If he was still alive, my dad would have been 88 years old today. He lived such an interesting life…experienced so many things. As a young boy, he and his brother shot off dynamite and rode trains around the Wisconsin area because his dad worked for the railroad. When he was older, he worked at Douglas Aircraft Company building airplanes. During World War II, he was a top turret gunner and the flight engineer on a B17 Bomber.  He traveled the United States and parts of the world. And he took his family along on as much of it as he could.

We were so blessed to have Dad as our family leader. He somehow made everything alright. From the scariest situations to our fear of moths. From our concerns over imaginary bears in the campground to the very real spider that always seems to show up on occasion. Dad was an amazing problem solver. It didn’t matter what problem we had, from the simplest to the most serious, he would find a solution. He was so understanding.

Dad loved to tease his girls, and he had many funny little sayings that always made us laugh. I can still hear him saying some of the things we all remember well. They were always designed to make us laugh. He was quite a joker. And he always managed to act shocked when we would tease back. There are times that I can hear his voice so clearly…almost as if he is standing next to me. And I can see the looks on his face when he was acting like we were abusive, when we flicked him with our finger…never mind the fact that it did not hurt and often, he flicked us first. He was just goofy.

Dad was forever in love with Mom, and always showed her just how much she meant to him. He treated her like a princess. He was one of the last of the true gentlemen left here on Earth. A man who set a high standard for himself. There were words that he never said, because he wanted to set a good example. He was a Christian and he made sure his family was too. We all grew up knowing our Lord.

My dad was the most wonderful dad that ever existed. I am so thankful that he was my dad. I will miss him for the rest of my life, but I know that there will come a day when we are all together again for eternity, and for that I am grateful. Happy birthday in Heaven Daddy!! I love you very much!!

It seems like most families have one child who is the “cuddly” one. That child who loves to give hugs and kisses, and really wants to sit on your lap and just be with you. It is a mother’s dream. For my niece Jenny, and her husband, Steve, that child is their son Zachary, who is turning 7 years old today. Zack has always loved to hug his family, and it is something that always makes us feel very blessed. Don’t get me wrong, Zack is a tough little boy, and can take on his brothers with no problems. When you are the middle son in a set of three, you learn to take care of yourself…fast.

Like his brothers, and most boys for that matter, Zack loves to do all the boys things. He jumps on the family trampoline, likes to play with cars, and of course, the superhero fighting stuff that it seems all boys enjoy at that age. There is just something about being the super hero that appeals to them, and it seems like they all know about lasers and special wrist guns, spider webs, and the man of steel.

Like the rest of his family, Zack loves the great outdoors, and wants to be out there as much as possible. He has been blessed with a family that loves to get out and play, and that makes life just one big adventure for Zack and his brothers, Xander and Isaac. Their dad is teaching his boys to shoot guns, and be safe at it, of course. They know how to act around guns, and what not to do too, such as any kind of dangerous play with guns. And it doesn’t take summer for them to go have fun, because they totally love being waist deep in the snow up on the mountain. And if they can’t go somewhere, because their dad is working…well, Zack and his brothers will just have their own adventure out in the yard. They have a great tree for climbing, and all of the other boy things that you could ever need to let their imaginations run wild.

Still, at the end of the day, or even part way through it, Zack has to take a moment or two out just to go and give his mom a hug and a kiss, because as rough and tumble as Zack is, he is still his mothers dream boy…her little cuddler, and he loves his mom so much. Really, does life get any better than that? I don’t think so. Happy birthday Zack!! We love you bunches!

When my mom married my dad, they moved from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin. My mom was young, and really unprepared for the loneliness she was going to feel by being so far away from her parents and their big family. My mom was the middle child in a family of 9 children, so she was used to having lots of people around her…sisters to talk to and do things with, and brothers to tease her and yet do the nicest things for her. It was all very new to her…being married, and yet very scary…being so very much on her own.

When she arrived in Superior, Wisconsin…as happy as she was, being married to my dad, she was still wondering if she would be able to make it in this new place, without her family. Then she met her new sister-in-law…my Aunt Doris. Mom tells me that Aunt Doris saved her, in many ways. She was a new friend when my mom really needed one, and they became great friends…friends for life…even after my Aunt Doris and my Uncle Bill, who is my dad’s brother, divorced.

