Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Day I Could Have Drowned

It was a day just like this. This picture is of the
Stillwater River in Darke County.

It was the summer of 1973. As I recall, maybe the weekend after my 20th birthday, late July.

My sorority had planned a canoe trip on the Stillwater River and it was a beautiful day. There were quite a few of us who attended. I was in the canoe with one of my sisters, Cyndi and her boyfriend Mark, who eventually became her husband. I had one of those "safe" dates, Fred, who I really did like, but he was practically engaged, so it was a friendship situation.

What was about to happen, though, took all of our relationships to a deeper level.

I was not wearing a life jacket; it's a darn good thing or I would not be writing this blog. We were floating down the river, serene as it could be for a Sunday afternoon, until there was an island in the middle of the river and we had to choose "the fork in the road." We made the wrong choice.

We could see it coming, a big log stretched out over the river and we knew we were going to hit it. Fred told me later that he and Mark “planned” the trajectory of how to hit it, so this or that would happen. Huh? He’s an engineer or something. All I cared about was there goes my camera! Oh well.....

I came up, but I didn't come up. While my head was out of the water, I was facing the log (backwards) and the "rapids" were coming over the log into my face. I could not breathe. The canoe was lodged in my back and I could not move. I remember working my feet really hard so I could get my head higher, but I was not accomplishing anything.

The guys were diving under desperately trying to dislodge the canoe. I was aware of what they were doing, and I was plenty scared. What I didn't know at the time was they were plenty scared too! Within a short period of time Cyndi got up on the log and sat right in front of my face to keep the water out, buying us time. It wasn't the greatest view, but under the circumstances, I was NOT picky. She sat there diverting the water, and cupped my terrified face in her hands, lifting my head up.

The guys kept at it. I was aware of it; and I was not losing consciousness. It seemed to take forever. I worked very hard to free myself. Self-preservation is a much stronger instinct than any other! What I learned many years later was that Fred feared dislodging me, but then not "catching" me and I would head down the river......

He did catch me. I remember sitting on the log and him holding me while I cried. He may have been crying too, I don't remember. What I do remember was feeling that as long as I lived, this guy had a place in my heart that no one would ever replace. That goes for Cyndi and Mark too!

After a period of time, we got back in the canoe--I had no OTHER choice--and headed down the river. I think I shook the whole way. It was a sunny day and we were all warm enough, but I was shaking. Sometime, and I don't remember when, I noticed the cuts and bruises on Fred's back and I cried. The sacrifice he willingly made to save my life. 

When I got home, I could see where my pelvic bones were all bruised too, where I was held by the canoe. However, I was most impacted by the bruises on his body. We hung out at home for awhile and after he left, I told my parents.

Four years later, I married "nature boy" Jerry, and I told him IF he ever took my children canoeing, I was not to know about it. He did, and I learned about it after the fact.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Founding a College Sorority

It was the middle of the night. I got up, and decided to check my email. I know I shouldn't do this, but I do it anyway. I got a friend request from a name I didn't recognize.....but I did! Oh my gosh, it was from one of my sorority sisters that I thought was long lost forever. I am friends with some other sorority sisters, and other folks from my college years, and not to imply that they are not all special, but this particular friend and I were involved in founding the Kappa Iota Chapter of Delta Zeta Sorority at Wright State University.

Wright State is a commuter campus. You really have to build your own social life there, in different ways from going away to school and living in a dorm. I wasn't planning to join a sorority, much less START one from scratch! The woman I babysat for (I practically raised her children!) had a friend who was a DZ alumni and was involved in starting this group. She called me and invited me to an informational meeting which was held at the Dayton Sheraton on a Sunday evening.

By the end of the evening, I had pledged. Honestly, it is one of the most impulsive things I have done in my life. There were five of us. Now what happens in a situation such as this is that the local alumnae chapters support this endeavor until it's off the ground. My pledge night was memorable. We were in the same suite that Elvis Presley had slept in the night before. We threw ourselves on the beds and pretended that we were on the same bed(s) he had used--we later found out that a "king" sized bed brought in for him had already been removed.

This was in April, 1972 and I was initiated in early July, 1972. Talk about a "rush" job, I barely had time to learn the Greek alphabet. (There is an ABC song to sing and I sing it to this day when thinking about the Greek alphabet!) But the idea was to get enough of us initiated to be able to participate in Fall Rush, where we would really build our sorority. 

The process of "rush" is very orderly. I am not giving away any deep dark secrets when I tell you that they bring the rushee into the room, and she is taken to groups of three or four persons in a very orderly fashion so that everyone can meet her. To this day I admit that the idea of "voting" on people did not set well with me. Then or now.

I enjoyed being part of something larger than me. I met some interesting people in the Greek system and through them, their friends. It gave me purpose in terms of doing for others (philanthropy) which was not part of my thinking as a college student; and it also gave me social things to DO! Yes, there was alcohol involved, but I never considered myself a heavy partier. Many parties I did not attend at all. But I had "people" to sit with at basketball games if I didn't have a date, which was often. There was always a card game going on in the Student Union if I didn't feel like studying or driving home. I was a far heavier card-player than drinker any day!

We had activities with other groups. I have home movies of raft “races” in the mote in front of Allyn Hall and chariot races around the quad. I have permission to write about the canoe trip where I almost drowned. Two guys (from different fraternities) and my sister saved my life. It's a story in and of itself. Stay tuned.

1974 Fall Rush "Formal" Party
I graduated in August of 1974. I had attended for 13 straight quarters. I then moved to Columbus for a job; but I came back for Fall Rush, which is illustrated with this blog. I kept in touch for a time; in the year 1977 I think we had a sorority wedding every month from February until mine in November! But then, things change. Christmas cards are sent, but that activity slows down eventually. There is no central hub to keep track of everyone. Even the national records are not always up to date.

I am delighted to find my sister Becky on Facebook and I hope that with our "networks" we can find others. It was a special time, and it was good for me!

Tomorrow: Life and Death

Friday, December 16, 2011

Childhood Christmases

What is it about childhood Christmases that inspire so much nostalgia? As adults, we always tend to think about the “good old days,” and I ask myself “What made them good?”

The first answer I come up with is simply, “Because I didn’t have any responsibilities!” 

I think of my parents, who got Christmas morning ready for us kids, complete with some assembly required at 3:00 AM, kids up at 7:00, Grandma and Grandpa Kline knocking on the door to witness the chaos; then Grandma going back to their house to finish up a noon meal for all of us, opening gifts there; then going to Grandma and Grandpa Netts’ house for an evening meal and opening gifts there— I simply can’t imagine how much work this was for my mother and my father! Of course, they had their first child at 21 and 22, not 30 and 37.

Grandma Kline did it all, and she only had one “family” to do for—she had three sons, their wives and when I was very young, four grandchildren (Loren is 10 years younger than I am). So that’s twelve people to cook for, not terrible if that’s all you have to do. At Grandma Netts’ there were three daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren; and the married daughters brought food also. That would be my mother. When did she have time to prepare this, I ask myself? I think she brought jello every year!

