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German Thanksgiving (by Crystal)

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It’s November and all of our girls and grandkids and son in laws and Ron’s Dad and I are planning for German Thanksgiving which is taking place on Nov. 18,  at our house in Warsaw.  When we were a young couple, Ron and I sometimes had two thanksgiving dinners. One would be at his parents’ house in Oak Lawn and one would be either in Dolton at my parents’ house or at my Aunt Carol’s house in South Holland.  I don’t know how we did it, and when we had Elizabeth, we brought her with us and then when we had Michelle we brought her with us. Then we moved to Michigan and would drive seven and a half hours, sometimes on Thanksgiving Day, to be with the families in Chicago.

Ron’s mom was an excellent accomplished cook.  She made German, French and American dishes and really outdid herself on holidays.  So our girls grew up eating many different types of food.  Ron learned to make the traditional German dishes from his mom.  So this year he is making sauerbraten, bread dumplings, red cabbage and beet salad.  Michelle is making a flour-less chocolate torte and Savoy cabbage (Ron’s recipe). Ron’s mom use to make tortes especially chocolate ones. I am making pecan pie, and Ron will make his cranberry apple pie.  Elizabeth is making 7 layer salad and Lisa will probably make deviled eggs.

Ron’s father’s 97th birthday is Nov. 15th, which is also the anniversary of our first date (Ron never remembers).  We are bringing him from his apartment at Sunrise on the Scioto in Upper Arlington.  We are combining Papa’s birthday party and our Thanksgiving celebration.  Our granddaughter, Jazmyn, is making a Happy Birthday poster.  She and Lisa will decorate with balloons and streamers.

Even our son in laws, who had never eaten most of these German dishes before they joined our family, are excited about German Thanksgiving.  All of the girls are going to want leftovers.

This year we have two little girls added this year to our family.   Addelyn, aged 9 months, is Elizabeth’s fifth child and Ayla, 8 months old, is Michelle’s first child.   Both of them will be in high chairs at our celebration. We still have Ron’s wooden high chair for one of them.  It will be a full house with four generations of our growing family, full of laughter, yummy sounds and children’s voices. Throughout my life, Thanksgiving Day has always been a big celebration with family and delicious food.  Many times we had dinners with 24 or more people of all ages attending. Since Ron joined my family, he has experienced the bigger group, very different from his parents and him alone.

Now that Michelle lives further away in Kentucky, we really cherish this special time, we can be together to eat and catch up and have fun.  We usually play silly games in the house while the grandsons and Ron play outside the house.  We will come together and have coffee and dessert before the girls pick up the children, pack up some leftovers, and go home, happy and full of German Thanksgiving food.

Ron’s Corner:

In case you haven’t guessed November 18th was picked out of convenience. When you have grown children with families it’s not always easy to get them in the same place at the same time. We choose sauerbraten because it’s one of dad’s favorite dishes and all of my girls (Crystal included) love it. For those not familiar, it’s a sweet-sour German pot roast. The meat is marinated in a vinegar/spice mixture for about four days prior to cooking. It is finished with a generous amount of Ginger Snaps (yes the cookies). If you get a chance, try it.

Today is November 20th, and I am pleased to report that German Thanksgiving went off as planned. Our family got together without incident. After giving thanks we ate. Kids played, babies crawled and enjoyed the commotion, adults talked. At the end, a lot of very full and happy people departed as planned. Dad couldn’t get over the effort and love in our family. Sometimes we have to remind him that it is his family too and started with him, Mimi and of course Crystal’s parents. As Crystal said, Mimi was a wonderful cook. One of my main motivations for learning how to cook is that, the thought of living without some of the specialty dishes for which she was known was too painful to consider. In an effort to keep traditions alive, I am working on a cook book to preserve many of our family’s favorites. There will be more details in upcoming posts.

Some might say that celebrating Thanksgiving on the 18th was silly. Those same people probably say bah humbug around Christmas. However, in one sense I agree with them. We are all so fortunate and have so many blessings that celebrating on the 18th or even on Thanksgiving Day is silly. We need to be giving thanks every day.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

November 18th 2017 or German Thanksgiving / Dad’s 97th B-day party

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Halloween, Then and Now

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As a kid of the sixties, it was always my favorite holiday. OK to be fair my real favorite was Christmas, but Halloween was the start of the holiday season. And what was not to love? There were costumes, house to house pillaging for candy, the rustling of leaves in the crisp fall air and the Halloween Festival at Gasteyer School. Every year from the age of six to eleven I couldn’t wait for the festival. It was magic. The normally boring classrooms were transformed into magical game and event rooms. This was the big PTA fund raiser and a big hit for the entire Oak Lawn, Illinois community. Kids talked about it for weeks.