Mom has told me many stories about the many escapades that she and my Aunt Doris went on. One of the funny things mom has told me about is the fact that they were always dieting…even though they weren’t really very heavy, and didn’t stick to their diets very long. I guess they thought that if they did it together, they would stick with it, and there are many people who feel that way today, although that is not particularly something that I ever found helpful. They tried several things including crackers with ketchup and warm water.

Mom also saw the funnier side of my aunt. When Aunt Doris got her dirver’s license, she was driving out to meet Uncle Bill at their cabin, and she was stopped by a police officer, who informed her that she was speeding. He asked her for her license, and then had to step away from the car for a moment. Without giving him her license, Aunt Doris just left and drove on to the cabin. When she told Uncle Bill about the stop, he asked to see the ticket. She said, “What ticket?” He said, “The ticket he gave you.” She said, “He didn’t give me a ticket. He stepped away from the car, so I just left.” Apparently, Aunt Doris thought he had decided to just forget it. Uncle Bill freaked out, thinking that the cops were going to come and arrest his wife. But the cop must have thought the whole thing was very funny, because he never came after her…a fact that I’m sure my Uncle Bill was very surprised about. Another case of a woman getting out of a traffic ticket, but the most unusual way out of a ticket I’ve ever heard of.

For most of their early years, Shai would have loved to give her brother back…or ship him off…or trade him in…whatever worked. Theirs was the type of relationship that gave the term “sibling rivalry” its meaning. Shai detested Caalab’s boyish pranks, and Caalab took that as the perfect reason to pick on his big sister. It made for some explosive situations at my daughter, Amy and her husband, Travis’ home. In fact, there were times that I wondered how Amy kept her sanity.

It wasn’t that Shai disliked all little boys, in fact, she loved spending time with her cousins, Chris and Josh. I guess the main problem was that Caalab like playing tricks on his sister and cousins, and it just didn’t go over very well…with any of them. I remember the fights that used to go on between the 4 of them, all too well. Sometimes, I felt like a referee when they were all at my house, and not their grandmother.

Worse yet, it always seemed like Caalab was the odd man out. The rest of the kids didn’t want him to play with them, most of the time. It was tough for me, as their grandma to have all this fighting and the 3 against 1 situations that we often had. Caalab got along well with Chris, and Shai got along well with Chris and Josh, but Caalab, Shai, and Josh were like oil and vinegar.

I always felt bad that Caalab was the odd man out. I would have felt bad no matter which grandchild it was. He had such a great sense of humor, but his joking often ended up looking like he was picking on the others…or picking a fight…and the biggest fights were between Shai and her little brother, Caalab.

I kept trying to tell Shai that someday she would be able to tolerate her brother, and more likely she would actually even like him. Still, she was not convinced that there was any chance of that. She was sure that there was no way she would ever like her brother.

A few years can make such a difference. A couple of years ago, I began to notice a moment or two when Shai and Caalab seemed to be able to sit together and laugh and talk. Sure, they were short lived moments at first, but they were moments, nevertheless. Now, Shai and her brother have achieved the impossible…or at least the impossible according to Shai. They seldom really fight anymore. Growing up some can make all the difference in the world.

Watching Shai and Caalab together now is a scene that warms my “grandmother’s heart”. These two kids…so different, and yet not really so different, interacting in brotherly/sisterly love is simply amazing, and I thank God for that change every day.

My dad always loved trains. As a young boy, whose dad worked for the Great Northern Railway Company, dad had a pass to ride the train where ever he needed to go. I’m sure that his love for trains was fueled by the fact that he got to ride the train daily, a privilege that most people don’t have.

Dad has told us of his days of riding the train, and it always sounded to us like he was hopping the train, not riding with a pass. He never said “hopping a train” or anything, but we always thought that was what he meant. Maybe we thought that because it always sounded like such an amazing adventure. Or maybe he and his brother did “hop the train” on occasion, just to add to the excitement…something I’m sure his mother would have tanned their hides for.

Years later, when traveling to the Black Hills, my parents rode the 1880 Train in Keystone, South Dakota. It had been many years since Dad had been able to ride a train much, so it was very exciting for him, and it brought back those old memories of his days of riding the trains back in Wisconsin. They really enjoyed those train rides through the Black Hills.

When the Amtrak Trains came on the scene, I think my dad’s interest really peaked. He began thinking about taking a trip on the Amtrak. It would be a dream trip for Dad and Mom. They planned to ride the Amtrak Train up the California coast. The trip was to take several days, and they would sleep on the train. That would be a new experience for both of them, as all their other train rides were just day trips or less.

