From a very young age I developed a love for food. I can still remember some of my very first experiences from being fascinated by the taste of birthday cake and fried chicken to grilled meats. In this picture below from 1982 you can see how I’m shoving my mouth with birthday cake and some sort of reddish concoction. I have no idea what’s up with the box of Domino sugar, but hopefully I wasn’t eating that too. I developed a bad relationship with food from a very young age.
When I was little, my grandfather would always tell us kids to be thankful for everything because this is what the Scripture tells us. I couldn’t tell you how many times he read the Bible, but often he would quote Scripture and use examples. We were constantly reminded to count our blessings.
Every now and then, my mind goes into another direction. It’s true that I’ve suffered anxiety and depression in my life and sometimes I have a hard time pulling myself out of it and I start to think about the glass being half empty, rather than half full. I always try to stop and reflect on what my grandfather always taught us.
Fall is such a wonderful time of year and usually by now, we are harvesting pumpkins from our patch to sell or gift to family and friends, canning tomatoes, and making our last minute jams for the winter cupboards. Typically, spring is full of growing and lots of hard work. Here’s a picture of our greenhouse from Spring 2016.
Except this year is very different, I decided to downsize my gardens and we only grew a few pumpkins for ourselves. I cut back on tomatoes and didn’t grow much from seed this year.
As I was walking around outside by the gardens, I was looking at all the weeds and thought to myself how lazy I’ve been this summer. I started feeling pretty sorry, but this summer, I wanted to spend more time with my kids, read, and relax, and so I did. I didn’t keep up with everything like I normally would and we did have fewer yields because of it, but as I looked around, I saw so many beautiful things. Just look at this hibiscus flower which comes back every year.
These flowers are huge even surrounded by weeds!
I also realized just a few weeks ago that we won’t meet our quota for the canned tomatoes required to get us through until next year. Normally, I put up about 125 quarts or more of stewed tomatoes for chili, spaghetti, and soup over the winter. With what I’ve canned so far and with what’s left to still harvest, we will probably get about 40 quarts of tomatoes.
Then, one of our friends that my husband works with decided that he and his wife didn’t want to can this year. He told my husband to come over and take whatever we wanted. We received three more five-gallon buckets of tomatoes for canning including some beautiful green peppers to mix in.
And there’s plenty more where that came from. We will meet the quota after all. Not only did they give us tons of tomatoes, but also 4+ buckets full of apples for canning. It’s truly amazing…
I didn’t plant sunflowers this year, but there were some beautiful volunteers which will leave plenty of seeds for next year.
Our peppers were fairly small and we didn’t get as many as usual,
But we have some great spaghetti and winter squash.
I couldn’t help but pause to look at the sky either. Fall is here…
The sedums are in full bloom…
There’s so much beauty if you just stop to take the time to look.
Then, this morning the most amazing thing happened! We were out in our woods looking for one of our cats that’s been missing for a few days. We noticed this huge pumpkin vine growing way out in the back of our woods where we used to have our compost pile. All of our pumpkins from previous years would get dumped here. A seed decided to grow and the vine is growing all over and up into the trees.
When I was a kid, I was always in a hurry. I can remember watching the clock and hurrying home from school. Birthdays, holidays, and family get-togethers were counted down to days, hours, and even minutes. I couldn’t get to the store fast enough to buy that new toy.
Even as a teen, I was always in a hurry to buy new clothes or pick up that new release album that just came out. Not only that, I was in a hurry to grow up. My grandfather would remind me all the time to have patience. A saying that went around our house frequently was,
“Patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait.”
The truth is that I had zero patience. As I became older and even into my young adult hood, it didn’t change much. Now I was either hurrying home from work, rushing home from college, or counting down the minutes until the weekend. I was always and forever in a hurry to do something and just couldn’t wait. I even had issues finishing peoples sentences for them and eating too fast. This is still a challenge.
I’m going to be forty next month and I’ve recently had my patience tested again with Cynder Rae. We’ve been trying to breed her with Winston for some time now and have been unsuccessful. In mid-July, Cynder finally allowed Winston to mate and we were hopeful that we’d have a litter this time, but little did I know, it was going to take time to find out.
Cynder has had multiple false pregnancies in the past, in fact, she’s quite prone to them. When a dog has a false pregnancy, everything happens just like a real pregnancy, there just aren’t any pups in the end and it can be hard on dogs, emotionally and physically. After Cynder mated with Winston, she started changing and we began to wonder,
“Are babies on the way?”
