A SPECIAL DAY

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Our special day in Florida 2016

On a wonderful sunny day, March 10th, 2016, we are here to celebrate a very special occasion, the gathering of a strong family, the “Strong” family.  I know that we don’t all carry that name all of the time, but we all have one thing in common.  We love and support the spouses that were born with it.

Names may change but the love and connections that we have with each other are an enduring thing.  We all can remember our parents with great pride and respect. They were the mainspring of our lives from the time we were born.  No matter what was going on in their lives, we were the focus of their attention, our schools, our church, our friends, all of these were at the forefront of their lives every day, and that never changed no matter how old we got.

As a group our ages span the length of twelve years.  Nevertheless we basically have had the same experiences, seen the same family experiences as children, watched the world as it changed from a world at war in the 1940’s, and evolved into the world we live in today. Our lives have gone in many different directions, we have accomplished many things that we could never have even imagined as children, and now here we are.

We are sitting together, all eight of us, in the sunshine in Florida and that in itself is a wonderful and miraculous thing.  For a few months of each year we live within a few miles of each other, and we can get together to celebrate it.  All families are not so lucky, but we are, and we can appreciate it as we break bread together today.

So I salute you, the “Strong” family.  We have come a long way together. Our individual families will follow us with the knowledge that we love and appreciate them just as our parents did for us.

We are a lucky bunch, the “Strongs”, and we will be looking forward to our gathering next year.

HEROINES

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Verlie in the Orchard

From the vantage point of being a mother, a grandmother, and even a great grandmother now, I would like to talk about some of the heroines of our current day.

At one time, a long, long time ago, the place of the average mother was in the home.  There is no doubt that she was a hard worker and seldom had much spare time for herself. She was the one who kept everything running on a day to day basis, with some suggestions from her hard working husband. When children were ill, or needed clean clothes, or someone to go to PTA meetings she was the one in charge.  Our mothers, aunts, and grand mothers all did their part in this process.

But somewhere along the line things began to change.  Mothers still did all of these things at home, but now they began to go out into the workplace in addition. Life became very hectic for women as this world gradually began to accept and then to expect them to be workers in business.

Since women had learned the skills that were necessary to do a good job they were welcomed as additions to the outer world.  They brought their organizing skills right along with them.

So now it is a whole new prospect.  I would like to nominate my heroines, the young women we know who are doing double duty and showing us how capable they are. They work at home and they work in the community. They find new ways of earning an income by sales or crafts, or even by politics. They are showing their children that women can do whatever needs to be done, and they go wherever someone needs them.

And yet they still are putting their children and their spouses first, as women have always done.  It is a wonderful thing to see our younger women taking over for us.

I salute them all, they are my heroines, and I am so proud of them!

 

WHAT WILL MY GRANDCHILDREN REMEMBER ABOUT ME?

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Lake Michigan at its absolute best

Sometimes a question will just leap out from the page to bring forth a multitude of tumultuous thoughts.  That is what this one did for me. I have 6 grandchildren from my own sons, and five from my husband’s family.  Then I have 6 more from 2nd wives of my sons after they were divorced and remarried.  Another grandson was adopted out 30 years ago, and yet another grandson drowned at 18.

The ones that I had the closest contact to turn out to be the ones that have had problems with their parents because of divorce.  A strong bond is formed when a child and a grand parent have to face difficult situations together.

So all of these children will remember me in different ways.  Mostly they will remember the grandma who loved the mountains, who lived on the IPad and loved to write. That is why I published my first book, so that they would get to know me better.  Some of them will remember me as Grandpa’s second wife, and that’s really grown more loving with time and experiences. Almost all of my grandchildren live a long distance from me, and I have very little physical contact with them.  But e-mails, phones, and Facebook can be a wonderful thing. I can keep track of their families, even tho sometimes I shake my head, watching their lives go by.

And there are some grandchildren who still end their calls or notes with “No Matter What”! They will remember that I was there for them when they really needed me, when their whole world was shattered, and these relationships have lasted twenty years and more, and grown ever stronger. Because of them I feel that I was in the right place at the right time, and did what needed to be done.