Toting two young children to all of that every year had to be exhausting! In addition to this, and I have home movies, we visited our neighbors, probably in late morning, to see what their haul was, and stopped at another family between grandparents, perhaps late afternoon. Although I am pretty sure Benny and I slept REALLY well on Christmas night, it all seemed perfectly normal to me!

I lost my Christmas virginity at nine years of age. Oh, I knew that Santa did not exist the year I had already turned 6 (first grade) and that kinda stunk, but I got over it, because the number of gifts did not decrease. In 1962 though, we buried my Grandpa Netts on Christmas Eve, at the age of 61. That certainly doesn’t seem old now! Christmas went on pretty much as scheduled, as far as we kids were concerned. The adults were train wrecks. The following year, my Grandma Netts’ brother died ON Christmas Day. Uncle Frank lived with Grandma and Grandpa. He was given six months to live, and he lived six years. My grandmother had been caring for her bed-ridden brother in the extra upstairs bedroom and her husband in a hospital bed in the dining room. She was 57.

We got to Grandma’s and she said to my uncle, “I think he’s dead!”  We kids were shuffled to the kitchen as the body was removed. Christmas went on as scheduled. I have home movies of the funeral director leaving after talking with my grandmother in the dining room, while we were opening gifts in the living room. He waved to the camera. I don’t make this stuff up!

After that year, I moved into adolescence, Loren was born (1963) and we moved to Fairborn. Christmas in general just changed. I was expected to help do some of the work associated with Christmas and we began shifting Christmas on mother’s side of the family between the married daughters, which by 1964 totaled three. Christmas lost some of the magic, but we had fun with Loren as a young child. We still had Santa for a few more years. (He faked it a few years too)

Teen years were social years, for me as well as everyone else. Grandpa Kline died when I was 16, but up until his death Christmases at G/G Kline’s were stable. After that, we started shifting the homes each year too. Grandma Kline died in June of my freshman year of college.

When my paternal grandparents died, our patterns changed on that side of the family. We didn’t always get together at Christmas. On my mother’s side of the family, we got together after Grandma died in 1987, for three more years until after the death of my oldest aunt. By then each family was expanding to the point that it was difficult to all get into one place.

My husband’s family kept traditions going until 2001, the year before his parents were placed in a nursing home. The same things were happening; the individual families were getting too large. We now get together at Thanksgiving in the social room of my nephew’s church. We call at Christmas.

I whined about traveling 120 miles with little kids  (it was -10 degrees the year Jessica was an infant) and did put my foot down about Christmas Eve. We would be home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Eventually, I wanted to take my children to Christmas Eve services. I didn’t go to church on Christmas Eve until I was a young teen. I ticked my father-in-law off when I said we would not be participating in a ritual that was 50 years old in his family. I was the bad guy, but secretly, I think everyone was relieved. We began meeting on the weekend before or after Christmas.

Now it was my turn to do the work of Christmas. I never had to cook as much, but Jerry and I had the shopping, wrapping, hiding and assembling work…..as well as everything else that went on with traveling. We had many great memories as the children grew up and for the most part, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was the four of us. We went to church on Christmas Eve.

Although my mother is still living, I am now the “Grandma” and we will have Christmas at our house. It doesn’t have to be on Christmas Eve or Day; in fact Jerry and I support the children being in their own homes for Christmas Day. We are at the place where we have two other families to work around and we are blessed that our children are marrying into families with no immediate divorce and have to deal with even more Christmases!

So, as I think back to the old days, we might reminisce about silver Christmas trees with color wheels, or outdoor lights that were BIG and colored, but the reality is that Christmas was simple to a kid. It was just that darn wait……

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Derges' Digest: 2011 Edition

In February 2011 I began this blog. It’s one of those things that took me places I didn’t expect. I began with a few ideas in the anticipation of my 40th class reunion. I had specific thoughts, but conversations with classmates (and others of my era) kept inspiring me. I got enough positive feedback to keep going.  I recognize not all entries are equal, and will not have the same level of interest to everyone. Nevertheless, most of those reading this already know what I am going to say in a Christmas letter. I am reaching most folks electronically. There are a handful of people I will send cards to; but with social media these days: it’s not really NEWS!

That said; here’s “Derges’ Digest.”

Kyah at six months!
Ready for Santa!
I do believe that 2011 is the most eventful year of our lives thus far. We entered the year happily anticipating of the birth of our first grandchild. Joel was in his second phase of student teaching in the Trotwood-Madison schools. Jerry was subbing and I was working.

My mother decided to move back to Ohio. I went to Florida in early March and helped her decide what to keep and what to get rid of. I spent five days there and it was wonderful weather. I spent a day at the beach and another day visiting a friend; so three days of hard labor was enough.

Spring quarter Joel began his final student teaching in the Beavercreek schools, and we were headlong into the anticipation of the baby. From mid-May until Kyah’s birth on June 10th, the calendar was cleared and we actually sat around and looked at each other. It was weird. Joel decided not to walk in Wright State’s commencement, and maybe that worked out because it was the day after Kyah’s birth.

Kyah arrived Friday morning at 9:06 AM on June 10, 2011. She weighed 7 lbs. 13 oz. and was 20.5 inches long. We made it to the hospital with ½ hour to spare and were able to see her very soon after her birth. What a little angel! We will never be the same.

Joel and Lindsey
Engaged!!
The following Thursday Joel proposed to Lindsey, and they have set a date of December 31, 2012 for their wedding. Within days, my Mom moved to Ohio. She lives in Columbus with my aunt and uncle. It was a busy month.

Jessica was on maternity leave through June and July and returned to work in Human Resources at Nationwide the first part of August. Brent changed actuarial departments in Nationwide from high-risk auto to property insurance. Jessica got a “salary adjustment” in August also; basically I think she got that to equal the job she was actually doing. Jess and Brent are adjusting like all new parents and I think they are doing very well.

It was also my 40th high school reunion year. That work officially began in 2010, but it cranked up this year. This time it was mid-August so most of the summer was consumed with it. It was fun, people had a good time, and I think it was a successful event.

Joel interviewed for several jobs, but did not get a permanent teaching position. He began graduate school in Special Education at Wright State in September. He is still living at home while attending school. He coached Greenon football for the 4th year and has been substitute teaching regularly. He also umpired many more baseball games this year and plans to do more of that next summer. He now is coaching women’s freshman basketball at Greenon. Lindsey will graduate in June 2012, take her state boards and be an RN. She works now for Miami Valley Hospital as a PCT (patient care technician).

All of us together. This was taken in August.
We had a wonderful family time of celebrating my Mom’s 80th birthday actually ON her birthday September 18th. Nearly all her side of the family was able to attend and we had a great time at a nice restaurant in Columbus. What a blessing to be able to celebrate her life!

In early October, Beth Milling and I drove to Watertown, Wisconsin to see our friend Brenda Crank. We all went on the cruise together in 2010 and deep friendships were forged on that trip. We had a wonderful time and met a NEW friend, Suzanne Derge whom I met on Facebook, at Derge Park, which was less than an hour from Watertown. We had lots to share about our (husbands’) families, who are not related.

