Archive for the 'Intentional Family Life' Category

The Summer of Three Reunions (part one)

Going to any reunions this summer? I’ve got three on my calendar!

I grew up with relatives all around. Except for the California ones. But we saw them too as our family piled into our non-air-conditioned car and drove across country sans seat belts. Hanging out with relatives was just what you did. On Sunday afternoons usually but for sure at the reunions.

Each side of the family had one every summer. No tee-shirts to announce our tribe but we knew who we were. Mostly I remember the food which came from those farm kitchens. Carbs galore and oh so delicious! I looked forward to the high chocolate cake with the glossy icing the most. My mom never made that kind of icing.

Then the reunions stopped, or I stopped going. Busy, you know. My immediate family of six provided my “hanging out with my relatives” and visits from and to my parents filled out the rest. I didn’t think I missed the reunions. But part of me did, and that part got bigger as I got older.

A cache of photos started it, a common catalyst. My mom gave me the old ones quite a while back, but I lost track of them for a time. Now I look at their faces and wonder, who are these relatives and what is their story? I desperately need to know.

To begin the re-connection, I started a cousins Facebook group and turns out, I’m not the only one with photos. Names and faces from the past, my past, my DNA, show up on the page along with some funny stories.

Could another reunion come together? It would be my generation’s turn now to make it happen.

The appearance of another photo (see above) jump started the momentum. Taken circa 1925, the photo’s setting was in front of a lovely old home near my grandparent’s farm. My grandpa is the one in the middle holding the straw hat, my grandmother is on the right end. My great-grandparents, whom I never met, are in the front row left. The rest of the family is great-aunts, uncles and first cousins of my mom.

None of the relatives in the photo are still living.

But the house is still standing. What if we could replicate the photo? Turns out we can.

So tomorrow we’re taking another photo, 93 years later. Not all the cousins can make it, but enough can to stage the scene once again.

After the photo, we’ll hang out with food and drink and gather again Saturday afternoon for an old-fashioned reunion picnic. This time, catered food will replace the bulging picnic baskets and there probably won’t be any high chocolate cake with the glossy icing. OK with me, I’m not coming for that anymore.

Reunions, a time to remember our “union,” our shared story, the people listed in the genealogy charts along with us. So excited to see the new picture! More important, can’t wait to see the family again.

Two more reunions later this summer, stay tuned!

Hope for the best,

Tish

 

 

 

Advertisements

Uno! My Favorite Card Game.

Uno with Omi a few years back.

My parents played Bridge. The best thing about Bridge was the “Bridge Mix” which was an assortment of chocolate candies served during the evening. Many Saturday nights my Bros and I tagged along to someone’s home (unless it was at our house that night) and hung out with the other kids while the parents played cards. Babysitters were never used for these nights.

I don’t remember how we passed the time (no movies then) but the reward came at the end when a huge spread of food appeared after the card playing. All the kids got some too. My favorites were the homemade tamales at Fran’s house.

You might think I would grow up to play cards. I did, Crazy Eights. Dealing the cards was an almost every night ritual during my freshman year of college. We called it a “study break” but some nights we played cards more than studied. Always Crazy Eights.

And then I got busy with protesting things, following Jesus, falling in love and put the cards away.

Until Uno came along.

Grands playing Uno at our house.

Merle Robbins developed Uno when he was trying to resolve an argument with his son about the rules of Crazy Eights. History of Uno  Can you see why I liked it?

Our oldest son, Jesh, was around four when I taught him the game and we played all the time. Once we had a long ongoing tournament over the winter where we would play when we had a chance and keep track of the score. I don’t remember what the total points we played to but he won and we went out to get ice cream to celebrate the finish.

Each of our four logged many games of Uno and especially enjoyed playing with my parents. Then they all grew up and the cards stayed in the drawer untouched for years.

Jesh had his own children and I celebrated the day I taught my oldest grandchild how to play Uno in our living room. And her brother after that and then her sister. We also play Skip-Bo now. Made by the same company and just as fun!

Skip Bo on the train.

The grands and I spend hours on the train playing the game on the way to visit my mom. No more Bridge for her but she can probably still manage Uno some days.

On a recent trip with my daughter’s family, an Uno game showed up at the hotel. I asked her daughter, almost four, if she would like to learn. She picked it up right away and loved it. We play in Starbucks now!

Uno at Starbucks

How could this simple game be on to the fourth generation in our family? We aren’t card players, and this is probably the only game I know how to play, besides Crazy Eights of course. BTW I can’t shuffle either so adopted what we call the “Babi shuffle” named after Tom’s Czech grandmother. Spread all the cards out and swirl them together!