I am really fortunate to have all of our extended families, and I hope they will remember me fondly, no matter what. I have been lucky to have all of our grandchildren to love and to cherish.

SUMMER IN MICHIGAN

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Lake Michigan at its absolute best
Yes, it is summer, and yes, it is the 4th of July, one of the constants in our lives. Supposed to be hot, but until today that has not happened here in Hart, Michigan. The cherries are turning red, we can see the green and tiny apples starting to appear on the dwarf fruit trees, and another wonderful season is upon us. There is no place like Michigan in the summer and fall. Miles upon miles of fruit trees in every direction, fruit stands wherever you look, and the Farmers Markets are in full bloom. We are blessed with a climate here that brings forth almost every kind of fruit you can imagine. When we were in full swing on our farm we had 25 different apple varieties, seven kinds of peaches, 3 kinds of pears, plums and apricots that you would die for. Waiting for the exact time to pick the fruit when it was at its perfect flavor and beautiful coloring, we would walk the orchards every evening, exulting in the perfection of it all.
Today we smile at it all, and remember. It is a wonderful thing to have spent your entire life raising fruit in order to make people happy, and that is what my husband has done. I am dedicating this day to him, Bob Rider, and to all of the people including our children who worked on our farms and sold fruit at our Farmers Market. As I speak he is out on his riding mower, making our lawn look as great as his farms have always done. Well done, Bob Rider.

WAITING

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Somewhere in your life you have to decide that it is just time to relax, pull in the reins, and wait for what is going to happen. No matter what it is that you are waiting for, maybe you have waited for a really long time, but it is just out of your hands.
You may very well think that you know what should happen, may have believed it fervently for longer than you care to remember, but it is still a dream in your mind, and you may even have looked at it in the wrong way.
But that doesn’t mean that the “someday” will never come to you in the future.
Things change and circumstances change and sometimes even people change. Who is to know when the dream may appear in all its glory, even better than you ever imagined.
And if you are very wise, you will welcome it gladly, whatever it turns out to be. It might not be exactly as planned but it will surely be a wonderful thing. You will rejoice that all is well in your world and remember your most comforting thought, the one that has carried you throughout your life.
God is in charge, and I am so thankful!

A CIRCLE IN TIME

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When I was very young one of the fun things that I liked to do was to play board games with my cousins on a Sunday afternoon. We were very competitive with each other and I can still remember the shrieks of laughter when I won, or the moans of disgust when I lost. I gloried in showing that I could be the fastest or best, and so when I lost, I felt embarrassed and impatient with myself. We played Monopoly for hours on end, or card games like Rummy or Solitaire. It was always fun tho.
But time moved on, and I married, became a mother and was the overseer for many of their boisterous events. They had some pretty noisy games.
Now I am retired in a whole new environment, time to do whatever I want, and what do I do? I play GAMES. I play word games, or solitaire, casino or slot games, number games, you name it, all on my Ipad or computer.
The fun thing is that I am still playing these games with my sisters, many cousins, daughter in laws, brother in laws, all of the same people that I played with, some of them over 50 years ago. We write each other little notes of congratulation over a good win, or make a resolve to do better next time.
Who would have thought that I would be still playing games with the same people, all a lot older, but still having fun together?
Life is really a circle, isn’t it. We just have to hold on tightly and the brass ring will come around again.
And then there are all of the new friends like you, who have come along. Life is good, especially since we can all smile and cheer as we enjoy playing games with each other. Thanks for all of the great competition, it keeps us thinking young.

