Saturday, August 13, 2016

Never Stop Learning: What I do in Retirement!

If I were in college, I would be carrying a full load this year.

History: I am hoping to become more involved with my hometown historical society. They have just celebrated their Bicentennial.

Civics/Government: I want to do what I can to get a levy passed, after a design for new schools is presented, in the community that I reside in, and that educated my children. I likely will have no grandchildren in this system, but it’s important to educate the children anyway.

Music: Continuation in my involvement with the Symphony Chorale. Rehearsals every week after Christmas. We perform in March.

Literature (and history): Shifting my focus of my blog to encompass family stories and history. This will involve some research.

Theology: Instead of a “Bible Study” this year, I plan to study the Reformation, as October 31, 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I want to make the most of it. There is MUCH information online. I do not plan to have two shelves of books on this.

Art: This is something new. I am not an artist and right now I don’t claim to draw people. However, I have begun a new “hobby” of illustrating my Bible. This goes along with my daily readings. I learn more every day about how I would like to do this. I can draw a mean burning bush, but when we get to the Nativity, I am in trouble. However, some of this illustrating is “what I learn” or “what I am meditating on that day” and not the story itself.

Architecture (which technically falls under Art): Taking more “day trips” with my newfound friends that are interested, as I am, in kit homes. We attempt to locate homes that were mostly built between 1908 and 1940 by not only Sears, but Montgomery Ward (Wardway), Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin and some other companies.

Physical Education: Get these knees fixed. Then get back into the swing of things. Grateful for the workout room in the condo. It has what I need.

Home Room:  Keep up the Class of 1971 web site.

My social calendar will not suffer, neither will my “grandmothering” and being a good wife, mother, daughter, neighbor, etc. I have lunch once a month with high school pals, we do a dinner once a month with our Homeowners Association and I have one day a week dedicated to visiting my mother in a town about an hour away.

If I accomplish all of this, I won't be bored!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Medway Bicentennial

When you split the years that you grew up between two towns, almost equally in half, which one do you consider your hometown?

Sometimes, many people identify with the town they graduated from high school, and that is a very important time in life, as you make decisions that affect the rest of your life during those years.

Alternatively, as I get older, I seem to go back further, to my FIRST hometown, where I lived from the time I was 2 until the time I was 11. This is the place where my husband and I have purchased cemetery plots. It’s the home of my father’s family going back at least three generations.

So when said hometown was going to celebrate its Bicentennial, I knew I had to be among the faithful. I will not live long enough to celebrate my other hometown’s centennial, so I wasn’t going to miss this!

I have written before about the historical society and visiting with the family who was our neighbors in our youngest childhood memories. I have been in touch with the individual putting together the historical exhibit for months. I didn’t really help much, but it was amazing once completed. Actually, I hesitantly use that word completed, because history is an ongoing pursuit.

I went to the historical society and although I have not joined yet, I plan to. I think they all know that I’m going to. I volunteered to man the Historical Society booth.

The night before, my “old neighborhood” and some of their friends and classmates met at the pizza place. I saw people I hadn’t seen in over 50 years, and met some new people. We had a great time! Even though I hadn’t seen these people in years, I could follow along with the jokes and general merriment. The woman whose folks bought my parents’ home showed up too. I don’t know when I saw her last!

My childhood sisters.
On the morning of the Bicentennial itself, I was there early to help in the history room in the library. That is my love, to work on preserving the history. Then I went out for the Opening Ceremonies, where I found the women that I lived two doors from in my childhood. I’m a little older than they are, but I remember the day(s) that they were born. We enjoyed spending time together, and then went back to the library where the exhibit was.

I agreed to man the Historical Society information table from 2-4 and ended up there until 5. One of my classmates had two cars at the Cruise-In so we visited awhile. He lives less than a football field from my childhood home.

I met many new people and got reacquainted with some others. This was one of those times when the question is “Who’s your Daddy?” was appropriate. My married name meant nothing.

