The organizing struggle continues

I’ve written three posts detailing my mission to help my mother organize (Helping a collector organize, A collector chooses organization, Organizing payoff). While she’s more willing to let go of things than when we started 16 months ago, she’s still extremely sentimental and somewhat unrealistic about craft projects she plans to start and/or finish. She also continues to shop and add to her collections. (BIG SIGH!)

We continued working in her garage going through boxes. Some of those boxes were packed two moves ago! It’s reasonable to think that if she hasn’t needed anything in those boxes since 2003 she doesn’t need any of it now. I really don’t mind her sifting through the paper to see if there might be a photo or money, but I get a little cranky when she wants to read cards or articles from long ago. However, I’ve learned this is what she needs to do to let go of things, so I summon all the *finesse I can muster and remain silent.

I’ve also learned that she doesn’t keep or buy things because she was raised in the depression-era. She keeps and buys things to give away to others. She’s not content to give these things to a Goodwill or Salvation Army unless it’s really something no one would want. If there’s the slightest possibility she can personally find a new owner for her stuff, she will hold onto it with clenched fist.

Progress is slow, but we did manage to fill three boxes which are sitting in the back of my Acura MDX awaiting drop off at the local thrift store, fill her recycle can half way, and fill her garbage can to the top. We also brought in a shelving unit to get some of the containers off the floor. I have to focus on what we accomplished rather than what is left to do. I’ll go crazy otherwise.

I need to schedule one day a month to help her through this process. She tries to go through things on her own, but is easily distracted by the memories brought to mind. I could just let things be, but mom turns 81 this month and at some point we will have to deal with the clutter. I’d rather spend time doing it with her, than without her.


My organizing finesse level:
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your organizing finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

A special blood connection with my dad


So that’s what they look like…

My dad and I shared a blood connection that goes beyond the ordinary. Not only was he my natural father and blood relative, but we also shared mosquito repellent blood. They didn’t like him and they don’t like me. If you showed me a picture of a mosquito and asked me to identify the insect, I’d fail the test every time. The little blood-suckers would eat my mom and sister alive, while displaying an odd aversion to me and my dad.


Me & Daddy before one of my band concerts

Being invincible in a swarm of mosquitoes wasn’t the only connection I shared with my dad. We also connected through music. He was a very talented musician, and helped me hone my talents vocally and instrumentally. I’ve enjoyed that part of my life immensely, and still sing and play the piano. It’s been a great connection between me and my son, as well.


Me & Daddy after Christmas church services

We connected through faith. My dad was quiet and reserved about his faith, but he lived it every day in the way he was devoted to my mother, dedicated to me and my siblings, and how he treated those around him. As a result, I am a devout person of faith, and I’ve done my best to pass along that heritage to my children and grandchildren.

We connected through humor. If daddy liked you, he teased you. He had a great wit, and his eyes disappeared (as do mine) when laughing at a good prank or just a highly humorous situation. I really appreciate that I can take a joke, tease and giggle like a five-year-old at my own jokes. Life is too short to be overly serious.


My biggest fear was that my dad would die of a heart attack before he was able to walk me down the aisle.

Life for my dad was extremely short. I visited his grave a few days ago. His headstone reveals the year of his birth, 1933, and the year of his death, 1985. The dash between those dates stands for 52 well-lived, short years full of music, church, camping, water skiing, and lots of teasing and laughter.

He’s been gone so long and so much has happened in his absence that I occasionally feel disconnected from him. That is until someone complains about those pesky mosquitoes.

Why I’m not “grandma”

I overheard a middle-aged man ask somewhat rhetorically, “Why don’t women want to be called grandma anymore?” I don’t know where he’s been hanging out, but I know plenty of women who love being called grandma. While, I love being a grandma, it’s not the name my grandchildren use, so I’ll answer his question.

First of all, it’s not about pride. I don’t think people look at me and think “grandma,” but they’re also not surprised to learn I am one. I’m certainly within the age range, and I’m content with that fact. I readily admit to being a grandma so I can talk to you about my granddaughters until your eyes roll. I proudly carry their photos and am ready to whip them out at the slightest mention. Consider yourself warned!

It is, however, a matter of practicality. Babies cannot say grandma. As they approach their first birthday, they can say simple syllables such as da, ma, ha (translated “hi”) and ba (translated “bye”). Between the ages of one and two, they add more words to their vocabulary, like mine and everyone’s favorite, NO!