My mom (Mimi) usually baked a cake for the cake walk. It was like musical chairs. Everyone would step from number to number until the music stopped. Then a spin of the wheel would reveal who got to pick a cake from the large cake table. I think I was seven or eight when I got to pick a cake. It was chocolate, of course. I ever so proudly and carefully carried the cake home in the dark to give to my mom before returning to the school for more fun. There were game rooms, where you could win valuable prizes like pencils, crayons, and you guessed it, more candy. The gym was open for games involving basketballs, bean bags, and volley balls.  There was also the room, which every parent hated, where a good toss of a ping pong ball would score you a pet gold fish. They generally had a life expectancy of slightly longer than the trip home, before joining all of their fishy friends on the other side of the toilet bowl.

By 1965 I was at the top of the ladder. As a sixth grader I was a school elder. At eleven years old and a patrol guard I was practically an adult. As such, I was honored with an inside look at my favorite room of all, The Haunted House! For a young child, this was a rite of passage and a test of bravery. You could brag to your friends. ‘Naw I wasn’t scared.’ Or you could talk about the kid who cried. But this year was special. I got out of class to help set up the room. Curtains hanging from cloth lines would hide the numerous workers. One would lie on top of the closets with the rubber spied on a fishing line to dangle in front of hapless victims. Another would have a wet sponge on a stick for a quick jab to the back of your neck or a girl’s legs. Others would jump out in ghoulish costumes. To my great disappointment, I discovered that the bowl of worms was nothing more than spaghetti. Although, when I think about some of my friends, I would guess that by the night’s end there had to be at least a few real worms in the bowl. The eye balls were only pealed grapes. I ate a few when no one was looking.

Even though I had lost my Halloween innocence I gathered my courage, donned my pirate costume and joined Tim and Tom to walk the streets and gather our quota of goodies. Back then, everything seemed safe. Kids old enough to find their ways home could go out unattended. There were no real demonic overtones to the holiday. Horror movies, which I loved, like Frankenstein and Dracula were non reality based and had at least semi-positive endings. Candy didn’t need checking. Communities had networks of moms, who were vigilant of any potential threats.

Today, however things are a little different. As I think of the world our kids and grandkids have grown up in I cringe. Security at schools has become far more important than fun. Reality has infiltrated fantasy. Crystal and I were on vacation in Florida around 1978. At the insistence of her old friend we saw the movie “Halloween”. When Jamie Lee Curtis screamed Crystal screamed louder. I screamed louder than her. She was grabbing my sun burned shoulder. The point is, that movie wasn’t like my old horror films. Today horror is real and vigilance is the order of the day. Our kids today suffer from an all too early loss of innocence. Trick-or-treaters still come to our house in substantial numbers but generally parents aren’t too far off.

As my girls grew up I still shared their enjoyment. I would dress up, mainly for their benefit, as a mad scientist to take them trick-or-treating. Generally a neighbor or friend would join us. Today, I notice that while most of the little monsters and princesses have elders watching over them, some are on their own. I attribute this to parental apathy and neglect, which unfortunately is prevalent nowadays. I worry that these kids are no longer safe.

I have to admit that those days of seeing my own kids, with their eyes widened by the many spectacles and bountiful treats was as special to me as to them. Today, while some churches have offered safe alternatives, trick-or-treating seems as popular as ever. So this Halloween, should the opportunity present itself, offer to help out some overburdened parent. If not, at least remain ever vigilant and report any suspicious behavior. Our kids deserve to remain innocent and safe for as long as possible and to enjoy the Holiday. Have a happy Halloween.

A princess, a Hawaiian girl, and their pet bunny. Lisa (bunny) was about the same age as Liz’s (princess) and Michelle’s (Hawaiian Girl) daughters (Ady and Ayla) are now.

 

 

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What About the Book

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It’s time for an update on our book. But first, here is a message from our sponsor…marriage. This past week our daughter Elizabeth, and her husband Brad, celebrated their tenth anniversary. We helped them celebrate at an out of the way place near Cambridge, Ohio called the “Bear’s Den”. Our six month old grand baby, Adeline came along for the ride. She spent dinner trying her go-go gadget arms on everything within stretching distance on the table. She obviously thinks she is ready to sample everything. Unfortunately, her mom doesn’t agree.

Dinner was great. Liz and I each ordered the Greek chicken. Our tastes have always been similar. Brad had a specialty burger and Crystal went with the beef and noodles. But this isn’t about dinner; it’s about marriage. Liz, as all of our daughters, calls from time to time, to vent about the complexities of life. There are job problems, money problems, people problems, insurance problems, medical problems, etc. There is the unfairness of living in a world where people do and say stupid things. The list seems to go on and on.

I sometimes stand in awe of the irony in life. Crystal and I have somehow made the metamorphosis from “you people” (as our eldest daughter was fond of saying) to a potential source of direction. Sadly, we have no ultimate solutions, just suggestions. As parents, we too struggled.  Struggle is just part of life. It really doesn’t matter if you are married or single. Life equals struggle. However, if you are lucky, as Liz and Brad obviously are, you can at least share the struggle. You have someone with whom to share your triumphs and to console you when you face failure. Marriage done right adds meaning to life. Happy anniversary Liz and Brad.