During the following month Brent’s father’s cancer progressed and he went home to be with his Lord. We were involved in child care as Jessica juggled their lives. It was a difficult time, but he died peacefully Saturday morning November 12th, with family all around him.

We spent Thanksgiving with Jerry’s family at our nephew’s church in Kenton, and the next week we went to the Smokies for our 34th anniversary. We went to a bed and breakfast, and it was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to go back.

As we wind up the year, I sang in my church Christmas musical and had a party in our home for high school classmates. Our family Christmas will actually be on the 26th.

A time to remember the Savior’s Birth! Blessed Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Everyone Needs to Get Away Once in Awhile!

Several months ago I started buying Groupon and Living Social Deals. These have been a good idea. Jerry and I got to take a great tour of the (Cincinnati Reds) Great American Ball Park; I have had my nails done, and I have bought some restaurant deals. There have been several “vacation” deals; but I didn’t seriously think about it until one came up for the Smoky Mountains.

Thirty-four years ago, in 1977, we went on our honeymoon to Gatlinburg, and that began a series of trips to the Smoky Mountain area. I can think of eleven, this trip being our twelfth, and I certainly could have forgotten one or two. We have stayed in motels, tent camped, stayed in cabins; but this was the first time we had ever thought about a Bed and Breakfast Inn, mostly because of the expense. The Groupon made it half-price, so we could talk….

Well, I am spoiled now!

We are standing on the ground floor veranda
with the mountains behind us.
We went to a place called Christopher Place Resort; and I can enthusiastically recommend this place to anyone interested.  The Inn was built in 1974 as a B & B and although it looks “old,” it isn’t.  An almost 40-year-old building still has issues, but it is well-designed and functional for any situation. I always look for the “handicap accessibility” aspect and a wheelchair would have to be lifted up two steps, but other than that I think would be able to do anything in this building.

It has 10 suites and we were on the second floor. The first floor was one suite, the kitchen, “breakfast” room and more formal dining room, a library-pub, and a bathroom. There was a big spiral staircase, but also an elevator. We didn’t experience great weather, so the beautiful veranda was not something that was going to be used.

Our suite had two rooms, a sitting room and bedroom. The bedroom had a bathtub in it! The adjoining bathroom was spotless.  We were welcomed with fruit, homemade cookies, and chocolate, as well as a bottle of wine which my husband chose.

So I had to explore the place a little. I let the cat in and I guess we weren’t supposed to do that, but he wanted to be MINE! It’s been awhile since a cat has been so friendly to me; my own grandcats ignore me. I picked out a couple of DVDs in the library-pub—the husband was NOT going to watch basketball all the time! I enjoyed the art and history in the place. The present owner’s grandparents worked in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and there is plenty of memorabilia. Most of it was up on the third floor, where there was a common recreation space and small kitchen; along with two more suites. It was a great area for a family to spend the weekend—but I passed on the pool table.

The staff was minimal, we purposely chose a slow time and that was great! We got to have some good conversations about what they do to make this type of business succeed. The owner was onsite each day. There were also two more “outdoor” suites; one above the workout room and one on the second floor of a storage building which mirrored the workout building. There was also an outdoor pool and tennis court.

We planned our drive into Gatlinburg the next day, did some shopping, went to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a little while and also had lunch at Bubba Gump’s.  We found a better route back to the Inn so we took that.

When we returned, the staff was decorating some more so I sort of helped there and talked with them. This is where I felt that the B & B experience is so unique. Since we had a big lunch, we had told them not to fix us dinner. I guess that gave them more time to do other things, like decorate. We knew that this was a lull between the Thanksgiving weekend and the big parade in Gatlinburg that kicks off “Christmas” on Dec. 2nd, so the staff was working ahead for the coming three weeks, where they would be booked solid.

Personally, I liked the lull and would choose it again.

The most interesting part of this whole experience was that the second night we were alone in the house. I mean ALONE. Staff all went home and the owner lived in a log home just over the hill. To me, it was amazing that anyone would trust people to that extent. Before the staff left, I made sure I knew where the landline phones and fire extinguishers were, in case of emergency.  We did hear funny noises, and Jerry went down to the kitchen to find that the freezer made funny noises.

In a perfect world we would have stayed another day; but we had breakfast and headed out the third day.  The cook was going to show me some of the suites that were locked and I would have loved to have seen them, but Jerry was ready to go.

We needed to get away and this was a great place to do that. I sincerely hope we can return.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How Time Flies--Happy Anniversary!

I know I wrote the entry on marrying a school teacher some time ago. That tells the story of us meeting, and getting together. But what makes two people stay together for thirty-four years?

STUBBORNESS!

Key to a successful marriage:
Just let her talk, guys.
Keep smiling!
I would be lying to you (and many reading this would know it) if I said there hadn’t been some rough spots. There have been; but somehow you work your way through it.

After the kids came, it all changed. Our family would have been more difficult to break up. Whatever lacking we had in our relationship with each other; we were both totally devoted to the well-being and upbringing of the two children God gave us. Whatever it took……financially, emotionally, time-wise, we were on the same page.

I remember another time when we said “whatever it takes.” It was the night after Loren’s accident; we lay in bed crying for the loss we felt and for Loren’s loss, but we said “whatever we have to do, we will do it.” Little could we have imagined how highly rehabilitated Loren would become; our imaginations took us to another place, but we were absolutely united in the resolve that we would do whatever we had to do to make sure he was taken care of as well.

I believe another quality that we both have developed over the years was loyalty. When we didn’t exactly feel love, we acted upon loyalty to each other. I can’t speak for Jerry in this particularly, but I felt that I was loyal to our legacy, our children and future grandchildren. Although it’s hardly comparable, I was influenced by a statement Rose Kennedy made in which she stated (Denise’s paraphrase) that one of the most important things to her was the legacy and influence she had upon her children and the future. She said this as she overlooked obvious flaws in her husband’s character; flaws which I have never had to even think about!

Jerry had other flaws. I have a few. But we both have gifts also, and the key to this whole business is realizing what they are and what they are NOT! We hire plumbers. I cannot even type that sentence without a big smile. However, if you need a painter, Jerry is the MAN! This is a learned talent. When we were engaged, Loren, Jerry and I were painting the house we had purchased. Loren and I were rolling the paint on all over the place (as we had many times in our home of origin!) while Jerry was painting up, then down, then up, then down. He got mad at us in our lack of perfection. We said “OK, fine, you do it,” left, and came back three hours later to find Jerry on the SAME WALL while ours was dry and looked perfectly fine. Jerry’s attitude improved, but his perfection is amazing. I dare you to find a mistake in my house.

Taken at my Mom's
80th birthday party.
Credit to fabulous
cousin, Sherri Callison.
Things change over time and we change with them. The first thing that comes to mind is my lack of cooking. I CAN cook, I am not the greatest, but as we entered the teen years in approximately 1998; it all changed. Our schedules were all over the place. Yes, I still think eating meals together is a good thing; but we got creative. When Jessica worked at Blimpie, we joined her on her break. We had many meals between ball games. Today, this me working from 10-2 thing has us all messed up, but I realize this is but a season, and it too will change someday.

I think that’s a key word…..seasons. As I age, I am more and more aware of the “seasons” of life. As I have heard many times, we (women) can have it all; we just can’t have it all at once. I think that’s a reasonable approach for all of us to take, and realize that each marriage goes through seasons.

For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, we vow to remain FAITHFUL. We’ve had all six of those scenarios and worse and/or sickness may still come to pass in the future. Faithfulness, perseverance and yes, stubbornness!

Happy Anniversary, Jerry!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Am Thankful For......

I am thankful:
  • For my eternal and abundant life in Jesus Christ.
  • For my wonderful family: supportive husband, fabulous daughter and son, wonderful son-in-law and fiancĂ© of my son.
  • For the sweet smile of my grandchild.
  • For my extended family; my mother, brother and sister-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws.
  • For my supportive and loving church family.
  • For all believers who don’t happen to attend my church, but are my family too.
  • For all the great friends in my life, those that are seasoned, and those that are new.
  • For those who agree with me and those who sharpen my thoughts in disagreement.
  • For community: more than an address.
  • For my health.
  • For my doctors, and my dentist whom I adore!
  • For my warm and comfortable home.
  • For attached garages.
  • For a bathroom attached to the bedroom.
  • For a carpeted closet floor.
  • For carpet on almost every floor.
  • For plenty of storage.
  • For my job, and working with sisters in Christ.
  • For the fact that I do not have to work full-time.
  • For quiet times.
  • For busy times.
  • For tasks that impact others in the process.
  • For music.
  • For laughter.
  • For books.
  • For the Internet.
  • For the Word of God.
  • For provision of necessities.
  • For provision of non-necessities once in awhile.
  • To be able to give away.
  • To be living in the United States.
  • For the first amendment.
  • For love.
  • And for pumpkin pie!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Love People But I HATE Crowds!

I have mentioned this before. I am claustrophobic, but like many issues, I manage it. I know the triggers and I work with it.

That said, I am about done with shopping. I know there are women reading this that are thinking, “Is she kidding?” but here is where I am coming from. Retailing is not what it used to be. Customer service is becoming extinct. I like to give gifts. The longer I live, the more I want to buy quality; and like anyone else, I like to get the best price. But my patience is wearing thin within the retail culture.
No can do this! Just can't!

I am not even discussing Black Friday. That would be the ultimate anxiety attack. 

I went on a weekly shopping trip to Meijer, and the place was packed. I am compassionate with the older shoppers who are slower moving and spend more time reading the labels, as there will be a day—fast approaching—when I am them.

I am less patient with the entire families which make grocery shopping their Saturday “event.” While I am focused and trying to get the items I need, I must navigate around a morbidly obese mother and morbidly obese father with two preteens who are, guess what, on their way to obesity, throwing whatever into the cart. I am the last person to talk about weight gain, I am trying to lose weight and I struggle with it, but families such as this take up the entire aisle! Where are you Michele O, when we need you?

Then there are the “sample” vendors. Actually, I usually avoid Saturdays to avoid them. I avoid the first, 15th and end of the month if I can. It was Saturday the 15th, so that was my fault.

Although I can usually get better prices at Meijer (or fill in the blank of any other large grocery store) my sanity is much safer at the local IGA.  The prices are higher, so I offset with Dollar General for paper products, cleaning supplies, and sundries.

After my trip to Meijer, I went to the Beavercreek Mall to get gift certificates at a store that does NOT sell gift certificates at the cute little card display at Meijer. I dislike the Beavercreek Mall. Everyone thinks that the Upper Valley Mall is terrible, but it has the major anchor stores, Penney’s, Sears, Elder Beerman and Macy’s, and I am fine with it! The rest of what I need I can order online.

I go into the Beavercreek Mall and three times before I reach my destination store, I am “approached” by three people standing OUTSIDE their retail establishments trying to get me to come into their stores. I felt like I was at a carnival, or at the very least, some tourist trap. I get to the store I want to purchase from and it’s busy, I am OK with a line that has about 7 people in it on both sides; I can wait in a line. But after I finish my business, I look for the quickest way out of the Mall, I do not look to the right or the left, and I cut through Macy’s, which is relatively quiet.

Much longer and the symptoms would have begun —the pressure in the chest, the racing heartbeat. Sounds like a heart attack? Nope, just an anxiety attack. Get me out of here!

So now, I will shop online. I once thought I would never shop online, but that is mostly what I do these days. Most of my clothes are purchased online. Most of my gifts are purchased online. I still have to go to the grocery regularly though. It won’t be on Saturday!

As a postscript: I truly am disappointed in customer service today; but I take every opportunity to fill out surveys when someone has done well, or not so well. I never do this to get “freebies,” although that sometimes that does happen. I just want the management to train their staff better. Many need to learn how to interact in a professional manner with the public. Some do not know the basics. I fear they are not being trained at home.

As another postscript: I recently ordered something online. I used my credit card through the seller's Pay Pal. It is a home-based business and it is a specialty item. It didn't come. It hit my credit card and it still didn't come. I have paid the credit card because I am prompt. 

I started to get nervous because she would not answer her email. I called Pay Pal. They are looking into it, and have taken the money temporarily out of her account. I didn't bookmark the URL so the nice man at Pay Pal sent it to me. It went nowhere. Hmmmm. I got an email the following day from Pay Pal, saying they contacted the seller and she gave them a tracking number for UPS. I poke it in and duh, no tracking number with UPS. Hmmmm again. Pay Pal sends me another email whereby I am to click the link when the package arrives, if it does. 

In ten more days, if I have not clicked that link, Pay Pal will credit my credit card. I am feeling pretty good about it, but this is the only time I have had an issue with online shopping, and I believe it's because it's a home-based business. LL Bean, Amazon.com, other stores, never an issue. I love online shopping. I am ready for Cyber Monday. You can have Black Friday!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Medway Area Historical Society

I can’t believe where I find my inspirations for this blog. As the name implies, my entries will be about one of two things (1) relationships with people or (2) issues that go along with aging; and yes that will include health-related issues, which I know none of us want to hear about…but it’s happening. Accept it.

My third grade class at Medway Elementary
School. Find Me!
One of the most exciting things I have found on Facebook (and this is open, take a peek) is the Medway Area Historical Society. This blog is written for my “friends” in this group. We are having a blast with our remembrances.

I have previously alluded to growing up in the 50’s with relationships with our neighbors.  This group broadens that idea. Anyone who lived in Medway, Crystal Lake or New Carlisle—or other “western Clark County” communities is welcome. It was started by a man named Scott whom I do not know, but he opened a can of worms!

UNLIKE some other community groups, this is small. As I write this, the group numbers less than 400. I like small. We talk about our memories and growing up in a very special place in a very special time. This is not a place to advertise today’s businesses, although there is much discussion about businesses of the past and what they meant to us; and some (few) are still in business today. (I really, really need a Tavernette fix!)

My own family (Kline) was from the Medway area. My grandmother came from Greenville, but married into the Kline family. They raised three boys who were part of the community too. My oldest uncle made a mid-life change and moved to Florida. It was not retirement; he still worked there. The middle uncle was the U.S. Postmaster for many years before his retirement. My father was the youngest. We lived in Medway until I was 11, when the birth of my younger brother forced us to make some assessments as to the size of our house.

Daddy could have finished the basement; but I think my mother saw the future of running kids here and there; and with moving to Fairborn, I could walk to Girl Scouts and whatever, making her life easier (she was taking care of a baby). This is not meant to disrespect Fairborn; I had a good life there too. I lost touch with my Medway friends as I made new ones. My grandparents lived in Medway 6 and 8 more years and my uncle for many more; so I still connected with Medway.

To this day, when the road is not under water (!), when I drive Spangler Road north into Medway, I feel like I am moving through a time-warp. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s a “connection” that goes beyond people.

I could take you to the Medway Cemetery and not only show you my immediate family; grandparents, aunts and uncles, father and brother, but could also show you two sets of great-grandparents, great-aunt and a cousin.

Jerry and I have our names staked out on four plots in the cemetery; no, we are not planning to gain that much weight, but we wanted extra for anything that would come along. One will be for the baby brother should he need it. Kim Martin and I need to get our act together and we need to actually pay for these plots; but that’s how it is in Medway. I jokingly say that we have a “contract on this property but we haven’t closed yet.” As long as Kim and I are still living, it’s not a problem. By the way, Kim and I lived about 250 feet away from each other in childhood and—well, we won’t tell the rest of that story!

It has been sheer delight to reconnect with many people I knew, barely knew, maybe knew their siblings, or just find out we have something in common that we didn’t know of before. Someone recently posted our Medway Elementary yearbook when I was a third grader, which means I was in the middle of this crowd. Ben was in first grade, and I knew people on either side (grade) of me, and some two years either way. So this book is right where I was at! We have all been tagging everyone we remember—and I am totally amazed at how many people I do remember!

Several have found old pictures of buildings and landmarks; making me feel quite young actually, but also giving me an appreciation of where I fit in history. Some have found old newspapers that they are able to scan, and that has brought much interest. There is history that has not been discussed for many years and by the time we all comment, we have brought new information to some very old and interesting stories. The Dingledine shoot-out stands out in my mind. Life was interesting in Crystal Lake!

As I raised my kids, I began to wish for them part of the kind of childhood that I had in Medway. I didn’t move back to Medway, although I thought about it, and who knows how that would have changed the stories of our lives; but I did choose to move into a similar type of community. This was hardly planned—but we closed and moved into a home and three days later my mother flew in from Florida on a trip she planned four months previously; before we even THOUGHT of moving! I would not have chosen to have company three days after I moved; but I picked her up in Vandalia, we drove to our new home and turned the corner down the cul-de-sac, and she says, “Denise, you live on Wilts’ Lane!” Well, we didn’t, the lots were larger, the street was wider, but the similarity could not be missed!

I am grateful for that small community where everyone knew your name and relationships went back generations. I am grateful for Scott Suther, who created this Facebook group and for the other members who join me in jogging each others’ memories. If you are on Facebook, put in the search bar “Medway Area Historical Society” and enjoy the banter. We are having fun!

Friday, November 18, 2011

First Spendover at Grandma and Grandpa's

Becoming a grandparent is a chapter of life that many go through. We are not unique. There are many who relate the following story.

This is Kyah; the next day. Her
grandparents didn't look so good!
So…..we kept the granddaughter overnight for the first time. We know nothing about caring for babies, having raised two of our own. Daughter brings baby over and baby refuses to follow her evening routine anyway…..she’s having too much darn fun because Grandma has gotten out new (to her) toys and she is showing us all her new tricks. Pelvic thrusts on a five-month-old. I tell her “No pelvic thrusts for awhile.” She laughs and does it to spite me!

Granddaughter really doesn’t like cuddling. That’s fine. We watch her roll around on the floor and talk with Mommy. It is time for Grandma to move some of her decorating items. Mommy wants to make sure her bed time routine is normal, so breast feeds her and puts her down. Then she leaves her baby in a strange room and leaves the house. That lasts about 45 minutes.

We did the “put the pacifier back in and pat her and talk to her quietly” thing. I guess we call it “ferberizing” now (google it!). But Grandpa is a rocker. He has rocked dozens of kids to sleep. When all else fails, we call Jerry. But NOT Kyah! She arches her back and she does not want to be rocked.  He even brings her out to the living room and we turn off the TV. That rocking chair makes him more comfortable anyway. Not Kyah. He puts her back down again. Nada. We try a little more milk, as our experience has shown us that sometimes they are just a little hungry and it knocks them out. Nope.

I begin the side-to-side rocking that I have seen her parents do. There is a reason why God does not give babies to old people. I am not aerobically fit enough to do this long enough to actually accomplish the task. I put her down again, stick the fooler in her mouth and tell her to go to sleep.

After about three hours of doing everything we can think of (I am missing my Dancing With the Stars, thank God for DVR) finally, I change her pants which ARE wet, and I admit, I don’t like wet diapers either; and she LOVES being half-naked (“Stop those pelvic thrusts!”). Then I give her a blanket from home. Her mother doesn’t want her hooked on a blanket, another thing we apparently ruined our kids on. But we never used a pacifier either and they both still needed a good bit of orthodontic intervention.

The blanket from home is SOMETHING familiar. Think about it, you’re a baby in a foreign land….and you can’t quite get your brain around this. You are confused.

I go back into the living room to try and catch some of Rob Kardashian, who is my new crush, and it’s suddenly……quiet. I just have to look. She is asleep with the blanket from home pulled up over her face. Yes, sweetie, I would try to block out Grandma’s scary room too. Her left leg is crossed over her right leg. Good, maybe Grandma will make a lady out of her yet. It’s a moment I wish I had a camera for……but NO WAY!

We get a good 4 ½ hours in this time and Grandpa gets up for the next feeding. I hear him and I wake up and then I can’t get back to sleep. I have another blog on sleep disorders; mine started when I went through this the first time. Grandpa goes back to sleep. He can sleep standing on his head.

About 4:00 I get up and Grandpa is also up. He had put her down and she was quiet for 15 minutes. He decided she needed a little “more.”  He has googled “reusing breast milk” and decided we can do this, the milk has lost a little of its nutrients but it won’t give her a tummy ache. Oh well, next time we will be giving her candy. But she goes back to sleep and we get another couple of hours sleep. At 6:30, Grandpa listens to her coo awhile, decides she’s been playing long enough and he goes in and gets her up. This would be close to her regular time anyway. She plays and we give her a bottle before leaving about 8:30.

By five months my kids were on four bottles of 6 oz. of formula a day and sleeping 12 hours at night. They were also taking cereal, some fruits and possibly some peas. But taking care of a breast-fed baby is different. You don't know if she's getting enough, or whether something else is going on!

However, being in a strange place changes everything. And that’s going to change!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Coming Full Circle: I Knew I Was Grown Up!

Disclaimer: I actually wrote this originally for a contest. I didn’t win. The title was supposed to be “When did I realize that I had become a grown-up?” Since they wouldn’t publish it, I think I will! This is a follow-up to my previous blog, taking one season from that discussion, and elaborating on it a bit.

Growing up, I was always on the short end. Everyone treated me as cute, little Denise. I tried to act grown up; but I was seen as younger than I was—almost always. I remember our last vacation as a family; Mom was telling this lady at the motel swimming pool that one of her children was 18 and the other 16. You guessed it—they thought I was the younger one!

There are life circumstances that are supposed to make us feel like grown-ups, college graduations, wedding ceremonies or the birth of children.  For me, I think a circumstance of mid-age brought me full circle and not only made me “feel” grown up but made me increasingly aware of the “circle of life.”

I was the mother of two children, happily married, when I found myself dealing with the care of my father’s brother who had no children. My dear aunt had died of chronic pulmonary disease at the very young age of 62, after my uncle had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He wasn’t really “ill” yet and I had to let him take care of his own life for as long as possible. 

He and I were able to talk about what was going to happen. We agreed that my house was too small for me to bring him to live in, it was barely big enough for my growing family. I remember calling him one day and saying “What are you doing today?” to which he responded, “Oh, I just planned my funeral at [the local funeral home].”  All I could bring myself to say was, “Thanks, Uncle Ray.”  He made me POA and Executrix of his estate.  We talked about what I probably would do.
My aunt Dorothy and uncle
Ray. They died
at 62 and 67, respectively,
which is sounding younger
and younger every day!

Until the birth of my daughter, we hadn’t been particularly close. My aunt dragged him up to the hospital and they saw her before any of her grandparents did. They babysat frequently and kept my daughter during the birth of my son. She used to call him “Uncle Money” because he would let her count the bowl of pennies he kept on his buffet. How prophetic that would be!

Even though they did not have children, they became surrogate grandparents to my kids and helpful mentors to me as a young mom. Old school about many things, they supported me as a stay-at-home mom. The year my daughter was 7 and my son 2, April 1991, we lost my beloved aunt. It was a bad week. My brother was permanently disabled in an auto accident on Wednesday and my aunt died on Saturday. As we buried her in the family plot on the following Wednesday, it was not lost on me that we came extremely close to having two funerals within days, and two burials within feet of each other.  I was so very grateful that my brother was alive.

As I sat beside my grieving uncle, patting his thin and wrinkled hand, it was a turning point in my life. He was 66 years old and ill. I realized that I now was going to have sole responsibility of this man whom I was related to, but whom I barely knew.

Things went smoothly until October, when he needed to be hospitalized the first time. I remember it was my son’s birthday, the 17th. His neighbor called me as Ray was being removed to the largest hospital in our area. During this hospitalization, we discussed the fact that he was dying, and what I probably would want to do during the administration of his estate. I was thankful that we were able to be so honest with each other. Once he was released, I was responsible for providing home care for him. Resources were not the problem, but I could not be there 24/7 and there needed to be some daily care. Ray, however, didn’t see the need to spend the money and kept firing everyone I hired. I worked part time for an employer that was certainly flexible with me, as it took quite a bit of time making calls to negotiate all of the details. By December he had to be hospitalized again. We were called home early from visiting with my brother Loren in Georgia to take care of Ray. I began to research some of the options of nursing home or rehabilitation home care.  When I went to visit him in the hospital, he was angry that I was looking into nursing homes. He tried to make me promise that I would not put him in a nursing home. I couldn’t do that, but tried to assure him that was the last resort.

From January to summer things went pretty smoothly. His friends were a support system and took him to chemo treatments and helped with the after effects of those treatments. I could never have dealt with that while taking care of my young children, husband and job. By summer things were getting worse and I know Ray knew it, but didn’t want to admit it. The last Sunday in July my husband’s family has their family reunion and we went to it, planning to stay a few days after to spend time with his parents.

We were called home once again to take care of Ray. One of his friends had stopped by the house and found him in a bad situation and called the squad.  He was hospitalized again and while I was thinking of getting him declared incompetent so I could do the things I had to do; found it was unnecessary. He was so sick that he didn’t know I had to place him in a nearby skilled facility. He just thought he was going to another hospital.

I paid a month’s fees and got a refund. He died August 25, 1992. Although I went to the home daily, the week before he died, I was unable to go from Tuesday evening until Friday morning as my husband was away helping his parents, and I did not want to take my children to see him in the nursing home at this stage of his life. His failure between Tuesday and Friday was incredible. At this time I began to pray for God to take him. I also prayed that he would not die on August 24th, the anniversary of my own father’s death. They called me about suppertime of the 25th and he passed away about 11:00 PM. Although I went in to say goodbye, I was not with him when he died. If I had known what time he would pass, I would have stayed, but I had a child to get ready for school in the morning and a job to go to.

My next day was spent at the funeral home. Thus began the next phase, executing an estate. I was the next of kin and for the most part was alone in decision-making. My aunt did have some siblings that offered moral support.  Her sister told me to not worry about using professionals to do certain tasks; that I had enough on my plate raising small children and working.

The will was somewhat complicated, and executing the will was unlike anything I had done in my life. There was a house, car and boat to sell, and an estate auction to have. I had to manage details and multi-task in a way I had never experienced. I realized that I was most capable of it. I had a wonderful attorney to guide me, utilized wisdom and experience from those who knew what to do and when to do it. The estate was divided among 18 heirs from my aunt’s family and my family. 

First thing up was opening the safe deposit box and the attorney helped me with that inventory. Then we had to have an official appraisal of the house and contents. There was jewelry of my aunt’s to appraise. I worked at the house to go through personal and family possessions that would not be part of an auction sale. I had a wonderful woman at the hospital that helped me navigate the hospital bills. This service was $40 a month and was the best money ever spent as long as I needed it. We had a contract on the house in early October and the estate sale was October 10th. I closed on the house in early November. I remember going through the empty house for the last time and that was when I realized the last connection to my childhood was gone. 

It took us until May to finally settle the estate. I did inherit enough to purchase a bigger home in a better area to raise my children. We moved June 11th. Yes, Ray had been “Uncle Money” and how I wish I could thank him (and my aunt) for providing a better life for my children.

For me, I realized I could handle something that put me in the middle of controversy. I could handle a task which had multiple aspects of administration. I had help, but I could do it! I was no longer “the kid” and had become the adult. I turned 40 the month after we moved into the new house.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Life Comes At Ya!

When I think of myself at 18, I think I was a pretty wimpy person, although in retrospect I may not be giving myself a fair shake. I had already weathered two pretty intense break-ups. They all seem that way at the time, but even at 58, when I look back from an adult’s perspective, it was intense! I could probably write an entire blog about how those break-ups made me stronger or weaker. I definitely think there was some damage to my self-image, but I certainly wasn’t special in that. Lots of young women and men were going through similar experiences.