JUST THINK WHAT 35 YEARS CAN DO

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Every once in a while a new experience comes along that has the effect of making a very different way of looking at our lives.
Bringing forth four sons, living with them thru a tumultuous twenty five years or so, surviving the ups and downs of daily life as they grew and wrestled each other for their place in the family order is something that is not for the faint hearted. I can proudly report that I did survive it.
When the last one to leave rode off into the sunset I didn’t waste too much time or breath missing the constant uproar that had been going on for the past quarter of a century. Wives came along, and then grandchildren, and a whole new style of family living. Everyone ended up with a chance to make their fortune on their own. We knew what each other was doing, roughly speaking, but their lives were their own to make.
Time went by. We often lived in the same towns, like Cortez, CO, Lawton, OK, Holton, MI, even Wyoming and Montana, but we didn’t stay in each others houses overnite. We had our own homes and our own spaces.
Fast forward.
We are wintering in Florida in a retirement community, and guess what. Son #3 and wife are arriving for nine days! We are all excited, hoping for warm weather. I begin to plan things, and then I realize. I haven’t lived in the same house with #3 son in over 35 years! I don’t know what he really is like on a day to day basis! What does he like to eat, what kind of TV does he watch? What are his every day habits?
For twenty years I took care of him, knew him as well as anyone in my life, and now a relative stranger is coming for nine days. How is it going to work out?
Wednesday noon. I hear a car door close, then another, and they are here! Looking as great as they always do, smiling and hugging, and it is like the years have all flown away and we have our children back again.
There are some obvious differences. I notice that now they tend to take care of us, instead of the other way around. As they are showing us new pictures of their life I realize anew that they are grandparents also, and in the prime of their lives. They have their own friends and their own business interests. Their lives are full and I am so proud of them.
I finally realize. They are grown up. They don’t just need us but want us also.
The days fly by and all too soon the alarm rings at 2AM, and off they must go to the airport. And we return to our quieter life, thankful that we have had a great time renewing our friendship with our children. We can rest assured that we did our job and they are part of the living proof of it.

PLAYING OUT DOORS

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Looking at spring blossoms today with a blustery winter storm going on in Michigan is probably pretty disgusting to the people that are busy surviving the typical Febuary storms. When I go on Facebook or Twitter and see the pictures I wince, and hope that all of my friends and family are safe. I try not to brag about our beautiful weather here in Florida because I still remember what it is like to live in the north in the winter. Visions of all of the clothes that we piled on, the extra scarves and the fur lined boots if we were lucky still fill my memories. I am remembering all of the wet mittens, coats, hats and scarves draped all over the registers, and the smell of them as they dried. When my kids were young we used bread wrappers both in and out of the boots trying to keep them from leaking. It was difficult to get things dried before it was time to go outside again.
And yet we did go outside. And when we didn’t have to go to school we loved playing outdoors. Snowmen decorated our yard and we made forts out of the many snow balls that we rolled into larger spheres. We made them large enough so we could even stand in the fort, and we covered the tops with branches or blankets. Then we would call the fort our club, and have meetings. Sometimes our mothers would give us cookies to have a picnic.
We went sliding, and ice skating. My dad would use a hose and make a pond for us in our back yard early in the winter and we would have all the neighborhood kids over for a great time. There was usually an ice pond at our neighborhood school but we had to walk about 6 blocks to it. Some of my cousins had a long steep hill right behind their house and we would go there on Sundays after church.
It was a long time ago, and it was a simpler time. Thinking about it now makes me realize just how much things have changed. I rarely see children playing outside just for the sheer joy of it as we always did. My mother never called me in until it was almost dark in the summertime. We didn’t own a lot of equipment, we were really lucky if we had a bike. Most of us had wagons tho, which we had plenty of use for.
This has turned into a look backward into time, and for a lot of us that is probably a good thing. We have a lot to be grateful for, the memories of a simpler childhood, playing outdoors, very little organized events of any kind, other than school, Sunday school, and church, but we sure had a lot of fun playing outdoors.
As the Beatles would sing, “Those were the days, my friends, those were the days.”

