My Annual Day of Thanks

2014-02-15

Clockwise:  Carol; Nancy 1 week after surgery; Nancy and Bruce 5 months after the surgery.

Today is my thirty-seventh anniversary of the day I almost met my Maker! It is my annual reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to put all that crosses my path in perspective.

It was Friday, February 15, 1980. I was leaving work with plans to meet my friend, Carol, for our weekly Friday night game of racquetball. After scraping the car windows of ice and snow, I sat in the driver’s seat, inserted the key and started the car.

In a split second I felt that familiar rush in my head. It was that frightening rush that I’d previously had four other times since I was thirteen. I held tightly onto the steering wheel and braced myself expecting to have another grand mal seizure. It never came. This time I became nauseous and it felt like my head was going to burst.

I turned off the car, walked back into the office and laid my head down on my desk. Again I waited to have the seizure, but it didn’t happen. Ken, my boss, had me come into his office and lay down on his couch after I explained to him I was feeling dizzy and nauseous.

Ken tried to contact my parents but was unable to reach them because they routinely went grocery shopping on Friday nights. And this was the pre-cell phone and pre-voicemail era so it was impossible to reach them. He eventually was able to contact my brother, Bruce, and told him that I seemed to have the flu and asked him to come to the office and take me home.

I don’t remember Bruce picking me up at work, however, I briefly remember sitting in his car in his driveway while he stopped to tell his wife that he was going to take me to the emergency room (“ER”) at a local hospital as he had determined that it was something other than the flu. By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was incoherent and eventually became comatose.

Thankfully in 1980 medical technology was advancing and the doctors were able to run a CT scan and an angiogram to detect a blood clot on my brain had hemorrhaged. The neurosurgeon diagnosed me with arteriovenous malformation (“AVM”) which is a congenital disorder of blood vessels with a tangled web of abnormal arteries and veins. We finally had an explanation for my previous seizures.

Carol, my friend that had been waiting for me at the racquetball court, was a nursing student and ironically was working the midnight shift in the ER that night. When she started her shift, she was given details about patients and was shocked when she learned I was the patient with the brain hemorrhage.

In the meantime, my parents were finally contacted and arrived at the hospital. Doctors advised them to notify close family members and friends as they gave me only four days to live. From the ER I was transferred to the intensive care unit (“ICU”) where family and friends came to see me. Miraculously, two days later I came out of my coma.

Living in Northwest Indiana we were, fortunately, only 35 miles from Chicago. The local neurosurgeon arranged for me to be transferred to a Chicago hospital that had an excellent neurosurgeon with surgical experience in repairing AVM’s. That surgeon was out of the country at the time so I stayed in the ICU for a week until he returned.

Once I was under the Chicago neurosurgeon’s care, I underwent more testing and preparation for the surgery. The day of the surgery I had absolutely no fear. The surgery was successful and recovery went well. I had minimal recovery time and after only one week I was sent home. From the point of near death to brain surgery to going home was a span of only three weeks.

Life is definitely a journey and mine has been interesting with some of the obstacles in the path, and I will forever be thankful to God for every extra day that I have been given. I am especially thankful that I have been blessed with my husband and three children and now their spouses.

In 1980 I was journaling as I found it important to record my journeys in life and recorded my experiences during this time and am able to read my reaction and emotions when I was twenty years old. Have you been Keeping Your Memories of your life journeys? If not, now is the time to begin. Grab your pen and paper or pull out your laptop and begin to answer these questions:

• Describe a time in your life when you had a serious complication.
• Describe an incident in your life that was your biggest challenge.
• Describe one moment in your life that changed everything for you.

www.keepingyourmemories.com

I Write. He Paints. We Preserve History.

I write. My brother paints. We are both preserving history.

Since the early 1960’s our parents took us to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana to play in the water and waves of Lake Michigan. We hiked the trails, explored the blow outs, climbed the sand dunes and conquered Mount Tom and Mount Baldy.

It was a place for us to roam freely with acres and acres of sand dunes vs our suburban neighborhood with houses built side-by-side.

On a cold day in 1967 while we explored the beach, my brother, Jacob, sat in the sand and made sketches of an abandoned cottage that still stood on the lakefront. He later created this painting. Shortly after, the cottage was demolished. All of the cottages that once stood are gone.

However, fifty years later the memory of this cottage remains as the picture hangs in my living room. And it preserves an era of cottages that were built one hundred years ago by owners who, like us today, relished their hours spent on this beautiful lakefront.

We don’t know the original owners or history of this specific cottage, but in the early 1900’s many folks from Chicago traveled to the Indiana side of Lake Michigan to enjoy a time of recreation at the Indiana Dunes.

It was so well-liked that eventually a group of Chicagoans incorporated the Prairie Club in 1911 and two years later built a beach house for members. Members would come to spend weekends and the summer and slept in tents.

Later in the 1910’s and 1920’s landowners began renting small parcels to these Chicago folks. Simple, inexpensive one story wooden cottages along the lakefront would be built on the rented parcels.

Alarmed by industrial sand mining destroying large areas of duneland and steel company land purchased, the Prairie Club members and others began a campaign to create a state park. The cause to preserve the Dunes began in 1916 and that campaign finally came to fruition in 1926 when the Dunes opened to the public as the Indiana Dunes State Park.

In 1966 with the drive of Illinois Senator Paul Douglas to save the dunes, the park was authorized as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. With perseverance from multiple groups the preservation of more land was granted.

The Indiana Dunes today stands at 15,000 acres. What I will remember of that extensive amount of land, because of my brother’s sketches and painting, is the small portion of land where a cottage was built and an unknown family or individual’s memories were made.

I have over fifty years of good memories made of experiences at the Indiana Dunes from my childhood and with my children and eventually with my grandchildren, and I have recorded my memories on paper.

Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the Indiana Dunes or of your nature preserves for your descendants to read.

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

 

 

My Grandfather…the Personal Historian

2014-12-20-2

My paternal grandfather was born 121 years ago on December 19, 1895 and died nine days short of 94 on December 10, 1989.

I never had a close relationship with him when I was a young child partly due to the hundreds of miles between us as he lived in San Antonio, Texas and I lived in Northwest Indiana. In the early 1980’s when I was in my early twenties, I began to visit him on my own. I’m so fortunate that I came to know him better because he opened up a door for me stirring my interest in my family lineage.

My grandfather introduced me to my ancestors and to my heritage. I became intrigued with his oral stories and family pictures he had of his family. He shared with me his journals that he kept. He showed me the paper with his father’s writing recording the day that grandfather was born. He also show me the genealogical notes that he had on his family. He was a personal historian himself.

I went home after that first visit and started recording my ancestors’ and immediate family’s dates and facts. I began to interview and record family stories. Little did I know it at that time, thanks to my grandfather, the personal historian in me was born.

In 1974 he wrote about his service in World War I: “I was in France, Company F. 360 Infantry 90 Division, American Expeditionary Force. It was Sunday, November 11th, 1918 and we were advancing under heavy fire from the enemy. We had orders to take ‘Metz at all costs. We already had taken St. Michiel where the French lost 40,000 men. In that fighting we lost some men including two lieutenants and my captain was wounded. Many of our men were wounded too.

At 11 a.m. on that cold, rainy day of November 11th the War came to an end. Week later we went to Luxembourg for a rest of two weeks. Then to Berncastle, Germany. Stayed in Germany almost one year. So 56 years have passed since. I was almost 23 years old. So today the 11th day of November, 1974 I give thanks to our Lord Jesus for all the blessings I have received all those years of my life.”

And I give thanks that my grandfather recorded his memories and lit the fire in me to continue his mission as the family historian.

It is said that after two generations family stories can be lost if not recorded. However, there will come the day when I have a grandchild or a grandniece or grandnephew come to me with questions about their heritage, and I will be able to tell them about their ancestors as far back as the early 1800’s because my grandfather shared it with me. And hopefully there will be one in that next generation that will become the next family historian.

What priceless story from your grandparents can you preserve? Now is the time to open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of stories that your grandparents had shared with you. If your grandparents are still with you, take the time to record their memories.

www.keepingyourmemories.com

Preserving Cherished Moments

 

2016-02-23

I have journaled my existence since I was a teenager. I wrote about high school friends and sweethearts, family, God, college, marriage and infertility. But the day came on June 16, 1986 when I opened up a brand new journal filled with fresh, clean, empty pages to start recording my experience and elation of finally being pregnant with my first child. Twenty-nine years later I pulled out that book from my closet shelf, blew off the dust and carefully opened up the cover so small papers that were tucked between the yellowed pages wouldn’t fall and began reading the pages . The first entry read:

“June 16, 1986:  Dear Baby – I always said that when I get pregnant I would start a journal for my little one and give it to him or her when he or she gets older. Hopefully I will keep this book filled with memories for you to always cherish and to pass on to your children. Well, tonight I finally was able to get in the doctor’s office and take the pregnancy test. It was positive! We are so happy that we are going to give birth to you. Babies are a gift from God and we praise Him and thank Him for this gift.”

My little baby finally arrived, and I was extremely happy and thankful that I had a baby girl. Twenty-nine years ago this evening I wrote:

“February 23, 1987:  Dear Joanna May – You have finally arrived! You looked beautiful after you were born. We can’t believe that you are finally here. You were born at 10:03 a.m. and weighed 8 lbs., 12 oz and 22” long. You were born with your big dark eyes wide open and born with dark brown hair.”

That evening I continued writing to my daughter about the entire day and what I experienced delivering my first child and how I fell in love with her.

Days and months passed quickly, but I would write entries for this precious baby about her monthly doctor visits, who came to visit her, and every milestone in her life. I shared with her how I was feeling, what I was experiencing, and how much I loved being a mother. That book filled quickly and I began another but eventually three children later,  all of us growing older, becoming busier and having less time the pages didn’t fill up as quickly. But I know that what I did write will preserve the memories of my daughter’s birth for future generations to read.

One day I will have grandchildren and they will read how excited I was the day their parents were born. I definitely would have cherished reading my mother’s and my grandmothers’ emotional and physical experiences when they were pregnant.

Now is the time to start Keeping Your Memories of your newborns and children.  Open up your laptops or grab paper and pen and start recording the precious moments, love and adoration you have for your children.

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

 

A Trunkful of Memories

2016-02-21

Today I had the honor to present to Violet on her 101st birthday the printed book of her life story that she and I had compiled, “A Trunkful of Memories – Reminiscing on the Past 100 Years.” Our town’s historical association, which I am a member of, understood the necessity and the importance to interview Violet, a lifetime one hundred year old town resident. Preserving Violet’s memories of her family, farm life and education will enable future generations to read her first-hand account of the life of this early 20th century family from this small town in Indiana.

Barb, a longtime member of the Association as well as a longtime friend to Violet, was willing to make the introduction. Barb met with me to give a brief introduction of Violet’s background and to see the treasures Violet donated to the Association.

Opening Violet’s trunk we found priceless family pictures, her christening gown, baby clothes, and her mother’s wedding dress along with a tin container protecting the flowers from her parents’ 1908 wedding.

I was already excited to meet Violet so it was a pleasure to meet this energetic woman at an assisted living home in town. She flawlessly maneuvered her electric powered wheelchair in her room and down the hallway.

Once we rearranged the seating and Violet was able to self-maneuver her wheelchair into reverse to back herself against the wall, and the video camera  was set up, we were taken back up to one hundred years ago as she described her childhood, her parents, grandparents, brothers, life on the farm and moving to town. She seemed to vividly remember riding the horse and buggy to school and the family Christmas tradition of cleaning the house for Santa Claus.

