Before we moved from North Muskegon in 2015, John and I discussed what features we wanted in our next home. For 21 years we lived in a large 2 story house on a lake (which didn’t interest us much anymore). We wanted something smaller on one level. I was ready for a condo but Hubs still enjoyed yard work and was not willing to give that up. Sigh. But beyond living fairly close to our 3 kids our list of ‘must haves’ wasn’t extensive.
Raising three kids during the first 30 plus years determined what we required in house size, location and school district that benefitted the needs of our three kids (we didn’t always make the right decision here either-but we tried) so the wants and needs for the 2 of us wasn’t something we’d ever experienced before. Hubs envisioned a few acres outside of town which included a pole barn where he could refurbish an old car or truck. That scenario didn’t appeal to me at all. He’s the social butterfly and enjoys gabbing with all the neighbors. Me, not so much. I’m not antisocial but dealing with a profound hearing loss for the last 25 years has inhibited friendships and conversations.
I thought we were destined to live within the city limits in an older neighborhood but that wasn’t the case. When the realtor showed us the 4th or 5th house on that hot August day I had no idea where we were exactly (and we had lived in this city for 7 years 22 years ago). A large, well established neighborhood with long streets, smaller homes and lots. Houses built during the 1960’s, mostly bi-level or ranch style.
The house had been repossessed and needed updating but I liked the layout, yard and garage. The front door was purple and the storm door was hanging on by one screw. It had blown open so many times there were a couple shards of glass clinging to the frame but the rest covered the ground. Yikes. The neighborhood looked quiet and middle class-like us.
With some elbow grease, gallons of fresh paint, new flooring, appliances we moved right before Halloween and it’s been our cozy home (cozy-polite term for a tad too small, yet still sufficient) for the last 7-1/2 years. New landscaping, green-weed-less-yard (he’s anal about the yard and shrubs) added another garage, new central air, water heater-ok everything but the furnace. And since I made the mistake of mentioning it, that too has probably been jinxed now.
The neighborhood is exactly what we thought since first time we drove through it. Quiet. But we’ve definitely noticed a pattern in the transience of the folks who move in and out. I’m talking about a dozen homes closest to us, 6 on our side of the street and six across from us. Of those 12 houses 2 of the owners have been here longer than our less than 8 years. That just blows me away! A couple of the homes have changed hands more than once.
I don’t think more than a couple owners are in the age group between 45-60. If you move on our street there’s a high probability that you’re either retired or just starting out. Rather unlikely you’re 42 with 3 kids. This is a neighborhood of starters and enders (you guessed it, we’re in the enders category).
This rang painfully/joyfully true a couple of months ago. Jessica, our neighbor to the east told us last fall she was expecting a baby in late March. Yay! Our neighbors, Jeff and Cindy across the street (who moved here when they were newlyweds in the mid 70’s raising 3 kids in their house) told us 18 months ago that Jeff had early onset dementia (they’re younger than us by a few years).
This winter Jeff started slipping. Couldn’t remember his way home when he walked the dog and had trouble coming up with words when carrying on a conversation. He loved John’s 1962 Studebaker pickup and enjoyed going for a ride, so he and Hubs went out for breakfast and drove around a bit every couple weeks. Suddenly Jeff didn’t want to go eat out anymore, he couldn’t read the menu and didn’t have an appetite.
As we headed home after a short trip to Mississippi, (thanks Pat & Jeff) trying to beat the much publicized ‘ice storm’ in late February, Cindy texted that Jeff hadn’t eaten in several days, was sleeping most of the time and Hospice had been called. The day after we got home, the storm hit with a vengeance, knocking out the power for 48-72 hours in our neighborhood. Jessica and Cody were heading to the hospital to deliver their baby 3 weeks early and Jeff & Cindy’s family were sitting in utter darkness, literally and figuratively as Jeff’s life was ending. (Later we learned had Consumer’s Power been aware of Jeff’s impending death they would have provided their home with a generator).
Within a couple days we lost a good friend across the street and gained a tiny baby boy next door. The sad and happy circle of life…
For 5 years we had been living in our first (and last) lake home on Muskegon Lake, about a mile from Lake Michigan by water. A quiet cul-de-sac at the bottom of a steep hill which originally held 5 homes and some extra lots. The back of our house faced the lake with downtown Muskegon on the opposite shore. Our view from the front was an older neighborhood straight up the hill or the park due east with soccer fields, a baseball diamond and shelter house.
We were enjoying most aspects of life on the lake except for ‘Shack City’ which appeared on ice (without an invitation) every January. From that day forward I longed for the coveted day in mid-March when the solid ice broke up and returned to liquid form. We added a massive sea wall to stem the loss of land which ironically included a bonus. The influx of 100’s of snowmobiles on the ice who routinely zipped through our backyard-on and off until our shoreline was filled with bowling ball sized rocks. Unless they wanted considerable damage to their machine they had to find another place to exit off the ice. Win-win for us!
I’m not sure of the exact date but it was around Memorial Day in late May. We had a wicked spring storm that knocked out the power for a day. When it was restored I caught up the laundry, cooked a meal and things were back to normal-for less than 24 hours. Early the next morning we were hit by a massive storm. Torrential rain and unbelievable winds around 100 mph. They called it a ‘straight wind’ storm and the damage to our small town was significant.
This was two months after I made the decision to get healthier and lose weight. And I was committed. Walking 5 miles a day, eating better, (tough because I worked at McDonald’s and still love their fries and sausage biscuits to this day). The storm started right before dawn and knocked out the power again. But it was light out and warm enough so I put on walking clothes and headed up the hill and west.
About a mile from home I noticed a huge branch on the sidewalk ahead of me so I veered onto Ruddiman and continued walking. My nifty little iPod was cranking out crazy tunes to keep my butt moving. A few seconds later a utility truck stops right in front of me and a guy hops out to get my attention. I took off my headphones and he yelled, “Lady, what are you doing out here? Those are live wires on the sidewalk and road. It’s not safe for you to walk. Go home and don’t get close to any wires!”