Standing before the exhibit
of my family.
Also inside the school was a craft show in the multipurpose room. Outside, there was an assortment of food trucks. There was entertainment, in addition to the Cruise-In, with a magician, the high school marching band, and two local bands. There was a bounce house in the playground area for the children and face painting indoors. You could have your picture taken in one of those painted “scenes” and I forgot to do that.

After my stint at the info table, I went back inside, and I had a portrait to take home. If we ever have a permanent place for the historical stuff, I’ll take it back.

I don’t think anyone counted the attendance, but that library was packed all day, showing us that there really is interest in the history of the community.

It is my hope and dream that we can find a permanent home for these items and build toward the future, beyond our lives. These items are too precious not to treat with utmost respect and find them a permanent home. They tell stories of the people in the town.

It was a great day in small town America.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

What is a Successful Reunion?

The Friday Night Gang
One asks “What makes a Reunion a Success?” If it were about attendance numbers; we know that the “off” years are going to be lower, the key is trying to estimate what number we are working with and budgeting accordingly.

I was worried. The registrations were not coming in per MY expectations and I know there’s a big bill to pay the hotel putting on this thing. Now, we have a reserve fund, and fundamentally that is for starting the next Reunion, but we CAN dip into it if needed. I didn’t lose sleep over that.

I never know how to buy food so I always take someone else with me. That doesn’t mean either one of us know what we’re doing, so we do rely on the pros. There was enough food, and I heard it was very good. I’ll be honest, I do not like buffalo wings, but someone ate mine for themselves and I ate their egg rolls!

A very personal blessing for me was renting a room at the hotel. That means I am not running around as much and can spend more time resting. This I will do again.

The attendance WAS down, but people came in at the last minute and as always, people who plan to come only Friday, come Saturday also. It always happens. You can count on it; you just can’t count how many! Anyway, we had enough.

What happens with fewer people attending is you have better quality conversations. I remember specifically the 25th Reunion. I had time to actually have good conversations, not just work a room. The same thing happened at the 35th although that attendance was down quite a bit, and the same thing happened this time.

So, is success defined by numbers or money in the bank? Is it defined by some spectacular program or fabulous door prizes and decorations? As a committee, we have to weigh what all these things cost vs. keeping the ticket (there really are no tickets) prices low so more people can attend. Most classmates are NOT well-to-do and many have to travel, adding to the cost for them.

In the end, we ended up with a surplus so that we have money to start preparing for the 50th Reunion, which we hope to be MUCH larger! And, as I announced, it will be the last reunion for three of us on the committee. I asked for more help and had several people reply affirmatively, but someone is going to have to take this over if it is to continue in 5 year increments! Otherwise, we’ll have luncheons, dinners and maybe a Riverboat Cruise (which everyone who went loved!)

As I watched others interact, and looked at the pictures later, I consider it a success in that people REALLY talked. People who didn’t know each other well in high school talked. At least they had their pictures taken as if they were. I consider that a success.

People said it over and over. There were no cliques at this reunion. THAT is what I consider success!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Last Minute Blues

When I am about to go crazy.

I don’t know why I expect this year to be any different. We try to estimate how many people will come to a reunion, based on conversations and examples of the classes before us. Sometimes I think this is ridiculous, because we are a unique group, as are all other groups. It’s our “job” to find that balance. I doubt we will ever really succeed.

We were on the right path for this “off year” reunion, when we reserved a venue and were planning only one “paid” event. The night before, we would go to a large restaurant and would be on our own, and then we would have a buffet at a local “fraternal organization.” Well, the organization has had to put their building up for sale (they don’t lose their charter, but will have to meet in a church room or something), and we went with another venue.

It’s a local hotel and they are doing a lot for us, but we had to sign on for two nights. So what we have now is (1) some people coming in for both nights, because they have to travel and (2) the locals, which I define as up to 50 miles, coming either one night or the other. It’s like a church with a 9:00 service and a 11:00 service and there are virtually two congregations. I am worried that many people will not see many other people. But, I can do nothing about that now.

So, for about six weeks I have been worried to death, and I am NOT calling and begging people. We are all adults at this stage. I do understand things happen, in the last week I have learned of four deaths. It is never convenient.

