Caryn

My grandfather used to build dams in his younger days. He worked on Kortez Dam, Alcova Dam, and Pathfinder Dam. On many of these jobs, he was a supervisor, but that did not mean that my grandfather was afraid to get in there and work with the men. He hated to make the men work overtime. He felt like after a long day, his men needed to be home with their families.

Another thing my grandfather felt strongly about was not procratinating. He felt like the work needed to be done at work and on time. Still, he understood that not every job can be finished in one day. One particular day, after sending his men home for the day, grandpa was walking past the area where the men had been working. It was a ditch and there was so little left to do on it. So Grandpa made a split second decision, grabbed a shovel, and went to work to finish the ditch. He was working alone…something you really were not supposed to do, when his supervisor came along. He was checking the site one last time before he left for the day.

My grandfather didn’t know his supervisor was there, but it was a good thing that he was. I’m sure they were both horrified at the thought of what might have happened had the supervisor not been there. As he walked up on the ditch, he noticed that the sides of the ditch were giving way. He immediately yelled, “Jump George!!” My grandfather did as he was told, and the dirt collapsed around him, but his face was not covered, because he had followed orders.

In today’s world, so many people challenge orders. People don’t like being ordered around, especially an order like that, but my grandfather had been in the service…where orders were given and followed, immediately and without question. My grandfather jumped as ordered, and it saved his life. I’m sure the rule against working in a ditch alone took on a whole new meaning for my grandfather, who just wanted to put the men a little ahead of schedule the next day. And I’m sure he never did that again. Just as I am sure he was very grateful to the man who saved his life…as am I.

My dad always liked exploring. I guess I get that trait from him, because I do too. He loved to see what was around the next corner, or over the next mountain. He loved to travel, and wanted to share that love with his family. As a result of his need to wander some, we enjoyed a rich and unique view of the country we live in. Dad’s curiosity and imagination made every vacation an adventure. When we were in grade school, and the teacher said to write a story telling about our summer vacation, we had plenty to say. We had been so many places. It was something we took for granted really. It never occurred to us that our friends didn’t go places too. Looking back now, I can see just how blessed we were.

I have been told that my dad’s family all liked to wander a bit. His dad worked on the railroad. Like many people who work on the railroad, part of the draw is seeing the country. I can understand that, because that is a part of me too. I love to see new places, especially on foot. Hiking in the back country where you can be walking along in the trees one minute and then suddenly there is a river with a beautiful waterfall that most people don’t even know exists…well, the feeling is exhilarating.

Dad loved to follow historical markers and trails. It was something that filled the explorer need in him. I think Dad was a bit of a history buff, as am I. It is very cool to research the past and learn about things that happened so long ago, and yet not so long ago. When you look back in time, is a hundred years really that long? It’s basically one lifetime. To see how people lived just a hundred years ago. So many things change in a hundred years. It makes you realize what you have and how very blessed you are.

This is the kind of legacy my dad passed on to his kids. He had an interest in the outdoors and the history of our great country. These were things we got to learn about. As kids we may not have had a real appreciation of the history, but those lessons he taught us have never gone away, and when we were older, there was an appreciation that grew out of the seeds he planted. The grew into a love of history, at least they did for me, and now when I read about the past, I can picture some of the places the events took place, because I have been there, and almost feel like I’m an explorer too.

Every year during Fire Safety Week, the local fire department holds an event to create better awareness to the hazards of fire, and how to stay safe. A lot of the day is geared toward the kids, because they are new to fire safety. Fire trucks are brought in and the kids…and adults…can get a ride in the big ladder bucket, which is very cool. You also have the opportunity to take a closer look at the trucks, and learn about all they can do. Of course, every kid wants to see the lights and hear the sirens. There are rooms set up to show you how to escape in the event of a fire in the home, and talking about fire extinguishers and such. It is all designed to teach people how to survive a fire.

When my grandchildren were little, and probably also because Bob worked on the fire trucks, we always took them to those things. It made for a fun day, and it’s never too early to teach kids about fire safety. Of course, their parents went to, when they could, and we made an event of it. The kids had a great time checking out all the event had to offer, and of course, there was always food and drinks…a definite plus as far as they were concerned, especially if the food was something good, like cookies.

