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Me Too – The Ultimate Solution

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Like most responsible Americans, Crystal and I have been appalled at all of the recent news about sexual abuse in the media. It seems to have crossed all lines of society, from media, to film, to sports, to business, etc., etc., etc. While it is good that the problem is finally coming into the light, we are currently treating only the symptoms, but not the cause. Accusations are being made, laws are in place, and punishments are being generated. Abusers are losing jobs, being fined, and prison for some. However is punishment enough?

Murder is against the law. Yet murders still happen every day. We need laws as a deterrent, of that I have no doubt. But how much better would the world be if people just knew murder was never justified and lived without ever considering it a possibility?

Call it brainwashing if you wish, but I believe it works. Our oldest daughter Elizabeth will tell you that she thought every child had to go to college. She was in high school before she heard otherwise. She was shocked and disappointed for her classmates who talked about dropping out. Crystal and I had always told her and her sisters what would happen “WHEN” they went to college. It would be a great adventure and give them many possibilities for their futures.

Similarly, I believe the best solution to today’s harassment problems lies in the homes. As I grew up, our home wasn’t perfect. There were disagreements, and arguments, some at elevated volumes. However, my dad still opened doors for my mom. I also do not recall him ever raising his hand to my mom. I was told to always respect my elders and all women.

Crystal will tell you that the first time she noticed me at a fraternity function, I was with another woman. I got her punch, opened her door, and helped her onto the wagon (it was a hay ride). I learned respect at home. I never considered any other way.

I recently had the privilege of taking my eldest grandson around to visit different colleges. We talked about a lot of different things as we drove. One topic was women. High school is an awkward and confusing time. I know when I went; I didn’t understand girls at all. My sophomore year, one girl said something mean to me, and I was pretty much done with them through high school. I stuck to games, movies and sports.

Today, after being married for nearly forty years and helping raise three daughters, I understand a little more about the female of the species. My advice to my grandson was simple. Always treat women with respect; no means no; never do anything a woman doesn’t want you to do. I also assured him that the right girls will want to be with him for who he is: no games necessary.

Getting back to our original problem, the answer is simple. Raising children is a privilege and an awesome responsibility. A strong marriage is the first step. It all comes back to building marriages on the basis of mutual respect. Your sons and daughters will learn from what you say and even more from your example. Learning how to love, and not abuse, starts in the home. Problem solved; ‘me too’ no more!

Crystal’s Corner:

I am glad that Ron wrote this blog and I agree with him; what happens to children at home is very important.  It seems like we are in the middle of a revolution; and especially women, are finding their power.  I think this has been a long time coming. I am very glad that women are speaking out about abuse.  There is power in numbers and there is power in the truth.  In the Bible it says “The truth will set you free.”  This is true for the victim as well as the criminal.  I am glad that at least some of the men who committed these crimes have admitted them and show remorse for them.  The ones who are continuing to lie about their behavior are revictimizing the victim and digging themselves a deep hole.  I liked it when the judge in the case in Michigan against the doctor said that all of those women, who testified against him, are survivors.  Hopefully, their testimony and all the women who are now standing up against their attackers will change the world.  We need a safer more respectful world for our children and grandchildren to live in. I do believe that women will not put up with the abuse and lack of respect from anyone now and in the future.  One thing I would add as a parent and a grandparent is to tell your children that no one has the right to hurt them in any way, either physically or verbally, and that they need to tell someone what happened as soon as possible.

Taken last Easter. These are all of my girls. Hopefully the babies will never hear of “me too”.

In Sickness and in Health

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It’s been unusually quiet around our house for the last several days. Crystal has laryngitis. Normally, she has a lot to say to me each day.   Even now, her affliction won’t stop her from trying. I frequently have to mute the TV to hear my muted wife. Either that, or she picks up her tiny block of paper and we play a spirited game of ‘what’s that word’. This game has no winners, but generally leads to both laughter and coughing.

A visit to the Doctor a couple of days ago revealed that Crystal has bronchitis with a possible touch of pneumonia, in addition to the laryngitis. To add insult to injury, he told Crystal that the medicines might not help the laryngitis. She should try not talking for a few days (try is the operative word). Even our normally straight laced Doctor couldn’t help but joke about how difficult any limit on talking would be for most women. Happy New Year!!!

However, it made me think about our wedding vows. Like most guys, I remember saying whatever I was told, while thinking “ just a few hours until the honeymoon”. Just kidding (kind of)! But the truth is if I thought seriously about what those words, ‘sickness and health’ meant, I might have been a little more anxious about the whole marriage decision. Seriously, being normally healthy myself, I had no clue about what was to come.

I won’t bother with details about our health struggles except to say we are both cancer survivors. Mine, being linked to chemical exposure, forced a change in career paths. While I loved working in my chosen field of chemistry, I purposely avoided lab positions for about a twenty year period. This decision led to a number of career changes with all of the associated challenges.