Dang, that was harsh, but I took his snarky advice and trudged back home. Hubs had heard strange noises during the storm and was in the back yard inspecting the house. The wind had knocked out several under eaves and he was picking them up off the lawn. I followed his upward gaze. “Holy cow, that’s pretty high up. Who are you gonna hire to put those back up there?” “No one, I’m gonna do it.” “No you’re not!”
Which of course he did. Probably the scariest thing he’s ever done and that included his friends holding him upside down by his legs over a railroad trestle on Highway 18 so he could spray paint RV 66. But then he had been 17 and omnipotent. A couple months before the storm Hubs celebrated birthday #50. The tracks that kept the under eaves in place were damaged so he decided to rivet them in place-very near the top of a 20 foot ladder on our 2 story house. He still thanks God for keeping him safe through that.
By day 2 after the storm most of the power had been restored in North Muskegon-but not for the folks residing in the cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill. We grilled supper or ate out but stayed in the house because we had a gas water heater and could shower.
But I was fretting about my freezers (which were full of meat and fruit pies) when my amazing McDonald’s boss/owner Mark told me I could use the walk-in freezer at the restaurant to store my foodstuff until we got power back. It was 7 long days before the power was restored.
Since that storm 25 years ago I have acquired a healthy dose of fear about losing power again for any length of time. Others might say my fear leans more towards irrational, illogical, unrealistic or implausible. They are entitled to their opinion as am I.
I have been a quantities shopper since I’ve had a spare 20 dollar bill in my wallet. I keep my freezer filled with supper options depending on what I’m craving ribs, shrimp, steak, chicken, pork chops or a beef roast. And I still ‘stew’ about losing power. Since our move 7 years ago I’ve periodically zhanicked (Dutch slang for whined) about buying a generator as Hubs nods in agreement. Lo and behold last fall he quips, “found the generator I want. It’s on sale, I’m heading to Chelsea.” (Thank you Jesus)
Not been without a couple hiccups getting it ready to run our house should the power go out. The generator rolled over Hubs as he was unloading it (he said it’s quite heavy and rolls rather fast on those little wheels), which required a trip to the ER. Subsequently he can’t lift anything over 5 pounds with his left wrist and later developed water on his elbow which was just drained by a specialist. Then we discovered our breaker box was obsolete and doesn’t supply enough juice so we hired an electrician to install and upgrade a new Square D box while waiting 2 months for Consumers to kill the power, then coordinate with the city inspector to approve the electrician’s work and sign off on it, which meant a day without power in December. Part of the irony of having a generator ready to run the house but unable to do the job until receiving Consumers’ and the city’s blessing.
Finally in mid-December we were ready for a natural disaster. Yay! (Should I really be celebrating that)? John filled multiple 5 gallon tanks of gas and periodically starts the generator. Two short months after the necessary improvements we were hit by a massive ice storm. We lost electricity at 7 pm on a Wednesday but didn’t get the generator out immediately in case the power was out for a short time. After an hour Hubs slid the generator near the deck and started it. Lights, furnace, (and most importantly, my freezer happily humming again). We lost the internet so had no TV but every other comfort of home. Our electricity was out for 48 hours but the neighbors across the street were without for 72. They brought their phones and tablets here to charge. Hubs brought them thermos’ of coffee every morning and I made them a pot of soup for supper. Our granddaughter, her boyfriend and 2 cats stayed here for several days because their house 8 miles away was without power a couple days longer than our neighborhood.
We were surprised at how much noise the generator generates. It’s loud! This spring Hubs is gonna vent it out of the garage so we can leave it in there and the noise level will be substantially lower. Was it worth the money and hassle? For my peace of mind? Ab-so-lute-ly…
Hubs got a beer making kit from his favorite son-in-law for Christmas. The large box sat on the counter in the pantry since that December day. “Dude, what’s the hold up here?” “I’m torn. I got issues.” Oh my stars, here we go. We’re diving into the background on his “issues,” which occurred over a half century ago in 1969.
Johnny Wayne and I were having some serious conversations about what exactly the future held for us. I was 18, he was 21. I had boundary issues concerning my folks. I was a belligerent, selfish brat trying to make my own decisions but failing miserably when it came to opposing mom & dad on anything but there I was on the cusp-of-the-rest-of-my-life.
The line in the sand on their part was the elimination of Johnny from my life on a permanent basis. This was one of their several semi-successful-mostly failed attempts on their part to ‘encourage’ their wayward daughter to seek a path of less/no resistance where mom and dad’s opinions about how I lived my life were concerned.
Meanwhile Johnny and I were devising the ultimate secret plan which would culminate in the fall. This is what played out during the rest of our summer of ‘69. We were staying on the ‘down low’ because many of our friends in Sioux City were from our hometown (60 miles away). None of them would ‘out’ us intentionally but a mere slip of the tongue by one of them when talking to family and the whole of Rock Valley proper would in on our plan. So we told NO ONE. Until we needed help pulling it off.
One of ‘those’ friends had just graduated from college and landed his first teaching job in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Not enough time for a summer job, zero income, no where to live, so Johnny says, “Dale, come stay with me. I’ll pay for everything until you get paid and find a place of your own.”
I was living in a boarding house with several young women and working a variety of shifts at a nursing home. John worked a combination of days and nights at Channel 4, so the new roomies could not go out very often. Which was good since they could ill afford to blow a wad of money neither of them had. Many nights were spent with a six pack of Hamm’s (from the land of sky blue wa-ters) sitting on the front porch and Dale strumming his guitar.
Out of boredom they came up with the clever idea to make their own beer. Elton, a mutual friend had often reminisced about the beer his dad brewed in Oklahoma. The process would take weeks and give them something to do (and drink). So they called Elton, who called his dad and relayed the recipe to the Iowa guys.