I also had the opportunity to meet Francy and Erick who not only purchased Violet’s 177 acre farm but they, along with all of their children, became dear friends to her. Francy and Erick graciously let me visit them giving more details to the farm’s history and sharing pictures with me. Walking through the old dairy barn and buildings, climbing the ladder up to the hayloft and seeing a wider view of the farm, and walking around their property helped me visualize Violet as a young woman living on this farm in the early 1900’s.

We had a few copies of the book at the open house and it was satisfying to see the adults skimming over it and some sitting for an extended time reading it and giving positive reviews. However, I did a double take when glancing to the left of me I saw a young eight year old boy sitting at a table perusing the book. Thanks to the pictures and stories that Violet shared, he was able to visualize this 101 year old woman as a child. That was gratifying as my mission was met: “Keeping Your Memories for future generations.”

Recording Violet’s life story has kept her legacy preserved. And Keeping Your Memories of your life will be invaluable to your great grandchildren years from now. You would not be just a picture with a few recorded facts, but you will be an ancestor turning your life experiences into life lessons for your descendants.

Open up your laptop or grab pen and paper and start recording your life experiences for future generations to read.  Start with these questions:

  • What is the most important date in your personal history?
  • What was the hardest thing that you ever had to do?
  • If you could change anything in your life, what would you change?
  • Was there one moment in your life that changed everything for you?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

 

 

Mom – I’ll Love You Forever

2016-01-20

My mom is gone but her memories are still with me. It was in 1985. I was at Mom’s home with the plan to record some of her stories using a cassette tape recorder. When I arrived, she was in her usual place…the kitchen. She was fixing lunch for dad and once all was prepared and Dad was settled, we went into the living room and Mom shared about her childhood in the 1930’s, her parents, her siblings and Dad.

In 1985 her mother…my grandmother…had been gone for seven years. And today, January 20, 2016 my mother has been gone for seven years. Just as my heart and writings are filled with memories of my mother, she too had her heart filled with memories of her mother. I now understand how my mother felt with the love she had for her mom. Today Grandma would be 118 years old and Mom would be 88 years old.

She shared, “Mom made our clothes and our coats.  She also worked and did housekeeping for the Elder’s and Smith’s in Webb City, Missouri.  And people would give her their old coats, and she would make them into coats for us.  And she made really nice coats.  She would use scraps to make quilts, and she would put them together with yarn…comforters.  She would use flannel sheeting for the underneath side.

She’d still be working when I got home from school.  I don’t know how old I was when she started working at the Miller Manufacturing Shirt Factory in Joplin, Missouri.  It might have been while I was in grade school.

When she came home from work, I didn’t often show her what I had done at school that day, but when I was in the fifth grade I started learning fractions.  Every night we’d sit down there, and I had to teach her what I learned.  I taught her how to use fractions because she had to use fractions at work, and she didn’t know them.

We did a lot of spelling too at home.  Mama liked words, and she needed to learn it for herself.  It wasn’t that she spent time with us, but she needed to learn it for herself; it was more for her sake.  She was only able to go to school through third grade. But it was good because we both learned more that way.  The spelling must have been just because she enjoyed it.  But maybe she was learning too.”

It is delightful to read how despite Grandma’s formal education ended when she was nine years old, it never stopped her desire to learn. And I’m delighted that my mother recorded these memories.  Now is the time to pull out your laptop or grab paper or pen and start Keeping Your Memories of your mother.

  • What are your earliest memories with your mother?
  • How much education did your mother complete and where did she attend?
  • Was she a stay-at-home mother or did she work outside the home?
  • Did your mother have a favorite saying you can remember him repeating?
  • What do you realize about your mother’s life that you didn’t understand when you were growing up?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com

Write a Gift…It’s Priceless!

