Posted in Drew, Family

And Then There’s This Guy

I was living in Louisiana when I became pregnant with my first child. A month and a half before he was due, we moved back to Michigan in time to deliver a healthy baby boy on this date 38 years ago. After some difficult months of adjusting to my new status of mother, my poor little guinea pig finally began to thrive. His personality developed quickly, and I soon found myself the lucky recipient of one of the most joyful, pleasant, and funniest of beings.

I think the only time this kid cried, once he became a toddler, then a child and so on, was when he was hurt either emotionally (the ending of An Incredible Journey), or physically (Marco! Polo!). To say he had a pleasant disposition is an understatement. Sure, he got frustrated. Naturally, he got angry (he was a teenager). But if I search my memory, I can only think of a handful of times it happened, and he was always willing to talk things through.

Is he a typical ‘oldest’? I’d say yes. From little up, he has had a likeable spirit that could draw friends to him like bears to honey. He has a great work ethic and is a natural leader. He actually saved his little sister’s life more than once, though she hates to admit it. And he has always had the most incredible sense of fun, invariably able to make me laugh even when I didn’t want to. With his kind and generous heart, he can make you feel like you matter, even from a thousand miles away. His high school sweetheart turned wife and mother is the perfect match for him; he refers to her as a ‘joke ninja’. Their three children haven’t fallen far from the tree in terms of personality and silliness. As a family, they warm this mother’s heart.

I have a picture of him in my mind, about five or six years old. It is picture day in kindergarten. I dress him in suspenders, and he wants to wear a tie for the photo. He is the spitting image of Opie from MayberryHe is lined up with his fellow classmates for their school picture, and he melts my heart. In another, he is playing right field at the ripe old age of seven. His deep purple cap is too big for his head. He has no clue what’s going on. But he’s having the time of his life tossing his cap in the air and chasing it down. I was videotaping him at the time, and the camera is shaking, up and down, while silent tears of laughter are running down my cheeks.

I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at his graduation. I said it then, and I’ll say it now.

“You have given me more joy and more laughter than many get in a lifetime, and I feel so lucky to have you in my life.”

Happy birthday, Andrew.  I love you.

Posted in Childhood, Family, Florida Fun

Seasons Change, and So Do I

11/28/19. Thanksgiving Day. This will be my eighth holiday season in Florida, which is hard to believe. And of those eight, several of them were spent on my own in my own place doing my own thing, such as it was.

The holidays bring so many memories reaching all the way to when I was a kid. Our family would either host or attend the many get-togethers surrounding the season, and I would eventually come to understand the significance and the importance of tradition.

Weather permitting, the kids would come prepared for the outdoors and would play outside until called in for dinner. It was always potluck style with everyone bringing a little something to the table. There was loads of help, with the kitchen as the center, the adults milling around, prepping the buffet for the long line of hungry eaters. Afterwards, tables were cleared, games were set up, and the fun and laughter would go well into the evening.

It’s difficult to let that go, but life happens; loved ones pass on, kids grow up and move on, and the only constant, it seems, is change. I know in some families it stays the same generation after generation. But in a family as large as ours, there’s bound to be lots of change, welcome and unwelcome.

And so it goes. This Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season that eases our way into 2020 and another year. Family and friends surround us helping create new memories. We slowly establish new traditions while thinking back to the ones that formed us. Seasons change, times change, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Posted in Family

What a kid.

A pink rainbow

My three-year-old granddaughter was over for dinner last night. I had knitted her some pink socks because everything has to be pink right now. But they were too small, and she was disappointed and asked me to make some more. I suggested she come with me to my yarn stash and pick out some yarn, and I would attempt to make socks for her and her baby sister, and if there was enough left, for her momma.

She picked out the yarn you see here, calling it a pink rainbow. I love it! Then she said to make them right now.

Anyone who does any kind of fiber crafting knows that ‘right now’ isn’t happening, especially with a knitted sock. But I told her she could help me wind the yarn into a ball so it would be ready. She happily agreed to that and really liked the way it turned out, going from hank (“I wanna use it for a jump rope!) to ball.

She climbed up next to me on the couch and asked if I would ‘pease make them now.’ I told her I would start them now, but that it’ll take a long time to finish them. Her response was,

“That’s okay. I’ll wait.”

Her momma questioned, “But it will take a lot of days. Where will you sleep?”