They bought a new plastic garbage can, mixed up the ingredients and stuck it under the kitchen sink. After a few days threw in an alcohol thermometer to see when the brew could be bottled. Zero, zilch, nada on alcohol content a couple weeks later. Called Elton back and asked for remedies to register some booze in the beer. Elton called his dad who suggested tossing in a couple apples so fermentation could get a jumpstart. The boys threw in a large bag of apples. A couple days later they walked into foam filled kitchen. A sticky mess, but registering a high alcohol reading. Hauled the can downstairs, removed the alcohol infused apples and bottled their beer, anxious to try some.
Later when they were asleep one of them woke up to loud popping sounds. Bottles of beer were exploding in the basement. Not just popping the cork but shards of glass and beer everywhere. They decided to move the intact bottles to a metal tank, immersing them and running cold water continuously. (Aren’t you glad you didn’t own this place or paid the water bill)? Couple weeks later these yahoos could get a buzz on after one bottle of beer. (Good grief, what was I getting into)?
This is one of Hubs favorite stories involving his best friend Dale, who passed away unexpectedly 2 years ago. I’m guessing John felt disloyal with the thought of brewing beer without him. Hubs finally read the beer instruction manual (several pages long, in minute detail, unlike the lackadaisical recipe via Elton years ago) and together (I’m a poor substitute for Dale and wouldn’t drink a beer for less than a thousand bucks-prepaid-in cash) but it was kind of fun, hops and yeast everywhere. I think Hubs can finish his beer project without me. Oh, and the secret plan commenced on September 22, 1969 when Johnny Wayne & Neese eloped in Elk Point, South Dakota with Dale and a complete stranger as our witnesses. So much fun spreading the news to our parents. Yikes…
I didn’t grow up on Campbell’s soup but my childhood home was never without a variety of cans either. It was a quick fix if I came home for dinner (noon meal in Iowa speak) instead of eating hot lunch at school (we lived a block away). School lunch hours were not an hour (they lied) and it took too long to bake a chicken pot pie or Swanson’s Turkey TV dinner, my favorite, which was reserved for Sunday’s-after-church-dinner when mom worked weekends.
No microwave, had to use a saucepan on our gas stove. I was partial to 3 varieties, Chicken Noodle, Vegetable Beef and my favorite, Bean with Bacon. (The chicken noodle and vegetable beef were both guaranteed to contain 3 ‘red hot’ sized morsels of meat per can. This has been verified numerous times by my quality control department-me. However no bacon was ever documented but the smokey pork aroma wafted upward as the can opener did its job).
I don’t remember if there were other brands of canned, condensed soups at the Koster’s Market but if there were, mom was loyal to Campbell’s. She loved casseroles (dad, not so much) and used condensed soups as the agent that held/brought everything together. The cook book she used most often was from Western Christian High School. I swear every other recipe (other than cookies and cakes were made with some kind of canned cream soup). But mom was funny about what flavor soups she used too.
She never used Cream of Mushroom soup, not even in Thanksgiving green bean casserole. She thought the mushroom taste was overpowering and substituted Cream of Celery or Cream of Chicken in everything. Ok, guess who has 2 cans of Cream of Mushroom in the house while storing 6-8 cans each of-Cream of Celery & Cream of Chicken? (I am my mother’s daughter after all).
Canned soups weren’t eaten very often because mom excelled at homemade soups, using dried navy beans or whole peas after soaking those little rocks overnight in (melted pristine white snow collected from our backyard) with a ham bone or pork hocks. Chicken soup and Vegetable beef rounded out her rotation of winter soups on our menu. We never had chili (although my dad loved it) and tomato soup from scratch or a can has never crossed my lips (and I love, love tomatoes) which is kinda weird.
I’ve been pretty lucky (blessed) with decent health my whole life. It’s rare when I don’t feel pretty darn good physically, but I’ve been under the weather for a few days. Something I caught from the Hubs who brought it into this house last weekend from Detroit. Not Covid, not upper respiratory, just achy limbs, muscles, nauseous tummy and hurting head. I slept Thursday and Friday away, another oddity for the gal who generally gets 5 hours a night. To let you know how lousy I felt, I fell asleep during the Iowa Hawkeye game Thursday. Well we were getting shellacked by Purdue, but still. I did manage to stay awake through my grandson’s Landon’s Friday night basketball game (on TV) which ended up being a nail biter (we won and he had a good game).
My normally over-zealous appetite has been missing in action. I drank a half a cup of tea on Thursday during the time frame I managed to stay awake. While John was eating I went into another room and covered my face with a cloth napkin to avoid the smell of food. Nothing sounded good, even after my stomach started complaining about being ignored and empty too long. There seemed to be a metallic taste in my mouth-blech. But Friday I had tea with a slice of toast and a small bowl of soup (pea-my only homemade left) and didn’t feel as bad. Saturday morning coffee smelled good again. By lunch I felt hungry but the homemade soups in the freezer consisted of chili-egg drop-or clam chowder, umm that would be a sure-fire no on all three (those are Hubs favorites, not mine and how did I get so low on my soups? I usually keep a supply on hand).
So what could I eat? Grilled cheese sounded kinda good. I haven’t made one in a long time, and I keep Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup on hand for Hubs. Again something I’ve not eaten in years. With that plan I headed to the kitchen.
Threw the soup in a cup into the microwave and fried a grilled cheese. After 15 minutes of diligent searching I managed to find the 2-3 microscopic pieces of chicken (one might have split in half) in my can of soup so I didn’t get cheated there. Made sure I ate them both although it was hard to tell, they slid down easily with the salty broth. The grilled cheese tasted good with a couple sips of my first Diet Pepsi in 3 days. Kinda disappointed in the soup. Hubs was equally disappointed when he saw I left over half of it.
By Saturday my appetite was back and I was feeling well enough to spend time in the kitchen. It seemed criminal to use a 12 dollar roast for a pot of soup but the days of a boneless chuck roast for $2.49 a pound are long gone and I was craving Vegetable Beef Barley. M’m M’m good…
I’ve written oodles of stories during the last 8 years of blogging. The majority are about my life. There’s been sweet, angry, poignant, depressing, prank filled and mundane stories. Several have been about death starting with the loss of my brother when I was 7, plus other close relatives and friends, but deaths from illnesses or accidents are part of life. Very different than taking someone’s life.
You couldn’t get more blasé than me. A small town Iowa girl, my life has been uneventful, which makes a couple stories I’ve written seem otherworldly. Both stories revolve around murders. Me, familiar with people who actually have been murdered or killed someone. Hard to reconcile that.
We moved here 7 years ago after living 160 miles west for 22 years. I wanted to stay connected to the Muskegon area because it’s the longest we’ve stayed in one spot. Besides routinely visiting an easy way I could keep up was reading their daily newspaper. There’s several Michigan cities newspapers owned in the same conglomerate and if you subscribed to one you could read any or all of them. As my default location I picked Muskegon’s paper (online) while a couple days a week we got a hard copy of our local paper. Trying to keep my foot in the door of both places I guess.
While it may sound dreary or downright depressing one of the main reasons I kept track of Muskegon Chronicle is because of the obituaries. I was a Parish Visitor (routinely visiting folks who no longer attended church regularly) for a decade. I want to know when someone from my past passed.
As soon as I saw her name it was like a punch to the gut. Truth be told, I had not thought of her once in a couple years. I wrote the story 5 years ago. Now there’s at least 100, maybe 200 stories that I have trouble coming up with the title I gave when I wrote it. A silly lyric, TV title, or catchy phrase and while perusing my old posts and would have to read a paragraph before it all came back to me. But definitely not when I saw her name. I remembered immediately the name of the story I had written and put it in my WordPress search. “Fringe friends.” No go.
Now that threw me for a minute, but I didn’t hook up with WordPress until 2019. My son Josh (the tech guru) set it up for me and we both assumed we’d transferred all my stories from June of 2014 until I bought into WordPress but the story was not there. I went back to my former blogging app called blogspot.com and found it in April of 2018. A double homicide and a suicide, and I knew 2 of the dead people. It was a hard story to write and still hard to read it again 5 years later.
I used only first names of the adults involved when I wrote the story and purposely left out the names of their 2 surviving, school age children, but did mention their names were unusual. Now a few years later that young family of four is down to one. Just a horrific tragedy.
For months after the gruesome incident I grieved over the parent’s deaths and wondered what happened to the kids. Since mom was in her late 20’s when she was killed, I hoped one of her siblings or mom were raising them. But it has been a long time since I thought about either one of them.
Until a few days ago when I noticed a beautiful teenager’s obituary in the paper. She was 14 and a stunning blonde (just like her parents) and her first name was Trinity, leaving a surviving brother named Tristian. I have no knowledge of the cause of her death. It doesn’t matter. I’m just filled with sadness about a young family where tragedy has struck for the third time…
Here’s the story I wrote in 2018.
Most of them have been on the fringe. My fringe. Almost out of my peripheral vision, but still there. Definitely, still there. People I know, but not real well, or haven’t been very close to. Sometimes, barely an acquaintance, friend or family member of a friend. Now someone from my outer edge-not often thought about-fringe friends just sprang back to the forefront. Which flooded my head with another fringe friend from way back. Here’s the story on 2 of my peripheral vision friends.
I always tended to be skeptical when a young couple joined our church. Terrible to even think like that or admit it, but I did. Often. Our congregation was ancient when we started attending in 2004, and we were considered fairly young members. I was in my early 50’s. But this stunning couple. Wow. Her name was Brittany. She was a beautiful blonde. His name was Brandon. He was tall, shy and fair-haired. They were engaged to be married at Central. Thus the skepticism. I believe if you wanted to get married at Central but were not members, the cost for having your wedding there was astronomical. A mere pittance if you belonged. A few times a year, a young couple would join our church right before they uttered their vows, never to be seen at Central again. My former church, built around 1930 has a breathtaking sanctuary. Young traditional couples sought to start their married life saying their vows at Central. Memorable.
But Brittany and Brandon proved me wrong. I’m surprised I ever crossed paths with them really. My job as Parish Visitor was tending to the needs of the elderly from our congregation. Mostly those who could no longer make it to weekly services. Their hunger for news from the church and conversations (about almost anything) was palpable whenever I knocked on their door, or walked into the care facility where they now lived. And that’s how our paths crossed. Brittany was studying to become an RN, and worked at a local nursing home while going to school. A couple of our congregation members now lived there so I visited every couple weeks. I’d run into Brittany every once in a while. After she and Brandon were married they continued to make Central their house of worship. A while later they had a baby girl followed by a boy (both with unusual names) a couple years later. Brittany got her RN degree and changed jobs.
If you’ve kept up with my blog, this is the approximate time I became disillusioned with organized religion in general and everything surrounding the Methodist Church. It wasn’t pretty. Still working on that little issue. Getting right with God. (Thanks for your patience God). Now, on with the story. It’s safe to say, I have not given Brittany, Brandon or their kids much thought since I retired from Parish Visiting in 2013.