Of the two of us, Crystal has had  more health issues over the years. However, I had some idea what I was signing up for. About a week before our wedding, I believe it was Easter Sunday; I got a call from Crystal’s dad. Crystal had been hospitalized for extreme abdominal pains. During that week, I visited as often as I could. When she was finally feeling better, there was talk about postponing the wedding. I immediately knew that was wrong. I gave Crystal one of the very few ultimatums I would ever give. I didn’t care who was present, Doctors, parents, etc. I shut that talk down. I told her we would be married on Saturday. I left the decision of whether that would be in a church or in the hospital up to her. I would make it happen. To make a long story short, that was what she needed to hear. We were married in the church followed by a reception, and the following day, our honeymoon started in Arizona.

The point of this article is simple. In life, bad stuff is going to happen. The wedding vows make that clear: sickness, bad times, poorer, and eventually death. You can choose to go through life independently or with someone. When you make the decision to get married, it’s no longer my problems, but our problems. But it’s also a chance to serve and be served; to support and be supported. Why else are we really here?

Marriage is a decision to be made with eyes wide open. But I will tell you this. On April 1st  this year, Crystal and I will be married 40 years. When I look back, I find it more difficult to remember the ‘sickness’ than all of the good times we have experienced together.

Crystal’s Corner:

I have not had laryngitis as bad as this case in the past.  I hope that I get my voice back soon.  Ron is having way too much fun with this.  We are doing a comedy act of combining charades and him trying to read my writing.  But we are still communicating which is so important in marriage.  When I got very sick before our wedding and had to be hospitalized, it was very scary.  My parents took me to the hospital early in the morning and my dad waited to call Ron to tell him what was going on.  When he came, I was on a cart in the Emergency room.  I guess my facial expression changed when I saw him because the nurses said “This is the fiancé.”  I just knew I wanted him there with me to help get me through this horrible situation.  I had been sick for months and had seen the Dr. but the Dr. told me I just had a nervous stomach because I was getting married. Actually, I had a serious disease.  Ron, being an only child, coming from a very healthy family, had not experienced the medical world like I had growing up.  The really good thing was that we fought my illnesses and his illnesses together and with the help of God and many praying people.  It has been quite a journey, but it also shows that God brought us together for a reason and helped us to keep getting stronger in our marriage and commitment.  Ron is taking good care of me even though his teasing has gotten worse since I can’t talk.  This wasn’t the way I wanted to start the New Year, but I am glad we are enjoying our life together no matter what happens.

Three pregnancies and births counted as sickness (nausea, vomiting, pain, imbalance, emotional instability, etc.)  in my book as well. However, I believe in those cases the ends definitely justified the means. I also like to think I helped.

“Lady in Red” by Crystal

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Red is one of the most popular colors of the Christmas season. The color red reminds me of my mom. She loved the color red.  In her wardrobe, she had solid red clothes and red prints.  I like to wear bright colors including red.  Lately, I have added more red clothing to my wardrobe.  I am doing what many women do. I am reorganizing my closet, getting rid of clothes that are out of style, worn out, or that don’t fit.  It is a process and can be emotional at times.  I associate some of my blouses, skirts, dresses, etc. with memories of the occasions when I wore them.  I am realizing, however, that I can remember those occasions without still owning the clothes.  Also, my shape has changed over time and I can’t wear some of the outfits I really like anymore.  So it is a letting go process I have to do in order to bring some organization to my closet.

The newest dresses and tops that I recently have been buying for several months fit me well and reflect my personality.  I have three blouses with fall colors that I like very much.  I have two red dresses and several red blouses that are fashionable and look good on me.

I am currently trying to place outfits together in the closet so it will be easier to just take them and put them on especially for church activities, Christmas gatherings, and going out with Ron.  I usually dress nicely when we visit Ron’s Dad in Columbus, wearing a classy dress or blouse and skirt and my high heels.  Ron and his Dad like it when I dress up to go out with them.  They say it makes them look classier.

My mom always wore classy clothes when she went anywhere.  I must have inherited this habit from watching her as a child and as an adult.  What seems like a short time ago, my girls would watch me get dressed, and apply make up to go out on a date with their Daddy.  They liked to look into the closet and take out my high heels to see which ones I would wear.  They knew if I wore the red high heels that it was a special date.

When Michelle was little she would smile and say “You look beautiful, Mom”.  Elizabeth would tell Daddy that, Mommy is wearing her special red shoes and pretty dress so he would get the hint to say something nice. Men need a little help sometimes.

With all the activities involved in getting ready for Christmas, I have found that having my outfits clean and organized helps to reduce the stress.  Ron and I have a tradition to have a date in December before Christmas just to relax and enjoy each other.  This year we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Waynesville, Ohio and attended a dinner theatre.  One actor performed “A Christmas Carol” with the help of the audience.  This was an early Christmas present for me.  Other years we have just gone out for dinner or to see a funny movie or even just for a walk in the park and get coffee and dessert at our favorite diner.  It also helps us to remember when it was just the two of us early in our marriage before we had a lot of responsibility.  It is good to look back, smile, and hold hands.  As my grandmother use to say, “Love is grand.”

