Archive for July 2012

A Special Uncle

July 29, 2012

Uncle Gene and Aunt Mimi in retirement

Eugene George Bernard Joseph Heinisch. Uncle Gene. Husband. Dad. Brother. Friend. Son. Employee. Volunteer.

We gather in this parish he loved to participate in the rituals of the faith he practiced all his life. Today is not the happiest of times to come together, but death is part of everyone’s circle of life.

Uncle Gene wore his 93 years well. He leaves us an awesome legacy because he touched our lives with his gentle firmness, his strong faith, his belief in family, and his encompassing love for us.

I first realized this when I was 8. My First Communion on an April Sunday. And it snowed–a lot. A real problem since I couldn’t wear those ugly black rubber buckle boots over my brand new white shoes. And I had to get to the car parked in the driveway a snowy distance from the door. What was I to do?

Well, Uncle Gene rescued me. He swept me into his arms and carried me out to the car. Obviously, he understood snow or rubber boots would ruin peep-toed shoes on a little girl’s First Communion Day. That wasn’t acceptable. Well, somebody captured that Kodak moment because I’ve seen the black and white evidence. And I learned Uncle Gene always seemed to be around or available when you really needed him. I could count on it—and did throughout my life.

When he came into our lives, I learned that some cars were called Studebakers, not Plymouths. I learned that there was such a thing as home movies, and during family celebrations Uncle Gene would film antics which today might go viral on You Tube. I learned that Uncle Gene was known for his hearty appetite and his love of homemade desserts. That meant more potatoes to peel, gravy to make, and the cake better not come from a box. I heard fascinating stories about the distant land called Alaska, then a US territory and the place he was stationed during WWII. His stories and descriptions got me reading more about that fascinating state. I learned Uncle Gene was a reader too. As adults we often discussed books we both had read. For many years we shared a love of James Michener and Leon Uris for the plots, distant settings, history, social customs and the epic stories.

The Family at zero picnic

Uncle Gene was a hard worker–up very early in the morning for his shift at the post office, then home for a bit before he went to his second job. Even when he retired from the post office, he found another job working for the schools. His hard work provided funds for his growing family. But as a child I loved seeing his “howdy” handwritten on envelopes he sorted at the post office. From him I discovered how hard everyone worked at the post office during Christmas rush–because Uncle Gene would tell the stories at family holiday gatherings.

Because of Uncle Gene, I learned that a man could concentrate on several tasks at once–if they were sports related. It wasn’t unusual to walk into his home and hear different games on multiple radios and yet another game on the TV. Since he read the sport sections of papers, he knew every statistic for every player on all teams or a sport. AS FAR BACK AS GENESIS.

He was the Heinisch equivalent of our modern computer search engines.

Family gatherings always included Uncle Gene and Uncle Savvy herding the kids outside to play something: baseball, basketball, football–whatever. Why I remember on his wedding day, he, Uncle Savvy and a couple neighbor kids played catch in front of the house. Of course someone caught the action on film.

He was a golfer, and I recently learned he had a very large collection of putters. I guess golfers need putters like some women need shoes. However, I remember some of the pants he wore for a golf game. I suspect these wild colored pants might still linger hidden at the bottom of some box. Or perhaps they got passed on to Mike, being the eldest son, maybe for a significant birthday.

When Uncle Gene actually did retire, he and Aunt Mimi spent many winters in the southwest. While they might have wanted to avoid the winter cold, I think Uncle Gene had additional reasons. Like he could golf more often and maybe even sneak in some watching of spring training activities for whatever baseball teams were in the area.

Uncle Gene loved to travel. He and Aunt Mimi took that Studebaker on a honeymoon and traveled out west–with that movie camera I mentioned. Of course he took bits of film, and of course we got to see those natural wonders on film when they returned home. I think he and Aunt Mimi must have visited all the states during their married life. Their enjoyment of road trips outlasted Studebakers’ existence. But since they couldn’t drive to Hawaii, they never got there.

And I remember that tandem bike…perhaps many of you remember it, too. I suspect Uncle Gene purchased that bike at a bargain rate and bought it so he and Aunt Mimi could take bike rides around town. On their rides, they often stopped by my home, perhaps for a glass of water or a little treat like a cookie—if it was made from scratch.