Until recently. We moved 160 miles southeast of Muskegon in 2015. Our local newspaper is part of a conglomerate which allows me to keep tabs on Muskegon’s news, which I do a couple times a week. Scanning the Muskegon Chronicle, I started reading a story about a young couple. Oh, oh, don’t like where this is heading. Brittany had filed for divorce from Brandon earlier this year. She was out with a male hospital coworker on a Friday night when she was confronted by Brandon in a parking lot in downtown Muskegon. Brandon started shooting, killing Brittany instantly, then shooting the guy Brittany was with. Brandon drove off to a secluded spot near where he and Brittney lived and killed himself. A couple days later the other young man, Tommy died. Brittany was 28, Brandon, 34. Leaving 2 kids under 10 without parents. Although I have trouble bringing up many conversations with Brandon, this has not been the issue with Brittany. She has haunted my thoughts for 2 weeks. I feel so bad about her tragic death and for her kids. My hope is because she wasn’t even 30, Brittany’s mom is young enough to raise her kids. And I’m stunned, just stunned that I knew another fringe friend who was killed by another person. Never in my life did I imagine I would know people who were intentionally killed by someone else. Who would think of such a thing? Blows me away.
The other fringe friend happened while I was living in Davenport over 30 years ago. Remember while we lived there, 2 people were brutally murdered (separate and different cases) that I knew. It was my story called, Murder she Wrote. But this peripheral friend was not murdered. I honestly can’t remember her real name, which is beyond pitiful. But everyone called her Beanie.
I was on 3 bowling leagues at the time. Two were morning leagues, more to hone your bowling skills. There was no prize money. We only paid for our bowling, so the cost was minimal. But that third league was a serious group of women bowlers. This bowling alley was fantastic. It had 64 lanes-filled to the brim-every night. Our league started about 6, and there was no dinking around because the place had another 3 or 4 leagues starting around 8:30. I vaguely remember our league had about 12 teams with 5 gals on each team. Man were they competitive. I was a pretty good bowler, though certainly not the top bowler on my team, let alone the whole league. I was probably carrying an average in the low 160’s, but there were SEVERAL gals on our league who would be devastated if they ever bowled a game in that minuscule 160 range.
Beanie was on a team in our league. And to be truthful, I coveted absolutely everything about her. I was in my mid-30’s at the time and I think she was a little younger. Let me just put out there a few things about Beanie that I still think about. She was adorable. Petite with curly medium brown hair, I felt like an Amazon thug (or slug) next to her. I was insanely jealous of her team, which makes no sense. (I loved my team. Some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Mary Lou, Pat, Mary Ellen, Jeanne and me). But Beanie bowled with her mom. The relationship between my Mom and I was tenuous at best and it was almost painful to watch how easily and happy Beanie and her mom were bowling together every week. I think there might have been another sister on their team too. Geez. Beanie was an extraordinary bowler. That tiny gal could zip that dang 15 pound bowling ball down the lane with such precision. (Why couldn’t I throw a nice hook like that? No, my stinking straight ball looked like I belonged in a junior league). I was totally smitten, yet intimidated by everything-Beanie.
Beanie was married and had 2 kids, one of each, maybe 8 and 5. One spring day I opened the Quad City Times and there’s a picture of Beanie. First picture was when she was little and won the best Easter bonnet in the Easter parade at her elementary school. Twenty some years later, Beanie’s daughter won the same contest at the same school. So cute. Still, kinda envious. I remember being at Beanie’s house once. She had a Tupperware party for me. Her house was cute, kids were adorable, her pumpkin dessert, delicious. There was nothing in which Beanie didn’t excel.
It might have taken me a few Tuesday’s at bowling to realize Beanie was missing from her team. Their team had a sub every week. Soon, her mom wasn’t showing up either. News trickled our way that Beanie was sick. Very sick. I think it was leukemia. Within a matter of months, Beanie was gone. And I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I thought she had EVERYTHING. Where was I during this fog which lasted a few years? Being a normal, HEALTHY wife/mom/bowler/friend. Busy coveting what I thought I didn’t have. No wonder God personally wrote, ‘Denise, thou shalt not covet’ to clue me in. Finally. I had envied everything about Beanie.
For over 30 years, I still reminisce about the five year period when Beanie’s and my life intertwined. Sporadically and mostly from afar. Maybe, “coveted everything about her” might have been a tad over the top. Beanie’s young life, snuffed out just when her light was shining so bright you needed to wear shades in her presence. What is it about some people? That special ‘thing’ they possess? How can some people have such an enormous affect on someone they barely know? Thirty years after the fact. I don’t have a clue. But I’m glad Beanie and Brittany were in my life, at least for a little while. Fringe friends. So close to the edge peripherally, but still there. Hanging on. Forever in my mind. And heart…
I read an article about incorporating healthier life options in 2023. Top on the list was to quit smoking which flooded my head with some vivid, smokey memories. The last carton of Tareyton’s (I’d rather fight than switch) I bought at Meijer was in April of 1990 at a cost of $10.60 (which is now the approximate cost of a pack-not a carton of smokes. Yikes).
Hubs was 42 and hacking constantly. I knew he couldn’t quit if I didn’t, but I wouldn’t quit until that carton was gone. I plugged along with my pack-a-day and puffed my last smoke before supper on May 5, 1990. That morning Hubs had rifled through my pack before he left for work, checking how many I had left since he was down to zero. You would have thought he would just quit but he didn’t want me smoking all day if he was already in the throes of withdrawal so he stopped and bought 2 packs to get him through his day. (which irked me more than it should have).
John wasn’t a fussy smoker but rarely snitched from my stash because he disliked Tareyton’s and thought they were dry as a popcorn fart. Yet if the gas station/party store was out of his first choice he just buy another brand where I would go to a dozen stores until I came across more Tareyton’s.
When John got home, I was smoking my last and he still had a couple left. You think all smokers are alike but that’s not true. Hubs and I were the exact opposites when it came to smoking. He was a high strung/stress smoker who didn’t realize he had a lit cigarette in his hand and another one half gone in the ashtray. On the other hand I considered myself a relaxed smoker. I wanted to sit down-undisturbed for 8 minutes and enjoy that nail in my coffin.
One of the points of the article was recognizing and managing your triggers when you’re trying to quit. This is probably true for most ill advised habits we indulge in, whether it’s overeating, booze or smoking. Something triggers us, but it’s not always for those previously mentioned bad habits. A Beatles/Doors/Beach Boys song lyric can immediately transport (trigger) me to John’s maroon ‘65 Impala when we were dating. Somewhere around our Iowa hometown, in the middle of a cornfield, away from the rest of the world-at least for a little while. That car had a great bench seat which is as much as I should say on the subject.
However my biggest smoking trigger was hearing the phone ring. I know it sounds crazy and any young person will not understand this odd behavior. Imagine, if you will, no cell phone, caller ID or answering machine. When the phone rang you didn’t know who was on the other end. Generally it was for one of the kids but before I lost my hearing our stationary landline was important and I enjoyed phone conversations immensely.
But once you answered that call you were stuck there for the duration of that conversation. Oh you might be able to walk a couple feet with a stretchy cord but not much further. If it was a friend or my mom there might be a fair amount of time spent after my first ‘hello.’ And you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lengthy conversation without your cigarettes or lighter, resulting in a nicotine fit.
I was born during the winter-in Iowa. In a nutshell I’ve been cold since that day. Oh the summers were hot & humid but with air conditioning in most businesses (but not in our homes during the ‘60’s or ‘70’s). I started smoking as a teen. Smoking restricts your blood vessels which made my hands, feet and arms even colder. I’ve worn a long sleeved flannel shirt over a top since forever. My beloved flannel shirts (I have a dozen) sport pockets which is where my pack of smokes and Bic lighter lived. Out of habit of not getting caught without my trusty smokes (on my person) at all times, I always smacked my hand on the pocket. Just to be sure.
Whenever the phone rang and none of the kids screamed, “I’ll get it,” my knee jerk reaction was to smack my left boob pocket for my cigarettes before hustling to the phone. After we quit it was months before I could answer the phone without hitting myself in the chest. Hubs had his own way of dealing with life in a non-smoking world. He chewed gum with a vengeance. For months the inside of his mouth looked like he’d been attacked by a school of piranha.
Besides better health there were many advantages once we quit. The world/house/my clothes smelled wonderful (so did I), food tasted fantastic (yes I gained weight). No more holes burned into clothing, teeth were whiter and maybe my extremities were a degree or 2 warmer-but not much.
I’m still cold most of the time. I wear wool socks 7 months a year, and a flannel shirt 360 days a year-at least. In the dead of winter I’m sit under a heated throw, wear 2 layers under my flannel shirt, but I’m comfy. You probably wonder why we would ever move from a cold Midwest state to another cold Midwest state? Our kids, grands (Landon is in college 3 hours away) and great-granddaughter all live within an hour of us. Thus, here I sit and shiver…
I had an easy time through motherhood compared to my mom. Actually not just my mom, but most mom’s raising children during the 40’s-60’s (before then it was even more labor intensive and not just the labor part). Mom did this without fast food, air conditioning, automatic washers and dryer’s, crockpots, convenience foods, wash & wear clothing or the Internet to help with homework. And she worked full time. Her daily/weekly list of to-do’s was mind boggling.
I remember watching her fascinated, as she whipped stiff egg whites, then blending in molten syrup (using one hand) to make perfect divinity every stinking time. No Kitchen Aid mixer doing half the work. She made the best whipped cream using her mother’s rotary beater. A huge advantage for whipping cream though was having delivered milk from Van Sloten’s Dairy which contained nearly solid, fat enhanced cream sitting on the top of the glass milk bottle where a spoon would remain upright in the center, ramrod straight for a few beats. You could move the spoon in a circular motion for 30 seconds and wind up with sweet whipped cream.
I don’t recall mom having (or using) a vegetable peeler. Since this was before baby carrots were born I have to believe she used one on regular carrots yet I don’t remember seeing one in the small utensil section of the silverware drawer. I used to tease her about peeling potatoes with the same paring knife she had for 30 years. She didn’t hesitate buying her only granddaughter (Shannon) a fancy coat for church on Sunday but would not spend her hard earned money (2 bucks-tops) on a new paring knife. Her skills with that dollar paring knife were legendary. She could peel a Winesap pie apple in one long, continuous runner at warp speed. Watching her is how I learned to use a paring knife on fruits & vegetables. I didn’t realize we owned a vegetable peeler but Hubs insists I am mistaken and there’s one in our junk drawer.
Mom used an old wringer washer in our primitive basement. She’d start her laundry day using the hottest water and Tide on the white clothes, wringing out most of the soap before rinsing in clean, warm water, then running each piece through the wringer again. Lug those heavy, wet clothes up the steep stairs through 2 haukees (Dutch word for a haphazard add-on room/breezeway) outside to the clothesline.
Dad’s dress shirts were hung upside down so the clothes pin marks weren’t visible because that part of his shirt got tucked in. After drying on the clothesline, (infusing our duds/sheets/towels with the most incredible fresh outdoor smell), though sometimes the clothes were frozen stiff as the ironing board during Iowa winters. Then they were sprinkled using a small pop bottle with a cork stuck in the top that had numerous holes where the water got shook out, rolled up, covered with a towel and ironed. This was done after her day job, after cooking, serving, eating, and cleaning up the kitchen first. She ironed pillowcases, hankies and every shirt the 5 of us wore. Makes me tired to think about all the extra chores she did without complaint. They were just part of her to-do list routine.
There were no businesses advertising to deliver, ‘ready to eat meals in 30 minutes’ with everything proportionately measured and easy to follow instructions. Mom cooked the way she’d been taught by her two grandmas (her mom died when she was 2 weeks old) which included meat, potatoes, gravy, vegetables, scratch soups and casseroles. Although once Swanson’s TV dinners were discovered (to us around 1960), Mom would buy our favorites, turkey/stuffing for me, Salisbury steak for dad (or an occasional Swanson’s chicken pot pie) to make after Sunday morning church every other week when mom worked. That was the extent of my cooking prowess when I was a teen. But I never burned them either.
