Family & Friends · Thoughts

My gang

My sister has a group of friends she met when she was a teacher at the same Catholic school she attended as a kid. I think there’s four of them that are each others’ support group. She calls them her posse. I like that. I think it’s great to have a posse.

Me, I have a gang. Not a big gang, mind you, though the name itself would suggest that. No, it’s a small gang; sort of a gang of two. But between us, we’ve weathered births, adoptions, divorce, and heartbreaking death; life at its best and worst; while helping raise each other’s kids. They say it takes a village. My family was my village, but she is my person. She knows my darkest secrets, and I hers. After more than 30 years, I’ve learned that she will caveat to the point where I often just make a quick mental note where she started so I can get her back on track when needed. We’ll run the gamut of raucous laughter to silent sniffles, each of us knowing what the other one needs at any particular time. We will challenge each other, make us face our fears, always offer support and of course unconditional love. We can go for months on end and not talk with each other outside of maybe a text or two saying, ‘Hey, I’m still here, are you?’ And then out of the blue one of us calls the other, and we’re on the phone for hours asking about family and friends, the fun and the not-so-much-fun that’s been going on since we last spoke.

We are pretty much total opposites in many ways; it’s really a wonder we clicked as we did. And while we are the same age, she grew up in a very dysfunctional family of five where all the kids (three boys, two girls) had male names. Alcoholism ran rampant in her clan who all lived within miles of each other. Raised on a farm in mid Michigan in the 60s and 70s, hard work was no stranger to her. While the rest of her siblings stayed close to home, at 18 she left for the dance world and never returned, forever the outcast who dared to choose a different, better life. I was raised in a tight Irish-Catholic clan with 10 siblings, lots of love and laughter, pretty much oblivious to the lifestyles of other families. But I had my own struggles growing up. With six kids in eight years, there wasn’t much individual attention to spare for a needy little girl. We didn’t have much, and I wasn’t popular in school. It was a strict upbringing that included church, chores, curfews, but we knew we were loved.

She (given name Dale) was and is athletic. I am not. She has two children through adoption while I gave birth to three (she was there with me for the last one). She is the Diane Keaton to my Annette Benning, good at acting as if all is well when it’s not. We both weathered destructive marriages, and we are now both retired with grandchildren. We live a thousand miles apart, but we also know if one of us were in need, we would be right there for the other. We can agree to disagree on many things with no judgement while we encourage, advise, empathize, and console.

There’s a quote from Grey’s Anatomy where this ‘my person’ idea started, and I think it says it all:

This is life. Bad things happen. You find your people, you find your person, and you lean on them.

Meredith, Grey’s Anatomy

So she is my person. I have other close friends that I love dearly along with many acquaintances, and I try my best to stay in touch, even if it’s just a quick text or email. All our lives are constantly changing. After being alone for 11 years she has found a nice man she enjoys spending time with. She’s in a really good place right now, deservedly so, and I am more than happy for her happiness. I have remarried. I am in a good place as well, though there’s a bit of a ‘limbo’ feel to my days while my 94-year-old mother lives out the rest of her days with us. We are far apart in distance but always close in heart.

I love her. She is my person, my gang.

Family & Friends · Florida Fun

Knot Fast

We got a boat. A cute li’l red pontoon boat for floating down the ICW. I used to have one, back in Michigan. It was great for floating around Otsego Lake, enjoying the sunsets, knitting, relaxing. There’s a big difference between a freshwater lake and the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida.

I don’t know that David has ever had a pontoon boat, but I don’t think so. The learning curve on this thing on the ICW … well, suffice it to say, every time we go out, we learn something new, usually the hard way.

David, Donner, and Mark

First, being this close to the Atlantic, there’s always a breeze; typically a pretty good one. With the sun down here, it’s prudent to keep the bimini up, but we learned it also acts as a bit of a sail when we’re trying to steer through the marina and park in the slip. Something else that was never a concern is the tide. Sometimes the canals are deeper than others, and it’s always good to know what’s going on with that. A marine battery is also a great idea, one we learned about the hard way after tooling up and down the river listening to the alarm going off and the voltage meter near zero. More than once we wondered if we were going to make it back, and one particular time it died just as we were attempting to park in the slip. Thank God the current moved us to another dock where we tied up until we could move it the next day. Oh, yes; the current. Between the current and the wind in the bimini top, there’s no such thing as always getting to the spot you’re aiming for. I actually don’t enjoy myself until we’re on the river, preferably where it’s deep.

We’ve taken it to different restaurants on the water, docked it in Flagler Beach and walked into town, seen manatees, dolphins, and even, sadly, a dead deer that didn’t make the crossing. We love taking friends and family to see Old Florida from another angle, enjoying their enjoyment of this beautiful area we love.

Drew · Family · Family & Friends · Mom · Randomness

Best EVER!