Reasons why we think she could be pregnant:
- She mated successfully
- Her body evidently started preparing for milk production right away
- She sits differently
- She’s very needy, more than before, and won’t leave my side most of the day
- She’s started collecting toys in groups
- Her appetite has gone through the roof
- She’s growling at Winston and has become uninterested in him
Reasons why we think she’s not:
- She’s not showing
- Her energy hasn’t changed and she’s still herding everything that moves
- She wants to run and play just as much as before
- She had zero morning sickness
- She’s never been fatigued
Of course, all the reasons for why we think she could be pregnant occur in a false pregnancy as well and that can last for months or more.
I called different vets and discovered she could be palpated around day 28, or have a blood test around that time to confirm pregnancy. Palpating isn’t invasive, but can’t guarantee anything. To have a blood test was around $60. To have an ultrasound would total near $185 because they also charge an exam fee. At first, I opted for the blood test until I began to think about the stress it would cause her. We’d recently had Winston see the vet for a week long case of diarrhea and it was horrible. He hated every minute, it stressed him out further, and it turned out to be nothing serious after spending $313 dollars. I pondered what to do and my husband came up with a plan.
“Why don’t we just wait and see if she has puppies? Why do we need to spend money? Let’s just give it time.”
I realized once again that maybe I wasn’t being patient. I felt that we needed to know to prepare, but did we really? I talked to a friend and her opinion was,
“If it puts your mind at ease, take her in.”
This was true, it would put my mind at ease and we would finally know. A few days later, I had a discussion with my mom about it and she turned to me and said,
“Patience is a virtue.”
That’s exactly what my grandfather would say if he was still living. At that moment, I could hear him saying have patience in my head as clear as day! So, I decided to wait it out. My mom and husband were right and we don’t truly NEED a definitive answer right now. I’m fairly peaceful with the decision.
Today is Tuesday, September 5th, and we still aren’t positive whether or not Cynder is pregnant. Her body has certainly changed and offers more clues, but we have to wait. By calculation, she should be due around September 17th. I’ll be sure to fill you guys in on whether she has puppies or not.
As a child, growing up with my grandparents wasn’t always easy. My grandmother was very strict and old school, while my grandfather was equally strict and expected my brother and I to respect our elders. We knew the boundaries and sometimes we would get in serious trouble for just saying little things that really weren’t all that bad compared to some of the things our peers were saying. Simply making a joke would often get us in serious trouble. Any time at all that one of us said something that my grandfather didn’t approve of he would say,
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I can still remember sitting at the dinner table one day with my grandfather while he opened up a can of sardines to eat. Those sardines smelled so bad and being young and naive, I didn’t think before I spoke about how gross I thought they were. It was explained to me that it’s wrong to even say anything negative about what someone else was eating. It was drilled into our heads every single day. We were never allowed to make fun of people or say anything negative about others. We also learned to be kind to others at a young age and we weren’t even allowed to use the word hate.
Here lately, the internet, news, and radio have been nothing but nasty. Social media has been completely covered with negative ads, tweets, rants, and news containing everything from racism, people bashing the President of the U.S., nuclear issues with North Korea and countless negative information that I don’t want to see or read. With our young generation spending so much time online, I fear that they are witnessing too much hate and internalizing it. I worry that it’s going to get worse. Here lately I’ve been wondering, when did it get this bad?
Then, a few days ago, I had to call in to request a repair for our garage door which was recently struck by lightning. The man that came out was African American and is just an overall nice guy. I remembered him because he’s been here before and he’s just so kind and positive. As I stood out in my garage chatting, we got to talking about our kids starting school, summer flying by, and how he got lost trying to find my house. We laughed and carried on as my little ones were running around and my two older children were standing there listening to our conversation. As he explained what he repaired and got ready to leave, I offered him some freshly baked pumpkin bread to take with him. Then we got to talking about different breads and dieting. It was fun, but it was at that moment that I realized my kids were learning a lesson. It doesn’t matter what color our skin is or how different we are, we are all human and we are all unique in our own ways. At that moment, they were witnessing a positive social connection and they were witnessing this from an adult they love and respect. As we waved at the repair man leaving, my youngest son said, “He’s such a nice man.” I agreed and explained that it pays to be kind and makes you feel great inside. We went about our day.