I tend to ruminate/reminisce about mom every December. The 13th marked her birthday. She would have been 96 and has been gone 18 years already. We didn’t see eye to eye on everthing, but as I age (which is cruising along at warp speed) I’ve come to appreciate her sacrifice to our family. Her life was not an easy one or particularly happy, but she tried. Hard. Rest easy mom and give Larry a big kiss for me…
I follow a few bloggers. One of my favorites recently posted and memories coursed through my head which initiated this. Brian (WritingfromtheheartwithBrian) was reminiscing about black Friday shopping years ago. At the time, he was actually staying home with the kiddos while his wife scurried for (bargain) Christmas presents. Top on their kid’s list that year were Game Boys. Those hand held games were the best invention since Fudge/Divinity/Penuche/Cinnamon Rolls/Soft pretzels with cinnamon/sugar/Cotton Candy in this mom’s opinion. (I might be hungry for something sweet). Game Boy was wholly responsible for peace on earth/good will towards sibs/keep your hands to yourself when we traveled. It’s one of the modern miracles.
Hubs is one of those guys who was born handy. He knows how to fix/repair/jerry-rig stuff although no one’s taught him. By year 18 of wedded bliss he had worked on, tore down to the frame, overhauled, replaced, spent hours meandering through salvage yards and literally months laying on his back underneath whatever junker we owned at the time, just trying to get back and forth to work.
But the times they were a changing. When we moved to Michigan in 1987 we had a 1984 Chevy S-10, but our other vehicle (questionable at best) was a 1978 Mitsubishi Sapporo-with a rebuilt engine Hubs had swapped-that didn’t quite fit and had issues. Our growing family of 5 didn’t fit in either one. Luckily Adam was small and was regularly delegated to the floor boards among our 6 legs & feet. Forget about seat belts.
Although we didn’t know it at the time, John’s dad was in the last year of his life. Jim had been battling leukemia for a couple years and most of his fighting days were over. We knew we’d be making a couple trips to Iowa and desperately needed good transportation that comfortably sat all of us for the one way, 12 hour drive. We hadn’t been in Michigan more than a few months when opportunity knocked.
A local guy was advertising his 1986 Astro van. Said he needed to give up one of his rides before it was repossessed and decided to keep a Corvette and a pickup (with 4 kids) and sell the van that fit his family. Goofball. The Astro van had 12,000 miles and he needed $12 thousand to break even. It was perfect for us. At the same time my parents offered us their 1978 Nova because Shannon had just gotten her license. Just think, for the first time we had 3 reliable means of transportation for 3 licensed drivers. Another miracle.
I started driving during the mid-60’s and the 1986 Chevy van was the first car we ever owned that was an automatic. I was so pleased/proud/protective of that mini-van I wouldn’t drive it during the winter (much to Shannon’s dismay because then we were sharing the Nova). I garaged the Astro in my neighbor’s extra stall and drove the Nova when the weather was bad (that’s December through March in Michigan).
While the kids were on summer break that year we drove to Iowa. You’d think they would have been thrilled with all the extra room the van offered but still they fought. Shannon claimed the entire back bench seat and listened to her music loud enough for the rest of us to enjoy-ugh (Walk like an Egyptian, Livin’ on a prayer, I just died in your arms) but there were spats the whole trip. “Adam farted,” “move over, you’re on my half,” Shannon’s music is too loud,” “mom, Josh is looking at me.” (Oh for the love of pete). By the next Iowa trip each gawking/farting/crowding/griping son had their own Game Boy (fully charged) and peace reigneth the entire trip. In 53 years of marriage (to date) those 2 Game Boys remain one of our best investments.
During that trip John brought his dad to the hospital for a blood transfusion (which he was now getting more frequently) when Jim said to his youngest son, “Johnny, this is the last time I’ll see you. I’m not coming back for any more transfusions. I’m done.” John argued and pleaded but Jim had made up his mind. He was going out on his terms and he was too tired to fight. He was right. He passed away a couple months later on November 4th. Jim was the first of our parent’s who died, but there were still 3 living Iowa parents so the multiple trips each year continued (along with hand held games/tooting boys/sullen teens) until my dad moved to Michigan in 2005…
I’ve always loved shopping when I could afford it, spending numerous hours cruising malls and antique shops. Several years ago we vacationed in Las Vegas for 5 (very long) days. It was torture spending that much time in a casino if you’re not a gambler, but shopping made the trip worthwhile. What a great way to spend a day. I was the best shopper though I rarely gave into moments of instant gratification. When I did succumb it was usually an antique I could not live without while remaining sane.
Realized the last few years I don’t enjoy shopping as much. Somewhere I’ve misplaced/deleted/failed to update my internal shopping app. I’m into living with less, not more. My needs outweigh my wants 10-1. No to more knick-knacks, holiday decorations or anything that requires dusting or taking up valuable wall space. Who knew I had a morsel of minimalist inside?
My disdain for shopping does not extend to groceries however. Still a favorite pastime except for the amount of money I spend and the empty shelves week after week. As soon as I get home from the store I write a new list of all the things I couldn’t find for my next grocery adventure. I’ve had clams (blech) on my list for at least a month running so Hubs can make his chowder again.
I need a new pair of jeans which should be a snap but it’s not as easy as it sounds. I could order a pair from Amazon but jeans are as personal as swimsuits. You have to try them on (by yourself) in person. The cutest pair on the rack make me look like Bigfoot with a 2 axe handle wide rear end and the least appealing pair does not look too bad. There might be an unwritten rule discouraging great grandma’s from wearing jeans.