When they were little, they really didn’t care much about the whole fire safety thing, but the rooms to teach escape were kind of cool!! They showed the places where fires could start and had the necessary equipment for escaping in them. There were instructions for the kids that could read, and people to help , or the parents could help the little ones. The whole place looked to the kids like a big playhouse. So they took their time playing in there, and that is when a discovery was made…

I know that you thought you knew exactly how the old Christmas story goes, but all these years I think you may have been wrong. We have all heard it…the story about Santa Clause coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve, bringing toys to all the good little girls and boys…but you have it all wrong. I know that for a fact, because there in that little fire safety room, we discovered that it wasn’t Santa Clause than comes down the chimney at all, but rather it is Christopher Santa Clause that comes down the chimney with all the toys. No seriously…it is…just look!! See…you just thought you knew…

As a young bride, I wanted to be the best wife ever. I suppose that is what all young wives what to do. So they go out of their way to please their new husband. I was no different. Bob went to work at 5:00 am, so I got up at 4:00 am and made him a nice breakfast of all his favorite things. Bacon, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes, with orange juice and coffee, a breakfast fit for a king, or so I hoped. Going out for breakfast was one of the things we really enjoyed doing when we were dating.

For months Bob faithfully ate his breakfast every morning before he left for work. I then went about my day of cleaning and planning his dinner. I was in Seventh Heaven. Our life together was shaping up to be a “happily ever after” kind of life.

We went on like this for months. I was tired, getting up at 4:00 in the morning, but I was doing it for my man, and I knew that I could always go back to bed when he left for work. The main thing was that I knew that he went to work feeling full, well cared for, and most of all, loved. And he did feel those things, without a doubt, but there was something else he was feeling. Something I didn’t know about. After such a big breakfast, so early in the morning, Bob would go to work feeling so over full that it almost made him feel sick…even though the food was good.

Finally, after months of dealing with this problem, and not wanting to hurt his new wife’s feelings, Bob couldn’t take it any more. I remember him telling me that he needed to talk to me about something. Of course, as a new wife, I didn’t want to hear that, but I agreed. Bob…carefully choosing his words…told me that he simply couldn’t eat breakfast that early in the morning…it made him feel sick. He was so apologetic, and I could tell that he felt horrible telling me that.

What he didn’t know, is that I really hated getting up at 4:00 am to cook breakfast. I felt tired all day. I had never really been a morning person, although I learned to be later, but at that time…no way. I told Bob we really needed to talk more, and we both laughed about a what a funny situation that had been. I guess it was all about learning to communicate.

My parents had 5 daughters…and no sons. I’m sure that the early years were the same as they are in most homes, but with each additional daughter came a little less control for my dad. Now don’t get me wrong on that word control, because my dad was the boss. If we got to be too exasperating for Mom, her big threat was Dad, and while Dad rarely had to spank us, just knowing that he would was enough to make is behave ourselves.

The type of control I’m talking about is a little different. Being the only man in a houseful of women, especially when there are 5 daughters, means being seriously outnumbered. Imagine vying for the bathroom…and we had only 1 by the way…against 5 teen and preteen aged girls trying to get ready for school. I’m sure you get the picture. If Dad wanted a shower, he had better get it before 5:00 am, or he was most likely out of luck. And if he needed to use the bathroom…well, it might be easier to go somewhere else, or should I say quicker.

These kinds of things continued for most of Dad’s life. He always had to be the one to kill the bugs…especially the moths, which put his little princesses into screaming fits, instantly. We made him get up in the middle of the night while camping to “put another log on the fire” to keep the bears away…never mind the fact that we were inside, and the bears couldn’t get us anyway. I’m quite sure he watched more chick flicks than he ever wanted to as well. Nevertheless, Dad took it all in stride, allowing his girls to feel like princesses…with chores, of course…but still princesses. He gave in to the girlie side of his girls, and probably spoiled us pretty good. The house was filled with dolls and kitchen sets, tea sets, and cribs…all the things we needed to play house.

Later came the waiting on us to finally get ready so we could go somewhere, because we all know that it is impossible to leave the house without our makeup…and I mean it!! Dad knew quite well, that he might just as well sit down and read the paper, because he would have time to read the whole thing. I am reminded of the Brad Paisley song, “Waitin’ On A Woman” when I think of all the times my dad waited patiently for his girls to all get ready.

When there is one person, male or female, who happens to be the only person of that gender in their household, and they find themselves seriously outnumbered, yet they manage to keep their wits about them, I can’t help but think back on everything we put my dad through over the years. It occurs to me that they might just be a saint…or else they have just resigned themselves to the inevitable.

