Once Upon a Time

A memory just popped up on my Facebook page where I shared a conversation I had with my granddaughter four years ago.  So funny!  Still brings a smile.

Zoe:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus.

Me:  When Jesus was a little boy.  (Quickly interrupted by Zoe.)

Zoe:  No, Grandma, say “Once upon a time.”

Remembering Grandma

Grandma Sechrest was the only grandparent I was close to, the only one that expressed love and an interest in me.  I also related more to her because she was a red head, like me.  All my life I was told that I looked like her side of the family – the Tates.   I never knew any of that side of the family.  I was told they were all “a bunch of Irish drunks.”  As I did research on my family history I discovered the Tates were not Irish but rather English.  So much for family legends.

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Grandma had a hard life, losing her husband while pregnant with her eleventh child.  He was shot by her oldest daughter’s husband, Wesley Smith.  I never was completely sure of the facts, but the two men had been arguing and Wesley had come into the yard at their house and shot Grandpa.  My father was only 14 at the time and I’m sure it caused a lot of emotional/mental damage.

Grandma was a big woman and pictures I have seen of her when she was younger indicate she was probably a big gal most of her adult life.  I have never seen a picture of her when she was young – but I always wondered what she looked like as a young girl.

She loved the fact that I also had red hair – the only grandchild that did.   As she grew older, she began to lose her eyesight to glaucoma.  When I came to visit, I  would stand in the doorway where the sun could shine on my red hair.  She also loved music and was proud that I played the piano.  I would always play the latest song I had learned on her old upright piano when we went to visit.

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She loved flowers and before she lost her eyesight her yard and house were full of flowers.  There was always a row of elephant ears planted along the house on both sides and in front.  As she began to lose her eyesight, she gave up the flowers in her yard, but she had flowers in her house until she was totally blind.  For awhile, my mother would come over and water the few plants she kept in the house even though she could not see them.  Just knowing they were there seemed to make her feel better.  It was a sad day when she finally had them take the last plants away.  My dad loved flowers too and I have often thought I get my love of flowers from them.

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When Grandpa was killed, all but two of her eleven kids were still at home and she raised them alone.  My dad and some of his brothers would often catch a train, ride to Iowa, Kansas or Nebraska to work in the wheat fields.   They would be gone for weeks on end and Grandma would have no idea where they were until they returned home after finishing the harvest.

When Grandma was in her 60’s she married a retired Southern Baptist minister, Rev. Green.  He and my Dad often spent hours arguing about “once saved, always saved.”

If Grandma got upset about something, she would begin patting her foot.  The more upset she got, the faster she patted her foot.  We grand-kids knew when Grandma was patting her foot very rapidly it might be a good time to go outside to play because she was about to speak her mind to our Dad or one of the other adults there.

It was at Grandma’s house that I saw television for the first time.  She bought a very tiny TV and I would love to watch it when we visited Grandma.  I thought she must be very rich since she could afford a TV.

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Grandma’s house always smelled of garlic and cabbage.  She loved cabbage and it seemed that she almost always had a pot of cabbage cooking on the stove.  As she began to lose her eyesight she had her salt/sugar and spices lined up on the shelf in order so that she could still find the right spice for what she was fixing.  She made great chicken and dumplings (which she taught my mother to make) and, of course, corn beef and cabbage.

As I am now a great grandmother myself I find myself thinking more and more of my childhood days.  My red hair, my love of flowers, my love of garlic and cabbage  –  Grandma lives on in me.

I wonder – what will my grandchildren remember about me when I am just a memory?  My prayer is that their memories will be good ones like mine.

I Wonder Where Rosalie Is Today?

She was such a cute little girl.  A little afraid, but very curious, of the Americans who had moved into her neighborhood.

She began by peeping around the corner of the wall of our compound, trying to sneak a look at us while remaining hidden herself.

 

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Slowly she came out of hiding and let us see her pretty face.

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For several days she played this peek-a-boo game with us until finally she came with a friend and sat down outside our gate.

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My husband, our youngest daughter and I had moved into her neighborhood where we lived as we taught in a local Bible school and also in local churches throughout Iloilo City on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

Having white Americans as neighbors was quite a novelty.  Children in the neighborhood came to the gate every day to get a look at us.  We began talking to them and before long we developed friendships with all the children on our street.

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At first when we walked down our street, the little boys would call out to my husband, “Hello GI Joe.”   After repeating each day that his name was Paul, they finally called him by his name – but it came out with two syllables – Pa -ul.