We make it easy for these little budding linguists to say grandpa, by shortening it to “papa.” However, you can’t shorten “grandma” in the same manner. Babies have ONE “mama” and that’s a sacred relationship.

So, being the practical person that I am, I went in search of a name my grandchildren could pronounce – something simple. I know a few grandmas who are referred to as Mimi. Cute, simple and easy to pronounce, but that’s what my son called me as he was transitioning from saying mama to mommy. Somehow that didn’t seem right, and it’s also the name my son’s mother-in-law chose to use.

With my usual *finesse, I searched the internet and found a site that provides the word for grandma in other languages. I’m the first to admit that I’m pretty much a mixture of anything and everything Northern European. I’m Irish, English, German and Flemish with a tad-bit of Cherokee thrown in. In other words, I’m a mutt. However, since my Irish heritage is strongest, I looked up the Gaelic word for grandma. I found the following translation and definition: seanmháthair, literally meaning “old mother.” Children would not be likely to address a grandmother by this term. They would use instead Maimeó or Móraí.

It’s self-evident that I’m an “old mother,” so I chose not to have my grandchildren announce that fact every time they called my name. Besides, seanmháthair is even tougher to pronounce than grandma. I clicked the on the pronunciation of maimeó and heard, maw-moh. Okay, we have a winner!

My husband and I are Poppa and Mamo, respectively, and our almost two-year-old granddaughter has no problem saying either name. She actually demonstrated this for the congregation at church as her mother was taking her to the nursery midway through the sermon. As they were leaving the sanctuary we heard her strong, sweet voice saying, “Buh-bye, Poppa! Buh-bye, Mamo!” Her mother may have been slightly embarrassed, but it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Julia Child? Not even close

Like most children, I played chef. I’d press my Play-Doh ® into cookie-shapes and make “cakes” in my sandbox. My mother and I regularly watched a cooking show on one of the local television stations. I watched my mother prepare meals and I even took a 4-H cooking class. However, none of that really taught me how to cook or bake.

chickenDid you notice how I described what my mother did in the kitchen? I wrote that she prepared meals, which is far different from cooking or baking. My mom would rather be outside weeding or pruning than inside cooking or baking (truth be told, she would’ve rather spent her days water-skiing!). She took full advantage of all the time saving ways to prepare meals. Fry a chicken? Why go to all that trouble when you can buy pre-fried frozen chicken, pop it in the oven and dinner’s ready in about 45 minutes. Almost anything frozen or in a box was her favorite way to tackle dinner.

Mom made most of our birthday cakes (she’s famous for her pineapple upside down cakes), but they all came from a box mix. She usually made her own frosting, but other than that, it was all from a box.

yeast_rollsMy grandma, her mother, was a great cook and baked wonderful breads and rolls. I loved the warmth and heavenly aroma of her house when she baked. She could grab the most interesting ingredients and make something incredible! Mom’s younger siblings are good cooks, especially her brother. I’m sure my mom must have observed her mother cooking and baking, but for some reason, she never emulated her mother’s domestic talent.

So, I suppose it’s not surprising that I am not a good cook. I remember making pancakes for me and the husband one Saturday morning shortly after we were married. They weren’t good. I tried a few more times without any luck and turned to mom’s solution – Eggo® waffles.eggo

Oh, I can make a few things, well. The husband likes his mother’s chicken and rice recipe and her chicken enchiladas. Those turn out well, but I’ve never mastered her meatloaf. If he wants her meatloaf, he asks her to make it.

I’ve come to terms with my lack of culinary skills and usually just stick to my strengths. However, I recently came across a recipe that looked really good and really easy. I correctly followed the directions, used all the correct ingredients, and popped it in then oven at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time. It should’ve looked like the picture, right? Wrong!

Maybe I should have just picked up some pre-fried frozen chicken.

My cooking *finesse level:  Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your cooking finesse level? *finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Presidential relations

white houseBefore anyone get’s the wrong impression, this blog post is NOT a Monica Lewinsky-type confessional. Neither the husband or I can brag about being direct descendants of Presidents or First Ladies, but since we are celebrating Presidents’ Day, I thought it might be interesting to explore how we might be connected (if at all) to those who have occupied the White House. has a cool feature that allows subscribers to find famous relatives, and this is what I discovered.

Speaking of Monica, President Bill Clinton is the husband’s 5th Cousin 1 times removed on his mother’s side of the family.