2015-12-05

Every Christmas I faithfully bake the fruitcake that Mom and Grandma baked. I religiously buy the ribbon candy and mixed nuts that were holiday treats for Mom and Dad. These traditional foods make us feel like Mom and Dad are still with us even though it has already been almost seven and nine years that they have been gone.

I am also fortunate to have the story of her childhood Christmas memories towards the end of the Great Depression that she wrote in 2001 for my son’s classroom project. To this day she feels close to me as I carry on some of these family traditions and read the story she wrote for my son:

“My mother was a great cook and everything always tasted good. When I was a young girl, many years ago, I remember the sight of beautiful deep red cranberries popping and spitting in a tall pan on a wood-burning stove. I can hear the popping of the cranberries as the hot syrup caused the berries to make small explosions that splattered and spit at us as I watched by the stove. I remember you had to jump back quickly. The burn from the cranberry syrup was tiny but intense. My memory of this is vivid to this day.

I liked the colors of Christmas. We went to the Nativity play at the First Baptist Church on the corner of Broad and Rhone in Webb City to see the Nativity play where the birth of Christ was retold. The children dressed in costumes and they used a doll for the Baby Jesus. I remember the pretty blue of Mary’s dress. Afterwards the children got paper sacks filled with colorful Christmas candy, an apple and an orange. This was a real treat. The colors were important for me. This was a time when we were all coming out of the Great Depression. Most of us had little and the items called for worn things and drab colors. You cannot imagine how brown everything was in our homes. At Christmas my world became brighter.

The colors made me feel thankful and there were so many colors to absorb. Christmas would not be Christmas without seeing lights on a fir tree in our house. We did not always have a tree each year because some years Pop couldn’t always afford one. One year when I was ten, my Mom let me have my heart’s desire having all blue lights on our Christmas tree. I think now she must have understood how much I loved the beauty of this holiday. This tree was my favorite. It calmed me and gave me peace. My appreciation and happiness of that moment has never been forgotten.

Christmas brings back memories of ribbon candy, the hard Christmas candy each with its own special flavor, and the candied orange peel my Aunt Jessie always made. She also brought minced meat pie. We were not crazy about the pie because it had real meat in it, but it was part of our Christmas tradition. I remember applesauce cake made from a seventy-five year old recipe. It was always so good. Mama only made her special cake twice a year – at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It had black walnuts in it – ones we gathered off the ground after the first frost in the fall.

I remember the fun of making paper chains, stringing popcorn and singing Christmas carols. We sang the same songs you sing today – “Silent Night,” “Jingle Bells,” and “Deck the Halls.”

The stories, including “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” reading about Santa Claus and his reindeer filled my imagination. I remember laying in bed on Christmas Eve waiting to see him fly through the sky and land on the housetop. I always fell asleep before it happened. I wrote a letter to Santa Claus about my wish list. My brothers and sisters and I would go through Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs to figure out what we wanted. My list was not so grand. Skates. Dolls. Play dishes. Yet we knew, and without resentment, there might not be any present waiting for us on Christmas morning. It did not matter because I loved the wonder of what might be. It’s like watching a Christmas parade. You’re not a part of it but you still find it enjoyable.”

This Christmas give your family members the priceless gift of sharing your Christmas childhood memories with your children or grandchildren. You can write about your most memorable Christmas and add some of your childhood pictures to your story. One day your descendants will enjoy reading how you and your family celebrated the holidays and will cherish the stories that you left them.

If you are blessed to be with your parents and/or grandparents this holiday season, sit down with them and use the voice memo on your cell phone to record their stories .

Today, grab a paper and pen or open up your laptop and start Keeping Your Memories of your traditions.

  • What Christmas decorations did you put up every year?
  • What did you do on Christmas Eve?
  • What was your Christmas dinner and whom did you share it with?
  • Describe your favorite Christmas present .
  • What did Christmas morning feel like when you were a child?

http://www.keepingyourmemories.com