Our daughter started a Kids Klub for the neighborhood children.  Saturday mornings our living room would turn into a classroom.  Jessica taught them songs, Bible stories and always had games and snacks for them.  They called her “Tita” or aunt and followed her each time she left our home.

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Rosalie was the youngest of five siblings.  Their mother was a widow and made her living by selling food in a makeshift hut on the side of the road.

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While we fell in love with all the children, we took a special interest in this family.

When it was time for us to return home, Rosalie’s mother wanted us to take Rosalie with us.  She envisioned a much better life for her youngest if she came to the United States with us.

We struggled with what would be the right decision.  It sounded good to provide this little girl with all the luxuries she would never have in Iloilo City.  Things like clean water, plenty of food, shoes and the many things we take for granted but would not be available to her in the Philippines.

But what would it do to her emotionally to be ripped from her home, her siblings and especially her mother?

Was it arrogance on our part to think that all the material things we could give her was worth more than family?

Yet how could we say no to giving her a life that would be much easier than the life she would have here in Iloilo City?

In the end, the legal requirements and the cost of adopting her and all the red tape involved proved more than we could do.

The day we left our neighborhood was very traumatic.  The children gathered early at our home and hung on to the jeepney as we drove slowly away.  They cried out, “Don’t go, don’t go.”

As I reflect back on that time, I do believe it would have been wrong to take her from her family – but I still wonder.

Did we do the right thing?

I wonder where she is today?

With today’s technological advances of Facebook and the internet we might have been able to maintain some contact.  But that was not possible then.

Still, I think of her and wonder if she remembers us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone Remember that Frosted Mug of Root Beer?

Before McDonalds, before Taco Bell, before Subway there was A&W.

Growing up my family did not eat out too often.  For one thing, our budget did not allow for such expenses but also there were not many fast-food chains like we have now.

When we had the occasional treat, it was fun to go to the local A&W drive in.  There was no drive through lane to order the food and go and no inside seating.  My dad just drove up to the restaurant, a young girl would come to the car, take our order and return with everything on a tray which was attached to the car window.

Dad would then pass the food back to me and my siblings and we would sit in the car with the windows all down and enjoy our treat.

I always ordered the coney hot dog.  But the best thing about the meal was the root beer served in the big frosted glass mugs.

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It has been years since I saw an A&W drive in.  Yesterday we were driving through the country when we spotted the A&W sign and quickly pulled in for a meal.

Sitting in the car eating a coney cheese dog with lots of mustard and cheese and trying not to get the food all over me, what great memories I had.

And the root beer was wonderful!  You can buy A&W root beer in the stores now but it is not the same as the root beer from the tap in the big frosted mugs.

Oh what a treat!

The store had a sign announcing that A&W is now 100 years old.  Checking it out I discovered the founder Roy Allen set up a stand to sell mugs of his root beer for a nickel  during a homecoming parade for World War I veterans in 1919.  A few years later, in 1922, he formed a partnership with one of his employees, Frank Wright, and thus they came up with the name A&W.

From Lodi, California it quickly spread across the country.  At its peak it had over 2000 stores.  Today it is down to just 600 stores, but the owners of the franchisee have plans to begin expanding again.

The CEO of the franchisee, Kevin Bazner says:

“It really amazes me when I travel—and I am always wearing a logo pin or gear—at every airport, hotel, and restaurant, when I meet people, there are so many stories out there that include fond memories of an A&W restaurant,” he says. Whether it’s stopping at one during a visit to grandparents’ or as a toddler with their parents, “the memories are very strong.”

Yes, I agree.  What memories I had yesterday sitting in my car with a coney cheese dog and a mug of root beer!

Gotta find another A&W closer to home so I can enjoy that root beer again!

From Flip Phone to Smart Phone

This week my husband and I traded in our flip phones for a smart phone.  I have resisted doing this for some time.  It’s not that I am not computer savvy – but I must confess as I age and as the technology keeps making leaps and bounds, I fear that I will never keep up with it all

I learned to type on a Remington manual typewriter.  The only place you will see one of those now is in an antique shop.

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Excitement ran high when we found out we would get electric typewriters to use in our senior year of school.

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During my senior year they also offered a course on computers.  That class consisted of reading about the history and concept of computers.  We heard about the mathematics professor Charles Babbage who designed the Analytical Engine.  This became the basis of today’s computers.  But there were no computers for us to use.  At that time the only ones with computers were banks and large commercial firms.  The idea that someone might have a personal computer at home sounded like science fiction to the average American.

The last week of the class we visited a local bank to see their computer.  It was a huge machine in a room that had to be kept at a certain temperature.

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Data was fed into the computer inserting punch cards into the machine.

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Every time I remember that big computer and realize the smart phone my daughter holds in her hand can do so much more than that huge machine could do, I am still amazed at the progress in technology made in my lifetime.

After graduating my first job was as a bookkeeper at a local bank.  Checking accounts were divided between three bookkeepers.  I was responsible for all customers whose last names started J to P.  Every check and every deposit these customers made was posted by me using the Burroughs data processor.  Each customer had a statement that we posted debits and credits on throughout the month.  At the end of the month we printed out the statements, gathered all the checks and deposit slips and mailed them to the customers.   We had to memorize the signature of our customers and before posting any check we examined it to make sure it was signed by our customer.  If we had any doubt we would pull out their signature card and make a comparison.  If still in doubt we would give the customer a call to confirm they had written the check.

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Finally, at age 36 I used my first computer.  Starting a job as a legal secretary for a junior partner in a law firm, I was told the firm had just switched out their electric typewriters to word processors about six months before.  Having no experience with word processors I came in on a Saturday morning and spent about 30 minutes with the secretary I was replacing to learn how to use the processor.  Monday morning I was off – secretary to a very busy upcoming lawyer using a word processor with no experience as either a legal secretary or with a word processor.  Needless to say, it was a BIG learning experience.  Thankfully I am a fast learner and the job became my favorite in my work career.

Since that time there has continued to be new and exciting milestones for me in this rapidly changing technology world.

  • The day the law firm got email on their computers.  We could only email one another within the firm.
  • The day we got email that could go beyond our own personal system and we could communicate with other law firms and businesses.
  • The day I got my own personal computer at home.  It was just a word processing machine.
  • The day I got a computer that could handle all kinds of programs like Publisher, Excel and I could go on the internet.

While I struggle to stay on top of all these changes – and I think I do pretty good for a woman in her 70’s – I fear the day it all gets more than I can do.

But, if and when that happens, I have my own little computer expert, my granddaughter Zoe.  When she was only four years old she sat by her Papa as he opened up children’s songs on YouTube and showed her the videos.  She kept trying to reach over and touch the keyboard and he kept telling her to stop.  Finally, she managed to get around his hands and reach the keyboard.  To his surprise she touched a key that opened up the tiny window showing the song to a full screen picture!  Then and there he realized this four-year-old was probably much more computer savvy than he was.

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The Cycle of Life

My parents died in the same year – Mom in April and Dad in August.  I remember my sisters and I looking at each other and saying “We are now the older generation.”

Until that time we could think of ourselves as young – it was our parents’ and their siblings who were old.

But now that generation is gone and we are the old ones.

Even then, still in our 50’s and 60’s, we did not really feel old.

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But time has passed and we are slowing down.  We look at each other and see the wrinkles, the grey hair, the slower gait and realize we have come to the last chapter in the book.

With that in mind, recently I have seen so many posts on Facebook of the next generation – my daughter, my nieces – becoming grandparents and it has made my heart so happy.

Watching them and their excitement at having grandchildren brings back the memories of that time in my life.  I relive those wonderful days of children and grandchildren.  Now I rejoice in great grandchildren.

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I love this picture of my youngest grandchild.  She is 8 now but this is still a favorite memory!

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When this little grandson was born, doctors were not sure he would live and said if he did he would be a weak little guy.   Today he is 6 foot 6 inches tall and anything but weak or little.  God is good!

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Love this picture of our youngest son with two of his children welcoming their baby sister.  All three are grown up now but still a joy to me.

Seeing their joy, seeing the next generation take the stage – it brings me such satisfaction to know our family will continue on.

Shakespeare said it well:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

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Each stage of life has had its blessings and its difficulties.

Those carefree days of childhood with little or no responsibilities.  Still, there was the pressure to do well in school, trying to “fit in” with the other kids.  Hoping to make friends.

Young adulthood brought the joy of first love and marriage and babies.  What excitement those first years of marriage brought.  Yet, there were sleepless nights with babies who would not stop crying, worries about meeting the bills.  For me that time also brought sorrow as my husband was killed in an accident and I struggled as a single mom with two young girls.