THOUGHTS ABOUT GROCERY SHOPPING

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Have you ever given any thought about how many hours that you have spent grocery shopping in your lifetime? How about all of the thoughts and energy that are focused on one of the main events of your life?
It’s not just the actual walking into a supermarket with a complicated list of all of the products you need, in your hand. It’s the process of making the weekly list. You may also have a monthly list, and even more often, a list of the products you would buy if they were on sale or you had a coupon.
It’s the time spent being a coupon clipper, the hours checking on the specials to see which store has the best price. Maybe you go to one store for meat, another for produce, and a third for most everything else.
It’s the time you spend making sure you have all of the necessary ingredients for 21 meals a week in your house. And it is a known fact that everyone doesn’t always want the same food to eat. It is all of the decisions you make as you look at the weights of the packages, thinking that larger isn’t always cheaper.
It is also the thought that you want your family to eat reasonably balanced meals, and you feel that it is your job to help that along.
So let us agree on one thing. Grocery shopping and all of the hours that proceed it have an important place in our lives. As we get older it seems to get a lot easier with practice. But for young people first setting up a household it is definitely a learning experience. And once children are added to the mix it becomes a whole new ball game. I still remember standing in a checkout line, one child screaming in the cart, and another rummaging in the articles tempting them on the shelves. Disaster City!
We solved it by my husband watching the three others at home. Each week one different boy would go with me, and he always got to choose one thing for himself. Even more important he got a lot of close knit attention from his mother with no one else around.
So grocery shopping can have its blessings if you look for them. Now that we are retired my husband goes right in the store with me. He is a great help loading and unloading, a new experience for him also. We can have quality time whenever we choose to.
So grocery shoppers, Unite. Now we know why we are such an important part of keeping our world on keel. We plan, we shop, and we execute, setting a good example for our families around us. We provide a terrific service, with love.

HOW HAVE MY GOALS IN LIFE CHANGED?

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Looking back at my somewhat helter skelter life, I am really having a rough time putting the thoughts about my past goals down on paper. Somehow I can never remember having any special goals other than the ones that are universal to all of us. When I was in my teens I wanted to grow up, get a “good” job, get married, have children, basically do all of the things that my parents had done, and have enough money to keep the bills paid.
My father had always drummed it into my head that I could do whatever I really wanted to do, and I believed that implicitly. The problem with that was that no one, including me, really believed that I would ever do much more than get married, raise children, go to church on Sunday, and in general live my life in the same way that I had been brought up.
But then along came the draft. I had married, and my husband was called up for duty, and so off we went, he joining the Army and I trailing along behind him. We lived in the West and in the South, and I began to realize that there was a whole different world out there than I had ever experienced. There were so many different ways of looking at things, and so many new people to meet.
After the service we went back home to Michigan and raised a family. Traveling had opened up my new world. At the same time women’s liberation had begun. It became more acceptable for girls to go to college or find work that fulfilled them in different ways than before. But at the same time we women still had to take care of our homes and our children. My main goal at that time was just to survive it all. I look back and remember how tired I was and how pushed I felt for a long long time.
Eventually the children grew up, the jobs got better, and traveling became one of the main goals in my life. Moving to Colorado and living in mountainous country fulfilled me for a long time. Cruises to Alaska later on in life bring fantastic memories to me even today.
Eventually I began to write, and to feel the urge to share my thoughts and feelings with others. This led to the goal of writing and publishing a book of poetry. I became obsessed with the thought that I could accomplish this and I wrote and worked and edited until my goal became fulfilled.
Now my goals seem to have quieted back down. I am back to thinking about the everyday facets of life again as I did when in my 20’a. Keeping house, connections with our children, writing, traveling, all has come full circle. The days when I had to keep pushing myself to get everything just so have faded into the past. I can take the time to do whatever I want to do, go for a ride with my husband, crochet, knit, read, read, read, and I don’t have to worry about whether my goals are getting met or not. I can study all of the things that I never had a chance to do when I was a young mother, and I can enjoy all that the world has to offer.
In a way it seems very odd to me that I have landed right back where I started. I venture that this is true for many women of my age. We are so fortunate that we have seen the best of both worlds, and now we can relax. We still remember when we cooked everything from scratch, had a wringer washer, and ironed the washing every Tuesday. We lived in a world where all of the normal people did pretty much the same things in the same way.
Now we can choose what we wish to do, and where we wish to go. That is enough of a goal for me. I have arrived at a great place and I am enjoying every step of the way.