As for our book, we have hired a consultant, and will be spending time in beta testing and editing. This book may never make any money. But I know with certainty that it will be a blessing. I am confident that it was God who led us to write it, and He will use it to accomplish His purposes.

Crystal’s Corner:

I agree with Ron that life is full of struggles and challenges, but life is also full of celebrations.  Spending time with Elizabeth and Brad and with Michelle and Alex and with Lisa is a great blessing to us.  Our family is growing and fortunately, we are close and caring and happy.

As for the book, I think this is just another part of the journey.   We have edited the book to the best of our abilities, but we need the professionals to help us.  I believe that this book will become even better as we work on it.  I also believe that we will be published and doing book readings, workshops, and lectures about memoir writing.

Writing a book together was not something that we planned ahead of time.  Now both of us are working on separate books and articles.  We have many discussions about publishing, editing, and all that goes with it.  In some ways it is like raising children.  Ron and I have different points of view on some issues, but we know how to use each other’s talents and abilities to accomplish this project.  Being parents of adult children and grandparents also has its challenges, but also rewards.  To watch these two little girls (Ayla and Addelyn) growing up in two very different households is fascinating.  They are so cute and so much like their mothers.  It brings back a lot of memories which we share and cherish.

 

Dinner at the Bear’s Den 2017. Happy Tenth Liz and Brad!

 

 

God at Work

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In an earlier post, I bemoaned missing an opportunity to help an elderly lady when I had a chance. Well, God must have read it. He gave me another chance. This past Sunday, our student pastor, Michael Cormack, gave an inspired sermon about how God is at work even when circumstances don’t indicate His presence. I remembered his words later that day.

I was on my way home from visiting dad in Columbus. It is a 75 mile trip, and I almost always take the same route. This Sunday was an exception. It was a beautiful evening and I decided to take the scenic route. It’s not as fast, but passes through some picturesque hilly forests and farmland. It was about 8 PM and I was about four miles from home. I was passing the turnoff to Mohawk Dam. The sun was just setting, and inspiration hit. I felt that I had to drive the few extra miles to the dam for a photo op. When I arrived, the sun was in a perfect position, the sky was blue with a hint of orange, and, as always, the dam was a great foreground. I called Crystal to tell her of my whereabouts and plan. I got out of the car and began shooting. It felt good to get out of the car. It was wonderfully quiet and peaceful.

I had taken only a few pictures, when I saw a pretty young women walking directly toward me. She was, I would guess, mid thirties with long dark hair. Her face was red. She had obviously been crying. As I glanced down the hill, I noticed several other people making their way up. When she came up to me, I greeted her. She tried to hold back tears and asked what county we were in. I told her Coshocton. I immediately thought, oh, just a lost traveler needing directions. Well, I was right, and I was wrong. She, her husband, and their three kids were where they were supposed to be. Her husband, like me a former Eagle Scout, had taken his family on a twenty-five mile canoe trip down the Mohican and Walhonding Rivers. It wasn’t until they arrived at their destination that they realized that their car keys were back at the beginning in their second car.

The mom told me that she was responsible for forgetting the keys and felt horrible. She asked whether there was any Uber or taxi service in the area. At 8 O’clock on a Sunday, in Coshocton County, the sidewalks are rolled up and the roosters tucked in for the night. I told her not to worry; I could take them. She looked stunned. She offered to pay. I said ‘don’t be silly, that’s not necessary.’ ‘I told her I needed to call Crystal.’ When I did, Crystal just said, ‘of course, I needed to help, be careful.’ She would still be there when I got home.

So the husband, one daughter and I took the 25 mile trip through Coshocton and Holmes County’s back hills country. We followed his GPS instructions, not knowing where the destination was. We avoided the deer, the Amish, and a few tractors on the way. We had a nice talk in the car. They too were Christian. They were vacationing from the Cleveland area. Apparently, the father was trying to share some of his scouting skills with his family. His father had done the same when he was growing up, and it made a lasting impression. I related, since I had always done the same with Crystal and our girls. By the time we arrived, it was almost dark. They thanked me again and I was on my way home again. Since I finally knew where I was, I took a slightly simpler route home.

The chance of me being at that exact location at that time was incredibly small. Five minutes later, I would have been gone. When I regaled Crystal with the tale, she had the same reaction I did. It was God.

 

.Crystal’s Corner

When Ron and I were students at Bradley University we would go to one of the tallest buildings on campus and watch the sunset holding hands.  It was something that couples did because the Bradley campus was on a hill and known for beautiful sunsets.  Ever since then we have occasionally watched the sun set together and held hands and talked.

What happened on Sunday night with Ron was spiritual as well as earthly.  He was stopping to look at the sunset, the light, and ended up helping people who were lost as well.  He was on a hill as well.  To go up to a stranger today is risky, but I think the young mother was led to Ron by God.  I’m sure they had been praying for help and this was God’s response.

As Christians we need to be aware of what God wants us to do and where he wants us to be.  Sometimes we just get this push to go somewhere, to talk to someone, or to get involved. That is what Ron felt on Sunday night.  He responded and God’s will was done.