Middle age came.  Finally, jobs were more stable and money problems were less.  The kids were at a age to really enjoy adventures with me and many evenings were spent playing board games, shopping or just “hanging out” together.  For me there was new joy as I found love again with a wonderful man who loved my girls.  However, I began to realize my body was aging.  I could still do what I did in my 20’s but it took me longer and I was many times exhausted by the end of the day.

Now old age has come.  This body refuses to do what it once did.  Not only does it take me longer to walk the mall, I simply cannot shop as long as I once did.  My husband and I love road trips but even those have to be shorter and I am exhausted for days recovering from the trip.  Still, there are joys in this stage.

I can get up before dawn, sit with a cup of coffee and watch the sun raise.  Or, I can turn over in bed, pull the covers over and sleep until long after the sun has risen.  Lunch and dinner can be a gourmet meal with our best china sitting at our dining room table sharing a great conversation with my husband.  Or, we can eat pizza on paper plates while sitting in our recliner and watching a movie.  There is a great deal of freedom to just do whatever I want to do.

Realizing that my days are much fewer than when I started this journey called life, I am more appreciative of each one.  Thankful for the sunshine, for the rain.  Thankful for the silly jokes my husband tells, for the scrabble games we play.  Thankful for the phone calls from grandchildren checking on me.  Thankful for the hot shower.

A study by Laura Carstensen, a psychologist at Stanford found that as people age they got happier and their emotions bounced around less.  Our drama-filled days seen to lessen as our negative emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced.

Psychologist Karl Pillemer interviewed over 1,000 older people for his book,  30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.  He found that:

“Many people said something along these lines: ‘I wish I’d learned to enjoy life on a daily basis and enjoy the moment when I was in my 30’s instead of my 60’s,’” he says. Elderly interviewees are likely to “describe the last five or ten years as the happiest years of their lives.”

So my advice to those in the earlier cycles of life:

Enjoy each moment.  Do not let the difficult times stop you from enjoying all the good times.  This day, this moment in time will not come again.  Look for all the good in your life and savor that experience.

As for me knowing I am playing out the last chapter of my story, I take comfort in God’s Word.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

May my last chapter be my best!

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Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-so-good-about-growing-old-130839848/#xr2BBzFeUxqfgrfg.99

I’m Celebrating!

Today is a happy day for me!

Today I am exploring the western side of Michigan along Lake Michigan.  We have a hotel in the middle between Ludington and Traverse City Michigan.  What a beautiful area!  The lake, rivers, sand dunes, beaches, quaint shops and restaurants!

My heart rejoices because we are celebrating 35 years of marriage.

What a great love story we have.

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Although Paul knew in his heart that I was the answer to his prayer, he still was nervous about asking me to marry them.  We both had two children (Paul had four but the two oldest were already grown adults and on their own) – three of whom were teenagers.  Blended families could be a difficult thing.  I think he was also afraid of rejection as his first wife had walked away from their marriage after 20+ years.

So he had to build up his courage.

He took me on a picnic to Pere Marquette Park in Grafton Illinois.  Several times that day he hinted at a more serious relationship, then before I could reply, he backed away.

A few weeks later he brought me a bouquet of flowers and took me to a nice restaurant.  All evening I kept thinking he would now talk about a deeper commitment between us.  But nothing happened.  The next night he showed up again with another bouquet of flowers and again took me out to a nice restaurant.  Again, I waited all through dinner for a more serious conversation – but nothing happened.

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My thoughts were that this relationship was going nowhere fast.

But when we got to my apartment he asked if we could sit in the car and talk for awhile.  What a surprise!  He not only asked to take our relationship to a more serious level, he asked me to marry them.

During the 20 minutes or so this conversation took, our children who were inside my apartment kept turning the porch light on and off.  Believe me you have not courted until you do with four kids watching your every move!

So we were married.

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Since we both believed that God had brought us together – both as a couple and as a family, we wanted to emphasize that God would be the foundation of our new family right from the start.

After we said our vows, we had our children join us and we took communion together as a family.

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Was it easy blending two families together?  No!  There were difficult moments.  Paul and I each had different parenting styles.  I had two girls, but I had no idea what to do with a son – and a teenage son at that.

But we stuck with each other and God made us a family.

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left to right:  my youngest daughter, Jessica; my oldest daughter, Rebekah; Paul’s youngest daughter and son, Maria and Will

From this blended family we now have twenty grandchildren (three who are deceased) and nine great grandchildren.

Looking back over these past 35 years, my heart rejoices in the blessings God has given Paul and I.

For those of you who follow my blog, you can be sure I will be posting lots of pictures when I get back home of this beautiful area.