 

Michelle, Granddaughter Aylla and me. Look who’s wearing red!

Crystal in her new red dress on vacation last summer

Our annual Cookie bake 2017

 

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Christmas Thoughts and Traditions by Crystal

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When I think of Christmas, I think of the cards, the nativity, decorating the tree and the house, getting together with family, baking, etc.  We send out our Christmas cards with our newsletter and often photos too.  My mom always sent out tons of Christmas cards mostly with notes or newsletters, but even then she would write a personal note in many of the cards.  We helped her get the cards ready to mail as a family.  She would set up an assembly line in our living room. We each had our area: Jeannette would sign cards because her handwriting was very nice and legible, Mom would write the addresses on the envelopes, one of us would put the stamps on, and another one would put the return address labels; and often fold and stuff in the newsletter and then seal the envelopes.  Then the envelopes were separated by zip codes and rubber banded before being taken to the post office.

We also decorated the house.  When we lived in Roseland, Illinois my mom would tape the Christmas cards we received on the Venetian blinds.  I didn’t understand why nobody else did that in their living rooms. Card traditions were carried on in our next home in Dolton, Illinois.

Even after Ron and I were married, whenever we visited my parents at Christmas, my mom would show me the cards she received and we would read the newsletters and notes.  Often, they were funny and we would laugh about them.

My Dad also did this with me after my mom died.  My mom sent cards to everyone, but my Dad’s policy was to wait until he received a card, and then sent one out.  For many years, my Dad sent out cards and a newsletter that he wrote.  He also wrote letters to friends and family.

This will be the first Christmas without Dad.  We miss seeing him.  Even when he was in the nursing home, he appreciated our visits.  We would talk to him and laugh with him.  I miss holding his hand and telling him that I love him.  He was a really good Dad.  We spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad and I am very glad that we stayed close to them.  I know that their influence and example made us who we are today.

So I come from a family of people who write letters and send cards. Sticking with tradition, these days I tape up our cards on the walls, and doors in our Victorian house. I notice that visitors and my girls and my grandchildren will look at them when they come over.

My three girls, granddaughter Jazmyn and I will have our cookie bake soon and carry on the tradition that started with Mom.  This year we will have two little girls, Addy and Ayla, in high chairs joining in the fun.  I remember when Elizabeth was in my old wooden high chair at Mom’s cookie bake and also when Michelle was and Lisa was there too.  We would give them some dough to play with and eat while we made the cookies.  Mom gave cookies to everyone she knew and even people she didn’t know very well.  It was her way of spreading God’s love. Mom showed love to people all year round, but especially at Christmas time and we are carrying on her legacy.

Ron’s Corner:

Christmas traditions are funny. Often no-one knows where they started or why we feel obligated to carry them on. Maybe it reminds us of happier, more care free days when we were young and in awe of the season. Maybe we feel obligated to pass something on to our children. Or maybe, in some way, we feel we are honoring our parent’s efforts and love.

My experiences are somewhat different than Crystal’s. I really had nothing to do, but enjoy. Mom did most of the work. Oh dad and I would go out and pick the tree and I suppose he mailed the cards and letters and shopped for special foods and for mom’s presents. Of course, he drove us to downtown Chicago every year to enjoy all of the store window decorations and the huge Christmas tree inside Marshall Fields.  But honestly he and I were both spoiled. Mom did all of the heavy lifting. She did most of the shopping, cleaning, decorating, wrapping and all of the cooking and baking. She wrote all of those cards every year most with hand written notes. Usually she hosted a tea party for her neighbors and friends during the Christmas season which they totally enjoyed.  We never went around with trays of cookies, but inevitably were visited by a number of friends, neighbors and even dad’s business associates. I swear, none would ever be allowed to leave empty handed or hungry. Mom wouldn’t allow that to happen. Occasionally, they would stagger ever so slightly as result of mom’s eggnog. Crystal insists it was more nog than egg.

Even for our girls, Christmas often meant a trip to Chicago and a Mimi Christmas. Mom was still putting on a show into her eighties; though I remember her for the first time complaining about how hard it was becoming to roll out the lebkuchen (German form of gingerbread). The girls and older grandkids enjoyed the Christmas decorations, German cookies, five course dinners, presents wrapped beautifully, and singing Silent Night with Mom and dad on Christmas Eve. They would sing at least one verse in German.

While Crystal and I have hosted a number of Christmases, along with Larry (Crystal’s brother) and Linda (Larry’s wife and Swedish version of mom) as well, our girls seem excited, even grateful to continue Christmas traditions with us and at their homes.

So this year, Crystal and I will be especially grateful as we celebrate the Lord’s birth with warm cookies, friends and family. I’ll bet Heaven has some really wonderful cookies. No eggnog required.

Enter a new member in her new home for her first Christmas. Aylla with mom and Nana Crystal

 

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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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