Ron and I often look at the sky and we are in awe of its beauty.  I tell the girls that “God paints us a new sky every day.”

I think that it is interesting that Ron was interrupted while taking a photograph of God’s sky to help some of His children.  Most people don’t like to be interrupted, but sometimes God stops us because we are needed elsewhere.

Keep looking up and believe that the Creator who made the earth and the sky also sees and hears us and knows our troubles.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help   King James Version

Pictures taken just prior to God’s interruption.

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The Evolution of Family

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Jack says to his fiancée, ‘nice dress Jill.’ What he is really thinking is, ‘Wow Jill’s a real hotty life is goood’. Jill looks longingly into Jack’s eyes and says ‘thanks, I’m so glad you like it’. What she is really thinking is, ‘I wonder if our children will have his deep soulful eyes.’ Not wanting to escalate the situation Jill adds, ‘we better go up the hill to get that pail of water for your mom’s fish tank’…..The rest is history.

That’s how it starts. You get some water then fall head over heels. There is little you can do with what follows. I’m a guy, so by definition, a little bit dense. Somehow I never saw it coming. I grew up with very limited family. There was mom, dad and me. On rare occasions, we would go to New York, Florida, or Europe and visit other relatives. When I met Crystal, I couldn’t even keep all of her relatives straight. At family functions, I would stealthily ask, ‘now who’s that again?’ Crystal would say something like, ‘Oh that’s my third cousin Leopold on Aunt Martha’s side, and that’s his girl friend, Sally.’ That would usually be good enough until I met a couple more people or slept.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think this could ever happen to me. Oh, Crystal and I talked about how many kids we would have, even before we were married. She said four and I grudgingly went with two (although I knew one was the perfect number). The funny thing is that, none of those iron clad guesses meant anything, as the years rolled by. Once we started trying, the rest was kind of up to God. He apparently thought three was a good number.

The way things turned out, I was OK with that and so was Crystal. The part I didn’t anticipate was that the girls would decide to make more people. Also, there are in-laws and friends. Even the grandkids have friends. Who could have predicted such a predicament? Again, I am overwhelmed by abundance.

Please don’t think I am complaining. In fact, in some ways I find our daughters absolutely amusing. Our two oldest daughters, at one point, like most youths, thought they had everything figured out. They could do this parenting thing better. Now they say things like ‘I don’t know how you did it.’ Or they call and ask our sage advice. Michelle, who just had her first child, some four months ago, asked, “when does this fear of bad things happening to your kid go away”.  I told her, I would let her know if, and when it happens.

In retrospect, I guess we did a passable job parenting. That’s right, it is pass/fail. If your kids live and have enough life skills to live on their own and have healthy relationships with other humans, you pass. Grand parenting is considerably easier. You show up to some events. Help out as possible. Set a good example. And finally, at the end of the day, you pass the kids back to their parents and go home, watch reruns, in a peaceful environment. Life makes sense again.

Thank you God.

Keylan’s 17th birthday party called for a picnic. Quite a family, as seen by a very proud son, husband, father and grandfather (I mean me).

When Someone Dies

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When someone dies, I believe as part of grieving, we have a tendency to look at our lives.  As we contemplate mortality and loss we might ask questions. Where are we going?  Where have we been?  What do we do, now that this person who meant so much to us is not here anymore?

My father lived a long time, much longer than he thought he would live – to 90 years old.  The last few years were not good for him. He stopped doing his leather-work.  He stopped writing letters to family and friends. He couldn’t remember things like what time it was or what day it was or what season.  He would eat a meal with us and ten minutes later, ask “When are we going to eat?”  We would tell him he just ate and bring him a snack and a drink.

Ironically, my brother told me, he was in pretty good health. His blood pressure was normal as was his cholesterol.  My Dad loved donuts, pie, cake, ice cream, cookies and candy.  But his cholesterol was always fine. He got much thinner during the last years. He was wasting away.  We had to get him smaller clothes and punch more holes in his belt.  My brother said it was like we were losing him inch by inch and pound by pound.

My father didn’t lose his sense of humor.  He liked to tell funny stories. He was very witty.  We all have a pretty good sense of humor. We have the ability to laugh at ourselves.  It is a good quality to pass on from one generation to the next.

My mom also had a great sense of humor and told funny stories. I miss her laugh. I miss my Dad’s voice and the love for me I saw in his eyes when we visited him. He was someone in my life I always wanted to talk to; to listen to and to share what was happening in our lives.  There is a void in my life without him that is impossible to fill. Even now, I sometimes forget that he is gone.  I won’t need to buy a father’s day card or present this year for him. Somehow that hurts, and yet I wouldn’t want him back because he wasn’t well.

Do we really understand heaven?  For those who believe in everlasting life, heaven is the place we are heading for at the end of our lives.  I wonder if heaven is like the People’s store.  I use to go to the People’s Store on Michigan Ave. in Chicago with my mom and my Dad when I was a little girl.  There was a large landing with a half circle of chairs between stair cases.  We would sit there with my Dad eating chocolate covered peanuts from a paper bag and watch the people.  This was the best part of shopping according to my Dad. My mom was buying what she needed.  We were watching the world go by and having fun with Dad.