But NOW, at T-minus 11 days, I am starting to hear from people. LOTS of them! Now, we are getting close to numbers that I hoped for. We can pay the bills easily.

I don’t think people realize how I take this personally. Though I’ve never had to, I would consider myself financially responsible if necessary (I also know that I could throw out a call for donations and they would come in!)

I still have much to do, but I can do it with a relaxed heart and mind.

The only thing keeping me up at night is the carpal tunnel syndrome. Must get that fixed!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Why I'm Glad That I was Born in 1953

No one is able to pick when and where they are going to be born. I’ve lived a good life and many reasons are because of the time period in which I was born.

I was born in the “high” after World War Two. “Baby-Boomer” is too simplistic. I was born at a time when there was optimism for the next generation, and young people were eager to have families. I know that I was wanted and my brother (born in 1955) was wanted.

In 1955, when I was turning two and my mother was expecting, my 25-year-old father designed and built the home we were going to live in. It was an ideal neighborhood for children, where they could run free and ride their bikes up to a mile away. At an early age, I was taught respect for other people’s property, which meant I didn’t cross just anyone’s lawn—but I was able to discern as a youngster where it was “OK” to do so.  We really had freedom, and our parents were free of worry. The other neighborhood parents looked out for everyone. I don’t ever remember a time when my folks were concerned about correcting another child, or vice versa.

Although certainly there were differences of opinions in politics, it was a stable time. Maybe we just didn’t know the differences because there was only one newspaper and two television stations at the time and journalism wasn’t yellow.

I remember the election of 1960. I didn’t fully understand how Kennedy impressed the populace by his appearance on TV until later in life. But I DO remember it. I remember class elections, which were only a way for elementary teachers to figure out what their pupils' parents were thinking! My home, like many others, was split, so I went with what my mother was doing. That’s usually what 6-year-olds do.

The Cold War brought many fears, as we lived about one mile as the crow flies from the Strategic Air Command. I remember coming home from school with these fears, when my mother said very matter-a-factly that if the USSR decided to bomb us, we wouldn’t even have time to think about it. She didn’t explain the particulars, but said enough for me to understand that there would be no pain. From then, I didn’t worry about it, because I didn’t see my parents worrying about it.

1959-when I was six!
It was a time when our family was well-provided-for; enough that my father decided (with two other partners) to go into business and build a bowling alley that still stands today. I don’t know the official name of it, because I still call it by the old name. Those were fun years, practically living at the bowling alley. My father’s responsibility was the restaurant-lounge, so I imagined it affected our grocery budget somewhat, but I only got hot dogs. I did get free 45 records when they changed out the juke-box.

When I was 9, my mother became pregnant with the oops baby. I hate calling people “oops babies” because I believe every human being is determined by a Sovereign God to be born at a certain time. My youngest brother was a blessing to our entire family; but at the time, Dad needed a better earning potential than the bowling alley, so he went back to his previous sales occupation. During that time, the choice my parents made was to either raise the kids out in the country, where someone would have to be driving them to every activity they might be involved in, or move to a neighboring town—not affecting my Dad’s sales area—where we kids would have more opportunities, and we could WALK to those, not affecting baby’s naptime. I was 11 and Ben was 9 at this time.

(I find it interesting that when my children were 9 and 4, we made the exact opposite decision, moving from town to the country so that they could be in more activities.)

The move to town was one of the biggest changes, if not THE biggest change of my young life. I went from living in a rural area where everyone knew everyone (!) and their parents and grandparents to a 30,000 population town, where I ended up in a graduating class of approximately 650, the height of the Baby Boom. Later in life, that change put me in the path of my husband. 

It was now 1964. Things were changing rapidly in America, and I was old enough to understand. I remember when the town we moved to repealed an ordinance which prohibited black people from residing there. I clearly remember the summer of 1968, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy and the riots. I was still young, with confidence that things would work themselves out by the time I grew up.