They always looked so cute together on that bike. And every once in a while one might hear a “cotton picking” phrase slip from Aunt Mimi’s lips over something displeasing her. Then Uncle Gene would calmly say, “Now Meem…”

Uncle Gene was a frugal man. He’d been through the depression. He knew hard times. He understood how to get the most use from whatever he had. He worked hard at his jobs, with his sports, around his home, for his family, his church, his teams, his charities–such as the summer festival at the old Marytown abbey on 39th Avenue. He was frugal in budgeting his time but generous in how he shared it. His thrifty nature and hardworking ethic allowed him and Aunt Mimi to raise and educate their 6 children and to enjoy their retirement by doing the activities they both enjoyed. They played together well in their retirement.

They were a couple who truly did pray together, play together, and stay together–for 60 plus years.

Three generations zero picnic

To celebrate his 90th year, his family held a “zero picnic.” The zero idea was to celebrate all important zero birthdays and anniversaries family members had that year. Or so they told Uncle Gene. They did this because Uncle Gene didn’t think a fuss should be made over him.

Really

As I look around I see many of those same faces here today. Because that zero day was all about Uncle Gene. Because he was the kind of guy who was always there for us. For 90 years. That party allowed us to play “remember when” memories of good times and bad times coupled with memories of trips or sports Uncle Gene and Aunt Mimi experienced with others. We also made memories that day. I’m so glad that “zero” event happened.

I’m so happy Uncle Gene married my Aunt Mimi. I’m joyous he taught us by example to be upright, inquisitive, adventurous, thoughtful, hardworking. Because he was.

So today we come together here in this church. Again it’s about Uncle Gene. We mourn his death and our loss but celebrate his attaining the eternal reward he worked for every day of his life. He lived his faith. We honor that and send him to Our Lord.

Uncle Gene with my sisters

I suspect he’s watching over us now–unless he’s playing some heavenly golf game with family and golfer pals he’s joined in the eternity we refer to as heaven.

We were blessed to have him with us this long. Uncle Gene, we will hold you forever in our hearts. We are better because you were in our lives. Your legacy will go on. We promise.

Liebster Award

July 24, 2012

Who doesn’t love awards?

I love them and a few days ago Florence Fois awarded me this one. Florence writes a great blog on a weekly basis. I follow it religiously. She’s a transplanted New Yorker who’s blogs regularly contain bits of that greatest of cities and her memories of growing up there. She’s also a woman who’s been walking the pathways of this world long enough to be wise when it comes to life. I can always count on her to have something to brighten her day.

Also like me, she’s a writer. You can check out her latest blog here.

Like life, Liebster Awards come with some responsibility—often referred to as rules. I must now pass it on to 5 other bloggers. (I think its purpose is to help us let the world know about little blog gems they’re missing.) Fortunately, this responsibility isn’t difficult.

The rules are simple:

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.

2. Post the award to your blog.

3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value.

4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they have received this award.

Here are my five to enjoy this lovely award and pay it forward.

Stacey Joy Netzel: She’s a dynamic woman. An award wining author I respect with her down-home values and sense of small town life. She’s also one of the young group of women I like to think I mentor. I admire her focus and energy. Her site is a blend of thoughtful musings on family, writing, and a place to get introduced to new books.

Lily Silver: She belongs to the same writers group I do. Her blog often focuses on historical elements which I love since it history and English were my majors in college.

Sandra Marshall: I knew of her first through online groups. She’s a well rounded woman and author who has done a great deal in her life. Her blog is much like her life. You never know what you’ll she’s serving in her weekly blog but it’s sure to add to your knowledge.

Leigh Morgan aka my Scottish lass. 🙂 Another member of my writing group. Her writing will have some Scottish connection and her blog, photos, website often transport me from the confines of my office. A most interesting young woman–she continues to impress me.

Deb Maher:  Another woman writer I met through my writing group. She’s become a great friend. I always looked forward to her weekly blogs because her topics always touched my interests and my heart. She’s recently taken a brief hiatus but her blogs are archived and they are definitely worth reading when you have time. And maybe this will nudge her back to once more sharing her gems of wisdom.

I hope you will check these new sites out, too.

Leave It To A Little Moss Rose

July 22, 2012

I suspect if you’ve been listening to or reading the news reports since very early Friday morning, July 20th, you are in disbelief at the shootings which took place during a midnight viewing of the new Batman movie.