When I was growing up in Roseland, I thought my Dad was the handsomest, nicest and funniest man that I knew.  I had watched him shave with the old type of razor and shaving cream.  I watched him comb his black hair. He used some type of greasy stuff on it to hold his hairdo. I knew all of his hats – mostly fedoras. I watched him tie his ties not understanding how he was doing it. I was very glad that girls didn’t have to wear ties. They looked completely uncomfortable and it was easy to spill things on them like gravy and chocolate syrup.  They were also hard to clean although my mom usually managed to get the stains out.  My Dad had a leather case he had made for his shirt pocket.  In it he would keep his glasses, his pen, and some pipe cleaners.  He always had a pocket knife in his pants pocket and change and keys that jingled when he walked.

Now my brother, my sister and I are getting everything out of my Dad’s house. My talented brother is painting all the walls and ceilings and redoing both bathrooms.  He also is removing the horrible disintegrating faded rose carpeting and cleaning the wonderful hardwood floors underneath.  We always called mom and dad’s house, the Quilt house, because there were quilts hanging up in almost every room, on the beds and on quilt racks.  My mom also had a large doll collection and teacups scattered on shelves around the house.  Their home has been a home to me and my children and grandchildren.  So many memories of family get togethers, eating around the large dining room table, opening presents on Christmas morning, and finding the Easter eggs.  Always talk and laughter filled that house.  Now it is quiet.

The last time I was there in May, I felt like the house was saying goodbye to me.  It was letting me go.  As we drove away with our car filled with boxes, it was like we were taking time with us; time that would be spent in our house around our dining room table, in the living room and on our wraparound porch.  I felt a certain peace about it, like mom and dad were looking down from heaven and smiling with love and approval.

 

Ron’s Corner:

Crystal writes so well; don’t you think? I too love remembering the many good times in my life. Every life has both good and bad. I think the key to satisfaction in life is remembering the good and learning from, but not focusing on, the bad. I too have many fond memories from my childhood, some of them are recorded on this web site.  I am so glad that we took the opportunity to interview our parents while they were all still with us. Now only one parent, my dad, remains. However, we are determined to get the memoir published to preserve and share their lives. I read a few pages every now and again. My totally unbiased opinion; It’s really good!

I am so glad we undertook this project. If you are fortunate enough to have living parents, ask them about their lives. You might learn something. It might help you understand a few things. If nothing else, it’s never a waste of time talking to someone you care about. Do it while you can. The time is fleeting.

Ron holding Liz, Crystal holding Michelle, Mary Jane and Jim circa 1986 (the way we want to remember Crystal’s parents).

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Where Have all the Sandlots Gone?

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The other day I was talking with my grandson, Keylan. I asked how he was doing on his high school track team. As usual, he is doing his best, but the World and Olympic records are probably safe for the time being. I told him about my non-record setting times from my high school gym class. I also told him that my best sports were football and baseball. I explained that while I never tried out for a team, I played a lot of sandlot sports. Suddenly, I felt quite old. I was using terminology unfamiliar to today’s youth. I also felt somewhat bad for this generation, staring at screens all of the time, when they could be experiencing life.

When I think back, my interest in baseball probably goes back to around 1959. Even as a five year old, the energy around Chicago was palpable. I didn’t understand much, but this baseball was an exciting game. Everyone was talking about the White Sox. In the end, they prevailed. The Sox won the Pennant. Little did I know that they would not win another Pennant until 2005. However, that’s not the point. At that time, commonly recognized as the Golden Age of Baseball, there were games everywhere. It seemed that every field big enough would have kids playing. My Oak Lawn neighborhood was no exception. From the first day school was out, we played baseball. The school park was only a block away. Sometimes that seemed too far. We would play in the street until Mr. Brown came out and yelled at us. I tried to reassure him that we were all too talented to hit any parked cars. He never seemed to buy that argument. So we walked the tiresome journey to the park where we could run and hit and field for the next three hours, unencumbered.

Some days we would break for lunch and return in the afternoon until dinner. I never really had any lessons. I just watched my favorite players on TV and did what they did. We had a core group, but some different players would show up every day. Often, there weren’t enough to field two full teams so we played modified games. We could play a modified game called Indian Ball with as few as four. With three we played running bases. With two, we played catch, hit, and pitch with a tennis ball against the wall of the school (usually around the corner from the “NO Ball Playing Allowed” sign).

A nice lady across from the school let us drink from her hose. I still remember the taste of the warm rubber flavored water. As bad as it tasted, it’s probably allowed us to survive on the really hot days. After playing, mom usually had cold Kool Aide and cookies waiting for anyone who wanted it. We probably drank a couple glasses before we actually could enjoy the flavor.

Over the course of a summer, we went through a lot of baseballs. However, funds were scarce. Being resourceful, we found tricks to prolong their life. It usually involved sneaking into dad’s tool chest and stealing tape. Eventually, no matter how hard we tried to preserve it the cover would come off. Then it was time for a serious tape job. It made for some colorful baseballs; green, red, black, or whatever tape I found. Mrs. Byczek always thought it was hysterical. To me, it was just a lesson in survival.

Over the course of a few summers, I actually got pretty good. I was a natural hitter and rarely missed. I was also quite good in the outfield. However, I spent most of my time in the infield. I needed more work there. I had a lot of difficulty judging hard grounders. They made it look so easy on TV. Somehow I never considered that the inconsistent clumps of grass and sand and rocks might have some effect. I thought it must be that I wasn’t keeping my eye on the ball, or getting in front of it. What I lacked in ability, I made up for in determination. My favorite game came at a price. The price included scrapes, black and blue shins, an occasional ball in the face (the wrong way to keep your eye on the ball), and at least once a summer the dreaded groin shot (with laughter adding insult to injury). Broken fingers were part of the deal as well. A couple of them are still noticeably bent. Unlike my TV heroes, however, no trainer rushed onto the field. Instead, I excused myself and went home. I enjoyed a Popsicle. The stick made an ideal splint. When combined with a little more of dad’s seemingly endless tape supply, I was again set to rejoin my friends on the field of honor.

Yes I do feel sorry for today’s generation. They don’t know what they are missing. Or maybe they do?

Crystal’s Corner

I also remember sandlot baseball.  My brother and his friends played often.  Sometimes they let me play with them even though I was a girl. Other times, they refused to let me play.  I would get mad at them, yell at my brother, and stomp home.  But after a while, I learned a way to get them to let me play.  I stole the ball.  There was usually only one ball.  Balls got lost so often in weeds and prairies that the parents couldn’t keep replacing them.  I would bring the ball home with me and my brother would follow yelling. “Crystal, you have to give the ball back to me.”  I would go in the house smiling, gripping the ball.  My brother would try to get my Dad on his side, but Dad would say, “Let your sister play.”  Finally, my brother would give in and say, “All right come on, I will make them let you play.”  We would then return to the sandlot where all of the players were now sitting on the ground resting.  That was what was really good about playing sandlot ball. When you got tired, you just sat down.  Then either we would find a hose we could turn on for a drink or go home for snacks and Kool Aid.  A lot of the time, my brother’s friends, Georgie and Bobby, came to my house because my mom made the best chocolate chip cookies and other baked goods.

Summer was fun. Summer was being outside in the sunshine running around, roller skating, playing tag, jump roping, playing red rover, playing mother may I and other games.  We didn’t watch much TV because our moms wouldn’t let us stay in the house to watch TV.  All the parents agreed to tell us, “Go out and play.”  They knew it was good for us.

OK, it’s not sandlot, but it is my grandson Keylan playing baseball. He’s a good kid. He’ll never know what he missed.

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Words of Wisdom

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I just got back from Kentucky. It was an overnight to take care of some business dealing with Crystal’s dad’s estate. We stayed with Michelle, Alex, and our new grandbaby, Ayla. As a rule, I always try to be helpful. They mentioned their fight with sleep deprivation and Ayla’s lack of consideration for their needs. I told them they would have to adapt to her. It would take time, but to take heart, for ‘this too shall pass’. I also mentioned that, now that she is a mother, Michelle’s days of being right are over. Someone would always be around to tell her that she is doing it wrong. I told her it wouldn’t be easy, but I had faith in her. She and Alex would make good decisions. I told Alex to always agree with his wife. It will make his life soooo much easier. If she needs your help, she will ask.

On the way home, I thought to myself, how did I get so smart? When did I switch from total uncertainty to the font of all knowledge? I think the difference is distance and time. Once the last child moves out, (Crystal will cry when she reads this) you have something you haven’t had for years….time to reflect and process. I suppose that is why the generals aren’t actually on the front lines. They are more effective away from the action, where they can process and plan.

OK, now that I think about it, if I had to give one key point, it would be to decide on what you and your spouse believe, and parent accordingly. The largest hurdle for Crystal and me was deciding rules we both agreed on, and consequences (both positive and negative) for those rules. We knew we needed to agree and be consistent or the kids would pick us apart. We spent time almost every day reviewing our progress and if necessary, adjusting our strategy.

However, advice is cheap, and worth what you pay for it. I don’t think our kids know that though. They still think we have a few answers. Maybe we do. However, what they need to realize is that outside of never ending love and support, our job is done. The goal of parenting isn’t raising kids, it’s preparing responsible adults. What I failed to mention to Michelle is that her child is now totally dependent on her. But that will soon change. As years go by, it will be her job, along with her husband to decide when and how to release control, and promote independence. You need to be there to congratulate them when they succeed, and reassure them when they fail. When you are done, they will let you know. After that, and for the rest of your life,  they will still be your kids, but they will be grownups. You need to treat them as such.

Sounds like we really knew what we were doing, right? We were perfect parents. Now I get why I have all of this wisdom to share…..Except….it didn’t always work. Our kids still had problems, got into trouble, and we weren’t always consistent. Occasionally, Crystal and I wouldn’t agree and would argue about how to handle things.