There is something special about being born on your great grandfather’s birthday. It becomes a bond between the two of you…something you will always share. That is the bond that my niece Machelle shared with her great grandfather…my mother-in-law’s dad. I was a unique birthday type that would be the second of it’s kind in our family. This kind of birthday makes the people involved very close. For the grandparent, it is like a special birthday gift…one that can’t be bought with money…a miracle that just happened to arrive on your special day. Very cool!!

For the grandchild, it gives a sense of connection to someone in a very special and unique way. One that your friends don’t usually get to have. And since Machelle was the second grandchild in our family to manage to arrive on a great grandparent’s birthday, it placed a connection between her and her cousin, my daughter, Corrie, who had also been born on a great grandparent’s birthday, and in fact, the same set of great grandparents, only her great grandmother. Now I don’t know the statistics on just how rare that is, but I do know it is unusually common in our family, having occurred 3 times over the years…but that is another story.

Machelle and her great grandfather celebrated birthdays together, and shared a closeness that can only come from such a special bond. Unfortunately, those special birthday moments were only to last until Machelle was 9 years old, at which time her great grandpa passed away from cancer. Still, I’m quite certain the bond between them remains in her heart.

Those things…that sense of connection to your great grandfather in a very special way…never really pass away. They are with you on every birthday. You don’t celebrate your special day without taking a moment to reflect on your great grandfather, and what he meant to you. You celebrate the day for both of you, because it occurs to you that without him you would not exist, and also that you were a very special birthday gift to him. One he would always look at as being very cool!! His birthday present. And as for the rest of us…well, we think Machelle is a beautiful, wonderful woman, who is a blessing to know. Happy birthday Machelle!! We love you.

When kids are little, the whole meal thing can be…well, a challenge. No kid is the same, and there are always things they don’t like to eat. To make matters worse, if you were raised in my generation, you were always told that you needed to clean up your plate, because there were children starving in Africa. It occurred to us that our not cleaning our plate was not going to help them anyway, but that was still the thing we were told. Of course, our parents were trying to teach us not to be wasteful, but when I was looking at tomatoes or peas…which I still do not really like, it didn’t make any difference, because I figured that if those children in Africa wanted my tomatoes or peas, they were welcome to them…just get me a to go box and I’d figure out a way to pay the postage.

My parents didn’t go for that, so I had to sit there until I cleaned up my plate. Yuck!! I tried everything I could think of to get out of it. I would put a forkful of peas in my mouth and then spit them into my napkin, but the darned things wouldn’t always stay in there, so I ended up getting them back. After a while, I learned how to make them stay in there pretty good, but I still got caught most of the time. Now tomatoes were a different story. Putting a forkful of stewed tomatoes in my mouth produced a pretty much instant gagging effect that was not faked, and trying to swallow was almost worse. I learned to plug my nose and swallow those nasty things whole…and quickly.

Sometimes, it isn’t a matter of not liking a food, but taking more than you can eat. My sister, Alena found that out on Thanksgiving one year, when she wanted to have the entire turkey leg. She argued with my dad about it until he finally gave in and let her have the entire turkey leg. Of course, she couldn’t eat it all, so Dad said she could have it the next day. Well, she still couldn’t eat it all, so she got it the next day…and the next. By that time it was covered with cranberry sauce and gravy, and just the site of it made Alena cringe. Dad would get that silly turkey leg out every day, and try to hide his emotions when he handed it to Alena. Finally, the turkey leg ended up in the trash, and to this day, Alena doesn’t eat the leg on turkey or chicken.

Yes, food can be an issue with kids , but eventually they outgrown that pickiness…or just grow up and move out, so they can make their own food choices. There are some things that I still don’t like…and probably never will, but as I found out recently with Avocados, it never hurts to try thing again once in a while, because your tastes might change. You never know, but tomatoes and peas…well not yet.

I met Bob while I was a senior in high school, and we were married a little over a year after graduation. After the wedding, we took honeymoon trip to Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park. Bob and I had a wonderful honeymoon, and while we were gone, my parents took care of our cat.

When we came home, we opened the front door to find that a few things had changed around our house. Our first clue was when we turned on the light and there was something on the switch…shaving cream. Stepping into the living room, we saw that there were torn newspapers all over the floor…and our cat had been having a great time shredding them. So we cleaned things up, laughing about the trick my parents had pulled off. Both our families are teasers and pranksters, so this was nothing new to us.