Once again such horrific mayhem visits. Almost like in the movies.

When I heard the first announcement I thought it was some kind of joke; however, my cynicism melted faster than my ice cubes in my water. Considering the weather we’ve had this summer, that’s about 30 seconds to a minute.

Others have written about this incident and the phenomenon that feeds these acts. Many have far greater knowledge than I do, so I’m not going there.

But last week, I wrote about caregiving. Generally caregiving is necessary as the result of something that changes within a person’s or persons’ live(s). Thus this incident will result in the need for many who never expected to be caregivers to step up to the plate and deal with drastic changes in their lives. Those changes may be temporary or permanent.

But everyone connected to those in that theater at that viewing will be affected–significantly. Eveyone they interact with will see the effects and also deal with them.

Really. I know this because I saw it happen to us. Catastrophe ripples outward and downward.

Really. Because some people who enter a theater to see movie will always have that memory of what happened in a movie theater in Aurora, CO. They will likely be more alert. While most of us won’t be involved in the immediate care and support of those who were victims, we will be changed because of the incident—just as the victims, their families, and their friends—maybe even their workplaces—will be.

Forever. And therein lies the greatest violence. And therein lies the major reason I feel such sorrow.

In my book, Better Than Dessert, my heroine Katy becomes a widow as the result of a bombing. Most of the book revolves around how she and her family and friends work through the changes in their lives as a result. I had to do some research for this part of my book, but the time spent was worth it. I learned as a result. This learning has helped me think beyond the horrific event at the movie theater. I could center my thoughts, prayers, and positive feelings on those who will be dealing with its aftermath.

I think I became more empathetic as a result of writing that book.

As you might suspect this wasn’t among the topics, I’d considered posting about this week. However, sometimes events compel us to change—even in the blogosphere. 🙂

As for some good news? We had not quite an inch of rain this week. It certainly won’t undo the damage done on lawns and trees, shrubs, and farmers’ crops.

A bit of cheer after our first rain.

However, it did provide just enough moisture to allow a small patch of moss rose which reseeded itself from last year’s abundance to take off and even provide a few blooms. This phenomenon occurred in a large pot on my patio. (Remember because of the landscaping and drought I didn’t plant annuals this year like I usually do—thank goodness, too.)

Of course, I had to take a photo. Those two cheery yellow blooms are my gift this week. My heart sang. So of course, I share my small bounty with you.

Have a great week.

Hodgepodge Sunday

July 15, 2012

A neighbor’s cheery pot of flowers.

Some Sundays my topic’s focus is much like my dear hubby’s beef stew—or chicken soup. Today is one of those Sundays.

But what does that mean? First of all, his chicken soup is fabulous—always. However, this blog may not reach his soup standard, but I’ll do my best. 😉 Besides the staple of chicken, his soup can and will contain a variety of different ingredients depending on his mood, the time of year, the state of wilting veggies in our fridge.

The same pattern holds true for his beef stew. Beef predominates. But sometimes several different cuts of beef comprise the protein, especially if we have tidbits of steak or roast left from an earlier meal. In that case, we could refer to those meaty leftovers as gallimaufry. That fun word means leftovers which in the stew would be those beef cuts.

We’ll today’s post isn’t about leftovers so much as a mélange of assorted bits and pieces, a farrago of sorts—of newsy tidbits enhancing today’s main theme. (I was having fun this morning finding synonyms)

Caregiving.

A butterfly bush–if you plant it , they will come.

I suspect all of you know the term. You’ve likely filled the role willingly or not for someone you care about.

However, for most of us the term caregiving might incorporate a mélange of duties done by one or several people who may have a broad range of necessary skills to care adequately for someone requiring help. This aid might range from minimal, such as–let’s say–driving someone whose dwindling eyesight means he or she no longer has a driver’s license to someone who needs assistance in all areas of life in order to stay alive.

I’ve been in caregiving situations which encompassed all these elements. I’ve friends who started out as caregivers to a spouse or family member who required just a bit of help at first. Through the months or years that help increased in what must be done and how often. As the needs increase, the caregiver expends more physical and emotional energy, sometimes to the point they might be near burn-out or become ill themselves.

Caregivers need care themselves. Too often, the ones they care for haven’t the capacity, the patience, or the ability to see beyond their needs to extend a “thank you” or an “I appreciate what you do for me” statement. Illness and severe disability can rip interpersonal skills and relationships to tatters scattered around the emotional environment in which they exist.