Reality has set in. I am really not the font of anything except maybe ego. Parenting is a struggle. The good news is that my advice (worth every penny) was good. For a new mother, like Michelle, I know it was reassuring to know that in a little while her baby will adapt and sleep through the night. As the child grows, there will be new challenges, but she will adapt. She was raised to be able to adapt and overcome. I have no doubt that she will always put her child’s needs ahead of her own. I think that is the simple definition of a good parent. I will continue to give my two cents. Some habits are impossible to break. But I know, and I think she knows, she is ready, and with God’s help, she and Alex will be wonderful parents.

Left to right, daughter Liz holding Addelyn, My dad, daughter Michelle holding Ayla

This was at a Greek restaurant in Columbus Ohio for Easter celebration.

Category: Make Marriage Last

Our Hearts belong to Daddy By Crystal Meinstein

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Sorrow lasts for a night, but Joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5)

Last week this Bible verse came true for my family. On Thursday evening, Feb. 16, my father went home to be with the Lord.  On Friday morning, Feb. 17, my daughter, Elizabeth, gave birth to my granddaughter, Addelyn Klein.

I will miss my father very much.  We were always very close and happy to be together.

I have wonderful memories of my childhood with my Dad.  We would go to the People’s store on Michigan Ave. in Chicago.  My dad would buy chocolate covered peanuts at the candy counter and we would sit on the large landing dividing the staircases and watch the people.  I thought that was why they called it the People store.

Every fall we would rake the leaves and my dad would burn them so we could roast marshmallows over the fire.  When our hands could reach the push mower handles, Dad would have us stand in front of him to help him cut the grass.  We also learned to paint the walls as toddlers: first with water and then with paint.  Dad and I loved to watch Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller on Saturday afternoons. As a child I thought he knew Roy Rogers and Gene Autry personally.  We watched westerns with him and he liked shows like Bonanza and Gun Smoke. Sometimes when our old black and white TV broke down, he would get out his harmonica or his mandolin and play for us.  We would sing cowboy songs with him.

He would eat Jeannette and my tiny cakes we made in our Easy Bake Oven.  A few years later, he was even happier when we baked large cakes, cookies, brownies, etc. in the real oven.  My mom made great pies and butterscotch meringue was Dad’s favorite.  She would make it for his birthday.  Fortunately, mom taught me to cook and to bake when I was young because when she got sick I could do the cooking.  When mom was very sick, Dad, Larry, Jeannette and I joined forces.  Dad said we would never be able to do all that Mom did, but we could team up together and try.  He would split the grocery list in half and give me half and then race me in the grocery store. This didn’t work very well because Dad didn’t know the products that Mom usually bought.  I did.  But he always tried to make things fun even in the worst of times.

Dad was a wonderful speaker who won awards in the Toastmaster organization. Most of his speeches were humorous.  His sense of humor got us through a lot of trouble and hard times. I followed in his footsteps, giving several public speeches in Jr. High School and joining the Debate team in high school. He also read all of my term papers, poetry, and short stories.  When I was about 10 years old and having problems with mean kids at school, my dad gave me his books, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.  He also would read Rudyard Kipling’s poetry to me.  He told me that when someone hurts you write him a letter and then tear it up.  He also said that, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  After I left home, I had Dad’s and Mom’s voices in my head. When I had difficulties, I would think; what would Dad do; or what would Mom do?  It helped me in making decisions.

For several summers when I was in high school I worked at dad’s office at Sherwin Williams.  This experience consisted of riding in Dad’s car pool with his friend, Crazy Fred. I attribute learning to pray often on those terrifying trips.  Dad at the office was very well respected.  He would take me out to lunch with his friends, Alice Harris and Norris Bishton.    I could tell that he was proud of me and that gave me confidence in myself.

When I married Ron, Dad walked me down the aisle.  He really didn’t want me to get married yet.  He said I was completely trained to do everything in the house and now I was leaving.  Ron and I lived close to Mom and Dad in Illinois and so Ron established a close relationship with both of them.  After they moved to Cincinnati and we moved to Indiana, we saw them as often as we could.  We played pinochle, went out to dinner, visited and took care of the kids together.  Daddy was a wonderful grandfather and great grandfather.  He loved babies and was a great babysitter.  My children were all very attached to their grandfather and my grandchildren were also close to him.  His presence in their lives will be missed.

I know that Dad is with Mom in heaven right now and that is where he wanted to be.  But it will be difficult to not see him and talk to him.  When I lived at home, every morning, Dad would hug me and tell me that he loved me.  He knew when I was upset and would ask me to tell him what was wrong.  He was my confident, my companion, my supporter and my Daddy.

 

Category: Uncategorized

Goodbye Mr. Carlson

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It is February 17, 2017. My father in law passed away yesterday. It was no surprise. He had been losing ground for some time. Even so he will be sorely missed. I am writing this because it helps me process my feelings and find peace.

