Leaving a Legacy: My Father’s Story, in His Words

In My Father’s Footsteps is the title I chose for my Dad’s story in my new blog, Leaving a Legacy.

At one point, I thought about having it published through Amazon, but I wasn’t sure how I would edit it.  While he is an awesome writer, the story he wrote while recuperating from a knee replacement in 1994, is hard to follow at times. He switches channels a lot. (Now I know where I get it.)

My dad died in September 2008, the same year Cedar Rapids had the flood that heavily damaged the downtown area.

He died peacefully, sitting in his favorite chair, eyes closed, a book on his lap. Though he had been in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure, it was a shock to the family.

As I was helping my mom clean out the storage room, I came across a box of papers title, “TPMLIFE.” As I read the first page, I realized I held my dad’s life story, which he started in 1994.

I gathered all I could find and took them upstairs to my mom, who told me my brother had the rest of the pages. I put them in order and began the laborious task of transcribing them onto the computer, with the intent that I would share them someday with the world.

That day has some, and though I know not everyone will share the same enthusiasm that has driven me to work so hard to put them online, hopefully some of his lessons learned will make you laugh, cry, and think a little bit about your own life.

tributecr.com

 

Insight

Mom and Dad, 1989

It’s been a tough few months. My mother woke up one day and said her back hurt terribly. We were hoping it would get better, but instead it got progressively worse.  

The next day when she couldn’t get out of bed, I had no choice but to call an ambulance. It turned out that she had five stress fractures in her spine, a result of osteoporosis and sitting all the time.

She spent a week in the hospital and was moved to a nearby skilled nursing facility, where she got the care she needed, but she still complained of intense pain. They took another x-ray and found that she had fractured her hip somewhere between the hospital and care center. Probably because her bones are so brittle, but I think, too, that the aides didn’t realize how fragile she is.

They sent her home a few weeks later because she really had nowhere else to go. Her case worker helped as much as she could, but the family had to decide the best option. So here we are, playing the waiting game, literally. She’s been put on the waiting list for three different care facilities. I didn’t realize there were so many older people, but I suppose it’s because people are living longer.

I always told my mom that I would stay with her until I couldn’t take care of anymore, and I’m afraid we’re there. She can’t do a lot for herself and I’m sure she will be much better off, getting the care she needs, in a care center.

It’s horrible watching your parents get old; not being able to do the things they used to, depressed because they can’t remember the things they did.  And to experience that close-up and personal, well, it’s quite an awakening. I’ve had to adjust my attitude more than a few times. My patience has been tested to the limit, and it’s all I can do to keep it all together.

But it’s not just the taking-care-of-her part, it’s all the emotions that come with it. The family unit is being tested, and with so many different personalities, everyone wanting to be heard and in control, it’s sometimes hard to tolerate. And I’m right in the middle of it all.

Some days I just want to run away.  But I won’t. I know God has put me here to take care of my mom. The things I am learning about myself and my mom are astounding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I get to spend quality time with one of the most amazing people I know.

Our relationship has changed over the years. There was a time when I was angry with her and resentful, but that has long-since been resolved. I know it’s because of the time I have spent with her. I’ve gotten to know her not as my mom, but as a person, and I have seen a side of her most people never will.

I didn’t get a chance to tell my dad how much he meant to me before he died, but I can tell my mom. Or at least show her; I do that by being here for her.

We all think we have time – time to tell people how we feel, heal broken relationships, and do all the things we want to – until we don’t anymore. I’m just grateful I have the insight to realize that.

 

 

 

 

Visit my website at tributecr.com

 

 

A Shoebox Full of Holiday Surprises

I saw a post the other day about an international program that sends shoeboxes of gifts to little children across the globe.lily2

Operation Christmas Child, started by Samaritan’s Purse, “a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”

The person who posted the information on Facebook is a good friend of mine through a little more research, found out the collection would take place next week, Nov. 14-21.

So, wanting to teach my grandchildren a lesson about helping others, I picked them up and we set out to buy a few toys for a little girl, who lived on the other side of the world.

I expected a barrage of questions such as, “Why do we have to buy presents for someone we don’t know?” or “Why can’t I have a present?”

Instead they asked questions about where it might go and who might receive it, and concentrated on picking out gifts that a little girl might like. We couldn’t send chocolate, or perfume, or nail polish (all the things Lily wanted), but she decided on a Barbie doll, a puzzle, some gum, colored pencils, and a notebook.

“She might like to have this, too,” she told me, holding up a little white bear.

“Do you really think she’d like something like that?” I asked, teasing her.

She laughed and handed me the little bear. “Yes, I think it’s something she could sleep with, so she doesn’t have bad dreams.”

We added a few notecards to the box, as well as Lily’s name and address, in case the little girl wanted to write her.

It will be interesting to see where the shoebox ends up. I just hope it brings as much joy to the little girl who receives it, as it did to the little girl who put it together.