In the best of times caregiving is not easy. Often it is not fun. Always it is demanding and requires an acceptance of responsibility few who take it on realize when they accept the caregiving challenge. The longer the caregiving lasts the more likely the caregiver becomes aware of how much life has changed. The more they need to take care of themselves.

Thank goodness for neighbors who have flowers

I know this from experience. Thus I try to reach out to others I know are caregivers to offer encouragement. Listen to their worries, their woes, their frustrations. Often their days are a hodgepodge of highs and lows, anger and stress, tenderness and love. Some days, months, maybe years, one of these emotions or feelings predominates. If the feeling is negative, life gets tough. Then tougher. Almost too difficult to keep going.

But the wonderful trait most caregivers have is they do keep going. Like energizer bunnies. They realize perhaps that they may be the one cared for at some future time. They hope their generosity of spirit will be reciprocated with a good caregiver. Maybe they store up memories of what made them feel good and bad as caregivers so they won’t repeat that if such time comes for them.

In the meantime, if you are in a caregiving position now, I salute you. I hold you in my thoughts. I send a wish that you will always find the strength to carry on. Because some days that’s not easy.

If you aren’t a caregiver, but know others who are, reach out to them. Listen to them. Or maybe just tell them “You’re doing a great job.”

As I said, I’m a caregiver—have been for 18 years—but these past few years life has gotten much more difficult for many reasons. But this week my spirit lifted when my nephew and his son and daughter called me. They were on their boat and sailing past our place. They wanted to let me/us know they were thinking of us and wanted us to see them wave. We did.

Just a little thing really. But it meant a lot.

This morning’s sunrise 5:15. The heat and humidity are building

Oh, and today my first Sunday Morning With column ran in our local paper. I’ve already had an appreciative email about it. 🙂

And Thursday, I hit the PUBLISH button for Better Than Dessert to go to print.

Last evening hubby and I joined a few friends for dinner at a favorite restaurant. Great food, great time, a break in the routine.

All of these last items help us keep up the good fight.

I’m pumped and ready for the week, are you?

Sizzling Summer Musings

July 8, 2012

Moss rose adorning a friend’s front steps.

It’s been too darn hot…

This past week saw long standing records fall. Every day we broke a temperature record for that particular day. Those records go back to the early 1900’s. Nothing prior to that was kept consistently.

We’re breaking another record here–lack of rainfall. In this small particle of the planet we haven’t had any measurable rain since the last week of May. Our trees are going dormant. The grass already has. The sustained high temps coupled with the drought conditions has our environment very stressed.

What I see from my office window–crunchy grass.

So are those who live here. We aren’t used to this weather and really don’t know how to cope with it. Even our Lake Michigan which normally will freeze a swimmer’s fanny this time of the year is currently a whopping 78 degrees.

That’s incredible.

The fisherman aren’t happy because the fish have taken off, probably to find cooler waters though I don’t know where. Those that are still hanging around are dying. Every nightly local newscast shows pictures of dead fish rising to the surface of inland lakes and rivers.

All last week Milwaukee which is about 40o miles from here held its major music fest: Summerfest. Last night’s news showed clips of areas totally empty of people during what usually are busy times. Vendors said they noticed far fewer crowds since the temps were so high and it was “too damn hot.”

We need these clouds to come closer, not rain out in the lake.

Fortunately late yesterday afternoon, a cold front arrived. Winds switched from the southwest to the northeast. That meant the temps dropped a few degrees but those few degrees made a difference.

My neighbors started sitting outside again. People showed up at Summerfest. The women golfers playing in the major golf tournament in Sheboygan–up the road 90 miles or so–weren’t sweating so badly when sportscasters interviewed them.

What a difference going from 106+ degrees to 85 degrees farenheit. Why I even turned off the AC and opened the windows!

I’m a Wisconsin gal, born and bred. We aren’t used to this kind of sustained heat. I really hate it. From what I gather listening to people talk, they agree. We want are usual summers back: the gentle rains (heck I’d even take the storms), the cool nights, the pleasant days, green grass, flowers blooming instead of drying up, well you get the image.

But Mother Nature does and Mother Nature does. But this summer suggests that climate change is going on despite what some experts data to explain “it ain’t so.”