We play, we laugh, we snack during the rounds but mostly we are together.

Little game, big rewards.

Do you play?

Hope for the best,

Tish

 

 

“The Sick Cup”and Other Delights of a Day at Home.

I was secretly excited when my daughter-in-law asked me if my 9-year-old grandson could come over for the day. She was on her way out-of-town and he had a bit of a fever and couldn’t go to school. Crazy, but I really enjoyed my kid’s minor sick days years ago and was eager to play nurse again.

A “slight fever” was always the best kind of sick day. I’m speaking at a retreat this weekend so knew I could keep on working during his movie time, but we could still get a game or two and a few stories in.

A few decades ago, a day home from school for our four also meant a visit to the “sick cabinet” on the back porch: A tall metal storage piece from my husband’s Czech grandmother that landed with us after her death. Originally laden with her homemade pickles and jam, we filled it with toys, books and movies which could only be played with on a verified sick day. Verified that is by a thermometer or frequent bathroom visits.

(No, we didn’t buy all these items.) Our extended family supplied our kids with oodles of toys at Christmas, many more that we did. Before they got too attached to the new items, I swooped a few up and stuck them in the cabinet. Garage sale finds added to the supply. Everything was “new” on sick day! As soon as health rebounded, all items returned to the cabinet until the next time. The plan worked.

The other bonus of the day at home was to get to use “The Sick Cup.” A somewhat gaudy light green goblet once won by my mother at the Illinois State Fair when the carnival worker failed to guess her age correctly and took about ten years off. She didn’t need the “prize” after that elation and offered me the cup. Right away I decided how I would use it.

So I climbed on a stool a little while ago and reached the old glass from the top shelf where it has always resided. After a good cleaning, I filled it with juice and handed it to my grandson to sip during his movie.

Wasn’t it just last week I stood in the same kitchen and filled the same cup for one of mine?

With all the winter illness going around in my circle of friends (I took my turn too!) maybe it’s time to create “sick” specialties for ourselves as well. A new book, movie or TV series, special beverage, soft tissues or even pajamas to wear only on under-the-weather days. Cute ones! Best gather that now while health is strong. At least I already have a sick cup!

Hope for the best,

Tish

Happy St Nicholas Day: Are your Shoes Out?*

st-nicks-shoes

Neither are mine but when my husband was a child, his heroic mom of 9 children managed to fill each one’s shoes with a special treat the morning of Dec 6 so St Nick could make his first run-through.

Did you know Nick was a real-life bishop who had a reputation for secret gift-giving?  He liked to put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, especially the poor.

Some Christmas customs, like celebrating St Nick’s Day survive for generations, others drop off or transform into new traditions.  As a self-proclaimed traditionalist, I think we need both!

This year I am trying three new things:

1)     Small poinsettias in each room.  They are cheap and colorful and don’t need unpacking and are easily tossed after the holiday or when you get tired of them in February.

 

 

2)     Attaching a photo of the recipient instead of a gift tag. I have a huge supply of never used photos and it’s easy to cut out just one person to use as a tag.  Older photos are even more fun!

2012 Christmas Tags

3)     Do you send out holiday newsletters?  I stashed a copy of each of our past letters into a file and decided to put them into a red binder for display.  Office supply stores sell packages of letter size sheet protectors already punched with three holes.  Fun to look back over our highlights each year.

How about you?  Trying anything new?

Hope for the best,

Tish

*adapted from 12/6/12

 

Mimi Musings

The Oldest

I’m thinking about my grandmas a lot these days. Grandma Schwartz and Grandma Wiewel. No cutesy names for these women, I don’t think the thought ever crossed their minds to be called anything else. ..not like me and most of my girlfriends.

Their birthdays are both this month, one today in fact, but I know it’s more than that.

Mostly I’m very aware that my beloved Grandma Wiewel died the December I was eleven. My oldest grandchild is now eleven. I’m suddenly seeing me from her eyes and wonder how deep the imprint is going. More than wonder, I pray all the time for wisdom to impart what has been sewn in me to pass on to them.

The Youngest

All of us have/had a grandmother, two of them in fact, even if we never knew them. Most of us will be one as well. Unlike motherhood which often takes us by surprise, lots of time is provided to prepare a nest in our hearts for the new generation of little ones to land. Make it soft, cozy and very secure.