I had friends and acquaintances that served in Vietnam. It was always on our minds, even if we didn’t talk about it all the time. I had no understanding of strategy but I was aware that my generation opposed the war. Looking back, I remember the Domino Theory and I have never seen that actually happen, not only with communism, nor with any other issue.

It was a turbulent time. You probably wonder why I’m glad that I was born in 1953. Part of this is the AGE I was at these historic times and when I came of age to deal with the other issues that would surely come later.

I got to see the first man walk on the moon when I was old enough to understand it’s importance. I was 16 and watched the moon landing in the living room of a boyfriend—and his entire family (and extra friends). We were all glued to the television.

I am glad I went to college from 1971-1974. My father could afford to pay for the state university that is nearby and I lived at home. He just wrote out checks. We were on the quarter system at that time, and when I started it was $160 and when I ended it was $240. I always took as much as I could because that price was for 12-18 hours. I might as well get the most for my money.

My first job interview was on the day Nixon resigned. Even though his official speech wasn't until evening, it came over the radio during the day. The man I was talking to and I just stopped our conversation, mid-sentence, and listened to the radio. He was a young man too, and we were both aware of the importance of that day.

Even though the early years of marriage were a time of EXTREME inflation, we didn’t feel it because we postponed having children. I remember thinking every time I heard on TV, read in the newspaper, or hearing someone else talk about it, that I wasn’t feeling this. However, I remember that in 1977 we bought a house with interest rate of 6.75% and a couple of years later my cousin bought a house at an interest rate of 11%. I worked in banking and that blew me away!

By the time we had children, it was easier to live on one income. It was what it was, but we could still do it. People born later really didn’t have the choice to do that. My income at a bank was simply not enough to make sense to pay for child care.

I loved being at home with my kids. I took a job at their preschool and was totally involved with the in-school and out-of-school education. My part-time jobs were flexible until my son turned 10 and my daughter turned 15, when I went to work full-time in banking. I won’t say that there was no flexibility there, because one month after I started that job, I needed to leave to handle an issue at school that involved my son. (It wasn’t disobedience!) The following year, I was able to take off to attend the funeral of the superintendent of my husband’s school system. That is not exactly on the “list,” but my boss had a teacher-wife and he understood where I needed to be.

The only regret that I have is not developing a “career” and sticking with it long enough to have my own retirement. My Social Security is grocery, gas and running around money. But unless I had been in education, I wouldn’t have had the time I had with my kids and those were the best times of my life.

Another reason I’m glad I was born in 1953, was that medical advances have come to the place where my cancer could be found and treated at an early stage. How that will end is anyone’s guess, but I know people who died very young because there was nothing to be done for them.

It’s been a good life. I’ve seen many inventions become commonplace, and while there are times that I would like to return to the simplicity of the mid-century, I also know that some of that is within my own reach; but I am not giving up my computer, iPad or phone for anything! As far as household appliances, the last thing I would give up is my automatic clothes washer! I remember wringer washers!

I wish that I didn’t live in such a divided country in so many ways. We have left the time period when issues can be discussed rationally.

I wish I could do some of the things that I did when I was young (physically).

I regret not having traveled more—now that I have the time (and some money) I don’t do well in a foreign bed.


I like being just a text away, but I also like a phone call!

I like being able to look things up—when we are having a “discussion.”

I REALLY like Google Maps. How often they have helped me get back on course. (I don’t want a GPS. The first time I used one, I was going to my friend’s house in northern Georgia and it took me on dirt roads and I was listening for banjos!)

If I live into my 80s that will be the 2030s. It seems amazing. I wonder what I will see.

I’ve seen the first color TV.

I’ve seen the first push button telephone and first cordless telephone and first cell phones.

I've seen the first answering machine.

I’ve seen HDTV and new methods of sending television signals. Does anyone know what the words “boob tube” mean?

I’ve witnessed the changes in computers over the last 20 years. I now have a laptop, tablet and smart phone.

I’ve gone from radio to eight track cassette, audio cassette, CD and now plug in iPod for my listening in the car. I chose not to use Sirius radio.