Then, I started to make dinner. We were going to have fried chicken…one of my favorite dishes, and as it cooked it smelled wonderful. As I was preparing the side dishes, a found that we had another surprise in store for us. All of the labels on our canned goods had been removed, so the side dishes were going to be a bit of a surprise too. In the end, we had fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, and peaches. Now that doesn’t sound too bad, until you add that fact that I like salt, so I used a generous amount on the chicken, and as we bit into it, we discovered that the salt and sugar had been switched. Bob was such a good sport. He told me it wasn’t so bad, and ate at least two pieces of chicken. Thankfully we had used a packaged gravy, so it was good…of course the potatoes were a little sweet. All in all, it wasn’t too bad, and nothing went to waste. Again, we laughed about the whole thing.

The final prank was discovered when we went to bed that night. There was a cup of rice over our door, so my parents got to throw the final handful of rice to commemorate our marriage. They had also short sheeted the bed…which I’m sure you can figure out, and there were a few crackers in there that needed to be vacuumed out, but the funniest thing was the fact that there were a selection of bells, including a cow bell tied to the bed springs…so I’m sure you get the picture on that one. We were too tired to remove those until the next day, so it wasn’t a quiet night, but we did get…some sleep.

I suppose some people might think our homecoming was a mean trick, but we thought it was totally funny, and it has been a funny memory that we have had for the last 36 years. I wonder how many other people can tell you all of the details of that first day home from their honeymoon.

Kids see things differently than we do. They are always watching the adults around them, trying to understand what things are important…or better yet, grown up. To be sure, that is good reason to be careful what you do, because there are always little eyes watching you, learning, trying to become you, because they love you. It is amazing to think that this little life is looking to you to shape it, and teach it what is right and wrong. It’s easy let the cute little bad habits pass, but not the best idea. Before you know it, you have to break those habits. It is also somewhat unnerving, to know that your every move is being watched and analyzed as only a child can do.

Kids are so willing to help out in the home when they are little…not that those days will last. They will figure out that it’s work soon enough, and then it won’t be so easy to get them to help out…without pay that is. Still, all too often, we won’t let them pitch in when they are little, because they don’t know how to do things right. A big mistake on our part I think. So it isn’t done perfectly…they will learn…if we let them. And the whole learning part is so cute, and they feel so grown up, that it is a shame to deny them that right to be a little helper. And what difference does it make if your bed isn’t perfectly made or the vacuuming perfectly done every day? Isn’t their self esteem more important?

And of course, there is the clothing lessons. They watch what you wear, and do their best to look just like you. It’s always funny to see little ones stumbling around in their mom’s or grandma’s heels or their dad’s or grandpa’s boots. Hats and mittens, coats and clothes, are all fair game when kids are playing dress up. They just look up to their parents so much…see them as the most beautiful of the most handsome person ever. Don’t you wish those days could last forever…or at least through the teenage years? But those days are gone so quickly and then they no longer see things through the eyes of a child.

Thanksgiving is a time to remember all your blessings, and where they came from. As I looked at this picture of our family at Thanksgiving, so long ago, is occurs to me just how blessed we are. This picture shows a pretty small group, but the reality is that our family has exploded with growth since that time. Most families do grow and change over the years. Children grow up, get married and have children…the blessings continue to grow. We have so much to be thankful for. Most of us live in the area, and have had the chance to stay very close. Our children know each other, and their children do too. We go to church as a family…taking up 3 rows of chairs these days.

Yes, there are some who have gone home to be with the Lord…Dad, Alyssa, Laila, Nancy, Marlyce, as well as grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins, and we miss them very much, but we are thankful that we will see them again, and that the Lord comforts us concerning those have gone home, and gives us the strength to move forward, in spite of the pain. And, I am thankful that my mom and my in-laws are all doing well, and I pray that continues for a long, long time. And I’m thankful that the rest of the family is also in good health. We are so blessed in that way, and I thank God for that.

So often, we dwell on our problems or disappointments, and forget to notice our blessings. Today, I want to focus on all the positive things in my life, and all the loved ones I have been blessed with. I want to focus on the freedoms we have, simply because we live in a country that values those freedoms. I am thankful for the men who have fought and died to win those freedoms. And mostly, I am thankful for my savior, Jesus, who came and died for me so I could have eternal life.

We all have so much to be thankful for. It is my hope today, that all is well with you and yours, and that you never take your blessings for granted. I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

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