This event got me thinking about how powerful we are as parents and how we are in control of our children’s minds. We have the power to mold them and lead them in the right direction. We can teach our kids while they’re young about caring for others and help them to understand that people have different colors, shapes, sizes, and cultures and that’s okay. Children learn ethical values from us, just like I learned from a young age from my grandfather. If we outlaw trash talking and teach our kids how to be considerate, we can help fight the hate. If people could just think before they talk and refrain from using words that hurt, so many problems could be fixed.
Here’s a beautiful song by Tim McGraw titled “Humble and Kind.” It says so much.
When I was in 6th grade my grandmother received an unexpected diagnosis of cancer. It was a rare form of cancer and she had roughly 6 months to live because after watching her daughter (my aunt) suffer through chemotherapy treatments at the age of 28, she didn’t want to go through it herself. She knew it would only extend her life by a few months and didn’t want to be sick. She was very bitter about having the cancer and my grandfather was very sad. It hit everyone like a ton of bricks.
At one point, my grandmother was in the hospital for awhile and I was heading back and forth to the hospital with my grandfather to see her. It was a very eerie feeling for me being in the hospital and seeing my grandmother like that. My grandfather decided to take me to a family restaurant right across the street because we hadn’t eaten. I remember ordering mozzarella sticks and we sat at this little table together. As I sat there eating my cheese sticks this song came on the radio by Christopher Cross titled “Sailing.”
Every time I hear this song, it takes me back to that very day with my grandfather, when he sat at that table in the restaurant in tears and told me,
“Be sure to appreciate everything you have, especially your loved ones while they’re here.”
Later on that week, my grandmother became worse. She wasn’t going to be here much longer and I still wasn’t with it. I was simply too young and this would be the first death I would mourn. The situation with my grandmother was causing him a great deal of pain and I remember one day hearing him very upset in our basement. He was crying loudly, yelling at himself and throwing things around. He was saying over and over how much he was angry with himself for not telling my grandmother that he loved her enough. He felt that he hadn’t appreciated her like he should have. It really made me cry and I didn’t know how to help him. Around a month after that, she was gone.
A few years passed and my grandfather was back to golfing and living his life the best he could. I started spending more time out of the house, predominately at the roller skating rink in the next county over. I loved skating and because the rink was in a different county, I was able to meet new people from different schools. My main issue with skating was the fact that I had big feet and always had to wear these ugly men’s skates that made my feet hurt, until I came to know a girl by the name of Anne. Anne was there to mainly socialize with everyone else and because she was from that county, many of the kids there were her schoolmates. She had these amazing black speed skates with shocking magenta wheels that were low-cut and my size! I was near a size 12 shoe at that point and it was hard for me to find anything to fit. She told me that I could borrow them if I wanted to and I took her up on the offer. They felt so smooth rolling on the ground. Every weekend we were there together I would use her skates and we came to know each other. We became best friends.
Anne was like the friend of a lifetime. She always had the right things to say and made me feel so good about myself. She was as tall as me and we had a lot in common. When I started driving, we would go places together and shop. She was a year or so younger than me, so getting my license was a huge plus for us. We had some of the same friends and It was because of her that I found my first boyfriend. She would come over often and she always enjoyed my grandfather’s company. He always had something funny to say to her. We played pool at the local pool hall, drove around listening to music, and swam in our friend Jen’s pool in the summer. Life was good. We were young without a care in the world.
One of the first things I did after graduating high school was graduating from cosmetology school. I started working in a salon right away and Anne loved it. Now she could have her hair and nails done whenever she wanted. She always said that I could create the best shaped acrylic nails she’d ever seen and loved the way I styled hair. It would be me that put her hair in an updo for her junior prom.
Another year went by and I was busy living life. I took a job managing a car dealership because it was more money, but continued doing cosmetology on the side. I got involved in a bad relationship and had made a few stupid choices, but I was okay. I wasn’t seeing Anne very much because I was just too busy for much of anything, or at least I thought I was. We sort of began to grow apart a little bit, but would occasionally hang out.