AJ: “Amember that time when I hanged out with Aunt Meghan and Cousin Stephanie? I wanna hang out with Nana and Daydid.”

Nana: But I can’t get them done tonight. It will take me lots of days.

AJ: “That’s okay. I’ll wait.”

God, I love this kid.

Posted in Florida Fun, Us

Long Creek and Ol’ Black Water

This little gem sits right outside our back door. Seen from the air, this creek winds its way like a maze on its way to the Intracoastal, just six short switchback miles. It’s influenced by the tide and current. We’ve learned by doing that it’s easier to navigate when it’s deep, and lately it’s been plenty deep. The last couple months, the very high tides here have been a cumulative result of something called king tides plus full moons plus high onshore winds. And I love it!

Today David surprised me with an invitation to kayak. I immediately said yes, gathered my hat and my phone (for photos), and went to the creek on this beautiful sunny Florida day. He was already in and waiting, so I dragged my kayak to the shore and stepped in. I realized too late that this method, while it works well for him, does not work for me.

As my kayak slowly slid away from the bank, I found myself in the somewhat awkward position of doing the splits, dreading but knowing that I was not going to be able to pull myself back to shore. The struggle was real but fruitless. I ended up butt-in-creek; muddy, yukky creek; until I could finally get myself up onto the bank again. Ewwwww!

I plodded back into the house, stripped the muddy pants off, quickly rinsed where I could, then found some shorts and headed back out determined not to let it ruin my day.

And it didn’t!

Posted in Family

Never in a million.

I have three adult kids. My oldest is married and lives in Oklahoma with his wife and three kids, current ages five, seven, and nine; girl, girl, boy, respectively. I try and see them at least once a year; more if they travel to wherever I am. He’s a geophysicist working in the natural gas field, so he isn’t leaving OK anytime soon.

My second is my only daughter, a pediatric cardio echo-tech who loves children, travel, and family, not necessarily in that order. Because she is single, she has been able to travel quite a bit, primarily through three-month travel gigs around the country, but also internationally, since she has no qualms about traveling solo. She’s my gypsy, my independent free spirit, and (finally!) my friend.

My last child is my youngest son, pretty much a gift to me as he’s five years behind his sister. He is married with two beautiful daughters.

They’re all really cool people. They’re tons-o-fun, and I like them all lot, including their spouses. I’m not being facetious. I really like these people, and I’m very grateful for that. Heaven knows I have friends who still have a difficult relationship with at least one of their offspring. I’m lucky, and I know it.

What I never dreamed in a million years was that any of my kids would ever live near me. I knew full well that leaving Michigan would mean having to travel to see my kids and grandkids. I was prepared for that. But once again God smiled down on me, and at this point in time, two out of three of them live nearby. My youngest and his family are within 10 minutes of us, while my daughter is just a little over an hour away and comes often for visits, usually bringing her wonderful cousin with her.

For so many years I would hear friends talk about what they did with their kids over the weekends, and I would always say how lucky they were to have them near. Now I’m the lucky one, and I would never have believed it. Never in a MILLION!

Posted in Family, Moving forward

Was it worth it?

When I moved to Florida in 2011, I knew I was leaving the familiar behind. That familiar consisted of my huge family that lived predominately within 90 minutes of each other in northern Michigan along with the friends I’d made over 27 years. I didn’t feel like I had a choice to make. Life had gotten progressively more difficult with the death of my dad, my divorce, the closing of my shop and then losing my home. I needed to start over, away from it all.

My prior knowledge of Florida consisted of small vay-kays visiting my folks as they wintered on the Gulf. While it was a great place to visit, I never imagined living there. The beach was beautiful, but if you didn’t actually live on it, it was hard to get to. I didn’t care for the landscape of highrise after highrise.

Cue Florida. Palm Coast, to be exact. Divine Providence led me here to this small planned community in northeast Florida on the Atlantic Ocean. 30 years ago, this place never existed. Now it’s a beautifully planned “Tree City” nestled between St. Augustine (the oldest city in America) and Daytona Beach, “The World’s Most Famous Beach,” with my own little throwback gem of Flagler Beach just minutes away.

I knew the trade-off. I knew what I was leaving. Certainly people would come visit. Who doesn’t love a place to stay in warm weather when you live in the snow belt? And we did get visitors, and it was wonderful. The years went by, and I grew to really love the area. My life changed in more ways than one, and over the course of the last couple of years, God has smiled down on me and brought not only my life partner, but two out of three of my kids to live nearby.