You know how people like to make “BEST” lists, such as BEST VIEW FROM A SHOWER (has to be Kevin’s former home in the foothills of the Rockies), or BEST OPENING LINE IN A BOOK. Or how about BEST SUPERHEROES WHO DON’T HAVE SUPERPOWERS (probably not at the top of YOUR lists). And even though it only lasted five days, including travel, my new “BEST” list will now include “BEST VACATION EVER!” . I spent time at what I call the Enchanted House – Kevin and Savanna’s place – deep in the woods at Shanty Creek Resort (BEST SETTING FOR A HOME). I knitted with my ImagKnit knitters, visited with my good friends Sarah and Lynzie, and then finally I was surrounded by loads of family – I think we counted 65! I was able to spend quality time with all my kids, spouses, and grandkids. My mom held my granddaughter while I enjoyed watching my other grandkids swimming in the lake. We played games, ate great food, listened to stories, sang around the campfire.

But the absolute highlight of my trip was playing Euchre with Drew, Meg, and Kevin. I wish it could have gone on for hours, listening to them banter back and forth, falling into those same roles as oldest, youngest, and only girl. And even though I knew it might be years before it would happen again, it was just wonderful…the whole day, the whole trip. It was THE BEST!

Family & Friends · Florida Fun · Randomness

T’was the season!

What a great holiday season we had this year! I typically find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit here in Florida as there is no prompting from the white stuff that would normally cover the Michigan ground this time of year to remind me daily of the season ahead. And all the neighborhood houses lit up with colorful Christmas lights and their lawns with inflatable snowmen are a little amusing without the icicles hanging from the roof tops. But this year was different.

This year my Meg decided to spend Christmas here, the first time in 6 years any of the kids have been with us for any holiday. She arrived a week before, which I was so excited about, because I had a special gift in mind for her. (Read more about that here.) She has a way of making any event more fun with her contagious energy, and this Christmas was no exception. We shopped the flea market, enjoyed the holiday lights in St. Augustine, played Christmas music non-stop, and even opened the required night-before-Christmas presents (matching jammies!) Christmas day found us 05busy preparing a traditional Christmas dinner complete with turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, rolls, green bean casserole, and PIE! And then my sister Molly and her entire family joined us for a wonderful Christmas afternoon and evening, where we ate, laughed, got to the beach for a beautiful sunset, then went back to the house for a crazy game around the table. I was so pleased they stayed as late as they did, as they had a long drive back to their hotel in Kissimmee. It made me realize how much I missed these gatherings, and I was grateful for all the photos from all the phones that were shared with everyone.

Now the tree and decorations are down, slowly the neighborhood is getting back to normal. The sun is shining and temperatures are hovering in the high 60’s to 70’s. My mother is here out of the cold of the north for a couple months. I’m back to work, and life continues. But I do love looking back on that day, that visit from family and the laughter that reassured me that some things just never change. Thank God.

Family & Friends · Florida Fun

Expect the expected

My Meg has been complaining for years that she’s never been to Disney. All her friends have been to Disney, but not her. Perhaps while watching a Disney movie or seeing a Disney sign, she’ll still say, “I can’t believe I’ve never been to Disney!” Never mind that she was raised in Michigan, over a thousand miles away, and never mind that we only took ONE real family vacation in all their growing up. Never mind that at 31 she’s well aware that a trip to Disney costs an arm, a leg, and several gold bars. That’s not the point.  She’s 31 years old, and she’s never been to Disney.

 And so for her Christmas present this year, since she was going to be spending the holiday with us, I decided to take her to Disney. I’d heard about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, which is a party inside the party that is already Magic Kingdom, and there’s limited tickets that cost slightly less than a regular park admission. But the park stays open until midnight, including rides, food, and all the extra fun.

 I was ridiculously excited while planning and anticipating the surprise. She would arrive in Florida the night of December the 17th, and the last day for the MVMCP (as it’s referred to online) was the 19th. Thankfully there were tickets still available, so I bought two (Thom declined the invite) and then started planning HOW to tell her. My thoughts were filled with those TV commercials where the kids are presented with their surprise and the little girl breaks down in a puddle of happy tears. I couldn’t WAIT!

 She finally arrived and the intervening day was filled with plans to go to the flea market, the beach, St. Augustine and more. I convincingly agreed to whatever she wanted to do, knowing in my mind that THE SURPRISE awaited! And then I started to question my plan to tell her.

 I’m very much like my mother when it comes to surprises or any kind of good news. She and I are the ones who jump around screaming when we learn of a new baby, a surprise visit, or any other joyful occasion. We get JOYFUL!  And I know she, like me, can’t seem to help it, and to try and stifle it is like trying to stifle a sneeze.  Similarly, at scary movies with ‘jump’ scenes, I’m in the fetal position and have, on occasion, strained muscles when startled. I guess I feel things a bit more intensely than the average Moe, much to the enjoyment of my boys.