 

 

 

Doubly Wonderful

My twin granddaughters turned 5 Oct. 25.  Their mother and I had taken the other kids to the trick or treat at Ushers Ferry, where Holly, 9 months pregnant, walked the yard for nearly two hours. I think she was tired of being pregnant and want to get the delivery process going. It must have worked, because she went into labor that night, and had the twins the next day by C-section, only 3 weeks earlier than her anticipated due date.gianna-and-natalie

The twins were conceived in a peculiar way, and I love telling the story, because no one I’ve talked to has ever heard of it before:

After suffering 4 miscarriages following her last baby, Holly was given an injection of steroids that doctors hoped would help prevent another miscarriage. The first ultrasound just a few weeks later determined she was carrying two babies. One of them was smaller, which led the doctor to believe the smaller one was conceived three days after the other.

Holly at 32 weeks into her pregnancy

Holly at 32 weeks into her pregnancy

After a fairly normal pregnancy, Holly gave birth to Gianna, who was born first and weighed nearly 6 pounds; Natalie weighed almost a whole pound less. But it didn’t take long for her to catch up to Gianna. By their first year, they were close to being the same size. (They are fraternal, but I still have a hard time telling them apart.)

From the beginning, their personalities were totally different; Gianna was standoffish and moody, while Natalie was quiet and cuddly. (Not a lot has changed, though Natalie has become quite an instigator-partners in crime, if you will.)

The twins spent much of the first 6 months of their lives at home. Holly and Jason were busy adjusting to being the parents of twins, and it being close to winter, it was just a great time to stay home. Period.

I visited them often, offering to help any way I could, but I could tell the constant diaper changing, feeding, and coping were getting to Holly. She had taken time off work to get the twins on a schedule, but being with them 24/7 wasn’t healthy for her, either. Isabelle was 5 and was old enough to help Holly with the little things, but she couldn’t help with the feeding or changing yet. cuties

“I don’t think I will ever get a good night’s sleep again,” Holly mused wearily, as she laid the twins down for a nap.

“You need to rest when you can, but honestly, no, you won’t ever get another good night’s sleep until after they move out. And even then, that’s questionable.”

I smiled to let her know I was being fictitious, but I wasn’t far from the truth. Once you have kids, they are yours for life.

“You’ll get through this, I told her. “Five years from now you’ll look back and wish they were babies again.”img_2316

She nodded, and heaving a big sigh, laid down on the sofa for a short nap.

They made it through the first year without too many problems, but when they started to walk, it was a whole new story.

“I always thought it would be a lot of fun having twins,” Holly told me one day while I was visiting. She was attempting a simple thing like putting on pajamas, but as we have found out, not so simple when you’re fighting two at once.

Natalie wiggled to get away, and Holly reached out and grabbed Gianna before she could get away.

Without skipping a beat, she added, “I love them so much, I can’t imagine life without them. But I also didn’t think it would be this hard.”

I remembered back to Isabelle, who was a very cranky baby, and cried so much that I cringed every time Holly asked me to watch her. (She has since passed that stage.)

“Maybe God gave you Isabelle to prepare you for the twins,” I told her with a smile. “And gave you twins to make up for the miscarriages.”

Holly laughed. “Yep, I guess you gotta be careful what you pray for,” she said, letting go of Natalie, while wrestling with Gianna to put on her sleeper.

But we both knew it was exactly what she had prayed for, and what we are very grateful for. Two beautiful little girls who have added so much love and joy to our lives.

Double the crying, double the problems, but double the love.

It all sounds good in theory

I spent the past two weeks preparing for a Halloween party for my grandchildren. It was going to be our first “real” holiday party, and I wanted it to be special.  I threw parties for my kids all the time when they were little. But this time was different. This time I had the internet to help, and I turned to Facebook and Pinterest for ideas about how I could make this the best Halloween party ever.table2

I printed off recipes and photos of all the cool things I wanted to do. I bought all the necessary ingredients and props, and I worked diligently to make sure it went off without a hitch.

But as we wanna-be perfectionists already know, it all sounds good in theory.

I imagined that everything would go as planned; the food would be perfect, the decorations, the music, and the activities would run themselves. But with 6 energetic children ranging from 5-11 years old running around, each going their own way, it was chaos.spider-cookies

After years of trying to throw the perfect party, I should have know better. And even with my party planner in hand, there were still a few mishaps. (For those who do party planning for a living, I salute you!)

The cake balls turned to mush, because I added too much frosting (and you can’t “Undo” something like that.) The spiders on the cookies didn’t get their legs piped on, because I ran out of time. And the “Pop the Pumpkin” game was scrubbed because I couldn’t get it stuck to the wall.(It was difficult to make,anyway.) And I forgot all about “Stick the Spider on the Web” game until after the party was over.popcorn

The banana ghosts and apple mouths were okay, but didn’t turn out like the picture. I scurried to get the mummy hotdogs out of the oven and get the meat eyeballs in before the guests started to arrive. Lack of time became an issue, and I found myself getting stressed out.