My dad was so excited about this trip. He was like a little kid in a candy store. I think that is how a lot of people feel when riding a train…like being a kid again. The wonder of something so new to them. And while riding a train wasn’t new to my dad, traveling that way was. He had always traveled by car. Mostly because he believed that you couldn’t see the country from a plane. But, this was different. They were able to view the countryside and it went by, and he didn’t have to drive. He felt like he was taking the trip of a lifetime. They were finally taking the ultimate train ride.

They had such a great time riding the Amtrak. It would be a trip that would live in their memories for the rest of their lives. They had taken many vacations, and all of them were filled with great memories, but there are always a few of your trips that live in your memory as the big trip, the best trip…the ultimate trip.

My grandson, Josh started out in this life as a preemie baby, being born 5 weeks early, and while his medical problems were minor…just underdeveloped lungs and his small size. After spending 2 weeks at Presbyterian St Luke’s Hospital in the neo-natal intensive care unit, Josh came home a healthy baby boy with no signs of the early birth he had experienced. He began the catch up process, and did a very good job of it. He quickly left behind that small size and weak lungs, and turned into a very healthy and strong runner.

Today, I had the privileged of attending Josh’s track meet in Douglas. Josh has always loved to run…even as a little boy, and he and his brother raced to school. Their dad tells me that they still race each other, and maybe that is why Josh is so good at racing…lots of practice. He started out trying to catch up to his brother, and then he started winning sometimes.

Josh did well in his races, but it was the 4 X 400 Meter Relay that was the most exciting…for many people. In the 4 X 400 Meter Relay, there are teams that race against each member of the team runs once around the track with a baton. After each runner runs their lap, the baton is handed off to the next runner. Josh was the second runner on his team. At the point the baton was handed off to Josh, his team was in dead last out of 6 or 7 teams. About a quarter of the way around the track Josh began his sprint. He passed the slowest runners easily, and then began the real catch up work. One by one Josh passed each other the other runners, until there was only one runner ahead of him. When Josh handed off the baton to the next runner, their team was in 2nd place, and there they stayed.

Josh had put his team back in the race. They were in last place…with little hope of changing their situation. It is very hard to picture any possibility of catching up. Then came Josh. He ran past each of the other racers as if they were standing still, and believe me, they were running hard. If there had been 100 more meters for Josh to run, he would have passed the first place team runner as well, but it didn’t matter, because they had been given hope again. And they weren’t in last place. Second place was a joyous position to be in.

After the race was over, and Josh returned to the bleachers where we were sitting near his school’s group. Josh was the talk of the crowd. All three coaches complimented him on a great run, as did all the students…and especially his teammates. The last runner on his team…usually the fastest runner, came up to Josh and said, “That’s it!! You are a permanent member of our relay team!!” It was a wonderful day for my grandson…and his parents and grandma too.

Little kids are so curious. They are always checking out hidden spaces or hiding places to see what might be there. What we completely disregard, holds a special place of interest for them. It’s funny that you can have a toy right beside them, and they are more interested in the box, or what is under the table next to the toy. Maybe it is about places they can fit in, or maybe it is about Peek-A-Boo.

Kids learn the little games so quickly. Of course, Peek-A-Boo is a game that teaches the little ones that you will come back to them, if you have to leave for a time. They don’t know that is what they are learning, but it really is. Trust is such an important part of being a baby. They have to feel ok about the person holding them, and that is not always easy, because sometimes the person holding a baby is not much bigger that the baby is. Babies love that strong secure feeling that usually comes from being held close by an adult, who knows what they are doing.

When you think about it, placing yourself completely in the hands of someone else would be hard. That is obvious in the way that a baby will immediately cry when moved from the secure arms of an adult into the uncertain arms of a sibling that is about 2 years older that they are themselves. I guess I wouldn’t feel so safe in that situation either. But, with just a little support from Mommy or Daddy, being held by a young sibling suddenly isn’t so scary.

Kids do learn very quickly that their parents can be trusted to take care of them, and that it’s ok to go hide, because Mommy and Daddy will be there when they come out from under the table, out of the box, or when they take their hand away from their eyes. It’s all part of learning to live in this world, and for the most part, the games are about having fun, while learning. What baby doesn’t giggle with delight when they peek out from under that table to see the smiling face of their mommy or daddy? It’s a learning game, and one they all love to play.