We saw Mr. Carlson a couple of weeks ago. He seemed glad to see Crystal and me. We spent time talking about the past and our family. When we left, as always, he thanked us for visiting. I could tell he wasn’t going to be with us much longer. He was down to just over 100 pounds and periodically talking to people who weren’t in the room (according to Larry). As a nurse, I have seen that happen before. I believe, at some point, we transition to our next reality. For years, since his wife’s death, Jim has yearned to be with her. Oh, he was as much as possible, engaged in the reality of everyday life, but things were never the same. At least today we know where he is. Our loss will be Heaven’s gain. He and his Mary Jane are once more reunited.

I remember the first time I met Jim Carlson. He smiled and shook my hand. He looked at his daughter and his expression changed. He never gave me the lecture, but I could tell. He might as well have been cleaning a firearm and explaining how important it was that no one should hurt his daughter. However, the scowl didn’t last long. He could tell that Crystal was in love with me. And worse yet, I think Mary Jane knew, and told him to give me a break. He always listened to Mary Jane. Between the two of them there was some kind of unspoken balance. Together they worked.

It was only a few months later that I asked him for permission to marry his daughter. The scowl returned, if only for a moment. Both of us knew that wouldn’t last. Crystal had laid the ground work. While our relationship hadn’t always been perfect, we were in love. She talked about me all of the time, and quoted me as if I were the second coming of Niche. He told me about the importance of the commitment and how much he and Mary Jane cared for Crystal. I reassured him that he wasn’t losing a daughter and I would do my best to care for her. He relented and I have felt part of their family ever since.

Though the years my relation with Jim has been special. I have learned a lot from him. He has always been there when I needed advice or reassurance. Of course when it came to his daughter, all bets were off. When Crystal and I argued he would always take her side. His best advice to me was, ‘your wife is always right’. On the other hand, Mary Jane was usually more understanding. She told Jim to stay out of it and then helped Crystal to calm down. Most of the time that was all the help we needed.

Ironically, in these modern times, both of my married daughters’ husbands came to me prior to their engagements, to ask for my permission or at least my blessing. I acted as if I had learned nothing from Jim. The first I warned that I thought my daughter was too screwed up (from a previous relationship) to marry anyone. The second, I warned that we considered marriage a lifelong union and I worried about his level of commitment. Fortunately, both ignored my warnings, and currently have my daughters popping out more grandbabies. Not to bury the lead, my daughters are both happy.

Over the years, Jim has always treated me like a member of the family. I know he thought of me that way. I helped when I could. It was little things; shoveling a driveway, a little yard work or shopping.

What he gave me was far more valuable than a few odd jobs. He showed me what it meant to be a real man. Jim always put the needs of others before his own. Whether it meant helping friends and neighbors or being there for his own family he was always trying to help. I still remember sitting with him during one of Crystal’s surgeries. The surgery was supposed to last six hours, but wound up lasting nine. While he tried to reassure me, I could tell he was more nervous than me. Somehow, watching him squirm while trying to read, and asking me every fifteen minutes to check with the nurse, helped me to relax. I knew he cared as much as I did.

He loved his grandkids as well. Those feelings were mutual. One time, when we lived in Greensburg, our wives abandoned us. It was a cold day in October and Crystal and her mom were at a quilting show in Kentucky. Jim and I were left to hold a garage sale and take care of the kids. I stayed outside while he stayed (smartly) in the house. The girls, along with several neighbor kids, went back and forth. When they were out we threw a football, or they just sat with me and talked. I will admit to some evil thoughts about my wife (the sale was her idea) as the snow flurries began. But the girls helped. At one point, I had three of them sitting on me on top of the old chair we were giving away. I was finally warm. When they were in the house, I knew they were safe, playing, watching TV or talking to Jim. Every once and a while, he would check on me to make sure I was still alive and not covered with snow.

I’m also so pleased that Jim and Mary Jane agreed to be in our memoir. The first time he met her was during WW2 at the Kenosha USO. He saw her across a room and immediately was drawn to her. When he arrived at her side, he knocked over a lamp which Mary Jane caught. Together, they were a testament to what marriage should be. I don’t mean the love at first site bit. That never lasts. It’s the part about when one person knocks over a lamp the other will always be there to catch it. Through fifty-five years of marriage, Mary Jane and Jim never lost that.

Those last ten or so years, after Mary Jane’s passing, were never the same. Each time we visited, Jim was glad to see us. We spent hours just talking, watching his favorite westerns or playing pinnacle. Often Crystal and I would cook a nice meal or take him out to a restaurant. But we could tell, he was different. He had lost the love of his life and longed to be with her again. Today, that day has come. While their legacy will live on through their children and those who loved them, Mary Jane and Jim are together again. Praise God!

Also today, February 17, 2017 our latest granddaughter, Miss Addelyn Macenzie Klein, entered the world. A healthy baby girl, Liz and Brad’s latest, serving as a reminder that life will continue. Love will go on.

Jim at Michelle’s college graduation in 2008.                 Liz and new baby Addelyn