I've gone from a brownie flashfun camera to several degrees of film cameras, to digital photography and finally, taking most of my pictures from my phone. What did we do when we had to wait a week for pictures to develop?

I’ve gone from no seat belts, to seat belts and air bags; children’s car seats that look like command modules for space flight.

I’ve also seen horrible things live on TV:
  • The murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.
  • The Challenger Explosion.
  • The Twin Towers.

There are the times we get bad news “instantly” on our news feeds. Sometimes, I long for the days when the story was more “complete” when reported on, and we didn’t have to see the same story for days on end.

Is it good or bad that we get political news immediately? I just don’t know.

I feel a sense that things are going to get worse before better, and I don’t know how my time on this earth will end, but I still think I’ve lived at an interesting time in history. I wouldn’t change it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

How Could it Be Forty Five Years?

How could it be 45 years?

How did this happen? When we were 18, people that age were 63 were old. Many folks didn’t live that long! How did life go by so fast?

Well, you go to college, trade school, get a job or get married, and sometimes a combination of these. Children come along—sometimes least expected, but we love them anyway. I’ve always said that the unplanned children ended up the biggest blessings. (And yes, my mother always loved him best!)

We work and have some sort of deadline, regardless of what we are doing. We have a deluge of obligations to feed, clothe and perhaps entertain our children.

We meet new friends. We have neighbors, members of church or community organizations, that we become involved with. Sometimes they become very close friends, even like family.

The children grow and we want to know their friends and the families of their friends. The activities mount.

Perhaps we find a push into getting involved with a cause, which takes up some of our time.

Let’s not forget the families we were born into; they are still important too. Geography and health and other issues may keep us apart, but do as you are able to keep in contact with them. (No one knows you like your cousins.)

The kids are teens before we know it and we are talking to them about their own futures. What will be best for the type of individual they are? And they ARE individuals.

And we are still doing “all of the above,” work, community service, church, and caring for our families.

High school graduations come, and everyone has to have a BIG party! We send them off to college or military service, or perhaps they learn a special trade, or attend the local community college. And sometimes, they do more than one of these too!

And, it starts the cycle all over again.

The speed of life is directly in proportion to the length of your life. What I mean by that is that from one Christmas to another is 1/63rd of my life. To my granddaughter, it is 1/5. It’s a snowball rolling down a hill and we are helpless to stop it.

As we prepare for a 45th Reunion, we think of all these things. We’ve done some things right and we’ve made mistakes. All of our experiences come together to make us who we are today. Because we know that life has flown by like a jet plane, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, it’s time to take stock of what we want to do next.

For myself, I’d like to travel, but I really am a homebody. I don’t sleep well in other beds. Somehow, we’ve got to come to a compromise. I’m not alone in that I put relationships first. I loved Alaska, and I felt I could live in southern Alaska, but you are NOT getting me away from these grandchildren! In that, life does slow down. They are growing fast, but because I don’t see them every day, it’s a slower fast! Two-year-olds notice things we need to notice! Three-year-olds need to know “why?” Grandparents are an enrichment to their lives and vice versa.

Many are retiring and relocating (I strongly suspect the locations have to do with grandchildren!) during this time. I feel and hope we will all be more settled by the 50th Reunion. However, we will be older and all that entails too. Please take care of yourself!

Enjoy every day. Cherish the people in your life. Relish your hobbies and work that must be done. Eat properly and MOVE. Just MOVE. I know that means different things to different people, but do as you are able.

And we expect to SEE you in five years!

P.S. I realize that many are already or soon to become great-grandparents! I probably won’t see them, but again, it’s a circle of life, the life that keeps moving on.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Settling Estates Part Three

I don’t think there are many people who can say that they are the executrix of two estates at once, but I can!

We still hadn’t settled up Alice’s estate when my brother Ben passed away. It was sudden; he was found in his apartment on Sunday, April 15, 2007.

My mother drove two days straight to get here to make arrangements. I took Wednesday morning off and we went to the same funeral home that I had been to four months previously. We planned a nice funeral for Ben; but I didn’t have my hands on his money yet. In fact, I didn’t even know that I was executrix at that moment. Mom wrote a check out of her checking account. We went shopping for a nice shirt and slacks and tie for him at Penney’s. I wasn’t going to fool around with going to his apartment and “hoping” there would be something appropriate. He wore a lot of white with stripes, which wouldn’t work, so we got a deep blue which was perfect.

The following Saturday, April 21, we had a nice visitation, funeral service and buried him in our family plot. I don’t think anything prepared me for the moment that my mother, my other brother and I (only) were shown in to view my “little” brother. The only word that comes to me is sickening, nauseous, or something like that. He was only two years younger, and I suppose had we been in our 80’s this would be different, but he was only 51 and I was 53. 

Overall, it was a lovely 70 degree day and great to get the whole family together. As we buried him, we sang a song that he and my other brother had played on their guitars, Neil Young’s “Long May You Run.” It was beautiful and one of my fondest memories of life--that of three generations singing this song.

Sometime during the week before the funeral, my Mom and aunt found a metal box with a bunch of his stuff in it, along with a written will naming me executrix. Hand.written.will. Oh, boy. What does this mean?

After the funeral, I made an appointment with an attorney in his county. He wasn’t worried about the will itself, but there was a “list” of things, that he wanted to leave people. This list was outdated—he hadn’t driven in years and the vehicle listed was long gone—but we had to go to Probate Court to get it thrown out before I could be appointed executrix. Fortunately, he had all his bills coming and going from his checking account. I wasn’t appointed until August, when I could pay Mom back for his funeral.

The coroner was involved with this death, and they take their own sweet time so we didn’t have a death certificate for four weeks. I think I called them every day.

About 1958 
The day after the funeral, my mother, aunt, myself and two cousins cleaned out his apartment. It was an efficiency and there wasn’t any furniture that wasn’t carried out to the dumpster. The bed he died in had been removed. We had to find papers, take his two guitars (one was a Martin) and my one cousin took the record collection with our blessing. There were other tapes and things that Mom wanted. I took all the papers that I “might” need, and thanked God that he had JUST filed his taxes! We cleaned up the place the best we could—we didn’t expect a refund on the deposit—and packed up his clothes to go to Goodwill, or, did we just throw them out, they were so smoke-filled? I honestly don’t remember.

I turned off the utilities and phone. I called PERS about his death. That next week I went to turn in his keys, and had a good conversation with the apartment manager. Everyone knew him, and there was a substitute handy man that week. If the normal guy had been there, he might have seen something and called 911. We’ll never know.

By the end of April, all the first things were done. I was still not appointed executrix, but all I could do was sit and wait. We went to Probate Court and got the “list” thrown out so now we could deal with the “rest and residue” of his estate.

Mom and I went to order a headstone, but that wouldn’t be done until I had the money. It is beautiful.

I had all the notes that psychiatrists had written about him from their appointments. Apparently my brother had asked for all of them, his legal right. I think this was the most difficult part, reading what the professionals had written about him. The doctors had pretty much given up on him. He was left alone with his meds and his illness. Notes from back in the day also had social security numbers at the top of the page. I must have been quite a picture, sitting in my living room in late spring reading the notes and then burning many of them in the fireplace. It was hard!

Although I was appointed in August, it took until the middle of November to close the estate. We were moving into a new home in a few weeks and it was such a busy time, but the settling itself was easy.

However, no one wants to settle the estate of his/her younger brother. It was hard.
So, out of the three estates—the first two were “paper-pushing” and learning a little law in the process; but the last one tore at my heart.

You expect to have to do this for your parents, you have a 50/50 chance of doing this for your spouse, but I never expected to do this for a sibling at such a young age.

So, in order to help my children deal with as little as possible, I am cleaning some things out of my house. This doesn’t mean I am getting rid of everything; but the things that are left are either marked as “look at,” or they are clothes (Goodwill or something) and just furniture (auction). Three antique pieces need to go to my husband’s side of the family, but other than that, it’s just stuff.