The seven year old

More than the snippets of conversation or the fun outings, I remember how these strong women made me feel. Welcome, wanted, loved, safe. Many things I often didn’t feel on the playground. They never raised their voice at me or made me feel less than anything.

Painting at my kitchen table.

So today I’ve painted and baked with one and will pick up another one from school for tea soon. With seven in town and two a train ride away, it does take some juggling of the calendar to make it happen and still get a work week in.

I go on a train to see this one.

What drives me is the thought that someday, not too far away, their array of options of whom to spend time with will be very vast. I hope to stay on the list!

Sometimes Papa comes along.

So I’m in it to win it, this role I will own the rest of my life. Can you help me out? If you are a grandmother, tell me your best tip. If you remember your grandmother, tell me what you loved the most.

Hope for the best,

Tish (or as I am known to nine, Mimi)

PS More Mimi musings:Grandma You Left me Too Soon, Pray it Again: My Grammas’s Rosary, Freeze These Moments!,Dates on Our Hearts

Take Your Marriage Outdoors this Summer*

Last week, on a whim, I texted my husband and invited him to go to the Chicago Botanic Garden for one of their summer weekly live music concerts.  I gathered up what we would have had for dinner at home and off we went.

Never one just to do something once, I announced we were going to find something fun to do outside every week.  I know if I plan it, he will come so I am scouring online for fun things to do these #99daysofsummer.

So many options but here are some themes to get you started:

Try something NEW like a neighborhood festival, concert venue or Farmer’s Market you haven’t visited before.  We have big plans for the solar eclipse on August 21, definitely a new thing! Research shows sharing fresh experiences is good for marriages.

Return to something OLD you enjoyed in the early years of your relationship.  We have been riding bikes together since college days and still love to hit the trail together even though he is a much faster biker. Last week we rode our bikes to the 4th of July parade which was just as fun as the parade.

Do something OFTEN like eat dinner outside.  You don’t have to have a back yard, a local park will do just fine.  Think of all those movie couples who eat out of deli-bags on Central Park benches.  It’s fun to discover a new-to-you restaurant with tables outside.

Get out-of-town at least ONCE.  Road trips across the country or across a couple of hours will re-shape perspective on just about everything.  We took our first one to Yellowstone in the 70’s for our honeymoon and haven’t stopped.

What’s on your list?

Sunset at CBGChicago Botanic Garden at Sunset

Hope for the best,

Tish

*Modified from a previous post

Farewell My Husband’s Mother

A lovely but unassuming woman, my beloved mother-in-law, Geri, was the most saint-like person I have ever known. She would be so embarrassed to hear me say that and quickly deny but it was true 😊 I think her nine children would agree, I know the one I live with does.

To the envy of all my girlfriends, she always greeted me with something along the lines of how great I looked and later on, how adorable my kids were. Both were not always true. Yet I don’t recall a negative comment about anyone and certainly no unasked-for advice offered. I can only hope to come somewhat close to that standard with my in-law kids.

Even when her memory and eventually her conversational voice left her, she would pop out a smile or a look in her eyes that conveyed, “I’m still in here and I love you.” And I’m sure she still prayed for each of her over fifty descendants across multiple generations. Praying isn’t disrupted by memory loss.

I could tell 100 stories but her last day was quite significant.

On that day in December, the meteorological darkest day of the year, we sat vigil with her with along with other family members. One by one the staff of her facility came to say goodbye. Each one took time to tell us how much they enjoyed taking care of her and how kind she was.

The startling part of this is that none of them had never known her “well” and most of them had never heard her speak. In a way that can only be explained in spiritual terms, Geri had connected with them on a heart level and reached in and touched their lives. Quite consistent with the how she lived.

Beautiful younger Geri

We sat and watched, amazed but not surprised.. On the last day of her life, she finished the tutorial on how to live and how to love that started the first time I met her some 46 years ago.

Geri’s favorite times were the occasions when all her children were together so it seemed fitting to wait until the whole clan could gather to say a final goodbye. With such a far-flung gang, that took some planning.

This Saturday is the day.

Stories told and tears shed will fill the moments but knowing this crowd, lots of love and laughing will spill over all day as well. This family knows how to throw a party.

We’ll end the memorial at the tiny Czech country cemetery History of the cemetery where Geri’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, husband are also laid to rest. Indeed a holy place.

Family Cemetery

Raise your glass to Geri and join those of us who knew and loved her in celebrating a woman who extraordinarily shaped us all.

Hope for the best,

Tish

 

 

 


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow me on Twitter

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: