Archive for May 2011

Pukey Weather, Ailing Puppy, and a Superhero

May 30, 2011

Dreary Memorial Weekend Skies

I’m giving you a potpourri with this post because it’s been kind of that kind of week. We’ve been buffeted by electrical storms, winds (but not tornadic), rains and lots of thunder. I actually have had my computer totally off for two days because the storms have been so unpredictable.

It seems Mother Nature does not want this tiny portion of Wisconsin to have a spring with the continued chilly temps, night-time lows in the 30s and dreary skies. So I’ve done no planting of annuals yet and may not get them in this year. They need those sunny pleasant spring days to really take hold and grow before the hot weather of summer arrives. But we are told to expect hot, humid and foggy today. Like August hot.

Welcome to no-spring season in Wisconsin. 😦

On Wednesday our little dog Oreo, who will forever be our “puppy,” went to the vet for her annual checkup. On Thursday she needed some dental surgery for a cracked molar which had been giving her trouble. We have no idea how Oreo got this since she’s never had a bone to chew which is the most common way to have this happen. During the surgery, the vet discovered another impacted tooth which also needed to be removed. However, all this surgery has necessitated a dietary change, a schedule change, and worse, bitter tasting medicine which must be given twice a day.

Ailing Oreo

Needless to say, this trauma has morphed our energetic and delightful four-footed companion into an enervated, unhappy canine who’s become quite ingenious at avoiding medicine times. Of course, she loves the yogurt we now must give to keep her tummy lined to offset the digestive effects of the antibiotics and the pain meds. But she hates the liquid antibiotic which we put in the yogurt. It took her one day to figure out the new schedule: yummy yogurt with food twice a day now (still same amount as old but given twice to keep her tummy full when she gets the meds).

But then about a half hour later she slips away and hides, always in a different place because she knows. Next spoonful of yogurt isn’t going to be good. So no way is she sticking around for this version. So each day morning and night we go on a hunt for Oreo. Where is she hiding now? It’s really quite funny and she’s very ingenious in where she hides. Only once has she worn more of the yogurt-drenched antibiotic than had it go down her throat.

As her owners, we’ve become more cagy also, and since we want to keep her with us and healthy as long as possible, well, we will continue with this little game. 🙂

In case you think I never do any writing these days, that’s so not true. On Friday I sent off the latest round of edits to my editor. Here’s hoping those few new scenes are exactly what she wants. 🙂

Finally, on Saturday, despite the chilly weather and the London-like fog, my Seattle cousin stopped in for coffee and a short visit. He’s in town to help his mother prepare for a move from their family home. Anyway, I’ve always had a tender place in my heart for Cousin Mike because he’s one of the “good people walking the walk and doing the talk” in social services in Seattle. In our conversation, he asked if I’d heard he’d been chosen as a superhero.

"Car rides make me feel better."

I said “No” and teasing asked where he kept his iron suit, or green skin, or blue and red Superman suit or if he’d left that behind since phone booths were not around much anymore. We both chuckled and then he explained it was true. He said this Parenting organization in the Seattle area chooses 10 Superheroes each year for what they do for families and the skills it takes to make a family work in this difficult world.

I don’t live in Seattle, but knowing Mike and how long he’s been involved in social services and maintained his positive attitude, I’m not surprised he was chosen. The group puts out a magazine called Parent Map. I checked out their website and then the section on Mike and his Superhero status. While doing that, I also checked out his compatriots for the 2011 Superhero status.

I think this idea is excellent and love what this organization in doing to help parents navigate the challenging parental seas. Then I thought about Mike. Yes, he’s been doing superhero work in his years but feels a bit flustered to brag about himself and this honor. That’s so Mike. But then I thought of others around me or some who’ve I’ve encountered who each day fight the good fight for whatever the situation is they find themselves. We all know them. Who’s one of yours?

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Letters From The Past

May 22, 2011

Dad & me day he left for South Pacific

Last week at a memorial service for my aunt, a cousin of mine said she had something for me. She mentioned she had been finally going through boxes of her mother’s mementoes, ones she hadn’t touched for years. I guess family deaths and gatherings are a catalyst for such things going through things from the past. Or maybe it was the recent death of my cousin’s older sister.

Anyway, after the memorial service, my cousin pulled from her purse a rubber-banded packet of letters and a few photos.  “They’re from your dad to my mom…from the time he was in the South Pacific.”

Now my dad was in WWII. He served in the South Pacific campaign as a Seabee, an arm of the navy which did construction for troops in battle. He and others like him served in many “hellhole rocks” as he often referred to them if he would talk about that time at all with us. I discovered her referred to them the same way in those letters home.

Seabees built the barracks, airstrips, docks, makeshift hospitals, the roads. He often told us he wore a toolbelt and carried a weapon at the same time since. His groups followed the Marines’ first assaults on those islands.

I spent a day reading those letters this past week. Glimpses of a future story lurked in them, but they weren’t the reason I read those letters and set aside spring chores.

I wanted to see what my dad wrote about, what he considered important to write home to his sister, what he thought about the world events he was helping to happen.  While reading, I learned a whole new side of my dad, one he didn’t often let us kids see when we were growing up, and since he died very suddenly at age 52, he never really entered that stage of life where one often feels compelled to pass on their history.

It’s been our loss, but these letters gave me glimpses and I intend to scan them and give them to my two sisters and brother so they can view this side of dad.

So what are the glimpses? How much he and his buddies loved and looked forward to the USO shows. He especially mentioned a Bob Hope show in a place where the humidity was horrid, the heat drained all energy, and rain fell all the time. I gained a new appreciation for Bob Hope and understood even more why my father would insist we all watch his specials together as a family whenever they were on TV.

Dad, his parents and me--at North Shore Station 11-25-43

I learned of my father’s great joy in hearing that he was now a father of his first son, even though he didn’t hear about it until Jerry was more than a month old. He mentions he wanted to do a good job so his son would never have to fight in a war, that he wished this truly would be the war to end all wars.

He mentioned my mother and how lucky he felt to have such a wonderful wife and good mother to his two children, his daughter Jo, which is what he called me, and his newborn son. He thanked my aunt, her husband and children who were helping out my mom.

He talked about being so appreciative of the drawings my aunt’s children sent him and how they reminded him so much of home. He talked about missing snow in the winter and cold weather and a climate that didn’t have rainfall almost every day.

He talked about cutting hair with the barbering tools he brought with him. In going through boxes from my son’s home recently, I found those barbering tools; however, I never knew he carried those tools with him through the war.

Dad--free time, South Pacific 1944

In the midst of a horrendous, slogging-in-the-mud fight, island after island, my dad displayed a gentle side, and open side to himself in these letters I didn’t always see when he had to be a father of 6 children and heavily burdened in working two jobs to support his growing family.

These letters are even more precious since we’ve never found any letters he sent my mom though he writes of doing so. This is interesting as my sister said the other day that after going through some of Mom’s things she had every card anyone ever sent her. I believe that. Maybe we will find those letters yet. If not, there may be a story in that.

Laying A Son To Rest

May 15, 2011

Stormy Skies

This past week has been one of chilly weather, quick passing storms, and steady rains. I believe we are on record or will soon make the record of being the chilliest and wettest spring in fifty-some years. Many of our trees are still barely in the budding stage.

What we need is two or three days of sunny weather and decent temperatures. But this is Wisconsin and weather in Wisconsin is rarely dependable.

So I wasn’t surprised when Friday dawned to being the windiest, coldest day. It was the day scheduled to bury Jimbo’s ashes and part of me hoped we’d have a lovely day to do so.

We were a small wind-blown group huddled around his burial site next to his brother John and in with my mom and dad. As we did our little memorial service we could easily have blamed the tears in our eyes from the wind whipping the limbs of the sturdy old oak which houses an owl family every year. The cemetery has kept the tree healthy in the hopes the owls will return each year.  And this tree shades our family burial plot.

After I placed a few mementoes into the ground, my brother Bill and my hubby set Jimbo’s urn into the grave. Then we each took a handful of rose petals and one by one, dropped them into the earth.  First my aunt, the last of her generation, then her son who is two weeks older than Jimbo, then my sisters, Shelley and Mary, my brother and sister-in-law, Marilynn, my hubby, and finally me. The last two handfuls of petals I sent to follow ours. Those were for my youngest son, Stephen who is a quadriplegic and couldn’t do so though he was with us, and my oldest son, Steve, who lives in Alaska and couldn’t get back for this. Then we covered the grave and left Jimbo to the oak trees, the owls, and spirits of the family with whom we placed him.

Another Day

And then it rained, the fog rolled in, and the wind picked up more.

“If tears could make a staircase,
And heartaches make a lane,
We’d walk the path to heaven
And bring you home again.

We hold you close within our hearts,
And there you will remain,
To walk with us throughout our lives
Until we meet again.” Anon

Mother’s Day Meanderings

May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Bouquet

Yesterday the doorbell rang, but since I wasn’t expecting anyone I didn’t hurry to answer it. But my hubby did and he returned with the loveliest floral arrangement for me.  I glanced his way; he shook his head.

Then I remembered that Mother’s Day would be the next day. And I knew who sent them—my oldest son who lives in Alaska.

My mind flooded after that of memories of mothering him and my other sons. Each one of them was so different—even from the moment they were born. In fact each labor was different—but I promise, this is not a “oh, what a labor I had…” blog.

As I thought of the highlights and the difficult moments in mothering each of my children, I wondered as I often have in the past months if I could have done the job better. Had I been that mother that’s been immortalized as the most wicked of mothers?  We’re my mistakes in mothering  (and I’ve made them) the impetus for each of my son’s choosing how they dealt with life and the decisions they have made in their lives?

Had my choices hurt them more than helped them? If so, I’m beyond sorry for that was never my intent.

However, after much thought, I determined—yet again—that I have always done the best I could with the knowledge and skills I had available to me at the time. I also gifted them with loving older women who nurtured them right along with me, my grandmother Grace Dieter, my mother Jane, my sisters Shelley and Mary—even though these last two were more like older sisters to my sons, they mothered them and nurtured them.

That’s all any mother can do.

But then I wondered as I sat in church last evening: did my mother and her mother wonder if they had done a good job in mothering their children? Was this second guessing on a job mostly completed only something I do or did they also do this?  I don’t know the answer, but I suspect they didn’t. Why? Because they lived in a different time and mothering wasn’t challenged by theories from experts. And maybe they had more confidence in themselves. I don’t know because we never talked about such things and any such thoughts they might have entertained are now buried with them.

A Perfect Pink Rose

So today is Mother’s Day. I’m fortunate to be here. I promise myself I will continue to be the best mother I can be to my living sons and treasure always the memories of the two I’ve buried. I will honor those women in my life who taught me to love my children and be the best mother I could be by the example they set. I will support the new mothers and young mothers who now are busy raising my great nieces and nephews.

To all of you reading this who are mothers, Happy Mother’s Day. May all your mothering be the best it can be at any given moment.

Unexpected Happenings

May 1, 2011

Baby and Me--yesterday

Last week I talked about Easter; past ones my family and I shared, and differences to the one we were celebrating that day. However, our family had a wonderful surprise that day because my nephew, who is also my godchild, and his wife had their first child Easter morning. Baby Kai was born 3 weeks early and is a tiny little one at 5 pounds—but he’s perfect even to the dimple in his chin. He even has a delightful thatch of dark auburn hair that reminded me of my mother.

Now the interesting part of this arrival is that Kai will celebrate his birthday every year and being the family we are, we will gather together to commemorate that fact. However, the last time April 24 fell on an Easter Sunday was in 1859. Yes, you read that correctly. The next time April 24th will fall on Easter will be in 2095.

Kai will be 84 years old then.

Many of his family who will celebrate his next birthday will not be celebrating his birthday with him in 2095. Many others who are not with us yet will likely be celebrating the day with him.

And don’t you wonder what he will see happening in his world in those 84 years?

I do.  I hope the phenomenon of rainbows will still be present. I saw a fantastic one this past week and I know they appear with certain elements in our atmosphere. But what if we don’t treasure that atmosphere and we lose the blue skies, the bright sun, the healthy air we generally breathe? It could happen.

The world which Kai entered last Sunday is not a peaceful one. Will he sees continuing wars and political unrest world wide? I would hope not and thus I will continue to be as responsible a citizen as possible to avoid that. I’ve was born into a world at war and my father was gone fighting that war for much of my first three years of life. He came home expected that the war he fought and seen end was the last of wars.

Unfortunately, his expectation hasn’t truly emerged.

Of course, my wish is my generation leaves this earth better than it was when I was born. Many things we enjoy and take for granted today were not in most homes when I was born. The home entertainment center was a radio and a phonograph player which played one record at a time. You got your news from daily papers or the radio newscasts—much different from today’s breaking news stations, online news sites, and bloggers. We had books and did a lot of reading…but think of the new options for readers these days, audio books, e-books, digital books that can be read on cell phones.

Gas was rationed when I was born because of the war. When I started driving, gas was 19 cents a gallon. The day Kai was born I paid $4.09 a gallon. Perhaps by 2095 cars or whatever type of transportation conveyance is used then will no longer require gas and our environment will be better for it. Might little Kai be play a part in that happening?

Tuesday's rainbow

As I held little Kai yesterday, I thought all these thoughts and more. I wished for him a life where peace rules our world, where longer, healthier lives are the norm, where the air we breathe is clear and clean, where good jobs are available for all, where our country has a healthy economy and a decent standard of living for all, where people get along with others.

Most of all I wished that he would always be loved and know it. That he would love others and show it, that he would have a long and healthy life and remember always the family he’s a part of and carry on the traditions of family togetherness and stories which I learned and have passed on.