Anne was about to take a vacation to Florida with her family and really wanted me to give her a pedicure, manicure, hair style and the whole works. I thought it would be fun for us to catch up. I spent about 4 or 5 days heading back and forth to Anne’s house that week. She was showing me the summer outfits she bought to take on her vacation. It was a lot of fun. I can still remember sitting in her room on her super soft bed. I always loved Anne’s room. As we sat together she told me that she had a boyfriend. I was shocked! We had some real catching up to do. She told me all about how they met and I became confused. She proceeded to tell me that he was older than her and in prison. I was alarmed, but I didn’t want to say anything negative to her at this point. I asked her why he was in jail and what he did wrong, but she said it didn’t matter and that he would be getting out soon. Little did I know, this would be the last time I would see Anne.
About a month went by and Anne was back from vacation. I’d heard a rumor from a mutual friend that she was hanging out with the wrong crowd in a bad neighborhood. Her boyfriend was out of jail now and she began spending late nights with him where he was living. I tried calling her often, but her mom would always answer and tell me that she wasn’t home. She would tell me about their troubles and arguments. More than once she said that she couldn’t keep Anne home and away from these dangerous people. Anne was now 18 and able to make her own choices and she was taking some tremendous risks. We finally talked a time or two and I tried to convince her to come back home and to stay away from this group of people. She wouldn’t listen to me and at one point I felt like I’d really upset her. She said she loved this guy who was just out of jail and she didn’t think there was anything wrong with the decisions she was making. Who was I to judge? I was mainly concerned for her safety. The only time I could speak with her was when she was at home because it wasn’t common for teens to be running around with cell phones yet. Everything was different back then.
I was sitting at work a few weeks later. It was a slow day and the sun was baking me through the tall glass windows of the car dealership. It was such a hot summer that year. The phone rang and I answered it. It was my friend Michelle calling to ask me if I’d heard the news. Of course it was a ‘roll your eyes’ moment because Michelle always had stories to tell and she was the ultimate story ‘spicer’ which everyone knew. She proceeded to tell me that Anne was dead. I didn’t believe her and actually got a little mad and told her I’d call her back. There was just no way. I called Anne’s house and her mom answered the phone. Not long after my first words were spoken, I heard a dead silence on the phone. I can still remember sitting there with the phone in my hand as her mom was crying and not speaking a word. I stood up and couldn’t breath. It felt like my lungs weren’t functioning. I dropped the phone and began pacing around, out of my mind. I don’t even remember what my initial thoughts were. I just remember being in a total state of panic and denial. I got back on the phone with her mom and we both just cried on the phone together. She apologized for not calling me and told me that she couldn’t bring herself to tell me what had happened yet. Finally she told me the story.
As Father’s Day approaches, I’m thinking about my grandfather and another lesson he taught me repeatedly when he was still here.
When I was a teen, my grandfather always told me,
“Love your father, he’s the only one you’re ever going to get.”
I heard it often, because I was upset about my father a lot. He’s an alcoholic and was consistently doing foolish things. My grandfather knew it, but because he was up in age, he began to forgive everyone for everything. Plus, there were so many things my grandfather didn’t know, things that he would never understand.
Growing up, I was raised by my grandfather and he taught me everything he could. I would only visit my dad every other weekend (many of which were cancelled by him), and in all actuality was closer to my step-mom than him. My step-mom and I spent most of the weekend time together while my dad got wasted. There were plenty of times I didn’t belong with my dad when he was drunk-driving and many weekends I wished I would’ve just stayed home. It was hard for me and I didn’t understand why he wanted to do this to himself and to others. He would get violent and there were times when he hurt himself and others physically. As I got older, I understood why my mom couldn’t stay married to him, and also that if it weren’t for my father’s violence and stupidity, I would’ve had an older sister. My mom miscarried their first child related to his violence.
At one point in my childhood, my dad was in an institution for a few months. He’d gotten so wasted and decided he didn’t want to live anymore. He was listening to some really loud music and got it stuck in his head that he wanted to die. He started a fire in his house and tried to burn himself down with it. I don’t know who got there first, but there was considerable damage to the house and it needed many repairs. I know that my step-mother was fed up with him and she had issues of her own, including losing her young brother in an accident and an older brother in a separate truck accident. She wasn’t dealing with any of this well and began using drugs heavily. A few years later, she died from a drug overdose. Just before that, she sat me down along with my brother and told us that she was planning to divorce my dad, but that she would always love us. There were events like this that my grandfather didn’t know about and he didn’t know the pain my dad caused my step-mother or that she was using drugs. I don’t know if it would’ve changed his thoughts anyhow. Continue reading “Lessons from Grandpa #2”