 Meg isn’t like that. And I know that. And if I forget that, I have people to remind me, because invariably I will be disappointed in her very calm reaction to what I think is a great surprise. And so instead of waiting for her to get up the morning of the 19th and say to her, “Get dressed! We’re going to Disney!” and expecting that puddle…instead of that, I decided to use social media to surprise her.  And so I enlisted the help of SnapChat, a cute little app I’m not all that familiar with but that I figured would get her attention. I worked on it in the wee hours of the morning while laying in bed too excited to sleep. You only get a 10-second video, so there were several trials and mostly errors.  Finally on the morning of the 19th I went into her room, woke her up by climbing into bed with her and said, “Hey, I sent you my first SnapChat video. Check it out.”  The video went something like this,

                 “Meg!  Wake up! We’re going to DISNEY!!!  ♫ Merrrrry Christmaaas! ♫”

 Her slightly sluggish response was, “Why are we going to Disney?”  




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Cabbage Life · Family & Friends · Randomness

Déjà vu

I had a déjà vu moment yesterday morning. November is typically a comfortably warm month here in northeast Florida, but a cold front in the region had the temperatures dipping into the upper 40’s overnight. (Perfect for sleeping, if you ask me, though Thom was happier after I put the down comforter on the bed. But I digress.)

October 11, 2009Thom had gone off to work pretty early, ssnow-day-11-2o when I got up, the house was quiet. Looking out the French doors, I saw the trees moving in the breeze. Stepping out into the lanai, the sunshine, the smell, the unfamiliar crisp, cool temperature and the sound of the rustling trees suddenly hurled me back through time, first to my “Cabbage” (my CABin in the woods and cottAGE on the lake) where fall is the most beautiful time of the year, and then back even further to when my kids were small and the chilly autumn air meant leaf raking, playing in the piles, and noisy laughter.  Memories of colder seasons; beautiful backyard snow drifts, ice rinks and neighborhood kids, feet stomping snow off boots, rosy cheeks and a fire in the fireplace…it all came rushing back in a moment that simultaneously brought grateful tears to my eyes and a nostalgic smile to my face.

I miss those time. I miss my small children’s laughter and raucousness, though I would never have believed it at the time. Because when you’re a young mom and in the midst of it all, it can often seem overwhelming, never-ending to the point of just wanting that Calgon moment to take you away from it all.

But it does end. Life moves on. And those small children become bigger children, and then they move on to become adults with their own lives and their own small children. Do I want to do it again? No, way. There is a time to every season.

But it all began with a déjà vu moment when I opened the doors to the lanai and let some beautiful memories in.

Family & Friends · Randomness

I wish I’d written this….

Not sure if I need permission (I’ll apologize in advance), but I want to re-post this blog post from Kelsea, who is one of four sisters with this blog. For some reason, I’ve been reflecting lately on my boys as babies, children, teens, and men. Maybe it’s because I saw a couple of photos of them lately with their beautiful wives and they look so happy and content; maybe it’s because I’ve been working with old pictures getting prepped for Christmas presents. Whatever the reason, I came across this blog post, and like so many women out there, I wish I’d written it years ago to my now wonderful daughters-in-law:

To My Future Daughter-in-Law 

My boys and their brides: Drew and Kristin, Kevin and Savanna
My boys and their brides: Drew and Kristin, Kevin and Savanna

Family & Friends

He was a Yankee Doodle Dandy!

2713Fourth of July is so bittersweet nowadays. At 61 years of age, I have lots of them to look back on, but by far the strongest memory for me, and I’m sure for all my 10 siblings and various cousins, is 4th of July at my grandparents’ cottage. As far back as I can remember, my dad has led a parade of children across the lawn and around the house, marching to the music of George M. Cohen pounded out on the piano by my Aunt Binnie. What started in the 1950’s as a cute idea for a handful of children — “Hey, how about a little parade with the kids?!” — has grown over the years to a tradition that spans generations.

“You’re a Grand Old Flag,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There.”  We learned these songs as youngsters and sang them heartily, marching in a line kept straight by a string of gas station flags. Oldest to youngest, growing in number every year, we would imitate dad as he sang and zig-zagged around the huge lawn, kicking up his leg here and there, yelling, “Tighten up that line!”  Down the stone steps (“Slow down!”) and along the shore of Lake Huron, the neighbors would pile out of their homes to watch us, singing and clapping along.2546

Of course, as we grew older, we were embarrassed by the show. “What would people think? We’re too old for this now. I’ll just watch.”  No way. There was no sitting out, and if you brought a friend along, they were in, too. And so year after year, the tradition continued. With the oldest directly behind dad and the youngest often on an adult’s shoulders, the parade went on, sometimes nearly 30 of us in tow, singing, laughing, kicking up our legs,and just being silly, following the silliest of them all.

Our last 4th of July parade was held at my little cottage in Gaylord, but this time, dad was sitting it out. He had suffered a stroke the year before that left him unable to walk. But that didn’t stop him from singing the old songs, watching as his grown kids, his grandkids and even some great-grandkids marched alongside the deck for his review. “Tighten up that line!” we heard, as everyone lined up to pledge allegiance to the flag. I think many of us knew it would be our last parade with dad. I keep that picture in my heart and in my mind, but the melancholy it causes fades as I recall the wonderful memories of my youth, number 8 in line behind my sister and in front of my cousin, holding tight to the rope and waving our flags, singing and laughing as our parade leader set the tone and marched on.