RBHayesHis paternal side of the family is a little better connected:
First Lady Elizabeth Kortright Monroe – 5th Cousin 5 times removed
First Lady Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison – 6th Cousin 3 times removed
President Millard Fillmore – 8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Jane Means Appleton Pierce – 5th Cousin 5 times removed
President Rutherford B. Hayes  – 6th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Lucy Ware Webb Hayes -6th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Ellen Louis Axson Wilson  – 7th Cousin 2 times removed
President Richard M. Nixon – 7th Cousin 1 times removed

My connections on my dad’s side of the family:
First Lady Jane Means Appleton Pierce – 5th Cousin 7 times removed
First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley – 6th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt – 7th Cousin 3 times removed
Teddy_RooseveltPresident Theodore Roosevelt – 7th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Ellen Louis Axson Wilson – 7th Cousin 3 times removed
First Lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge –  8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Lou Henry Hoover –  9th Cousin 2 times removed
First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy – 10th Cousin 2 times removed (Hey, Caroline! Can I drop in on the family at Hyannis Port?)
President Richard Nixon – 7th Cousin 3 times removed
President Jimmy Carter – 6th Cousin 4 times removed

My connections on my mom’s side of the family:
President Rutherford B Hayes – 6th Cousin 6 times removed
First Lady Lucy Ware Webb Hayes – 8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt – 8th Cousin 4 times removed
First Lady Ellen Louis Axson Wilson – 8th Cousin 4 times removed,
First Lady Elizabeth Wallace Truman (or Bess, as the family calls her) – 8th Cousin 3 times removed
President George H.W. Bush – 8th Cousin 1 times removed
President George W. Bush – 9th Cousin (Get the BBQ goin’ in Crawford, Cousin, ‘cause I’m comin’ by for a visit!)

If only our common ancestors had kept in touch! Do you have any presidential relations?

Puppy love

Valentine’s Day always reminds me of one of my old boyfriends. Not that I still have feelings for him, but because we began dating on Valentine’s Day in 1975.

I’d had a crush on this guy since I was about eight-years-old. Crazy, huh? Maybe it was because he was two years older or because he had the same name as my beloved grandpa, who knows, but I had a severe case of “puppy love.” I watched heartbroken as he “went steady” with other girls, most of whom were his age.puppylove_1

After waiting for seven years, he finally chose me! Funny, you’d think I’d remember the how and where of that event since I’d been dreaming of it happening for all those years, but for the life of me, I can’t recall a single detail.

I remember it was a lot of fun, at least for the first six months, but then I began to enjoy being without him as much as I enjoyed being with him. We went to different high schools, so I only saw him on weekends, which strangely was just fine with me. I still liked him – a lot, but he wasn’t at the top of my priority list. To be honest, he probably didn’t crack the top five on that list. I began to ask other couples if the way I was feeling was normal. All I heard was a resounding, “No!”

In retrospect, as a senior he was concentrating on his future beyond high school and as a sophomore I was concentrating on my future on the cheerleading squad. We were out of sync, but I hesitated in breaking up with him. There wasn’t anyone else I wanted to be with and I didn’t want to hurt him. And what if I’d regret it later?

puppylove_2Finally, he said something that gave me the courage to end things. He said he felt I had been drifting away from him. If there was ever an open door, that was, and it was wide open. It was the hardest thing I’d done in my life up to that point, and yes, he was hurt (although his hurt healed much faster than I expected).

That relationship lasted a little more than a year and taught me that I wasn’t ready to have a relationship. For the next two years I dated and enjoyed being with my friends, and that’s what was best for me emotionally. I had time to be me without thinking about someone else, until I was ready. I determined that the next time I was in a relationship I would concentrate on the friendship rather than being starry-eyed.

Fast forward 38 years and I’m happily married to the love of my life, and the old boyfriend is happily married to the love of his life. The feelings of puppy love are real, but those feelings have a way of fading away. The love that forms in a deep friendship goes the distance. So, happy Valentine’s Day to Jerry & Mary Scott and an especially happy Valentine’s Day to my very best friend, my special blessing from God, my husband, Chris!

Kid’s Day

Even as a child, Halloween wasn’t my favorite holiday. As an adult I came to loathe it intensely. Trick-or-Treaters were already out in full force before I arrived home from work. I’d carefully navigate my car through the streets of our housing development, watching out for the hordes of ghosts, witches, princesses and action heroes who refused to stay on the sidewalk.  Each year we increased our candy purchase, but every year trick-or-treaters outpaced our stockpile of treats. As a young couple, it got to be financially difficult and a little more than crazy!

Our daughter was two and a half years of age when we adopted her on October 5.  We were faced with a choice of adding her to throngs who scavenged for sweets, attending the popular harvest parties that were springing up as an alternative to roaming the streets, or not celebrating the holiday at all. We opted for attending a harvest party so she could still get candy (although limited) and enjoy a fun evening with other children.

Robin Hood & Minnie Mouse on Kid’s Day 1992

We were still uncomfortable with our decision. We felt that we were teaching her that once a year, for no reason whatsoever, she was owed more candy than she could possibly imagine (and believe me, this child had a huge imagination!). That’s not what we wanted her to learn.

Above all else, we wanted her to know she was loved and how very thankful we were to have her in our family.  I wanted to celebrate her in the same way she would be celebrating us on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. That’s when it hit me that we could transform Halloween into Kid’s Day!

Every year we’ve celebrated Kid’s Day on Oct. 31 and made a point to be thankful for our children. When they were still living at home, they’d take turns each year choosing their favorite restaurant for dinner. We usually took them to a harvest party in the community, as well. Then every day between Kid’s Day and Thanksgiving we chose something specific for which to be thankful.

It became a fun tradition, and although they outgrew the harvest parties long ago, they still like to be treated to dinner. My daughter-in-law made a point to tell my son that they only have a few years left of choosing a restaurant before their four-month-old (my granddaughter) starts making her opinion known. I guess the tradition lives on…

Sharing memories

A rare photo of my dad with his dad

The last of my dad’s siblings passed away recently. Aunt Bunny and I weren’t particularly close, so I had no idea how many family photos and memorabilia she possessed. Possibly because she outlived her siblings, many cousins and two of her three children, she became the logical repository for such family treasures.

Her son Mark and his wife Alice encouraged family to make copies before they took the photos back to their home in another state. My cousin and I scanned photos and genealogy information for several hours, but didn’t quite finish before Mark and Alice were scheduled to hit the road. I’ve continued scanning off and on for several weeks and have just a few more photos left to scan. Whew!

My dad’s mother with some of his older siblings (abt. 1924)

I’m grateful that my aunt kept the photos and documents in good shape, but there are two things she could have done to make these treasures more valuable for the next generation.

Labeling: Most of the photos have some sort of writing on the back, however, some of the writing was faded or illegible. Most of the information was first names only, which isn’t very helpful if you’re trying to connect them with a certain family. Dates and locations would also have been great information.

Share: As the oldest member of the family, it would have been very helpful if Aunt Bunny had shared the photos and documents before dementia faded her memory. It would have been so interesting to hear the stories that accompanied the photos. We also could have been enjoying family history and posting information to instead of it being stored away in boxes.

My dad’s sister Goldie with his soldier brothers Russell and Orville. (abt. 1943)

I plan to work with my mother (who is the oldest of her siblings and the oldest of the remaining cousins on both her mother and father’s side of the family) to not only label photos with names, dates and locations, but include relationships. We need to scan photos and documents for other family members to enjoy now.

What history and memories do you have stored in boxes? Sharing them would make an excellent Christmas present!

Political jabs

I enjoy keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues with Facebook. As we move, change jobs and just get busy with life, it’s difficult to maintain relationships.  Facebook has become a fun tool to make that important task easier.

However, in the past few months, Facebook has become a battlefield of ideology; republicans against democrats, liberals against conservatives and libertarians against everyone. Insults fly unchecked for accuracy. I don’t have an issue with good debate, but that is not even close to what I’m observing.

I believe my friends who share political posts are patriotic citizens. I believe they are doing the job they believe the media has failed to do. I respect freedom of speech and the free exercise thereof, however, is the divisiveness caused by sharing every “joke” making us better citizens? Are we truly more informed voters?

I’ll admit to being a little bit of a Pollyanna, and it might be unrealistic, but can we look beyond the labels? Can we respect that others have a different point of view without trying to convert them to our way of thinking? If we can’t get along with our friends on Facebook, how do we expect Congress to get along and fix the big issues facing our country?

Regardless of whether you agree, please celebrate the liberty we have as citizens to freely vote our conscience without intimidation. VOTE November 6!