So, I look at the past 40 years and several things stand out.

The death of my father by suicide when I was 24. I don’t know how I put one foot in front of another for awhile. I had no business getting married within three months of that event, but in some way planning for the wedding and the festivities of that got me through it. I can say this though, that time does heal all wounds. Today I can talk about it intelligently with others without becoming undone. Back then, I had nightmares every night.

My brother’s auto accident at the age of 27. He was driving home from his employer’s bowling team night and he struck a half-dead tree about a mile from home in Stone Mountain, GA. My brother was left a C 6-7 quadriplegic. To those who remember this, this happened the first part of April the year we had our 20th Reunion, which was held the third weekend in June. I was headlong into registration and details. One of our classmates called me the day we learned of the accident (which was the night before) and I couldn’t even talk. He promised he would call again in two weeks and he did.

When I think of the summer of 1991, our 20th Reunion, which by far has been our largest, was really totally a blur. Jerry and I went to Atlanta in April; I went for Mother’s Day and spent the time with my good friend Linda Delarios. Jerry went down in early June, I just could not spare the time from the Reunion, but we left again as soon as it was over! Watching my brother rehab from that accident and watching the “new normal” unfold; gives me little tolerance for little aches and pains, either mine or others’.  I have little patience for those I know are abusing the SSDI system (or any system for that matter). He has rehabbed into a full-time working person who I like to say is paying into my Social Security fund!

It is often said that we are only given what we can handle. Earlier in the day (Wednesday) of Loren’s accident; my other brother Ben was released from a VA facility with—finally—a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  Up until that point, no one, including himself, knew what to do. But when we had the diagnosis, we knew there was treatment. I often thought, what would I have done had these two situations overlapped?

Executing the estate of my uncle. I honestly think this situation, at the age of 39, was where I finally grew up. I actually have written another article on this very topic: that of knowing “when” you finally grew up. (That will come later) My dad’s brother never had children. His wife preceded him in death in 1991, the same week of my brother’s accident! She died on Saturday of that week.  My uncle had already been diagnosed with lung cancer. Between Jerry, myself and the neighbors and friends, we dealt with his decline for about 16 months and he died in late August 1992.

He left a will with 18 heirs and multiple streams of assets. I had to sell a house, car and boat, and sell jewelry of my aunt’s to her family. I hated some of the decisions I had to make within the confines of the will. But I did it, and I stood up to those who didn’t agree with it. I developed my spine during that time. It was another year where the taking care of him and then settling his estate took over our lives. I was grateful to work part-time at a preschool where I could drop my children off for childcare, while I went to the funeral home to plan the funeral!  Later, I took my little boy with me to the lawyers’ office and he became a favorite, but he was the best little guy playing with his dinosaurs while I conducted business.

The house we were able to purchase in 1993.
This is where we raised our children.
When it was all said and done, I was able to provide my family with a new house and a new way of life. This move specifically was the most important decision we ever made with regard to raising our children. I have never forgotten that my uncle and aunt made this possible for us.

Life marched on. I had a nine year old and a four year old to raise, and we became involved in the community and schools. I don’t believe anything that happened during most of those years contributed to my strength beyond what is common to all women who raise families, work and are active in church and community.

In 2006, I found myself in a situation I certainly was not asking for and wish I had some of the knowledge back then that I have now. My mother’s cousin was dying and she literally lived on the other end of the park from the organization I worked for, the Springfield Museum of Art. Again, I had the flexibility to “drop in” on her caregivers to see what was going on at any time of day, even though she had given a non-family member, who lived in Texas, her POA. It couldn’t have been easy for him either, he was there and I was doing the legwork, but he made the decisions. When she died, we were CO-executors, and I did the work and he signed some papers. Yeah, I got screwed there, but life isn’t always fair.

That estate was still “open” when my brother Ben died in April of 2007. He was 51 years of age. It is devastating to lose a younger sibling any time, and his cause of death was ambiguous. He had heart problems and he had Diabetes II, take your pick. Again, I would find myself an executrix of an estate.  This one was trickier as he didn’t have much, but the will he had was as ambiguous as his life and death. Again I would find myself in a decision-making role.

I have never had a career which defined me. I have almost always worked, learning from every situation. I have found myself in these places which strengthened me in ways I would not have expected at all. I learned things I never knew before, I developed a backbone to deal with people who did not agree with me and handled details in a way I never expected! Handling a reunion is a piece of cake, really!

I could not finish this blog without mentioning the growth of my faith during all of these years and experiences. We give lip-service to “God will provide,” but I watched it happen time and again through these situations. We say to ourselves, “God will give me the words to say,” and I am here to say that He did time and time again! My faith was strengthened by watching these things happen and IN THE ORDER they happened. This would not be complete or accurate if I did not give God the credit for making me who I am, teaching me the things I needed to know, and leading me day-by-day in the big and little deals of life.


Monday, October 31, 2011

The Ultimate Connection--Unlike Any Other

I believe that I get along well with people who do not see life as I do. You may reference my previous blog on Civility and Decent Behavior, if you wish to see more about that. I believe that comes from mutual respect and agreeing to disagree.

However, that said, there is a connection that just does not happen to people if they do not share the same belief and relationship with God and Jesus Christ.


The Ultimate Connection is with God through His son Jesus. I am not talking about religion or denomination here; I am talking about the relationship an individual has with God by turning from our own desires and natures which naturally lead us away from Him, and turning toward God and accepting His gift of eternal life through Jesus. It may not be my favorite verse or your favorite verse, but Jesus Himself says it: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6) And fundamentally, it's about whether you believe that the words spoken are actually true, because they are there and He says it!
 
Not everyone who reads this will agree with me. That's OK, blogspot.com is free and you can write your own blog.

All of this is to say that, my relationships that have the spiritual component and agreement in Jesus Christ are unlike all others. There are words spoken, confidences shared, prayers prayed and physical expressions made that take it to another level.

I repeat that this is not about my church. I have believing friends in every aspect of life.  This is a unique connection altogether.

It was not always so. Although I always went to church as a young person, it was not until after I was married that my mother-in-law introduced me to a magazine (using the term loosely, but it came monthly) which was Christian. The reading of this publication led me to realize that I needed to do something I had not done before, through all my years of “church.” I sinned, but I had never actually thought to myself, "I need to turn away from sin (this is a general term, but I had some things in mind too!) and turn to Jesus Christ as the complete payment for my sin."

I certainly did not have a big discussion with myself about it; once I realized it, I did it. I prayed in a way I had not done previously in corporate or even private prayer. This is the moment I was brought into a relationship with Christ. No one ever told me to write down the date, but it was in November 1978. I had been married just a year.

At that time, I didn't attend a church that surrounded me with the type of relationship I am describing. We had social relationships, and I do believe some of them are believers, but there just wasn't this sort of connection. For several years I just floundered along on my own, although I did find a church with many people of my age that helped me learn during this time. As I look back, I do not know what I would have done without those folks.

Eventually I ended up in another denomination where I wanted to raise any children God might give me. My children were born in 1983 and 1988 and reborn in 1989 and 1994. As I dedicated them to God, I knew this group of people would surround me with the connection I needed to raise them. The most important thing to me was leading them, not forcing them, to have this kind of relationship with God.

These are the people I go to first when I need uplifting, support, prayer or maybe a good laugh! They are members of many denominations, but have agreement in Christ.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Motherhood

Happy Birthday to my first-born!

This blog celebrates the 28th anniversary of the day that I became a mother.

The first thing that I tell my children is that anytime you meet someone that thinks they know everything about raising children, it is a red flag. Run the other way!

That said, some of my observations about parenthood:

My objective for raising my family was to think of them as future adults and the “product” I hoped to launch into society when they were grown. My personal goal was for my children to be honest, kind, Christian citizens and everything else fell under that goal. It was easy to think of them as cute babies, but I never forgot the long-range goal.  That made it easier for me to let go at each level. The hardest “letting go” was watching Jessica drive away alone. I was at work and missed it with Joel. Thank you Lord!

Everyone told me how fast it goes and to enjoy them when they are little. I enjoyed every step and rejoiced with each new achievement. I didn’t want them to be babies forever.

Joel is grown but still lives at home. Our parenting duties are over, but we are still “advisors,” and by the way, that role goes both ways sometimes. There are subjects in which he is more knowledgeable than we are.

My advice to young mothers:

Don’t let breast feeding be an issue. If it doesn’t work, you will be a good mom if you bottle feed. I struggled for 6 days with Jessica and at age 30, said to myself, “I don’t need someone telling me how to be a good mom and I don’t have to breast feed to prove it.” If it doesn’t work, chuck the idea and move on. It is nutritionally best and saves money, but certainly doesn’t measure the quality of motherhood!

Watch your children. Observe how they learn. This is lifelong advice. I know that some things just don’t work with each child. If you recognize their learning patterns early, you are not trying to force them into another mold, and you will know to speak up when a teacher tries to. I knew at 9 months of age that Joel was left-handed. In the “olden days,” children were forced to be right-handed. I accepted and rejoiced that this was a part of who Joel was. Later he was a good pitcher and was used in (high school) situational pitching! Batting lefty was an advantage.

Back to teachers and schooling, you want to be involved as they are young, but even in this you pull back a little bit each year. I was in the high school once with Jessica and actually it was the only teacher issue we had in 13 years. He was a jerk and fortunately for me the superintendent’s daughter was in the same class. In the 6th grade, Jessica had to deal by herself with a case of mistaken identity on the bus (how can those bus drivers ever know who they are looking at and drive at the same time?). I remember thinking at the time that, although I support those who home-educate, this is what homeschooled children miss out—the learning to handle difficult situations on their own. The child grows in each of those situations. Don’t try to bail them out. If the Derges had to step in at school, it was so seldom that the teacher or principal listened.

Church has been an important part of the kids’ lives. And I don’t just mean CEO (Christmas and Easter Only). The highest recommendation I have is to find a church which has good Bible-teaching programs for children and will probably naturally have things for young parents also. I swear (pun intended) by AWANA. It starts at age 3 and continues through 6th grade, with some larger churches having Junior and Senior High programs also. If not, youth groups are important for that age group, at a church where their school friends are their church friends, if at all possible.

Recognize each child for the individual they are. Jessica was involved with the music in our church; Joel hated it. I didn’t push him that direction. Joel participated and helped in the sports programs.

More important than attending church regularly was that each child had a personal relationship with Jesus as his/her savior. Both of my children understood this at age 5, Joel a little younger than his sister.

I always said that we would support each child in whatever interests they had. If it was sculpting, we would find lessons for that, music, dance or whatever. It was easy for us as they both excelled in sports and there were plenty of opportunities. The important thing is to find what they love and support that! The funny thing is that Jerry and I can hardly walk and chew gum at the same time, and Joel will earn his living in coaching and Jessica runs marathons!

Another thing we did with regard to sports is KEEP OUR MOUTH SHUT. I can’t believe how many people try to “coach” their child from the sidelines, sometimes even undermining the coaches. Of course it does help that Joel and Jessica didn’t need our coaching at all. We did make an effort for one of us to be at every event, because the likelihood of Joel injuring himself was pretty good, and we spent a night at Community Hospital ER after a track meet with Jessica; where she had an asthma attack. (Do you know you can ride in the ambulance with your child? Do not ask permission. Get in the vehicle, strap yourself in behind the driver, and act as if you know what you are doing.)

I have made mistakes. The biggest one was because I stayed home, we all had the idea that Mom should “earn her keep” by doing everything. Consequently, my kids were behind the curve in helping with household chores. Whether or not you stay home, work full or part-time, this should be part of their upbringing.  Everyone in the house has chores!

I always told my kids that life is just not fair! There is no way I can keep everything equal between them as they have different needs. Sometimes it is just not fair—get over it! I always had the kids work, both starting at age 12 to help with their expenses. Jess babysat and later had a paper route. When she got a “real job”, he inherited the paper route. The Derges had that route for ten years! Both kids had a good handle on what a dollar is worth.

Discipline was not the same for each. My standard line was that my desired outcomes were the same for both, but how we got there may be a different path.

Vacations were seldom. We usually went to Loren’s or Mom’s as well as the visits to Jerry’s parents about every two months. We took four trips to the Smoky Mountains with them—two camping and two with cabins. Jessica didn’t know what Gatlinburg was until her senior year; we always went in the back way to avoid the commercialization. My kids have had one day at Disney World; they were 15 and 10 respectively.

If I had it to do over again, I would spend much less on toys and more on making memories (vacations or other) or saving for college! Grandparents and others buy enough toys to get a kid by, save your money for the larger ticket items they want later in life that others usually won’t buy.

Re: video games. Both of my kids have been very active so it really wasn’t much of an issue. The only issue we had was violent games. We didn’t permit them. Joel had to give back a birthday present and I am sure the parents of the kid were not impressed. He played many sports games and that helped him to understand the strategies and helped him in his profession, teaching and coaching.

Both of my kids were adults by the time social networking became an issue. I believe that some of the other ground rules contributed to their basic good sense in this area. Since I had a Facebook account, and it changes all the time, I was learning alongside them.

You get lots of advice about baby issues, but always keep in mind the big picture—the end of the run, so to speak. That helped me so much in parenting. While others are bemoaning the “empty nest” syndrome, I am rejoicing that the children are doing well on their own—as they are supposed to be. If you think of yourself as a mother primarily, that will be a problem someday. I think of it as a stage of life. When Joel is gone, all I have to worry about is getting old and dying! I’d better have some hobbies!

One more piece of advice I always give: if at all possible, NEVER take a husband or children to the grocery store! If you have lots of money it may be OK, but I was always pinching pennies and all of them were a distraction!

Remember the words of First Corinthians 13:13c, “the greatest of these is love.” Our highest calling, to love our Lord and our family.