Next year I will take an entire day to get ready, instead of just a few hours.

So why was this party important to me? For the same reason I had a lot of parties for my kids when they were little. Kids aren’t little for very long, but these memories will last a lifetime.

I still hear from my adult children, “Remember when …?” And the smiles and laughter that follow tells me I did a good thing.

And when Lori laughed and asked me if I had ever seen the pictures of “Pinterest Fails,” I smiled, because I knew it was true. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. Otherwise, it’s no fun.

The ruined cake pops and the other mishaps didn’t matter. No one ever knew I had forgotten a few things and there was plenty to eat and everyone had a lot of fun.

I created a good memory for my grandchildren. They know I’m not perfect but love me anyway. I can’t ask for much more than that.

“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”

Getting Crafty

I’m not a fan of Pinterest. I think it’s a great resource, but I don’t really participate. lilyEvery once in a while I’ll venture onto a certain page and see what’s there.

But I do use Facebook every day, and that’s where I get a lot of ideas for recipes and crafts. I love doing crafts with my grandkids. Not only does it bring out their creative side, but it seems to calm them down.  The other day, seated around a group of ladies I barely knew, I noticed the positive upbeat vibes that surrounded us, as we worked together on a window display for Create Exchange in Czech Village. We talked and laughed and eveyone had a great time, even though I normally have social anxiety in situations like that.

Though it was the first time I noticed the effect crafting had on people, I delightfully surmised from that point on that people who craft are happier people.

But I wasn’t always crafty. I was in First Grade when it became apparent that I was not a natural talent when it came to cutting and pasting. I held my scissors upside-down and made a mess of my paste, smearing it all over the paper instead of where it was supposed to go.

And when my kids were growing up, coloring with them was about the extent of my craftiness. BUT ….

People change and I discovered that I love getting crafty. Just like my recipes, I love taking something and making it my own.

A recent project with my granddaughters developed into a great way to bond and share ideas for future projects. “Wishful Thinking” boards are fairly simple and inexpensive to make, too. (The name comes from making a wish and then creating it on your board to hang in your room or wherever you want.)

I started with boards from a discarded wooden pallet. I used a Sawzall to cut out the planks between the nails, sanded the boards to get rid of the rouch edges, drilled holes for the cords, and stained the boards (which can also be painted).

After we let them dry, we took a board and made it into whatever we wanted. The girls all wanted their boards to be personalized, so instead of messing around with stencils, which I am not very good at, I took wooden letters, painted them, and then hot-glued them to the boards.

We used a variety of different media (purchased from Create Exchange and other inexpensive stores) to decorate the boards including embroidered patches, paper, stickers, wooden shapes, and even buttons.

The boards were a hit! The boards are simple to make and so much fun, too! We talked about what other things we can use to create new boards, and they are already planning gifts for Christmas.

I guess I know what I will be getting them this year. 🙂

Life goes on … and on

EPSON MFP image

William and Anna Priest Myers on their wedding day, 1890.

Emerson Lee Zirtzman is scheduled to come into this world a little after 9 am Tuesday, March 8. He will be the first child for Sean and Ashley Zirtzman; the 10th grandchild for me; the first for Sean’s dad and Ashley’s parents.

Ashley did not have an easy pregnancy. She has had to deal with a variety of pregnancy-related maladies,and they decided that a c-section would be best.

I hope Emerson will have a good life, but I don’t think it will be easy. His mother and father are mildly autistic, which will be challenging in itself.  He does have one thing one his side, though; the devotion of dozens of people who will do their best to see that his life is the best it can be.

I have been working on my family tree, mostly for myself, but I see how it can benefit generations to come. I started with the obvious names and found branches that led to interesting ancestors that date back to 1015 England.

Lambert Jocelinus was known as Joseli de Aldon (from my mother’s mother (Shoemaker). He was a knight, who married the granddaughter of Louis IV of France, Gerberga. Their only child known is Geoffelin. Lambert was slain in Battle Sept. 10, 1015.

Later on, his great- great-great-great-great-great-great grandson Thomas, sailed from London to New England April 17, 1635 on the Increase to Scituate. 

Sean and Ashley's wedding day, Aug. 15, 2015

Sean and Ashley’s wedding day, Aug. 15, 2015

Maybe the easiest way to log the relationship of my ancestors is to use exponents. Lambert would have been my grandfather to about the 18th power. I have an ancestor who was a sea captain, too, who died on a voyage to England in 1634, from my Grandpa Myers lineage.

The internet has made the search for our ancestors so much easier, and though many sites charge for their services, you can still find the information if you know where to look. It’s a little time-consuming, but I believe it is worth it.

Not only do we get a glimpse of what life was like  during our ancestors’ lifetimes, but it reinforces the fact that though we may not be here forever, our family’s lineage will continue on.

And maybe by recording our own history, we can offer a little insight to those who will come after us, so they can connect to the past, too.