Not looking good.

Often this past month as I look out my windows, now coated with a light layer of soil which is blowing off the drying up fields, I think about John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. When I see the clouds of dust blowing over my dried out lawn, or try wiping it off my front door step and my cloth turns muddy, I understand the fear and desperation of those farmers and their wives who lost so much at that time. I hope our drought doesn’t replicate that terrible time.

But I hear the concern in our farmers’ voices when they mention their crops already being lost. I sense it in my frustration in fighting the never ending dust. And I think, perhaps, I should pull out my copy of Grapes of Wrath and reread it. Then I won’t feel so sorry for myself because my perennials have all gone dormant, my grass is dried up and crunchy, and the leaves of our trees are already dropping because they are so stressed.

As a writer, I will use this experience in some way. I don’t know yet how, but I will use it.

Gorgeous, but not a drop…

I wish we would get a gentle rain and soon. Maybe what I need to do is to plan a picnic and invite 50 people. Then for sure it will rain–and probably be 110.

Have a good week. Be kind to the universe in a manner you find comfortable. Every little bit helps. Until next week…

I’m Back…

July 1, 2012

Yes, I am and happy to be sharing Sundays with you again.

John is on the right. He was probably about 8 in this photo. The other two boys are his brothers.

I’m somewhat rested but definitely much more focused. I decided to conclude my break and post today because today would have been my son John’s 50th birthday. That day was a very hot Sunday just like today. If you knew John, send a birthday wish heavenward. If you want to know more about him, read a post from a few years ago.

I know if John were still alive, I’d have many more of these to-do items off my list.

When I took my break, I felt frustrated with the landscaping project. Well, I think that project will never end as it’s still in what I refer to as a seriously major mess.

In the shade mid morning. Ugh

We’re enduring a heat wave, something that doesn’t happen for extended periods of time in Wisconsin. The heat is coupled with no rain, and we’ve officially been designated a drought area. So the photos I’m posting today are from plantings I’ve photographed in yards other than mine. Why? We’ve not turned on our outside water due to the landscaping, and I’ve chosen not to plant anything this summer because of that project.

This week I had the opportunity to see some beautiful photos the results of a couple trips a friend and her husband took. He is an incredibly photographer. Of course, he has all the right equipment to capture in photos nature and landscapes that take your breath away with their beauty and their detail.

Lovely purple clematis in a friend’s garden.

Anyway, I also enjoy taking photos especially of scenery and animals or birds in natural settings. My photos will never be the same as his even if I had his equipment because his vision, his unique way of composing or envisioning his shot differs from mine.

I thought about this in relation to other artistic skills or talents. Take writing for instance. Two writers might hit on the same setting and even similar elements in their plot, but both those stories end up very differently. I thought about this concept while reading a book recently. The book had a subplot similar to one of mine in Seasons of Wine and Love. Same circumstances for the subplot, same state, similar characteristics in the heroine, but very different in the manner the story unfolded and the heroine’s journey.

As I’ve become more immersed in the skills of writing and preparing for publication the best story I can, I realize that this has impacted how I read or watch a TV show or a movie. Not that I look for what isn’t right, but to see different approaches to plot elements and how that’s done, why it worked or didn’t for me. In some ways that detracts from what used to be my simple enjoyment of such items.

Window box–thanks to another friend

My husband does this with his cooking and his analysis of possible recipes to try. He makes the recipe, then tears it apart to decide how he might make it better. Or maybe never remake it as it didn’t turn out as he expected. He carries this trait into dining out. Always he’s trying to determine what spices or herbs make the dish or not. What he might do to make it better.

Finally, I think this idea has some merit in our personal lives. As we get older and experience life more in all its manifestations, we take that wisdom and apply it to our lives and what we experience each day. Hopefully, that allows us to make our lives better or easier. Not make those stupid decisions we’ve all made in our earlier years. If you’re one of the few who never made a stupid decision, you’re very lucky and very wise.

For most of us the path of wisdom is living through our lives with all its bad decisions as well as good ones, but learning from both.

Lilies from hubby

I guess that’s why I call what I write Wise Women Fiction. My heroines are on that journey.

So I’m glad to be back. I hope you have a wonderful and safe July 4th holiday if you are a reader who celebrates the day the US celebrates our independence from Britain.

See you next Sunday.