Normally I am a rule follower to the letter but I’m not ready to give up blue jeans just yet. I refuse to wear ‘skinny’ jeans or a pair with so many rips it looks like I’ve been attacked by a grizzly and lived to tell the tale. Manufacturers seem to discount my segment of consumers so maybe I should heed their advice about giving up jeans. But the rebel inside says, no Neese. Do not give ‘them’ (manufacturers/fashion experts/influencers) the satisfaction.
I bought a new hearing aid a couple months ago and I’m in the process of having it tweaked (repeatedly). The doc sets ‘my program’ to what sounds good in her office, then I get on the highway and the noise from the road and tires drives me crazy before I’m 10 miles away. Walked in the house, said hi to Hubs, only to discover he’s acquired a serious speech impediment while I was away with his S’sssssssssssssss. He sounded like a ssssserpent. Well sssshoot. Called for another appointment and it was a 5 week wait (plus 50 miles away). I heard a lot of strange sssssounds from everyone during that time.
The day of my appointment I decided to stop at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor on my way home. Haven’t been there in ages and I shopped for jeans, but that’s where things went sideways. Somewhere between the pandemic and now, I gained some weight, lost some weight and discovered the overall shape of me has changed. Listen, I know gravity. I realize parts and attachments on this old gal are slipping closer to the ground at an alarming rate. Sections of me are saggy, pouchy, crepe papery plus flabby with knuckles that look like I was a heavyweight prizefighter back in the day. These weird body variances aren’t caused by a weight gain or loss.
Perhaps the reason is my lack of daily walking which has been a part of my routine for 25 years. My replacement knee is still touchy on the right side and my left leg constantly aches. I’m just not ready to go under the knife again which explains why my calves/thighs are not as firm as they should be but my leg shape near my knee is off too. My middle seems thicker lately although my weight is good. And my gut is out shining my lackluster chest which is another huge bust.
I’m going with the most logical explanation. I’ve morphed into a shape-shifter. But if this is my new superpower why would I ever shift my shape into this? Goodness no. Maybe if I concentrate using all my remaining brain cells, I can turn this tide and reshape my image into something more aesthetically pleasing who fits into normal sized, appropriately aged clothing lacking odd shaped bumps and misappropriated bulges…
Nearly 2 decades have passed and I’m still perplexed that dad moved to Michigan after mom passed away in 2004. Rock Valley was the town he called home his whole life, minus short stints at CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the Army. He was exhausted from caregiving, yard work, shoveling snow and had grown equally weary of being a home owner after remodeling and repairing their home for 50 years.
At the time we’d been in Michigan nearly 20 years (which was just as surprising)! I thought we’d move back to Iowa in 3 years or less, yet here we remain. Dad and mom visited us frequently but it surely wasn’t home. After losing his wife of 62 years he realized at 88 not many of his friends were still around.
Dad was saved after my brother Larry was killed in 1958. From that day forward he dedicated his life to Jesus and our church (Reformed Church of America) serving as an elder, Sunday school teacher, a champion advocate/teacher/preacher/lay minister for prison inmates. All those activities came to a screeching halt when mom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma a few years prior to her death. He was no longer able to gallivant to far parts of Iowa and South Dakota because Mom couldn’t be left alone for hours on end.
We were both apprehensive when I encouraged him to sell their old family home and move to Michigan because we’d never been close. Guess what? He agreed without fanfare. (Oh what have I done) In retrospect it was the right call and we both benefited during his last years.
I did the Michigan legwork (set up a Bible study for him to teach at the prison and a nursing home when he arrived) while he listed the Iowa house. Five months after mom’s death we rented a U-Haul and moved dad to an apartment a block from our home. There were a few awkward moments but gradually he learned his way around our small town and met some folks his age.
There were some minor cultural shocks for dad after living in a small community for 8 decades. He never came to terms that in a larger city atmosphere (40,000 versus 4,000) not everyone goes to church on Sunday morning or bows their head in prayer before eating in a restaurant. He wanted everyone to do as he did where God was concerned and felt compelled to inquire about their “you need to get right with God” or “are you saved” status.
Soon after dad settled in North Muskegon, he was back preaching and teaching Bible study to inmates at the prison and felt a great sense of worth and fulfillment again. The thorn was finding him a church home. He was drawn to Christian Reformed but that church was 6-8 miles away, plus they had services at night and I didn’t want him driving after dark. He visited the Methodist church where we belonged but was unenthusiastic. After a couple months of searching we found a Reformed Church not far away (a straight shot except turning into the parking lot).
I accompanied him to services for weeks. He noted they dressed more casual than he was used to but was pretty comfortable from the get-go. He enjoyed the sermons and started attending Sunday school. I helped him fill out a ‘newcomer’s’ card, then he waited to be contacted.
Most of us are reluctant to change and dad was no exception. His assumption was every Reformed church operates in the same manner/programs as his church from Rock Valley. Dad anticipated getting a phone call to set up an appointment between him and the senior pastor after the church office learned of his interest in joining because that’s how potential members are welcomed into the fold in Iowa. Dad attended regularly and felt a connection, but after a few weeks he’d still not heard back from clergy about getting together for ‘the talk before you join.”
I decided to call the church. The pastor took my call and asked what he could do for me? “It’s not for me but my dad is eager to join church and has been wondering when the two of you can get together to discuss it.” “Ah, there’s not much to talk about really. We know Rich wants to be part of our congregation because of the paperwork. We’ll just set a date and welcome him on a certain Sunday, ok?” “Well no not really. He wants a one-on-one conversation with you. Dad needs to be wooed.” “I don’t woo.” (And there lies the rub)
“Dad’s kinda old school and has served in the consistory many times as an elder and they routinely visited members. But the senior pastor always visits potential members. Dad assumes every Reformed Church does the same. Could you make a point to stop and see him for a half hour before you set his date for his membership?”
The pastor finally agreed it would go a long way to visit with dad for a few minutes. (Dang). Dad never realized I advocated on his behalf before he and the pastor met for coffee one afternoon. They got along famously-after dad was sufficiently wooed…