I hear people ask when is it their turn, or when will I catch a break, but the truth is you kind of have to just pray for guidance, pray for patience, and pray that you listen well enough to hear. That’s not always easy. Our timing is our timing. What seems like years is just a blink in the scheme of things. Waiting is so hard. Wishing seems fruitless. The old adage, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” should read, “When life hands you lemons, make a lemon-tini, and don’t forget to laugh.”

Me and David

Was it all worth it? Was leaving everything I held dear to my heart worth it? I still have wonderful memories that I share with those that helped make them. I realize that nothing stays the same. But nothing worth having comes easy, and while the life-changing events that led to my move were anything but easy, I will say it was all worth it. Our past leads us to where we are. Everything endured influences who we are today. Would I change anything? Most definitely. But I believe even with that, I would have ended up with my David, my kids and grandkids nearby, in this beautiful little slice of heaven.

Posted in Family

Am I lucky or wot?

Rita

That’s a line my 92-yo mother loves to use in nearly every email (yes, email) she sends out. She’s as cute as she can be, still using her computer for email and bridge. When she plays computer bridge, there’s a gentleman’s voice that will come on after a game and tell her ‘Good job!’ to which she will reply, ‘Thank you!’.

She’s coming to spend the winter with us, and I couldn’t be more excited. Any time I can spend with this woman is precious to me. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I’m the third of 11 children; eight boys and three girls. There wasn’t any ‘Mom and me’ time for any of us growing up, and so to have her all to myself for months at a time makes me happy and so grateful.

I’ve had her with me in prior years. She’s a blessing to be around; always cheerful, never demanding, she just rolls with the flow, saying, “Just tell me where you want me to go.” She sleeps late, then thoroughly enjoys her first cuppa coffee in the morning, always claiming, “Nectar of the gods!” with her first sip. She’ll finally get dressed, make her way to her favorite seat, either inside or out, maybe do a crossword puzzle, and then read Danielle Steele to her heart’s content. After dinner and some TV (preferably Downton Abbey) she’ll tell us good night and “God bless you,” something she has said to us since the beginning of time. She’ll make her way to her bedroom where, after getting ready for bed, she’ll check her email, play some computer bridge until she gets sleepy, then go to bed.

I know I won’t have many more opportunities like this. I’m glad I’m not working full time any longer. I’m glad she wants to come. I know we’ll get other northerners down to visit her, and we’ve got a couple of her grandkids and great-grandkids nearby.

Are we lucky or WOT!?

Posted in Childhood, Family

A Rite of Passage

rope swing When we were kids living in an old farmhouse in Rochester, Michigan, there was a tree way out in the back yard with a rope swing in it.  It was the perfect rope swing. The rope was thick; probably not as thick as I remember, but holding it in my smaller hands, it was the perfect size to get a tight, two-fisted grasp around it that included elbows. The knot on the bottom was wide enough to accommodate both butt cheeks, but you could still lock your knees and legs around it for dear life. Picture someone trying to climb a rope, and that’s the form we seemed to take when we would first attempt the swing.

I’m third of 11 kids. I have an older brother and sister, and then a whole bunch of boys follow with another little girl thrown in for good measure. I was probably nine or 10 before I worked up the gumption to finally climb into the crotch of that tree and sidle out the thick limb that had the bark worn off from bottom after bottom sliding off into the air. I can still feel the trembling and the panic in my heart as I sat there terrified I would fall off waiting for someone to toss me the knot, praying I would catch it with my feet. Then, God help me, I had to pull my knees up and reach for the rope, all the while balancing and shaking like the leaves around me! 

To their credit, my siblings were pretty good about urging me on, telling me I could do it.  Looking back, they probably just wanted me to hurry up so they’d have a turn. I’d certainly been in that position before and not gone, so kudos to them for what I took for encouragement.

But that first time … Honestly, I can still feel my butt slowly slide off the branch while holding onto that rope like a baby chimp to it’s mother, my hair flying, hoping I wouldn’t swing back and hit the tree (never!), listening to the cheers of my brothers and sister.  Heart pounding, a wide grin on my face, I savored my first flight down and out over the septic field, back and forth, finally slowing down and relaxing enough to trust my legs to hold me when I jumped off. 

It was certainly a right of passage, an unquestionable confidence builder that perhaps led to my love of flying!